I’m sorry to say the return trip from the stranded party was not that eventful. I got the Toyota Prado on the back of The Beast easily, despite Mick trying to tell me three times there was easier ways of doing it. It would have been four times if one of the other women hadn’t stepped in and dragged him away.
I had laid my plans for the return trip out clearly before we turned in for the night, they were simple and easy to understand. I would have eaten breakfast and have the Prado on the back of the Beast by 7:30am and I’d be ready to leave by 8am. The rest of the party were free to follow us or make their own way and Terry and Sandy were of course free to travel in which ever vehicle they chose. Although Terry wanted to stay with his group Sandy I think had had enough of them and was more than happy to convince him to travel in the Beast.
As much as the Tanami Road is still a rough piece of red dirt the weather had been fairly kind and once we got back to it travelling was fairly easy and calm, well for that road anyway. Although the rest of the group had diverted a few times during the day they has stayed with us most of the way until early afternoon where they stopped for a break and we didn’t. We returned to Halls Creek just after 3pm and they arrived just before 4:30. Because an accurate call had been made early on what parts where needed the new tailshaft had been ordered and was on it’s way from Port Headland so they’d only be waiting a day or so for their repairs.
With my job done I left them to their own devices and headed home but I wasn’t there long before the CB was squawking to life again. It was the local copper, he’d seen me in town dropping off the Prado and instead of coming to find me he just called me up and asked if he could drop by my place. As much as I would like to have gone straight home for a snooze my job is one of those where I did what needed to be done when it needed doing so I told Nick to meet me at home.
Although I’ve told you that driving through the desert at night is dangerous and not something I particularly like doing there are times when I have to do it and with Nick coming to see me at such late hour of the day I decided I wouldn’t crack the seal on a beer as soon as I got out of the Beast at home because Nick didn’t make social calls.
Out in the middle of nowhere water is often at a premium, flooding rains happen but the land is so dry and flat retaining water, even lukewarm water is difficult and keeping vehicles clean is not a priority. The problem is that red dirt gets into absolutely everything so even if you wash what you can see off there is still so much of the vehicle that is not clean. While I like to keep the Beast is good order even I concede to the red dirt and she barely gets a full wash, but after each trip I do try to clean down the windows and wash the dust and crap out of the wheels, brakes and suspension. I was doing that hoping I’d be able to sit down with a beer when Nick arrived.
“Hey Nick. What’s up?” I said as he climbed out of his police four wheel drive which he pulled up next to the beast.
“Hey Dean, got a job for you if you’re interested.”
Nick was a big bastard of a copper, chiselled good looks and his six foot four, 130kg frame filled out his police uniform quite well, but unlike some of those rolly polly city cops Nick was all muscle. He was a typical country cop, he knew the rules, he enforced the rules but he also knew that out in the middle nowhere not all rules suited every situation. While he wasn’t one to make regular social calls he and I were good mates and over the years we’d shared more beers than I could count. He was probably the person I was closest too in town and it was for that reason when he got out of the car that I could see something wasn’t right.
“What’s wrong Nick? What is this job?”
“I shouldn’t be asking you, it’s not job for civilians but dammit those pricks in the city wouldn’t know their arse from then nose when it comes to shit out here. They want to send me a bunch of city cops, guys who have spent their days protecting shopping centres and driving desk chairs, guys with no fucking idea what it’s like out here.”
Nick’s a great bloke, no nonsense, no bullshit, straight down the line and I liked him but I also knew he wasn’t ragging on his fellow offices for the sake of it. He was frustrated with the top brass who had no idea how things in the outback worked, guys who thought they could run a one man cop shop in a town of a few hundred people like they it was a suburban cop shop. The kind of guys that were happy to see Nick stay where he was because he wasn’t a ‘city cop’ but thought city cops could just adapt to the harsh Aussie outback, even if it was only for a short time. Like I said, I knew all that, what I didn’t know was what had Nick looking and sounding so stressed.
“Just tell me what’s going on Nick. Whatever it is has obviously got you pissed, speaking of which, want a beer? I think I need one after today’s run.”
“I’m on duty Dean.” We both laughed as I climbed into the Beast and dragged two stubbies out of the fridge.
Handing Nick the ice cold stubbie I again asked him about the job. He went on to tell me that he’d got a call from Perth telling him that an escaped gunman had fled the city. The guy was wanted for armed robbery and shooting five people during his get away. There was a lot more detail but I’m saving you lovely readers the efforts of reading it if your not interested, if you are interested, try Google!
Anyway this guy had fled the city and headed north, like they so often do thinking it’s and easy getaway. He robbed a few servos, (service stations, places to get fuel, food drinks etc for those crazy overseas readers that struggle with English terms), on his way up the coast and he was last seen heading into the bush towards the St George’s Ranges. The big brass in the city had told Nick they wanted him to find the guy and arrest him but he needed to wait the until the following day sometime when ‘city help’ arrived.
“I don’t need some stupid city brass telling me from his high rise office what I need. I know I need YOU! Not some city cops with no bush experience.” Nick said as we leant on the Beast in the shade.
“I’m flattered Nick, you know that.” I said with a smile, “But you know I’m not a tracker. I don’t go out looking people without having some idea where they are.”
“No, but you still find them and you do it bloody well. These cops have probably never even been in the bush.”
“What can I do to help Nick?” Like I said, out in the bush we don’t always do everything by the same rule book as in the city and Nick wouldn’t have come to me if he didn’t really want my help.
“If I leave tonight I’ll be too far out of town by the time the city boys get here. Reports put this guy in one of several locations, if anyone around here can find this guy it’s you.”
Emptying my beer I looked at Nick, he was genuinely stressed out, not by the thought of hunting down a gunman but the thought of having city cops turn up and try and run a city investigation in his town.
“What can I do Nick?” I asked wanting to relieve him of some of that stress.
“Take me out there and catch this bastard!” He paused for a moment before adding. “The cops will pay for everything and pay you more than your normal rate.”
I told him it wasn’t about the money, but would happily accept it. So that’s how I found myself doing exactly what I told you a few days ago I didn’t like doing, driving through the desert with my bright lights cutting into the pitch black.
Previous episode here.