Here’s the prologue for my new novel, which is now available on Amazon and for other formats soon after. Paperback will follow the ebook roll-out.
I have an option to take up an offer to publish “Virus” by the new ebook imprint being started by the large Australian book retailer Dymocks, called D Publishing.
I’ll put more extracts up if I feel like it or if there’s enough interest.
My name is Asher Fox and I’m in the justice business. I’m not a lawyer. I’m not a judge. And no, I’m not a crim, doling out my own form of street legals. What I do is more subtle. I guess you could call me an Ethics Detective.
This is my chosen career path, but its a trail strewn with thickets and thorns, choked with litter and clutter, confounded by darknesses and arborescent mazes. It’s a constant struggle to hack my way through, to find, briefly, moments of sunlight and fresh air. Rarely.
This is the story of a poor man. While money has since come to me, after the events here described, being an ethics detective certainly wasn’t paying, at least in terms most would assume that word to mean. The fact is that, so often, those looking to carry out some form of justice are not on the right side of power or wealth. Justice is, almost (but not quite) by definition, something that concerns the socially impotent, the politically impoverished, the financially empty masses, certainly more so that those who have most to gain by slicing pieces of flesh from the body of justice until only the barest skeleton remains.
I am on no pedestal. There’s no flapping capes and bold, chest-puffing manoeuvres in this game. This is the gritty end of existence. Although I now move in such environs, no real world is landscaped with shiny surfaces and golden light. In the real world, injustice and justice are two foes that scrap and tear at each other in the real world, in the folds of our own subconscious lives, and there’s blood and spit everywhere. The carapace of falsehood, of the unexamined life, is thin and barely protective.
And justice is a dirty game, a dangerous goal, because injustice is perhaps the most historic embodiment of fear. Fear through history is perhaps humanity’s most deadly weapon, the true Weapon of Mass Destruction.
Fear is humanity’s fatal flaw, its killer virus.
But, fear has a central flaw. It finds it difficult to stand up to scrutiny. Once identified and studied, it begins to fall under the weight of concentrated questioning. As such, fear’s nemesis is a sense of openness which provides the landscape for serious critique.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
When I look back on the events of this story and begin to consider its telling, I must cast myself as a different man, younger, duller, naive and rather lost. I was a mere consultant helping my clients, few though they were, to assess the cultural profiles of possible partners. As such, investors, aid organisations, corporate raiders would pay me to draw up a cultural map of a given organisation or individual, as an independent, external observer.
They may be driven by investment interest or take-over strategies, by corporate-civil partnerships or by situations which, as this story highlights, have even darker foundation. Organisational culture covers areas not found on a balance sheet, things that refuse to be metricated and tend not to respond to a process of auditing. Culture is the minutiae of a body of people, both its mass consciousness and its uncountable decision-making nodes and ganglia.
I understood justice and as such, the place I now stand was reached through a not so circuitous course.
It was one day, working in this undervalued and penurious occupation, I received a commission that would send me into this odd place I now find myself: a man of independent means concerned to spend his remaining life and fortune exposing injustice.
As I now recall the details of that story and gather myself to record it, My mind must morph into what and who I was then. My mind can’t help travel. To be true to the moments as they emerge and pass, I must attempt to retrace myself and tap into the mindset I then had. This is the story of a younger man, an angrier man.
And, as I revisit the signposts and cul-de-sacs of this journey, undertaken not so long ago, I cannot escape a mental moment, perhaps of the imagination but perhaps a slice of hyper-reality fashioned by the intensity of the time and place.
I see a man huddling amid a dancing gauze of warsmoke and a moving wall of grey dust. Two others bunker down next to him, a man and a woman. Around them, a battle is being waged. On one side a group of some 30 male youths. On the other, a group of armed soldiers.
The man shimmers with fear, pulses with confusion. His mind is sending an erratic series of nonsense messages throughout his body, as if the mechanism that drives it is faulty. His limbs take concentration to control. His head throbs even above the deafening clamour of the moment. His eyes pain to look through the grit of the floating earth.
There are shots fired. There is blood. There is suffering here.
The man struggles to swallow, forces his red-rimmed eyes to see. He looks up and sees the sky appear through a break in the airborne debris and fading smoke. It’s starkly blue and pure. And is gone.
The man is me. I see as if in a movie, at a distance but connected by familiarity.
Then, almost as if by reflex, I see something else, sense it.
In my mind, I feel the ground rumble beneath my feet. It isn’t just the weight and the movement of big things, it is the rustling of power, the indeterminate force of the leader as his motorcade whistled past the curious, the angry, the disgruntled and the couldn’t-care-less. In its wake, the space in this street is charged momentarily and the already bloated morning ever more intense. The breeze of displaced energy touches faces and fills bodies with a fleeting impact of the extraordinary domination carried in the centre of the string of vehicles, like a King Rat in a world of drains.
Few of those observers are aware that the sleek, oil-black carcass of the Cadillac DTS in the centre of the action is made from anti-ballistic steel panels, its glass is four-inch thick polycarbonate. Inside it carries its own personal emergency air supply, soft blue leather interior with wood panelling and space to burn. It could easily seat six men.
Also inside, as the small flag fluttering on the left side of the bonnet signifies, is the man himself. The presidential insignia on the back seat looms over President Lleyton Trumbull’s right shoulder like a setting sun, or a fallen halo. The face of the man is troubled. His hands shake and his vision blurs. He is just 54, but feeling near death.
He should be upbeat. He is about to win a second nomination and then, likely, a second term in office. The seventh draft of his triumphant acceptance speech for the upcoming National Convention just months away, rests safely with the foldaway laptop computer over to his right. It’s late August. A light, warm rain patters on the ground outside, is whisked up by the passing parade, and slowly settles again in dirty puddles. The thought passes Trumbull’s mind as he absently looks out the thick windows that the falling, dying rain might be a symbol of his next term in office. There’s going to be trouble.
Trumbull glimpses up and sees a patch of blue sky, a shard of hope.
Connected by a vision of blue-sky hope: the man in the battle zone and the president touch across space for a moment, the way living things do, unfelt and unacknowledged.
There was no recognition of the moment, no anchor in reality, just a ripple across the distance. This holds as a memory of a reciprocal recognition of a blue sky of hope and of the clouds of denial and betrayal.
In between that tainted, weighted expanse between me and the President of the USA is the story that follows.