On the screen of the phone in the cradle stuck to the dashboard of the Beast with a suction cup, just under the letters Nick SAT, which told me I’d received a call from Nick’s satellite phone were the numbers 701.
Now by themselves those numbers mean nothing, from someone else those numbers would mean nothing, but coming from Nick they meant something, something that had me nearly frozen to the seat.
701, in case you haven’t worked it out yet is the police code in parts of Australia for Officer Needs Assistance. It was not a code that was used lightly, in fact it was a code that Nick and I had only used once before in all the years we have known each other, so I knew the second I saw the code that it was not a joking situation.
The one and only time I’d received the code before was one day about eight years ago when Nick got himself in a little bother with a crocodile up near Bow River. It wouldn’t have been such a big deal if half an hour before the crocodile came up to introduce himself Nick hadn’t gotten his cop truck bogged up to the axles. Further more if he’d not been driving too close to the soft sandy water’s edge he wouldn’t have been bogged in the first place.
The strange thing about the first time he used the code was that we had only been discussing what would happen if one of us got stuck and needed help but had limited means of contacting anyone only three days earlier. I don’t even know how the conversation started but it ended with him suggesting he would use the code for Police Need Assistance which was 701.
The day he actually used it he wasn’t even sure I was going to respond much less come to his rescue. He’d just gotten himself bogged and he used the code as a bit of a joke figuring that he wasn’t in any immediate danger and his rescue could wait a few extra minutes while I decided what to do with the code. However before I had a chance to decided whether the code was serious or not Nick was ringing me and telling me that Mr. Snappy was trying to make his acquaintance and help really was something he needed.
Of course I went out to help him, but from that day on he vowed he would never use the code again unless he was seriously in need of help. Not only that but over the years of our friendship the topic had come up a few times and each time Nick had assured me that if he did have such a need to use the code I was to call either 000, the number for emergency services or the police at Fitzroy Crossing which was a bigger station than Halls Creek and manned twenty four hours a day.
The code was one of those things he really didn’t expect to need, but he was convinced that having the safety of someone who could understand the code and get help if per chance he couldn’t make a phone call in whatever situation he was in was important. Because someone wasn’t available at Fitzroy Crossing that could answer text messages, only voice calls that went through a central call centre, which he may not have been able to make, Nick was adamant that I was the right person to handle the code.
He was also adamant that if I saw the code I was to make the call immediately so that the police could get help to him as soon as possible. Oh in case your wondering how the police would find him given that all I would have to tell them was that I received an SOS from him that was the easy bit. Everywhere he went when he was on duty was logged back to central command before he left, as was every police officer’s call outs throughout the state. So essentially all I was was a message service passing on the SOS to the right person.
Something else he was fairly adamant about was that I was not to rush out and help him if I did know where he was, which I often did. His thought was that if he was in enough trouble that he needed help from fellow officers it was too risky for me to be there and he was probably right.
But dammit that’s not the way the real world worked. I knew where Nick was, thanks to Barry, I also knew that the police from Fitzroy were more than an hour further away than I was and there was no way I was going to ignore him when he needed help.
I told Matthew what the coded message meant and then said to him. “I’m going out there, I understand if you don’t want to come, but I can’t sit back and wait while he could be in trouble.”
“Is that wise?” Matthew asked.
“Probably not, but like I say I can’t sit back and wait.” I said anxiously. “So are you coming or not?”
“Of course I am coming, I’m not letting you go out there by yourself.”
“Ok, thank you, I need a few things from in the shed and we are out of here.”
Obviously I didn’t know what sort of trouble Nick was in but I was not going out there without being prepared. I don’t own weapons with the intention of using them to cause harm but I’m also not silly enough to go into the unknown unprepared.
Because the Beast was well stocked with emergency food stuffs and the like I didn’t need to worry about that all I need to worry about was a quick trip to the shed. That trip took less than five minutes and in no time at all Matthew and I were heading out the drive way. Before we even hit the road at the end of the driveway I was on the phone to Fitzroy Crossing police.
Previous Outback Rescue story here.