Traffic (Clan Destine Press), the debut novel by author, Robin Gregory, applies a blow torch to sex-trafficking.

Melbourne Private Investigator, Sandi Kent, has her hopes for an easy December dashed when two complicated cases crash into her lap.

First, she is hired by her sexy but volatile ex-girlfriend, Cassy Joynson, to rescue a young South Korean woman from an illegal brothel. And then – in a curiously parallel case – she’s engaged by a lawyer friend seeking defence angles for a Colombian immigrant charged with murdering a sex worker.

As Sandi juggles the demands of her clients (and her desperately low bank balance), she becomes embroiled in the city’s seamy underworld of human trafficking, drugs and murder. And soon more lives, including her own, are at risk…

Read the below excerpt for taste of Robin’s new novel.

Red lights flooded the upstairs balcony, the black of the cast iron lacework and painted windows stark against their glow. Two doors away, Maccas glared back at the incongruity.

I sang along to the radio to distract myself. When I was a teenager, my older sister humiliated me in front of her friends during a karaoke party at our house, so now I only sing alone.

After 11pm, the punters started to converge like a piranha feeding frenzy, now camouflaged by darkness. I tried not to think about how many men each woman had to “service” in a day.

A tangle of drunken blokes swaggered into Amsterdam Angels. One re-emerged a second later and threw up in the gutter, wiped his mouth on his sweater and re-joined his mates. Geez, another treat the women had to put up with.

My eyelids started to droop and my legs ached like after a half marathon. I shook them, massaged them, thumped them, but my calf muscles had seized up.

Close to losing my mind completely, I realised I hadn’t heard a tram for ages. In fact, the street was quiet. I checked my mobile: 2.33am.

The last three men I’d seen go in emerged one at a time over the next twenty minutes. As the last punter strolled towards the corner, a large dark van cruised past me, did a U- turn, and pulled up right in front of the brothel. The driver disappeared inside before I had time to clock his face.

Within seconds, a line of scantily-dressed women streamed out of Amsterdam Terrace. Pale faces emerged as slightly-built women shifted into the light of the doorway. I snapped photos, hoping they’d pick up what I couldn’t. The whole process took less than 30 seconds for 14 women to pile into the van. I checked the time: 3.15am.

These women were definitely prisoners. Why else would they be escorted so closely? It could be a drop-off service to keep them safe, but that seemed far-fetched. I’d had my doubts about Cassy’s story, but not anymore. Her phone calls with Jae had to be real.

The balcony lights snapped off. The driver, a man with short black hair, jumped back into the van before I could take a photo.

I turned the key in my ignition. Nothing but a splutter.

‘For Christ’s sake, come on.’

The van’s headlights flashed on and it headed towards the corner, its left indicator on. God, I needed a new car. I tried again. There was a hideous metallic scream and it coughed to life. I spun into a U-turn, chucked a lefty, ignoring the red light in front of me, and sped down Swan Street. The van, which I could now see was dark green, was crossing through the next intersection. The traffic signal ahead flashed red. As I reached the intersection a horde of taxis passed through, blocking my view of the van and stopping me from running a red.

‘Hurry up!’ I yelled at the lights.

Green. I slammed my foot on the accelerator and careered down the tramline to overtake three yellow taxis that ambled along like cows in the middle of a dirt road.

Too late. I reached Hoddle Street, but the van had vanished.

‘Shit!’ I punched the driver’s window.

My bet was they were heading into the city. How else would Jae have calculated the car
trip to Richmond? I drove past the Tennis Centre, over the Yarra River, through the city, but there was no sign of the van.

I’d spent 16 hours outside the Amsterdam Angels dump, my body aching from tiredness, my head thumping from caffeine withdrawal, and I’d missed the moment. My meeting with Cassy was going to scream success.


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