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 What is the Lie?

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Anthony van
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PostSubject: What is the Lie?   Sat Dec 02, 2017 5:20 pm

Chapter 9                                                       Sat night

 

The pervasive darkness of a cloud covered bush night had settled around them as the tentative pursuers finally edged up the small track, crossing a heavy timber bridge then stopping before it opened out to a clearing. A dank, eucalypt tinged atmosphere added to the mystique of the timbered arena surrounding the small cabin. Furtive whispers directed one and then another of the seven subordinates until they were all in position. A raucous yell, a smashing, splintering sound and a rush of bodies into the dimly lit room culminated the hastily contrived plan.

Several minutes later they finally established that Rick Tanon was the sole presence in the cabin prior to their scrum-like onslaught. What ensued was a bedraggled troupe tripping and stumbling in the dark. Someone hissed, “Turn on the torch will ya?” which summed up the bungling, anticlimactic outcome of the foray. When they sought some information he was not very cooperative. Sore and sorry for himself, Rick bleated ‘police brutality’ and ‘blatant incompetence’ as the defining terms for the episode.

            “Do we take him with us Ade?” It was Rolf speaking as they huddled around the headlights.

“No. He could be telling the truth. But I doubt it. Witney was here and I think he knew it.” Burton was speaking through pursed lips. “I’ve had enough for tonight. On Monday we’ll put some more pressure on Miles and his daughter. They know more than they’re telling us. And I’ll get Lancaster and his boys to dig up all the vehicles owned by family members and friends so we know what he could be driving. Let’s go home.”

            Rolf drove back full of ideas, but he got little response from Burton who was very subdued. Finally, trying to break his boss from his pensive mood, he blurted, “What’s wrong Ade. He’s getting to you isn’t he? Don’t worry, we’ll get him.”

Burton looked across at him wearily. “I keep asking ‘Why’, Ro. Nothing seems to fit. Why do decent people want to help a murderer? Why does a murderer who escaped from custody keep contacting us and suggesting things to investigate? Why does someone like Tom Witney kill three people? Does any of it make sense to you?”

“You’re just tired Ade. Murder never makes sense to me. They’re crazy with rage, or jealousy, or greed … or they’re just plain crazy.”

‘So which do you think? What drove Witney to murder?”

“I think he’s crazy, a psycho … maybe he just snapped and he’s playing with us now to feed some, some…” Rolf was searching for words.

“Egotistical aberration?” inserted Burton.

“Yeah, you’ve got a way with words. You know that Ade?”

            It was a couple of minutes before the older man spoke again, putting substance on the framework of his thinking and setting it in context with words. “Well, Gascoyne is putting the pressure on so we had better find him soon.”

Rolf just nodded. Gascoyne was the much feared chief. There was rumour that he was on some sort of performance contract where every unsolved major crime affected his salary. His irascible, belligerent tirade that morning gave credence to the rumour. ‘How could one of the most modern forces in the country fail to find the key suspect while he’s making almost daily calls to them?’ he’d snidely demanded.

            “You know why we can’t find him?” Rolf suddenly stated rhetorically minutes later, as if the conversation hadn’t stopped. Burton didn’t grace the question with a reply. “It’s because he planned beforehand. He had everything worked out … where he was going to hide, what cars he would use. It makes sense.” There was a note of triumph in his conjecture.

“No.” was all Burton uttered before he turned and snoozed the remainder of the journey. The remark deflated his young partner who knew better than to pursue the reason. Experience had told him that, having disputed his ideas outright, Burton would methodically, and maybe instructively, dismantle his theories to the point where he felt a fool for even having considered them.

            Burton was thinking about the comment. If Witney had planned the whole thing he must be some sort of psychological genius, certainly too good for his investigative abilities. To use his own gun, call the police and not have an alibi, escape in a police car and then a bike on the scant hope that a police officer has a phobia about big slobbering dogs, and then to expect to be acquitted as innocent. If all that was true, then it was time for him to quit.

                                    ----------------------------------------------------

 

            Tom had met Lori in the back parking bays of the Grimpton supermarket. She had purchased a few bags of groceries and had come out of the store to find him waiting, a little agitated at not knowing where she was but at the same time having a strong inkling as to her whereabouts. Lori explained good naturedly, when he huffed and puffed about where she was, that he would appreciate some fresh food on the boat and would thank her later. A little shamefaced he apologised, saying that life on the run was making him jittery.

            After hiding the white pickup in the farthest corner, Lori drove them back toward the city and the marina where his boat was moored.

“I’ve marked in the map book where you’ll find the church camp. It’ll probably take about a day to get there,” Lori explained as she squinted at the approaching high beam headlights. Tom marvelled that she didn’t curse or complain at the inconsiderate motorist approaching. It was something he did almost as a matter of course. He knew it was one of the many flaws in his character. Now, being with Lori, her restraint was attractive to him, almost noble. It made him want to change. He sought some details about the place she had suggested and, after some key logistic information about distance, location and about Joe the caretaker, she started to reminisce.  The obviously fond memories took hold of her and he was regaled with tales of her youth at the church camp. For the first time in several days Tom was distracted from his troubles. He laughed with Lori at the pranks and personalities she described and became pensive when she shared how that her times there were precious steps in developing her faith.

            Tom sat and thought about the importance Lori placed on her faith. It wasn’t just a social diversion, but a driving force in her life. He wondered what it was like to have a clear frame of reference for your life. One that answered many of the ‘why’ type questions he battled with.

Almost intuitively Lori sensed the reason behind Tom’s contemplative silence and respected his quiet ‘think time’ by not intruding into his thoughts. He eventually stated something that had been irking him for the last hour or so.

“Lori, how can you,” Tom faltered indecisively, “how can you help me hide from the police and be true to your beliefs? I mean, I appreciate it and all, but it’s a bit of a contradiction isn’t it?”

“So, what are you saying?” she crumpled her nose engagingly, “I’m some sort of a hypocrite?”

“No, no, no,” he backpedalled instantly, “I just feel bad dragging you into all this. You’re getting yourself in trouble because of me.”

“I think it’s called a moral dilemma. I’m not helping a murderer, am I?”

“No.”

“Besides, I haven’t had to lie or anything yet. I really didn’t know where you were.”

“Maybe, but you weren’t cooperative either.” Tom countered.

Lori looked confused. “Do you want me to turn you in?” She glanced across at Tom, frowning.

“Well, if it means avoiding getting charged by the police … yes, most certainly, tell them everything you know. I couldn’t live with the knowledge that I dragged you, or anybody else, into this.”

There was a short lull in their mild spat, but Lori hadn’t capitulated. “When you first came to our place I wanted to call the police. I couldn’t understand why you were running. But,” she stopped and weighed her words, “but sometimes you do what is right despite what the authorities say. You protect the innocent.” Her point made Lori qualified her remarks with an incongruous postscript. “Still, I think you should turn yourself in. The truth will come out. I think your innocence will be proved in the end.”

“You’ve got more faith in the system than I have.”

It wasn’t long after they had ceased talking when Lori turned into the main bay-side road that led to the marina. Tom insisted that she drop him off more than a block away from the car park entry. He wanted to minimise any possibility of her being implicated in some offence.

“I need the exercise,” he assured her with a peculiar grin.

“Have you got everything you need? You know where to go?” Lori queried as he gathered his things.

“Yup,” he affirmed a touch flippantly, though his mind registered a few requisites that he was already planning to get.

“Look after yourself,” she said softly and placed a hand on the side of his face. Their gazes met and Lori’s soft brown eyes became dewy before she looked down. Repressing a strong desire to kiss her on her lips, Tom took her hand and kissed it gently.

“Thanks … thanks for everything. And … and Lori, don’t worry. I’ll be fine.” He squeezed her hand and then backed out of the car. He had with him a duffle bag stuffed with shopping and a variety of useful objects he’d scavenged from the old white utility. Tom flashed a reassuring smile, closed the door and walked away. She watched his assumed, relaxed gait as he moved away trying, with some effort, to appear casual. Having scanned the area, he looked over his shoulder and gave a final wave. That a small turn and wave from Tom should give Lori a warm glow intrigued her. She drove back toward home in deep thought, almost oblivious to her surroundings.

When Tom cautiously approached the family yacht it was late in the evening. He waited for twenty minutes in the shadows before venturing onto the mooring pier. The creaking and shuddering boats bumped and swayed like a herd of frisky horses tethered to a rail. A rolling swell and the slap of the wind driven chop, lent an eerie, syncopated rhythm to the rocking craft. Tom didn’t know where to look. Committed now to be exposed by the spray shrouded sodium lights of the timbered walkway, he tucked his head down, thrust one hand in his pocket and strode purposely toward ‘Perfect Treat’. With a final quick look around, he scampered from the wharf, across the gangplank and boarded the rocking boat. The fifty five foot twin diesel, luxury motor cruiser was one of his father’s few extravagances. With wood panelled cockpit, satellite navigation, small galley, a largish salon and staterooms with ensuites at the rear, it was a treat to travel in.

With some impatience he delved for his key, dumping the bag so he could steady his hands and locate the keyhole before anyone noticed his presence. He staggered drunk like as the boat was tilted dangerously by a rogue wave. Waiting briefly for some stability, Tom inserted the key and shimmied through the low doorway, dragging his bag rapidly in before the next series of swells increased the degree of difficulty.

                        -----------------------------------------------------------

Time for a meal, for stowing gear and supplies, and two hours of attempted rest was all the delay that Tom could endure. Conditions on the bay had calmed considerably over that period and the forecast was for the beginning of more benign weather. Casting off and then navigating out through the marker buoys, Tom took the first of many GPS readings, tracking his position on the digital map glowing green in front of him. Cruising along the east coast of the bay, breaking clouds became visible in the watery moonlight. Streetlights, houselights and traffic indicators clung to the shore like a spray of fairy lights.

The throbbing engine and gentle rocking of the ‘Perfect Treat’ had a soporific effect on the weary young Witney. When the last harbour on the peninsula drew near, Tom almost sighed with relief. He regrouped his concentration for the late night docking. To his annoyance there were no observable quayside berths so he chose one of the anchored buoys behind the breakwater. Once tied and secured, he flopped into the couch and fell into a dead sleep.

***

Awakening to the gentle pitching of his motorised yacht, at first Tom was uncertain as to where he was. It was still dark and the salty, moist odour of the sea permeated the cabin. He flicked a light on and got together some breakfast. As he ate and sipped at a steaming coffee he noticed a Bible in one of the Perspex covered book holders on the side near the couch. “She’s a veritable Gideon,” he stated out loud, as he envisaged Lori stocking the boat.

The truth will set you free’. Those words echoed in his memory. He wished the truth would come out. He paged through the Bible as he finished his coffee. Finding the book of John again he got to chapter eight. The words he read disturbed him. He had seen the words truth and homed in on the text.

If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God. Was that why he didn’t understand? But it was the passage following that had tightened his throat. Was it a description of him? Child of the Devil … He lies and I believe his lies … Could this be describing what he was like? Surely he wasn’t that bad? Tom wondered who Jesus was talking about. When he located the word ‘Pharisees’ he breathed to himself, “I bet they thought they were pretty good too.” Suddenly a glimmer of realisation struck Tom. The lie, he had been wondering what it was. He reread the words:

Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.

‘I wonder if the lie is that ‘I don’t need to be set free’ so ‘I choose to ignore God’. I can do this on my own. I’m all right,’ Tom mused. Was that him? Tom had to admit that it sounded like him. He would have gladly told anybody ‘I’m not a slave—never have been,’ but in reality he knew he was a slave to his own selfish ambition, to prosperity and materialism and to acclamation from others. Tom stretched uncomfortably. He got up and looked at the small mirror. An unfamiliar person with a bristly face and unkempt hair gazed back.

“So that’s what I’m really like.” Was he responding to the image or telling the mirrored person what those words had just revealed to him? In his heart he knew he’d taken a step closer to those people long ago who ‘put their faith in Him—even as He spoke’.

 

After grooming himself enough to not look suspiciously disreputable, Tom emerged from the cabin, closed up, dropped the dinghy over the side and boarded it. Eight or nine strokes of the paddles brought him to the access ramp and a set of stairs up to the top of the pier. In no time Tom was being taken by a taxi toward his home. Much to his chagrin he was an unwilling captive audience to a particularly talkative and inquisitive cabby.

“Been fishen’?”

“No.”

“It’s a pretty place isn’t it, Sorrento? Do you live there?”

“No.”

Not quick on the uptake, the driver persisted. “Did you come in by boat?”

“Yup.”

Encouraged by a positive reply the driver followed up immediately, “So, did you travel far?”

“No, just trying to escape the rat race,” Tom quipped.

“I know what you mean. I start every morning, four a.m. hoping to take overnighters back to the city. What do you do with yourself?”

Tom leaned forward and said softly, “I’m a fugitive from the law, but don’t tell anyone. You see I’m totally innocent, but I need my freedom to prove my innocence.”

The driver laughed, “Okay, I get it. You want a quiet drive. I can do that. I’ll just drive and you can sit there.”

“It’s a deal,” chuckled Tom. He sat and considered his position. He was now solo again. Lori might think she was an accomplice, but he couldn’t live with the responsibility. No one would know where he was or what he was doing. But, more importantly, he wouldn’t be hiding away finding out nothing useful. He would be trying to answer some questions racing around inside his brain.

            He reviewed everything right from the start of the day. Who knew about his gun? Al knew, Gene knew, but he was dead. Rick and Gil were at the gun club with him. They knew about the gun. So did Ed, but what possible motive could they have? Then there was Ashley. He could have stumbled upon the gun. It would take some digging to find out what his reasons could be. Maybe he was resentful of his mother. The others? Charlie Charlton or some other unknown assailant, who somehow came upon his gun, possibly from his unlocked car, could have unintentionally incriminated him. Tom’s head was spinning. There were too many ‘could haves’. He needed to deal in facts. He made a list on his digital notes of what he knew so far. One; someone took his keys and returned them. Two; his gun was used to commit the murders. Three; Ashley Moore had confessed to visiting his mother.

Question one; what was the meeting like? How could he find out? He had to talk to Ashley. Tom made another note. He continued his facts. Four; Police believe Al’s alibi. That led to another question. Is Al’s story true? He had to check it out. Tom clenched his jaw. He still hardly knew anything.

                                    -------------------------------------------------------------

 

The cab deposited him two blocks away from his place. Ten minutes of jumping at shadows, crawling past darkened windows and scaling fences had Tom just next door to his place, struggling to regain his breath. It was still dark as he hoisted himself over a neighbour’s fence and then crept stealthily toward the garage. He heard Juno in the shed whining quietly and it made him grumble angrily. “I’ll get Holly to rescue you boy.” Oddly, although it seemed unlikely to him that the dog had heard him mutter, Juno suddenly became quiet. Tom unlocked one of the garage doors and used his copy of Holly’s key to gain entry. A gratified grunt escaped his lips as he noticed that Ed had garaged his Mercedes in the first port. Before doing anything else, he wrote a short note on a piece of notepaper from his glove compartment. A ripple of guilt spread through him as he released the hand brake of Holly’s vehicle. His rebuttal of Lori’s idea was misdirection, not outright deception, he argued to himself.

He didn’t want to risk the noise of starting the engine so he pushed the small Honda out of the garage. Once he’d relocked the door, he rolled the small sedan down the gentle slope of the long sweeping curve to the main road. Thankfully for Tom, by this stage the police had deemed it a poor use of manpower to keep surveillance on a place where they had already missed him once.

He turned the ignition and heard the disconcerting curling whir of the starter motor. He tried again, nothing … and again, nothing. Feeling frantic now, the heat rising around his neck and worried that someone would look out a window and see him, he tried again unsuccessfully. The growing light of dawn would reveal Holly’s stranded car. Amidst his anxious tension a hint of reasoning invaded the fretful clutter of his thinking. Holly’s car had been sitting idle for six months. He pumped the accelerator repeatedly before turning the key. The engine roared into life, more enthusiastically than he would have liked. The car departed leaving a blue cloud of smoke.

                                    ----------------------------------------------
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