Friday, 19 December 2008

Thwarted Romance - Episode 10 of 'Paternity' an original Australian mystery novel.

This is episode ten of 'Paternity' in which Pip trips back to the Sydney newspaper to put her story to bed, and sets a trap to catch a rapist.

Please leave feedback in a comment at the end of this instalment.


Old Mr. Rattray, the grocer-cum-vehicle parts merchant installed the new tyres onto Pip's
car around eleven next morning and once again she carried her gear down the fire stairs.

Barbara Brown at the regional hospital was a homely woman in a uniform that held so much old fashioned starch that it squeaked. They met at the reception desk and the deputy led the way with rubber soled shoes squelching on the luminous linoleum, passing dormitories of patients lolling on freshly plumped pillows — one lengthy room for females, a second for males.

A whiff of eucalyptus mixed strangely with the perfume of flowers ... she’d noticed the path to the front door was bordered by carefully tended rose bushes, surely a triumph in this climate.
All in all, the hospital seemed a microcosm of all that was good and caring about country Australia.

The deputy’s eyes melted when they met those of her patients, and became steely as she spoke about shortcomings in the health system.

Yes, she said, she could turn up some startling statistics about the number of people rushed to her hospital over distances in an emergency and would fax them to Pip.

Yes, she could remember the day of Jim Rouse’s tragedy very clearly and could back up his mother’s version of events.

No, she would not venture any statement about whether young Jim may have survived if given immediate treatment, but offered knowing winks and other body language to offer an opinion that he may well have done so.

Pip liked this no-nonsense woman. Their meeting was enough to convince her that she was on the right track with her story.

She arrived home at noon Wednesday and the tomato plants looked decidedly droopy. Pip gave them a little TLC and forced herself into a solid session at the gym around the corner, pumping and stretching until the sweat ran into her eyes.
Thoughts of Selene’s misery were invading her again, and the exertion was an attempt to exorcise them.

That afternoon Pip made a long carrot juice and flopped onto the carpet, pulling the phone with her as she went. She dialled and had to suffer endless electronic voices before she heard the human husky tones of a particular friend of hers - Denzy Green, a pathologist at the State Institute.

Pip told Denzy she needed her help and they made arrangements to meet later in the week for a bush walk and a yarn.

It turned cold as night moved in and eggs were crackling in the pan when Pip’s fax began whirring. Still in her gym gear, she stood and watched the paper creep from its slot in the machine.

The print was the head and shoulders photograph of a man … ineffectual looking mouth and chin … paradoxically strong nose … eyes that avoided the camera.
Frank Rolls had sent the pic from the pub.

It was a clipping from the latest edition of the Guardian with a caption that read: ‘Solicitor Con Robson who will take over the Rotary District chairmanship next month.’

Good old Frank. He’d taken the opportunity to get a photograph of the slimy solicitor. It hadn’t taken the town’s business community very long to forget Robson’s shady past. Rotary indeed.

She looked at her own face in the bathroom mirror, and then at Robson’s photograph. It was hard to compare the mouth and the eyes, for so much depended on expression. But the nose. Her hateful nose …

Maybe there was a similarity, but she was sick of guessing.

The sky was sludge and the rained poured down in a wall outside her window next morning, but Pip jumped from the sheets and enjoyed the luxury of a hot shower in a recess with a real sliding glass door.

After breakfast she got stuck into the assignment, finishing it as far as she could. Then she was lucky enough to score an appointment with the Health Minister to get some balance into the story.

She felt imprisoned as she got into a business suit with a mini skirt and dark stockings for the first time in more than a week. Jeans and shirt were more her deal any day.

The Minister mouthed the usual platitudes but his comments were good enough to round off a mediocre story. She left Parliament House and went straight to the newspaper office for a spot more research in the library and to slot in the politician’s statement.

By five-thirty the story was complete and Joe was at her elbow.
‘I’ve scored an early mark — how about a drink?’

Pip realised she was very happy to see him.

The footpaths were dotted with puddles left over from the rain as they made their way to a brasserie at the harbour end of town. There they sat in a corner with a beer each while a blues trio played to the swelling crowd of office workers.

‘So … tell me the real reason why you went bush.’ Joe’s long fingers fondled the glass, and his eyes caressed her.

‘That’s presumptuous …’

‘Maybe. I can read you pretty well Magee. You should know that by now.’ Magee was the pet name he had used for her in their more intimate moments in the past.

‘I reckon there was some pretty special explanation for that trip.’

You couldn’t put much over Joe … She sensed concern radiating towards her, his athletic body inclined across the table, threatening the stability of their glasses of beer.

There was something else too — not just concern. She knew Joe felt deeply for her. So much did he care that she had recoiled from his intensity before, and even now shrivelled into the corner, involuntary in her need to avoid such profound emotion.

She wasn’t ready.

Would she ever be ready?

Joe registered her rebuff, and he sat back, blue eyes melancholy, his shoulders slumped; wretched.

She needed to make amends somehow, and decided to trust Joe with her story. A sort of atonement if you like …

She told him about the rape and the rapists, the secretive town and her new realisation surrounding her mother’s torments. And when she finished he took her hand and stroked it softly.

Pip's body responded to his touch, despite herself. She'd thought she was over Joe ...

‘That’s a big one mate. Let’s know if I can help out. You’re really stirring the possum there.’

‘Whatcha gotta do, you gotta do Joe,’ she said with damp eyes.

‘Yeah, I know. Tell me if I can help. And keep it cool eh?’

Easier said than done.

Thursday’s heavy skies disappeared, leaving Friday a blue day with puffs of greyish-white cloud around the edges. Pip saw little of the outdoors though, spending hours in high rise office blocks in the Phillip and Macquarie Streets end of town.

Her solicitor’s chambers were in Phillip, and here she filled in forms necessary for the order to require Gazza to submit to a DNA test. Mark Berenson’s opinion was that the application would probably be granted, and he approved of the arrangements she had made with George Wimpole.
He accepted her instructions to receive George’s results when they became available.

Pip thought it wise to engage an officer of the law as a buffer between herself and George. Whether or not he was now co-operative, George Wimpole had been an associate of rapists.

Purposely, Pip did not approach the matter of Con Robson with her solicitor. For that slimy little man she reserved some ideas she wanted to keep under wraps.

At the pathologist’s she stared fixedly out of the window when the nursing assistant plunged the hypodermic into her arm. She hardly felt the prick. The view stretched over the botanical gardens to the harbour and the heads. These Macquarie Street medicos really had it made.

Saturday she called a truce in her quiet war and went jogging around the tree lined streets near her apartment, reorganised the dust in the living room, and took in an Italian movie that afternoon.

On Saturday night she looked forward to Sunday …

A very young 55 years-old clad in khaki shorts and joggers, Denzy Green strode ahead, deftly avoiding the pitfalls of the rough bush track. They came to the top of a rise, made it to a rocky outcrop and sat down, heaving for their lost breath.

Denzy recovered first. ‘So my girl, I get the idea that we’re here for more than exercise. Open up.’

You could see bits of Sydney Harbour through the trees, and tiny boats skimmed the blue surface, taking part in one of the traditional weekend yacht races. There were small motorised runabouts out there too, their wake creating shining diamonds in the water.

Pip took in the scene absentmindedly as she recounted the story of her quest.

‘And so I need some expert help. I hear the institute is working on pilot studies to establish DNA data banks, and that criminals in gaols are the targets. I'm needing to know about a bloke who served some time for rape.'

Pip knew she was urging the pathologist towards her professional limits, but felt certain the strength of their friendship could stand the strain.

The two drew closer together, their heads almost touching - there, sitting on the rock - as Pip explained about Selene's secret. Denzy had known that Pip didn't know anything of her father so it wasn't too hard to fill her in on the new details.

‘Actually, they’re more than pilot studies these days …’

‘Ah. I don’t like the whole idea of DNA data banks, as you know. They seem a terrible invasion of privacy, but ...’

‘You don’t mind taking advantage of the system just this once?’ said Denzy with a laugh.
Denzy’s gaze followed the orderly path of a line of ants making their way through the undergrowth.

‘You know you’re pushing it. And you couldn’t ever use any information I may give you.‘

‘Of course Den. I simply want to solve this very personal puzzle. I don’t know what else to do. It seems the only way.’

‘Do you really want this?’ Compassion softened Denzy’s sensitive face. ‘It has to be such a strain on you. None of those guys is what you might call good father material Pip. You’re taking risks with your psyche doing this.’

‘The damage is already done. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle without some of the pieces. It’s like I can’t rest until it’s complete. You’d be the same.’

‘I don’t know about that …’

‘Getting you involved is a very big ask. Just say if it’s too much — I’d understand. On the other hand, you know you can trust me,’ Pip leaned forward. ‘This is a big deal for me Denzy, I can’t think of much else.

‘I really need to uncover Selene’s secret, to sort of release her from the load she carried all those years. It’s too late in some ways of course, but somehow she and I both need for this to happen … to just know.’

Denzy sighed deeply and hitched her small back pack onto one shoulder. ‘Let me have the results of your own DNA test for comparison and I’ll see what I can do.’

Do I want this? She asked …
As well she might.
Do I crave
To know

Which monster
Is my father?

The answer’s

With trepidation.

I hate stereotypes
But I still need
To put myself

In a box.

To know

In what sort of box
I belong.
My mother was labelled
As raped

And no longer

A virgin.

I’m already typed
As a bastard.
I mean ...

What will I look like

On the family tree?

Seems there are
Two possibilities:


Could pin me

As black …

Or criminal.

Give me taint

By colour.

Any time.

I puzzle about
What’s in my genes;

In the double helix
Of my central being.

Just how much

Of what is me

Comes from him?

I can’t help asking

The question:
Nature or nurture …
Which one prevails?

The foregoing is excerpted from Paternity by June Saville. All rights reserved. No part of this novel may be used or reproduced without written permission from the author.


What should Pip do about her relationship with Joe? Would you fall for him yourself?
I'm talking males as well as females here ... Come on - what d'ya reckon?


  1. If Pip and Joe don't have a thing already, they probably won't. She may be letting this paternity thing stand in the way of a relationship. If she finds out who her father is, she may feel free to finally let a man into her life depending on the results. Right now she doesn't trust men.

  2. I haven’t read this story from the beginning, although I hope to do so when I’ve got more time.
    Things I liked about this chapter. (1) The pace of the piece works well in building up the tension of the narrative especially in light of the difficult dilemma that Pip faces. (2) I loved this sentence: ‘Joe registered her rebuff, and he sat back, blue eyes melancholy, his shoulders slumped; wretched.’ (3) I also like the different style/form you introduce at the end of the piece. It kinduv’ reminds me of what Paul Torday does in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. I’m looking forward to reading more from you!

  3. JUDY you little psychologist you! How wise you are.
    But then, will Pip fit the mould?

  4. Nature or nurture? That is the big question. Excellent! Loving this immensily June.

  5. CATH M - another someone who loves to write. What a fine short story Caroline's Butterflies is shaping up to be ... I enjoyed your blog too, and left a comment.
    As you would know feedback is important to a writer and you surpassed yourself here.
    I'm pleased you agree with the pace - I think the voice of a piece is crucial don't you?
    The blank verse at the end is something I've experimented with every now and then in this novel. So you think it works?
    And Joe hits the spot?
    See you around Cath

  6. VIKKI
    My great fan - thanks for the endorsement.
    And well may Pip ask that question eh mate?

  7. While it is so nice to have a shoulder to lean on during emotional times, Pip will hold back thinking he is there for her though I hope it won't be too late. Enjoyed this !

  8. Excellent imagery. The rubber heels of a police officer coming down on a tiled floor; Joe's long fingers fondling the glass,,,et al. Well done June. As the palette unfolds, hues of crimson and midnight blue color your writing, Kudos

  9. June. Thanks for your comments. Yes - I do think the verse form at the end works a way it reflects the protagonist's reflective/pensive mood as she contemplates her dilemma... you can almost sense the clogs of her thought process going round and round through the shape/pattern of the poetic form at the end. I'm always impressed with writers who are willing to experiment with different media/forms (e.g. prose and poetry) in their writing... as I mentioned Torday does this engagingly in his first novel. p.s. do let me know if you're happy for me to make comments on points e.g. ideas and sentences that I would reconsider during revision/redraft stages. Please do feel free to critique my work - things that work and those things that don't work so well too (I value the latter more so as a writer:) Cheers!

  10. DJ ROGUE I am into kudos! Thank you.
    I see you are a writer too, and developing a novel.
    'As the palette unfolds, hues of crimson and midnight blue color your writing' is nice.
    Especially when you direct it towards my word pictures (!)

  11. CATH M Absolutely happy to swap ideas about our writing. As I suggested earlier that's half the fun. Mind you we may not always agree but that's all right too ...
    Pleased you thought the end of the episode worked ok.

  12. Hi PONDER
    That's one of the slippery things about being involved in a romance. There's something of a gamble involved - although not perhaps intentional. I think it's just that it is often difficult to read one's emotions, especially when involved in something intense.
    To be or not to be ... To move in or move away ...

  13. June,
    I finally found the time to read all of the story (to this point) and I am hooked. Can't wait to see what happens next. I have enjoyed it very much.

    I have a strong feeling that you may have modeled Pip a little after your younger self? (i.e. determined, strong-willed, risk taker, etc.)

    I am struggling a little regarding the frequent peppering/use of the colloquial names, references and conversations in the story (second nature to fellow Australians ?, but unknown to someone who is not familiar with them). But, I understand the story needs to contain this to be true to its setting and characters.....

    I will await the next installment....

    It's nice that you're hooked on something that's not going to give you a psychosis!
    Seriously - thanks for the feedback. It's very much appreciated.
    Let me know what Ozzie phrases/words have stumped you and I'll offer a glossary ...

    Me? The template for PIP? Never thought about it. Perhaps we do share some of the features you speak about - I am strong willed but not to the point of stupidity. But then I don't think Pip would be either ...

    I'm certainly determined - but risk taker? Not normally. But I do remember coming to the rescue of my son when I was staying with him briefly in a student house during university days and an interloper arrived at a party they were having.

    This guy was drunk and attacked my son who was trying to control things and ended up on the floor underneath flying fists.

    Without any thought at all I grabbed the hair of the drunken one and rescued my beloved. The attacker was so surprised that he left the scene. That was risk taking!

    I suppose that Pip and I shared journalism as a career and that made her fairly easy for me to write about.

  15. The others have said it all and I'm way behind. You're a great writer. Our approach and style are very different, our different countries are an aspect as well.

  16. Hi SYLVIA
    Don't forget I've been a professional writer much of the time since I was fifteen! Something had to rub off in all of that time.
    Difference is what makes the world interesting ...


Thanks for leaving a comment. Its good to know who is having a peek! I will certainly send a comment in reply.

To move directly to all other stories. Go to INDEX at

Also, you may like to have a look at my other blog 70 Plus and Still Kicking.

Cheers June