The Story of Edie Wells

Long reads

Detective Senior Sergeant Pru Landis didn’t believe in ghosts.

Pru never thought the day would arrive where she’d chase a ghost down a ghost-hole and wrestle with wraiths. That the past would intrude into her workaholic police grind a haunting by a waif and a strange family.

This haunting began thanks to her new bloke, Finn, and a mini-break.

 

 

Finn was a chef, locked into the restaurant industry which, like the Homicide Squad, was no place for the weak or idle.  But even workaholics must sometimes rest. The couple had decided to escape, take some leave and run off to Kurrajong, a small village in the hills close to Sydney. That Friday, after a long boozy lunch on a pub sundeck, Pru and Finn looked windswept and without care, as they weaved in and out of antique shops. Some shops were dusty, filled with junk, others were no more than charmless gee-gaw joints.

The Kurrajong excursion marked the start of their first ever “holiday” together a  weekend that had been a long time promised after they’d pledged to pay full attention to one another.

Pru’s black hair was loose and lively, rather than trapped in the strictures of a tight police ponytail. A couple of times she stopped herself automatically checking a shop for CCTV cameras and had to remind herself she was off-duty.

The smile round her lips relaxed too. Mostly she pottered. The straw-haired Finn looked  burlier than ever in a baggy XXL white linen shirt, with his big hands and kind eyes.

Pru Landis amused herself by pressing potential earring choices against her lobe while viewing a blurred face in an antique mirror, the silver backing starting to tarnish. Being slightly pissed made for easy decisions. In a patch of mirror, the red glass drop beads looked oh so chic against the jet hair and high cheekbones she’d inherited from her Vietnamese mum, and worked well with her current lipstick.  The streak of red made her smile and she decided to lash out and pay the extortionate price. Finn was meanwhile fossicking in a back room of the ancient, overstuffed shop.

“Hey Pru,” he shouted.

She strolled into the back room, but found no Finn, and continued to follow the shout to a further annex near the back door, a small room filled boxes and small ceramic and metal objects, mostly collecting dust.

“Check this out: an original Edison cylinder phonograph. And there are some music cylinders in their original cardboard packets!” He held up a rather large yellowed package in his hand.

Landis pretended to look impressed but Finn could see right through her arched eyebrow and he laughed.

“C’mon Pru, this is classic! Just imagine this beautiful object on our shelf above the books, all polished up with brasso. The trumpet thingy is in great nick.”

Landis said dryly: “It’s very low tech.”

“Here look,” he said pulling one of the black cylinders from a round cardboard box. They were made with hard wax, a little shorter than a mobile phone, and hollow. “We’ll see…hang on.” He wound the mechanism and inserted the cylinder on the thick brass rod, then applied the stylus.

A tinny but reasonably loud De Souza military march emerged from the sound trumpet. “Hey hey! How about that?” said Finn delighted. After a minute or two listening to the tune, he packed the unit up tucked it under his arm and then steamed towards the cash register.

Landis shrugged. She liked Finn’s enthusiasms, even if some were obscure.

He was already haggling with the owner who  wanted $520. Finn well knew that polished and refurbished it would be worth a lot more. The man was adamant on the price. Finn pointed to stains and chips. The owner, an antique himself with white beard and thick black specs, waggled a finger.

“Look young man. I’m not budging from the price, but I’ve another older box of cylinders in the back which I’ll throw in. What do you say? I’ve had them for ages. This phonograph came in a couple of months ago. I was remiss not getting it out on show but…what if I throw in more antique cylinders? I can’t really sell them separately?”

Finn then headed to the back room with the man and emerged with a box of further dusty treasures.

“Looks good,” he said. They were in containers with Art Nouveau lettering at the end of each round packet announcing the maker – Edison.

“Done!”

The man was obviously delighted with the sale as well. “I should have displayed the phonograph ages ago. Good for you, for fossicking through my mullock,” he said to Finn. Pru thought the dealer seemed on the level, tho’ there was sparkling delight in the old guy’s eyes. Then she remembered the earrings. “And these too,” she added. Needless to say, the bearded antique dealer didn’t throw them in for free with the $550 sale price. He mumbled the word “deco” and charged $80.

After further poking about in a bookshop, and a coffee, they wandered back to their small rental cottage close to the village. Finn was telling Pru that Thomas Edison had changed the world with recording of music, and “we were all the better for his displacement of sound into those grooves.”

“Not everyone can get to concerts and there’s sooo much out there now,” he said.

“You can’t get any more analogue than your ear trumpet,” Pru said, eyebrow arched yet again.

He laughed.

Finn pulled his treasure out of the original box (“that adds value, Pru!”) and pulled out another cylinder and played what sounded like an operatic aria with a tenor going full belt in Italian.

There was a beautiful evening light flooding into the cottages windows and Pru looked at her partner and his happy face, and felt very pleased. While the phonograph wasn’t that exciting, the music seemed to click with the moment.  She checked the box:

“Says here its Enrico Caruso,” still amused at Finn’s sheer enthusiasm for what was a crackly rendition.

“Greatest tenor of his day!” said Finn.

They played a couple more cylinders from the phonograph box and then decided it was time for a beer on the deck, looking down the hill and across to the distant sight of Sydney’s Centrepoint tower, poking like an olive on a toothpick, over the horizon.

Usually, Finn spent his working days preparing food, so Pru had promised him a break and had brought fresh salad, and gourmet sausages to cook on the barbecue. As the snags hit the sizzle, and Finn made caustic comments on her “girly tong-wielding efforts”,  she realized she hadn’t thought about work at all, and, well, wasn’t that a good thing? The mini-break was working.

*

Next morning after a very slow start in the king sized bed, Pru and Finn emerged from their shower and sat down to breakfast. A loaf of fresh baked bread, left on the verandah by the cottage’s owner, was being eyed off by a large currawong. Pru shooed it away and brought the bread to the table where they feasted.

Finn opened the shoe box filled with the further cylinders. They were in round packets as well, which weren’t marked and sat higgledy piggledy in the box.

“Let’s try this one,” he said.

But what came out wasn’t music. It was a voice.

It was a voice from a long way away. Faint. Australian vowels stretched out like rubber bands, broad, masculine, urgent. The stylus ran over the old wax with dispassion, and from the trumpet thingy spoke Pru’s first ghost:

September 12 1915: Gareth won’t be returning from the war. We received a telegram, or at least Mother did. This postman rolls up the front orchard with his long face and asks for her, and by God, she knew what was coming. Yes, it was just like poor Mrs Althorpe in Goulburn. The postman gave her the telegram and said “sorry”. No thought for Mother or Father. Dies in the line of duty [a long pause] for king and country in the Dardenelles, they said. Mum’s heartbroken, and for once I don’t know what to do. The authorities give no further details as to his demise. Dad says she screamed for a bit, and since, and she hasn’t got out of bed in three days now – not since the telegram. I came straight over but I’m camped on a hard mattress the verandah, not in the barn, because I can’t bear to be in Gareth’s bed. Dad just keeps going with the farm jobs, not saying much. I keep bringing her cups of tea and they keep turnin’ cold by her bedside. She sighs. Sighs a lot. She asks me once – Stanley, he’s not coming back, is he? And I said no. [there was another pause while the speaker collected himself] As I said, no detail, but I ‘spose he was shot in some battle. He was a good shot himself – as a rabbiter. Don’t say exactly how he died tho’. Or what’s done with his body – or where he’s buried. That’s what’s worst for Mother.

The voice turned bitter. Ancient bitter.

As far as I’m concerned it’s probably a blessing. He’s with poor little Eadie now. Whether they are over the veil, quarrelling with each other I know not but they are both probably quarrelling in hell, rather’n heaven. No hang about – that’s not fair. Not at all. Weren’t Eadie’s fault she went missin’. No. No. She was an innocent [another pause] They won’t be together after what happened. She’ll surely be in [another longer pause with audible sniff] heaven, but I know one thing for sure. Gareth is in hell.

The last four words were punched into the cylinder, angrily.

“Jesus” said Finn. “What was that?”

Pru looked at the Edison cylinder machine and then at her perplexed lover.

“That,” she said, “was the voice of a victim.”

The words of the speaker – Stanley – were charged with great emotion, and echoed in their ears.

She jumped up and packed the machine and the tubes in the cardboard box and said: “let’s leave it for now. It’s bringing down the tone of our weekend.”

Finn nodded, chewing a crust. “Sure is. Gareth’s in hell, apparently.”

“Yeah, yeah. Worth a listen later, but not today. Did you say we’d drive to Katoomba for lunch?”

“That was the plan.”

“Okay,” said Pru. “Let’s go!”

*

The shoebox was stuffed in the car boot, and Landis tried to ignore the cylinders for the next two days. The box then ended up on the shelf beside the phonograph after the very relaxed couple unpacked on the Sunday night at the apartment. For another couple of days Landis threw herself into the latest Homicide squad case (the double murder of a mother and toddler) and tried to ignore the shoebox as if it was occupied by a malevolent force. She rebuffed her insatiable curiosity several times, as the voice from 100 years past kept whispering to her, like a demonic earworm.  She asks me once – Stanley, he’s not coming back, is he? And I said no.

Finn dug further into the history of his sonic trophy. He identified that strange antique sound cylinders were made on spoken-voice Stenographs or Dictaphones from very early on, and he discovered many early phonographs came with recording, as well as playing apparatus. The recording tube seemed to be missing from his set, but it may not have had one as the Stenograph cylinders came from another consignment. He polished the “trumpet thingy” with brasso and made it shine.

Over several mornings, before work, Finn played all the official Edison cylinders – jazz, opera and marching music. But the voice of Stanley was ignored.

*

Mid evening, and Finn was working, while  Landis lay on the couch recovering after a fairly hard afternoon session checking witness statements with a grieving family. But the haunted voice finally burrowed far enough into her curiosity gland to prompt her to stand up and pull the shoebox onto the dining table. Landis placed the eight round boxes in a row in front of her. They were unmarked, undated. The paper covers were foxed with brown speckles. She poured a glass of red wine and picked a cylinder at random and stuck it on the phonograph, which she cranked up and started. The voice of a girl whispered from the trumpet thingy, into the room:

Good afternoon. My name is Eadie Jones (…am I doing this right Stanley? Yes?) I live near Towrang. My dear husband is Gareth Jones and he is an orchardist.

Pru momentarily halted the cylinder to think.

Eadie sounded tiny and artless, thought Landis, and she was speaking far too quickly. Here Gareth was still alive in the cylinder continuum. And Eadie was clearly nervous of the machine and the speaking trumpet.

We got married last May at St Johns after he proposed to me under the Tree of ’earts down by Wollondilly river. Gareth’s very ’ardworking. Every week ’e collects farm goods delivered by the train and drives ’is cart to farms around the district and sells to the farmers. Does odd jobs too, he does. He’s very good and takes care of me. He’s very ’ardworking like I said. Gareth ’elps Father out on the orchards, pruning and picking the apples and pears.  Builds fences for ’im, and looks after Mother. It’s a nice property down the ’ill to the creek where the gum trees are. He grew up in the cottage there, while I grew up in Sydney, in Darlinghurst which weren’t very nice, but then the Bensons took me in for a few years, treated me like their own daughter they did, and then got me the job in Goulburn. The farm is important, but Gareth loves ’is dray and ’is deliveries around the district, and we’ll open a shop before long, or at least he will, like Stanley ’ere. And I can work in the shop until well, one day soon, we’ll have children and I’ll take care of them. I’m ’oping for a baby boy first, then a little girl. Then another boy. We shall call them James, Beryl and Edward. That would be lovely. Is that it? I don’t know what more to say? [another voice, more faint, Stanley’s] That’s my girl!  Now let’s have a listen to what you’ve just said.

Stanley was supervising his sister-in-law while the breathless Eadie said her piece. The Eadie who Stanley had speculated (clearly later) was in heaven. Landis looked up the town of Towrang on what her boss, Detective Inspector Fyfe, called the Interknuckles, and which Landis called Google. Towrang was there. So was the church still there? She read a bit and then put another cylinder on the phonograph. It was all Stanley’s voice this time, and he’d thankfully dated his recording:

May 21 1913: So Eadie has married my brother at St John’s in the town. She was in an ivory dress with lace sash which Mother and Father insisted on buying from my store, and for once in his life Gareth looked dapper in the suit he’d borrowed from me. Eadie’s mother was there, with her father having passed. A quiet woman, looked somewhat like Eadie, but so careworn …. affected by a hard-bitten life in the slums of Darlinghurst and Woolloomooloo , I’d wager. The Benson Cousins caught the train from Sydney for the occasion, and appeared rather dusty.  I wore my old work suit since Gareth wore my good one.  Eadie was a picture in the white ivory lace and a short pleated train. It was an awful quick service tho’. One hymn, one prayer. Gareth’s choice, since he’s an ’eathen. He wanted to get it over and done with, I s’pose. On the church steps, the town children threw flowers and petals they’d picked and prepared, and the family had a big wedding breakfast at the cottage that Mother had put together. It was very nice with a white wedding cake and sandwiches and everything. Eadie was over the moon. Over the moon.

Suddenly his voice dropped to a more conspiratorial tone.

I’m still very concerned with her choice tho’ – and after all I’ve done for her, too. I thought Mother would have said something to her about Gareth and his hot-headed ways. I know I couldn’t, as Eadie would have taken that real bad, and she has become such a friend to me. But she’d listen to Mother. So she got hitched to Gareth? Why? He’s a swine with the women, when you come down to it. I do hope they find happiness. I truly hope so, and that he changes for the better.

Landis detected a rueful echo in the speaker’s voice. Did Gareth’s brother Stanley love Eadie? Sounded like it. He was certainly protective. She pulled the cylinder from the ancient recorder and dug out another random carton and extracted its cylinder. The voice was the same, but more stilted and formal. Sounded like the first ever recording that the author of the cylinders had done. His first taste of the recorded word, the stenograph, which became his irregular voice diary.

The date is 17th of August 1910. My name is Stanley Jones. I am the sole proprietor of Jones Ladies Fashions in Goulburn, New South Wales where I command a workforce of seven. I sell cloth, haberdashery and clothing. I … I am 34 years old and a bachelor. My parents and brother Gareth live in the township of Towrang, which is close by, a fruit growing district with its own railway station. It was where I grew up. What can I say about my life? Prosperous! At school I excelled at arithmetic and commercial studies. I stood up and sallied forth on my own. I went and lived in Sydney for some years working in clothing shops in Pitt and George Street and learning the Business from Mr Ackerman who was very good to me, and who taught me all there is to know about the business, taught me salesmanship – how to properly speak to ladies, how to tantalise them with fabrics and haberdashery. Those were good years, but I had to return as my parents were getting old.  I made good as a shop-owner, paying off the bank quickly, in fact. I still help my parents with the farm, along with Gareth, when he’s not indisposed, or off on some frolic. I am very grateful to my parents who looked out for us. We saw school through, and I went to Goulburn High School with Gareth, after passing the entry examination. We were schooled with their blessing when we could have spent the days on the farm. I suppose I am happy that Gareth will inherit the land and the stock, as I have made my own tidy pile, so to speak.

Landis poured herself another glass of merlot, quite enjoying the emerging jigsaw of sound cylinders, the moods and evocations coming from each. It that one, clearly his first, Stanley sounded so full of himself. This was his experiment as to how the stenograph worked. His initial diary entry. Still the same rubber band vowels but he was more clipped and formal. And tentative. In the end, a test diary entry. A private conversation with himself, or maybe he read a script aloud.

She filled her wine glass and placed another cylinder on the phonograph. In a hammed up, speeded up voice, with chortling in the background she heard the following:

Aw! Fate me foot! Instid of slopin’ soon

As ‘e was wed, orf on ‘is ‘oneymoon,

‘Im an’ ‘is cobber, called Mick Curio,

They ‘ave to go

An’ mix it wiv that push o’ Capulets.

They look fer trouble; an’ it’s wot they gets.

 

A tug named Tyball (cousin to the skirt)

Sprags ’em an’ makes a start to sling off dirt

Nex’ minnit there’s a reel ole ding-dong go —

‘Arf round or so.

Mick Curio, ‘e gits it in the neck,

“Ar rats!” ‘e sez, an’ passes in ‘is check.

God help me, thought Landis as she listened. What’s this gibberish?

Quite natchril, Romeo gits wet as ‘ell.

“It’s me or you!” ‘e ‘owls, an’ wiv a yell,

Plunks Tyball through the gizzard wiv ‘is sword,

‘Ow I ongcored!

“Put in the boot!” I sez. “Put in the boot”

“‘Ush!” sez Doreen… “Shame!” sez some silly coot.

 Stanley almost squealed “put in the boot, he was so roused by the recitation.

 Then Romeo, ‘e dunno wot to do.

The cops gits busy, like they allwiz do,

An’ nose eround until ‘e gits blue funk

An’ does a bunk.

They wants ‘is tart to wed some other guy.

“Ah, strike!” she sez. “I wish that I could die!”

 

Now, this ‘ere gorspil bloke’s a fair shrewd ‘ead.

Sez ‘e “I’ll dope yeh, so they’ll think yer dead.”

(I tips ‘e was a cunnin’ sort, wot knoo

A thing or two).

She takes ‘is knock-out drops, up in ‘er room:

They think she’s snuffed, an’ plant ‘er in ‘er tomb.

 

Then things gits mixed a treat an’ starts to whirl.

‘Ere’s Romeo comes back an’ finds ‘is girl

Tucked in ‘er little coffing, cold an’ stiff,

An’ in a jiff,

‘E swallers lysol, throws a fancy fit,

‘Ead over turkey, an’ ‘is soul ‘as flit.

 

Then Juliet wakes up an’ sees ‘im there,

Turns on the water-works an’ tears ‘er ‘air,

“Dear love,” she sez, “I cannot live alone!”

An’ wif a moan,

She grabs ‘is pockit knife, an’ ends ‘er cares…

“Peanuts or lollies!” …

 The voice suddenly cut short. Stanley had run out of wax cylinder when he was trying to get the whole thing recorded. What was the next bit? She replayed a few lines, noted them down and went back to Google.

“By CJ Denis – And he missed the last four words…’sez a boy upstairs’,” she said to herself.

The speaker, a clownish version of Stanley, knew his timing was tight, hence the speedy oratory and a forced jocularity.

She kept reading about The Sentimental Bloke and the section known as The Play.  A sensation when first published. Made into a silent movie. The middle classes loved the caricatured larrikins of the Push, of the time. The larrikins loved hearing their undiluted language. Everyone one loved “the Bloke” – the lead man, Bill, a true yet clumsy romantic. She assumed the voice from the trumpet thingy was Stanley’s. Same tone. She read The Play on her iPad, and decided it was a very funny poem. Quite brilliant.

When did that come out? 1915 or so? Cheered everyone up as the ‘wounded and blinded and maimed’ started coming home from Turkey and France?

Landis stood up and walked around the flat, stretched her arms. It was 11.30pm and she had to work in the morning. The old Finnster was still an hour off arriving home after the kitchen cleanup and next day’s prep at his restaurant. Hell, just a couple cylinders more she thought. She looked down at the phonograph and discovered that she’d automatically been taking notes, just as she would in a case. So she labelled the cylinders in pencil, 1,2,3,4 guessing their chronology, or dating them if the date was announced by Stanley, and noted the contents in her book. That’s right. The cylinder when Stanley woodenly announces himself was the first of the series, the second last was second, so far, and Eadie’s pretty little monologue was later.

As for the first spooky cylinder they’d heard, about the arrival of the telegram announcing Gareth’s death, and then the cylinder with the galloping rendition of the Sentimental Bloke – Landis searched on her smartphone for the date of death mentioned in the telegram which was August 7 1915 – bang smack in the battle of Lone Pine. So choked-up Stanley could have recorded shortly after that, depending on how promptly the army got the bad news out. And the CJ Dennis – she checked its publication date which was also later in 1915. Hmmm.

Something was not right, and her police hackles were rising. Those moments in the first cylinder monologue about Gareth being a monster after he’d died, no doubt gallantly in battle. How odd. And the half mad cackle of The Play soon after his brother’s death? The rest of the recordings were unremarkable except that it was … remarkable. These voices down some sort of waxen time tunnel, uncertainly speaking to their lives.  She thought: The cops gits busy, like they allwiz do … Hah!

Landis couldn’t help herself. She put another cylinder on and lowered the stylus. Stanley again:

September 21 1914 They haven’t found Eadie, and they probably won’t. Brother Gareth’s in the lock-up at Goulburn police station. Deserves it too, I reckon. But I visited him all the same. He looked crack hardy. Wouldn’t talk much except to say: “you know I didn’t do anything. Don’t you?” He was sitting there in his stone cell, miserable as a dog that had got a good kicking. Its devilish cold at the moment and the cell was a long way from the fireplace in the sergeant’s office. I slipped him a flask of whiskey and he nodded his thanks. “I was first to report it,” he said. “I told the police she didn’t come back from the church outing. She didn’t. Why have I been banged up? I was the one who told them she’s missing. Why am I here?”

 I said: “Because they know you walloped her, you fool.  Because you flailed her once with a bridle and she had welts on her arm which she tried to cover up with loose sleeves – a dress I had to give her from the shop – but church folk saw it anyway.” He squirmed and stopped talking, looked furious at me. “I was under the weather,” he finally mumbles. “She loves me all the same.””How many times did you slap her, eh Gareth?” I asked. “Not that many, Stan” he grunted at me, “and only in my cups.” I sat with him for a while as he’s my brother, and we shared the whiskey.  He said no more. As I left, the sergeant at the desk says: “How are your parents?” “Holding up,” I said.” They miss Eadie more than they miss Gareth.” “Ahh” says the sergeant, “They’ll get Gareth back, even if he’s done away with her. If he’s hidden the body well, if they don’t find a body, they’ll have to let him go. But she’s probably just scarpered after one backhander too many.” I had to agree with the sergeant.  It was a gloomy evening and a cold wind. It’s been three weeks now since little Eadie vanished. The body is well hid.

Knew it! thought Landis. Listen to him and his account. A confrontation with his brother a century ago. Alone and talking to his stenograph in his house. Acting out the dialogue. Why is he confiding like this? To smear his brother? To make himself feel better? Remember, Prudence, (she said to herself) this is only his side of the story. Where is sweet little Eadie, she thought? She of the artless voice. Did they find her?

Throughout the account, Landis was there in the cold police station cell – sitting beside Gareth, and then elbow to elbow with the desk sergeant as he leant on the counter, opposite fishy Stanley, warming themselves by the sergeant’s fireplace. This was her world. She knew the score.

The front door rattled and Landis almost jumped out of her skin. Finn’s big frame filled the door, and he looked surprised that Landis was still awake.

“Have you just seen a ghost?” he asked.

“No…No,” she looked at the black cylinder resting on the phonograph. “But I heard another one.”

“Come to bed, sweetheart,” said Finn. “The ghosts’ll still be there in the morning. They’re stuck in the wax.”

Ghostbusting was never her style.

As a Homicide Squad officer, she was meticulous. As an investigator in a team, she held herself to very high standards. Through evidence and interviews she traced patterns – sane and insane – back to numerous killers. Followed their routes through life, and listened to their dissembling words to find that nub of the truth, because Pru Landis knew that lies were based on truths unsaid. When the hint was found in the middle of all the bullshit, that reality could be traced and teased and built out of the obfuscation.

She believed in the rational.

And yet, the wispy voices and strange undercurrents were diverting her mind into a place of unease. A place where she worried for a long dead woman.

She needed some primary documents. Some proof. Oh yes, she did.

*

Down at the pub over a whiskey, Landis made her case to access historic files. She and her boss, DI Fyfe, would debrief every couple of weeks, out of the Police HQ, away from junior colleagues and she reckoned after a couple of whiskeys he’d be more amenable to her ghostly cause.

However DI Fyfe was a practical man. In their regular haunt, a pleasingly dim-lit Surrey Hills pub, she could clearly see his reaction. If Fyfe’s gob was ever to be smacked, it was then. His bluff face, worn with the worry over the current caseload, was confounded. Events in 1915 for police, well, the care factor was nil. Fyfe shook his head like he’d misheard her tale of old phonographs and suspected murders.

The hubbub of the pub disappeared as they engaged in a terse exchange.

“1915?? Pru … they’re all dead! The perpetrator whoever it was, this family…no-one is out there waiting for an answer. The murderer will be long dead. Case closed! Even the closure is closed!”

“The case is technically open – its murder, possibly, so there’s no statute of limitations on homicide, is there. It’s still a stat, Boss?”

Fyfe blustered. “A stat? A stat? A 1915 stat? My granddad wasn’t even born in 1915, let alone my dad. “

“Both must have started young, then” said Landis with a smirk.

“Don’t be cheeky, Pru. This is ancient history, so it’s in your own time.” Fyfe was wagging his finger like the old guy in the antique shop. “Own time. Get me?”

“Ok Boss. Let’s just treat it as a bit of homicide related genealogical research which I can do on my days off.”

“If you want to chase ghosts on your days off, don’t let me stop you, but me? I’d rather spend my spare time down the beach surfing,” said Fyfe, sounding annoyed. He preferred his staff to relax on their breaks. “Do what you have to do with archives. Tell them it’s historic research …. Which it is!”

So Landis asked police archives to find the Eadie Jones’ file. As a suspected homicide which was never finalized, the file still existed. Unclosed cases remain on the books forever, because no statute of limitations applies to murder. As far as the NSW police went, if new evidence turned up, they’d have a look.

*

Still, Fyfe’s wagging finger was a sign. Next morning, Landis ignored his “in your own time” order and rang the old guy in the Kurrajong antique shop who was a finger wagger too. Yes, he remembered her and Finn.

“I’m surprised. You didn’t come across as a police detective,” he added, which amused Landis, who’d tried so hard that weekend to be a happy civilian. Seemed to have worked.

She explained why she was ringing and asked after the provenance of the shoe box of extra cylinders. The antique dealer said yes, the box of phonographic cylinders had been there for a very long time. Much longer than the phonograph. There would be a date on the shoebox, inside, where he’d recorded the acquisition. She checked the shoebox and found biroed into the lid, like an engraving, 12/3/1999.

“One moment, I’ll check the records” she heard some tapping and then he said “being about antiques and objects, I’ve transferred everything again and again to new excel programs. It’s been a most useful record for me and if there’s ever any question about stolen goods from your lot – yes, detective, it’s all here!  Ah found it – I bought a job-lot of stuff from a Mrs Molly Pearson in Goulburn in yes…March 1999. Clothes, jewellery, a couple of clocks and some furniture. Included in the lot, was the old cylinders, but alas no graphophone or gramophone player. Yes, Molly Pearson. She lives, or lived, in Sussex Street, Goulburn.”

“Thanks,” said Landis. “You’ve been extremely helpful.”

A Mrs Molly Pearson.

She decided to wait on the archives to arrive, and get on with her “real” work.

*

Staring at her in the eye, imperturbably, was Gareth Jones. It was a black and white mug-shot, taken at Goulburn. Dated September 1914. Tousled dark hair, dark eyes, easy carriage of his muscled body. There were rings round his eyes – probably because he’d been locked up for a time – and he wore a rough coat and some sort of collarless shirt. But he’d shaved. Shaved for the photo, or just shaved because he was a man who took care of himself? Was the photo taken before or after his brother Stanley had smuggled whiskey into the cell? What was striking was the grim set of Gareth’s mouth. A man staring out at an awful destiny. Except that afterwards, he’d been released, joined the army and was killed a year later probably by a Turkish shell, or bullet. A hero, a tainted hero? A wife beater. He was handsome, almost Clooneyesque, that was for sure. Landis eyed him with both approval and disapproval.

The ancient paperwork said that charges against Mr Jones has been withdrawn at the request of his lawyer, a Mr Squires of Goulburn, after no evidence was able to be presented of the suspected murder of his wife, Eadie Jones nee Wells. Mainly, as the records showed, no body had been found. A year later the record was updated, stating that Mrs Gareth Jones still had not been located, the police suspected foul play and therefor the case remained open. The various sergeants and inspectors who had written their black copperplate notes, now brown with age, led Landis to think that her earlier colleagues in the NSW Police didn’t try very hard at all. There were no statements lodged. Any preliminary statements and evidence would have remained in personal police notebooks, long since lost. No confessions. Nothing signed, even by Gareth Jones, as he’d refused to admit guilt.

There was the half completed charge sheet though, which the authorities thought best to retain in case Eadie’s body did turn up:

Charged with murder of his wife, Mrs Gareth Jones.

On Sunday September 13, 1914, Mrs Jones had been at a group outing after church with the congregation. Mr Gareth Jones said he did not attend church and was at the farm preparing his goods cart for a run the following day. His parents were with their daughter-in-law at church but they returned home directly after the service.

Mrs Gareth Jones had left with Mrs Clarence Bulmer and Miss Homes to prepare flowers for the evening service, and then picnic on the riverbank afterward. Mrs Jones then announced she would walk home alone because it was a “lovely day”. She was not seen again.

When her parents-in-law, Mr and Mrs Jones returned from church, they stated the accused was not present in the family cottage so they concluded he was in the barn, because he emerged about an hour and a half later to make his mother a cup of tea.  He told them the dray was packed and he was ready to make deliveries in the morning. They noted the younger Mrs Jones absence and all started to worry as she should have returned from her picnic.

Later in the afternoon, a search was commenced assisted by both Jones brothers and members of the Towrang community and the area and paddocks and the forest around the church were scoured in case Mrs Jones had met with an accident. The following day on Monday 14, Mr Gareth Jones fetched Constable MacMahon from Goulburn Police station and they searched both up and down the river bank to make sure Mrs Jones hadn’t slipped in and drowned. The constable widened the search with men from the community which came to nought,  Constable McMahon then took a statement from all family members as Mrs Jones disappearance was completely out of character – she was an attentive and careful person who assisted her parents-in-law and her husband and had never disappeared before.

Information then came to light that Mr Gareth Jones had in the past brutalized his wife when drunk, whipping her with a horse bridle in March 1914. On checking, local witnesses remembered the welts on her arms from that act of assault. Mr Stanley Jones confirmed that on that occasion Mrs Eadie Jones had stayed with him in Goulburn for protection, but then she returned within days after her husband’s entreaties. 

At interview September 16 1914, Mr Gareth Jones refused to talk about those events, and became angry – not about his wife’s disappearance but what he called his “brother’s earlier attempt to “poach” Mrs Jones”. He stated that his brother was a scoundrel and not to be trusted with his wife. Mr Jones was asked directly whether he had anything to do with his wife’s disappearance. He claimed he was “stone cold sober for a Sunday Morning”, that she had left happily for church, and refused to comment further on the allegations of common assault.

Gareth Jones’ manner was deemed “suspicious” and he was questioned further at the police station. He refused to make any statement apart from the fact he’d been “stacking the dray with farm goods he’d picked up on the Friday train from Sydney, and he’d been in the barn all morning.” His evasiveness around his treatment of Mrs Gareth Jones led to his being held on suspicion of murder after the interview was completed

Landis looked up from the page, the “Mrs Gareth Jones” business doing her head in. But once she’d got the old fashioned drift, there was nothing old fashioned about the police thinking in 1914. Like now, like then, the husband would have been under suspicion from the get-go. The culprit. She looked at the photo. “Stone cold sober for a Sunday morning”. Then again, they’d have surmised that without a body, the previously brutalized Eadie may well have done a runner back to Sydney or even further afield.

Finn arrived from work and found his girlfriend hunched in front of the ancient material. He greeted her with a lingering kiss and sat down beside her so she could show him the photo of Gareth.

“Wow. He does look like a felon,” said Finn. “Bit of a spunk tho.”

“He’s been banged up overnight in a cold police cell, and knowing Gareth now, he’s probably hungover. Mugshots are never pretty.”

“Haha,” said Finn thinking about the celebrity mugshots he’d seen in the past. He poured himself a wine. “True. So you’re still pursuing this genealogical murder history project codenamed Operation Parlophone.”

“Yes. Can’t explain it. I think it’s because I can hear their voices. They are real people talking to me, and that guy Stanley sounds weird as hell with his story about the visit to the lock-up. And Gareth accusing him of “poaching” Eadie. There’s something nasty going on in this family, and we’re hearing parts of it. And I’d like to find Eadie.”

“It is amazing, I agree,” Finn said. “This is the dawn of sound recording.  And look at things nowadays – what’s it going to be like in another hundred years with all the photos and videos and recordings that are being made now? Up on some perpetual cloud? People will be BFF with their great great grandma!”

Landis laughed. “Maybe with some of them. Not sure I’d have been best friends with Stanley Jones, purveyor of women’s fashions.”

Later, in a warm soothing bath, steam smelling of roses, and with the foam forming a white bubbly contour around her extremities, Landis thought about Eadie Wells. Of the traumas the young woman may have encountered a century past. She even cupped her own belly with a hand thinking about Eadie’s sad wish-list for children, named already, and wondered if way back in 1914 Eadie had done the same in a bath, enjoying the smell of rose or lavender bath salts. Wiggling her toes in the foam.

Probably not.

Landis wondered if she would like to have kids with Finn, and decided it was a sweet idea in theory, but a bit of planning (and consent from Finn) would be required. Then washing her face, she thought: am I obsessing about Eadie because I’m police, or because I’m a woman? And then, as she slid back under the water to rinse everything, she whispered to herself: “Get a grip, Pru. You’re police.”

Professor Holland was a quizzical woman, with bookcases behind her filled with texts and tomes. The Prof was crammed with her library and papers into a small office at Macquarie University. Pru Landis smiled brightly at her, after playing the ‘historical research” card.

Prof Holland listened to Landis’ story and a couple of Stanley’s monologues from a tape player.

““Wow, interesting. When World War One broke out, there was a policy of allowing prisoners to volunteer enlist if they’d served some of their sentence, but my understanding was that Gareth’s suspected murder charges were dropped anyway?”

“Gareth was arrested but never formally charged. If he’d committed the murder, and they were just holding him in the cell while waiting for evidence to turn up, could he have negotiated them dropping his case, if he enlisted for duty? I have him signing up in October or November 1914.”

“Possibly, but surely he wouldn’t have been well thought of,  just cutting and running. Shouldn’t Gareth actually be worried about his missing wife? Wait and see if they found her? Or if she turns up?” Prof Holland said, getting into the speculative spirit. Historians were good at that sort of thing. “Maybe Gareth knew she’d run off? One too many beltings – back to Surrey Hills?”

“There’s no record of her.”

“In those days, people changed their surnames all the time,” the Prof said. “They were very good at new monickers, or misspelling their names to distance themselves from previous relationships or convictions. Happened all through the 19th and even early 20th Century. Bigamy was big in those days – she may have remarried.”

“Thing is,” said Landis, “The day in question was unexceptional. Sunday morning service at 9am. Picnic. Happy with the weather.  She went for her usual outing with friends. Did she just duck off to Sydney after disappearing out of sight?”

Professor Holland said: “Well, you need more documentary sources. Double check the weather on that day – there are general records. Trove may pull up newspaper articles in the Goulburn Penny Post.  State archives would probably have railway timetables to see if she could have jumped on a Sunday express and run away.”

Landis was writing furiously.

“And any relatives?” asked Holland. “There may be family stories too.”

“I think I’ve found a descendant,” said Landis. “I’m working this weekend, but will go and visit Tuesday,”

“These recordings are fascinating,” said Professor Holland. “Very unusual. Outstanding thinking by this Stanley Jones, using the cylinders as some sort of early audio diary.”

“We … well my partner Finn, says that as soon as Edison invented the process, business and government used cylinders as dictaphones. Records of speeches and dictation of letters. Even in the late 19th Century. Mostly in America. Eminently disposable, eminently recyclable, apparently.”

“Funny that,” said Professor Holland.

“And I think Stanley Jones liked the sound of his own voice.”

*

March 12 1912 – we are celebrating mother and father’s ruby wedding anniversary and we are all here. The whole family at the cottage, in the parlour. We’ve had a high tea – I brought very fine angel cakes from Goulburn to add to the feasting. And the Bensons are down from Sydney. Father, what have you to say about your anniversary — into the horn:

A working class voice, unaffected by rounded plummy vowels came through loud and clear. And sincerely:

“I have enjoyed a marvellous marriage to Mary. I hope for a few more years. She’s been a great help with the boys, and on the farm”

“And mother what have you got to say?”

“It’s been a wonderful life with Stanley here, your father. He’s been a wonderful husband to me.”

Mother sounded nervous but happy.

“And Sal, what have you to say for yourself?”

 “Mother and Father I wish you all the best. All the best. This is the nicest day.”

Sal? A Sister? That was not in the script.

“And what about you, Gareth?”

Landis and Finn both leant forward excitedly, waiting for Gareth’s voice.

“Come on little brother. The horn isn’t going to bite you! Eadie. Get him to speak.”

A distant sound, like the voice of a wraith.

Wraith:  “No Stanley. It’s your toy, not mine. You do the all the talking, mate.”

Stanley: “Have it your own way Gareth.”

Wraith: “Too bloody right I will!”

 All a little tipsy, a little excited. Laughter floated through the Parlophone horn like butterflies trapped and fluttering against a curtain. A happy family day.

*

In a new relationship, partners discover different glinting facets about their beloved. Landis generally examined the facets of Finn coolly and dispassionately: he was a bit penny pinching (she could live with that) and a coffee snob (which she found ridiculous, after living off police station coffee half her life – but a harmless affectation) and physically unfit (fixable). Finn dealt with new revelations about Landis differently – he’d either laugh, or bunch his brows in consternation and then shrug. Facets such as Landis’ inattention to work life balance (he was guilty as well) and her constant policey-ness when they were out and about (fine, as long as she was happy and intimate in the confines of home). But Landis’ phonograph cylinder obsession was starting to rankle Finn. He asked one night as they lay in bed: “aren’t you becoming over-obsessoid about these dead people?”

“Ha…that’s what Fyfe says as well,” said Landis. “Maybe I am. I do obsess.”

“But …” said Finn trying to formulate his thoughts: “ … the whole of the past is dead. History is the dead zone – those people have all died from both natural and unnatural causes. But they are all comprehensively dead!”

“That’s true. You can’t interview people in the past – and you can only take the word of the dead, if you dare. And I don’t trust Stanley, while I think Eadie is straight up and down. All we have is their accounts and their voices. In the end they are witnesses and witnesses can be unreliable too. Trusting artefacts – such as DNA from an old hair sample – is much more reliable than the word of a suspect.”

Finn said: “This is very ancient. You don’t have to solve it all tho’ – right here and now.”

“No I don’t. You’re right. I’ll have a break from ‘Operation Parlophone’,” said Pru Landis, who then took an hour and a half to get to sleep, again weighing up the veracity of Stanley’s account and the sharp, even hostile tone of Gareth’s distant voice.

*

Finn’s comment “the whole of the past is dead” echoed loud, when Landis went descendant hunting in Goulburn.

“Oh, that lot – the Towrang Jones’s – they’re all long gone by now,” said Molly Pearson, a woman in her mid-sixties, and dressed in a gray tracksuit top and pink slacks which were badly pilled.  She sat on a huge sofa set covered in dog hair, next to the source of the hair – a large red setter and two corgies, curled up. Molly’s face was well lived in – the eyes of a heavy smoker, sharply wrinkled, hair cut in a short grey bob. She had a wry, engaging smile, though.

DS Landis had explained on the phone that she was chasing up a cold case about a young woman who went missing. Molly Pearson hadn’t even questioned the fact it happened before World War One. She was happy to chat – one of those lonely people who relished a random visitor.

“So Stanley Jones was your granddad?’

“Stanley Junior. Yes. He married my Granma Charlotte in 1918 just after the war. She’d taught for a couple of years at the Goulburn school, but then the men came home from war and took back their jobs. There was nothing for her but to marry and do domestic duties. So my mum was born in 1922 and I was born in 1944. I was a teacher too, at the primary school. I always thought it was pretty rough that Granma was basically forced to ditch her job and find a husband to survive, after the men came home.”

She sounded a bit despondent.

“Did you know your Grandfather personally?”

“Grandpa Stanley. Oh yes. He lived a long time – into his late eighties. Always looked after himself. He was never real friendly, always grumpy. I didn’t like him much. He and Granma never loved each other according to Mum. Said Grandpa lost the ‘love of his life” during the first war and never got over it. Granma was his ‘consolation prize’.”

“That’s a bit rugged,” suggested Landis, sipping a delicious instant coffee that Molly had “whipped up”.

“You’re right. Mum herself said she “got out” … you know – left home – as soon as she could because Grandpa Stanley was awful to Granma. Mum married early at 18 – to escape Grandpa and Granma –  and over the next few years me and my brother arrived.  I broke the mould. When I met Bruce, and we fell in love, we had a very long engagement and we were very happy until he died. I worked as a teacher all through our marriage, even with two kids, which was the main thing.”

“What about your Grandpa’s sister?”

“Who? Great Aunt Sally?”

“Yes her. In those old recordings I told you about, your Grandpa Stanley on these recordings talks about his brother and Mum and Dad a lot, but you hear about Sally only once. What happened to her?”

“Ohh that’s an old family wound. After Great Grandpa Stanley Senior and Mary died in 1919 from influenza…that terrible epidemic, Sal killed herself. Drowned in a watertank in 1920. Mum wasn’t even born then, but it hurt the whole family. Never get over a suicide, do you?”

“Drowned in the watertank?”

“Tank was for irrigating the orchard apparently.  Mum said Aunt Sal was very depressed and one night just filled her pockets with stones, and willed herself into the water. She climbed on the lid, slipped in and closed the hatch. Didn’t find her for a few days until the water blocked up. Luckily the water was for the gardens, not the drinking tank. Could you imagine if it had been the drinking water? Yuk! … Anyway, they were all shattered.”

“So she pulled the lid over on top of her after she’d slid into the tank in the middle of the night?”

“That’s the story,” said Molly.

There was a pause as Landis computed this information.

“That sounds very odd,” she said.

“That’s what Mum said.”

“And Eadie?” asked Landis.

“I can’t remember anyone ever mentioning an Eadie. Who was Eadie anyway?” Molly said as she shuffled one of the dogs along as it was lying on her leg. She looked perplexed at the Eadie revelation.

“She was married for a couple of years to your Grandfather’s brother, Gareth – the one who was killed at Gallipoli. Before that, Eadie disappeared. On the old recordings, Stanley talks a fair bit about her, and she speaks on one. Theory was that Gareth was violent towards her and may have murdered her. Our old police records point that way.”

“Oh, goodness. Goodness me,” sighed Molly. “I knew Great Uncle Gareth married just before he died, but never heard that story from any of the Jones’s. Not even Mum. Killed his wife? How awful.” Molly paused as the information sank in, her eyes misting up. Then, like the practical woman she was, she snapped out of the past and remembered something: “Hang on!”

Molly jumped up from the hairy couch and with a train of corgies in tow, went into a back room and returned with a leather bound photo album.

“Here we go,” she said.

Landis stood and gingerly sat on the hairy couch next to a corgi which had rolled over obligingly to make room.

And there, in small, faded-to-sepia photos, was the Jones family. The old Towrang church, the handsome Gareth looking smart, and little Eadie in a white dress and bouquet with a long veil, by then lifted behind her head and held up by a tiara of flowers. She looked to be mousey blonde, a tiny woman. Father and mother were there, Sal – a bridesmaid in a white frock with long sleeves. And Stanley Jr in a three piece work suit. A little bit portly, but still young, wearing a trilby style hat, looking sideways at Eadie while everyone else was watching the birdie. The subjects had awkward fixed smiles except for Stanley who looked dour.

She bent towards Edie’s face and wondered at how young she looked, with a child’s oval face. A pretty girl with wide eyes and a little smile.  Stanley did look dour, hair receding a little, but he held himself up straight, chest slightly puffed forward. A proud man, watching “the love of his life” – if that’s what Molly’s mum meant – marry another. He didn’t look malicious, but he didn’t look happy either.

Gareth’s face was held in a stiff grin. A very clear image of a happy man. Sal had moved slightly, and her face was blurred.

“Always wondered who the bride was. Mum never said. That’s Grandpa,” said Molly, pointing to Stanley. “I recognize him.”

“Yes,” said Landis, “And the bride was Eadie Jones, nee Wells.”

“That’s funny,” said Molly. “She looks a bit like Granma.”

Nothing had been written on the back of the photo, or any of the others that they unpicked carefully from the cardboard backing paper. The few smaller photos around the time of the wedding picture revealed the Joneses were far more prosperous than Landis had thought, with orchards, and a nice farmhouse on the side of a hill – a lot more substantial than a “cottage”.  Nice clothes for special occasions. They could afford a wedding photographer as well. Well-heeled orchardists – or maybe Gareth’s side business was bringing extra money in. While Sal was bridesmaid, obviously Stanley had performed the role of best man.

Landis took photos of the wedding party for Finn with her  phone.

*

Landis asked Molly Pearson where her kids were. She said they’d left home long ago “as kids do”, and made new lives in Sydney and Melbourne. She had three grown up grandkids who she saw most Christmases. Bruce died of cancer a couple of years ago, and anyway, the dogs were enough company – but Molly didn’t sound convinced.

Landis asked her if there were any more shoeboxes with recordings or old papers that related to legal issues around the old farm (she really didn’t want to intrude on the broader family archives). Molly said the shoebox  she sold with old clothes and pictures, had been a one-off, and all the papers were long-gone.

*

Landis left, promising to send Molly a set of the recordings on a CD so she could listen to her ancestors, while the immediacy of the recordings was all the more extraordinary when viewed in conjunction with the faded photos and indistinct faces. Yellow and faded. While in reality the past had been as colourful and robust as the present – not a slow fade.

Fyfe was right, she thought as the passing road hypnotized her into deep reflection. Why was she doing this? Closure, families, there was no victim satisfaction here. Reflexive action as a Police Officer? Nawww. That was weird too. Stats? Naw. A stab at finding a truth, a puzzle, a test of her powers of deduction? Not even that.

The voices were alive, even if their people were dead. That’s what it was. She could hear them.

Too bloody right, I will!

Part way along the busy Hume, Landis saw the turn-off to Towrang about ten kilometers to the east. A country road, she drove the car across a small white bridge over the Wollondilly River and entered a valley. Soon there was a huge railway embankment on her right, the main Sydney southern rail-line which headed towards Wagga Wagga and Albury.

Poking above the other side of the embankment were the tops of remnant orchard trees, flowering. But it was mostly paddock now, empty of stock.

Towrang itself was a scattered, empty village. No visible shop, humble houses with big metal sheds. All tucked behind a hill and next to the railway with its abandoned station. She turned the car up the hill and drove to the church. It was a tiny blueish structure, probably able to fit 20 people max.  Stopping the car she walked into the church precinct. Cicadas whistled from the trees like bad tinnitus, and a strong scent of afternoon-hot eucalypt mixed with horse dung as a couple of ponies shared the precinct with the church. A gang-gang cockatoo creaked in the forest further up the hill – wispily, like the voices in the brass trumpet. A distant scratching. Maybe, after all, the Jones brothers and Eadie weren’t so close to her in time.

There was a wall with small plaques on it, Heritage Burials: St John’s Towrang. Among the listed names were Mother and Father:

Stanley Aloysius Jones March 1919

Mary Summer Jones March 1919

Stanley and Gareth (and Sal’s) Mum and Dad, dual victims of the Spanish influenza that killed so many after the First War.

With her iPhone, Landis took a photo of the plaque to show Finn and then kept driving up the country road, up Maleney lane to where a large gate announced a horse stud. She climbed the gate but could only see a very large house on the shoulder of a hill that was much more modern than in the photos. Perhaps the Jones place had been demolished.

Following the road back along the river, she saw an old railway bridge and an earlier brick ruin next to it, where the 19th century bridge to Goulburn enabled trains to haul workers, produce, and goods into the NSW interior. Towrang was a backwater now, but had been a quick train-ride to Goulburn 100 years ago, the valley filled with hundreds of agrarian workers and farm families.  Mechanisation and agribusiness had taken care of them all, and the valley emptied out over the decades.

*

The old lady was in the corner of a bright room, overbright, with sun glare from the window giving everything the look of an overexposed photo. The room smelt of flowers and ammonia.  The old lady was in a pink cotton gown and a rug on her knees. She was tiny, with a nose like a hen-beak, and small black round eyes which looked like, well, hen-eyes. Landis moved towards her with quiet respect and sat on a stool. A nurse, scowling, with a peaked white nurse’s cap was standing beside the old lady like some sort of sentry.

“Eadie! You were alive all along. You escaped! I knew it!” Landis said. The old lady looked up, and appeared ready to peck her.

“I’ve finally found you,” said Landis lamely.

“No you haven’t,” said the old lady in the tinny recorded voice Landis had heard so often. “No you haven’t. And Sergeant – you work much too hard.”

Landis woke with a start, the morning sunlight belting into her face.

*Things got busier at work. Despite the obsession, the box and phonograph sat on the shelf beside the dining table like a dumb brass sculpture while Landis was part of a Task Force on the murder of a fellow cop, and Finn had to go to Melbourne for a few weeks to locum as a chef for a sister restaurant. Landis felt lonely and caught cheap Tiger Air flights to Melbourne to visit him on her days off. For a while, the Jones family saga was abandoned.

*

July 20 1911: My shop, Jones Ladies Fashions is in Belmore Park, Montague Street close to Goulburn Telegraph and Post Office. I employ seven people including Lawrence, my carter and deliveryman, and three bright young shop assistants – Elvira, Joyce and young Eadie Wells – I find the lady customers show much more inclination to discuss matters of clothing with other females.  Elvira and Joyce are local girls, while Miss Eadie came to us from the Benson’s in Sydney, cousins of ours, where she lived as a foster daughter for several years. I was happy to give her a job on their reference, and she rents a room in Miss Elvira’s Father’s house. She is sixteen and very sweet and personable. She is a delicate mannequin amongst the more robust farm girls in the shop. As well, I have two seamstresses to adjust garments for our customers.  They are not tailors, mind. I generally buy ready-made clothes in the latest fashions from Sydney, Melbourne, London and even from America, but the ladies have the skills to lift the hems, or loosen tight sleeves. They can also advise the ladies of the town on how to mend garments. Young Albert also helps with heavy work around the shop doing jobs such as lifting bolts of cloth, and repositioning the mannequins. I buy stock and do the book-keeping, and must admit have made a pretty penny over the last few years. I was fortunate to have worked for Mr Ackerman’s Pitt Street Ladies Fashion store and I do still buy direct from him at a wholesale rate. As a most successful and influential businessman, I am content with my lot.

*

George Forsham was the sound lab guy at Parramatta. He was used to cleaning up wonky phone taps and taped conversations and often provided expert evidence in court. A former radio producer he’d been seduced into the world of microsound and background noise by a copper he’d once interviewed for the ABC.

“You should come and work for us!” said the copper, and he did – thirty years back. George started in the era of reel to reel magnetic tape, then cassettes, cds and MP3 and soundwave files, and had conquered the technicalities of them all. But presented with a 100 year old Parlophone cylinder recital of the Song of the Sentimental Bloke he could only shake his head and say: “This is very unusual, Pru.”

Landis was very formal, official: “As far as I can see, the practice would be the same. There is background noise. This guy may have committed a cold-case murder. We have a wax cylinder which he may well have recorded over…can you try and bring up the background noise and see if it’s a previous recording?”

“When did you say this murder was committed?’

“Suspected murder — in 1914.”

“That’s way beyond our remit. I’m pretty busy….”

“Just for me George.”

“Is DI Fyfe ok with it? He’s your boss isn’t he?”

“Police history research. Just an hour of your time.”

So George Forsham recorded the poem digitally with a microphone mounted at the front of the parlophone horn. Then he spread the sound more widely across a sonic bandwidth and started muting the rather maniacal voice of Stanley Jones enacting the poem, to try and bring up the background “chortling”.

Finn had observed, when listening again to the poem, with its larrikin energy and infused violence, that the chortling (and hissing) may have been an older, pre-1915 recording because such cylinders were able to be recorded over, with the right equipment. Apart from the Wedding anniversary party where Stanley actually encouraged family members to speak, there was no background noise on any other recording. All had been recorded in a quiet room somewhere. They had discussed the sound quality of all recordings one night over a bottle of Coonawarra red, and Pru had agreed about that discrepancy. That got her thinking about the Forensic laboratory and George Forsham.

Forsham rang Landis a week later and she high-tailed it to the forensic laboratory in her lunch hour.

“There’s a problem because the background voice is probably the same as the principal voice. It covers the same tonal range, so not much differentiation, except that the subsidiary one is more muted. The poem’s as if he’s almost shouting over himself. You can hear fractions of speech…I’ve pulled them up and edited them separately. There’s not much to be found in between the cracks and the gaps. This is all I could pull up out of the two minutes, only about 30 seconds worth, but it does sound like a narrative, a confessional.”

The words were like bubbles in a shallow creek, occasionally coming to the fore. In the two minute timespan of the cylinder, Landis heard the following:

“ …. doing …’mong … working for me …intermin … slavish … ’stard of a brother … of  ’arts  …  awhile, not forever … shouldn’ … have stayed with me … seeking … into … hideous … under …  intern …  not a …  ‘ver forgive ’m ….”

“Wow. How far from the end was the very last phrase?

“It was the last “chortle” as you call it, at the end of the poem. It’s audible in the pause between “I cannot live alone” … “and wif a moan.

“Wow,” said Landis again.

“Does any of it make sense?”

“I’ll have to have a close listen, but yes. Seems to. That’s Stanley’s voice. And I get some sort of picture.”

“This exercise took me a lot longer than an hour Pru, but I’ve never worked with an Edison recording device before, so its new, and they have their own special sonic ambience. I might write a paper on it for the Police Technical Forensics Conference next May. If you get a result!”

“When I’m done, it’s all yours. Feel free!”

What struck Landis was the weirdness of it all. If Stanley had confessed on a wax cylinder (and it certainly wasn’t clear) and then wanted to get rid of it, why hadn’t he burnt the cylinder rather than shouted over it? Maybe he wanted the confession to remain there, hidden. Knowing he’d done so. Maybe it was some sort of salve to his conscience. She knew, through experience, that people were crazy and did the strangest things.

That would only work if it were a confession, rather than an accusation. He was always castigating Gareth – there was no doubt in Landis mind that “never forgive” was directed at the late Gareth Jones, his “bastard of a brother”.

Tho’ she couldn’t be sure of the offender’s identity, Landis was convinced one of the Jones brothers had murdered Eadie.

*

At the Australian War Memorial, a young archivist brought out the final pieces of evidence that Landis and Finn could trace, related to the Jones Family.

“Here we have Corporal Gareth Jones’ wartime archive,” said the reverential archivist, a woman named Polly Mitchell. “A non-commissioned officer at the Battle of Lone Pine, Corporal Jones and his fellow soldiers charged and held well defended Turkish positions at the top of the hill, in a vicious gun and grenade battle that lasted four days in mazelike trenches. It was close and ferocious combat. They lobbed live grenades, which had landed at their feet, back at the enemy, the trenches were so close. Can you imagine anything more hideous?”

Landis and Finn read the accounts with Polly Mitchell looking over their shoulders. On the second day of the bloodbath, Gareth’s handsome face was shattered by a Turkish bullet and he fell. He was retrieved by his mates, brought to the beachhead and his body was buried at sea. As he was mentioned in dispatches, a great deal of detail about his death was included in the file. He’d taken charge of a trench section when the officers had all been mown down, until he too was dead.

“Shit,” said Finn. “Unbelievable.”

“Seven Victorian Crosses alone were awarded to Australians at Lone Pine,” Polly Mitchell said.

“I wonder if there’s a statistical link between numbers of Victoria Crosses awarded and strategic stupidity by Generals?” Finn commented. Polly Mitchell gave him a dirty look.

“They were awarded for bravery and sacrifice,” she said tartly.

“Shhh,” said Landis, reading on.

There was a deal of correspondence between a Dave Benson and the Ministry of Army and the War Memorial.

Polly Mitchell said that according to the file, the dead man’s effects had been held by a cousin – one of the Sydney Bensons who had also served in the Dardanelles.  The Benson cousins had been all over Gareth’s heroics. No correspondence had come from his own family.

Perhaps after Gareth’s death, Dave Benson was given his dead cousin’s personal effects, and tasked by the Army, to return them to the family. Instead, a letter appended to the file, written by Dave Benson, said he was unable to return the package to the parents of the dead soldier as they had subsequently died, and pleaded that the Memorial keep the last letters of his cousin as a testament to his bravery and fortitude. No mention of leaving anything to Gareth’s next of kin, either Stanley, or Sal.

Years later, the documents had been properly archived and the paper repaired and de-acidified.

In Gareth’s file there were only a couple of items – letters to his mother and father pledging his undying love, with a PS to sister Sally saying she was always in his thoughts. Landis was impressed with his neat penmanship and turn of phrase, but of course he’d attended high school, like his big brother Stanley – of whom there was no mention.

There were a couple of crude sketches of trenches and blokes slumped, smoking cigarettes. And a further envelope with a heart drawn on it – To be sent to Eadie only on the event of my being killed

Polly Mitchell said many soldiers at the front wrote letters to be sent to family on the event of their death in battle. In fact, there was an entire oeuvre of “in the event of my death” letters, and the archive was full of them. She added in a hushed tone: “it’s so heartbreaking.”

Gareth’s letter had a series of hearts drawn across the top also.

♥           ♥           ♥           ♥           ♥

August 5 

1915

My darling Eadie,

I will never know if the letter finds you but I truly hope so. I pray that wherever you’ve escaped, you will hear of my fate and you will find some peace in life, as I will have found in death.

The battlefield here is ferocious and bloody. Strong, brave boys are sacrificed on the cliffs, like the ancient heroes of this land – sacred Troy is just across the waters. I cannot describe for you the scene any further as it would upset you too much, but soon I will die. I cannot remove this morbid thought from my mind as I see my mates fall beside me, one by one. The terrible chaos at this beach is like the turmoil that I have always carried in my mind, since you disappeared.

You know already, my darling Eadie, I have confessed to you everything and can only say again: I’m sorry I hurt you at those times.

I have never forgiven myself. Angry with my failures, I struck out. You ran once to my brother’s house – but like a heroine, like a true wife, you came back to face the furnace of my frustrations. Trapped on the farm when I wanted to give you the world, but I failed that dream. You always deserved far better than me.

Wherever you are, I wish you well and bear no grudge.

All fault lies with me.

I will love you always,

Gareth

*

Finn finally looked up.

“So it wasn’t him?”

“No, it wasn’t Gareth. He’s poured his heart out here. He’s convinced she ran away to a new life.”

“So what makes you think Stanley killed her?”

Landis looked down at the letter, her lips pursed in thought.

“When Stanley is recounting his visit to Gareth in the Goulburn watch-house, even tho’ he’s completely obsessed with Eadie, he doesn’t challenge Gareth on whether he killed her, or where his brother may have hidden her body. In fact, in his account, he doesn’t challenge him at all, apart from raising the previous domestic assault when Eadie, went to Stanley for help.  And …” Landis pulled her voluminous notepad towards her and opened at a page: “Stanley says the body is well hid.  Present tense. There is no doubt.”

“But Stanley knows all about Gareth’s violent streak,” said Finn. “He obviously just suspects him of taking the violence one step further and doing a good job of burying Eadie. Gareth is a basher!”

“I’ll play the recording again when we get home – it’s the way Stanley says it as a final statement. The tone of his voice. It is so matter of fact – the body is well hid. As if the police will never find her, and therefor brother Gareth will be released. The fact he allows Gareth to protest his innocence as he recounts the conversation. Don’t forget, Stanley is writhing with resentment that Eadie chose the brutish Gareth, over him. On that particular cylinder, where Stanley relates his watch-house visit, he is out to highlight Gareth’s violent streak. I’m sure our Stan is the source of the information that pointed the police to Gareth, mentioned in the charge sheet.

“In those days, like today, domestic violence was usually covered up by family members. Up until 20 years ago – ten years ago – men were regularly given the benefit of the doubt. Even more so before the 1970s, before women’s shelters – because marriage was a sacred bond, women had no-where to run and they were just expected to cop a belting.”

“So hers was a bad choice in men?”

Pru gave Finn a dirty look. Then went on:

“Maybe Eadie had Stanley sussed. Maybe he was the far worse choice. She knew him well – she worked for him for two or three years before the marriage – he may have been a suffocating manipulative presence to her, but Stanley was one of the few people she knew she could run to when Gareth was on a bender, and would beat her. None of them can be interviewed. The whole record is fragmentary,” said Landis.

She asked Polly Mitchell for a photocopy of the documents and then the archivist walked out with them through the public galleries, the artefacts of slaughter, courage and redemption, and out of the hallowed building into the Canberra sunshine.

The glowering green dome, like a gun turret, and the walls of remembrance with their dense, spatter-pattern of poppies reflected the violent loss of the post-war generation and the mournful mood of those times. The mood followed Finn and Landis who walked quietly to the carpark, lost in thought.

Landis finally said: “I never liked Stanley. The death of his sister in the tank sounds far too convenient as well. Their parents die, then shortly afterwards she drowns and I assume Stanley gets the farm.”

Finn was shaking his head. “But he’s dead. You are portraying a monster here with very little direct evidence.”

“We have his living voice.”

“So where is Eadie?” asked Finn.

“Who knows. Dumped in the river? Or perhaps ritually buried under the Tree of Hearts which will be long gone, or even: she could be buried up in the hills behind Towrang. Stanley looked like a big strong man, and he could have intercepted her from one of those railway embankment culverts, as she walk back from church and slung her body on a pony and taken her into the forest. I wish we knew … It happened 100 years ago. If the recording under the Sentimental Bloke is in fact a confession you can just hear him say “of art” which could be part of the phrase tree of hearts, and “intern” which could be “in eternity” so he knows she’s dead and not just missing. The Tree of Hearts is where Gareth proposed to Eadie, so Stanley could have buried her there.”

“That’s amazing,” said Finn shaking his head. “How can you draw all that together?”

“It’s what I do,” said Landis, shrugging. “But as you say – it’s only a theory.”

Finn drove the car back from Canberra with a fixed look , his big brow furrowed in thought. He was usually a talkative man. He worked in a busy, collegial industry which thrived on talking. Usually he was cracking jokes with Landis, planning meals and outings – but the day’s discoveries had rendered him silent. His first visit to the Australian War Memorial brought home the brutality of World War One, and the fact he’d once heard Gareth’s faint voice gave him a direct conduit to the Battle of Lone Pine.

“Are you okay?” asked Landis after a while.

“Stanley, Gareth, Eadie. It’s all weirdness. Why are we so interested? I’m sucked into this whole obsession of yours now. Why me? Why’s my head spinning with all of this?”

Landis looked out at the poplars along the roadway and sheep dotting the paddocks and said: “These voices that are talking to us. Particularly Eadie Wells-Jones – when Stanley makes her talk into the trumpet, you well know her description of her marriage to Gareth must be shredding Stanley to pieces. Yet she’s completely oblivious to his obsession with her. You can hear this sweet little childlike voice and there is not a drip of malice in the way she describes her life, yearning for children with Gareth.”

“And shortly thereafter….”

“She disappears, never to resurface.”

“Can we go to Towrang?” asked Finn. “Just for a quick looksee? I feel I know the place.”

“Sure,” said Landis excited by Finn’s suggestion. It was only 5 or 6 k off the highway and worth another look.

*

Finn, like Landis, automatically parked next to the tiny church. A woman was sitting on a cement porch a couple of doors down. Landis remembered her from last time. Probably her normal cigarette smoking pozzie. Landis wandered over and said hello. The woman said: “You were here about a month ago, weren’t you?” She took a drag of the rolled cigarette.

“Yes I’m doing a bit of family history in the town. I checked out the church last time.” Landis could see Finn circumnavigating the church. It didn’t take him long.

“Sure you’re not a cop?” asked the woman.

“Not at the moment,” said Landis inscrutably. “Do you know anything about a “Tree of Hearts?” around the town? Might not exist anymore. A relative once proposed under it.”

“Yair. Sure do. It’s an old box gum – just down through the park there, over the railway track and along to the left near the river. Supposed to be a most romantic spot if you like scrub and swamp and empty tinnies,” The old lady laughed.

“Thanks,” said Landis, quite excited it had been that easy. She and Finn strolled through a village park (which looked neglected) and through the railway easement and down to the river. There was a massive old white eucalypt – not quite on the riverbank but pretty close.

“Shit,” said Finn. “The actual Tree of Hearts.”

Along with numerous carved hearts were carved vulgarities, genitalia, and a number of fruity character references about local youth. Some of the profanities had been erased but there was always someone to etch a fresh, signed, squirting cock and balls, or a badly judged vaginal outline. Some of the hearts were high up, some looked very old and almost weathered away. There was no sign of Gareth and Eadie’s heart, but Stanley may well have taken care of that one with a chisel. Or time. Landis had a look around the grassed area, which was mown and down to the riverbank.

Finn said: “not much opportunity to bury anyone here.”

“No,” said Landis disappointed. She was hoping for a grove of trees, but 100 years ago, there may have been. They took some photos and walked back to the car.

“What was the name of your family?” shouted the old woman.

“Jones,” said Landis. “They apparently had a farm further up the road.”

“Yair. We’ve been in Towrang forever. My Grandma knew them. Not a happy bunch. Supposed to have sold up when the parents died.”  The lady leaned back on her chair. Landis saw that the woman was pretty old. In her seventies perhaps. Landis wondered why she hadn’t thought to canvas the town and then remembered it was because there was no official investigation, the crime happened 100 years back, and anyway, she’d been happily floating along on the voices rather than the facts.

“Where exactly was the farm?” asked Landis.

“Up Maleney Lane, right towards the end. They were cursed you know, the Joneses. The parents died just after the great war. The son was shot at Gallipoli. Did you know that?”

“Gareth. Yes. I’ve found stuff about him at the War Memorial,” said Landis.

“What? The memorial in Canberra?” said the old woman surprised.

“Yes.”

“And then the sister killed herself. They found her skeleton in their old farm watertank in the sixties when the cottage and houses were bulldozed. Amazing that it hadn’t clogged up the works.”

“But, wasn’t that the early twenties when sister Sally killed herself?” asked Landis. “Just after her parents died? They found her body.”

“Oh…no. This was in the sixties. I remember it. I was working in Griffith at the time, fruit picking, but my Mum filled me in with the goss.”

“Her actual skeleton?”

“Yeah. Girl’s skeleton according to the doctor.”

Landis let the news of a second body in the water-tank sink in.

“What happened to the farm after the Jones’s left?”

“Family sold it to the farmer next door – the Prouds. Made bigger. And then the Prouds, they retired and sold out in the eighties to those Sydney people and their horse stud. Hey, are you sure you’re not a copper?” The lady said. “You ask a lot of questions.” Finn laughed. Landis thanked the woman for her story and almost pushed Finn back to the car.

“I think we’ve just found Eadie,” she said.

*

And there she was in Goulburn police records, archived years back in 1965, in a discovery much worse than Landis ever expected. The report was quite separate to the flimsy investigation into Eadie’s original disappearance and the arrest of Gareth Jones, which had remained forgotten.

Instead, the police back in 1965 opened a new inquiry when they discovered the remains of not one, but two females at the abandoned water tank. Landis read the typed report in horror. The coroner ordered a full investigation.

The records revealed that during property improvements, a female skeleton was found when a cement water tank was demolished in Maleney lane. Five foot, 1 inch, assessed by the pathologist as around 18-20 years of age. Teeth good. Two of the top vertebrae – C4 and C5 were cracked indicating possible strangulation, and according to the pathologist, it would have been a forceful effort.

The bulldozer had thrown the bones about, but the police collected them and the pathologist had ordered them, and all were present and correct.  But to their surprise, there were some further bones. Extra bones, from an older female. An ulna and bits of radius, the ilium from a pelvis and some pubis bones (which identified the gender of the remains) finger bones, bits of spine.  Nothing to help assess cause of death. The remains were found deep in the rubble, either embedded in, or buried under, the cement slab of the tank. Yet another woman, around 20 years of age.

After a time, both sets of remains, one complete – which matched Eadie’s age and stature – and one partial – and unknown, were buried in the paupers area of the Goulburn cemetery. The Police tried to get in touch with the former owners of the tank, the Jones’s, as they were very old skeletons.

They called in on a Mr Stanley Jones, who was 88 and living in a nursing home. He was unable to shed any light whatsoever  [noted verbatim in the incident report] but added that his brother and father had built the structure in 1898 and that his brother, who had died in World War One had a history of violence with women, including against his own wife, Eadie, who had upped stumps and left.

The elderly Stanley Jones said his family believed that Eadie Jones had moved to another state and may have contacted Mr Gareth Jones after her flight. After all, Mr Gareth Jones was mentioned in dispatches at Gallipoli.

Any other Jones who may have been able to add light to the investigation had died. Nobody put two and two together regarding the alleged suicide of Stanley’s sister, Sally, in 1920. Fifty years after that, the coroner’s report would not have related to the Eadie investigation, as it would have been well archived by 1965.

Landis went through Stanley’s (brief) 1965 account carefully. Nowhere did he mention his sister’s death. Again he’d thrown out a red herring – that Eadie had survived. The old bastard.

No-one in 1965 made the deductive leap to a serial killer.  Landis imagined the elderly Stanley Jones getting awfully sweaty though, when the police came round to ask him questions, and still, he used Gareth as a scapegoat.

Hopefully the announcement of the discoveries had brought Stanley horrible nightmares in his last years. A killer of not two, but three women. Same location to dispose of the bodies. Same MO.

At least Pru and Finn now knew where Eadie Wells was laid to rest.

*

The morning before they drove to Goulburn, Pru woke to one of those pleasing half dreams where she and a constable in a 1920s police uniform marched into the 1965 nursing home, and were led by the Matron (starched uniform, slightly beaky nose, black hen eyes) down a labyrinth of linoleum corridor that smelt of lilies.

They passed dozens of half open doors but the place was silent except for the clicking of shoes and boots.  With a rustle of the starch, and a jerk of her chicken head, the Matron ushered them into Stanley’s room where he sat in one of those over stuffed nursing home armchairs, lit by a patch of sunlight, a red blanket on his knee. Stanley, in the dream, was dressed in his second best suit, with a glass of scotch on the arm of the chair, reading a Kindle, of all things. His withered face remained hard and blank as Pru arrested him for the murder of Eadie Wells and Sally Jones. The Matron stood behind Stanley nodding in approval.

Stanley grunted as she spoke, only his eyes showing a flicker of anger. “You can’t arrest the dead,” he said in the plummy voice she knew so well. “I knows my rights!”

That was all she was going to get from him in his dream arrest.

The cops gits busy, like they allwiz do,” clucked the Matron.

Pru smiled with her still eyes closed, reached out with an arm, found Finn’s warm body and fell asleep again.

*

While Pru helped Molly Pearson out of the car in the cemetery carpark, Finn forged ahead and found the ‘paupers’ section of the graveyard beyond the ranks of marble and stone tombstones.

Beyond the necropolis built over centuries by families who cared about their dead and could afford a monument, there was a rough area of dry tufted grass and a few rusty iron crosses where the forgotten lay. The exact spot where Eadie Wells was buried was a mystery.

As Goulburn was established early after white settlement, this was an extensive cemetery.

“Between the founding of Goulburn and now they must have buried hundreds of pauper bodies,” said Landis in a quiet voice looking at the desolate corner. Finn nodded.

She doubted the authorities would approve the exhumation of the whole tract of graveyard. In fact she knew it wouldn’t happen and drifted a little ironic smile over her lips at the expense of her foolish notion.

Finn had led Landis and Molly Pearson to a clear swathe of grass near the back fence, and laid a bouquet of flowers on the ground. Molly Pearson did as well.

Then Landis held a digital recorder in her palm and re-played Eadie Wells words she’d spoken into Stanley’s graphophone in 1912:

We got married last May after he proposed to me under the tree of ’earts down by Wollondilly river. Gareth’s very ’ardworking…

Landis almost shed a tear when the last bit came, while Finn wiped a copious stream from his eyes.

 … one day soon, we’ll have children and I’ll take care of them. I’m hoping for a baby boy first, then a little girl. Then another boy. We shall call them James, Beryl and Edward. That would be lovely. Is that it? I don’t know what more to say?

“All very sad,” added Molly Pearson.

*

Of course Landis reported back to DI Fyfe. She painstakingly went through the evidence, and showed him the copied records from the war memorial.

“I have strong evidence that Stanley killed three women. There could have been more. Shouldn’t we at least go to the paddock around that water tank and check it out for remains?”

Fyfe sat at his desk looking bemused.

“Pru, where’s your judgement?” he said. “We are talking the turn of the LAST century.”

“But Boss…”

“I suggest we go to Police Media and see if they reckon this makes a good colour story for the weekend papers. Got it all: serial killer, Gallipoli hero, missing girl, dedicated police officer doing historical research in what, I hope, was her own time. But to turn it into an official investigation? Using my budget? Not on your fucking nelly, Pru.”

*

“Who on earth was the other skeleton?” asked Landis, at home later, quite beside herself.

“If the tank was made in 1898 and Stanley stuck the dead woman in wet cement Pru, you’ll have no hope in …” Finn noted.

“I know, I know…”

“At least we found Eadie’s burial place. Let her rest in peace Pru. And you should move on.”

“I’ll give it a go.”

“Let’s plan another holiday, and this time we avoid antique shops.” Finn grinned.

“Ok. Let’s go to Bali for a week,” said Landis. “We’re much less likely to get into strife there.”

“Plenty of ghosts in Bali too,” said Finn.

She looked at him, her dark brown eyes quizzical.

“The past is like a smashed vase, Pru – it fragments into thousands of hints and whispers, impossible to glue back together.”

“Who wrote that?” asked Pru.

“Me, actually,” said Finn taking mock offence. “I just made it up…The older the info, the more fragmented, in scattered bits, like your unidentified skeleton. It’s not worth the …”

“I know, I know,” said Landis resigned to Finn’s rising panic that another obsession was about to bloom. Thousands of hints and whispers. She resolved to book Bali instead.

*

December 6 1911: I reflect back to my childhood on the orchard and compare it to now, where I sit in front of this magnificent recording machine I recently acquired. Mr Edison’s invention both plays sweet music and captures voices.  I can only think how so far advanced I have come! As a child, on those hot sweatful, damned days, I carted water from the river in buckets to give to the trees’ summer succor. A hard job for a seven year old. 

Then in early 1898, when I was older and stronger, and after a very dry year indeed, Father, my younger brother Gareth and I built the water tank with rubber and steel sheets and with a hard cement foundation so we’d have a good working irrigation, simply by catching and storing the rain and river water and piping it to the trees. But such a tank is a mere agricultural example of what I mean by the then and now.

New modern machinery is what I most relish. We the leaders and businessmen of Goulburn are starting plans to build a new electric power station for our town. I dream that these brand new electric sewing machines will be available for my tailors to make neat tight seams. In future I plan to sell them when electricity is available to all and they are not so dear, as women-folk are more likely to buy sewing materials if they can make clothes without physical exertion. I forsee a very big demand there!

Furthermore on the topic of innovation, Mr. Harry Houdini took a flying machine not so long ago in Melbourne into controlled flight. Flying machines! In Australia! That will change everything in this vast land, mark my word.  My shiny new world is a long way from hauling buckets on the dray. I am rid of it. If I can, I shall provide an easier life for my parents also. Soon I will have electric lights here in the shop, and at my house. One day soon Mother and Father will too. I tell this all to Miss Eadie, and she agrees wholeheartedly.  She is a sweet young thing. She will go far under my close supervision. I may soon teach her the basic elements of bookkeeping.

I may even make her mine.

 

Copyright 2020  Colly Campbell