fantasy and the shadows
the end, Tommy organised to fly me in a Cessna from Indonesia to a remote
emergency airstrip in North Queensland. We landed a couple of hours
before dawn. I shook hands with the pilot and scuttled into the scrub.
The little plane swung around and I watched it roar down the airstrip,
trailing a cloud of dust, and lift off into the darkness.
first light I walked out to the main road and hitched a lift with a
semi-trailer heading for Townsville. It took me three days to get down
to Myall Lakes. When I arrived I came in through Seal Rocks, and walked
the long, hot, fire trail south. There was no sense coming in from Buladelah.
The Bombah Point ferry was a real trap. If Roger's people were waiting,
they'd be watching it for sure.
I got to our old camping spot by the lake it was 5:30 and the sun slanted
down out of a limpid blue sky. I approached through the shadowy undergrowth
moving a few metres at a time, stopping to watch and listen.
I saw Jo's ancient faded car tent and folding chairs and a rented 4WD,
but there was no sign of life. I stayed hidden and whistled our old
recognition call. Jo, then Old Possum emerged from the tent. I stood
up and walked towards them. Jo and I crashed into each other's arms.
Old Possum chuckled and slapped me on the back.
carefully Possum, and do what I say", Jo hissed in my ear. "We're
being watched, but it'll be OK. Now sit down".
slid off my pack and slumped into a chair. Jo went back into the tent
and came out with some cold ciders. She twisted the top off one and
handed it to me.
spotted Roger while we were birdwatching. He's hiding in the bracken
up behind us. He's ..."
up, hands up, turn around very slowly."
did as we were told. It was Roger, dressed in rumpled camouflage and
waving a pump-action shotgun. He was wild-eyed with fatigue, or maybe
amphetamines. "Where's Dalang, where's the money?" he demanded.
mean the Indonesian general? fabled mastermind of the Dili massacre?
said to be Soeharto's friend? -- officially dead", I said.
"Rumour has it he was killed in a melee with a bunch of Ninjas.
Dunno anything about money. Ask me about Shane and Nathan".
heard of them", he said.
then a National Parks ranger and a couple of cops appeared from the
old car tent.
the gun down slowly and step back, buddy", one of the cops said.
Roger did as he was told. They arrested him for being in possession
of an illegal unlicenced firearm in a national park.
coppers radioed for the back-up vehicle. Roger gibbering wildly about
"billions of dollars", "secret DFA operation" and
"top-level security clearance". He was demanding to be put
in touch with the foreign minister as they bundled him into the back
of the paddywagon.
for the tip-off, Jo", the ranger said. "I'll drop in next
time I'm down in Sydney. This bloke obviously lives in some kind of
weird political fantasy".
you like us to press charges for attempting to 'take or kill' wildlife?",
she asked me.
don't bother", I said, "My status as wildlife is a bit of
a grey area. It'd only complicate things in court".
what will happen to Roger now?" Old Possum asked, as we sat under
the paperbarks by the edge of the water, watching the sun setting over
the hills. The sound of mullet jumping drifted across the glassy-calm
surface of the lake.
much", Jo said. "They'll say he cracked up. He probably did,
anyway, when Shane didn't report back to him. If it ever gets to court
he'll get lots of character references, and they have a special program
for disoriented Foreign Affairs officials -- they recycle them through
the Indonesia-Australia Institute".
puppet master -- buggered if I know", I said, "Tommy's mob
were underground left-wing nationalists of some sort. Maybe they'll
turn him over to the official inquiry. Maybe they'll tap into the Soeharto's
billions themselves. Maybe they'll kill him."
ultimate puppeteer is the world capitalist economy itself", Old
Possum said reflectively, "It controls all of us -- Soeharto, Keating,
Downer, the little Indonesian farmer, the mightly oil industry executive,
Clinton, Yeltsin, John Howard, the economists at the merchant bank,
the bloke working on the line at GMH. It pushes us this way and that,
we play out our role and cast a shadow on the screen. And all the while
we watch the shadows, simultaneously, from the other side of the screen
-- that's the media -- and we call it Politics, and pretend we're in
control ... but it's all a fantasy".
water rat emerged from its burrow beneath the paperbark roots and slid
into the warm shallow water. The rim of the sun passed beneath the hills.
The pink lining faded from the clouds and the long shadows merged into
to Operation Gareth (the beginning)
to Operation Gareth, part 2