Coasting. Chapter 12 The End & Epilogue
“Where did this bag of money come from?” Cooper demanded to know.”
“That is none of your fucking business.” Paul countered.
“It’s mine,” Russell claimed.
“Er…how about, no its not.” Paul countered
“I gave it to Charlie Jennings.”
“And Charlie gave it to us.” Paul explained
“Why would Charlie Jennings give you two million dollars?”
“There’s only a million in there and why he gave it to us is again none of your fucking business.”
“Did he pay you for the photos?” Cooper wanted to know.
“You know what photos” Russell stood up, he was getting angry.
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“I was blackmailed.”
“Not by me you weren’t. Either way it’s not your money, you paid Charlie for whatever reason and Charlie paid me, which doesn’t make it yours.” Paul concluded.
Russell was livid. “It’s my money.” He shouted and pulled a snub nosed revolver from behind his back. He motioned for Brad and Paul to move into the back of the boat, which they did. Cooper picked up the bag and backed towards the stairs and climbed them backward, he backed up the stairs keeping the gun trained on Brad and Paul until he felt something touch the back of his skull something sharp.
“Drop the gun or I swear I will pull the trigger and the last thing to go through your mind will be this spear.” Dave told him. Russell who was never a bravest man did as Dave ordered and dropped the bag and the gun and slumped in a sobbing heap on the stairs, and Dave put down the lobster. Paul had left the spear gun on the bottom.
They dragged Russell up onto the deck “Over you go Russell.” Paul ordered.
“No. You can’t leave me here.” Cooper pleaded.
“Wrong Russell we can, and we are.” And they threw him into the ocean.
“You can’t leave him here.” Brad implored.
“Tell you what Brad you can stay with him if you want, there’s plenty of food, he won’t starve. You can stay with him or you can come with us. We’ll pay you what you ask for the boat and we’ll leave you with him. Is that what you want?” Was Paul’s ultimatum.
“No, no. I don’t want to stay here, not with him, not here.”
“Let’s weigh anchor then and let’s get out of here.”
They threaded their way through the Whitsunday’s steering wide of Lindemann and Great Kepple. The atmosphere aboard the boat changed after Cooper’s departure. Craigshaw’s attitude also changed. The trip was no longer fun.
“I think its time I went back to Sydney,” Brad finally said, “the purpose of the trip was to pick up Russell and take him to wherever, he wanted to go, now that that mission seems to be over, I feel I need to head home.”
“Can you stay with us for another couple of days?” Paul asked.
“So that we can have the benefit of your knowledge and until we feel comfortable sailing her; plus you know who we are don’t you?” Paul replied staring into hard into Brads eyes.
There was a brief silence as Brad weighed up his reply “Yes I know who you are,” he finally told them returning Paul’s stare. “You’re wanted by the police I saw your photos on the television earlier this week, I wasn’t sure at first but when you mentioned picking Dave up in Newcastle, well everything fell into place, and now all this money” he shrugged
“I know, you know, I’ve sensed it from the first time we met.” Paul told him
“So what is going to happen to me?” Brad asked.
“Nothing, we have no problem with you, none at all, but we can’t let you return to Sydney not yet. Another couple of days, no more, I promise, come on lets go sailing.”
The brief conversation did a little to clear the air; they were west of Hamilton Island and Dave took the yacht on a north westerly heading and took them over the horizon and out of the site of land again, they turned off the navigation aids and tried to focus on using the sextant, but no ones mind was really on what they were doing, Brad was fearing for his life, and the brothers were thinking about how and where they were going to drop him off. The original plan was to drop him off in Cairns, but they didn’t know if they could trust him, what was to stop him going straight to the police and telling them that Dave and Paul Williams were sailing up the coast in a thirty eight foot yacht and before they knew it the navy or the police would be up their arse. No it was too risky dropping him off in Cairns.
Brad had no intention of ratting on the boys; the world was a better place without Cooper, he gave poofters bad name, but he had no beef with the Williams boys, he didn’t know exactly what they had done and didn’t care, if they had ripped Cooper off who cares, he certainly didn’t. The conversation that night over a dull uninspiring meal, did little to persuade the boys to let him off in Cairns.. They were now sailing through the Great Barrier Reef and as the climate on the boat deteriorated so did the weather; a storm was brewing. That night they sat on deck and finished the last bottle of red they could see lights of Cairns winkle in the distance as they sailed further north.
“That’s Cairns over there.” Brad told Paul.
“I know, but we’re going to drop you off a little further north.” Paul told him ending the discussion. They sailed all night and all of the next day and the following morning they were moored off Horn Island, off the tip of Cape York. There is no police, and no police station on the island, at first light they docked along side the small jetty that serviced the town and the small mine there. Brad picked up his few possessions, and stepped ashore
“I won’t tell anyone anything, I promise” he repeated for the umpteenth time.
And they believed him “I know.” Said Paul offering him his hand, they shook hands, and there was a genuine bond between the three of them.
The previous evening they had paid him for the yacht two hundred and thirty grand, was his asking price and they gave it to him plus and extra ten thousand for his ticket home, all in fifty’s and hundreds.
“Is this all legal tender?” he had asked with genuine concern. They laughed, and told him the story.
“We stole a car and this was in the boot.” Dave told him. “Some how our mate Russell was involved in everything and judging by the way he carried on the other day I’d say it’s the real thing, you’re not going to shoot someone for forged paper are you?” Dave said trying to sound convincing.
They trusted him not to phone from the nearest phone box, but just the same as soon as he was on the jetty, the boys cast off and motored out into the Gulf of Carpentaria.
A depression was building in the Coral Sea and the barometer dropped alarmingly, the depression became a cyclone and was named Cyclone Larry, it was one of the most destructive cyclones ever to batter Queensland it came ashore on the 21st March and flattened big chunks of Innisfail and the surrounding area and caused over half a billion dollars worth of damage; it ran across northern Queensland before reforming again in the Gulf.
The evening of the 22nd the ‘Breeze’ was headed due west sailing into the setting sun, but behind them the sky was as black as ebony, and as soon as the last of the light had faded from the western sky the first raindrops, the size of golf balls began to fall.
Night fell and so did the rain and the sea boiled around them; the swell rose from a couple of metres to ten metres in next to no time; waves, thirty foot monsters appeared from out of nowhere and the wind grew and blew with catastrophic intensity. Paul was on the wheel and Dave was in the cockpit with him, they rode up the back of a wave, rolled over the crest and surfed down the back of each wave then crashed into the trough with a bone jarring crunch like they were hitting concrete, and then up they went again, with no sail and the motor pushing them up the face of the wave rode through the crest and skied down the back into the trough each time they hit harder than the last, the waves broke around them flooding the cockpit, up they went again, tugging with all their strength to keep the yacht straight into the wave as the wind tried to blow the boat across the face. Both of them gripped the wheel as it rode up another wave. Wave after wave smashed over the tiny craft and the bow dived deep into the bottom of each wave and then sprang out of the trough as the climbed the next wave. The wind blew with such force they couldn’t hear each other despite almost touching each other. Up they went again climbing up the face of another monster wave, the boat was almost perpendicular as they crested and skied down the back and crashed into the trough again and again; each wave took a little more strength than the last to maintain control and each wave slowly weakened the tiny vessel. The bow spit smashed into another wave, the ocean broke over the bow, pushing the front of the boat under the massive wave, but the boat stubbornly bounced back up like a cork, and up another wave they went. On and on she went gallantly reappearing time and again and ready to ride another monstrous wave, but it seemed inevitable that the boat wouldn’t take much more of this kind of punishment without showing any signs of damage, and sure enough as they emerged from another almighty dumping the bow spit inevitably showed the first signs of damage, it was a minor thing, but it was the first indication that she was starting to succumb to the horrendous seas.
The rain fell harder than they had ever seen and whipped their faces blinding them, wave after wave, with crashing bone jarring monotony smashed over the boat; the bow spit broke some more, and then after she ploughed into the bottom of another monster the bow spit was ripped away from the hull and swung around the boat like massive wooden wrecking ball; it was lethal, still attached to the stainless wire lines that held it to the mast, but the gaping hole that appeared where the bow spit had been was of more concern it allowed the ocean to flood into the bowels of the boat, the pumps were running but they were useless.
“Dave, you’re going to have to try and plug that.” Paul, who had assumed the rank of Skipper told him crew
“Pig’s arse!” was Dave’s prompt reply, but he attempted to navigate the swamped cockpit, he opened the main cabin door and couldn’t believe the mess that greeted him. He looked up at his brother.
“I think we’re fucked Dave,” Paul said.
“Absolutely,” was going to be his brother’s reply, but a wave broke over him and washed him into the galley he crashed his head against the stove, ripping a long cut above his eye. With the added weight of water inside the boat she was difficult to control, she rode up the face of another wave, crested and tumbled down the back of the wave rather than skied, she it hit the bottom hard and the next wave crashed over the deck , the boat was all over the place and was starting to take on water at an alarming rate, she was completely swamped and she rolled under the next wave and; the ‘Breeze’ rolled 360 degrees, once and twice; the boys were thrown around like clothes in spin drier and the mast snapped like a twig, they were under the waves, wrapped in a stainless steel cobweb, the lines were tangled around the hull, all of the power was gone, the pumps had quit, it was black and it was nearly all over, as she rolled third time, she surfaced briefly then she was smashed by another thirty foot wave that washed Dave into what had been his cabin, in the darkness and water the holdall washed around his feet. ‘I think its about time to abandon ship Dave,’ he tried to say, but they were in a massive washing machine, at the complete mercy of a very angry sea. Paul smashed his leg and his head was cracked by the mast and whipped by the rigging, then something happened, the Life Raft that had been stowed up near the bow had burst out of its locker and deployed, it flashed a bright amber light that offered the faintest glimmer of hope.
The boat was sinking and the life raft was still fastened to her preventing a rapid trip into oblivion, Paul was smashed up as was Dave but both managed to get inside the tiny yellow capsule, Dave threw in the bag of money that for some reason still seemed very important to him and tried to untie the raft, but one hand was broken the other had dislocated fingers, nothing would work. They were going down with the yacht they were going to drowned in the blackness, and just when they thought it was over another waved whipped the yacht back to the surface like the storm wasn’t quite finished with them yet, it wanted to play with them just a little more, but Dave and Paul were finished, they were beyond playing they were broken and busted and totally exhausted, and unable to prevent whatever was going to be thrown at them, they were sucked down again down into the maelstrom, but something broke, something tore and the tiny life capsule was free of the broken yacht and they were catapulted to the surface, as the ‘Breeze’ slipped to the bottom of the Gulf Of Carpentaria.
If things had been wretched aboard the yacht over the past few hours they paled into insignificance as the life on the life raft entered another realm of horror; minutes became hours and hours were days as they we thrown all over the ocean, like a ping pong ball in a blender. Paul was in pretty shithouse shape, his leg obviously broken, and he had multiple cuts and other broken bones and Dave wasn’t fairing much better, his face looked like he’d gone fifteen rounds with someone rather nasty and his right arm was smashed and his left had was busted so were a couple of ribs and for two days they suffered the worst the storm could throw at them. Two long days and two even longer nights they were at the mercy of one of the worst cyclones ever to hit Queensland, it blew into the Northern territory and finally blew out over Katherine.
Slowly the waves decreased in size , the wind dropped and the rain cleared and on the morning of the third day they awoke busted and broken but miraculously alive, and then their real torment started, no food and no water cast a drift under a murderous tropical sun.
“Oh God if you ever get me out of this I promise I’ll be good,” Dave said in some kind of a prayer, “I’ll come back as a Buddhist, I’ll do good, I promise.”
“What are you doing?” Paul asked through a veil of pain, “praying to get out of this?”
“There’s nothing else left Paul.” Dave confessed
“So you are praying to God and telling Him if you get out of this you will become a Buddhist. Is that right?”
“Something like that,” Dave replied, feeling a little embarrassed.
“Bit like praying to Wayne Bennett, who is God I might add, and telling him that if you get though this you’ll play for the Cowboy’s.”
Dave shook his head, “The way your brain works.” He was about to enlarge on what he meant when they felt a bump. Paul pulled down the zipper looked out and discovered they had come a shore on a small outcrop of rocks. “
“Looks like your prayers may have been answered.” Paul said. To say that they had found land was a bit of an exaggeration, but they had found something. Dave managed to climb out of the raft and explore their new home; he attempted to pull the raft out of the water, but his hands and arms refused to work and he was just too weak and broken to manage it.
“Stay there.” He said to his brother, like Paul had a choice. It didn’t take Dave many minutes to realise that they were on a small reef, a very small reef. In a couple of minutes of stumbling over the coral and granite he was back at the raft.
‘Well I think we’ve both finally become Queenslanders.”
“How’s that?” Paul asked.
In a cold climate seawater acts like an antiseptic, but in the tropics a tablespoon of seawater contains over ten million bacteria and plankton, and they were starting to have a feast on the open wounds and in a very short time the boys were starting to feel the early effects of being poisoned.
Two days after Cyclone Larry had blown in to the Gulf, HMAS Bendigo steamed out of Townsville on her fortnightly run across Australia’s northern waters in an attempt to intercept ‘Boat People’ ‘Asylum seekers’ or whatever the PC ‘s were now calling them this week. Bendigo travelled over the northern tip of Cape York and sometimes made a courtesy call into Darwin before visiting Ashmore Reef and Christmas Island, sometimes they found something, sometimes they didn’t.
On this particular morning the ship was under the command of Captain Joan Street, a thirty year navy veteran, she had joined the navy as a WRAN and had worked her way up to the position of Captain and this was close to the end of the road for Joan; she had less than a year to go before she retired, but she felt that she had already been pensioned of with this milk run. It had its compensations though because on that particular morning she was joined on the bridge by a young Second Lieutenant Mac Stevens, he had graduated from the HMAS Cerberus the navy academy in Western Port Bay, a couple of years ago; he was keen and destined for better things than this gig, and if he played his cards right with Joan, there could be a rosy future for him.
He was scanning the horizon; the Ocean was as flat as a mill pond and offered no indication of the chaos it had caused thirty six hours earlier. They were steaming west and were due into Darwin the following evening. Mac looked south though his binoculars towards the Australian mainland, when something caught his eye; it looked like a life raft, it was certainly something worth investigating.
“Captain,” Mac called. “Off the port bow, there looks what might be a life raft.”
She came and joined him and scanned where he was pointing.
“What are you doing tomorrow night Mac?” She asked casually, as she adjusted the binocular lens.”
“I might stay aboard, Darwin doesn’t really do it for me,” he lied, “I also need to study for that instrumentation course I’m taking.”
“There is something out there. Change course to 180 Mac, lets take a closer look.” She instructed. “You’ll have plenty of time to study this afternoon when this watch finishes. I have some friends I’d like you to meet Mac. No you’re coming with me tomorrow. That’s an order.”
“Aye, aye Ma’am.” Mac replied.
The ‘Bendigo’ effectively turned left and headed due south towards the orange thing on the horizon. In the middle distance was Truant Island, an unoccupied Island and just to the north of it lay Truant Rock or Truant Reef, a small atoll about the size of a football pitch that rose above the waves at low tide and disappeared just below the surface when the tide turned. They cruised to a position a couple of hundred metres from the rock, and Mac led a three man team in a zodiac to inspect the life raft. When they got close enough Mac called, but there was no response from the orange craft. They pulled alongside the raft and when he could he pulled back the flap to see if any one was inside the life capsule.. He was horrified at what he found.
“Oh Jesus Christ.” Was all he said. It had been four days since Dave and Paul had run aground on the rock and their condition had deteriorated to such a state they were barely alive, Mac clambered aboard and gave each man a quick exam.
“They are both alive, but there’s hardly a pulse between them,” he called to the two in the zodiac, fuck they smell. We won’t transfer them to the zodiac; tow us back to the ship.” Stevens’ ordered. The two crewmen of the zodiac quickly obeyed and in a few seconds they were bouncing back to the Bendigo.
“What the fuck happened to you two?” He asked, it was a question, but they were unconscious, completely unaware of what was happening. He looked around the small capsule and saw the holdall; he dragged it across the bottom of the dingy, and unzipped it; he couldn’t believe his eyes.
“Holy Fuck!” He said shaking his head, he ran he ran his hands through the money; he had never seen so much, “holy fuck!” he repeated. He sat in the bottom of the raft beside the two festering men, he was stunned then for a couple of seconds, he quickly rezipped the bag and thought about what he was going to do, but the pitch of the outboard changed breaking his thoughts, and the zodiac slowed as it approached the Bendigo.
They came along side where the two brothers were transferred to stretchers and then winched aboard and taken to the sick bay; first Paul and then Dave. Mac then waited until the small crowd that had gathered at the rail had dispersed and when he was quite sure that no one was watching he quickly came aboard with the bag; he punctured the life raft, it had served its purpose, but it would never be used again and as Mac climbed the steps and the raft slowly spiralled into oblivion and would soon joined the wreck of ‘The Breeze’ at the bottom of the Gulf.
Lieutenant Mac Stevens returned to the bridge and the Bendigo resumed its course to Darwin.
“What was all that about Mac?” His Captain asked.
“Two men, barely alive, in terrible condition; I’ll be surprised if they survive.” Mac told her with genuine emotion.
“What nationality?” Joan asked
“Don’t know, difficult to tell, no ID.”
“Nothing in the bag?”
“The one you were carrying.”
“No, no, nothing in that just some….some odds…and ends…clothes.” He stammered aware that she had been watching him, aware that she was still watching him.
“I’ll have a look later, be surprised what odds and ends will tell you,” she concluded the ship resumed its course to Darwin and the remainder of the watch past uneventfully.
Mac left Captain Street on the bridge at the end of his watch and quickly returned to his cabin, He locked the door and emptied the contents of the holdall onto his bed. Joan rarely fraternised with him on the ship, she was discreet, but it was hardly a secret, he felt confident that he wouldn’t be disturbed He separated the notes and counted it. $1,125000 exactly. “And it’s all mine.” He said to himself.
Joan knew about the bag, she would want to see it, check the contents for any clues to the ID of the men. Then he hit upon and idea. He counted out five hundred thousand dollars and put it in the bag and transferred the rest to his kit bag. He would need Joan’s help with the two men in the sick bay, if they should regain consciousness, things might become a little awkward if they didn’t that would be very convenient, either way he would need Joan’s help; and as all of this was running through his head there was a knock at his door. It was Joan.
On the rare occasions that she visited his cabin the door was always left open, but after she came in, Mac closed the door behind her. He threw the bag on the bed.
“Have a look and tell me what you think.” Mac said. As soon as she opened the bag she was stunned.
“Oh my,” was her reaction. “How much is there?”
“Half a million dollars,” Mac told her. She was speechless.
“What shall we do?” She asked as if she thought that he was already thinking of a plan.
“I suggest we split it fifty, fifty, no one else knows about it, if we can convince the authorities to take them. I think that they are Afghani’s, they certainly look foreign.”
“Let’s go and see them shall we, before we do anything stupid” Joan suggested.
Dave and Paul had been bathed and prepared for surgery, but both men were far too weak to be operated on. They were on a saline drip and a cocktail of drugs, were being pumped into them.
“You just caught them; another few hours and they’d be dead” Dr. Rae, the ships medic told Joan as if reading her mind.
“How are they?”
“Too early to tell at the moment, they are very weak I’ve put them on a drug induced coma; I’m going to keep them out for a couple of days. We’ll know more then.”
“Any marks, tattoos, any indication of their origin?”
“This guy has this blurred tat, but tells me nothing.” The doctor showed Joan a smudge on one of their hands.
“Your guess is as good as mine.”
They steamed into Darwin the next afternoon; there had been no real improvement in the condition of the two men in the sick bay; there was a brief discussion that they should be transferred to Darwin hospital, but Joan had said that they should be kept aboard and taken to the Base Hospital on Christmas Island. There was no argument or debate from Dr Rae he understood the politics.
Sex wasn’t the Joan’s primary focus on this particular visit to the Top End Hotel; and as they sat on the bed sex the furthest thing from both of their minds.
“Can we convince the immigration people on Christmas Island that they are Afghani’s?” Mac asked Joan.
“If I put into my report that we found them adrift, which isn’t a lie, and that we have reason to believe they were the survivors of a people smuggler boat wrecked in the cyclone, and for all we know they are?”
“They were carrying Australian dollars!” Mac reasoned.
Joan was a year away from retiring, she had a small sum put away and the pension would keep her above the poverty line, but two hundred and fifty thousand would open all sorts of doors, and the money was clouding her thinking.
“Even if they are not asylum seekers, they were up to something you don’t carry half a million in a bag in the Gulf, they are not legit, if they wake up before we drop them in Christmas Island we’ll hear what they have to say, but I might convince Dr. Rae to keep them quiet for another couple of days,” She looked at Mac and smiled. “Come here, big boy” she cooed; “business has been concluded.”
She didn’t have to interfere; when they returned to the ship both men had undergone surgery, Paul’s leg was fixed and Dave’s arm’s and various other wounds that had been patched were repaired properly and the men were recovering in post-op. After the ship was clear of Darwin harbour and heading out into the Timor Sea Joan went to the sick bay to see how her passengers were , and if anything they looked worse than her previous visit.
“Are they alright?” She asked showing genuine concern.
“No. They are both very ill, their cuts, every one of them, have become ulcerated and the poison is in their system, it will take a few days for them to ride out the worst of it. I’ll keep them comatose for a few more days, the doctor explained, Joan could have kissed him.
They arrived at Christmas Island in the evening of the second day out of Darwin, and the brothers were transferred to the Base Hospital there, they were still in the drug induced coma that the doctor had recommended.
They had delivered many asylum seekers to Christmas Island and Ashmore Reef over the years that Joan had been on this patrol of Australia’s northern waters, she had rarely shown any emotion and it wouldn’t do to be show any now.
They sailed on the tide the next morning Joan and Mac were on the bridge of the Bendigo.
“Set a course for home Mr. Stevens,” Joan ordered.
“Aye, aye Captain.” Mac replied and they sailed into the rising sun.
Abdul and his raghead mates were given six years in the at the David Longland Correctional Centre for stealing, receiving stolen property, and trafficking stolen property among other things their rap sheet was quite long and as soon as he is released Abdul and three of his mates are to be deported.
Poor Gavin in the wrong place at the wrong time. After a lengthy convalescence he returned moving pianos. He has a new girl friend the lovely Sylvia, guaranteed not to go down on you, and looks quite tasty in the bikini thong Gav bought for her; after the shotgun blast Gav doesn’t wear thongs any more.
Dolly, who spent so much time frequenting gay clubs in his constant search for Russell became almost accepted as a regular, he was chatted up one night at the Back Door and forgetting where he was gave the young lad a back hander and called him a faggot, poofter, bastard or words to that effect and was immediately jumped by about twenty faggot poofter bastards and these days eats his lunch through a straw.
Charlie Jennings? Well the block across from the ‘Wheelbarrow’ is still vacant; there is a subterranean river running under it and no matter how much the land is compacted it won’t take a load test and will never be built on, and since Brunswick Street has become a pedestrian Mall there are no cars allowed down at his end of the street so it isn’t even used as a car park any more. It’s for sale I’m told, very cheap, almost a steal.
As soon as Brad Craigshaw could he flew to Rockhampton and hired a yacht and went in search of Russell Cooper; he located the island where he had been abandoned, but found no sign of him. Brad spent a week going through the islands enquiring about a flamboyant homosexual, but no one had heard or seen anyone answering his description. Recently Craigshaw had heard that he may have been seen in South East Asia, rumour had it that he might be working in Cambodia or Laos, but Brad doesn’t believe it.
“That bastard wouldn’t work in an iron lung.” He concluded, and besides who’s be stupid enough to employ him?
Captain Joan Street resigned her commission at the end of that patrol. She now lives on the Gold Coast not far from where Cooper once lived. She works part time for the local Coast Guard.
Mac Stevens managed to spend every penny of his windfall in three years on all sorts of junk and travel, he was last heard of in South America, Peru?
Dave and Paul slowly recovered, but it took many weeks until they were fit enough to under go an interrogation. They realised if they confessed as to who they were a lot of people would be glad to see them; not least the police, so they spoke Welsh at their meetings, their parents were Welsh and their father had taught them enough to hold a pidgin conversation with each other and they managed to completely flummox their interrogators; they were eventually deported to Kabul where they were immediately picked up by the US authorities as suspected Taliban agents. They are still being held in a camp near Kandahar which Paul believes is better than Woodford, but they’re still scheming when they are out of earshot.
“D’you know much about wine,” Paul asked.
“Not really, why?”
“I’ve got an idea,”
“Go on,” said Dave encouraging him……….ah, but that’s another story.