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She suddenly stood and began yelling. Hysteria or planned distraction, was it? His eyes fixed on the folds in her tunic, where a bomb might be. Intelligence had warned to expect terrorists amongst the boat people. Peace sister he said in Arabic. James had learnt it just for this moment. He fingered his pistol.

He had ordered marksmen aboard to shoot any would-be suicide bomber. They practised. To take one life rather than let forty or fifty be destroyed was the lesser evil. The woman was a candidate. 

Others in the boarding party clambered aboard. The smell of the hold caught and revulsed him: diesel, water, urine, vomit. That was his mistake: he looked down. The man next to him drew a knife to slash the neck and behead him. Very traditional. He saw it too late and fired his pistol right into him. Thunderous noise and agony.  Singapore: a cheerful, talkative surgeon mended him; Mr Lang, was it? 

As his plane was landing, the memories flooded back. Must block that. Coming in low, the plane began pitching left and right. It was raining heavily too. Easy to panic. The plane bumped to a halt. Home after so many years. 

Without Julia and Ava, it was empty. Their ghosts would find him. Must restart. He saw himself climbing Mount Coolum again, with just the eagles and the sea far below. Join, learn, and volunteer was the formula, wasn’t it? Dating no.

Meantime, he needed accommodation. From the Storey Bridge, you can jog for miles along the Brisbane River.  That will do. The Olympic pool, his other love, was far at the edge of town.  

First on the agenda was solving the legal problem, but that was a tall order. Julia had willed him a quarter share in the family business, a group of five inner city hotels. He wanted to sell one hotel and go to flying school. You can be a commercial pilot even at age 30 something like him. 

The problem was the others, his uncle, aunt and cousin, never ever replied to phone, mail or email, and any major change to the business would need their ok. They refused to communicate. Including the once he connected with Cousin Belinda: she said angrily I’m busy and slammed the phone down. She was a teacher then. Might be easier to trace her than her parents.  

No use calling the police. The search by a private detective could be diligent but fruitless. He made an appointment with Halls, a prominent legal firm. Was his thwarted case the first and only one, no?

James, we need to talk. Is that bad news? It is not good.

Your uncle Roger and aunt Rose sold the business three years ago via a company registered in Dubai. James, you were at sea with the navy and out of contact at that time, no doubt. There is a document supposedly signed by you in the sale folio. We suspect fraud and theft, sorry to say.   

They were horse people, so Julia had thought. Dubai, racing, thoroughbreds… A photo of a fine horse was not enough. It had all come to nothing. He smiled; I must be lucky in love. 


A man is a man, wrote Berthold Brecht. That covers it for Peter Wright, now writer.


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