Authors: Iain Ryan
opyright © Iain Ryan
Everything in Drainland is completely fictional and imaginary; any resemblance the characters or settings may bear to actual circumstances or to a living person is entirely coincidental. I just make this stuff up.
ll rights reserved
. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written consent of the author, except where permitted by law.
over design by Iain Ryan
. Assistance from Carl.
Interior design by Iain Ryan.
Proofing by Tammi Labrecque.
If you like DRAINLAND, you’ll love FOUR DAYS, the prequel to the entire Tunnel Island Series. It’s 178 pages of lean, mean mayhem.
Click this link to get your free book:
about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia.
- Charles M. Schulz
he remembered February
. Melbourne, 2003. Will Holding was laid out on a blanket in the park. He put his hand up to the glare and said:
“Can you see the earth curving over?”
Laura Romano moved her head beside him.
“Can you see it?” he said.
The sky looked like a broad ceiling to her. It had no real bend to it, no depth or colour. Nothing worked that year. Her eyes, her mind, her gut. That was when he found her, after everything had stopped working. That was how he got in.
omano lifted her drink
, more ice than whisky now. She was due at the station in four hours.
The phone started up.
She went to it. She stood over it and let it ring a while.
She picked it up.
“Romano?’’ said the voice.
“What is it?” she said.
“You’ve got to go up to the Gold Point,” Denny said. “They’ve got some sort of emergency. Two dead.”
“You’ve got to come in.”
That was the official start of it. One set of bad memories exchanged for another, all from one phone call in the middle of the night on an island she did not recognise.
e remembered August
. Tunnel Island, 2003. They were worn out, semi-retired. The bodies had started to pile up in his dreams. They haunted him. It was time to cash out.
He took Old Bill Dranger to O’Shea and they told him together: we’re out. You have to take out your own trash from now on.
O’Shea said exactly what Jim Harris knew he would:
“There’s a wee loose end.”
One more thing.
The cliché that ruined people.
he loose end
was the Fitzgerald kid. He had to leave the island. He was gathering steam. He had a few cronies now, and they were all raising hell. “They grabbed a tourist,” said O’Shea, the deck of his boat rocking gently underneath them. “And the tourist is a kid, just a wee kiddie, the boy of a high roller. Came in to spend his money and now this. It’s a fookin’ disaster for me and mine. This guy has clout with Zane’s fookin’ brother-in-law, and now I got no one else who can deal with it. At least take care of this for me, until I can find myself some new fellas.”
Fitzgerald had come up from the South, out of that swamp. He wasn’t affiliated or made. He was a wild dog. Harris had heard about him, had even been tempted to step in. If nothing else, taking care of Fitzgerald would be a good way to finish up. Neat. A full stop. O’Shea was right. If they took care of Fitzgerald, there would be a pause.
Old Bill wasn’t so sure.
They took the job anyway.
The next day, O’Shea finessed the father, the high roller. When the ransom call came in, he made nice on the phone and promised Fitzgerald money. All the while, Harris and Old Bill set to work. Fitzgerald wasn’t hard to find. The information came cheap. He had a house tucked away down in the bush.
Harris and Old Bill went in the same as always.
Weapons from the private stash.
The men were asleep. One of the cronies took one in the leg before he made it out of bed. The blood and gunfire put everyone else in their place. Old Bill and Harris herded the five of them into the living room and put them on the carpet. Then Harris grabbed Fitzgerald and put the gun in his mouth.
“Where is he?”
Fitzgerald’s eyes opened like dinner plates, tears at the edges.
The others looked each other.
Old Bill grabbed the one who was shot and punched him in the wound. More blood. More screaming. The other men started shouting. The room got hot.
“Where?” asked Harris, again.
He took the gun out.
“Argh, the compost…the…outside.”
Old Bill went. He came back with a small boy slumped in his arms, both of them covered with dirt and shit.“Here,” he said. “He’s still breathing. Just.”
Harris grabbed the boy. “Come on.”
Old Bill stared at the floor, blank in the eyes. He didn’t move. He’d had a son once. “Take him outside,” said Old Bill.
“Come on, Bill.”
Harris took the boy and ran.
As he crossed the lawn, he heard the shots and kept running. The boy murmured. “It’s okay,” said Harris. “It’s okay.”
ut it wasn’t okay
. Old Bill murdered them all. Shot each of them in the stomach and left them to bleed out together. When Harris came back to clean up, he found Fitzgerald out in the rear yard, his hand wrapped around the bottom of the hills hoist like it was going to save him. Harris dragged the body back inside. The living room was covered in blood an inch deep, like a slaughterhouse floor. It smelled like hell, and when Harris burned the place to the ground that smell drifted out and rose up on the smoke.
, Old Bill was dead. He shot himself in his spare bedroom. Nothing left but a dead body and a postcard in the mail: a piece of card stock split into four quadrants each showing one of the island’s beaches.
There was gold foil font:
“Welcome To Paradise”
Harris turned it over.
I’m with the ghosts now, Jim.
Hopefully this is the end for both of us.
Sorry I couldn’t hack it. Take care of yourself.
That was a year ago.
out on the verandah of his house and watched the dawn sky. It had been a cold night. Primal wind coming off the sea, the trees roaring. Now the sun looked like a dull glow in the cloud.
His phone buzzed.
It felt like a confirmation. He knew he was waiting for something. He flipped it open.
“Harris,” he said.
“You might want ta have a look in on the Gold Point, Jim.”
“Bit of trouble brewing.”
“Send the new guys.”
“Because they’re idiots.”
“Then find someone else. I don’t care anymore.”
“I don’t think that’s true, Jim. I think you’ll care a wee bit when you find out who it is. Mate, it’s Don’s daughter.”
Harris pinched his fingers into his eyes. The trees started back up. That was both of them dead now.
“Fuck,” he said.
“For Don,” said O’Shea.
“Is that it?”
The line went dead.
omano paced the apartment
She took her shirt off and re-checked the air-con. She opened and closed the fridge, went back to the balcony doors and looked out.
Three days without Will. No calls. No contact.
One day was nothing.
Two days was odd.
Three days was wrong.
She could feel herself coming apart.
Romano picked up the phone and called Bobby Franklin and got: “I told you this morning, I haven’t seen the little prick.” She called the clubhouse and Cheryl said the same thing.
Will’s drug connection.
As far as they were concerned, this problem of hers was a hallucination.
Romano dialled again and left another round of messages. She called his sister, his business partners, two of his closest friends. His privacy was a luxury she could no longer afford. She tried his phone, over and over again.
Eventually, she chalked out another line of coke and got back to her pacing. Her nose began to run. She went to the kitchen for paper towels, taking the roll back to the windows. The city buildings sat there on the skyline. The night glowed. No movement on the street. For two hours, she walked and blew her nose. As the sun came up, she noticed there was blood on the towelling. She didn’t care. She was due at the station.
he suburbs panned by
, one new estate after the other. Suburban Melbourne in early December. Christmas lights lined the streets and her partner, Constable Jack Whiting, slowed the squad car to check a nativity scene: the Virgin Mary in flashing neon, brighter than sunlight.
“Jesus,” he said.
Romano sucked on a milkshake. It was all a wash to her. She couldn’t let it in. She wound down the window and tossed the shake onto the sidewalk.
Jack peeled out. He kept his mouth shut. He knew more than he was letting on, just enough to keep clear of her. He reached across and grabbed the McDonald’s bag off the dash.
“You going to eat this?”
“I need a smoke,” she said.
They pulled into to a park in Keilor East. Romano walked out to the lawn and lit up. The cravings were gnawing at her. All she needed was thirty seconds out of sight, but nothing subtle presented itself. She could feel the sweats coming on. The playground felt ominous around her, creepy and distorted. She sucked hard on the smoke and stifled a cough.
The squad car horn sounded.
She jogged back. Jack had her door open.
“Code 10 in Grosvenor Street. You want it?”
“Let Cain and Davey get it.”
“It’s an open call. They must be on dinner. And I’m bored shitless.”
“Okay. Hold on.”
Romano took another drag and ground out the smoke. She looked up and waited to exhale. An arc of cloud rose up from the trees in the park and the houses behind them. In the distance, a storm hovered over the city.
he domestic in
Grosvenor Street had a primal edge to it. It was a woman, Samantha Something. She was young, one of those twenty-five going on forty-five types with greasy red hair and bad skin. She’d been screwing around with a neighbour, by the sound of it, and had a load on now. Jack had to keep sitting her back down in a living room recliner. The place smelled like a pet store.
“And then what happened, Samantha?” said Jack. “Someone in the street called us. You go over there? You go over there tonight?”
The woman shrugged. “I dunno.”
Romano folded up her notebook. She walked out to the street and looked around. The house directly across had an illuminated pink Santa strapped to the roof. The lawn was crisp. It didn’t vibe with Samantha. The next house up had a freshly broken window, glass on the lawn, the hole plastered over with cardboard. That was more like it. Romano went to the door and knocked.
A big man answered. Late thirties, dressed in gym shorts and nothing else.
“Had a few complaints about an argument, sir. You want to step out here for me?”
The guy came out. He was their guy.
“So what’s the trouble tonight?” said Romano.
“That crazy bitch down in eleven started throwing rocks at the house.”
“Right. So tell me—”
Suspect fleeing on foot! Rear exit!
Jack in pursuit, shouting.
“I told you,” said the man.
Romano ran. She took the path down the side of Samantha’s house, stepping over rubbish and broken brickwork. The back yard opened out onto a dark reserve. Romano stopped for her flashlight and listened: rustling, a woman moaning in the distance. She started out. Within a minute, she found them halfway down an incline tapering off to a sewerage out. Jack had Samantha Something pinned to the ground. Her face was pressed into the grass and her sad yellow dress was caught up under her arms, exposing her legs and ass.
“Bloody hell, Jack, am I interrupting something?”
“Will you give me a fucking hand, please!”
Romano held the woman’s legs while he got the cuffs on. “How’d this all start then, Samantha? I thought we were here to help.”
“I wanted to give the house a sweep,” said Jack.
“And she bolted?”
“Fuck you both,” said Samantha.
They put her in the back of the squad car and had a look around. It started to figure. In the kitchen pantry, Jack found the stash: half an ounce of weed, a small bag of pills. Romano searched the back of the house. Despite the summer heat, Samantha was living with the curtains drawn. Romano went to the bathroom of the master bedroom and gently closed the door behind her. She sat on the toilet and took a small silver vial from her pocket. She tapped out a line and snorted it back. As the buzz came on, she let her eyes close for a moment.
She washed her hands and checked the mirror.
One step up from Samantha, if not for the make-up and uniform.
Something moved in the shower behind her.
Romano froze. She stared into the mirror.
Then the sound again. Movement.
Romano unclipped her holster.
She pulled back the shower curtain.
Something on the basin floor.
Romano hit the lights.
Her head pounded.
There were five rats gnawing on a severed arm, tiny mouths tearing at the bright red flesh.
omano came to mid-morning
. She took a shower, popped a benzo, poured vodka into orange juice.
Her brain fired. She made a plan.
No more waiting or playing it safe. No more hoping.
But nothing official either. She was on her own.
Will had a small accounting practise he ran out of a house in Fitzroy. She drove there and let herself in with the spare key. The place was empty. His desk and office sat untouched. She went to the reception desk out front and checked the appointment book. His last meeting was marked private; he’d clocked out Wednesday seven-thirty. Thursday and Friday had lines through them.
She saw something: Thursday morning. A cancelled meeting with Ray Herbert.
That didn’t make sense.
No one cancelled on Ray.
to the Herbert manse in Toorak and parked across the street. She scoped the house. It was a nice cream brick place behind a row of old oak trees. Looked like something a dentist would live in, not a bikie.
As she came up on the gate, a guard stepped out.
“What do you want?” he asked. “We expecting you?”
“I’m looking for my boyfriend, Will Holding. He does Ray’s books, hasn’t been home in a couple of days and he stays here every now and then.”
The man seemed to take this in, but the eyes stayed focused on her. “Wait here,” he said.
He closed the door.
The door reopened.
“Ray’s out the back,” said the man. “He wants a chat.”
The inside of the house looked like something out of a magazine. A marble atrium at the front, flanked on either side by white rooms full of white furniture. The guard led her down along the soft carpets to a kitchen and then out through a neat green courtyard. Ray sat by himself in a small pool house. He had a newspaper laid out on the table beside him, a lit cigarette in the ashtray. He barely glanced at her as she came up.
“You know, Will told me he was dating a copper,” he said, eyes still on the newspaper. “But I had you pegged as some butch prison warden type, all tits and hips, that sort of thing. Figured he might go in for something like that after looking at rows of numbers all day. I’ve met blokes like that.”
“Have you seen him?”
Herbert took a longer look at her.
“Sit down.” He took a drag on his smoke and replaced it. “I did hear you were looking for him. Got a call this morning. I’m looking for him too, you know. That cheeky bastard was due here yesterday and he didn’t bloody show up.”
“I don’t know what’s happening. Have you spoken to him?”
“Nah. I thought he might have been down at one of the clubs, like he’d messed up the appointment. He’s done that one before, but no one’s seen him. Has he ever done anything like this, love?”
“No. He’s organised. Too organised almost.”
“Yeah,” said Ray. “Ain’t that the truth.”
“No one would hurt Will would they? I mean, no one—”
“Nah, nah, no way. The boys are only interested in bumping off each other, you know that. I’m not sure the Angels would even really know who he is, not to look at.” Ray took a moment to stare at the pool. “But you know, if it’s been a coupla days, you know who might have him?”
“Your lot. Maybe he’s been pinched for something? Has he been doing something I should know about?”
She could see that the idea didn’t please Ray. His brow folded. He kept his gaze on the water. He reached back for his smoke.
“No. That’s not who he is.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I’ll make some calls,” he said.
“You want me to do something?”
“Don’t do anything, love. Don’t call anyone. Don’t visit. I’ll give you a bell tonight. We’ll take it from there.”
Herbert stood up and went to the pool fence. The meeting was over.
“Bobby will show you back out.
As she walked away, Herbert added, “You know, if
get pinched, you call me, okay?”
Romano kept walking.
Back in the car, her chest pounded like a heart attack. The sun blazed overhead.
he drugs helped
. She rolled a joint and washed it down with more vodka and another pill. As the day wore on, the fidgets sent her to the bathroom for more uppers. She knew this was a mistake, but made it anyhow. The coke rocketed through her. She came to think that the answer must be in the apartment somewhere. Another quick bump put it all in motion.
If you get pinched.
What was the last thing Will had touched?
She tore the apartment open, emptied drawers and bags and closets. She took out her police notepad and made a list:
What was he wearing?
What was he carrying?
Where could he be? What was the travel radius?
She paced and notated. She drugged and drank.
All plans went to garbage.
The clock ticked over.
The stories turned themselves inside out. They crossed over. No starts or finishes. As the sun started to set on another day without him, Romano felt the world slipping. She tore her notebook to pieces and burnt the pages in the sink. She went to the bathroom and ripped back the shower screen to double-check for rats and blood. When it was done she screamed herself hoarse in the bathroom mirror.
he phone rang
It rang again and she picked it up:
“It’s a friend,” said Ray Herbert. “Shut up. Don’t speak.”
“Will’s in the lockup. Hold on.”
The line made a chirping sound, some sort of transfer. A new voice, more formal:
“Ms Romano. Can you drive?”
“What? I don’t—”
“I’ll send someone. Don’t talk to anyone before they get there. Don’t take another call.”
The line went dead.
herself focus and unfocus. She scanned the room, zoned in on every piece of furniture, every decoration. She could hear a noise, like an insect, in the kitchen with her. She looked down at her hands and found the phone, her fingers wrapped tightly around the receiver. The dial tone played. She smashed the handset on the edge of the kitchen bench and the plastic casing opened up. Inside were a dozen tiny insects. She sorted through the debris, and found what looked like a transmitter, a round black dot with wires.
Romano poured another drink and sat with the rubble.
Someone knocked on the apartment door.
She ignored it. She sorted the rubble.
They knocked a second time.
She took the drink and the transmitter and looked through the peephole. Two men in suits. Behind them, three uniformed police. They had paperwork and shotguns.
They knocked again, held up the warrants.
“What?” she yelled.
“Come on, Romano,” said a voice. “This is it.”
Too late, Ray.
her in an interview room she knew well. Grey walls. Stark fluorescence overhead. The familiar hum. She was coming down. The DTs rattled through. This was a bad place to start.
After a time, two plainclothes Detectives came. One of them, not much older than her, had ginger hair. He squinted. The other Detective was a salty old prick Romano recognised from Vice. They started the interview, bad-cop-bad-cop from the get-go.