Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Black (a poem)

Black is the place where depression is swept between people.
Black is the sound of darkness.
Black is the smell when loved ones have died.
Black is the taste of strange disappearances in mid-air.
Black is the feeling of foreverness.
Black is the rich dark colour in which people fear.
Black is the sound of corpses crunching beneath your feet.
Black is the smell of toxic fumes, pollution.
Black is the taste of burning possessions.
Black is the feeling of unexplained figures in the dark.

by Nimo Pyle (aged 12)

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

A (timely) airline tale

Hi guys,
I wrote this short story many years ago, and you can tell from the writing, it's no masterpiece, but it is eerily prophetic in the light of the latest news. I dedicate this to the lost souls of Malaysian Airlines 370. I hope by reprinting this I am doing them no disrespect. That is not my intention. Instead, perhaps this is one solution (albeit unlikely) to a mystery that is, as yet, unsolved. May they rest in peace, wherever they are.   

A Voice From the Grave
By C.A. Larmer

A shrill sound woke Clare from a deep sleep and, as though on automatic pilot, she stretched one hand in the direction of the telephone and put it to her ear.
“Hello?” she said, her voice croaky with sleep.
“Clare?” She did not immediately recognise the caller. “Clare, it’s Patricia from the airline. Quick, switch on the telly, there’s been an awful accident!”
“I’ve just heard it on the late news!”
Clare slowly registered Patricia’s words then sat up with a start. “Oh God, you don’t mean ...?”
“Oh yes. Take a look ... It’s horrendous ...” Her voice trailed off as the phone went dead.
Clare hauled herself out of bed and grappled with the TV controls until she found the 24-hour news channel.
“... and still no sign of survivors,” came an urgent voice over badly lit footage.
The camera was panning the ocean, nothing but black, lolling waves and some flotsam and jetsam to be seen. But this was not random sea debris. This was the remains of Flight 405. She sat down with a thud. As the Pacific Ocean turned into a McDonald’s advertisement, the phone startled her again.
“It’s the flight you were supposed to work, isn’t it?” asked Patricia.
“Yes.” She recalled the sudden illness that had forced her to stopover in a hotel instead. They would call it a lucky escape. “Have they determined a cause yet?”
“God no, too early for that.”
“But ... but they must have said something. Do they think it could be pilot error?”
“Oh, I hope not. Wasn’t Jason flying?”
Clare’s heart skipped a beat thinking of the pilot, Jason Goddle. He would be little more than fish food now. She dropped the phone and sprinted into the bathroom to throw up.

The plane truth

Two harrowing weeks passed before the airline officials came to meet with her and it was with some relief that she opened the door to them. She wanted to get this interview out of the way. While she had escaped the flight, her luggage had not, and Clare knew that would make her an instant suspect.
“Good evening, ma’am, my name is Gary Trooper,” said the older of the two men. “I’m investigating the crash of Flight 405. This is my associate, Bob Smith.” He indicated a younger man behind him. “We just need to ask you a few questions on behalf of the airline. Can we come in?”
“Of course.” She showed them into her lounge room. “Have you determined the cause of the crash, yet?”
“Yes,” he said. “It was a bomb. An amateur one, but deadly nonetheless.”
“Oh God. And do you have any idea who? Why?”
The official shook his head. “Nothing certain, yet.”
“You must feel like a very lucky woman.” It was a statement from Smith and she simply shrugged back.
“I had a lot of good friends on that flight. I’m not so lucky to have lost them.”
“And, of course, your suitcase.”
“Yes,” she said, looking away. “It was too late to get it off and now it’s lost to the ocean forever.”
“Well, not quite.” Smith dumped a large plastic bag on the coffee table. In it were a selection of her things, including some photos, jewellery and a pair of shoes. “These washed up with the debris,” he said. “You might want to take a closer look.”
She pulled the bag towards her and noticed that each item was contained in its own Ziplock bag.
“That’s how we found them,” Trooper said. “Can you tell us, Miss Harrow, why you packed your things like this?”
Clare glanced from Trooper to Smith and back again. “I’m a pedantic packer. What are you suggesting?”
“We’re just investigating all avenues.”
“You don’t honestly think I placed the bomb?” She couldn’t believe her ears. “Surely, if the bomb was in my bag, these Prada pumps would be in a million pieces by now? Besides, in case you’ve forgotten, I was due to work that flight until my stomach suddenly gave way.”
“See, now there’s the problem,” Trooper said, leaning forward to make his point. “No one actually saw you throw up. You could easily have faked your own illness to get discharged from duty but, in case you couldn’t retrieve your luggage, you packed your special items in waterproof plastic.”
“Oh this is all so ridiculous,” she spat. “If what you say is true, tell me why! Why would I want to kill 124 people?”
“You didn’t. You just had one person in mind, the pilot, Jason Goddle.”
Clare’s eyebrows shot up. “What on earth for? Jason was a dear friend, everybody loved him ...”
“Particularly you,” Trooper boomed. “We know about your affair, Clare. Jason wanted to break it off; you weren’t going to hear of it. Not without ruining him for good.”
“This is all hypothesis,” Clare said, calmly. “You have no proof of this and, well, Jason’s hardly in a position to corroborate.”
“That’s where you’re wrong.” He signaled to Smith who produced a tape recorder.
“What’s this?” she asked, her brows furrowed.
“Let’s just call it a message from the grave.” He pressed ‘Play’.
“I don’t know what to do,” came the sound of a man’s voice. Clare’s stomach lurched. It was Jason.
Another unfamiliar voice said, “What’s the problem? Just tell her it’s over.”
“That is the problem, Clare won’t hear of it. She came to see me at the hotel today, said she’d tell my wife, blow the whole thing sky high.”
Smith turned the machine off and glared at the stunned woman. “Did you know we record everything that goes on inside the cockpit? This was taken from the cockpit voice recorder about half an hour before the bomb went off. It proves you had motive as well as access to the pilot’s bag, which we now believe contained the bomb. I’d say you placed the bomb while he wasn’t looking, then faked your own illness to get off that plane.”
Trooper looked at her angrily. “Was he really worth the lives of 123 innocent people?”
Clare crumpled. “I just wanted to see him hurt, you know, the way he hurt me?” She dropped her head into her hands. “It was such a tiny explosive, I thought it would just knock the plane around a bit, tarnish his perfect bloody record. I never expected it to blow the whole lot apart ... I just wanted the world to see him for what he was ...”
Smith tossed a recent newspaper towards her. “I’d say you failed.”
As he read Clare her rights and led her away, the last thing she saw was the headline, in large, bold type: 
“Nation mourns the death of loving husband and hero pilot.”


Friday, 19 July 2013

Ghostwriter Mystery 2— almost free!

Hi guys,
Okay, this one's not quite free, but it's as good as. I mean, 99c? Come on, people, what can you get for THAT these days? I'll tell you - a chance to catch up with everyone's favourite ghostwriter, Roxy Parker and all that that entails (think: fabulous fashion, dastardly murders and a few too many merlots).
Cover for 'A Plot To Die For (Ghostwriter Mystery 2)'
The second in the successful Ghostwriter Mystery series, A Plot to Die For, is on sale for just 99c on Amazon and Smashwords now. After dabbling in a little sleuthing in her first book, Killer Twist, Roxy hopes a stint at a tropical boutique resort will be as boring as a sunbake on the beach. Boy is she wrong! Before long, her hotelier client is dead and the guests on the island are looking a little too suspicious for Roxy's liking. And so she investigates ...

If that sounds like your cup of G&T, get it while you can. The 99c sale only lasts a week.

I hope you enjoy it and please, if you do, let the world know about it with a quick review, a comment here or a tweet to your thousands of followers.

Happy reading,
xo Christina

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Fourth Ghostwriter Mystery out soon

Good news for fans of Roxy Parker and the Ghostwriter Mystery series. After sticking my head down and getting creative all year, I have now finished the next Roxy adventure, titled Dying Words. It's with my US editor now and will be available for sale on Amazon (and other outlets) shortly. 

Here's a blurb I just wrote about it on my blog: 
"I've had many wonderful emails from fans begging for another Roxy Parker adventure, so I hope this one delivers on every scale. It's now called Dying Words and actually derives from a real-life incident that happened to me about two years ago.

A man I had met and interviewed once very briefly called out my name on his death bed. He was begging for a photo to be returned. It was a photo he had given me for a relatively dull book on Surveying that I had just completed. I had to Express Post the photo back to him before he died and it got me wondering: why did he NEED that picture back, so desperately? Was there something hidden in the picture? Some clue to a secret treasure or a cause for his death?

And so Roxy Parker gets the same desperate plea in my next book, Dying Words. In her case the man was definitely murdered and she must try to work out why he called out her name before he slipped off this mortal coil. Thus begins a very baffling adventure for the adventure-prone ghostwriter who goes on a frantic chase to locate an old missing photograph before a mysterious burglar beats her to it. This seemingly benign, black and white portrait of six people in 1975 holds the key, not only to the man's senseless murder, but to another very brutal crime that happened 37 years ago.

Along the way, we also reunite with Roxy's motley collection of mates including gutsy copper Gilda and Roxy's now-boyfriend Max (who has a secret bombshell he's about to drop!)

It's an intriguing tale and I hope you enjoy it. I certainly enjoyed writing it and it's also been great fun creating the cover with my talented Aussie designer Stu Eadie. This cover will be a little different to the last three and I'll give you all a sneak peek once I have it in my hot little hands (or should that be hot little hardrive?).

Once again, thanks to everyone for your patience and support, and I'll let you know once it's available online. In the meantime, you can catch Roxy's other adventures (or try one of my other books, The Agatha Christie Book Club or An Island Lost) at Amazon:

All feedback most welcome."

Happy reading,

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Festive Season Sale!

Hi guys,
To celebrate the publication of my third Ghostwriter Mystery, Last Writes, I'm offering the ebook at the discounted price of just $1.99 over the festive season—but you need to get in quick. This offer is only available to Amazon readers and will return to full price early in the new year.

Last Writes sees the return of sassy ghostwriter Roxy Parker and her motley friends and family. This time, someone is killing best-selling authors—a science-fiction writer has been found violently slashed with an ‘X’, a gardening guru bludgeoned with his own shears, and an erotic novelist poisoned by a juicy apple. All the evidence points firmly at Roxy's beloved agent, Oliver, but she's not convinced. With the help of seductive newcomer, crime reporter David Lone, Roxy must hunt down the killer before another author meets their final sentence... Little does Roxy know, a ghostwriter is next on the hit list! Will this be Roxy Parker's last writes? 

Happy reading! (And please do get in touch with all your great feedback and comments.)

xo Christina

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Greek Expectations (Part 1)

By Christina Larmer

© Larmer Media

Fog gathered like cotton wool, loosened into stringy wisps on the shores of Sarisi Bay and the fishermen ignored it like they might their wives at home, and simply went about their business, checking sails, freeing ropes, rolling one for the road. A whistle, a coo-ee and in waves they set off, first one boat, then another, then two more, each slicing through the silence until the fog rejoined to gobble them whole with only the faint scent of their cheap tobacco left to remind us they were even there.

From the esplanade, Solina watched them without really taking them in, as though a passing image in the movie of someone else’s life. Even as the tobacco dissipated, she watched, her hands thrust determinedly into her too-thin coat, its pockets so high up she had to bend her elbows to keep them from the cold. This coat had caused a stir in the office when first she’d worn it. A black, wool coat with shearling trim. So luxurious, so now. And now so inappropriate. What she needed was a thick parka, with lambswool lining, perhaps. And a hood. Instead, she had a flimsy cotton beanie offering little comfort to ice-cold hair that had become limp with dew.

Still, the chill was not entirely unwelcome. It numbed her a little, matching her mood.  Beneath the coat the edge of her black pleated skirt caught in her flat-heeled boots and she noticed for the first time in hours that her feet had ceased to ache. They were numb, too (at least she’d thought to leave the stilettos behind). She made no effort to move, though, just stared out to sea surprised by its oily darkness and the smoke that her breath was now making, clouding up her view. Something else replaced it. A memory from a long time ago: a blonde and a brunette, giggling as they gulp in the crisp air between two long fingers pushed against red lips. Their fingers move away swiftly as they exhale, their lips upturned Hollywood-style into the sky and they watch as the condensation conjures up imaginary cigarette smoke before their eyes.

A dog’s howl snapped her lips shut and she glanced around. Releasing one hand from its warm cubby hole, she scooped up her Louis Vuitton bag and returned to the road, hesitating only briefly before turning away from town and towards Coso Point. Her feet felt warmer now and were beginning to throb again, yet she walked on regardless. It was a good half-hour’s walk to the top, but she had prepared herself for the climb and stopped every 10 minutes or so, resting on her bag and staring at the road ahead before switching it to the other hand and continuing on.

Questions began to creep up on her as she walked. What was she doing here? What if it’s not there? But this is Greece, she told herself. Things don’t get pulled down when their use-by date is up. She jiggled her head a little as though shaking some thought away and pressed on. And then it came into view, a thick black blot upon the horizon, and she almost managed a smile. By the time Solina reached the castle her head was throbbing harder than her feet, her nose dribbling freely, her coat off and strewn across one shoulder. She was sweating and panting and weary to the core, and whatever joy she may have had in reaching it was swiftly destroyed by the darkness.
Where was the welcoming light?
Through dark slats in the locked gate she could see the front door was closed, a thickly scribbled sign plastered to one side, illegible to her eyes. She searched for a buzzer, a door bell, anything. Then slid down the rock wall to join her bag on the cold cobbled road.

The young woman scowled at the phone. It hadn’t stopped ringing all morning. She answered it with a curt, “Eve magazine, Solina Malone’s phone.” She knew it wasn’t how her boss liked her to answer it, but then Solina hadn’t been spotted for two days and reprimanding her for her phone manner seemed a non-issue in the light of things.
   “It’s bloody deadline week for Christ’s sake,” howled the publisher at the other end. “Don’t tell me she still isn’t in?”
   “Sorry, Cray, not a peep.”
   “Where the hell is she?”
   “I’m not—”
  “Did you call her at home?”
  “Yes, sir, not answering.”
   “Well, did you think to go over there? Make sure she hasn’t gassed herself or something?”
Kiara thought about this for a moment. It hadn’t occurred to her, and she cheered a little at the thought.
  “No, sir but that’s a great idea, I’m onto it.”
  “Good,” the older man growled. “And, er, what’s your name again?
  “Kiara, sir,”
  “Good, Kiara, well let me know how you go. This is absurd.. Completely un-fucking-professional.”
   “Oh I agree, sir, we’re all—”
   “Solina and I are due at a Revlon lunch at one,” he interrupted, “and if she’s not found by then we can kiss the account goodbye.” And with that he was gone.

Kiara smiled. It was the longest conversation she’d ever had with the Eve publisher, the formidable Cray Jackson and, despite the tone, she had thoroughly enjoyed it. He was a large man with a bald head, a peppery moustache and a red mottled nose that suggested one too many boozy corporate lunches in his time. But the power he wielded — he published 16 titles in all — somehow endowed him with a certain rugged handsomeness that Kiara knew earned him a constant stream of flirtatious females, from the editors down. He was even rumoured to have slept with a few, despite a young blonde trophy at home, but Kiara doubted Solina had ever come close to bedding this man. He was out of her league.

Kiara stood up. She needed to get to Solina’s house, Cray was relying on her. The very thought made her heart swell, as though he had personally invited her to come on up to the seventh floor to swap a little tete-a-tete with the big boys. Perhaps he’ll remember my name now, she thought grabbing her handbag.

Glancing around, Kiara realised that the entire office was staring at her and she thought that she would burst. It was amazing the power that had suddenly shifted to her shoulders in a matter of one day. It was as though she, the measly editorial assistant, held the key to the case of the missing editor.

That’s when Alex Jones decided to pounce. The deputy editor leapt from her desk and dashed towards her.
  “Cray hassling you?” she said. Kiara nodded. Alex drew her into Solina’s office and closed the door. “What are we going to do?”
  “Looks like I’d better take a trip to Solina’s place,” she said.
  “Exactly what I was going to suggest,” Alex said. “Just switch your phone to er,” she glanced around the office outside, “to Melissa’s. She can cover your calls.” She flung the door open and called out. “Mel, you’re on phone duty. But if Cray calls - or Solina for that matter - put them straight through to me, you hear? No-one else.”
  A young redhead waved from the other end of the office. “What about any calls that come in for Solina? Do you want to take them?”
  “Bugger that!” Alex replied. “Just take a message. It’s pretty basic stuff, Melissa, I’m sure you can handle it.” She turned back to Kiara. “OK, get going, but don’t take too long. And If you find her call me, OK? Not Cray. Me first. I’m in charge now.”
Kiara smiled stiffly and leant across her to Solina’s phone. She punched in a few numbers, diverting the line to the feature writer’s, and then picked up her bag again. Typical, she thought. It hadn’t taken long for her power to be usurped.

Solina’s house was actually a hundred-year-old semi-detached in the upmarket suburb of Balmain. It had been freshly renovated with an ornate garden planted at the front, but none of that changed the fact that it was a pokey, drafty place. Not even its million-dollar price tag could change that. Kiara had been there several times before, usually on weekends or very late at night, to deliver film for proofing or the latest Eve cover for approval. But she had never been here during the cold hard light of a working day. It had never been necessary. Until yesterday, Solina hadn’t taken so much as a sick day. In three long years.

Kiara hammered at the door, rang the doorbell long and hard, then smudged her nose up to the windows. But no movement could be detected inside. Yesterday’s mail was still in the box, soggy from the overnight rain, and she didn’t bother retrieving it and slipping it under the door. She just turned on her heel and left, barely concealing a smile.

Artemis Xydis was in a good mood. It was his favourite hour, 5 am, and even the early risers of Sarisi were only just beginning to twist and turn in their beds, one last dream before reality rushes in. He has been up since 4.30 am, watching the fishermen depart, dragging on his own rollie, a cup of thick black coffee sparking up the brain cells. He would be joining them soon, but he was in no hurry. His livelihood does not depend on it.

In the bedroom beyond, the sheets were rumpled, the mattress dipping and diving where fervent limbs had beaten it out of shape. Rosa had dropped by again. His mood darkened. He liked her well enough, but he was glad she was somebody else’s wife. He slurped another long sip of coffee, revelling in the aroma, the warmth of it in his belly, the comfort of a good cup. He considered sparking the Atomic up again as he stumped out his smoke and stood up. That’s when he saw her, a slight silhouette against the silvery sea.

He stepped back quickly into the shadows of the balcony even though she had not looked round, could not possibly have seen him. But there was something about her stance that warned him off. It was a private moment. He felt like an intruder. Yet he continued to watch, curiousity getting the better of him. And he squinted his eyes, as though that would somehow sharpen his focus.

He could tell she was not a local, not even Greek. The coat, the stance, the way her shoulders were hunched like a fortress around her neck, all told him she was a stranger here, and an uncomfortable one at that. He stepped forward slightly to get a better view. It was early for tourist season. Had she steered off track? Then suddenly she turned directly towards him and for a second he thought he had been spotted, but she looked away easily, her face caught momentarily in the amber street light. Her lips were shut, her jaw clenched tight, her large eyes darting quickly along the street. He watched as she bent down to collect her bag, her auburn locks dropping down across her face and then flying back up with an experienced flick of her head as she stood and turned without hesitation away from town.

Artemis’s first reaction was to call out to her, to tell her she was going the wrong way, but something about her stride stopped him. She seemed hurried, determined. Without doubt. It was clear she was headed towards Coso Point and, he assumed, the castle. He had better alert his mate. The tourists were coming early this year.

As he returned inside to change, Artemis had the feeling the strange woman wasn’t a tourist at all. There was something about those eyes, that jaw, those lush locks that told him she was no stranger at all. He had seen them all before.

Want to read more? Please leave a comment here or email the author directly:

Friday, 15 June 2012

Killer Twist (A Ghostwriter Mystery)

Killer Twist
By C.A. Larmer
Copyright Larmer Media 2011

Her eyes were wide with frenzy and despair, her lips icy blue as she stretched them into a scream that was lost into the night. All around her, ragged gray strands of hair clung like seaweed to the surface, now broken with one more push, one final grab at life as she thrust her mangled hand out before sinking from sight.

Chapter 1: A Close shave
cool breeze slithered in through the open window and Roxy Parker stifled a smile as she slipped a deep blue, velvet jacket over her T-shirt and jeans and pushed her legs into long, black boots. She pinned a small diamante broach onto the jacket and slipped some dangly earrings on. She adored autumn and winter: the clothes, the crispness, the chance to stay snugly indoors with little more than a good book and a decent bottle of red to keep her company. No need to hover over the answering machine, listening with guilt; in cold weather you were allowed to stay home. Not that she was doing so today. Her agent had called her in and she was running late.

The silver clock on the mantelpiece read 9.25am and Roxy scowled at it as she scooped up her keys and smartphone, dropping them into her oversized leather handbag, and pushed her glasses into position on the diving board to her nose. A long, thin scarf had been left drooping over a chair and she retrieved it, wrapping it around her neck and losing her shiny black bob in the process. As she glanced around, ready to depart, she spotted the newspaper, discarded on the coffee table.
‘Oh, that’s right,’ she said, grabbing it and studying the small headline that had caught her eye earlier. ‘One-handed corpse washes up in Rushcutters Bay.’
Practically her own neighborhood, she thought, before ripping out the page and darting into her office to wedge it into a well-thumbed manila folder. Back in the lounge room, she quickly checked her reflection in the hall mirror (straightening the glasses, retrieving the hair) and then slammed the front door solidly behind her.
 ‘Urgh, fug orf!’ Growled a foul smelling mass of brown rags on the pavement downstairs and the young woman diverted her eyes and breathed in through her mouth as she stepped around him and away. Checking that her bag was securely zipped, she dug her hands deep into her pockets and strode swiftly through Elizabeth Bay. If she picked up her pace she might just make it in time. Roxy took a hard right at the old police station, cutting past the fountain, through to Macleay Street and towards Kings Cross station. The city-bound train was late as usual and by the time Roxy reached Martin Place she was racing, up the grimy escalators, past the sullen stream of commuters and out onto Macquarie Street. Then across to Elizabeth Street, a quick glance around, a light change and a moment of calm before everything turned to pot.
In retrospect, Roxy would remember a definite hand print on the small of her back just moments before the bus tore past, but for now she was simply flying, her chin propelled forward, her arms flailing about as she tried to regain control. Somewhere along the way her glasses—her beautiful tortoiseshell glasses—also took off, rendering her blind. Somehow, miraculously, Roxy managed to break her fall, and landed in a huddle in the gutter, her face pressed hard against the cold cement, one arm twisted up beneath her. She moved the arm carefully, checking it wasn’t broken, and then struggled to her feet just as a large, grayish blob swooped down towards her.
‘You okay, love?’ the blob asked, helping her up. ‘That was bloody close, you nearly caught the bus to Bondi!’
Roxy nodded unconvincingly in his direction and made her way through the crowd to what she hoped was a wall. Ah yes, a low brick one. She leant against it, her cheek throbbing a little, and scrounged through her handbag for her emergency spectacles while the world whirled on around her. The glasses were an old set, gold and garish, but they would do. Pushing them onto her nose, she straightened her fringe down, dusted off her jeans and looked around again. Her tortoiseshell glasses were nowhere to be seen and the gray-suited man was walking slowly away, glancing back occasionally, wondering if his job was done. She waved him away and turned back in the direction from which she’d come, eager to find the stranger she’d glanced at a split second before she went flying. There was something suspicious about his eyes, the way they darted sideways the moment she looked at him. She suspected premeditation. Within minutes Roxy acknowledged defeat and turned back.

‘Damn it!’ she hissed beneath her breath, and made her way down a few more blocks to the next corner, then looked around before dashing along an alleyway and up to an unmarked door. She quickly stabbed in a code and watched as the door swung open, then entered, making sure it shut firmly behind her before ascending the stairwell two steps at a time until she reached an office marked Horowitz Media Management. Panting heavily, she let herself in.
‘Jesus, Roxy, you look like shit,’ Oliver Horowitz announced as she strode past reception and straight into his office.
‘Hello to you, too, Olie. Can I use your mirror?’
‘Yeah, go for it.’ He pointed one pudgy thumb towards the small bathroom in the corner of his office. She went in and surveyed the damage relieved to see just a small graze where her skin had made contact with the pavement. She splashed her unsettled expression away with some cold water and returned to the outer office where Oliver tossed her a towel. It had the word Nike printed across it.
‘So,’ she said, wiping her face before tossing it back and then dropping down into a scratchy sofa in front of his desk, ‘what’s up?’
‘Earth to Olie. You left a text message for me to get in here at 10. Pronto.’
‘I did?’ Roxy narrowed her eyes and waited for him to click. ‘I didn’t leave any message, Roxy. What is it with those glasses? Bit retro for you, eh?’
‘The chic ones died a death this morning. What do you mean you didn’t leave me a message?’
Oliver surrendered some papers to his desk and sat upright in his overstuffed, leather chair. ‘What’s going on?’ he asked.
‘Not sure yet.’ She dug about in her handbag for some lipstick. ‘Well, I’m here now, got anything for me?’
‘No I don’t. You in trouble, Roxy? Again?’
‘I’m never in trouble, you know that.’ Roxy brushed the lipstick across her bottom lip, painting it a matt red hue, and then flung it back into her bag as she rolled her lips together, spreading the color evenly. ‘Come on, Olie, darling,’ she continued, sea green eyes sparkling through provocatively wide eyelashes, ‘you have to have something for me. I can’t wear these dowdy specs for much longer.’
‘Oh, I dunno, they’re kinda growin’ on you.’
‘How’s the Musgrave biography going? Is everything okay?’
‘Fine, fine.’ Her eyes glazed over. ‘It’s not exactly riveting stuff.’
‘No? You don’t find church fundraisers intriguing?’
Roxy smirked back at him. Sydney socialite Beatrice Musgrave wanted her life story told and had approached the Horowitz Agency for a ghostwriter, someone with a gift for words who could help her construct her story into a half-decent ‘autobiography’. The deal with all of these jobs was simple: while Roxy never got any credit for the book (ghostwriters remain just that—a ghostly presence behind the scenes), she did get compensated sufficiently to squirrel some away and pay off the much-abused Visa card. And that’s the only kind of credit she cared about, at least while she had a mortgage to contend with.
Oliver had wasted no time calling his favorite ghostwriter, Roxy Parker, who’d been on his books now for many years. While the money was substantial—double what Roxy had ever been paid for ghostwriting before—the job, so far, was extraordinarily dull. She would have exchanged the cash for a little conspiracy in a heartbeat.
‘Not every story has to be about mystery and intrigue,’ he reminded her, doodling on some paper with a biro. ‘Anyway, I was thinking maybe I should just pass it on to Klaus.’
‘Ha! Don’t make me laugh!’
‘Don’t knock Klaus, he’s a good writer.’
‘Yeah, if you like your stories like his hair: thin on top.’
‘Well at least he doesn’t bring headaches into it.’
‘What headaches?’
Oliver stood up, his beer belly peeking through where several buttons on his ’50s-style bowling shirt were undone, and shuffled over to the office door.
‘Shazza! Where the fuck are you?’
‘Awww, I’m here, boss, fixin’ the photocopier!’ came a hoarse smoker’s voice from the next room.
‘Good, get us a coupla coffees will ya!’
‘Milk and two sugars for me, thanks!’ Roxy called out and watched her agent as he wedged himself back into his chair. She wondered if he had once been a good looking man before a steady diet of doner kebabs and cold beer ruined him. Her agent was in his late 40s, single, a hard worker with a lopsided grin and a kind of roguish charm that forgave his sloppy looks and smart-ass ways. Roxy liked him. He called a spade a spade and that was a prerequisite in this business.
‘What headaches?’ she repeated, smiling innocently.
‘Oh, let me think, Roxy, sweetheart, what headaches? Oh maybe the time I sent you out to interview a band grieving their departed drummer and you came back with some cock ‘n’ bull story about the ex-girlfriend and how she might’ve done him in.’
‘It was a possibility.’
‘It was a self-administered drug overdose. He was a friggin’ junky. Full stop.’
‘Well, in any case, it made good reading for the Tele and you got your 15 percent. Anyway, that was ages ago. I’ve been good lately.’
‘That’s what I’m worried about.’ He eyed her for a moment and then asked, ‘Still keeping The Book of Death?’
Roxy shifted uneasily in her seat. ‘It’s not a book of death!’ She scoffed. ‘It’s a crime catalogue.’
‘Same difference.’
‘Hardly. Besides, it has a purpose.’
‘Yeah, right.’
‘What’s the big deal, Oliver? All good writers file clippings away. You never know when you might need them.’
‘Do all writers focus only on crime articles? I swear, Roxy, it’s like you’re planning the perfect murder.’
She shrugged wishing the subject away and was saved by Oliver’s secretary who appeared at her side, two Horowitz Management mugs in her hands and a half-finished cigarette dangling from her mouth. Sharon was a middle-aged woman with short, spiky red hair and a penchant for extremely tight, brightly colored spandex that only worked to accentuate her scrawny, stick-thin form. But perhaps that was the idea.
‘Oh Sharon sweetheart,’ Oliver gushed as she thumped the mugs down. ‘What ever would I do without you?’
‘Hmph!’ she snorted back, offering Roxy a cheeky wink before moping out again, the fag still firmly in place.
‘Thanks, Sharon,’ Roxy sang after her. They eyed their coffees for a while and then Oliver stood up again and shuffled over to the door to close it. Roxy rolled her eyes in response.
‘Come on, I know something’s up.’
‘Like what?’
‘Like, you get a strange message from me that I never left, then you get beat up—’
‘Hang on a minute—’
‘I can see the scratch, Roxy.’ She reached one hand up to her cheek instinctively, running her forefinger across the web-like mark.
‘Oh the cat did that.’
‘You don’t have a cat.’
‘And now you can see why.’
They sat back and sipped their drinks, Oliver shaking his head reprovingly, Roxy ignoring him as she glanced around the room. She wondered, as she always did, how he could get it so dusty. They were three floors up. Tatty posters of sci-fi films had been sticky-taped to the walls, and every possible bench was cluttered with assorted memorabilia from past events and publicity gimmicks. There was a teddy bear draped in an oversized T-shirt that read, ‘Mardi-grass 2001, Nimbin’, a mug shaped like the Opera House and a pair of 3D glasses with one lens missing. She connected eyes with a giant cardboard cut-out of a buxom blonde in a stretchy red dress with the words ‘Tina Passion–Writing passion into your life!’ scrawled across the bottom, and wondered as she often did, how she could possibly share an agent with one of the country’s corniest romance writers. Romance was always the last thing on her mind.
‘Okay, then,’ he relented. ‘I’ll see what else I can find for you. If I do find something, will you swap the Musgrave biography for it?’
‘Um, no, you don’t seem to get it. I want more work not less. Can’t stand it when I’m not busy, you know that. Besides, I’m a third of the way through the bio, why on earth would I stop now?’
‘Just a thought. Look, Roxy, be careful, alright? Enjoy the down time. Take a trip somewhere. Relax. Here,’ he fetched his iPhone and held it out to her. ‘Look it up on my dictionary app, it’s a useful word.’
She dismissed him with a wave, got to her feet and was halfway out the door when he called her back.
‘Why don’t you call one of your old contacts, that sexy Greek chick from Glossy for instance?’
‘Oh, you mean the one who never comes through? Pah!’
As it turns out, Maria Constantinople, the editor of one of the country’s top-selling women’s lifestyle magazines, had come through the day before, offering Roxy ‘a big one, baby, a big one!’ She was on her way to the Glossy offices now, she just didn’t believe it would amount to much. Roxy wrote a lot for Maria, mostly mundane articles about women’s health, relationships, money, anything Maria wanted, really. They were always fairly safe subjects, the kind of stories she’d written a hundred times before and would write a hundred times again. The only challenge was changing the heading, introduction and content sufficiently enough to confuse the readers into believing they hadn’t read the exact same thing just 12 months before. Pure trickery, of course, and not something she was particularly proud of, but, hey, it paid the bills. Well, it almost did. The worst part of the whole deal was that these articles were never very long, 1200 words at best. At 70c a word, it didn’t amount to much. She wasn’t about to go renovating the kitchen, let’s put it that way. Roxy longed to sink her teeth into something wordy, something original, something she wanted to read.
Yeah right, she thought, like that’s ever gonna happen. This was a briefing session with Glossy magazine, after all, not The New Yorker.
This time, however, Roxy couldn’t have been more wrong.

‘Sorry to keep you waiting, gorgeous,’ Maria boomed when, after 30 minutes chewing her lips in the lobby, Roxy was ushered through to the editor’s spacious corner office by her new assistant, Trevor.
‘Bit of a hunk, eh?’ the editor whispered, eyeing the young man up and down as he closed the glass doors behind them.
‘Yeah, I guess, if you’re a bloke.’
Maria’s thickly penciled eyebrows shot skyward. ‘Oh fuck, you don’t reckon he’s gay do you?’
‘We’re in Sydney. He’s got the body of Adonis. I rest my case. So what have you got for me?’
Roxy was not a big fan of Maria Constantinople, and not just because of her lack of originality and depth. The woman was loud and brash, and prone to stomping her five-foot frame around like a rugby player, tossing expletives about as though they were superlatives and playing God over her quivering staff. But even that Roxy could have forgiven—Olie was hardly the Prime Minister of office politics, let’s face it—yet there was something else, something she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Perhaps it was the feeling that this editor would sell her out for a headline in a heartbeat.
Well into her 50s, Maria wore her thick, dyed auburn hair in long, wild curls, and plastered her face with a gelatinous coat of foundation, the type that implores you to play naughts and crosses with your nails.
‘Oh, I got a treat for you, Roxy,’ she said, clasping her bejeweled hands together, prayer-like in front, ‘and I need it done fast.’
‘No problem.’
‘No thanks.’
‘Well then, let’s get straight to it.’ She reached for a file marked ‘Heather Jackson, Artist’ and flung it across her sparkly glass desk towards Roxy. ‘You’ve no doubt heard of this one. One of Australia’s top modern artists. She’s super private and, as far as the rumors go, a complete fuckin’ cow. But I’ve scored an interview and I want you to do it.’
 Roxy flipped through the file. A selection of old press clippings had been placed inside, along with a black and white print, autographed, and a tattered leaflet which read, ‘Sydney Art Gazette Annual Competition, 1989’.
‘Why me?’ Roxy asked, surprised.
‘Why not?’
‘Well, for starters, I know very little about art.’
‘So improvise.’
‘Why not use your art writer?’
Maria sighed heavily. ‘Because I’m giving you a bloody break. Do you want the job or not?’
‘Of course I do.’ Deep down, though, Roxy wondered what the woman was up to. She wasn’t in the habit of doing Roxy any favors. Besides, it wasn’t her style to commission the good stories out, especially when she had one of the best editorial teams in the country assembled right under her oily brown nose. Roxy smelt a rat, but didn’t push the matter further. Ten years as a freelance writer had taught her that. You just take the job and run.
‘That’s the spirit!’ Maria said as she adjusted a collection of gold chains that had lost themselves in her cleavage. ‘All the info you need’s in the folder. Thursday seems to work well for Heather. You give me a time and a place and I’ll set it all up. Too bloody easy if you ask me.’
They chatted for a bit longer before Maria started playing with her watch and, getting the hint, Roxy closed the folder and got to her feet. ‘I’ll give you a call this arvo to talk time and money.’
Maria pushed her eyebrows together. ‘What? You want some fuckin’ dosh for this?’
Roxy just laughed as she saw herself out.

 Chapter 2: A Threatening note

‘Hey, Parker is that you?’
‘No Max, it’s your Fairy Godmother. You called me, remember?’
‘Oh cut the sarcasm,’ came a deep, raspy voice on the other end, ‘I’m still trying to work my remote dial on my new smartphone. Smart my ass. So, what you up to?’
‘Just been running some errands.’ Roxy plucked her own phone from its perch by the gearbox and placed it to her ear. ‘How was your date?’
Max Farrell groaned loudly and Roxy couldn’t help a chuckle. She had little sympathy for the guy, he brought it upon himself. ‘Too gorgeous for his own good,’ she’d heard both men and women say of him and, reluctantly, agreed. While not exactly handsome, Max had that relaxed, couldn’t-care-less look that lured women in droves: thick, tousled hair, baggy, surf-style clothes, and a smile that came easily, creasing up his entire face, so that it seemed he’d never heard anything so hilarious in his life. And that, coupled with his decidedly fashionable occupation (photographer) made him quite a favorite with the hip, inner-city crowd.
In fact, it was while working at a celebrity press conference two years earlier that the two first met. The conference had been a bit of a scrum, photographers and journalists vying for the limited attention of some visiting Hollywood starlet. Amidst the frenzy, Roxy had remained up the back, disinterested in the whole affair, and Max admired her indifference and the fact that she didn’t try to win him over as most women did, and so they became instant friends.
‘I gather she left empty-handed, so to speak,’ Roxy baited.
‘Quite the contrary, she borrowed my jacket and I forgot to get it back.’
‘So now you’ve got to see her again.’
Clutching the phone to her shoulder with one ear, she maneuvered the gears and steering wheel of her navy blue VW Golf around a tight bend, then grabbed it back up and let out another chuckle.
‘That’s called karma, Max.’
‘No, Parker, it’s called manipulation, she did it on purpose.’
‘Desperate to see you again?’
‘Oh give me a break. Just call her up and ask her to send it back.’
‘It’s a leather jacket, not a letter.’
‘Okay, then get her to drop it in to your agency and make damn sure you’re not there when she does.’
‘Oh, yeah, good idea! You’re a bloody genius, I knew there was a reason I adored you.’
Roxy pulled her car into an empty spot in the curb outside her apartment block in the inner eastern suburb of Elizabeth Bay and cut the engine. ‘That and the fact that we’ve never bonked so you don’t have to try to avoid me. Anyway, I’m home now, gotta go.’
‘We’re still on for Thursday?’
‘We’re always on for Thursday, you know that. Oh, by the way...’
‘You haven’t sent me any stupid messages lately have you?’
‘Oh never mind, bloody junk mail, you know how it is. Alright, Maxy, I’ll see you later.’
She hung up and slipped the phone into her handbag, unlocked the car door, got out and then quickly relocked it. With her keys still firmly in hand, she marched across the pavement to an old brick building that had been painted white too many seasons ago. She looked around swiftly then let herself in. At the mailbox for apartment 8A she tapped on the door several times and, determining that it was hollow, turned away and scurried up four flights of stairs.
Inside the apartment Roxy deadbolted the door, placed her keys and phone on the mantelpiece and then headed straight for the fridge. She was famished. Unfortunately (typically!), she was also out of food. She reached for a bottle of water and swigged several mouthfuls, then returned to the living room and dialed Wanton Thai Takeaway.
‘Timmy? Hi it’s Roxy Parker...Yeah, very hungry!...Yep, yep, the usual. Oh and tofu, not chicken, I’m trying to have at least one meat-free day a week...Okay, then. Thanks, Tim...Huh?...Oh, 20 minutes is fine. Bye.’ She hung up.
The mantelpiece clock said it was just past 2pm and Roxy moved towards the large glass window that faced the bay beyond to drink in a view that never ceased to satiate. She noted that a few sailboarders were out braving the cold and shivered on their behalf, then strolled into the sunroom.
 Roxy adored her small apartment despite its size and mostly because she had it all to herself. The walls were whitewashed and chipping in places but she liked the chips, they gave it character and spoke of a life lived within. It was just one bedroom, but the living area was spacious enough and opened out onto a sundrenched deck that had been glassed in on three sides so that you could enjoy it all year round. In this room she had placed an old rustic red cedar table that served as her desk and, upon it, rested a small laptop, printer and files. There was also a thick glass vase brimming with wilting tulips and she scooped it up, returning to the kitchen to extract the dead stems and replenish the water before depositing it back on the office desk. After that she watered her ferns, checked her voice mail and logged online.
 As Roxy waited for the computer to whir into action, she pulled off her long boots, jeans and jacket, and changed into an old blue sweater, gray tracksuit and woolly socks. Winter was still officially a month away, but the chill had set up camp early and Roxy couldn’t have been happier. Summer was fine for those who liked to spread themselves like barbequed chooks on a beach somewhere. For Roxy, with her fair complexion and inability to sit still (let alone lie somewhere half-naked), it was all SPF 30, over-sized hats and waiting anxiously for sundown.
A faint ‘doodle-oo’ announced the arrival of some emails and Roxy slipped back into the office, piling her long legs up beneath her on the chair and clicked on ‘Open’. There was a note marked ‘Only Your Mother’ and she shook her head irritably before opening it.
‘Hello, darling. Remember me? Please call, want to catch up. Mum.’
She trashed it. Mum would have to wait, she had bigger fish to fry. She scrolled down the inbox, past a stream of junk mail which would eventually need erasing, until she got to a letter marked ‘Warning!’. She felt her mouth go dry and double clicked.
‘Attention Roxy Parker,’ it began. ‘Have a nice trip? Today was just a warning. Give up the story – ITS (sic) NOT WORTH IT!!!’
The message had arrived two hours earlier and was unsigned, the return address marked to a Hotmail account with the initials AIL. She wondered if it was traceable, and wished she knew what the hell it was referring to. It was the second threat in two days and she recalled smirking at the first, assuming the sender was Max. Now she was almost certain it was not.
Retrieving the original message for another look, she read it aloud: ‘This is a warning. Don’t do the story and live to tell the tail (sic).’ She recalled the morning’s push and a bright pink blush swept across her face. Who was doing this to her? What did they want? And, more importantly, which story could they possibly be referring to?
Roxy chewed her lower lip for a few minutes and then moved her cursor to the ‘Reply’ symbol, clicked, then typed the words, ‘What is this about?’ She double clicked and waited for the email to disappear from her screen, her heart now somewhere near her feet. Then she had a thought. She counted to five, drew in a deep breath and clicked on the ‘Send/Receive’ button. Within seconds, there it was, a message from the Mail Delivery Subsystem marked, ‘Returned Mail: See transcript for details’. She exhaled. Damn it. Her message had not got through. Either AIL at the hotmail address no longer existed or it had some kind of Smart Screen software attached. This was one of those fancy new technologies that enabled you to screen your emails and disallow any ‘foreign’ messages. Well, she figured, it was to be expected. But she did have one more option.
Roxy picked up her phone and located the morning’s text: ‘Be at my office by 10am. No later. VERY important. Oliver Horowitz’ She emitted a loud groan. It wasn’t Oliver’s style, why hadn’t she spotted that? He wouldn’t have bothered spelling out all the words—‘B at office’ and ‘l8r’ were more his style—nor would he have signed his full name. There was one other glaring clue. The text originated from a number she didn’t recognize, certainly not one of Oliver’s. She shook her head at herself. Clumsy!
Not yet defeated, the writer’s thumb went to work on her own smartphone, locating the foreign number and pressing the ‘Call’ button. After many rings it answered, sending a shot of adrenaline through her body, but it was just one of those recorded messages alerting her to the fact that the number was no longer connected. How surprising. She relaxed again and made a note of the message in a file marked ‘Viruses’, adding the two email messages by cutting and pasting them onto the page.
Roxy sat back in her chair for a few minutes trying to think. Who ever had sent those messages was no fool. They had managed to erase their tracks. But then, Roxy was no fool, either. Nor was she completely empty handed. She glared at the Hotmail email address again: AIL. She assumed they were someone’s initials, but perhaps they were a business name? Feeling increasingly exasperated, Roxy logged off and began scrolling through a folder marked ‘Ongoing Stories’ to see if anything leapt out at her. There was a feature she’d just completed for Cosmo on the joys of being single but wondered who, short of a marriage celebrant, could take offense with that? Then there was the biography she was writing for Mrs Musgrave but so far the well-known socialite’s life has been as riveting as a game of her treasured Mahjong. The only other alternative was the story Maria had handed her that morning, the interview with an artist not accustomed to giving interviews. Surely that was little more than harmless PR?
‘Besides, I haven’t even started that yet!’ Roxy moaned, leaning back in her chair and staring with glazed eyes out at the ferns. Eventually, she conceded that the likeliest option was the Musgrave biography. Perhaps old Beattie did have a few skeletons amongst the twin sets in her wardrobe. She made a note to look into it and then, in the ‘Viruses’ folder jotted down a quick description of the man she thought had pushed her that morning while it was still fresh in her mind: ‘Fattish, hairy (greasy ponytail?), dark clothes. Shorter than me. Unfamiliar. Determined.’ The doorbell buzzed and she clicked the file shut before dashing to the speaker. ‘Who is it?’
‘Wanton Thai,’ came a voice at the other end.
‘I’ll be right down!’ She slipped black sandshoes over her socks and fetched some notes from her wallet. Through the smudged glass door of the lobby, Roxy could just make out a small, black-headed figure holding something white, and she opened the door swiftly.
‘Ahhh hello Missis Roxy.’ A young Thai boy beamed as he thrust a bag of food towards her.
‘Hi Lee,’ she replied, handing him the cash. ‘Busy day?’
‘Oh not so busy todaaay,’ he sang. She thanked him and locked herself back in.
Back upstairs, Roxy placed the takeaway on the coffee table and fetched a bowl, some chopsticks and the file Maria had given her. She replenished her water glass, scooped some rice into her mouth and began to read. The Glossy job seemed straight-forward enough. A simple celebrity interview with a diva of the Australian art world. Questions: probing and insightful. Duration: One hour max. Copy: upbeat with a fresh angle and just a hint of attitude. Result: Glossy sells more magazines, Heather Jackson sells more artwork, Roxy gets paid. And that was her only interest in the matter.
Until she started reading from the file.
Like most Australian’s what Roxy knew about the interviewee wouldn’t fill more than a paragraph. The Sydney Art Gazette, one of the city’s longest-running and most credible street rags, had sponsored an Emerging Artists award some 20 years back and the winner, an unknown 30-year-old called Heather Jackson, not only scooped the coveted first prize but had gone on to become one of Australia’s most famous living artists whose controversial portraits—brightly painted and slightly abstract—earned her notoriety in art circles around the world, from Paris to New York. Even more notorious was her disdain for the press, she hadn’t done an interview in five years.
‘So tread carefully with her,’ Maria had warned. ‘One wrong question and she’s out the door.’
‘What’s a wrong question?’ Roxy asked. ‘She’s just an artist. She’s not a politician for God’s sake.’
‘Yes but she’s a private artist and a very fuckin’ famous one at that. It’s a bloody miracle she even wanted to do the interview.’
‘That’s my next question,’ Roxy said. ‘Why do an interview at all? It’s not like she needs to.’
‘Everybody needs to, eventually.’
‘But why Glossy?’
Maria stared at the writer, hard. ‘Because Glossy is the Mecca of magazines. Of course! Look, the point is I need you to be polite, tactful and keep her on side. I just want a lovely, “Look Who We Got” story and nothing more.’
‘I’m all manners,’ Roxy promised, but looking through the file now, she was not sure she wanted to be. While Heather shunned official media interviews, she lived the celebrity life to the hilt: the file was brimming with paparazzi pictures of the artist, arriving, head down, blinged fingers up to shield her face as she entered or exited one cocaine-fuelled, A-list party after another. There were blurry pictures of her cavorting with near-naked men on exotic beaches and all kinds of salacious rumors, as well as a few disgruntled lovers who had threatened to ‘reveal all’. But as far as Roxy could tell, none had ever made good on their threats. She wondered why.
 All of this was of little consequence to the writer, except that it was in such stark contrast to the woman she was now reading about in the form marked ‘Entry Forms: Emerging Artists/Sydney Art Gazette’. Heather Jackson’s original application letter for the art competition that made her a household name had been copied onto the form, her flowery handwriting as surprising as the words themselves: I want to portray real people. Not film stars and fluff. I want to document the people that matter.’
A color snapshot of her entry portrait was also attached and, while the photo was not great, it was clear the painting was. Done in bold, bright strokes with proportions askew, it showed a young, physically disabled woman flinging her hands about with the words, ‘Not Drowning, Waving’ written in the same black scroll below it.
It was a startling picture and Roxy could barely tear her eyes from it as her food grew cold before her. It was the perfect career launcher, imploring you to seek out more, to discover what sort of person could capture such an image so sublimely. Roxy wondered where the original was and, placing it to one side, made a note to ask Heather during the interview. She also decided to look up Heather’s other works. She didn’t remember them being quite so beautiful.
But first she had a small personal matter to contend with. Picking up the phone again, Roxy wandered to the hallway mirror to stare somberly at her reflection.
‘Mr Hamilton, hello, it’s Roxy Parker here...Yes, thanks, I’m great. I’d like you to order me in another pair of the Prada glasses...Yep, that’s right, same style, same prescription...Oh you do? Fantastic, thanks, I’ll be down there tomorrow.’ And then she hung up with a smile.
Stifling a yawn, Roxy went into her office, opened a folder and retrieved the news piece she’d been reading earlier that day. Taking a pair of scissors, she sliced around the article and then reached for a giant scrapbook and some glue. As she pasted the page securely into place she reread the sub-heading and felt her interest grow: ‘Mutilated Corpse Baffles Police’.

The woman reread the newspaper report about a Joan Doe discovered mutilated at Rushcutters Bay. It made her stomach shudder and she hid it, quickly, out of sight. She knew she should not be reading it. Breathing deeply, she leant forward in her chair and applied strong brush strokes, slowly, surely, across the clean white canvas. She didn’t like the man before her but she didn’t have a choice. The green would make good skin coloring she thought, wickedly, and began mixing the palate, relishing the sensuality of the paint as yellow merged with blue to form a glowing green hue. It reminded her of Limrock Lane and the old days, before. Things weren’t so good now but at least she had her paints. It was really all she needed. ... tbc

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