Sunday 5 July 2015

Chick Magnet

An assassin on the trail of a quarter-million in stolen drugs.

A thief who'll kill anyone in his way.

A gang war brewing, because the sharks can smell blood in the water.

And the mystery of the chicken who appeared on the assassin's pillow.

Chick Magnet by Joel Rheinberger is a fast-paced crime caper about a number-crunching hit man with the wrong bird in his bed.

If you're in Australia, I can send you a copy for $20 including postage - just message me through Facebook.

If you're elsewhere in the world or you prefer an ebook, you can get it from:
Still not convinced? Here's a sample - the first chapter.

Mick Jeffrey was the book-keeper for a Sydney company that imported cheap electronics.  His meticulous spreadsheets were full of speaking toys, no-name motherboards, mobile phone chargers and tiny speakers.

Smith & Wang bought the stuff cheaply from Asia, mostly wholesaling it to two-dollar shops around the country.  Though Mick's boss Smitty also ran a profitable little stall at Paddy's Markets, so sometimes they would take a punt on a new gadget, buy a crate of them and see how the buyers reacted.

A slender 26 year old with a neat appearance and excellent posture, Mick carefully cultivated blandness.  His mousy hair was neither too short nor too long.  He chose good quality clothing without obvious branding or bright colours.  He drove a grey Toyota Corolla and never broke the speed limit.

On a Thursday in November, he arrived at the Marrickville warehouse by 8:20am in order to make coffee before he was due at his desk.

Mick was the quiet one at work.  He was well respected as Smitty's second in charge, but his reserved manner meant that he usually ate his lunch alone.  After nodding and murmuring greetings to a few people, he went into his office and pulled the door not-quite-closed.  It was the same signal as his body language – you can speak to me if you need to, but if you don't, then don't.

He spent the morning calling various creditors and debtors.  At lunchtime he walked to a nearby Vietnamese bakery for ban mi tit – a crusty roll with salad and several types of preserved pork.  In the afternoon he spent some time calculating the company's quarterly GST, before doing the day's banking at the local branch of the Commonwealth Bank.

At the day’s end he drove home to Concord, picking up a platter of sushi for dinner on the way.  It was big enough to share with Gino and Tasha, two of his housemates who were also home tonight.
They ate it in front of the TV, because Thursday night meant The Simpsons and two episodes of Law and Order, a weekly ritual.  But Mick excused himself shortly after sunset and went upstairs to bed with a faked headache.

After locking his bedroom door, he sat on the floor for ten minutes and meditated.  Then he changed into dark clothing and slid out the window, climbing silently down an apparently sheer wall, where he had previously chipped out some finger holds between the bricks.  There was a large tree growing outside his window, so he would not be spotted on his way down.

He jumped the side fence into the neighbour’s yard, tossing a chewy treat to their dog, then slid over the opposite fence and onto a narrow footpath that split the block.  He followed it towards the train tracks, ducking well away from overhanging branches where orb weavers liked to build their huge webs. He’d copped spiders in the face a few times on this path, so he was careful now.

He crossed the tracks and a few blocks later he found the car at the pre-arranged spot.  The key was magnetically attached to a wheel rim.

The car was an unremarkable ex-rental registered to a deniable shelf company.  One of the Darrens had delivered it here and would pick it up later, when the contract had been completed.

Mick drove to Bondi, parking near the beach.  Not many night-swimmers at this early point in the season, but still plenty of people sitting on the sand with fish and chips.

Across the street from the beach was a colourful array of cafes, bars, fashion stores, and shops selling Aussie print tea towels and gaudy mugs for the tourists.  Mick wandered over and joined the flowing throng of pub crawlers and back packers.

He'd been to Bondi plenty of times before.  And he knew today's particular route quite well, having contrived reasons to be in the neighbourhood twice over the last week.  He followed his planned course away from the water and the crowds, a few blocks into suburbia.

He stopped at the corner of the target’s street, pulling out his phone and allowing a slender brunette to walk past as he fiddled with it - he wanted the street empty before he walked into it.

Once she was gone, he sauntered onward.  The house had high fences and a canary yellow Prius parked in the driveway.  With a final look up and down the street, Mick scaled the front fence and dropped low onto the lawn, creeping around to the back yard.

He put thin leather gloves on, settled behind a wheelie bin, and listened carefully through a nearby open window.  For half an hour he measured the tread of a single male occupant.  Then finally he heard the toilet seat drop, his signal to slither in through the window.

Mick crept along the hall, body relaxed and senses extended, then slid into the target's computer room, which was next to the toilet.  He would strike while the target was washing his hands in the bathroom across the hall.

But after struggling with his prostate issues for a good ten minutes, the dirty old bastard didn't wash up, he came straight out of the toilet and into the computer room.  Mick waited behind the door and made a mental note not to touch the target's hands.

As the old man settled into his chair and booted up, Mick peeped around the door.  The positioning was textbook perfect for a clean kill, but the target was not.  Because this was not the target.  This was Harry, the target's boyfriend, who was not to be touched.  And who normally worked late at his shop on a Thursday, so was quite unexpected.

Harry logged in and started looking for porn.  He had lots of bookmarks and he browsed a few before choosing a video stream to watch.  Once it started, Mick used the grunting noises from the video as cover and slipped out of the room.  He would return on another day.

As he came to the hallway, he heard the key in the front door and flattened himself against the wall.  The target came through the front door, oblivious to Mick's presence until a strong hand clamped his throat closed and dragged him off balance.  The target had time for a moment of shock, of uselessly trying to shout, then felt a tickle in his ear hole.  Mick was carefully placing the tip of a narrow plastic spike there, and once it was lined up he shoved it into the man's brain.

The spike was once a chopstick, which had been lifted from a Chinese restaurant and sharpened to a point.  An utterly untraceable shiv that matched almost perfectly the steel shuriken spikes that Mick had trained with.  Using such a weapon required extra precision, as it was not hard enough to reliably penetrate skull bone and must be threaded neatly through the ear.  But the local coroner, exposed to plenty of bodies from jail, would just see it as the signature of a killer who had done hard time.  A small but effective misdirection.

Mick held tight until the target stopped shuddering, then dragged him into the lounge room and laid him out on the carpet.  He quietly left by the front door, peeling off and pocketing the gloves as he walked outside.

He slipped through the gate and around the corner, ambling through the back streets of Bondi until he was sure he was alone.  Then he made his way to the light and noise of Campbell Parade.  He was tempted by the smell of Oporto’s spicy chicken, but wanted to avoid appearing on anyone’s security camera, so he crossed the road and returned to the car for the trip home.

As he parked, he called the Darrens and said “done” before hanging up.  They would pick up the vehicle before morning.

Mick mopped down all the surfaces he'd touched with a disinfectant wet wipe.  He cleaned up the phone too and left it in the glove box.  He left the car behind and slipped through the neighbourhood yards to climb back up to his bedroom window.

He emerged, only a couple of hours after going upstairs for a snooze, joining his housemates on the couch for some awful late-night TV.

Alibi, sweet alibi.

Chick Magnet - get it now at:  AmazonKindle StoreiTunes, or Lulu.  It's so nice you should buy it twice.

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