An Australian Murder Mystery

Thriller The Sydney Dahlia book cover

When aging journalist Sam Autenburg is approached by a young woman claiming to have an exclusive story, he suspects she’s just another in a long line of cranks, except this one is connected to the underworld. When she’s murdered, he fears that he’ll be next.
Sam must walk away or find a way to expose her story without being the next murder victim.

Find out what he does in this thrilling, suspenseful short story.

The Sydney Dahlia was first published in the Dark Minds anthology by Bloodhound Books.


It was the third time I’d caught her looking at me. This time I held her gaze for a five-beat before turning back to the barman and holding my glass up for a refill.

‘One more for the road, Sam?’ he asked.

‘Sure, and one for the nosey kid in the black and white shirt,’ I said, tipping my head towards her.

Eddie took my glass and pushed it against an optic, waited for the sight-glass to drain and did it again. He laid the tumbler in front of me, and said, ‘You’ll need this double if you’re going to tangle with her.’

‘Why, who is she?’

Without answering he poured a single malt into a crystal tumbler, walked away and laid the tumbler in front of her, then leaned forward and spoke in a low voice. She turned her head, studied me, then turned away again. She was in her mid-twenties, slightly built with a soft, attractive face free of makeup. What possible interest she could have in a hack journalist old enough to be her father.

Fat Eddie had been running the bar at The Dog and Duck for as long as I could recall. We weren’t friends other than when I was drinking and he was serving, and he’d probably served me more drinks than any other barman in Kings Cross. I called in there a couple of times a week, but I didn’t remember ever seeing the young woman before. From Eddie’s comment and his interaction with her, I guessed he knew her.

After serving two beers at the far end, he walked back to where I was perched on a stool. He wiped the bar with a cloth even though it was already clean and dry.

‘Anything you want to tell me, Eddie?’

He looked squarely at me for a moment, then said, ‘She’s trouble.’ He hung the cloth, then laid out beer mats in preparation for new customers.

‘Trouble how? Good trouble or bad?’

He turned his back to her, leaned an elbow on the bar, and said, ‘You know Luis Two-step?’

‘Tall guy with a funny shuffling walk and stooped shoulders?’

‘Right. Well, she was Luis’s girl.’ His eyes held mine making sure I understood.

‘How’d she shake free of him?’

‘Good question. Luis’s in tight with the Lebanese and they don’t let nobody go. My guess is that Luis’s not happy about it.’ He let his words sink in for a moment then said in a lowered voice, ‘Be careful, Sam, these are some heavy hitters.’ He walked away, like he was nervous about telling me what little he had.

Eddie’s attitude, and what he’d just told me raised my curiosity, so I turned and looked around as if casually surveying the bar, wanting to take a closer look at this woman who’d dumped a member of the Sydney underworld. That would take a lot of balls or friends further up the food chain, so she was either reckless or protected. From her looks, I’d guess the latter.

When I turned to face her she was no longer there. Five minutes later she hadn’t returned. I guessed it wasn’t a call to the ladies, and that she’d gone. I shrugged it off and concentrated on smoking, drinking, and casting an eye toward the muted TV.

Ten minutes later I pushed through the door into the wet September night. It was eleven-thirty, and on most Friday nights at that time the Golden Mile of Kings Cross would be humming, but the cold winter rain had reduced the crowd to a few dozen diehards rather than several hundred revellers.

Cold rain ran down my neck. I cursed the winter, bowed my head and strode toward William Street, keeping one eye raised for a cab.

‘Taxi!’ I waved my arm and yelled too loud, drawing attention from a few of the damp tourists and a guy working the door of a nightclub. The silver Falcon swerved into the kerb, its wipers throwing a spray of rain at me as it pulled to a stop. I yanked open the back door feeling lucky to have found a cab so quickly, then I realised it wasn’t luck.

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