'Third murder mystery in this raunchy series. An intriguing mystery
plot surrounded by enough kinky sex and street-wise comments to keep you
salivating. This time, she rams it up the Funeral Industry. Although Jen is
the dirtiest of diamonds she sparkles like a gem.'
PEN & EAR
Bisexual part-time sleuth, Jen Madden, specializes in sex-related murders. Her latest copywriting job is for a Funeral Home franchise run by the mega-rich Sheehan Brothers. And, at the dynasty's elaborate beach-house party, she stumbles over one of the brothers who's been dissected with an axe. And, when the other brother's wife is pushed over a cliff, Jen's hired to find out who's attacking the family and why.
As Jen investigates the megarich dynasty, she discovers a nest of sexual kinks that result in three of the family being shot. The police call it murder/suicide. But Jen finds more. And makes a slip that almost kills her. (70,000 words) Read the start of Death Takes a Hike here: (Some sections deleted to appease the squeamish.) Just $2.99. Use our secure shopping cart here:
1 Body Count
The beach-house is lit up like a cruise ship.
The snooty guests are pissed as farts. I doubt anyone's doing lines because the scene's too straight but a whiff of pot drifts from somewhere.
The worst of the male gropers, a drop-kick with a beer gut, comes onto me. 'Hi, Jen. How're you tracking?'
I flash him a back-off-creep smile. 'Need some air. See ya.'
I waltz my drink onto the terrace. The sea breeze is colder than a backyard dunny. I follow my twinkling party shoes down the rough path that leads to the lookout.
The track, hard to see in this thin moon, winds through the low coastal scrub. I hear breakers smashing against the cliff face and should have reached the railed boardwalk by now so must have strayed off the path - clever bunny me.
I reach a clearing where the house lights on the hill gold-fleck the tops of the bushes and almost walk into the back of a woman wearing a black evening dress.
I know that starved racehorse frame. It's Bev Sheehan - matriarch of the clan.
She sways, hand to throat, half turns and throws up. It does zilch for her aristocratic profile but probably adds nitrates to the soil.
She moans - I don't get why - then stumbles up the slope and out of eyeshot.
And, because she lives here and knows the turf, I do a bunk in the same direction. Until my foot snags something soft and sends me face-first into a mouthful of bush.
I stare back along the ground.
I've tripped on a leg.
A leg bare except for a sock.
A leg minus a body.
Hacked off like a Christmas ham.
I straighten up, gagging, and spot more bits. A man's bloodied head with shocked ping-pong ball eyes and a twisted mouth baring expensively capped teeth.
It's Adam Sheehan - one of the two founding brothers who own Sheehan Funerals - the enormous franchised cash-cow I'm about to spend my life writing ads for.
Beneath his swish sports shirt, his gut ends in a sticky pool. His other leg and the remains of his crutch are two metres further off with the pants still caught around the ankle. Sic transit gloria. Sic with a 'k'.
One thing's sure. He's been fatally killed to death.
It could only have been done with a machete or axe. Or a close encounter with a shark, except we're thirty metres above high water mark. Or a Claymore. Except you could count the landmines in rural Victoria on the stump of one hand.
Besides, whoever did this was after the guy's cods - has hacked his ***** **** so savagely the rest of the chop-fest looks incidental.
I swallow bile.
I don't want to know.
I never saw this.
I bush-bash toward the lights, trying to put as much space as I can between me and the butchered billionaire. Then...
This time, alive.
They don't see or spot me because they're in the spin-cycle of a ********. And because the crump of waves against the nearby cliff is as loud as a two-stroke mower. And because she's ******** ***** **** ****** ************. And because *** *** *** *** *** her hair's fallen over her face.
I can tell from his fast-curl biceps and grommet-like buns that it's Andy, the steroid-tragic who's been perving down my scoop-top all night.
As for her - she's hot arse. Long smooth legs. Anti-gravity breasts. No baby belly or stretchmarks. Bitch. And her Gucci Roman sandals would leave no change from a grand. I've drooled over those sandals all night. They tag her like registered mail.
She's Penelope Sheehan - wife of Harry.
And she's being bonked by Harry's younger brother.
One way to keep it in the family!
Not that value judgments help. Every pressure cooker needs a safety valve and marriage has adultery. Besides, these rich dudes are my clients. I write their ads but that's where I get off. You can lose accounts by knowing too much - and who's up who isn't my business.
After a ******** ******* **** ********* ******* ******.
I back away and - luck of the shickered - find the track back to the house.
The first thing I do when I get there is order a stiffener.
Next, I check my watch. Three past midnight.
Most of the middle managers and their wives have left. But the top brass are still determined to shimmy till they collapse in their own shit. Because they're booked into a local motel and have a shuttle-bus to take them home.
The place is first beach shack I've struck with two stories, three wings and a ballroom. But I move in pretty limited circles for someone who fornicates in triangles.
No, Bev Sheehan isn't screaming the place down. Far too reserved for that. She's at the end of the patio in a huddle with the rest of the Sheehan clan, and their body language tells me they're in damage control.
Bev's bending the ear of her husband, Crandall Sheehan, who everyone calls CD. He's the brother of the butchered Adam and now the surviving head of the firm. Bev's daughter by her first marriage, Kim, and her stepson, Harry, listen in.
It's taken me a while to suss this Death-as-a-Commodity Dynasty. CD's first wife died of cancer leaving him with two grown sons, Harry and Andy. Then he married Bev who had two grown daughters, Kim and Chrissie. I guess, when you tie the knot again in your late sixties, a trail of adult kids comes with the territory.
CD's grim face shows he's got the message. The bothered billionaire starts downloading in the ear of number one son Harry.
Harry listens, head inclined, appropriately serious. His bag is looking appropriate because he's one of those Christian bores who can remain appropriate with a chilli up his arse. Except I bet he'd throw a wobbly if he knew his baby brother had just ****** his wife.
It looks like CD's shifted the prob to Harry, who functions as the family fixer. I watch Harry pull out his brain-burner and thumb in a number while his dad guides his step-mum up the curved pose-value staircase. Bev's a tall, fit bushwalker but he holds her by the upper-arm like she's eighty. But I guess she's at least as old as he is and the shock's probably freaked her out.
There's no visible blood on her dress and she would have been soaked if she'd filleted the guy. So there's no way she did it.
But she could have seen who did!
I stare back at my double Scotch then realize I had a glass when I went outside and must have dropped it near the hack attack. A glass with my prints on it! Leaping shit!
'Where were you?' It's Bev's waistless younger daughter, Chrissie, holding a plateful of Pav. 'I've been looking for you everywhere.'
I duck the question. 'Still feeding face?'
She shrugs. 'I'm on a seafood diet tonight. I see food and I eat it. Well it's almost the silly season. Eat-your-bodyweight time.'
She's a pretty girl with great boobs but more than a tad overweight. Eventually, she'll drown in fat. But, at least, she'll be filthy rich.
I fret about the glass.
She smiles. 'I'm mad for a cuddle.'
***** ****** ******* ******** **** ***** ****** ******* ***** ***** ****** **** *** *** She's sweet. But short on serotonin.
Then came the Great Ocean Walk promotion. It looked a straight client/agency deal until I found out she worked at the Tourist Board. And was **** **** ****** as much as my advertising smarts.
**** ***** ****** ****** ******* But I can't think about that now because I'm still getting my head around the prime-cut Adam in the bush. And the glass with my prints on. God knows where I dropped it. No way I could find it in the dark. I'll have to recce tomorrow morning.
Harry puts his mobile away and passes us frowning. 'Where's Andy? Have you seen him?'
I shake my head, the little innocent.
'He went outside,' Chrissie says.
He grunts and heads for the terrace.
I glance at Suko - short for Ritsuko - sitting in a corner alone. She's a stunning, doll-like Nipponese ice-queen. She's also the filleted Adam's partner so everyone's afraid to dance with her. When I look at her, she kicks the splendid isolation bit and walks over. 'What are you two up to?'
'We're deciding *** **** *****,' Chrissie says.
Suko's face remains the beautiful Asian death mask. 'Do you know where Adam went?'
We tell her no and she does a trippity-trip through the push apparently heading for the downstairs toilet. Why do Jap birds do that apologetic hobble? Haven't they heard of women's lib?
Headlights in the drive. A vehicle pulling up.
The shuttle bus back?
The tires rearranging the gravel belong to a black windowless van with the gold Sheehan crest on the side.
My blink-rate goes up.
Chrissie touches my hand again. 'I think it's time we crashed, don't you?'
I nod and follow her up the staircase to her room. Half way up, through the long window, I see the two brothers, Harry and Andy, near the van. They're yelling at each other. Your full-on robust exchange.
Chrissie has a teddy bear on her pillow. One always travels with her. Her pad is lousy with stuffed toys. As **** **** **** ***** ** ******* ****** *** all I can think about is the chop-fest in the bush.
And the van.
Have the Sheehan's decided to send the murder up the chimney?
If so, why?
I mean, I'm not a total dummy. I know about the euthanasia underground. All those guys with AIDS plus all the other poor shits with terrible diseases, mercifully OD'd or smothered - then cremated fast to protect their helpers from the coroner. Commendable. And I'd expect the Sheehans to do their public duty there.
But disappearing someone chopped into bits by a madman?
Even if you job is handling dead bodies and you own the crematoriums, you don't mess with that kind of scene. You call the filth.
Besides, the mess would be tough to disappear. Unless they had a professional clean-up team and, of course, a tame doctor to fudge the certificate.
Then I think about Bev's daughter, Kim, who was part of the huddle. She's a doctor. Their tame quack?
Would she risk getting struck off by signing away the year's most gory, most reportable death?
And why in hell would she do that?
Because, if someone attacks your family, you don't do a cover up. You yell blue murder, form a posse.
It makes no sense.