Naylor's Canberra
freshly squeezed pulp noir

Sunday, November 16, 2003  

Instalment 35: pages 144 - 147 [Elliot's interviews with Jeremy Ryder concludes]

“Mind if I put the Bruebeck on?” I managed eventually.

“Not a problem, I’ll be dressed and straight with you. Sorry to hold you up.”

“Not at all,” I smiled, “glad to be out of the office.”

He smiled in return, a broad, handsome smile. He hitched up the collar and lapels of his robe before turning to head upstairs, an act which emphasised rather than concealed his gym-sculpted chest. The man saw himself as a lady-killer, no mistake.

I took the opportunity to slip quickly into his office. The desk was as bare and blank as it had looked from the other room. The leather surface supported a matching diary, a computer and a telephone. I flicked the diary open where it was marked at the current week with its bound-in bookmark.

The whole working week was filled with one repeated entry: “DS Conference, Lake and River Conference Centre, Cotter Road”. From the look of the book, he was overdue to arrive there already. I heard feet moving on the floor above, feet newly shod in leather soles as opposed to comfy slippers. I flipped the book closed, and went to sit in the lounge room and sip my coffee.

When Ryder returned he was in expensive flat-fronted blue slacks, black leather loafers with pale caramel soles, and a French-cuff shirt of a fine cotton woven thick enough to take away and quilt. He settled himself onto a corner of the lounge opposite me, one hand in pocket and stretched his legs to cross them at the ankle: a relaxed posture that left him towering above my eye level. Nothing about him indicated a man in a hurry, caught behind the clock. His bearing was one of accustomed power and importance, of a man unafraid to let others know he had money.

The combination of the expensive house, and casual arrogance coupled with casual business-wear put me strangely in mind of my meeting with the minister the night before. Maybe the powerful were more alike than I thought, defined by mannerisms, not age. He turned the music down with a slender remote and smiled again.

“Now, Daniel,” he said. “How can I help?”

“Well sir,” I began, in my best bureau-speak, “there appear to be omissions from the environmental impact statement submitted with your development application.”

“I thought the application had already gone through,” he replied with a cheerful bemusement.

“Yes, but if at any time PALM becomes aware of relevant matters that were not originally disclosed or taken into consideration, the status of that approval could change.” I tried to sound unctuous, but ominous.

“What’s your concern with the environmental impact statement?” he asked.

“Well, it’s the issue of the on-site waste-water treatment. The analysis of that seems – much thinner than we might expect. I was wondering whether there was anything further you might want to submit?”

Ryder smiled and gestured helplessly, the mannerism of a man who leaves the details to others.

“Have you asked our lawyers? Given them a chance to – what do you call it – show further and better particulars?”

“We haven’t done anything that formal,” I said smiling. “I was just hoping a quick discussion with someone involved in putting together the EIS might clear it up without the need for a show-cause letter.”

“Not your man, I’m afraid,” he said, shaking his head ruefully. “I just put up money. The solicitors deal with all these issues. You’ve got a better chance of reaching them than any of my business partners. You need to speak with – let me think – young guy – Mark Stevens, that’s it, at Page Edwards Prentice.”

He shot me a glance: eyes narrow, smile wide.

“I’m surprised he wasn’t on your file as the first point of contact.”

I wasn’t sure if I missed a beat at that moment, if he had me tumbled.

I shrugged.

“Mustn’t have made it off the form onto our system. I review EIS’s, for the other stuff I just trust what’s on the computer. You know what data entry types can be like.”

“Don’t I just,” he said returning to the perpendicular.

“Sorry to have bothered you,” I said, following his lead and standing. He was already moving for the door. He ushered me out the gate.

When I was half-way across the road he called: “Driving your own car today, then Daniel?”

“Sorry?” I said, turning.

“You don’t have government plates,” he replied.

“Thought I’d stop by on my way to the office.”

“Didn’t know public servants started so late,” he answered.

“Flex time, wonderful institution. Need some compensation for public sector pay.”

“Well, remember to call Mark Stevens,” he said. “I’m sure he can clear this up.”

He closed the gate on his smile. I got in my car and pulled away from the kerb nervously. I wondered if he had taken the chance to memorise my license plates. I was either going to have to get Mark to cover for me, or risk Ryder discovering my fraud. While I turned over the possibility of checking out the River and Lake Conference Centre I turned my car towards the firm.

No point letting Ryder see me follow him, now that I knew where he was going. And I was certainly going to follow him. A man with that much front was clearly hiding something other than a few questionable videos.



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