Authors: Leah Giarratano
Tags: #Detective and Mystery Stories, #Fiction/General
|Watch the World Burn|
|Jill Jackson |
|Random House Australia (2009)|
|Tags:||Detective and Mystery Stories, Fiction/General|
### Product Description
Miriam Caine, aged seventy, is dining with her son when she bursts into flames in the restaurant of a five-star hotel. The restaurant's manager, Troy Berrigan, is first to her aid, but the woman later dies of her injuries. When investigators find accelerants on the victim's face and clothing, the incident becomes a police matter, and attention is turned to Berrigan, a fallen hero cop, who fits the arsonist profil e. Berrigan knows he's not the killer, but he also knows that at the time of the incident, he was the only person close enough to have set her on fire. When he's connected to another death, Troy must do all he can to discover what really happened to Miriam Caine. Her death preludes a spate of apparently unconnected acid and arson attacks around Sydney. Is it the beginning of an orchestrated campaign of terror? And is Troy Berrigan the perpetrator or an innocent bystander caught up in a terrible train of events? While on study leave, Detective Sergeant Jill Jackson becomes caught up in the investigation. Working with Federal Agent Gabriel Delahunt, she is determined to find out what happened to Miriam Caine, because this case for her is not only about murder and maiming in Sydney: this case will change Jill Jackson's life forever.
### About the Author
**Leah Giarratano** is a former clinical psychologist and expert in psychological trauma assessing psychopaths and treating their victims. She is the author of _Black Ice_, _Vodka Doesn't Freeze_, and _Voodoo Doll_.
Watch the World Burn
is a work of fi ction. All the characters and scenes in this book are fi ctitious and any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, or to any current or past event, is purely coincidental.
A Bantam book
Published by Random House Australia Pty Ltd
Level 3, 100 Pacifi c Highway, North Sydney NSW 2060
First published by Bantam in 2010
Copyright © Leah Giarratano 2010
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity, including internet search engines or retailers, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying (except under the statutory exceptions provisions of the Australian
Copyright Act 1968
), recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of Random House Australia.
Addresses for companies within the Random House Group can be found at
National Library of Australia
Watch the world burn.
ISBN 978 1 74166 814 8 (pbk).
Policewomen New South Wales – Sydney – Fiction.
Detective and mystery stories, Australian.
Cover illustration by SuperStock
Cover design by
Internal design and typeset by Midland Typesetters, Australia
‘With plenty happening, Giarratano is cool and calm at the controls. In a word – suspenseful.’
Gold Coast Bullletin
‘Leah’s writing remains tight and true and really quite exciting.’
‘This stands up against any bestseller of the genre, and then its local setting makes it better.’
‘Definitely one for those who like their crime novels tough and demanding.’
Australian Bookseller and Publisher
‘Clinical psychologist turned thriller writer Leah Giarratano brings a wealth of professional experience to her art ... a page-turner, note-worthy for its expert characterisation and often chilling psychological veracity.’
is more chiller than thriller. It’s cleverly plotted and crackles along at an electric pace. I’m sure Giarratano has a growing fan base and it’s great to see local talent getting an outing.’
‘This is a seriously good read. Giarratano is taking on the big guns, and winning.’
MX Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney
‘I suspect a series. Bring it on.’ Sue Turnbull,
Sydney Morning Herald
‘Plumbing the depths of her experience ... Giarratano’s writing has an air of authenticity missing from the work of her peers. Creepy, nasty and oddly compelling, it’s definitely not light reading.’
|About the Author|
At eight pm, Troy Berrigan knew everything was going perfectly.
And then the screaming began.
Although afterwards he’d cringe remembering it for days to come, Troy actually dropped to the ground. Right there in the restaurant. Fucking training. But he snapped to his feet almost immediately and spun around. Oh for fuck’s sake, look at her! He lurched to his right and ripped off a tablecloth. Plates and glasses smashed through the air. More diners screamed. Troy crash-tackled the burning woman and, on the floor with her, held her writhing body close, smothering her moans and the flames with the cloth. The stench of smoke and burnt hair and flesh filled his lungs. ‘You’re all right,’ he coughed. ‘I’ve got you. You’re going to be all right.’
He was lying, of course. Which is what you do at times like this.
Rolling with her on the hundred-dollar-a-metre carpet of his restaurant, Troy blinked away images of the old woman – her head on fire, her arms reaching out to him, her face pleading, melting. Even then he knew he’d be replaying that scene in his head for years.
‘Get the ambos!’ he bellowed. ‘Has anyone called the ambulance?’
‘They’re on their way, boss, they’re coming. Is she all right?’
Troy hadn’t looked up, but he knew that James, his head waiter, stood above him. In fact, Troy could probably have described every person within a five-metre perimeter. His senses were electric, and the moments clicked by in scene-by-scene frames. The woman was out. Fire too. Her heartbeat was like a trapped bird beneath him. He blinked rapidly a few times to halt the images that threatened to return from the past, trying to stop Jonno’s blood staining everything red. His well-worn distraction technique was successful until the screaming started up again. Suddenly he sat in the middle of a park and it was his sergeant bleeding out in his arms.
‘Troy,’ said James, squatting next to him. ‘What can I do?’
Back on the carpet in the restaurant, Troy turned to his waiter. He realised the shouting came from a male diner on his knees next to him, who was reaching out to the woman wrapped in the tablecloth. ‘Help her,’ the man begged. ‘Oh my God, please help her!’
Dominique, another staff member, bent to try to console the customer.
‘Is everyone else okay?’ Troy asked James.
‘Well, no one else is hurt,’ said James. ‘But people are pretty upset.’ He moved closer to Troy. ‘This gentleman here is her son.’
‘Right.’ Troy turned to the middle-aged man sobbing at his left. ‘No, don’t touch her, mate,’ he said, blocking the man’s clutching hands. ‘Get everyone out, James. I want you to evacuate.’
‘What about him?’ James indicated towards the distressed man, who shrugged free of Dominique. Her face was white, mascara smeared across her cheeks and the backs of her hands. Troy’s ordinarily poised, unflappable sommelier now resembled a frightened fourteen-year-old.
‘Just leave him with me, James,’ said Troy.
Troy turned to face the man, who was still grasping at the woman. ‘Please,’ he said, restraining the man’s arm. ‘Don’t touch her. You’ll hurt her. She’s alive, but I’m pretty sure she’s unconscious. The ambulance is coming.’ He looked towards the dining room. ‘Dominique,’ he called to the waitress, who’d already moved to direct the shocked, whispering diners towards the door. She turned to face him, her blue eyes tight, wincing. ‘Call the police,’ he said. She put a hand to her throat, nodded once.
Troy tuned out the noise of the patrons leaving the restaurant and the man sobbing beside him. Leaning over the elderly woman on the floor, he held his breath and tested the tablecloth over her face, lifting it carefully, almost imperceptibly, willing his hands to stop shaking. The cloth stuck. He let go, knowing that to pull further would dislodge lumps of burned flesh and skin. Fortunately, the fabric was cotton; other materials had a tendency to melt right into a burn. Where was the fucking ambulance?
‘How did this happen?’ Troy asked the woman’s son.
‘I don’t know. I was on my way back to the table and I just saw her in flames, and then you pushing her down. Oh my God ... Is she going to be all right?’
No, they never are. ‘She’ll be okay. It’ll be okay.’ Troy rocked back into a squat and put a hand on the man’s shoulder.
Managing Incendie had been Troy’s big break. Even the name was his idea –
French for ‘fire’. Fucking perfect, Troy thought, pushing his hand into his dark hair. What the hell is Caesar going to say about this? He hoped that James had called their boss. Caesar O’Brien, owner of five world-class restaurants, had given Troy the chance to run his newest and biggest, and he’d fucked it up. If James had reached him, Caesar would already be on his way here. Troy’s gut recoiled at the thought.
‘Mum ... it’s going to be all right, Mum,’ said the man at Troy’s side. ‘Help is coming.’
‘I think she’s still out,’ said Troy. ‘My name’s Troy Berrigan. I used to be a police officer. Sometimes the body shuts itself down when it’s had a shock this bad. It’s for the best, Mr...’
‘Caine,’ said the man at his side. ‘David Caine.’
‘And your mum, David?’ said Troy. ‘What’s her name?’
‘How old is she?’
‘Seventy. It’s her birthday.’ David began to cry again. ‘I brought her here for her birthday.’
Troy’s head whipped around at the sound of movement behind him. Thank Christ, the ambos. ‘Over here!’ He stood and waved the officers over, then reached down to help the man on the floor to his feet. ‘Come on. Let’s wait over there, David. We’ve got to get out of their way.’ He turned back to the paramedics – a stolid, stone-faced young woman and an equally implacable, grey-faced man who appeared far too old for the job.
‘This is Miriam Caine,’ Troy said to them. ‘Seventy. She was alight. On fire. We still don’t know what happened. She’s breathing, but I’m pretty sure she’s unconscious. I haven’t lifted the cloth to make sure – some of the fabric has adhered to her face.’
Troy leaned against the bar for support while the officers bent down to the woman. He clamped his teeth together when he realised he was shivering.
‘What – what is this?’ The grey paramedic was on his knees at the woman’s side. ‘This was an
He stared up into Troy’s face.
Troy looked into the grey man’s eyes, then back at the covered shape on the ground. ‘I don’t know what the fuck this was,’ he said to the floor.
‘Stop. Gina, stop!’ The male paramedic used his shoulder to block his colleague as she drew out the patient’s arm, tapping for a vein. She turned to face him, her lips a hard line, a deep crease now visible between her eyes.
‘Preserve evidence,’ Troy just barely heard him say.
The female ambo took a breath. The crease vanished with the lift of her eyebrows, and her face became stone again. She bent back to her kit and removed a hypodermic syringe.
‘You wanna wait for the cops?’ the man quietly asked his colleague.
‘She’ll die,’ his partner answered.
Troy turned just in time to grip the arm of the man next to him before he fell to the floor. He used his bad arm, and his thumb and forefinger slipped from the man’s jacket. He steadied the woman’s son with both hands.
‘Help her, please,’ David Caine managed to say, his eyes closed.
Troy led him to a bar stool. ‘They’ll take care of her, mate,’ he said.
And then in walked the cavalry. Police. Troy didn’t recognise either of them, thank Christ. He definitely would have remembered the dark-haired female, and the big blond bastard wasn’t someone you’d forget either. He gave Caine’s shoulder a squeeze and walked forward to meet them.
‘My name’s Troy Berrigan,’ he said. ‘I’m the manager here.’ Troy kept his hands in his pockets.
‘Sergeant Scott Hutchinson,’ said the blond bloke. ‘This is Senior Constable Emma Gibson. What happened here, Mr Berrigan?’ Hutchinson talked as he walked towards the paramedics. ‘What’ve we got?’ he asked them before Troy could answer.
‘A crime scene,’ said the grey man, preparing to roll the burnt woman. ‘Better rope it off.’
‘Fuck,’ said Hutchinson. ‘Yeah, all right.’ He nodded to his partner. ‘Emma, could you get back down to the patrons? Who knows how long they’ll wait at the evac point. Get all their names and addresses, enlist the staff to help. Find out whatever you can from anyone who wants to talk. We can follow the rest up later.’
Gibson nodded once, her back very straight. ‘The vic’s going to make it?’ she asked the couple on the floor.
The paramedics lifted Miriam Caine to the stretcher.
‘Unknown,’ said the female ambo, her voice as emotionless as her face.
A faint moan from under the tablecloth rocketed David Caine from his bar stool, which crashed to the ground behind him.
‘Hey, hang on a minute, mate,’ said the cop, Hutchinson, blocking Caine’s path.
‘This is David Caine,’ said Troy. ‘The victim is his mother.’
‘All right, Mr Caine, but you’re going to have to stand back there while we get your mother to the hospital,’ said Hutchinson. ‘You too, Mr Berrigan. I’m going to have to get you gentlemen to wait back over at the bar area.’
‘I’ll call for some uniforms,’ said Gibson, radio out, almost at the door.
‘Yep. And Emma, send up that big bald waiter. We’ll get him to guard the door until they arrive.’
‘James Macklin,’ said Troy, leading Caine back to the bar. ‘The waiter – his name’s James. But he’s my head waiter. I need him with the guests.’
‘Just send up any member of staff, Emma,’ said Hutchinson. The big cop then leaned in towards the ambos. ‘Retain all clothing for evidence,’ Troy heard him say, ‘and record any utterances.’
The ambos steered the stretcher out of the restaurant, following the female officer.
‘It’s okay, Mum, we’re going to the hospital now. I’ll be right there with you,’ Caine called. He pulled away from Troy and glared at the big cop. ‘I’m going with her.’
Hutchinson frowned, and Troy quickly put a hand on Caine’s shoulder. ‘David. Wait, I need to get your contact number.’
The shorter man peered up at him for a moment as though he had something to say. Without breaking eye contact, he pulled a wallet from his jacket, flipped it open and withdrew a card. Troy pocketed it. He watched the man shuffle after the ambos towards the front of the restaurant. Just before they reached the exit, Caine stopped and jogged back towards him. Troy’s jellied muscles tensed. Was he going to cop a punch in the mouth from this bloke?
Still a stride away, Caine reached out to shake his hand, staring as Troy offered his own in response. Then, almost overbalancing, Caine grasped what was left of Troy’s hand with both of his own.
‘Thank you,’ David Caine said. ‘Thank you for helping my mother.’
Troy felt like a piece of shit.
Snapping on all the overhead lights, Troy surveyed the interior of Incendie. Except for the god-awful stench, there was no obvious indication there’d even been a fire. He paced the dining room with the two cops, but he could see nothing. There wasn’t even any damage where the Caines had been sitting. Nothing was scorched. What the fuck?
No time for this. From his workstation in the centre of the restaurant, he grabbed a notepad and pen. He ignored the foul taste in his mouth and jogged out through the glass doors, heading for the elevator. He had to get down to James and the rest of the staff, to help them deal with the customers.
He paced the cube of the lift, trying to smother his anxieties about what would happen next. Surely he could keep the restaurant going. He couldn’t lose this job; everything depended on it. Finally, the elevator lights indicated he’d reached the lobby of the five-star hotel and he jabbed repeatedly at the button to open the door. He sprinted across the foyer, waving away the gestures of hotel staff trying to catch his eye. He had to get to his own people first.
And there they were. Twenty metres down the block, waiting at the evacuation point. Around fifty of his well-heeled customers huddled together. He knew most of them would never want to see him or the restaurant again. If he’d had his way, he’d have instructed James to seat them all in the comfortable lobby, but the rules were clear. Fire anywhere in the hotel, and everyone in the vicinity had to be ushered to the evacuation area for a headcount. He found James and Dominique.
‘Is the lady okay?’ asked Dominique.
Troy shrugged. ‘I hope so,’ he said.
‘What’s going on up there now?’ asked James. ‘People are starting to leave.’
‘There’ll be more police here soon,’ said Troy. ‘They want to talk to people about what happened tonight. So we need to let everyone know that they should co operate with the cops.’
‘A few people have asked when we can go back up,’ said James.
‘They won’t be going back up,’ said Troy. ‘I’ll arrange a meeting room on the ground floor. When everyone’s spoken to the police, get them a seat in the lobby restaurant if they want one. On the house, of course. I’ll square it with management. Otherwise, we’ll take their names and addresses and let them know we’ll mail out a voucher for a free night at Incendie. Let the other staff know, James, and start telling the guests. Give me five more minutes to get a room sorted. I’ll call you.’
Troy dashed back up to the restaurant. Hutchinson looked up when he appeared in the doorway and nodded him in. Troy made his way over to his workstation and began making the arrangements with hotel management. The duty manager was pissed. He’d already been up to the restaurant to find Troy and had been sent away by the cops. He told Troy that Caesar had been briefed, but that he wouldn’t be coming back to the hotel until tomorrow. Troy looked at his watch. It was time to dial home.
‘Hey, Luce,’ he said when the call connected. ‘Homework done?’ He leaned back and smiled tiredly at the ceiling when his fifteen-year-old sister snorted derisively. Of course Lucy had done her homework. Since her first day in kindy there had never been a single problem with her schoolwork. Her brother, on the other hand ... ‘Where’s Chris?’ Troy asked.
‘Still at Makayla’s, I think,’ she said.
Shit. ‘Did you eat the lobster?’