How many lives can one incident shatter?
For one Daylesford cop, this will be their last callout. Another may not make it. A third will call it quits.
Black cloud on a winter’s morning signals what nobody could’ve seen coming. An anything-but-routine welfare check by two Daylesford police officers at a farm in Korweinguboora. A fatal house explosion that leaves a rural community reeling.
Local cop John Franklin and Melbourne journalist Georgie Harvey are among the first responders at the property. The crime scene is compromised by fire and tonnes of water, and speculations run rife. Murder–suicide? Accident or sabotage? An isolated incident or just the beginning?
As lives hang in the balance, Franklin seeks answers and someone to hold accountable while Georgie investigates her toughest story yet. But will one of them crack?
I am happy to have a visitor today from the crime thriller novel Black Cloud by Sandi Wallace. Let’s find out a little about our guest.
SJJ: Can you please tell us your full name and where you live?
JF: Hi! Most people just call me Franklin, but for the record, I’m Senior Constable John Franklin, thirty-eight years old, and I live in Daylesford in Victoria, Australia. That’s an inland country town in what’s known as the spa or mineral springs region about an hour and a half from Melbourne. We have a permanent population of 2000-odd people, but that number regularly swells with influxes of tourists.
SJJ: It’s nice to meet you, John… Franklin. Thanks for taking the time for this interview.
How would you describe your personality?
JF: Words are more my girlfriend Georgie’s thing—she’s a journo—but I’ll give it a go. I’m a country bloke. A cop. Some people call me maverick because I am inclined to investigate and handle things my way, rather than necessarily toe to bureaucracy. I guess I am loyal, tough and enjoy a beer, but I don’t fit the dysfunctional hard-bitten, hard-drinking stereotype of a cop, though I can be cynical. I’m single dad to my teenage daughter, Kat, which complicates life, and I probably show my softer side mostly to her and Georgie. Like everybody, I’m flawed and make mistakes.
SFF: So, as you’ve already mentioned, you’re a cop, but can you give us a little more detail about your current occupation.
JF: I’m a senior constable with Victoria Police and currently on secondment with the crime investigation unit (CIU) in Bacchus Marsh. Whether or not I’ll ever be offered a permanent gig as a detective remains to be seen. But I’ve been keen to trade the blue uniform for plain clothes for several years now.
SJJ: Well, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.
So, what do you think is the biggest obstacle preventing your from achieving your goal?
JF: Last September, some of our local kids went missing from a camp in Mount Dandenong that I’d organised, along with my sarge, Lunny, and our proby officer, Sam. It was a life-and-death situation, and these were our kids and our responsibility. Without disclosing any further details of that case (you can find out more in Into the Fog), it’s been a push me–pull you with my district inspector and his ideas for my future ever since. At the start of the day on Wednesday 13 June, if he offered me a permanent gig with the Ds, I would jump at it. By the end…
SJJ: Tell us, Franklin, are there any defining moments in your life that made you who you are today?
JF: Plenty—good and bad. It’s the worst times that make us or break us. This case is the worst ever, it’s personal, so it’s going to be one of those defining moments you mention.
SJJ: What about regrets? Do you have any?
JF: Marrying young and ending up a divorcee with sole responsibility for our baby and an unrenovated cottage with a huge mortgage wasn’t how I wanted things to turn out with my first wife. But if we hadn’t gone there, Kat wouldn’t be here. Really, I try not to get bogged down with regrets, but aim to avoid the same mistakes and do better. Sometimes easier said than done though, isn’t it?
SJJ: Most definitely.
When you think of all your accomplishments, what is your proudest moment?
JF: Rather than one moment, can I just say the birth of Kat and her achievements, and her intention to follow my footsteps and become a cop, though it also terrifies me?
SJJ: Of course you can say that. Being proud of your child is wonderful and what parent isn’t terrified at times?
What’s your idea of the perfect day?
JF: The opposite to Wednesday 13 June. On that day, two of my old colleagues from Daylesford Police are at a farm in the small town of Korweinguboora when they get caught up in a gas explosion and house fire. Me and Marty Howell, my partner in CIU, are first responders to the callout. It’s a horror day. These two are my mates. And there’s a family of four and a nurse also involved. Worse still, we don’t know what we’re dealing with yet. Murder–suicide? Accident or sabotage? An isolated incident or just the beginning?
SJJ: Wow! I think any day would be better than that.
What do you do for fun?
JF: Time with Kat and Georgie comes first, though the job has a tendency of getting in the way. But among my other interests, I tinker with or take a ride on my Kawasaki Ninja, hit the local boxing studio, down some beers or shoot pool with my mates at the pub, and watch the footy, either local level or Aussie Rules. Throwing a line in at my favourite fishing spot always softens the edges—though catching a fish is a bonus.
SJJ: And finally, Franklin, what are your plans for the future?
JF: I can’t think beyond this case right now. My focus is to find the truth, answers for those left behind, and someone to hold accountable for this tragedy.
Bio Sandi Wallace
Sandi Wallace’s crime-writing apprenticeship comprised devouring as many crime stories as possible, developing her interest in policing, and working stints as banker, paralegal, cabinetmaker, office manager, executive assistant, personal trainer and journalist. She has won a host of prizes for her short crime fiction including several Scarlet Stiletto Awards and her debut novel Tell Me Why won the Davitt Award Readers’ Choice. Sandi is currently at work on a psychological thriller. She is still an avid reader of crime and loves life in the Dandenong Ranges outside of Melbourne with her husband.