Tell Me Why

By Sandi Wallace

Crime & mystery, Thriller

Paperback, eBook

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636
4 mins

TELL ME WHY

By Sandi Wallace

A GEORGIE HARVEY & JOHN FRANKLIN NOVEL


PART ONE

‘There is no right way to deal with tragedy, no blueprint to grief. Some people find talking a cathartic experience. Some…want to share their feelings in a prime-time, multi-channel wake.’

Andrew Rule & John Silvester ‘Lady’s Day’ from On Murder 2


PRELUDE

In her dream, she was still plain and plumpish, her hair streaked with grey. Beyond that, though, everything seemed off-kilter. The first thing she noticed was that she floated above herself as she stood in a paddock. She was without her obligatory glasses and wore a floral housedress not overalls. The images in her dream distorted and reshaped and became even more unreal. Huge sunflowers covered what would really be their well-trampled top paddock. These flowers grew so abnormally bright that they glowed like miniature suns and she had to shield her eyes with a hand. The brightness became hot, so hot that she moved a forearm over her face.

Then the cat growled; a long, guttural note that sounded a warning. He nipped her finger and roused her from the dream. More asleep than awake, she soothed him. What had upset the amiable puss?

Her husband shook her. She sat up in bed, puzzled. As she donned her glasses, she saw that he’d pulled on work boots and a woollen jumper over his long pyjamas.

‘Quick!’ he yelled, shutting their bedroom window.

They reached the front verandah but couldn’t see anything for the hedge around the house, except an orange flush in the night sky. They could feel the intense heat and hear the sinister sound of uncontrolled flames.

From the picket fence they saw billows of smoke. Several sheds were alight. Her husband sprinted for the hose; she for the telephone, to call the local fire captain.

Panic clutched at her chest while she filled buckets of water. Her knees nearly buckled as she dashed towards the outbuildings.

Which first?

The hay shed was fully involved; a lost cause.

The barn or machinery shed?

No animals in the barn tonight.

The latter, then, as it held the combustibles and expensive equipment.

She dumped the water. It did nothing but sizzle. She ran back to the house, detoured to the water trough and returned with soaked woollen blankets. She crashed into a wall of heat; so fierce it scorched her eyes.

As the hay shed erupted, it sent embers in every direction. She protected her face from those missiles of fire with an arm, mimicking her dream persona.

Wind fanned the roaring tongues, adding to the crescendo.

She coughed as smoke filled her lungs. Fire merged the sweet odours of hay and timber with acrid fumes of fuel, pesticides and rubber. Her eyes watered.

‘Where are you?’ she cried out to her husband. ‘Are you safe?’

She fought the flames harder. She would never give up – on him or the farm.

Above the bellow of the fire and rupturing structures and terrified shrieks of sheep and cattle, she couldn’t hear a thing. Throat blistered with heat, smoke and yelling for her husband, she couldn’t tell if she managed to make a sound or if the screams were only in her head.

Then, a hand clasped her shoulder and something struck her temple. She crumpled to the ground.



CHAPTER 1
FRIDAY 12 MARCH

Senior Constable John Franklin had been cooped up with Paul Wells for hours. Too long without a smoke or coffee because the constable was driving and fast-track-Wells didn’t pay much attention to those who wore fewer than three stripes on their epaulette.

But that wasn’t why Franklin wanted to throttle him. It was because Wells measured time, distance, temperature, power poles and countless other things. Plus he was a rigid perfectionist with as much personality as a dead carp. Franklin’s workmates rated the bloke’s neurotic traits with fingernails scratching down a blackboard. His two consecutive rest days relegated to distant memories by the OCD freak, he ruled it much worse.

‘Four and a half minutes,’ Wells said. He tapped his watch.

Franklin groaned. So today’s general patrol took five minutes longer than the previous trip. Big deal.

‘Should not have stopped for Charlie Banks…’

And that’s the difference between a copper from the country and a cockhead from the big smoke. Franklin tuned out.

A lonely bugger, poor Charlie often wanted to chew their ears. On this occasion, about his dog’s arthritis but it was just an excuse for company. Yet Wells evidently thought the schedule more important than a quick chat with the old codger.

Franklin scrutinised the intense constable as he unclipped his seatbelt. The bloke was third generation cop with dad, uncles and grandfather all among the brass. Odds-on he’d be promoted and back to the city before most coppers learned to scratch themselves. They wouldn’t improve him, so somehow they’d have to bide time until he moved on.

Granted, the real problem today wasn’t Wells. It came from him. Because he was the single parent of a hormonal teenager with attitude and because after sixteen years in the same country town he still wore a uniform. He chatted to lonely folk, changed light globes, chopped wood and mowed lawns for elderly widows, pointed the radar for hours on end and sorted out the same drunks, the same domestics. Those were the good days. One of his blackest days had seen him as pallbearer at the funeral of a road victim who was also a mate from the footy club. All a far cry from where he’d planned to be by his mid-thirties.



Some days start badly and end up your worst nightmare. She should have seen the ladder in her new pantihose when she pulled them on this morning – hell, the need to wear a bloody skirt and heels itself – as a damn omen. A sign that she’d end up here, two beers down, stomach clenched while she cursed Narkin.

‘Bastard.’

The bartender shot her a glare, not the first for that afternoon. She hadn’t meant to say it aloud and grimaced. She resumed pushing the penne pasta around her plate.

The Flight of the Bumblebee pealed. She fished through her bag and frowned at the mobile screen. Number withheld. She thumbed the call switch to answer.

‘Georgie Harvey.’

‘It’s Ruby here.’

Georgie cringed. She had avoided the older woman since yesterday but was caught now.

‘Michael and I are hoping you’ll look up Susan…’

What was her name? Susan Petticoat, Prenticast? Ruby’s supposedly missing friend. Whatever; Georgie wasn’t inclined to drive to Hicksville on a wild-goose chase.

She was saved by Ruby’s cry of ‘You silly duffer! What’ve you done?’

The phone clunked. Georgie necked some beer and considered hanging up.

She couldn’t.

...



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

Cheers,
Sandi



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