Hades an archer and benn.., p.1

Hades (An Archer & Bennett Thriller), page 1

 

Hades (An Archer & Bennett Thriller)
 


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Hades (An Archer & Bennett Thriller)


  Praise for HADES

  “Compelling . . . Candice Fox makes a strong debut with the first of two thrillers about a serial killer. Exploring the concept of whether killing for justice could ever be rationalized, Hades is a chilling read.”

  —Sydney Morning Herald

  “A frighteningly self-assured debut with a crackerjack plot, strong characters, and feisty, no-nonsense writing.”

  —Qantas magazine

  “A powerful book, an incredible read. The pace is extreme, the violence and the fear are palpable. The plot is original and twisted, black and bloody. Tension runs riot on the page. Dexter would be proud!”

  —The Reading Room

  “Well written with a suck-you-in story and characters with depth, Hades is an exciting read, a bit Dexter-ish. It moves at a great pace and reveals the narrative twists and turns in a way that keeps you playing detective as you read—and it has an outcome I didn’t see coming. It’s a great debut novel.”

  —The Co-op Online Bookstore: Staff Picks

  “A dark, compelling, and original thriller that will have you spellbound from its atmospheric opening pages to its shocking climax. Hades is the debut of a stunning new talent in crime fiction. The narrative is engaging, compelling. The characters are unique and well fleshed out. The story is strong, bold, amazing. This is how a crime thriller should make you feel.”

  —Reading, Writing and Riesling

  “Candice Fox grew up trying to scare her friends with true-crime stories. If her intent was to try and create an at times chilling and gruesome story as her debut, it is very much mission accomplished. She certainly looms as an exciting new prospect in the ranks of Australian authors.”

  —Western Advocate

  HADES CANDICE FOX

  KENSINGTON BOOKS

  www.kensingtonbooks.com

  All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.

  Table of Contents

  Praise for HADES

  Title Page

  Dedication

  1

  2

  3

  4

  5

  6

  7

  8

  9

  10

  11

  12

  13

  14

  15

  16

  17

  18

  19

  20

  21

  22

  23

  24

  25

  26

  27

  28

  EPILOGUE

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  EDEN

  Copyright Page

  For my parents

  As soon as the stranger set the bundle on the floor, Hades could tell it was the body of a child. It was curled on its side and wrapped in a worn blue sheet secured with duct tape around the neck, waist and knees. One tiny pearl-colored foot poked out from the hem, limp on his sticky linoleum. Hades leaned against the counter of his cramped, cluttered kitchen and stared at that little foot. The stranger shifted uneasily in the doorway, drew a cigarette from a packet and pulled out some matches. The man they called Hades lifted his eyes briefly to the stranger’s thin angled face.

  “Don’t smoke in my house.”

  The stranger had been told how to get to Hades’ place but not about its bewildering, frightening character. Beyond the iron gates of the Utulla dump, on the ragged edge of the western suburbs, lay a gravel road leading through mountains of trash to a hill that blocked out the sky, black and imposing, guarded by stars. A crown of trees and scrub on top of the hill obscured all view of the small wooden shack. The stranger had driven with painful care past piles of rubbish as high as apartment buildings crawling with every manner of night creature—owls, cats and rodents picking and sifting through old milk cartons and bags of rotting meat. Luminescent eyes peered from the cabins of burned-out car shells and from beneath sheets of twisted corrugated iron.

  Farther along the gravel path, the stranger began to encounter a new breed of watchful beast. Creatures made from warped scraps of metal and pieces of discarded machinery lined the road—a broken washing machine beaten and buckled into the figure of a snarling lion, a series of bicycles woven together and curled and stretched into the body of a grazing flamingo. In the light of the moon, the animals with their kitchen-utensil feathers and Coke-bottle eyes seemed tense and ready. When the stranger entered the house he was a little relieved to be away from them and their attention. The relief evaporated when he laid eyes on the man they called the Lord of the Underworld.

  Hades was standing in the corner of the kitchen when the stranger entered, as though he’d known he was coming. He had not moved from there, his furry arms folded over his barrel chest. Cold heavy-lidded eyes fixed on the bundle in the stranger’s arms. There was a Walther PP handgun with a silencer on the untidy counter beside him by a half-empty glass of scotch. Hades’ grey hair looked neat atop his thick skull. He was squat and bulky like an ox, power and rage barely contained in the painful closeness of the kitchen.

  The air inside the little house seemed pressed tight by the trees, a dark dome licking and stroking the hot air through the windows. Hades’ kitchen was adorned with things he had salvaged from the dump. Ornate bottles and jars of every conceivable color hung by fishing line from the ceiling; strange cutting and slicing implements were nailed like weapons to the walls. There were china fish and pieces of plastic fruit and a stuffed yellow ferret coiled, sleeping, in a basket by the foot of the door, jars of things there seemed no sense in keeping—colored marbles and lens-less spectacles and bottle caps in their thousands—and lines of dolls’ heads along the windowsill, some with eyes and some without, gaping mouths smiling, howling, crying. Through the door to the tiny living room, a wall crammed with tattered paperbacks was visible, the books lying and standing in every position from the unpolished floorboards to the mold-spotted ceiling.

  The stranger writhed in the silence. Wanted to look at everything but afraid of what he might see. Night birds moaned in the trees outside the mismatched stained-glass windows.

  “Do you, uh . . .” The stranger worked the back of his neck with his fingernails. “Do you want me to go and get the other one?”

  Hades said nothing for a long time. His eyes were locked on the body of the child in the worn blue sheet.

  “Tell me how this happened.”

  The stranger felt new sweat tickle at his temples.

  “Look,” he sighed, “I was told there’d be no questions. I was told I could just come and drop them off and . . .”

  “You were told wrong.”

  One of Hades’ chubby fingers tapped his left bicep slowly, as though counting off time. The stranger fingered the cigarette he had failed to light, drawing it to his lips, remembered the warning. He slipped it into his pocket and stared at the bundle on the floor, at the shape of the girl’s small head tucked against her chest.

  “It was supposed to be the most perfect, perfect thing,” the stranger said, shaking his head at the body. “It was all Benny’s idea. He saw a newspaper story about this guy, Tenor I think his name was, this crazy scientist dude. He’d just copped a fat wad of cash for something he was working on with skin cancer or sunburn or some shit like that. Benny got obsessed with the guy, kept bringing us newspaper clippings. He showed us a picture of the guy and his little wife and his two kiddies and said the family was mega-rich already and he was just adding his new cosh to a big stinking pile.”

  The stranger drew a long breath that inflated his narrow chest. Hades watched, unmoving.

  “We’d got word that the family was going to be alone at
their holiday house in Long Jetty. So we drove up there, the six of us, to rattle their cage and take the babies—just for a bit, you know, not for long. It was going to be the easiest job, man. Bust in, bust out, keep them for a couple of days and then organize an exchange. We weren’t gonna do nothing with them. I’d even borrowed some games they could play while they stayed with us.“

  Hades opened one of the drawers beside him and extracted a notepad and pen. From where he stood, he slapped them onto the small table by the side wall.

  “These others,” he said, “write down their names. And your own.”

  The stranger began to protest, but Hades was silent. The stranger sat on the plastic chair by the table, his fingers trembling, and began to write names on the paper. His handwriting was childlike and crooked, smeared.

  “Everything just went wrong so fast,” he murmured as he wrote, holding the paper steady with his long white fingers. “Benny got the idea that the dude was giving him the eye like he was gonna do something stupid. I wasn’t paying attention. The woman was screaming and crying and carrying on and someone clocked her and the kids were struggling. Benny blew the parents away. He just . . . he pumped them and pumped them till his gun was flat. He was always so fucking trigger-happy. He was always so fucking ready for a fight.”

  The stranger seemed stirred by some emotion, letting air out of his chest slowly through his teeth. He stared at the names he had written on the paper. Hades watched.

  “One minute everything was fine. The next thing I know we’re on the road with the kids in the trunk and no one to sell them to. We started talking about getting rid of them and someone said they knew you and . . .” The stranger shrugged and wiped his nose on his hand.

  For the first time since the stranger had arrived, Hades left the corner of the kitchen. He seemed larger and more menacing somehow, his oversized, calloused hands godly as they cradled the tiny notepad, tearing off the page with the names. The stranger sat, defeated, in the plastic chair. He didn’t raise his eyes as Hades folded the small square of paper, slipping it into his pocket. He didn’t notice as the older man took up the pistol, cocked it and flicked the safety off.

  “It was an accident,” the stranger murmured, his bloodshot eyes brimming with tears as he stared, lips parted, at the body in the bundle. “Everything was going so well.”

  The man named Hades put two bullets into the stranger. The stranger’s confused eyes fixed on Hades, his hands grabbing at the holes in his body. Hades put the gun back on the counter and lifted the scotch to his lips. The night birds had stopped their moaning and only the sound of the stranger dying filled the air.

  Hades set the glass down with a sigh and began to trace the dump yards around the hill with his mind, searching for the best place for the body of the stranger and, somewhere separate, somewhere fitting, to bury the bodies of the little ones. There was a place he knew behind the sorting center where a tree had sprung up between the piles of garbage—the twisted and gnarled thing sometimes produced little pink flowers. He would bury the children there together and dig the stranger in somewhere, anywhere, with the dozens of rapists, killers and thieves who littered the grounds of the dump. Hades closed his eyes. Too many strangers were coming to his dump these nights with their bundles of lost lives. He would have to put the word out that no new clients were welcome. The ones he knew, his regular clients, brought him the bodies of evil ones. But these strangers. He shook his head. These strangers kept bringing innocents.

  Hades set his empty glass on the counter by his gun. His eyes wandered across the cracked floor to the small pearl foot of the dead girl.

  It was then that he noticed the toes were clenched.

  1

  I figured I’d struck it lucky when I first laid eyes on Eden Archer. She was sitting by the window with her back to me. I could just see a slice of her angular face when she surveyed the circle of men around her. It seemed to be some kind of counselling session, probably about the man I was replacing, Eden’s late partner. Some of the men in the circle were grey-faced and sullen, like they were only just keeping their emotions in check. The psychologist himself looked as if someone had just stolen his last nickel.

  Eden, on the other hand, was quietly contemplative. She had a switchblade in her right hand, visible only to me, and she was sliding it open and shut with her thumb. I ran my eyes over her long black braid and licked my teeth. I knew her type, had encountered plenty in the academy. No friends, no interest in having a mess around in the male dorms on quiet weekends when the officers were away. She could run in those three-inch heels, no doubt about that. The forty-dollar manicure was her third this month but she would break a rat’s neck if she found it in her pantry. I liked the look of her. I liked the way she breathed, slow and calm, while the officers around her tried not to fall to pieces.

  I stood there at the mirrored glass, half-listening to Captain James blab on about the loss of Doyle to the Sydney Metro Homicide Squad and what it had done to morale. The counselling session broke up and Eden slipped her knife into her belt. The white cotton top clung to her carefully sculpted figure. Her eyes were big and dark, downcast to the carpet as she walked through the door towards me.

  “Eden.” The captain motioned at me. “Frank Bennett, your new partner.”

  I grinned and shook her hand. It was warm and hard in mine.

  “Condolences,” I said. “I heard Doyle was a great guy.” I’d also heard Eden had come back with his blood mist all over her face, bits of his brain on her shirt.

  “You’ve got big shoes to fill.” She nodded. Her voice was as flat as a tack.

  She half-smiled in a tired kind of way, as if my turning up to be her partner was just another annoyance in what had been a long and shitty morning. Her eyes met mine for the briefest of seconds before she walked away.

  Captain James showed me to my spot in the bull pen. The desk had been stripped of Doyle’s personal belongings. It was chipped and bare, save for a black plastic telephone and a laptop port. A number of people looked up from their desks as I entered. I figured they’d introduce themselves in time. A group of men and women by the coffee station gave me the once-over and then turned inward to compare their assessments. They held mugs with slogans like “Beware of the Twilight Fan” and “World’s Biggest Asshole” printed on the side.

  My mother had been a wildlife warrior, the kind who would stop and fish around in the pouches of kangaroo corpses for joeys and scrape half-squashed birds off the road to give them pleasant deaths or fix them. One morning she brought me home a box of baby owls to care for, three in all, abandoned by their mother. The men and women in the office made me think of those owls, the way they clustered into a corner of the shoebox when I’d opened it, the way their eyes howled black and empty with terror.

  I was keen to get talking to people here. There were some exciting cases happening and this assignment was very much a step up for me. My last department at North Sydney had been mainly Asian gangland crime. It was all very straightforward and repetitive—territorial drive-bys and executions and restaurant holdups, fathers beaten and young girls terrorized into silence. I knew from the media hype and word around my old office that Sydney Metro were looking for an eleven-year-old girl who’d gone missing and was probably dead somewhere. And I’d heard another rumor that someone here had worked on the Ivan Milat backpacker murders in the 1990s. I wanted to unpack my stuff quickly and go looking for some war tales.

  Eden sat on the edge of my desk as I opened my plastic tub and began sorting my stuff into drawers. She cleared her throat once and looked around uncomfortably, avoiding my glance.

  “Married?” she asked.

  “Twice.”

  “Kids?”

  “Ha!”

  She glanced at me, turning the silver watch on her wrist round and round. I sat down in Doyle’s chair. It had been warmed by the morning sun pouring in through the windows high above us. I knew this and yet my skin crawled with the idea that he mi
ght have been sitting here, moments earlier, talking on the phone or checking his emails.

  “Why’d you take this job?”

  I could smell her as I bent down and lifted my backpack from the floor. She smelled expensive. Flash leather boots hugging her calves, boutique perfume on her throat. I told myself she was probably late twenties and that women that age looked for guys a bit older—and the ten years or so I had on her didn’t necessarily make me a creep. I told myself she wouldn’t notice the grey coming in from my temples.

  “I lost a partner too. Been alone for six months now.”

  “Sorry.” Again that flatness in her voice. “On the job?”

  “No. Suicide.”

  A man approached us, circled the desk and then sat down beside Eden, one leg up on the desktop, facing me. There was a large ugly scar the length of his right temple running into his hairline like white lightning. It pulled up the corner of his eye. Eden looked at him with that embarrassed half-smile.

  “Frankie, right?” he grinned, flashing white canines.

  “Frank.”

  “Eric.” He gripped my hand and pumped it. “This one gets too much for you to handle, you just let me know, uh?” He elbowed Eden hard in the ribs. Obnoxious. She smirked.

  “I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

  I began to pack my things away faster. Eric reached into the tub beside him and pulled out a folder.

  “This your service record?”

  I reached for the manila folder he was holding. He tugged it away.

  “Yeah, thanks, I’ll have it back.” I felt my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth. Eden sat watching. Eric stood back and flicked through the papers.

  “Oh, look at this. North Sydney Homicide. Asian gangs. You speak Korean? Mandarin? Says here under disciplinary history you got a serious DUI on the way to work.” He laughed. “On the way to work, Frankie. You got a problem with that? You like to drink?”

 
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