Billy wakes with a start, her body cringes back into the corner and the plastic ties that bind her wrists to the cold metal pipe rake into her skin. She gasps and with that sharp inhalation of air, whips her head around, listening. What has she heard? Is there someone coming? Is he coming? She must have fallen asleep. How could she have fallen asleep? She is appalled that she's let down her guard. She won't make that mistake again. She holds her breath and strains to listen but can't detect anything above the overwhelming noise of the rhythmic whoosh and buzz of her blood pulsing, the thud, thud, thud of her racing heart which feels like it has migrated up to under her chin, and a high-pitched almost electronic squealing that originates from within her head. The harder she listens, the louder it all gets. The silence is deafening.

What little light there was before has vanished. Her eyes scan the blackness, darting trying to land their gaze on something, to focus, searching for any change in tone, hint of grey, hint of anything to orientate herself. She turns her face to where she remembers the door is, squints even harder for a crack, a line of light but there is none. There is only the blackness, blackness interrupted by the odd pinpoint flash of light from the puzzled firing of her retinal cells. The only source of light is from within her.

Bradley is a middle-aged man trapped in middle-class New Zealand. He is in a job that he hates, working day after day to support his wife and two children. One day when it all gets too much, Bradley picks up a teenage hooker in downtown Auckland. Unfortunately he can't keep it up and then she laughs at him. That was a mistake. He beats her, ties her up and takes her to an abandoned warehouse that he owns. But then he doesn't know what to do.

Max is homeless. He eats from rubbish bins, bums cigarettes from anyone and anywhere, including the footpath, and he doesn't smell that fresh. But Max has one friend and she has gone missing. If he is to find her he is going to have to call on some people from his past life and re-open old wounds that have remained unhealed for a long time.

Published: 26 Apr 2012
ISBN 13: 9780143567202
ISBN 10: 0143567209
RRP: $29.99
Edition: 1
Imprint: PENGUIN

The Faceless - Prologue

Oh God, not the whip,
Sweet Jesus, not the whip,
please, not the whip,
God, no, no,


The arc of white spraypaint mists the wall with absolute precision, the microfine droplets highlight the crest of the crashing wave with each graceful up-sweep of her arm, and then contour the roiling fall into the form of a triumphant stallion's head. She hums the tune that has embedded in her head, the cheerful words making her smile as she finishes the stroke and stands back to gain perspective on her work. Neptuna erupts from the ocean, radiating a deluge of colour on a sea of concrete, her waterborne chariot leaping out from the wall, but the edges leaching in so the effect is of a vast splat of Botticellian beauty that then seeps and evaporates back into the lifeless grey of the building. Neptune's transformation is complete.

In the mythology of Billy's creation Neptune is a woman, a woman with triumphant but warm brown eyes, ringletted dark hair flying in thick tendrils in the breeze, with the exception of the long strand that snakes down her front and conceals the ripe curve of her breasts. Victorious over the sea, with one hand Billy's naked and muscular goddess holds her trident aloft in jubilation, and with the other she extends an olive branch - a Polynesian Britannia ruling the waves, the volcanic form of Rangitoto Island behind her.

The tinniness of the ballbearing echoes inside the empty spraycan as Billy shakes the tool of her trade. She looks down at the regiment of similarly empty cans neatly lined up in front of her backpack, next to the careful plan of her project, a miniature masterpiece jumping out from a grid of graph paper. One more can of white should do it, white and a soft grey to dovetail the edges into the background colour of the wall. She smiles with satisfaction: this is her best work yet, the perfect fusion of classical art and mythology with her Pasifika culture and dreams. She relishes the knowledge she has created something to inject a vibrant pocket of life and beauty into the soulless canyons of concrete and polished granite that is her adopted city, Auckland.

She cannot quite bring herself to call it home, but given time that might change as she signs her moniker to more of her work, claiming ownership of the city one piece of art at a time. She can't sign this one quite yet, she never does until the work is complete - a small tradition, like christening a baby with holy water or launching a boat with champagne. It's a superstition, really, and one immensely rewarding to complete.

She has to get more paint first, and to get paint she has to get money, and to get money she has to go to work, hit the streets. Max hates it when she turns tricks. She hates it, too, but it is a means to an end. She looks up at the image of her own exultant face, proudly looking out to a glorious future, an as yet unknown future. Max will love it. She hasn't shown it to him yet; she's been saving it as a surprise when it's finished. She'll go to work tonight, she'll walk down to K Road and wait to be picked up by a stranger with a need, a need she can satisfy for a price.

She'll do it for her art.