Blood Sunset - By Jarad Henry


TO GET WHAT YOU WANT, you need to know what you want. My mother first told me this when I was a young boy. Think hard about what you want, she said, for knowing what you want is more difficult than actually getting it.

It wasn’t until a few weeks before my fortieth birthday that I fully understood what she’d meant. I was sitting in an unmarked squad car, tired and hungry and thinking about bed, when a call came over the dispatch that would change the direction of my life forever. Of course, I didn’t know that then. If I had, I wouldn’t have been nearly so blasé about answering the call.

‘VKC to any unit in the vicinity of Luna Park.’

I stifled a yawn, clicked the transmit button and replied with my call sign: ‘St Kilda 511.’

‘You’ve got a deceased male, possible drug overdose. Location is at the rear of Café Vit, adjacent to Luna Park. The café owner found the body and is waiting for police. What’s your status?’

I groaned. Fatal drug overdoses were always dispatched to detectives in the divisional Criminal Investigation Units. Usually they were straightforward and you were done with them within a couple of hours, but sometimes – especially late at night – you could be stuck forever waiting for the undertakers. I was scheduled to knock off at 7 a.m., and I wasn’t interested in overtime that the boss wasn’t interested in paying for.

I wished my partner, Cassie Withers, was with me. She’d received a call from the hospital saying her father was crook again and for the past half-hour I’d been filling in the night’s running sheet. It was something Cassie normally did and it showed in my handwriting.

‘What’s your status, 511?’

I clicked the mike. ‘Still one up, but I’ll handle it. Have the undertakers been dispatched?’

It was a stupid question, more a protest than anything. The dispatcher never called the undertakers unless they were requested to by the investigating officer; in this case, me.

There was a period of silence while the dispatcher thought of a polite answer.

‘We’ll wait for your instruction, detective,’ she said eventually.

‘Fine. ETA two minutes.’

Warm coffee sloshed in the foam cup between my legs as I pulled away from the kerb. Fitzroy Street, the main thoroughfare through St Kilda, was calmer than it had been all night. The pubs and restaurants lining the strip were now closed. Only a few nightclubs and convenience stores were still open.

Tall palm trees were silhouetted against the glow of streetlights as I coasted along the Esplanade towards Luna Park. With the window half-down, even in the pre-dawn I could tell tomorrow would be another hot one.

Soon I was at the Acland Street junction where the only signs of life were a row of taxis idling outside the strip clubs and a group of leftover disco-heads munching burgers and fries at McDonald’s. Scanning the side of Café Vit, I spotted a loading bay at the northern end of an empty car park. I parked and activated the covert blue and red lights on the dashboard, then gathered my clipboard and daybook, opened the boot and took a torch and a handful of gloves from a dispenser. Almost as an afterthought, I slid my digital camera into my pocket, then walked towards the loading bay. A chubby man in a white shirt stepped out from a doorway at the rear of the café and hurried over, his stumpy legs moving quickly beneath a round belly, like a penguin. Another overweight restaurant owner, I mused. All that food can’t go to waste.

‘Morning, sir,’ I said. ‘I’m Detective Sergeant Rubens McCauley. You called the police?’

‘Yes, yes, thank God,’ the man said, wiping a hand across his meaty face. ‘I have dead body in back. Come see.’

A European accent; Dutch or possibly German I thought. We walked to the rear of the café and I noted the loading bay was fenced in at the sides but there was no gate, meaning a person could easily access it. I stopped the man from going any further.

‘Where’s the body, sir?’

‘He is in back, against bin.’

‘Just wait here, please. What’s your name?’

‘I am Karl. Karl Vitazul.’

He held out his hand for me to shake but I was busy opening my daybook. It wasn’t the place for handshakes anyway.

‘Would you mind spelling that for me, please, sir?’ I asked.

He did and I wrote it down. ‘Thank you. Do you know the person?’

‘I recognise him, but I do not know him.’

‘You recognise him? Is