A Long Time Coming

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It’s been a long time between drinks (more than a year), but finally, there is a new book on the horizon. BULLET TO THE HEART is very close to being published (as an eBook). Best guess says that it will be up for pre-orders and sample download within a few days (I’ll keep you posted). Publication date is likely to be towards the end of June 2017.

BULLET TO THE HEART will be my tenth published book. If you have been wondering what Sam and Scarlett have been up to since THE LONG WEEKEND, you will find out very soon. In the meantime, you can download THE LONG WEEKEND for free from Smashwords and iBooks (it’s 99c on Amazon).

Brown Oxfords

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an excerpt from the new Sam and Scarlett mystery ‘YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS.’

“You look like you are a million miles away.”

“No, I’m here. On this tram; heading into the City. This tram is going into the city, isn’t it?” said Sam.

“Yes, it is.”

The two men were sitting opposite each other on a sparsely populated number 12 tram. Sam would get off this tram in about half an hour when it reached the top end of Collins Street — the Paris end. The man asking the questions would alight from the tram much sooner.

“What happened to you, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“How do you know that something happened to me?” said Sam

“Your hair is cut very short, and it doesn’t suit you. I’d say, head injury.”

The inquisitive man was about Sam’s build, and he was probably a few years younger. He looked familiar, but these days everyone looked like someone he should know, so he didn’t ask. Much later, Sam would regret that decision.

Sam wasn’t looking directly at the man, but he had been looking at his shoes.

“Brown Oxfords. You don’t see quality shoes like those much these days,” said Sam. The rest of this man’s outfit was out of place — a bit scruffy, but again, Sam said nothing.

“They belonged to my brother. I wear them to remember him. So what happened to you?” said the man with the brown shoes.

“Some bozo T-boned me at an intersection and ran away and left me. The old me would have gone after him with a tyre iron, but the new me just sat there and bled robust, mildly honest blood. Quite a lot of it as it turned out. Of course, I don’t remember any of this, but the ambulance driver liked to talk, so he told my wife all the gory details — kind of him to do that.”

“Did they catch the bloke?”

“Not yet.”

“Would you know him again if you saw him?”

“Mate, I only recognise my wife because she has a tattoo with her name written across her arse.” Sam was suddenly aware of the little old lady who was sitting next to him. “Sorry lady, I didn’t mean to say arse.”

“That’s perfectly okay young man. You sound like you have been through a lot, and you did get hit on the head.”

“Thanks, lady. I don’t want to upset anyone. I want the world to be peaceful and calm. What do you think my chances are?”

“Not very likely, I’m afraid,” said the little old lady.

She wasn’t all that little, but she was old. Sam guessed at about seventy-five, but who can tell, especially with women? She was well dressed in that way that older people were. They dressed up when they went out. Pride in appearance. Sam wondered when her husband had died. She still wore her rings, but he could tell that she was alone, and he wondered how he knew. Sam wondered about a lot of things.

“Are you sure that you wouldn’t recognise the man driving the car that hit you?” The man in the brown shoes was still talking, but Sam had blanked him out momentarily. Brown Shoes sounded insistent.

“No mate, I wouldn’t recognise him. I was sleeping at the time. Large hole in the side of my head with a big chunk of my life leaking out.”

“It’s been nice talking to you Sam, but this is my stop.” Brown Shoes was on his feet and deftly jumped off the stationary tram as it waited for the traffic lights to turn green at Barkley Street.

“There used to be a shop that sold model cars just over there.” Sam pointed to the far street corner. “I’d get off the tram on the way home when I was a kid and spend ages in that shop. Why can I remember that so clearly and not be able to remember marrying my wife?”

“It won’t do to get yourself all worked up. People with head injuries need to be patient and calm.” The old lady put a hand on Sam’s arm. It felt nice to be touched by a caring stranger.

“You sound like you know a bit about this stuff?”

“I was a nurse in my younger days. Saw a lot of boys with head injuries during the War.”

“Did they get their memories back?” There was a touch of desperation in Sam’s question.

“Some did, but it took time. It helped if they had loved ones around them. Does your wife love you, Sam?”

“She says she does, and I want to believe her, but how did you know my name was Sam. Did I tell you?” There was that desperate tone again.

“No, the other man called you Sam. That is your name, isn’t it?”

Sam nodded.

“I didn’t like the look of that man, and I’m pretty sure that I could describe him to a police artist if I had to.”

“I believe you, lady.”

Sam did believe her. He always believed little old ladies. Most people dismissed them as ‘biddies’ or ‘nuisances’, but Sam knew better. Old people notice things and people who notice things are like nuggets of gold to a private investigator. It was an old lady who gave him his big break in the Jameson case, and it was an old professional boxer who told Sam where the Collingwood Strangler lived — not the exact house, but the right street. The rest was straightforward. These two cases helped to build his reputation and gave him excellent fodder for his two most successful novels — thinly disguised fiction based on these two instances. None of this would have happened if Sam had dismissed the observations of two elderly citizens.

“That probably won’t be necessary, but you never know. Do you have a card?” Sam was joking, but the little old lady opened her black patent leather handbag and drew out a pristine white card. The font was conservative and the content ‘to the point’.

Mrs Joanna Beed

03 97876313

“Thank you, Mrs Beed.” That was another thing that Sam had learned. Never call old ladies by their first name. They really don’t like that.

Dr Doug had asked Sam to make a list of the things that he did remember and another list of the things that he would like to remember. He got the notebook out of his inside pocket and wrote, I remember not to call old ladies Joanna. At the back of the book he wrote, I want to remember my wedding day. One list was considerably longer than the other, but over the last few weeks, the other list was catching up — ever so slowly.

The tram was slowing down and ready to stop at the Edinburgh Gardens, not far from Sam’s beloved Fitzroy Football Ground. Joanna Beed gathered her things.

“You take care of yourself Sam. A fine young man like you has lots of important things to achieve. I hope you remember your wedding day soon. I’m sure it was a special day. Don’t forget, if you need me to identify that man for you, I’m only a phone call away.”

“Thank you, Mrs Beed. I’ll be fine. I promise. Enjoy your day. You brightened up mine.” Joanna Beed smiled and stepped down from the tram after looking carefully to see if some impatient motorist was trying to sneak past the stationary tram. Every Melbournian knows that getting off a tram on St Georges Road is an adventure in dodging death.

She made it safely to the footpath, and as she did, she looked back at the tram and gave a dignified wave. Despite himself, Sam waved back.

Sam’s world had changed drastically. From dodging bullets and signing books to sitting on trams talking to old ladies while trying to piece his life back together.

~oOo~

The rest of the journey was uneventful. The tram was thinly populated, and no more conversations broke out. Sam’s half of the tram contained a young married woman, probably on a shopping expedition. Confirmation arrived when she got off at the same stop as Sam. Shopping in the expensive end of town, says her husband was ‘well healed’. Probably in RealEstate, Sam surmised.

The only other inhabitant was a man who was wearing a good suit that was poorly maintained. His expensive shoes were scuffed and dusty. The man had the air of someone who had recently lost his job. There was a caring woman in his life, but she was absent at that moment.

Writers do that — they can’t help themselves. They see interesting people, and they begin to build a backstory.

The dusty shoed gentleman stayed on the tram, and Sam wondered if he rode the tram all day for something to do — a memory of his previous daily routine.

The number 12 tram snakes its way at the top of Collins Street, so even though you may be lost in thought, you know that you have entered the City proper. As a child, this meant that the magic of a day ‘in the City’ was about to begin.

Sam stood in the doorway of the tram and looked back at his seat. So began a routine that he’d learned as a child, “Always take a look back at your place after a long journey. You may have put something down and forgotten it or something may have fallen out of your pocket.” These words rang in his ears on the frequent journies to Dr Doug’s office.

If only it were that simple: if only he could look back and see all the things that he had forgotten, lying on the seat next to him.

If only’s were a waste of time. What was needed was hard work and patience, something that he had in spades. Or, at least, that is what he had been told.

~oOo~

Crossing the road from the tram stop is always an adventure. City traffic has little regard for pedestrians and people getting off trams are considered fair game. Motorists hate trams. They see them as large green and gold obstacles sent to earth merely to annoy and make them late for wherever it was that they so desperately need to be.

Having arrived alive and in one piece, Joe, the doorman swung the large glass door open and greeted Sam.

“How are you this morning Mr Bennett?”

“I’m as fine as can be expected, Joe. How’s the wife and kids?” Because Joe’s appearance in Sam’s life had come ‘post-accident’, Sam found it easy to remember him.

“The kids are fine God bless em, but the missus is worried.” 

A severe man in a dark suit brushed past them both and grunted.

“Why worried Joe?”

“The word is that the building owner is planning to put in an automatic door, so no more Joe.”

“Don’t you worry Joe. I’ll buy the bloody building if I have to, but you are not going anywhere until you want to.”

Joe smiled and thought that Sam was trying to be supportive, but he had heard rumours about Sam’s wife’s spectacular wealth — maybe he meant it.

Sam was serious, and he put it in his notebook on the way up to Dr Doug’s floor. Scarlett knew everyone so she would know who to contact. Sam needed stability in his life, and Joe was always there. Sam needed that — someone who was always there — always where he was supposed to be.

The elevator doors opened, and Sam walked into Dr Doug’s office, smiled at his secretary and felt his pocket ensuring that he still had the three typed pages. Dreams are hard to capture, but Sam had managed it, and soon he would share them, yet again, with the man who was helping him to piece his life back together.

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illustration credit: http://www.gerasimon.com.au/collins_street_melbourne_oil_painting.htm

Favourite Day of the Week

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Until recently, Thursday was my favourite day of the week.

When I was a kid, it was Friday — only half a day in a classroom and sport all afternoon with the sweet promise of the two-day weekend stretching out into the delicious distance.

Then I grew up, and Saturday was my day to love and be loved. The movies, a romantic dinner, and maybe, just maybe, a long night with a willing warm body.

I’m losing my love of Thursdays — it may come back, but today the aura is ruined.

“Senior Sergeant, you mentioned that the victim was aged 50, worked as a Real Estate agent and was found on the side of the road. Is that correct?”

“Yes sir, exactly as it says in my report.” The bloke asking the blindingly obvious questions, and ruining my Thursday was Inspector Verago.  Or ‘Verago the Impaler’ as he was lovingly known to all those who loathed Internal Affairs.

“The Lexus was located, but not for several days,” he said.

“We were operating under the assumption that the victim was struck by an angry husband and it took a while to eliminate him from our enquiries.” I hate the jargon, but when you are speaking to a duck, it is best to quack so that you know you are being understood.

“Why did it take so long to track down the car?” he said.

“It took three days because we are a small country station and all our forensics are handled by Melbourne Central, and the case was not considered to be a high priority at that stage.”

“Why didn’t you consider it to be a high priority Senior Sergeant? More important things to be getting on with?”

The sarcasm was to be expected. The Police force runs on sarcasm in the same way that politicians run on bullshit — and besides, he wasn’t here for a friendly chat, he was here to see if he could hang this cluster-fuck on me, and thereby take some of the heat off his masters.

“It was our number one priority sir. I was referring to senior management in Melbourne, sir.”

“It doesn’t say that anywhere here, Senior Sergeant.” He pronounced Senior Sergeant as though he felt my rank was honorary, or at least temporary.  If I didn’t find a way to get out from under this mess, he was going to be right.

“Your report doesn’t say where the victim was heading, were you able to ascertain that?” he said.

“Away.”

“Away from where?”

“From what we can piece together, mostly from Mrs Simpson. He thought her husband had come home unexpectedly, and he legged it out the back door and over a neighbour’s fence where he commandeered a bicycle. He proceeded to peddle in an easterly direction for approximately 10 kilometres before being struck from behind by a Lexus four-wheel drive. So, in answer to your question — away.”

There was that jargon again — quack, quack.

“All of this should have been in your report Senior Sergeant,” he said.

“Most of it is sir — just not all in the one place.”

Precious minutes of my beloved Thursday were ticking away, and I was no closer to working out if this half-wit had already decided that I was to be the fall-guy.

“I noticed that you included in your report that the victim’s dog howled at the precise moment that he was killed. How did you know that, and why did you include it in your report?”

“The victim was a real person. A flawed one to be sure, but a real one nonetheless. He had a wife and kids and a dog, all of whom, presumably, loved him. The detail about the dog came from his wife, and I thought that it was unusual enough to include in the report.”

The cold truth — the dog was the only creature on the planet who loved this bozo, so I thought it deserved a mention. When the facts were printed in the newspapers, it was evident that the victim was a self-interested arsehole who made a speciality out of servicing lonely wives, but rarely did the same for his own. His kids thought he was a loser, and the community felt that he was a typical Estate Agent — always out to do his clients out of their money. On the other hand, his dog loved him unconditionally, and to his credit, he treated the dog well. Any bloke who was kind to his dog deserved to get one positive mention in a sterile Police document.

The inane questions continued for about two hours.

I made a pretty good job of answering them, and I knew that my report was thorough and there was little room to accuse me or my team of negligence. But only time would tell.

If his job was to fit me for the role of scapegoat, then that is what I will be. If he has any integrity left he will know that time will show that I did my job well and I’m hoping that he won’t want to put his signature to a lie.

Early in the afternoon, he buggered off in his shiny official car, and everyone in our tiny country station breathed out.

I told the team that after shift we were meeting at The Royal — the only decent pub in town. The drinks were on me which meant that everyone would be there.

We knew that the future of our station was tenuous before the slightly bald, philandering Real Estate agent got knocked off his bike. Now it was positively precarious. There was only one thing for it — enjoy the days we had remaining. Heaven, and a bunch of brass hats, only knew where we would end up, but we knew we had done our duty, and no one can do more than that.

I proposed the toast.

“May the black dog who howled when his master left this world find a warm bed and a happy home, and may the bastards who are splitting us up find cold comfort and a broomstick up their arse.”

There was that jargon again — quack, quack.

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This story is now part of two of my books —

TRUST

SLIGHTLY SPOOKY STORIES

THE LONG WEEKEND.

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It is with considerable pleasure, I announce the publication on SMASHWORDS of my first Novella [baby novel].

It is titled ‘The Long Weekend’, and in answer to your next question it is a crime, detective, love story and not necessarily in that order.

It is the first in a series of ‘Sam and Scarlett Mysteries’.

It will be available on Amazon [Kindle] and iBooks and Google in the next couple of days, but I will annoy you about those as they happen.

But for now, if you have a glass of something nearby, please raise it and ‘wet the babies head’. She has been waiting patiently to be born and now, here she is…………… to ‘THE LONG WEEKEND’.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/474933

 Blue Delahaye.

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It’s been parked across the street for the last couple of days.

Blue. Mysterious. Inviting.

Not the sort of car that you usually see parked in this neighbourhood.

Amazingly, the local punks walk right past it. Almost as though it’s invisible.

Anything other than an old banger is up on bricks and stripped of anything saleable within half an hour. 

But not this time.

What is it about this car?

Does it belong to the local drug lord? 

That seems unlikely. 

I know most of them and their taste is mostly in their mouth. 

Their idea of a car is something loud of sound and ostentatious in colour, with plenty of room in the boot for a bag of ‘shooters’ and a few kilos of whatever is the flavour of the month.

No. It’s something else. 

Someone else.

Neighbourhood legend has it that the lady who lived across the road, not very far from where the car is parked, ran away from her husband with a bloke who worked for Penguin; the book publishers, not the bird.

The story goes that the boyfriend had recently received a promotion and was moving to Paris to run the French division of Penguin. Apparently he asked her to run away with him. 

She is supposed to have hesitated for only a moment, before saying ‘yes’. 

Legend also has it that she grabbed her passport, and the couple headed for the door. 

A lurid legend has it that he popped the question, so to speak, immediately after having made mad passionate love to the married lady from number eighteen. Not only did she not take anything with her, she was reportedly not wearing underwear; which is not as crazy as it seems. They had been ‘going at it’ all afternoon so it stands to reason, for reasons of practical access, that she would be devoid of certain items of clothing. Local legend does not record what the Penguin executive was wearing and no one seemed to care; then or now.

My practical side can see the Penguin bloke buying his stolen prospective bride a whole heap of clothes and baggage and other stuff as soon as they got to the airport, but most people just like the first part of the story; apparently practicalities are a dampener to romance. This seems silly to me, but what would I know?

The married lady, stroke Penguin lover, left behind a bewildered husband and a leg of lamb slowly cooking in the oven. The husband was too distraught to eat that night but he had lamb sandwiches for the rest of the week.

The abandoned husband had sensed that something was wrong with their marriage but he just couldn’t put his finger on the problem. Sex had been infrequent of late and there were a large number of ‘Penguin Classics’ in piles around the house but, at the time, he didn’t make the connection.

In the coming months he learned how to cook and he read a lot of classic literature. His favourites were ‘The Catcher in The Rye’ although he could not understand why the book featured in so many high profile murders, and ‘Fahrenheit 451’, where he enjoyed the irony of having firemen burning books. He also enjoyed the characters who had memorised books and could recite them for whomever was interested.

He had become like one of those ‘book reciters’ and he had become the sole person who held the memories of a marriage that came to a sudden end. 

He was foolish enough to expect that she would someday return. 

He knew that she was restless, and that whatever it was that she needed, he was not able to give it to her.

This was easily the most exciting thing that had happened in this quiet [some would say boring] little street. So it will come as no surprise that this story took on a life of its own. People who traveled to Europe for their holidays returned with, what they swore, were stories of what happened when the couple reached Paris.

Within a year or two, the woman received a book contract with Penguin; a four book deal, on the strength of an unpublished manuscript that she presented at the London Book Fair. 

Some said that she had used her lover to leverage the deal, but others said that she had genuine talent as a writer of fiction. 

Her first book sold well but it was her second book, ‘Sleepy Street’, that made a splash back here. It was the story of an ordinary suburban street and all the exotic goings-on behind closed doors. 

The book became a massive bestseller and everyone who lived in our quiet little street could see themselves in the characters of this popular work. Many wondered how she knew all the intimate details of their sordid little lives. 

Most people barely remembered her. 

To them she was almost invisible, but not anymore. 

As a result of the book, and the resultant embarrassment, many relationships ended and many properties were sold, so much so that our little street is populated by a whole new cast of characters.

I’m the only person who still lives here who might recognise the famous author and former neighbour.

It just occurred to me that the car across the road is a French classic.

I think I’ll sit in this window for a little while. She has to come back to that car eventually; and when she does, I’ll be waiting.

I haven’t yet decided what is the best course of action.

I might just sit here and watch; but on the other hand……..

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Painting by Cheryl Kelley

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Enjoy my work. Then buy me a coffee?

Enjoy my work? Then buy me a coffee?