Dead Again

By Sandi Wallace

Crime & mystery, Thriller

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780
5 mins

DEAD AGAIN

By Sandi Wallace

A GEORGIE HARVEY & JOHN FRANKLIN NOVEL


CHAPTER 1

I never imagined knowing a killer, let alone becoming one.

He lay on the floor facing the light streaming through the broken window. Not that the moon kept him awake, even if it had been pitch black falling asleep would be a struggle. And he’d soon be woken by nightmares.

I hate myself.

He chewed the inside of his cheek. The metallic warmth of blood on his tongue didn’t still the gnawing; a manifestation of self-loathing.

The voices in the other room grew rowdier. A bottle smashed. Somebody swore and laughed.

Same shit, different day.

He rolled onto his side and hitched the scratchy blanket closer. His stomach convulsed. He gasped and turned onto his back again.

Some days, his stomach merely churned and burned, protesting even the birdlike amounts he ate. On others, he cramped and vomited bloody bile. He suspected a stomach ulcer but couldn’t see a doctor and didn’t care, because he deserved it.

I deserve much worse.

A groan. He tensed and listened. Before long came another. He crept across the room and crouched next to his mate. He palmed his brow. Poor bugger was burning up. The man poured water onto a rag and held it to the clammy forehead.

The kid gripped his wrist. Eyes open wide.

‘It’s okay, bud.’

‘Hungry,’ his mate whispered.

‘Only got cold baked beans. Okay?’

He forked beans into the younger one’s mouth. His buddy ate five forkfuls before falling back onto the bag that acted as his pillow. He shuddered and fell asleep.

The man watched him for a while in the moonlight.

We’ll have to move on from here.

The ones they’d hooked up with at this squat were hardened crims and risk-takers for the sake of it. They’d bring trouble on him and the kid sooner or later. They’d split tomorrow, he decided. Find a place quieter and warmer. The broken window and half-rotted timber floorboards in this room were making his mate worse, although his buddy enjoyed a few good days among the bad ones.

He propped against the dank plaster wall and contemplated his half-dead existence. Here but not where he wanted to be. Not dead but not living either. He didn’t have any tears left. Sometimes he tried to cry, wanted to cry, but couldn’t squeeze anything out. Happiness … gone. The only things that mattered now: not getting caught and looking after his mate.

He thought about that moment, that day constantly, the relative flicker in time in which he decided to take someone’s life. Not just anybody. No, somebody he should have nurtured and protected against bastards like him.

He added his blanket atop his buddy’s and cocooned them around the slim form. The kid stirred.

‘My head hurts.’

The man went to his backpack again and retrieved a packet of paracetamol.

He tossed it aside with a sheet of empty blisters. A further dig in his bag uncovered a stray tablet. He picked off the bits of fluff and fed it to his mate.

‘It’s all I’ve got. We’ll have to get some more stuff tomorrow, bud. And we’ll find us a new place to stay, too. We’ve got to get away from those rowdy buggers.’

His buddy nodded. He gave a weak smile and gripped his hand. ‘You’ll see. I’ll be sweet tomorrow.’ He drifted into an uneasy slumber.

The man sipped water and his guts blazed.

No point trying to sleep.

He hugged his stomach and replayed what he’d done that day – as he would every day for the rest of his miserable life.

His reasons didn’t justify his actions.

What made me this monster, the scum of the earth?

He couldn’t blame a dysfunctional childhood, lack of education, being unloved or unsuccessful.

All me. All my fault.


CHAPTER 2

Georgie rubbed her arms, trying to get warm.

Coming back’s a bitch.

She lowered her gaze. It’d started drizzling a short while ago. Soft, persistent droplets blurred the inscription. She knelt and trailed her fingertips over the grooves of the epitaph engraved into marble. Her heart twisted with each word. She teared up.

She lost track of time. She might’ve been there ten minutes or thirty. When she rose, tangled wet hair draped her collarbone, and her joints were stiff.

Her whispered, ‘I gave my evidence at the committal hearing,’ was muffled by the breeze. Louder, she said, ‘Why couldn’t that have been enough?’

A cockatoo screeched as if jeering her.

‘Did I really have to come back?’

Abergeldie, Daylesford, and these graves … she’d revisited them all, but it left her feeling caught in no-man’s land, not quite belonging anywhere, not sure how to move forward.

She ran her eyes over the modern headstones at her feet, across the old part of the Daylesford Cemetery, then the adjoining farms.

Why the hell am I back here? Because my counsellor suggested these tasks, allegedly as sum parts of ‘closure’. Empty and over-exercised, that word.

And, it’s not working so far.

Georgie turned slowly, towards cypress pines that swayed as the wind sighed through their waterlogged branches. She faced the direction of the Wombat Arms Hotel, but couldn’t see it from here. In the backdrop, Wombat Hill looked bleak in the misty rain.

At first, it had struck her as unchanged, except that properties were lush and green, following the glut of rain through winter to now, summer.

Aside from that, what’s different?

Me. Maybe eight months is too soon to revisit a war zone.

She shuffled to her car. The black duco of the 1984 Alfa Spider blended into the shadows of the pine hedge. She felt heavy in her boots, weighed down by the past.

She slipped into the car telling herself: one last visit with my old friend, Pam, and then I’m done with Daylesford. But pulling the door closed brought it back. That less than two hours ago, she’d drawn aside coloured plastic door strips, ready to step into a café, and brushed someone’s hand as they came from inside.

‘Georgie? What are you doing here?’

Same bass voice. Possibly the same well-worn Levis and plain black T-shirt she’d first seen him wearing at the Wombat Arms earlier this year.

Her heart fluttered, and pinned by the intensity of his gaze, she’d frozen. A blush crept over his skin and she’d wondered how he felt about seeing her.

She and John Franklin had a lot of history from back in autumn, when she was last in Daylesford to check on the welfare of her neighbour’s friend. Much of that history was unhappy and she’d worked hard over recent months to forget him, but her body had betrayed her the instant he said her name. They were close enough that she could smell his sweet yet masculine aftershave. Her palms were clammy and pulse thudded in her ears and she’d thought bloody hell, he looks good.

Georgie’s gut then cramped with conflicted emotions. Guilt was topmost, as she’d blocked the image of her boyfriend AJ’s face.

Franklin had been at the hearing in Melbourne too, but she’d avoided him. That hadn’t stopped his stare boring into her whenever they passed in the Magistrates’ Court lobby or hallways, or her covert glances. But at the café, she couldn’t dodge him. Truthfully, she didn’t want to.

‘Can I get you a coffee?’ Franklin had jiggled his takeaway beaker. ‘Have a catch up?’ After a glance at the moody sky, he’d pointed to an outside table. ‘The rain should hold off.’

She’d struggled to reply, but took a seat. They’d talked, drank coffees, and she’d smoked, before killing the conversation.

His eyes stayed in the forefront of her mind as she’d walked away. They hadn’t masked either what he wanted or his hurt. Her apology burned in her ears.

‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t make it better, for him or me.

...



I hope you enjoyed this extract from
DEAD AGAIN, my second rural crime thriller starring Georgie Harvey and John Franklin. Do check out TELL ME WHY, my first Harvey and Franklin novel. Grab your copy via the links to read on.

Cheers,
Sandi






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