Feeding the demons

The first novel featuring private investigator

The first novel featuring private investigator, ex-cop Gemma Lincoln, as she reopens the 30-year-old case that put her psychiatrist father, Dr Archie Chisholm in prison for the murder of his wife, the mother of Gemma and her sister, psychotherapist Kit. Waking up one morning in a motel, Gemma finds her clothes laid out on the floor in an effigy of a woman, viciously slashed around the throat and the crotch. Her best friend detective Sergeant Angie McDonald calls her in to watch a crime scene video. This time, instead of an effigy made out of clothes, the killer has targeted a real woman. A visiting American blood splatter expert has viewed the crime scene photographs from the murder of their mother and all the evidence points to the innocence of Dr Archie Chisholm, their father. As the sisters collide over the guilt or innocence of their father, family relationships explode as Gemma realises that one of Kit’s clients is the effigy killer and in a race against time, must save her sister’s life as well as her own and finally determine their father’s guilt or innocence.
  • Reading level: Ages 15 and up
  • Format:PaperBack
  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Australia
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 0733612407
  • Dimensions: 18.0 x 11.0 x 3.0 centimeters (0.27 kg)
Gemma woke, bewildered because the grey dawn light was coming from the wrong side. Then she remembered she wasn’t at home. She lay there for a moment listening to the early morning sounds; the lift’s clunking, the hotel’s plumbing, the hum of the air-conditioner.
The digital clock showed 5:12 a.m. and above it on the veneer and particle board console stood the empty champagne bottle and the two glasses. Her companion of the night before had gone very early as he said he would and she was hung-over and feeling guilty about Steve. He was the reason she never used her place when she picked someone up. Even though Steve was away on a job and didn’t live with her anyway, she didn’t want a stranger at her place, another man in the bed she often shared with Steve.

She was wide awake now and swung out to have a bath. Through the door to the lounge of the suite, she caught a glimpse of her clothes lying on the floor where she’d undressed last night, oddly neat considering how fast they’d come off…

While the bath was running, she sat naked on the bed and looked through her diary. She’d been working to build up “Mandate” the latest addition to her operations. For a fee, Gemma could offer suspicious women certain information about any man they might be interested in, particularly if all they had been given was his mobile telephone number. It cost the woman a few hundred dollars and for that, Gemma could establish that the man in question actually was who he said he was, that he lived and worked where he said he did, whether or not he owned property in common with a woman who shared the same surname and whether he’d been convicted of a
crime…

The bathroom door suddenly slammed shut with a terrific double bang and Gemma jumped in fright. She sat up in the bath, frozen in shock, her heart racing. Why had it happened? She grabbed a towel, wrapped it around her, stepped out of the bath and opened the door. She peeped around. Everything was still. The bedroom was just as she had left it; tangled bedclothes, a pillow on the floor, the champagne bottle. She went to the doorway between the bedroom and the lounge area and looked over at the entrance door. It was firmly shut…

She walked into the lounge area to retrieve the rest of the clothes that stopped short in the doorway. A chill of fear flashed through her body as hair follicles, obeying a primitive directive, stiffened. She felt the rush of adrenalin, that explosion of icy fire. Now she understood why her clothes that looked almost laid out when she glanced without attention earlier.

They’d been laid out all right. She covered her mouth with a hand as if to silence herself from making some shocked noise. Oh Jesus, she thought…
She stood there for a moment more, taking it all in, the clothes, the talcum powder, the tatters. Then she rushed to check her bag in the drawer beside the bed. Nothing was missing. The video camera was still safe in its bag. Using the slow panning technique that had been so much part of the crime scene work when she was a cop, she recorded every detail…

At the police Centre, detective Sergeant Angie McDonald asked “What’s this about? One of your surveillance tapes?” She slid the cassette into the housing and pressed ‘Play’, fast forwarding it.
“Stop!” cried Gemma. “Right there.” The picture suddenly froze, the slashed crotch of the pantyhose, the knifed skirt shimmering in freeze-frame, then Gemma started the tape rolling again.
Angie stared at it, then looked at Gemma. “Where is this? When did this happen?’
“Night before last. At the Tusculum Hotel, Potts Point. The clothes are mine.”
“Jesus hell, Gemma,” said Angie. She watched as the close-up of the/pantyhose paused over the semen stain. “Wait here. I’ve got something to show you.”

Angie left, then returned a few moments later with another cassette, slid it home and switched it on. “Authorised Police Personnel Only” Gemma read on the screen. Angie fast forwarded it and when the tape stopped, Gemma’s eyes widened. There, on another carpet, on another floor, with different clothes, was the same thing. Another skirt and underwear slashed, the shoes laid out either side of the sheer nylon feet, another pretty blouse ripped apart with a knife cuts, talcum powder sprinkled at the opening of the sleeves and over the crotch.
“It’s the same thing!” Said Gemma. “What happened to me.”
“No. It’s not the same thing,” said Angie. “It’s much worse.”

Gemma felt a chill of horror as she watched the police video pull slowly away from the clothes and started it’s slow, methodical recording. She gasped in horror as the picture panned over the carpet towards an open doorway where the splayed bare legs of a woman, knees and nightie covered with blood, came into view. The inexorable slow pan continued. The woman’s lower body, bloody fabric stuck to her belly, the terrible, gaping wounds on the upper chest and throat, revealing the complex muscles and tendons, hacked and exposed. Gemma stared. The woman’s face was turned away from the horror of her death, but her long glossy hair fanned out behind her, partly covering her upper arms…

Fishpond Hardcover