CopyrightÂ© 2011 by Ernest Bywater. All rights reserved
May you live in interesting times.
Apocryphal Chinese curse.
A smiling Joe Watson is thinking, Life can’t get much better. He just finished a fine meal with his wife, daughter, best friend Bob, Bob’s wife, and their son. Joe hasn’t seen Bob and his family for almost a year, not since he got transferred to the rural city of Rivers in New South Wales (NSW). Both Joe and Robert had been too busy to take time out for visits but they have time now and they’re making the most of this visit.
Joe and Alice are in the lead while they hurry to open the minivan in the car park behind the street corner restaurant. Several metres behind them are their twelve year old daughter, Mary, and Matt, Bob’s fifteen year old son, walking side by side. Two more metres back are Candice and Bob who are last because Bob paid the bill and he’s putting his card in his wallet as he walks down the street. Hearing a siren coming their way they all turn to give a glance back at the street the restaurant faces.
Alice is beside their van while Joe opens the rear passenger door. He slides the door open but not quite to the catch then he steps back. They both turn to the roar of a powerful car coming around the corner. It loses control then the tyres scream a protest as the car slides sideways across the road on an angle down it. After a quick glance at the car Matt acts by picking up Mary to hold her to his chest while he runs down the street. Candice and Bob start their runs a fraction of second later. Joe and Alice are shocked by what they see as the car slides across the road while tilted on an angle. The wheels hit the gutter then the car flips over onto its side. It’s fast while it slides across the two metres of footpath. Bob and Candice are beside the building when the roof of the car hits the building just behind them. The large car pivots on that point while the cabin crushes. The windscreen hits Candice and Bob. It smashes them against the wall. They’d scream with pain, except now they’ve no working lungs to scream with. The car pivots further and the front of the bonnet slams into the left side of the racing Matthew just when he reaches the end of the building’s brickwork where he’s only a few steps from safety in the car park.
The car knocks Matt and Mary flying like tossed rag dolls. Alice and Joe can only stand and watch the two children fly through the air with Matt’s feet a hand’s width off the ground. They can tell Matt is doing all he can to keep his hold of Mary since he’s the only protection she has right now. The car was pivoting when it hit them so that gave Matt a little turning motion along with the violent knock forward and sideways. This is only a metre or two in front of Joe, but he can’t tell how Matt uses the small twist effect to rotate him through over ninety degrees in the short time they’re in the air. However he made the turn it’s a critical action because it means Matt is between Mary and the van when they hit it. Instead of squashing her against the minivan with his larger body he’s now her cushion when they hit the van.
Matt’s right side and back slams into the sliding rear door with such force the door slides forward to slam shut just when his head hits the window and smashes it. The door jars to a halt. Matt is thrown forward at Alice and Joe. Matt’s eyes are rolling back into his head as Mary pops out of his arms. Acting on instinct alone Joe steps forward to catch Mary in the air then he staggers back a few steps. Alice steps forward to catch Matt’s upper body just when his feet hit the ground. He’s too heavy for her to hold him in place. She’s knocked back a pace when she catches him. They go to the ground together. Alice lands on her rear and is knocked onto her back with Matt on top of her. She lies still and holds him still for fear of further damage to his spine if she moves him.
More tyres scream while two police cars pull up in the street. Only one has a siren going, and it turns off. Both police drivers leave the cars’ flashing lights on. The four police officers get out and race to the scene. Two head to Joe and Alice while two head to the car.
Joe turns to the police while he yells, “We need an ICU ambulance for the kids. The car knocked them flying.” The cop nearest him nods yes as he grabs the vest mounted microphone of his belt radio and he asks for an Intensive Care Unit ambulance to be sent to the scene.
One officer stays with Joe while his partner goes to help the other two at the car. They can hear someone in the car screaming in pain but the car is jammed up against the wall as it’s caught on various pipes and other protrusions on the wall. They don’t have the knowledge or gear to get them out of the crumpled car wreck so they make a radio call for the rescue people to come to cut the people out of the car.
A few minutes later new sirens are heard then two ambulances arrive, and are soon followed by the rescue experts. The paramedic teams take a patient each and commence treatment.
The team checking Mary is quick to decide she has no problems they can detect, except shock. They give her a mild sedative and sit her in the back of the ambulance. The team leader working on Matt calls for the other two to get certain equipment and help them. They spend fifteen minutes assessing Matt then they place various inflatable braces on him before the four of them lift him off Alice to put him onto a gurney. Only then can they check Alice and help her to the ambulance. All three will go to the hospital for x-rays and a full check by the doctors.
Joe watches the ambulances drive off with them. A police officer asks him what happened. The senior constable writes everything down in his notebook while Joe tells him what happened, Joe signs it a moment later. Just when the officer is turning away a police van pulls up and the Scene of Crime people get out. Joe turns to their leader while saying, “I’ve got to go to the hospital to check up on my family. Can you please do what you need to do to my van first so I can get going?” The woman gives him a look as if he’s crazy. “One of the injured was knocked into my van by the car. I think you may need to take photos and other evidence.” She nods yes while she gives him a small smile before directing two people to talk to him and to do what needs to be done so he can get on his way.
Several minutes later the minivan is all photographed and cleared to leave the scene. Joe is about to leave when the senior constable walks over to say, “I thought you may like to know the current status. The car driver survived the crash but he died before they could cut him out.” Joe just nods while he gets into the van. He drives away as he doesn’t care about the driver - not a bit; he already knows Bob and Candice are dead.
Joe arrives at the hospital and he goes to the Emergency Room (ER). He asks the duty nurse about Alice, Mary, and Matt. She hands him a clipboard with lots of paperwork to complete: a set for each of them. Knowing the ways of a government bureaucracy he sits down to fill in what he can on the forms. He knows what’s needed to complete the papers for Alice and Mary so that’s done real quick. While filling in the papers for Matt, most of which he does know, he realises he needs to tell some people about what’s happened tonight because Matt is now an orphan. Joe knows who Bob’s solicitor is because he used to use him while living in Sydney. He’s another old school mate he and Bob have known since they were six years old. Joe looks the number up in his personal phone book while he walks to the public phone as cell phones aren’t to be used in the hospital ER.
In with his credit card then Joe dials the number. A woman answers the phone after many rings, saying, “This better be f•©king important.”
It’s easy for Joe to picture why the anger, but he doesn’t laugh at it like he would’ve under other circumstances. His voice is flat as he says, “Dorothy, Joe Watson, put Paul on, and sit him down, please?” The lack of tone in his voice worries her so she doesn’t start the usual banter they have on the phone, but she gets her husband for him. When Paul is on the phone Joe says, “I’m at the Rivers Base Hospital ER. Candice and Bob are dead and Matt is in a real bad way. We need an authority for his medical treatment.” He knows Bob and Candice always plan for the worst case situation and they’ll have something in place with Paul so he’s asking for it to be activated as well as telling him all that happened.
“Is Betty Marlow still your solicitor there?” Joe admits she is. “Right, give me the fax number for the hospital and I’ll fax some papers down. Tomorrow I’ll send the originals to Betty by courier. You and Alice have guardianship so you can sign for his care. The papers will show that. What happened?” Joe tells him, and Paul promises to pass along the information to all of the people who need to know it. Joe gets the fax number from the nurse at the desk and he gives it to Bob. Joe hangs up and sets about finishing the paperwork before handing it to the nurse.
Paul turns to his wife, “Sit down, Dear.” Her eyes go wide at the lack of tone in his voice now, so she sits down. “That was Joe Watson. Candice, Bob, and Matt went to see his family for the weekend. After dinner in town tonight they were on the street when a car lost control and flipped. It squashed Bob and Candice against the wall while it knocked Matt and Mary flying past the end of the building. Mary is OK. Matt is being evaluated in ER. Bob and Candice are dead.” He leans over and holds her while she cries about the death of her half-brother and his wife, an old school friend. Several minutes later she stops crying and he helps her to stand. A little later she takes a sedative and lies down on their bed. He goes back downstairs to make some urgent phone calls.
The first call is one he dreads as he has to call Candice’s family. At least he can limit this to the one person in the family who will care about what happened and will miss them. He rings the number. A butler answers the phone. Paul says, “I’m sorry to be calling so late but I urgently need to speak to Missus Anders.”
“I’m sorry, Sir, but she’s already retired for the evening.”
“I suspected that but this is too urgent to wait until the morning.”
Paul is busy flipping through his pocket notebook while he talks. He’s sure he has a special code in here somewhere, one Candice gave him years ago. He finds it and says, “Please, just go and tell her I need to speak to her about the Magic Orchid.”
There’s a short silence. Banners has been the Anders’ butler for thirty years and during that time he’s been told six code phrases. Each was issued to a different person but he doesn’t know who. What he does know is they indicate a dire emergency for the family and he has to put the call through. He says, “Please wait, Sir, I’ll go get her.”
It takes Banners almost a minute to walk through the house to the right room. He knocks on the door, no answer. He knocks a second time, harder. A sleepy voice calls out, “Yes, Banners, what is it?”
He walks into the room, “Sorry, Madam. There’s a man on the phone in the Day Room. The voice isn’t familiar. He said he must urgently talk with you about the Magic Orchid.” He’s surprised at how quick Mrs Anders moves. Her eyes pop open wide and she almost jumps out of bed. After grabbing a robe she puts it on while running out of the room.
A moment later Mrs Constance Anders is picking up the phone in the Day Room and says, “Who is this?”
Paul recognises the voice because they’ve met many times before. “Connie, it’s Paul Barnes. I’m sorry to be calling this late. I just got word Candice and Bob have been killed by an out of control car while in the country. Matt is hurt and in hospital. Joe and Alice Watson are on hand and are looking after things right now. Tomorrow I expect the police to catch up with you during the day, after they’ve time to identify them.”
She slumps into a chair as her only daughter is dead. She has four sons but Candice was the only one of her children to call on her for just a visit and chat after they became adults with families of their own. She’ll miss the weekly visits by her and Matt. She takes a deep breath while she gathers her strength. “Paul, did Candice finish getting things done to protect Matthew’s inheritance?” She hears his intake of breath. “I know you can’t tell me any details. However, she did speak to me, a lot, about establishing a trust and transferring all of her assets and all of Robert’s assets into the trust. She mentioned this a few years ago when mother died and she needed to set up a trust for his share of her estate. Candice said she’ll put everything into the one trust. She was going to set it up with her and Dorothy as trustees so either can do what’s needed. I need to know Matt is protected from his uncles. The moment they learn he’s an orphan they’ll want to get control of him to control Candice’s shares in the family company. I won’t let them misuse him.”
Paul didn’t know Candice had been speaking to Connie about this but it makes sense for them to have spoken about it. Connie is not his client and he has no instructions about her but he does need to say something. “Connie, I can’t talk about any of my clients’ affairs. But let me just say: Matthew is a client of mine in his own right and I have on hand everything to see both he and all of his property are protected against any vultures that may come calling.”
She grins at the description of her power and money hungry older sons and the harpies they married. If she’d been able to stop her husband from being so involved in the boys’ upbringing they wouldn’t have turned out the way they did. She got to raise Candice herself because George all but ignored Candice as he didn’t think a woman had any place in running a business, despite Connie’s own involvement in the family business. “That’s good. If you need help to protect him let me know. I think his best interest is to stay with Joe and Alice. I’ll help to have them made his guardians and not his uncles. George and Matt haven’t spoken for some years, not since George yelled at Matt about something where Matt felt he was in the right. I doubt George would recognise him now.” They talk about a few related matters before they hang up.
When she leaves the room Connie sees Banners standing in the hall as he’s waiting to see if he needs to know anything. She sighs and says, “You best sit down, Banners.” He does as told. “That was Paul Barnes, the solicitor for Candice and Robert. He just got word Candice and Robert have been killed a few hours ago by an out of control car. He felt I had to know.” She can see Banners is taking this hard because Candice was his favourite amongst the children, and he really likes Matt too. “Paul will let us know about the funeral and other matters. Tomorrow we can expect a visit from the police with the official word. Please don’t tell my husband or the boys until after the police visit.” He nods yes. “Matthew is in hospital with Joe and Alice Watson on hand to look after him. I’ll want to visit him when I can, probably in a few days.” He nods again. There’s not much else to say now so they both head off to their bedrooms.
Paul has three more calls to make and some papers from his safe to fax off before he can go to bed. No one he phones tonight has a good night’s sleep. Neither does he. However, Dorothy does due to the sedative he gave her earlier.
Joe is allowed to speak to Alice several minutes after he speaks to Paul. She’s OK and so is Mary. However, both have taken a hard knock and have some bruises. To be on the safe side Alice and Mary are staying in the hospital for twenty-fours hours of observation. Then comes the hard part of discussing Matt’s injuries.
They’ve done an X-ray and a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan of his insides. One is for detecting bone problems while the other is for soft tissue and organ damage. The catalogue of Matt’s injuries is long: bruising over ninety percent of his body, the worst are his sides and back; a mild skull fracture; all of his ribs are cracked; the two bones in both of his lower legs are broken; both right forearm bones fractured; a dislocated left shoulder, which is now back into place; and concussion. The doctors are surprised his spine isn’t damaged. The main concern is Matt is in a coma from the concussion. They won’t be able to assess if he has any neurological issues until he’s awake and they can do some tests. The biggest current problem is the normal treatment for fractures is to apply hard plaster casts. However, due to the severe bruising they want to use inflatable pressure casts until the swelling of the bruises is gone in a few weeks time. This means they can adjust the pressure with ease. However, they aren’t as rigid as the plaster ones so there’s a risk of more damage if he moves about on the bed. Joe approves using the inflatable casts and he asks them to strap Matt to the bed.
Alice, Mary, and Matt are treated as private patients so they’re all put in a small four-bed ward in the children’s wing with just them in it. It’s in the children’s wing because Matt will be in the hospital for some months. Joe sees them to their ward then he goes home after they’re put to bed. All three are soon settled in. Nurses pop in every thirty minutes or so to check on them and to take Matt’s vital signs. Because he’s in a coma they have him hooked up to several machines which are all on his right side so his left side is free for visitors when he wakes up.
The nurse making the check just after midnight smiles when she finds Mary asleep on Matt’s left shoulder with her left arm across his chest. The nurse tucks a blanket around Mary and leaves her be.
The Next Week
Joe spends most of the next day, Sunday, at the hospital visiting his family. He’s got nothing on for some days due to taking the next week off on leave to spend the time with Robert and Candice. Alice also has a week off, but Mary has school tomorrow. Matt was due to bus home today then to look after himself while going to school for the next week.
After a short discussion the doctors decide to discharge Mary and Alice just after breakfast in the morning. Joe will bring clean clothes for them to wear then he’ll take Mary to school from the hospital.
Mid-morning Joe has a visit from the police. They need an official identification of the deceased and they want information on the families so they can contact the next of kin. The police sergeant takes Joe to the morgue downstairs. The bodies are covered with sheets and the faces have few marks so it’s not as bad as Joe is dreading. On the way back to the ward he gives the names and numbers for the next of kin of both Bob and Candice while saying nothing about last night’s phone call.
When Joe tells the cop Connie’s name and address he gets a quick look and a verbal response of, “The Commander isn’t going to like this. He knows Constance and George Anders.” He thinks for a moment and adds, “Mister Watson, you should be aware the deceased driver has an extensive estate his relatives will be after. We don’t yet know why he did it, but he shot two officers at a routine traffic stop and drove off while another officer put the call out. One officer died on his way to hospital. Another car spotted him a little later. Well, you know how it ended. You should see a solicitor to get the boy some compensation before the driver’s family make all of the assets vanish.”
“Thanks, Sergeant. I’ll get Bob’s solicitor onto it.” They shake hands when they part company at the elevator: the police officer to go to the police station and Joe to go to the ward.
Stopping at the public phone near the elevators on the third floor Joe calls Paul to say, “Paul, you need to get a copy of the police report to get some legal action going. I just heard the driver was wealthy and was on the run after shooting two cops just before he hit Bob, Candice, and the kids. You need to get some compensation for Matt from the estate before the driver’s family members strip it bare.”
“Thanks for the info, Joe. I had that on my ‘to do’ list. However, with big money involved I’ll give it top priority so I’ll get it started today. I spoke to Connie last night and she’s in favour of Matt staying with Alice and you until he’s an adult. How do you feel about it?”
“That’s what’s best for Matt, isn’t it!” More statement than question.
“Then what’s there to think about! Matt comes first as he’s got more than enough troubles. We’ll have to confirm with him that’s what he wants as he’s still in a coma. I’ll let you know the moment he wakes up.”
“Right, Mate. I’ll be in contact. I’ve got things to do.” They hang up.
The Police Station
The police sergeant pulls up in front of the station and he sits there for a few minutes. Sighing, he picks up the file, gets out of the car, and goes into the police station. He signs in and heads upstairs to the office of the District Commander. The civilian secretary looks up when he enters the outer office, she says, “He’s in, but he doesn’t want to be disturbed, not at all. Your call. He’s likely to tear your head off right now. It’s not a good day when we both get called in on a Sunday to deal with a shooting of a police officer. Especially with an officer killed and another wounded.”
“Sorry, Joan, but a delay in handing this to him will only make him worse. What I’ve got to tell him would ruin any day. Best get him two herbal teas because he’ll need them both when I say what I have to tell him.” She gives him a hard stare for a moment before she waves him toward the door while she gets up to go make some tea for her boss.
Sergeant Mason knocks on the door and waits. He gets a snarling, “OK, you may as well come in if Joan hasn’t made you go away.” He opens the door, enters the room, and closes the door behind him.
His usual routine is to stand between the door and the desk to say what he has to say. This time Mason walks over to take a seat in front of the desk. This makes Superintendent Smith sit up. Mason is always in a hurry to get going again so he never sits down in this office. After he takes a deep breath Mason says, “Sir, I’ve just been to the morgue with Joe Watson to do the formal identification on the two dead pedestrians from last night.” He places the file in his hands on the desk. “I know you’ve got your hands full with the paperwork on the shooting for the start of the chase, but you need to know about the deceased.”
“The teen boy in hospital is Matthew Dyer, the son of the deceased couple. Father is Robert Dyer, contract structural engineer from North Sydney. She’s his wife, Candice Dyer, home maker and office assistant.” The Superintendent is getting a bit impatient so he waves for him to get on with it. “Robert has a half sister in Sydney, details are in the file. No other family. Candice has four brothers, a mother, and a father. Again, details are in the file.” He stops to look up, locking eyes with his boss he adds, “You know her parents, Sir, Constance and George Anders.”
Smith’s face goes very pale. “Shit! OK. I’ll confirm what you’ve got in the file and make some calls. I know my esteemed brother-in-law is in his office due to the shooting. This will really make his day. Now that you’ve ruined any chance for me to get home for lunch get out of here and go have yours. One of us should get a nice feed.” Mason stands and leaves. He holds the door open for Joan to bring in the tea that’s needed to settle their boss down again. He’s the best they’ve ever had here.
Both Paul and Dorothy go into their shared office above the garage. He’s doing what needs to be done to get fax copies of the police reports with the details of the driver. Dorothy gets documents out, checks them over, and organises a courier to take them to Joe’s solicitor because she’ll be Matt’s local legal representative for the next few years.
Paul prepares some papers when he has the basic information on the driver then hands them to Dorothy to place with the others. Betty will lodge claims against the driver’s estate on behalf of Candice and Robert down there while Paul lodges claims in Sydney on Matt’s behalf. They’ll both see any action to finalise the estate stopped until it’s all sorted out.
They spend five hours in their offices getting many papers ready and making calls to have everything started as soon as court opens the next day. The courier comes and goes. Paul and Dorothy have a late lunch while discussing what else needs to be done in the coming weeks and months to see to Matt’s care and his parents’ estates are settled properly.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Brian Miller is sitting at his desk reading the email reports of last night’s shooting. The current political situation will ensure this’ll be a very hot potato, so someone will want to start a witch hunt about how the killer was able to shoot two police officers. The politicians won’t accept their orders for officers not to treat each traffic stop as a potential hostile situation are the root cause of the officers not being in a position to respond well when a person pulls out a gun to shoot them. Brian’s phone rings and the caller ID tells him it’s his brother-in-law, the District Commander whose officer shooting report Brian is in the process of reading.
Miller picks the phone up, “Well, Steve, I’ve got the report. Why the call?” They may be married to two very close sisters but that doesn’t mean they have to be close to each other, and they aren’t as they’re rivals.
“I’ve just had my lunchtime ruined so I thought I’d do the same to you. The couple hit by the car have been officially identified. The file has just been put on my desk and I’ve confirmed the information in it. The man is Robert Dyer, contract structural engineer of North Sydney. His only other living relative is a half sister, the details are in the email I’m typing for you. The woman is his wife, Candice Dyer, home maker and part time office help. What you don’t want to hear about is her family as she’s the daughter of Constance and George Anders.”
“F•©k! Just when I thought this case couldn’t get any worse! It has more than enough political bombs in it already, and you hand me that. OK, you’ve told me! Send me the official notification and I’ll go tell the family. At least I can get out of this place for an hour or so.” They both swear about the situation while they hang up the phones. Miller alerts his driver, the email arrives, he prints it out, closes his office, and he leaves.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Brian Miller pushes the button to ring the doorbell while his driver moves his official car to the parking area at the side of the entrance to this large home. This isn’t the first time he’s been here, but this is his first official visit. Past visits have been social calls because his wife and her sister went to school with, and are good friends of, Constance Anders nee Grace. That connection puts him in the upper social levels of Sydney society, just as it does his brother-in-law. Brian uses those connections for political pull for a faster promotion track than Steve does. Today he wonders if that’s really a good thing to do because it means he has the troubles and jobs like this present one with tasks he doesn’t like, ones he doesn’t want at all.
Banners opens the door and shows Brian into the front sitting room. A few minutes later George and Constance enter to greet him. They all sit down. He gets on with the reason for his call by saying, “Constance, George, this is an official visit. This morning I was informed your daughter, Candice, was killed in an automotive incident last night. Her husband, Robert, was killed too. Their son is in the local hospital.” He’s surprised when Constance doesn’t react while the nod from George is as expected as he wasn’t close to Candice, but Constance was very close.
George stands up, saying, “I better call the boys and let them know”
While George leaves the room Brian gives Constance a closer look. She shrugs, gives a weak smile, and says, “Joe Watson was there. He called Paul Barnes and he let me know last night. I’ve had some time to get used to it.” Brian nods yes as it makes sense Robert’s friends would let her know. “I only know she’s dead. Can you tell me more about it?” Brian tells her the whole story from the initial stop for a traffic violation, the shooting, to the losing control on the turn. She’s not happy.
“Brian, the officers who were shot. Were they following the new Police Instructions on traffic stops?”
He nods, “Yes. If they hadn’t they wouldn’t have both been shot.”
“I know this is a lot to ask, but I need someone to leak me a copy of the official order with the new instructions that’s signed by the Minister of Police and the Premier.” Brian gives her a hard look. “There’s going to be a media circus about this and someone’s going to try to put the blame on the two officers involved or on the Police Commissioner. But we all know the blame rests with the Minister and the Premier for issuing the new procedures. Well, I want the paperwork to justify court orders to get the originals. I know the change was never discussed in Cabinet and it was ordered against the Police Commissioner’s recommendation because the Premier was trying to buy a few votes from the Prisoner Assistance lobby group.” Brian is surprised she knows this because the senior politicians went to a lot of trouble to keep it secret. “Those two are directly responsible for the death of my girl. I want them destroyed. I will have them destroyed, one way or another. However you go about organising for me to get a copy make sure they can’t trace it back to you or they’ll hang you out to dry.”
Brian nods yes. He shouldn’t do as asked, but he knows he will. He can’t do anything to protect the officers involved while Constance can. So he’ll help her to help his people. Maybe she can get the order changed. If anyone can organise that, she can. There’s nothing else to discuss so he stands and he takes his leave. On the trip back to Police Headquarters he wonders how he can get a copy of the very limited circulation documents to her in safety. It takes the whole trip back for him to work out a way.
After Brian leaves Constance goes to her office to make a phone call. It’s answered by a butler, and she’s soon talking to an old school friend. Her voice is dead flat when she says, “Millie, Connie. Has Bea got her divorce started yet?”
“Hi, Connie. No, she hasn’t. He thinks a divorce will destroy his political career so he’s bribed her to stay for a few more years. Why?”
“If she wants to keep living in that nice house she had built she best get the divorce started and through very quick. Candice was killed last night and that bastard is directly responsible for it happening. I intend to have his arse, marinated and well grilled! I’m going for him through the civil and criminal courts as well as in the political arena and media. His political career is dead. She best get what she can while she can.”
“Oh, Connie! I’m so sorry. How’s he responsible?”
“Some months back he and the Premier issued a directive to the Police Commissioner to make certain changes to the Police Instructions. They were made against the professional advice and without going through the proper procedures. They were done for political reasons. The changes place officers’ lives at risk. Last night the orders resulted in two officers being shot, one fatally, and the person responsible was able to drive away at high speed. A little later he lost control of the car while racing around a corner and he ran down Candice with her family. Matt is alive but in a serious condition. If the rules hadn’t been changed the killer would never have been able to leave the first scene. I’m letting the bastards have it with all I can muster, beg, borrow, or steal.”
“I see. I’ll call Beatrice and tell her what’s happening.”
“If she gets a claim started with a list of property she wants I’ll see it’s excluded when I go after him for compensation on Matt’s behalf.”
“Good, I’ll tell her that. He’ll probably approve a property settlement faster if he knows you’ll let her have it. If he’s losing it to you or her he should let her have it because their kids will then get it in the end.”
“That’s what I figured and why the call. I’ll see you later, and I won’t be at next week’s coffee clutch.” They both say goodbye then hang up.
Constance is sitting there thinking when George walks in to ask, “Dear, did Brian say anything more about Matthew?”
She knows this is her sons asking through him because she doubts he remembers his name. “Matthew is in the Rivers Hospital in a coma. He’s seriously injured, but alive and expected to live. He’ll probably inherit everything from both Candice and Robert. We’ll have to wait until the wills are read before we know everything, and they don’t use our solicitors because they use a friend of Robert’s who’s a solicitor.” George smiles and he goes back out. Within a few minutes he’s passing that along to his sons who then follow it up by calling their solicitors.
Rivers Base Hospital
The doctors are having an afternoon consultation with Alice and Joe about Matt. They’re concerned because Matt is still in a coma. The longer he stays unconscious the more they’ll be worried about it. At this point they’re getting a little bit concerned so they’re letting Matt’s guardians know about their concerns, and why it’s a concern to them. After the meeting is finished and the doctors leave Alice and Joe spend some time talking about the meeting and its contents.
Mary listens to their discussion and says, “Don’t worry! Matt is OK! He’s just resting while his body heals. He’ll wake up when he wants to.” They both smile at her simple reasoning, but it doesn’t take away their concerns about the situation and Matt’s health.
The day passes with many people doing things resulting from last night’s car incident and deaths. Others are doing things to deal with the follow on effects of the incident. Including the police informing the family of the driver about his death, and them reacting to the news with a lot of phone calls to solicitors and other family members.
Joe arrives early with clean clothes for both Mary and Alice. Mary has her shower in the attached en-suite, followed by Alice. They both have breakfast and sign-out after the doctor checks them. Alice stays with Matt while Joe takes Mary for some more breakfast and her school books. He checks her homework due today then he takes her to school.
Alice stays with Matt and talks to him as she feels someone he knows has to be on hand in case he wakes up. After dropping Mary at school Joe goes back to the hospital. He buys some sandwiches and drinks on the way. He gives them to Alice then he goes to the courthouse.
Paul and Dorothy are waiting outside the Sydney Central Court to start their legal actions. Paul rings Matt’s school to let them know he’s in hospital and won’t be at school for some months. It’s at this point Paul remembers he didn’t cancel Matt’s bus ticket home for last night. He shrugs and forgets it again because it isn’t worth the worry or trouble.
Half an hour before the magistrate starts court Paul is able to speak to the clerk to have his matters listed. He points out one is very urgent and he’d like to get it dealt with as early as possible. After spending a few minutes going through the papers for all of the matters the clerk writes the urgent item down as the first item on today’s Court List while the rest are much further down the list.
At the official starting time for the court of ten o’clock the magistrate enters the courtroom and all rise. He sits and the court is opened. The bailiff calls the first item. The magistrate is surprised it’s not a carried over item. Paul rises and says, “Your Honour, this matter is very urgent as my client is in a coma in hospital due to being hit by a speeding car fleeing from the police. The driver died as a result of injuries sustained in the incident where my client was injured. I need an order restraining the driver’s family from settling his estate until after we can have a full hearing on the claim for compensation for my client. The main claim is listed for presentation later when Your Honour has more time. At this time all I seek is the restraining order as per the papers before you.”
While Paul speaks the magistrate is going through the papers on the case. He takes a bit longer to read them than Paul is speaking for, so there’s a short quiet break after Paul stops speaking. The magistrate looks up to say, “Mister Barnes, what is your connection with the boy?”
“I’ve known Matthew since his birth, Your Honour. I’m his parents’ solicitor and the executor of their estate. Matthew already has a trust and I’m the solicitor for the trust. I’ve acted for him on other matters in the past, most of them relating to his trust. So I’m already his representative of record for matters before the court, and I will continue as such to look after his welfare until such time as he or the court appoints another.”
“Thank you for clarifying your position, Mister Barnes. I see you’ve documented your case well. There’s no point in having this matter come back before me today. I’m setting this matter for an initial hearing in a fortnight as that should give the other party enough time to organise their initial response. I also order them to refrain from settling the estate or distributing any assets until after the compensation matter is dealt with.” He writes on the file and he hands it to the Clerk of the Court. The next matter is called while Paul collects his papers and leaves.
Several minutes later he’s in the Clerk’s Office and he’s being handed the court orders with several copies of them. He pays the bill for the extra copies then he puts all of the papers and the receipt into his briefcase. A short walk across the foyer to the NSW Sheriff’s Office to organise for the serving of the restraining order and the hearing notice. This entails a fee, but well worth it to have the papers served by a court official.
At the same time Paul is in court Betty is in her local district court on Matt’s behalf. She wasn’t able to talk the clerk into putting her first, but this court isn’t as busy as Sydney so it’s only just going on half past ten when her matters are called. First is the compensation claim.
Betty stands and says, “As you can see from the papers before you, Your Honour, I’ve been appointed as the local representative for Robert and Candice Dyer by their regular solicitor in Sydney. We’re lodging a claim for compensation of wrongful death against the estate of the driver of the vehicle that killed Robert and Candice. The claim is quite large. We’re seeking a hearing date as well as a restraining order against the settlement of the estate until after the claim is settled, Your Honour.”
The magistrate goes through the papers in much the same way as the one in Sydney then he sets a date in three weeks time for the initial hearing of the claim, along with the requested restraining order. Betty hands some papers to an assistant and tells them to get the documents from the Clerk’s Office. The assistant goes to do that while Betty’s next court item is called. The magistrate smiles when he sees the assistant leaving the court.
Betty opens this matter before the court. “Your Honour, I represent two clients in this matter. Mister and Missus Joseph Watson have been my clients since they moved to this city a year ago. Mister Matthew Dyer is also my client in this matter at the request of his regular solicitor in Sydney, Mister Paul Barnes. Mister Dyer is a minor of fifteen years of age and Mister Barnes is the solicitor of his trust. In the papers before you is an authority signed, some years ago, by Mister Dyer’s parents appointing Joseph and Alice Watson as legal guardians for their son, Matthew. This was done because he often spent school holidays with them and their daughter while his parents were busy at work. On the weekend Mister Watson used this authority to approve the needed medical treatment for Matthew because he was badly injured in a car incident where his parents were killed. He’s currently in a coma and unable to state his own wishes. However, both Joseph and Alice Watson have known Candice and Robert Dyer since they were in school together. To be able to provide a stable management of Matthew’s welfare over the coming weeks we seek a court order confirming the wishes of Candice and Robert Dyer by appointing Joseph and Alice Watson as Matthew’s legal guardians until such time as Matthew is able to make his own wishes known to the court. We see this matter as urgent because it affects Matthew’s day to day medical treatment and care, Your Honour.”
There are more details in the file the magistrate is reading, and he goes through it with care. He looks up, “Miss Marlow, where are Mister and Missus Watson, and why aren’t they here in court with you?”
“Your Honour, Mister and Missus Watson were on the scene when the Dyer family were struck by the vehicle. Matthew was knocked flying and he was caught by Missus Watson. She was taken to hospital with Matthew and kept for observation. She was released early this morning and is staying at the hospital to be on hand when Matthew wakes up. Joseph Watson has to get their daughter, Mary, to school, some clean clothes to his wife, and he is then coming here, Your Honour. I told him to be as fast as he safely can, but not to rush things because I’m capable of dealing with these matters for him, Your Honour.” The magistrate nods and goes back to reading the papers.
Joe arrives and enters the courtroom. Seeing Betty standing at a large table at the front of the court he walks up and touches her shoulder. She turns, sees him, and whispers for him to stand beside her. A few minutes later the magistrate looks up and sees a man standing beside Betty. He nods at the man and asks, “Mister Joseph Watson?” Joe nods yes. “Mister Watson, this file mentions both Matthew’s parents have relatives. Why should I give you custody and not their relatives?”
Joe takes a deep breath because he’s very nervous then he says “Your Honour, I know Matthew much better than his relatives. I’ve spent more time with him than all of his mother’s relatives together, except for his grandmother. He visits her each week. However, his grandfather hasn’t spoken to him in years, so I doubt he’ll agree to have Matthew live with them. Candice once told me she would rather see Matthew a ward of the state than have him given into the care of her brothers. She felt their only concern in him would be to get control of his shares in the family business. I do know he hasn’t spoken with any of his mother’s family except her mother in the last two years. On Robert’s side of the family there’s only his Aunt Dorothy, Robert’s half-sister. She’s already heavily involved in Matthew’s life because she’s the senior trustee of his trust company and is married to Paul Barnes, Matthew’s solicitor. I’ve spoken with Dorothy and Paul, and they both feel it’s a lot better for Matthew to live here with my family because that’ll give him a clean break from his previous life in Sydney and some space from his uncles. Matthew is only a little older than my daughter, Mary, and they’re best friends. He knows Alice and me very well. We’ll provide a very stable family life for him in an environment he’s already familiar with from the many holidays he’s spent with us. His being part of my family on a permanent basis will mean some changes for me and my family, but we see them as minor issues when compared to the changes Matthew faces.”
“Mister Watson, you make it sound like the best place for Matthew is with you. If that is so, why is this order for only short term care?”
“That’s my doing, Your Honour. Dorothy and Paul wanted to seek permanent guardianship. However, I know Matthew very well. He’s fifteen years old, smarter than average, and very self-confident. I think he’s old enough and smart enough to make his own decision on this. I don’t wish to set in place any permanent arrangement unless it has his agreement. I also recognise not organising any official guardians will leave things open for his uncles to start something Matthew may not like. So I seek a court order to stop anything his uncles may start, and to give Matthew protection until he can tell us what he wants. Then we can set up a permanent arrangement in line with his wishes.”
The magistrate looks at Betty, and she answers the question in his facial expression, “My first instructions from Sydney were to seek permanent guardianship, but they were changed after Mister Watson spoke to Mister Barnes, Your Honour.”
“I see. It would appear Mister Watson is more concerned about what Matthew wants than anything else. That’s very commendable of him, and typical behaviour of a good guardian. I order that guardianship of the minor Matthew Dyer be given to Joseph and Alice Watson until such time as Matthew Dyer can appear before this court to state his own wishes on guardianship. The temporary guardianship is to be for a period of no less than ninety days and no more than three hundred and sixty-five days, or until Matthew Dyer appears before this court.” He writes on the file and he hands it down to the Clerk of the Court.
Betty nudges Joe, and they both leave the courtroom. They go to the Clerk’s Office to get several official copies of the order. Betty even pays to have them fax a copy to the hospital and a copy to Paul’s office. While they’re leaving the Clerk’s Office Betty’s assistant returns with the copies of the earlier orders with the paperwork for them to be served by court approved servers. That’s all Betty’s court work for today done, so now it’s back to the office to finish the paperwork. She hands Joe several copies of the guardianship court order then they go their separate ways.
In the afternoon Joe collects Mary from school. The three sit in the private ward with Matt while they wait for him to wake up. Alice and Joe take turns helping Mary with doing her homework. At dinnertime Joe goes out for some takeaway Chinese, which they eat in the ward.
Trouble starts when it’s time to leave to go home for the night as Mary won’t go. After the three of them have a very long argument Joe and Alice go home while Mary climbs on the bed to snuggle up to Matt while wearing only a very long t-shirt and panties.
When the nursing staff come in to check on Matt they’re amused by her sleeping with her head on his left shoulder and her left arm across his chest. They smile at her possessive and protective manner.
During the day all of the relevant court papers are served. Many people are unhappy with what the papers are for so they seek legal advice on the matters mentioned in them.
At some point during the day Matt comes to a partial awareness and he’s able to hear what’s going on around him for short periods of time as his mind wanders in and out of consciousness in an irregular manner. He isn’t able to talk or move a muscle while conscious. When awake he lies there and listens to what’s going on around him or he thinks about what’s happened and how his life has changed, because all he can do right now is to think about things. At times the grief over his parents’ deaths is very heavy on his psyché. He knew they didn’t make it to safety because he didn’t make it to safety and they were behind him. Also, what he has heard has let him know they’re most likely dead.
For some unknown reason the monitors that should notice Matt’s mental activity don’t register Matt is awake for his periods of awareness of the local events.