Release day for Tallowwood is getting closer!! And I promised an excerpt so, without dragging it out, here it is…
Detective August Shaw sat in his old, cramped office, tucked away from the rest of the bustling Police Headquarters in Parramatta, Sydney. He preferred it that way. He didn’t even mind the shoebox-sized office if it meant people left him alone.
His colleagues would smile at him and some even tried to make small talk about weekend football or local festivals, but August would simply pretend to smile behind his coffee cup and make his excuses to go back to hiding in his office.
He felt at peace there; productive and useful. As the lead, and only, officer dedicated to his particular division of Sydney’s cold cases, he would immerse himself in the past, trying to make a quiet and unassuming difference to a cold and cruel world. Every day he locked himself away in his tiny office, and every day he fought to bring justice to victims long forgotten and closure for those who were left behind.
August felt older than his forty-one years. It wasn’t the fact his greying beard belied his brown hair or his recent acquisition of reading glasses. It wasn’t how his body ached when he stayed too still or if he pushed himself too hard at the gym, and it wasn’t the small lines at the corners of his eyes that made him feel old. It was the weariness in his bones. Weariness and the sullen weight of responsibility for the unsolved cases that surrounded him in his office. They bore a kind of weight that sometimes made August unsure if it was trying to pull him under the surface. Or if it was keeping him afloat.
They weren’t just file numbers to him. They weren’t faceless names. They weren’t just archive boxes full of folders or statistics.
They were family.
Each one was a human being, a son or daughter, a person whose life was cut short. Each cold case in his care was someone who identified as LGBTQIA+.
August’s days were mostly filled with paperwork. That probably would have driven most cops crazy, but August didn’t mind the hours of cross-referencing numbers, evidence, and report data. He made phone calls, did internet searches, and sent evidence away for analysis. The beauty of modern technologies that had been so lacking thirty, twenty, ten, or even five years ago, now opened new possibilities of identifying killers. He could utilise pathology, DNA, ballistics, toxicology that didn’t exist at the time of these deaths. Sometimes he struck gold, sometimes he struck out, but he never stopped trying.
He’d make phone calls and speak to the family and friends of victims every so often. Some took tracking down. They were either long gone, moved on, or deceased. Not everyone was contactable; not everyone wanted to be found. It wasn’t like the movies or the TV shows. There was no glamour, no accolades. Maybe that’s what August found the most gratifying. He didn’t do this for the esteem or the reputation other homicide detectives found in recent, high-newsworthy, front-page fame.
August did this for the victims.
He did it for those who no longer had a voice. For those whose spotlight had been extinguished and whose deaths were filed under Unresolved or Inconclusive.
He also very deliberately buried himself in work. Days, nights, and weekends were spent poring over details, which didn’t leave much time for any kind of social life.
Which was very much the point.
Some days, the only time he spoke to anyone was when he ordered coffee or lunch, if he got forensic or ballistic reports, or if his boss called him into his office. He didn’t dislike his boss exactly. August didn’t exactly dislike anyone. He didn’t like them much either, but August avoided human interaction if he could manage it. Except for anyone in the periphery of a case, of course. But it was usually him who had to make those calls, which was why, when his desk phone rang, it scared the shit out of him. It also took him fifteen seconds to find the handset under open files and papers.
He snatched up the phone. “Detective Shaw.”
“Hello, Detective Shaw, this is Senior Constable Jacob Porter from the North Coast Area Command. How are you today?”
August frowned. “I’m fine. Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Yes, actually, I think there might be. I have a case I could use your help with.”
August’s frown deepened. “My help? With what, exactly? I work cold cases.”
“I know who you are, Detective,” he replied. “And while this particular case is new—we found human remains two days ago—this body’s been there a while.”
“I’m not the only cop in the state who specialises in cold cases.”
“No. But you are the best.”
August almost smiled. “If it’s a homicide, call homicide.”
“I have enough cases of my own to get through, Senior Constable.”
“That’s just it,” Porter answered. “I think this is one of your cases.”
“One of mine . . .” August’s frown became a scowl. “How so?”
“The victim was gay,” Porter answered.
“That hardly makes it mine.”
“It was made to look like a suicide,” he added.
“And you don’t think it is?”
“No. That’s not all, Detective. The medical examiner suggested I call you. Said it would be familiar. The body was found with a note in his pocket, a quote from a poem. And a silver cross.”
August’s stomach dropped and he could feel the colour drain from his face. “Oh.”
“So yeah, I was wondering if you could help with some finer points. I could email—”
August looked at the file he’d been reading and reread the name. Mustafa Holzieg. Mustafa, like the others, in all the files that surrounded him, deserved better. August nodded, more to himself than anyone else. “I can be there first thing tomorrow morning.”
My next book begins!! Well, I’ve been researching a little and I want to start actually writing this week but I’m away until Monday arvo, then my Mother in Law gets here for a week. Which is fine, but people think “working from home” actually means “you don’t have to do anything” and countless interruptions aren’t a problem, right? Ugh. Drives me crazy! LOL
But busy times… I’m away until Monday, my MIL gets here and stays until Friday. Then I fly to Sydney on Saturday (6am flight, what was I thinking?) with two 17 year old girls and we get home Sunday night, just in time for my daughter’s Year 11 exams to begin. Busy’s fun, right?
Oh, and the audio of Upside Down should be out in the next 2-3 weeks!! I’m so excited for this!
That’s all for this week! Thanks for reading and I’ll be back next week!