Day Essay Into Journey Long Night

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Sometimes, in the early evening, I could smell from the kitchen the bilious odour of lamb’s fry or boiled chicken or cabbage.

I was always comfortable in this dark space, with my own company.

For almost a decade I had worked on the story of Queensland police and political corruption from the 1940s through to the 1990s.

I have trawled through Brisbane’s underworld, conducted hundreds of interviews, spent three years of my life interrogating corrupt former Queensland Police Commissioner Terry Lewis, studied thousands of documents, visited the sites of former brothels and illegal gambling joints, had beers with murderers and lattes with old gangsters.

Early on we are riddled with questions that we can’t answer. I knew every square centimetre of my immediate landscape, every tree and ant nest, every gutter and drain. Around 1968, in Barkala Street, immediately parallel to ours, I was fascinated by one particular vehicle that was often parked out the front of a small house.

I found the house curious because its garden was bulging almost exclusively with cacti.

Going up those stairs and through the front door was, for me, like pushing back time, through decades, thrashing and flailing through the accreted detritus of experience, of life, to the beginning of my existence.

But it was just a house on this hot and glary Saturday, with a real-estate agent in attendance, and some perambulating couples quietly assessing whether this might be where they would settle and raise their own children.

Then again, this house had always been my romantic Brigadoon and forever opened that little drawer of hyperbole in me.

I left the cool of the garage and walked down towards my car.


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