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Authors: Ian W Taylor

Tags: #suspense, #terrorism, #political thriller, #action and adventure

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BOOK: Blood at Yellow Water
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“How’s the head son?” asked Bill peering at
the bruising on Jake’s chin and over his ear.

“I guess you’ll live but you need some ice
on those bruises.” He yelled towards the bar “Hey, can we have some
ice here please?” The Japanese woman came over with ice cubes
wrapped in a tea towel which Jake duly applied to the side of his

“Shoni, this guy causing all the trouble is
my son Jake,” he introduced her to Jake.

“Thank you Mr Bill, we already meet at the
bar,” replied Shoni.

“Ah, so you’re showing off your Japanese
skills again are you son? First the language and now the black belt
in judo.”

Despite his aching head, Jake nodded and
looked at Shoni. She was shy but smiled readily and he could tell
she had a strength about her as well as a lively personality. She
wouldn’t survive long in a pub in the middle of nowhere if she
wasn’t determined to succeed in whatever she did. She was also very
attractive, a lovely oval face and a slender figure. He thanked her
for the ice and said he would see her at the bar later.

“You must come to our buffet dinner and show
tonight. The Chook Man is performing,” she said as she turned back
to the bar.

Bill gave Jake a knowing look. “We just
might do that Shoni but we’d better get the lad cleaned up a bit.”
He grabbed Jake by the arm and led him away towards the caravan
park. He pointed to a cabin

“You can doss in this cabin here Jake, go
get your gear.”

Jake fetched his bag out of the car and
entered the cabin just as Bill was making a coffee. The wood cabin
was basic but clean with a separate bedroom, a lounge kitchen area
and a bathroom. It had a plastic table and chairs on the

“Anyhow, I thought you weren’t coming here
till tomorrow?” said Bill passing a wet face washer to Jake.

“I got a call from the Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in Canberra and they want me up there a
day earlier to take part in the officials’ talks before the
Japanese delegation arrives,” said Jake dabbing at his face with
the cloth.

“So what’s this conference all about,
another useless trade talkfest or something?” asked Bill as he
passed a coffee to his son.

“No, dad, it’s probably the most important
meeting in the history of Australian-Japanese relations. The Prime
Ministers of Australia and Japan will hopefully be signing a trade
and defence treaty between the two countries after years of
tortuous negotiations. They will be meeting at the new Yellow Water
Resort at Kakadu National Park. After that they will launch the
opening of the new mine at Jabiru which will produce uranium
entirely for the Japanese market. I’ve been working on the trade
provisions of the treaty for the last year in Tokyo.”

“So how long have you got here?” Bill

“Just two day but I wanted to catch up with
you as it’s been such a long time. How are you finding it

Bill had been a schoolteacher in Victoria
most of his working life but after his wife, Jake’s mother, died of
cancer five years before, he retired early so he could travel round
the outback. He’d camped at Daly Waters for a week, saw that the
camping ground/caravan park was up for sale and on impulse had
bought it. That was two years ago.

“I’m enjoying it, the locals are friendly,
although as you can see they get a little rowdy at times. I’ve met
a nice woman up here and I enjoy the life style.” This was news to
Jake as his father had never mentioned meeting a woman.

“That’s good, Dad, you need some
companionship, it’s been a long time since Mum died.”

“Yeah well, I still miss your mother but it
can get lonely out here. Anyhow, you’ll meet Lizzie when we have
dinner at the pub. What about you, are you still single?”

“Yep, since I split with Jemma I’ve been on
my own but the job in Tokyo is full on and doesn’t give me much
time for socialising.”

Jake had been living with Jemma for twelve
months prior to his initial three year appointment to the
Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) in Osaka. She had chosen to
go with him but couldn’t adjust to living in a foreign country
where she couldn’t speak the local language, had no job and no
friends. The fact that Jake was working long hours and travelling a
lot didn’t help and the relationship had deteriorated rapidly.
After a turbulent six months she decided to return to Australia.
Jake had heard she was now married to a banker in Sydney.

Women found Jake attractive, he was
thirty-three years old, good-looking, just over six foot tall, lean
and athletic with a friendly smile and an easy-going nature, but he
had not found anyone who could replace Jemma. While he had a couple
of brief affairs with women from the diplomatic set in Tokyo, these
had been short-lived and had not offered the companionship he
yearned for.

After half an hour of talking, Bill stood up
and excused himself, saying he would knock on his door at 7 p.m.
and take him to the hotel for the dinner and the show afterwards.
Jake looked at his ear and chin ruefully in the mirror as they
already turning dark from the bruising. He unpacked his gear,
stripped off his clothes and stood under the shower for ten
minutes, tenderly washing his bruises. He dried himself off, took
some aspirin and stretched out on the bed.

Jake lay on his bed contemplating his
future. He was professional at his work but often wondered what he
was doing working for Government. He grew up in the country town of
Bendigo where his parents were both school teachers. He was close
to his mother but not with his father who found it hard to show
affection to his children. Jake suspected this may have been caused
by Bill’s experience in the Vietnam War; he was called up at
nineteen under National Service and had seen action in the
notorious Battle of Long Tan. He never talked about Vietnam and
refused to go to veterans’ reunions or walk in ANZAC Day marches.
Jake knew Bill was a sniper in the war; occasionally he would take
Jake hunting for rabbits and would show his expertise with a

Jake and his older sister, Melanie, did well
academically at secondary school. Thanks largely to an excellent
languages teacher of Japanese background, they both excelled in
Asian languages, becoming fluent in Japanese, Mandarin and
Cantonese. Jake also enjoyed sports representing the local district
in football, swimming and athletics. He was close to Melanie who
kept him grounded whenever his successes in the academic or
sporting fields went to his head. She had become a lecturer in
Asian languages at Monash University in Melbourne and was now
married with two young children who heaped affection on Jake
whenever he managed to return to Melbourne for a visit.

On completing secondary school, Jake studied
Economics and Asian Studies at Melbourne University, taking
Japanese as one of his major units. On graduating, he was
head-hunted by a large Japanese trading company which had major
interests in Australia including minerals and energy, shipping,
automotive and general trading. He quickly moved up the corporate
ladder with the company and visited Japan on business every few
months. By the time he was 28 years old he was head of the Trading
Division but starting to get weary of the long hours and felt
frustrated by the Japanese committee style of decision-making which
stifled any initiatives he proposed.

During this time he had frequent contact
with members of the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade), a
federal government agency, reporting to the Minster of Foreign
Affairs and Trade, that promotes Australian goods and services
overseas through offices around the world. The Senior Trade
Commissioner (and Minister Commercial) in Tokyo, Ron White, who he
knew well, encouraged him to apply for a vacant Trade Commissioner
position heading up the Osaka office. With his qualifications and
language skills he was quickly accepted. After three years in
Osaka, he spent six months back in the Sydney office before he was
promoted to the position of Senior Trade Commissioner in Tokyo,
replacing his old boss, Ron White. That was two years ago.

Although he enjoyed his work, he found he
was constantly tied up with Embassy matters which were only
peripheral to his job of generating business for Australian
companies. He was at the beck and call of the Australian
Ambassador, Robert Connell, a pompous former Government Minister,
who had been given the ambassadorial role as a sinecure for
resigning from the Parliament to make room in the Cabinet for an up
and coming back-bencher. Connell knew very little about trade and
had no Japanese language skills. Hence he relied heavily on Jake to
brief him on trade and business issues.

Bill’s knock woke him from his reverie and
he quickly dressed and walked over to the pub with his father. The
garden lounge was packed with people from every ethnic and cultural
background imaginable. They were mainly locals, some aboriginal,
tables of Europeans, young backpackers, families and “grey nomads”.
Jake noted with surprise there was also a small group of Chinese. A
large sign advertised “Beef ‘n Barra BBQ buffet - $25” and there
was a large line-up of people queuing up at the buffet table with
plates in hand, waiting for their serve of steak or fish, chips and
vegetables. The hubbub of noise made it difficult to hear but Bill
steered Jake to a table where a middle-aged aboriginal woman was
waving. Bill introduced her as Lizzie Buckstone and she shuffled
along the bench seats to make room for them. She eagerly shook
Jake’s hand.

“Geez, you took your time Bill, I’ve had to
clout two guys already for trying to grab our seats. Nice to meetya
Jake, Bill’s told me a lot about you but I can see it was mainly
lies just by looking at you.”

She gave Jake a once-over and saw a tallish,
slim, good looking man with dark hair and a nice smile. “Hey Bill,
Jake’s obviously got his looks from his mother, he’s nothing like
you,” Lizzie joked.

Bill and Jake sat down either side of her.
They started chatting and Jake liked her immediately. She was in
her late fifties, ten years younger than his father, and striking
in appearance with light brown skin, long wavy black hair flecked
with grey and an easy smile showing even white teeth. After they
had lined up for their food, Lizzie told Jake her story. She was of
part aboriginal descent born at a large cattle property near
Katherine to an aboriginal mother and a white stockman who quickly
disappeared after her birth, never to be seen again. She was one of
the stolen generation who, along with her older brother, had been
taken away from her mother as a young child and placed with a white
couple in Katherine to be raised. With help from her adoptive
parents, she trained as a nurse, worked in a country hospital, met
and married a local farmer, bearing three kids to him. However
after successive droughts, her husband lost the farm to the bank
and became an alcoholic and abusive so she took the kids and left
him to return to live with her adoptive parents in Katherine. Once
her kids had grown up she worked in a hospital at Mataranka, the
closest hospital to Daly Waters. She met Bill at the hospital when
he visited for treatment to his back after a fall. They had an
immediate rapport and after a courtship of nine months, Bill
invited her to move in with him at Daly Waters. She readily
accepted and commuted to the hospital in Mataranka four days a

Having eaten the largest plate of fish in
his life, the local favourite, wild-caught barramundi, Jake looked
around the room. He could see Shoni clearing tables in the distant
and caught her eye. She smiled and came over.

“Hi Jake, how are you feeling? You’ve got a
huge dark bruise on your ear”.

Jake said he was feeling better and chatted
with her for a few minutes, before she excused herself, promising
to return before the end of the night. Jake watched her admiringly
as she rushed back to the kitchen.

“Hey, I reckon she’s got the hots for you
Jake,” Lizzie chuckled. Jake just smiled and to change the topic
said, “Looks like the entertainment is about to start.”

The first act, a country and western band
called “The Daylies”, was on the stage and started up singing a
mixture of country ballads and rock and roll music. The female lead
singer had the typical nasal voice of country music singers but
soon had the crowd joining in and a few couples started to dance on
the small space allocated as a dance floor in front of the stage.
Encouraged, the band started playing some old standards and invited
the crowd to join in the singing. Soon even the table of German
tourists were chanting their own interpretation of “Waltzing
Matilda” which caused much merriment from the crowd.

After an hour, the band packed up and an old
bearded guy wearing a strange bush hat walked on the stage carrying
a guitar and a large wooden cage. He sat the cage on the edge of
the stage, opened the door and lifted out the largest rooster Jake
had ever seen, a white Cleghorn with bright pink crest and jowls.
The old guy placed the bird on the top of the cage where it settled
quietly. He grabbed the microphone and introduced himself as the
“Chook Man.” The crowd clapped with anticipation as he picked up
his guitar and started singing a ballad. The crowd was fascinated
as he played his own compositions about the outback, introducing
each new song with a story about the source and meaning of the

After playing several ballads, he picked up
the rooster and placed it on top of his hat. The bird looked quite
at home, sitting comfortably on his head. The “Chook Man” then
started up a new song about living in the bush and the rooster
joined him in the chorus crowing in time with the music. The crowd
loved it, roaring with laughter each time the rooster accompanied
him with a well-timed “cockle doodle do”. The bird seemed to enjoy
the laughter, bobbing its head up and down as if acknowledging the
applause. Many of the audience had tears in their eyes from
laughing so hard, stomping their feet for more whenever a song had
finished. After several encores the “Chook Man” finally returned
his rooster to his cage and left the stage to rapturous

BOOK: Blood at Yellow Water
12.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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