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Authors: Marianne Delacourt

Sharp shooter

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Praise forSharp Shooter

‘At times absolutely hilarious, this book is a fantastic escapist easy read – perfect for a rainy Sunday or a long day at the beach. Really enjoyable.’

Gloss Magazine

‘Tara Sharp is a welcome addition to the pantheon of smart female protagonists. When a new job links Tara to a local mob boss, she enters a dangerous underworld. In a word: Feisty.’

Gold Coast Bulletin

‘Wonderful, fast-moving and laugh-out-loud, this is a read to get away from the real world.’

Manly Daily

‘It’s a lot of fun for a holiday read. In a word: Energetic.’

Townsville Bulletin Top Read

Marianne Delacourtis the pseudonym of a successful Australian sci-fi fantasy author who is sold throughout the world.Sharp Shooteris set in Perth, where the author grew up. The next book in the Tara Sharp series isSharpTurn. Marianne now lives in Brisbane with her husband and three sons.

http://mariannedelacourt.wordpress.com

SHARPSHOOTER

MARIANNE DELACOURT

The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, alive or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

This edition published in 2010First published in 2009

Copyright © Marianne Delacourt 2009

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The AustralianCopyright Act 1968(the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10 per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.

Arena Books, an imprint ofAllen & Unwin83 Alexander StreetCrows Nest NSW 2065Australia

Phone:(61 2) 8425 0100Fax:(61 2) 9906 2218Email:[email protected]Web:www.allenandunwin.com

Cataloguing-in-Publication details are availablefrom the National Library of Australiawww.librariesaustralia.nla.gov.au

ISBN 978 1 74237 006 4

Set in Fairfield Light by Bookhouse, SydneyPrinted in Australia by McPherson’s Printing Group

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To the real Smitty, with love.

And to Nicci Whitehouse, my beloved sis.

Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Acknowledgements

Chapter 1

ISTARED ACROSS THEdesk at the psychiatrist and tried not to fiddle.

Betsy Waller was a school friend of my mother’s who I’d known since I was a kid. A no-nonsense type of shrink. Her office was polished floorboards and cherry veneer clean, her leather chair bigger than my bed. Certificates smothered the walls.

She’d been asking me questions for nearly an hour, and by the way her forehead was now wrinkling, I could see she’d reached her verdict.

Tara is nuts.Or, maybe,Tara is NUTS.

She turned off her IPOD recorder, slipped her Brendan O’Keefe spectacles up onto her head, and peered at me. ‘Tara, I will only say this once so please heed me. You are NOT, as you call it, “nuts”. You are, however, possessed of a . . . talent. You have an extraordinary sensitivity and overdeveloped emotional intelligence.’

‘But how do I stop it?’ I moaned. ‘I mean, it’s ruining my life. I just got sacked because of it. I can’t have a normal conversation with anyone. I know when they’re lying. I see auras around things. Your pen . . .’

Bets twiddled the sleek, gold Parker between her fingers. ‘What about it?’

‘It’s glowing orange. Like you.’

‘Me?Ihave an orange aura?’

I nodded. ‘Subtle, though. Like autumn leaves – not a carrot.’

She managed a weak smile. ‘Well that’s a relief. But what does it . . . mean?’

‘People transfer their stronger emotions onto their possessions sometimes. Is the pen a gift from someone you really care about?’

Betsy flushed and dropped the pen onto her blotter.

‘The auras aren’t just colours either, Bets, they have texture and shape. They tell me about the person: if they’re happy or miserable. Hell, I think I even know when some people are going to die.’

Bets pursed her lips at that and did an admirable job of NOT looking at her hands to see if they were glowing orange.

‘I don’t normally do this, understand?’ she said at last. ‘But I’ve known you since you were little and I’ve been in this game for many years. The longer I’m in it, the less convinced I am that we live in as scientifically rational a world as we’d like to think.’

I gave a mock-gasp. ‘You’ve turned New Ager.’

She laughed at that, and slid the O’Keefe’s back down into their normal position on the bridge of her prominent nose. ‘Perhaps.’

Silence ensued as she wrote something on a piece of paper and slid it across the desk. ‘I know a fellow who might be able to help you.’

I read it aloud – ‘Hara’s Body Language Inc.’ I looked back at her helplessly then read on. ‘A body language andpsychicbusiness?’

‘That’s right, dear.’ She bent her head back to her work. ‘Say hello to your parents for me.’

Dismissed, I wandered to the door, dazed. It wasn’t at all what I’d expected. A script for something perhaps, or the six months of counselling my parents had urged on me and offered to pay for but –

‘Tara?’

I stopped and turned back towards her hopefully. ‘Yes?’

‘Don’t mention this to anyone. Understand?’ she said, a whiff of anxiety evident beneath her professional mask. Her deep orange aura flickered too.

I forced myself to smile. ‘Sure, Bets.’

‘Good girl.’

I left Bets’s office and drove Mona, my beloved Holden Monaro, home along Stirling Highway, past the designer furniture shops and real estate offices.

I love Perth. My city is a woman of so many sides: dazzling, conceited, sheltered, and sometimes downright stuffy. As I turned off the highway towards my parents’ house in Eucalyptus Grove and drove along a quieter road, she felt a tad disapproving, like she was saying, ‘Get your act together, Tara.’

Since I’d been sacked from my last job, I’d had to move into my parents’ converted garage until I could afford to rent again.

Unemployed and living back at home. Looooser!

I parked the car on the curb outside number 25 Lilac Street and walked down the side of the house to my flat, thinking about my empty bank balance and my lack of job prospects. Staving off the beginnings of a good bawl, I made myself a black tea.

My flat comprised of an all-in-one kitchenette, sitting room and bedroom. Loo and shower were outside, across a bricked patio. Not ideal, but better than returning to my childhood bedroom and having to observe my mother’s insane rules on . . . everything.

After I’d finished the tea, I took a deep breath and rang the number Bets had given me.

‘You come over tonight, Ms Sharp,’ said Mr Hara, after I’d explained who I was and how Bets had recommended I contact him.

‘Err, I guess so?’ I was a bit taken aback at the speedy invitation. Still, it wasn’t like I had anything else to do. ‘What time?’

‘After dark. You come to the back. Knock twice. Soft knock . . .’

‘You got touchy neighbours?’ I asked.

‘No. My wife is a jealous woman. She no like me talking with female alone.’

I laughed, a little nervously. Mr Hara sounded a bit trippy. What was Bets thinking? And how had she come across him? I hoped he wasn’t a former patient of hers. ‘Errr . . . well . . . maybe –’

‘Maaa. Maaa.’ His laugh was like the sound of a newborn lamb. ‘Jus’ kiddin’. Come at 7 pm. I be waiting for you.’

‘Mr Hara?’

‘Yes, Ms Sharp?’

‘Why am I coming to see you, exactly?’ I know that sounded silly but I wasn’t really sure why Bets had referred me to him.

Mr Hara gave the lamb laugh again. ‘Well . . . if you any good, maybe I give you a job.’

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