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.