The body looked like it had crawled through a muddy field, which annoyed Michael even more.
“I just cleaned the goddamned floor!”
Stewart looked at Michael, his mouth slightly ajar.
“I really think you’re autistic sometimes, a dead body appears in your lounge room and you obsess about the floor.” He paused. “Maybe you have some sort of cleaning psychosis?”
They both looked at the body again. He (and it was a he, the scraggly beard left no doubt) had broken the dining room window, had crawled muddy, bloody and bleeding across the floor, cleverly avoiding setting the alarm off, but inexplicably rolling up nearly half of the floor rug in the lounge room. He was barefoot, wearing overly tight jeans and a baggy old shirt that proudly proclaimed “Our community, our future”.
“I bet he’s a junkie” declared Michael.
Stewart merely rolled his eyes “Well, he’s only a corpse now”.
“We should call the police”
“I should take some photos”
“Stewart! Fuck you’re grim.”
Stewart merely looked earnest “The other people in my photo group would kill for an opportunity like this! Look at him! Look at the shirt! Look at the mis en scene!”
“Well if they did, at least they’re problem solving for themselves.” Michael hesitated, “Grab your camera, you’ve got five minutes”.
It had taken quite some effort to restore the house, an ex-rental that according to local legend has housed bikies and all manner of unsavory sorts. Michael stood now in the front yard, unlike the muddy back yard; the front yard was piled high with debris from the renovation. Pieces of pipe, plastic and copper, old bricks, half bricks, odd bricks wrapped in plastic for some unknowable purpose, plasterboard and empty plastic bags with the remnants of paper labels long faded and now mysterious, and also inexplicable lengths of wires bent into crazy shapes suggesting gouged eyes and tetanus shots all at once. The pile of rubbish was an impressive display of urban prosperity and was greatly admired by many in the street.
The police arrived. A young man who looked like he’d rather be inside, and a small woman who looked liked she enjoyed being assertive.
“You called about a dead body?” the woman asked as she tried to look stern and helpful at the same time.
“I’m Michael”. Michael offered a handshake, “What a bitch” he thought.
She grimaced a smile “Sergeant Alexton, and this is Sergeant Pavkovic”.
Sergeant Pavkovic offered up a sly grin at the social maneuvering between the two.
“They’re not sending a forensics team?” asked Stewart inside.
“No” snapped Sergeant Alexton “We have to confirm there is actually a crime scene first!”
Michael made a point of looking at the body and then at Alexton again. Pavkovic risked another grin.
“He came in from the backyard, probably jumped the fence” Said Pavkovic absently, “So strange”.
Alexton bent down to look at the face of the dead man more closely “Christ!”
“Christ you’re dramatic” thought Stewart as he unconsciously toyed with the camera in his shirt pocket.
“It’s David Cooper!”
“Is he famous?” asked Michael, it was a cruel thing to do, but he couldn’t resist.
Alexton managed to look shocked “Um, no. He’s a local junkie and dealer”
“See! I told you it would be a junkie” said Michael looking at Stewart.
She ignored Michael, “Rumor was, he owed a fair bit of cash to some bikie gang, probably came to do your house over” said Alexton triumphantly.
“That doesn’t explain why he’s dead though” said Stewart.
Never knowing it, both Michael and Stewart thought the exact same thing “She’s no Miss Marple”.
“Is there something you want to tell me?” Alexton said turning on them; she had taken it upon herself to be assertive. In her mind this seemed a reasonable response to the mood of disrespect she was sensing. The fact that a dead junkie in your lounge room may invoke an emotional response in the occupants never really crossed her mind. “Because this will be investigated, and you have to cooperate fully you know, if you don’t it could go to court and you’ll be a hostile witness!”
Michael let the bluff hang in the air, out of politeness, and no small measure of pity for the woman. He decided not to mention the house’s legendary status.
“How soon until I can wash the floors?” asked Michael to the eye-rolling of Stewart. Pavkovic nodded sagely at the question, there was a lot of mud, but at least it wasn’t on carpet.
“I don’t know” steamed Alexton “The forensics people will tell you, I shall need statements.”
So Stewart and Michael gave statements, which were mostly drawn out versions of “We came in, and he was on the floor”, forensics came and went, as did a glazier the next day to repair the window. It would be a number of weeks before the autopsy would reveal the cause of death to be not bikies, or drugs, or bullets, but a simple heart attack brought on, one might suppose, by hard living and stress.
Michael however was more intent on washing the floor. It was clean, but his uncommon cleaning obsession meant that he kept trying to “scrub the death out” of the very spot where the body was found well into the evening.
Stewart looked on and eventually asked “When you replaced the floor, what was there underneath?”
“There was no underneath!” replied Michael “We’ll I mean there was a floor, but it was shocking you could pick up any board it was all so rotten, and the rubbish underneath, piles of it, the sort of thing that harbors rats and worse”.
“Humor me Michael, can I see the pile?”
“You’ve already seen it; it’s the one at the front”
“Humor me” he repeated as they walked outside, and it was there that Stewart’s keen eye picked out something, a brick in black plastic. “Now why would anyone wrap up a brick?” he asked as he began to unwrap the object.
“When it’s not a brick!” answered Michael as they stared at the smiling face of Douglas Mawson gazing out serenely from the plastic. Old fashioned paper money.
They both spent some minutes looking at the $100 notes.
“I think I saw about five of them, bricks that is” said Michael.
“I think your renovation just paid for itself” replied Stewart grinning as they both turned, and started to eagerly rummage through the pile of urban prosperity in the evening’s fading light.