Framed: A Ryan Parish PI Short Story-scene eight

‘The prick’s been lying to me, Ryan,’ said Maggie, as soon as she sat down.


‘The Prosecutor’s Office called as I was leaving the office. The police have cracked the password on his phone and accessed his photos.’ She stared at me, primal rage written all over her face. 

I wondered if she was going to explode but she took a steadying deep breath and let out a sigh.

‘He took a photo of the body after he’d strangled her.’

I laughed. Clive had been framed alright. By himself.

Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West and Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.

Framed: A Ryan Parish PI Short Story-scene six

Hamilton was a six-hour drive from Adelaide. I spent the night in a motel and went to see Ellen Ford’s parents at ten on the morning after I’d arrived. I guess I could have telephoned but I thought they deserved a face to face interview, seeing I was batting for the opposing side.

They were wary of me from the get-go.

‘Are you trying to prove he didn’t kill her? The police told us he did it,’ said Mr Ford.

‘They could very well be right,’ I said, ‘but I’m trying to find out if there’s another explanation just in case they’re wrong.’

‘Like what?’ said Mr Ford.

‘Tell me about Mick Daley,’ I said.

‘Who told you about him?’ said Mr Ford.

‘The woman Ellen was sharing her apartment with.’

‘Sally?’ said Mrs Ford.

‘Yes, Sally.’

‘Well, I guess Sally’s not up with our local news, Mr Parish,’ said Mr Ford. ‘Mick’s been in the cemetery for the last six months. Silly bugger died of an overdose. Heroin, I think it was.’

‘And, good riddance!’ said Mrs Ford. ‘He was horrible to our daughter.’

That certainly put Mick Daley out of the frame.

‘Did Ellen ever mention if she was in any trouble after she moved to Adelaide?’ I asked.

‘She didn’t tell us much about her life over there,’ said Mr Ford. ‘I guess she knew I wouldn’t have approved of what she was doing, if I’d known.’

‘She talked to me, though,’ said Mrs Ford. ‘She was very happy over there.’

To be continued…

Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West and Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.

Framed: A Ryan Parish PI Short Story-scene five

According to the brief the police had given Maggie, Ellen Ford had shared an apartment in Stanley Street, North Adelaide, with Sally Gretchen, who also worked in the brothel.

I drove to North Adelaide and knocked on Sally’s front door. I was about to leave empty-handed when the door opened.

‘Hello, gorgeous. What are you selling?’

She was all legs, and her parts that weren’t, were barely covered by a large white T-shirt. It was just as well Miranda wasn’t there to witness my reaction. I had to remind myself she was a potential source of information to get my mind to focus.

‘Are you Sally Gretchen?’ I managed to ask.

‘Who wants to know?’ she said, with a smile designed to melt hearts.

I handed her one of my cards. ‘My name’s Ryan Parish, I’m a private investigator working for the lawyer defending the man charged with killing Ellen.’

Her face lost its welcoming smile. ’What are you doing here?’

‘I’d like to ask you a few questions about Ellen,’ I said.


‘Is there any possibility she was in trouble before she was murdered?’

‘You’re not a policeman, are you?’

‘No, I’m a private investigator.’ I showed her my licence.

‘Oh, sorry, you already told me that, didn’t you?’

‘That’s okay.’ I slipped my licence back into my pocket. ‘Will you answer some questions for me?’

‘Why don’t you come in?’ She stepped back and held the door open for me.

I brushed past her and stepped into a dimly lit corridor. She opened a door and flicked on a light, and ushered me into a sitting room with heavy drapes drawn across the windows.

‘This is the tidiest room in the house,’ said Sally. ‘I haven’t had time to clean up since the police were here last week.’

‘Did they ask you questions about Ellen?’ I said.

‘Not really. They just wanted to look through her stuff so they could contact her parents.’

‘Was Ellen from Adelaide?’

Sally shook her head. ’She was from Hamilton, in Victoria.’ She sat on the arm of one of the chairs. ‘Why do you want to know about Ellen?’

I did my best to keep my eyes from straying to the two brown circles pushing through the fabric of her T-shirt.

‘Our client claims he’s been framed for her murder,’ I said.

‘Do you believe him?’ said Sally.

‘To be honest, I have no idea whether he’s telling the truth or not. But, if he is, someone else must have killed Ellen. My job is to find out if that’s a possibility or a pipe dream.’

‘Fair enough. What do you want to know?’

‘Was she in any sort of trouble?’

Sally crossed her arms in front of her breasts. ‘She came here to get away from the abusive bastard she’d lived with in Victoria.’

‘Do you know his name?’

‘Mick Daley. He’s lives in Hamilton.’

‘Did he ever come here and threaten her?’

‘I don’t think he knew where she was,’ said Sally, ‘but he called her a few times. She was always in tears after he called.’

‘Did she ever say why?’

‘Said it bought back memories of what he’d done to her.’

I wondered why Ellen hadn’t changed her number but it was too late to ask her now.

‘Did she have any problems at work?’

Sally slipped into the seat of the armchair and crossed her legs. ‘You mean with the other girls?’

I nodded.

’Nah, we all look out for each other. We have more than enough problems with the punters to be fighting between ourselves.’

I couldn’t really imagine what it must be like to be a sex worker but it obviously had its dark side. After all, her friend had been murdered on the job, if the police had it right.

‘Were you there the night Ellen was killed?’

‘Yeah. We worked in adjoining rooms.’

‘Hear anything unusual?’

‘Those rooms are soundproofed, Mr Parish. Nobody who’s paying for a good time with somebody like me wants to hear what’s going on in the room next door.’ She smiled.

‘So, you wouldn’t hear someone walking past your door, for example?’

‘They’d have to make a hell of a lot of noise.’

‘Have you ever opened one of those doors that leads out onto the balcony, Sally?’

‘I stopped doing fire drills when I left school, Mr Parish, but a couple of the girls that smoke go out onto the balcony. They’re not allowed to smoke in the building. You know, occupational health and safety and all that shit.’

‘Does anyone check those doors are locked?’

Sally shrugged. ‘I don’t know. They always look locked to me.’

On my way back to the office, I offered a silent prayer of gratitude for Miranda. Having her in my life had stopped me from giving in to temptation and doing something I knew I would live to regret.

To be continued…

Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West and Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.

Framed: A Ryan Parish PI Short Story-scene four

When I stepped onto the stairs to head down to the ground, a woman dressed in a business suit appeared at the bottom of the staircase. ‘Can I help you, young man?’

I bounded down the stairs and introduced myself. I showed her my PI licence and told her I was working for the lawyer defending the man charged with the murder of Ellen Ford. She told me her name was Heather Knight and that she managed the brothel. I gave her one of my business cards.

‘What are you doing here, Ryan?’ she asked.

‘Having a look to see how many ways someone could get into your building.’


‘Our client reckons he’s been framed.’

Heather raised an eyebrow. ‘The police think he did it.’

‘I know, and they might very well be right.’

‘But?’ said Heather.

‘This place has a lot of doors, doesn’t it?

She nodded.

‘How many of them are covered by a security camera?’

‘Is that why you were up there?’ She pointed towards the balcony.

‘I was looking to see if there were any cameras on the balcony.’

‘We keep those doors locked.’

‘Any cameras?’ I asked.

‘We only have a camera covering the front of house in case we have to call the police,’ said Heather.

‘Could you show me where that camera is?’ I asked.

Heather led me across the back of the building to the rear entrance. ’Ever been into a brothel before, Ryan?’ she asked, as she opened the door.

‘This is my first visit.’

‘I hope you’re not disappointed.’

I followed Heather into the bowels of the building. The interior looked nothing like how I had imagined a brothel. In fact, it looked like an old hotel desperately in need of a facelift.

When we reached the hallway inside the front door, Heather pointed out the security camera above the reception desk and then took me into an office back along the corridor, where a monitor on the wall displayed a black and white image of the reception area.

‘Which entrance do your clients use?’ I asked.

‘We only open the back door you came through and that front door,’ said Heather. ‘Either way, they have to come through reception and pay before we let them upstairs, unless they’re coming to the bistro.’

‘Bistro? I didn’t know guys came here to eat.’

Heather laughed. ’Not everyone’s after sex, Ryan. A lot of older men just want to spend time with a woman in a safe setting. It can get pretty lonely living on your own, you know.’

I filed that for later and got back on task.

‘What about the doors upstairs that open onto the balcony?’

‘We keep them locked at all times.’

‘So, if anybody was to come in through a door off the balcony, someone inside the building would have to let them in?’

‘All those doors have sensors on them,’ said Heather.

‘Are those sensors active all the time?’

‘Only when the alarm is turned on.’ Heather’s eyes widen as she realized the implication of what she’d just told me. ‘That would mean one of the girls could let someone in from the balcony without anyone knowing, wouldn’t it?’

‘Did you tell the police that?’

‘They didn’t ask,’ said Heather.

Obviously, the police didn’t think the possibility of someone coming through one of those doors was relevant. After all, they had their man, and a pile of statements from the other women who had been working in the brothel that night claiming they hadn’t seen or heard anybody besides Clive.

‘What can you tell me about Ellen Ford?’ I asked.

‘What do you want to know?’

‘How long had she worked here?’

‘A couple of years.’

‘Was she any trouble?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Was there any friction between Ellen and the other girls that work here?’

’Not that I know of,’ said Heather.

‘Do you think they’d talk to me?’

‘I’ll ask them, if you like.’

I gave her a few more of my business cards.

‘Thanks for showing me around.’

‘Come back and see us sometime, Ryan. I’m sure we can do something special for you.’

To be continued…

Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West and Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.

Framed: A Ryan Parish Short Story-scene three

I decided to visit the brothel to get a feel for Ellen Ford’s world. Well, I went to have a look at the building. It was ten in the morning when I parked in the street in front of the building housing the brothel and got out to have a look around.

The brothel was closed. A sign on the wall in the shade of the front veranda informed me the establishment opened nightly at six, and advised potential patrons to make an appointment online. I snapped a photo of the sign with my phone.

The place looked like it had once enjoyed a life as a pub. It was a two-storey bluestone building, with an impressive wrap around balcony, dating back to the early days of the twentieth century, when there was a pub on every corner that closed at six.

All of the ground floor windows were protected with iron bars. The main front door facing the street was locked. I counted four more doors as I walked around to the car park behind the building, where I spotted a staircase leading down from the balcony into the car park. The car park was deserted.

I looked for a security camera over the rear entrance. I couldn’t see one. I assumed, if they had one, it must be inside the building. I wondered which entrance Clive had used, and if every entrance was covered by a security camera during operating hours. A negative answer to that question would give a jury that little bit of wriggle room Maggie was looking for.

I knew from the police file that the room where Ellen’s body had been found was located on the second floor. I walked up the stairs and along the balcony past the rooms that opened onto it. There were no iron bars on the windows and glass-panelled doors. I peered through one of the doors and read a sign telling guests to use the outside stairs if there was a fire.

I tried one of the doors. It was locked.

A little voice in my head told me if they were using the balcony as a fire escape, those apparently locked glass-panelled doors would have to be easy to open from the inside to comply with fire regulations. That meant someone could easily let an accomplice into the building, if there were no security cameras covering the numerous doors that opened onto the balcony.

I peered into the recesses of the balcony’s ceiling. I couldn’t see any cameras covering the balcony and wondered how serious the owners were about securing the building.

As I walked back towards the stairs at the rear of the building, I noticed a sticker on a window. In bold letters, it alerted would-be intruders to the presence of an electronic security system monitored by Suburban Security Services. I stopped and snapped a photo of the sign with my phone.

To be continued…

Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West and Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.

Framed: A Ryan Parish Short Story-scene two

The folder Maggie gave me was full of information on Clive. He’d told her his life story and named everyone he’d ever had a relationship with: business and otherwise. He’d even confessed to being abusive towards his ex-wife, and claimed she’d alienated his children from him.

Maggie had interviewed his brother, Charles. He’d told her Clive was a hard-headed businessman who’d upset a few people but no-one had ever threatened him, apart from his ex, who’d actually carried through with her threat and divorced him.

The police had interviewed his ex. She had an alibi for the night in question and no obvious motive. She’d received a generous settlement. His kids weren’t old enough to be visiting a brothel to strangle someone their father was paying for sex.

The more I read of Maggie’s notes, the less confident I felt about uncovering anything in Clive’s life that would explain why someone wanted to frame him for murder. And, every time I read the police report, I couldn’t help thinking he’d done it. But, he was paying me good money to come up with something to suggest otherwise.

When I got home, I ran the details of the case past Miranda while we were eating.

‘What do you know about the woman he’s supposed to have killed?’ said Miranda.

‘She was twenty-six, a sex worker, her name’s Ellen Ford, and she’s dead,’ I said.

‘A twenty-six-year old could be mixed up in a lot of things, Ryan,’ said Miranda. ‘I know I was when I was that age.’ Her face morphed into one of those smiles that warned me not to go there. ‘If your client thinks he’s being framed for her murder, don’t you think it might be a good idea to find out what this Ellen was up to when she wasn’t working?’

I knew she’d say something like that.

To be continued…

Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West and Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.

Framed: A Ryan Parish PI Short Story-scene one

I spend a lot of time watching people cheat on their spouse or insurance company. Sometimes, I get involved in looking for missing persons. This assignment, though, wasn’t going to be anything like my usual cases.

Clive Richards had been charged with murder. According to the charge sheet, he’d strangled a young woman named Ellen Ford, a sex worker, after an engagement with her in a brothel in Brompton.

The police had lifted Clive’s fingerprints from the crime scene. They had a DNA sample extracted from semen left in a discarded condom found next to the body, which matched Clive’s DNA profile, and CCTV footage of him entering and leaving the brothel.

And, just to top off the case against Clive, his bank had confirmed he’d paid for services at the brothel on the night of the murder with his credit card.

It looked like a watertight case with precious little wriggle room for a jury to give Clive the benefit of the doubt.

But, Clive was protesting his innocence and insisting he’d been framed. The police weren’t buying his story, given the pile of evidence they had stacked against him.

Miranda’s friend, Maggie Clark, was defending Clive, which is why I was sitting in her office. You can probably guess how I got roped into finding out if Clive was telling her the truth or not.

‘What do you think, Maggie? Do you believe him?’

Maggie twisted her hands together and shrugged. ‘I really don’t know, Ryan. He’s an arsehole, if I’ve ever met one, but I can’t let that get in the way of his defence. I owe it to him to at least find out if there’s a possibility he’s telling the truth.’

I picked up the folder she’d asked me to read before our meeting. ‘The police case looks pretty convincing to me. We could be wasting our time,’ I said.

‘He’s got plenty of money,’ said Maggie, ‘and it would be nice to stick one up the police, especially if they haven’t done their job properly.’

That turned it into a bit of a challenge, and I liked a challenge, especially one that could expose a case based solely on the obvious. And, even if I wasn’t convinced of Clive’s innocence, I was willing to take his money.

‘What’s Clive’s story?’ I asked.

‘He’s in the import business. Fairly successful from what I can tell,’ said Maggie. ‘He’s in business with his brother, Charles.’

‘How long?’

‘They started in ninety-eight,’ said Maggie. ‘They have a warehouse on Norwood Parade.’

‘C and C Imports?’

‘That’s it.’

Small world. I’d bought stuff from them. ’What’s his version of what happened?’

Maggie looked at her notes. ‘He doesn’t deny going to the brothel. Claims he’s a regular, but he denies killing the girl. Says she was alive when he left.’

‘We know from the police report he was at the brothel the night she was killed,’ I said.

‘Yes. The CCTV confirms that.’

‘Have you seen the footage?’

‘Yes, but it only covers the area in front of the reception desk. There are no other cameras inside the brothel, according to the police,’ said Maggie.

’So, we know he went in and came out?’

‘Yes, and that he left before the girl was found dead,’ said Maggie.

‘How long before?’

Maggie looked at her notes again. ‘About twenty minutes.’

‘Doesn’t look good.’

‘But that’s enough time for someone else to act,’ said Maggie, ‘if Clive’s right about being framed.’

She had a point, but that someone either wanted Clive out of the way or was organised enough to capitalise on his presence in the brothel to terminate Ellen Ford for some other reason.

To be continued…

Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West and Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.

The Cobalt Sky

The Cobalt Sky is book 10 in Keith Dixon’s Sam Dyke Investigations series.

The story is driven by the theft of an artwork and the dysfunctional relationships of the artist’s family. The more Sam looks into the people associated with the artist, the more dysfunctional the family appears, and the less likable the artist becomes as a person.

The investigation is hampered by a lack of honesty in several key players, one of whom is the thief. No surprise there, but there are a few surprises in the telling of this tale. A good read.

You can get a preview and purchasing details at: The Cobalt Sky.

The Bank Inspector

The Bank Inspector is the first book in a trilogy of crime stories, featuring Detective Sergeant Brian Shaw, set in the banking world of 1950’s South Australia by Australian author Roger Monk.

The world of the 1950s is a place most of us only know from television shows, and the intricacies of its banking and police worlds have slipped from our working memories.

Although I lived through most of the 1950s, as a small boy I had no idea how things worked in the adult world. This story is an intriguing look through a window into that world.

The tale is one of an almost perfect crime and an attempted murder that, at first, does not seem related to the main story. However, as the story progresses the pieces start to make sense as more and more connections are revealed.

I enjoyed the insight into the less sophisticated world of yesterday – a world where there were no mobile telephones, no photocopiers, no digital photography, and no computers. It was also a world where people trusted others to be who they said there were – an aspect exploited by the criminal mind driving the story.

As a writer of contemporary crime fiction, I felt a bit sorry for D Sgt Shaw. He has his work cut out for him in this investigation, in a world where the police have to rely on information gained through speaking to people, very basic forensics, and the criminal making a mistake.

And, of course, mistakes are made as they always are. It’s a good read with a pace suited to the times.

You can find out more about The Bank Inspector and the other books in the trilogy on

Ebook edition is available from Amazon.

What it’s like being a teacher.

Here’s another social issue I slipped into After. This snippet comes from chapter two, where Sgt Marie Wood ponders why Josie Ford may have decided to take some time out.

She turned her thoughts to Josie. Why would an apparently happily married mother of two teenage boys disappear first thing in the morning? Well, she was a teacher. The things they had to put up with would be enough to push anybody over the edge. Teachers didn’t get much respect these days and it was becoming fashionable to blame them for everything that was wrong with today’s young people. So much for parental responsibility. Now it was all some teacher’s fault for not disciplining little Johnny or not teaching him properly. Parents were even going into classrooms and threatening teachers when their little darling was called to account for his latest outburst of anti-social behaviour and it wasn’t just the boys mucking up in schools. Just last week she had attended the local high school when an angry parent had turned up and threatened to shoot the principal.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like working as a teacher these days? It’s certainly not an easy task. Perhaps it never has been.

A lot of us have trouble managing our own children. Can you imagine what it must be like being responsible for other people’s children? And not just one or two of them but maybe twenty-five or more, all of them vying for your attention and some intent on making your life as difficult as possible.

It’s probably just as well most kids are good-natured and want to get the most out of what their schools have to offer, otherwise, there probably wouldn’t be any teachers. What would we do then?

Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West and Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.