By Scott Wilson
Word Count 2,725
Paulie and his Uncle Tom were fishing down by the Mary River late on Sunday evening. It hadn’t been a very productive fishing trip, with not enough legal size fish caught to feed a young tacker. Paulie didn’t mind though. He just loved spending time with his dad’s brother Tom any time he could. Fishing was Tom’s favourite pastime so it soon became Paulie’s favourite hobby.
Paulie’s father died in an accident at the timberyard when Paulie turned ten. Tom was close to his brother and missed him dearly. After the death of Paulie’s father Tom took on the unofficial role as father figure. Paulie did not have any brothers and enjoyed the male companionship with Uncle Tom every weekend. It was not a planned event by any means; Paulie went fishing with Tom one Saturday and then the next and so on. Uncle Tom never tried to take over the role as father, nor did Paulie look to his uncle to fill this role. It was just a family bond that seemed to form over the two years since that terrible day.
Uncle Tom called his favourite fishing hole, “The Wishing Well”. It was five miles down stream from the timberyard, but neither Paulie nor Uncle Tom acknowledged that. It was a nice, quiet spot away from all the main roads and tucked away from the Mary River enough so no other fishermen in their tinnies disturbed them. No need to try and find another spot because it was so close to where Paulie senior died. It was actually a good place to forget the worries of the world, as callous as that may sound.
The best location was perched on a thick mangrove branch about four feet out over the water. Branches hide you well from both the water and the land so as to camouflage you from the native birds and unsuspecting fish. This trick seemed to work well with the birds still chirping and the fish still swimming. If you had your esky well stocked, you could stay there the whole day, and sometimes even most of the night without having to set foot back on land. A small twinkle every now and then to relieve oneself did not seem to scare the fish away, although Paulie thought on more than one occasion he saw a small tiger shark swim past while he was still taking a leak.
Uncle Tom believed Paulie when he mentioned this to him. Tiger sharks usually like deep water and didn’t often come this close in to shore from the Sandy Straits.
“I hear that this spot is so deep you’d kick on down to hell before you got to the bottom,” he used to say. As if seeing a man-eating shark swim by five feet under you when you were perched on a branch not much thicker than your waist wasn’t scary enough without the need of adding the fact beneath you was a bottomless pit that went right on down to hell, Paulie used to think. Then again, probably why it was the best fishing spot around.
“Why doesn’t anyone else come here?” Paulie asked his uncle.
“Well, Paulie,” Uncle Tom started, “Years ago it was said that a young married couple came down here for a midnight dip. You know, skinny dipping and stuff, like newly weds do.”
“Oh gross.” Paulie said with a disgusted look on his face.
“When you’re a couple of years older you won’t think so young Paulie. Anyways, the next day nothing but their clothes was found on the bank of the river.”
“Was it the sharks?”
“Many locals don’t believe that the tiger shark will swim this far up the Mary. You know, being a salt water creature and all.”
“But we’ve seen then heaps since you brought me fishing here.” Paulie said.
Uncle Tom winked at his young nephew and smiled, “At least no one disturbs our little fishing trips anyway, hey Paulie.”
Paulie thought about it and was about to ask another question then though twice about it and shrugged his shoulders and went back to slowly reeling his line in.
A twig snapped on the shore off to the right and both Paulie and Uncle Tom jumped slightly.
“What was that?” Paulie whispered, edging closer on the mangrove branch to his Uncle.
Uncle Tom picked up his Dolphin torch and had his finger on the on switch when they heard a single gunshot. He quickly took his finger away from the switch and slid closer to Paulie. He raised his finger to his lips and motioned to Paulie to lay down low on the branch.
In the pale moon light Uncle Tom and Paulie saw Sargent Brady and Constable Hedge dragging the limp body of Graham Kelly, the town hooligan towards the mangrove tree they were perched in. A few feet behind the two officers someone was struggling in the bushes.
“Go shut her up,” Sargent Brady grunted at his offsider, “before we have to put a bullet in her too.”
“I can’t believe you killed him,” Hedge replied in a quivering voice.
“If you don’t shut her up and make sure she is secure, you’ll join the rest of them down the bottom of the wishing well.”
Constable Brady hurried back out of sight of Paulie and Uncle Tom. Neither Paulie nor Uncle Tom made a sound and held on tight to the mangrove branch. Sargent Brady was almost beneath the mangrove tree now and they did not want to find out how deep the wishing well was first hand either.
“Help me,” a woman screamed out from the darkness where Hedge hurried back a moment before.
“Damned fool,” Brady grunted as he tossed the limo body into the water. Uncle Tom briefly saw two thick lead bars strapped to the corpse’s legs as it sank into the dark cold water. Tom thought to him self, that body plus the lead bars would weigh at least a hundred kilos and the psycho cop tossed it into the water as though it were nothing but a rag doll.
Sargent Brady walked out of the moonlight and into the pitch-black mangrove bushes out of the line of sight of Paulie and Uncle Tom.
“We have to get out of here,” Paulie whispered.
“We ain’t going anywhere till those two are far way from here, Paulie.” Uncle Tom whispered back. “If they know we saw what they were up to, we’d end up down the bottom of the wishin’ well to.”
“I can’t stay here, they get me.” Paulie said. Uncle Tom noticed that he was sobbing and shaking.
Tom put a steady hand on Paulie’s shoulder and softly said, “Just hold on a bit longer Paulie. We’ll be fine once they go. Just have to keep quiet and still ‘till then, ok.”
Paulie wiped his nose with the sleeve of his shirt and nodded, “Ok, dad.” He sobbed.
Uncle Tom looked at his nephew. How unfair life was, first loosing his father and now being caught up in something this horrible. So many other kids get to go through their whole life with a happy childhood, family and friends. Poor Paulie lost his father and now sees a murder when he is innocently fishing. If he were lucky he would get away from this with his life, but at what cost. How much can a young boy take before cracking and ending up in the loony bin? Uncle Tom listened carefully. What were they doing over there in the darkness; actually he had a pretty good idea, poor girl, whoever she was.
A single shot rang out in the night again.
“Bring her over to the water’s edge,” Sargent Brady called over his shoulder as he walked back towards the wishin’ well.
Uncle Tom wanted to tell Paulie to close his eyes, but any noise made now would give away their hiding place above Sargent Brady. He looked at Paulie then over to Constable Hedge. Hedge struggled as he dragged the half naked body of another young local towards the water. Uncle Tom looked at the young girl again, trying to see if he knew who it was. When Hedge was almost to the mangrove tree, Paulie gasped. It was Donna, Donna Kennedy, the school captain. She was only seventeen years old, or was until a few minutes ago.
“What was that?” Hedge yelped.
“What was what?” Brady replied. “You are pathetic, you know Hedge. The only thing out here besides us is the dead of night. “
“I thought I heard a cry,” Hedge started to say, “like som…..”
Brady stepped forward with lighting speed and backhanded his offsider across the side of his head. Hedge fell backwards and landed on top of the half naked school captain. When realising why his landing was so soft, Hedge let out a cry that was so feminine that it almost sounded like it came from the female corpse.
Brady tossed two heavy lead bars on top of Hedge and said, “Do something useful while you are down there and tie these on to that thing’s legs.”
Hedge looked up at Brady, and for a minute, Uncle Tom thought that he was staring right at him. Hedge was actually not looking at anything, but thinking how he was going to get himself out of this mess. He did not know that he was going to be involved in a double murder that night when heading out on patrol. Hedge always knew that the sergeant was a tuff nut, but he had no idea that his superior officer was a complete psychopathic, murdering nut case. How could he kill two kids in cold blood without a second thought or even blinking?
“I’m going to give you one last chance before you join these two.” Brady said in a monotone voice, “TIE IT NOW!”
Just as Paulie and Uncle Tom both gasped and almost fell into the water, a huge stripped brown shape leapt out of the water with the body of Graham Kelly hanging out of each side of its razor sharp jaws. Luckily for them the loud noise from the shark disguised the small rustling they caused a few feet above the water. Neither Brady nor Hedge heard or saw the two in the tree, and only just saw the tail fin of the shark as it crashed back into the blackness of the still water.
Hedge used this distraction as an opportunity to bolt. He stumbled over the corpse as he ran back into the mangroves and the dark. Brady un-holstered his service revolver and started after Hedge. He walked like a man on a mission but did not run. It was as though he knew Hedge would not get away from him anyway so there was no point in raising a sweat by running after him.
“Quick,” Uncle Tom said, “Let’s get down.”
Paulie had already scampered across the branch before Uncle Tom had finished his sentence. Uncle Tom crawled right behind his nephew and down the thick trunk of the tree to the soft ground below.
“To my cabin, Paulie.” Uncle Tom said quietly, but loud enough for Paulie to hear without any mistake. There was no time for back tracking or taking any wrong turns now. If they didn’t read the cabin before that crazy cop was back there would be five bodies going down the wishin’ well tonight. Uncle Tom was determined that there was no way that would happen to his poor nephew, not tonight. Not ever.
Paulie ran and Uncle Tom followed closely. He was holding on to the esky and both hand reels. There was no way that he was going to leave any evidence of who was up the tree watching the show tonight. If the sergeant was that crazy, there would be no hiding from him once he knew who they were. The cabin was only about a hundred meters away and not visible from the wishin’ well. It seemed like half an hour before they reached it, in less than five minutes flat.
Uncle Tom fumbled with the key to the padlock before getting it opened, sliding it quickly from the thick, sturdy chain.
“Quick Paulie, inside.” Uncle Tom said to Paulie as he opened the corrugated iron door.
Once they were both safely inside the cabin, Uncle Tom looped the chain back around the holes in the door and front wall, clicking the padlock shut in one motion. Uncle Tom turned and put his arm around his nephew reassuringly.
“We’ll be ok now Paulie,” he said.
Paulie looked up at his uncle with tears welled up in his red eyes. Uncle Tom did not realise just how much poor Paulie had been silently crying whilst stuck up that mangrove tree. Gun shots, half naked bodies and shark attacks, why wouldn’t he be bawling his little eyes out, Uncle Tom almost was himself. The only thing keeping him from bursting out crying himself was the need to stay strong for his poor young nephew.
“We’ll just wait out the night here, then go back home in the morning.” Uncle Tom said. “No one will know that we saw anything and we’ll be ok.”
“But we have to tell someone,” Paulie cried, “Sergeant Brady and Constable Hedge belongs in a prison cell.”
“We can’t say anything to anyone Paulie,” Uncle Tom said to Paulie, trying to reassure him he was right; and to reassure himself what he said was the right thing to do.
“We have to...”
“We are going to have to just keep our mouths shut, Paulie.” Uncle Tom said more firmly this time. “Unless you want to end up in the wishin’ well to.”
Uncle Tom knew that sounded harsh, but he had a feeling that if that crazed sergeant found out they were witness to his midnight crimes, they would be next on his list. He didn’t know what those poor two young kids had done but he didn’t think it would be anywhere near as bad as being witness to a double murder committed by the town law officer.
Paulie pressed his head against Uncle Tom’s chest and sobbed even heavier. He was a smart kid and in his heart he knew what Uncle Tom said was true, but it didn’t feel any better. Paulie knew the right thing to do was report these corrupt cops to someone. They had to be reported. You just couldn’t go around killing people in Australia. It just didn’t happen, did it? Especially by the very people who were supposed to protect the citizens.
Neither of them slept in Uncle Tom’s cabin that night. Every noise felt like it was the sound of the two police officers creeping up on them, ready to kick the door of the cabin in and shoot them dead. When morning finally arrived they cautiously opened the cabin door and made their way back to Uncle Tom’s old Range Rover. It was still sitting off the old dirt track that came off of the road between Maryborough and Tin Can Bay. Uncle Tom looked carefully around the four wheel drive and was sure that there were no footprints. Maybe we will be ok Uncle Tom thought.
The next day Uncle Tom read the front page of the local newspaper, “Constable Hedge’s body found at the fishing spot known as The Wishin’ Well. All evidence indicates that Constable Hedge shot High School Captain Donna Kennedy before turning the gun on himself. Sergeant Brady made a statement that he suspected Hedge had been seeing Donna for a few weeks and was upset that she was going to break the relationship off.” When a familiar voice behind him said, “Guess no one will use that ol’ Wishin’ Well now for sure, hey old timer.”
Uncle Tom turned around and felt his heart well up and explode with pain when he saw the owner of the voice was Sergeant Brady. Uncle Tom thought he saw Brady smile when Tom hit the ground. He thought he heard Brady laugh just before his heart stopped beating. Uncle Tom’s last thought was of his nephew, Paulie. He was never going to be able to warn him...
By Scott Wilson
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