by W. E. Johns



9.         SHOCKS FOR WORRALS  (Pages 134 – 160)


Worrals had waited for the return of the Desoutter aircraft in vain.  At around six o’clock she heard a slight noise in the kitchen but on looking could see nothing.  Charlie remained unconscious and Worrals had noted a scar on both sides of his left foot, as if a bullet had passed through.  She remembered Dan had said he was limping when he reported the death of Aunt Mary.  Why had he not mentioned this?  “There might have been a reason.  As Dan had said, no white man could fathom the workings of an aboriginal brain”.  Worrals pondered on the remark Charlie had made about Aunt Mary being the richest woman in heaven.  He had buried her.  Had he buried the opal with her?!  Worrals is sure she has thought of the solution.  The wounded man moans and Worrals goes to the water bucket in the kitchen which is almost empty.  She tips the water it contains into the dog’s basin and then takes the risk of going out to the water supply at the soak.  She sees Yoka’s spear and discovers that her bullet has hit it.  She looks at Yoka’s body and sees the boomerang has inflicted a fearful wound.  The man is clearly dead.  Returning to the kitchen, Worrals notices the dog, Maginty, behaving strangely.  The dog collapses writing in agony and dies.  Looking at the body reminds her of the dead dingo and she realises that Maginty has been poisoned.  The slight noise in the kitchen must have been someone dropping poison into their water bucket, probably strychnine.  Unknowingly, Worrals had given the water to the dog.  The poison had no doubt been intended for her and Charlie.  He would be bound to ask for water on coming around.  “They’ll pay for this,” muttered Worrals through set teeth.  “They shall pay”.  Charlie comes around and speaks to Worrals in pidgin English.  They are disturbed by a car arriving.  In the car are Moran and Raffety.  Barola appears and joins them and Worrals realises it was he who has been watching the house and fired at Charlie.  He has also poisoned the water.  Worrals is concerned for Charlie.  “If they did not kill him forthwith, they might torture him to extract the secret of the opal, and kill him afterwards”.  She tells Charlie to play dead and covers him entirely with a blanket.  Moran comes in the house, followed by Raffety and Barola.  “Where’s that nigger?” says Moran.  “Whom are you talking about?” asked Worrals blandly.  When he says “Charlie”, Worrals says Barola shot him in the head and shows them the body.  Moran is angry with Barola who justifies himself by saying that Charlie killed Yoka and Yoka worked for him for years.  Knowing she is no match for the three men, Worrals bluffs it out.  She says that Dan Terry is on his way there.  “Whatever you may do to me, there’s enough evidence at Wallabulla to hang the lot of you, and you know it”.  Moran tells his two men to get on with the job of removing Aunt Mary’s body.  “What about dumping the two dead niggers in the hole?” suggested Raffety.  “For the police to find?” sneered Moran.  “We’ll get rid of them some other way”.  Raffety returns to say the grave is a fake.  It’s just a pile of gravel and the top soil below hasn’t even been cut.  Raffety has, however, found some black opal tied on the bottom of the cross in the gravel and he puts it on the table. Barola comes in and says it is “Blackfellow business.  Magic.  Maamu, they call it”.  Barola is thirsty and says “It takes more than nigger stuff to scare me” and he picks up a basin of water from the table where Worrals had put it and drinks it.  He doesn’t realise that he is drinking from Maginty’s poisoned basin.  Realising it is funny tasting; he asks Worrals where the water came from?  Worrals says it’s from their drinking-water bucket under the kitchen window.  Barola realises he has been poisoned and cries out for help.  His friends don’t know what he is talking about but he tells them that he put strychnine in the water.  “You wanted to get rid of ‘em, didn’t you?” Barola says to Moran.  “That’s what you said when we used the stuff on the old woman”.  “Shut your mouth,” flared Moran.  Worrals offers to fly him to Oodnadatta when her aircraft comes back but she is told that it’s been smashed.  Worrals suggest that Raffety and Moran take Barola in their car.  Moran doesn’t want to but Raffety pulls a gun on him and insists he tries to save his partner.    The three men all depart in the car.  Worrals decides to keep the water that is left in the dog basin for evidence and she wraps it in a towel and puts it on a dresser out of harm’s way.  She turns to tell Charlie that he can get up now but finds that he has gone.