Roger Wood’s background is in television and theatre. He worked for BBC Television for 23 years in the design department before returning to Australia in 1987 and now he lives on the Sunshine Coast.
Also by Roger Wood ...
George Overton (Retired) (Zeus, 2009)
Detective George Overton (Zeus, 2010)
George Overton’s Casebook (Zeus, 2011)
George Overton Investigates (Zeus, 2012)
Send for George Overton (Zeus, 2013)
The MacArthur Diversion (Zeus 2014)
Read a sample story:
Read a sample story:
Chapter One - short story one.
- short story one.
Balmain, Sydney. Summer 1952.
Ex-Detective George Overton put down the book he was reading and picked up his pipe. He tapped it on the ashtray beside his chair letting the burnt ash fall out and leaving a small dottle of tobacco in the bowl that would be the foundation of its next filling.
‘What are you reading?’ asked his wife Margaret as she looked up from her knitting.
‘The Valley of Fear featuring the master detective,’ said Overton holding up the book.
‘Never heard of it.’
‘It’s a Sherlock Holmes story.’
‘I might have known it would be something to do with crime,’ said Margaret. ‘Didn’t you have enough of that when you were in the police force?’
‘I like stories with a bit of mystery in them,’ he said as he filled his pipe from his battered tobacco tin.
‘I’ll make us a cuppa when I get to the end of this row.’
‘That’d be––’ a knock at the front door interrupted him. ‘Who the hell can that be at this time of night?’
‘If you go and open the door you’ll find out, George.’
Margaret put down her knitting and listened to see if she could hear what they were saying but only heard the front door shut and then footsteps in the hallway.
‘It’s the minister,’ said Overton as he ushered the worthy gentleman in. ‘I’ll put the kettle on.’
‘Actually, it’s you I came to see Mr Overton,’ said the minister.
‘Then I’ll put the kettle on,’ said Margaret leaving the room.
‘If this is about me going to church––’ began Overton.
‘No, it’s not that, but I would like to see you in our congregation.’
‘You know sermons bore me and I can’t sing worth tuppence.’
‘I want to ask a favour,’ said the minister.
‘Margaret always puts money in the collection plate.’
‘It’s not money,’ said the minister. ‘I want you to be our Santa, for the kids.’
‘You mean dress up?’
‘You’d have to wear the red suit, the children will expect it.’
‘I wouldn’t mind the beard because then nobody would know it was me,’ said Overton.
‘It seems such a small thing to ask,’ said the minister quietly. ‘So few people want to help the children.’
‘Would there be a lot of children?’
‘About fifty,’ said the minister.
‘I suppose that’s not too many.’
‘You’ll do it then?’
‘When is it?’
‘The kids’ party is next Wednesday and then I would like you to wear it Christmas Eve to Evensong.’
‘You know how I feel about services,’ said Overton.
‘I just want you to be there when people arrive, you can leave once the service starts.’
‘And that’s all you want of me?’
‘Enough is sufficient to the day thereof,’ said the minister.
‘Then we’ve got a deal then,’ said Overton as Margaret came in with a tray of teacups and a plate of biscuits.
‘I owe you my thanks, Mr Overton, I’ll drop the costume in tomorrow.’
When the minister had gone Margaret switched the wireless on and smiled at Overton. ‘So, you’re going to be Santa?’ she asked.
‘Yeah, it seems like it.’
‘I never thought I’d see the day.’
‘It just shows you don’t know me as well as you think you do.’ said Overton.
‘I never thought I’d get you in that church.’
‘He told me I can go home once everyone is inside.’
‘It’s a step anyway,’ said Margaret turning up the music.
The next morning Overton stood up from the breakfast table and said, ‘I might read a bit more Sherlock Holmes this morning.’
‘I need you to go to the shops, George.’
‘I’ve got the washing to do and I need a few things.’
‘Like what?’ If there was one thing George Overton hated it was shopping.
‘I need a bottle of Bushells coffee and a pound of sugar from the grocer and some liver and four neck chops from the butcher.’
‘And that’s all?’
‘That’s all, George,’ said Margaret. ‘Take the string bag because the meat will be bloody if it’s just wrapped in that white paper.’
Overton put on his jacket although the day was already warm and he was still mumbling under his breath as he stomped past the Darling Hotel and on up Darling Street into the shops.
The street and pub had been named in honour of Ralph Darling who was an early governor of New South Wales.
Darling Street followed the contours of the ridge along the Balmain peninsular from the wharf in East Balmain to Victoria Road in Rozelle. Most of the small streets that ran off Darling Street dropped down to the harbour and as you looked down them you could spy the water through a framework of masts, chimneys and rigging that belonged to the boats moored around the shores of Balmain.
As he walked past Gladstone Park Overton felt a tap on his shoulder and turned to see Roxy walking beside him. ‘Hello, Mr Overton,’ she said brightly.
Roxy was a girl from the Rocks, she was a pretty girl of twenty-five with bright red hair and a knock-out figure, Overton had used her undercover in several of his investigations.
‘Hello, Marlene,’ he said. ‘What are you doing over here?’
‘I just got off the ferry and it’s Roxy. I’m on me way over to Birchgrove.’
‘You look different.’
‘I had to dress up for this job,’ she said standing away from him so that he could get a good look.
She was wearing a pink Orlon twin set with pearls and a tartan skirt, not her usual modern clothes.
‘You’re not on the game again are you?’ asked Overton.
‘Nah, that’s all history.’
‘A famous author once wrote, the happiest women, like the happiest nations, have no history.’
‘What’s that mean?’ she asked turning up her nose.
‘It means if you can forget your past you can be happy.’
‘Oh,’ said Roxy with a blank look on her face.
Roxy didn’t understand his quote, very few people did but Overton liked to use quotes from famous people even if his friends thought he was mad.
‘What job is this then?’
‘I got a job house-sitting,’ she said with a smile.
‘What’s that?’ he asked as they walked along.
‘This big shot barrister and his wife are going to America for two months and I’m looking after their house while they’re away.’
‘What’s his name?’ asked Overton.
‘Cunningham. Do you know him?’
‘I met him about a year ago.’
‘What’s he like?’
‘He doesn’t like you eating in his study,’ said Overton.
‘Why would I do that?’
‘Does he know you’ve got a record?’
‘I didn’t give me real name,’ said Roxy. ‘You won’t dob me in will you?’
‘No, how did you get on to this?’
‘Trixi. You remember Trixi? Well she told me about this agency.’
‘Yeah,’ said Overton laughing. ‘I remember Trixi, is she still doing her judo?’
‘Nah, she’s getting married to a fireman; he was there that night when that club caught fire.’
‘And what about you, Roxy? Are you still going out with Spider?’
‘Yeah, off and on, if you know what I mean,’ said Roxy. ‘I thought if he sees me in a posh house he might take me more seriously.’
‘You’re going to invite him to Cunningham’s house?’
‘It’s my house when I’m there.’
Overton had met Spider before, he was a spotty youth who wore a black tee-shirt, tight black trousers and a leather jacket; he also had a spider tattooed on his forehead.
‘He’s got a motorbike now, so him and his mates can come over and visit me.’
‘That’ll be nice for you,’ said Overton.
He had met L K Cunningham on one of his cases and he was a pompous piece of work, full of his own importance, he even treated his wife like a servant. Roxy and her bikie boyfriend were just what Overton thought he deserved.
They had reached the shops and Roxy turned down Rowntree Street, ‘See yer then, Mr Overton,’ she called from the middle of the road.‘Stay lucky, Roxy,’ he said and stood on the pavement for a moment wondering which shop he should go to first. In the end he took a coin out of his pocket and said, ‘Heads it’s the butcher, tails it’s the grocer.’ The coin came down heads so off he plodded on towards the butchers shop.
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