Almanac Fiction: Swifty Taylor and the Dead Coach (Episode 11)

Was it morning already? I blinked my eyes open and stared at the ceiling momentarily. Dust was accumulating on the cornices. I really did need to get a cleaner in to make my place a little more ship shape. My head thrummed. I hadn’t had a drink for two days, but a man can have a hangover from things other than alcohol. I had one from a woman. A woman who had gone close to killing another man with a knife. A knife that I had tossed into the murky waters of Newport Lakes.



The police had arrived at the scene and taken the three of us in for questioning. I had seen the inside of a police interview room once or twice before. Those rooms never got more inviting, and the police officers themselves never seemed to get any more welcoming. They asked questions of me. Questions that sounded like the cops were bored and exasperated in equal parts. I had played it straight, and told them what I knew. I hadn’t done anything wrong. And anyway, what the hell else was I supposed to do? I had worked some cases that had been as tangled as a second-hand spider web. But this was all pretty straightforward. Or so I thought.



The cops had not been happy that they had overlooked the fact that Jack Shepherd’s boat was moored right near the spot where Dean May’s body had been found floating in the water. As oversights went, it was Titanic sized. And I was only too willing to point this out. They had told me that Big Shep was in another room banging on about a blade that had been pulled on him. “He’s deflecting,” I said. “He told me that Dean was on his boat the night he died. I assume that he’s told you also.” The coppers had shrugged indolently. But eventually they let me go. I hadn’t seen Laura at the station, and she hadn’t answered my calls since.

With my mouth as dry as yesterday’s toast, I struggled into the Cup and Crumb, hoping that a coffee might make me feel at least half human. And also hoping that Laura May might decide to make an appearance. Sometimes the only shot a man has in his locker is a little hope. All eyes were on me. And you didn’t have to be Einstein to know why. In Williamstown, news sure did travel fast – both rumours and facts get blown along with the wind, in all directions.



My old friend Winker was seated at the back of the café. I took a seat opposite him, with my back to the wall. He was sipping on a soy latte. When he returned from his last Asian holiday, he had been in danger of becoming completely unstuck. So he had disavowed the grog, and fully embraced wellness and mindfulness. Whatever they were. And just like any other zealot, he was only too happy to point out the errors in my ways. “Still tipping back the Jameson, old mate?” He sounded like a man who had slept very well and didn’t owe any money. “Look, Winker. I am in no mood for lectures.” He nodded sagely. “I know you’ve been busy, Swifty. Word has it that big Jack is in some strife regarding the dead coach. But my sources tell me that he may not see the inside of the clink. He told the cops he wasn’t on board his boat that night. And plenty of his cronies have offered up alibis.”

Sure, I had considered the very real possibility that Shep might get off scott free. It did not seem fair, but it did seem to be the most likely scenario. He was never going to sing like a dickie bird to the police, and there simply was not enough evidence to convict him. Maybe he and I could agree to some sort of truce and live happily ever after. But Laura was never going to be satisfied with a turn of events such as this. I was recalling what she said to me on the cliff-top right before the police arrived. “I would have killed him if you hadn’t stopped me, Swifty. I’d have either made him jump or run the knife right through his fat neck.” I had been shocked by the depth of her anger. But also strangely aroused by the fire in her eyes.

It was time to prime the pump, and start tracking her down. There were conversations to be had. Conversations about Jack Shepherd not facing justice for killing her brother. And conversations about what the future might hold for us. If there was an ‘us’.



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About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks again, Smokie. Essential reading. I now get how people read Dickens and others when serialisation was the way. Great stuff.

  2. Rulebook says

    Keep em coming – Smokie wonder if Swifty is a roo boy as well – suspense building superbly

  3. roger lowrey says

    Another ripper Smokie. Can’t wait to hear what Laura has to say next.


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