Blackburn was born in
The Gatekeeper has been accepted as one of the books students can read when taking part in the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge 2008. Last year 140,000 students from 1812 schools in NSW participated. We, at Zeus, extend our good wishes to the 2008 entrants and hope you enjoy reading The Gatekeeper as part of the Challenge.
The sequel to The Gatekeeper, Rudigor's Challenge, will be available for purchase later this year.'
knocked softly. ‘Jenny? Are you awake?’
not paid to be helpful. Hey! Don’t come in!’
lunged for the door a split second too late.
out of my room,’ she growled.
on! Calm down a bit. Mum told me I’ve got to give you a message and make sure
be like that. You know how Mum worries. It’s bad enough you’re going away on
your own for the first time but she’s stressed out that you’re leaving
everything to the last minute. It’s Friday already and you go tomorrow. You
still have all your …’
packing to do,’ Jenny said monotonously, finishing his sentence for him.
‘Well, you can go back and tell Mother that I’m not in the mood to pack. I
haven’t got the energy.’
gave his sister an impish grin.
you ever get tired of being lethargic?’ he asked, ducking just in time to miss
the pillow aimed at his head.
was furious. ‘If you’ve come here to lecture me …’
on! Just listen to me for one minute. You’ll be glad you did. Honestly.’
sat on the edge of the bed, her face set in a stubborn frown. She was ready to
evict the intruder if he didn’t keep his word.
like it or not, Mum wants me to talk to you. So here it is: Don’t do just
about anything I did overseas last year and you’ll be okay. There. That’s
it. Now for something of a more practical nature.’
cleared his throat theatrically and put on the kind of voice so often heard on
TV commercials. He pulled a few, much used, travel guides out of his pocket and
fanned them like a hand of cards.
this way, young lady. Have I got a deal for you! Take into your dainty little
hand this set of lavishly illustrated booklets. There’s one for every country
you’ll be visiting on your three-week tour of
accepted the guidebooks with the beginning of a smile as her brother continued
his sales pitch.
go away now. There’s more! As well as these fabulous brochures, you’ll
receive a bonus, pocket-size guide to London’s most famous pubs.’
pulled a face through her grin. She didn’t drink so a hotel guide was of
little use to her.
that’s not all, my friend,’ John continued. ‘You’re going to be
astounded by this offer. No, not a set of steak knives. I’m going to give you,
absolutely free, this beautifully handcrafted money belt. It’s been made extra
thin so you can wear it under your clothes for added safety. As well as the
usual places to stash your cash, there are five secret pockets hidden in the
inside leather and each one contains a disc of pure silver.’
moved closer to Jenny and whispered from behind his hand, as though giving away
a trade secret. ‘They’re only worth a few dollars at the bank, but they’re
invaluable if you’re buying strange-looking weed in a Moroccan souk.’
pretended to be disgusted despite her giggles. She was pretty sure her brother
hadn’t done half the incredible things he often laid claim to. She usually
treated his ramblings as entertainment but today he kept his story short.
it, my friend, and it’s yours for just the two little magic words …’
you’re joking,’ Jenny gasped, jumping up and throwing her arms around his
neck in a rough hug.
a simple thank you would have done,’ John croaked, pretending to be nearly
crushed to death and it was not all acting. Jenny was fit, from a lifelong
enthusiasm for horse riding and her black belt in karate. Even though she was
otherwise unashamedly lazy and often quite shy, she was definitely not as
vulnerable as her family seemed to think.
you,’ she said quietly. ‘That’s a wonderful going-away present.’
had known she would like the belt. Twins seem to be able to communicate that
sort of thing to each other without words and his sister had the gift stronger
is just one more thing, though. Just a minor sermon,’ he said in a more
serious voice. ‘This is your first time away from home. Hold on. I know.
You’ve been told all of this a thousand times before, but there really are bad
people out there. Even though you’re travelling with Auntie Iris, she won’t
be there all the time and your karate mightn’t be enough when you need it
most. So, if you’re in a really serious situation, just stick this into
beg your pardon,’ Jenny scolded. ‘Remember what your instructor has to tell
you all the time. Swearing is a loss of self-control.’
right. So I’ll never be a second Bruce Lee, but this might help. It’s a loan
for the trip.’
handed his sister a soft leather sheath that contained a slim knife. Jenny
hadn’t seen anything like it before. The handle was long and flat and its
heavy plaiting was designed to give a grip that no attacker could wrench away.
The blade was also very special.
This is fantastic. It’s all made of bamboo and it’s as sharp as a razor.’
look at this …’ John helped her put it on. ‘You wear it on the inside of
your arm under your sleeve. No one will know it’s there. What do you think of
fabulous, but I couldn’t take it with me. It wouldn’t get through
pack the knife separate from the sheath in your suitcase and tell them it’s a
letter opener you’ve brought as a present. That’s what I did.’
a lot of things have happened since then. They’d throw me into gaol as a
terrorist if I tried to do that. Anyway, I won’t need it. We’re on a
conducted tour and Auntie Iris insists on staying in top class hotels in the
better part of town. I’m not complaining of course. Unlike you, I need my home
comforts. I couldn’t survive without soft beds, hot showers and three good
meals a day.’
really are a fussy fruit fly, aren’t you?’ John teased.
that than a marauding maggot,’ Jenny answered with a laugh.
twins often made jokes about each other’s eating habits. Jenny seldom ate meat
but John made up for that with his excesses, hence the nicknames they’d
invented for each other.
fruit flies would commit murder for the salads in
I’ve got a feeling I’m going to enjoy every lazy day of this holiday. But
why am I wasting my time talking to you?’ she exclaimed, bundling him out of
the room. ‘I’ve got packing to do.’
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