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His newspaper editor is hell-bent on showing him the door, his

footy team lost its last game, and his drinking habit is winning the
war with his better angels. And then theres the man with the bullet
in his head and links to a Mexican drug cartel lying in a Carlton
laneway. When his editor wants the story, Cavalier finds himself in
Bangkok uncomfortably close to the action and under the watchful
eye of a local cop with an intriguing background herself.

THE HONOURABLE
ASSASSIN

VIC CAVALIER HAS CERTAINLY HAD BETTER WEEKS.

In the steamy violent world of Thai elite power plays and the chaos
is implicated in the disappearance and possible murder of his
daughter. He has no choice but to pursue them whatever it takes.
Weaving together a fastpaced, all-too-real story The Honourable
Assassin is part psychological thriller and part todays headlines
about massive illegal drug trafficking in Australia and corruption at
the highest levels in South East Asia.

Cover design: Deborah Parry Graphics


Cover photos: Arcangel and Getty

FICTION

ROLAND PERRY

of a coup, Cavaliers motivation becomes clear this same cartel

THE

HONOURABLE
ASSASSIN

ROLAND
PERRY
A body in a Melbourne laneway
A Mexican drug cartel in Thailand
A journalist uncomfortably close to the action

THE

HONOURABLE
ASSASSIN

ROLAND
PERRY

THE

HONOURABLE
ASSASSIN

ROLAND
PERRY

First published in 2015


Copyright Roland Perry 2015
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in
any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior
permission in writing from the publisher. The Australian Copyright Act 1968
(the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10 per cent of this book, whichever
is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational
purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has
given a remuneration notice to the Copyright Agency (Australia) under the Act.
Allen & Unwin
83 Alexander Street
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Australia
Phone: (61 2) 8425 0100
Email: info@allenandunwin.com
Web: www.allenandunwin.com
Cataloguing-in-Publication details are available
from the National Library of Australia
www.trove.nla.gov.au
ISBN 978 1 76029 142 6
Set in 12.5/16.5 pt Adobe Caslon by Midland Typesetters, Australia
Printed and bound in Australia by Griffin Press
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

C009448

The paper in this book is FSC certified.


FSC promotes environmentally responsible,
socially beneficial and economically viable
management of the worlds forests.

Also by Roland Perry


Fiction
Program for a Puppet
Blood is a Stranger
Faces in the Rain
Non-Fiction
The Queen, Her Lover and the Most Notorious
Spy in History
Horrie: the War Dog
Bill the Bastard
The Fight for Australia [aka Pacific 360]
The Changi Brownlow
The Australian Light Horse
Last of the Cold War Spies
The Fifth Man
Monash: The Outsider Who Won a War
The Programming of the President
The Exile: Wilfred Burchett, Reporter of Conflict
Mel Gibson, Actor, Director, Producer
Lethal Hero
Sailing to the Moon
Elections Sur Ordinateur
Bradmans Invincibles
The Ashes
Millers Luck: The Life and Loves of Keith Miller,
Australias Greatest All-Rounder
Bradmans Best
Bradmans Best Ashes Teams

The Don
Captain Australia: A History of the Celebrated Captains
of Australian Test Cricket
Bold Warnie
Waughs Way
Shane Warne, Master Spinner
Documentary Films
The Programming of the President
The Raising of a Galleons Ghost
Strike Swiftly
Ted Kennedy & the Pollsters
The Force

PROLOGUE

35 YEARS AGO

Two hours before dawn on a cool August morning,


onehundred athletic men lined up at Dog Rock on the
Middleton Beach Road, just outside Albany, Western
Australia. Only thirty of this elite group would be selected
for the next batch of recruits to join Australias Special Air
Service Regiment commando force.
So far, these hardened specimens from all over the
nation had been through an extraordinarily gruelling
physical and mental examination. Over four weeks, they
had been weeded out from the three hundred and eightythree-strong starting squad, on the basis of their aptitudes
for combat, swimming, running, shooting (rifle and small
arms), and weaponry, which included machine guns,
hand-held rocket launchers and detonation. They had all
been grilled to assess their acuity in mathematics, English

expression, map reading, tactical skills, general discipline


and team work.
Leaders had emerged in the first week, with, in the
Australian tradition, the best taking command almost
by osmosis, no matter their backgrounds. Nine of the
hundred had tertiary qualifications. One was a doctor;
another, a civil engineer. Nine were professional fighters
of cage and ring, from boxing, wrestling, and martial arts,
including Muay Thai. There were four circus performers, and eight former professional footballers, most from
Australian Rules, which, of all ball games, demands the
greatest stamina. The remaining seventy had come from
three hundred and nineteen members of the armed forces
who had originally applied to join this most formidable of
all combat forces.
The most outstanding individual, twenty-three year-old
Victor Cavalier, had come from the air force, where he
had trained as both a navigator and pilot. In this group
of men, he was not exceptional in build, at one hundred
and eighty-three centimetres and eighty kilograms. But he
topped the squad in physical endurance, stamina, strength,
IQ, and personality and interpersonal skills. According
to Major Thomas Gregory, the designer of the overall
test, Cavalier was measurably physically superior by ten
percentage points above all others in every trial, and up
to twenty per cent better in all intelligence measures. His
IQ was one hundred and fifty-one, which put him in a
class that could succeed at just about any profession or
discipline. But it was his EQ, lateral-thinking capacity,
lightning-quick decision-making and leadership skills

combined that marked him as something ultra-special.


Then, after fifteen days, Gregory asked each man to write
down secretly the four in the squad he liked most and
who he thought was best equipped to command the entire
group. Cavalier wasin everyones top four and ninety-one
named him their chosen commander. In a decade of such
trials, no one else had ever come close to being the most
popular and also the almost universal choice to command.
The last, most important, challenge was along the
remote, sometimes rugged and always picturesque Great
Southern coastline, and would whittle down the number
of new recruits to thirty. Each man would have to race a
hundred kilometresequivalent to two and a half marathonswith a fifty-kilogram pack on his back and carry
a rifle. That was tough enough, but every ten kilometres
they would have to swim four hundred metres, still with
the pack and in water over their heads. Marshals along
the route would enforce these rules, and anyone caught
cheating would be disqualified from the race and lose any
chance of joining the SAS. Anyone breaking down would
suffer the same fate.
Just as lightning split the cool night air, the hundred
took off at a steady pace. Cavalier was running eightieth as
the group reached the lookout at Apex Drive on Middleton Beach, then cut down to the sand and swivelled along
the waters edge. At ten kilometres, the puffing participants
plunged into the near-freezing water, known to be inhabited by whales, porpoises and less inviting sea creatures,
such as great white sharks. By the end of the first swim,
many competitors were struggling as they lumbered back

to the sand, rifles strapped to their backpacks. Cavalier, a


strong swimmer, had made up fifty places to be thirtieth
and three hundred and fifty metres behind the lead pack.
Above them, two helicopters and one noisy gunship swept
the water, their light beams picking up the long spread of
contestants in case anyone got into difficulties, especially
in the sea.
After thirty kilometres of the run and three swims,
dawn was breaking over the horizon. Very few of the men
appreciated the spectacular start to the day, as lightning
continued to sprinkle the view over King George Sound.
Some were pacing themselves at the front, while others
were now stumbling at the rear. Cavalier was pounding
along in tenth place as they approached the end of the
fourth ten-kilometre stretch, which meant they were
nearing the end of the first marathon. He was fifty metres
behind the lead pack when he entered the water and level
with them when they emerged onto the sand. A marshal
pointed the way and now encouraged each participant,
like a football coach urging his players to lift their efforts.
But they were not even halfway. It would take more than
exhortation from army officials in tracksuits to keep them
going. Eighteen men had dropped out, most of them lying
slumped on the track. Several were in tears, their dreams
of adventure in far-off lands shattered. Visions of returning to mundane jobs haunted them and the humiliation of
failing even to reach fifty kilometres was overwhelming.
All but two of the dropouts had to be treated by paramedics trundling in vehicles along the beach road, like jackals
waiting for victims to fall.

In the fifth swim after fifty kilometres, Cavalier was


a hundred metres ahead of the next man when he left
the water, which had become choppy and even harder to
negotiate. He looked back and saw the gunship hovering
high above focusing a light beam on a struggling competitor. He tore off his pack and swam to the drowning man.
Having managed to haul him to the shallows, he removed
his pack, dragged him onto the sand and began to resuscitate him. The man had taken in a lot of water but within
two minutes Cavalier had him breathing and conscious.
Moments later, paramedics arrived and stretchered the
man up a slope to an ambulance. To applause from some of
the others, who had witnessed the rescue, Cavalier trotted
back to his pack and then to a halfway station.
The group had the option to break for twenty minutes
after four hours of non-stop endeavour, before turning
around and repeating the runs and swims until they were
back at the finish line at Dog Rock. Cavalier took a drink of
water from his pack and stretched out his lower legs, then
applied balm to his Achilles tendons and bandaged them
before starting out again. Stopping to help a competitor
had put him behind four others, who had taken only a few
minutes at the halfway pit stop. But Cavalier had them
covered before he entered the water for the sixth swim.
He emerged ninety seconds ahead, and by the end of the
seventh swim was a few kilometres clear of the next batch.
After the swim at eighty kilometres, Cavalier had
a slight limp. His left Achilles tendon was hurting. He
knew the stabbing pain well and how to stretch the tendon
out. But the only real treatment was to stop running. He

was five kilometres ahead of the second man, who was


now down to a fast stride. Fifty-two of the hundred had
dropped out, destroying their chances of being selected for
the SAS. After the swim at the ninety-kilometre point,
forty-four were still in the race, now only battling their
own minds.
Bodies might keep moving, but delirium set in as
dehydration took hold. Others might have clear minds
but bodies that now would not respond to the everyday
instruction of putting one foot after the other. Some just
lay on the track, their lungs heaving, hoping to be able
to lift themselves to their feet. Officials and paramedics
were now closer, ready to stretcher the increasing number
of fallen to waiting ambulances.
In the final ten-kilometre stanza, Cavalier, sweat
pouring from him, swallowed a painkiller as he ran, now
distinctly favouring his left leg. Normally he would have
stopped, knowing he could rupture the Achilles tendon,
but instead he used the searing pain to focuseach stab
meant he was another metre closer to Dog Rock. He began
to count in rhythm with his now ungainly jog. At ninetynine kilometres, an open-topped army vehicle pulled up
next to him. He gave the rugged driver, thirty-year-old
Major Gregory, a sideways glance.
Youre eight ks ahead of the next bloke! Gregory called.
If your legs buggered, you could walk it in from here and
youd still win easily.
If I ... stop ... it might not let me ... finish ...
Cavalier replied with a grimace, squeezing out the words.
Whats the problem?

Achilles.
I told your mum not to dip you in the River Styx!
Never listens!
Gregory grinned and said, Youre giving new meaning
to our motto ...
Who Dares Wins?
Yeah. With you, its Who Drags Back-leg Wins.
Gregory waved and drove off. Cavalier limped on until
he reached the big rock shaped like a dogs head. He
hadwon.

Three days later, Cavalier, on crutches, met Gregory in an


office in the greystone Town Hall in Albanys York Street.
The major scrutinised a report and squinted as he looked
up at Cavalier.
You lost four kilos? Gregory asked.
Cavalier nodded.
Hope Idont find them again.
Hows your Achilles?
Near enough to ruptured, Cavalier said without
emotion. Ill be on crutches for two or three weeks.
Thank you for saving that guy at the halfway point.
Hes okay?
Yeah, he only had a night in hospital. More than anything
else, hes depressed about what happened, because he didnt
make the cut. Wants to thank you for saving his life.
Cavalier nodded.
You know you won every single test ... Gregory began.
Im aware, Cavalier said, with a wave of his hand.

But we cant take you in, the major said, his voice heavy
with regret. The rules are clear. If anyone breaks down
during or after a trial, they might do so in the field. That
would make them a liability in any SAS operation.
Cavalier ran his hands through his long fair hair.
Sadness swept his face for an instant.
Ive been running this test for several years, Gregory
said, and never had a recruit in your class. But ... He
broke off, rubbed his forehead and asked, What will you
do career-wise now?
Ive applied for a job as a journalist in Melbourne. It
was a fallback in case ...
Will you get it?
I think so. Ive been contributing cricket reporting to
the paper for five years. It may help me get a full-time job.
Id like to be an investigative journalist.
You could always try TV reporting.
Cavalier smiled and shook his head.
My wife saw your picture in the line-up of recruits,
Gregory said, reckons youd be a hit on 60 Minutes. Says
your flat nose makes you look sexy: like a cross between a
young Elvis and a young Brando.
She needs to have her eyes tested, Cavalier said, and,
anyway, the nose structure has been helped along by a
cricket ball. Its called natural plastic surgery.
Gregory laughed. No TV then? he said.
Too superficial; too lightweight. What you blokes do is
the real thing. Thats for me.
Gregory scratched his outsized chin and ruminated for
several seconds. Would you be open to some unofficial

assignments? he said. There would be overseas travel.


Your exceptional skills would be put to good use.
Such as?
Cant tell you that. Look, Gregory continued, while
standing, Ive spoken to senior commanders about you.
They agree that we should do more than keep in touch.
Then do that, by all means, Cavalier said.

DEATH OF A DEPUTY

THE PRESENT

It was a professional hit. A man was felled by a single


bullet to the head outside a brothel off Lygon Street in the
Melbourne suburb of Carlton. The time was 10.25p.m.
on a Friday. The area was sealed off and police forensic
experts were doing their thing, taking bullet fragments
away and examining the area. No one had heard a sound,
which indicated the killer had used a silencer. No one
had seen anything either. Police searched the buildings
and set up roadblocks.
Attention turned to identifying the murdered man. He
had been protected by four armed bodyguards, who were
unhappy about being taken into custody for questioning,
along with six members of a Melbourne underworld gang.
The gang members had hosted the victim and his guards at
the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where they had watched

10

a football match between Carlton and Melbourne. The


sex workers and male clients at the brothel were also
interrogated.

At midnight, when the police were still gathering information, reporter Vic Cavalier was five kilometres away at his
home in the bayside suburb of St Kilda, watching a replay
of the game. He could hear his girlfriend, Martha, stomping
around in the bedroom upstairs, occasionally yelling something to him. It had been going on ever since hed flicked
on the TV. She was upset that hed been at the game and
that now, instead of engaging with her, he was watching
the game again. A half-bottle of Scotch was sitting on a
coffee table, and he was well into his third double when he
received a call from his newspapers editor, Shelley Driscoll.
Can you attend a crime scene?
Shelley, Im having a drink ...
I thought youd cut back ...?
Ive been to the footy ... Feeling a bit down. He
glanced at his watch. Its after midnight!
Are you watching the replay?!
Im relaxing.
But Melbourne was thrashed, wasnt it? Ive never
heard of a fan wanting to replay such a bad loss straight
after experiencing it live!
I want to see where they went wrong, he said unconvincingly. Im ... you know ... more of a forensic fan.
I want you at the scene. Its a murder and maybe a
gangland job.

11

Why me? Youve just cut my days to three a week.


This needs an experienced journo. Theres something
odd about it. Im asking you to go, Vic.
Cavalier sipped his drink. Cant you send one of your
full-timers?
Okay, Im ordering you to go! You know youre treading
on thin ice as it is.
Thats blackmail!
No, its an employer asking an old-pro employee to get
his arse to Carlton.
Hed just put the phone down when Martha, who had
moved in only a fortnight ago, stormed into the living
room, suitcase in hand.
I heard that call, she said. Youre pissing off on a job
after being at the bloody football all night. Im not putting
up with it anymore!
Cavalier gestured helplessly.
If youre not on some fucking cricket tour, its golf
or god knows what! Martha brushed him away. Youre
drinking again, when you promised youd stop! She sobbed.
Ithought moving in with you might help. But its worse!
She bustled out and slammed the front door. He heard
her car start up and then career off.
Shit! Cavalier muttered as he slapped a black leather cap
on his head, slipped into a warm jacket and hurried off, his
bag holding an iPad and camera slung over his shoulder. He
wove his car in and out of the very-early-morning traffic,
being careful not to run red lights, a misdemeanour that
had seen him accrue a lot of demerit points. One more and
hed lose his licence. He was also worried about the alcohol

12

hedconsumed. Hed had nothing at the football but the three


stiff Scotches since would have put him over the limit. Still,
he tended to be a brisk driver at the most relaxed times, and
now he was in a hurry and put his foot down. He gunned the
car along Kings Way, and then into Carlton, near Melbourne
University. Just as he reached the roped-off crime scene area,
he heard the siren of the police car hot on his tail.
Cavalier walked briskly to the plainclothes and other
police at the crime scene, flashing his press pass. He
approached Bill Grant, a moustachioed man of about fifty,
who was the states top homicide cop.
Vic, Grant said with a wry smile, extending a hand,
thought youd retired!
Not quite, mate.
They both looked around to see two cops closing in on
Cavalier on foot.
Sir, one of them, a young female, said, this man was
speeding along Grattan Street. We ...
Thats okay, Constable, Grant said, taking her aside,
Iasked him to come in quickly. He has some information
vital to this investigation. But youve done the right thing.
The young cops retreated. Cavalier looked inquiringly
at Grant.
I rang your editor, Grant said, a serious expression replacing his languid world-weariness. Iwanted you here. They
walked back towards an alley. Want a look at the body?
Not really.
Cmon. Helps focus the mind.
Light rain began to fall as they wandered over to the
body lying under a sheet on the alleys cobblestones. A cop

13

pulled back the sheet and Cavalier braced himself. There


was a huge hole in the front of the victims head. The bullet
had struck nearly dead centre of the forehead, about four
centimetres above the eyes. The brain was exposed, with
parts of it and blood dripping from the skull.
No smell yet, Grant proffered, so we reckon the deed
was done within the last two hours.
Cavalier stared until the homicide cop covered the
body. Havent seen one like that for a while, he said. Do
we know who he is?
Thought youd be interested in that, given your expertise on the drug lords, Grant said, pulling two passports
from his pockets. A Mexican: Virgillo Labasta. He showed
Cavalier one passport and then the other. He entered the
country on this one, which is false. Know him?
I certainly do, Cavalier said with a frown, hes number
two in the worlds biggest drug cartel. They locked eyes.
Hes the cousin of the big boss, Leonardo Mendez.
Hmmm, Grant said, realising the size of the case,
Irecall you said to me about five or six years ago that
Mendez was top of your list of suspects of those behind
your daughters disappearance ...
Yeah, Cavalier said. Mendez was big then. Hes huge
now.
They both looked down at the body again, before Grant
smiled briefly and said, Someone may inadvertently have
done you a big favour.
Cavalier gave a non-committal nod and said: Id like to
do more research on this bloke. My file on Mendez is big,
but not my file on this one.

14

If we learn anything, well let you know.


Cavalier was distracted by the sight of a tall Asian
woman in a fashionable three-quarter coat and brown
leather cap.
Do we have any idea why Labasta was here? he asked.
He was clearly doing business, but with whom?
Educated guess, Grant said, waving a hand at the
brothel. This lovely place is owned by Kev Caveman
Mollini.
Okay. It has to be a drug deal of some sort.
It wouldnt be electrical goods from Thailand and
Mexico, although his card claims this business.
Thailand?
Chiang Mai based.
Cavalier shrugged. A Mexican drug cartel branching
out in South East Asia, he murmured as he took out a
notepad and scribbled.
The tall Asian woman came close, bent down, removed
the sheet and examined the body. Cavalier stared, noticing
her large brown eyes and full lips. She glanced up, caught
his gaze and looked away. The woman covered the body
again, stood, flicked back her long black hair and began
taking shots with a camera of surrounding buildings.
Nice hat, Cavalier said to her. She looked around,
glanced at his hat, gave the barest hint of a smile and went
on taking shots.
Whos that? he whispered to Grant.
Jacinta Cin Lai. Shes a Thai special investigator,
working with the feds, he replied, with more than a hint
of disdain.

15

The feds? Are they onto this?


The Wombat was here sniffing around about half an
hour ago. You just missed him.
Do we know what shes investigating, exactly?
I asked the Wombat. He wasnt too forthcoming.
Grant paused. Ihate the feds interfering.
What else?
The cop shrugged and gestured to the body. All Iknow
is that a lot of shit is going to fly off the fan.

16

First published in 2015


Copyright Roland Perry 2015
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in
any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior
permission in writing from the publisher. The Australian Copyright Act 1968
(the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10 per cent of this book, whichever
is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational
purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has
given a remuneration notice to the Copyright Agency (Australia) under the Act.
Allen & Unwin
83 Alexander Street
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Australia
Phone:
(61 2) 8425 0100
Email:
info@allenandunwin.com
Web:
www.allenandunwin.com
Cataloguing-in-Publication details are available
from the National Library of Australia
www.trove.nla.gov.au
ISBN 978 1 76029 142 6
Set in 12.5/16.5 pt Adobe Caslon by Midland Typesetters, Australia
Printed and bound in Australia by Griffin Press
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

C009448

The paper in this book is FSC certified.


FSC promotes environmentally responsible,
socially beneficial and economically viable
management of the worlds forests.

Also by Roland Perry


Fiction
Program for a Puppet
Blood is a Stranger
Faces in the Rain
Non-Fiction
The Queen, Her Lover and the Most Notorious
Spy in History
Horrie: the War Dog
Bill the Bastard
The Fight for Australia [aka Pacific 360]
The Changi Brownlow
The Australian Light Horse
Last of the Cold War Spies
The Fifth Man
Monash: The Outsider Who Won a War
The Programming of the President
The Exile: Wilfred Burchett, Reporter of Conflict
Mel Gibson, Actor, Director, Producer
Lethal Hero
Sailing to the Moon
Elections Sur Ordinateur
Bradmans Invincibles
The Ashes
Millers Luck: The Life and Loves of Keith Miller,
Australias Greatest All-Rounder
Bradmans Best
Bradmans Best Ashes Teams

The Don
Captain Australia: A History of the Celebrated Captains
of Australian Test Cricket
Bold Warnie
Waughs Way
Shane Warne, Master Spinner
Documentary Films
The Programming of the President
The Raising of a Galleons Ghost
Strike Swiftly
Ted Kennedy & the Pollsters
The Force

PROLOGUE

35 YEARS AGO

Two hours before dawn on a cool August morning,


one hundred athletic men lined up at Dog Rock on the
Middleton Beach Road, just outside Albany, Western
Australia. Only thirty of this elite group would be selected
for the next batch of recruits to join Australias Special Air
Service Regiment commando force.
So far, these hardened specimens from all over the
nation had been through an extraordinarily gruelling
physical and mental examination. Over four weeks, they
had been weeded out from the three hundred and eightythree-strong starting squad, on the basis of their aptitudes
for combat, swimming, running, shooting (rifle and small
arms), and weaponry, which included machine guns,
hand-held rocket launchers and detonation. They had all
been grilled to assess their acuity in mathematics, English

expression, map reading, tactical skills, general discipline


and team work.
Leaders had emerged in the first week, with, in the
Australian tradition, the best taking command almost
by osmosis, no matter their backgrounds. Nine of the
hundred had tertiary qualifications. One was a doctor;
another, a civil engineer. Nine were professional fighters
of cage and ring, from boxing, wrestling, and martial arts,
including Muay Thai. There were four circus performers, and eight former professional footballers, most from
Australian Rules, which, of all ball games, demands the
greatest stamina. The remaining seventy had come from
three hundred and nineteen members of the armed forces
who had originally applied to join this most formidable of
all combat forces.
The most outstanding individual, twenty-three year-old
Victor Cavalier, had come from the air force, where he
had trained as both a navigator and pilot. In this group
of men, he was not exceptional in build, at one hundred
and eighty-three centimetres and eighty kilograms. But he
topped the squad in physical endurance, stamina, strength,
IQ, and personality and interpersonal skills. According
to Major Thomas Gregory, the designer of the overall
test, Cavalier was measurably physically superior by ten
percentage points above all others in every trial, and up
to twenty per cent better in all intelligence measures. His
IQ was one hundred and fifty-one, which put him in a
class that could succeed at just about any profession or
discipline. But it was his EQ, lateral-thinking capacity,
lightning-quick decision-making and leadership skills

combined that marked him as something ultra-special.


Then, after fifteen days, Gregory asked each man to write
down secretly the four in the squad he liked most and
who he thought was best equipped to command the entire
group. Cavalier was in everyones top four and ninety-one
named him their chosen commander. In a decade of such
trials, no one else had ever come close to being the most
popular and also the almost universal choice to command.
The last, most important, challenge was along the
remote, sometimes rugged and always picturesque Great
Southern coastline, and would whittle down the number
of new recruits to thirty. Each man would have to race a
hundred kilometresequivalent to two and a half marathonswith a fifty-kilogram pack on his back and carry
a rifle. That was tough enough, but every ten kilometres
they would have to swim four hundred metres, still with
the pack and in water over their heads. Marshals along
the route would enforce these rules, and anyone caught
cheating would be disqualified from the race and lose any
chance of joining the SAS. Anyone breaking down would
suffer the same fate.
Just as lightning split the cool night air, the hundred
took off at a steady pace. Cavalier was running eightieth as
the group reached the lookout at Apex Drive on Middleton Beach, then cut down to the sand and swivelled along
the waters edge. At ten kilometres, the puffing participants
plunged into the near-freezing water, known to be inhabited by whales, porpoises and less inviting sea creatures,
such as great white sharks. By the end of the first swim,
many competitors were struggling as they lumbered back

to the sand, rifles strapped to their backpacks. Cavalier, a


strong swimmer, had made up fifty places to be thirtieth
and three hundred and fifty metres behind the lead pack.
Above them, two helicopters and one noisy gunship swept
the water, their light beams picking up the long spread of
contestants in case anyone got into difficulties, especially
in the sea.
After thirty kilometres of the run and three swims,
dawn was breaking over the horizon. Very few of the men
appreciated the spectacular start to the day, as lightning
continued to sprinkle the view over King George Sound.
Some were pacing themselves at the front, while others
were now stumbling at the rear. Cavalier was pounding
along in tenth place as they approached the end of the
fourth ten-kilometre stretch, which meant they were
nearing the end of the first marathon. He was fifty metres
behind the lead pack when he entered the water and level
with them when they emerged onto the sand. A marshal
pointed the way and now encouraged each participant,
like a football coach urging his players to lift their efforts.
But they were not even halfway. It would take more than
exhortation from army officials in tracksuits to keep them
going. Eighteen men had dropped out, most of them lying
slumped on the track. Several were in tears, their dreams
of adventure in far-off lands shattered. Visions of returning to mundane jobs haunted them and the humiliation of
failing even to reach fifty kilometres was overwhelming.
All but two of the dropouts had to be treated by paramedics trundling in vehicles along the beach road, like jackals
waiting for victims to fall.

In the fifth swim after fifty kilometres, Cavalier was


a hundred metres ahead of the next man when he left
the water, which had become choppy and even harder to
negotiate. He looked back and saw the gunship hovering
high above focusing a light beam on a struggling competitor. He tore off his pack and swam to the drowning man.
Having managed to haul him to the shallows, he removed
his pack, dragged him onto the sand and began to resuscitate him. The man had taken in a lot of water but within
two minutes Cavalier had him breathing and conscious.
Moments later, paramedics arrived and stretchered the
man up a slope to an ambulance. To applause from some of
the others, who had witnessed the rescue, Cavalier trotted
back to his pack and then to a halfway station.
The group had the option to break for twenty minutes
after four hours of non-stop endeavour, before turning
around and repeating the runs and swims until they were
back at the finish line at Dog Rock. Cavalier took a drink of
water from his pack and stretched out his lower legs, then
applied balm to his Achilles tendons and bandaged them
before starting out again. Stopping to help a competitor
had put him behind four others, who had taken only a few
minutes at the halfway pit stop. But Cavalier had them
covered before he entered the water for the sixth swim.
He emerged ninety seconds ahead, and by the end of the
seventh swim was a few kilometres clear of the next batch.
After the swim at eighty kilometres, Cavalier had
a slight limp. His left Achilles tendon was hurting. He
knew the stabbing pain well and how to stretch the tendon
out. But the only real treatment was to stop running. He

was five kilometres ahead of the second man, who was


now down to a fast stride. Fifty-two of the hundred had
dropped out, destroying their chances of being selected for
the SAS. After the swim at the ninety-kilometre point,
forty-four were still in the race, now only battling their
own minds.
Bodies might keep moving, but delirium set in as
dehydration took hold. Others might have clear minds
but bodies that now would not respond to the everyday
instruction of putting one foot after the other. Some just
lay on the track, their lungs heaving, hoping to be able
to lift themselves to their feet. Officials and paramedics
were now closer, ready to stretcher the increasing number
of fallen to waiting ambulances.
In the final ten-kilometre stanza, Cavalier, sweat
pouring from him, swallowed a painkiller as he ran, now
distinctly favouring his left leg. Normally he would have
stopped, knowing he could rupture the Achilles tendon,
but instead he used the searing pain to focuseach stab
meant he was another metre closer to Dog Rock. He began
to count in rhythm with his now ungainly jog. At ninetynine kilometres, an open-topped army vehicle pulled up
next to him. He gave the rugged driver, thirty-year-old
Major Gregory, a sideways glance.
Youre eight ks ahead of the next bloke! Gregory called.
If your legs buggered, you could walk it in from here and
youd still win easily.
If I . . . stop . . . it might not let me . . . finish . . .
Cavalier replied with a grimace, squeezing out the words.
Whats the problem?

Achilles.
I told your mum not to dip you in the River Styx!
Never listens!
Gregory grinned and said, Youre giving new meaning
to our motto . . .
Who Dares Wins?
Yeah. With you, its Who Drags Back-leg Wins.
Gregory waved and drove off. Cavalier limped on until
he reached the big rock shaped like a dogs head. He
had won.

Three days later, Cavalier, on crutches, met Gregory in an


office in the greystone Town Hall in Albanys York Street.
The major scrutinised a report and squinted as he looked
up at Cavalier.
You lost four kilos? Gregory asked.
Cavalier nodded.
Hope I dont find them again.
Hows your Achilles?
Near enough to ruptured, Cavalier said without
emotion. Ill be on crutches for two or three weeks.
Thank you for saving that guy at the halfway point.
Hes okay?
Yeah, he only had a night in hospital. More than anything
else, hes depressed about what happened, because he didnt
make the cut. Wants to thank you for saving his life.
Cavalier nodded.
You know you won every single test . . . Gregory began.
Im aware, Cavalier said, with a wave of his hand.

But we cant take you in, the major said, his voice heavy
with regret. The rules are clear. If anyone breaks down
during or after a trial, they might do so in the field. That
would make them a liability in any SAS operation.
Cavalier ran his hands through his long fair hair.
Sadness swept his face for an instant.
Ive been running this test for several years, Gregory
said, and never had a recruit in your class. But . . . He
broke off, rubbed his forehead and asked, What will you
do career-wise now?
Ive applied for a job as a journalist in Melbourne. It
was a fallback in case . . .
Will you get it?
I think so. Ive been contributing cricket reporting to
the paper for five years. It may help me get a full-time job.
Id like to be an investigative journalist.
You could always try TV reporting.
Cavalier smiled and shook his head.
My wife saw your picture in the line-up of recruits,
Gregory said, reckons youd be a hit on 60 Minutes. Says
your flat nose makes you look sexy: like a cross between a
young Elvis and a young Brando.
She needs to have her eyes tested, Cavalier said, and,
anyway, the nose structure has been helped along by a
cricket ball. Its called natural plastic surgery.
Gregory laughed. No TV then? he said.
Too superficial; too lightweight. What you blokes do is
the real thing. Thats for me.
Gregory scratched his outsized chin and ruminated for
several seconds. Would you be open to some unofficial

assignments? he said. There would be overseas travel.


Your exceptional skills would be put to good use.
Such as?
Cant tell you that. Look, Gregory continued, while
standing, Ive spoken to senior commanders about you.
They agree that we should do more than keep in touch.
Then do that, by all means, Cavalier said.

DEATH OF A DEPUTY

THE PRESENT

It was a professional hit. A man was felled by a single


bullet to the head outside a brothel off Lygon Street in the
Melbourne suburb of Carlton. The time was 10.25 p.m.
on a Friday. The area was sealed off and police forensic
experts were doing their thing, taking bullet fragments
away and examining the area. No one had heard a sound,
which indicated the killer had used a silencer. No one
had seen anything either. Police searched the buildings
and set up roadblocks.
Attention turned to identifying the murdered man. He
had been protected by four armed bodyguards, who were
unhappy about being taken into custody for questioning,
along with six members of a Melbourne underworld gang.
The gang members had hosted the victim and his guards at
the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where they had watched

10

a football match between Carlton and Melbourne. The


sex workers and male clients at the brothel were also
interrogated.

At midnight, when the police were still gathering information, reporter Vic Cavalier was five kilometres away at his
home in the bayside suburb of St Kilda, watching a replay
of the game. He could hear his girlfriend, Martha, stomping
around in the bedroom upstairs, occasionally yelling something to him. It had been going on ever since hed flicked
on the TV. She was upset that hed been at the game and
that now, instead of engaging with her, he was watching
the game again. A half-bottle of Scotch was sitting on a
coffee table, and he was well into his third double when he
received a call from his newspapers editor, Shelley Driscoll.
Can you attend a crime scene?
Shelley, Im having a drink . . .
I thought youd cut back . . .?
Ive been to the footy . . . Feeling a bit down. He
glanced at his watch. Its after midnight!
Are you watching the replay?!
Im relaxing.
But Melbourne was thrashed, wasnt it? Ive never
heard of a fan wanting to replay such a bad loss straight
after experiencing it live!
I want to see where they went wrong, he said unconvincingly. Im . . . you know . . . more of a forensic fan.
I want you at the scene. Its a murder and maybe a
gangland job.

11

Why me? Youve just cut my days to three a week.


This needs an experienced journo. Theres something
odd about it. Im asking you to go, Vic.
Cavalier sipped his drink. Cant you send one of your
full-timers?
Okay, Im ordering you to go! You know youre treading
on thin ice as it is.
Thats blackmail!
No, its an employer asking an old-pro employee to get
his arse to Carlton.
Hed just put the phone down when Martha, who had
moved in only a fortnight ago, stormed into the living
room, suitcase in hand.
I heard that call, she said. Youre pissing off on a job
after being at the bloody football all night. Im not putting
up with it anymore!
Cavalier gestured helplessly.
If youre not on some fucking cricket tour, its golf
or god knows what! Martha brushed him away. Youre
drinking again, when you promised youd stop! She sobbed.
I thought moving in with you might help. But its worse!
She bustled out and slammed the front door. He heard
her car start up and then career off.
Shit! Cavalier muttered as he slapped a black leather cap
on his head, slipped into a warm jacket and hurried off, his
bag holding an iPad and camera slung over his shoulder. He
wove his car in and out of the very-early-morning traffic,
being careful not to run red lights, a misdemeanour that
had seen him accrue a lot of demerit points. One more and
hed lose his licence. He was also worried about the alcohol

12

hed consumed. Hed had nothing at the football but the three
stiff Scotches since would have put him over the limit. Still,
he tended to be a brisk driver at the most relaxed times, and
now he was in a hurry and put his foot down. He gunned the
car along Kings Way, and then into Carlton, near Melbourne
University. Just as he reached the roped-off crime scene area,
he heard the siren of the police car hot on his tail.
Cavalier walked briskly to the plainclothes and other
police at the crime scene, flashing his press pass. He
approached Bill Grant, a moustachioed man of about fifty,
who was the states top homicide cop.
Vic, Grant said with a wry smile, extending a hand,
thought youd retired!
Not quite, mate.
They both looked around to see two cops closing in on
Cavalier on foot.
Sir, one of them, a young female, said, this man was
speeding along Grattan Street. We . . .
Thats okay, Constable, Grant said, taking her aside,
I asked him to come in quickly. He has some information
vital to this investigation. But youve done the right thing.
The young cops retreated. Cavalier looked inquiringly
at Grant.
I rang your editor, Grant said, a serious expression replacing his languid world-weariness. I wanted you here. They
walked back towards an alley. Want a look at the body?
Not really.
Cmon. Helps focus the mind.
Light rain began to fall as they wandered over to the
body lying under a sheet on the alleys cobblestones. A cop

13

pulled back the sheet and Cavalier braced himself. There


was a huge hole in the front of the victims head. The bullet
had struck nearly dead centre of the forehead, about four
centimetres above the eyes. The brain was exposed, with
parts of it and blood dripping from the skull.
No smell yet, Grant proffered, so we reckon the deed
was done within the last two hours.
Cavalier stared until the homicide cop covered the
body. Havent seen one like that for a while, he said. Do
we know who he is?
Thought youd be interested in that, given your expertise on the drug lords, Grant said, pulling two passports
from his pockets. A Mexican: Virgillo Labasta. He showed
Cavalier one passport and then the other. He entered the
country on this one, which is false. Know him?
I certainly do, Cavalier said with a frown, hes number
two in the worlds biggest drug cartel. They locked eyes.
Hes the cousin of the big boss, Leonardo Mendez.
Hmmm, Grant said, realising the size of the case,
I recall you said to me about five or six years ago that
Mendez was top of your list of suspects of those behind
your daughters disappearance . . .
Yeah, Cavalier said. Mendez was big then. Hes huge
now.
They both looked down at the body again, before Grant
smiled briefly and said, Someone may inadvertently have
done you a big favour.
Cavalier gave a non-committal nod and said: Id like to
do more research on this bloke. My file on Mendez is big,
but not my file on this one.

14

If we learn anything, well let you know.


Cavalier was distracted by the sight of a tall Asian
woman in a fashionable three-quarter coat and brown
leather cap.
Do we have any idea why Labasta was here? he asked.
He was clearly doing business, but with whom?
Educated guess, Grant said, waving a hand at the
brothel. This lovely place is owned by Kev Caveman
Mollini.
Okay. It has to be a drug deal of some sort.
It wouldnt be electrical goods from Thailand and
Mexico, although his card claims this business.
Thailand?
Chiang Mai based.
Cavalier shrugged. A Mexican drug cartel branching
out in South East Asia, he murmured as he took out a
notepad and scribbled.
The tall Asian woman came close, bent down, removed
the sheet and examined the body. Cavalier stared, noticing
her large brown eyes and full lips. She glanced up, caught
his gaze and looked away. The woman covered the body
again, stood, flicked back her long black hair and began
taking shots with a camera of surrounding buildings.
Nice hat, Cavalier said to her. She looked around,
glanced at his hat, gave the barest hint of a smile and went
on taking shots.
Whos that? he whispered to Grant.
Jacinta Cin Lai. Shes a Thai special investigator,
working with the feds, he replied, with more than a hint
of disdain.

15

The feds? Are they onto this?


The Wombat was here sniffing around about half an
hour ago. You just missed him.
Do we know what shes investigating, exactly?
I asked the Wombat. He wasnt too forthcoming.
Grant paused. I hate the feds interfering.
What else?
The cop shrugged and gestured to the body. All I know
is that a lot of shit is going to fly off the fan.

16

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