MOSAIC 9: Scrub Block


9.  Scrub Block

Early Sunday morning. Very early. False dawn showing to the east. Still in Melbourne's orange night time glow here. Quiet along the street, with empty tram tracks for company. What can be seen, by the yellow light of street lamps on leaning wooden poles, is suburban ordinary. A rundown strip of two storey cement and and brick shopfronts. A century old and feeling it.

The sign writing on the window of the shop opposite reads Salvatore Dellavonti and Associates, Solicitors and Barristers at Law. In terms of presentation, there is nothing else to distinguish this premises from its weary neighbours. Half a dozen blank and gloomy shop windows next to it. Further up the street, a hairdressing salon, a hamburger joint, repair shop for sewing machines, an insurance broker, secondhand clothes charity shop, butcher, Vietnamese takeaway.

A humble suburban solicitors' office. Except for the modern extension at the rear. I turn right across the tramlines and drive slowly…

MOSAIC 8: The Tardis


8.  The Tardis

The Department building's lifts: Two stainless steel wheelie-bins, transporting time travelers from one colony to the next in our very own galaxy of being.

Doors roll shut on the Antarctic glare of Accounts floor, where banks of florescent lights cast no shadow. An open floor plan of desks and filing cabinets, all subject to the same panopticon gaze from a glass office in the northwestern corner.

Within the Tardis, green lights flicker. The silver cube sways, rumbles, ascends. The doors roll open on Securities floor, an alternate world. The inhabitants of this realm have created an ambiance in keeping with their gnome-like craft. 

The first impression is Hush. It appears dimly lit. Individual desk lamps spill personalised pools of yellow light. Artfully constructed piles of legal files on each desk shield the clerks from 'the gaze' of the supervising solicitor. Administration's obsession with the standardizing blight of brute modernism has been undermi…

MOSAIC 7: Glen Fynne


7.  Glen Fynne

Down the hill. Over the Fynne's wooden bridge. Up the hill. First gateway on the right.
The station entrance is marked by two square cut posts. One missing its finial crown.

Winding south, the driveway follows an intermittent avenue of deciduous trees, the bark of its survivors spotted with grey and yellow lichens. In the front paddock a mob of puny Merino weaners pick at dry summer feed. Small stunted things, like little old men. Wrinkled parchment hung on thin, frail bones. Glen Fynne's most recent drop of fine-wool sheep. Defeated before they start.

Another set of strainer posts and wooden rail fencing announces the homestead. 
"Drive around to the back", Hannah had said. "The front of the house is closed up".
First impressions confirm her advice.

Once a grand estate. Two-storey blue-stone with double verandas on three sides and a slate roof. Tall, narrow windows gaze blankly at the visitor. Lengths of rusty wrought-iron lattice work hang a…

MOSAIC 6: People Smuggler


6.  People Smuggler

The trawler wharf is dominated by the Sea Lady. Black hull, high bow, cut down to a long low main deck, rising again at the stern. Off-white superstructure at the rear, rust stains coursing down from perished window seals on the bridge, a chaos of aerials and broken receivers on top, and two seriously hardcore wings of steel raised up and secured on either side. A big has-been boat. No longer trying to impress, but still magnificent.

A clean white Nissan Patrol with Portland Harbour Master decals and overhead flashing lights pulls up next to her. I get out of the Camry, retrieve my box of tricks from the backseat, and walk over. Reg Cotton's neatly ironed short-sleeved shirt with dark blue shoulder boards is a sign of official business ahead. The repossession of a fishing vessel, no less.

The sun is already high and hot in a clear blue sky. Brightly coloured plastic crates of fish are being offloaded from a boat further down the dock. Nets are spread out ove…

MOSAIC 5: The London


5.  The London

"Got anything yet?"
Nugget. In I'm a very busy person mode.

"For your information, Madam Coroner, I've been out of the office. Working. I do have a real job."

"So you say. Now try and concentrate. I have arranged for you to meet the tenacious Henderson. In your natural habitat. The front bar of the London Hotel. At the mandated terminus of public service hours. Assuming that your personal attendance record and the requirements of your employment contract still enjoy some measure of synchronicity, that is 4.38 pm today.

Snarling empathy. It's a combination that doesn't work for most of us. But credit where it is due. She's working on her people skills.

"OK. What's he look like?"

"A cop. Big bloke. In a suit. Manage that?"

"Certainly," I say, but the click at the other end of the line beats me to it.


MOSAIC 4: Mallee Remnant


4.  Mallee Remnant

He said he'd meet me there around five or six. I stop at the Railway Hotel at Cowangie and top up the eski. Then take the south road towards the Big Desert. Sand drifts across the bitumen...the gravel...the dirt road. Through light barley rises and across kopi flats.

I wonder why any sensible man would get off at the Cowangie siding in the 1920s and trek to the very end of the track before knocking in his peg. Maybe sense didn't come into it.

Roy Prentice once showed me a picture of his father. A tall well-muscled man, in front of a low canvas and bush-pole humpy. No attempt to groom himself for the occasion. Standing bare foot in the sand. Hair matted with dust and sweat, collarless shirt torn and stained, striped suit pants tied around his waist with twine. Looking directly into the camera lens, holding the axe across his chest with both hands, he was a defiant Saxon warrior.

I slow down to turn in. Pass the rusting tributes to McCormick International an…