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KANGAROO RANGE, Part Two

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:Sep 18, 2011    Reads: 8    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


PART TWO:

After the tour of the freezer, Jon-James pulled the collar of his raincoat up high, stepped out into the relentless rain and dashed blindly across the yard, almost crashing into the gate to the meat shed yard. He fumbled with the metal gate for a few moments, his fingers almost too numb from the cold to be able to function.

Finally he reached the ranch house, where he found Ruth Karnacki and her two teenage sons huddled together just inside the house. He handed them the cricket bat which was sodden with rain, then explained what had happened at the meat shed.

Ruth was apologetic about having caused him to go out into the rain for nothing, however, Jon-James assured her that he would rather be safe and drenched to the skin, than dry and sorry.

Sneezing into both hands, Jon-James refused Ruth's offer of a hot lemon

drink and hurried back to the comfort of his warm bed. However, it seemed as though he had hardly lain back upon the pillow, when Robin Harper was shaking him awake at the break of dawn.

"Wakey, wakey," teased Harper, "we've got a full day's work ahead of us."

Jon-James forced himself up to a sitting position on the edge of the bed. He yawned widely, rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, then, while dressing, he informed Harper of his meeting with Steve Monroe at the meat shed the night before.

"Sounds like a shady customer to me," said Harper, shrugging off the suggestion that the Ku Klux Klan might have been involved in the disappearance of Arthur Karnacki. Since, if Steve Monroe was mixed up in Karnacki's disappearance, it would make sense for him to find a suitable scapegoat, and Barry Tottenham's recent claims against the Queensland Police Force made the Klan an obvious choice.

Harper was equally sceptical of Monroe's criticisms of the Australian pet food industry.

"The chances that a big manufacturer would risk legal action by burning down a meat shed, just to keep down the cost of their meat, must be pretty damn slim."

They put off the subject over breakfast, rather than upset Ruth who had got up as soon as she heard them moving about. Despite their protests, she insisted upon making them both a breakfast of porridge and toast.

After breakfast, the two men, dressed in raincoats, and sharing a large black umbrella to protect against the teeming rain, quickly walked out to the meat shed to have a look around. However, as Ruth had suggested, any possible clues had long ago been washed away by the rain.

Then, after deciding not to waste time looking round the large property, since they would need a helicopter to cover the hundred thousand hectares and were unlikely to find anything due to the rain; they set out in a Land Rover borrowed from the Karnackis, to drive into Angumooka to meet their contact officer, Inspector Tom Thompson.

"And don't go mentioning the Klan to him when we get there," instructed Harper as he drove along with his nose pressed almost against the windscreen, in a vain bid to see through the nearly solid sheet of rain.

"Is that a request, or an official order?" asked Jon-James.

Having worked with the headstrong young man long enough to know how futile it was to try to boss him around, Harper said, "It's an official request."

They had planned to drive down to Angumooka, report to Thompson, then return to Kangaroo Range by noon) or one p.m. at the latest. However, the pouring rain reduced visibility to almost nil, so that even with no other traffic on the mud road, they were forced to drive most of the way in first gear for fear of skidding off the road. Which after almost four days and four nights of non-stop rain was little more than a quagmire.

It was well after noon when they finally reached Angumooka, having had to stop at least half-a-dozen times to consult the road map which they had borrowed from the Karnackis, then futilely try to read the infrequent road signs which were almost unreadable through the thick, pouring rain. As it was, when they finally arrived, they almost drove straight through the tiny town without seeing it, since the "town" was little more than a general store-cum-post office, police station, Aboriginal advancement league headquarters, and six or seven single-storey weatherboard or brick-veneer houses. Jon-James remembered Ted's remark about it not being a very large town, and thought, 'He sure wasn't joking!'

They pulled up in front of the general store, trying to park as close to the veranda as possible, so that they would not get too wet as they made their dash from the Land Rover.

They made their way along the creaky wooden veranda to the small, two-room police station, which had been a green grocery in the town's more prosperous gold rush days at the turn of the century. The front store had been converted into the station proper, with fruit stands replaced by a small desk and two three-drawer filing cabinets; the back fruit storage area had been converted into the rarely used lock-up.

After identifying themselves and going over the few clues that Thompson -- a giant of a man, one hundred and eighty centimetres tall, with a barrel-like chest -- had uncovered, despite Harper's warning, Jon-James raised the subject of the Ku Klux Klan.

Thompson seemed shocked, and as loath to discuss the Klan as Harper had been.

"Anyway what would the Klan have had against Karnacki?" demanded Harper, seated on one of the two high-backed wooden chairs in front of desk. "They only persecute blacks, and whatever else Karnacki may have been, he was as white as you or I."

"Besides, for the most part the Klan are just decent white folk concerned about the blacks taking over their livelihood," insisted Thompson, taking Harper and Jon-James both by surprise. "And can you blame them, with bastards like Michael Mansell forever screaming for more more more for the Abos and less less less for the rest of us?"

Sensing that he had gone too far, Thompson hurried to say, "At any rate you can forget about the Ku Klux Klan. They had no reason to harm Karnacki. It's much more likely to have been the bloody Abos. They hang around Kangaroo Range like vultures, looking for handouts."

"Handouts?" asked Jon-James, surprised. "Steve Monroe said that they worked for him and Karnacki as kangaroo shooters."

"Fat chance," said Thompson. "Give an Abo a gun and you'd end up with a black boy with a gunshot wound in his own stupid foot or belly. If you really want to track down who killed Karnacki, I suggest you talk to some of the local blacks. They hated his guts."

"If he's dead," said Robin Harper.

"Oh he's dead all right," said Tom Thompson with authority.

"Why would the Aborigines want to kill him?" asked Jon-James.

"I don't know the cause," admitted Thompson, "but the local blacks have had it in for Karnacki ever since he first came here. To the point of poisoning roos so he couldn't sell them for pet food, and they even burnt down his original meat cold storage shed."

Jon-James looked up surprised and said, "Steve Monroe blamed that on the pet food manufacturers."

Harper shook his head ruefully and Tom Thompson said, "Yeah, well he would, wouldn't he. He's a black lover from a long way back."

They talked for a few minutes more, then Harper and Jon-James returned to the veranda outside, shivering at the icy, biting cold.

"I thought I told you not to mention the Klan?" said Harper, as he pulled up the collar of his raincoat, ready to make a dash for the Land Rover.

"I'm sorry," said Jon-James, unconvincingly, "I didn't realise that it was an order. I thought it was just an official request."

Harper gave Jon-James a sharp look, then dashed out into the teeming rain, slipping and sliding in the deep mud. He got as far as the car door, when he realised that the younger man was no longer with him. "Where the...?" he muttered, looking around just in time to see Jon-James step through the doorway into the Angumooka Aboriginal Advancement League headquarters.

'Oh no!' thought Harper. He stood in the rain for a few moments, then, shrugging, he opened the car door and stepped inside to await the return of the headstrong young man.

Jon-James introduced himself to the two Aborigines inside the small office, and was embarrassed, and pleased, when they recognised him from his police papers as the agent who had rescued the young Aboriginal air hostess from the terrorists three months earlier.

"We all think it was a crime the way that judge treated you, Mr Spencer," said the pretty, teenage secretary-cum-tea lady, Jennie Murambi, flashing him a toothy grin of welcome.

The other Aborigine was a tall, deathly thin, grey-haired old man who identified himself as Harry Jumbajumbd, after seconding the kindly words of Jennie.

Sipping coffee made on an ancient pot-bellied stove by young Jennie, they made small talk for a few minutes, then, tentatively Jon-James mentioned Tom Thompson's remarks about the local Aborigines hating Arthur Karnacki.

Jumbajumbd -- or Jumba as he told Jon-James to call him -- seemed offended by the suggestion and Jon-James felt that if it had not been for the very warm welcome that he had just been given, the old man might have ordered him to leave.

"On the contrary," said Jumba, "the local Aborigines have a great respect for Arthur. He and Steve Monroe were the first whites in this area to ever treat us as their equals.

"In fact many of the local Aborigines owe their whole livelihood to Arthur, who they affectionately call The Kangaroo Man. Before Arthur set up Kangaroo Range, the sole income from, roo shooting went to white shooters, who had forced the pet food manufacturers not to buy from Aborigines, by threatening to boycott them. When Arthur came along, he stopped all that. He organised the shooters so they'd get a fair price for their roos and insisted on treating black and white shooters equally. He'd buy roos from anyone and pay top dollar, just so long as the carcasses were top quality."

"What did the white shooters think of that?" asked Jon-James, sitting on a three-legged stool in front of Jumba's paper-laden desk.

"Some of them resented it at first, thought they'd lose part of their income to Aboriginal shooters. Fortunately most of them soon woke up that even if they each sold less carcasses than before, they were still better off, because Arthur paid two or three times as much as the pet food companies had done."

"So most white shooters accepted their Aboriginal counterparts?"

"At least grudgingly. But there were a few who just couldn't stand to see ever black people getting fair treatment. The worst of them are three brothers: Jerry, Danny, and Sammy Ruxtable. The Ruxtable brothers are founding members of the Angumooka branch of the Ku Klux Klan. They use as an excuse the antics of Aboriginal agitators like Michael Mansell, claiming that they have to defend their rights to an income. But the truth is that all three of the Ruxtables have a far better income than any of their rival black shooters. They get paid for their roo shooting, plus pick up full unemployment benefits as well, plus Jerry Ruxtable gets a TPI payment from the government for a back injury that he got in the Vietnam war -- no doubt while running for safety!"

"Well, if he is totally and permanently incapacitated, how does he get employment benefits as well?" asked Jon-James.

"He shouldn't," agreed Jumba, "but I guess there's a failure to communicate between the CES computers and the Department of Defence computers." He laughed, then said, "Ah the wonders of white man's magic." He sipped his coffee then said, "Anyway, the Ruxtables have started to give the local Aborigines a hard time over the last couple of years, pretending they have to fight for their rights."

"What about Inspector Thompson?" asked Jon-James. "Hasn't he been able to break up the Klan, or at least keep them in order?"

"There isn't a real lot he can do, since they haven't officially killed anyone yet. Although there has been an occasional young buck disappear, every two or three months, over the last couple of years."

"What has Thompson done about that?"

"There's not a lot he can do. Whenever he's interviewed the Ruxtables, they've always claimed the Aborigines must have upped and gone walkabout."

"I always thought the walkabout was a marriage ceremony or something?" said Jon-James.

"That's right," agreed Jumba, grinning in pleasure at Jon-James' knowledge. "In the days before white settlement, the Aborigines lived in small tribes of no more than forty or fifty individuals. So, to prevent too much inbreeding from occurring, once a year we would congregate in large groups of a dozen or more tribes, then the marriageable males could select suitable brides from other tribes. Any males who didn't pick a bride would have to wait another year for his next chance. Nowadays, when most Aborigines live together on settlements with hundreds of people together, there is no need for walkabout and it is no longer practised."

"Did you tell that to Thompson?"

"Yes, but he wasn't particularly interested. I'm afraid our local policeman doesn't have a lot of time for the troubles of his black constituents."

"Yes, I've noticed that," admitted Jon-James. He took a sip of coffee, then said, "Steve Monroe said that Karnacki had a bee in his bonnet about the Klan."

"That's right," agreed Jumba. "Most of the local whites have enough sense not to actively support the Klan, but Arthur and Steve are the only two with enough sense to actively campaign against the Klan.

"In fact Arthur was warned off once or twice by a mysterious 'concerned citizen' after he had given one or two lectures too many in public against the evils of the Ku Klux Klan."

"Could that have been the cause of his disappearance?"

"Possibly, I suppose. It would be stupid for the Klan to draw attention to themselves by abducting or killing Arthur, but then the Ruxtable boys have always been pretty dam stupid. So much so that I've often wondered whether they might be just figureheads for someone else."

"A secret Klan leader?"

"Yes, someone smart enough to keep the Klan more or less in order and out of the eye of the media."

Jon-James thought about this for a moment, looking about the boxes of filing cards and newspaper clippings which were stacked around the walls of the small office, then said, "I can't help wondering just how genuine Karnacki might have been in his protests against the Klan in public, it goes against what Steve Monroe said about him being a very private person."

Jennie Murambi turned round in her chair to look wide-eyed at Jon-James, but Jumba asked casually, "You mean sort of, 'Me thinks the man doth protest too much!'?"

"Something like that," agreed Jon-James.

"I don't think there's any doubt that he was genuine. Arthur was a German Jew who spent three years in Belsen concentration camp in World War Two. He absolutely hated the Nazis, and all types of fascists. The Klan and the Nazis might not be quite the same thing, but close to it. They're both ultra-fascist organisations which virtually worship money as a religion, power as a religion, and racial bigotry as a religion. So if they're not quite identical, they're at least ninety-nine percent identical. To the point where it wouldn't make sense for an American black not to hate the Nazis, or a German Jew not to hate the Ku Klux Klan."

They made small talk for a few minutes more, with Jon-James embarrassed as Harry Jumbajumbd and Jennie Murambi again congratulated him for rescuing the Aboriginal air hostess, before finally Jon-James said his goodbyes and stepped out onto the wooden veranda outside the small office.

Jon-James saw Harper looking bored and petulant seated behind the steering wheel of the Karnackis' Land Rover, and started to step out into the rain, when he heard the sound of footsteps behind him. Turning round quickly, he saw the towering form of Inspector Tom Thompson, looking very sour-faced, as though he were looking at something slimy.

"You won't learn anything useful from that black bastard," said Thompson gruffly.

Colouring, but trying to keep the anger out of his voice, Jon-James said, "oh I don't know, he told me a few useful things."

"Such as?"

"Such as he helped me to rule out a strange notion I had that Karnacki might have been the secret leader of the local Ku Klux Klan."

"Secret leader?" asked Thompson, wide-eyed with amazement.

"That's right. It seems that three bothers -- Jerry, Danny, and Sammy Ruxtable -- are figurehead leaders of the local Klan. So I had wondered if Karnacki might have been the real leader, and if the local Aborigines might have found out and murdered him as a warning to the other local Klan members."

"I doubt it, Karnacki was a black lover like his partner, Monroe. Besides, the biggest enemy the blacks in this country have isn't the Klan, but themselves. They're all a pack of no-hoping scroungers, grown fat and lazy on government handouts. They wouldn't have the guts or ability to abduct someone. If the Abos are involved, it's more likely a lone black who did it for the money."

When Jon-James looked surprised, Thompson explained, "Karnacki made it a habit to always pay for roo carcasses in cash, and as a consequence he carried a large wad of up to $12,000 of rolled up bank notes on him everywhere he went. So, my advice to you is forget the Klan and look for that money. If an Abo took it, it won't be very long before he starts lashing out buying grog. All the blacks around here are hopeless alcos."

Jon-James thought about this advice for a few moments, then said, "Thanks, but I think at this stage the Klan are still the main suspects." He looked up at the sky, which was still unleashing its torrential rain, and said, "There's not a lot more I can do today, but I think I'll go over to have a talk with the Ruxtable brothers first thing tomorrow."

Looking alarmed, Thompson started to speak, then changed his mind.

"You sure took your time," said Robin Harper, as Jon-James finally returned to the Land Rover.

On the drive back to Kangaroo Range, Jon-James told Harper what he had learnt from Harry Jumbajumbd and Tom Thompson.

When they mentioned the wad of cash to Ruth Karnacki, she said, "Well yes, he did sometimes carry huge amounts of money about on him. But other times he only had a few hundred dollars, so there's no way an attacker would have known when it was best to rob him."

"Besides," said Jon-James, "the money doesn't explain his disappearance. A robber could have just knocked him out, or killed him on the spot."

The next day, despite protests from Robin Harper, who still thought that Jon-James was onto a false trail, the two agents drove out to the Ruxtables' "farm" after getting directions from the Karnackis.

Actually the property was nothing more than a dilapidated plasterboard two-bedroom structure, sitting upon a half hectare of land. On the outside the house looked abandoned, with two or three sheets of corrugated iron having fallen onto the overgrown native grass, leaving gaping holes in the roof. Inside things were even worse. Empty beer bottles, cans, and TV-dinner trays were scattered about the rooms, mingling with cooking pots placed around the floor to collect the rainwater that poured in through holes in the ceiling. The furniture was ancient and dust coated, and the rickety couch in the lounge room-cum-third bedroom was missing the legs on one end and had to be propped up by a stack of clay bricks. And the complete absence of doors between the rooms meant that you could have no privacy, even while in the bath or toilet.

The three Ruxtables were every bit as unruly as their house. All three men sported three-day growths, large beer-bellies and gave off an almost overpowering level of body odour.

At first the Ruxtables denied any knowledge of the local Ku Klux Klan. But after badgering from Jon-James they admitted to being leaders of the local branch and resolutely seconded Tom Thompson's comment that the Klan's only intention was to assure a fair go for blacks and whites alike.

"So long as the Abos don't try to get any unfair advantages over us, they've got nothing to fear from us," insisted Danny, the eldest of the three brothers.

The brothers denied any knowledge of what had befallen Arthur Karnacki, and seconded what Ruth had said about him not always carrying large amounts of money around with him.

Apart from this, they were unable to get any real information or reaction out of the three brothers, until Jon-James mentioned that since they made a good living shooting kangaroos, they were not eligible for employment benefits, which would have to be cut off.

"Plus you may have to pay money back to the government for the time that you were getting the dole and shooting," said Jon-James to the obvious anger of all three brothers who were clenching and unclenching their hands, barely able to contain their rage. "Then there's the matter of your TPI," he said to Jerry Ruxtable. "Totally and permanently incapacitated means that you cannot take on any work, even part-time, and cannot receive employment benefits either. Both of which you have been blatantly doing."

"Get out!" shouted Jerry Ruxtable, finally losing his temper and advancing upon the two agents. "Get out, before I throw you both out. I don't have to take that from you right here in my own home!"

Jon-James and Harper started to walk toward the front door, sidling rather than present their backs to Jerry, who screeched at them, threatening violence, all the way to the door and back to the yard.

As they moved toward the Land Rover, he ran after them and shouted, "We'll see what Tom Thompson has to say about you two and your sneaking, meddling ways!"

"I wonder what he meant by that?" said Jon-James as he slammed the car door behind him, locking out the sounds of Jerry Ruxtable.

"Just an idle threat," insisted Harper, although Danny and Sammy Ruxtable were doing everything they could to shut up their brother, before he said anything else.

Back at Kangaroo Range, Jon-James sat at the phone stool, nursing what looked like a black plastic suitcase. He opened the case to reveal a laptop PC complete with external modem, which he connected to the Karnacki's telephone. Then he logged onto A.S.I.O.'s $80 million IBM MMX computer, using a brief case sized terminal which they had brought with them from Canberra, fed in information about the three Ruxtable brothers, and carried out his threat to get them all thrown off the CES listing and Jerry off the TPI.

But the blond secret service agent was not the only one to carry out his threat. That night they received a warning from the Ruxtable brothers.

Since there was nothing to do in the evenings, with the constant rain even interfering with the television reception, the two men had gone to bed early. However, they had hardly fallen asleep, when they were awakened by shouting.

Sitting up upon the edge of his bed in the dark, Jon-James at first thought that it was the Karnackis shouting. However, he soon realised that the ululation was coming from outside the house.

Walking across to the four-paned window, the two men looked outside and saw the surrounding countryside lit up with a hundred petrol-soaked torches which burnt brightly despite the pouring rain which drenched the pointed white masks, and ankle length white gowns that the local Ku Klux Klan members wore as they stood around the front of the house, shouting for the two agents to come outside and face them.

"See what you get for stirring," said Harper, more from fear than anger.

Jon-James on the other hand seemed almost preternaturally calm, as he reached into his suit coat and extracted the .457 Smith and Wesson magnum revolver.

"Where the hell did you get that cannon from?" asked Harper, drawing out his own much smaller .38 snub nosed revolver. "You're not even licensed to carry a handgun at the moment."

"So arrest me," said Jon-James caustically.

Turning toward the door at the sound of wood breaking downstairs, they saw Ruth Karnacki highlighted in the darkened doorway.

"Don't worry," she said, "that's just Len and Ted breaking open the gun cabinet, to get out Arthur's shotguns."

Ten minutes later they stood near the front door carrying double-barrel shotguns, and boxes of cartridges. Despite being told to keep well out of sight, Ruth Karnacki stood just behind the door, peeping out from behind the voile curtains of the window by the door, as her eldest son, Len, and Robin Harper strode outside, guns at the ready, to meet the hooded men.

As the two men stepped out onto the wooden veranda, four hooded figures stepped forward to meet them. Three of them were obviously the Ruxtable brothers, a fact confirmed when Danny said, "Bring out that trouble making bastard, Spencer. He's the one we're after."

"What do you want him for?" asked Len, following Jon-James' instructions to stall for time.

"Just bring him out!" ordered the fourth hooded figure in a gruff voice which they didn't immediately recognise. A giant of a man, he was obviously the secret Klan leader that Harry Jumbajumbd had suspected.

"We just want to teach him not to go meddling into other peoples' business," said Jerry Ruxtable.

"What do you plan to do to him?" asked Len.

"Don't worry," assured Jerry, "we don't intend to hurt him much."

"Just break both his arms and both his legs three or four times each," said Sammy Ruxtable, drawing sniggers from the crowd of hooded men.

"He's not here," said Harper, holding the shotgun so that it was pointed midway between Jerry Ruxtable and the secret Klan leader.

"He's hiding in the house!" insisted Danny Ruxtable.

"Did you kill my father?" demanded Len Karnacki.

"That's right," agreed Jerry, having to shout to make himself heard above the sound of the teeming rain.

"Shut up, you idiot!" ordered Sammy Ruxtable.

"It doesn't matter now," said the leader in an ominous tone. "Let them know."

"Because he helped the Aborigines get a better go around here?" asked Len.

Jerry snickered, then said, "Sure we hate the Abos, but that has nothing to do with why we killed him."

"Then why?" pleaded Len, needing to know.

"Why don't you ask your mother?" said the Klan leader, catching a glimpse of Ruth Karnacki through the window. "She knows why we did it."

Len and Harper both looked shocked and half turned toward the open front door, to face Ruth as she stepped out onto the rain-slickened veranda.

"Mum?" asked Len, riddled with doubt.

Ruth put a comforting hand on her son's left shoulder, and said, "Your father was a German Jew. He spent three years in Belsen concentration camp during the second world war...."

"Yes mum, I know..." began Len, before being shushed by his mother.

"While he was in there, he saw his father, two brothers and three cousins all murdered by the Nazis. Later he found out that his mother and sister had both been murdered at Auschwitz. Your father himself was due to be executed when the American troops finally overran Belsen and liberated the inmates.

"When your father was released, he was a broken man, without purpose in his life. Then after the war, the Americans spent years tracking down and arresting escaped Nazis, and suddenly Arthur had a purpose in life: to avenge his murdered family! He worked with the Americans for five years. Then was approached by the MOSSAD: the Jewish secret service. He worked for the MOSSAD for twenty long years, helping to track down dozens of minor Nazis and half-a-dozen or so of the big fish, and even had a hand in the capture of Adolf Eichmann in 1962.

"But after a quarter of a century he decided that he'd had enough. The hurt of what had been done to him would never stop, but at least he had burnt out his need for revenge. So your father and I married and set out to build a new life together. But West Germany was not a good place for Jews in 1970, there were already rumblings of the rise of the Fourth Reich, with the new Hitler-youth heralding that madman as a German martyr.

"So, since Australia had virtually opened the floodgates to immigrants from the early 1950s, we decided that this was as good a place as any to start again, half the world or more away from the terror of the Nazis. Or so we thought...."

"But what you forgot was that the floodgates were also open to Nazis, who fled from Germany to Australia in the hundreds in the late 1940s and early 1950s," said the Klan leader. "Recently the local Nazis discovered who Karnacki was, and since they didn't have the means of taking care of him, they asked us to do it for them.

"We're not completely aligned with the Nazis, but we do share certain sympathies, such as recognising the need to keep certain inferior races in their place. So we readily agreed to help them out by killing Karnacki."

As they were talking, the crowd of hooded men began to grow restless as they were drenched to the skin in the pouring rain, so their leader said, "Anyway, enough of this; now where is Jon-James Spencer?"

"Right behind you!" said a voice from behind the crowd. Turning, they saw Ted Karnacki holding a double-barrel shotgun in his hands, and Jon-James holding the large Smith and Wesson .457 magnum revolver.

The crowd started to move toward the two men, so Ted fired a warning shot over their heads. As the crowd hesitated, not having brought firearms themselves, their leader ordered, "Get them! Get them! and they moved forward.

Jon-James cocked the magnum revolver, with a loud noise like someone cracking their knuckles, and the crowd hesitated again.

"For God's sake he won't dare to shoot you," insisted their leader, "he's already on suspension for killing five men, he's not even supposed to have that thing."

The crowd began to move forward again, so Jon-James fired a warning shot. In the rain it sounded like a flash of thunder and the crowd stopped in its tracks again.

"He's only bluffing!" shouted their leader and the crowd moved forward once more.

Jon-James raised the handgun and sighted at the chest of the nearest Klan member and ordered, "Stop, or I'll shoot!"

As the man began to swing his burning torch like a club, Jon-James started to pull the trigger but then stopped, frozen for a second with doubt as he remembered the words of the magistrate three months ago, "You're a trigger-happy killer, no better than the men you slay!" He wondered if it was true? If he really was too fond of killing?

"For God's sake shoot him!" shouted Ted Karnacki, as the flaming torch swung within centimetres of Jon-James' head.

Awakening from his reverie, Jon-James pulled the trigger.

The gun went off with a sound like a cannon.

The flaming torch flew out of the man's hand, narrowly missing Jon-James' head as flew over his left shoulder.

The Klan member shrieked and flew backward, propelled by the force of the magnum bullet which ripped a hole the size of a fist through his chest.

For a few seconds the crowd stopped and stood staring down at the bloody body that lay in the mud at their feet. Then they charged forward once more determined to reach the secret service agent this time.

Jon-James fired three more times, and Ted Karnacki fired both barrels of the shotgun into the onrushing crowd.

Three men fell to Jon-James' revolver, half-a-dozen fell screaming to the ground as the shotgun, at point blank range, cut a swathe through them.

Shocked and disheartened by the carnage that had befallen them, the other Klan members fell back. Some turned and ran into the surrounding bush. But the majority stood still and allowed themselves to be taken into custody.

"You'd better get our friend Thompson on the blower," said Robin Harper, fifteen minutes later as they locked the last of the Klan members inside the meat shed, which they were using as a temporary lock-up.

"No need," said Jon-James, reaching up to pull the white, pointed mask off the head of the secret Klan leader.

"Inspector Thompson?" said Len Karnacki, in amazement.

"How did you know?" asked Tom Thompson.

"I wondered when you were so vocal defending the Klan. Then when I heard you speak, I thought I recognised your voice. And when I spoke to you yesterday you contradicted yourself badly when you started off saying the local blacks hated Karnacki's guts, then ended up accusing him of being a 'black lover'. But the clincher was when you said that I didn't have a licence currently to carry a handgun. No one around here knew that except you and Rob, and I could see him standing on the veranda near Ruth and Len, so it had to be you."

Jon-James used PC and modem to communicate with the master computer at A.S.I.O. headquarters in Canberra, to arrange for police helicopters to be sent overnight to pick up the more than eighty prisoners.

* * *

A.S.I.O Headquarters, Canberra, Early March 1999

Jon-James stood ogling the willowy blonde secretary sitting at the desk before him.

After a moment the phone buzzed on her desk. She picked up the receiver, then smiled at Jon-James and said, "You can go in now."

The inner office looked almost like a small library with hardbound books in shelves covering most of three walls. Directly in front of the door was a large desk at which said Jon-James's immediate superior, Sir Leon Carter, a tall, thickset man in his early seventies who looked at least a decade younger than his years.

Indicating a manilla folder on his desk, Carter said, "I've just been looking over Robin Harper's report of the Karnacki case ... congratulation on a job well done."

"What will happen to Thompson?" asked Jon-James, seating himself in front of the huge black marble-topped desk.

"He's being transferred."

"For trial you mean?" asked Jon-James.

Carter looked down at his hands as though ashamed to look the younger man in the face, and said, "No, there isn't going to be any trial. Officially the seven Ku Klux Klan members that you and young Ted killed are responsible for the abduction and possible murder of Arthur Karnacki."

"You're going to whitewash it?" asked Jon-James.

"We can't afford to have another scandal at the moment," explained Carter, almost pleading with Jon-James to understand. "Not with the ongoing embarrassment over Barry Tottenham's claims about the Queensland Police Force."

"Which apparently are true?"

"Yes," conceded Carter. "But part of the deal we made with Thompson and his cronies was that they give us the evidence we need to force the Klan members out of the top positions in the force. We intend to weed the Klan completely out of the Queensland Police Force. As for you, we've managed to convince Judge Jenkins to see the error of his ways, so, if it's any consolation at all, you can return to official Federal Police duty immediately."

"No, no it isn't!" said Jon-James in disgust as he stood and turned to storm out of the office.

THE END

© Copyright 2011

Philip Roberts, Melbourne, Australia





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