The Other One a Soothsayer Mystery Book Three

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  • 7/30/2019 The Other One a Soothsayer Mystery Book Three


    The Other One

    A Soothsayer Mystery

    a novelette by

    by Pauline Montagna

    Copyright Pauline Montagna 2009

    Published by

    at Smashwords by

    Pauline Montagna

    See her published books at

    Other titles by Pauline Montagna at Smashwords:


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    Ever the Bridesmaid

    Out of the Ashes


    Secrets and Suspicions

    Gone Missing

    High Stakes

    The Other One

    On a mild evening in October 1999, Mrs Elsie Graham faced three generations of women

    around her kitchen table. The youngest was a sweet, fair-haired girl of about thirteen in

    school uniform. Her mother was in her early forties with a drawn face and tight lips. Her

    grandmother, thin and gaunt with sad eyes, looked like she was in her seventies, but wasprobably much younger. Mrs Graham held her crabbed, age-spotted hands in her own. She

    sighed and put them down.

    Im sorry, Mrs Stapleton. I cant see anything.

    Please, Mrs Graham. Youre my last hope. Ive spent every penny Ive ever had looking for

    Narelle. That woman who rang up after the show said you were the best. Youve got to

    help me.

    Im so sorry, love. I dont know whod tell you a thing like that. Im just a run-of-the-mill

    housewife with a bit of a gift. Thats all.

    Her daughter Raelene stood up. I told you, Mum. This is a waste of time. Lets go home.

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    Mrs Stapletons lowered her head onto her hands. Her shoulders heaved. Raelenes face

    softened and she sank into her chair beside her mother and patted her back. Please,

    Mum, lets go home. But her mother didnt move and Raelene waited.

    Mrs Graham felt a tear course down her cheek. The poor woman had been looking for her

    daughter for twenty years and Raelene had probably been waiting for her mother to turnto her just as long. Mrs Grahams heart had gone out to them all when she saw them on

    the television the other night. She dearly wanted to help. Sometimes she wished she was

    more like those clairvoyants shed heard about who would always have something to tell

    you, even if itd been plucked out of thin air. But she couldnt. All she knew was what

    shed learnt from that True Crime Stories program.

    Twenty years ago, sixteen-year-old Narelle Stapleton had gone missing from a school camp

    in the Gippsland high country. Her father was just a foundry worker, but a year earlier the

    family had won the jackpot in Tattlsotto. Theyd bought a new house in the eastern

    suburbs and sent Narelle to Penry Girls Grammar, probably Melbournes most expensive

    private girls school. After Narelle disappeared her parents got a few ransom notes, but

    nothing came of it. The bag full of cash was never collected. Narelle was never sent back

    or her body found. An expert said that she had probably got something called the

    Stockholm Syndrome, that maybe shed fallen in love with her kidnapper and decided to

    stay with him. Needless to say, her mother couldnt believe that her daughter would leave

    her like that, without even a word.

    Raelene looked up at Mrs Graham. Her eyes pleaded for help. Mrs Graham nodded

    reluctantly. Perhaps if I could hold something that belonged to her? Did you bring


    Raelene shook her head.

    I think Ive got something, little Narelle said. She brought a pencil case out of her school

    backpack and took out an old fashioned six-inch wooden ruler. On the front was a kiwi

    made of inlaid greenstone and the words Rotorua, New Zealand. On the back had been

    scratched out the words, RANDY 4 NARELLE.

    Raelene snatched it from her hand. Where did you get that?

    You forgot to put it back after the film crew left. Her voice cracked. Why did you give

    me her name if Im never even supposed to talk about her?Raelene ran her fingers over the rough letters before handing the ruler to Mrs Graham. It

    was in her school locker.

    When did she go to New Zealand?

    Shed never been there. We think maybe one of her friends gave it to her.

    And Randy?

    Raelene shrugged with a sad smile. She took the tram with the boys from Bolton

    Grammar. Maybe he was one of them.

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    He was probably the one who threw her hat around the tram.

    Raelene almost laughed. She bent over her mother. Come on, Mum. Mrs Grahams going

    to give it another try. She eased her mother up and gave her a tissue to dry her tears. Mrs

    Stapleton blew her nose and sat up straight. When she was ready she nodded. All three

    pairs of eyes were on Mrs Graham as she held the ruler in both hands and closed her eyes.

    It was in the mountains. A clearing in the bush. Some wooden buildings a few yards back

    from a fast-running creek in a steep, rocky bed. She followed the creek for a stretch and

    then she saw her. A female body head down in the rushing waters, her foot caught in the

    branches of a low hanging tree.

    Raelene jumped to her feet. I knew it. I knew you were a fake. That creek was searched

    from top to bottom. Narelle wasnt found in that creek. She was never in that creek.

    Mrs Stapleton took her sleeve. But the Dargo Schools Camp. She described that exactly.

    It was on the television. She saw it there. Raelene snatched the ruler out of Mrs

    Grahams hand. This ones the worst of the lot, Mum. She pretends to be honest but shes

    as phony as all the rest. Raelene picked up Narelles backpack and pulled her mother to

    her feet. And dont think were going to pay you a penny for this. Just think yourself

    lucky we dont report you to the police.

    Mrs Graham let her tears flow as her front door slammed shut.

    Marilyn wrote the name in her notebook. Amanda Merriman.

    Now, Ms Merriman, when was the last time you saw your sister?

    About ten oclock on Tuesday morning. The woman sitting across the elegant coffee

    table from Marilyn drew hard on her cigarette. Although she wasnt tall, her slender

    dancers limbs gave the impression of height. Her auburn hair was drawn back in a tight

    bun. Green eyes shone from her pale, handsome face.

    Can you tell me the circumstances?

    Karen Merriman shrugged. Our things had just arrived from Europe and we were sorting

    them out when we had an argument. It wasnt anything serious. Just about stuff from

    when we were kids. But she took her car keys and stormed out. They were sitting in an

    art-deco apartment. The smell of paint lingered, the windows were bare of curtains and

    the furniture was new, but mementos from Europe were already tastefully displayed on

    every surface.

    Could you describe her car?

    Its a new model Ford Festiva. Dark Blue. I forget the registration. Ill have to look it up

    for you. Shes only had it a few days.

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    Youve only recently arrived in Melbourne, I take it.

    Yes, weve been back for about a month, but weve been in Queensland for the last

    couple of weeks seeing our father.

    Are you from Queensland originally?Karen smiled. No, Dad retired there recently with his new wife. Were from dear old

    Melbourne. In fact we grew up not far from here.

    Have you been away for some time?

    Over fifteen years.

    And what brought you back?

    My dream job. Artistic Director of the Victorian Dance Theatre. I start on Monday.

    What were you doing before that?

    Dancing and then choreography in various companies in Europe, mostly Germany and the

    Netherlands. My last job was as assistant director of the Rotterdam Dance Company.

    And where has Amanda been?

    With me.

    Is Amanda a dancer, too?

    Not professionally, no.

    So, what did she do?

    I guess you could say she was my companion.

    Your income supported you both?

    Amanda picked up jobs here and there. Mostly stage-managing in the theatres where I

    worked. She drew on her cigarette.

    So, Amanda devoted herself to your career at the cost of her own?

    It was what she wanted. I dont see the point of these questions.

    Im just looking for a motivation for your sisters disappearance.

    Karens eye narrowed. Amanda wouldnt just walk away from me. She couldnt.

    Right. Marilyns pen scrawled across her notebook. Sick of living in her sisters shadow.

    Finally makes a run for it. Could you give me a description of Amanda?

    Karen shrugged. Youre looking at her. Shes my twin sister. Identical, except that her

    hairs a bit shorter. She was wearing blue cotton pants, you know, the tie-up ones you get

    in Thailand and a sleeveless cotton top. It was striped. Pale blue, green and white, I


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    Did she take anything with her? Documents, passport, credit cards?

    Karens lips pursed. Just what was in her handbag. She didnt leave me, Detective Senior

    Toscano. There was no plan, no premeditation. Somethings happened to her.

    Marilyn smiled grimly. Lets just hope it hasnt, shall we? Would it be all right if DetectiveConstable Moodley here searched your sisters room? Just in case theres anything there

    that could shed some light

    DC Vikram Moodley dropped his report on Amanda Merriman on Marilyns desk. I dont

    know, Maz. It might be more than you think. None of her clothes are gone and her

    passports still there.

    Has she used any of her bank accounts?

    No. She hasnt made any withdrawals, and the last time she used her credit card was at a

    petrol station this side of Pakenham at ten-thirty on Tuesday morning.

    Marilyn leafed through the report. Staying with friends?

    Ive been through her address book. She doesnt seem to have many and most of those

    havent seen her since she got back.


    Ive called them all. Nothing.

    The telephone rang and Marilyn slammed the report shut. What is it?

    Its only me.

    Look, Joel, Im pretty busy.

    Vikram discreetly moved away.

    I know. Thats why you need this week off. So, whatll it be? Surf or turf?

    Can we discuss this at home?

    Its just that Im looking through some brochures here and there are some really good

    deals in places like Apollo Bay and Lorne.


    All right. Ill look at a few ski resorts. I daresay theyll be even cheaper this time of



    All right, all right. Ill see you on the weekend.

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    Marilyn handed the report back to Vikram. Get out to Pakenham and ask around. Vikram

    raised an eyebrow. All right. As soon as youve got the time.

    Marilyn tried to be less aggressive the next time the telephone rang.

    Marilyn, its me Elsie Graham. You couldnt come by and see me tonight, could you?

    My parents are expecting me for dinner.

    Thats all right then. Theyre only down the road. You could even come after if you like.

    Ill wait up for you.

    Mrs Graham, weve been through this. I can only help you with police matters.

    This is a police matter, love. And right up your alley, in fact. A missing person. Youre

    with Missing Persons these days, arent you?

    Yes, but until weve had an official report

    Oh, theres sure to be a report on this case. It was even on the telly last week. Did you

    see it? The one about the little girl that went missing twenty years ago. Itd be a feather

    in your cap if you solved that one, wouldnt it?

    You mean Narelle Stapleton?

    Thats the one. Her Mum and sister came to me. Ive seen the body.

    Sergeant McIvors in charge of that case and they havent said anything to him.

    There was a pause. Well, they didnt actually believe me.

    So why should I?

    Because you know me, love.

    Marilyn sighed. All right. Ill try not to be too late.


    The dinner table was already laid when Marilyn arrived at her parents place. Her

    grandmother was in her wheel-chair, Vince and Peter sitting on either side of her. She

    held one each of their hands in both her arthritic ones. She beamed at Marilyn as she bent

    to kiss her.

    Look whos here tonight, cara mia. My lovely boys.

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    Vince rose to hug his cousin. Trapped by Carmela, the best Peter could do was let Marilyn

    kiss him on both cheeks.

    Youve made a conquest, I think.

    Peter made a comic grimace.Vince laughed. Should I be jealous?

    Dont be an idiot, Vince, nonna said.

    Marilyn counted the place settings. Arent Anthony and Dianne coming?

    Gianna harrumphed as she poured the pasta into the bubbling pot.

    Rocco shook his head sadly. Not tonight, cara. Things arent good.

    Gianna slammed the lid onto the pot. That little putanas gone and left him. But I told

    him, what more could he expect from a girl he picked up in a nightclub. Shes never

    home. Where did he think she was going every night, to mass?

    Zitta, figlia mia, her mother hissed at her. Dont make it worse than it is. Anthonys

    heartbroken. His mother should be giving him comfort. Not more grief.

    Gianna banged the oil bottle down. Rocco raised his eyebrows at his daughter. Marilyn

    went to her mother and put her arms around her. Gianna returned the hug for a moment

    then eased her away. Put the antipasto out. We can have a nibble while we wait for the


    Vince pushed Carmelas chair to the table and held it still while Peter lifted her into a

    kitchen chair. She pinched his cheek. Ma, come sei bello. Its a pity you and Vince cant

    have babies. Theyd be beautiful.

    Peter, who couldnt understand a word the old lady said in her idiosyncratic Italian,

    looked around bewildered as everyone else laughed.

    Well, it doesnt look like Im going to have any great-grandchildren at this rate. Maria,

    youre my last hope. When are you going to marry that boyfriend of yours?

    What boyfriend?

    What boyfriend! Do you think Im blind? Nonna shrugged. Oh well, the invitations will be

    going out fast enough when you get pregnant. A six month baby is better than no baby at

    all, I guess.

    Marilyn refused another of Mrs Grahams pumpkin scones. What makes you so sure what

    you saw was from the present and not the past?

    I just know. That body is up there right now. Youve got to go up and find it.

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    So you dont think she has anything to do with Narelle Stapleton?

    Mrs Graham sighed. She must have, or else I wouldnt have seen her while they were

    here. But to tell you the truth I dont know what. Maybemaybe Narelle didnt die twenty

    years ago. Maybe for some reason she went back to the Dargo Schools Camp and and

    And what? Accidently fell into the creek? Threw herself in?


    Marilyn got up to go. Ill put a call through to the local boys.

    What will you tell them?

    That Ive had a tip-off.

    Who from, your pet clairvoyant?

    Marilyn stopped.

    Itd be a long way out of their way, wouldnt it? Do you think theyd bother? Youve got

    to go yourself. She took Marilyns arm. Before before its too late. I think shes already

    been up there a few days.

    Marilyn sighed. Let me sleep on it.

    Mrs Graham nodded, satisfied. Ill give you a call on the weekend.

    Joel handed Marilyn her morning short black. You had a call while you were in the

    shower. A Mrs Graham. Nice lady. Funny, though. She said she was an old friend and she

    knew all about me, but youve never mentioned her.

    Marilyn avoided his eye as she sipped her coffee. What did she want?

    She just wanted to know if youd made up your mind. She said youd know what she


    Marilyn finished her coffee in a gulp and got up to pour herself another. Theres just

    something she wants me to look into for her.

    And will you?

    Were going away, arent we?

    True. Joel took the toast out of the toaster and scraped it with butter. She did tell me

    something about herself, this Mrs Graham.

    Marilyn took a slice. Such as?

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    How shes helped you in the past. To find your cousin. And that fraud case a couple of

    years ago. Did she really help you?

    Marilyn was rooting around in the fruit basket. Sort of. She found a kiwifruit.

    With clairvoyance?Marilyn sat back in her chair. People come to her. They tell her stuff and she wants to

    help them so she comes to me. Thats all.

    Are you going to look into it?

    Were going away.

    So, youre not going to look for the body in the creek? He grinned at Marilyns scowl. I

    have my own ways of making people talk.

    You want to go to the beach.

    You want to go to the mountains.

    Honestly, Joel, youre a scientist. You dont believe her, do you?

    Parapsychology is as legitimate a subject for investigation as any other facet of the

    human mind. Why not have a look? Well be up there anyway.

    Marilyn knew she was beaten.

    And on the way you can fill me in on the other cases Mrs Grahams been involved in.

    At the Dargo Schools Camp Joel got out of the Pajero, wrestled with the improvised clasp

    and opened the gate for Marilyn to drive through. With good country etiquette he closed

    the gate and replaced the clasp, then jumped back into the car. Marilyn drove on down

    the red gravel track through the bush until they came to a rough clearing. She braked. A

    lone car a small, blue run-about was parked there. Marilyn muttered something under

    her breath, then parked beside it.

    Whats wrong? Joel asked her.

    I dont know yet. Maybe you should stay here.

    Joel followed Marilyn further up the track until they came to a larger clearing which held

    several wooden bunkhouses and a hall. He could hear the trickling of a creek at the base

    of the clearing. Marilyn went to it and Joel stood beside her on the steep bank. At the

    bottom was a creek running swiftly over a rocky bed. Marilyn turned in the direction of the

    flow and jogged along the bank. After the clearing the creek bed went back into thick

    bush and its banks became less steep. When Joel caught up with Marilyn she had come to

    a halt by a twisted she-oak that overhung the creek. A length of navy blue cloth wascaught in it and trailed in the water. Marilyn held out a hand to stop him coming closer.

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    My mobiles in the car. Youll find the number in there for the local police. Give them my

    name and tell them to get here right away.

    Is it Narelle Stapleton?

    I dont think so.Joel went back to the car.

    Its a bit too early to tell exactly what happened. She might have fallen in, or jumped.

    Well get the Forensics in, but my guess is we wont need to call in Homicide. Senior

    Constable Allan was middle aged and comfortable in his small, country station. He handed

    Marilyn and Joel each a mug of strong, white tea.

    Marilyn took one sip, just to be polite. Apart from our own there didnt seem to be any

    other fresh tyre tracks.

    No, but weve had a couple days rain since Tuesday. And the weekend before there was a

    big jamboree up there or something. I doubt tyre tracks will tell us much. He poked at

    the keyboard and peered at the screen then settled in his chair. Right. Now, Detective

    Senior Toscano, how did you come to find the body?

    Look, Senior. Id rather not get involved. It was really my friend Joel here who actually

    found the body. I was just tagging along.

    SC Allen scrutinised her for a moment, then nodded. All right then, Mr Walker, how did

    you come to find the body?

    Well, um

    Dont be embarrassed, darling, it wont worry the Senior. Marilyn grinned. We were just

    looking for a little privacy. You know how it is. What with the hours I work its been a


    Allan chuckled. Tell me about it.

    Joel reddened. Um, yeah, we thought: school camp; weekend; therell be no one there.

    And then?

    Well after we I went for a walk, to stretch my legs, and thats when I found her. Marilyn

    stayed with her while I went off to call you. She shes got a stronger stomach than I


    And you have no idea who she is?

    To tell you the truth, I didnt go close enough to find out. But the car. That should

    identify her.

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    Were already onto it, but the weekend you know how it is. Senior Allan printed up the

    sheet for Joels signature. That should be all for now, Mr Walker. Thank you for your co-


    Have I just committed a criminal offence? Joel asked Marilyn as they climbed into the


    Probably, but I wouldnt worry about it.

    Joel manoeuvred out of the carpark and found his way to the highway. And why the


    Because I dont want to give anyone the rope to hang me with. A copper who knows too

    much is always suspect.

    Knows too much about what?

    Marilyn had pressed a few keys on her phone and put it to her ear. Vikram? Hi, its Maz.Listen, Ive just heard on the local news that theyve fished a body out of a creek up

    here Just give the Maffra station a call and check it out... No, dont use my name. Im

    on leave, remember?... It sounds like she might fit the description of Amanda Merriman.


    Joel lay quietly as Marilyn tossed from side to side beside him. Finally she turned onto herback and lay still for a while. Joel, would you mind if we went back to Melbourne


    Maz, you need this holiday and to tell you the truth, I need some time with you. I hardly

    see you.

    I havent been much company, though, have I?

    Im sorry now I suggested we come up here.

    No. I should be sorry. Ive tried to let it go, but I cant. I cant understand what the

    connection could be between Narelle Stapleton and Amanda Merriman.

    Like you keep saying. Its just a coincidence.

    And like you keep saying, with Mrs Graham involved its not likely. There must be some

    connection and I cant find it up here.

    From what youve told me, you wont get much of a chance to find it back at work,

    either. Your boss keeps the Stapleton case under lock and key and the Merriman case is

    closed. McIvor wont let you waste any time on either.

    Not company time, maybe.

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    Joel sighed. Oh, Maz.

    Marilyn turned and stroked his cheek. All right. How about one more day She kissed

    him. and one more night?

    It wasnt enough, but it would have to do.

    Vikram. Its Maz.

    Youre on leave, remember.

    How did you go with that body? Was it her?

    It sure was.

    Did Karen identify her? How did she take it?

    She was stoic but shaken. It was really creepy, seeing them like that. It was as though she

    was looking at her own dead body.

    Has McIvor closed the case?

    What else could he do?

    You couldnt get your hands on the Forensics report, could you?

    Why? The case is closed.

    Loose ends, Vik. Cant stand them.

    Ill see what I can do.

    Could you have it there tomorrow?

    Maz, youre not due back til Monday. McIvor wont even let you into the office before


    Ciao, Vik. Ill see you tomorrowWait a minute, Vik. The Stapleton case. Did we get anyresponse from that True Crime Stories program?

    Not that I know of.

    Could you get me that file, too?

    Whats the Stapleton case got to do with anything?

    Lets just say Ive got a hunch.

    A hunch?

    Yep, just a hunch.

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    All right, but if McIvor eats my balls, youll hear about it.

    My dear, Ill want to know all the gruesome details.

    Mrs Graham pressed another slice of sponge cake on Marilyn. My, that is strange. I dont

    know how it couldve happened. The only people with me were related to poor Narelle. At

    first I couldnt see anything, but then the little girl gave me Narelles ruler. And thats

    when I saw the body. Her eyes brightened. That must be it. The ruler. They were sure it

    was hers. Her name was scratched on it and it was in her locker. It was one of those little

    souvenir rulers. From New Zealand. But Narelle had never been to New Zealand. They

    reckoned a friend gave it to her. That must be the connection. The seeing didnt come

    from Narelle, but from the friend who gave her the ruler.

    Marilyn put down the cake and got out her notebook. Whos got the ruler now?

    Vikram had given Marilyn the files with bad grace as they were signed out in his name.

    Marilyn had promised faithfully to bring them back to the office when she reported for

    duty on Monday. Now she was leafing through them page by page.

    The Stapleton file was thick with witness statements. The school camp had taken place

    during the first week of October, 1979. Every girl and teacher who attended it had beengrilled. Every classmate and teacher who hadnt been there was as well. Several of

    Narelles classmates at her old school were also questioned. Out of it all the general

    consensus was that Narelle had been a quiet, intelligent and studious girl. Although not

    unpopular, she was the type of girl who tended to have one best friend at a time. She had

    few friends at Penry Grammar, but kept in close touch with her best friend from her old

    school. Typical of a girl of her age, she was known to have a crush on a boy in her former

    street, but he hadnt seen her since her family moved away. Her mother doted on her.

    Her father was proud of her. And although her older sister Raelene resented her a little,

    she didnt seem to hate her enough to do away with her. Mrs Stapleton reported that

    Narelle had had some trouble settling down in the new school at first, but seemed to begetting on well of late. However, while none of her current schoolmates or teachers would

    say that she was being bullied, her old friend was adamant that she was.

    On the day Narelle disappeared, she had been taking part in an orienteering event.

    Narelle was not athletic, but she liked bushwalking and was good at map-reading.

    Although she was not expected to win the race, she was well capable of returning to camp

    safe and sound. But she didnt. The bush was scoured for miles in every direction. Nothing

    was found of her.

    The ransom notes had started coming a week after the disappearance. In the classic style

    they were written from words and letters cut out of newspaper headlines. They demanded$100,000 for Narelles return. The Stapletons mortgaged their house to get the cash and

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    scrupulously followed police advice. But the ransom was never collected and the notes

    stopped. The police suspected a hoax, or a crude attempt to put them off-track. Whatever

    the motive, those notes were the last that was heard of Narelle Stapleton. With no body

    and no evidence of foul play, it remained an open Missing Persons case, but with a strong

    presumption on the part of the police that Narelle had run away of her own accord and

    would return some day in the same way.

    The Merriman file was wafer thin in comparison. Vikram had been meticulous, but there

    was little there Marilyn hadnt expected. The Forensics report had little to add. Due to

    the heavy rain since Tuesday, there was no evidence remaining of where and how the

    body had entered the water. It was probably at some point upstream of where it was

    found and had been snagged by the overhanging tree. An examination of the car had found

    Amandas handbag with her ID. There was no evidence of anyone else having been in the

    car. The autopsy on the body had still to be finalised.

    However, there were a couple of documents with more to tell. A photocopy of Amandas

    passport gave her full name as Narelle Amanda Merriman and her year of birth as 1963,

    the same as Narelle Stapletons. There was also an achievement certificate from Penry

    Girls Grammar School.


    Raelene gave Marilyn the ruler. You will bring it back, wont you? I know it isnt much,


    Of course.

    You said on the phone you had some new information.

    Um, yes, I think so, but I cant really discuss it.

    Do you think its got something to do with whoever gave Narelle that ruler?

    It might. Do you know who wouldve given it to her?

    Raelene shook her head. No idea. I didnt really know much about Narelles friends, or

    anything much about her life, really. I was five years older and we were like chalk and

    cheese. She smiled weakly. She liked to stay home and read. I left school as soon as I

    could and chased the boys.

    Can you remember anyone she talked about from Penry?

    Not really.

    She didnt happen to mention that there was another Narelle?

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    Raelenes face lit up. Oh, yes. Thats right. The other one was a twin. She was full of this

    other Narelle when she first started

    And then?

    Raelene shrugged. I wasnt paying much attention.Narelles disappearance must have devastated your parents.

    It couldnt have made things any worse. Mum and Dad werent suited. Dad worked in a

    factory. Mum was going to go to teachers college. Thats where Narelle got it from. But

    then she got pregnant and that was that. She smiled. Dad was a good looking bloke then.

    Mums bit of rough, I guess. But they were at each others throats for as long as I can

    remember. The Tattslotto money only gave them more to argue about. By the time

    Narelle disappeared they werent even talking to each other. We put on a good show for

    the police, but it was just show. Dad left a few months after it happened. He only died

    last year He drank.

    Marilyn gave Raelene a moment then asked, So Narelle had reason to run away?

    Raelene nodded. But she wasnt the type. She was really close to Mum. She wouldnt do

    that to her. Not like that. If she was going to leave she would have done it fair and


    Marilyn had to go to the studios of the Victorian Dance Theatre to find Karen. Her warrantcard got her into the rehearsal room. A nest of young bodies in leotards were writhing and

    stretching, while Karen walked around them, clapping time to atonal, rhythmless music

    and shouting directions. One of the dancers missed his step and fell, bringing two others

    down with him.

    Oh, for the love of God Karen slammed the CD player off. Take five, and come back

    with your wits about you. Grim-faced, the dancers stretched, then relaxed and walked

    away. An assistant whispered in Karens ear and she came over to where Marilyn was

    standing just inside the door.

    It must be hard, coming back to work so soon

    Karen shrugged, lips terse. The show must go on. And theyve already been waiting two

    months for me to start. I couldnt put it off any longer. I thought the case was closed as

    far as your lot were concerned.

    It is, but something new has come up. Marilyn held the ruler out to Karen. This has

    come to light in another case Ive been investigating, and I was wondering if you

    recognised it.

    Karen looked at it, her eyes unfathomable, but she didnt reach out for it.

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    It was found among the belongings of Narelle Stapleton. She was in your year at Penry

    Grammar when she disappeared, wasnt she?

    That was a long time ago. What has this got to do with Amanda?

    I was wondering if by any chance it belonged to her.She took the ruler. Her expression softened. Id forgotten about these. We went to New

    Zealand for the holidays, it must have been the Christmas before it happened. Mine wore

    away to nothing. Narelle lost hers.

    Who was Randy?

    Karen grinned. Poor old Randy. He was one of our teachers. PE and Biology. Poor boy. He

    was so young and we gave him hell. Everyone was saying he got a hard-on in PE classes.

    And then we found out his middle name was Randolph. Girls can be so cruel.

    Did your sister have a crush on him?

    God, no. If anything it was the other way round. He couldnt keep his eyes off us. Narelle

    didnt write this. One of her friends did. She was furious. I always thought that was why

    she lost it.

    Narelle Stapleton didnt take it, by any chance?

    Perhaps. Though I dont know why she should.

    What was the relationship like between the two of you and Narelle Stapleton?

    There wasnt one.

    Wasnt she in your class?

    She was, but she wasnt in our set. We didnt have anything to do with her.

    According to the file, Narelle was probably being bullied. Did you notice anything like


    A few of the girls gave her a hard time, but nothing serious.

    What do you remember of the day Narelle disappeared?

    Nothing your files couldnt tell you. We were running an orienteering course. I was one of

    the front runners, so I didnt see anything of her once we left the starting line. No one

    suspected anything was wrong until they did the final head count and she was missing. We

    girls were all for going back in to look for her, but the teachers wouldnt let us and called

    in the police.

    According to the record, Narelle finished third, but you came in much later.

    Karen paused for a moment. Yes, I fell and twisted my ankle. I had to walk the last

    section pretty gingerly.And you still didnt see Narelle Stapleton?

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    She might have run past me. I wouldnt know. I was concentrating hard. I was afraid of

    hurting my ankle any further. My dancing career was more important to me than winning

    the race. She handed the ruler back to Marilyn. Is that all?

    When did your sister start using the name Amanda?

    In England. She said Narelle was too Australian.

    When was she in England?

    She went there in 1980, when I was in the Australian Ballet School.

    She wasnt interested in a dance career?

    Karen shrugged. She was, but she didnt get in. Amanda could have stayed on at school

    and gone to uni, but she preferred not to, so our parents let her go overseas, to stay with

    our relatives in London. After a year in the corp at the Australian Ballet, I thought Id try

    my luck in Europe and I caught up with her there. The dancers were beginning to gatheron the dance floor. Ive got to go.

    Just one last question. Did you and Amanda happen to watch True Crime Stories a couple

    of nights before she went? It was about Narelles disappearance.

    Was it? I didnt see it. Amanda had more time to watch TV than I did, but she never

    mentioned it.

    Josephine Amad was teaching at the same northern suburbs high school where she had

    been best friends with Narelle Stapleton. They talked as Josephine circled the playground

    on yard duty.

    They should never have moved away. Narelle hated that school. But her mother had

    middle-class aspirations. Narelle came back here whenever she could. Raelene was over

    this way almost every weekend. And Bob, their father, moved straight back here when he

    left their mother. The only person we never saw was Mrs Stapleton.

    What did Narelle hate about it?

    They were all a bunch of snobs and they bullied her.

    What did they do to her, exactly?

    Josephine sighed. I dont know exactly. Narelle never talked about it in much detail. But

    if you ask me, I think that other Narelle was the worst of the lot.

    But Narelle never complained?

    No. I think Josephine paused to shout at a student. I think Narelle How can I put

    this?... had a sort of crush on her. She talked about her all the time, but it was neverabout anything they did together. It was as though as though she spent her whole day

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    watching her from afar. If the other Narelle ever talked to her it was just to put her down,

    or tell her to piss off.

    Did she ever hit her?

    Josephine smiled. No, but thats not how girls bully, is it?

    Mrs Hillary Barrington was now Principal of Penry Girls Grammar School. In 1979 she was

    co-ordinator of English for the senior years. I taught them all. The twins from Year Seven,

    Form One as we knew it then, and Narelle Stapleton when she started Form Five that

    year. But why do you need to know all this? Mrs Barrington regarded her with a stern eye

    and Marilyn wondered how many young bottoms had squirmed in the seat she was


    Narelle Merriman died at the same school camp Narelle Stapleton went missing from. Im

    sure there has to be some connection. Could you tell me about the relationships between

    them? The twins, perhaps, to begin with.

    Mrs Barrington pursed her lips. Narelle and Karen? I guess they were much like any

    siblings, but intensified by being the same age. They were competitive, very competitive.

    But there was little to separate them. I would say Karen was a shade better academically,

    but Narelle had the edge on her physically.

    Which would you say was the dominant twin?

    Karen, although Narelle was rather rebellious. They tended to keep separate circles of

    friends. And both twins dominated their circle.

    What happened when Narelle Stapleton arrived?

    Poor girl. She was well out of her depth.

    Was she bullied?

    Mrs Barrington looked away. I daresay these days we would call it that. It wasnt

    considered an issue back then. At most we might have called it picking on someone, butwe expected the girls to sort it out amongst themselves.

    What form did it take?

    Verbal mostly, and by exclusion. She made very few friends while she was here.

    Was there ever any physical violence?

    Mrs Barrington paused, and then smiled. Not violence as such, but there was one thing

    that struck me. We had desks in rows in those days. Narelle Stapleton sat directly behind

    Narelle Merriman and every time she came up the aisle, the other Narelle tripped her up.

    Poor Narelle never realised it was happening.

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    You said Narelle had the edge on Karen physically. Did that include dancing?


    Yet Karen got into the Australian Ballet School and Narelle didnt.

    That was a real tragedy. In fact they were both accepted, but then Narelle was diagnosedwith Juvenile Arthritis and she had to give up any idea of a career in the ballet.

    Karen didnt mention it.

    No, they kept it quiet. Narelle was fiercely proud. She didnt want anyones pity. I was

    told because I was her form teacher, but in the strictest confidence. They both left the

    school at the end of that year. I hear Karen has done well. I believe Narelle could have

    done just as well in any career she chose, but I think after the diagnosis she went into a

    severe depression. She became very withdrawn and apathetic.

    Do you happen to know when she got that diagnosis?

    It was in that last year, of course. I think it was during the September school holidays. I

    remember she did unexpectedly badly in her October exams.

    Do you know where I might contact any of Narelles friends?

    I think Michelle Dennis still keeps in touch. My secretary can get you her contact details

    from our alumni files.

    And the PE teacher who was in charge of the school camp, John Cameron, do you know

    where I can find him these days?

    Mrs Barrington smiled. Just turn on your television any night of the week.

    Marilyn was taken aback. The Jack Cameron?

    The very one.

    Jack Cameron was Melbournes biggest media sports personality. After making a name for

    himself in the Australian Cricket team he had joined a television network and

    singlehandedly made it the most successful sports channel in the country. No major

    sporting event was televised on it that he didnt commentate. No sport quiz or variety

    program that he didnt present. Handsome, charming, and with the persona of a loveable

    larrikin, he had sealed his reputation with his tireless work for several major charities.

    Only last year his wedding to Australias most famous fashion model had made headlines in

    all the papers and television news broadcasts.

    He always signs himself JR Cameron. His middle name wouldnt be Randolph, would it?

    It would, but that is a state secret.


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    Jack Cameron condescended to give Marilyn ten minutes between meetings. He received

    her in his large, glass-walled office, enthroned behind a mahogany desk. Marilyn sank into

    a soft leather armchair and faced him across its wide expanse.

    Yes, of course I remember Narelle Stapleton. Poor girl. Was anything ever heard of her?

    No, nothing. But we thought wed reopen the case in light of the response to the True

    Crime Stories program. Did you happen to see it? It was on your network.

    He laughed. Ive barely got time to watch my own programs.

    We think we may have a few new leads.

    Thats great. But I dont know how I can help you. I told the police everything I knew

    back then. It should all be on file.

    It is, but there were just a few more questions I wanted to ask.

    Jack gave a quick, mechanical smile. Fire away.

    You were the teacher in charge at the school camp where Narelle went missing?

    Yes, I was.

    I was just wondering about the orienteering event itself. Youre sure Narelle Stapleton

    did actually set out on the course?

    We did a head count at the starting line. She must have been there then. But, of course, Icouldnt keep them all in sight once theyd set off.

    You ran the course with them?

    In a manner of speaking. I ran backwards and forwards along the course making sure

    everything was OK. But, as I said, I doubt I saw everyone.

    So, you didnt see Narelle once shed set off.

    Once or twice near the beginning. But not after that.

    What about the Merriman twins? Did you see them?

    Jacks smile disappeared. What have the twins got to do with it?

    Please bear with me. Did you see them?

    They were both pretty fit. They took off fast and would have been among the first in.

    But you didnt see them come in?

    As I said, I stayed on the course.

    So who took the records?

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    The other teacher there, Christine Masters. She was at the finishing line.

    Marilyn brought out a photocopied sheet. According to the record they were separated.

    He thought for a moment. Oh, yes. Karen came in among the top three, but Narelle

    limped in quite a bit later. I think shed fallen.Marilyn pushed the paper across the desk. Apparently it was Narelle who came in first and

    Karen who limped in.

    Jack studied the page. Ah, yes, so it was. It was a long time ago. Easy to misremember.

    But I dont see what the twins have to do with Narelles disappearance.

    There was a rather peculiar relationship between the two Narelles, wasnt there? Narelle

    Merriman was bullying the other, wasnt she?

    He scoffed. I wouldnt call it bullying. Just a bit of ragging. Nothing serious.

    Did you notice anything untoward between the two Narelles at that camp?

    Not that I could see.

    When you couldnt see? At night, maybe.

    They were in separate cabins.

    If anything was happening, you would have seen it, wouldnt you? Karen tells me you took

    a particular interest in them.

    Jacks face reddened. I was young, they were beautiful and there were two of them.What red-blooded male wouldnt be interested? But I never took it any further. The day I

    got that job I was told in no uncertain terms. I knew what I was in for if I laid a finger on

    any one of those girls.

    Im not saying you did. I was just wondering if you were aware of anything significant

    happening to the twins at that camp, Narelle in particular, or between the two Narelles.

    No, nothing. Why are you asking these questions? What have the twins got to do with

    Narelle Stapleton?

    Narelle Merriman was found dead the other day, in the creek, at the very school campwhere Narelle Stapleton went missing.

    Jacks face froze. His phone rang. He let it ring several times before he picked it up. He

    listened. Ill be out in a minute. He hung up. Would you mind?

    Marilyn got her things together and left him alone.

    Christine Masters was now principal of a small Christian college on the edge of the urbansprawl. Marilyn was invited to her office well after school hours. She was reluctant to say

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    anything more about the school camp until Marilyn told her about Narelle Merrimans


    You think the two are connected?

    I believe so.How?

    I cant be sure yet. Did you teach all three girls?

    No, just Narelle Stapleton. German and History.

    So you didnt know the twins well?

    Barely at all. I was new that year.

    Jack Cameron tells me you took the records for the orienteering course. Marilyn handed

    Christine the photocopied sheet.

    Yes, thats my writing.

    You have Narelle coming in at third and Karen quite some distance behind.

    As best as I can remember it.

    Can you remember why Karen was so far behind?

    She must have been injured. Apparently they were so competitive neither one would have

    let the other one win otherwise.

    Youre sure they came in that order? I have reason to believe it was Karen who came in


    Christine studied the record. I might have been wrong. Id never been able to tell them


    Where was Jack?

    Somewhere on the course. He didnt come in until quite late in the piece.

    Mrs Masters, I think something must have happened to Narelle Merriman at the camp forher to return there after twenty years. Did you observe anything? Between the twins, or

    between the two Narelles, or perhaps between Jack and the twins.

    Christine sat back in her chair. Not at the camp, maybe, but afterwards.

    What did you see?

    I saw them one day, in a classroom during the lunch hour. Jack was talking to her, and

    she was standing there, not looking at him. She turned to walk away, but he said

    something to her and she turned back. Then he kissed her. And she let him. She didnt

    participate, she didnt pull away, she just let him.

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    One of the twins.

    You dont know which one?

    Identical twins in school uniform. How could I tell?

    Did you report it?

    No. I was afraid if I said anything it would all come out Jack and I were having an affair,

    or had been, up until that school camp. After that he cooled towards me. So I watched

    him, followed him sometimes, until I knew for certain.

    Did you ever confront him?

    No I was quite a bit older than him and married. I made do with the little that was left.

    And then at the end of that year he was gone. She smiled wanly. I was relieved, really,that I wouldnt see him again. And then all these years later My husbands his biggest


    Michelle Dennis was a partner in one of Melbournes largest and most prestigious law

    firms. She met Marilyn in a caf on the ground floor of the office tower it occupied.

    I havent seen either of them in years. Im afraid I was persona non grata with both of


    What did you do?

    Michelle put down her cup. After I finished my articles I took some time off and went to

    Europe. I caught up with them there, and to tell you the truth I couldnt believe what I

    was seeing. When I knew them they were so competitive. Narelle would never have

    conceded an inch to Karen if she could help it. And here was Narelle, Karens willing

    dogsbody. Narelle had no life of her own. She lived off Karen. Not just financially either.

    She just wasnt the Narelle I knew anymore I couldnt bear it so after a few drinks one

    night I just blurted it out. Told Narelle shed turned into a parasite. Told Karen she wasexploiting her sister When I got up the next morning Karen told me to pack my bags. I

    havent heard from Narelle since. A tear slid down Michelles cheek and she swiped it


    You were close once?

    Michelle smiled. I was one of her set. Our chief function was to bolster her standing

    against Karen and her set.

    You didnt like Karen?

    Narelle wasnt exactly all sweetness and light, but Karen was a cold-hearted bitch.

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    Do you remember Narelle Stapleton?

    The other one? Yes, poor thing. I felt terribly sorry after she disappeared. We all did.

    Had your set been bullying her?

    Michelle nodded. Not that we would have called it that ourselves.

    You were following Narelles lead?

    Yes, but I think even she was sorry later. I think it was why she changed her name, not

    that I could ever get used to calling her Amanda.

    When did she do that?

    After the other Narelle disappeared. Everyone was talking about her all the time. It was

    Narelle this and Narelle that and lets pray for Narelle. There was even a Narelle

    Stapleton Essay Prize. I can understand how it got to her.

    Do you think it was the cause of her depression?

    Depression? I guess thats what it was, but I think the Narelle Stapleton thing just made it

    worse. No, what really got to her was not getting into the Australian Ballet School while

    Karen did.

    Did she ever tell you why that happened?

    The Juvenile Arthritis? Not at the time, but after she broke down on that orienteering

    course she had to admit it.

    It was Narelle that fell?

    Yes, and Karen saw her on the ground and just sailed right past.

    And you?

    I stopped but Narelle swore at me and told me to leave her alone. I was pissed off, so I

    did. I was so pissed off I beat Karen, which did not go down well. Michelle grinned.

    Marilyn sipped her espresso. Jack Cameron was there that day. Did he see Narelle?

    Mr Cameron? Michelle stirred the dregs of her cappuccino. I cant be sure, but I think

    something happened between them that day.

    What makes you say that?

    Before that hed always been fascinated with the twins. It got to be a joke, the way he

    ogled them all the time. But after that day he only had eyes for Narelle. And the way he

    looked at her. As though he were hungry for her.

    And how did Narelle react?

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    She didnt. Before that she was really annoyed by him, always giving him cheek and

    making fun of him, but afterwards she didnt look at him, she didnt react, she just let


    Did he ever do anything?

    I couldnt be sure at the time but most likely. They both left the school at the end of

    that year, and the following March Narelle went to Europe. I didnt see much of her after

    she left school, and then Well, Ive told you the rest.

    Before Marilyn got up to go, Michelle asked, Do you know when the funeral is?

    It was yesterday. She was cremated.

    Marilyn left her staring blankly into her empty cup.


    What on Earth are you watching? Having finished washing the dishes, Joel dropped onto

    the couch beside Marilyn.

    Some annual sports awards thing.

    Since when were you interested in sport?

    Im only interested in the presenter.


    Does he sound like hes slurring his words to you?

    A bit. Why are you interested in Jack Cameron?

    Are you sure you want to know?

    What choice did he have? Anything was better than watching her stare into space. Ive

    got full police clearance, remember?

    Marilyn put the television on mute. As the parade of sportspeople, looking uncomfortable

    in their stiff dinner suits and slinky dresses, rose one by one to accept their awards, she

    filled him in. They argued several aspects of the psychology backwards and forwards, but

    as much as Joel championed alternative theories, Marilyn clung to her own hypothesis.

    Im right, arent I? Its the only theory that fits all the facts.

    Joel shook his head. Your theory is plausible, but it lacks a body, it lacks motivation and

    it lacks proof.

    I think we may have the proof. The ransom notes. They might still have traces of DNA. If Ican get samples from Jack and Karen, I can find out if either he or Narelle handled them.

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    Dont you have to get a court order or something?

    Thats the easy part. Ive got to run it past McIvor, first.

    He doesnt know youve been running this investigation, does he?

    Marilyn shook her head.

    Well, to tell you the truth, I doubt he would let you take it any further with what youve

    got now. Hell tell you youre putting too much importance on just one lie.

    A lie both Karen and Jack told.

    Granted, but youd really need to go back to them both and confront them before you go

    to McIvor.

    But Marilyn was no longer listening. Her eye had been caught by the television screen and

    she switched on the sound. Jack Cameron was holding onto the lectern and giving a longrambling speech. The music swelled and drowned him out while the camera panned

    around the room. The audience were dutifully applauding, many of them leaning over to

    their neighbours to exchange remarks. When the camera returned to the stage another

    presenter was at the lectern announcing a commercial break.

    The next morning all the newspapers were full of speculation about Jack Camerons

    future. According to several industry sources Jack Cameron had recently lost his

    employers confidence and was already on his way out. This incident would only hasten his


    Marilyn knocked harder on the solid door of the art deco apartment, but still there was no


    You wont find her. Shes never home. A plump woman in her fifties was coming up the

    stairs. Not since she started that job of hers, anyway. She had arrived at the door

    opposite Karens and was digging into her handbag.

    Marilyn showed her her warrant card and gave her name. The woman raised her eyebrows.I dont know what youd want to see her about, except for disturbing the peace now and

    again. Her front door was open. Come in. Im gasping for a cuppa. Want one?

    She talked between shedding her shoes and tight skirt while getting herself a cup of tea

    and coffee for Marilyn.

    There were two of them there for a while. Always fighting. I can understand why the

    other one went back home. I think two weeks together was enough for them. The last one

    I heard was a doozy. One of them (God, dont ask me which one) stormed out and ran

    down the stairs. The other one was shouting after her: You cant drive. Not in the state

    youre in. Give me those keys. Then she ran down the stairs after her and they both droveoff. It was in the little blue one. I havent seen it since so I guess it belonged to the other

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    one. Then this one was quiet for a long time, until last night. I couldnt believe it. Id just

    seen him on TV. He must have been shitfaced to get thrown off the show like that, and

    then not half an hour later hes out there banging on her door and shouting; Narelle,

    Narelle. I went out to shut him up (didnt know then who he was) and the look on his face.

    He was terrified. I dont know why. I was in me jarmies. I couldnt have looked that

    terrifying. And then a bloke came and got him and got him down the stairs and into a car.I guess he was the driver, but he looked more like a security guard to me.

    It was well after nine, but the dancers were still rehearsing. Marilyn could hear Karens

    harping voice above the music as she climbed the stairs to the studio. Marilyn walked in,

    not waiting this time, but going straight to the CD player and turning it off. Karen spun

    around. What the fuck?

    Marilyn held up her warrant card. A word.

    The dancers untangled themselves, their drawn faces expressionless with fatigue. Several

    of them dropped to the floor.

    Karen came up close to Marilyn. How dare you come in here.

    This is a murder investigation.

    Whos fucking murder?

    Narelle Stapletons.

    The blood drained from Karens face. This is ridiculous.

    Youve been lying to me and I want to know why.

    A tentative voice came from the dance floor. Excuse me, Karen

    Get out, the lot of you. She span around. Better still go home. I cant get anything out

    of you tonight. She stood, fists clenched while the dancers filed out of the room.

    Marilyn tried again. You told me you fell and came in late on the orienteering course, but

    it was Narelle who fell as a result of her Juvenile Arthritis, which you also failed to


    Karen turned away and paced slowly across the room, stopping to lean against the barre.

    It was habit. Amanda never wanted anyone to know about it. I was just used to covering

    it up for her.

    What else are you covering up?

    What do you mean?

    Narelle Stapleton went missing during that race.

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    What are you suggesting?

    Did your sister have anything to do with Narelles disappearance?

    She was in pain. She could barely move. How was she supposed to engineer Narelles

    disappearance?She could have had help.

    Such as?

    Jack Cameron.

    Karen scoffed. Youre living in lala land.

    There was something going on between Jack and Narelle, wasnt there?

    Are you so desperate to get a promotion youd take on Jack Cameron?

    Narelle was only sixteen.

    Suddenly Karen was shouting, her face white. Im sick to death of hearing that name. I

    had nothing to do with it. My sister had nothing to do with it. Jack had nothing to do with

    it. Now get out. Im not saying another word. She stormed past Marilyn and out the door.

    Marilyn had to invoke the full force of the Victoria Police to get Jacks PA to put herthrough. I just want a brief word, Mr Cameron.

    Ive said all Im going to say to you. If you want me to say more youll have to arrest me.

    And I assure you, I can call on the best lawyers in the country.

    Marilyn didnt need reminding how rich and powerful Jacks employer was. I daresay you

    can, sir, but I doubt your boss will want to be seen defending a child murderer. Not if the

    papers are to be believed.

    This is harassment. Give me your name.

    Marilyn paused. She had no authority to be pursuing this case. A complaint against her

    would be double trouble, but she had no choice. Detective Senior Maria Lena Toscano.

    Jack repeated it slowly.

    Where are you stationed?

    Marilyn told him.

    Thank you Detective Senior. Youll be hearing from my lawyers. The line went dead.

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    Detective Sergeant McIvors eyes were nearly popping out of his head. What the fuck did

    you think you were doing, Senior? What the bloody fuck?

    Marilyn sat still while McIvor stalked around her in his cramped office. With respect, boss,

    I think I had every reason to suspect there was a connection between Ms Merrimans

    suicide and Narelle Stapletons disappearance.

    Then why didnt you come to me with it instead of skulking around by yourself.

    Youd closed the case. I thought Id need something concrete to go on before I asked you

    to re-open it.

    He stood still, his breathing still heavy. What have you got, then?

    I think Amanda Merriman and Jack Cameron were involved in Narelle Stapletons

    disappearance. If I could get those ransom notes tested for DNA traces and get samples, I

    think we can prove that one or both of them sent those letters.

    For fucks sake, Toscano. One of thems gone up in flames, and the others best mates

    with the Prime Minister.

    Amandas identical twin would have the same DNA and we can get a suppression order on

    Jacks name.

    McIvor was pacing again. Leave it with me.

    Marilyn knew too well what that meant. Boss, we could get a result here. I know it.

    I told you to drop it, Toscano. Now get the fuck out there and do what the good people ofVictoria are paying you to fucking do.

    Detective Inspector Shane Wallace raised an eyebrow. Detective Senior Toscano. How

    nice to see you.

    An intensive care ambulance and several police cars clogged the circular drive. In the

    dark, their flashing lights played over the high, white Georgian faade. A television van

    from the rival network was already parked in the street.

    Marilyn hugged herself against the cold. Since when did they send Homicide to investigate

    a suicide?

    Since the suicide was Jack Cameron. Since when were Missing Persons interested in

    someone you can see on TV every night?

    Marilyn sighed. Theyre not really.

    Shane laughed. At it again, Toscano? So you single-handedly hounded this poor bastard

    into taking a truckload of barbiturates.

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    Marilyn said nothing and sank deeper into her jacket.

    Shane almost felt sorry for her. How come you found him?

    I just wanted to talk to him. Im investigating a murder.

    A murder is it now? And who was he supposed to have murdered?

    Narelle Stapleton. She was a student of his when she disappeared.

    It was just like Toscano to nab the big cases for herself. Why didnt you come to us?

    Not enough proof yet. Thats why I was here.

    To do a bit of breaknenter?

    No. I could see lights, but he wasnt answering his phone or the door. I got this gut

    feeling, so I broke in and found him.

    So, what? You think he topped himself because you were after him for a twenty-year-

    old murder.

    Marilyn shrugged. In a stray beam of light playing on her face, Shane thought he saw tears.

    Come on, Maz. He had plenty getting to him without you. Its not your fault.

    Marilyn gave a weak smile. Isnt it? But if I were you, Shane, Id keep an open mind. He

    might well be one of yours. Can I go now?

    Yeah, piss off. But come by my office in the morning and make a statement.

    Im sorry, Maz. But theres nothing to indicate murder. Marilyn wasnt sure if it was

    regret or suppressed glee that she could hear in Shanes voice. There was one glass, one

    bottle of Grange, one bag of pills. And it all ended up in his stomach. No trace of anyone

    else being there.

    What about the pills? Who prescribed them?

    The candyman.


    I cant hold this up any longer, Maz. Theyre giving him a state funeral for fucks sake.

    Thanks, Shane. Look, can I at least have a look at the autopsy report?

    Sure, but it wont tell you anything you dont already know.

    Well see. Oh, and while youre there, you couldnt happen to get your hands on Amanda

    Merrimans autopsy, could you?

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    You want me to cut off my arm as well?

    Shane I promise, if I find anything Ill handball it straight to you and let you kick the


    Yeah. Well, as long as it doesnt end up being an own goal. Ill see what I can do.Vikram dropped a parcel on Marilyns desk just as she hung up. By courier. Addressed to

    you personally.

    It was an A4 size jiffy bag. Inside was another envelope on which her name was scrawled

    and a typed note on Jack Camerons own letterhead, signed by his PA. The note said Jack

    had left instructions for the envelope to be sent to Marilyn if anything happened to him.

    Marilyn stopped Vikram from walking away. In case I need a witness.

    In the envelope was a much folded survey map. Marilyn spread it out across her desk and

    she and Vikram peered at it trying to make sense of green and brown blotches and faintsquiggly lines. Towards the middle of the map, next to a point where several of the

    squiggly lines almost met, a cross had been made in blue biro.

    Dig here, Vikram joked.

    Exactly, Marilyn replied.

    Marilyn stood with Senior Constable Allen at the top of the steep drop watching the police

    rescue team abseil down into the tangle of scrub.

    I hope you havent sent us on a wild goose chase, Toscano, or Ill make sure all this comes

    out of your budget. This whole area was scoured with a fine toothed comb when that kid

    went missing. I was there myself.

    Wasnt this a gold mining area once? What about old mineshafts?

    Allen harrumphed and they went back to watching. Two hours later a shout went up and

    Marilyn put in a call to the forensic anthropologist.

    McIvor dropped a couple of files on Marilyns desk. I guess you wanna be congratulated.

    Not if you dont feel up to it, boss.

    Theyre from your boyfriend in Homicide.

    Thanks, boss.

    Marilyn caught Vikrams eye with a barely suppressed grin.

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    A few moments later Vikram heard Marilyn swear under her breath, then make a phone

    call to the pathologist.

    What is it? Vikram asked.

    Its the other one. Want to come with me to see my boyfriend in Homicide? I owe him ahandball.


    The interviewee sat back in her chair, her folded arms shielding her chest, her eyes

    focussed on the middle distance. Her pale face was white, her auburn hair pulled back in a

    chignon. Her solicitor sat beside her, studying a blank page of note paper, tapping and

    turning her biro. Marilyn sat opposite them, waiting for Shane to give their names for thebenefit of the video camera and start the interview.

    Ms Merriman, youve received all the necessary warnings, havent you?

    The prisoner was silent. Her solicitor looked at her client then answered for her. Yes, we


    Shane took a page out of the file in front of him. Ms Merriman, we have here the report

    of the autopsy carried out on the body discovered at the Dargo Schools Camp. You

    recognise the photographs?

    She looked at the photographs that mirrored her own face. Her voice was barely audible.


    And you identified the body as that of Narelle Amanda Merriman?


    Ms Merriman, weve obtained Narelles medical records. According to these, Narelle

    suffered for twenty years from a form of rheumatoid arthritis. Is that correct?


    But, despite being her twin, Karen Marie Merriman did not. Am I correct?


    Ms Merriman, according to this report the body showed no signs of chronic rheumatoid

    arthritis, only, as the pathologist put it: the normal wear and tear you would expect to

    find in the body of a career dancer.

    Shane waited for a response. There was none.

    I put it to you, Ms Merriman, that the body in the creek was that of Karen Marie Merrimanand that you are Narelle Amanda Merriman.

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    Still there was no response.

    Can you tell me how Karens body came to be in the creek?

    The solicitor leant over and whispered in her clients ear.

    Her client spoke at last. She fell.

    How did she come to fall?

    I dont know. I wasnt there.

    Your ID was found in the car. Are you saying that Karen took your ID, went up to the

    Dargo Schools Camp and fell into the creek?

    Narelle shrugged.

    Marilyn reached across and took back the photographs. Narelle, lets go back twenty

    years to Penry Grammar. To when Narelle Stapleton joined your class.

    Narelles lips tightened.

    How did it feel to have someone with your name come into your class?

    Narelle didnt answer.

    You used to trip her up when she came up the aisle. You and your friends gave her a hard

    time. Why? What had she ever done to you?

    Narelle spoke, her voice low. Shed stolen my name.

    That was it, wasnt it? Karen had stolen your face, and now Narelle Stapleton turned up

    and stole your name. You hated her for that, didnt you? All the resentment you felt

    towards Karen, but couldnt express, you poured out onto poor innocent Narelle

    Stapleton. And how did she fight back? She didnt, did she? She barely noticed what you

    were doing to her because the poor girl had a crush on you. What did she do watch you,

    follow you around, steal your stuff?

    I couldnt stand it. She was such a little wimp.

    What happened that day on the orientation course? Did Narelle find you, collapsed by theside of the track? Did she come to you, try to help you, try to comfort you?

    The stupid bitch. I told her to piss off, to leave me alone, but she kept following me, kept

    trying to help me. I kept trying to get away from her, but I couldnt stand up. I kept

    falling, and she just kept coming and coming, whimpering at me: Let me help you,

    Narelle. Let me help you. I could be your friend, Narelle, if youd just let me, Narelle.

    She paused. Bitterness and regret fought on her face.

    I pushed her. I didnt push her hard. I just wanted her to go away. But I didnt know. I

    didnt see. We were on the edge of this cliff and she fell back, she fell back and

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    disappeared. I looked over the edge and she was lying at the bottom, in the scrub. Her

    eyes were closed. There was blood. She was dead.

    Narelles voice died away. Her eyes were still focussed on nothing. Her solicitor whispered

    in her ear. She didnt react.

    Marilyn looked across at Shane. He nodded. She kept her voice gentle, understanding.

    How did you know she was dead?

    Mr Cameron told me.

    How did Jack get there?

    I dont know. I think I was shouting, or crying, I cant remember, and suddenly Mr

    Cameron was there. He had his arms around me and he was saying: Its all right. Its all

    right. When I told him, he climbed down to look. He looked for her pulse. He tried for a

    long time. Then he climbed back up. I said, I know I said, we should get help, call the

    police, an ambulance, something. But he said: No. Its too late. Shes dead. Did you kill

    her? I didnt know what to do. I was terrified. I think I was screaming. But Jack put his

    hand on my mouth and hugged me and shut me up. And then he said: Ill fix it. Ill fix it

    for you. And he did. He went down again and dragged her body away, and then dropped it

    down a hole and covered it up with scrub. You couldnt see anything. It was as though

    shed never been there, as though shed never existed.

    And the ransom notes? Shane asked before Narelle had a moment to think.

    They were my idea. I wrote them and sent them. Jack was all for collecting the money,

    but I couldnt take it. Anyway, it would have been too dangerous. The cops were sure tobe watching.

    And how was it between you and Jack after that?

    Narelle looked at Marilyn. What do you think? He had me, didnt he? He had me. Thats

    why I had to get away. To get away from him, from my family, from everything. Mum and

    Dad were good to me, but clueless. They thought it was all because I didnt get into the

    ballet school.

    But it was about that, wasnt it? Why you were so angry with Narelle? Wasnt it?

    Narelle nodded slowly. I was a much better dancer than she was. Much better. I couldvedanced in London, in New York. Not in little backwaters like she did. The small, drab little

    towns she used to drag me around. Rotterdam was the pinnacle of her career. Rotterdam.

    It lives up to its name, that place. I was the one that got her that job at the Victorian

    Dance Theatre. I saw the ad. I wrote the application. I faked half her CV. I was tired of it.

    Tired of trailing around behind her. I just wanted to come home. Get some sun, for Gods


    Why did you stay with her all that time? Were you trying to atone for what youd done to


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    Narelle frowned at her, as though she had never conceived of such a concept. It was the

    only way, the only way I could be there, in the theatre. If I couldnt do it myself, I just

    wanted to be there. Her eyes wandered away, But it hurt. God, how it hurt.

    So thats why you killed Karen? So you could do it yourself, at last?

    Her eyes came back to Marilyn. Did I? I dont know. I didnt plan it, didnt think about it. I

    just did it. She was standing beside me. She was talking and talking. There was this steep

    drop and this feeling came over me. It was anger, I think. And I pushed her, pushed her

    over the edge, and as I was doing it I had this flash of dj vu. But then it was too late.

    She was over, she was lying in the creek and there was blood and she wasnt moving. I was

    paralysed. I didnt know what to do. And then the water carried her away, and she was


    I stood there for a long time, and then I walked back to the car, and I was thinking:

    Nobody knows. Nobody knows were even here. And anyone that does know cant tell us

    apart. No one at the dance company even knows she has a twin. I could do her job. I coulddo it better than her. And no one will know. No one.

    No one except Jack.

    That was stupid Karens fault. She saw him on television and she said: Look. Isnt that

    Randy? Why dont we call him up? Hell remember us. Hell remember you, anyway. We

    could do with a friend like that in Melbourne. Talk about contacts. She called him up. She

    said he was terribly friendly, but he didnt ask us out or anything. Just sent us a huge

    bunch of flowers. Then he called me. Karen must have given him my number. And he

    wouldnt let me alone until I agreed to see him. It had to be somewhere out of the way.

    He hadnt changed. He still wanted the same thing. The man was eating me with his


    Why did you kill him?

    The solicitor suddenly came to attention. Please, may I have a moment with my client?

    Shane nodded. He turned off the video camera and he and Marilyn went into the corridor.

    Ive got to hand it to you, Maz. Youre doing a good job, but a good brief could get her

    off what shes told us so far. Accidental death. Temporary insanity.

    And Jacks not here to defend himself.

    You think you can nail her for Jack? Theres no evidence.

    Ive still got an ace or two up my sleeve.

    Shanes offsider brought him a file, the autopsy on the body in the mineshaft. Shane

    flicked through it and his face clouded. He handed it to Marilyn. This should do it. But I

    recommend you keep it to last.

    Marilyn read the paragraph Shane indicated. She felt her stomach contract.

    The solicitor came to the door. Were ready for you now.

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    Shane and Marilyn took their places. Marilyn kept the new file closed in front of her. It felt

    hot to her touch. With a nod from Shane she took the lead.

    Narelle, can we take a step back here. You said that when you were with Karen standing

    above the creek, she was talking and talking. What was she talking about?

    Narelle shrugged. Nothing, really. She just talked a lot. It annoyed me.

    Why would she take you up to the school camp just to talk about nothing in particular?

    Narelle didnt react. You had both seen that True Crimes Stories on television hadnt you?

    Did Karen know what happened up there at the camp? She didnt, did she? But she

    suspected something, didnt she? She knew you better than anyone else. She must have

    sensed it, mustnt she, that something had happened up there between you and Jack, that

    it had something to do with Narelles death? Is that what you two were fighting about

    those last few days? Was she threatening to expose you, you and Jack? Is that why you

    killed her? Is that why you took her up there? To kill her, exchange places with her, get

    your revenge and save yourself from ever being exposed for Narelles murder all in onego?

    Narelle was like a rock, her eyes hard and fixed on Marilyn. No. It was Karen who drove us

    up there. I didnt plan any of it. It just happened, just as I said.

    Marilyn leafed through the file, as though searching for her next question. How did you

    get back from up there? There are no buses.

    I hitchhiked.

    You must have walked some distance to get a lift.

    Narelle shrugged.

    Marilyn nodded to Shane. He opened the file in front of him. Weve taken the precaution

    of going through your phone records, Ms Merriman, and according to them, you made a

    phone call to Jack Cameron the afternoon your sister died. Did he come and pick you up?

    Did he know what you had done? Is that why you had to kill him, too?

    Narelle maintained her stony silence. Her solicitor gripped her pen more tightly.

    Marilyn asked the next question. He might not have known at the time, but he did later,

    didnt he? I told him what you had done myself, though I wasnt aware of it at the time. Isaw his reaction when I told him Narelle was dead. He was shocked, because he knew for a

    fact that Narelle was still alive. Is that why he got drunk on television? Is that why he

    came to your door yelling for Narelle? He knew that Narelle was still alive and that shed

    manipulated him into being an accessory to murder a second time.

    The solicitor finally came to her clients aid. My client isnt to know what was going on in

    Jack Camerons head.

    She would know if he told her. She would if he confronted her with it, threatened to

    expose her for both murders.

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    You have no evidence for any of these accusations. Jack Camerons career was in ruins.

    He had enough reason for committing suicide without involving my client.

    Marilyn turned to Narelle, who was still unmoved, her eyes downcast. Narelle, did you

    know that we found the other Narelles body as a result of information Jack Cameron left

    for us in the event of his death? Did he tell you he was going to give that information tothe police? Was it a form of insurance, maybe, in case you should think of killing him,


    If you had any real evidence of my clients involvement in Mr Camerons death you would

    have brought it forward by now.

    Shane nodded at the file in front of Marilyn. Marilyn opened it again. This is the autopsy

    report on the body we found in the mineshaft. As expected, DNA evidence confirms its

    the body of Narelle Stapleton. She paused and flipped over a few pages. However, there

    is something here we didnt expect. According to the forensic anthropologist the injuries

    to the skeleton were not enough to cause her death. There was a fracture to the skull, butit was only enough to render her unconscious. Not enough to kill her. And we have reason

    to believe that Narelle died sitting up with her arms around her knees.

    Marilyn looked up at Narelle who was staring at her, ashen faced. So you see Narelle was

    not dead when she was put into that mineshaft. She probably survived for hours, perhaps

    even days. She would have died of hunger and thirst. Can you imagine what that time

    would have been like for her? How terrified and alone she must have been?

    It was Jack. He told me she was dead. It was Jack.

    Jack had studied anatomy. If there was one thing he could have done it was to find apulse. Jack would have known she was alive. Whose idea was it to dump her into a

    mineshaft? Who was it that really caused Narelle Stapletons death? Was it you? Did you

    tell Jack to do it? What did you offer him to make him do it? Which one of you was it?

    It was Jack. It was Jack. It was Jack. Narelle had stood up. She was pounding the table

    with her fist.

    Her solicitor put her arms around her and eased her back into her chair. Could we have a

    moment, please?

    A few minutes later the solicitor came out into the corridor. I have advised my client notto speak to you any longer.


    Shane handed Marilyn a coffee. Theres not enough evidence for Jack. I can only charge

    her with the two murders. And shell probably get off.

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    Marilyn sipped at her coffee. It was good and hot if nothing else. So well never really

    know, will we?

    I doubt it. Shane drained his coffee. You know, Maz. I think youre cut out for


    You think so?

    He grinned. Leave it with me.

    Mrs Graham looked gravely into her cup of tea. Thats terrible. The poor child. And

    youre not sure exactly how it happened?

    I have my suspicions, but of the three people there two are dead and the last one isnttalking. Its up to the courts now.

    I really used to like that Jack Cameron. He reminded me of my boy Kevin. Oh well, you

    never can tell, can you? She took Marilyns cup to refill it from the pot, but instead

    looked inside it and turned it around to see into it from different angles. Mmmm So,

    when will you be starting in Homicide?

    Marilyn had said Shane didnt say anything definite before she realised she hadnt

    mentioned anything about Homicide to Mrs Graham. I do wish youd stop doing that.

    Marilyn kissed her grandmother and father before venturing to speak to her mother. Mum,

    would you mind if next week I brought a friend to dinner?

    Gianna stirred the sugo a few more times before answering. Theres always enough for

    one more. You know that, cara mia.

    Also by Pauline Montagna

    Not Wisely but Too Well

  • 7/30/2019 The Other One a Soothsayer Mystery Book Three


    Sometimes when I look back I marvel that a glovers son would one day hear his words

    recited before princes, but then at other times, I must own it was but fate, for even were

    my parents tellers of tales, and my first memories are of our hearth where we would sit at

    their feet on the warm stones by the fire, listening.

    How did Will Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon, the son of illiterate parents, with barely a

    grammar school education, become the greatest playwright the English theatre will ever

    know? How did he learn his craft? How did he gain the knowledge his plays display? What

    was his own experience of the love, passion, pain and ambition he wrote into every line?

    This is the story of how that journey began.

    Having run foul of the local authorities, Will Shakspere is driven out of his home town in

    the English midlands. Leaving behind his first love, his wife and his three young children,

    he goes to London where he is welcomed into the Burbage family whose patriarch, James

    Burbage, has built Londons first playhouse.

    There Will finds himself at the centre of the English theatre, its touring companies, its

    revolutionary playwrights, its creativity, passions and rivalries. There he meets the men

    that will steer him towards his destiny, the actor Richard Burbage, and the playwright,

    Christopher Marlowe. There he finds not only love, passion and pain, but his muse and


    And it is there that he sets out on a path that will take him deep into the labyrinthine

    politics of Elizabeths court.

    For more information see

    The Slave

    Aurelia Rubbini, the only child of a rich merchant in fourteenth century Italy, has been

    raised to be a dutiful daughter, wife and mother, but she longs for something more than

    the restricted life intended for her. Then one day, her father brings home from a buying

    trip an Asian slave boy, Batu, who will reshape Aurelias destiny.

    Aurelia and Batu are inexorably drawn to each other, but their relationship is forbidden asAurelia is destined for an arranged marriage to further her fathers political ambitions.

  • 7/30/2019 The Other One a Soothsayer Mystery Book Three


    When Aurelia marries Lorenzo de Graziano, a nobleman with a dangerous reputation, Batu

    insists on going with her for her protection. But Batus presence arouses violent passions

    that Aurelia, in her innocence, can never understand.

    For more information see

    Suburban Terrors

    Do we really know what secrets lurk behind the tall fences and locked doors of our citys


    Here are twelve stories that delve into that mysterious realm. Youll find a few thrills, atouch of horror, a ghost or two and much more.

    ...these stories are all entertaining, compelling, and enjoyable, making this the perfect

    book for bedtime or public transport reading. It's a great book to have in your bag, ready

    for the next break in the day. Georgina Laidlaw, Australian Reader

    For more information see