Installment 56: pages 233 - 236 [Elliot has a rather unexpected interview.]
It's not a comfortable feeling, really, sitting in a holiday house when a murder walks in the door. When swimming with sharks, Elliot, I thought, try and remember to stay in the cage. One hand curled around my mobile. If I can just keep him occupied for bit ...
"How'd you find us?" I asked.
He chucked, in a low friendly way, an oddly misplaced sound in that room.
"I never lost you. It was obvious you couldn't have gotten too far from the pub. I moved the car, parked round the corner and doubled back. I saw you cross the road under the street lights. Not the smartest move. Following you, finding out what you were up to, was no problem at all."
I nodded. The dark side-streets we'd hoped would hide us had also hidden him.
"So now we've got a three hour wait for your boss?"
The Slab chuckled again, and deposited himself on the arm of an unoccupied lounge. He sat there relaxed, easy. "He's not my boss, and it shouldn't be too long. I called him before we were too far out of Canberra."
I'd angled my body away from him. In my jacket pocket, I thumbed open the Motorolla. I felt cautiously for where the green OK button should be and pressed it. There was a muffled beep, hopefully signalling that the SMS had been sent. More like SOS, I thought, I hope Detective Cole keeps her mobile handy. The Federal Police, based in Canberra, seemed a long way away.
"Ryder's not your boss?" I echoed aloud. "Why follow us, then? What's your interest in Marina?"
Marina flinched. The others were keeping quiet, still gathering their thoughts, or trusting me to talk.
"Nothing at all. Until five minutes ago, I didn't know David Carmichael had a daughter. My interest is in you, Elliot."
He was listening outside the window, I thought.
"My interest," he continued, "was in someone nosing round my investment in Tall Trees - bothering Jeremy first, then showing up at my premises with a photo of another Tall Trees investor. I thought I'd put you off, until you showed up at one of Jeremy's girls' houses. Jeremy gets himself into some stupid fight with a boyfriend, I stop round to collect the idiot's car and there you are. Now I hear you were looking for Carmichael's daughter the whole time."
"Your investment?" I demanded. "Your premises? But Ryder's name's on all the ASIC documents, he owns Charcot and all the subsidiaries."
"Well," grinned the Slab. "Someone's checked the paperwork. Yeah, Jeremy's name is on all the paperwork, isn't it?"
Something fell into place.
"You're the one protecting Bob Mitchell's stake in Tall Trees, you're Jeremy's silent partner."
"Jeremy does what he's told," said the Slab.
"Look," said Stephen, "I don't know the ins and outs of what's going on here - but if you were worried about Elliot looking into Tall Trees, but now you know he was just trying to find Marina - why are we talking? What's the problem? Elliot's employed by someone you're in business with."
"The problem," the Slab said affably, "is that young Mr Naylor here seems to think I'm in the frame for murder."
"You don't seem particularly worried about that," said Stephen.
"Easily explained," he said. "This girl you were talking about, she's the one who's been in the papers - the one who was found dead in her flat in Kingston, right?"
I nodded: "Jenny."
"I've never met her," he said. "Never been there. Even if you gave my description to the police, even if they gave me the full forensic rundown, nothing would tie me to her death. You've got the wrong man."
If he's bluffing, I thought, it's a hell of an act.
"But Jenny was hanging around Unchaperoned. Your premises."
"Wouldn't know about that," he said. "The day you stopped in and we had our little discussion in the car park was the one day a week I stop in to check the books. Jeremy handles most of the day-to-day."
There was the sound of a car in the driveway.
"That'll be Jezza now," said the Slab calmly. "Once we've got this sorted out, we'll be on our way."