Bad Debts
It’s called librarianship.
    The thin man with the silly little cornsilk moustache gave me a smile of pure dislike and went away. I was sitting at a table in the Age library on the fourth floor of the paper’s 48

    hideous building on Spencer Street. A message from Steve Phillips, the assistant editor, had preceded me but that had only made me more unwelcome. I went back some distance with Phillips. In the early ’80s I’d got his teenage son off a drugs charge. I’d been recommended by a reporter called Gavin Legge for whom I’d obtained extremely lucky verdicts on a bunch of charges arising from his birthday party at a fashionable restaurant called Melitta’s.
    Mr Silly Moustache took all of ten minutes to produce the file. I slid the fiche onto the platen, switched on and, as always, found that it was upside down. When I’d corrected this, I zoomed across to the end and worked backwards.
    The last clipping was a short item from 1986 about the setting up by her parents of the Anne Jeppeson Memorial Scholarship at Monash University. It was to go to a student studying politics. Before that came the court reports I’d already seen in my file on Danny, then the report on Anne’s death. It was a page three story, with a picture of the scene and an inset photograph of her. She had short hair and a snub nose and she looked smart and formidable. A quick look at the headlines on the rest of the clippings suggested that this was the case. I wrote down the bylines on those stories that had them.
    Anne Jeppeson had been a campaigner for public housing and public housing tenants.
    At the time she was killed she was involved in trying to prevent the closing down of a public housing estate called Hoagland in Yarrabank.
    I leaned back in the upright chair and closed my eyes. Ronnie Bishop had helped send to jail the man accused of killing a woman campaigning against the closing of a public housing estate. Why would he lie to do that? Public-spiritedness? It didn’t sound like Ronnie Bishop.
    I asked SM whether I could get the Jeppeson file photocopied. He looked at me as if I’d asked for a colonic irrigation.
    ‘Would it help if I went through Steve Phillips?’ I said sweetly.
    ‘It’ll take half an hour,’ he said. ‘There isn’t anyone to do it now.’
    I said I’d come back and went looking for a caffeine jolt.
    I came upon the drinks machine without warning, which made it impossible to avoid my former client Gavin Legge. He looked up from stirring his styrofoam cup. The smile of a professional greeter appeared on his face.
    ‘Jack Irish,’ he said. He put down the cup and stuck out a small hand. ‘Great to see you.
    Who’s in the shit this time?’

    Legge was in his early forties, with greying curly hair and small features being overwhelmed by pudge. Behind thick-lensed designer glasses his eyes were slitty. All his stories in the paper seemed to involve free travel and free eating and drinking. He also dropped a lot of names. At the time I was defending him, one of his mercifully unneeded character witnesses said of him, ‘For a free sausage roll and a couple of glasses of plonk, Gavin Legge will get six mentions of anything you’re selling into the paper.’
    ‘Using the library,’ I said. ‘Maybe you can help.’
    ‘My pleasure.’ He was eager to please. As well he might be, given that it had taken me a year to get any money out of him.
    I put the coins in the machine and pressed for white coffee. I got out my notebook and found the three bylines on the Jeppeson stories. ‘These people still around? Sally Chan?
    Matthew Lunt?’
    ‘Jeez, you’re going back a bit. Chan went to Sydney about ten years ago and Lunt’s dead.’
    ‘Linda Hillier?’
    ‘Return of the starfucker. Came back to Melbourne a few months ago. She works for PRN, Pacific Rim News, it’s a financial news outfit. Just around the corner. Want to meet her?’
    ‘Wouldn’t mind. I saw your byline on a story about Yarra

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