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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2309887
Kock on Wood says the Drifter tapping something/-one to cause death and disaster.
On his farm outside Briarwood in the Glen Hartwell to Willamby area of the Victorian countryside, Liam Pleasance, a tall sturdy farmer dressed in denim coveralls and boots, and nothing else due to the heat, was driving his tractor, Old Bastard as he had Christened the ancient vehicle. Digging up a field a hundred metres from his farmhouse, ready for late planting.

"Come on, Old Bastard," he called as he struck a particularly tough patch.

On the veranda of the farmhouse stood Petunia, his long-suffering wife, a tall heavyset fifty-something brunette, and their twelve-year-old son Ewan, short, thin, and raven-haired. Not especially like either of his parents.

"He's cursing the dozer again, Mum," said Ewan.

"Farmers need to curse at something sometimes, they have such a hard life. Just be grateful that he never curses at us.

"He cursed me out last night when I told him that I wanted to pursue a career as a commercial artist, rather than being a farmer."

"Well, you're his only child, he was hoping you could take over his farm."

"I'd be happy to use it as my art studio."

"I don't think that's what he meant by take over," said Petunia, laughing: "Don't worry, I'll talk him around. I've seen your work, I know how good you are. He'll appreciate it one day."

"Not unless I specialise in drawing spuds, pumpkins, sprouts, or corn on the bushel."

"Come on Old Bastard," Liam cursed again as the dozer refused to budge for a seconds.

"Having troubles Old Timer," asked a tall thin man, dressed like an English Gentleman Farmer, complete with a tweed jacket, tweed trousers, yellow vest, and a knobbly wooden walking stick.

"Firstly, I'm not sixty yet, so I'm not an old timer," insisted Liam: "Secondly, you know that you're trespassing on private property?"

"No, I did not know that," said the Drifter. "Like Lucky Star, I've been everywhere man, and sometimes I get lost. I was trying to reach Briarwood township."

"Well you're heading in the wrong direction," said Liam: "Go back the way that you came."

"Many thanks," said The Drifter.

"Now, if I can only get the Old Bastard to do its job," complained Liam.

"Knock on wood," said the drifter, tap-tap-tapping his knobbly walking stick upon the front of the bulldozer. He turned to start back the way that he had come...

And just got out of the way in time, as the bulldozer suddenly fell over on its left-hand side. Throwing off Liam Pleasance. Before it rolled on top of the farmer, crushing him.

"Liam!" cried Petunia as the dozer fell over. She raced into the farmhouse to call for an ambulance, while Ewan raced across the paddock to see if he could help his father in any way.

"You'll have to take over the farm now, son," said Liam, before dying.

"Sorry, Dad, but I can't," said Ewan: "I can't give up my art, Mum said that I'm good."

"You gotta knock, knock, knock on wood ... bay ... bee," said the Drifter, tap-tap-tapping on an old growth red gum tree, more than three hundred years old. As he tapped it, the tree split in half, as though struck by lightning, the larger part stayed in the ground, broken and belittled. The smaller part, perhaps forty percent of the tree crashed to the ground and fell apart as though termite-riddled.

"You gotta knock, knock, knock on wood ..." he sang again, tap-tap-tapping the iron gate to the property. The gate rusted in seconds and then fell apart into red dust.

"Baby!" he sang as he walked back out into the sweet-smelling pine and eucalyptus forest backing onto the vegetable farm.

Forty minutes later, an ambulance arrived with two paramedics, Derek Armstrong, a black amateur bodybuilder, nicknamed Strong Arm; and Cheryl Pritchard, a sixty-something paramedic, who was as tall and strong as Derek, and regularly, badly dyed her own hair. This week it was purple. Behind her back patients at the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital called her Mrs. Slocomb.

"Strong Arm, Mrs. Slocomb," said Jerry 'Elvis' Green, the local coroner. Nicknamed due to his worshipping of Elvis Presley.

"Call me Mrs. Slocomb again and they will be calling you the late..." teased Cheryl.

"You wouldn't let her kill me would you, Strong Arm?"

"Hey, don't put it on me, man," said Derek: "I'm as afraid of her as you are."

"Mucho mucho men," sang Cheryl teasing them: "They're never gonna be mucho men."

"Don't you hate it when she puts us down through song?" said Elvis climbing to his feet:

"So what's the verdict?" asked Terri Scott, the local chief of police who had just arrived. A beautiful blonde, thirty-five-year-old.

"Well, he's dead. And at the risk of jumping to conclusions, logic suggests that the tractor lying on top of him probably had something to do with it."

"But why did it tip over?" asked Terri Scott.

"Probably hit a rock or tree stump," suggested Derek.

Terri and her second-in-command orange-haired Goth chick, Sheila Bennett, walked behind the tipped tractor and back-tracked for six or seven metres, kicking at the ground.

"Nope, nothing like that," said Sheila.

"There must be," said Elvis. He, Cheryl, and Derek all went over to check the ground behind Old Bastard. It was hard but had no sign of any large rocks, tree stumps, tree roots, or any other impediments that could have overturned a large tractor.

"Could he have been drinking?" asked Terri.

"No, tea-total," said Elvis Green: "I've known him since we were kids. He never touched a drop in his life."

"A heart attack maybe?" asked Sheila.

"No sign of it. But we won't know for sure until the Department of Building and Works turns up to remove the tractor so that I can do an autopsy."

It was fifty minutes or so later when the Building and Works people turned up with a giant crane, which easily lifted Old Bastard off Liam Pleasance and carried it down toward the back of the farm so that Petunia and Ewan would not have to see it.

"Petunia!" said Terri, racing across to the porch to hug her. As Petunia held out an arm for Sheila to hug her too, Sheila, not fond of hugging women, raced across to hug Ewan, saying:


"Thank you, Aunty Sheils," he said: "But I think you're crushing my ribs."

"Sorry," she said: "I do work out on Saturdays. I've been trying to convince-slash-nag Terri to go with me," but she prefers to be flabby."

"I heard that," said Terri.

"Well, after our last case, when you almost collapsed racing through the forest, you did say that you needed to build up some lower body strength."

"I know but," hummed and hawed Terri, as Petulia all but carried her inside to make them all cups of coffee.

"Sheils is right, Terri, you're all skin and bones?" said Petulia, going across to put the kettle on the stove.

"I never want to hear you say that again, Pet," chided Terri Scott.

"What? That you're all skin and bones?"

"No, that Sheils is right. I make it a habit to never say that."

"How dare you, Tare."

"What did you call me?" asked Terri, puzzled.

"Tare! Tommy Turner and I worked that one out between us as your new nickname."

"I don't know who to beat up first, you or Tommy."

"Frankly, Tare, with those flabby muscles I doubt that you could beat up a wet brown paper bag."

"How dare you," said Terri as Petulia handed around the coffee for the adults and milk for Ewan.

"Mum, I'm twelve," protested Ewan.

"Yes, that's why you're not getting coffee for another four years."

"Burn!" said Sheila.

"Aunty Sheils, I thought you were on my side?"

"I usually am, but I like saying, 'Burn'!"

"She'd say it if her bedroom was on fire, while she was in it!" teased Terri.

Finally, the ambulance took off with Liam, Derek, Cheryl and Elvis inside. Heading for the Glen Hartwell Hospital.

The Drifter was walking through the forest on the edge of Briarwood township when three teenage boys wearing leather jackets approached him.

"Got any cash, pops?" asked the ringleader.

"I may have," said the Drifter tapping the youth on the head gently with his knobbly cane, saying: "Knock on wood." Then before the other two could react he tapped them each on the head, both times saying: "Knock on wood."

"Are you saying we have wooden heads?" asked the first teen. He pulled out a flick knife, then dropped it to the forest floor as blood projectile vomited out of his mouth as he had a massive coronary.

"What the fuck, you old bar...?" began the second teen. Suddenly he shrieked as his appendix burst, filling his system with poison and killing him.

"You, stupid old fart," said the third teenager, starting to shake as he had a massive stroke. From which there is usually about a fifty percent chance of surviving. But not when the Drifter has tapped you, saying, "Knock on wood!"

Turning around the drifter started to sing: "You gotta knock, knock, knock on wood ... bay ... bee." As he walked into Briarwood township, he wondered who to bring misery or death to next.

At Deidre Morton's boarding house in Rochester Road, Merridale, Sheila and Terri sat down to one of Mrs. M.'s magnificent and munificent meals.

"Tare," said Tommy Turner, by way of greeting. Tommy was a short, pudgy, blond-haired retiree, with a major drinking problem being helped by Deidre Morton having seized his stash of booze.

"I'll give you, Tare," said Terri.

"It's not so bad a nickname," said Natasha Lipzing, a tall, thin grey-haired woman. At seventy the oldest resident at the boarding home.

"You tell her, Nat," said Tommy.

"How dare you call me Nat, my name is Natasha."

"We could call you Tash if you prefer," said Sheila.

"Tash?" said Natasha, shocked: "That makes me sound like a moustache."

"Well, you've got one," teased Tommy.

"I do not," protested Natasha. Who admittedly had had to wax her upper lip for the last twelve years.

"Then how about Tasha?" asked Sheila.

"Can we just get on with eating our meal," said Freddy Kingstown a tall, chubby, bald retiree.

"I agree," said Deidre Morton, a short dumpy brunette in her sixties, who could easily have been employed as a Master Chef with her culinary skills.

Straight after lunch, Sheila and Terri set out for the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital to be filled in upon the autopsy of Liam Pleasance.

"The saying 'Sixty is the new forty', was true in Liam's case," said Elvis Green: "He was probably in better health than anyone else in this room."

"Apart from being dead?" asked Sheila.

"Yes," agreed Elvis.

They went next to Wentworth Street, Glen Harwell, to talk to the local auto-mechanic and wrecker, Ed Bussy.

"So what's the sitch?" asked Terri.

"The tractor is in as perfect condition as a tractor thirty years old can be," said Ed: "No sign of any malfunction of any kind. Tyres were pumped to the maximum safe level. The wiring is in surprisingly good condition. In short, however it tipped over it wasn't due to any fault in Old Bastard."

"So we have a tractor in perfect condition..."

"For its age," added Ed.

"For its age ... fell on top of a sixty-year-old man in perfect health. And there were no tree stumps, tree roots or rocks for it to have hit, before falling over?" said Terri.

"That about sums it up," agreed Ed Bussy.

"Well, thanks for helping to confuse us, Ed," said Terri: "I know you did your best, as always."

"Wish I could've been more help. Liam Pleasance was a great bloke. A sad loss to us all."

As they were walking back to the Lexus, Terri said: "So we have a bloke who by all accounts should be alive ... except that he's dead."

"That sums it up nicely," said Sheila getting behind the steering wheel of the police-blue Lexus.

They pulled out of the service station and almost hit a middle-aged man, dressed like an English country gentleman.

"Knock on wood," he said tap-tapping the bonnet of the Lexus.

After he had passed, Sheila started the Lexus and promptly lost control of the car, which raced across the road, slamming into a power pole, which crashed down onto the left-hand side of the car, thereby saving Sheila. Terri managed to unbuckle her seat belt and dropped to the floor between the front and rear seats, just before they hit the pole, which saved her life too. However, both women were trapped inside the Lexus until the fire department could cut them out with the Jaws of Life.


"Yes, chief?"

"You are no longer my designated driver," said Terri.

"I had an awful feeling that you were going to say that," said the orange-haired Goth policewoman.

It was an hour before they were cut out of the ruin of Terri's police Lexus, which fortunately was insured.

Despite having heard by then about the bodies of the three teenage boys, and wanting to go to the scene of the deaths, Jesus Costello (pronounced 'Hee-Zeus'), the administrator of the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital insisted upon them both staying in the hospital overnight."

"But we're both fit as an... Ow!" said Terri, as stabbing pains shot through her left arm.

"Yes, you're both fit as an Ow, which is why you're staying at GH&DCH overnight," ordered Jesus.

They arrived at the hospital not long before the three teenage boys' corpses were brought in. And despite the doctor's orders, insisted upon going in wheelchairs down to the autopsy room to watch as Jesus, Elvis Green, and another surgeon, Tilly Lombstrom (a tall, shapely brunette of nearly fifty), performed the autopsies.

When they were finished, Terri asked: "Well, doctors?"

"Well," hesitated Elvis: "This boy, Robbie Benton, died of a massive heart attack at age sixteen. But otherwise was in perfect health. And he had no history of cardiac trouble before that."

"This boy, Bobby Violini," said Tilly: "was seventeen and died of a ruptured appendix, although he had not been complaining of pains before that, as is usually the case. And there is no sign of Appendicitis."

"But the appendix ruptured anyway?" asked Terri.

"Um ... yes," hesitated Tilly Lombstrom.

"Jesus?" asked Terri.

"This boy, Harry Mannix was sixteen. With no sign of an aneurysm in his brain, no sign of blocked arteries, no sign of bleeding from his arteries, yet he had a massive stroke and died."

"What percentage of strokes are caused by those three things that you mentioned?" asked Sheila Bennett.

Looking as though he were hiding some dirty secret, Jesus hesitated, then said: "One hundred percent!"

"So he had none of the three possible causes of a stroke?" queried Sheila: "Yet he died of a stroke anyway."


"Well, at least things can't get any weirder," said Terri, speaking too soon.

"Yes they can," said Tilly: "The three boys were alone when it happened ... And they seemed to have died at almost exactly the same time."

"I'm gonna have to learn to shut my big mouth, aren't I?" said Terri.

"Chief, I know better than to answer that," said Sheila: "But, yes!"

"I'm glad you didn't answer it," said Terri.

Topaz Moseley and Annie the Nurse-in-Charge wheeled them back to their two-bed ward.

"Gee, I wish I had my Bart Simpson Collector's Frisbee with me right now," said Sheila.

"Sheils, we're both too sore to be able to throw it."

"Yeah, but, I like to have it with me."

"Don't tell me you sleep with it?"


The next morning, despite protests from Jesus and the nurses, Terri and Sheila insisted on returning to duty.

Paul Bell and Stanlee Dempsey came to wheel them down to the exit where a hideous, rust-riddled, jaundice-yellow 1970s model Ford Fairlane waited for them.

Unable to resist giggling, Terri asked: "It that your new car, Paul?"

"No, it's your loner, until the insurance company approves your replacement Lexus."

Terri stopped giggling, but Sheila had to cover her mouth with her hand to stop herself laughing out loud.

"That wiped the smile off your gob," teased Paul.

"Now, which of you blokes is going to drive us back to Mrs. Morton's?" asked Terri.

"I will," said Stanlee: "But you two really should spend a few more days in the hospital resting."

"Too true," agreed Paul Bell.

"How can we when weird stuff is going on and people are dying from it?"

"Chief, in the Glen Hartwell to Willamby area, there is always weird stuff going on with people dying from it."

"He's right," said Paul: "With the Help of Jessie, Don, and Drew, we can take care of things for a few days while you two recover."

"Home James, and through the park," insisted Terri.

"Whatever you say, Chief," said Stanlee with a sigh, knowing how stubborn the attractive blonde could be."

At Deidre Morton's they received a warm welcome from everyone.

"The walking wounded are back," said Freddy Kingston as the top two cops in the area were wheeled in by Paul and Stanlee.

"I don't know about walking," said Paul: "We're thinking of changing the chief's surname from Scott to Ironsides."

"Very funny you blokes," said Terri, ignoring Sheila's half-hidden snickers.

"That's a good one," said Tommy Turner.

"After we've had a couple of hours of sleep in our own beds upstairs, Stanlee, could you take over as my designated driver?"

"Until Sheils has recovered?"

"Maybe," said Terri noncommittally

"Oh, Tare, it wasn't my fault," insisted Sheila: "I placed my foot ever so gently on the accelerator and it took off like a rocket!"

"We'll see what Ed Bussy has to say about that," said Terri: "Is the wreck with Ed?"

"Sure is," said Paul Bell.

"How do we get them upstairs so that they can go to bed?" asked Paul.

"Carry them," said Stanlee, going over to pick up Terri.

"Trust you to take the light one," complained Paul.

"Hey I'm solid muscle from the weight training I do!" protested Sheila.

"You're a big, heavy lump," said Paul, almost dropping her.

Three hours later they were back at Ed Bussy's repair shop and breakers yard in Wentworth Street Glen Hartwell.

"So fill me in Ed?" said Terri.

"Well, the left-hand side of the Lexus was crushed by the power pole falling on it, of course."

"Yes, I did see it falling. Remember I had an inside view."

"But other than that I can't find anything wrong with it."

"What?" said Sheila: "But I touched the accelerator ever so lightly, and we took off. Besides, we were in first gear and should've stalled long before it reached that speed."

"Yeah, good point," said Ed: "It was in first gear now I come to think of it."

"So it took off like it was in fourth gear," said Stanlee: "But it was still in first gear?"

"Yes," said Ed: "Hang on while I check the gear shift again."

Half an hour later he announced: "The gear shift seems to be fine, but it was definitely in first gear when it took off like it was in fourth gear."

"Curiouser and curiouser as Alice said to the Cheshire Cat," said Paul Bell.

The Drifter was walking down Wentworth Street when his path was blocked off by a huge bear of a man of two hundred kilogrammes.

"Outta the way, Pops," said the man, who looked more like a hornless bull walking on its back feet than a man.

"My apologies," said the Drifter, stepping down into the gutter.

As the huge man went past, the Drifter tapped him on the shoulder saying: "Knock on wood."

Turning back the bull-man said: "You tryin' to start something, Pops?"

"Not at all. 'Knock on wood' means good luck to you," the Drifter lied.

"Oh, I see," said the bull-man. He took two paces and then shrieked like an opera singer and fell onto two plastic rubbish bins.

"Horace, what is it?" cried his equally huge wife, Doris.

Seeing the snapped femur bone pushing out through his right thigh, the enormous woman shrieked and fainted.

"Dame Nellie Melba is born again," said the Drifter, turning to walk away: "Nellie would have been envious of that high note."

Then he started to sing: "The toe bone's connected to the foot bone, the foot bone's connected to the leg bone, the leg bone's connected to the knee bone, the knee bones connected to the thigh bone ... which sticks out of your right leg!"

He continued to sing it as he walked along for the next eight or ten minutes, before going back to: "You gotta knock, knock, knock on wood,

"Babe, you gotta knock, knock, knock on wood ... bay ... bee."

He tap-tapped a ghost gum growing on the verge, saying: "Knock on wood."

The tree fell into the road smashing in the roof of a passing Cortina, killing the occupants, and causing them to run over an old lady, who died instantly.

"You gotta knock, knock, knock on wood,

"Babe, you gotta knock, knock, knock on wood ... bay ... bee!" sang the Drifter as he went on his trouble-making way.

Misquoting Jessica Rabbit, he said: "I'm not evil ... I just love killing and maiming people."

"Oh God, what do we do here?" asked Cheryl Pritchard, staring at the two-hundred kilo prone figure of Horace Dunbar, and his equally huge wife, Doris.

"We need to get him onto the inflatable mattress first then, shift him across to the stretcher," said Derek Armstrong.

"How?" asked Cheryl.

"First let's get the mattress out of the ambulance."

They set up what looked like an orange, deflated Lilo, and then Derek said to the crowd: "We need half a dozen strong men to come forward and help us to roll him onto the mattress."

When no one came forward, he added: "It is a gaolable crime in this country to not help out in an emergency."

Half a dozen men rushed forward to roll Horace with difficulty onto the Lilo. Then once it was inflated to the right height, lifting the huge man off the ground, they helped to shift him across to the wheeled stretcher, just relieved that he had passed out and was not fighting them.

All eight of them, including Derek and Cheryl were sweating by the time that they had finished.

Strapping the huge man to the stretcher, they pushed him, with the help of the men again up the ramp into the rear of the ambulance, then locked it into place.

Then, while Cheryl drove the ambulance, Derek injected Horace with both strong painkillers and a sleeping draught.

"Since when has it been a crime in Australia to not help out in an emergency?" asked Sheila.

"Well, it is in France," said Derek: "A more democratic country than Australia."

"I thought the French were socialists?"

"Yes, but we're fascists in Australia, so that makes them more democratic than us."

"Fair enough," said Cheryl as five more ambulances whooshed past them, sirens sounding. One to pick up Doris Dunbar, one for the old lady run over by the Cortina, the other three for the three people killed by the ghost gum tree.

Terri and Sheila were sitting in their wheelchairs at the Mitchell Street Police Station when Stanlee Dempsey came in declaring: "It's happened again!"

"What did? Pharlap won the Melbourne Cup again?" asked Sheila.

"No, dingleberry," said Stanlee.

"Excuse me," said Sheila: "I am the number two cop in this region. Therefore you boss!"

"Sorry, I meant dingleberry marm," he emended: "Another series of whacky deaths. The Horton family Edna, Alfie, and little Elsbet had a ghost gum fall on their car and crushed it, killing them all, as they were driving along."

"Not little Elsbet?" said Terri.

"'Fraid so chief," said Stanlee: "And Horace Dunbar's right femur suddenly snapped in half as he was walking along."

"Well, that's less mysterious, considering the weight of the man," said Terri: "But how the Hell did they get him into the ambulance?"

"It wasn't easy," said Cheryl Pritchard, forty minutes later. She went on to explain how Derek had convinced six big men to help out."

"Technically we should arrest you for lying to morons," Strong Arm," said Sheila: "Although you were right about France being more democratic than us ... And since it was in a good cause we'll let you off this time."

"How soon before we can talk to Horace?" asked Terri.

"He's still being operated on at the moment, so I'd guess in another twenty-four hours," said Cheryl.

"But Doris is awake and has an interesting story to tell," said Derek.

Going to room A14, the Dunbars' two-bed room, they found the enormous figure of Doris Dunbar sitting up in bed, eating from a one-kilogramme bag of Twisties.

"Doris?' asked Terri.

"Uh oh," said Doris, through a mouthfull of Twisties.

"See, I'm not the only person who speaks that language," insisted Sheila.

Ignoring her, Terri asked Doris what had happened.

She told them about Horace's leg mysteriously snapping. But also mentioned the encounter with the old man.

"It was Horace's fault, he can be very rude at times."

"He definitely tapped Horace on the shoulder...?"

"Saying knock on wood."

"That's what the bloke dressed like an English Gentleman Farmer said, after tapping on the Lexus," said Sheila: "Just before it went wild and almost killed us."

"Dressed like an English Gentleman Farmer?" asked Doris.

"Tweed trousers and jacket, yellow vest, and knobbly walking stick," explained Sheila.

"That's the bloke," said Doris Dunbar.

"Sheils, when we recover fully, you might just have your job back as my designated driver."

"Yahtzee!" said Sheila.

"Sheils, I've warned you against watching that Harley Quinn cartoon show," teased Terri, as Stanlee and Paul Bell entered the ward to wheel them out.

"Did you hear that?" asked Sheila: "I might be getting my job back as designated driver!"

"Yahtzee!" cried Paul and Stanlee together.

"Are you suggesting that you blokes don't like driving us around?" asked Terri as they wheeled them toward the elevators.

"It's not you two," said Paul: "It's that damned yellow Edsel you've got as a loner."

"How dare you slander the Edsel by comparing it to that rust bucket," teased Sheila.

"So you're looking for an English Gentleman Farmer?" asked Freddy Kingston as they settled down to lunch at Deidre Morton's boarding house.

"Who taps people with his knobbly cane, saying 'Knock on wood', to cause disaster or death," said Sheila.

"That's hardly very gentlemanly," said Natasha Lipzing.

"We were thinking the same thing," teased Terri, dropping Sheila a wink.

"You gotta knock, knock, knock on wood,

"Babe, you gotta knock, knock, knock on wood ... bay ... bee!" sang the Drifter as he went on his trouble-making way through Glen Hartwell.

"Watch out, Pops," cried the driver of a classic Monaro GTS350, mustard yellow, with black stripes down the sidewalls and down the centre of the top of the car.

"You gotta knock, knock, knock on wood,

"Babe, you gotta knock, knock, knock on wood ... bay ... bee!" sang the Drifter, tap-tapping the Monaro.

"Are you loony or some...?" asked the driver, trying to reverse into his driveway.

The Monaro suddenly took off running over and killing his labradoodle, knocking over the pram, in the driveway, which was empty, since his wife, Vera was holding their baby girl.

Unfortunately, the Monaro zoomed into Vera, sending her and the baby flying up and over the car to crash to the concrete footpath in the street.

"Vera! Salome!" cried the driver Buddy Vincent, jumping out of the car. Which continued backwards to crash through the trellis work at the left side of the house.

Imagine calling a little girl, Salome, thought the Drifter as he walked off: The poor little K.U.N.T. was always doomed. He then started singing again: "You gotta knock, knock, knock on wood,

"Babe, you gotta knock, knock, knock on wood ... bay ... bee!"

"Salome?" cried Buddy, finding that his little girl was missing half of her head.

"Oh God," he said, crying. He tried to pick up his wife, Vera, only to have her shriek and pass out."

"Leave her there, Buddy, she might have a broken back," said a passerby: "I've phoned for an ambulance, let them move her."

An hour later the Vincents were at the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital. Vera was being operated on. Little Salome was in the morgue. And Buddy was resting, blaming himself for what had happened.

"It's all my fault," said Buddy crying, when Sheila and Terri were wheeled in.

"Not necessarily," said Terri. She went on to describe the Drifter to him.

"The old fart," said Buddy: "He was standing in my driveway when I wanted to back in, so I told him to piss off. He tapped on the bonnet of the Monaro and said something that I couldn't catch."

"Probably 'Knock on wood'," said Sheila.

Buddy thought for a moment, then said: "Could've been. I really can't say."

"Don't blame yourself," said Terri: "The old fart did it somehow, not you." She went on to explain what had happened with other people recently. Including Terri and Sheila nearly being killed.

"That bastard!" said Buddy, as Topaz Moseley came in to give him a sedative.

"Away, James," said Terri, and Stanlee Dempsey wheeled her out into the hallway.

"Where to next," asked Stanlee.

"The morgue. To see if Elvis or Jesus have come up with anything?" said Terri.

Downstairs they found Elvis, Jesus, and Tilly Lombstrom doing autopsies on Edna, Alfie, and Elsbet Horton.

"Any conclusions yet?" asked Sheila.

"Well, a bloody great tree fell on them," said Elvis: "That'll kill most people."

"You can be surprisingly coarse sometimes Elvie Pelvie," said Sheila.

"We call it graveyard humour," said Jesus: "If you don't have it in this job, you don't stay sane for very long."

"How's Vera doing?" asked Terri.

"She survived the operation. Her back is fractured, but no serious breakage," said Jesus: "So she should be able to walk again. But not till about Christmas next year."

Outside the Drifter was walking along still singing: "You gotta knock, knock, knock on wood,

"Babe, you gotta knock, knock, knock on wood ... bay ... bee."

"Has anyone ever told you that you can't sing?" asked a derelict sitting in an alleyway, drinking whisky from a bottle in a brown paper bag.

"Yes, you just did," said the Drifter. he tapped the dero on the bottom of one holey shoe, singing: "You gotta knock, knock, knock on wood,

"Babe, you gotta knock, knock, knock on wood ... bay ... bee."

The dero started to drink when suddenly the whisky splashed all over his face.

Inexplicably the alcohol burst into flames, blinding the dero, and scaring him for life.

"Aaaaaaaaaah!" screamed the dero, rolling over and over, trying to extinguish the flames.

Which mysteriously refused to be put out. Until a biker raced into the alleyway, to wrap the old man in his leather jacket. Destroying the expensive jacket, but saving the old man's life.

"You gotta knock, knock, knock on wood,

"Babe, you gotta knock, knock, knock on wood ... bay ... bee," sang the Drifter, not stopping to see his handiwork.

Stanlee and Paul Bell were wheeling Terrie and Sheila out to the rust bucket when an ambulance pulled up.

"What's happened now?" asked Terri.

"Local derelict spilt whisky over his face, and somehow it ignited," said Derek: "Poor bastard was blinded. Nothing left of his eyes."

Derek and Cheryl raced the stretcher through the corridor to the operating room.

"Do you need us?' called Terri.

"No," said Derek, so they continued outside to get into the rear of the rust bucket, assisted by Paul Bell and Stanlee Dempsey. Terri phoned Jesus Costello to make sure he knew about this new case.

"Where to?' asked Stanlee.

"Back to Mitchell Street," said Terri. Which turned out to be a very good decision.

The Drifter was getting pretty sick of these penny-ante games. Seeing a blue school bus stopped at the lights, taking the kids home, he taped on the rear, saying: "Knock on wood."

The light turned green, the bus took off, and suddenly the wheels on the right side fell off, causing the bus to roll over until it was sliding along on its roof while spinning anti-clockwise. Inside dozens of young kids screamed as they were damaged, or in eleven cases killed.

"Now that's more like it," said the Drifter ambling on, singing: "You gotta knock, knock, knock on wood,

"Babe, you gotta knock, knock, knock on wood ... bay ... bee."

In the gathering crowd were Jessie Baker and Drew Braidwood, in their street clothes, since it was their day off.

"Who does that look like?" asked Drew, elbowing Jessie, then nodding toward the Drifter.

"Shit, that's him," said Jessie Baker, too loudly so that the Drifter, heard him. Looking around, he saw the two men and started running off as Jessie started after him.

"Stay and help out with the bus," Jessie shouted as he started running after the Drifter.

"Drew pulled out his mobile phone and rang Terri.

Terri and co. had been pulling into the driveway of the Mitchell Street Police Station when Terri's mobile rang.

"Something's going on up ahead?" said Paul Bell not able to see what it was.

"The old bugger has turned over a school bus..." said Terri: "And Jessie is in hot pursuit of the bastard."

Backing out of the drive, Stanlee started toward the distant bus, while Terri checked her mobile for Jessie's phone location: "Heading toward Wentworth Street," she said.

"Chief have you got all our phones bugged?" asked Sheila.

"Not bugged," said Terri: "It's another aspect of GPS tracking. You can track people's phones with it."

"So have you got all of our phones...?"

"Yes!" said Terri: "I need to be able to find any of you at any time! Now step on it, Stanlee."

"In the rust bucket?" he said: "We're already up to third gear. That's as many as it's got."

"Turn left! Turn left! Turn left!" she shouted.

Stanlee spun the wheel and almost flipped the car: "I heard you the first time, Chief."

After a moment, Sheila pointed to the right-hand side of the street, and said: "There's Jessie."

"Jesus, Jess can run can't he," said Terri.

"That's because he comes to the gym on Saturdays to work out for a few hours," said Sheila: "If you'd come with us, you wouldn't be so flabby."

"I'll reprimand you later," said Terri, as they drove past Jessie: "For now keep an eye out for our Gentleman Farmer."

"Half a kilometre ahead of us, still on the right," said Paul Bell pointing.

"Pull up in front of him," said Terri.

"And be careful not to let him touch you with that cane," said Sheila, adding: "Put your sterile gloves on."

Racing back toward the Drifter, Paul and Stanlee started slowly toward him from one side, while Jessie approached from behind.

Struggling out of the Fairlane, Terri slid along the side of the car to open the boot to pull out her wheelchair, then opened it out. She also got her and Sheila's handguns. Wheeling around the car, she opened the rear door, and handed Sheila her gun, then wheeled toward the Drifter.

"Well, if it isn't Madam Ironsides?" said the Drifter.

"Yeah, I've never heard that one before," said Terri. Aiming her handgun at the Drifter, she fired three point-blank rounds into his chest.

And he stood there grinning idiotically.

"Bullets pass right through me Ironsides," he said with a shit-eater grin, which would have made Donald Trump proud.

Aiming more to the right, she fired the last three rounds at the knobbly cane, which flew out of his hands, landing at Paul Bell's feet.

Putting her blue, plastic sterile gloves on, she said: "Hand it to me, Paul."

Given the cane, she wheeled across to the Drifter, tap-tapped him on the head and said: "Knock on wood!"

"Nooooooooooo!: he shrieked.

Great bursts of white-hot steam began to spray out of him, making the cops back away.

Until finally the Drifter vanished into steam, the cold air evaporating the steam.

"I think the case is solv-ed!" said Sheila, doing the worst Inspector Clouseau impression ever.

© Copyright 2023 Philip Roberts
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
© Copyright 2023 Mayron57 (philroberts at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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