Installment 50: pages 209 - 212 [Elliot has some explaining to do.]
"Elliot we are not going anywhere," said Danielle firmly. "And we are definitely not making a three hour drive down to Jervis Bay. You aren't well, you basically look like something the dog's brought up. So, you’re going to slow down, explain what’s going on and then we are going – as planned – to my place, and we are definitely calling the police."
I looked at her dazed in equal measure by her failure to grasp my urgency and a sudden burst of feeling for her gutsiness. As she quietly stood her ground, set out her demands and eyed me down I realised why I felt so strongly about this woman: she might look delicate, she certainly had a wide compassionate streak, but under that she was bridge-construction grade steel. A small part of my mind noted that I was quite probably in love. Unfortunately, that interesting little fact was clearly not going to much advance the more pressing business of preventing people being killed or hurt.
I breathed out and tried to start slowly.
"We can't do that Danielle. Not until I've spoken to Marina, and the only way to do that is to drive down to Jervis tonight."
Her lips narrowed. "I think I've been pretty understanding on the Marina front," she said. "She's a friend of mine too. But some people would be getting pretty fed up with your fixation on a former girlfriend over even your own health ... "
"I could just as easily explain in the car - "
Without a word, Danielle lightly crossed her arms and sat down on the couch before swinging one leg over the other. She was closing up against me. She was wearing the same jeans and rugby top as she had been when I surprised her at Guerilla Bay. She was implacable – and not about to go anywhere.
Eva, safely out of Danielle’s sight-line in a corner of the room, set her head on one side and opened one hand palm up, fingers extended expressively.
Thanks mate, I thought, not for the first time.
Trish solicitously called down from upstairs: "Any chance of some coffee? We could really use some up here."
"What an excellent idea," I muttered weakly and headed for the kitchen.
Half an hour later, a couple of Bodum plungers of coffee had been made and consumed. The upstairs order of coffee had been dispatched to Trish and Sarah with Ted, once he had returned from chasing - unsuccessfully - the elusive Jeremy Ryder. Given Sarah’s state it seemed best not to mention that he lived a five minute sprint across the oval from Sarah's front door. Mercifully, the conference of flatmates remained in session upstairs. Meanwhile, over a rival pot of coffee (which I finished largely unaided), I laid out what Sarah had told me about Jenny and Unchaperoned, and Pop's bombshell.
"So," I concluded, "we just can't tell the police."
"Sorry," said Eva, "I don't get it. You have enough to connect Ryder with Jenny's death now by anyone's standards. Why don't we take it to the police?"
"Elliot," added Danielle, "it's just not enough to want to protect Marina from scandal anymore - no matter what you promised her father. Especially if you think it might be Dawes who leaked information about the inquiry to his brother."
"Half-brother," I muttered. "Look," I continued, "the leak is exactly why we can't go to the police - for Marina's safety. The Minister called me in for a chat not long after the police finished questioning me. At the time, I thought he was rattling my cage for David Carmichael. But that makes no sense. Virtually the last thing he said to me was, 'Tell Marina she still has her job no matter what.' That now seems a big hint that Marina knows about Ryder and Dawes and the leaks, that she's gone away to think about it. Add to that the personal interest he's taking in Jenny's murder investigation. He's the Minister for Justice, for god's sake - the AFP Commissioner reports to him. If I tell the police where Marina is, they will tell the Minister. What's to say he won't tell his brother? He's told me that the AFP aren't treating Marina being missing as either urgent or necessarily connected to Jenny's death, yet. If Ryder gets wind of her whereabout before the police follow it up, she could be in real danger. Sarah already thinks he had Jenny killed."
"But then why would he come over here, fly off the handle at Sarah?" asked Eva.
"I think that's my fault. When I went round and talked to him, pretending to be from the Planning and Land Authority, he probably checked and discovered that there was no planning officer called Daniel Chough. Then I go to Unchaperoned and manage to leave behind my wallet, a picture of David Carmichael and my face on his security cameras. David Carmichael is a business associate of his and is also someone one step from the Minister ... it was enough to make him pretty jumpy, especially if one of his thugs did kill Jenny.”
Eva nodded: “Especially if, Jenny was just meant to be frightened, and he didn’t know she was working for Dawes.”
“If anything,” I said, “the fact he’s behaving so unpredictably is another reason not to tell the police. If word gets to him via the Minister, it seems like all bets are off.”
“Right,” said Danielle, putting down her mug. “Clear this away, and I’ll see you in the car. Are you coming Eva, you’ve got work tomorrow, don’t you?”
Eva shrugged. “If you want to make it down and back tonight you’ll be better off with two drivers, and you’re right – Elliot’s in no shape to drive. Besides, you might need a hand keeping him out of trouble.”
She smiled as she said it, but I could read my housemate’s grin of old. It clearly said: Besides, I can’t wait to see what happens when Elliot introduces his new girlfriend to the Big Bad Ex who stomped all over him.