Starting from Now
Wrapped in the love of family, friendship, crime and mystery, Starting From Now is another compelling novel from the authentic voice of Fleur McDonald
Read the entire Prologue and then read Fleur’s answers to The 5 Big Questions
When twenty-five-year-old journalist, Zara Ellison receives her mother’s ominous text message, Call me when you can, Zara knows it’s not good news.
Two weeks later, Zara has left her much-loved city life to relocate to Barker, the sleepy country town in which she grew up. For Zara, family comes first.
But she needs to work too, and the town’s police force is a rural journalist’s best source of information. Meeting Detective Dave Burrows and Dave’s second-in-charge, Senior Constable Jack Higgins, is a priority.
Amid her family’s troubles, and reporting on farming accidents and violently clashing activists, Zara is shocked to witness Jack Higgins in a role she’d never have believed. How could he possibly justify this? And what was she going to do about it?
Excerpt from Starting from Now by Fleur McDonald
The three men slipped through the trees, ghostly in their nightvision goggles, white police procedure overalls and masks.
From the outside, they all looked the same: men dressed for a forensic examination of a murder scene. If there were security cameras in the clearing, no one would be able to tell them apart. But inside the overalls one man was large, with a receding hairline and pot belly. Another one was tall, slim with ginger hair and beard. The third was thin, agile and clearly in charge.
They stopped at the outer rim of the clearing, looking around and listening to make sure none of the employees were still present. Earlier, from their hiding spot in the bush, they had watched the cars leave for the day, but they couldn’t be certain someone hadn’t been left behind to protect the equipment.
The three men had done this before. They believed animals should be safe and forests left unlogged. The natural world needed to be protected. Otherwise their children and grandchildren would inherit a planet that could not sustain itself. The men would never understand why the logging company had been granted a licence to knock down the trees growing within the Gippsland forests, but they knew for certain that the people who were ruining the environment had to be stopped by any means possible. Not only was it the beautiful trees they stood to lose, but the native flora and fauna. These forests were home to the tiny marsupial, the Greater Glider, which were listed as vulnerable. And, although not a threatened species, the trees were also the home of the red-wattle bird and yellow-tailed cockatoo. Of course, there were the more common native animals like kangaroos—they needed to be conserved as well. Even though the men’s group focused on animals—that was what they called themselves, Voices for Animals—they extended themselves to stopping logging because it hurt animals in the process. In their minds, the two causes crossed over.
The men’s plan was to disable all the machines so the logging wouldn’t be able to get started in the morning.
The delay would hopefully be long enough for their urgent application against the state government to be heard and a temporary injunction put in place to prevent the logging.
They hoped. But even if this didn’t eventuate, at least the machines wouldn’t rumble to life tomorrow morning.
Gerard was carrying the toolbox. He didn’t know how to use the tools and neither did Colin. But the leader did.
‘Good to go,’ Colin whispered and waved them on.
Sure-footed thanks to their night-vision goggles, they entered the clearing. None of the men would admit it, but their hearts were beating in time with their ragged breathing and adrenalin was coursing through their bodies.
With another glance around, Gerard jogged to the first of the machines and pulled the keys out of the ignition. He pocketed them and moved on to the next one.
Colin shadowed the other man and waited for instructions.
The leader took some wire-cutters from the toolbox then popped the bonnet of the first bulldozer.
‘Need a light here,’ he said in a low voice.
Colin saw the man had lifted his night-vision goggles and he did the same. He took a small torch from behind his ear and shone it onto the engine.
A small snip and it was done.
‘Easier than having a vasectomy,’ the leader had joked when he’d told them his plan. ‘A quick snip and the machines won’t start in the morning.’
Colin had thought it was an excellent idea, which was why he’d volunteered his services. At home his wife and daughter would be sitting in front of the television, waiting anxiously for him to come home. This was more important, though. He’d sat down with them both before he’d left and explained what he was doing was for the future of the world. For them, for his grandchildren.
Colin trod softly through the clearing to the next bulldozer, the moon reflecting off the cab window. He watched as the other man placed the pliers on the wires and cut.
It was simple, he marvelled. His one hope was what they were doing would make a difference. That was what he wanted to do; make a difference to everyone’s future.
They moved methodically from one machine to the next.
Colin looked at his watch. It had taken them less than twenty minutes and there was only one left to go.
He heard the pop of the last bonnet and then swearing as the pliers rattled through the engine, sounding very loud in the dark clear night, before landing heavily on the grass.
Colin went to help, shining the torch under the tractor.
The other man shimmied under and grabbed the pliers, before quickly disabling the machine. ‘I’m just going to take a coupling fitting off the back of this one,’ he said. ‘I’ve got a place to on-sell it to. In fact, I might go back and remove a few other bits and pieces. I bet a starter motor would be worth a few hundred.’
‘Go for it. Might as well make a profit from these bastards while we’re at it. Can go into our fighting fund.’
Colin wandered around the front and stood with his back to the loader. The stars were incredibly beautiful tonight.
There was a movement off to the side and, slipping his goggles back on, he saw a kangaroo staring at him through the trees.
See? he thought. This is the whole reason the forests shouldn’t be knocked down. He felt the familiar surge of anger at the thought of these animals losing their homes.
He slowly sank to the ground and sat there, legs out in front of him and his arms behind his body propping him up, watching the roo. He could see the animal’s nose twitching. It could probably smell them and was trying to work out whether they meant danger.
He smiled as the roo took a small hop towards him, unaware there was a human close by. Suddenly there was a loud metal bang as the bucket of the loader, which was about one and a half metres in the air, fell to the ground.
From deep in the forest, a loud cry from the alarmed birds echoed through the night, and the roo raised itself to its full height before bounding away in fear.
‘Shit,’ the other man said loudly from the back of the tractor. ‘Sorry. I’ve fucked it up back here. Lost the hydraulic oil that holds the bucket up.’
Colin stared in dread at the bucket that had come down on his legs. He hadn’t even realised he was that close to the tractor. Now, he was pinned to the ground. Colin reached out to try to shift the bucket—a futile movement, he knew.
It was larger than he was and its steel was at least a few centimetres thick. But he had to try! It shouldn’t be on his legs. How was he going to get out, now the hydraulic pump had been taken off the machine?
It was strange, he thought. Surely this should hurt? He couldn’t feel anything. Reaching down, his hand came away wet. He could smell it. Blood.
‘Mate?’ Colin’s voice was panicked. ‘Jeez, I’m bleeding.’
‘What do you mean, you’re bleeding?’ The leader came out from behind the tractor. ‘Did you scratch yourself on something?’
‘Front. Tractor.’ He wanted to squeal with fear, but his head was fuzzy now and he couldn’t work out how to move his tongue.
‘What? Oh, fuck!’ The man raced to the front of the tractor where Colin was pinned underneath the bucket. He knelt down and realised there was blood seeping into his jeans and onto the ground beneath him.
Colin tried to grab at his arm, but his hand felt heavy and he couldn’t make contact.
‘It’s okay, mate. It’s okay. Gerard!’ He turned and yelled over his shoulder. ‘Ring an ambulance. Now! For fuck’s sake. Colin, mate, hang in there. We’ll get you out.’
The man got up and tried to lift the bucket. It was a dead weight. ‘Help here, Gerard. Quick!’
‘Shit, what’s happening?’ Gerard asked, finally arriving and seeing his friend lying in a pool of blood, with his head thrown back and his face pale, not just from the glow of the moon.
Racing back, the leader looked at Colin, whose eyes were shut now, his face white and bloodless. ‘No, no, no!’ he muttered as he ripped off his shirt and tried to stem the blood flow. Deep inside, though, he knew it was futile.
‘You gotta keep this going,’ Colin whispered. ‘Make sure you fight the good fight. For me. For our kids and the future.’
Gerard was standing back, fear on his face.
‘It’s okay, Col, you’ll be all right. The ambos are on their way, aren’t they, Gerard? Just hang in there.’
‘It’s not . . .’ Colin stopped talking and there was nothing but deathly silence in the clearing.
‘Col?’ the leader whispered. ‘Col?’ He looked at Gerard.
‘Fuck, what’ve I done?’
Buy Starting from Now
A suspenseful novel of rural life and real country issues
The 5 Big Questions
- How long did it take you to write the book?
About four months give or take a few weeks.
- What was the most difficult or complex aspect of writing your book?
Being able to tell the POV from the animal activists point of view. Being a farmer, I’ve been concerned with the trespassing and other ‘misadventures’ that have been occurring on farms of recent times and I wanted to highlight both sides of the story. Understanding the activists thought process took a lot of research and empathy because their views are so completely different to mine.
- What gave you the most pleasure when writing your book?
I love writing about Detective Dave Burrows – he’s an old friend. And now I’ve brought his side-kick, Jack into the books, I have a new copper I love writing about! Of course Zara, who is my main character, she’s a rural journo – a job I’ve always wanted to do, so it was fun living her life through the story.
- Are you nervous when a new release comes out?
Always. A friend said to me once that if it didn’t matter, I wouldn’t get nervous and that’s the truth. You’re only as good as your last book, so I’m usually dancing on hot coals until the first couple of weeks are out the way and (hopefully) some nice reviews come in.
- What’s the best thing a reader could do if they enjoyed your book?
Get tested for bowel cancer and be tolerant of people’s differing views.
Bestselling, Multi-Genre Author
Capturing imagination through stories
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