From the road, the little red car looked like a new toy parked on the gravelled forecourt in front of the old farmhouse. A white police car was slewed across the drive way, blocking its escape. The bodies of the two policemen lay like discarded rag dolls between them.
Logan uncurled his long body from his vintage MG and looked across at the approaching inspector. The uniformed man greeted him hurriedly.
“…and keep your head down, Sir. He’s fired the occasional shot in our direction. We haven’t been able to recover the car crew. It sounds as though he has a small arsenal up there, including a semi automatic. They tell me he’s ex CMF Commando.”
Logan grunted acknowledgement. “Has there been any contact made?”
“We were told to wait for you, Sir. We have got the telephone number. Thank God the old lady has it unlisted, otherwise the current affairs stations would be tying up the line! Already the police helicopter has had to chase off two news ’copters.”
“I’ll get my gear.” Logan turned back to his car and took a small black attaché case from the passenger seat. A man of few words, thought the inspector, grinning to himself, A negotiator who doesn’t like talking! Out loud he said: “They have set up a tent for you just along here Sir, it’s outside of his field of fire. There is a table and a chair as you requested.”
“Known hostages?” Logan glanced sideways at the inspector as they made their way to the tent.
“Just the old lady, his mother; and the little girl, of course.” The inspector lifted the flap of the square tent. Inside, the light was a peculiar colour as it shone through the camouflaged nylon.
“Brief me.” Logan said tersely. “Mother’s Name, child’s name. His name, goddammit, age, occupation, medical history, I want to know everything I can about this man before I have a single word with him.” He opened up his case to reveal its electronic gadgetry. Seated at the table, incongruously on an ergonomic office chair with its spiderlike base, he set up a chunky portable phone and plugged in a twin cassette tape recorder.

The inspector was curious, “isn’t there a tap on the farm line?” and, seeing Logan’s brows furrowing into a frown, he hurriedly started to supply the information.
“The man’s name is Brian Moody. He is forty years old, middle management in the stockbroker firm of Hibberd-Ellison, Collins Street Melbourne. His wife, Mellisa, divorced him six months ago. She got custody of the kid, Melody Moody, aged five, She is now living in a relationship.” Logan looked up at him. “With another woman. That’s what all the fuss was about. Moody mounted a court challenge. He got a modern judge. ‘Best interests of child’ ‘Sex of mother’s housemate irrelevant’. Moody went bananas, abducted the kid. Now the bastard’s shot two of my coppers! He has been holed up there for three hours. Special Ops arrived, they sent for you. What can we do to help?”
“And the mother? You did say she was a hostage?”
“Well, in a hostage situation. We don’t know how she feels about things. She could have put him up to it, the abduction I mean. Shooting policemen is something else. We don’t have a clue. To be honest, we are waiting to see what you can find out.” he caught Logans frown once again and added, “Mary Moody, seventy, a widow. That farm is really just a home. She has agisted all the paddocks to the dairy farm up the road.”
“Any previous?”
“You’ll have to ask records. As far as I know he was an upright citizen until today. Now he has flipped. Mid life crisis perhaps, who knows. I’m no psychologist.”
Logan finished his preparations. “Got my walkie-talkie? Right! Channel set? Okay, I’ll talk to you and the OC Special Group as, and when, I’ve something useful to say. I’ll give you three minutes to brief the others, then I’ll try to make contact. And for Christ’s sake, tell them to keep their heads down and not do anything stupid. This is no place for heroes!”
In the farm house the phone rang itself out. Mrs Moody scolded her son. “You really ought to answer it Brian. It might be something important.”

Brian Moody let the binoculars fall to his chest. He passed a worried hand over his brow. “Don’t worry about it, Mother. I’m sure they’ll call back. I’ll tell you what. You take Melody up to your room and show her your treasures, she’ll like that. You can show her all the photos of Dad. Maybe you could both play dressing up. You’d like that, wouldn’t you Melody. Go on, take Nana up to her room. You’ll both have lots of fun. Stay away from the windows though, the sun is very hot today.” He shooed them out of the room. Then, tucking the cordless phone handset into his pocket he made his way back to his vantage point in the attic. There, laid out neatly on the floor, were his firearms. He picked up the SLR and fired five quick shots over the distant police cars on the road.
“It’s all right Mother,” he called down the stairs, “I’m just frightening off those nasty crows.” He broke open a new box of cartridges and reloaded
Logan phoned again, his finger poised over the redial button. This time, however, his call was answered.
“Hello.” the voice was flat, unemotional. There was a silence.
“Mr Moody?” Logan’s voice was neutral, businesslike. “My name is Ben Logan. May I talk to you about the situation in which we find ourselves?”
“I don’t want to talk to policemen — Or headshrinkers!” he added.
“I am not a policeman, nor connected in any way to the mental health industry. I am a consultant. You, as a businessman, will be aware of the value of consultancies. I am a professional negotiator. Would you care to discuss the situation, Mr Moody? I am speaking to Mr Moody?”
“Yes. I’m Moody.” He gave a bitter laugh, “You can guess how funny that line has been over the years.”
“As a Logan, I have been the victim of many loganberry jokes. People can be very cruel sometimes, can’t they Mr Moody.” A slightly rueful tone modified the neutral tone adopted by the negotiator,
Brian Moody seized on the remark. “Too right they can be cruel, bloody cruel! Look what has happened to me. I suppose they’ve told you all sorts of wild tales.”

“I’d rather hear it from you. Could you tell me just what happened? We’ve got a kind of delicate situation at the moment. It would be a great help to hear how you see things, how you feel about what has happened. Does that sound reasonable to you?”
“I’d like someone to listen to my side of it.” Moody’s voice took on more life.
Auditory response, noted Logan. From now on he would slant his expressions to suit this mode. “I hear what you are saying,” said Logan. Could you tell me in your own words, for my ears alone, I’ll listen carefully to what you have to say and then we can work.
out what to do. How does that sound, Mr Moody?”
“Call me Brian.” Moody seemed anxious to continue. “You don’t know how it is, Ben was it?’ It has been driving me up the wall. No-one to talk to. The kid is too young, and the old lady is like a kid herself lately. I need help, Ben.”
“Let me hear how it all started, Brian, I’m listening…”
For the next half hour Logan listened attentively, interjecting the occasional question, inserting sounds of acknowledgement and completely ignoring impatient policemen who poked their heads through the flap of the tent. Then, as Moody’s voice dwindled, and his pauses grew, Logan took up the conversation.
“Well, Brian, I hear where you are coming from, but it sounds as though we had better think up some way of defusing the situation. We don’t want all hell breaking loose. Someone might get hurt. You wouldn’t be where you are at this moment if you weren’t a devoted father. It is not good having Melody and her grandmother starring in a western. All you people waving guns about makes me nervous. We are businessmen, you and I, this is not really our scene. Give me a few moments while I try to sort something out, I won’t hang up. Just stick by your phone and I’ll get back to you.” Logan pressed the mute button and turned to the young inspector who had appointed himself liason officer. “He has talked himself out and he is in a receptive state of mind. I’ll give him a moment or two and then suggest that he send the child out with the old lady. Only one problem with that. I gather that neither of them know about the bodies. The old girl will probably freak out, and it won’t do a five-year-old much good to see a couple of corpses, there’s a bit of blood.”

Logan caught the look on the inspector’s face. “Sorry, I forgot they were your men. I”II try to talk him into a truce to recover the bodies, Could you get a couple of volunteers to pose as ambulance officers? I’d go myself, but it is important to keep him on the phone while I talk him through it.” He switched the phone on again.
“Brian?…I’m glad you held on. I’ve been talking to the people up here on the ridge. They have agreed not to do anything hasty….No, listen to me Brian. Everything is under control. They just feel they would be happier if they could recover the casualties. It sounds good sense to me. We don’t want young Melody to look out the front, do we. She is a bit young for that sort of thing. And your mother, Old people can get upset easily. How does this sound. We can get a couple of ambulance men to come and tidy things up, Eh?
“…Yeah, that’s a good idea, Brian. An open truck would save them along walk and a double trip. It sounds as though you’re really on the ball there…Okay, if you say so, though what the ambulance union will say to them coming out in their underwear….Okay, if that is what you want. This is great, Brian, you’re beginning to sort things out. You are doing well. I won’t say ‘Trust me’ Brian, either you do or you don’t. But you can. Can I tell the ambulance boys to go ahead?” Logan pushed the mute button, “GO!” he barked.
“Brian?… Will you do me a favour? Keep an eye on what’s appening out there and give me a commentary. Stay well back from the window but let me know how things are going so that I can keep control here.”
The little 4wd flat-top, with two stretchers on the back, drove sedately down the drive until it reached the abandoned police car. Two men, wearing only their underwear, Lifted down a stretcher and walked round the car to collect the first body. Placing it on the truck, they returned for the second. They placed the dead policeman on the stretcher but suddenly one of the men made a dive for the dead man’s service pistol which was lying on the ground. A snap shot sent it spinning out of his grasp. Moody had placed the phone handset on the floor while he covered the stretcher bearers but Logan could hear the sound of the rifle and Moody’s voice rising in hysteria as he screamed for them to pick up the stretcher and get out.

“Brian! Brian!” called Logan, desperate to resume contact.
Moody picked up the phone again. “They doublecrossed us Ben. One of them went for the pistol. I had to stop him.”
“I’m very proud of you Brian. That was a warning shot. Right? The man must be an idiot. Maybe he took
‘Tidying up” too literally. Anyway no-one got hurt and you achieved the goal. There’s no worry any more about upsetting Melody.
“About Melody, I’m still worried about her being caught up in all this. What do you suggest? Eh Brian? How does this sound. You could send her out with the old lady, with safeguards of course. Or you could come out yourself under a safe conduct. You want to get your word in? Have a fair hearing? Does that ring a bell?”

“Sounds a bit dodgy to me!” Moody was cautious. “Tell me how it would work.”
“Well, if you decide to come out, I could come and fetch you. You’d be okay with me along. I’ve been admiring your car. Of course, it is blocked in at the moment but I could pick you up in mine. I drive a ’46 MG. yeah, red of course. It is still in good nick, you should hear that engine! I’ll come to the house, leave the car in the drive, pop in for a word. I’ll say hello to your mother and you can introduce me to Melody. Sound okay to you?”

“I’m scared they’ll shoot me on sight.”
“Not with me along. My sister is married to the Commissioner. She’d give him a proper earful if anyone started banging away round me. She’d nag him to death. No, if we leave the house together you will be okay, I give my word on that. What do you say.”
“Okay.” Moody sounded relieved.

“Glad to hear you say that, Brian. That is music to my ears. I’ll be with you in five.”
After it was over, Logan reverted to his usual silent self. To most of the journalists now swarming over the siege site he was an unknown public servant. To those who recognised him he replied with a terse ‘No comment.” he got into his little red car and drove off. The little Mazda waited cheerfully for a master who would never come back.

(C) Copyright H.St.V.Beechey 1993