CopyrightÂ© 2011 by Ernest Bywater. All rights reserved
In the local telephone exchange near the clubhouse two members of the Australian Federal Police Criminal Intelligence Unit look at each other over their recording equipment and one says, “That has got to be the weirdest phone intercept I’ve ever heard. I traced the incoming line. It’s from the hospital the caller said he’s at. But there’s no information on who’s got what extension. Puff, what sort of nickname is that? I wonder what their involvement with the club is since we’ve not heard that name before.”
“You know we’ve been working this group on and off for decades!” The first cop nods yes at the question like statement. “Well, I know one of the retired guys who used to work this case years ago. He was put on it because he served time in the military with Rhodes and Silver. They were all in the same SAS unit and they did two tours of Vietnam together. About three or four years back when we first heard of someone called Puff mentioned I spoke to him about it while discussing other aspects of the case. He said it’s not a nickname the club members would use, but is one he’d expect to hear from Vietnam veterans for a certain sort of guy. The way he tells it the name comes from the sixties song ‘Puff the Magic Dragon.’ In Vietnam the Yanks had these plain looking transport aircraft they mounted electric Gatling guns in they called the AC forty-seven Spooky. Those guns threw out a shit load of bullets. A long flame came from the gun’s front end when they fired them and the big storm of bullets wiped out the enemy on the ground like magic. Someone said the plane looked like a fire-breathing dragon. One thing led to another and the gunships were being called Puff as a call sign because they were small fire-breathing magic dragons. Some of the vets took to calling small plain looking guys who breathed fire and hit very hard Puff as a nickname. That’s the closest we’ve ever come to identifying this Puff. He sounds young, way too young to be a Vietnam vet, but he could’ve been given the name by Rhodes or Silver. The first mention of the name is by Silver, so we think Puff may be small and very tough.”
“Hell, we know how tough Rhodes is. The start of that call implies he’s a lot tougher, and Rhodes took that shit from him. I doubt he’d take that from just anyone.”
“Yeah. Well, we knew Puff was a peripheral contact outside the club and he was told to keep his distance about a year ago due to the big troubles then. With what we’ve just learned today we should be able to identify him now. There can’t be that many people in that hospital with those injuries for those reasons who recently had their father die. The local cops should be able to chase that up for us.” One finishes doing the written paperwork while the other puts what they know about Puff into an electronic information request form and he sends it off to their Unit Commander for approval and action.
The Local Law
The Sergeant who handles the inter-agency information requests for the Command District covering the Rivers area is away on leave for two weeks starting the Monday past. Sergeant Mason is handling this job for the two weeks. Unlike his normal work this is a nine to five job. It’s nearly five and he’s packing up his desk while getting ready to leave for the day when a request for information arrives in his email.
He opens the email to read the request. He has trouble believing what he’s seeing. It takes only a few minutes for him to ring the hospital to confirm they’ve only one patient with two broken legs and a broken arm: Matthew Dyer. He runs a full police computer check on the name. He finds several entries across all of the databases. He’s quick to ignore the entries from interstate about driver’s licences and traffic tickets, and also the ones relating to a criminal in a prison near Perth in Western Australia. He comes down to two entries in New South Wales with the same name and date of birth. The most recent one lists Matt as a victim in the incident that put him in hospital. The other is about four years old and it lists him as a being a victim of an attack by a member of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club and a key witness to a shooting with them at the same time. The details are locked and he doesn’t have the access authority. A check on the incident itself doesn’t list Matt’s name.
At the time Matt was hit by the car Mason checked the names of all those involved for outstanding warrants etc. but he didn’t run a full check on any of the victims because it’s not a normal process for victims, and not something you’d expect to get a response to for a minor.
From what he read on the part of the file open to him Mason knows there’s only one local person who can view the file. Sighing, he logs out of his computer and he goes upstairs to see Superintendent Smith.
Smith is just opening his door to leave when Mason walks into the outer office. They both stop to look at each other. Mason says, “Sorry, Boss, but we’ve got a complication on the Dyer case.”
Smith turns around to go back to his desk, “What is it, now?”
“Late today I got a request from the AFP Criminal Intelligence Unit to identify someone in the local hospital with certain injuries. The only patient matching the description is Matthew Dyer.”
Smith sits up, “What the hell could CI want with an injured teen?”
“I had a similar thought so I ran his name through the full database. Only one thing of interest came up. A four year old report of a person with the same name and date of birth as a victim of an attack by the Hell’s Angels. A police shooting was also involved. The file’s locked so I couldn’t see the details of it.”
Smith is surprised about the report, and he understands why it’s come to him when the lockout is mentioned. He turns to his computer and logs on. In a moment he’s looking at the file. He shakes his head and smiles while he reads it out to Mason, “If this is to be believed half a dozen Hell’s Angels turned up at a primary school to kidnap two ten year old girls. When they arrived an eleven year old boy was with the girls. He stepped between the girls and the Angels while telling the girls to run. One girl was scared stiff and couldn’t move while the other took off, fast. She went to the nearest teacher and the teacher called the police. Three units responded. Meanwhile the boy stood up to the lead Hell’s Angel who was almost twice his height and three times his width, according to a teacher who witnessed the events from inside the building after she called it in. When the Hell’s Angel swung at the boy to knock him aside the boy ducked and punched the guy in the balls. When he folded over the boy blackened both eyes, broke his nose, pushed him backward into a squat, and kicked him in the balls. All so fast no one else could react. The responding units arrived at that point and the officers got out. The other Hell’s Angels drew firearms so the responding officers drew theirs as well. The boy spun around, grabbed the frightened girl, and threw her to the ground. He lay on top of her while the shooting took place. The end result was one wounded officer, five dead Hell’s Angels, one injured Hell’s Angel whose crushed balls were removed at the hospital before they treated his broken jaw, broken collar bone, and broken nose. The boy has a crease across the back of his left shoulder blade from a bullet fired at him at the start of the shooting. Neither girl was hurt.” He looks up at Mason, “No matter how much you try to discount it all, that’s one tough kid. Why are CI involved?”
“They’re doing surveillance on a motorcycle club that’s been having a lot of troubles with the Hell’s Angels. Some years back a new name turned up and they couldn’t track the person down. Last year the person went out of contact for a while. Today he rang the clubhouse and he spoke to them at length. During the call they learned he’s in our hospital with certain injuries. They want us to match the nickname they have with a real name. No details on what the call was about.”
Smith thinks for a few minutes. He picks up his phone book and looks up a number while he tells Mason, “You best go and talk to Dyer. I’ll call the CI Commander to let him know his people are looking to grab a giant tiger by the tail.” Mason nods acceptance of the order and he leaves the office on his way to the hospital. Smith calls a number.
Confusion in Canberra
Superintendent Hall is closing his briefcase ready to go home when his phone rings. While sighing he answers it, “Criminal Intelligence, Jim Hall speaking.”
“This is Superintendent Steve Smith of the New South Wales Police in the city of Rivers. We got a request from your people to put a name to someone in our local hospital with two broken legs and a broken arm. Do you know about it? If so, what’s your interest, and why?”
“Yes, I know about it. Do you always query such requests?”
“No, not always. But this isn’t a normal case. The person is a victim in a multiple murder case where police officers were shot.” This is true because the driver is responsible for the murder of Matt’s parents and a police officer plus the attempted murders of Mary, Matt, and another police officer. It’s under investigation until the Coroner’s Hearing.
“Shit! This is getting out of hand. OK, for some years we’ve been tracking certain motorcycle clubs involved in various activities. Much of it being shooting each other. About four years ago a new person turned up in the surveillance of one club that was going hot and heavy with the Hell’s Angels at that time. We weren’t able to track the person down to get an identity. The person sounds young and is very respected by the club members. The person has been out of contact for a year until they made contact today. With those odd injuries we felt we could do an ID. OK! Now what can you tell me about him?”
“You’ve got full access to our restricted files, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do, but not my staff. Why?”
“I’ll give you some information. If you still want more after that I’ll give you some restricted file numbers, but let me warn you: this is one person you do not want to tangle with unless you have it all locked down. Go for this person with circumstantial evidence and half my staff will be after you. Plus I’ll be leading the charge.”
“What the hell! At this time we’ve nothing against this person. He’s an outside contact who’s helped them with things in the past, but all legal. As near as we can tell all of his contacts and interactions have been legal. If things stay that way we’ll have no reason to chase him. We just want it on file to know who to chase, if need be.”
“OK, I’ll give you what I’ve got. But nothing, and I mean nothing, goes on the general case file. You keep a personal record with the name on it. I don’t want anyone making the link just because it’s on a file they did a Freedom of Information request on. This person is already on the Hell’s Angel’s ‘Kill if you can’ list. That’s why the first contact is in the restricted files. I recently lost an officer killed with another wounded because of new bullshit procedures. The politicians are trying to blame the death on the officers who followed their orders. This person’s legal staff are going for the throats of the politicians responsible for the death and wounding, so we care about the person. Do you understand me?”
“Yeah, this is a good guy you want to keep safe. If that’s so, why does he deal with one of the hardest motorcycle clubs in the country?”
“Well, that could be because he’s the toughest little shit in the world. Two major facts to be aware of: one, the person is still a minor.”
“What the f•©k! A kid? But, ... how come?”
Smith gives him the file numbers for the files, “He’s a minor, and is protected by the laws about protecting minors. That’s a reason to keep the name out of the file right there. The first file tells you how tough he was in primary school. The second tells you he’s still just as tough. His name is Matthew Dyer. His grandmother is Constance Anders nee Grace. I’m sure you recognise her name.”
“Yes, I know her. Hell, my wife’s older sister went to school with her. What you’re telling me is this is one tough kid who’s a good guy still protected by the juvenile protection laws, has money, and has a lot of political pull. Yeah, this is one we need to be careful of how we handle them. I’ll tell my people I’ve got the name and it won’t go in the file because it’s protected by the juvenile laws. I still don’t see how he got mixed up with this mob.”
“Have a close look at the names of the girls he was protecting in the older file. Then check the names on their birth certificates, then check the names on their parents’ birth certificates. Want to bet you’ll end up with some matches to senior club members in there somewhere! I’ve not looked it up, but that’s the only reason I can see for half a dozen Hell’s Angels trying to kidnap two ten year old girls.”
“Shit! You’re probably right. Thanks, I’ll protect the name.”
Steve sends Mason an email saying he’s informed the Commander of the AFP Criminal Intelligence Unit of the data they asked for and he need not do so. He’s to add this email to the request as the reason for closing it out as being completed.
The two AFP officers are still on duty because their shift had started only an hour or so before Matt’s call came in. One notices they’ve an email so he opens it to read it. He can’t believe what he sees. He turns to his partner, “You won’t believe this shit. We’ve got an ID on Puff already. The Commander’s been contacted and given the name. He has it in a classified record to be accessed only if he feels we need to in following up on a clear criminal matter with the guy. No record of Puff’s real name is to be placed on the file unless we’ve a clear criminal involvement and can get a court conviction against him for it.”
“Sure sounds like someone has some heavy political pull.”
“Maybe, maybe not. The reason given for the protection of the name is it’s covered under the juvenile protection laws. Puff is still under eighteen and was in primary school when he first came in contact with the club. A second reason is given as the kid is subject to a ‘kill on sight’ order from the Hell’s Angels. They’ve trouble killing him because they don’t know his name. He’s also a good guy.”
“Why the Angels want him may be why our guys like him. But he sure is tough. I’d love to meet a kid that tough. We know he’s not been involved in anything unlawful. So yeah, the boss has no reason to jump on him at all.”
Rivers Base Hospital
Sergeant Mason arrives at the hospital just as Joe is taking orders for Chinese take away for dinner. Mason walks in and waits for Matt to be free before asking, “Matt, can you spare me time to discuss an incident from four years ago, and some related matters?”
Matt looks up with a pensive expression, “Sergeant, do you have a family to go home to?” He shakes his head no. “Dad, see what the Sergeant wants added in the way of drinks and food. That way we can talk while we eat.” He turns back to Mason, “They give me a dinner but I’m always hungry and I want more. Dad has some stuff from the nutritionist about what extras he can give me so I get extra food.”
Mason speaks with Joe about food for a moment. It’s not normal for him to accept meals like this, but he’s hungry and he’s looking forward to eating with people instead of by himself. Matt is thinking hard.
When Mason turns back to him Matt says, “Let me guess what’s going on. This afternoon I rang some people who often come under the interest of the police.” This gets head turns from Alice and Joe while he’s calling the food order in. “I’ve not spoken to them for about a year or so. Last time I did the police were listening to their phone lines. So it’s probable that’s still happening. Due to what we said on the phone someone felt they could identify me despite the conversation using my nickname of Puff. A request hit your station and someone’s made the identification. You’ve looked up the old file which I was told would be sealed and on a very restricted access, and here you are to talk to me. Who has the court order? I’m not involved in any criminal activity, never have been. But I need to know how much the risk has increased.”
“Risk increased?” Asks Mason.
“Yes. The Hell’s Angels would still love to know my name so they can organise my funeral. They’ve some sources inside certain state police investigation units but next to none in the AFP. A request from the AFP doesn’t increase the risk much. But even having the request raised by a state unit can see the data on the request passed along then the Angels can do their own homework from there.”
“I see. I shouldn’t tell you this, but the request came from the AFP. So far only the Superintendent and I know about it, and he’s contacting the AFP to keep it quiet too.”
“OK. That sounds like there’s no exposure, but I can’t be sure. It can’t be any worse than the probability certain visitors will be followed when they come to visit Saturday morning. At least I’ve got warning the risk has risen. Now the incident. Four years ago while I was in primary school a few scumbags turned up to try to kidnap two girls. I intervened to slow them down so the girls could escape. One swung at me so I took him down. A hard punch to the balls hurts anyone. Then I creamed him when his face got in range. His mates went for guns just as the police arrived. His mates got shot. I got a nice groove on my shoulder. And that’s all she wrote. Except it turns out they wanted the girls as their grandfathers were senior members of another club they were in trouble with at that time. Once the girls told their families their parents told their parents, and bingo - I’m the flavour of the week with the local chapter of a major motorcycle club. When I told my parents about it they laughed. They already knew two members of that club. Some years back they took time out to do a special course on fixing Harley Davidson motorcycles and two others at that course later joined that club. The call today was to see about selling off the bikes and workshop gear my parents had. I’ve legal title to it all so I can sell it if I wish to. I want them to go to people who I know will appreciate the bikes and use them the way my parents would want them to be used.”
“Well, that’s more than I asked about, but it is everything I need to find out. Thank you. I felt you wouldn’t be up to anything wrong but we just had to be sure.” They spend several more minutes discussing details of the matters, only breaking up the talk when a delivery person arrives with the hot food. They sit around having a pleasant chat while they eat.
Mason stays with them for a while after the meal, and he leaves when Matt sends the whole Watson family home to have a good night’s sleep. Joe and Alice are surprised Mary is going with them. Mary isn’t happy about it but she does go because she realises why Matt is doing it. He’s soon asleep due to some extra pain medication he asks for after his visitors leave.
Note: Due to Matt asking for extra medication when he feels the need the doctors are a lot happier about his baseline doses being lower than they first recommended.
Matt wakes up to the sound of a huge bang and screams. He can hear heavy rain on the window as well. His clock tells him breakfast is about an hour away. The room lights up with a bright flash of lightning at the same moment as another crash of thunder. He thinks, That must have been a big one and very close. It’s followed by a few loud screams from the main wards. Remembering what he was told about computers and lightning Matt turns on the television and he uses the mouse to close the computer down. Once it’s shut down he turns the television off. The whole hospital power system has surge protection and his items have local protection as well, but a strike on the building may overwhelm them both so he acts to lower the risk of damage.
While he’s lying there staring out the window Jennifer, his night nurse, comes in to check on him. She smiles as she says, “Sorry I wasn’t straight in, but I know you’ll call if you need anything and the younger children need some reassurance at the moment. As you can tell, we’ve a major storm front passing right over us.”
Patting the bed beside him Matt says, “If you want to bring a couple of the younger children in here I can help you keep them calm.” She smiles and ducks out. A moment later she leads in two girls about five or six years old. She puts them both on the left side of Matt’s bed and raises the side so they won’t fall out. Despite Matt using half of the bed they’re so small and the bed is so wide they both fit with ease.
Matt stretches his left arm out behind them. They lie back with their heads on his arm and are soon snuggled up to him with the blanket pulled up around them. They jerk with each clap of thunder. He speaks in a calm voice while he tells them all about lightning and thunder and what causes them. While the storm rages on he tells them some of the things people used to think made thunder and lightning. They laugh at the idea of thunder being God clapping or playing nine-pin bowls.
The storm is moving away and not so noisy by the time the nursing staff come around with the breakfasts. The three eat off the one table over the bed with the girls giggling at Matt being fed by the nurse.
One of the reasons Matt is a private patient and has a nurse assigned to him full-time is because there are so many daily tasks he can’t do for himself. He can hold a drink in his left hand and sip it through a straw as the broken ribs make it painful to lean back enough to drink from a glass or can. Nor is he able to cut up food with just his left hand. So meals become a case of being spoon-fed or fork-fed by the nurse or Mary when she’s about while he uses his left hand to bring the drink to where he can sip on the straw. Some food he can eat with his left hand - like chips, sliced fruit, and other finger foods.
With the storm moving away Matt turns on the television and they watch some morning children’s programs while they eat. The girls are very happy to be able to watch television while they eat because there are no televisions in the ward they usually have their meals in. The kids have two playrooms in the wing they can play in and both of them have televisions in them which the children watch when allowed out of the main wards into the playrooms.
Nurse Mills arrives for her shift and smiles on finding Matt with the two young girls. She says, “Trying out younger models already, I see!”
“Funny, very funny. I bet you get a great joy in giving people with broken legs rubber crutches to go home on.”
“Oh, yes. I use the hard rubber ones that let them get a few steps before they start to bend. It’s great fun to watch.” The girls giggle at the silly things Matt and Monica are saying.
“I don’t know how close they were, but we had some close lightning strikes. These girls came to keep me company to stop me from being scared of the thunder. Being unable to run away made it very scary for a little while.” Monica slowly nods while the girls giggle some more.
“Close enough, Matt. The fire-fighters are still dealing with a house fire just across the road as the house got a direct hit. A junior nurse has a nice new pancake to drive. A large tree in the car park fell on it after being hit by lightning. She’s lucky because she was about thirty metres away heading in to start her shift when it happened. She turned and saw the damage. She’s not sure how she’ll get to work tomorrow.”
“Shame about her car. Why would that make it hard to get to work? I thought the city has a very good bus service!”
“Yes, it does. But the timetables are aimed toward the eight thirty to nine o’clock starters, not the seven o’clock starts of nurses. She’s OK to get home because the school runs also take adults.”
Matt slowly nods as he starts to think while Monica helps the girls down from his bed. It’s time for them to go play with the other young girls. Matt starts up his computer to go on-line to read the news. While the International news is loading he gives Joe a call on his cell phone.
The phone’s answered with, “Good morning, Matt. Thanks for the early finish last night. I really needed the sleep. Mary was still a little grumpy when I left, but I feel a lot better for a good sleep.”
“That’s good news. I was starting to get a bit worried about you. The car father drove us down here in, it’s still over at your place, isn’t it?”
“Yep, sitting there getting dusty. Why?”
“We had a storm pass over the hospital earlier and a tree turned a car into a pancake. It belongs to a young nurse and she’s got big transport troubles without a car, but she can’t afford a new one until the insurance comes through. We both know how long that can be.”
“Let me guess. You want me to bring it in so she can borrow it?”
“Close enough. I was thinking you could take her to pick it up when you go to collect Mary to bring her in. The nurse’s shift finishes at three and you’ll be passing near here to go collect Mary.”
“Yeah, makes sense. Can you arrange for her to wait out the front so I don’t have to park?”
“I think I can organise that. I’m also organising to have a gopher to start working for me on the weekend. Starting sometime next week he can collect Mary from school. That’ll make things easier for you too.” A few more minutes of discussion and goodbyes before they hang up.
Matt reads the International news and switches to the national news. A lot of matters and issues, but nothing to affect or interest him. He switches to the state news by going to the pages for the Sydney papers. He reads the lead article, a press release from the Premier about how the Police Minister and he aren’t responsible for the deaths of police and citizens in a car chase in a rural city. The details make it clear it’s the event that involved Matt because it gives his parents’ names along with some of the details in the news item, and the report makes him angry. His phone rings and he answers it.
Connie Anders says, “Morning, Matthew. How are you?”
“About as can be expected physically, but I’m angry at the moment. You’re a little late, Gran. I just finished reading the lead items in today’s Sydney papers. Talk to me and see if you can explain them to me.”