When a horror-loving radio show becomes the stage of a gruesome murder, its host Tinsel Monroe is put next on the killer's list…
A fast paced, thrilling murder mystery novel, paying homage to slasher films of the 90’s, The Graveyard Shift is the perfect Halloween read for fans of Riley Sager and Grady Hendrix.
Tinsel Munroe has busted her guts to get where she is. Yet her dream of working in radio hasn’t turned out to be everything she hoped it would. Sure, she has her own show – aptly titled The Graveyard Shift – where she celebrates the sounds of cult-cinema, but the wage is barely enough to cover her rent and the midnight hours are putting a strain on her relationship with her boyfriend. Even after three years at Melbourne’s coolest station, she’s seemingly no closer to a prime-time slot.
That is, until someone is murdered live on air.
Mistaking it for a Halloween prank, a visit from police informs Tinsel that the hysterical call was – in fact – the real deal. She’s freaked out, but her true-crime obsessed sister Pandora is fascinated.
While detectives assure them the killer will soon be caught, the bodies continue to drop with the killer striking in increasingly gruesome ways. With a growing, macabre audience to her radio show, that potentially includes the killer, Tinsel begins receiving strange messages over the text-in lines. Her workplace, and even her home, are suddenly not the sanctuaries she once thought.
Tinsel and her sister are left with no choice but to team up with Detective James as they race to find the connection between her and the culprit. The people she thought she could trust are now those she should fear the most. In order to survive, Tinsel is going to have to listen to more than just the airwaves…
Release date: September 12, 2023
Publisher: Datura Books
Print pages: 400
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
The Graveyard Shift
Mera Brant couldn’t get the blood off her skin. She was scrubbing and scrubbing, but the substance had dried and stuck to her flesh. She flinched as it yanked against the hairs on her arm.
She turned the shower on, watching as the mix of cocoa powder, food dye, water and powdered sugar began to drip slowly from her body. The water at her toes turned red, fake blood spiraling into the drain like a scene from Psycho as she cranked the hot tap.
Stepping out fifteen minutes later, she looked longingly at the fluffy, thick white towels folded in a neat pile nearby. She was tempted, but Mera knew her roommate Jiro would lose his mind if she ruined one with red-brown stains. He was staying at his boyfriend’s place overnight, so if she used one and had it cleaned before he got back after work tomorrow evening…
Forget it, she thought. Not worth the drama.
She reached for the black, tattered towel that belonged to her instead and wrapped it around her body with a sigh. As she walked through the house, Mera savored the fact Jiro wasn’t there to tell her the music was “too loud” or “too weird.” No roomie though, no problem. She had her phone synched to the Bluetooth speakers and cranked the volume as she nodded along to the beat. She grabbed a plastic bag from the kitchen and continued the path to her bedroom. The wooden floorboards creaked under her feet, the noise coming to a stop only when she did.
A pile of bloody – and sticky – clothes sat in the corner of her bedroom. She used the plastic bag like a glove as she picked them up, maneuvering the items until they were inside and tying a neat knot. She didn’t know why she had expected to salvage the blouse and jeans she’d worn that evening, but it was clear they were beyond repair.
“No, you have not time travelled back to the sixties and yes, that was Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett’s Halloween classic ‘Monster Mash’ from 1962,” the voice on the radio chirped once the song faded away. “Before that we had ‘Alone in the Graveyard’ by Gravediggaz and French sisters the Orties with ‘Plus Putes que toutes les Putes’ from the feminist cannibal movie Raw, which put me off meat for a month FYI. My name is Tinsel Munroe and you’re listening to a very special, very spooky edition of The Graveyard Shift right here on 102.8 HitsFM.”
Mera unrolled the poster she’d won that evening at a back-to-back screening of the first five movies in the Halloween franchise. She had been hoping to bump into the guy she’d been chatting to on the uUp app; this was part of the reason she’d gone so hard on her costume. But he’d been a no-show. She had all but a second to feel disappointed before her phone buzzed on the bed.
Guess who got held up at work, a uUp message read, followed by a sad face emoji. Her pulse quickened as she realised it was from him. She slipped into an oversized shirt, grabbing the bag of clothes and house keys, as she walked towards the backdoor.
I’m guessing you, she typed in response, before switching on her phone’s torch light and stepping outside.
The October evening was weirdly chilly for Melbourne as Mera negotiated her way through the blackness of the small backyard that sat at the rear of the terrace house. It’s November now, she thought, mentally correcting herself
as she realised it was already 12.30am. She took it one metre at a time, careful not to collide with the outdoor boiler and bruise herself, like she had done countless times while making this same trip. The phone only illuminated what was directly in front of her and she came to a stop once the different coloured wheelie bins swam into view.
Hurling her ruined clothes inside and slamming down the lid, she turned back towards the house and froze. Something dark flashed past her line of sight and towards the house.
She blinked, urging herself to see the route more clearly with the gentle glow from the kitchen illuminating a small portion of the backyard. The outlines of various objects – the boiler, two bikes, gym equipment – were just visible. She couldn’t see anything that didn’t belong or had just moved, but that didn’t stop her heartbeat pounding in her chest. She crept forward, eyes scanning for the next flash of motion.
Logically she knew it was most likely the neighbour’s cat, Wilko, but Mera was thinking about Michael Meyers and how she’d just spent the past few hours watching him murder babysitters. Clothes hung suspended from the washing line, swaying ever-so-slightly in the breeze as she felt goosebumps prickle up over her skin.
Her phone buzzed in her hand, causing her to leap about a foot in the air. Glancing at the screen, she let out a shaky breath as she read the latest message.
I’ll definitely be there tomorrow night, it said. Even if the final films are inferior to the first.
She smiled, the text doing something to relieve the tension. She typed her response as she walked back inside, closing and locking the door behind her. A song she didn’t recognise was playing and she swiped her phone screen until the 102.8 HitsFM app appeared. Cover art for MC Hammer’s ‘Addams Groove’ sat under the “now playing” tab. She laughed, the gesture easing the discomfort she’d felt just moments earlier. The Graveyard Shift might have truly fallen off the deep end with this selection.
She grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge, taking a sip as she began washing the plastic
containers she’d used in a hasty attempt to make fake blood. Mera crinkled her nose at the grossness of it all as she scrubbed the caked substance loose. Her phone pinged again just as she was finishing up and she dried her hands, eager to read the message.
Are you hearing MC Hammer right now? he asked, clearly knowing she’d be listening to the show.
Tragically, yes, Mera answered. She paused for a beat, carefully positioning herself in the best light as she took a selfie and pulled a disgusted face to send back to him.
I can’t believe Jiro is letting you listen to this nonsense publicly.
She smiled and typed, He’s not, I have the house and terrible nineties theme songs allll to myself.
Are you sure?
Mera frowned at his response, watching as he sent her selfie back to her but with the background zoomed in. The light from her bedroom down the hall had cast a shape on the wall. The shape looked like a person.
Her eyes widened and she spun around. There was nothing there now. She tried to settle the panic in her chest, telling herself it was a myriad of things: Halloween, being home alone, the horror movie binge session she’d just participated in, even the music. Yet Mera couldn’t shake the feeling as she stood there, perfectly still, straining to hear anything unusual.
Something wasn’t right.
Turning down the radio volume slightly, she grabbed one of her hockey sticks from the closet as she crept towards her room. Clenching the handle tightly, she peered through the doorway. The space was undisturbed, everything left exactly the way it had been. Mera let out a long, shaky exhale. Stepping inside, she closed the bedroom door behind her and rested against the wooden frame with relief. Loosening her grip, the hockey stick dropped to the ground as Mera began typing a reply.
Hahaha you’re hilarious. I’m also mad at myself for not immediately assuming you
did that in Photoshop.
Running her hands through her hair, Mera bounced on to her bed and positioned the cushions for maximum comfort. She impatiently watched the moving dots on her screen that meant he was writing a reply, her thumb poised over the keyboard to respond quickly.
“It turns out I can and will touch this, as that was MC Hammer with ‘Addams Groove’ from the 1991 film The Addams Family,” the announcer’s voice said through the speakers.
“And since I profoundly miss the days of rap theme songs that tie into movies, before that we had ‘Deepest Bluest’ from LL Cool J. Now, the first person to call through and tell me what film that’s very obviously from will get two tickets to the premiere of–”
Mera jerked upright, not even needing to hear the rest of the sentence before she was hitting the number for 102.8 HitFM’s call line. It was saved in her phone under “favourites” specifically for occasions like this. In the past she had gotten lucky, as not that many people listened to The Graveyard Shift compared to the station’s other shows, and she’d managed to snag a few Blu-rays. Tonight, she was much more hopeful as she heard the tone ringing down the line.
Come on, come on, come on, she thought, hopping up off her bed.
“Happy Halloween! This is Tinsel Munroe and welcome to The Graveyard Shift. Caller, who am I speaking to?”
“Hello!” she squeaked with excitement, unable to help herself. “I’m Mera! Mera Brant.”
“You wouldn’t happen to be the same Mera who called in a few months ago for the Jordan Peele triple bill prize pack, would you?”
“Yes, that’s me!” She smiled, stoked the host remembered.
“Well, look out fellow listeners cos not only did Mera get through first on the call line, but this girl also knows her shit.”
She laughed, feeling herself blush at the compliment despite the fact no one could see her.
“Okay, so, Mera, I have high expectations here. For two tickets to the premiere of Joe Meyer's
new flick, what movie was LL Cool J’s track ‘Deepest Bluest’ released to promote?”
Her mouth was open to reply when she hesitated, hearing a creak behind her. Frowning, Mera lifted the phone away from her ear to double check she had definitely heard the sound.
“Mera, hello? Are you there?”
“Um… yeah,” she replied, uncertain. “I’m here.”
“Do you need me to repeat the question?”
“No, no, I know it,” she answered, eyes darting over everything around her. She was sure she had heard something.
“Bonus points for dragging out the tension there, kiddo.”
“It’s Deep Blue Sea from 1999,” Mera said.
“Damn, you’re coming through with the release year and everything! Knew you wouldn’t let us spooky sisters down.”
Half a smile was playing on her lips as she went to respond, but she stopped completely. A cheap IKEA rack that hung most of her clothing was swaying slightly, the hem of a dress rocking backwards and forwards with movement. She could hear the announcer’s voice down the line, talking incessantly as she ran through the details of the prize, but Mera had ceased to fully hear them. Her eyes were instead fixated on the thick set of boots she could see among her collection of shoes. They didn’t belong to her and worse still, she was fairly sure they were attached to a person. They started to move.
“Someone’s in my room,” she said, practically barking down the line in panic.
“SOMEONE’S IN MY ROOM!” she shouted, as the clothing rack was thrown forward and a dark figure lurched out from behind it.
“THEY’RE TRYING TO ATTACK ME, HELP!”
The dark figure blocked the only entry and exit of the room. There was barely any space for Mera to flee as she jumped up on to her bed in panic. Somehow, she held on to the phone, screaming into it as she kicked out at her attacker. The figure ducked the blows and grabbed for her legs
at the same time.
Quickly growing tired with the skirmish, the assailant swiped forward with a silver flash that Mera didn’t register until pain seared across her leg. She dropped down to the mattress with a scream, clutching at her calf muscle as blood bloomed from an enormous slice running down her limb diagonally. Her own panicked cries were mirrored back at her through the speakers. Mera thrashed and punched at the figure as they bore down on her with the blade.
Her attacker had the height advantage, and her attempts to fight them off were in vain. The knife sunk through her flesh and into the soft material of the mattress underneath, again and again and again. Mera’s eyes locked on the blood-splattered screen of her phone in her outstretched hand as it slowly slipped from her grasp, landing with a clatter on the floor.
A groan escaped her lips, but the sound was lost as the killer stepped away from her body and turned up the volume on the speakers.
Mera’s last moments were silenced under the pulse of a new track, her lips mumbling final words that were never heard under the rising swell of a saxophone.
The teen was gawking at Tinsel Munroe like she was a freak. To be fair, that was entirely her intention. The boy had been unable to stop looking since she hopped on the tram. Tinsel did her best to hide a smirk as she flicked her eyes away from him, catching her reflection in the darkened glass.
A skeleton was looking back at her, a permanent scowl painted on her face with the outline of bones and teeth in white, juxtaposed against an inky black. She had spent a solid hour in front of the mirror, blending and shading and contouring to make sure her make-up was just right. Thank God for TikTok tutorials, she thought, blinking with slight agitation due to the unnatural grey contacts she was wearing. Closing her eyes, she let the movements of the tram rock her into a drowsy comfort as she clung to the railing where she stood.
“Next stop: Federation Square,” a polite voice said through the speakers.
Bracing her feet as the locomotive shuddered to a halt, she threw two shoulder bags over one arm and an enormous pumpkin under the other. The teen wasn’t the only one who tossed her a strange look as she navigated her way through the chaos of people pushing to get off and on one of Melbourne’s busiest tram stops. But that was fine, she expected the looks, anticipated them even.
It was All Hallow’s Eve and Tinsel considered it a personal failure if her chosen costume didn’t raise a few eyebrows. She passed four women dressed in matching The Nun costumes who shouted “Hi!” at her excitedly, plus a couple outfitted as Chucky and Tiffany, who nodded at her in solidarity.
Besides that, there really weren’t as many folks dressed up as she would have liked. She put it down to the fact this Halloween had fallen on a Wednesday night. Friday night Halloweens were always the best, as the parties dragged out through the weekend. Mid-week Halloweens, like this one, were always a bummer.
It was a shame, really. If there was anywhere in the city you were likely to bump into costumed adults it was here, wedged between one of the world’s most visited film museums, the outdoor hub of Federation Square, and the bustling Flinders Street Station. Pausing once she made it across the other side of Swanston Street in the usual pedestrian scramble, Tinsel sighed. Looking up at the huge, domed roof of the train station, her gaze focused on one of the many enormous clocks that ticked closer and closer to her airtime.
It didn’t matter that it was past 10pm, this part of Melbourne city was always awake. As it creeped closer to summer, even more so as people flocked to Fed Square to watch the free movie screenings and sporting events that were broadcast on the massive outdoor screens. There had even been an all-ages showing of Paranorman that evening to tie in with spooky season. But those crowds were long gone as she cut through the large, paved atrium and darted around outdoor beanbags that would have been packed with families just a few hours earlier.
Tinsel was headed towards
the most unusual looking building in Fed Square – the massive structure looked like several dimensions had folded in on each other as different geometric shapes collided. The bulk of the space was occupied by the Australian Centre for Moving Image (ACMI), a place Tinsel could easily waste hours of her life in, browsing exhibitions about the dawn of cinema or catching a James Whale retrospective in one of the theatres.
A much smaller portion of the building, however, was her destination. The radio station 102.8 HitsFM rented a multifloored office there in one of the city’s most sought after locations.
Tinsel was used to the idea of her night beginning just as everyone else’s was ending, and she waved at the security guard through the glass. He frowned, not moving for a few seconds before something like recognition crossed his face. Hopping out from behind his desk, he hit a button and the doors swooshed open.
“What, you too good to swipe yourself in now?” he smirked, crossing his arms.
“Malu, my man! We both know you have nothing to do for at least eighty-five per cent of your shift. Is swiping a girl in so much trouble?”
“If she’s bringing a giant pumpkin into the building, yeah.”
“It turns into a carriage later.”
“And you’re a bloody big skeleton,” he laughed, looking her up and down. “You come from a party or something?”
“It’s Halloween. Of course I went to a party first.”
“Awrite, tell me: who’s throwing a party that slaps on a Wednesday night?”
Tinsel hesitated, knowing he had her there.
“Okay fine, it was a movie marathon. But there was booze and everyone was dressed in costume, so it was basically a party.”
“Not by any reasonable person’s standards.”
“I know,” she admitted. “It killed me a little bit inside. But hey, if you keep being snarky I won’t give you the Trick or Treat baggie I made you.”
Malu’s eyes lit up, huge
muscles flexing as he made a sweeping gesture with his arms.
“By all means, come in.”
Tinsel laughed, depositing the purple and orange-striped bag at his desk. “You’re so easy to please.”
“What’s in here?” he asked, ruffling through it. “Oh, a Pinky bar!”
“I made an Aotearoa-themed one just for you,” she winked. “Can you open the barriers for me too?”
He did as she asked, and Tinsel called out a thank you as she shuffled sideways towards the elevator that would take her up to the third floor. Using her elbow, she hit the button and waited patiently for it to arrive. During the day, this place would be populated with people coming and going. The radio station was just the tip of the iceberg, with most of the bodies in the building belonging to those in the sales and marketing departments. That’s what had kept HitsFM afloat when other networks had slowly folded over the past ten years. Yet during her shift, Tinsel and Malu were usually the only two people in the building: at least until the early morning producers and news readers came in.
“You better play some LL Cool J tonight,” the security guard called to her as the elevator doors pinged open.
“It’s the Halloween show, what song of his could possibly work for that brief?”
“Deepest, bluest, my hat is like a shark’s fin,” Malu rapped at her, then rolled his eyes at the blank expression on her face. “From Deep Blue Sea. That’s a horror movie!”
“It’s a survivalist action movie.”
“Barely,” she huffed, stepping inside the elevator.
“You better play that song. You know I’ll be listening!”
“Yeah yeah,” Tinsel chimed, as the doors slid shut. He would be tuning in, but not out of choice: whatever was live on-air was played throughout the station building. Malu had to listen to her nightly show, The Graveyard Shift, whether he wanted to or not. Every few hours when he did his foot patrol of the studio, he’d share his opinion on whatever she’d played so far. Tinsel always anticipated his immediate feedback.
Stepping out of the elevator, she wrangled with her own pass to let herself into the studio. The show before hers was wrapping up so the host, Luiza, wouldn’t be free to get the door for her the way Malu had. Rushing to her desk, she set down her things and quickly logged into her desktop.
“‘Deepest Bluest,’” Tinsel whispered to herself, typing the song title into a search engine as quickly as she could. “Huh, what do you know…”
She doubted it would be in the station’s internal song database, which only held the current top forty hits and a few thousand classics. Anything else had to be sourced by the hosts themselves, so she downloaded the song from iTunes. You owe me one dollar and forty-nine cents, big man, she thought.
Dashing to the bathroom and heating up a microwave meal on the way back, she grabbed what she needed and hovered outside the studio. Above the door was a big light, illuminated in warning red to indicate that whoever was inside was presently live on the air. Tinsel could barely hear anything from the other side; the walls were so carefully soundproofed that everything was muffled.
When the light switched to green, she twisted the door handle and made her way inside. Sliding a pair of headphones off her head, Luiza looked up at the disturbance and burst out laughing.
“Ha, you fucking mad woman! I knew you’d dress up.”
Tinsel beamed at her, doing a gratuitous spin so Luiza could digest the full effect of the outfit.
“Here,” she said, handing Luiza her own bag of Halloween treats. She snatched it up greedily, inspecting the contents for a second before eyeing what else Tinsel was carrying inside her Mary Poppins bag of goodies.
“Oooooh, what about the rest of that stuff?”
“That’s for the studio. Figured I’d decorate the place for my show tonight and everyone else’s for the rest of the week.”
“Holy shit, you properly carved a pumpkin and everything. Where did you even get that?”
“I have a connect.”
“Did you make pumpkin
“No, Christ, who do you think I am? Martha Stewart?”
Luiza laughed. “Nah, you would have come in a prison jumpsuit.”
Tinsel rolled her eyes and began laying out the decorations she had brought with her, including rubber bats, ghost lights, a tasselled garland in orange, black, purple and green, cardboard skeletons and a few packets of synthetic cobwebs. There were some ornamental spiders and fake limbs in there as well and she happily occupied her final chunk of freedom by carefully arranging everything to her liking. Tossing the leftover Blu-Tac back in her bag, she flopped down on the studio couch with a contented sigh and began picking at her dinner with a fork. She was quiet as the warning light flicked from green to red overhead again. Luiza readjusted the headphones on her ears as she back-announced the last few songs.
“Yeah that has gotta be one of my favourite tracks off the new Hurray For The Riff Raff album, and before that we had an older gem, ‘Pa’lante’ from her 2017 release, The Navigator.”
Tinsel watched as Luiza’s hands moved over the control deck, fading out the final seconds of the song as she began speaking over the top of it.
“We’re nearly out of time here on The Apéritif, your Monday to Friday show that stimulates the musical palette. My name is Luiza Curser and up next, we have my girl Tinsel Munroe with The Graveyard Shift and listeners, I gotta tell ya, she loves Halloween so much that she has rocked up in a full-on costume and even decorated the 102.8 HitsFM studio. I’m legit so impressed, pics are gonna go up on our social channels within the next few, so make sure you’re following #TheGraveyardShift and it’s not too late to send through your ultimate spooky jams. But first, here’s a message from our sponsors.”
Clicking so the right scheduled ads would play, Luiza’s eyes stayed occupied on her screen as she kept talking to Tinsel.
“Alright, I’ve just got the lead out to go after these songs and then it’s all yours, babygirl."
“You’re a dreamboat, thanks,” Tinsel told her, swallowing the last unsatisfactory bite of microwaved pasta and tuna. Getting to her feet, she ditched the meal in the bin and grabbed a Vanilla Coke from the mini-fridge that sat in the studio. The whole space was decked out to provide as much comfort as possible, with not one but three couches assembled on the other side of the massive bench that contained most of the important hardware. There were stools on one side, with headphone jacks and microphone stations at the ready for any visiting guest. On the other – the side Tinsel was intimately familiar with – sat two computer screens, which she began opening up to the appropriate windows she needed. There was a third, slightly different in size from the others, which had HitFM’s internal Content Management System (CMS) running at all times. It showed a list of what was currently being played, ads that had to be broadcast, a schedule of what songs the presenter had positioned next and a countdown timer to the following show.
Tinsel and Luiza performed an awkward dance as each woman switched between the screens, the former getting ready for her show and the latter preparing to log off for the evening.
“You came in later than expected,” Luiza muttered, scrolling through social media and choosing a few final messages to retweet.
“It’s entirely Halloween themed tonight, obviously, so I came in earlier on Monday and Tuesday to have the whole thing prepped.”
“Ha, I should have known, you big nerd. I’ve gotta stay back tonight so I can come in late on Friday.”
“Bring your laptop in here,” Tinsel offered. “I could use the company.”
“Yeah, I don’t know how you do it every weeknight with those hours? It would kill me.”
Tinsel shrugged. She really didn’t have much choice in the matter. She had worked her ass off to get a gig at 102.8 HitsFM, toiling in community radio for years while doing a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications at the same time. It was the same entry route for a lot of people at the station. Tinsel knew that to improve her chances at becoming a presenter, she needed to be able to produce as well. She'd gotten lucky at first, only serving as an assistant producer on the afternoon Drive Show before a spot opened on the evening slot, ...
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