A.J. Sendall – Flank Street – In The Sydney Underworld – Book Two

Flank_Street_Ebookcover-smTitle: Flank Street – In The Sydney Underworld – Book Two

Author: A.J. Sendall

ISBN or ASIN:  9781508495727

Page count: 300

Genre: Thriller/Crime/Noir

Price (Print and Ebook): (14.99USD – 2.99USD)

 

Author Bio:

I’ve always written, well, as far back as I can recall. Until 2011, that writing was just for me, or as rambling letters to friends and travelogues to family. I never thought about why, or if others did similarly, and the thought of publishing never entered my head.

Since I left England in 1979, I’ve been collecting experiences, people, and places. From the blood-soaked streets of Kampala, the polluted dust bowls of the Sahara, or the pristine ice floes of the Antarctic, I’ve gathered and filed them away. Some have recently squeezed through the bars of insecurity and are now at large in the pages of my first three novels. Others await their future fates.

 

Tell us about your book:

Flank Street is told through the distorted reality of career criminal Micky Dewitt, who arrives in Sydney on a rundown sailing yacht, broke and on the lookout for opportunity.

He soon finds his way to Kings Cross and gets a job in a bar run by an abrasive grifter called Lenny. At first he’s met with mild antagonism by the barmaid, Meagan, but they call a truce and become friends. Their friendship grows, as they drink and smoke together after hours.

Micky is approached by Carol, a quiet, high-class escort. She wants Micky to do a job for her, and persuades him to listen. Carol tells him she needs a gun stolen from a lawyer’s safe. Says she killed somebody with it, and that she’s being blackmailed by the lawyer.

Micky scopes the place out. It all seems easy enough and he wants to help her. He steals the gun, Carol pays him. He thinks that’s the end of it.

Ten days after the robbery Micky is visited by two heavyweights from the underworld who tell him that Carol’s using the gun he stole to blackmail the boss of Kings Cross. He has to get the gun back, and kill her.

Nothing is quite what it seems as Micky falls into a honey trap and nudges the edge of sanity.

 

Share any thoughts you’d like the readers to know about you and/or your book:

I took a different approach to writing Flank Street: I wrote the last page, called it a prologue, then set the main character loose to find his way there. It was fun, and the writing went quickly. I didn’t edit or review until the book was complete, I just bashed out 2000+ words a day trying to keep up with the twists and turns.

 

Where can we go to buy your book?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flank-Street-Underworld-J-Sendall-ebook/dp/B00TN37XYG

https://www.createspace.com/5319431

 

Any other links or info you’d like to share?
Visit my website for information about other books in this series. www.ajsendall.com

 

Excerpt from book:

We rolled into Sydney a few minutes before eleven the following morning. It had taken five hours from Coffs, with a breakfast stop on the way. Carol had been quiet, but not hostile or angry, and I’d tried to keep the peace for the duration of the journey. Things would tense up when we got to the bank.

As we drove through the northern suburbs, I asked her where her bank was located.

‘It’s right in the middle of town, in Martin Place. I need to go home and get my keys first.’

‘Bullshit! Why wouldn’t you have your keys with you?’

‘I just didn’t bring them, that’s all. I didn’t expect to need them.’

‘So you’re telling me you were going to return to Sydney, to live here amongst people who want you dead?’

She lit a cigarette and drew heavily. ‘I didn’t know what I was thinking.’

‘Yes, you did. You’re a strategist. Some would say a cunning bitch.’

‘Nice.’

‘What’s the real reason for wanting to go home?’

She faced me, and said, ‘I want us to talk. I want to tell you what a huge mistake you’ll be making if you give that gun back to them. Micky, please listen to me.’

‘You’ve just had a thousand kilometres to tell me any bullshit like that. What’s different at home?’

She went quiet as if in thought, smoking her cigarette and staring out of the side window.

‘We can work something out, Micky, something where we both come out all right.’

‘If you’re so sure, let’s get the gun first, then I’ll listen. I just don’t trust you, Carol. Are the keys at your place or are you just jerking me around?’

She wound the window down, threw out the cigarette, closed it and straightened her windblown hair. ‘They’re in my bag.’

‘I thought so.’

We were approaching Martin Place. She pulled down the sun visor and touched up her lipstick. I parked in an underground about two hundred metres from the bank, then we walked in silence.

It took ten minutes to get access to the safety deposit box. Two minutes later we were back on the street, walking toward the parking lot with the Makarov in my pack. It would have been easy to just walk away, give the gun to Mitchell and tell them she was dead, but I drove to Turnbuckle instead. Not a word was said and she didn’t seem surprised that I knew where to go.

I followed her inside. She looked around, taking in the missing photograph and the glass fragments on the floor, but all she said was, ‘Drink?’

‘Sure.’

She poured Jameson into crystal tumblers and handed me one. It was early for me and I’d no intention of getting pissed and waking up on the wrong side of a .38. When I sat in an armchair, she sat opposite me with an expectant look on her face. I raised my hands palm-up. ‘So speak. I’m out of here after one drink.’

‘What’s the rush? You have the gun. You have me where you want me.’ When I didn’t answer, she asked, ‘Have you killed before?’

‘What do you want to say? What’s your great scheme where we both come out on top and Kurt Reed or Mitchell don’t chop us into little pieces?’

‘There are ways, Micky, and you know it. We could get on your boat and both disappear.’

‘You’re not my type. Anything else?’

‘I know you don’t want to kill me.’

I sipped my drink. ‘What makes you so sure?’

‘I’m not saying you wouldn’t kill; you might, but not a woman in cold blood. You’re not the type.’ She tipped the whiskey back and got up to refill her glass.

‘You don’t know what type I am.’

She gave a short, derisive snort. ‘I know men; that’s one thing I do know. And you, Micky Dewitt, are not a cold-blooded killer.’

When she emptied the tumbler for the second time in five minutes, I guessed it was fear, not thirst. She’d just said she knew men. She also knew men I needed to know about, so I decided to loosen her tongue and see what I could find out. There were three days before I had to face Mitchell. I drained my glass and held it out for a refill. Time to play.

‘Do you know men that are? If you know I’m not, then you must be comparing me with someone else.’ I leaned back, waiting for her to speak. She had to play along. In her mind, keeping me entertained was all that was keeping her alive: a modern day Scheherazade.

‘Hanging around The Cross, you meet all sorts of people. People come and people go: some are good, others scum. Sure, I knew of one guy had the reputation of being a cold-blooded killer. I didn’t know him, but I’d seen him around. You know how the grapevine works with people like that. Must be the same where you’re from, where ever that is.’

‘London.’

‘Is Soho like The Cross?’

‘Not even close. What happened to the guy?’

‘He got whacked. I heard he crossed Brookes over money…’ Her words trailed off as she realised what she’d said, and how she was destined to end up getting whacked for the same reason.

‘He doesn’t like to be duped over money, does he, Carol?’

She hung her head, her arms resting on her thighs. ‘Fuck.’

She sighed, stood wearily and walked into the kitchen, returning a moment later with a bag of chips and a pack of cashew nuts. She poured herself another and held the bottle out, offering me more. I accepted with a shrug. She poured until my tumbler was nearly full and stood the bottle between us. I could feel the alcohol and guessed she could as well, which was why she’d gone for food. She tore open the pack of nuts, put a big handful in her mouth and chewed.

‘Why’d you want to stop Reed from expanding?’

She held up the index finger of her left hand as she finished eating, and then washed it down with a mouthful of whiskey. ‘Like I told you, he’s a complete arsehole. Kurt is the worst of them. There’s lots of bad bastards hanging round The Cross, but Brookes keeps them in line to some degree. If the Reeds ever take over, it’ll be a free for all.’

‘Why do you care?’

She drank again, reached for chips. ‘I just do.’

‘Enough to risk getting killed, it would seem. So why did you try to extort him? Surely if you’d recovered the gun and taken it to him, there would have been some gratuity? Yet you spent ten grand on me, plus whatever else, to achieve what?’

‘You could fake my death.’

‘Say what?’

‘You could fake it. How would they know?’

‘How about if they want your head as proof: how am I going to fake that? Anyway, after you screwed me like that, maybe I want to kill you anyway.’

‘If you wanted to, you would have done it already, instead of sitting her drinking whiskey and looking at me like you want to fuck me instead.’

‘You’ve well and truly fucked yourself; nothing I could do would top that.’

‘I have money. I’ll——’

‘Then why did you try to blackmail Brookes? Or is that how you got money in the first place?’

‘I’ll give it to you. You could sail away and never come back. I’d disappear. We could fake a car crash, which is plausible, given how you drive.’

‘So now you want to insult me?’ Despite the seriousness of the situation, the banter was taking on a comic surrealism. I found myself enjoying it. I held out my glass for a refill. She was quick to oblige, refilling her own at the same time, taking another handful of nuts and scooping them into her mouth.

‘Okay.’ She tipped her head back to stop the nuts spilling out as she chewed and spoke at the same time. ‘What will it take?’

There was no pout now, no sign of fear, just a hard and knowing look as she locked eyes with me, like she probably had a hundred other guys.

‘Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, I was prepared to consider one of your hare-brained schemes. I’m not, but let’s just pretend I am. What have you got to offer?’

‘Money. Contacts. Information.’

‘Okay, tell me about the information: information about what?’

‘I hear a lot of things, things that a dishonest person could use.’

‘You mean you used to. You’ve lost your Kings Cross privileges. You’re persona-non-gratis, on your way to becoming the recently departed Carol Todd, and the only thing you’re going to hear is the racking of a 9mm slide.’

‘Not if we play it smart.’

‘We? What the fuck are you talking about? There is no we.’

‘We, you and I, Micky, can both get out of this sweet, if you’ve got the stones for it.’

She was almost cocky as she slopped more whiskey into both glasses. Her speech was slurred and her face carried a loose smile. I sat back and swallowed whiskey and chips. She told me her plan. Just like last time, it sounded simple enough.

All we had to do was find a fall guy who we say was holding Carol and forced her to call Brookes with threats. That she was a square gee all along, and would never cross him.

The more whiskey we drank, the more plausible it sounded.

‘Who’d you have in mind for the fall guy?’ I asked.

She lit a cigarette and handed it to me, the tip stained red from her lips. I could taste it as I placed it between mine, and waited for her to light her own.

‘Hedges; he’s one of the few who knew about it. He’s known as a grasping arsehole with few, if any, ethics. If somebody told me he’d done that, I’d have believed them.’

‘But he’d be afraid of what happened when he got caught, and getting found out would be inevitable in the long run, unless he was going to kill you.’

She thought for a moment, ‘You lifted his gun from the nightstand, didn’t you?’

I smoked and waited for her to continue. She had it all planned out, which made me wonder if she was playing me again.

 

When I woke the next morning, there was an empty bottle on the floor and an arm across my middle. My head was hammering and I could feel her breath against my chest. I turned my head and breathed through her hair. The memories of the previous night came flooding back.

Her plan had sounded simple. Put Hedges in the frame by claiming he was extorting Carol and had forced her to call Brookes. Make up some bullshit about him needing the extra cash to feed a gambling and hooker habit. Maybe we’d throw in something about cocaine as well. I tracked them down, grappled with him, and shot him with his own gun.

All we needed to do was find him, shoot him, and let the cops find the body. I had other choices, but none of them good. I could kill her and hand the gun back to Mitchell, which would square me with them, but really piss off Kurt Reed. I could grab what cash I could from Carol and head out to sea, leaving her in the shit and Meagan at the mercy of Ray.

My gut told me that even if I killed Carol and gave the gun to Mitchell, I would still be a problem they might try to get rid of. Even if they didn’t, I would always have to watch my back for Reed.

I didn’t want to run away to sea leaving Meagan in the shit, plus I wanted to stay in Sydney. I felt at home here.

That left me with killing a scumbag lawyer who worked for the industrial-strength arsehole Kurt Reed, who hated me anyway. Killing the lawyer would also have a beneficial effect on my dealings with Mitchell and Brookes. Meagan would be in the clear, Carol would probably be alright. If she was, and if she did have access to information, then I’d be alright as well. There were a lot of ifs.

I shook her awake. She groaned, pushed herself up on one elbow, looked at me through blood-shot eyes, and vomited. I rolled away just in time.

‘Sorry,’ she said, retched again and bolted naked to the bathroom.

I followed her, turned the shower on full, and guided her under the stream of cold water. She gasped, shuddered, tried to hit me, and hurled again. When her lips were blue and she’d stopped fighting, I turned the water off and wrapped her in a towel.

‘Dry off and get dressed while I make some coffee.’

Looking like death, she hugged the towel to her shaking body and sat on the edge of the spa-bath. I wasn’t feeling much better, but wasn’t going to show it.

There was chaos in the kitchen. I had vague recollections of making fried egg sandwiches halfway down the second bottle, but from the state of the place, we went further than that. There was a bowl of spaghetti with garlic, oil, and cigarette butts, two empty fruit cans that reminded me of a peach-guzzling contest which she won—no surprises there—and an assortment of snack wrappers from Pringles to Rainbow Nerds.

I dressed while the coffee was heating up. When she hadn’t come into the kitchen after five minutes, I went back to the bathroom and found her asleep in the spa. I picked her up and carried her to the bed; I doubt she weighed more than a hundred pounds. Just before laying her on the bed, I remembered that there was still a puddle of cold sick in the middle of it, so I took her into the spare room, dropped her on the bed and threw a sheet over her.

When I was pushing the vomit-laced bedding into the washing machine, after cleaning the kitchen, I knew somehow I’d reached a decision.

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Rebecca Yount – The Erlking: A Mick Chandra Mystery

erlkingfinal_option1Title: THE ERLKING: A Mick Chandra Mystery

Author: Rebecca Yount

ISBN: ISBN: 978-1-4675-3378-2

Page count: 438

Genre: Crime

Price: $.99

 

Author Bio:

REBECCA YOUNT trained from childhood as a concert pianist, is a published poet, and worked in education reform in Washington, D.C., but she always wanted to write. Coming from a family of writers, it wasn’t hard for her to put pen to paper, but it took an actual unsolved murder to give her the idea for her first novel. On a home exchange in England — something she and her husband regularly do — a villager told her about a local murder that remained unsolved, even by Scotland Yard. Sitting under a tree in a fallow field one day, she began to imagine what might have happened. The result was A DEATH IN C MINOR. In 2010 Rebecca underwent open heart surgery, which left her unable to write for two years. When she returned to writing she decided to publish the entire Mick Chandra series herself as e-books. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband, author and columnist David Yount.

 

Tell us about your book:

Detective Inspector, Mick Chandra of New Scotland Yard, struggles to link the murder of the young wife of a popular British Member of Parliament to the seemingly random death by drowning in a north London canal of 8-year-old Josie Stephens. The forensic pathologist discovers that Josie was abused before she was murdered. Mick is informed by a Quaker Friend who knew Phoebe that she, too, may have been physically abused. Mick realizes he is getting close to the fire when his live-in love, American expatriate and renowned England-based concert pianist, Jessica Beaumont, is suddenly harrassed. During a concert, someone even takes a shot at her. Seconded to the Yard’s Pedophile Unit, Mick and his partner, Sergeant Elizabeth Chang, receive help in breaking the case. The Unit’s chief informs Mick that a notorious pedophile ring is working out of north London, headed by someone who calls himself The Erlking. Day by day, more children are reported missing in north London. How is this linked to Phoebe’s death? What is the connection between Phoebe and Josie? As Mick struggles to expose the identity of The Erlking, help arrives from a most unexpected source.

 

How long did it take to write the book?

Approx.  a year to write.  The research took several months.

 

What inspired you to write the book?

I write about those issues that outrage me, and child abuse is one such issue.

 

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?

First, I have no systematic writing process.  I just tap into my word processor.  Before I begin writing, I have already constructed the first and last sentences of the story.  Insomnia helps – all those sleepless hours that I use to spin the story in my head.  I do vast amounts of research.  For The Erlking, I conducted a great deal of it through New Scotland Yard, and interviewed police officers who are “on the ground.”  I also relied on current press reports, plus current stats that are available through Google.  There are some very helpful books on the topic of child abuse as well, many of which I used as references.

 

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

I want readers to know that child abuse is epidemic, both in the US and UK.  I want to let readers know that pedophiles are “the nicest men in the world,” as one police officer put it to me.  I want to let readers know that pedophiles are relentlessly patient, sometimes waiting years to pounce on a chosen victim.  That pedophiles are probably not “curable,” that they are very much in our midst, acting like perfectly normal, congenial people. That pedophiles often enter activities or professions that attract children, or can present themselves as people who “care deeply” about children.

 

Where can we go to buy your book?

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Erlking-Mick-Chandra-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00AKHVIRM/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1357307381&sr=8-6&keywords=the+erlking

 

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-erlking-rebecca-yount/1113934468?ean=9781467533782

 

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/The-Erlking/book-oHnIdep3vEuUEWYN3ezBRw/page1.html?s=QzKkMvq09kuGnY256Ya7xA&r=1

 

Any other links or info you’d like to share?

www.rebeccayount.com

 

“I am in love with Rebecca Yount’s writing….I can’t wait to read the third installment in this series and I urge you all to get the first two books as soon as possible. I envision a series of movies on these books and can’t wait to say I knew Mike Chandra from the beginning.”—TheBookTree.blogspot.com

 

“With a chilling opening, Yount’s mystery packs a punch and keeps delivering….The author has handled a difficult and often disturbing subject matter with sensitivity without losing any of the dramatic impact to the story….Another brilliant, well thought out and intelligent mystery. The handsome Anglo-Indian detective is just as charming and even more likable as his is stunning partner, Jessica. Old friends are met again and despite it being the second book in the series, this is still a stand alone mystery….Overall, this story is a real page tuner and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. With the inclusion of the first chapter from the next installment of the series, I am very much looking forward to meeting up with the charismatic Mick Chandra once again. A highly recommended read.”—Shalini Ayre Book Reviews

 

Excerpt from book:

 

Excerpt from Chapter One

On the October morning that the semi-nude corpse of eight-year-old Josie Stephens was discovered floating in a north London canal, Detective Inspector Michael ‘Mick’ Chandra had no idea that the next several weeks of his life would be dedicated to tracking down her murderer.

As far as Mick was concerned, he was on his way from his Stoke Newington home to spend the morning putting the final touches on a sting operation with his team at New Scotland Yard. A call from the Yard’s Commissioner changed all of that. Sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Albion Road, Mick was informed over his cell phone that he had just been seconded to the Yard’s Pedophile Unit. Given only the sketchiest of details, he was instructed to make his way to the Grand Union Canal in Islington to meet with Detective Chief Inspector Kip Brodie, head of the Unit.

After another maddening thirty-five minutes of snailing through the rush hour traffic on upper Essex Road, Mick was standing next to Brodie, watching divers retrieve the child’s body from the murky, trash-infested waters of the canal.

Fifty-five-year-old Kip Brodie was a twenty-three year veteran of the Criminal Investigation Department, better known as the CID. Revered by his staff, he had a reputation as a dogged investigator into crimes of child abuse and pedophilia. Of middling height, stocky build, with piercing pale blue eyes and a full head of light brown hair just beginning to turn grey at the temples, Brodie’s high-flushed coloring betrayed his Scottish heritage.

He stood in conspicuous contrast to the thirty-five-year-old Chandra, himself a fourteen-year veteran, seven of them with the Metropolitan Police, and another seven and counting specifically with the CID. Mick’s Anglo-Indian heritage was obvious from his dusky good looks, onyx-black eyes, straight patrician nose, and black-brown short cropped hair, gifts from his Kerala Indian father. His 6’1″ height and muscular build were attributes from his Welsh mother’s side of the family. What both men did share in common were stellar reputations within the CID.

“How many scenes like this have you witnessed, Kip?”

Brodie grimly shook his head. “In my nine years with the Unit, more than I care to remember.” He trained his intense blue eyes on Mick. “‘Hope you don’t mind that I pulled rank to have you seconded to the Pedophile Unit, Mick. I’m desperate for additional help, especially the kind you can offer. You have the best record of anyone in the CID for breaking the cases that have gone cold. Just when we’re up against a vicious pedophile ring, the Home Office cut my budget to ribbons.”

“Happy to be of service,” Mick assured the Chief. “However, I would like to have Detective Sergeant Chang seconded to the Unit as well,” he added, referring to his partner, Elizabeth Chang.

Brodie smiled, causing the lines around his eyes to deepen into crevasses. “I’ve already requested her. The Commissioner agreed, after Elizabeth conducts this morning’s orientation for the sting you’ve been planning.”

“Brilliant. What can you tell me about this pedophile ring?”

“Not much. What we do know is that it probably operates somewhere out of north London, because all of the children who have gone missing are from the Hackney Borough.”

“How many children are missing so far?”

“Before this morning, four.” Kip nodded toward Josie’s corpse. “Now three.”

“Sweet Jesus,” Mick muttered. “Anything else?”

“One thing. From persistent rumors we’re getting on the street, one of the participants in this ring — perhaps even its leader — may be a member of Parliament. According to the little information we’ve been able to gather, the head of the group refers to himself as ‘The Erlking.’”

“That’s curious. I vaguely recall a poem entitled The Erlking about a troll who snatches children.”

“Well, I don’t know much about poetry,” Brodie said, “but I do know we’ve got a serious problem on our hands, and no child in north London will be safe until we can break up this group.”

The two men lapsed into silence as they watched the police forensics team comb the area around the canal while the divers, protected from the cold in heavy-rubber wet suits, struggled through the numbing water to bring Josie’s corpse to shore, depositing it on the bank near them.

“She’s wearing nothing but a pair of knickers,” Kip noted. “The bastards obviously disposed of Josie like a piece of rubbish once they finished with her. God, look how pretty she is. What a bloody waste!”

It pained Mick to see the nearly-nude child lying on the wet grassy bank exposed to the early morning cold. He resisted the impulse to take off his storm coat and drape it over the child’s pitiful blue corpse.

“What’s her full name?”

“Jocelyn Ann Stephens,” Kip answered, still looking at her.

“Are her parents here?”

“Parent.”

“Single mother?”

“Isn’t that usually the case?”

“Where’s the father?”

Brodie shrugged. “Who knows?”

“So another deadbeat dad goes missing. Mind if I speak with the mother?”

“Go ahead. She’s sitting in my car,” Kip said, jerking his head in the direction of the Yard car parked on the grass near the lip of the canal.

As Mick approached the vehicle, he could see Josie’s distraught mother sitting in the back seat with her head between her knees. He rapped gently on the window.

“Mrs. Stephens, Inspector Michael Chandra,” he announced through the glass, displaying his badge and ID. “May I have a few words with you?”

Slowly lifting her head, the woman nodded, wearing the expression of a somnambulist. Mick opened the door, sliding in next to her.

“I realize this is a terrible time for you, Mrs. Stephens, but the more information we can get now, the sooner we’ll be able to apprehend whoever did this to your daughter.”

“Josie was only eight,” the woman muttered to no one in particular.

“I know,” Mick responded gently. “When did you last see her?”

She blinked back her tears, trying to remember. “A week ago this past Tuesday — in the morning, when she left for school. I couldn’t walk with her that day.”

“Why?”

“I…couldn’t because….” The words stuck in her throat like a bone. “I work as a server in a cafe at one of the Marks and Spencers. That morning — the morning Josie went missing — I was on breakfast duty… you know, for the commuters. So I had to leave home earlier than usual.”

“Josie was home alone?”

Mick’s question prompted an avalanche of convulsive sobs.

“Yes…yes. God, I hate myself!”

Considering the circumstances, Mick wasn’t about to lecture a grieving mother on the illegalities of leaving a child of eight at home without proper supervision. Since many working single mothers could not afford child care, Mick knew it was common practice for them to risk leaving an underage child alone.

“Did Josie walk to school by herself that day?”

Wiping her eyes with a much-used tissue, the woman nodded. “Usually she went with a friend from the neighborhood, but she was sick that morning, so Josie had to walk to school by herself.” Giving in to despair, Mrs. Stephens covered her face with her hands. “I know what you’re thinking, Inspector. I’m a bad mother.”

Mick peeled the despondent woman’s fingers from her face. “No. You’re a good mother who was trying to earn a paycheck so you could clothe and feed your daughter.”

Observing Mrs. Stephens more closely, he saw a woman who embodied hardship and disappointment. She may have been pretty at one time, but life had turned Josie’s mother into an overweight plain entity who lacked the time, money, and will to invest in her appearance. Everything about this woman resonated her sense of futility in life.

“Can you think of anybody — a stranger — who may have approached Josie on the street while she was playing, or tried to engage her in conversation before she went missing, Mrs. Stephens?”

“Well, there was that social worker,” she answered, blowing into the shredded tissue, prompting Mick to give over his handkerchief to her.

“What social worker?”

“The one I reported to Social Services.”

“Fill me in, please.”

“A woman who claimed to be a social worker came to my door about…oh…three weeks or so ago. She told me the agency had received a complaint from a neighbor about my occasionally leaving Josie alone in the morning. She threatened to take my daughter away from me.”

“Did she show you an ID?”

“I demanded one, but she refused. She also refused to show me the agency’s paperwork on Josie’s case, saying it was none of my concern.”

“What did you do?”

“I grabbed something that was on the table next to the front door — I can’t remember what — and told the bitch that I was going to bash her face in if she didn’t leave immediately.”

“And did she?”

“Yes. But she was very shirty about it. She said, ‘If that’s the way you want it, fine,’ or words to that effect.”

“Did you see her car?”

“Umm…yes, but I don’t remember much about it. It was white, is all I know.”

“Sedan? Hatchback?”

“Sedan, I think.”

“Two doors? Four?”

“I…I can’t remember, Inspector.”

“Did you get the license plate number?”

Mrs. Stephens lower lip began to quiver again. “Sorry, no.”

“Don’t be sorry. You’re giving me a lot of helpful information.”

“I did report the incident to Social Services, though,” she added, brightening a little.

“Excellent. What did they tell you?”

“That they would look into it.”

“Right, but not before hell freezes over,” Mick offered cynically. “Can you describe this woman?”

Wearily closing her eyes, Mrs. Stephens leaned her head back. “Middle aged, heavy set.”

“Hair color?”

“Dark brown. But it looked phony.”

“A wig?”

“No, dyed.”

“Long hair? Short?”

“Jaw length.”

“How was she dressed?”

“Mm…professionally.”

“Can you be more specific?”

“Blazer, skirt, blouse, sensible pumps — that sort of thing.”

“Did she carry a briefcase?”

She thought for a moment before answering. “Yes, she did. And a matching purse.”

“What color?”

“Black, I think. Maybe dark brown.”

“Had you ever seen this woman before in your neighborhood?”

With her eyes still closed, Mrs. Stephens shook her head slowly. “No…no. I’m certain I hadn’t. I would have remembered her.” Opening her eyes, she looked directly at Mick.

“Did she take my baby, Inspector?”

“It’s a possibility.”

“Why?”

Still a novice on child abuse, Mick decided to leave the responsibility of explaining the details of the Erlking’s ring to Kip.

“I’m not entirely certain, Mrs. Stephens. We’re looking into possible motives,” he hedged.

“But why? If she was a woman who wanted a child, why would she kill Josie?”

“We don’t know yet if she’s the one who killed your daughter. If you like, I can…”

Mick was rescued by Kip, who opened the door and stuck his head in.

“Mrs. Stephens, do you want to accompany your daughter to the pathology lab?” he asked as solicitously as one could under the circumstances.

“Yes,” she answered firmly. “I’ll be along in a moment. I just need to ask the Inspector one more question.”

“Take your time,” Kip said, leaving the two of them alone, much to Mick’s considerable discomfort.

Struggling to compose herself, the woman twisted around in the seat, facing Mick head on.

“Inspector Chandler…”

“Chandra,” Mick corrected her.

“Very well. Inspector Chandra, I know you’re not telling me everything. It’s a mother’s instinct. Whatever it is, I’ll find out sooner or later, so you might as well tell me now. Why was my daughter kidnapped, then murdered?”

“Please, Mrs. Stephens. Chief Inspector Brodie will tell you everything you need to know.”

“No, I want to hear it from you! What did they do to my baby?”

Sighing heavily, Mick gave in to his inquisitor. “They — whoever they are — may have kidnapped your daughter in order to…to sexually abuse her. We won’t know for certain until the forensic pathologist examines her body. Josie may have been a victim of a pedophile ring that’s operating somewhere out of north London.”

The mother’s hand involuntarily jerked to her mouth. “They used my baby girl for sex? For sex? My God, she was only eight years old! What kind of monsters would do such a thing?”

“Very sick monsters.”

Under the weight of truth, Mrs. Stephens again dropped her face into her hands and sobbed inconsolably. Mick could do nothing but leave her to the dignity of her grief. Then, abruptly, she stopped and plaintively turned her tear-stained face to him.

“Are you going to catch them, Inspector?”

“Yes.”

“For sure?”

“Yes.”

“For Josie’s sake,” she pleaded, taking his hand.

Mick nodded. “For Josie’s sake.”

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Jay Verney – Spawned Secrets

CoverTitle: Spawned Secrets

Author: Jay Verney

ISBN: Kindle: 9780987377906

ISBN: Paperback: 9780987377913

Page count: 228

Genre: Crime Fiction: Mystery/Thriller

Price: Kindle: $2.99; Paperback: $12.99

 

Author Bio:

Jay Verney is an Australian writer who has published two previous novels, Percussion (University of Queensland Press), A Mortality Tale (Allen & Unwin, 1st Edition; UQP, 2nd Edition), and a stack of other stuff including essays, articles, memoir, opinion pieces, newspaper columns, movie reviews, poetry, short stories, and theses.

A Mortality Tale was shortlisted for the Australian/Vogel and Miles Franklin Literary Awards, and Percussion got some pretty good reviews, too.  Spawned Secrets is her third novel, and the first to be published as both an ebook and a paperback.

Jay has a PhD (in genre and crime fiction), and a Master’s degree (memoir) in Creative Writing from Queensland University. In 2009, she received a Dean’s Award for Outstanding Research Higher Degree Thesis for her PhD. La-di-da and yippeekiyay, or exclamations to that effect. Seriously though, she was quite chuffed to receive the award and has it framed on her wall of – yes, framed things – at home. Occasionally, she shows it to her cat, Dotty, Jay_Verneyintending to pull her into line and create a sense of awe. So far, however, Jay remains the servant and Dotty the boss. The universe is as it should be.

 

Tell us about your book:

Spawned Secrets is a mystery/thriller based around the Global Financial Crisis and its aftermath.  It focuses on a particular group of fraudster stockbrokers as they attend a getaway weekend at a rainforest retreat.  What they don’t know is that they’re being stalked by an avenging assassin who has his own reasons for delivering payback.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

The Global Financial Crisis is in full swing. Banks and businesses are closing. Homes are foreclosed. Bernie Madoff has been arrested. Jobs and savings are lost forever. People are angry, very, very angry.

A group of disgraced (and disgraceful) stockbrokers are enjoying a rainforest getaway weekend as a severe storm front approaches. And a deadly secret blows in from their past, carried by a mystery stalker, ‘Guy Friendly,’ determined to execute each and every one of them with surgical precision and the wrath of an avenging demon.

Their only protection comes in the form of Garfield Fletcher, former ship’s cook, jilted lover, and now, fake private eye, courtesy of his ever-so-slightly-shady cousin, Henry Pinkert. The ink on Garfield’s newly printed Certificate of Accreditation is barely dry when he finds himself up against the mystery killer who will inspire the most difficult choices Garfield has ever had to make.

In Spawned Secrets, award-winning author, Jay Verney’s third novel, all of these ingredients, and more, come together for a surprising climax and aftermath, as old friends reunite in the strangest of circumstances, and new friends face tragedy and betrayal.

 

How long did it take to write the book?

Around three to four months of daily chapter writing and revision, after a period of researching the subject and developing characters, setting, themes, and so on.  Then, more revision and re-drafting to get to the final draft – a few more months.

 

What inspired you to write the book?

Like most people, I was shocked and then angry about the Global Financial Crisis – its impact on so many innocent people who lost their homes, their livelihoods, their jobs and life savings, and in some cases, their lives.  It negatively affected so many people around the world and still the after-effects continue to rumble through many economies.  I thought it would be a great topic for a crime novel with a twist – use the GFC and a representative group of dodgy stockbrokers to develop a tale of revenge – the great thing about fictional payback is that it can be therapeutically cathartic but no-one gets harmed.  So the GFC was my starting point.

 

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?

My writing routine, once I’ve done some research and planning, is to write for however long it takes to reach a set word count or number of chapters.  In the case of Spawned Secrets, I wanted to draft at least 1,000 words a day.  Sometimes this equated to about a chapter, but often I would write two or even three chapters if I was having a really good day.  I didn’t hold myself to a maximum, only the minimum of 1,000.  Some days it was quite a challenge, but you just have to plough on regardless.  I think it was Graham Greene who said he would write 300 to 350 words a day without fail, and noted that at the end of a year, there would be another novel completed.  Sounds easy, but we all know it definitely isn’t.

I did a lot of research by reading newspapers and magazines, Googling extensively, listening to radio programs and watching TV documentaries about the GFC, and keeping up with general news reports as the crisis unfolded.  I’ve been a reader of crime fiction for a long time, and my first published novel, A Mortality Tale, has been shelved in crime fiction, religious and spiritual works (a misreading of the title, methinks!), and contemporary fiction. So it was fortunate for me that I had some runs on the board with the crime genre, both as an author and reader.

 

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

My aim is always to entertain, and secondarily to provoke some thought and consideration of the characters, themes and ideas presented and how the storyline is executed.  I love to get feedback from readers to find out what they enjoyed and what they’d like to see more (or less) of in future novels.  I’d like to build a readership based on give and take and mutual respect.

 

Where can we go to buy your book?

I’m new to the indie/self-publishing venture, so initially I’ve joined Amazon KDP Select for the Kindle ebook and CreateSpace for the paperback.  I hope to go further with other outlets once I get some experience and feedback.

Both ebook and paperback are available from the same page on Amazon.  Just Google: Spawned Secrets Jay Verney, or use this link: http://www.amazon.com/Spawned-Secrets-ebook/dp/B00AFR554E

 

Any other links or info you’d like to share?

I have a website called Transient Total Focus at http://www.jayverney.net where I write about this, that and the other, mostly as they relate to reading, writing and publishing, with a few other tidbits thrown in.

Also, I maintain two poetry blogs.  These are:

Veranda Life at http://www.verandalife.com and

Zen Kettle at http://www.zenkettle.wordpress.com

 

Excerpt from book:

From Chapter 4:

‘We offer a full service protective detail, Ms Harding.’

Henry had a punter, and he was lathering it on.  Full service?  What did that mean?  Did you get fries with it, and a Margarita?  I stood near the kitchen door waiting for a cue to enter.

‘I’m the senior specialist, of course, and as CEO, I supervise all operations and assign the staff most appropriate to your needs.  Following a full analysis of your situation, of course.’

‘There’s nothing complex about this, Mr Pinkert.’

‘You’d be surprised how many people say that, Ms Harding.  But as a former Homicide detective with 30 years experience in one of the country’s most crime-ridden cities, I can assure you that nothing is ever as simple as it appears.’

Henry would be smiling benevolently as he spoke, trying to invoke a sense of trust and authority, a man who’s seen it all.  Hmm.

‘One person, Mr Pinkert, that’s all I need.  Male, big, strong, and he should look as though he knows what he’s doing.  Do they wear uniforms, your people?’

If male, big, and strong weren’t cues, I don’t know cues.  I walked into Edie’s living-room, now Henry’s conference room judging by the fat round table and its six heavy wooden chairs.

Ms Harding was a top shelf example of corporate panache.  Shining blonde hair in undulating shoulder length curls, face perfectly made up, but a little pale – the chic, sunless look.  Navy blue suit, crease-free, snug around the hips and breasts, but not blushingly so.

‘Ah, Fletcher,’ Henry said, staring at me staring at Ms Harding, urging me to be a professional something-or-other.  Not a trawler cook.  ‘Ms Sarah Harding, Mr Garfield Fletcher, security expert and expedition leader.’

Expedition leader?  Ms Harding offered me her hand.  She had a firm grip, but it was cool and eager to withdraw after an obligatory two seconds.  Fair enough.

‘How tall are you, Mr Fletcher?  Six?  Six-one?’

Ms Harding wasn’t curious about what kind of expedition leader I might be.  She looked me up and down.

‘Six-two,’ I replied.  ‘Six-three in heels.’  I smiled what I thought of as one of my beguiling, Magnum, P.I. smiles.  Ms Harding dismissed me and turned to Henry.

‘I’ll need him tomorrow morning at 8.00, 167 Eagle, 13th floor.’  She turned back to me.  ‘See you then, Mr Fletcher.’

‘Ms Harding, the contract.’  Henry tried to regain control of things.

‘Bring it with you, Mr Fletcher.  Our CFO will sign and issue a cheque to Pinkert’s Protection and Investigation Systems and Services.  That’s the correct name isn’t it?  Anyway, it’s neither here nor there.  The whole thing’s cosmetic, as I explained earlier, Mr Pinkert.’  She paused.  ‘We’re good for it, you know.  Things are grim for some, but we have fat to burn.  We run responsible investment and hedge funds.’

There was such a thing as a responsible hedge fund?  You learn every day.  Not that I had more than the faintest clue about hedge funds.

At the door, she turned back to us.  ‘Don’t forget the uniform, Mr Fletcher.  Appearances are everything in my business.  And you may need a raincoat, judging by the sky.  I guess we’ll just have to play some indoor games over the weekend.’

‘Pardon?’ Henry said.

‘Good morning, gentlemen.’  She was gone.

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