"I have to pick the boys up from playgroup," she replied, her face sad. "Don't worry, I'll be back. But please, think again. I don't want to lose you. They need you. I need you. We all need you." So much for the people that loved me never wanting me to go away. It wasn't that they 'wanted' me, it was that they 'needed' me. So I was indispensible, but not for the reasons I had hoped.
"I won't be here when you get back," I told her, trying to keep my voice light. "I've got to go. I've had a call from Australia, and I think it might be something to help me make a breakthrough. I'll call you when I get there, but I don't know when I'll be back." Sometimes she came with me on my trips; more often than not she stayed home with the boys and called me every evening to find out what was happening.
I met many people on my travels, and of those people not all of them were policemen. There were victims and the families of victims, whose traumatic stories hurt me so deeply inside that every night I found it impossible to sleep, and would spend my time sitting up in bed, thinking over the sight of their wide eyes staring into my face. It was impossible to remember who I was. No, more than that: it was impossible to have an identity, when I held the memories of so many people, and knew their stories.
But I also met others that had seen things happen. Often they were old men. This was the early eighties, you see, and many of those that I spoke to had been alive during the Second World War. Some of them had had children. Some of them had been children. They told me the most horrific stories of the holocaust, and how the Jewish children were treated in the concentration camps. I could not tear myself away, but it was impossible to stay and listen.
After about a week in Australia, listening to their cracked voices and evil tales, I was ready to go home. But I couldn't, not yet. I still had a few more places to visit, to catch this one man they had been telling me about. Yet it wasn't this one-off murderer that interested me. Yes, I wanted to catch him, but I more wanted to do what I had to do. I wanted to see what I could do, before everything went wrong. I wanted to change history, that's what I wanted to do. And I would do whatever I could to make it happen.
I heard those stories in the bush. I heard them in tiny little pubs. I heard them in the lobby of my hotel. I heard those stories everywhere. But there was one in particular that held my interest, and it was this which I chose to write down in the little black notebook I carried everywhere. Usually, I wrote down the evidence and the appearance of the criminals I was trying to catch. Not this time. I sat in the chairs of the hotel lounge with a pen in one hand and the notebook in the other, trying to trap the elusive words which would enable me to share this story.
Already I was tired of the pain that it brought, but I knew it had to be told; if I, like so many others, shied away from the truth, then it would never be told. If I, like so many others, refused to tell what had happened, then it would be too difficult to prevent it from happening again. I knew this. I think we all did.
I was determined to tell my tale, once and for all. So I wrote down what they told me, and when I’d finished I typed it all up and gave it to my wife, to try and explain what had kept me occupied for forty years. By this time our sons were grown up and married, with children of their own, and I had missed their childhood in my occupation with my work.
When Annabel read that story, she understood. I think anyone would have done.