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WERNA CREEK


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At the end of the worst drought in Queensland’s history, 80 kilometres west of Winton, three men have set up a camp on Cooinda, an 80,000-acre beef property, mustering cattle needed for a sale to satisfy a long-overdue loan. 

A massive downpour leaves them isolated between two major waterways, where they find a severely injured man with no memory of who he is, or how he came to be there. 

 A news bulletin reveals who he might be; two police officers and their prisoner were washed off Werna Creek the previous day. The body of one of the constables is recovered but the other two men are still missing. 

The search for the man’s true identity is further complicated when he is convinced to leave the safety of Cooinda by two men who make an attempt on his life. With his memory slowly returning, the reason he’s being hunted is eventually revealed.

In Store Price: $27.95 
Online Price:   $26.95

 

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Ebook version - $AUD9.00 upload.

ISBN:978-0-9954202-4-3            
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 270
Genre:
Mystery Drama Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins

 

 


 


Author
-
Barry Townsend
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published:  2017
Language: English


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

The author was born in Brisbane in 1948. From age 16, for three years he worked on cattle and sheep properties in Central Queensland as a jackaroo. He returned to Brisbane and competed as an amateur boxer, winning a Queensland Golden Gloves Championship and went on to fight 21 professional bouts. 

Prior to semi-retirement at the end of 2015 he was employed by DeLaval, a world leader in dairy technology as a project manager working across Australia, overseeing key installations of robotic milking equipment. 

Werna Creek is his first manuscript and the main locations are where he spent his early working life. He is well on his way with the second manuscript Where the Penny Falls, which is a prequel to Werna Creek. 

He lives with his wife, Debra, in Stockleigh,40 minutes south of Brisbane.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 

The author would like to thank his sisters-in-law, Lee Kemp and Kath Wilson, and good friends, Tatiana Dorofeeff and Tara Fahy, who read Werna Creek in its infancy and passed on their comments, which helped in the presentation of the finished manuscript.  

Also Steven Horne, the Author of The Devil’s Tears whose objective advice helped extensively in formatting the story.

DEDICATION 

To my wife, Debra, whose unwavering love and support inspire me to be the best I can be.

 

Prologue

 

I

t was hot; the temperature was 42 degrees in the shade. The water from the previous day’s downpour lay across the clay pan in small pools enhanced by multiple small dancing mirages, giving the strange deceptive appearance of one gigantic inland sea.

A solitary sand goanna moved cautiously closer to its target, which was lying half-in and half-out of one of the pools. Its tongue flicked, tasting the air for signs of decay from its potential meal. A rotting carcass would make for excellent dining. The closer the huge monitor got, the more tentative its approach. Finally, when within reach, it raised its two-metre-long body on all fours and clawed at an outstretched arm for any sign of life. No response. It moved even closer, giving one last flick of its forked tongue before opening its jaws to rip into human flesh.

The deafening crack, a hair’s breadth from its head, changed the great reptile’s mindset. With blistering speed it took off, back towards the line of scrub on the creek, not hesitating until it was safely 10 metres up a massive gum tree.

Dropping the stock whip to the ground, the rider leapt off his horse and turned the body on its back.

“Luke...” he called, in a voice that quavered with uncertainty and disbelief.

 

Chapter 1 

 

Twelve hours later, the rain was still steadily falling. Three men sat around the camp table under the canvas tent discussing the consequences of the wet weather that had caught them unawares in the middle of their cattle muster. With the tent lit only by kerosene lanterns, Tony Rafter, the property owner, sat with his legs outstretched, nursing a mug of hot black tea. Old Joe Collins, the camp cook, was opposite, leaning forward as he spoke. He poured a small amount of his brew into a second enamel pannikin to cool it. The third man, Les Law, by far the youngest at not yet 20, sat with both elbows on the table. His large brown eyes were alert as he took in all of the discussion. The future of Cooinda wasn’t just the Rafter family’s and Old Joe’s, it was his as well.

The Rafters had given Les a home and treated him as one of their own. He had witnessed the devastation the last three years of drought had brought to these 80,000 acres of prime cattle country and the toll it was taking on Tony Rafter, his family and the craggy old cook. Les felt the pain and frustration as much as anyone when they found out they would lose the property if they didn’t sell the majority of the stock, and without stock there would be no future.

The man lying on the camp stretcher, unbeknown to the others, had opened his eyes and was endeavouring to make sense of the conversation. Old Joe asked Tony if the unexpected deluge might be used to convince the property’s financiers to extend, rather than force the sale of unfinished stock in a bad market. He glanced over at the patient as he waited for an answer. The man had not moved since they’d retrieved him from the clay pan earlier that day.

“Hey, Tony, he’s awake,” he said without the slightest change of tone in his voice as he started to rise from the canvas camp chair.

“Stay there, I’ll see to him,” Tony offered. Joe didn’t argue; he just settled back in his camp chair.

Tony knelt alongside the cot.

“Hi, mate. You’ve been out of it for quite a while. We were a little worried when you didn’t come around. We’re flooded in out here and not able to get you to town. Joe has cleaned you up as best he could and stitched up a great gash in your head. You’ve a good number of cuts and bruises but nothing obviously broken and Joe doesn’t think you have any internal damage. He’s not a doctor but is actually better at mending people than some we’ve had in town.”

A pair of bloodshot hazel-green eyes looked steadily back at Tony then closed for 10 seconds. When they opened he asked, “Where am I?”

“This is our mustering camp. As I said, we’re kind of stuck here until the creek goes down. How are you feeling?”

“I feel like crap, I have one hell of a headache and my body feels like I’ve been trampled by a herd of buffalo and I’ve no idea how I got this way.”

“Just take it easy for now. You might make sense of it when your head clears. Are you feeling up to eating something? Joe’s got a broth stewing in case you were hungry when you came around.”

The patient gave a slight nod and attempted to rise, fighting the searing pain that tore through his head.

“Just take it steady. I’ll prop you up so we can get something into you.”

Tony spoke with a calmness and authority, taking control as he always did. Having those around him do his bidding willingly was one of his great strengths.

He looked across to Joe, who was already ladling something from the pot on the makeshift camp oven to an enamel bowl.

“I’m Tony Rafter, Joe Collins is the one getting you a meal, and the young bloke over there is Les Law. Our homestead is only 20 kilometres away but we’re isolated between Werna and Cooinda Creeks. Both have flooded and broke their banks yesterday. Unfortunately, there isn’t any way we can communicate with the outside world to get you some help. Our two-way radio died when the first storm hit. We’ve been working on it but I think its revival is beyond our capabilities.”

Tony looked directly into the man’s eyes, waiting for a response. He saw them close once more for a few seconds as he seemed to gather his thoughts.

“How did I end up here?”

“We found you unconscious about 200 metres due west of here. An old goanna was intent on making you his lunch. That was 12 hours ago. Joe did what he could for you and we’ve been waiting ever since. Mind you, there wasn’t anywhere we could go, so in a fashion you’ve provided our afternoon’s entertainment.”

Joe placed the bowl on a box alongside the bunk.

“Do I need to feed you or do you reckon you can manage?”

“Thanks, Joe, I should be okay.” Taking the spoon and with a slightly trembling hand, he lifted some of the broth to his lips. The first few spoonfuls were quite an effort but his hand steadied and he slowly sipped his way through most of the contents.

Tony went back to the table while Joe stayed by his charge, taking the plate away when he knew he was done and returning with a mug filled with water.

“Are you thirsty?”

“Yeah, I’m a bit dry.”

“Take these and they’ll help with the head,” Joe explained. He handed across two white tablets. “They’re just paracetamol from Winton Hospital. The matron is a good mate of mine.”

Popping the pills into his mouth, the man took the water when Joe lifted the mug to his lips, letting him drink at his own pace. When he was done Joe looked down and asked, “What’ll we call you?”

The stranger slipped down from the upright position that Tony had helped him to, lay flat, closed his eyes and went into a deep sleep without answering.

~~~


 

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