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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2315547
Creatures half-man, half-alligator haunt the Yannan River in Glen Hartwell
Shirlie (a petite straw blonde), and Julie (Juliette) Hussey (a tall, athletic brunette) had been happily married since December 2017, when gay marriage was finally legalised in Australia. They were celebrating their second honeymoon in Glen Hartwell in the Victorian countryside, having just been approved for the IVF program so that Shirlie could be inseminated to carry and give birth to their baby/-ies.

They were sitting on a blanket in their beloved Brisbane Lions Football Club colours, red, blue, and gold, on the banks of the Yannan River, eating a picnic lunch. Once heavily polluted, the Yannan had been drained and cleaned in 2023, and now in February 2024, it was only mildly polluted.

"It's still a bit pongy," said Shirlie (nee Haversham), sniffing at the river air. As she took a bite of her salad sandwich.

"Not like it used to be," said Julie: "I hear you could virtually walk on water to get to the other side once."

"Probably because of all of the fridges, dumped cars, washing machines, and so forth that people had thoughtlessly dumped in there down the decades," correctly guessed Shirlie.

"They say there was everything in there ... including the kitchen sink."

The women continued to eat and chat, then risked some lovemaking on the Brisbane Lions blanket in the forest.

They were sleeping, naked in the forest, after a heady mix of food, sex, and a little superior Australian champagne, when they were awakened by the sound of movement not far away.

"What is it, honey?" asked Juliette, for a moment forgetting where they were.

"I thought I heard something," said Shirlie, sitting up naked. Puzzled at first that they were naked outside.

Afraid that they were being peeped, the two women hurriedly dressed and then started to pack up their plates and cutlery.

Then something raced out of the Yannan River, grabbed Shirlie by the left leg and reversed hurriedly back into the river. Too fast for Julie to even see what it was.

"Shirley!" shrieked Julie.

Grabbing up a carving knife, she raced across to leap into the river to attempt to rescue the woman that she loved.

Despite being an excellent swimmer, she had difficulty seeing underwater in the murky depths of the Yannan.

Julie! Oh God, Julie! she thought as she swam along, with the carving knife between her teeth as though she were Sheena of the Jungle.

She swam for ten minutes, having to go up for air from time to time. Until finally she found what was left of her wife. The upper half, from the belly button upwards. The remainder was missing, presumably eaten. What was left seemed strangely white and bloated, as though it had been underwater for days, rather than minutes.

Shirlie! Julie tried to shriek, almost drowning as she inhaled polluted water. She struggled to the surface and pulled herself up to the bank to cough and splutter, trying to clear her lungs of water, before passing out.

A few minutes later, Tom Tree from nearby Glen Hartwell pulled up near the river bank in his 'Rolls-Canardley' as he called it ('Rolls down hills can 'ardley get up again'). In truth, the old banger had been in his family so long that it had lost all decals, and no one could remember what it was. But having carefully removed the number plates, then filed off the engine number, Tom had decided that it was time to drown the rusted-out banger in the Yannan River. "They've just removed a few tonnes of rubbish, he thought: So there must be room for the Rolls-Canardley.

In his haste to get rid of the rust bucket, Tom almost ran over Juliette Hussey. Seeing her just in time he managed to stop by applying both the brake pedal and the hand brake. Then finally he leapt out to throw a small tree branch under one of the front tyres.

"Holy shit, that was close," he said, as he ran over to check on Juliette.

Having done his fair share of first aid courses in his forty-eight years, Tom managed to clear the brunette's windpipe and pumped enough of the water from her stomach to get her sputtering and gasping for breath.

Confident that he had saved her life, he took out his mobile phone and dialled triple-zero.

Over in Wentworth Street, Glen Hartwell, Sheila Bennett was driving the police-blue Lexus. Sheila at thirty-five was the second-top cop in the Glen Hartwell to Willamby area. She was tall, athletic, and a Goth chick with orange-and-black-striped hair. Beside her sat Greta Goddard a pro-rata policewoman on active duty due to three of the regular cops being off ill. In the back seat sat Terri Scott and Colin Klein snuggling up together.

"Betcha haven't heard this one," said Sheila, before starting to sing:

"My Hoochie coochie woman

"My smoochie woochie woman

"A Gucci-wearing woman,

"She gives me real fine nookie

"While she's playing hooky."

"Sheils are you coming out?" asked Terri Scott. Also thirty-five, Terri was an attractive ash blonde, who was the top cop of the area and Sheila's immediate boss.

"No! That's the latest song by my favourite band..."

"The Devil's Advocates!" said Greta, Terri, and Colin.

"Oh, I've mentioned them, have I?" joked Sheila.

"Only a million times or so," teased back Colin. At forty-eight, the tall redhead had recently retired from a career as a top London crime reporter and now worked for the Glen Hartwell Police Force, and lived with Terri.

"More like a billion," said Greta. At sixty-nine, Greta was officially past the Australian retirement age; however, she was still fit and willing to help out -- as long as she got paid, of course!

"I've told you a trillion times," teased Sheila: "Don't bloody exaggerate!"

Before anyone could think up a reply Terri's mobile phone rang.

"Alice," said Terri, referring to Alice Walker, another pro rata policewoman, currently called to active service. "Yes, aha, okay."

Disconnecting her phone, she said: "Over to the Yannan, Tom Tree found some chick half drowned there."

Resisting the urge to ask 'What about the other half of her', Sheila shifted up to top gear while Greta clicked on the overhead light and siren.

Ten minutes later, thanks to Alice using a tracking app. to lock onto Tom's location, they pulled up beside the Rolls-Canardley, less than a minute before an ambulance carrying Derek Armstrong, Cheryl Pritchard, Tilly Lombstrom, and Leo Laxman arrived. Derek and Cheryl were the top two paramedics in the Glen Hartwell to Willamby area. Both were bodybuilders, who spent their Saturdays at the Muscle Up Gym in Glen Hartwell, often in the company of Sheila Bennett. Leo was a male nurse of Jamaican origin. Tilly, an attractive fifty-something brunette, was the second in charge of the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital and one of the top doctors.

"Strong Arm, Chezza, Tils, Leo," Sheila greeted them. Having not yet come up with a suitable nickname for Leo Laxman.

"No time to talk," said Tilly, as she and Leo raced across to attend to Juliette Hussey.

"So, Tom," said Colin to Tom Tree: "It's a good thing you just happened to be driving by."

"I guess so," agreed Tom.

"In the Rolls-Canardley, without any number plates on it," said Terri.

"Aren't there?" said Tom, trying to sound innocent, but sounding guilty as Hell: "I s'pose they musta fallen off."

"And I s'pose if we checked, we'd find the engine block number has worn away too?" teased Sheila.

"Well, it is a very old car. It's had the roof replaced twice and the front end once. God alone knows what it originally looked like. Dad said he thinks it was a VW Beetle ... but I think that's a vicious slander on the Beetle."

"Is that why you were planning to dump it in the Yannan?" asked Terri.

"No. of course not. I would never dump the Rolls-Canardley."

"Not now that we've seen it without number plates and know what it looks like," teased Sheila: "And who to arrest if it ever turns up in the Yannan River." To drive home the point, she snapped off a couple of pictures of the Rolls-Canardley with her mobile phone.

"Well, it looks like she's going to survive," said Tilly, signalling for Cheryl and Derek to bring the stretcher over to collect the woman.

"I should arrest you just for thinking of dumping that rust bucket into the Yannan, so soon after we cleaned it up from sewerage level of dirtiness to rubbish dump level," teased Terri: "But since you saved the woman's life I'll let you off with a warning this time."

A hundred metres downriver, three Gatermen, alligator-like reptilian creatures from the waist up, but with green, scaly humanoid legs, watched the proceedings with interest. When the ambulance and the police drove away, they watched as a half-proud, half-chagrined Tom Tree meandered back toward the Rolls-Canardley.

After a moment's indecision, two of the Gatermen raced out of the water to attack the tall, lanky farm hand.

"What the shit?" cried Tom as a Gatermen grabbed him by each leg.

He tried kicking out at them while screaming in terror. However, the creatures were too strong for Tom and soon pulled the screaming man backward into the polluted waters of the Yannan River. Then like their namesakes, they pulled him under the water and began spiralling sideways to confuse and then drown him.

While the first two Gatermen enjoyed themselves playing with their food, the third swam past them to consume the remaining half of Shirlie Hussey.

Having finally drowned Tom Tree, the first two Gatermen joined their companion in having a juicy feast.

It would be two days before Juliette Hussey awakened at the Glen Hartwell Hospital. In the meantime, Terri got a report that Tom Tree was missing.

"I wouldn't mind him leaving home if I knew he was all right," said Leroy Tree, Tom's father, standing in front of Terri's black wood desk at the Mitchell Street Police Station in Glen Hartwell: "I mean he's as useless as an ice-skating mongoose ... in a desert ... but he is my son."

After Leroy had gone, Sheila asked: "You don't think, despite our warnings, that Tom tried dumping the rust bucket at the Yannan after all and fell in and drowned?"

"Anything's possible," said Terri getting up: "He's about as savvy as a koala with its head on backward."

"Sorry, babe," said Colin as they headed outside: "But the ice-skating mongoose was funnier."

"Especially in a desert," added Sheila.

Down at the Yannan, they found the Rolls-Canardley where they had seen it last. But no sign of Tom Tree.

"So what now?" asked Colin.

"The police budget doesn't stretch to draining the river just in case he fell in," said Terri: "So for now we search the banks and hope he turns up."

"What if he creeps back without our noticing?" asked Sheila.

"Sheils, he's about as subtle as an elephant trying to sneak up on you," said Terri: "I think we'd notice."

"Now that was as funny as an ice-skating mongoose," said Colin. Getting a nod of agreement from Sheila: "Although 'in a desert' still tops it."

"There's just no amusing some people," teased Terri.

For the next two hours, they searched the banks of the Yannan River without locating the missing man.

The next day, at the Glen Hartwell Hospital, Topaz Moseley, a gorgeous platinum blonde nurse, was on duty when Juliette Hussey started to moan in her sleep.

"Shirlie! Shirlie!" she cried, tossing and turning frenetically.

Topaz raced out to get Annie Colfax, the Nurse-in-Charge. A tall, lean ash blonde, who at thirty-nine had worked at the hospital for twenty years, including training.

"Shirlie!" shrieked Juliette, finally sitting up in bed and opening her eyes. Although for a moment or so they remained glassy and unfocusing.

"Shirlie?" whispered Annie: "Who is Shirley?"

Turning her head slowly to look at the head nurse, Juliette said:

"Shirlie is ... was my wife. For seven years. Then the thing grabbed her and ate her."

"What thing?" asked Topaz.

"I don't know what it was. We were just waking up from sleeping off our lunch, when it raced out of the Yannan River and grabbed her, then raced back before I could get a good look at it." She started to cry for a moment, then managed to say: "I leapt into the water to try to rescue her, but by the time I found ... I found what was left, the bottom half of her had been eaten."

Finally, she burst into uncontrollable crying.

The next day Terri, Sheila, and Colin, along with half a dozen workers from the Department of Building and Works were at the shore of the Yannan River. The workmen erected temporary dams about two hundred metres apart, then began draining the water from the enclosed section.

"Got something," called George, the works foreman.

Then as the police approached the Yannan, they could see a rusted-out kitchen sink.

"I can't believe it," said George: "We found at least six of them the last time we did a clean-up on the Yannan. What idiot dumped that there? Some people are as backward as a tortoise in a slow-motion video."

They continued draining the river, cleaning out microwave ovens and other paraphernalia until finally, they located two piles of bones. Stripped clean of flesh and organs and scattered around the bottom of the river.

"What do we do with them?" asked Sheila.

"Wait till I ring Jesus for advice," said Terri. She talked to Jesus Costello for a few minutes, then said: "He's sending out Elvis to have a look, but he doesn't think there's much need for any fancy forensics on the spot, since the murky Yannan waters will have polluted the evidence too much."

"Well it's two different people, a man and a woman," said Elvis Green, the local coroner. Nicknamed due to his devotion to Elvis Presley: "But without DNA testing, we can't tell you anything else."

"So what'll we do with them?" asked Colin Klein.

"Collect 'em up carefully and transport them to Glen Hartwell Hospital."

"What now?" asked Sheila as they were on their way back to Glen Hartwell.

"Now I ring through to Ed Bussy, to get him to collect the Rolls-Canardley from the backs of the Yannan," said Terri: "Having de-fridged and de-sinked it again, the last thing we need is that clapped-out old banger getting pushed in or slipping its brakes."

"Will do," said Ed Bussy on the phone. Ed was the local motor mechanic and car wrecker: "I'll send my nephew Arnie down to get it. He's as useless as a two-legged hippopotamus in a three-legged race, but he should be able to tow the Rolls-Canardley back to town."

Forty minutes later, a tall, muscular man of twenty-eight, with a military-style crew-cut backed a tow truck down the banks of the Yannan River, till he backed into the Rolls-Canardley. With a screech of metal, the brakes slipped and the rusted-out hulk slid down the bank to splash into the murky Yannan.

"Dammit, why does stuff happen?" said Arnie, getting out of the tow truck. Only to see it start to roll down the banks of the river. "Lord a mighty!" he cried, leaping back into the tow truck to slam on the handbrake just in time. He managed to stop the truck about half a metre short of the river.

"Thought ya could get the better of me!" said Arnie to the truck, as though it was a sentient being.

Not known for fast thinking he stood on the bank of the Yannan, watching as the Rolls-Canardley slowly drifted, half sunk, down the river away from Glen Hartwell. Finally, he thought to start the tow truck to go after it. But taking off the handbrake let the truck slip backwards into the river, and also start floating down the river.

"Dammit, why does stuff haveta happen?" he complained. Not sure whether to let the truck keep drifting after the Rolls-Canardley. Or whether to try to drive it out of the river.

Finally, he decided to try driving it out of the river.

A hundred metres downriver, the three Gatermen watched Arnie's goings on with fascination. Not sure exactly what he was doing. But deciding that the big man would make a tasty meal.

Although the engine started, the truck had no traction and refused to move, other than downriver.

"Damn thing!" cursed Arnie.

Getting out of the truck, he pulled a long cable from the front of the truck, then half swam half waded to shore and tied the steel cable around a huge red gum tree. He then started a winch on the front of the truck, to pull the tow truck back onto shore.

"And Uncle Ed says I'm as useless as a giraffe on rollerblades," said Arnie proudly.

Just then the three Gatermen raced out of the Yannan River, grabbed him, and pulled Arnie, screaming, back into the water to drown him, then feast upon his carcass.

With the winch still running, the truck was pulled out of the river, to crash hard into the red gum, damaging both tree and truck.

When they surfaced again, satisfied with their feed, the three Gatermen saw the tow truck, gears grinding as the winch tried to pull it through the giant red gum. Then looking around they saw the Rolls-Canardley half-sunken downriver. Although not very bright, they possessed enough animal cunning to know that other humans would come looking for them soon. So they decided it was time to move on.

Like full alligators or crocodiles, the Gatermen could stray up to three hundred kilometres from water. But their animal senses told them that there was water much closer than that nearby. So, climbing up onto the leafy bank, they started to crawl away from the Yannan River. Although they could walk upright on their hind legs like humans for short periods, their preferred method of locomotion was on all fours.

Over at the Lonsdale Cattle Station near Harpertown, Clive Lonsdale, a tall burly man of fifty, who looked at least ten years younger, was watering his cattle in the local waterhole. Ford's Folly it was called, for reasons that no one could explain to him. One side of the hole was shallow and allowed safe access, the back of the hole, however, rose to a steep cliff. So he had to steer his steers toward the safe side. However, the older cattle knew from experience the safe side of the watering hole.

However, for some reason, none of the cattle wanted to have anything to do with Ford's Folly today.

"Come on poddy poddy .. you stupid bloody poddys!" called Clive. Not in the mood for any misbehaviour from his herd today. "Come on and have some lovely water ... you stupid buggers!" He just resisted the urge to call them stupid cows.

When they still refused to approach the watering hole, Clive waded in till the water was almost up to the top of his knee-length gumboots.

"See, it's perfectly safe, you bovine bog-brains!" he called.

Seconds before the three Gatermen raced out of the water to grab him and start twisting over and over sideways to drown and confuse their meal. Before dragging him to the bottom of the watering hole to devour the farmer.

Terrified, the cattle took off and stampeded toward the farmhouse five hundred metres away.

"What the Hell's that noise?" asked Allison Lonsdale, a tall fifty-something brunette, from the green-walled kitchen at the rear of the farmhouse.

She walked across to step out onto the back porch and stared in terror at the stampeding cattle. She ran back inside and shouted:

"Kids, up to the lounge room immediately!"

"We're watching telly!" protested her eleven-year-old daughter, Tessa.

"Up to the lounge room now!" ordered Allison, making all three kids run up to the lounge room.

"Why can't we have a telly in the lounge room as well as in the telly room?" moaned Tessa. Leaping forward just in time to avoid a swat on the backside by her mother.

"Now!" shouted Allison, racing up the hallway after them. Seconds before stampeding cattle crashed into the back wall of the house. Although not getting through into the kitchen, as Alli had feared.

Over at Merridale, in what was known as the Yellow House, they were settling down to lunch. It was called the yellow house, due to the owner's obsession with yellow, which meant not only was the house painted yellow inside and out, but most of the furnishings were also yellow.

"So Mrs. M. what have you got for us for lunch?" asked Sheila Bennett.

"Roast ham with mashed potatoes and gravy. Steamed carrots and a half a dozen or so other veggies," said Deidre Morton, a short dump sixty-something brunette, who should have had her own cooking show on TV.

"Sounds divine," said Natasha Lipzing, a tall lean grey-haired pensioner. At seventy she had spent the second half of her life at the boarding house.

"Absolutely," agreed Freddy Kingston. A tall, thickset man who was bald, apart from a ruff of curly black hair around the back and sides of his head.

"Is there any brandy in the gravy?" asked Tommy Turner. A recent retiree, Deidre Morton allowed him one tot of brandy, rum, or whisky with each meal. Rather than have him try to smuggle alcohol into his room.

"No, but as soon as I've served it out, I'll get you your tot?"


"Could you serve us first?" asked Terri: "Since we have to go back to work after lunch."

"Of course..." said Deidre, stopping as the phone in the corridor. "Now who can that be?" she said going to check on it.

"Oh, no," said Sheila, starting to wolf down her food.

"Slow down Sheils," said Colin: "We don't know for certain that's work-related."

"Ess ee oo," said Sheila, her mouth stuffed full of mashed potato.

"She's definitely invented a new language," teased Colin Klein: "Doublety-Dutchery Gobbel-de-gookery, I think it's called."

"Ha-ha, it is..." began Sheila, stopping as she almost choked on her food.

"Serves you right," said Terri, whacking the Goth chick on the back, until she stopped coughing.

After a moment, Deidre returned to say: "That was Ed Bussy. His nephew Arnold hasn't returned from towing away the Rolls-Canardley yet, and Ed is worried ... Mind you that boy is as useless as a rhinoceros in a paddle boat."

"Okay, well, straight after lunch we'll go and check on him," said Terri: "He's probably just forgotten where the Yannan River is."

"Yes," said Colin: "If there are any geniuses in Glen Hartwell, they certainly don't include poor Arnie."

They were still eating lunch when the phone rang again.

"Oh dear," said Deidre getting up again.

"This time I'm piggin' and that's that," insisted Sheila. Starting to gulp down her food as quickly as humanly possible.

After a moment Deidre Morton returned to announce, in a surprised voice: "According to Allison they've just had a stampede at the Lonsdale Cattle Station."

"Don't tell me we're back in the Old West again?" said Colin. Referring to a recent investigation.

"Has anyone been hurt?" asked Terri.

"Not as far as Alli knows. However, Clive was down watering the cattle when they stampeded."

"I think this takes precedence over finding Arnie Bussy," said Terri as they reluctantly abandoned their lunch.

"Geez, you were lucky," said Sheila, looking at the mess that had been made of the weatherboard outside wall of the Lonsdale farmhouse. Parts had been crushed in, or broken off. The back door had a pair of blood horns in it where a steer had tried unsuccessfully to break through the oaken door to get into the kitchen.

"She drove us all up to the lounge at the other end of the house," said eleven-year-old Tessa.

"And saved your lives," said Terri.

"How come, the cattle never got through the door?"

"They might have," insisted Allison. Then to Terri and co.: "Fortunately they quickly started going round the house before they might have broken through by sheer weight of numbers."

"Or sheer weight of weight," said Tessa.

"Hey, I was gonna say that," teased Sheila.

"Guess we'd better go check out the watering hole," suggested Colin.

"Might as well," agreed Terri.

Down at the watering hole, they found muddy footprints from Clive Lonsdale's size fifteen gumboots, plus half of a gumboot floating on top of the now bloody water.

"Something tells me we ain't gonna find Clive alive," said Sheila: "So are you gonna send a diver down to see if he's in there?"

"Without knowing what's been eating people around the Glen?" asked Terri: "No, I want the Buildings and Works people to drain the waterhole while we stand around with guns ready."

An hour later, George, the foreman of the Buildings and Works people was giving instructions as they started pumping the water out of the five-metre (at the deepest end) deep waterhole.

"Take care," warned Terri: "We don't know what's down there that's been eating people."

Apart from Terri, Sheila, and Colin, Greta Goddard, Paul Bell, and two other pro-rata police women Hilly Hindmarsh, and Alice Walker were standing around with their handguns drawn.

However, when the pond was drained, all they found was the gleaming skeleton of Clive Lonsdale and the torn remains of his work clothes.

"I'd better ring GH&DCH to get them to send out three ambulances. One each for Alli and Clive, and a third for the kids," said Terri.

"So, we still don't know what's been eating everyone," said Sheila.

"But we know it, or they, aren't contained solely in the Yannan," said Colin: "Which makes catching or killing them so much harder."

"Speaking of the Yannan, we still have to go hunt for Arnie Bussy," said Terri. She dialled through to the hospital first, then rang Ed Bussy to confirm that Arnie was still missing. Hanging up, she said: "Still no sign of Arnie. As soon as the ambulances arrive we'd better leave to check out the Yannan again."

"Does that include us?" asked George, the foreman of the Buildings and Works people.

"Count on it," said Terri.

An hour later, Terri, Colin, Sheila, and Greta Goddard were back at the bank of the Yannan River, staring in amazement.

"Arnie has let the Rolls-Canardley half sink in the water," said Greta.

"Not to mention Ed's tow truck head butting a red gum," said Sheila. She went across to turn off the winch at the front of the truck.

"Okay, start damming the damn thing again," said Terri in frustration.

"You're the boss," said George.

"Wouldn't it be easier to just dam it permanently?" asked Sheila.

"Tricky, since it runs all the way out to the Tasman Sea in one direction, and into South Aussie in the other," said George.

It was about fifty minutes later that they found the skeletal remains of Arnold Bussy.

"Poor Arnie," said Sheila: "He was about as bright as a blown fluorescent during a blackout; still he was a kind bloke."

"Guess I'd better ring Ed, then the G.H. Hospital again," said Terri.

Back in the Old West in America, cattle barons drove sheep farmers out of their regions, claiming, without any evidence, that sheep ruined grazing land by eating the grass roots and all, stripping the land bare. This Urban Myth was eventually disproven. Nonetheless, it still persisted in parts of the American West in the 2020s. Likewise in Australia, some stubborn know-it-alls like Samson 'Sam' Watson were convinced that kangaroos stripped away the grass, roots and all, leaving former grazing lands barren and worthless. Although this had been disproven decades ago, Sam 'knew what he knew' and refused to accept what uppity scientists claimed to have proven.

"What're they know," he said as he set out from his cattle station outside Harpertown to illegally cull the wild roos: "They say we got global warming, but this summer we had the wettest January since 1855! With 250% the average January rainfall for Victoria!"

Of course, Sam's teenage daughter, Elsie, had tried to explain to him that since 70% of the Earth is covered in water, global warming created excess evaporation. Which in turn led to greater rainfall. And in turn led to the peculiar phenomenon Victoria had had since the early 2000s, where we have started to have roastingly hot days where it pours rain all day, sometimes for two or three days running, without the rainfall cooling down the atmosphere or people's houses. Normally for that to happen you needed constant lightning strikes during the rain. But not anymore in Victoria. Because Victoria now gets hot rain, heated by global warming.

Still, as Sam liked to say to Elsie: "I know what I know!"

And if that didn't work, he'd ask her who was paying for her education, forcing her to admit: "You are Dad!" She managed to resist the temptation to point out that that didn't mean that she had to believe his moronic 'facts'.

So now Sam was out a few kilometres from his cattle station, culling (or as Elsie called it, murdering) wild kangaroos. The fact that kangaroo culling in Australia is illegal without a special licence, didn't bother Sam either. As far as he was concerned the big mouths in Canberra had no right to tell him what he could or couldn't do on his own cattle station.

Although, technically he was a couple of kilometres outside of his station when he encountered his first kangaroo.

"Easy does it," he whispered, kneeling, on the gum leaf and pine needle-covered forest floor, before taking his first shot. With deadly accuracy, his shot blew off the top half of the boomer's (male kangaroo) head.

"Gotcha!" shouted Sam. He was not remotely concerned when the roo's large back feet started kicking wildly in its death throes: "One down plenty more to go. The government oughta put a bounty on vermin like roos, emus, koalas so we can get rid of them without spending our own money."

Still, he did enjoy killing wildlife as so many farmers around the world do. 'See wildlife, kill wildlife' was pretty much the worldwide farmers' motto.

Over the next few hours, Sam managed to wipe out more than two dozen kangaroos, plus a couple of emus for luck. They might be able to run the pants off a kangaroo, thought Sam: But they can't outrun buckshot!

Deciding he had done a good few hours' work, laughing at his 'joke', Sam turned to start back to his cattle station...

When he was attacked from behind by two of the Gatermen.

"What the shit!" cried Sam as he fell facedown onto the dried pine needles and gun leaves.

Fortunately for Sam, he managed to hold onto his shotgun. And as the third Gaterman raced at him, he managed to fire off two shots at it from point-blank range.

Giving out a hellish shriek, the Gaterman collapsed to the forest floor. It tried to drag itself away to the imagined safety of the nearest waterhole. However, it died after a few metres.

Angered by the death of their companion, the two remaining Gatermen started to drag Sam toward the nearest waterhole to drown him before consuming him. However, he still had cartridges left, and, despite his terror, managed to shoot and kill a second Gaterman.

Wisely, the third Gaterman abandoned Sam and raced off toward the waterhole they had moved to a full kilometre away.

Sam fired his last shot after it, and the creature shrieked. However, Sam was unsure whether he had hit it, or whether it had shrieked from fear or anger.

Trying to stand, Sam shrieked and fell back to the forest floor. Looking down, he saw that his left leg had been almost severed below the knee.

"Shit!" he cursed.

Undoing the top of his overalls, he managed to pull off his shirt, which he used as a makeshift tourniquet.

"Well, that's one good thing that came out of this. Getting rid of that bloody shirt," he said. A green shirt covered with golden kangaroos, emus, and koalas, his wife Sarah had given it to him two Christmases ago. And despite his best efforts to hide it at the back of his wardrobe, she insisted that he wear it as much as possible. Which might explain his hatred of kangaroos, emus, and koalas.

Why do women go colour-blind when they get married? he thought as he reached for his mobile phone to ring triple-zero.

Forty-five minutes later Terri, Colin, Sheila, and Greta Goddard arrived at the scene of the attack. By that time Sam Watson had been lifted out by air ambulance and taken to the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital.

"Holy shit, what do we have here?" asked Colin Klein, going across to look at the corpse of one of the Gatermen.

"From the waist up an alligator," said Terri, examining the other Gaterman corpse: "Below that, not-quite-human legs."

"Wait until Totty Rampling sees these," said Sheila, referring to a wildlife biologist friend of theirs at the Melbourne Wildlife Safari Park: "She'll start squealing like a sissy at a gay Mardi Gras!"

"Sheils, you are so politically incorrect," said Terri: "These days we say, Gay."

"Or heterosexually challenged," teased Colin.

"Or raving pooftahs," said Greta.

"Greets, you're as politically insensitive as Sheils!" said Terri.

"Yeah, but what can I do? At sixty-nine, I ain't changing now."

"Anyway," said Terri: "Totty won't be seeing either of them. This is one of those lid-on cases. Where we send the evidence-slash-corpses to Russell Street, Melbourne, to probably be incinerated."

"Can't we just send one to Tots, just to hear her squeal?" begged Sheila.

"No! They're both lids-on evidence."

"Some evidence if they just get incinerated!"

"Nonetheless, that's the way it is. Now let's ring for Paul Bell to lift them out of here in the back of his Land River," said Terri. Taking out her mobile phone.

"Won't they fit into the rear of your Lexus?" asked Colin.

"Possibly, but no way am I letting those icky things soil the Lexus."

Three hours later, the Gatermen had been shipped to the security cell of the Mitchell Street Police Station in Glen Hartwell to be shipped to Melbourne in the morning.

Sheila, Terri, and co. were at the hospital waiting on news of Samson Watson, along with his wife and daughter, Sarah, and Elsie. Inside the operating theatre Tilly Lombstrom operated, assisted by nurses Leo Laxman, Annie Colfax, and Topaz Moseley.

Finally, Topaz Moseley came out of the theatre to announce: "Good news, he's going to survive, and Tils has saved his leg."

"Oh, thank God," said Sarah and Elsie together.

"One other strange thing," said Topaz: "Before passing out, he said, 'Tell Terri Scott to make certain she gets all three'."

"All three what?" asked Ellie. As Terri, Colin, Sheila, and Greta had the same uh-oh moment:

"There were three of them!" said Terri and Sheila together.

All four cops jumped up and raced toward the stairs, not waiting for the elevator, to head back to where the two Gatermen corpses had been located.

On the way, Terri rang around for Paul Bell, Hilly Hindmarsh, and Alice Walker. All of whom were at the attack site by the time the blue Lexus arrived.

"So where do we start?" asked Sheila, as they alighted from the car.

"Over there," said Paul Bell. He pointed to some drops of blood starting forty metres or so from the attack site: "We found them as soon as we got here, but decided we should wait till everybody was here."

"What about Drew?" asked Greta, referring to a local constable.

"Off sick with a bad back," said Sheila. As they started to follow the blood trail.

It was nearly an hour later, that they reached a large lagoon-cum-watering hole where they found the corpse of the third Gaterman lying face down on top of the water.

As Paul Bell started to wade out to the corpse, Terri shouted:

"Wait, it might be lying doggo!"

With that, she fired six headshots into the final Gaterman to make certain that it was dead.

"Now you can safely retrieve it."

"Thanks, Chief," said Paul wading out to collect the Gaterman.

"Can't we at least send this one to Totty?" pleaded Sheila.

"Sheils, what part of 'lid-on case' don't you understand?"

"The part about not making Tots squeal like a sissy."

© Copyright 2024 Philip Roberts
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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