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Amber took her phone out of her pocket and found a torch app. She shone it into the gap and placed her face on the blue board. Maverick pulled the wall panels out from the skirting at the bottom. The blue panelling moved and there was a rattling noise. Something pale moved slowly towards Amber’s face.
Amber screamed and jumped back into Maverick as the sheet of blue board twisted out of the wall. A skull rolled fell completely out of the wall cavity. Maverick pulled her back, glad that she had pushed the table out of the road.
Maverick pulled Amber further back before taking the phone off Amber and shining it into the cavity. A collection of human looking bones lay in a pile at the bottom of the wall.
“I know you don’t like police much Amber, but I’ve got to put my police hat on now. I don’t suppose you would be willing to stay at Grandpa’s place tonight.”
“No, I’ll take the mattress upstairs.”
“Okay, but it could get a bit busy in here, in a couple of hours.” He stepped towards Amber, handing her the phone. “Do you need a hand with your bed,” he asked.
“No,” Amber spun, white as a ghost and Maverick heard her soft footsteps, the only sound in the house, as she walked to her room. He heard the thump of the mattress hitting the floor, the sound of it dragging down the hallway, and then the sound of it thumping up the stairs.
Amber returned a couple of minutes later, entered the room and collected her work.
“Good night Amber,” Maverick offered her a gentle smile. Amber did not respond.
Maverick pulled his own phone out of his pocket and dialled his offsider.
“Hey Jackie, it’s me. Get the forensics stuff and the crime scene tape and your good humour. It’s going to be a long night and we’re about to wake the boss.” He looked at his watch. 11pm or thereabouts. The boss was going to be pissed.
“What have we got,” his eager assistant asked him.
“A skeleton in a wall. Been there for a while. Old Sam Grant’s place.”
“Okay, can I use the sirens,” she asked eagerly.
“Dead bodies this old aren’t going anywhere. No call to wake the town.”
He heard Amber on the stairs behind him. “See you in ten,” he said to his colleague and he hung up, leaving the room.
Amber was standing, shaking on the bottom step.
“I am really sorry about this Amber, but let’s walk through what you know of the house.”
“I bought it from the Public Trustees at an auction. I was the only bidder. Prior to that I inspected the property and paid for a building inspection to be done. You know the state the house was in, what I liked about it was that the bathroom and kitchen downstairs had been used and there was a bedroom that was usable. I’ve been pretty focused on getting rid of the rest of the clutter that I didn’t notice the thick wall until Robert pointed it out to me.”
“Did the house come with all the contents.”
“Yes, I own the ute and everything else used to fit in a backpack.”
“You sure you want to stay upstairs. It’s going to be noisy.”
“It’s my house, I am not moving anywhere. There are no bodies upstairs, it’s all single skinned walls that are so thin there is no privacy. The attic didn’t even have insulation in it so when the roof came off, you could see the attic floor.”
“Did Jacko do the roofing?”
“I guess the powers at be will need to speak to Jacko and confirm that otherwise, they will probably order your roof removed. Some people are idiots. Let’s move your fridge into the living room so that you can access that whilst the crime scene mob are here. You don’t need to go back in there.”
Amber followed Maverick into the kitchen and they unplugged the fridge, shuffling it out of the kitchen, down the hallway and into the living room.
“Can I use some sheets to block the windows from the street,” Maverick asked.
“The linen cupboard is in the dining room. I don’t have much.” Amber responded flatly. “Will I still be able to go to Melbourne,” Amber asked.
“Sure, that body was probably buried there when the new kitchen was installed. Any idea how old it was.”
“Colin said that the people who owned the place 30 years ago installed the kitchen, bathroom and the bedroom. They said that they couldn’t afford to insulate the entire house so they just did those rooms for winter.”
“Good to know.” A police car pulled up out the front. “Why don’t you go upstairs and get some shut-eye. I’ll raid your linen cupboard, get everything sorted and leave Jacki here for the rest of the night. Forensics are going to be crawling over this place as soon as they can get here from Shepardton. It may be tonight, it may be early in the morning.”
Amber sighed, didn’t say anything but headed upstairs as the younger constable came into the house. A few minutes later the old shower upstairs could be heard groaning and chugging along.
“Why is she still here,” the constable asked.
“She owns the house and the body is in the dining room and kitchen area, not upstairs. Nothing has been touched upstairs since the original bathroom went in in the 50’s by the state of it. Amber had the roof replace recently and no bodies fell out of that so I am guessing we have three rooms that are potential sights for more bodies.”
“Isn’t one enough,” the constable asked.
“Walk through the back of the house, think about the thickness of the walls and tell me what you think about it all. Amber says that the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom down here are well insulated. Maybe there is more to it than insulation. I have to go wake up the boss.”
Maverick let his constable walk the house and string up crime scene tape at the back of the house. He called his boss.
“This had better be a prank call,” the boss answered grumpily.
“Sorry Sir, a skeleton in a wall up in Bright.” There was a moment of calm.
“That you then Seargent MacDonald.”
“Indeed,” Maverick responded.
“Talk to me. Who notified you of the skeleton?”
“No one, the house was purchased from the Public Trustee just shy of three months ago. The new owner has spent the time removing the junk from the previous owner. Sam Grant.”
“That was that hoarder fellow who refused to move into a nursing home. One of Maize Jenkin’s kids agreed to pop in and check on him every other day.”
“That’s the place. Anyway, the owner got rid of all the junk and has been renovating. She was discussing options with the interior with her builder when he noticed that the interiors of the kitchen and dining room were too small in comparison to the exterior of the house. I was over here tonight and the owner decided to pull the wall down between the kitchen and dining room. We got part way in and found wet board like what is used to line a bathroom in.”
Maverick bent over the board. There was a grey latex substance on it. “The sheet has been waterproofed. When we broke into the board, a skull rolled out. It looks like the rest of the body is down the bottom of the wall. Looks like an adult or a tall teenager. Definitely not a child.”
“And did Sam Grant ever renovate his house?”
“Grandpa told the owner that Sam Grant and his wife moved in about twenty years ago. He can’t remember them ever renovating and the kitchen dates to the 1980s. Hell Grant only kept those rooms cleaned because if he didn’t we would have forcefully removed him.”
“I know, I was a constable in Bright 30 years ago Seargent. I remember a string of disappearances, mostly backpackers. The old place changed hands quickly for a while there. I’ll get forensics up tomorrow early. Take plenty of photos and feel free to knock more of that wall down. Sam Grant’s been stacking stuff against that wall since his missus died just after they moved into that place. I hope to hell the deaths predate him. He was a grumpy bugger but I can’t see him as a murderer. Document everything. Call me back with a body count, leave a message if I don’t answer.” The Area commander hung up and Maverick’s constable put her head back in the room.
“Well, how do you like demolition? The boss man wants this wall down before forensics get here tomorrow. Stack the timber on the front veranda and let’s be quiet. I’d like to keep this quiet as much as possible. The neighbours will work it out in the morning.”
By the time the wall was removed, Maverick counted 3 bodies. He rang the commander and left a message to state three adult-sized bodies.
Then he left the constable to guard the crime scene and returned home catching a few hours sleep and a return to uniform.
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