Read Challis - 03 - Snapshot Online

Authors: Garry Disher

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Police, #Police Procedural, #Large Type Books, #Australia, #Melbourne Region (Vic.), #Destry; Ellen (Fictitious Character), #Challis; Hal (Fictitious Character)

Challis - 03 - Snapshot

Snapshot
Challis [3]
Garry Disher
(2005)
Rating:
****
Tags:
Fiction, Mystery & Detective, Police, Police Procedural, Large Type Books, Australia, Melbourne Region (Vic.), Destry; Ellen (Fictitious Character), Challis; Hal (Fictitious Character)
From Publishers Weekly

Fans of grim, uncompromising police procedurals will welcome Australian Disher's gritty, well-plotted third novel to feature Insp. Hal Challis (after 2005's
Kittyhawk Down
). A dedicated but haunted man, the Melbourne homicide detective is still recovering emotionally from his late wife's attempt to kill him. When Janine McQuarrie, a therapist who happens to be the daughter-in-law of Challis's police superintendent, is gunned down in front of her seven-year-old daughter, Challis and his longtime partner, Ellen Destry, get on the case. Their discovery that the victim had recently sent pictures from an orgy to some of its participants—including her own husband—leads to a number of suspects, including their boss. Soon, more bodies turn up, suggesting that McQuarrie may have been mistaken for someone else. A fully realized character, Challis is the fitting center of what will hopefully be a long series.
(July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The third Hal Challis mystery finds the Australian police detective on the trail of a murderer who killed a woman in front of her young daughter. As Challis digs deeper, he learns that, in the dead woman's family, there were more than the usual secrets--the kind that could get somebody killed. Disher is one of the most popular mystery writers in Australia, and he deserves to be. His compelling brand of procedural has appeal for readers who want investigative detail, but it also will satisfy the character-driven crowd as well as those looking for atmosphere above all else.
David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

* * * *

Snapshot

[Inspector Challis
03]

By Garry Disher

Scanned & Proofed By MadMaxAU

* * * *

1

On
Saturday she watched Robert have sex with four women. She had sex with two men.
And now it was Tuesday and she was driving along the highway with her
seven-year-old daughter. Sex with strangers on a Saturday evening, driving
around with her daughter in the family station wagon on a Tuesday morning: were
these the twin poles of her existence? Not any more. Janine McQuarrie had done
something about that.

Are we there yet? asked Georgia in
her piping voice.

Another clich in a life of them. Not
yet, sweetie. Bit further.

She needed to concentrate. The weak,
wintry sun was casting confusing shadows but, more than anything, shed be
obliged to make right-hand turns pretty soon. A right turn off the highway,
another off the Peninsula Freeway, and another off Penzance Beach Road, which
wound in a dizzying climb high above sea level. She slowed for an intersection,
the light green. She should make a right turn here, but that meant giving way
to the oncoming traffic, which was streaming indifferently towards her, and
what if some maniac failed to stop before she completed the turn? She tried to
swallow. Her mouth was very dry. Someone sounded their horn at her. She
continued through the intersection without turning.

All those people there last
Saturday, as close as bodies can get to one another, yet Janine hadnt
expected, sought or found any kind of togetherness. She knew from past
experience that the other couples would look out for each other, the wives
watching out for their husbands, always with a smile, a kiss, a comforting or
loving caress, Just checking that youre happy. kind of thing, and the
husbands checking on how their wives were doing, Are you okay? Love you kind
of thing, even stopping to have sex with them before moving on to another play
area. But that wasnt Roberts style. He would never so much as say Enjoy
yourself but go after the single women and younger wives, a glint of grasping
need in his eyes, and last Saturday hadnt been any different. Hed kept her
there until three in the morning, long after most of the others had gone home.

Mum?

What?

Can I have a Happy Meal for lunch?

Well see.

Beside her, Georgia began to sing.

It had taken her husband about three
months to wear her down. When hed first proposed attending one of the parties,
late last year, Janine had thought he was joking, but it soon became clear that
he wasnt. Shed felt vaguely discomfited, more from the tawdriness and risk of
exposure than realising he probably didnt want her sexually any more. Why do
you want to have sex with other women besides me? shed asked, putting on a
bit of a quiver.

But you can have sex with other
men, hed said reasonably, as many as you want.

Youre pimping for me, Robert?

No, of course not, it will spice
things up for us.

Things had been low-key to
non-existent, she had to admit. They still werewith Robert at least.

For three months shed let him think
his wheedling and cajoling were seducing her into it. Youll meet lovely
people, he said one day. Very open-minded.

That confirmed it: hed had
experience already. She waited a beat and said in a little voice, You mean youve
already been to one of these parties?

Yes, he told her, trying not to
sound ashamed or evasive but open, honest and a little defiant and courageous.
Shed felt a surge of anger, but kept it bottled. He was so plausible, so
small.
Playing shy and a little threatened shed asked, So they let single men
in?

Some parties do, he said. It
costs more, and youre soon barred if youre a sleazebag.

Robert wasnt a sleazebag, or not to
look at. Nondescript, if anything. His morals were sleazebag, though.

Theres no need to feel threatened
or jealous, hed said gently, stroking her arm, her neck, her breasts, and shed
actually tingled, her body betraying her. It forges a deep trust between
couples, he went on. Its not just physical, its also spiritual. A mutual
trust. Its a fundamental thing.

On and on, for three months.

I dont want to have sex with a
boilermaker, shed told him finally, knowing just what to say.

He shook his head, the picture of
top-drawer gentlemanliness. Potentially, you have people from all walks of
life, he said, but Ill make sure we attend only the better parties.

Yeah, those that admit right-wing,
think-tank sons of police superintendents, she thought now, at the next
intersection, her insides clenching. Finally she found the nerve to turn right
across oncoming traffic. Soon the car was climbing steeply inland from the
coast and heading across the Peninsula along narrow roads lined with pines and
gums, sunless, dank and dripping on this early winter morning.

Eventually shed let Robert see that
hed worn her down, and in February had let him start taking her along with him
to his banal little suburban orgies. She went partly out of curiosity and
partly to get something on him. On the first three occasions shed insisted
they attend as observersRobert itching to get into it, of course.

At her fourth party she drank a lot
first, to convey the impression that she needed Dutch couragebut then
discovering to her irritation that she
did
need it. Good on you,
sweetheart, Robert said.

To her surprise, it all turned out
to be quite erotic. A house in Mornington, lots of plane trees along the
street, tall hedges to screen the house from passersby or nosy neighbours.
Robert pointed it out to her, and then parked in the next street. What were
doing isnt illegal, he said, but we dont want to attract unnecessary
attention. They walked to the house, dressed as if for an ordinary party, and
were greeted at the door. Ten oclock, and most people were already there,
about twenty couples and a dozen single women. Janine recognised several of
them from observing on earlier occasions. They stood around, drinks in their
hands, talking about football, the stock market, who was minding the kids
tonightin Janines and Roberts case, Janines sister, Meg.

By 10.30 everyone had loosened up.
Jackets came off, lights were dimmed, there was kissing, a porn film flickered
on a widescreen TV in a corner of the sitting room.

Soon men and women were in the change
rooms, hanging up trousers, jeans, dresses, shirts, and emerging, the men in
G-strings, the women in sheer black slips, camisoles, knickers. Janine was
accustomed to this by now, after those three preparatory visits. You had to dress
down in order to watch.

She drank another vodka, then
stripped to her knickers and walked topless to one of the bedrooms, a large
room where two double beds had been pushed together. Black satin sheets,
candles placed where they cast a suggestive light but couldnt be knocked over,
a bowl of condoms and a pump dispenser of lubricant on a side table. Two
couples were having sex; others watched in the shadows, fondling themselves,
sometimes darting forward to peer at all that moist coupling. Cruising nicely
now after the vodkas, Janine felt desire hit her, a little hot and nasty in the
pit of her stomach. She perched on the end of a bed and touched a womans
breast, a mans penis, saying, Do you mind?

It was important to ask and not
simply barge in. They smiled. No, they didnt mind. Join in, why dont you?

She still wasnt sure. Most of her
wanted to, part of her didnt. Perhaps if she just stretched out on the
bed...Time passed. People stopped to watch, moved on to another play area, or
joined in. Like this? they asked, or like that? Here, or there? What would
you like me to do? Do you mind if I do that? What turns you on? By
midnight, that first time, Janine had had sex with three men.

It had been her awakeningthough not
in the way Robert intendedwhen, a few weeks ago, shed found love and
excitement in the arms of a man who
wasnt
part of that scene.

She shook off the memory and
concentrated on her driving, feeling safer now that she was on Penzance Beach
Road. She was heading through a region of sealed roads and dirt side roads,
amid wineries, berry farms, craft galleries and more cars than she cared to
encounter. And a heavy fog had rolled in from the Westernport side of the
Peninsula. She tried mentally to map her way, but shed never driven this route
before. Robert was the driver in the family.

Robert and his bullshit about a
higher form of sexual freedom. Right from the start Janine had known that
Robert and the others were trying to put a spin on things to make themselves
feel better about what they were really doing. The suspension of jealousy.
they called it. True sharing and The highest form of sexual freedom.
Janine, checking out a couple of the websites, had found more of the same: All-in-together
fun and erotica, one site said, and featured personal ads aimed at getting
like-minded couples together.

The same tone came through in the
rules. Of course, they didnt call them rules, but etiquette: shower before
you arrive; practise safe sex; no anal sex; respect the wishes of others; no
means no; ask first and choose the right moment; feel free to watch, but erotic
dress in the play areas, please; by all means have a drink to loosen up, but no
one wants to partner a drunk.

Despite the claptrap it had been
exciting, that first time, and for a while continued to be. Sometimes all of the
elementsthe smells, the sounds, the imagesconspired to make her really horny.
But shed never felt liberated, alive or sweetly wicked, to quote some of the
garbage the others spouted from time to time. None of it had translated into a
better relationship with Robertnot that shed wanted that at the time, and
certainly not now, with a genuine man, genuine love, in the wings. It all
seemed like hard work to Janine, and she felt contempt, everyone so nice, so
conscientious about making sure everyone got an opportunity to enter this,
touch that, suck this, stroke that, do this, please, do that again, please. By
profession she was a psychologist but you didnt need a university degree to
see that the whole sex party scene suited the needs of men, not women, and was
symptomatic of fundamental anxieties, like desperately clinging to youth,
seeking self-esteem, and wanting to be desired.

It was all about needing to be
loved, and that was pathetic and illusory. Robert and his mates needed a good
dose of reality, and the means to that had fallen into Janines lap. Exactly a
week ago, the Waterloo
Progress,
a small weekly newspaper, had published
a long article on the swingers scene. The editor had apparently attended a
party somewhere on the Peninsula and written it up with the blessings of the
organisers and the participants. Caused quite a stir amongst the good and the
decent who secretly hankered for a bit of spice in their lives. No photographs,
no real names usedand that had given Janine her idea. Yesterday Robert and
three of his mates would have opened their mail and found photographs of
themselves in all of their glory, having sex with women not their wives in
front of a bunch of other naked people.

There was no way she could have used
an ordinary camera, not even a little spy camera. But a mobile phone with
camera and video facility, that was a different story. You needed to have a
mobile handy at these parties, wrapped up in your towel, G-string or camisole,
in case there was an emergency call from the babysitter.

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