PAPERBACK BOOKS
LOOSE ENDS

Mists swirling through the rainforest at O’Reilly’s ... stinging spray as catamarans race across Moreton Bay ... they’re all in a day’s work for journalist Annie Bryce.  

It’s the whale research on the Sunshine Coast that triggers a mystery: the tight-lipped young English scientist ... the digger, dead in World War Two ... can they be connected?  

Annie’s investigations plunge her into a world of secrets and vengeance - and more strife than she can handle ...  

In Store Price: $AU24.95 
Online Price:   $AU23.95

ISBN: 1-9211-1810-5
Format: A5 Paperback
Number of pages: 248
Genre:  Crime Thriller Fiction

 

 


Author: Pat Noad 
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2006
Language: English

Author Profile    

Pat Noad was born and educated in Brisbane , and has spent a good deal of her life there – but always with an escape hatch to the beach, where most of the writing happens.  

She has a lifelong passion for reading, and one way or another she has always been writing. Her work in management in three Australian universities involved churning out billions of words (mostly non-fiction). The production line has rolled on unabated since she started her own business in 1991, albeit with a different focus – her consultancy work has swept her into diverse realms of Queensland ’s communities, geography and politics.  

These perspectives complement her interest in Queensland ’s past: she enjoys writing about how shadows from yesterday can still darken our lives today.  

Pat has played a leading role in CrimeWriters Queensland , which since 1997 has written and published six anthologies of crime fiction, including her stories – two of the books made it on to the Brisbane best-seller list. Her short stories have also been published in other collections (including a translation into Japanese) and have been successful in a number of competitions.  

She hopes that Loose Ends will be the first of a series of Annie Bryce Mysteries. She is currently finishing a sequel with the working title of Rockhound.

 

CHAPTER 1      (part sample)

The first notes of the song that is this story rang out on the twenty-first day of February 2002, the day of my grandmother’s funeral.

That was the day when Clive Barclay, grandmother Meta ’s younger brother and my great-uncle, first emerged from the mists of the past, albeit briefly. It was six decades since he had enlisted to serve his country in World War II from which, like thousands of others, he’d never returned. On that late summer day we were innocent of any prescience to warn us that the name of Clive Barclay was about to resonate through the family, and well beyond, in the coming months and years.

While we had congregated to farewell Meta , we could not know then, on the day of her funeral, that she was soon to dominate our lives, our conversations and our thoughts. Nor did we foresee how we would become entangled in the web of secrets, deception and even violence, which would gradually be woven between her past and our present.

 

The day was hot, suffocatingly hot. The sun beat down on the tin roof of the small timber church, and dust motes danced around in the red and gold shafts of sunlight filtering through the little stained glass windows. Outside, the eucalypts barely stirred in the dusty churchyard.

I swallowed the lump in my throat and focussed again on the clergyman. We weren’t a churchgoing family so Gran’s funeral ceremony was a bit on the ad hoc side. Anticipating her daughters’ life-long propensity to disagree about absolutely everything, my grandmother had pre-empted another family squabble by leaving instructions for her funeral. While she had specified which church and who should be there, she had, however, been for the most part silent on what should actually happen.

She’d chosen the church where she had married my grandfather back in the nineteen-thirties, when she had moved from her home town of Toowoomba to live in Brisbane . The church appeared largely untouched by time and progress, a reminder of Brisbane ’s early days now sitting stubbornly amongst the bistros, delis and bottleshops of the upwardly mobile riverside suburb. My thoughts wandered; while our society had found new ways of marrying, I reflected, we mostly still turned to the old traditions to mark the end of a life.

I forced myself to tune in to the droning eulogy, which sounded a bit like an inscription on a tombstone: ‘… farewell Meta Morgan, nee Meta Barclay, loving and beloved wife of Joseph, now deceased, loving mother of Pamela and Josephine, grandmother to their families, and in recent years, great-grandmother to a new generation.’

My mother Pamela snuffled and I saw Dad take her arm. She glanced sideways at me, despatching the familiar pang of guilt that I’d managed to travel into my thirties without making any contribution to the next generation of our family. This was a very sore point with my mother. Beside me I sensed my younger sister Kaye preen herself, her normal aura of self-satisfaction elevated by the many divine rights apparently conferred by her achieving motherhood.

The clergyman paused and consulted his notes. ‘This occasion should not go by without mention of Meta ’s brother Clive.’ This was greeted by a rustle of surprise amongst the congregation. ‘As the family knows, their mother died when Meta was twenty and Clive was only thirteen. With their father often away working, it fell to the young Meta to care for Clive in his formative years. He was a very important person in her life. As well as being brother and sister, Meta and Clive were close friends. His death as a young soldier in the Asian theatre of war was a bitter blow to her. She was, of course, among many Australian families who sacrificed loved ones during the two World Wars.’

Where did they learn this sort of cliché-ridden delivery, I wondered irritably. Still, Gran’s wounds must have run deep. Sixty years later, she hadn’t forgotten, nor, I suspected, had she forgiven. I remembered how Clive’s photograph had kept watch from her bedside table throughout her long life.

He cleared his throat and pushed his glasses back on his nose. Beads of sweat stood out on his forehead, despite the fans whirling overhead. Those robes were hot. He waded on.

‘Meta Morgan lived to the impressive age of eighty-eight. Sadly, in recent times she was confined to bed after suffering a stroke. Prior to this affliction she requested her daughters to ensure that Clive be mentioned along with the other members of her family when she herself passed on.’

In retrospect there should have been claps of thunder overhead during those last stilted utterances, or at the very least a drum roll, but the service continued seamlessly. My usually shy father had unexpectedly offered to speak about Gran – they had been good friends and sparring partners – and he managed to inject some warmth into the occasion with a few recollections and anecdotes. Then he folded his notes and looked over the small assembly.

‘We should all celebrate Meta ’s life, you know. She did. She revelled in the world she lived in, and she never lost her sense of wonder. I was surprised today when her long-dead brother was mentioned. Her bond with Clive must have been a powerful one, because clinging to the past wasn’t her style, not the Meta I knew. She didn’t have much truck with the “good old days”. She used to say that no-one had lived through a more interesting period in history than her generation, despite all the traumas brought by wars. She lived her life to the full, and she was a thoroughly modern woman. I for one have missed her greatly since she left us.’

I leaned over and squeezed Dad’s hand when he returned to the pew. My father was a dark horse, I reflected. I’d never heard him talk about Gran like that before. But he was quite right, that was Gran in a nutshell.

Finally, after what seemed aeons, the service drew to a close. A canned hymn struck up, attendants appeared and the garlanded coffin was wheeled out to the waiting hearse to be borne to the crematorium. Gran’s instructions had been quite clear about what the congregation should do then: nothing. Here endeth the proceedings.

As we filed out of the church I reflected that, apart from Dad’s contribution, none of this seemed to have much to do with Gran, that vibrant, opinionated matriarch who had faded out of our lives two years ago. After the stroke she existed in body only, a frail, silent, paralysed figure. Did she know we visited? We couldn’t tell. Her death had been a long time coming – too long, for her and for us. All the tears had been shed long before the funeral. Now the general sentiment was one of relief; a sense that an important chapter in all our lives was finally closing.

There were only about thirty mourners – hand-picked by Gran, of course − standing around in little groups in what shade they could find, getting the platitudes out of the way. I did my daughterly duty, circulating around and inviting everyone back to Mum’s home to reminisce, chat, eat and drink. Most accepted gladly, taking the opportunity to catch up with relations who they rarely saw.  


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