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THE GHOST OF CAPE YORK

The story begins on the remote eastern shores of Queensland ’s Cape York Peninsula during the dark days of World War 2, when Australia was in ever-present danger of being invaded by the advancing Japanese Forces.    

The pilot of a scouting Japanese Air Force Zero, of the type nicknamed by the Allies as ‘The Flying Swallow’, heads south along the East Coast of Cape York. He is searching for an enemy target, which he duly finds, only to be fired upon by an Australian Coast Watcher and his companions.   

Some sixty years later, Tony Stevens, the grandson of the Coast Watcher, who has set out in his four-wheel drive Toyota Landcruiser truck, to explore with a friend the lonely and rugged region of Cape York, makes an unusual and accidental discovery, which connects him to his grandfather’s wartime experiences.

In Store Price: $AU19.95 
Online Price:   $AU18.95

ISBN:  1 921118 72 5
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 111
Genre: Fiction

 

 


Author: Richard G. Tomkies
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2006
Language: English

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR    

Former journalist, businessman and entrepreneur, Richard Tomkies has travelled extensively throughout a number of countries, including Canada and the United States of America . He also lived in both of these countries.  

He has spent much of the last thirty-two years in the tropical north of Queensland , Australia . Now retired, a great deal of his time is spent writing and travelling throughout Queensland , researching material for further books.        

BY THE SAME AUTHOR  

Cannibals’ Gold

Valley of the Damned

 

Chapter One  

The winter sun sparkled off the blue Pacific Ocean some twenty thousand feet below the Zero as it cruised comfortably at around 250 miles per hour. The morning sun illuminated the countless outcrops of coral far below, which formed part of the Great Barrier Reef.

Pilot Officer Takeo Matsumaro glanced down through the Perspex of the cockpit’s canopy at the dense green jungle that stretched for miles off his starboard wing. The vegetation was separated from the lapping waves of the sea by a line of gleaming white coral sand. Glancing up and around the azure blue sky he could see nothing that warranted his attention. Earlier, however, he had encountered a couple of American Hellcat fighters, but after a quick and decisive dogfight, the enemy planes had proven no match for the superior speed of his Ki-61 Hien or Flying Swallow as the new model Zero had been named. The 1175 hp Kawasaki-powered fighter, known by the enemy forces as the ‘Tony,’ was capable of a maximum 348 mph and was highly manoeuvrable.

Matsumaro decided to proceed south, along northern Australia’s eastern coastline, to search for some likely targets. He still had enough ammunition for the wing-mounted 20mm cannons as well as his two 7.7 machine-guns to allow him to attack anything he might come across, particularly on the ground. The sun’s rays pouring into the cockpit over his left shoulder warmed him through his flying jacket. At his present altitude, the warmth was particularly welcome.

With his gloved right hand resting lightly on the control column, and his thumb never far away from the firing button, Takeo Matsumaro was itching for more action. He adjusted his goggles with his left hand as he peered along the coastline that stretched ahead. Squinting his eyes, he looked hard at something  glinting in the sun, barely discernable amongst the trees. Almost at once, he noticed a white boat at anchor near the shore.

Gently pushing the control column forward, Matsumaro put the Zero into a shallow dive and immediately the speed indicator increased rapidly. The object ahead and below quickly grew larger as the Zero approached. Banking to the left for a moment, then to the right, he deftly brought the nose of the plane around and headed toward what appeared to be a couple of small buildings, almost hidden from view by the surrounding jungle. The larger of the two structures sat on the top of a small hill, and even from that height, Takeo could see the rusting patches on the iron roof.

Increasing the angle of the dive, Matsumaro zoomed down to treetop level and roared over the small house and an adjoining building. Nearby, a small jetty protruded out into the sea, with a motor launch tied at the end, an enemy ensign fluttering from the stern. This was an opportunity not to be missed, thought Takeo, the corners of his eyes creasing slightly as he peered down at this easy soft target.

Hauling gently back on the controls, Matsumaro put the Zero into a steep climb before levelling out to bank sharply to the left. Looking over his shoulder as he throttled his speed back, he could see a number of people running from the buildings. A slight smile played around the corner of his lips as he flicked the switch from the cannon to the machine-guns mounted above the engine. With a little right rudder and a touch on the control column to the right, he positioned the aircraft back towards his intended target.

Dropping the plane’s nose, the buildings loomed into view through the windshield. His thumb pressed the firing button and the twin machine-guns spewed their lethal messengers of death, kicking up small fountains of dirt as they raced towards the larger building. In the next second, it had gone from view as the Zero, pulling out of its shallow dive, howled across the small jetty, coconut tree tops flashing past his cockpit. The white launch tied to the jetty rocked gently as the aircraft headed out across the sea.

Matsumaro banked steeply to starboard and headed back towards the shore, throttling the engine back at the same time. The plane’s speed dropped accordingly, and the pilot craned his neck over his right shoulder as he flew back across his target in an endeavour to assess the damage. Before putting the plane into a steep bank, Matsumaro quickly took in the scene below. Apart from a small column of smoke that rose from the larger building, and a bullet-riddled roof, the damage seemed rather minimal, he thought, straightening the Zero as he flew low past the house. He didn’t notice a figure near the building aiming something towards the plane. Glancing at his fuel gauge, he automatically made some rapid calculations before he proceeded to gain altitude, at the same time switching to the two 20mm cannons. One last pass and he’d deliver his coup de grace before heading back to his base in New Guinea across the Torres Strait. This time he would destroy the launch at the jetty with cannon fire as well, ensuring total destruction of the enemy base.

A split second before he began to ease the control column back, Takeo Matsumaro felt his aircraft judder slightly. Suddenly, across his starboard wing, bullet holes appeared, their edges flowering upwards across his starboard wing. A bullet ricocheted through the cockpit, narrowly missing his legs, to hit the port side of the Perspex canopy, which immediately cracked around a jagged hole. Matsumaro knew instantly his plane was being fired on from below – and already a small stream of smoke had started to pour from the engine, inducing Takeo to change his mind and immediately head northwards back to base.

Quickly the Japanese pilot looked up and around, his keen brown eyes searching the clear blue sky, but there were no other aircraft about. He was safe from attack there. Ha! He had been shot at from below. He hadn’t anticipated being fired at by the enemy ‘round-eyes’, believing his surprise attack would have eliminated any opposition. Now, however, he had other things with which to occupy his mind. He cast an expert eye over the plane’s instrument panel, noticing with some concern that already the oil pressure had begun to drop. The fuel gauge reading was fine, and quickly he calculated he had enough gasoline to get him home, but obviously this was not going to be his problem.

Throttling back slightly in order to keep the engine revs down, he glanced at the altimeter – a little under one hundred feet. At this altitude he would be hard-pressed to use his parachute, he thought. On an impulse, Takeo reversed his decision, and gently increased the throttle in an attempt to gain enough altitude to permit him to eject and safely employ his parachute. However, this action caused the stream of smoke to increase from the now roughly-running engine and together with the rapidly dropping oil pressure, put paid to his intention of trying to reach his base. He knew he was now in big trouble! With a final glance at the instrument panel, Matsumaro quickly decided his course of action. Maybe if he followed the beach he might find a suitable place to bring his beloved Zero down for a crash landing.

Takeo looked down at the small strip of sand below. His gaze followed the coastline, taking in all the details. The tide was apparently in, which didn’t leave much in the way of a suitable place on which to crash-land his plane. Above the high-water mark, there were what looked to be large sand dunes. Here and there, the jungle had receded back from the beach, but in its place were mangrove-lined creeks, uninviting to say the least.

Wondering vaguely if crocodiles were as bad here as in the rivers of New Guinea, his attention returned rapidly back to the instruments in front of him as a subtle change in the noise of the motor warned him of impending trouble. As the aircraft’s speed decreased, so did its altitude. Realising that he had to prepare for the worst, Takeo was searching frantically for a suitable place to put down his crippled Zero when the motor suddenly spluttered and seized.

Less than a mile ahead, a wide patch of sand dunes appeared, and instinctively, Matsumaro headed towards it, pushing the control column forward to put the fighter into a nose-down attitude in order to maintain flying speed. With the engine now silent, the airman could hear the air as it whistled through the hole in the cockpit floor and the canopy. The controls felt sluggish as he struggled with them trying desperately to keep the powerless aircraft flying. Now, with the small stretch of beach rapidly looming towards him, Takeo extended the flaps fully, reducing speed, hauling back on the stick at the same time in an attempt to stall the plane and pancake into the soft sand just above the high-water mark.

Bracing for the inevitable impact, he was thrown hard against his harness as the plane, bouncing violently, buried itself into the sand, which billowed high into the air, carrying with it driftwood and other debris to shower back over the thin metal fuselage. The lightly built plane was not designed for such treatment, and as the aircraft buried its nose into the sand, the port-side wing sheared off as it collected the base of a small stand of coconut trees. The starboard wing folded back with the impact, while the fuselage with a hideous sound of screeching and tearing ploughed into violent contact with the ground until the engine nacelle hit a large log half-buried in the sand, arresting the progress of the disintegrating plane with one immense crash. The last thing Pilot Officer Takeo Matsumaro remembered was the sand dunes rushing to greet him with frightening speed – then a quiet enveloping blackness swept over him …

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