Naylor's Canberra
freshly squeezed pulp noir

Thursday, June 26, 2003  

Instalment 20: pages 82-84 [Elliot discovers more about David Carmichael]

Lawyers often work late, but late in Canberra has a different meaning to late on the fiftieth floor in Sydney. In my town even the lean, hungry senior associates are gone by seven; true, there were a few notorious lingerers - but not on a Friday. Library assistants, however, have been known to only clock on at four. Everyone knew tracking down the loose leafs while they were being used was difficult, so once a week I worked an evening shift to play find-and-file.

When I thought it was alone, I did a brisk circuit of the floor, clutching a little mail-bag of update pages, checking each office as if I really were looking for a missing binder. The place was empty. I made straight for John Ireland’s office. Like a good, tidy-minded solicitor he’d caught up all his filing and put everything away before leaving for the weekend. All his matters stood as neatly labelled folders on his shelf: hole-punched documents in the blue or white cardboard sleeves of a doctor’s surgery, colour coded file numbers and client names in stickers running down protruding tongues of cardboard. Tall Trees occupied four fat files. I carted them back to my desk to rummage through John’s neatly tabbed documents.

Strictly speaking, what I was doing was sackable. I was looking through client documents without permission. Still, even if someone came back and found me, they’d probably assume I was doing research. I glanced nervously out the window: it was like staring into a black mirror. Futile. The first I’d know of someone coming back would be the sound of the lift. I turned back to the files.

The client wasn’t strictly Bob Mitchell, it was a company with the imaginative name Tall Trees JV Pty Ltd. JV for joint venture: he had partners. Now, when drafting documents for a client company, a good lawyer always gets an Australian Securities and Investment Commission search done. ASIC search print-outs, available to the public for a princely fee of around $30, made sure you got things like the company’s registered office and Australian Company Number right, as it isn’t unknown for clients to give incorrect details, muddling their companies or wrongly assuming they’d updated their details with the Commission. An ASIC search gets the right answers first time. Not surprisingly, good, thorough John had a folder-tab marked “company searches”. All I wanted was names. If this was a joint venture, who was Mitchell in bed with?

Mitchell himself was listed as a director, along with another bloke. I had the internet running, so I typed the second name into the white pages on-line and came up with a certified accountant’s business listing. No prizes for guessing whose accountant he was. The next page listed shareholders. One thousand shares in the company: Mitchell held six hundred and fifty, another company called Charcot Pty Ltd held three hundred, and then a final little parcel of fifty shares was owned by DDC Pty Ltd. John had excelled himself in caution, getting searches for Charcot and DDC as well.

Charcot seemed a small company, sole director, shareholder and company secretary was one Jeremy Ryder. Meant nothing to me. I turned to the ASIC search for DDC and discovered two very familiar names. David and Daphne Carmichael, directors and shareholders.

David bloody Carmichael. Biggest property deal since Parliament House was built and he had five percent of the action. He was running with a crook like Mitchell, who was probably the one abusing him on the home phone – not surprising as five percent of this was going to cost an awful lot more upfront than whatever he’d had in the scaffolding scam. And Daphne thought David had got all their money away from bad men like Mitchell. But as a director she must have known, mustn’t she? I thought. The answer was obvious, though: David handled the money; she’d just signed some papers. She’d do it every week without looking.

I headed out to the photocopier. I prised the searches out and dropped them through: they were public documents and there was no problem with me being found with them later. The sorter was shuffling pages out into collated stacks when the elevator chimed. I froze. Not much of a job, but I wasn’t keen to lose it. Or have another black mark on my record, another reason to be kept out of real legal practice. I listened.

Laughter and the rattle of a trolley: it was just the cleaners.

I put the folders back, then returned to the copier with the library’s Who’s Who to look up my key players: the Minister, Carmichael, Mitchell and, for good measure, the mystery man Ryder and Mitchell’s accountant. Only two entries: the Minister and Carmichael. I copied them off for bedside reading and headed home.

I was at home, when the penny dropped: sipping gin and tonic with Eva and pretending to watch one of the home and garden shows that seemed to be the principal reason she’d bought cable. Vicarious home-making.

“Eva,” I began, looking at my Who’s Who pages.

“Yeah?” she drawled.

“Can you think of a good reason David Carmichael would forget to tell me he went to school and uni with the Minister?”


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