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By Peter Corris

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That was an arrangement we’d agreed on — that Tess could stay at my place when she came to Sydney. It hadn’t happened yet. ‘No, not for a bit. ’ ‘Well you know I’d been thinking about doing this naturopathy course at the uni up here? Well I’ve taken the plunge. I’m going full-time and they keep us at it with essays and everything. ’ ‘And you’d be trying for first class honours,’ I said. ‘You’re behind the times. ’ In just that exchange we’d touched on two of the bones of contention — my drinking and Tess’s need to be the best at everything she did.

It worried me a bit. I was used to more off-centre kinds of characters, but maybe this case was just moving me up in the world. The Prices lived in Lugarno, a suburb that was a sort of peninsula jutting out into the Georges River, and Jason was in Bankstown, not parts of Sydney I was very familiar with. ‘Lugarno,’ I said as I wrote it down. In Glebe, people write their diaries and novels in coffee bars, give interviews to journalists, write notes for reviews of the food and service. No one took any notice of us doing business.

I was working on that. After Frank Parker retired and I served a short sentence for obstructing the course of justice, my effective police contacts faded away. I’d recently struck up an acquaintance at the gym with a detective in the forensic branch and was trying to cultivate him. Time would tell. I detached the carbon copy of the contract and handed it to Price who folded it neatly and put it in the inside pocket of his suit coat. The brief flashes of animation he’d shown were fading away now and he’d reassumed the haunted, stressed look that aged him.

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