A wedding scene from New York City
Editor’s Note: This “story” will appear in Mary Maxwell’s new book about the child-abuse Royal Commission:
I wish I hadn’t killed myself, but nobody would listen. If I were alive today, the situation would be a lot easier.
When I was a boy, I used to eavesdrop on Dad and Uncle Ted talking about being “on the job”; this would fill my belly with fire and my heart with excitement. All I ever wanted to do was to wear the badge. That day eventually came, in the winter of 1979, shortly after my 21st birthday. I finished my cadet training and at last I was in uniform, just like Dad.
For the most part I loved my job.
I felt I was of service to “mankind.” I had a great social circle at work, heck, I even married another cop. Life was good, my career was going well. Shirley thought we needed a new challenge — we saw an opening in a small town in far north Queensland. And that was that — different town, new people, but same job!
Being in the tropics was wonderful, the vibe was chilled, people were relaxed, the beer seemed colder and the fish certainly were bigger. We spent 4 healthy years up there, until my troubles started. One night I was out of my usual patrol area – I drove past the harbor and happened to see bunch of raggedy looking children getting off a boat.
They didn’t look like tourists; they didn’t look Aboriginal. I thought it was odd. The next day I mentioned it to a mate and he said Don’t go up there on a Tuesday, you’ll be sorry. I didn’t ask any more and I didn’t tell Shirley.
Two months later I had time off and, well, you know I went to the same wharf, on a Tuesday night. You want to talk about spooky? A similar looking bunch of kids were disembarking, but this time the ship was further out and the kids were being rowed in. Many of them were crying. I figured I’d better help.
First I called the station for back-up, in case the boat’s owner was breaking the law. What I surprise I got! My boss said “Get out of there right now and report to the office.” When I got back he said “Son, just do as I say or there will be consequences — for you and your wife.”
If Dad were still alive I’d have called him for advice. I took it to be some kind of threat. I decided not to tell Shirley who was prego. I wondered who in the community could shed light on the subject for me. It did not occur to me that kids were being trafficked. We didn’t learn this at the Academy.
At first I wasn’t sure if what I was seeing was true. How many people were likely to be involved? How could there be no legal fuss? My fellow cops all seemed to know about it.
I decided to make an appointment with my Commanding Officer. Total shock. As he entered the room he “tripped” and kicked me. I guess that was my last day of a no-fear life.
As you can imagine, it was hard for me to hide this from the mum-to-be. Then she told me that when I was on night duty and she was home, she heard odd noises on the roof. I climbed a ladder next morning and pretended to look for possums but already I had a sinking feeling.
I tried to get in touch with my MP, not even saying what the issue was, but the secretary rebuffed me with various excuses.
Shirl was planning to work until her 7th month. I had in mind that after the kid arrived we move away. Then I got the call. I was told that she was shot, on the job. I sped to the hospital but she – and my son! – were already “in heaven.” You may think I was overcome with sadness or maybe went into a panic? Neither. I was 100% numb.
My mother came up for the funeral and stayed with me for a few weeks. I was afraid if I told her the story she would blame me for causing Shirley’s death. In fact I was already feeling guilty along those lines.
From then on, my colleagues didn’t even look at me. I know it’s because they are ashamed. I began to hate working with them. I wanted to have another look around that wharf. But I didn’t, as it seemed that I was the only person who cared, and I had no way of reporting it.
I did write a letter to the Age — anonymously — but I don’t know if anyone desired to act on it.
My doctor had to give me some anti-depressants – or I’d have been staying in bed till noon every day. Because now there was nothing to work for, no one to live for.
One evening, in 1988, I closed the garage door, rolled up the car windows, turned the ignition, and waited for the end.
Today, things would be different. Today me and Shirley would fight those bastards. They wouldn’t dare kill her. And we’d have “company” – Frank, Jr would be turning 30 in 2017. We’d help mankind. Yes we would. Hey, wait — maybe Shirl would have had more kids.
I’ll shout a round of beer on that!
— As indicated in the name “Frank Fictitious,” this suicide did not actually happen. But no doubt similar ones did.
Photo credit: Law Enforcement Today (the cops are NYPD)