The Last Newspaper in the World
27 August 2014
10 AT THE CAPTAIN'S TABLE
After telling Emily she was in charge of the table, James signalled me to follow him. We went through a side door in the foyer and trudged single file up a narrow staircase. The steps were wooden with worn black paint. A narrow side window lit our way. At the top, we went through a door into what looked like an attic converted into a store room. Cartons of accessories were stacked on one side and shelving on the other held essentials, such as bedroom and bathroom supplies.
Beyond the stores, a square cast iron outdoor table stood in front of a large industrial window complete with thickened security glass. A large beach umbrella was opened above the table. James walked over and put his tea down on the table, taking a wrought iron chair to one side and nodding for me to take the other.
‘I don’t get out much, so Emily got me this over summer,’ James said, taking a sip of his tea and leaning back. He really was a solid guy and I wondered how the puny chair could take the strain.
‘She’s good like that. This is my get away place.’
I must have signalled a query, because he added: ‘You know what it’s like working with chicks. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good earners but a shitload of trouble.’
My face said I sympathised with his plight. Below I could see The Strand stretching out towards the harbour. I could see the top of the building housing The Last Newspaper in the World. Above, clouds started to peel back soft, almost feminine layers to show a pale sky. I got out my pad and found a pen below it in a side pocket.
‘Nice view,’ I offered, hoping to get James talking.
He didn’t follow my gaze but was staring at me intently. The eyes narrowed.
‘So what do you know?’ he asked.
My first thought was damn. It was going to one of those, where sources want only to know what you know without you knowing what they know. I let out a low breath, almost relieved at not learning more than I needed to know.
‘Well, not as much as you I guess,’ I offered.
‘That’d be right but you guys never print everything you know.’
It was my turn to nod in the affirmative.
‘Well, we’ve the picture it’s tied up with a land deal, along with maybe the sex trade and possibly drugs of some sort.’
James shifted his bulk around in the tiny café chair and looked out the window.
‘How do you think this place came to be here?’
I shrugged, knowing the laws allowed brothels to be established.
‘Usual story, I suppose, you apply and get approval from the council? Wouldn’t that be pretty straightforward now?’
‘You’d think so, wouldn’t you?’
At this point I was trying to recall details of the hearings surrounding the council hearings. I guess I wasn’t paying attention at the time, because it all seemed pretty vague. I could recall something about local community and religious groups expressing concerns, but in our complacent way it all came to nothing.
‘Yeah, there was some opposition wasn’t there? It came to nothing much, though?’
James looked at me with a little line of frustration running through his eyes. I was obviously a bit of a let down as a reliable witness as far as he was concerned.
‘Do you remember the mayor came out in support? Big help he was at the time.’
‘So you’re saying you got the mayor on side to help you set up your operation here? Why’d that get him a bullet through the middle of the forehead? Why now? Wasn’t this more than a year ago?’
Suddenly I seemed interested. James even realised this as his mouth arranged itself into a close approximation to a suitably pleasant grimace.
‘It’s not the time but the timing. Do you think we’re makin’ money?’
‘Well, you’re still here but it’d be seasonal wouldn’t it?’
‘Could’ve been but for the harbour expansion.’
Now I recalled how about the time James was getting his little operation off the ground, the mayor had successfully pushed through a long-delayed plan to expand the harbour to allow in larger, offshore fishing boats and ocean-going pleasure craft. Even during winter more foreign fishing crews used the harbour as a stopover, and there did seem to be more luxury boats coming and going.
‘Are you saying the mayor was shot because he pushed through the re-development of the harbour? Seems a bit extreme.’
‘Nah, I’m not saying anything like that but I helped Mr Bland with his pet project and he helped me with mine. Don’t ask,’ James said to hurriedly head off the obvious follow up.
‘Why do you think George Joseph is spending more time sitting in the pub talking to your cop mate Stead?’
‘Could be all sorts of reasons but I suppose you’re going to tell me they’re the best of friends.’
My phone vibrated in my pocket. Harry must be getting impatient, again. I ignored it.
‘Best friends, no, but they are both worried about the same thing. The same as me but I don’t have as many friends as George.’
‘But maybe you have the same enemies?’
James nodded and stood up. I tapped my fingers on the table, telling myself to stay focused. Rain was falling heavily now. Out at sea, whitecaps licked the top of waves. The harbour mouth was still open thanks to the large new breakwater and other works, whereas in the past it would have closed out.
‘Look, the mayor, my friend, gets a hole in the head. Do you think I’m worried? You bet. Your mate George is worried too and even Stead. Opening up the harbour has been good for my business, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not into kiddy smuggling and I guess George isn’t too keen on the heavy stuff.’
‘Methamphetamine? P? I thought any of that coming here came down from Auckland, via the gangs?’
‘Sure, look at that down there,’ James said, point down at the harbour.
My outdoor chair scraped on the floor as I pushed it back and stood up to join James looking out the window.
‘Big trawlers, pleasure boats from all around the place, even overseas. Not bad for a quiet little dump like this,’ James said.
There was a knock and Emily stuck her head around the door.
‘You’ve got a visitor. A cop. That guy Stead.’
James nodded, lifting his upwards. ‘You were talking to me about new directions in the town’s tourism sector, right?’
‘Yeah, that’ll do it.’
We went down. Stead was standing with his two uniform pals. Who else? He even had his mouth twisted into half a smile when he saw me. I nodded at him and went straight out the front door.
‘Hey you, stop,’ I heard as I started down the road.
Turning, I saw Stead’s chin staring down at me.
‘So are you going to tell me what you were talking about or am I going to have to read it in the paper?’
‘Probably, sure, but I think you know all about it anyway.’
Stead looked at me like he was going to dip into the pool of his anger again, but the feeling eased.
‘Yeah, that’s right,’ he said. ‘Surprised to see you are familiar with places like this. I didn’t think it was your style.’
I wondered what my style was and how did he know, or care, anyway.
‘You aren’t going to get anyone for this murder are you?’
We looked at each other in silence for a moment, before Stead turned and walked back into The Captain’s Table.
I went back to The Last Newspaper in the World and we put together a story.
The Last Newspaper in the World
By Mick Stone
Published by BMS Books
An imprint of Business Media Services Ltd
The Last Newspaper in the World
Copyright © 2012 Mick Stone
All rights reserved.
Published in Kindle by:
BMS Books an imprint of
Business Media Services Ltd
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