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.
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BMS Books an imprint of
Business Media Services Ltd
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The Last Newspaper in the World
8 July 2014
6 MR MARREN GOES FISHING
Police seek mystery suspect in Mayor’s murder
by Bill Brown, Diana Macdonald and Neil Rabistock
A mystery stranger is understood to be at the centre of the manhunt for the killer of the Whakatane district mayor Bob Brand.
Police have placed a ban on providing The Coast Courier with information on the case following unauthorised disclosure of photos of the murder scene.
However, we learned during a one-on-one meeting with Sergeant Norm Stead that police do have a suspect in mind.
No further information was forthcoming from Mr Stead, who was accompanied by two other uniformed officers during the visit to The Strand Hotel in downtown.
During the police visit to the hotel, our reporter, Bill Brown, was searched by the officers and questioned by Mr Stead over this newspaper’s own investigation into the mysterious death of Mr Brand.
We have learned that the district Mayor was seen shortly before his death on the outer part of the track at the Te Teko Racing Club.
One of our reporters saw him meeting with a tall, well built man in a dark suit and sunglasses.
Although we have been unable to establish a connection between Mr Brand and the man, it is known that the racing club has been struggling financially as betting figures have dropped.
The racing club would not comment when approached by the reporter, Diana Macdonald, but issued a statement to reporter as follows: ‘It is no secret that times are tough for our industry. Bob Brand was a long-serving member of our racing committee and a respected member of the racing fraternity. Nevertheless we know of no reason why he should be killed for anything in connection with the club.’
Our civics reporter Neil Rabistock has combed the files of the Coastlands District Council and found some unusual aspects to recent dealings between the racing club and various council committees.
A number of matters have been held behind closed doors, with the public excluded. However, about six months ago, an item was included in the minutes of a promotional committee meeting from the town tourism board highlighting the impact of a closure of the Te Teko race track, should the club run short of funds.
Council officers approached refused to elaborate and the tourism board has told us the matter must remain confidential, even though it may have implications for Mr Brand’s murder inquiry.
District Police Commander Steve Marren refused to comment on the speculation.
If you know any more, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We were standing over Glen’s desk looking at the front page. Included in the story was a small, rather grainy photo Diana had taken as she entered the bar, showing the hulking Stead standing over me and the two uniforms standing behind me. It was all a bit blurry but I guess it got the message across. Glen was a bit glum. ‘It’s a bit thin isn’t it?’ It was more a statement than a question. Harry came through the door from his office. ‘You lot, we’re going to have visitors. Steve Marren’s on his way, tidy this place up’ ‘Did he send you a message on the info email?’ I asked. ‘Not funny. Get this shit hole sorted out and get in here you lot.’
Glen went pale, and asked him what the Police commander wanted. ‘He reckons we’re interfering with their investigation and he wants to sort it out.’ I moved some papers around my desk I really didn’t have too much of a mess. I glanced over and saw Neil deleting files off his system. Harry looked around and let out a sigh. ‘Forget that. You lot had better come into my office, Glen, Bill, Diana, Neil. We’d better sort out shit out before these cops get here.’
Neil stopped deleting his files. Diana searched in her bag for a brush. She really didn’t need to do anything. Her hair, even in the toxic light of the newsroom, seemed to shimmer. She had the jeans on again today, with a polo neck sweater probably a size too big.
‘Bill,’ Harry said. I hadn’t realised he was looking intently at me. ‘I’ve got a spare jacket in my cupboard. Brush your hair.’ He jerked his head towards his office.
‘You want to look like you at least think you know what you’re doing with these fellas.’ I found an old tweed jacket in his cupboard. It wasn’t too bad a fit. Harry handed me a comb from his drawer. ‘Have a go at this.’
I looked at the small mirror on the inside of the cupboard door. Salt water and sun do something to hair, stiffening it and making it duller. Mine wasn’t as bleached as it was during summer but it was still tough to straighten out.
‘People pay big money to get a hair do like that B.B.’ It was Diana. She and Neil came into the office carrying chairs, followed by Glen carrying a file of paper. At that point the comb was stuck in a particularly salty part of my scalp.
‘You know, that wild, unkempt look.’
Frustrated, I gave up and stood against the wall.
Harry was looking out the window.
‘Right, they’ve arrived. I think you know how this is going to play out.’
I didn’t have a clue but Neil did, saying: ‘Yeah, they’ll ask questions and we’ll try to find out as much as we can, right.’
‘I think they’ll want some give and take,’ Harry said, ‘but each of you knows your angle. Neil, stay quiet about those documents you’ve got from the council but try to see if they give a glimmer of an idea what’s gone down there. Diana, can you just watch what they say and how they say it.’
Dad looked at me and shook his head.
He looked into the office. I followed his gaze and could see Steve Marren entering, followed by Stead, Jimmy Tatua and a woman I hadn’t seen before. ‘Just behave yourself a bit, please,’ Harry said quietly to me.
Going out of his office, he greeted his visitors, shaking hands with Marren, nodding at Stead and ushering the three into his office. Introductions all around, with Fish Marren noting that Jimmy had been appointed something called community liaison for the case and the new officer, Detective Inspector Judy Collingwood, had come from head office to oversee the investigation.
My phone beeped. It was a message from Diana. How did she do that without me noticing?
‘Look @ stead’ I had already and saw how he was staring straight at me, expressionless.
‘Sorry about that. My library card’s overdue,’ I said, turning the phone off.
Harry and Fish both ignored me and were looking straight at each other.
‘Shame about the weather,’ said Harry, ‘don’t suppose you’ve had a chance to get out for some, fish.’
The police commander’s already tight-fitting uniform seemed to grow slightly larger, before deflating slightly.
‘Yeah, well, let’s get down to business. You know what we’re here for don’t you? We are concerned that the line you are running in The Last Newspaper in the World is interfering with our investigation in the murder of the mayor. We realise the importance of the media and the role it must play. We thought we could reach some sort of accommodation with you so that you get what you want and we can make progress without your people,’ looking at us standing against the wall, ‘getting in the way.’
After saying this, Fish looked over to Judy Collingwood. She just nodded. He added, ‘I am aware of the freedom of the press and this is in no way to be construed as police coming down on you to prevent you from doing your job.’
‘Ah,’ said Harry, looking over to Glen, ‘couldn’t agree more. You have your job and we have ours. The lines have become a bit blurred since you shut us out from your investigation.’
‘With good reason don’t you think?’
‘Maybe, but that does mean we have run our own line doesn’t it? Look, as an officer of the law you must know that the best defence is the truth. In this case,’ Harry said looking at Stead, ‘it is true that your Mr Stead told our reporter you did have a suspect, one of our reporters saw the mayor out at the race track with a mysterious visitor and there does seem to be something up with the racing club or at the least the land.’
‘Yes, but if you start running around talking to potential witnesses it could impede any arrest and prosecution.’
‘I understand that but I’m not sure how we can help. We do still have to get the news out.’
‘Look, we seem to be going around in circles,’ said Judy Collingwood. She had a surprisingly softly sophisticated voice for a senior officer.
‘Shall we see if we can work together a bit better? Why don’t you come back into the fold? We will share more with you and, likewise, you with us. Off the record, of course.’
Harry didn’t say anything for a moment and in the silence I could hear the sound of a race caller on the radio over by the sports desk.
‘Sounds good to me,’ said Harry. ‘So when’s your next briefing?’
Collingwood looked over at her colleagues.
‘The next one’s at 9 o’clock tomorrow morning,’ said Marren.
‘Very good, we’ll be there,’ Harry said, rising from his chair. Handshakes all around and he and Marren exchanged invites for fishing trips that’d never happen.
While he saw them out, the rest of us stood about in his office wondering what to make of it. When he came back, Harry had a bit of a smile on his face.
‘Well?’ he said to Glen.
‘So we’re going to pull back from our own investigation and follow the police line then,’ Glen said.
‘Nah, I doubt it,’ Harry said, he swore again and said something to the effect that there was no way he would let Stead one up on us. For once, I was happy to hear dad swearing.