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SOMETIMES FOR THE GOOD

Fun loving, feisty, stubborn, determined, hot-headed ... all words that describe, Michelle Mclean, in this fast-paced novel.  

The daughter of the couple in Elizabeth Sandral’s first book, ‘Blood and Fire’, will make you laugh and cry as the drama and wild adventures which have now come into her life unfold.  

This book is set in the Alpine high country of the Snowy Mountains , on a property bought for Michelle by her father, which she manages together with her lifelong friend, Shane.  

Her tumultuous relationship with Jack; the diagnosis of her child’s life-threatening illness; the obsession of an American wild dog hunter, build the story to an exciting climax.  

On top of dealing with the psychotic dog hunter’s obsession with Michelle, the young family has to cope with the prospect of possibly losing their young son and having a daughter with remarkable mental abilities. They also have to contend with the very real dramas of the high country ... horse accidents, savage wild dog attacks and bushfires.  

It culminates with a final showdown between the family and the American dog hunter, a wanted murderer.

In Store Price: $AU28.95 
Online Price:   $AU27.95

ISBN: 1-9211-1869-5
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 336
Genre: Fiction 

Also by Elizabeth Sandral - Blood and Fire


Author: Elizabeth Sandral 
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2006
Language: English

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About the author    

Elizabeth was born in 1970 in a small town on the north coast of New South Wales . She has lived in rural NSW for a large part of her life, and is currently living in rural Victoria with her husband and three young sons.  

She has worked on the land all her adult life, as well as serving as a NSW Police Officer. She draws on her own experiences, and the places and people she has encountered during the course of her life when writing.  

All locations are based on places that she knows. She loves the bush and hopes to share some of the bush ways with people who can’t be there.  

‘Sometimes for the Good’ is the second in a trilogy; the first being ‘Blood and Fire’, also published by Zeus Publications.

Prologue

 

Michelle wedged her hand tightly under the thickly-plaited girth strap. She punched her grip with her free hand and felt her unbroken mount shift under her skittishly. Tugging her wide-brimmed Akubra hat firmly into place and raising her free hand to signal she was ready, she waited for the shoot to open.

The announcer for the evening saw Michelle’s signal. ‘And our next rider,’ his voice boomed over the loud speaker, ‘is a young lady all the way from Broken Hill. She’s riding Storm Trooper who, as you all know, has never been sat for the full six seconds, by a female rider that is. Let’s see if tonight’s the night. How about a big Wangaratta welcome for Michelle McLean.’

The two thousand-strong crowd of spectators roared their approval and the corners of Michelle’s mouth turned up slightly in acknowledgement of their praise. The minute movement was unnoticeable to those who watched her stern look of concentration.

There was a loud mechanical clang as the gate swung open. The untamed gelding leapt free from the confines of the shoot, bucking high into the air and landing some five metres away. Michelle had ridden and broken horses all her life and she had been in several rodeos before. She worked her legs and her free arm to act as agents against the twisting, writhing mass of muscle beneath her. In a matter of seconds however, her hand worked loose from the rope secured around the animal’s chest and Michelle felt herself being propelled through the air.

She landed on the soft, churned up dirt of the arena and felt instant pain. In the back of her mind she knew she had broken her arm. Ignoring the hurt she rolled and leapt to her feet. It was imperative she move away from the wild animal as quickly as possible lest she be struck by flying hooves. 

The horse, now it had rid itself of the annoyance on its back, fled in search of the exit gate he knew he would find.

Michelle bent, picked up her hat with her good arm and waved it high over her head in a salute to the cheering crowd. The excitement and the adrenalin pumping through her veins made the pain in her arm seem like a small price to pay.

‘Well she didn’t go the distance,’ boomed the announcer, ‘but what a ride. Let’s hear it for Michelle McLean!’ The crowd roared anew, showing their admiration by coming to their feet.

Michelle beamed. She jammed her hat back on her head, clutched her broken arm to her stomach with a wince of pain, and then walked from the arena with a huge smile on her face. She had always been reckless, and fortunately, she had developed a high tolerance for pain.

‘Woo Hoo!’ yelled Shane as he grabbed her in a bear hug and swung her around. ‘That was the best. You were excellent.’

‘Great. Now put me the hell down,’ Michelle laughed. ‘You had better take me to the hospital.’

‘What are you talking about?’ Shane held her at arms’ length and looked for any bleeding. That was when he noticed she was nursing her arm. He laughed. ‘What have you done now?’

‘I think I broke my arm.’ Michelle smiled. Only Shane would find humour in her discomfort. He was her best friend. They had grown up together at Philadelphia , her father’s sheep station situated north of Broken Hill. Shane’s parents had lived and worked at Philadelphia for as long as Michelle could remember. She and Shane were the same age and they had been inseparable since they were four-years old. They had gone through school together and now they were both studying at Dookie Agricultural College near Wangaratta in Victoria .

Michelle was tough and had been Shane’s bodyguard during the early days at secondary school. Shane, who had been a shy Aboriginal boy, was ripe for teasing and bullying. Once he hit puberty however, he had grown, both in body and confidence. He quickly became taller than all the boys in school and the hard work he did on the property caused him to fill out and have the ability to put the biggest of bullies in their place.

The role reversal for Shane and Michelle was most obvious once Michelle herself started to ‘fill out’.

She had been an extraordinarily pretty young girl with jet-black hair and ice-blue eyes. Whenever she and Shane were home from school, they worked as hard as any station hand, either with her father or his. Accordingly Michelle’s skin had a constant golden tan and her body was toned. Her young tom-boyish physique had developed womanly curves and soon she was turning heads everywhere she went.

Now Michelle was an exceptionally beautiful young woman and Shane continued to play the role of protector. He was like a brother to her and that was how she usually referred to him although as far as anyone outside their circle of friends knew, they could have been an item. Every time a bloke got close, Shane would warn him off and not too many blokes argued with Shane. Michelle didn’t mind though. She was too wild and carefree to want the attachment of a boyfriend. When she wasn’t in school or studying, she was partying. Like any good, young Australian girl from the bush she was into having a good time. Usually this involved ute musters, B and S Balls or a good old-fashioned night at the pub.

Tonight was no different. There was going to be a huge shindig after the rodeo was finished. A live band was setting up on the back of a flat-bed truck and already the cans of beer and rum were flowing freely. This was the last bash before Shane and Michelle knuckled down to study for their final exams which commenced in three weeks.

After that Michelle didn’t know what would happen. She knew her father hoped she would come home and manage one of the properties in the large family holding, just as her brother, Paul, had done. Up until recently that was exactly what Michelle had planned. She loved the outback and missed both it and her family dearly.

What her heart longed for however, was the high country. She had visited the area on several occasions over the last two years and each time her passion for that part of the country had grown. It was the total opposite of what she loved about home. Where the outback was hot, dry and dusty, the high country was green and lush. Michelle dreamed of the rolling hills which gave rise to steep mountains where the vegetation was so thick that at times it was almost impassable on horseback.

At home they ran sheep and Michelle used to long for the day when she could return to spending her days in the smelly shearing shed or mustering the wide open paddocks. She used to see herself, sweat drenched and exhausted after a day of shearing. Now she imagined herself mustering cattle from the high slopes of the National Parks and bringing them close to home before the treacherous winter storms rolled in.

‘Your dad’s gunna be pissed.’ Shane brought her wandering thoughts back to the moment.

‘Listen ya big fool,’ Michelle laughed as she punched Shane in the ribs. ‘Get me to the hospital so we can get back here and party.’

‘Sounds good to me.’ Shane took her hand and they made their way through the crowd.

By now their other friends were catching up. ‘Where are you two off to?’ Shailee called.

Shane turned and offered a charming smile. ‘Fluff’s busted her arm.’

Michelle groaned inwardly as Shane used her childhood nickname. He had bought the name with him from home and now all her friends called her nothing else.

‘You’re kidding?’

‘Don’t worry about it Shai. I’ll get her off to the hospital and we’ll be back in no time. Don’t drink all the cans.’

Shailee looked horrified. Michelle laughed again, the anticipation of the evening to come renewing her excitement.

‘Relax Shai. It’s not my first broken bone and I’m damn sure it won’t be my last either.’

Shane and Michelle left Shailee to explain their hasty departure to their other companions.

 

Chapter One - part sample  

 

Jack Stanhope had wandered in and out of the crowd at the rodeo. He was hot and tired. Although the sun had set sometime ago, the sweltering heat still hung in the air. It was unseasonably hot for the end of November, though the revellers here didn’t seem to mind.

The last of the bull dogging had just finished and one of the competitors was limping from the arena. The calf, he deliberately slipped off his horse to catch, had kicked him in the thigh. The crowd was dispersing, families heading home with tired children, the younger generation moving towards the beer tents and the make shift stage where the band was striking up.

For the last two hours Jack had been searching the crowd for the illusive Ms McLean. He was doing an article for his magazine on women in sports which were traditionally male dominated. He had heard the McLean girl’s name mentioned at several of the rodeos he had attended in the past weeks and tonight he had seen her ride. He didn’t think she had any special ability when it came to riding a bucking bronco, he had seen other women do much better.

The one and only reason Jack wanted to speak to Michelle McLean was because she was a damn sight easier on the eyes than most of the girls he had been speaking to. Not that he considered himself sexist or anything. His editor wanted pictures as well as a great story however, and the simple fact was, readers liked to see beautiful people in magazines, especially when it was a woman in a man’s territory. They don’t want to see some cowgirl with close-cropped hair, a hard weathered face and a broad backside. When Jack saw Michelle ride today, well specifically when he had seen her fall, he knew she was the one he wanted to be the face of his story.

He recalled watching Michelle roll out of the way of the horse’s hooves and leap to her feet with agility that surprised him. He took in the fact she was wearing the ‘rodeo uniform’. Jeans, a shirt with the sleeves rolled half way up the forearm and boots. ‘Yep, there’s the finishing touch,’ he had said to himself when he saw her stoop, retrieve her fallen Akubra and squash it back on her head.

Jack had been some distance away from Michelle when she had competed but he could definitely make out her almost boyish figure in her tight fitting jeans. He also caught a glimpse of her tanned, smiling face before she replaced her hat. Her hair was long and black and secured in a braid which hung half way down her back.

‘Yes, she’ll do nicely,’ Jack grumbled now. ‘If only I can find her.’

He had tried the first aid tent; he hadn’t missed the fact that the girl had been nursing her arm as she left the arena, though no one there had seen her. He tried ringing the local hospital however, as soon as he said he was looking for a rodeo competitor who he believed might have injured her arm, the nurse had given him a dressing down about how she hated the damn rodeo and the several injuries it sent their way every time it came round. She mentioned something about too much testosterone and alcohol, then hung up.

So here Jack was. Two hours later and no luck finding the girl. He had asked around a bit but didn’t like his chances. If Michelle McLean was from Broken Hill he didn’t figure on too many people knowing her.

One more try and then he was calling it quits. ‘Excuse me mate.’ Jack tapped a tall, well built young Aboriginal man on the shoulder.

‘Hey,’ Shane said in greeting as he spun around with a smile. ‘What can I do for you buddy?’

‘I was wondering if you know Michelle McLean, she rode Storm Trooper earlier?’

Shane gave the man in front of him an assessing look. He was as tall as Shane and just as well built. He looked a little out of place, he definitely wasn’t a competitor and he didn’t appear to be a spectator either. He was carrying a folder and had a camera bag slung over his shoulder.

‘Who’s asking?’

‘Thank God.’ Finally. ‘So you do know her. I’ve been looking for her for two hours. She fell from that horse then just disappeared. Can you tell me where I can find her?’

‘Like I said, who’s asking?’

Jack didn’t miss the over protective manner of the young black man. ‘Listen buddy, I’m not out to step on anyone’s toes. I’m a reporter with Sports Australia and I’m doing an article on females in male dominated sports.’ Jack saw Shane was impressed as soon as he mentioned the name of his magazine. ‘So if you could just tell me where I could find Ms McLean … I swear I won’t be making any moves on your girl.’

‘I’m not his girl.’ Jack spun around to face the girl who had walked up behind him and instantly noticed the fresh plaster cast on her left forearm. ‘That’s just my stupid brother being too protective.’

Jack didn’t bother to question the difference in their skin colour or the fact they looked the same age, he’d seen stranger things. ‘You’re Michelle McLean.’ It wasn’t a question.

‘Sure am. So am I going to be famous or something?’ Obviously she had been standing behind him for a little while. He was glad to see that she wasn’t giggly and tittering with excitement as did most of the young women he spoke to.

‘That depends.’ He looked her up and down.

Shane, who had moved to stand beside Michelle, scowled at Jack’s open appraisal.

Jack’s eyes returned to Michelle’s face. She still wore her wide brimmed hat and her features were almost completely blacked out in the dark of the night. ‘Take your hat off.’

Brash and forward as always, Michelle whipped off her hat.

Jack was surprised. It was obvious that he wanted to see what she looked like before he agreed to write about her, though she didn’t seem to take any offence at all. Her long hair which had been loosed from its confines fell free from where it had been tucked up under her hat. Jack’s confident smile of admiration was not missed by Michelle or Shane. Michelle smiled back, just as confidently, and Shane’s scowl deepened.

‘Well Ms McLean, maybe you won’t be famous, but if you will permit me, I’ll make sure your face is seen by thousands of readers.’

Michelle whooped with excitement, hugged Shane and then hugged Jack. Her natural exuberance almost knocked him over, and then she let go of him as quickly as she had grabbed him.

‘Let’s go!’ she called to Shane as she ran off.

‘Ms McLean, where are you going?’

Michelle stopped in her tracks. ‘I’m going to get a drink and tell my friends.’

‘I thought we might get started tonight.’

‘Are you kidding? The B and S is starting,’ she replied incredulously.

‘The B and S?’

‘Yes, the Bachelor and Spinsters’ Ball,’ she explained as though she thought Jack might be a bit slow.

‘Yes I know what a B and S is. Don’t people usually get cleaned up a bit, for the first part of the evening anyway?’ He gave Michelle’s dusty attire a pointed look.

‘Oh. Sorry,’ she said with a smile as she passed her hat to Shane. Then she promptly pulled off her brigalow shirt, stood in the middle of the crowd in her jeans and bra, and shook the dust off her shirt. There were plenty of cheers from the crowd as Michelle put her shirt back on and tucked it into her waistband. ‘Better?’ She called to Jack with a laugh then spun on her heel to leave.

Shane followed but turned back to speak to Jack. He had an indulgent smile on his face as though he was perfectly used to Michelle’s antics. ‘Guess we’ll catch you tomorrow buddy. Oh, and I wouldn’t call her ‘Ms McLean’ if I were you, call her Fluff, everyone else does.’

‘Fluff?’ Jack looked unconvinced.

‘Sure, she loves it, trust me,’ Shane called as he too ran off.

Jack was left standing in the middle of the crowd wondering how he could have ever thought of Michelle’s figure as boyish.

 

Jack woke the next morning with a sore head. He had stayed at the rodeo for a couple hours after his conversation with Michelle and had had entirely too much to drink.

He had watched Michelle once the band was in full swing. She moved from group to group, exuding confidence and befriending everyone. He had watched her dance with one partner after another. Unlike a lot of the young and not so young females, Michelle had a way of being free with everyone but never giving the hint that things would go any further. If a young buck became too amorous she would toss her head and laugh in such a way that no offence could be taken from her obvious knock-back. If her brush-off tactics didn’t work, Shane always seemed to be close by. He would step up to the would-be candidate, usually towering over them, drape his arm around Michelle’s shoulders and smile at her pursuer. The possessiveness of such an action was accepted by most every male in the country. Michelle and Shane usually received apologies for the ‘misunderstanding’ before the other party made a hasty retreat.

At one time in the night Jack was again watching Michelle through the crowd when a young cowboy approached her from behind and grabbed her around the waist. Unable to turn around in his embrace, she laughed and asked, ‘Who’s that?’

‘Just an admirer. Been watchin’ you all night I have.’ The drunken slur of the gangly young fellow’s voice was unmistakable.

‘Well mate, how about you step off and watch someone else from now on?’ Michelle managed to keep a light humour in her voice but Jack noticed she was urgently scanning the crowd. Jack knew she was looking for Shane while she tried to disentangle herself from the man’s arms.

Jack too looked for Shane but he was nowhere to be seen. He inched closer to Michelle in order to offer his own assistance if it turned out he was needed. He was close enough to hear the cowboy’s quiet comment.

‘Come on love. Surely a cute thing like you ain’t serious about that coon are ya?’

Jack saw all the good temper leave Michelle’s face. If only the cowboy could have seen the cold look that replaced it he might have backed away there and then, saving himself a whole lot of hurt. Michelle drove her elbow back into the man’s gut with a surprising amount of force. He was immediately winded and released his grip on her. Jack stopped his advance to see what would happen next. Several others turned from their conversations to watch the turn of events.

Michelle turned on the cowboy who was bent over, hands braced on knees, trying to catch his breath. ‘I happen to be very serious about him,’ she said politely, smiling once again.

She turned to leave the suffering man. She had barely taken two steps when the man decided to have another dig and heal his wounded pride a little. Still bent over, his breathing laboured, he said, ‘I wouldn’t want nothin’ to do with ya anyway, ya filthy nigger’s bitch.’

Before anyone could blink Michelle spun back in the direction of the bent over cowboy, her foot flying through the air and connecting squarely with his jaw. The man dropped to the ground immediately and spat blood. ‘You bitch,’ he sputtered. ‘Ya knocked out me tooff.’

Michelle turned and left.

Jack was smiling his admiration. He watched the other onlookers help the man to his feet and shove a can into his hand. They were all laughing, except the injured man who drank deeply and spat again. ‘You know not to mess with that one,’ one of his friends said.

‘And you sure as hell know not to insult blackfellas in front of her. She nearly put Derek in hospital a few weeks back,’ another commented in between hoots of laughter and lots of backslapping.

The group of young men all laughed. ‘Ain’t no point chasin’ her anyhow,’ one said. ‘She never puts out.’

Jack smiled to himself and left the party to the younger crowd. At thirty-two years of age he decided he was well beyond staying up all night on the grog.

Now in the morning sunshine, feeling like he did, he wished he had have left earlier. Mind you, he was glad he hadn’t missed the show. Michelle McLean was going to prove to be very interesting subject material for his article.

Jack packed up his motel room and returned to the rodeo grounds. He didn’t have too much trouble locating Michelle. He waited at the breakfast bar in the recovery tent and soon enough she emerged. She looked even more beautiful in the morning light and Jack felt half disgusted to see how happy and healthy she was after the long night he was sure she had.

During the interview Jack discovered that she would be twenty-one in January, that she was from a property north of Broken Hill called Philadelphia and that she was currently studying at Dookie. He also discovered that she didn’t have more than a couple of drinks at a time, thus explaining her lack of a hangover. Michelle’s reasoning behind this revelation was that she had too much fun, and got into enough trouble, without alcohol to be bothered with it. She proved to be as fun and full of energy first thing in the morning as she had been at the party last evening.

Jack was drawn to the way she laughed so readily and was so keen to talk about any topic he raised. When he mentioned the incident from the night before involving her dropping a grown man to his knees, Michelle explained how Shane had convinced her to take self-defence lessons which soon developed into full blown martial arts training.

Not once did Michelle appear perturbed either about the assault on her or her fall resulting in her broken arm. She talked of it all with genuine humour and good grace. The only time Jack saw her demeanour change from what he assumed was her usual vibrant hyper-activeness, was when he mentioned the comments about Aboriginals that the cowboy had made the night before.

Michelle became serious and Jack decided the look didn’t suit her at all. ‘Don’t get me wrong,’ she informed him. ‘I haven’t got two seconds for a blackfella who wants to drink his life away and live on handouts. But then I can’t abide a whitefella who would do that either. Most of all I can’t abide anyone who lumps all the blacks together and assumes they’re all useless or someone who feels the need to insult them just because of the colour of their skin.’

Jack looked at Michelle for a minute with a look of intrigue on his face. ‘So you’re no activist?’

‘Definitely not,’ she laughed, her serious face gone. ‘I think all Australians should work for a living and pay for their land, blackfellas included. I suppose I’ve just had a bit more insight into them than most white people get. I don’t know, maybe I just understand them a bit more,’ she added with a shrug of her shoulders. She hadn’t really thought about it that much before.

‘Yet you still refer to the Aboriginals as ‘blackfellas’?’ Jack was amused by this expression, given her revelations.

‘Sure.’ Michelle smiled as she went on to explain. ‘My uncle Troy, that’s Shane’s dad, he says that the only time it’s wrong to call an Aboriginal a blackfella is when it’s used as an insult.’ She laughed as she thought of Troy ’s reasoning. ‘He also says that you can pick a fair dinkum blackfella because he won’t give a shit if you call him that.’

Jack laughed too. ‘So Shane’s your half brother is he?’

‘What?’ Michelle drew her eyebrows together in confusion.

‘You said before that Shane was your brother and you just mentioned that his father was your uncle.’ Jack had assumed she meant honorary uncle, unless of course they were really keeping things in the family.

‘No, no,’ Michelle explained. ‘ Troy and Milly, that’s Troy ’s wife, they work on our property. Milly was friends with my mother at school, well Katie that is, she’s not really my mother.’

‘Well that really sheds light on the subject.’ They both laughed.

‘Okay, I’ll start again. Katie is my father’s second wife. There were three of us kids, my older brother, Paul, and my younger sister, Annie. Katie married my dad when I was about four. Now they have three more kids. The twins, Peter and George, then Michael. They’re all in school in Broken Hill, except Paul, he’s home on the farm. We don’t really know our real mother, we haven’t seen her since Dad married Katie. Annie was only a baby when Dad and Katie hooked up and she just started to call her mum. I guess I just got into the habit of calling her mum most of the time as well. She was a mother to us and that’s how we all think of her.’

‘Right, I think I’ve got all that straight. Now about Troy , Milly and Shane,’ Jack prompted as he read the names from his note pad.

‘Okay. Milly and Katie were best friends all their lives. After Katie hooked up with Dad she found out Troy , Milly’s husband, had lost his job and had to work away from home during the week. It was pretty hard on them all apparently, being separated. Katie told Dad all about it and Dad arranged for them to come and live at Philly with us. Milly worked in the house and schoolroom and Troy worked on the property.

‘So Milly and Troy and their six kids,’ Michelle continued, ‘have lived in the house right next to ours for as long as I can remember. All us kids grew up together and we all think of each other as brothers and sisters. Shane is the same age as me and we went to high school together.’

‘Now you’re studying together at Dookie.’

‘Yep. Three more weeks then final exams. This was the last bash before we have to knuckle down.’

‘What happens then?’

‘I don’t know,’ Michelle admitted.

Jack couldn’t help himself, he had to ask her about the men in her life. She insisted, with a laugh, that she had just told him about all the men in her life. When he probed for more information she said men were like alcohol, sure they were fun for a while but when the feeling wore off all you had was a headache. She assured him that, also like alcohol, she had too much fun without a man. There had been the occasional beau but nothing serious.

Jack had one final question. ‘Now what is this ‘Fluff’ business?’

‘Bloody Shane,’ Michelle mumbled and was forced to tell how Shane had told everyone at college about her childhood nickname. Jack laughed and admired her good humour about the issue.

The interview wound up shortly after that and the two said goodbye. Jack promised to send Michelle a set of magazines when her story came out in the January issue.

 

 

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