Free Beer & Sex by Mike Dixon - HTML preview

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24 Sean's missing uncle

I was away from the hostel for a few days and phoned to check how things were going.  My wife said the swimming pool filter had given trouble but a young American guest had fixed it.  His name was Sean and he was a great help.  I phoned the next day and she was even more enthusiastic.  Sean was now working for his bed and was fixing all sorts of problems.

I met him when I got back and could only agree with my wife's assessment.  Sean was a very pleasant and helpful young guy.  But, there was something about him that didn't quite gel.  His appearance was at odds with his behaviour.  Everything looked right from his toes to his hairline but stopped there.  Sean had a Mohican haircut.  It didn't match the rest of him and looked recent.

I tried imagining him in the uniform of an American marine, with his hair back on, and everything came together.  Who was this guy who was so precise and efficient in everything he did?  My wife said he never left the hostel.  He had received a couple of telephone calls and seemed to be waiting for someone.  That same day, I was in the reception area when the phone rang.  The voice on the other end was male and muffled.

"Is Sean there?"

I looked down into the pool area and saw him repairing one of our chairs.  He came up and took the call while I continued to attend to other guests.  Later, thinking back on the incident, I realised Sean hadn't said more than "yes" and "no" during the entire conversation, which had lasted several minutes.  I guessed he didn't want anyone to know what he was talking about.

I should explain that all this happened in the days before mobile phones.  Sean had been obliged to take the call within hearing distance of myself and several other people.  Two possibilities entered by head.  Sean was CIA or Sean was being hunted by the CIA.

I had contacts in the police and occasionally supplied them with information.  This time, they got in first.  While I was wondering if I should contact them, they contacted me.  The phone rang and I heard a familiar voice.

"You've got an American staying with you ... calls himself Sean."

I said I had and mentioned my thoughts about the CIA.  That didn't provoke any comment but when I spoke about the telephone calls I got an immediate response.

"Did you listen in?'


"Could you if he phones again?"

"There's an extension in my apartment."

"Okay.  See what you can do and call me back."

There was a call the next day.  Sean took it.  I headed off to the extension and the call had ended by the time I got there.  Sean left immediately afterwards.  I phoned my contact and found it was his day off.  I passed on my information and assumed it would be put to use.

Within hours, I received a telephone call from a lady describing herself as a private investigator.  She said Sean's uncle had disappeared and she had been hired by his wife who had reason to believe that he had been murdered and the police were dragging their feet.

The circumstances of Uncle's disappearance were bizarre.  His abandoned station wagon had been found beside the road near the Doomadgee Aboriginal township in Queensland's northern gulf country.  A table and chair stood beside it and a half-eaten meal was on the table.  The police claimed to have used Aboriginal trackers but they were unable to throw any light on what had happened.  Uncle had vanished into thin air.

Uncle's wife didn't believe a word of it.  She believed he had been having sex with young Aboriginal girls and had paid the ultimate price.  In her view the police were dragging their feet because Aboriginals were involved.  Accusing them of killing her husband could be politically explosive and damage a police officer's career.

It was time for me to ask questions.

"How do you know Sean had been staying with me?"

"The police told me and I don't believe a word of it."

"You're saying I'm colluding with the police?"

"I'm saying I don't believe a word you say."

"Why should I believe anything you say?"

"Phone the police and ask them."

I phoned the police and was told that the woman was indeed a private investigator.  She was being paid by Uncle's estranged wife who evidently had a soft spot for him despite the break-up of their marriage.  The story about the abandoned vehicle was correct.  I could expect a call from the investigating team who would brief me on what to say if the private detective lady contacted me again.

I didn't have long to wait.  The lady soon phoned and asked if I had checked out her credentials.  I said I had and her manner changed.  She was far more chatty.  I had been told to expect that.  She would now try to get me to divulge what I knew (virtually nothing) and I should try to get as much information out of her as I could.

I eventually convinced her that Sean had been staying with me.  That was on about the third telephone call.  She kept phoning back to check my story.  On each occasion I managed to get another snippet of information from her, which I passed on to the investigating team.

Her final telephone call was to say that the case was closed as far as she was concerned.  Sean had arrived back home in Chicago and had crossed into Canada a few days later.  She shared my suspicion that he had helped Uncle disappear.  Why Uncle would want to disappear was a total mystery.  He was not financially indebted to his wife as the police had first suspected and the stories about the young Aboriginal girls didn't make sense.

A month or so later, a uniformed police officer rang my bell.  I'd not seen him before but I recognised his voice.  He was officer-in-charge of the Doomadgee police station at the time of the investigation and he had dropped in to say hallo and thank me for my assistance.  He said the case was the strangest he had encountered in all his years in the police force.  It was the sort of thing you read about in detective novels and quite different from the normal run of police work.