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Inlet Boys: PI Kowalski, #1

Inlet Boys: PI Kowalski, #1

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Inlet Boys: PI Kowalski, #1

Length:
303 pages
4 hours
Released:
Mar 18, 2019
ISBN:
9781622531776
Format:
Book

Description

PI Kowalski peels back the layers of a sunny, idyllic Aussie town, and exposes its dark, criminal underbelly.

PI Matt Kowalski's first case is personal. Real personal.

Clues point him in many directions and at many suspects, and he exposes a horrific crime with devastating consequences, which will affect the town forever. He also ends up unwittingly putting those he loves in the crosshairs of a ruthless black-racketeering syndicate.

Now, on his own and up against heavy odds, he must track a killer before they take out his family.

EVOLVED PUBLISHING PRESENTS the first thrilling installment in the "PI Kowalski" series of crime mysteries set in the great Down Under, brought to you with tangible authenticity by Australian author Chris Krupa. [eBook DRM-Free; Also Available in Paperback and Audiobook]

BOOKS BY CHRIS KRUPA:

  • PI Kowalski – Book 1: "Inlet Boys"
  • PI Kowalski – Book 2: "Tall Dark Heart"
  • PI Kowalski – Book 3: "The Jaydus File"

MORE GREAT DETECTIVE/CRIME THRILLER SERIES FROM EVOLVED PUBLISHING:

  • "The Oz Files" Series by Barry Metcalf (also set in Australia)
  • The "Payden Beck Crime Thriller" Series by Michael Golvach
  • The "Denny McConnell PI" Series by Kent Swarts
  • The "Syndicate-Born Trilogy" by K.M. Hodge
  • The "Zoë Delante Thriller" Series by C.L. Roberts-Huth

 

Released:
Mar 18, 2019
ISBN:
9781622531776
Format:
Book

About the author

I’m a freelance writer and filmmaker, born in 1975 in The Gong, who now lives in Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia with my wife and two sons. I used to make my own mystery books in the fourth grade by typing them out on an old Olivetti, and I drew my first five-fingered human being when I was four years old. In 2004, I pitched a comic series to Image Comics, and I contributed cartoons and designed a cover for the Litmus Journal of Melbourne in 2007. I worked with the Victims of Crime department in Sydney, rubbing shoulders with ex-cons and stand over men, and sought restitution for their victims. In 2014, I founded a production company, Glitchfilms, alongside my producing partner. In 2015, I wrote and directed an independent horror film, The Lights, which was released in selected cinemas. I self-published the tie-in, behind-the-scenes eBook, Dark Light: How to Get Your Horror Film into Cinemas. I write every day and try to put some of myself into my writing. My passion is crime fiction, and my favourite authors include Karin Slaughter and Michael Robotham. I also love graphic novels by Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison.

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Inlet Boys - Chris Krupa

Kerrie

PART ONE

Chapter 1

‘Somebody killed Rob last week,’ Zio Fausto said. ‘Bashed his fucking brains in with a concrete block.’

I sat on a foldout chair on a small patch of lawn that passed for a backyard before it fell away to a steep hill that had never been landscaped.

My uncle, Zio Fausto, sat opposite me and nursed a glass of homemade wine, like an Italian version of the actor Brian Dennehy, all chest and skinny legs with salt and pepper hair. He wore a short-sleeved, unbuttoned, collared shirt over a singlet, beige knee-length shorts, and casual Italian loafers, a more than suitable get up for the mild late-February weather.

I, in direct contrast, wore my usual ensemble: a plain black tee shirt, black jeans, and black lace-up motorcycle boots. To an outsider, we might have looked like a bouncer conferring with the head of the cosa nostra. On a table next to us sat an open bottle of wine, a spare glass, a folded-up newspaper, and a manila folder.

Zio poured me some wine and shook his head. ‘I haven’t spoken to my brother Carmine in over twenty years. He called last week and spoke to your Zia Valeria. She told him you were a private investigator. This is what happened to his son Rob last Monday.’

He passed me the folder.

I opened it and pulled out a small pile of 8x10 photographs. The first one showed a male figure lying on the ground on his side. Judging by the long shadows cast by the body, the photo was taken early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Wooden pallets crept into the top left corner, and wrappers and cans lay strewn by his feet.

So this is how my cousin Rob ended his days.

I hadn’t seen Zio Fausto’s nephew since he was a kid, and couldn’t reconcile this prone, pale figure with the excitable ten-year-old child from my memories. He wore a dark tee shirt, blue jeans, and white Nike runners. His right arm crossed his torso as if mid-turn in sleep, and a thick gold necklace lay entangled within the folds of his shirt. Strange shadows on Rob’s forehead caught my eye. I flicked to the next photo, a close-up of the top left portion of his temple. Blood had pooled under the skin, and a dark purple bruise spread down the entire left side of his face.

I’d seen something similar in a forensic pathology book where a young girl found the crumpled corpse of her mother in an empty bathtub; she’d been in the same position for over twenty-four hours, and her face had shown similar discolouration.

The remaining photos showed the same scene from slightly different angles, obviously taken by a police photographer, or someone in a similar capacity.

I placed the photos on the table, sat back, and met my uncle’s eyes. ‘How’d you get these?’

He looked at me cautiously. ‘Angela.’

I barely stifled a grunt of annoyance at the mention of one Angela Stanchowski, a disgraced ex-sergeant from Redfern Local Area Command, and a casual acquaintance of the family. She’d voiced her disdain for my line of work on more than one occasion over the years.

Zio lifted a thin arm, took a pull on his wine, and looked at the ground. ‘I wanted to stick my nose into Rob’s murder, and Angela was the only way to get information.’

The fact that he still rubbed shoulders with her boggled my mind.

‘My brother,’ he said, ‘is a selfish prick. He will swear his son was an angel, but I know the shit Rob got up to. The arsehole had it coming.’

I took a long pull on the wine and let it coat my mouth. Zio made it from Sangiovese grapes, which meant it had high tannin levels and left a bitter taste on my tongue; but it had the desired effect and relaxed me.

‘Do the police have anything to go on?’

He shrugged.

When I was a kid, I looked up to my uncle. He did all the things adults do that you think are cool when you’re twelve and impressionable—he drank, and smoked, and swore. Now seventy and retired from the retail sector, he’d become recalcitrant. If I were to sum up Zio in one word, it would be ‘brusque.’ He was, like a lot of my family, a cross-cultural blend of old-school Italian and modern Australian.

My sister and I had the distinction of being first generation, with all the cultural baggage and expectation that entailed.

He said, ‘You remember Rob and his brother?’

‘Yeah, I remember them. It’s been ten years since I saw them last. Little smart arses, but nice kids.’

He nodded in appreciation of the evaluation. ‘You remember Carmine?’

I shook my head. ‘Not so much.’

He tossed the newspaper across the table. ‘Carmine sent that to me.’

I opened it to find a copy of the Sussex Inlet Advertiser from the previous Wednesday. I flicked through the pages and found what I needed on a half-page spread on page three. A story reported the mysterious death of Robert Demich, twenty-three, found at a multi-million-dollar construction site in the early hours of Tuesday morning, under suspicious circumstances. Police were treating the incident as a homicide, and if anyone knew anything, they should contact the authorities.

Not important enough for the front page, I guess. ‘You want me to look into this?’

He nodded his head, and when he looked at me, I noticed a flicker of worry in his eyes. Then he winked and drained his glass. ‘Hurry up and drink. I want to finish the bottle.’

It surprised me. Ever since achieving my private investigator’s accreditation, the New South Wales CAPI licence, I was sensitive to whispers from within my family about the less than honourable career path I’d chosen. Patriarchal tradition dictated decades of toil at the Port Kembla steel works—legitimacy borne from blue-collar grit.

I told him I’d look into it, and asked if Carmine knew what happened.

He took a heavy belt of the wine.

I did the same.

He shook his head, perhaps dislodging a troubling thought, or a bad memory.

I said, ‘Zio, how close were you with Rob?’

‘He was a fucking arsehole.’ He ran a hand over his face as if to smooth away the creases, topped his glass up, and knocked back two mouthfuls in quick succession. ‘Listen, Matthew, for Carmine to send this to me...? Jesus Christ! He must be in a bad place.’

He took another drink and slowly exhaled.

We sat in silence for a few minutes, and I sensed Zio kept some cards close to his chest. Italians were known for their guilt-ridden pauses, and I’d had a lot of first-hand experience in that particular psychological arena. I drained the wine in my glass and decided to share my thoughts.

‘I’ll pull some strings with my boss to get a week off work, meet Carmine, and look into who might have killed Rob.’

He seemed happy with the proposal, and raised the wine bottle.

I refused, needing to stay under the limit.

We talked movies and football for twenty minutes, until the conversation died naturally.

Ciao.’ I shook his hand and made my way back into the house via the back door. I crossed through the downstairs garage strewn with sewing machine parts, and climbed the carpeted stairs back up into the main part of the house.

Zia Valeria sat in the kitchen removing the casings from a dozen Italian sausages. Next to the stovetop rested a bottle of red wine, a plate of diced onions, clumps of ricotta, and a kilo of grated pecorino Romano cheese. The bag of fresh rigatoni gave the game away—Zia was preparing her famous ‘Rigatoni alla Calabrese’ for lunch.

She asked what we’d talked about, and I explained.

She nodded sadly and sighed as only older Roman Catholic women can. ‘Oh Matthew. Poor Rob. Mannaggia.’

Mannaggia’ is a well-loved southern Italian word from my childhood, and hearing it always reminded me of my Nonna. She usually muttered it under her breath when she couldn’t prise the lid from a sauce jar, or upon acquiring a particularly salacious piece of family gossip. The English equivalent of the word is dammit.

Zia tried to blow a stray hair from her face.

I pushed it back behind her ear.

‘Thank you, mio nipote.’ She sighed and said, ‘Carmine called me last week, because... you know, he doesn’t talk to Fausto. I don’t know what it is between them. I don’t ask, and he doesn’t tell me.’

‘What did Carmine say?’

‘Rob worked on a construction site in Sussex Inlet. It’s going to be a huge retirement village with security gates, gardens, everything you could possibly imagine. The foreman found his body, and Carmine thinks, maybe, he was dealing drugs and something went wrong. Who knows? Who knows what happens?’

She invited me to stay for lunch, and I declined despite the enticing smells wafting from the kitchen.

She looked at me with a pained expression. ‘Will you help Carmine? You know you’ll be helping Fausto too.’

I told her I’d be happy to help, even though I didn’t have any experience with homicides. If I was truthful to myself, the pull to find Rob’s killer enticed me. I needed to tread carefully with the family situation, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. I had the expectations of my aunt and uncle to satisfy, and if I looked deeper, a compunction to commemorate my youthful reverence of my uncle.

Zia said, ‘Have you seen this?’ She led me into the dining room and pointed at a framed photograph on the wall.

I’d seen the picture, but never knew its context. Taken in the 1960s, it showed four young men in a paddock. They all had rifles slung over their shoulders, and two of them held up dead rabbits. One of them was Zio Fausto as a young man. He wore a collared shirt and high-waisted, chocolate-brown, pleated pants—a good-looking guy with the touch of Gary Cooper about him. He stood proudly next to a shorter man with thick wavy hair and a close-mouthed smile.

‘That’s Carmine,’ Zia said. ‘They were so close, Matthew.’

I saw something in the way Zio stood next to his brother—a warm closeness, a familiarity, good times before things went bad. I went to give Zia a hug goodbye, but she raised her meat-covered hands in apology. I kissed her on the cheek instead, careful not get sausage on me, and promised I’d keep in touch.

‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘I think this will really help. You might be the one to heal the old wounds. Thank you.’

No pressure, then. Mannaggia, indeed.

Chapter 2

To most, Wollongong was a holiday town on the south coast of New South Wales, replete with a golden chain of surf beaches, cafes, eateries, and a thriving shopping district. To me, ‘The Gong’ hid a thriving criminal underbelly, much like the 1986 David Lynch film, Blue Velvet. The place was a veritable melting pot of volatile ethnicities: Macedonian, Greek, Yugoslavian, Lebanese, and Italian, all vying for their piece of the underworld. Fringe properties housed makeshift meth labs, and cannabis crops thrived in the dense rain forest escarpment.

It was a place of heavy industry with lots of port activity, and during the post war years the promise of manufacturing work enticed European men to emigrate, my Nonna being one of them. In recent times, local journalists reported the shootings of local criminal figures with ties to the Balkan mafia. Positioned between Sydney and Melbourne, The Gong was an ideal location for the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine. Dealers sold to the white-collar crowd in Sydney, and supplied the growing lower socio-economic users on the far south coast.

In the minimal Friday morning traffic, I thought about the impending machinations I’d have to go through to get a week off from my boss.

Reggie Cash—surely, that wasn’t his real name—was a decent boss. My instinct told me he’d fled the U.S., maybe running from a tax fraud charge, and had fled to Australia to cover his tracks. He married an Aussie, and now considered himself an Aussie by proxy. I didn’t care about his troubles—as long as they didn’t affect me.

I had two insurance cases that needed closure, but I needed to act on Rob’s murder case immediately.

Spying and filming people who were going about their daily business, when they were supposed to have severe back injuries, was fun and interesting work, yet living in my car for endless hours was giving me back problems. Waiting for someone to emerge from their house only held its charm for so long, and was beginning to get tiresome. Recently, I’d started second-guessing my choice to take on private investigative work. I’d received accolades from those agencies that recognised excellent work in the form of commissions and financial bonuses, before I settled on working exclusively for Reggie.

I drove north on the Princes Highway, took the off ramp at West Wollongong, and eased into the driveway of a drive-thru coffee house. Maybe a caffeine bribe would assist with negotiations.

A variety of girls dressed in black crop tops and short shorts served the row of cars in front of me. A bright-eyed Polynesian girl approached my window with a smile, and tapped my order into her iPad—two tall blacks, hot.

Once armed, I drove to my office at Cash & Messenger on Ralph Black Drive, fifty square meters of industrial office space leased from the council. I eased the car into a small space at the end of the parking lot, and walked through the glass doors into the makeshift offices that once housed an indoor childhood play centre.

I carried the coffees into Reggie’s workspace, the first office on the left. File boxes littered the floor, and his desk was inundated with papers, folders, and an old PC. In the beginning, Reggie had dropped the white pages into my lap and told me to cold call the names in the files. I had, and even built up some trust, but phone work wasn’t my forte. I’d convinced him to hand me those cases no one else wanted, to send me out to housing commission sites, and interview welfare folk trying to make a quid suing rich folk. If a great grandmother fought a corrupt councilman, I’d make it so that she’d win. If some degenerate bogan wanted money for smokes and booze, I’d swing it to keep the status quo. No point taking away from those who had nothing.

Reggie had the habit of jumping out of his seat whenever someone entered his office.

I placed his coffee on a small free space on his desk. ‘Morning, Sunshine.’

He took the cup and swiped his smartphone with his left hand as he took a sip. ‘Jesus wept.’

‘What’s going on, Reg?’

‘The wife dragged me to this baby shower yesterday. Have you seen these fucking things? Do you know what they did? After an hour chatting about baby clothes and outfits, they decided it was time to play a party game. They got these diapers, about ten diapers, right? They melted a spoonful of chocolate into the diaper so it looked like.... You know what I’m saying, right? Then they passed the diaper around, and they had to smell the chocolate and try and guess the flavour of the chocolate.’

His face creased up and he stuck his tongue out. ‘Is that fucked up or what?’

I shrugged. ‘Did you have a go?’

‘You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!’

I laughed.

‘By the way, Reg, we call them ‘nappies’.’

‘Right. ‘Nappies’.’

‘Reggie, something’s come up. My uncle wants me to look into something. It’ll be off the books. I figure it’ll take five days. Tops.’

‘Matty, we’ve got fifty-eight open claims. I can’t have you running off on your own.’

I had trouble with Reggie in the early days. He had the tenacity, either by ignorance or through malevolence, to forget my fortnightly pay. On the first occurrence, I forgave what could’ve been an honest oversight. When my second pay didn’t materialise, negotiations ended when I had Reggie against the wall, my elbow wedged firmly against his neck. Since then, we’ve been on even terms, and the pay’s been consistent.

He had a point, though. I was leaving him in the lurch.

‘What if I close one of O’Donnell’s cases?’ I said.

Garrick O’Donnell, a freelance investigator working out of the same office, worked hard at avoiding work, and his cases tended towards the violent.

Reggie raised his eyebrows. ‘Sure. Okay. How about the Frank Brodie case?’

I sucked air in through my teeth. ‘Frank Brodie, ex-bikie member of the Comancheros who fell out of the gang and tried to go legit. Claiming compensation for a back injury that rings falser than a politician’s promise. Is that the one?’

‘That’s the one. His case file is with Centrelink, but they can’t suspend his compensation payment unless we provide something to the insurer. Garrick says he can’t find Brodie’s property.’

‘Is Brodie still at Robertson?’

Reggie nodded. Robertson was an hour and a half round trip.

‘Tell you what, Reg, if you give me a week off, I’ll close the Brodie case today.’

Reggie checked his watch and scratched his smooth cheek. I’d proved good to my word with Reggie, but the American in him liked hanging it over me.

‘Catch the prick on video, okay? I need it wrapped up before Fair Trading comes back to me with injunctions.’

‘Take a breath. I’ll get it done.’

My office was the smallest one at the far end. I didn’t mind that it had no windows or a door. The small rectangle of carpet consisted of a standard desk and four filing cabinets. I grabbed my camera bag, laptop, and a flash drive, then went into O’Donnell’s office space, found Brodie’s file, and made my way out to my car.

At that moment, I thought about the line from Dirty Harry, in which the young fresh-faced partner asks Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, ‘Why do they call you Dirty Harry?’ Callahan replies, ‘Because I get every dirty job that comes along.’

***

I headed south through Albion Park, took the turn at Jamberoo, and crossed open plains until the road plunged into the familiar rainforest of Macquarie Pass. I slowed to forty, negotiated the steep hairpin turns, and wound my window down to let the fresh smell of the rainforest waft in.

I came out at the top of the escarpment and drove into Robertson, home of The Big Potato, at just after eleven. Using the address details in the case file, I found Brodie’s property, which, contrary to O’Donnell’s claim, had been easy. Located on the western boundary of Robertson village, it consisted of rural land with a homestead dumped into the middle of it, accessible via a long dirt driveway, via a cattle crossing.

In worker’s compensation cases, I’d come to the realisation that some people can be either morally deficient or ethically corrupt. Frank Brodie possessed both iniquities, claiming a large sum of money against a Mum and Dad business for alleged injuries to his back when a delivery of goods went awry and allegedly landed on top of him. His claim had placed their honest business in serious jeopardy.

I parked half a kilometre past the property, got out, and opened the tonneau that covered the ute tray—an advantage to the utility coupe that often came in handy. I pulled out my canvas camera bag, connected the two hundred-millimetre zoom lens to my camera body, grabbed a bottle of water from a small esky, and walked back along the road until I reached the perimeter of Brodie’s property. I found a shady spot in a natural culvert off the road, which provided ample coverage thanks to a spreading lantana bush.

I lay down and connected my camera to a mini-tripod that had a built-in, foldout resting arm for the lens, and swept the property from left to right. I remained in that position for half an hour.

A figure emerged from the house, possessing a balding pate, tattoos, and long ginger beard that matched a photo I’d seen of Frank Brodie. He went to work on a Holden ute—bending over the engine bay, lifting tool boxes—doing all the things he wouldn’t be doing if he had a prolapsed disc.

I adjusted the focus and started filming.

He worked for over an hour, until he wiped his hands and went back inside the house.

I got up and packed my things away, and caught movement on my left.

The large figure of Brodie came around from behind the lantana with a sour look on his face, and swung high.

I dodged it and gave him a swift hard jab to the stomach.

He exhaled and his momentum gave way.

I put in two quick punches to the ear, which does more damage to the head than it does to the fist.

He dropped to the ground, clutched his head and swore.

I slung the camera bag over my shoulder. ‘You move well for a bloke with severe back injuries.’

Brodie just sat and looked winded.

I went back to my car and immediately backed the video files to my laptop, and a separate flash drive. I looked back as Brodie ambled back onto his property.

He cast one despondent look in

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