I know you’re anxiously waiting for Bait, but please be patient… I have to earn some money until a publisher pays me to write…
Here’s Chapter 1… I hope that keeps you going for a while…
BTW If you haven’t read the Prologue yet, better read that before you read Chapter 1. http://www.ianwalkley.com/sneak-preview-of-my-second-novel-bait/
ONE YEAR LATER. NOOSAVILLE, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA.
Millions of mosquitoes clouded the summer twilight in search of blood. Channel Eight reporter, Natasha Tidswell, sprayed repellent on her exposed skin, avoiding contact with her perfect Napoleon Perdis face, then tapped her hand-held microphone. Ray gave her a nod. She checked her watch and waved the camera operator a few metres further away from her rival crime reporter, Barry Spicer from Six News.
Piss off, Barry. The washed-up inebriate always tried to listen in on her reports. Couldn’t string a decent story these days, and his wrinkled skin was the colour of a jaundiced baby. Too many beers with the boys in trips to war zones, the dens of drug lords and, she suspected, brothels. And he smoked. Why his audience ratings remained so high was a mystery. This year, she was determined to beat him. She was building a reputation as a serious crime reporter, and this year might see her win a Walkley Award, the Australian equivalent of a Pulitzer.
She switched her mind off her rival and turned back to Gavyn Selphans’ house across the street, protected by a high wall and security cameras. From somewhere inside deep barking almost drowned out the shouts of the protesters. There were about a dozen of them, including several kids holding placards.
The protesters were using kids to protest a convicted sex offender living in their neighbourhood. Many held placards demanding children be protected. Tasha frowned in disapproval, both of the protest itself and of the use of kids not even old enough to understand what a pedophile was. Hypocrites. Using kids like this was just another form of child abuse, she thought. Kids should be kept innocent as long as possible, she believed.
And besides, what right did people have to say an ex-con on parole couldn’t move back to his home? He’d done his time. Wasn’t it enough that they knew he lived among them, and the authorities used an ankle bracelet to track him? This sort of vigilantism just created another victim, someone who resented society and just encouraged them to reoffend. She had interviewed experts who said that isolating a pedophile like this would only end in tragedy.
Stop frowning. Don’t get emotional, she told herself, smoothing imagined creases with her fingers, careful not to smudge her makeup. She brushed the shoulders of her dress in case a traitorous hair had dropped since she brushed it a few moments before.
The two plainclothes detectives gave up ringing the bell outside the residence, climbed over the front gate and trudged around the back, pistols drawn in case the dogs attacked. A dog-handler with RSPCA on the back of his orange vest followed them. Tasha hoped they’d remember to bring Selphans out so that Ray could capture the predictable confrontation with protesters. It would make great news if they attacked him, she thought, without any sense of guilt. She knew how to separate her personal views from her professional goals as a journalist. Most of the time, anyway.
As the six o’clock news went to air, the studio director gave a warning through her earpiece and began streaming live audio. Tasha checked her iPad notes as she readied for the cross, then decided her hair wasn’t quite right. She flicked the ponytail forward so it cascaded over her right shoulder, ending just above her breast. Ray would set the camera so her ample cleavage was in frame, and the sleeveless dress had a neckline that was revealing enough to give fans a feast of her healthy tan and much-admired collarbones, but not enough boob to be considered slutty. Her unblemished skin, tanned complexion, cute dimple and shamrock green eyes meant she didn’t need accessories, but a tiny silver crucifix on a fine chain dangled between her breasts to show her commitment to Christian values. She didn’t mind using the assets God had given her to further her career. After all, she thought, successful women did that. On the other hand, she was also determined that her journalistic talent be respected.
Closing her eyes, she said her report in her mind, then spent a moment meditating. Transcendental Meditation was her current hobby, and she was planning to look into Buddhism next. Opening her eyes, she placed the tip of the microphone near her mouth, gripping the iPad with her other hand.
Over her shoulder came a commotion, just as in the studio newsreader Glen Tholomew began reading her story. She smiled her glossy lips as though the lens was her lover. Which in many ways it was. If it came to the crunch, the camera would win out against a man. Through her earpiece, she heard the voice of Ponzi, the studio director, telling Ray to zoom out slightly. Wanted more cleavage on screen. Ray smiled at her. Probably wondering whether he might get a chance to lay his hands on that cleavage later.
Not that she had any rules against casual sex. On the contrary, she preferred avoiding the crap that went with commitment. And there were plenty of ways she could enjoy an orgasm or three without a boyfriend. She wasn’t averse to a little kink either, with the right guy. But she was selective who she’d put out for. Guys qualified under one of three rules:
Rule 1: had a decent face and body.
Rule 2: could advance her career.
Rule 3: no smokers or druggies, unless qualifying under Rules One or Two.
Through her earpiece, she listened as Glen’s smooth baritone expressed barely-restrained outrage at yet another paedophile being housed in a suburban neighbourhood, near a school. It was what the public wanted, even if she didn’t personally agree with that spin.
“Notorious paedophile Gavyn Selphans has again been outed, this time in Noosaville, where the serial offender was released on parole to his home less than four hundred metres from a primary school, after his lawyers successfully obtained an injunction preventing his indefinite detention. For the latest, we cross to our Coast reporter Natasha Tidswell…Tasha, what’s going on down there?”
Tasha’s smile turned to a frown as she nodded to keep the audience’s attention during the few seconds’ delay in transmission.
“Well, Glen, as you can see, neighbours are definitely not happy about Selphans being allowed back here. Selphans is on parole after being convicted three years ago of using an online dating service to target single mothers in order to gain access to their children. Neighbours tell us he hasn’t been seen for several days, but we can hear dogs barking inside the house. The protest began six days ago, after the vigilante-activist group Reel Justice published Selphans’ address and a video of Selphans meeting a girl he’d groomed on the internet. The girl was in fact a member of Reel Justice, and had entrapped Selphans into the meeting. Reel Justice released a recording of the conversation Selphans had with the alleged fifteen-year-old girl in which he proposed sex in exchange for money. The group also released an illegally-obtained video of an alleged conversation Selphans had at a local café, in which he boasted to a friend about plans to abduct a child. He is alleged to have said, quote: ‘this time they’ll never catch me or find the kid’. Selphans’ lawyer has slammed Reel Justice’s actions as invasion of privacy, and criticised the use of a teenage girl as bait, even though her identity is hidden by pixelated images. But if Selphans wants to sue Reel Justice, Glen, he will have to find them first. Since the group first launched its website six months ago, nobody has been able to track down who’s behind Reel Justice…”
Tasha noticed Ray angle the camera away from her towards the house. She turned, and spotted one of the detectives along the side of the house, throwing up. The rival Six News crew were hustling across the road to get closer. Tasha signalled to Ray and they sprinted over to where the detective headed to his unmarked car. It was great live news.
“What’s happening, Wayne?” Tasha asked him. Since her one-nighter with the married cop eighteen months ago he had continued to feed her information in the vain hope of getting her into the sack again. But having established a useful source, she had moved on.
“Give us a minute will you, Tash.” Wayne shook his head, wiping his mouth with a handkerchief. He leaned into the car and pulled out a radio handset, allowing her to get close enough to hear him.
After a few moments, she turned back to the camera, her expression now righteous. “Well Glen, it appears that the detectives were prevented from entering the house by the menacing dogs. The RSPCA dog handler is about to tranquillise the dogs. Police have also called for an ambulance. Apparently, Gavyn Selphans is lying on the floor inside, not moving. And Glen, the starving dogs are apparently eating the paedophile’s face…”
She pulled a face like she was biting into a lemon. “Certainly, if he’s not dead, Selphans will face a very unpleasant sight in the mirror when he regains consciousness. Back to you Glen…”
She held the expression a few moments longer. The studio director told her to hang about for another cross at the end of the bulletin. She wandered over and stood beside Ray.
“Want to go somewhere after, babe?” he said, lighting a cigarette, his Geordie accent still apparent despite years living in Australia.
She stepped back, waving away the smoke. “You know I don’t do smokers, Ray. And I’m nobody’s ‘babe’.”
“Just a drink, I meant,” Ray said, shrugging, as though she was a snoot who wouldn’t have slept with him anyway.
Which wasn’t necessarily true, she thought. She’d slept with a photographer last year. He was doing her portfolio shoot, and he was good with lighting. Qualified under Rule Two.
But, in Tasha’s mind, if a guy smoked it meant he had no respect for himself or those around him. As for smoking after sex…gross.
“So who’s behind this Reel Justice, you think?” Ray said, trying to redeem some self-respect.
“God knows. I did some checking. The website’s hosted in the US, but the holding company is a Panamanian private corporation.”
Ray flicked his butt into the gutter. “Tracking them down could be a good story.”
She stared at him for a moment and blinked, as a brainwave hit her. Of course! She suddenly realised how she could outrate Barry bloody Spicer and have people respect her talents as an investigative reporter.
She smiled. “You know Ray, you might just be right.”
Later that evening, packing up her desk in the newsroom, Tasha’s computer beeped. It was an RSS feed from the Reel Justice website. She clicked on the message, and it took her to the group’s media release:
REEL JUSTICE RESPONDS TO GAVYN SELPHANS DEATH
Convicted serial paedophile Gavyn Selphans was today eaten by his own dogs after overdosing on drugs and alcohol. He was on parole after serving less than four years for raping a thirteen-year-old girl he had groomed on the internet.
Reel Justice recorded Selphans at a cafe telling an associate that he intended to abduct, rape and kill another child. Reel Justice also recorded an entrapment using one of its people to play a teenage girl, who Selphans arranged to meet. The video was published on our website.
Reel Justice has no remorse for its actions and will continue to expose criminals wrongly released who should be still behind bars. We represent the victims, and future victims, and will continue to seek reforms to the justice system that recognise their rights.
In the past year in Australia, more than a thousand criminals have been acquitted by juries or released by judges on technical grounds. Of these, three hundred and seventy four have committed further violence, including thirty-seven rapes or murders. While the system continues to protect and release violent criminals, Reel Justice will continue to make the public aware of their crimes and evil intent. For the record, in our entrapment operations Reel Justice uses adults over eighteen years of age.
We reject any notion that people who commit crimes are themselves somehow victims of society. We do not forgive and will not forget.
Gavyn Selphans will leave no more victims.
“Bloody arrogance,” Tasha muttered, clucking her tongue as she shut down her computer. That only made her more determined.
She made a note to track down the lawyer in Panama. Somehow, she would find out the names of these activists whose harassment had led to the paedophile’s suicide, and whose actions would inevitably undermine the rights of everyone to a fair and just process.
IndieReader.com, one of the world’s top websites for indie published books, has awarded No Remorse a five star review and the highly regarded Indie Reader Approved badge, recognizing the book as a quality indie title.
See the full review here:
You can find the links to buy No Remorse here:
HAMILTON ISLAND, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA.
As she jogged the slope to the resort island’s peak, Kasey Bowman ignored the sweat dripping off her brow and soaking the lycra body suit. She worked her shoulders knowing her legs would follow, grateful for the gusty breeze that cooled her clammy skin.
The winding trail of sea-blown scrub and stunted eucalypts dissected the island at its ridgeline, and although the gravel had been graded smooth for emergency vehicles she watched for loose rock or uneven surface. Eighteen months ago, not paying attention, she had twisted her spine, temporarily displacing a disc. Keep running, the specialist had warned, and you could be walking with a stick at forty.
But that wasn’t enough to make her stop. She’d go insane without her running.
Patrick, on the other hand, was not a morning person and not a jogger, so almost two hours ago she had quietly slipped from his bed. At this early hour the trail was usually deserted, as most resort guests slept in after a long day visiting the reef, snorkelling, yachting, jet skiing, eating and drinking, and loving.
Perfect time for a run.
Normally, jogging put her mind in a state that allowed her to run through the pain and free herself from whatever was bothering her. But this morning she had struggled unsuccessfully to get into the zone. There was too much on her mind.
Reaching the top of the hill, she gazed out across the serene waters of Whitsunday Passage, its milky blue dotted by distant islands and tiny white sails, where Pelicans rode air currents like sky surfers. Overhead, squawking gulls were drowned out by the roar of an aircraft, signalling the arrival of the first flight of the day from Brisbane.
She had anticipated the vacation would allow her to find inspiration from exploring the trails, swimming the balmy waters, and snorkelling the reef. Time and space to sort out the chaos at work and in her personal life. Not that she was running, she reassured herself. She wasn’t one to shy from confrontation. Just that she needed to feel in control, and inside the tornado of her life she felt anything but.
Dave, the guy she had been dating for three months, wanted a commitment that she didn’t feel able to give. It worried her that already the divorced attorney was talking about marriage and kids. She liked Dave, but whatever it was she felt for him, it didn’t feel like love. Not like with Patrick.
At work, she was frustrated after prosecuting her second case in twelve months where a jury had let a killer go free. Her boss thought she wasn’t cut out to be a prosecutor.
But her expectations of tranquillity and solitude had been quickly dashed when on the second night at a trivia competition she had sat at the same table as Patrick Lawson, an American widower who had just moved to Australia with Anna, his shy fifteen-year-old daughter. Kasey had been unexpectedly drawn to Patrick’s charm and open smile, which contrasted with the hint of sadness in his deep blue eyes. She liked the way he was close to his daughter, although Anna barely said a word. Kasey met them again next day during a day cruise to Whitehaven Beach, where they snorkelled and walked the brilliant white beach together. At the end of the excursion they arranged to meet the next day.
And the next. And the one after that.
They parted each afternoon, until on the fourth day Patrick insisted that she join them for dinner. That night, a spectacular thunderstorm hit the island. Pounding rain, crashing thunder and bolts of lightning were an entirely appropriate setting for a night of intense and desperate love-making. Every night after that she went to Patrick’s bungalow after Anna was asleep, leaving before dawn for a run and arriving back in time for breakfast. If Anna knew what was going on, she didn’t say.
Kasey never imagined anyone could fall so madly and deeply in love that quickly, let alone her. She wasn’t normally one to make hasty decisions. And there was still an air of mystery about Patrick that she couldn’t quite figure out. It only intrigued her more. She felt an underlying sense of guilt about Dave, but for the first time in a relationship she had allowed her heart to rule her head. She had determined that whatever happened on the island was hers to enjoy. Everything was just for here and now.
Or was it?
She still found it hard to believe that she’d blurted out to Patrick two nights ago that she felt like she was falling in love with him. Later the same evening he had reciprocated, as they lay on the day bed outside the bungalow. He seemed self-conscious, almost embarrassed, when he admitted to her that he, too, had fallen in love.
She lifted her feet one at a time onto the bench seat to stretch her calves, taking deep breaths as she prepared for the descent. Refreshed by the stiffening breeze, she started back down the track, excitement building as she anticipated Patrick’s reaction when she told him about the idea forming in her head. It was outrageous and radical, but it had given her renewed motivation to continue her advocacy for victims of crime, despite the weaknesses in the system. She couldn’t wait to share the concept over breakfast.
She postponed the need to think through how to explain falling in love with Patrick to Sandie, her best friend since high school. Sandie would not approve, and she would have to deal with the fallout with her and Dave on her return. Hopefully, when she got to know Patrick, Sandie would come to understand.
Nearing the resort, Kasey crossed in front of an electric golf cart and cut across the lawn and along a boardwalk to the beach. The sun hung higher in the sky, its warmth bathing her skin, drying the sweat. A shadow passed overhead, a magnificent white sea eagle circling, vigilant for its morning feed.
Ditching her runners, Kasey waded into the calm lagoon. The water was warm where the incoming tide had washed over the hot sand. She swam back and forth a few times then stood up, wiping the water from her eyes as she strode out onto the beach. The Lycra clung so tight she might as well have been naked, but she didn’t have far to walk to the bungalow.
A distant roar signalled the departure of the seven o’clock flight to Brisbane. Such a beautiful island, she thought, it was going to be sad to leave. Today, she and Patrick would need to sit down and plan the logistics, and hopefully Patrick would agree to settle somewhere close by.
She hadn’t felt this happy for years.
Reaching Patrick’s bungalow, she rinsed the sticky sand off her feet and opened the glass sliding door. Inside things were still quiet, bedroom doors closed, like most of the other mornings after she had returned from her run. She went into the bathroom and had a quick shower to rinse off the salt.
“Hey, guess what…” she said, nudging open his bedroom door, wrapped in a towel.
The bed was empty.
She looked around the room. His suitcase wasn’t there. His clothes weren’t draped over the furniture. Picking at her nails, feeling a little giddy, Kasey hurried out and pushed open Anna’s bedroom door.
The hollow in her stomach became sickeningly terrifying.
Anna’s room was also empty.
She grabbed the phone beside the bed. Dialled nine.
A woman answered in a cheery voice. “Reception, good morning.”
“Cleaner. Has Mr. Lawson checked out?”
A clacking keyboard, and a few moments later: “He and his daughter were on the seven o’clock flight out. You can start the clean. Did they leave something behind?”
“No, no, just checking. I thought he was booked for another week.”
“Yeah, he paid for it too…must’ve had a bloody good reason to leave ‘cause he didn’t get a refund.”
The woman hung up, leaving her staring at the handset.
The nausea worsened, and she went to the bathroom. Sipped some water and splashed her face. Surely, she thought, the whole thing hadn’t been a dream, had it? She went into Patrick’s room again and slumped down on the bed and buried her face in his pillow. She could still smell the warm, fresh scent of him. An uncontrollable trembling began. She could visualise them here on the bed last night, his body moving against hers. Slow, then faster, then slow again. Yet he must have been booked on that flight, knowing he would be leaving as he made love to her. It didn’t make sense.
No, this couldn’t be happening.
Was she just a holiday fling? Was Patrick really planning to settle in Australia? Was he really a library IT manager, whose wife and son had been killed in a car crash? Questions, questions.
Then anger began to surface. He must have just been using her. Leading her on with the false charm of a Hollywood movie actor.
She sucked at a strand of hair as she tried to think rationally. No, his body hadn’t been lying about his feelings for her, she was sure of that. Yet something must have scared him off. She went back over the last few days. Had he been scared off by her talk of love? Possibly. After all, hadn’t she been put off by Dave’s overly enthusiastic overtures. And it was less than a year since Patrick had lost his wife and son. Maybe he wasn’t ready to move on? But even if that was true, why leave without a word like that? He had hurt her. Badly. She’d experienced love for the first time, only to have it torn from her. He might as well have taken a knife to her heart.
Nobody deserved to be treated like that.
She gave up trying to rationalise and let herself cry it out until she felt dead enough inside to move. Glancing at the bedside clock she realised she’d been lying there for hours. As she was leaving, she noticed a scrap of paper near the fake orchid on the coffee table. From the trivia night, she recognised Anna’s handwriting:
Sorry Kasey ☹
Master screenwriter and author Heywood Gould (COCKTAIL; FORT APACHE, THE BRONX) casts a jaundiced eye on Hollywood in this madcap first in a series introducing Det. Tommy Veasy of the La Playita PD. Read my interview with Heywood here: