Friday, June 27, 2014
Having finished uploading the full text of my novel South Sea Gold to this blog site last week, it's time to be working on what comes next. I am gathering some short stories and articles for my next book, but that is still in an early stage, and may appear here occasionally. At the same time, a problem has come up with some of my past work, which a publisher has removed from part of the market until I sign an agreement, with a small-print paragraph appended as a "disclaimer" at the bottom: "Please note that by opting in you are granting [name of company] full distribution rights of your content to whichever partners we deem suitable for your material . . . . These rights will remain in perpetuity as we acquire new partners in the future." Phrases like "full rights" of any kind, and "in perpetuity", immediately raise a red warning flag in my mind, as it should, I believe, in any author. If an author willingly sells his copyright for pre-agreed compensation, that is one thing. When a company tat has emphasized in its ads that the author retains copyright and that the company has non-exclusive rights to this or that, then the so-called disclaimer changes the whole playing field. The company's employee who replied to my query supplied a dictionary definition of "perpetuity" as a very long time or the state of continuing forever, but explained that that means until either the author or the company cancels the publication. No comment about non-exclusive rights versus full rights. ?? To me, this looks like they are seeking a transfer of copyright, the only protection of a book's content an author has. I don't think I'll sign that form. If they choose to exercise their non-exclusive right to discontinue my product, they may do so. I'll exercise my right to go elsewhere. The Internet offers a number of sites that evaluate publishers, literary agents, etc. One I have found helpful is Preditors and Editors (note the site's intentional spelling.) It publishes advice about choosing wisely, and facts about scams and questionable practices. So do some research. It's a lot more rewarding than arguments with a corporate underling, or having to seek a lawyer.
Monday, June 9, 2014
Shark stopped, dumbfounded. The wound in his shoulder had made him drop the knife. He glanced down at it lying at his feet and started to retrieve it. Without rising from her chair, Linda fired again, tearing his shirt and grazing his left arm. "Don't even think about it," she said. His bravado rapidly ebbing, he turned and ran out the door, trailing drops of blood on the pristine carpet in the hall.
"You spilled your drink, Simpson," Linda said. "Are you quite all right?"
Simpson mopped his brow with a trembling hand. "Where did you learn to shoot like that?" he said.
"First in marksmanship class at boarding school, three years running. As I mentioned the other day, I have many assets."
"I thought you were referring to assets of an entirely different sort." he said.
"Those, too. If you'd like to come over some other time, I could show them to you. But I expect we are about to have callers, so perhaps now is not the right time." She picked up the jangling telephone. "Yes?" She heard an excited desk clerk on the line. "We are quite all right," she said. "We had a raskol at the door, demanding money. You might let the police know that the man left his knife here. I suppose his fingerprints are on it. Thank you for calling." She replaced the phone on its stand. "Simpson, you will find a towel in the bathroom. You seem to have spilled some of your drink on yourself."
Twenty minutes later, the police arrived. A constable knocked at the half-open door and peered cautiously into the room. After making sure there were no casualties on site, he ordered his backup man to follow the trail of blood and arrest the man at its other end, and see what medical help might be required. He then asked for Linda's gun, bagged it so as not to add his own finger prints, and started taking names and facts.
"Now then, just what happened here, Miss?" The constable assumed that Simpson was merely a stunned spectator; it was the woman who had the gun, after all.
"This stranger knocked on the door, and said one of my associates had made an appointment for him to see me. I allowed him in to explain further. It turned out he wanted money for some job he said he had done, or was going to do; I didn't quite understand what. I told him quite plainly that we didn't need him. He became angry when I refused to give him money. He pulled a knife, and I shot him in self defense."
The constable glanced at Simpson, who nodded in agreement.
"I'll need to see your gun permit and some identification." the constable said to Linda. She proffered her passport from the People's Republic of China, and a folded document in Chinese. He frowned at the Chinese form. "I need something from the PNG government, he said. She rummaged in her purse once more and found a paper from the airport customs office. He frowned again in perplexity. "Why are you in Papua New Guinea?"
"My husband is a senior consultant engineer, for the Ministry of Mines," Linda said.
The policeman turned to Simpson. "You are the husband?"
Simpson shook his head. "Business associate." The constable noted the particulars of Simpson's passport as well.
The constable's sergeant arrived, questioned them both, and confiscated both the knife and pistol, carefully preserving both for fingerprints. "We have the suspect in custody," he told them. "Wasn't much of a problem. He was hiding in a nearby alley. Didn't seem aware that he was leaving a trail of blood. Both of you will have to come down to the station to identify him. I must caution you both to not leave the country while the case is under investigation. The desk clerk at the station will give you receipts for these passports."
At The Journal office, City Desk editor Jon Sinto hung up his phone. "Tom, here's an assignment for you. A robber accosted a Chinese woman in her hotel room, demanding money, and she shot him after he pulled a knife. They're all over at police headquarters now."
Matt Linn was visiting Tom's office, and pricked up his ears. "Chinese tourist shoots raskol invading her hotel room? Sounds like my kind of item for the Hong Kong Chronicle. Okay if I come along?"
The two reporters entered the duty sergeant's area just as the handcuffed and bandaged Shark was being led to a holding cell. Simpson and Linda were sitting in the row of chairs along one wall. After talking with the desk sergeant, Tom approached them. "Hello. I'm from the Port Moresby Journal. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions? Matt, as he often did when he went along with Tom, prepared to take a photo with his digital camera.
Linda immediately said "No pictures!" and turned her face downward. Tom motioned Matt to back off.
"Just questions then, is that alright?" Tom tried to speak soothingly. Police stations often stressed people out, he realized. "I'm impressed with your prompt and effective action with the intruder, Ms. er . . .?"
"We've already given the necessary facts to the police," said Simpson. "For reasons of personal privacy we don't wish to be interviewed."
"I understand," said Tom. "Our readers, of course, are always interested in cases where a victim turns the tables on a raskol. They consider it a most praiseworthy action."
"As I said, we prefer to maintain our privacy," said Simpson.
"I'll respect your wish to remain anonymous," said Tom. He motioned Matt to the stairway. "Let's stop by and see if there are any new developments with Jason Kerro."
"Interesting that you should ask," said the inspector, a few minutes later when they were seated in his small laboratory office. We still have young Petey in protective custody, you know. He's always been afraid to be released out on the street. Half an hour ago, one of the jailers reported that he's suddenly very anxious to get out of here."
"Don't know. He seems afraid."
"Has someone on the staff abused him?" asked Tom.
"I don't think so," said Kerro, "We try to be strict about preventing that."
"Some new prisoner?" asked Matt
"Not that I know of. We just brought in that man the Chinese lady shot. I don't know about him yet."
Matt suddenly spoke up. "I think I've seen that woman before. Up in Hong Kong, or maybe in the casinos across the bay in Macau. Linda—"Grand Duchess Linda"—she's sometimes called. A social climber in society up there. Her husband is a mining engineer. I've seen them at a couple of mining conventions I've covered for The Chronicle. I'm told they like to gamble, I don't know where they get their money."
"Was that her husband we saw her with just now?"
Inspector Kerro spoke up. "I'm not so much interested in the man she was alone with in her hotel room in mid-afternoon as I am with the man who came to her door saying he had an appointment with her. Why did he come to that particular hotel room demanding money? And why did our young friend Petey suddenly change his mind about wanting to stay in jail about the time the man arrived here? Let's go see him. You both understand this is entirely off the record."
"There goes a terrific story for Hong Kong, up in smoke," muttered Matt.
"Maybe not, Matt," said Kerro. "Hang in there a few more days and you may have a bigger story."
Kerro gave instructions to the desk sergeant. "I want this to be the usual police line-up, but I don't really care how closely they resemble each other. I want them to enter the room one at a time. And I want Petey and a guard in the observation room. That's right, Petey's going to be our witness, but don't tell him anything in advance. I'll meet you there. "You two," he turned to Matt and Tom, "shouldn't really see this. It might involve you as witnesses in a later trial that could be dangerous."
"Witnessing is what we do in our job." said Tom; Matt nodded.
"I'll want total silence about it in the press or in any conversation, both within this country and outside it."
"Agreed," they both said.
"Come on, then. Put on these dark glasses, Tom. Petey's not likely to remember you from your gang beating, but I don't want anything to complicate this."
Petey and his guard were already in the observing room when Kerro entered. "Petey, this window is a one-way glass. You will be able to see them, but they can't see you or even know you are here. Do you understand?"
"I don't know anything," said Petey, "I just want to get out of here."
"Send in the first man," instructed Kerro to the attendant waiting in the hall. "Look at the man, Petey."
"I don't know him."
"Don't know him," Same with the third.
Then Shark was put in. Petey panicked. "I don't know him either! I want to go home, I tell you!" Sweat stood out on his face in the air-conditioned room. They had the fifth man enter the lineup, just to complete the process, but Petey only had eyes for Shark.
Kerro thanked the reporters and sent them on their way. He then went up to the senior inspector's office. Chief Inspector Jacobs was about to go home for the day, but changed his mind when Kerro told him, "I think we've just found another of the embezzlers' enforcement gang, and perhaps two of the big people themselves."
His superior heard some of the details and gave three instructions:
"Set a plain clothes watcher on each of those two, with back-up in unmarked cars. Follow them if either leaves the hotel, and see who they contact. We've already put a bug on the hotel room phone. Second, I'm ordering an immediate freeze on all their financial accounts. Notify the prosocutor: they may withdraw no more than five hundred Kina. Third, send out for some dinner, and call the embezzlement task force in here for a meeting this evening. This may be a long night."
Saturday, June 7, 2014
From the The Port Moresby Journal: OWEGO MINE PUT ON HOLD
In a joint release by the Ministry of Mining and the DEC, a spokesman who wished to remain anonymous said that a temporary injunction was issued against the gold and copper mine on Owego Island in Milne Bay last Friday. The spokesman said that work will be suspended until management brings its safety measures up to standard, both for its workers and for those who live nearby. The government spokesman cited inadequate ventilation underground, poor management of mine waste, and "failure to protect the public from contact with hazardous material."
South Sea Gold Corporation (SSG), the mine's operator, acknowledges the shut down, but said it would be brief. The new ventilation raise will soon reach the mine's recently opened underground Level Four. Oxygen supplies are readily available, both to miners and to the hoist operators, to guarantee safe exit in case of an emergency such as the mine experienced two months ago.
SSG information officer Jeremy Blake said that although the slurry pipeline still carries traces of cyanide and other pollutants, the pipe itself has been rerouted around a landslide area where it had been broken twice. He estimates the mine will resume production in two weeks.
A new group, the Association of Milne Mine Owners (AMMO) objected to the delay. AMMO protested the mine's closure, claiming the Owego Mine was a victim of discrimination. In a letter to the editor, an AMMO member pointed out that several PNG mines dump their waste in the ocean, but no one penalizes them.
"Owego," the editor responded, "is one of the few ocean-disposal mines that has caused documented illness in a nearby village. We are not against mining innovations in principle. We have withheld opinion on new methods of very deep ocean-bottom mining,for example, while awaiting results of the first one or two such projects in the world. If significant danger to sea creatures can be demonstrated in fact as well as theory, we shall oppose it until such damage is corrected. We believe the government should limit any more such licenses until the first one or two ocean-bottom mines have been operating for several years. The minerals will still be there. If research proves that deep-sea forms of life can migrate on ocean currents to reach other deep sea vents, (and there are evidently thousands of such spots around the world), new sources of useful products will have been achieved, and new knowledge gained about these recently discovered life forms.
"Demonstration of such deep ocean currents," he added, "would be another reason to ban deep sea disposal of mine waste, as most nations have already done."
With Petey in jail and Joe Moran disappeared, the embezzlers' street gang had shrunk to two, known on the streets as Shark and Rocky. With no leader, they were running out of the easy money they had become accustomed to.
"These guys in the fancy suits get their money in thousand-Kina notes," said Shark. He had never seen a thousand-Kina note, but liked to imagine having such wealth. "It stands to reason, don't it, if they have all that money, they need protection, right?"
"Who do we protect them from?" Rocky was a little slow in grasping new ideas.
"From us, Matey!"
"Suppose they call the police, what do we do then?"
"They won't want to call the police. They're getting that money illegal-like. They're crooks like we are, only bigger. All we need to do is set up an appointment. That's the way they work, make an appointment first. I already got one guy's number."
The mining embezzlers were meeting again, to set up their fraudulent trust fund. "I heard from our street gang again," one remarked. "He wanted more money. I asked him where Joseph had gone, and he said he was out of town."
"Does that mean like on the bottom of the Coral Sea, or away on business?" asked another.
"I didn't choose to ask. This new fellow is called "Shark". Have we any projects for him?"
"Why take the risk? Our project is going well enough as it is. The more we mess with The Journal the more publicity we get. It can backfire on us."
"Let me handle it," said the woman, Linda. "I have assets that you don't."
"What do you have in mind?"
"I'll have Gideon Bilasso set up another offer with that reporter, Tom Akani."
"With all due respect, Linda, aren't you robbing the cradle?"
"What I had in mind was simply money, Simpson. But don't sell a fifty-five year-old woman short. Like I said, I have assets that you don't."
"I'm sure you have. What about the street gang?"
"We don't need them anymore. Drop them."
"And who's going to tell The Shark?"
"Send him to me."
Madame Linda, as she preferred to be called, was entertaining her co-conspirator Simpson Chen the next afternoon, when there was a knock on the door of her hotel suite. She didn't recognize the man on the other side of the door's glass peep hole, and so put the safety chain on the door before opening it a crack. "Yes? What do you want?"
"You sent for me."
"Who are you?"
"They call me Shark," he said. He was a tall, heavily built Melanesian with the battle-scarred ears of a prize fighter, and an aggressive voice to match.
"You were supposed to be here at ten this morning," she said.
"I am here now. Do you want to see me or not?"
Madame Linda cast a what-can-you-expect look at Simpson, who was still sitting in his chair. She released the door chain, allowing Shark to enter. She made an imperious gesture toward a chair and waited.
Shark gazed around the room and nodded. This was the kind of people he had imagined. They would have money. He was not a man to make small talk. "I came for more money," he said.
"We deal with Mr. Moran," said Madame Linda. "Where is he?"
"He's out of town. I have come for our pay."
Linda maintained an indifferent look, while she opened her purse. Shark half rose from his seat, but she did not produce any money. "We will deal only with your boss. Your coming here is inappropriate," she said. "Now go away."
Shark's face darkened with rage. Didn't this foreign woman know who he was? As he rose to his full height he reached back and pulled a knife with a razor-sharp, gleaming six-inch blade from the back of his belt. But when Linda pulled her hand from her purse, she held a pistol. She clicked the safety off and calmly pointed the gun at Shark.
Undeterred, and while Simpson watched in horror, Shark moved forward, knife outstretched.
Without a trace of emotion, Linda shot him.
Friday, June 6, 2014
Father Simon was now the oldest priest at the mission compound a kilometer off the highway going westward from Madang. His hair was gray, his hands were crippled with arthritis after forty years at the mission school. His duties had been reduced from the full teaching load he once bore.
He was surprised, therefore, when a lone traveler on foot, bearing only a backpack, came up the road from the highway and asked for him by name. The man looked to be in his late thirties, weary, dusty, with a stubble of beard.
"I am Father Simon," the old man said."You look tired, man. Have you eaten? Come and sit down."
The man thankfully took a seat in the chair next to the old priest. "A cup of water would be good, thanks." The priest poured from the clay water jug on the table at his side and offered the cup to his guest.
"And what brings you here, my son? Are you one of my former students, all grown up?"
"Yes, Father." The man drank deeply from the cup, waved away the offer of more. "Twenty-four years ago, you were my teacher. I remember your using the phrase 'God willing' so often, 'We shall do this or do that, God willing'.
"When I grew up, I joined the Constabulary. I was a good cop, and rose to sergeant's rank. Now my world has fallen apart. I come here seeking refuge and guidance."
The old man peered at him. "Remind me of your name, son. And God willing, we shall discover guidance for your distress."
"Joe Moran, Father."
A smile lit the old priest's wrinkled face. "Ah yes," he said, "I remember now. Feisty and bright. Welcome back. When you are ready, tell me what brought your world crashing down."
"I was a cop for ten years, Father. Now I am running from the police."
"Anything you confide to me will be between you and me and God, provided that no one becomes endangered by keeping it secret. Do you have any sin you wish to confess before God?"
"Yes, Father, I have many." Joe recounted his journey from Madang to Lae, his wife's violent death there, his anger that built into rage, his move underground, his recruiting a street gang to "get even" with the world. He admitted being hired by embezzlers to harass the newspaper's campaign against the increasing pollution, so that mining could continue to expand.
"The newspaper wanted the mines to set aside a larger share of' profits to build more schools, hospitals, and roads for PNG. When my wife was killed, and neither the other police nor I could prevent it, I went berserk and wanted revenge. But my revenge is costing me my soul. And I don't know what to do now, Father." It wasn't in Joe's nature to weep, but he appeared grim, and utterly broken.
The old priest was silent for a time, gazing down the road toward the distant sea, thinking. "Losing a member of your family that way must be a terrible blow. Is the rage still there, Joe?"
"Anger, yes. Rage, no, not the way it was at first."
"What is it like now?"
"We were married for more than four years, Father. Sharing our memories, sharing our bed, sharing our work. We became a part of each other. When all that disappears, it's like my right arm has been torn off."
The priest was silent, waiting for more. "Have you a family, Joe?" he finally asked.
"A young son and daughter, staying with Naina's mother," Joe said.
"Let's start there then, by remembering that God cares for them, and they also need a father, all the more, now that their mother is gone. But first let's get you something to eat. You must be hungry. It's time for dinner. Come with me."
"How did you get here, Joe? Who knows you are here?" The priest sat with him after the simple meal, on a favorite hillside with a view over the compound.
"No one knows I'm here, Father," Joe said. "When I saw a man watching the place where I was staying in the capital, I knew it was time to leave. I stayed away from the airport and the boat docks, and walked over the mountains on the Kodoka Trail to Buna. Then took a boat up to Lae and caught a ride on a lorry carrying supplies up to the refinery at Basamuk Walked the last few kilometers―I didn't want anyone on a Madang bus recognizing me. And here I am."
"Aren't you afraid to travel alone?"
"I know how to take care of myself, Father. It's part of my job."
"And did you harm anyone along the way," the priest asked quietly. "Are you armed?"
"I harmed no one since I left Moresby. And yes, I am armed, but I am through fighting now."
"Then will you trust me with your gun, Joe?"
Joe was silent for a long pause. "Yes Father, I trust you." He handed his police weapon to the priest.
"Assault, accessory to rape, deception, accepting stolen money, aiding embezzlement." The priest summed up the crimes Joe had told him. "Have you killed anyone, Joe?"
"Good. Then first, we must unite you with your children. They need you and you need them. Secondly, we must stop those who are robbing the nation. Thirdly, you must make penance to those you have harmed. Where are your children now?"
"With their grandmother. Tobi Village, outside Madang."
"Tomorrow I will go and see her. It's better if you don't come with me yet. Meanwhile, it takes time for the suffering to fade. Months, usually, sometimes years. That is not uncommon, but it can be unhealthy. Focus on the goals ahead, Joe. You still have work to do, tasks to accomplish."
"I have talked with their father," the priest told Grandmother Maia as he sat on her veranda with a cup of coffee. "He is staying near here now, but he is in trouble. He blames himself and his fellow constables for being unable to prevent his wife's murder, and has committed some vengeful acts that he now regrets. He would like to see his children and talk with you about their care. How do you feel about that?" The children were playing outside with some of their friends as he talked.
Grandmother Maia watched them quietly a few moments. "Does he want to take them away?"
"No, he just wants to see them, reassure himself that they are still here, worth waiting for. He has no way to take care of them right now."
"Then of course he can come. He's a good man. Are the police looking for him?"
"Probably. He had best come here at night, when the neighbors won't see him. I'll see that he gets here.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Seven men and two women, from four mining corporations and two government agencies, met in a private room of the Daikoku restaurant in Harbour City. Collectively, they represented more than nine hundred million Kina in government funds illegally transferred to private bank accounts. They hoped to get more, and met occasionally to assess opportunities and ward off discovery.
After the meal had been served and the private chef dismissed, the meeting was called to order. "It's time we moved our gains out of the country," said one. "Even our separate bank accounts in this country will soon be too big to hide."
"You can't just transfer fifty million Kina to a foreign bank," objected another. "That's a sure way to get some whistle-blower's attention." Others grunted agreement.
"Right. But if we form a 'donor-advised charitable gift trust', we can have a tax-protected pool to park the money in for as long as we like. Then form vague foreign charity organizations to move it out to."
"I don't like the idea of diverting some of it to charity," said one of the women, Linda Zhang. She was a social climber, wife of a senior mining engineer, intent on seeing her husband advance up the corporate ladder, and dissatisfied with the amount of his salary. She inspected her lipstick with a small mirror as she talked. "If I'm taking the risk, I should get the money."
"We could afford to donate, say, three per cent to educate Papua New Guinea's children."
"I'm not Papua New Guinean," said Madame Zhang, "and the children are none of my affair. It's my money now and I want to be the one who says where my money goes."
"But that three per cent brings you under a tax-shelter. You can't personally direct where the money goes, but you can advise that it goes to whatever organization you wish. And we can have our lawyers set up the fund as we like, as long as we make the required annual minimum charitable donation."
"I say we have it smuggled out. Then launder it in Indonesia or someplace. We have that street gang here in Moresby. Make them work for their pay." Linda put her mirror and lipstick back in her purse and snapped it shut.
"Aside from the risk involved in putting millions of Kina into the hands of a raskol gang to invest," said the man, "we have another problem. "The gang leader has failed to make contact for two weeks now. We don't know what's happened to him."
"Well you'd better find him before that do-good newspaper finds him," the woman retorted. "Or the police either."
As Sophia boarded the Air Niugini flight for Madang, she mulled over her conversation with Inspector Kerro. Conversation? It was more like orders, she thought. She sensed that there had been a lot he wasn't telling her. "Learn all you can about Joseph Moran," she had been told. "But don't try to find him. He could be dangerous."
Moran. The Tok Pisin word for python. Or was his name merely Irish? Where to begin? Best to start with the dead wife's mother, she supposed. If the Morans left their children with their grandmother, they must have trusted her. And if Moran had been in the RPNGC, maybe the district commander would know where to find her. So after checking in at her guest house, her first stop was the police station.
She showed her newspaper credentials at the front desk, and after a brief wait she was shown in to the chief's office. "Sir, I am doing a study for The Journal on families of constables who have suffered some sort of danger connected with their spouse's job. I am especially interested in Sergeant Joe Moran's family."
The chief inspected her card and handed it back. "You're the second reporter who has asked about him this week. I heard the unfortunate story about his wife, but if you want information about the family, the proper one to ask is the sergeant himself."
"Yes sir. The difficulty is that the sergeant has gone missing. I was hoping you could help me locate the children's grandmother to help find him."
The chief rubbed his jaw. "I hadn't heard that. He's not in Lae then?"
"No sir, not for the past several weeks. Apparently he arranged for someone to sign for his paycheck." She tried to state it tactfully, and the chief seemed to accept the irregularity as a common way of doing business without the need to use the word "fraud."
"Joe was a valuable man here," he said as he wrote some directions on a note pad. "It's the least I can do for his kids. He handed Sophia the address and was rewarded by her most dazzling smile.
After changing into clothes less likely to label her as a city dweller, she rode a PMV mini-bus out to the grandmother's neighborhood that afternoon. A group of children were gathered near the bus stop watching several boys dueling their spinning wooden tops. A ragged cheer went up as one boy's forceful fling of his top off the end of its string knocked his opponent's top out of the circle drawn in the dirt. Sophia asked one of the children the way to Mama Maia's house, and was led deeper into the grove of palms, followed by a small parade of children curious about this stranger's errand. The village was a random scattering of sago palm-leafed houses raised a meter off the ground on sturdy stilts. Her guide led her to where an elderly woman was tending a small garden. Sophia identified herself, inquiring about the woman's health and that of her grandchildren. Maia invited her in.
After first making sure that Maia already knew about her daughter's death, and expressing her sympathy over her loss, Sophia explained her errand. "I am writing for the newspaper in Moresby about when children lose a parent," Sophia explained. "In many cases a death comes slowly from disease and there is time for the children to, well, not get used to it, but at least to adjust more gradually. When it comes suddenly, like with your daughter, it must be a terrible shock."
"Naina's children are still small, a year and three years old. They know their mother and father are away. Joseph is a good man; I think he will come home soon and comfort them. It will help to know they still have a father. Have you talked with him?"
"I'd like to. Do you know when he'll be home?
"Soon, I hope. He doesn't write many letters. It's been a month since one came."
"I couldn't get his address from the Constabulary. I suppose that's usual. Is there any one else around here who might know it?"
"I have a daughter in Moresby. Let me write her address for you." Maia carefully printed a number and street in a section of Port Moresby. Sophia talked briefly with the two shy little children, who had just come in, and then she left.
"I found Joe Moran's two children and their grandmother in a little village outside Madang a couple of kilometers, Tobi it's called," Sophia reported to Inspector Kerro and Tom. "But are you sure we're tracking the right person? Everybody I've talked to gives him high marks, both personally and professionally. Competent cop, community leader, likes his kids. Granted he's been acting weird lately, but he did see his wife killed before his eyes. What about that street gang in Lae by the way?"
"They got away, the Lae commander told me," said Tom. "Joe fired three shots after them, but then he turned his attention to his wife. I remember when Kim and Morrie were threatened last month, I almost lost it myself. I can understand how a man can change like that."
"Post traumatic stress disorder is what they call it nowadays,"said Kerro. Plus a whole lot of guilt at not being able to do anything for his wife. Strong desire for revenge. Revenge on anybody, no matter who. But he has to be stopped before he turns deadly.
"Let me try to find the sister-in-law," suggested Sophia. "Sometimes it takes a woman to approach another woman. Even a woman social worker can look kind of threatening."
Sophia introduced herself to the girl who answered the door. "I work for the Moresby Journal and I've just been interviewing your mother, Maia, in Madang, about Naina's death last month." She explained her story assignment about police families' problems and Joe's disappearance from his new job with the Lae police department.
The girl, Barbara, look surprised. "Joe is here in Moresby," she said. "I met him on the street just a week ago. He said he was on a special assignment that he couldn't talk about."
"Oh? Your mother didn't mention that."
"She may not know about it."
"That may be," Sophia said, "I talked with Joe's two children; they are staying with her, you know. Nice little kids. The older one asked me when his Papa is coming home. I had to tell him I didn't know."
"Joe never says much about his work," Barbara said. "I've learned not to ask."
"It must be hard to have both parents gone," Sophia sympathized. "Did Joe seem changed in any way since his wife's death?"
"Well, sure. They were close. He seemed to have other things on his mind the day I saw him."
"I'd like to talk with him, if it wouldn't upset him."
"You're not a police reporter?"
"No, I just work for the Journal," Sophia reassured her."I do family articles and women's stuff."
"Well he didn't say where he was staying," Barbara said, "but he had just come out of the Southern Cross Inn when we met. If I meet him again I'll tell him his children want to see him."
"Thanks. I appreciate it. Please don't tell him a reporter was asking about him. I've found that that's a turn-off for some people when it comes time for an interview."
"Some men have that problem, don't they," said Barbara.
Sophia flashed a parting smile. "Exactly my opinion too!"
Sophia reported back to Inspector Kerro. "He's here in Moresby. His sister-in-law met him coming out of the Southern Cross Inn a week ago. She doesn't know if he's staying there, but it might be a good idea to put a watch on it for a few days."
But Joe Moran had done enough surveillance work in his career to spot the watcher at his hotel. Within four hours he had paid his bill in cash and disappeared.
Monday, June 2, 2014
"That's the man, I'm sure of it." Maxine Edon paled as she gazed through the one-way glass at the six men in the police line-up; her grip on Sophia's wrist tightened.
Inspector Vincent Gora, Special Forces Command, made a note on his clipboard. "Miss Edon, for the record please identify the man you are choosing by his place in line."
"The second man from my right. He's one of the three who assaulted me that night, the one who followed me until I got back to the newspaper building."
"Do you remember anything more about him since that night?"
Maxine was trembling now. Sophia put a hand on her arm to calm her. "It's okay, Max. He's a prisoner in jail. He can't hurt you now."
Maxine took a deep breath. "He was horrible. After the other two left me lying in the alley, he didn't help me up. He just smirked and said that as long as I was lying there anyway, how about another. . . " She shuddered. "His breath was foul. The light was dim there in the alley, but I remember one of his front teeth was broken. I realized I had to get out of there on my own, and get out very soon . . . I could barely walk, but made it back to the office, and the watchman let me in."
"Just one more question, Miss, and then your friend can take you home. Can you remember which tooth was broken?"
"It was upper left―his left."
"Thank you. Your detailed description is very helpful. Now if each of you will sign at the bottom of my notes as witnesses, you are free to go. Ms. Waru, please stay with her for a while after you get her home. Either of you can call me if you think of anything further." Gora nodded to the lady constable, who accompanied them out.
Later that day, Gora called the prisoner to his office. "Petey, we have a witness to the rape that night, who has identified you. It's no good telling us you don't know the other three. You were part of the gang, and you were there. Who are they?"
Petey was sweating. "I can't tell you."
"Yes you can."
"I can't! Sarge would find me and kill me!" He clamped his mouth shut, suddenly realizing he might have spoken too much already.
"Who is Sarge?"
"That's all they ever call him."
"Was he in the army? The police?"
Silence. Petey's mouth stayed shut.
"He can't get at you in here, you know."
Petey panicked. He muttered something in a low voice. All Inspector Gora could make out were the words "done it before."
Finally, after another quarter-hour of frustration, he sent the prisoner back to his cell.
At a Special Forces group meeting at Headquarters that afternoon, Inspector Gora reported on progress in the government corruption case. "Still no certain ID of government officials, but perhaps we have a lead to the gang working as their enforcers. "We have a positive ID of one of the gang members, from the rape victim they released with the threat to the newspaper office taped to her arm. He's a punk kid who's afraid to talk about the others. But in a slip of the tongue this morning, he revealed that the gang leader is called 'Sarge'."
"Ex-military, do you think?" asked the senior inspector.
"Or maybe a rogue cop."
"Nobody in Port Moresby seems to know these men. Kerro, you've worked in the Highlands. Any ideas?"
"I can check the mining camps and the cities for anyone who has dismissed a sergeant with a habit of violence in the last few years."
"Do that, and we'll check the same types who may have left the military."
"Prison guards, and mining company guards, too," another member advised.
"Right then, let's move ahead."
Tom Akani felt uncertain of his next step. Sophia had told him about accompanying Maxine to the police station and her identifying one her attackers. "She was terrified, Tom. Even though she knew in her mind that he couldn't see her through the one-way glass, it's still frightening to confront an attacker after being raped at knife-point. I don't think she should still be working alone at the reception desk."
"There are always people coming in and out."
"But not always people she knows. She's changed, Tom. Hardly sleeping some nights, not eating enough. She should be working somewhere surrounded by people she knows."
"You'd better talk to the chief editor."
"And there's another thing, too, Sophia continued."In ordinary assault, the one who did it pays the expenses and a fine to the victim. But a rape victim usually gets nothing. If the attacker does pay anything in PNG, it goes to the family or the husband. That's not right!"
"That's true, but what can I do about it?"
"You're a reporter, Tom! Wake up! This is not some Arab country where a raped girl is murdered to preserve the family honor; in PNG women have rights! Or should have."
Jason Kerro and Vincent Gora had been friends ever since they had broken up a ring of foreign drug dealers and gun runners in the Western Highlands three years earlier. Gora had led his special services group, the nearest thing to a SWAT team in PNG, in a surprise helicopter attack after Kerro had located the ring's jungle headquarters. Both inspectors had a similar philosophy for keeping the peace: Do your research and planning carefully, then act swiftly and decisively.
Kerro decided it was time to take Tom further into his confidence, and did so at the Akani house rather than at Tom's office. "Tom, I want to bring you up to date in the police case about the gang who beat you up. I know you are a reporter, but you'll have to keep quiet about this, not even hints in the newspaper or to your colleagues. I believe you share my goal of finding whoever is siphoning off government funds intended for building up Papua New Guinea. The Owego Island pollution and the gang who attacked you reporters are only side issues to the police case, but now it looks like the gang could point the way to those higher up."
"Keeping the secrets of my sources is part of my regular job," said Tom. "I don't discuss such things even with Kim. What do you need to know?"
"You were still staying at the Journal office the night Maxine was attacked, and you went to the emergency room soon after she got there. Can you remember anything else about the scene?"
"Not then, but I remember talking with her a couple days later. She was calmer then, and had had time to think. I asked her about names, and she only remembered Petey's, but I thought one of them called the leader 'Joe' once, when they were beating me up."
A query didn't get results from any of the police Kerro sent it to, nor did military records produce anything useful. Tom's investigation of mining company payrolls for the combination of "Joseph" and/or "sergeant" were equally unhelpful.
"Do we know for sure that the "sarge" is a native of PNG?" Tom asked Kerro. "He could be, say, Australian, or Slav or almost anyone hired on at the mines."
"That's true, I suppose," Kerro considered. "Were there any clues in his language, that night he attacked you?"
"They didn't use Tok Pisin or Motu. They spoke English to me, and among themselves. But it didn't sound quite right. Could be that English is a second language for him."
"Not Australian then."
"I think we're expecting too much from the computer," said Tom. "It could easily break down 'Sergeant Joe' into it's two words, but it wouldn't include Joseph, or corporal, or any other possibilities he used when he was first put on the payroll."
They started over again. Private, constable, lance corporal, Joseph, Jose, Giovani. . . . .They didn't call him Giovani, Tom was positive.
"But maybe Gio for short?" said Kerro.
"Okay, try it." They added, Kyo, Chou, and any other variant they could think of, and then went through the military, constabulary, and industrial lists again. This time they got perhaps fifty names, some of whom could be winnowed out by date of birth, etc., leaving about a dozen possibilities.
"You getting any more useful information from Petey?" Tom asked.
"Not much. He's still scared spitless. We're still holding him, and he doesn't object because he's too frightened to go back out on the streets."
They sorted out the names the computer lists had produced. Three from Madang, two from Lae, one each from several lesser mining and oil areas. Kerro sat back and surveyed the data. "Tom, you know more about the Madang area than I do. I can provide letters of introduction to the commanders of police in Madang and Lae. I know both of them personally, and as far as I know both are honest cops. My work ties me up here, but you could go check both cities. I can clear the trip with your boss, without telling him all the details."
"Okay, what do you want to know about these guys?"
"The usual personal data, birth date, work history, but especially conflicts, discipline problems, anything that might cause a grudge or opportunity for graft or blackmail. Any close connections with 'Big Men' in mining or government. Use your reporter's instinct."
After making arrangements to have Kim and Morrie stay with the Kerros, Tom took the morning plane for Madang next day.
The bustling town was not the quiet scene of his boyhood, now with its oil and gas drillers, harbor expansion, and the big nickel and cobalt refinery farther down the bay. He wryly noted that this town had a slurry pipeline problem too, or rather that the inland territory did. Building the long pipeline down from the hills had problems. He was surprised to learn that the DEC had closed down the pipeline (and therefore the mine) for a time after inspecting the pipe's construction. Maybe things are going to improve, he thought.
Tom checked in with the Madang police station and presented his letter of reference from Inspector Kerro to the local police chief. The chief read it carefully. "Joe's in trouble? I'm surprised," was his comment.
"You know him?" Tom asked in surprise. This was quick, he thought to himself.
"Yeah, I know a sergeant named Joe," the chief said. "I was sorry to lose him. A good man. Kept the constables in line. He got more work out of them, when the government cut the roster down to where we just plain don't have enough cops to keep order in a town this size."
"Then why didn't he show up on the computer list of dismissals?"
"Oh, he wasn't dismissed. He transferred down to Morobe Division. He couldn't find housing for his family here in Madang. As far as I know, he's still a cop. Sergeant Joe Moran."
Tom wrote the name in his notebook. "And you don't have anyone else that might match the description?"
"Huh - If we did, you can bet we'll hang on to him. We're short-handed here in Madang. Hey, man, you want a job?"
Tom smiled. "No thanks. Already got one."
The police chief shrugged. "Doesn't hurt to ask."
But Tom didn't have any better luck in Lae, the Morobe Province capital. The police chief there knew Joe Moran, but said he wasn't there any longer. "He moved on after his wife was shot and killed, you know."
Tom looked up sharply from his pad, his pencil motionless. "What?"
"It happened only a week or so after he came to work. We have some rough neighborhoods here. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time, I guess. Moran never really got involved in his job after that. We never got to know him well; he brooded a lot, but I could see the rage building up in him. I think he blamed the police force for not protecting her."
Tom looked up at the chief again. "Was he right?"
"Maybe. That's easy for an outsider to say. But there are places in this town where it's better for even the police to stay away from. One day, about six weeks ago it was, he just didn't show up for work. We haven't seen him since."
"Is he still on the payroll?"
"Yes, I guess he is, come to think of it."
The chief spoke like the question had never occurred to him, thought Tom on the flight back to Moresby. I wonder who's collecting his pay?