An excerpt from The Case of the Bullets at the Ballet by C.S. Boag

Chapter 1

The Killer on Castanet Close

It’s broad daylight – or daylight for broads, however you want to play it – and me and my one-legged mate Rory are busy at 21 Castanet Close. We’re in the process of turning over the place trying to find out where my ex-wife has taken my daughter. Aunt Rube is outside on the drive, checking the bins, removing bottles, cans, broken CDs, scraps of paper and fish heads and sorting them into piles marked:

  1. Rubbish
  2. For autopsy and
  3. Clues.

Last time I looked, the Clues pile still had the VACANCY sign up.

Without warning, tinny music pierces the suburban quiet, and instinctively Rory dives for the gun he’s built into his crutch, a nice little piece adapted to fire .45 hollows – slugs that don’t leave the recipient begging for more. ‘That’s not Mr Whoopee!’ he mutters. Rory might have turned Christian, but he’s still a killer.

‘Cool it, Roarer.’ I go over to the window and peer outside. But he’s right: the music isn’t Mr Whippy, it’s the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and it’s coming from the little music box I gave my daughter Imogene when she still believed in fairies. Somebody’s lifted the lid, but it doesn’t mean we got to run around shooting ballerinas.

It’s not like I wasn’t warned. I lost count how many times Salina told me to clean up my act or she’d leave and take the kid with her. Now she’s done it. They’re not alone. It’s written up there in neons, something Imogene said during the Horses for Corpses caper: ‘Mummy’s met a man she calls Mr Perfect – although she says after you anyone would be perfect …’ And like Rube always says, perfect is as perfect does. The shack is as empty as the eyes of a killer just before he duffs someone. It’s like the place has been given a pre-operative emetic and they not only removed all the dust, but the occupants’ deoxyribonucleic acid as well. The kid’s bedroom, the hall, Salina’s bedroom, the lounge, the kitchen, verandah and Band-Aid-sized backyard are as bare as a pole dancer’s belly. Even the light bulbs are clean. All bar the one that should be over the side door but isn’t. Which confirms they’re not alone. My ex never tidied anything in her life.

I’ve already worked my way through the worst-case scenario – that Imogene was abducted – but there’s no SOS (aka Signs of a Struggle), so she must have gone quietly. All that’s happened, I keep telling myself, is Sal cleared out and took Immo with her. Just like she always said she would …

A Xoum Publication.
    C.S. Boag

    C.S. Boag is a former journalist who has also grown potatoes, driven taxis and bulldozers and worked in a hamburger bar. He has travelled many times throughout Australia and to France, speaking enough French not to die there. He was a Sydney City Councillor for six years and holds degrees from NSW and Sydney universities as well as postgraduate qualifications from Macquarie. Besides publishing short stories he has also worked as a columnist for Woman’s Day and the Bulletin. In 1986 he won the Walter Stone Memorial Prize for Literature. C.S. Boag is the author of the seven short crime novels in the Mister Rainbow series. He lives near Bathurst with his wife, Judith, and has five children.