Derek Koslov is the famous author of the Crime Master series. He lives in Hughenden, a small town in Outback Queensland. He also has a deep secret; he is a criminal. But his life turns upside down when he is falsely accused of the last crime he'd ever commit.
Now Derek is on the run, searching for the man whom he believes to have framed him. But trouble (and, it seems, Tom) follows him wherever he goes........
'A headless corpse lay against the tree, blood gushing out of its neck. It was impossible to tell what colour the clothes were. Its arms - at least, she was sure they were its arms - were holding something, rounded, it seemed. Then she realised - it was the body's head.
‘But that wasn't what made her scream. On closer inspection, its expression was what made her scream.'
A knock on the door.
For the first time God knows how long, I turned my gaze up from my work in progress, ‘Crime Master 5: Heads Up.’ Who could be at my door at this hour? “Away with you, I’m busy!”
From outside, “Fine, Koslov, I’ll just keep your mail! You’re obviously too busy to need it!”
The post? I turned to face my clock, and indeed, it read 12:15, the usual time that the post arrives.
I put my pen down, got out of my chair, and strode through the kitchen from my dining room, heading for the door. The man at the door knocked again.
“I’m coming, just hold on, mate!”
Once I reached the door, I opened it to find Pat, the local postman, standing there on the verandah. Yes, that’s right. Postman Pat, same name as that children’s character on the telly.
“Well, if it ain’t Postman Pat, the children’s favourite!”
“Yeah, shut up, Derek,” replied Patto, as he’s known around here. His grin of a cheeky bugger slightly worried me. What was he going to say this time? “I might just run off, still clutching your mail for today. I have been wondering what Merlyn has to say to you.”
That captured my attention. “Patto, quit it. Just give the bugger here.” He did so, still with his cheeky bugger grin.
Indeed, there was a letter from Merlyn Harman, the girl I’ve known and been friends with since high school, the woman I’ve loved for five years. Right in the middle of the envelope lay my address, in that lovely, minuscule writing:
21 Flinders Highway
Hughenden QLD 4821
Patto turned to leave, while I shut the door behind him, still gazing at the envelope. I opened it, and pulled out the paper it holds. I begin reading:
Derek, my love,
I have read your latest Crime Master novel, Roses and Guns, and once again, I am impressed! Where do you get such wondrous ideas?
Work is a bore, as usual. While a job as an accountant does have its moments, I’m not lying when I say it does, on occasions, get just that little bit tiresome.
Which is why I’m taking some time off, so that I can come down to Hughenden and see you. Five months is too long. If I am lucky, I should be there on the eighth of this month.
Could we meet up at the Chinese restaurant again, on the ninth at six in the evening? I miss that honey chicken already!
Please call me immediately after reading this letter, with your reply. I await it.
With all my love,
Excitement began to fill inside me. Finally, after five months of hard, painful waiting, I will finally be able to do what I have planned. I will finally be able to propose to her. The diamond ring, on my desk in my room, has done nothing but collect dust these past months.
I returned to the dining table and put the letter inside. I opened my phone. It read: 12:19, Saturday 07.06.2015. I dialed in Merlyn’s number, hit the green button and began the wait.
Waiting…waiting…until I heard, “Hello, this is Merlyn Har…”
“Yes, Merlyn! That place, that time!”
Though it was merely a phone call, and therefore I could not see her face, I could tell that joy is flooding her. It was flooding me as well.
Her voice came through, “Thank you, Derek. I can’t wait!”
“Nor can I, darl. Until then.”
I hung up. I walked, grab a pen, and wrote ‘Propose to Merlyn, Chinese, 6pm’ on the ninth.
These past five years have been the greatest of my life. While it has been difficult with her living in Townsville and me in Hughenden, we have somehow managed to keep the relationship intact the whole way through. I think it’s a first.
And I’m glad for that.
Perhaps it’s time for me to give a more proper introduction. Derek Koslov, resident of Hughenden, lover of Merlyn Harman, and novelist, famous for my ‘Crime Master’ series. 20 books, four complete and published, another being written, and fifteen planned and waiting to be written.
But I also have a secret.
And I’m not yet ready to trust you with it.
Night fell. I was back writing, whilst eating a light dinner of two meat pies. Plenty of tomato sauce to go with it.
‘Cupson’s hands shook a little as he stared at the expression on the removed head of the deceased – a grin that nearly stretched from ear to ear. The eyes were almost completely rolled back. The high level of acne told him that the body was only a teenager. A boy.
How would the boy’s mother be, when she found her son was dead?’
A sudden whack coming from the window, a familiar sound.
Once again, I found myself looking up. I knew exactly who it is. I get out of my chair, ran to the window and opened it. In flew Poppo to sit on the table. The window remained open.
Poppo is a pigeon. A pigeon that has been trained to send messages between myself and a… friend.
“Alright, Poppo, what you got?” I untied a small envelope from his leg.
Poppo is definitely the smartest pigeon anywhere. Even if either I or the friend move, Poppo can still find us, as long as he is with the one that moves.
I opened up the envelope and a few hundred dollars fell out, along with a note. It read:
‘Pleez fiend enkloezd harf the thowzind dollaz wee capshord dyooring ow laetest advenchoor,
‘And noe. ie will not tell yoo waar ie am hieding, ie feer that wiill Poppoe iz verrii rilliubbil. wee must not taek ennii chaansiz,
‘Meet mee waer Staeshun Creek meets with Flinders Rivva on the ayth. a littil beefor midniet,
Clever code, wouldn’t you agree? Can’t work it out, can you? Translating it is actually pretty simple:
-Say what each word looks like it says out loud, and replace it with a real English word that sounds like that (so, for example, styoopid becomes stupid)
-Change commas to full stops and vice versa.
-Put capitals at the start of each sentence. Already, they are only used for starting names and paragraphs.
Please find enclosed half the thousand dollars we captured during our latest adventure.
And no, I will not tell you where I am hiding. I fear that while Poppo is very reliable, we must not take any chances.
Meet me where Station Creek meets with Flinders River on the eighth, a little before midnight.
Gareth Sturm. The friend. I’ve also known him from high school. I was Year Eight when he finished Year Twelve. He’s constantly moving around the state, and I sometimes wonder how Poppo manages to keep up with him.
Where Station Creek meets with Flinders River…
On the eighth, a little before midnight…
This surprised me. Normally Gareth just tells me what we’re going to do and…
I’m afraid I can’t tell any more without spilling the secret. But I suppose I will have to.
So, whatever you do, please don’t dob me in to the coppers.