This is the opening scene to my new novel Whitey and the Six Dwarfs, due for release on April 1.
Katy hadn’t even had time to clear away yesterday’s empty cups, let alone open up the museum.
She was sitting at the computer reading the old blokes’ email when she heard urgent rapping on the window and looked up to see the policeman’s blue uniform.
Sergeant Stretch? What’s he doing here at this time of the morning?
It wasn’t immediately obvious when she let him in. He grunted something, walked straight past her and laid his cap down on the grey, laminated counter. Then he turned around and started slowly panning the foyer as if any moment he was going to stride over to one of the dirty cups and issue it with a defect notice.
She had followed him to the counter wondering what was going on, and now stood next to him. When his gaze fell on her, he clicked his tongue and said, “I hope you know what you are taking on, little lady?”
Then he emptied his lungs loudly.
“I’m actually here on official business.”
Katy shrugged as she walked over to the wall and flicked on the light-switch next to the alarm panel. “What’s Moose supposed to have done now?” She had cut Stretch’s hair for twenty years, so she was well aware of the bad blood between him and Moose. Moose was certainly on the rough side, and had even done some jail time, but he was one of the state’s leading experts on the Tasmanian Tiger. He was also one of her new business partners.
When she turned around, Stretch said, “Not him, this time! I’m trying to get some background information on the old couple who moved into Messerschmitt’s old place in Hill Street. Mr and Mrs le Blanc? Know them?”
“I thought you might have cut their hair.”
“No, I haven’t. Have you asked Vicki or Velda?”
Stretch shook his head and reached into his pocket and pulled out a roll of peppermints. “Messerschmitt never actually owned the house. It was rented out to him by you know who. She had the place cleared out so it could go back on the rental market.”
”What has the old couple done?” Katy said.
Stretch unwrapped the mints and offered her one. The strong smell of the sweets, mingled with his aftershave, made her gag and she shook her head.
He kept holding out the roll. “Sure you don’t want one? Are you feeling all right? You look a bit pale.”
“I think I must be coming down with something.”
He popped a mint into his mouth and started to suck the life out of it before locking eyes with Katy again. ”This is just between you and I, right? It’s not what the old couple have done. Quite the reverse. Someone has kidnapped one of the concrete dwarfs from their garden.”
”Kids playing a prank?”
”That was my first thought,” he said in a stream of minty breath. “But would kids go to the trouble of leaving a handwritten ransom note? Do kids even learn Cord Cursive any more?”
“Maybe the kidnapper thinks Messerschmitt still lives there?” Katy said.
Stretch started crunching the mint as he considered this. “Unlikely,” he said when he had swallowed. “Messerschmitt’s dog kept a nicer garden than that fugitive! At least Adolf dug some holes.”
Stretch put his head in his palm and sighed. “Heard from the old blokes?”
Katy pointed to the computer on the other side of the counter. “They’ve landed in Dublin, and the email I just got from them said they were about to pick up a hire car to drive to Donegal.”
“I don’t envy the Irish traffic police. I presume lead-foot Oodles is driving?”
Katy gave him a blank look. “Wish-Wash has never had a licence, and no one around here can remember The Mayor driving.”
“I bet Moose can. Sergeant Smith was dead-set certain it was him who slashed The Mayor’s tyres all those years ago. He just couldn’t prove it.”
The novel is on preorder at Amazon, Kobo, B&N and Apple.
James Northan, a.k.a. The Mayor, hadn’t actually been the mayor for some time but he was descended from Colonel Richard Northan who had founded the town and whose forebears had dominated the office since 1841. The mayoral chains currently hung around the neck of James’s daughter Maddie. She also headed the family trust that owned half the real estate in town, including, now, the hairdressing salon, which she had bought for her adopted daughters.
Stretch turned his head when he heard vehicles pulling up outside. The pitch of his voice rose suddenly. “Are those tradies from the building site next door parking their utes in your car park? Want me to go tell them to move?”
“They’re not harming anyone,” Katy said. “They make the museum look busier than it is.”
“Someone has to tell them they’re trespassing.” He was halfway to the door when the rungs on the staircase at the back of the room began reverberating.
Stretch looked around to see Moose limping down the final steps, scratching the hairy belly behind his unbuttoned shirt.
The bearded man-mountain locked eyes with Stretch.
“Nice bald spot you’ve got going there, Sergeant,” Moose said.
With that, Stretch double-backed to grab his cap from the counter, which he slammed on his head before turning. “Some of us have proper work to do,” he said before banging the glass door behind him.