Bill Noonan was on his way to Huntington-Station to see what Jaffa had uncovered, when news of the latest slaughter reached him over the car radio.
The latest massacre had occurred at a "town" called MacWhirter. Actually the town was no more than a general store-cum-post office-cum-bottle shop-cum-news agent and six or seven, three- or four-room weatherboard houses. Out of a population of twelve, nine had been slaughtered.
As with the Broadhurst Massacre, the three survivors had frightened the murderer away with rifles and shotguns. The story the survivors told was identical to the one the Broadhurst survivors had told: "Just before nightfall a naked Abo ran into town. He smelt foul like rotting vegetation and carried a long metal-tipped spear. He was wearing on his head a carved pumpkin," explained one of the survivors, Harry "Old Man" Seabrooke -- a tiny bald-headed man, barely five feet tall. "What the Yanks call a Jack-O-Lantern. Anyway, for no reason he went berserk, started beheading everyone with this crazy looking spear...Until we managed to scare him off with our guns...."
Then the old man said something that Bill Noonan didn't want to hear, didn't want to believe, repeating almost word for word what Tony Costa had said at Broadhurst: "From what I could tell, the bullets and buckshot didn't hurt him at all...Only the noise of the guns scared him off."
'But that's crazy!' thought the inspector. 'How could he be bullet-proof?' He knew from his regular meeting with Vincent "Jaffa" O'Connor over the last two months that the redheaded anthropologist was beginning to believe the crazy story of Sanarn. Which he had related to Bill Noonan in instalments each time Jaffa learnt (or translated) something new about the "avenging demon". 'But that's bull!' thought the grey-haired policeman. 'That's impossible! How could some bullet-proof, fifty-thousand-year old monster possibly exist in the Australian outback today?'
"We set off after him in Jim's rattly old Jeep," explained Harry Seabrooke, "but he easily outran us."
"He outran a Jeep?" asked the inspector, incredulous.
"I know it sounds like bull; but it ain't. We were flat-out in top gear and eventually he left us for dead. We must've followed him a good three or four kilometres into the scrub before losing sight of him completely and turning back for town."
'Jesus!' thought Bill Noonan. 'If this kind of crazy "evidence" keeps turning up, I might be forced to start believing in Jaffa's demon spirit!' Although he wasn't ready to make that kind of admission aloud just yet.
* * *
Having got the last of the Sanarn legend from Julabawali, Jaffa returned to the redbrick complex. He placed a blank floppy disk into his PC and added the last of the legend to what he had already learnt, saved it to hard-drive and floppy disk, then printed out a copy of the complete legend for Bill Noonan's benefit. Although he knew the policeman did not believe anything the Elder had told them about Sanarn. He feared the inspector thought Julabawali had made up the entire legend and suspected Noonan might be close to considering the elderly Aboriginal as a suspect in the killings.
Jaffa sighed and thought, 'Unless I can make some kind of sense of this Sanarn legend, something tangible to help Bill catch the real killer, you might be for the chop, Julabawali old mate.'
Having prepared the printout for Noonan, Jaffa stored a spare disk copy of the Sanarn legend to be added to the data on Aboriginal legends on the CD-ROM as soon as he got a chance. Then booting up the CD, he spent another few frustrating hours scouring through the encyclopaedia of Aboriginal legends on the CD without success.
Jaffa was still wading through the encyclopaedia when he heard the approach of a car outside. Standing to peer over his writing bench, he looked out his bedroom window and saw a police car pull up. A few moments late out stepped Bill Noonan and two constables.
"Any luck?" asked Noonan a few minutes later as he entered Jaffa's bedroom.
"Not so far," replied Jaffa. He picked up the printout of the complete Sanarn legend and handed it to Noonan. "That's the complete legend, as near as I can translate it. But I'm damned if I can find anything even remotely like it in the legends of any other Aboriginal tribe."
"The whole story's loony, if you ask me," said Noonan. "Frankly I wouldn't waste time on it, if I didn't keep getting reports from survivors of a pumpkin-headed Aborigine wielding a scythe."
"But surely you've only had the three witnesses from the Broadhurst slaughter, plus the two kids...?" began Jaffa. Then seeing the look that passed between the two constables, Jaffa asked, "There hasn't been another massacre, has there?"
Noonan nodded his head slowly. "Last night at a tiny town called MacWhirter. This time there were only nine deaths...." He thought, 'Only nine deaths! Until recently that was more victims than the greatest mass-murderer in Queensland history had!' He went on to relate to Jaffa what Old Man Seabrooke and the other survivors had told them. "Which doesn't add one iota to what we already know about the murderer. Other than the fact that he can outrun a Jeep." He sighed then added, "That's going to look great in my report to Brisbane."
He turned to leave, then stopped and said, "The only other thing was that one of the survivors referred to the pumpkin-head as a Jack-O-Lantern."
"A Jack-O-Lantern?" said Jaffa. "But surely they don't wear Jack-O-Lanterns like a mask?"
"No, the idea is to put a lighted candle inside and turn off the lights so it glows like a demon face in the dark."
"That's right," Jaffa said, recalling the American Halloween legend. He began sorting through the CDs in his drawer, looking for one that might tell him more about the legend. Failing to find anything, he said, "Luckily I've got a modem so I can ring through to the University of Brisbane."
"Don't tell me you're onto something?" asked Bill Noonan.
"Let's hope so," Jaffa replied as he dialled through to Brisbane Uni. In the end it took nearly twenty minutes to successfully link up to the Brisbane Uni. computer.
On-line at last, Jaffa requested the use of a CD-ROM titled, Myths, Magicks, Legends of Europe, Africa, and the two Americas compiled by Professor William E.V. Morrissey-Blaxland B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
He called up the main menu listing: 1. The Americas, 2. Europe, 3. Africa, and punched in 1, which took him to a sub-menu: 1. North America, 2. Central America, 3. South America. He punched in 1 again and was this time given a choice of ways to look for information. He chose to search Alphabetically. Then, when prompted, typed in Halloween.
After a few seconds the PC screen informed him: "The Halloween legend dates back more than a thousand years to England, where the witches celebrated the night of the 31st of October/1st of November. In essence Halloween recognises and tries to rectify the sun's retreat to winter. In many parts of the world bonfires are lit to stir the sun back to life. Halloween is the day most used by present-day witches and practitioners of occult lore. It was the night when witches rode to Sabbath on broomsticks, or tabby-cats that changed to coal-black steeds...."
[Jaffa skimmed the next couple of paragraphs.]
"Originally on the Witches's Calendar as one of the major Sabbath days (the celestial times of power), Halloween was originally called November Eve; then later Samhain. Then the Christians took over the autumn holiday and changed it to All Saints's Day. Later it was called All Saints's Eve, All Hallows's Eve, and finally Halloween or Hallowe'en...."
[Jaffa skimmed forward again.]
"In the America version of the Halloween legend, the pumpkin plays a major part in the form of the Jack-O-Lantern. Carven into a horrible, monstrous face, the Jack-O-Lantern is meant to scare away any witches, elves, or trolls which may be out on the prowl. As is the loud explosions of fire crackers set off on 'bonfire night'....
"The Jack-O-Lantern is also supposed to represent the demon face of Samhain, the spirit of Halloween. In the American legend Samhain is a monster with a Jack-O-Lantern for a head and a body either of an ordinary human, a mouldering cadaver, or simply a ghostly shroud....
"In some parts of America, Samhain is said to also be the Grim Reaper. Thus the pumpkin-headed demon carries a scythe in one hand...."
"Holy God!" cried Bill Noonan reading the screen over Jaffa's shoulder. "That's exactly what the eye-witnesses said, 'A pumpkin-headed demon carrying a scythe'!" Looking back to the screen he read:
"In some versions of the legend Samhain arrives at Halloween parties looking like a guest in costume. Wielding the scythe he may then slaughter everyone in the room. Although he can be scared away (as noted above) by loud noises such as fire crackers or gunshots -- although the bullets themselves cannot harm him.
"Though an obvious adoption of the early name for Halloween, some American legends claim that Samhain is an ancient monster -- perhaps tens or even hundreds of thousands of years old -- who stowed away with the early settlers, coming over from England to Plymouth in the 1620s...."
"Well, it's pretty conclusive isn't it?" said Jaffa as he and Bill Noonan skimmed through the printout he had taken of the Halloween legend.
"Conclusive? What do you mean conclusive?" Bill Noonan demanded. Although his eyes told him the Samhain legend seemed identical to that of the monster the lost tribe called Sanarn, the Aboriginal demon which had beheaded more than fifty Queenslanders over the last five months, his brain refused to accept any possible connection.
"Well, obviously Sanarn is the Aboriginal corruption of the name Samhain. Obviously it's Samhain that's running riot in the Queensland countryside beheading people."
"Oh obviously!" said Bill Noonan sarcastically. From behind him he heard the snickers of his two constables. "But anyway, how could a tradition that goes back less than four-hundred years in America and possibly a thousand years in Europe possibly have any connection with the Australian Aborigines? To the best of our knowledge the Aborigines came to this continent at least fifty-thousand years and maybe eighty-thousand years ago. So how could the lost tribe know the legend of Halloween? Or Samhain?"
"They could if the roots of the Samhain legend go back fifty to eighty thousand years also. Although we only know for sure the Halloween legend goes back a millennia or two, it could go back tens of thousands of years in one form or another. After all the legend of Halloween exists right around the Northern hemisphere. In Europe, the British Isles and North America. It must have taken a long long time to travel that far around the globe. So maybe the legend does date back to before the first Aborigines came to Australia?"
"Fifty to eighty thousand years ago?" asked Bill Noonan sceptically. "Was there even a written human language back that far?"
Jaffa sighed, forced to admit that Noonan had found a major weakness in his theory. "Well, no," he conceded. "Fifty thousand years ago would be in late Neanderthal or early Cro-Magnon days. Although it seems Neanderthal Man did toy with a form of crude written language that long ago, he never recognised the power of written language and dropped it after a few centuries. The first lasting written language -- continuing right through to modern days -- was by the ancient Sumerians six thousand years ago."
"Which lets out the Aborigines knowing a legend from fifty thousand years ago, surely?"
Jaffa considered for a moment, scratching his unruly red hair before answering, "Unless it's not merely a legend. If Samhain is a real monster, or a member of a race of monsters, it's possible that its kind may exist right around the globe. That would explain the universal nature of the legend. And it fits in with old Julabawali's claim that Samhain -- or Sanarn -- followed the first Aborigines across to Australia from the Malaysian land-bridge that existed then."
"But how could it be anything but a legend?" protested Bill Noonan. "You might as well say a freaked out vampire-murderer is really a vampire, or that werewolves really exist."
"No, no, I'm not asking you to believe in the supernatural," insisted Jaffa. "This creature only has to be a vicious humanoid similar to Homo Sapiens, yet not Homo Sapiens."
"Which can live for fifty thousand years?" Again there were snickers from the two constables behind them.
"Well," began Jaffa, stumped for a moment by this question. "Possibly. We know for a fact that there are creatures, such as giant turtles and giant clams, which can live hundreds of years. It has been theorised that dinosaurs may have been able to live thousands of years...."
"Yes but all of those are reptiles or primitive crustaceans. It's another matter entirely, an advanced humanoid creature living tens of thousands of years."
Jaffa shrugged, conceding another good argument. "That's assuming the Aborigines are correct that the modern Sanarn is the same one that followed their ancestors to Australia from Malaysia all those years ago. Possibly a small group of the creatures followed them across the land-bridge and have been breeding, and stalking the Aborigines ever since."
"But what about Julabawali's claim the Aborigines had Sanarn imprisoned for twenty thousand years and learnt smelting and hunting from him?"
"Possibly a legend," suggested Jaffa. "Or perhaps they had captured a small herd of the creatures, or...."
"Or possibly this man-monster can really live for twenty thousand years," Bill Noonan finished for him.
"Well," said Jaffa. He realised they were back where they had started.
Shaking his head Bill cried, "All this is crazy. How can you possibly believe this Samhain, Sanarn, or whatever you want to call him, can possibly exist?"
"Because it all ties together. And you have fifty headless corpses from three separate massacres at Brownville, Broadhurst, and MacWhirter. Something must have killed them."
"Yes, but..." he paused, searching for arguments, unable to accept the premise Jaffa was making. "But if these creatures have existed since prehistoric times, wouldn't there be records of them in other native cultures's legends. Statues, stone carvings, rock paintings...?"
"There are," pointed out Jaffa. He referred again to the text on the computer monitor. "But the problem is that in the early 1970s pseudo-scientists like Erich Von Daniken clouded the issue by claiming that they depicted ancient astronauts." He paged through the data on screen for a few moments before finding a sketch of a "prehistoric spaceman". Quoting from the text on screen, "They confused the round pumpkin head for a space helmet and quickly rushed their theories into print without bothering to do the necessary research to substantiate their claims."
"Okay, but how do we substantiate any of this?" demanded the grey-haired policeman. "My superiors in Brisbane aren't going to accept a few rock paintings as proof that the spirit of Halloween, Samhain, is responsible for killing more than fifty people in outback Queensland."
Jaffa considered for a moment. Then taking the printout off the desk, he said, "I guess the next thing to do is to take this to Julabawali to see if we're on the right track."
* * *
Suspecting what the wild Aborigines's reaction might be to the picture of Samhain, Jaffa made sure that there were plenty of people on hand to help calm them down if necessary. While they had been grouped around the computer, another five police cars and more than a dozen police officers had arrived at the reservation. All of the police, plus a dozen or so reservation blacks were waiting around inside the unlocked barbed-wire cage as Jaffa prepared to show the laser-Jet picture to the lost tribe.
"Well, here goes," said Jaffa. He tried to sound more confident than he felt as he held the picture out toward Julabawali and three other Elders of the lost tribe.
Before he could ask if the picture of Samhain was the creature they called Sanarn, the four men began to shriek "Sanarn! Sanarn! Sanarn!" over and over, as they ran toward the other end of the barb-wire compound, obviously terrified even of the stylised drawing.
"Well, I guess that answers..." began Jaffa. Before he could finish, all forty-five wild Aborigines in the cage started shrieking from terror, and throwing themselves against the barb-wire walls of the compound.
"Watch out!" shouted Bill Noonan. He pointed toward the Aborigines who had already seriously damaged themselves and were bleeding profusely from jagged wounds in their arms, legs, and flanks.
Half-a-dozen police, and as many half breeds from the reservation, raced across to try to stop the lost tribe inflicting any more damage onto themselves. But they were too late to stop two teenage males, who, ignoring the damage done to themselves, scaling the four-metre high barbed-wire fence. They effortlessly descended halfway down the other side, then while still out of reach of any hands groping at them through the fence, sprang to the ground. Landing safely they took off at high speed toward the nearest corral fence a hundred metres or so away.
"Get them for God's sake get them!" shouted Bill Noonan.
Two of the police officers raced out through the gate -- almost knocking over Jaffa in their haste -- and started after the two full bloods. There were already four station blacks racing after them, but Jaffa suspected they would never catch the full bloods.
"Get a car, get a car for Christ's sake!" cursed the inspector. One of the two constables raced toward the nearest police car and drove toward the first gate to pick up his companion. But by the time the car got through the series of gates to the outside, there was no real chance that they would ever catch the two fleeing men without the help of the helicopter. But they continued to search for the two running natives more than an hour.
By the time the police car finally returned to the reservation, the "riot" had been quelled without any more breakouts. But the helicopter had been called to take the five most seriously injured to the nearest hospital, and a dozen others had to have wounds disinfected and bandaged.
"This let's out using the chopper to look for the two runaways," said a young blond constable as the helicopter took off with the casualties aboard.
"No point anyway, with only two escapees," said Bill Noonan, only hoping he wasn't allowing the mass-murderer to go free. "Let them go. But for God's sake we'd better not lose any more of them till this case is closed. 'If it ever is!' he thought.
* * *
"Well, I guess this clinches things," said Jaffa. The rioting quelled, he and Noonan had returned to Jaffa's room in the redbrick building.
"It clinches that the lost tribe recognise Samhain as their Dream-Time monster, I suppose," said the policeman. However, he still did not believe for a second that the Spirit of Halloween was really loose in the Queensland outback, murdering people by the dozen.
"It also clinches the fact that we have no right to keep them caged up like animals!"
"What do you suggest?" demanded Noonan. "That we release them back into the desert?"
"Yes! That's where they belong. Not caged up on a reservation like cattle. So far Samhain has been attacking and killing whites because he can't get at the lost tribe, and he's obviously punishing us for protecting them. But sooner or later he'll find a way to get at them, cage or no cage. Then, locked up like animals as they are, they'll be sitting ducks waiting to have their heads hacked off. But if we let them go, at least they'll have a chance to go walkabout; to keep on the move and keep Samhain at bay.
"Also it would take Samhain's attention away from white Australia." Although he hated himself for saying it, Jaffa added, "As long as he cannot get at the lost tribe, Samhain will continue attacking small outback towns. He'd probably never dare attack a major city like Brisbane, Sydney, or Melbourne, because the city noises would frighten him away. As the CD-ROM said, that's the whole point of fire crackers at Halloween: loud noises will frighten away demons. But even attacking only outback, one-horse towns, he's managed to kill fifty-five people in five months. If he continued unchecked for years, he could end up slaughtering hundreds or even thousands of people." 'Maybe he will anyway once he tracks down the last of the lost tribe,' thought Jaffa. He wondered if Samhain would ever again settle for only killing blacks (who make up only two Percent of the Australian population) now that he had tasted the lives of the larger white population.
* * *
Bill Noonan considered Jaffa's words for a moment. Everything they had learnt from the lost tribe or had been told by the computer seemed to gel together into a cohesive theory. 'But none of it makes any sense!' thought Bill. Despite what his eyes told him, his police training would not allow him to believe in either a supernatural killer, or a previously unknown humanoid species that had evolved parallel to Homo Sapiens. "No, no, I'm sorry," he said, shaking his head for emphasis. "What you want is impossible. Until we catch this Samhain character, or whoever did the killings, the lost tribe are still suspects. It'd be the end of my career if I let them go...Even if I did believe your wacky story."
"But you're never going to be able to capture Samhain," insisted Jaffa. "According to legend he can be frightened away by loud noises, but bullets can't harm him." When Bill Noonan snorted in contempt, Jaffa added, "Your own witnesses claimed they shot him from point-blank range, didn't they? And the bullets didn't even slow him up...."
But Bill obviously would not be convinced. He stayed arguing with Jaffa for a few minutes more, before heading outside to check on the security of the caged natives.
As he headed out into the corridor, he explained, "I can't have them all escaping. I'm making plans now to have them shipped to Brisbane tomorrow."
Jaffa gasped in horror, and cried, "What?"
"That much of your story I can believe. If this Samhain character really is out to get the lost tribe, they'll be much safer in the heart of Brisbane, than out here."
"But they'll go crazy in Brisbane," protested Jaffa. "It's inhuman enough keeping them caged up like animals out here, without putting them behind solid walls in the state capital. Aborigines can't take captivity behind walls, they're a naturally nomadic, outdoors people."
"Bull!" said Bill Noonan. "Aboriginal suicides in custody is all a myth created by Aboriginal activists so they can get out of obeying the law." With that he departed before Jaffa had time to think up a suitable rebuttal.
* * *
While Bill Noonan spent the rest of that day organising the night watch on the barbed-wire cage, Jaffa spent hours on the telephone to Brisbane, trying to go over the policeman's head to prevent him from moving the lost tribe. Or better yet to get permission to release them. But he met with a wall of disbelief when he tried to explain why the Aborigines should be released.
In the end, to Jaffa's dismay the officials he spoke to ended up agreeing with Noonan's logic: moving the lost tribe to Brisbane would make it easier both to watch them and to protect them against the serial killer, "If this Sanarn or Samhain character is really after them," said one official, obviously thinking Jaffa was mad with his story of a Halloween spirit hunting the natives.
Jaffa was still ringing round everyone he could think of in authority, late into the night, when he heard the sound of a commotion outside: raised voices (both in English and the lost tribe's dialect) and seemingly hundreds of running footsteps. 'My God he can't be moving them at this hour!' thought Jaffa looking at his watch and seeing it was after 1:00 AM.
Then as he heard screaming among the shouting voices, Jaffa thought, 'My God, it's another breakout attempt.' He had already started toward the corridor when he heard the first gunshots in the compound. 'Oh Jesus he can't be shooting them!' thought Jaffa running out into the yellow-walled corridor.
Jaffa stood at the top of the concrete steps out front of the redbrick building for a moment, staring toward the melee at the other end of the compound. In the half light he could see naked Aborigines running helter-skelter about inside and outside the barbed-wire cage. He could see kneeling figures clearly aiming guns that roared seemingly like cannons and he thought, 'My God, they really are shooting them!'
Running across the compound Jaffa shouted, "Stop! For God's sake stop it!" Reaching a young constable, he grabbed the youth's left arm and tugged it away as he prepared to fire his rifle. "What the Hell do you...?" he asked. He stopped, unprepared for the glazed look in the man's yellow-green eyes.
"What...?" he asked stupidly. Then as he smelt an overwhelming odour like rotting pumpkins and rancid meat, Jaffa released the youth who turned away and started firing again.
Jaffa looked round and saw the naked, scythe-wielding, pumpkin-headed figure of Samhain cutting a swathe through the Aborigines and police alike.
"Look out!" shouted Bill Noonan as Samhain started toward Jaffa. Crouching, Noonan fired six .38 shots into the monster's pumpkin head from only two or three metres away. Each shot tore a large chunk out of the monster's head, making Jaffa hope that it might be mortal after all. Out of each gaping hole leaked a sickly yellowy substance -- similar to the innards of a squashed grub -- which smelt like rotting flesh.
But as Jaffa watched, the yellow pussy holes began rapidly healing, until in only seconds Samhain's pumpkin head was whole again. The creature roared its angry panther-like roar then spun round to face the police inspector, who was hurriedly reloading his revolver.
"Watch out!" Jaffa shouted in warning. But too late: as Bill raised his revolver again Samhain swung the scythe and effortlessly beheaded the grey-haired policeman.
"Oh Jesus!" cried the young cop kneeling beside Jaffa. They both watched in horror as blood gushed from Bill Noonan's severed neck.
"Shoot, dammit, shoot!" Jaffa shouted, reversing his earlier command.
For a moment the youth stared open-mouthed at the red-headed man for a moment, as though not understanding his words. But finally he aimed again and started firing his rifle at the manlike monster.
Roaring its anger, Samhain raised its scythe back over its shoulders and advanced toward the two men.
'Oh my God, we're going to die!' thought Jaffa as the monster bore down on them.
From beside them came the boom of shotguns as two more policemen opened fire on the raging creature. For a moment Jaffa thought it was going to ignore the shotgun fire. The pellets tore away chunks from the monsters head, releasing sickly tendrils of yellow slime, but like the handguns and rifles did no permanent damage to the monster.
The monster roared in rage at this latest affront, and for a moment seemed as though it would not be scared off. But as the shotguns boomed again and again, Samhain finally turned and fled toward the reservation gates. Whereas the handguns and rifles had only angered the monster, it was still clearly frightened of the booming shotguns.
"He's making a run for it!" shouted the young cop in elation.
"For now," conceded Jaffa. But he realised it had been harder to scare away the monster this time. It had ignored the handguns and rifles as it rampaged through the Aborigines and police. 'Maybe next time nothing will scare it off!' Jaffa thought.
Although he didn't really want to see any more of the carnage, Jaffa took part in the clean-up operation. Samhain had killed twelve of the police and eleven of the lost tribe -- including old Julabawali, who Jaffa had grown to regard as a friend over the last few months.
'Oh, God, not you old mate!' thought Jaffa looking down through teary eyes at the headless corpse of the Elder. He looked about until locating the grey-haired head a few metres away and tentatively placed it beside the body of the old man.
Looking up Jaffa saw Jackie standing beside him holding a shotgun. He was pleased the black tracker was one of the few police to survive the latest massacre.
"Are you all right?" asked Jackie. He knew the redhead had grown close to the old man over the last five months.
Jaffa nodded unconvincingly. After a moment he said, "I suppose you'd better go report this to your bosses in Brisbane."
"I suppose so," agreed Jackie. But he didn't move.
"I suppose they'll send out replacements overnight...for the dead police that is?"
Jackie shook his head. "Army," he said. "They'll send in the Army now. Can't risk the killer of so many cops getting away. They'll have hundreds of Army and Army Reserves scouring the outback by noon tomorrow."
They talked a moment longer, then Jackie turned to start back toward the redbrick building. After a moment's hesitation the two other surviving police officers went with him. Both young men, they nervously looked about themselves as they walked, obviously afraid to stay outside alone in case Samhain got over his fear of shotguns and returned.
Jaffa watched the retreating cops until they were well out of sight. Then tentatively he went across the decapitated body of Bill Noonan. His heart pounding from fear, expecting to be caught by Jackie or the other police, Jaffa felt round the dead police inspector's clothing till locating the key to the cage, which Noonan had taken custody of after deciding the lost tribe were legitimate suspects.
Locating the key, Jaffa crept across to the door of the barbed-wire cage. But he saw that the lock had already been shattered -- presumably by Samhain's scythe -- and lay on the ground. The remaining lost tribe members were cowering together near the opposite end of the cage. After their initial hysteria they had gone into a near catatonic state of terror.
"Come on," Jaffa called. First in English, then doing his best to manage their Aboriginal dialect. Struggling to make them comprehend, he realised just how dependent he had become on Julabawali's help in communicating with the lost tribe. And how helpless he was without the old man's assistance.
Finally, though he managed to get through to the cringing natives and led them outside the cage. Go! Go! Go! he willed the stumbling, zombie-like figures.
And, to Jaffa's relief, as they left the cage the natives became more animated and began to run toward the station gates and the freedom beyond.
It seemed to take forever, but finally the last of the black figures had vanished over the first of the series of wooden cattle gates.
'Now how do I explain their disappearance?' he wondered. Turning back toward the main compound, Jaffa was startled to see Jackie standing behind him, watching the fleeing full bloods.
'How long have you been standing there?' wondered Jaffa. He expected the black tracker to sound the alarm.
Instead Jackie said, "I guess we can say they broke out after that Samhain thing left."
"Yes," murmured Jaffa. He was grateful for Jackie's understanding of what he had done.
The two men watched the fleeing natives for a few moments more, then turned and started back across the compound toward the redbrick building.
© Copyright 2011
Philip Roberts, Melbourne, Australia