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KANGAROO RANGE, Part One

Short story By: Philip Roberts
Mystery and crime



Written in the early days of kangaroo meat farming. Based loosely on an unsolved true murder, I've provided a possible solution.


Submitted:Dec 21, 2010    Reads: 37    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


PART ONE:

Early February 1999

Lying back upon his seat in the off-cream Lexus, Jon-James Spencer found himself being lulled to sleep by the sound of the rain teeming down against the body work of the small car. It had been raining non stop for the last fifteen hours, since they had crossed the border from New South Wales into Queensland. As they passed over a rough mud track, he read, "You are now entering a flood region..." on one of the many signs that flanked the road.

In his late thirties, Jon-James had been an agent of A.S.I.O. (the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation) for more than fifteen years. In that time he had worked mainly on matters such as helping to develop defence strategy to protect the Bass Strait off-shore oil platform against attack from Libya or Iran; helping to supervise the protection of foreign diplomats visiting Australia, and had personally prevented an assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II, during the pontiff's most recent visit to Australia. So it was quite a let down for him to now be assigned to do routine police work.

Looking out into the rain, Jon-James asked, "How much longer?"

"We should be at Kangaroo Range in another couple of hours," replied the driver. Unlike Jon-James, who was tall, lean and blond with shoulder length hair; Robin Harper was short, dumpy, with dark Celtic looks, and an almost military style crew-cut. Both men wore tailored pin-stripe suits. But whereas Jon-James' suit drew from his muscular physique and made him seem even more masculine, on Harper it looked like a monkey in sackcloth. "What's the matter, getting bored already?"

"I've been bored for the eighteen hours," replied Jon-James.

"You shouldn't be. You're lucky to ever be allowed back to active service, after that fiasco three months ago."

* * *

Canberra Airport, Late November 1998

Jackie Bindul and Robin Harper stood in the shade of a tall Elm tree watching the silver 747 a few hundred metres away.

"No sign of life," said a willowy blonde policewoman beside Harper. And as though in answer a male face appeared at a porthole near the front of the plane for just a few seconds.

"What's keeping superman?" said Harper to no one in particular, glancing down at his wristwatch.

"He was just going off duty for the day when we got the call," explained Jackie. The half-breed Aboriginal looked at Harper, wondering what his relationship with Jon-James Spencer really was. Harper & Spencer acted as though they hated each other's guts, yet they had been partners for more than a decade and had saved each other's life half-a-dozen or more times.

"Movement," said the blonde policewoman pointing toward where a young Aboriginal steward suddenly came into sight at the top of the stair-ramp. The young stewardess was shaking from fright, beads of sweat ran down her forward to her eyes, making her blink and shake her head to try and toss them away.

Behind the stewardess stood a tall, swathy youth dressed like an accountant in smart pin-stripe suit, but carrying a magnum revolver in one hand, and with an Uzi slung almost casually across his left shoulder.

"Well here we go," said Harper. And as he spoke they heard the sound of a car behind them.

Jackie Bindul looked round as Jon-James Spencer climbed from an off-white Fairlane. Ducking low and keeping carefully to the shadows Jon-James raced across to where Harper and the others stood.

"Okay, what's going on?" asked Jon-James.

"All right, everybody we can all pack up and go home now," said Harper, "Superman's here now to take care of eveything."

Pointedly turning his back on Harper, Jon-James said to Jackie Bindul: "Well obviously, Jackie, you and I are the only even remotely sane people here. So would you please tell me what's going on?"

"Sure. About an hour ago an Aussie Airways 747 landed at Canberra to refuel. Fortunately most of the passengers got off to stretch their legs. Then five young men dressed as accountants pulled Uzis and handguns and took the pilots, a refueller and three stewardesses hostage."

"What are their demands, if any?"

"Five million dollars in small bills and an overseas pilot to take them to a destination they'll give once they're in the air."

"Five million dollars, eh?" said Jon-James. "Well it's good to see they're not just in it for the money."

"Time's almost up, pigs!" called the swathy youth holding the Aboriginal hostess.

Jon-James Spencer walked across to a cream-Commodore and picked up a loud-hailer. Walking across to the edge of the clearing, he held the loud-hailer to his mouth and said, "I'm coming out, we need to talk."

"Nothing to talk about, pig!" shouted back the youth.

"We need more time to raise the money," said Jon-James walking out into the open.

"You've had time," said the youth as Jon-James continued walking across the tarmac toward the plane.

"We need more. It's a lot of money."

"You've had time," repeated the youth. "We've got six hostages who die if you don't get the money here in ten more minutes."

"If you kill the hostages what's to stop us storming the plane and killing you next?"

As they were talking Jon-James had continued walking slowly until he was almost at the bottom of the stair-ramp.

Obviously realising he had let the blonde cop get too close the youth suddenly released the stewardess and reached for the Uzi hanging round his neck.

As he released her the stewardess screamed and dived to the ground.

With the terrorist suddenly unshielded, Jon-James dropped the loud-hailer and quickly pulled his Smith-and-Wesson .44 magnum from his waistband and fired three shots.

"Aaaaaaaaaaah!" screamed the terrorist as he flew backwards into the plane.

As the stewardess raced down the stair-ramp, Jon-James raced up and met her halfway.

"Hide behind the back of the stair-ramp, don't go out into the open," warned Jon-James. And as Jon-James continued up the stair-ramp, the stewardess raced down to the ground and ran round to hide under the plane as instructed.

Jon-James stood outside the small door for a second to calm his breathing, then stepped tentatively into the small bay between the cabin and the passenger area.

Looking to his left he saw that the door to the cockpit was closed. He tried it with his left hand, but the door was locked. So, careful to avoid falling over the corpse of the terrorist, Jon-James turned and started toward the curtain covering the doorway to the passenger section.

* * *

Inside the passenger section the hostages crouched nervously in the aisle trying to ignore the handguns and Uzis that the four smartly-dressed youths pointed toward them.

Outside they heard talking, then handgun fire.

There was the slamming of a body inside the front section of the plane, then silence.

For a moment the four terrorists crouched staring toward the floral curtain, expecting it to burst open. Then one of the youths aimed his Uzi toward the curtain and stepped forward.

"You all right, Sotero?" called the youth.

"Fine," came a muffled voice from behind the curtain. "One dead pig out here."

The hostages moaned in dismay and the four youths grinned like idiots as the Uzi-weilding youth strode forward to greet Sotero.

He pulled the curtain wide and stared in shock at Jon-James.

"What...?" said the youth. He started to swing up his Uzi again, too late, as Jon-James fired, his Smith-and-Wesson and blew away half his chest.

"Ungfff!" gasped the already dead youth flying backwards into the passenger compartment.

The other three terrorists leapt to their feet, however, Jon-James fired off two more shots to quickly despact the nearest two. Then as the fourth youth turned and raced toward the rear of the plane, Jon-James took careful aim, trying his best to ignore the squealing, scattering passengers and fired twice more.

The first shot hit the terrorists in the kidneys, the second tore off half of his head.

* * *

Jackie Bindul and Robin Harper stood in the shade of the Elm watching as Jon-James approached the plane slowly. After he shot dead the terrorist the two agents started to race across the tarmac toward the plane.

"Jesus, I've gotta go on a diet," gasped Robin Harper wheezing from the effort of running.

Jackie Bindul easily reached the base of the stair-ramp first. Crouching low he swung up the automatic Remington rifle that he carried and started up the stair-ramp at a run. As he reached the top of the ramp five more shots rang out in quick succession.

"Jesus," cursed the half-breed Aborigine. Ducking low, he leapt in through the doorway and lunged through the curtain into the passenger section.

"What...?" said Jackie Bindul staring at the sight of Jon-James Spencer being hugged by two willowy stewardess.

"That's why I call him Superman," teased Robin Harper between panting breaths, "in the middle of a hostage situation and he can still pick-up a couple of chicks."

* * *

Afterwards the airline management had called him a national hero, and an elder of a New South Wales Aboriginal tribe, Joseph Mutapina, had declared Jon-James to be an honorary Aborigine for rescuing the young air hostess. However, the magistrate presiding over the inquiry into the shootings had not been so impressed:

* * *

Canberra Crown Court, December 1998

"The Australian Secret Intelligence Agency has a responsibility to protect people from terrorists," stressed the judge, "not endanger their lives with Quick-Draw MacGrath style gunplay. It is my conclusion, Mr Spencer, that you suffer from the 'Dirty Harry Syndrome' as psychologist now call it. Frankly, there is no room for animals like you in the Australian Federal Police. I therefore suspend you from active duty for six months, and suspend your licence to hold a fire-arm for two years. After which you will have to undergo psychiatric assessment before reapplying for a gun licence."

Early February 1999

For three months Jon-James had been on suspension without pay, however, three days ago he had been approached to go to work on temporary loan to the Queensland Police Force on a routine police assignment.

"Don't grumble," said Harper, "this is your big chance for a comeback. Blow this and you'll be back on the corner of Bourke and Russell Streets, directing traffic in Melbourne. Make a success, on the other hand, and all will be forgiven."

Jon-James kept silent, refusing to answer Harper's taunt. The two men had been sparring partners ever since Jon-James had joined the Australian Secret Service twelve years earlier. Harper was an old-fashioned, Phil Marlow style fist-fighter, and had always resented Spencer for his youth, intelligence and modern police methods: he was trained in both computer crime solving techniques, and to a seventh-Dan level in Tai-Kwon-Do.

Harper reached across the dashboard to turn on the radio. At first all he could raise was static, however, by fiddling with the dial, he finally managed to pick up the local station, radio 4BT.

"UFOs have been sighted flying low over the St. John area for the last three nights in a row," whispered the announcer behind a loud static buzz, "in particular over Kangaroo Range, the property of millionaire kangaroo farmer Arthur Karnacki. Local residents claim that the flying saucers are the cause of the millionaire's recent disappearance, citing the local Aboriginal Dream-Time legends of Mamaragan, the Great Rainbow Snake, as proof that strange lights have been spotted in the sky over St. John since time immemorial."

For a few moments the static buzz completely wiped out the sound of the announcer's voice. Then he returned to say, "In Brisbane today, there was a sensation at the trial of Brisbane police sergeant Barry Tottenham, who was arrested a month ago, charged with corruption and misuse of authority, after allegedly shooting dead three Aboriginal youths, during an illegal demonstration for Aboriginal rights...."

'Illegal?' thought Jon-James. For more than a decade there has been a law in Queensland requiring all demonstrations to be registered in advance and a licence to be bought for each separate rally. However, for five years or more now the Queensland government has not actually granted any licences, so minority groups have been forced to break the law in order to hold demonstrations.

"Answering the charges laid against him," continued the radio announcer, "Tottenham claimed that he was only doing as instructed. That since the days of the Bjelke-Petersen and Ahern governments, the state police in Brisbane have been encouraged to use a maximum amount of violence while breaking up street demonstrations...Particularly rallies by Aboriginal groups....

"The magistrate had barely restored order after the uproar which this statement caused, when Tottenham stunned the courtroom by declaring that he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan; that he had to join the Klan to enter the Brisbane police, as for the last thirty years the Queensland Police Force has been the official Australian branch of the Ku Klux Klan....

"After a moment of stunned silence, the outcry in the courthouse was so great that the magistrate was unable to restore order, so the trial had to be postponed until tomorrow. It has been rumoured that the rest of the proceedings may be in camera -- a closed court."

Jon-James reached over and switched off the radio, and Harper said, "What's the matter? Does it hit a little too close to home?"

Eventually they reached the one hundred thousand hectare property that had been named Kangaroo Range by its owner, Arthur Karnacki, the man they had come all the way from Canberra to search for. But not until Jon-James was well and truly soaked to the skin, having had to step out into the teeming rain on half-a-dozen occasions to open wooden, or chain-link gates to allow the Lexus to drive through, without the protection of any kind of raincoat, since it had been bright and sunny when the two men had left Canberra, and it had never occurred to them that it might be otherwise in the so called sunshine state.

"Well, well, look at you two," said Ruth Karnacki by way of greeting when the two special agents ran from the rain to the veranda of the two-storeyed weatherboard ranch house. A plump, matronly woman, she could not help smiling at the sight of the two men, who looked soaked through to the skin -- which was true in Jon-James' case -- despite the fact that she had hardly stopped crying for the last four days due to the strange disappearance of her husband, and her eyes were circled with red, blotchy rings.

"Come on inside," she said, standing back in the doorway to let them pass, "and we'll soon get you dried out and into warm clothing. Ted and Len can bring your things in from the car."

An hour later the two men were dried and dressed in their spare clothing and sitting around on armchairs in front of a large roaring fire in the lounge room.

Jon-James sat wrapped up in a thick woollen blanket, warmed inside and out by the blazing log fire and a large bowl of chunky, home-made soup, which Ruth had thrust upon him, saying, "We'll soon have you feeling human again."

By nature a ladies' man, Jon-James found it slightly embarrassing, but also strangely pleasing to be fussed over by the matronly Mrs Karnacki.

After the two officers were settled in front of the fire, Ruth Karnacki sat upon the large, plush leather sofa, between her two teenage sons.

Len and Ted Karnacki were typical tall, burly Australian farm boys, both looking strong enough to wrestle for a living. However, as they sat beside their mother, only days after the disappearance of their father, they looked like big kids; like their mother, their eyes were ringed with red circles.

As a preliminary to their investigations, Jon-James asked about Kangaroo Range.

"Just what the name implies, inspector," said Len. "This part of Queensland is teeming with virtually every kind of Australian kangaroo and wallaby.

"But mainly the eastern grey and big red variety," said Ruth. "That's how my husband made...makes his living," she said, stopping, close to tears for a moment before continuing. "When we first came to Australia from Germany in early 1970, we were paupers, with hardly two pennies to rub together. Arthur managed to borrow a few dollars from a local farmer, Steve Monroe, and bought a .202 rifle and some cartridges, which he used to shoot kangaroos for a living...."

"For the hides?" asked Jon-James.

"Yes, and also for the meat?"

"To eat?" asked Jon-James, looking down in horror at the large chunks of meat floating round in his half empty bowl of soup.

Ruth laughed then said, "Don't worry, that's good old Australian beef that you're eating...No, the kangaroo meat is sold to pet food manufacturers."

"Yes," agreed Ted. "Whenever you see on TV where the pet food companies boast that their brand has real beef, real chicken, or real lamb, for the most part they're lying. In Australia, anything in a can of pet food that isn't obviously fish, is definitely kangaroo meat."

"At first," continued Ruth, "when Arthur came here, he shot roos in the wild himself. However he soon prospered and was able to afford to hire other shooters to work for him, and also set up a sort of mini game reserve to breed roos for the slaughter...."

For another hour or more they talked about Kangaroo Range and how it had grown over the last eighteen years from a small holding to over one hundred thousand hectares of prime land, housing a few cattle, sheep, and other livestock, but mainly wild or semi-wild kangaroos and wallabies which were still the mainstay of the Karnackis' income.

Having started penniless in 1970, by the late 1980s Arthur Karnacki was a millionaire and his two sons were set to inherit a sizeable fortune.

Eventually the conversation turned to the night of Karnacki's disappearance.

"He had been jumpy for a couple of months, at least," said Ruth. "He never went anywhere without taking an automatic pistol -- a Luger which he had brought over from the old country -- plus at least two of the Kelpies.

"Four nights ago, last Saturday, he seemed unusually edgy. He stayed out at the meat shed until well after dark, then settled down to bed almost straight after tea. However, he had a sleepless night, tossing and turning for hours. Finally, at about two a.m., he decided to get dressed and go down to the meat shed. I tried to talk him out of it, but he insisted that he had to check something out.

"I saw him tuck his Luger into his belt, then heard him whistling up the dogs downstairs. Then nothing for nearly an hour, when the dogs began to bark furiously. There was the sound of two shotgun blasts, then one of the Kelpies began to bark hysterically.

"I roused Len and Ted and we went down to the shed and found the two dogs, one of them with its stomach shot out...."

"But there was no sign of dad," said Len, "and no sign of a struggle either. When Inspector Thompson got here, he found a few spots of blood on the grass around the meat shed...."

"But they never found any sign of your father?" asked Robin Harper.

"No," said Ruth Karnacki feebly. "But at least they didn't find his body I guess that's some consolation at least."

"What about the blood they found?" asked Harper.

"Most of it was from the dog that had been shot," said Ted, "but a few spots were human blood, Type O, which was dad's blood type."

"Still that's the most common type," pointed out Jon-James.

"This inspector Thompson," asked Harper, "would he be Tom Thompson?"

"That's right," said Len.

"He's our local contact," explained Harper.

"His station is a good sixty Kays from here," said Ted; "over at Angumooka. That's the nearest town from here, although it's really no more than a handful of jerry-built buildings. You won't find any big towns within two- or three hundred kilometres of here."

They talked for another half hour or so and Jon-James raised the subject of them investigating around the meat shed.

"Of course," agreed Ruth, "but not tonight. The rain won't let up until at least tomorrow, and you won't find any trace of the blood stains, they've been washed away long ago in this rain."

So they settled down to an early night.

While Harper dropped off to sleep immediately and began to snore hoarsely, Jon-James lay awake on his back, rugged up against the cold in a mountain of blankets, yet unable to get to sleep for the noise of the machine-gun fire sound of the pelting rain against the corrugated iron roof.

It was perhaps five minutes after one a.m., that Jon-James heard the sound of footsteps in the corridor outside his door. He crept out of bed and reached for his clothing which lay upon a wicker chair beside the bed. After a quick glance at the snoring form of Robin Harper, Jon-James eased the large Smith and Wesson .457 magnum revolver -- which he was no longer licensed to carry -- out of his coat pocket and held the gun low at his hip as he crept across to the doorway.

As he reached the door, the ornate knob slowly turned then the door began to swing open. Jon-James stepped back behind the thick door, as the burly figure of Len Karnacki entered the room.

In his hands the tall youth carried a large, two kilogram cricket bat.

Not seeing Jon-James in the dark, the young man carefully crossed the room and crept across to Jon-James' bed, where he slowly pulled back the covers and whispered, "Inspector?"

"I'm over here," said Jon-James quietly but crisply, as he cocked back the hammer of the large handgun, with his right thumb.

"Mum sent me to get you," called out Len, clearly startled to hear the voice behind him. "She heard a sound coming from the meat shed and there's a light on over there."

As the young man walked back across the room, Jon-James placed the handgun into the large outer pocket of the oversized dressing gown which he had been lent by Ruth Karnacki -- one of her husband's -- but kept the hammer cocked as he turned on the bedroom light.

Len Karnacki blinked against the sudden burst of light, then held out the cricket bat toward Jon-James and said, "She thought you might like to take this as a weapon, in case it's whoever abducted dad."

Jon-James eased off the hammer of the magnum revolver, then reached out to take the cricket bat. He hurriedly slipped his trousers and coat on over his pyjamas, surreptitiously transferring the Smith and Wesson to an inner coat pocket, then followed the teenager out into the hallway.

"What about him?" asked Len, pointing toward the sleeping form of Harper.

"Let him get his beauty sleep," said Jon-James. "He needs all he can get."

Two minutes later they were standing near the front door, where Ruth and Ted Karnacki were waiting.

Pointing out the corrugated iron shed, a couple of hundred metres away from the house, only just visible as a thin pin prick of light through the driving rain, Ruth said, "I'd send one of the boys with you, but after what happened to Arthur...."

"I'm not afraid," insisted Ted, the younger of the two teenagers. "I'll go with him. "

"No, you stay here and look after your mother," insisted Jon-James, smiling at the teenager's impetuosity, remembering ruefully his own eagerness at that age, and how it had nearly got him killed a dozen or more times in his teens and early twenties.

Helping him into one of her husband's plastic raincoats, Ruth explained that although they had a dozen rifles in the house, she was unable to get one for Jon-James, as they were locked away in a cabinet to which Arthur Karnacki had had the only key with him when he had disappeared.

After transferring the magnum to an outer pocket of the raincoat, Jon-James pulled the collar up around his neck, bent his head and started out across the yard through the rain.

He forced himself to work slowly despite the rain, while opening the wire gate to the two-metre high, chain-link fence which encircled the yard to the large meat shed. Then loped across the mud to the shed, careful not to fall against the metal side of the shed, for fear of alerting whoever was inside.

Standing in the relative shelter of a twelve centimetre overhang from the sloping roof, Jon-James slowly inched round the shed until reaching a small, single-paned window, through which he was able to look into the shed. A door led to a room inside the shed, inside which there could have been any number of people. However, within the outer room there was only one person. A short, curly-haired, middle-aged man who looked to be of either Greek or Italian extraction.

After a few moments' hesitation, Jon-James backed away from the window, so that he could circle round the shed to investigate the larger room. However, the larger section was the cold meat storage and had no windows, so he walked right around the building until returning to the front again, where he was able to see the curly-haired man through a second window.

The man was poring through a thick ledger, which sat open upon a small wooden table, the only piece of furniture in the small front room.

After watching the man for a few moments, Jon-James crept across to the metal door. He silently turned the freezing handle, trying to ignore the numbing coldness in his hand as he swung the door wide then quickly stepped into the room.

Looking up, startled at the sound of the creaking door, the curly-haired man asked (in a thick Australian accent which belied his looks), "Who are you?"

"I was about to ask you the same thing," said Jon-James, keeping his right hand upon the revolver in his raincoat pocket.

Realising what the hand in the pocket meant, the curly-haired man gulped, then said in a shaky voice, "My name's Steve Monroe."

"Arthur Karnacki's partner?" asked Jon-James. Receiving a nod, he took his hand off the revolver and showed his identification papers to Monroe.

"You're one of the big city cops come down to try to find Arthur?" said Monroe, more as a statement than a question.

"That's right," agreed Jon-James. "What can you tell me about his disappearance?"

"Nothing," insisted Monroe, "I don't have a clue who might've wanted to hurt Arthur. But I'll tell you this much, Arthur sure knew who it was."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, he was always a very suspicious type of bloke; never liked anyone to get behind him. If he was going into a room, he'd always switch on the light and look behind the door first, then lock the door behind him. He never went anywhere without his Luger and the dogs, and he was always careful to keep his four cars locked up tight, which is just about unheard of out here in the bush.

"But over the last five or six months, he seemed to be even more edgy than usual, as though he were expecting something bad to happen. Of course I didn't think too much of it before his disappearance, but since then...."

"Since then you've started to think that he knew that someone was after him," Jon-James finished for Monroe.

"I'm sure of it. I don't know who it was though, Arthur was as tight as a clam. He was a very private person, with very few friends; I was the best friend he had, but even I couldn't get a word out of him...Except...."

"Except?" asked Jon-James.

Monroe hesitated for a few moments, obviously reluctant to talk, but finally said, "Except I know that he was paranoid about the Ku Klux Klan."

Jon-James looked startled, remembering the radio report about the Klan, and asked, "Surely there wouldn't be any Klan activity out here?"

"Not until the last few years," agreed Monroe. "But then a couple of years ago, after people like Mansell and Foley started to call for a separate Aboriginal state in Australia, a local Klan branch was rumoured to have started up somewhere locally. I don't know anything about it really. I've never had any problems with the local blacks, in fact quite the opposite. As long as you treat them fairly, they're about the keenest workers you can get. But some of the people hereabouts seemed paranoid enough to form a local Klan branch, and Arthur in turn was paranoid about the Klan. He used to say that they were no better than Nazis, just cold blooded psychopathic killers."

Monroe paused to put the bulky ledger book away into the drawer of the rickety old table, then said, "Anyway, whatever happened to Arthur, he certainly knew it was going to happen. Over the last week or so before his disappearance, he must have told me at least a half-a-dozen times, 'Steve, if anything happens to me, make sure you keep the business going.' I guess he meant so that Ruth and the boys would be looked after. But there's no worries on that score, Arthur had heaps of money stacked away in banks and investment portfolios."

Jon-James considered this for a moment, then asked, "But apart from the Klan, you can't think of anyone that Arthur was afraid of, or who might have had it in for him?"

Monroe ran a hand slowly through his short, curly hair as he thought for a moment, before very hesitantly saying, "Well...not really had it in for him...but there was no love lost between Arthur and the pet food makers we deal with."

"Why was that?"

"Because before Arthur and Ruth set up Kangaroo Range, the pet food manufacturers were onto a very good thing. They had a never-ending supply of kangaroo meat at little more than the cost of the ammunition it took to shoot them. Then Arthur came along and organised the shooters into a sort of union. He convinced them to only sell carcasses to him, then he resold the meat to the manufacturers. That way he could squeeze them for top dollar then pass on huge increases to the roo shooters. At first some of the shooters were opposed to having to sell to us. But once they found we were paying them three or four times what they'd been getting before, they soon decided to go along with the idea.

"The manufacturers had no choice but to go along with it, but only did so very grudgingly. In the early days they tried every dirty trick in the book: offering a handful of shooters special rates; paying some shooters not to join the union, even torching one of the earlier meat sheds."

"Is it possible that they might have had something to do with Arthur Karnacki's disappearance?" asked Jon-James.

Steve Monroe hesitated for a moment, his brow creased in thought, then said, "I doubt it. Not nowadays. Things have been running too smoothly between us and the pet food makers over the last few years. Now if it had happened ten or fifteen years ago...."

"You said that you got on very well with the local Aborigines. What about Arthur, how well did he get on with the Aborigines?"

"Well enough," said Monroe, "but you might be better off consulting the local Aboriginal leader Harry Jumbajumbd on that matter. He's a tribal elder and runs the Aboriginal advancement league branch in Downing Street in Angumooka." They talked for another ten minutes or so, then Monroe showed Jon-James the large storage room, which looked like a huge refrigerator -- which in fact it was -- where more than a hundred disembowelled kangaroo carcasses could hang on meat hooks from the ceiling, although currently it was almost empty.

END OF PART ONE:





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