Author: Ruby Stiff
Genre: Young Adult Crime
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 1
One priceless diamond. A team of ruthlessly efficient thieves. A punk rock band and the ride of your life.
Mysterious Erika Ward has been on Brisbane’s most wanted list since she was a teenager. Detached and efficient, she and her team who call themselves The Black Letter E evade the police time and time again with ease. Their most recent heist at the Gallery of Modern Art should be a cinch but they never counted on Patrick Marquis and his mob princess girlfriend Ilesha O’Brien. From here on everything begins to unravel in a series of events that leads to the final moments on the roof top of the Treasury Casino.
Erika stepped out of the Fortitude Valley station, bags of shopping in either hand and watched the majority of the train passengers head to her left, toward all the nightclubs and bars. It was a Friday, only about 9 p.m. but already the Valley was winding up for another big night. Erika shook her head and began to head in the opposite direction, avoiding eye contact with the beggars who were already drinking from bottles wrapped in brown paper bags under street lamps. She reached the curb when she spotted a newspaper dropped on the ground. She would have ignored it except she recognized the face on the front.
Nestling her bags around her feet, Erika picked up the paper and straightened it. A small grin crept across her face as Robert Lansbury's face stared up at her in the street lamp. Possession of stolen goods, money laundering, dodgy banking practices… arrested a couple of nights ago it seemed. They really were throwing the book at him. Erika had phoned her uncle as promised to let him know her client collected and where she would find him. Detective Inspector Holgate must have dropped the phone, filled the search warrant out in the car and tripped every speed camera on the way to the Gold Coast to arrest Lansbury.
Erika didn't watch the news or buy papers much so she quickly flipped through the paper. Not much changed; muggings, rapes, dodgy sportsman, celebrities going nuts…same old same old. That was until she came across a picture of The Blood Diamonds. Erika examined the small article detailing the band's last tour and a handsome shot of the five boys sprawling in what looked like an antique library. Erika shook her head in disgust, hurling the paper into the nearby bin before picking up her shopping and trudging wearily home.
Tomorrow was Saturday, Erika's first free day all week and she had every intention of sleeping in then making herself pancakes, ringing Disco to see how she was, maybe finish the book she was reading or play guitar or do some drawing. She didn't know or care, she just wanted to chill out. Stamping up the top steps of her apartment she unlocked the door before picking up her shopping and stepping into the darkness. Instantly she felt the hairs on her neck prickle as she spotted a figure lounging on the armchair in the darkness. Dropping the bag she flipped the light on.
Stretched out in her leather recliner, cowboy boot-clad feet resting on the coffee table was Patrick. Erika stared at him as he sat there, looking at home with a glass of whisky in one hand, dressed in the standard skinny jeans, white shirt and leather jacket. He looked up, his infamous wicked smile creasing his lips as he lifted the other hand in the same cheeky wave he did before swiping the guitar out from under her nose.
"You," Erika hissed. To her relief he seemed to be alone, no Ilesha or band-mates.
"Hi. Can't believe you have just left this Ballantine sit to waste," Patrick rolled the liquid around one of Erika's cut crystal tumblers.
"It's maturing unlike you," Erika snapped. "What are you doing here? How did you even get in?"
"Ouch," Patrick grinned before motioning carelessly over one shoulder. "Climbed onto your patio through the kitchen window, you don't even have a security system for me to tamper with."
She should have guessed, she used that method all the time when she locked herself out of her own apartment on an embarrassingly regular rate. Mind you she was surprised he pulled it off in Cuban heel boots; kudos for that.
Erika looked back at Patrick to find him watching her. The way he sat there, smirking and looking all at home, riled Erika in a heartbeat. She squared up and held the door open.
Patrick tilted his head to one side, pretending to look hurt. "That's not very nice."
"Get out of my apartment, now," Erika glared.
"I see your client got nabbed," Patrick ignored her. "Such a pity, I guess it's lucky his contracted thief has slipped under the radar. Again too, I might add. Still paying Gary?"
"I don't pay Gary anything, you know that," Erika growled, picking up the shopping and heading into the kitchen after kicking the door shut. She didn't think she would get rid of him that quickly but it was worth a shot.
"Oh sure," Patrick grinned.
Erika dumped the stuff on the bench and glared across. "You have exactly a minute to tell me what you want then I will kick you out. If it's about the guitar the Police have it."
Patrick drained his glass before leaning forward to drop it on the table. "Yeah, I know. Ilesha and I looked into hacking into the system at the station where it’s being held but I can't be bothered. Let it go back to the original owner, I've had my fun. Mind you it was nice catching up with Bullets again. She still hates me and she's still a better crack shot than she is cat burglar."
"So what do you want?" Erika pressed.
Patrick got up and wandered over, his boots clomping on the wooden floors; stopping on the opposite side of the bench and dropping his chin into the heel of his hand. "I wanted to see how you were. I mean seeing you drugged up to the eyeballs hardly makes up for–"
Erika held her glare in place. "Stop wasting my time Patrick, I know you're not here for sentimental reasons. What do you want?"
Patrick sighed with a gesture of frustration. "Ok, ok. I need your help."
Erika flicked up an eyebrow in genuine surprise. "Really? What about Ilesha?"
"I don't want Ilesha involved in this," Patrick muttered running his fingers through his dark hair making it curl even more dramatically.
"Oh, so you thought you would involve me. So considerate but also so typical of you," Erika sneered.
"Please, Erika. You don't think I would fly down here, break into your apartment and be here pleading for nothing?" he repeated.
Erika leaned on the bench with a frustrated sigh. "What mess have you gotten yourself into?"
"Someone double-crossed me and they need to be taught a lesson."
"I thought everyone in the music industry was out to backstab."
"This isn't the music industry. He is a night-club owner but he dabbles in lots of other things too. He owns a bunch of places, but I was going to buy one of his trashier joints a do it up, a side project to keep me from stealing rare guitars and getting into mischief. Ilesha loves clubbing, well so do I, clubbing is very much part of our weekends and having our own would be cool. It was going to be a birthday present to her; Bat City, I was going to call it too. Anyways, I picked this place because of its location and the price was good. Money went under the table and I thought it was sweet, until I turn up there a few days later to find the place being demolished," Patrick explained.
Erika snorted with laughter. Patrick stopped and glared. Erika turned the snort into a cough, mumbled an apology and motioned for him to continue. "Turns out the club was condemned and should never have been offered for sale. Naturally I can't take it to any legal person because no one in their right mind buys property off a club owner without putting it in black and white. But we were mates so I thought we were sweet. Should have know it was too good to be true."
"So you intend to teach him a lesson," Erika said.