After selling his start-up business, Sam has the kind of money only dreams are made of. Young, and married to the love of his life, it’s time for Sam to enjoy his good fortune. That is, until Sam’s Chief Financial Officer is taken hostage by a ruthless criminal demanding a document in his possession. A brutal murder follows, Sam is the prime suspect, and soon he and his wife, Lauren, are on the run from both the police and a faceless network of conspirators somehow connected to the company they just bought out.
In a fight for survival, you need to know who to trust. And when it’s no longer the company you work for, and your best friend is dead, who do you turn to?
from Chapter 1
Thursday, June 4
Chaz Bailley was naked, sitting tightly bound to a chair. His wrists and ankles hurt. They’d used thin white rope to tie him, the kind you might find on a small sailing boat. The room was nearly empty. Some kind of storage facility. It had a grey cement floor, faded brick walls, a stack of brown cardboard boxes in the far-right corner, no windows that he could see, and a pair of old-fashioned fluorescent lights. A steel table was pushed up against the wall beside him. The only clean thing around.
He heard a door opening behind him. Turned out to be Blondie, the same lady he’d seen outside the Imperial Hotel. Dressed like a cocktail waitress.
‘You’re in good shape,’ she said, giving him the once over. Her accent had an Australian twang to it, but there was something else there, too. French or Swiss. ‘I hope you stay that way.’
‘Who are you?’ Chaz demanded.
Blondie was pacing around the room. ‘Doesn’t matter.’
‘Can you at least tell me why I’m here?’
‘Come on, Chaaaazzzzzz. You know why.’
‘I honestly don’t. Maybe this is some kind of mistaken identity or something?’
She sat herself down on his lap and crossed her legs, placing a cigarette between her lips. ‘Look at you. Putting it all together.’ She lit the cigarette and leaned into him, her elbow resting on his shoulder.
‘Can you hear that music out there?’ she asked. ‘It’s one of those small Bluetooth speakers. They’ll bring it in here, soon. Not for you, of course, but for themselves. They’ll turn the volume up until the speaker distorts, and they’ll pretend you’re screaming along to it. Like you’re some kind of rock star. Isn’t that something?’
‘What are you saying?’
‘People make some awful noises in these…circumstances. I prefer the sound of music.’
‘What is this – some kind of torture routine?’
‘Chaz, you upset some people. Some very serious people. Now you have to give them what they want.’
‘Look. I’m not fucking James Bond. What do they want?’
Blondie continued to pace. She played with her cigarette, like in some old black and white movie. The room was cold. Silence seemed to make it colder.
‘So,’ said Chaz, ‘where are they?’
‘Keep your pants on,’ she winked.
Chaz couldn’t believe it. Blondie didn’t give a damn! She just kept walking around the room, like she was at a medical centre waiting to see the doctor, or the dentist, or a plumber, or – whatever. How did someone get that frosty?
The door opened again. Two men walked in. Steady. Deliberate. Eastern European types. Blondie tensed and left the room.
A solitary blonde locked eyes with Sam as he scanned the bar for any sign of his CFO. She was mouthing the words to a Vance Joy song playing in the background and playing with her drink. He’d noticed her looking at him before, when she still had another man’s company, but now she seemed to be alone. Sam quickly looked elsewhere.
‘Where are you Chaz…’
He said he’d be at the pub by seven, and it was now past eight. Sam checked his mobile again. He wasn’t one to assume the worst, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to remain positive. He phoned Zoe Barnes, his business partner. The call went straight to voicemail.
‘Great.’ Sam finished the soft drink he’d ordered fifteen minutes ago. He was deciding whether to leave or order something stronger when the phone rattled:
WE HAVE BAILLEY
A thousand thoughts ran through Sam’s head, but there was no time for any of them. The Clock Hotel was not the place for him to be, he knew that much. He raced downstairs and leapt into his car. He drove past the office, and a police station he probably should have stopped at, straight home to his cottage in Bondi.