Book Showcase: Mortal Thoughts by TJ Park
Title: Mortal Thoughts
Author: TJ Park
The heist is cursed from the start. Doug Mulcahy and his gang hijack a mining plane and a fortune in black opals - gemstones with a rep for being unlucky. Following a brutal shootout on a remote airfield, the hijackers flee in the crippled plane only to crash-land soon after. Shaken and battered, they stagger through the outback until they stumble upon a strange little house and an ethereal woman. Taking the woman hostage, the thieves wait for her husband to return with his truck. But it all goes to hell when a rogue gang member forces himself onto the woman. The house is drenched with blood, the husband returns, and the men realise nothing in this place is as it seems. And the horrors are only just beginning...
The one-room office was a tight fit, shaped into narrow corridors by desks, radio equipment, kitchenette, filing cabinets and an antique photocopier. A wall-mounted fan oscillated back and forth, achieving little more than shifting the hot air around. Occasionally, for no discernible reason, it emitted a loud, ripping fart.
There was a small, lifeless waiting room glimpsed through a partition door, crammed high with sagging cardboard boxes. Neck explained that a delivery was overdue to be collected. Normally the boxes would be left undercover outside, he told Doug, but thieving had worsened lately. Doug readily sympathised.
There was one other notable feature of the office, and since entering Cutter had barely taken his eyes from her: a young, pretty woman sitting at the corner desk laden with paperwork. She wasn’t introduced, and after initially looking over the visitors, went back to working on her computer and fussing over a stray twist of hair, picking at her clothes, brushing her bared skin self-consciously. Whenever she glanced back up at Cutter, he answered her increasingly shy looks with an unwavering smile.
Duckbill scanned Doug’s clipboard while Neck directed the young woman to scroll through old emails, looking for any sign of the order.
The sound of the whirring, farting fan rose sharply for a moment before its pivot began to slow, the dusty blades becoming visible in their cage, slowing to a halt.
“Great,” said Neck. “Open the windows will you, Sonya?”
“They are open.”
“Open them wider.”
It was through the windows they heard it first – the distant droning of an approaching plane.
Duckbill bumped into Doug and Cutter in his rush to get outside.
“No-one’s due this morning,” Neck muttered for everyone’s benefit. “Sonya, get them on the radio. Ask them who they are and their flight plan.”
Doug spied Sonya rolling her eyes as she went to the radio.
The droning dropped to an abridged roar as a low-flying plane buzzed the building. Its shadow flitted past the windows.
“No, let me,” Neck insisted, elbowing Sonya aside.
Duckbill came back, stopping in the doorway. “It’s circling.”
Neck turned from fussing with the radio, his cheeks and Adam’s apple a heated pink. “Get that truck out of the way!”
“Sure,” Doug said congenially, “right after you sign the invoice.”
Neck clicked the radio repeatedly. “It’s not working!” He ducked under the desk. “For god’s sake … don’t tell me it’s not plugged in!”
“Maybe it’s blown a fuse,” Duckbill suggested.
Neck stood again, rubbing his ear furiously having clipped it on the edge of the desk. “Does it look like it’s in trouble?” he asked Duckbill as he reached for a mobile phone lying nearby.
“From what I could see, it’s flying fine,” Duckbill said.
Doug was closer to the mobile. Reaching to pick it up for Neck he bunted it away instead. It slipped down between the wall and desk.
Neck pushed past Doug and Cutter, heading outside, glancing down at Doug’s nametag. “Just get out of the bloody way… Russell.”
The plane’s engine noise began swelling again. Duckbill skipped aside as Neck passed through the door. Doug looked over at Sonya, shrugged and gestured, “Ladies first,” yet she declined to exit until he and Cutter went ahead. Doug wasn’t offended. It wasn’t about him. It was Cutter. He made anybody nervous.
TJ Park is an Australian novelist and screenwriter. He was raised on a steady diet of Stephen King novels, British science-fiction television, and the cinema of John Carpenter and Sergio Leone. Not much else is known about him. That's just the way he likes it.