Blood at yellow water, p.1

Blood at Yellow Water, page 1


Blood at Yellow Water

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Blood at Yellow Water




  This book remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be redistributed to others for commercial or non-commercial purposes. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express written permission from the author.

  This novel is a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty


  Author’s Note




  Jake Stafford flew into Darwin airport from Tokyo by Qantas jet early on Saturday morning, stepped out of the plane onto the tarmac, breathing in the warm tropical air of Australia’s Northern Territory, grateful to have left the cloudy, polluted skies and hustle of Tokyo. It was October in the dry season, warm but a pleasant time to visit the “Top End” of Australia. Soon tropical rainstorms would sweep across the north, making many of the roads into the outback impassable.

  Jake picked up his luggage off the carousel and hired a Toyota Land Cruiser station wagon from Hertz at the airport. Leaving the airport he drove through Darwin, once a small laid-back frontier town, but now a modern and cosmopolitan city. Most of the original buildings and houses had been destroyed in the devastation caused by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve in 1974. The city had been rebuilt and was now prosperous and vibrant, attracting large numbers of tourists who enjoyed its relaxed vibe and proximity to national parks of stark beauty.

  Jake turned the car south along the Stuart Highway which runs all the way to Adelaide, just over 3,000 kilometres on the southern coast of Australia. His destination was the town of Daly Waters, about 600 kilometres from Darwin down the highway. The road was arrow straight, and soon after leaving the outskirts of Darwin, it was flanked by the red desert of the Australian outback. Rocky outcrops and termite mounds, some as tall as a man, interspersed the sparse landscape. The traffic was moderate, mainly frequented by trucks and B-Double trailers and four wheel drives, many towing caravans. After a short stop for a coffee break at the major town of Katherine he reached the turn-off to Daly Waters, seven hours after leaving Darwin. He followed the narrow bitumen road through desert for another three kilometres before he came to the outskirts of the town.

  The sun was the colour of burnt orange as it rapidly fell below the horizon and long shadows splayed across the red dirt as Jake entered the town. A few tired timber houses sagged under the dying sun. Some skinny aboriginal kids ran around in bare feet playing football. A group of aboriginal men sat under the shade of a huge eucalypt tree, sipping cans of beer. The centre of the town comprised a hotel, a camping ground, a road-house, a bakery, a general store, some souvenir shops and about twenty houses. All the buildings were made of timber with iron roofs, most in a state of disrepair. An open-air shop was distinguished by an old helicopter sitting on its corrugated iron roof surrounded by rusty sculptures of an emu, a kangaroo and a crocodile. Apart from the main bitumen road into town all the streets were made of red dirt causing plumes of dust to rise whenever a vehicle took to the streets. Chickens squabbled in the dirt oblivious to any traffic while an old blue heeler dog sat lazily watching them under the shade of the veranda.

  Despite the ramshackle state of the town, it was busy with tourists, young backpackers from all parts of Australia and Europe, the “grey nomads” -retirees with their expensive four wheel drive vehicles and luxury caravans -and families with their tents, trailers and camper vans.

  The attraction of Daly Waters was twofold. It was the only town within a 100 kilometres that had a petrol station and that brought a lot of motorists to the town. More importantly, it was famous for its local hotel, the Daly Waters Pub which had become an icon of the outback.

  Saturday afternoons were always busy at the pub and this Saturday was no exception. The pub was packed with townspeople, local miners and farmers and tourists who had come to experience a legendary outback hotel. Jake pulled into the car park, locked the Toyota and walked into the hotel. He had never seen anything like it. It was a large square one storey building made from timber with a sagging corrugated iron roof. Over the years extensions had been built on to it which made it look even more dilapidated. It was first built in 1893 as a watering hole to service the stock route that ran between Queensland and Western Australian, subsequently as a staging post for the Pony Express which followed the telegraph line between Daly Waters and Tennant Creek, 200 kilometres to the south. In the 1920’s an airport was built just outside the town as a stop-over for international flights to London from Melbourne and Sydney. The airport was used as a base for the Australian and American air forces during World War Two.

  The pub had survived threats from bushfires and storms, locust plagues as well as the ravages of exuberant patrons who, in moments of intoxication, had done their best to destroy the place by fighting each other. It had three separate bars, a huge beer garden out the back for diners and entertainment, a large kitchen, ten hotel rooms with shared bathroom facilities, and some dormitory style rooms for back-packers. Each of the bars was decorated in a unique way with the help of regular patrons and visitors. The main bar had a huge assortment of T-shirts, hats and caps and brassieres draping one wall, another wall had shelves of empty beer bottles and cans, while yet another was covered with business cards, banknotes, stickers and postcards - souvenirs left behind by visitors from all corners of the world. The sports bar offered every kind of sporting memorabilia from signed football jumpers to cricket bats. There was even a pencil drawing of Slim Dusty, signed personally by the legendary Australian country singer.

  The main room was crowded as Jake edged up to the bar. The bar was lined with tough looking locals who looked like they had been drinking for most of the afternoon, one of which gave him a hard stare when he pushed past him to the bar. There were two attractive young women and an older guy tending the bar; the women were obviously on tourist visas working their way around Australia, one was Japanese and the other had a strong Irish accent. Jake asked the Japanese woman for a beer, ordering in Japanese.

  She looked surprised at hearing her own language spoken and smiled at him as she poured him a beer out of the tap.

  She replied in Japanese “How come you speak Japanese so well?”

  Jake replied “I was in a student exchange program and stayed with a Japanese family for a year when I was at secondary school. I also work for the Australian Embassy in Tokyo.”

  “Oh, and what are you doing here?” said the Japanese woman,
her eyes shining brightly.

  “I’m catching up with family before going to a conference at Kakadu,” replied Jake as he reached for his beer.

  “Oh, you mean the Australian Japan conference at the Yellow Water resort?”

  “Yes, how did you know that?” said Jake, surprise in his voice.

  She was about to answer when Jake felt a sharp push in his ribs and a slurred voice in his ear saying “Hey, city boy, can you stop chatting up the Jap bird and let a man get a beer.”

  Jake turned around to see a large red face about three inches from his own belonging to a very big man with hands the size of shovels.

  “Are you talking to me?” Jake said.

  “Yeah I am, city boy. Move out of the way so a man can get a drink.” He elbowed Jack aside and pushed his big belly up to the bar. Jack turned to the Japanese girl, calmly paid for his beer and said in Japanese “Thanks, you better serve this stupid gaijin before he breaks the bar down.” She giggled shyly at his words.

  “What did you say to the slant-eye?” bellowed red-face.

  “I said you’re so full of it you wouldn’t know if you were drinking dingo piss.”

  The other locals round the bar turned to look at the newcomer.

  “You smart arse, get going or I’m gonna spread you all over the pub floor,” and with that red-face pushed him backward. Jake stumbled and grabbed red-face’s shirt in the process spilling his beer all over his jeans.

  “You cheeky bastard, yer gonna pay for that,” growled red-face and promptly punched Jake in the face, knocking him flying into a bar stool which he hit full force with his hip before collapsing on the ground.

  “Good onya Blakey, that’s teaching him to have a bit of respect,” said one of his mates called Spinner at the bar, urging him on.

  Jake lay on the floor holding his chin which was hurting badly and looked up at the ugly face in front of him.

  “Had enough city boy?” sneered Blakey leaning over him.

  “Yeah, help me up will you?” said Jake, sitting up and holding his hand out to clutch his shirt.

  In a flash, Jake pulled Blakey to him, planted his right foot into Blakey’s upper left thigh and rolling backwards lifted him bodily over his head so that he went flying over, smashing his head on the side of the billiard table. There was stunned silence in the bar as Blakey lay crumpled on the floor. Jake was just getting up when two of Blakey’s mates rushed at him. He managed to break a punch from the one called Skinner with his forearm, locked his arm and applied a full shoulder throw to swing him across his body so that Skinner’s momentum carried him into a table and chairs where he also fell in a heap. However Jake didn’t see the roundhouse punch coming from the other lout which slammed just above his ear and he collapsed onto the floor in agony. Barely conscious, he looked up to see a huge boot coming at his head and thought this was it, he was about to die. Just then he heard a whizzing noise, a loud “Thwackkkk!” and the big guy slowly sank to his knees and fell head first onto the wooden floor.

  Dazed, Jake looked up to see a familiar face hovering over him.

  “Hi son, are you O.K.?”

  He looked up in shock to see his father, Bill Stafford, one hand extended to help him up, the other holding a billiard cue. Jake gratefully took the hand and peered into his father’s face.

  “Dad, am I pleased to see you.”

  He looked warily around the room to see Blakey and his mates struggling out the door, yelling a parting “We’ll get you bastards later.”

  “Yeah, well you better bring a few more mates next time, you spineless no-hopers” shot back his father as he sat Jake on a chair. Now the excitement had passed, the patrons wasted no time in turning back to serious drinking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  “So how long have you got here?” Bill asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Jake enjoyed every moment of the entertainment; it was such an iconic performance which you would never see anywhere except in the Australian outback. The band came back on the stage and started playing some rock and roll and couples started to move onto the floor. Lizzie dragged Bill onto the floor and they started moving easily to the music. Jake had never seen Bill dance before and was surprised how well he and Lizzie danced together.

  Jake spotted Shoni walking across the room to clean up some tables only to be grabbed by Lizzie who spoke in her ear, pointing to Jake. Shoni took off her apron and walked to Jake smiling and swaying to the music. Jake got up stiffly, feeling the bruises courtesy of Blakey and his mates, took her hand and walked onto the dance floor. The band had switched to a slow number, Jake took her in his arms and they started moving rhythmically around the dance floor. Jake loved the way Shoni moved so easily in time with the music and felt the smooth silkiness of her body as she moved closer to him. He felt an instant attraction to her and they talked easily as they danced. The band finished the bracket and Shoni broke away from their embrace to continue her cleaning-up duties. Jake let her go after getting her to promise to meet him for a drink when she finished her work.

  Jake headed out the back door to the men’s toilet and noticed two Chinese men talking intently in the corner table. The older, taller one was clearly the leader while his companion was short and muscular. Jake wondered what they were doing in such a remote town as they didn’t seem to be tourists. He walked into the toilet and could just catch their conversation. He found that if he pressed his ear close to the thin plasterboard wall he could just overhear fragments of their conversation.

  The older Chinese was saying in Mandarin

  “……… the explosion in the mine will go off first and a second later the other one will blow up the…” The words became indistinct.

  “What will be the damage, will it kill…?” Jake assumed this was the younger Chinese man talking.

  “The uranium plant and the engine will be destroyed. There will be no survivors in the……”

  “What time are the explosions set for?”

  “They will go off at………”

  As Jake strained to hear the answer, two men walked into the toilet talking loudly and seeing Jake against the wall stared at him angrily. Jake recognised them as mates of Blakey and quickly pretended to wash his hands at the hand basin before walking out. He tried to get closer to the two Chinese to take a photo of them with his mobile phone but the older one looked up at him at the exact moment he was taking his mobile out of his pocket so he moved on to avoid suspicion.

  Jake was bewildered by what he had just heard. He wondered if he had interpreted it correctly. It sounded like they were planning on blowing up a mine but why would they want to do that? Then it occurred to him that the Japanese and Australian Prime Ministers were proposing to jointly launch the inaugural shipment of processed uranium known as yellow cake from the new uranium mine immediately following the treaty negotiations next week. Could it be that they were planning on sabotaging the mine while so many people would be in the vicinity; ministers, officials, mining employees and journalists?

  Jake wondered what to do. Should he tell the local police, the secret service, the Australian Federal Police (AFP)? Would they believe him from overhearing such a short conversation in a foreign language? What would be the motive for such a terrible action of devastation?

  He went back to his table and said goodnight to his father and Lizzie who were in the process of leaving. Bill shook his hand and Lizzie gave him a big hug.

  “We’ll let you sleep in till 9 am in the morning and take you out to Lizzie’s special place. Bring Shoni if she wants to come.”

  Jake sat down and waited for Shoni to finish her work, pondering what action to take if any. He picked up his phone and tapped in the mobile number of Jim Williams. Williams had reached the rank of colonel in the Army when he resigned to join the staff of Malcolm Crichton, the Minister for Defence. Subsequently he was appointed to the Australian Embassy in Tokyo as Defence Attaché. He maintained close contact with the AFP and the Australian Security Information Office (ASIO). Jake had had a few run-ins with Williams in the past and disliked his arrogance but couldn’t think of anyone else he could tell about the conversation he had overheard with the Chinese. He knew Williams was already at the Yellow Water Resort and involved in the security arrangements for the conference.

  Fortunately Williams answered his mobile immediately. Jake explained what he had heard. Williams listened intently to his story and then responded

  “What the hell have you been drinking Stafford? You really think these people would be planning a major hit like that from a pub in the middle of nowhere? This is all bullshit!”

  “But I heard these guys talking about an explosion at a uranium plant.”

  “What you probably heard was them talking about another explosion at the refurbished uranium plant at Fukushima in Japan. They’ve just had an accident in the maintenance area which caused a minor explosion. Stop worrying us about conspiracy theories and get on up here where there is real work to be done.”

  After a few more terse words Jake hung up feeling frustrated by Williams’ reaction. His respect for him dropped even further.

  He looked up to see a smiling Shoni standing in front of him.

  “Are you all right Jake, you look worried?”

  “No I’m fine, just tired and a bit sore.” He stood up and his hip gave way where he had hit the bar stool in his fight with Blakey and his cronies. Shoni grabbed him under the arm and helped him straighten up.

  “Come on, I will help you walk to your cabin.”

  They walked to the cabin, Shoni supporting him. Jake said “Would you like to come in for a quick drink? I always carry Japanese green tea with me.”

  Shoni smiled as she nodded assent as they entered the cabin.

  Jake shuffled around the kitchen, pulled out a packet of green tea-leaves and started making a brew. He asked her whether she knew anything about the Chinese men he had seen but she shook her head. They talked for a long time, sipping their tea before they both started getting tired. Shoni stood up to go. Jake took her in his arms and wished her good night and kissed her gently on the lips. She kissed him back and suddenly they were in a deep embrace. His weariness dropped away as he felt her body through the thin cotton of her dress. He led her towards the bedroom and laid her gently onto the bed.

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