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hobbs and raffan 3

Room 1

Two detectives were waiting for him. One seated at the interview table, the other standing with his hands in his pockets behind the only other chair. Hobbs looked around for a phonebook they might decide to use for punctuation before being shoved into his chair by a uniformed constable.

‘Thanks, son,’ said Milne, ‘close the door behind you.’

‘Howyagoin Hobbsie?’ he enquired, ‘you’re lookin’ well.’

‘Outdoor life, chief, does wonders.’

‘Outdoors up here or outdoors down in Sydney, Hobbsie? Seeing that’s where your licence says you live.’

They arrived beneath us at about 9 am, two men in a outboard powered dinghy with a centre-housed steering console.

Milne opened a file he had bought with him and ran his finger down the second page.

‘Up here on holiday are you? seeing a few old mates?’

Hobbs looked over his shoulder at the detective standing behind him.

‘Remember Brookvale, Hobbs? That scared shitless little chinaman you stood over?’

No answer.

‘He remembers you, and he’s a councillor down there now. And not without punch may I add.’

Milne closed the file.

‘Seen a lot of Raffan lately, have you? Mates you were once it says here, big time in the city.’

Hobbs shook his head.

‘Lost track of him until recently, Boss.’

A big man wearing a red cap.  The other, darker man was wearing a black T and no hat.

‘Who owns the boat, Hobbs, the one you got the suntan on today?’

~~

Raffan waited. Listening to the murmur of voices in the next room. Knowing who they were talking to. Taking some comfort in the knowledge that the money had belonged to Hobbs. Less comfort knowing he’d probably never see his boat again.

He took off his cap and massaged his scalp.

~~

As the redcap fished the black T either watched the shore or used his phone while crouched low on the forward side of the steering console. Holding it as if to take a photograph of something.

‘What were you doing out there, Hobbs? A man doesn’t spend eight hours on the river without having some reason or another.’

‘Sorry, Boss, you’ve lost me there.’

‘You lost me too, Hobbsie, because, according to sources, you didn’t wet a line all the long day.’

‘Hobbs?’

No answer.

~~

Room 2

Milne came in alone, shut the door and looked Raffan over; his folded arms were bare and there was a tattoo of a swallow on the web between his thumb and forefinger, right hand. Milne tossed a file onto the table and sat down. His grandfather had one of them. Ex navy man.

‘You want to tell me what I’m doing here, copper?’

‘You’re under suspicion pertaining to certain matters outstanding.’

‘Like what?’

‘Like being forty over the limit leaving town half an hour ago, that’s one, and having a boat out of rego for two.’

‘Happy?’

‘Whatabout me catch?’

Redcap often on the phone as he fished, once pulling a fighting bream from the water after ten minutes of skilled play.

Milne allowed a smile as he opened Raffan’s file.

‘What catch was that, Dave?.’

~~

Room 1

Milne back, Alf gone to lunch.

‘Hungry are you, Hobbsie, get you anything?’

‘Nah, I’m good.’

Milne reopened Hobb’s file, took out his pen and made a few notes.

‘Have much to eat today?’

As the redcap fished the black T either watched the shore or used his phone while crouched low on the forward side of the steering console. Holding it as if to take a photograph of something.

‘Where?’

‘You tell me, where were you?’

‘You already know. I was with Dave, all day.’

‘On the river?’

Yes, that’s what the boat was for.’

‘A fishing boat was it then, Dave’s boat?’

Hobbs heaved an exasperated sigh and leaned back in his chair.

‘Yes, detective, it was, is a fishing boat.’

‘Then what the fuck were you doing all day? It’s back to that. All day on the phone or crouched down over a computer. You know what we reckon young Hobbs?’

‘It was a radar set-up for spotting fish.’

‘Bullshit.’

‘We reckon you spent all day waiting for someone.’

About 5 pm a small single-masted yacht motored into sight from the east then turned off its engine and drifted mid-river to the north of a sandy island that forms part of an upper-river estuary five hundred yards away.

Hobbs shook his head.

‘I don’t know anyone from up here.’

‘Well you do now, mate, we counted three of them.’

Redcap stowed his gear, kicked the boat’s engine into life and shot over to the island quick-smart, beaching himself alongside another boat drawn onto the sand. He remained standing in the bow as a couple of men wandered his way.

‘What was the sudden hurry?’

‘I needed to take a dump.’

‘Nobody got off the boat, Hobbs, think of something else.’

No response.

Then the yacht slowly turned 180 degrees and motored back the way it came ..

‘How come you left the Island the same time yacht moved off?’

‘What yacht?’

‘The one your new mates choofed off after.’

.. as Redcap and Black T exited the estuary and headed up-river throttle down.

‘Flat out all the way upriver too, probably could have you fined for speeding. More money to the government. But the way I read it, you blokes just spent all your dough.’

‘What did you come up here to buy, Hobbsie?’

The boat with three men aboard followed the yacht about five minutes later.

~

Room 2

Milne entered first and sat down, followed by a uniformed officer who took a position behind Raffan.

‘What were you waiting for, Raffan?’

‘I was fishing.’

‘How’d you go?’

‘Caught one for dinner.’

‘Had to throw it away. Pity, it was a good size, and that’s a nice looking rig you have. I like a light line and small hook on a heavy fish, makes it more sport, you reckon?’

Raffan shrugged.

‘Took you a good ten minutes to get it into the net, I’m told, drawing it in then letting it run. Very patient work. Late were they?’

‘Who?’

‘The blokes who chugged back to the yacht with your money.’

Nothing to do all day then everything happens in ten minutes.

~~~~

In August 2019 two men caught smuggling cocaine threw six hundred kilograms overboard on the far north coast before being apprehended by the water police.

pic: Sydney Morning Herald

The police were able to retrieve some of the bales but it was suspected many were taken away on the currents and in some cases, washed ashore between Byron Bay and Yamba.

It was said in those days, if you were to fly a helicopter along that long stretch of coastline at night, you would mistake the torches seen on the darkened beaches to be like stars in the sky.

 

 

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