Monday, March 28, 2011

And the Devil Laughed by Carole Sutton



Undercover cop, Hannah Ford, eager to return to work after trauma leave, takes on a drug-surveillance job in Draper’s Wharf. The small town on the banks of the Parramatta River in Australia has links to the drug trade - so the latest whisper goes.

But when she arrives, the town was in shock after the rape and murder of its local barmaid. Hannah, a rape victim, with a career to salvage, needs to prove she can hack it. Or, is her worst nightmare about to be re-enacted when the villains learn her true identity.

(Short Listed for the Genre Fiction Award by New Holland Publishers 2007)

Prologue

Old Marty could have chosen a better day for his funeral. The gravedigger hawked and spat a gobbet of phlegm. He squatted against an old stone wall and sniffed the damp air. He turned his weary face upwards to check the progress of a threatening squall line. Fat drops of rain fell on his cheeks.

The warning on the radio that morning told of severe weather from the west approaching Sydney. It was coming in earlier than expected. He rolled his tobacco, lit up and let the weed dangle between his lips. He hoped to God they’d be finished in time. He shifted and sat, gangly arms looped around his legs – a bag of aching bones. Across the tombstones towards the church, he could see the funeral party on its way.

Reverend Timms led the procession along the narrow path, his balding head bowed to the wind, black and purple robes blown flat against his legs. The quartet of undertakers in maroon suits carried Old Marty in a coffin crowned with yellow roses. The widow, wrapped in a navy blue anorak, clutched the arm of her tall, angular sister. A few members of the Over 60s Club trailed along in their wake.

Large multi-coloured umbrellas mushroomed to shelter the mourners. The gravedigger sniffed again as the party stopped beside the hole he’d dug the night before. Brought up in an age when the predominant colour at funerals was black, the gaily-coloured golfing shades they used today struck a note of incongruity and turned his graveyard into a fairground. The billowing storm cloud burst. The gravedigger lurched to his feet and stumbled to his shed.

Storm driven rain slanted in the wind, bounced off the ground. Ferocious gusts tore at the robust umbrellas, lifted the corners of the tarpaulin covering the loose earth and turned the soil into a running river of mud. Deep puddles formed at the base of the grave, shifting and resettling the dirt.

As the minister began his intonation, the first of the storm clouds passed. The sun found an avenue between the clouds. In the moment’s respite, raindrops hung like splinters of glass from the surrounding bushes and trees. Freed from the umbrella’s cover, the widow lifted her face to the sky to look at the expanding rainbow. Her tall sister took a step forward to peer into the waterlogged grave.

Her scream drove seagulls from the church roof into the air with raucous cries and brought the gravedigger back to the party. Reverend Timms jerked forward, his gaze following the agitated woman’s pointed finger. Others bent to see.

There, in the dark wet pit, emerging from the muddied waters, they saw a human hand. Stark in its whiteness, washed by the rain, scarlet lacquer and bejewelled rings adorned the fingers. Runnels of water drained down the wrist and forearm as the water level dropped away. Only the tatty remnants of a thin blanket of soil remained to cover the naked, blue-tinged body of a young woman.

Straightening up, the minister met the gravedigger’s eyes. Turning to the undertakers, he nodded for them to take up their burden once more. Then gently he shepherded the funeral party back to the church. The gravedigger returned to his shed. With someone else occupying his grave, Old Marty would have to wait awhile.

Available in Print and Kindle at Amazon.com

Available at Barnes&Noble.com

Carole Sutton


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