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THE WHITE BUTTERFLY

butterfly
 

According to some reference books, in the early 30s, Christmas in July was also known as Savage Days. This turned out to be the case for Detective Ryan Gregorian who reluctantly agrees to accompany his wife, Rosemary, to a Christmas in July party.

The party ends on a ‘savage’ note when the acting chef is stabbed to death. The victim in an illegal immigrant who has been in Australia a very short time – apparently too short a time to have made any enemies. Ryan’s investigations and his psychic friend, Cassandra’s cryptic clues, indicate that this may be a case of mistaken identity. The detectives are racing against time in order to find the real chef, before the killer realises he has killed the wrong person. 

While the official investigation continues, Ryan agrees to look into the case of a missing person as a favour to a friend. Ryan’s initial enquiries indicate that the girl in question may simply have taken a short trip. However, as further information comes to light, Ryan asks the team to assist him with the disappearance of a girl who, to all intents and purposes, never existed.  

Was she a figment of his old friend’s imagination or is there a more sinister explanation?

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ISBN:   978-1-921919-58-9
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 229
Genre: Fiction

 

Author: Helen Denkha
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2013
Language: English

About the author 

 

Helen Denkha was born in Tehran, Iran and is of Assyrian descent.

She has lived in Sydney, Australia since 1973. 

The White Butterfly is the fourth book featuring Ryan Gregorian and the psychic, Cassandra. 

Helen is currently working on her fifth book From Paris with Love.

 

Also by Helen Denkha 

Private Purgatory 

The Indignity of Death 

And Many Happy Returns

 

Author’s Note 

Throughout the long months of writing and rewriting this novel I had intended to call it Christmas in July.

It was God’s will that 11th of January 2011 should be the last day on earth for my dear departed cousin Lena. Over the following weeks while our family observed the traditional Assyrian rites and rituals associated with the departure of a loved one, it was noted by several people that during these gatherings a white butterfly would appear unexpectedly and remain with us. At times it would sit on someone’s shoulder or on a handbag and other personal items.

While reason and logic tell me that this was not an unusual occurrence and butterflies do fly around during hot summer months, a part of me wants to believe that the white butterfly appearing so regularly during those days and for sometime thereafter may have been the spirit of Lena. 

I have therefore named this book The White Butterfly in order to keep the illusion alive. 

Helen Denkha

11th January 2012

READ A SAMPLE......

Saturday July 3rd 2010

 

v

 

 “Don’t be distracted by the name, it may all be just a game.”

 

Rosemary kept repeating the words to make sure she passed the correct message on to Ryan. It was supposedly another one of those famous lines in classical books that he and Cassandra used to debate on. Cassandra told her it was very important that she repeats the words to Ryan as soon as she got home.

Rosemary was not particularly concerned about repeating the words verbatim. It was just a silly game between Cassandra and Ryan but it was her way of distracting herself. She tried to tell herself that it was a good thing that her twenty-month-old son did not seem concerned when she left. She tried not to worry that he seemed particularly pleased to be in Cassandra’s company. At least she knew he was in good hands. Cassandra adored the child. She seemed to have an uncanny knack of knowing exactly when he was hurting, hungry or sleepy. In some ways Cassandra sensed his moods better than Rosemary did. She would not think about it anymore. There was no need to be jealous. Alexander may like Cassandra but he couldn’t possibly love her more than his own mother. Rosemary thought she should be grateful that in Cassandra she had such a willing babysitter.

No. She definitely would not think about it anymore. Better to think about other issues, like the party she and Ryan were going to tonight. Now what was that silly message she had to give Ryan?

“Don’t be distracted by the name, it may all be just a game.”

 

v

 

There aren’t many people who will freely admit that their bank manager is a good person. The reaction of most listeners is raised eyebrows followed by an incredulous, “Really.” The listener will then discreetly study the person who made that incredible admission to determine if they are on any type of medication.

Chief Inspector Ryan Gregorian was among the minority. He’d met Andrew Dutton twenty years ago when the latter was a mere clerk. It was the first time Ryan had visited a bank unaccompanied. The older lady at the enquiries counter had asked him the nature of his enquiry. Once she had established that Ryan merely wanted to open a bank account, she passed him to a junior. She moved on to help an elderly man who stated his intention of departing with some of his hard earned cash. He was planning on investing his money with the bank. Understandably this gentleman was worthier of her attention.

The junior was Andrew Dutton who was as nervous as Ryan. It was Andrew’s third week on the job and the first time he was allowed behind the counter. Until then he had been working in the blissful sanctuary of the back office.

Between the two of them they managed to prolong a twenty-minute transaction to one hour. Andrew tore up three forms until he managed to complete the last one correctly. Eventually the account was opened. Ryan had to go to the bank once a week from then on and would normally be served by Andrew. Eventually a friendship was formed between the two young men and they remained friends as they both progressed through their respective careers.

Ryan had received a call from Andrew an hour earlier. The latter sounded upset and asked Ryan if he could spare him thirty minutes at home. Ryan told him that’s about all he could do as he and Rosemary were on their way to a party. Rosemary had left a few minutes earlier to take Alexander to Cassandra. The latter had once again kindly offered to baby-sit.

Ryan hoped Rosita would not find out about this. Ever since the child was born, there was a constant battle between Cassandra and Rosita over baby-sitting duties. Rosita had grandchildren of her own and felt she was more qualified to look after Alexander. Ryan had been surprised at Cassandra’s attitude. He had never taken her for the maternal type but she adored his little son. It was obvious that the child felt the same. Alexander was twenty months old now and spoke his own version of English. About three months ago, much to Rosemary’s despair, the first word he spoke was ‘Cassana’. In order to restore peace in the house Ryan and Alan had spent the next forty-eight hours teaching Alexander how to say Mummy. He did eventually learn to say the word with unfortunate results. He started to address Alan as Mummy.

The door bell rang. Ryan buzzed Andrew in. He opened the front door and stood waiting until Andrew’s head appeared under the landing. They had at times discussed the similarities of their lives. They both held top positions in their respective fields, they were both married for the second time and each had one child. Ryan thought amusedly that they were now both greying at the temples.

“Ryan, I’m so sorry to ruin your Saturday.”

“It’s always nice to see you, Andrew. Are you planning on ruining my Saturday?”

Ryan went into the kitchen to grab two beers. Andrew headed straight for the bookshelf to find out if there were any new books there.

Andrew took the bottle of beer and sat down. “I know you’re going out, I won’t keep you long at all.”

“I wish I had an excuse not to go. Can you honestly imagine me at a fancy dress party?”

“You’re not serious. What are you going as?”

“I’m not dressing up. I told Rosemary I’d go to the party but no clown suits.”

Andrew placed the bottle of beer on the coffee table without tasting it. Ryan was wondering what the problem was to have brought him here today. He was almost sure it was nothing to do with his wife. Andrew looked nervous and worried but not devastated.

“What’s on your mind, Andrew? Is everything all right at home?”

“Everything’s fine at home. It’s to do with work.”

“Okay tell me.”

Andrew rose and walked around the room restlessly. He finally stood leaning against the bookshelf.

“I’m probably making a complete fool of myself but I didn’t know who to go to.”

Ryan waited. He thought he guessed what was coming. Andrew probably suspected one of the employees of stealing and did not know how to approach them.

“One of our regular customers hasn’t turned up to collect her pension cheque and I’m…”

Ryan started to laugh but stopped as soon as he saw Andrew’s expression. “I’m sorry, Andrew. I expect there’s more. This doesn’t exactly sound like a tragedy.”

“That’s why I said I’m probably making a fool of myself. If it had been some other customer, I wouldn’t think twice about it, but this girl’s different.”

“Tell me everything from the beginning. What is her name?”

“Rebecca Winters. Look I’ll start from the beginning. Under normal circumstances I don’t get to see the regular customers. I only get involved if it is a complaint or something out of the ordinary.”

Ryan nodded. He knew the layout of the bank and Andrew’s office was located on the third level. He was not likely to run into anyone who’s simply at the bank to collect their fortnightly social security cheque.

Andrew took a long swig of his drink and continued; “It would be around six months ago. We were having a fire drill. I am one of the fire wardens. I was a few seconds away from leaving the building, when I heard someone banging on the front door. I don’t even know what made me turn around to look at the front door. With all fire drills we always go by the back exit.”

“Don’t you put some sort of a notice outside to let your customers know that you’re having an evacuation test?” asked Ryan.

“Of course we do. I found out later she had tricked the two security guards into thinking she was a bank employee. She had told them that she needed to go inside to run through the evacuation procedure. The silly fools fell for it and a bigger fool than both of them ended up letting her inside the bank. I even attended to the over the counter withdrawal her of her money.”

Ryan stared at Andrew for a while and shook his head in wonder.

“Damn it, Andrew. I don’t need to hear about your precious meeting. Why don’t you just come right out and tell me you’re having an affair with this woman and something’s gone…”

“Shut the hell up, Ryan. It is nothing like that, nothing even remotely like it. Just hear me out okay?”

“I’m sorry, okay, keep going.”

“Where was I? Oh yeah, I let her take the money out. She’s got one of those old passbook accounts, doesn’t have an ATM card. I doubt if she would even know how to use an ATM. Anyway, I went out, I was a few minutes late for the drill but no one noticed.”

Ryan said sarcastically, “That’s good to know in case of a real fire.”

“Yes you’re absolutely right. When I was thinking about it later, I wondered how long would it take for anyone to notice their colleagues are missing. Anyway, in that very brief encounter with Rebecca I realised she is – well not all there.”

“Intellectually challenged?” asked Ryan.

Andrew shook his head decisively, “No, I wouldn’t go that far but something was not right. You know she kept repeating that she had to buy her groceries and she was running late. She always buys her groceries between ten and eleven a.m. on the pay week. She said this about four times. It was all she could think of.”

“You’ve obviously seen her since?”

“I have spoken to her one more time since. I have seen her from my office window every fortnight after that. To be honest the poor girl’s arrival is treated as a bit of a light relief by the staff. They don’t dare say anything out loud but I know they all watch her. I can’t describe it, Ryan. She arrives at the same time, give or take a few seconds. She wears the same clothes all the time. She goes to the same counter to write out her withdrawal slip. If there is anyone there, she waits until they move away, instead of using another counter. She very rarely makes any eye contact. Everything about this girl is – I don’t know so controlled – you know like clockwork.”

Ryan said, “Well there are people like that, I am sure there is a medical term for it. Probably some form of obsessive compulsive personality disorder. They have a routine and if anything upsets it, they panic. This girl sounds like she has a definite routine. How old is she by the way?”

“She’s twenty three.”

“Okay, so she comes in very regularly. So regularly in fact that if you were a betting man, you would have cleaned up by now. You know I’m surprised your people haven’t started some sort of a betting syndicate. You know taking bets on how close to ten o’clock she will turn up. I guess you would have to guess in seconds, rather than minutes, wouldn’t you?”

Andrew did not look at all amused by Ryan’s attitude. He was genuinely concerned about this girl. He had hoped Ryan, as a detective in the police force, could help him in some way. Andrew was not really sure what he wanted Ryan to do. But he knew the last thing he had come for was for his worry to be the butt of Ryan’s joke. This attitude was completely out of character for Ryan anyway.

Andrew’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of another bottle of beer on the table in front of him. The first one was still half full. He looked up to find Ryan looking at him thoughtfully.

“I’m sorry about being so flippant, Andrew. I was just trying to lighten the mood, well your mood anyway. I can see you’re worried about this girl. She has her set routine and you think something must be drastically wrong for her to deviate from it. You realise there could be a number of explanations. She could be ill, she could be on holidays. She could even have found a job and she is no longer in receipt of benefits.”

“I’ve thought about all the possibilities, Ryan, and I know you’re right. Except for the last one. Her money is still being credited into her account. She either hasn’t found a job or she hasn’t bothered to let the department of social security know about it.”

“Fair enough. Tell me what is it you want me to do?”

“To be honest I don’t really know. I just didn’t know who to go to. The thing is I’ve been so worried that I racked my brain to come up with some excuse to call her place. In the end I decided I would pretend I was doing a random customer survey and just play it by ear. So I rang, three times in the last fortnight.”

“And?”

“And nothing, the phone just rings out. Like you said she could be on holidays. She is probably one of the dozen people in Australia who don’t actually have a mobile. So it’s the landline or nothing.”

Ryan was silent for a while, deep in thought. Andrew watched him anxiously; partly hoping Ryan would come up with some bright idea. Although a part of him regretted his decision to mention the matter. He felt he was trading in on their friendship and wasting Ryan’s valuable time.

“Leave this with me for a few days, Andrew. I’ll look around and see what I can dig up.”

“I feel really bad about this, Ryan. Listen, I’m sure you’ve got a million things to do at work, dealing with real crimes. I don’t want you to waste your time on this.”

Ryan smiled, “You’ve spent the last hour trying to convince me that something is wrong. Now you’re trying to talk me out of it. Why the sudden change of heart?”

Andrew shook his head and stood abruptly, “I just realised that I could be making a big deal out of nothing. Besides it really isn’t any of my business.”

Ryan also stood, “Well, now I’m making it my business. If this girl lives alone and she’s had some sort of accident, she could be in severe trouble. Leave it with me, okay? Go home and enjoy the rest of your weekend.”

“I really appreciate this, Ryan. I hope you enjoy the fancy dress and give my regards to the lovely Rosemary.”

Andrew promised to fax over Rebecca’s paperwork that night. He left feeling a little happier that the matter was now with Ryan.

 

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