Thursday, 15 January 2009

Attack on a Dark Night - Episode 14 of 'Paternity' my Australian mystery novel

Red soil and spinifex of the Australian Outback - Kimberley Region WA

This is Episode Fourteen of 'Paternity' in which an Australian outback town is the scene of an attack on a dark night, and Pip gets closer to her goal.


And please leave feedback in a comment at the end of this instalment.

The hour’s sleep had stretched into two before Pip’s feet hit the floor again and wandered down the hall to the ladies’. On the way she met the bar manager who said that Frank was still not back from the District Court.

It was creeping towards dinner time and she didn’t feel like risking any chance meeting with Robson at the pub so decided on a meal at the Greek cafĂ© – the third of the day. Cosmos would be pleased with her patronage …

Daylight saving time meant the sun was still hot in the sky, but she decided on exercise and walked down the main street, past the sad petrol pump and the leaning houses caressed with tall weeds, and almost to the end of the town …

She didn’t want much to eat but made an order anyway and opened her book to read it then and there on the sticky table top.

Pip had left the John Le Carre spy thriller in her room when she’d gone back to the city, and decided to have another go at it now. An hour later Pip was savouring the last of the apple pie and cream and her second cup of coffee sat lukewarm beside her elbow.

She had been completely entangled in the story and was disappointed to get to the last page: ‘The gun, Bill Roach had finally convinced himself, was after all a dream.’ Good stuff.

Pip realised it was all but dark outside, paid the bill and stepped onto the footpath and into the gloom. Clouds blotted out the moon, and a skittish wind sent a scurry of dust into her eyes. She could taste the grit between her teeth.

She quickened her pace.

Pip’s footsteps seemed to echo against a teetering wall of bricks sitting very close by on a vacant lot to the right – the surviving remainder of a one-time substantial home. The ruins looked ghostly against the black-blue sky.

Abreast of the wall, she heard a slight movement. The skin on her neck tingled and her frame stiffened.

From the piles of bricks and rubbish two dark figures loomed – one short and nuggetty and the other a mountain of a man who lumbered towards her, surprisingly speedy, and breathed a stink of rotten eggs into her face.

For a split moment she froze and she knew that Robson and Gazza were so close that the three of them were almost touching, with Pip herself wedged in the small space against the crumbling brick wall.

The stink intensified and Gazza’s breath became tangible as he let out an almost inaudible chuckle. Robson made no sound.

The three of them stood there as though fixed. Then, galvanised, Pip did move and felt her arm scrape against the jagged wall as she squeezed past the two men and into the open on the other side.

The young woman quickly gathered speed, running along the interminable footpath towards the pub. She shot glances over her shoulder to see that the men were not following, and fancied she heard laughter wafting towards her on the wind.

Pip got to the front door of the hotel and here, lungs bursting, she paused and gathered herself for a slow long walk down the corridor and past the bar.

She reached the carved staircase and mounted them two at a time, tripped over the carpet runner in the hall and finally made it to the door of Room 22.

It was an eternity before the key did its job, and Pip shot through the opening, slammed the door and collapsed against the old timber, breathless, on the other side.

Pip's heart had only just slowed to its normal pace when she heard Frank’s voice at the door. At that moment there couldn’t have been anything more welcome.

The foregoing is excerpted from Paternity by June Saville. All rights reserved. No part of this novel may be used or reproduced without written permission from the author.

Have you ever had a scare on a dark night?



  1. Yes, when I ran my country store I came home late one night and heard something moving across the road in the trees. I am sure it was probably a deer and I carried a pistol at the time, but I nearly tore the door off the hinges getting it open. I was afraid it might be someone planning to rob the place. It really scared me.

  2. This question has been bugging me all along,so I have to ask....could Frank be her father??????

  3. JUDY
    I can't imagine you packing a pistol mate! But I also realised that you are one gutsy lady - and I understood you ran a country store.
    That WAS a scarey situation. You could understand Pip then.

    Frank? That's an interesting thought. I'll add him to the list ...

  5. Nooooooooooo! Frank can’t her father. He’s her friend. He’s helping her on her quest. How many times do I have to tell everyone?!

    Oh my Gosh. I just knew those two goons were going to make a move on her.

    Okay I have to tell my near encounter also: I wasn’t on foot - but in my car. I had stopped at a light. (Hollywood) A guy who looked like a gang member type attempted to get in my car from the passengers side (yes- it was unlocked). I hit the accelerator full bore and took a right turn into traffic. He held on and still tried to get in. I swerved the car back and forth in the lanes and honked the horn to draw attention. He finally let go and all I saw was him grappling on his knees in the street as I sped away. I must have gone 20 to 30 blocks before I had the courage to stop and close the passenger side door.
    I was terrified but I learned- remember to lock all your doors.

    BTW- this chapter about half the length of others, June? I mention this only because I feel cheated!


  6. Vikki
    You incisive lady. My personal family life got in the way big time this week. Hopefully things will calm down in the next few days and I will be back at full bore. As I explained earlier, I am re-writing the last few chapters because I wasn't satisfied with the umpteenth draft ...

    Now boys and girls - don't fight over who is Pip's dad - it won't help anyone!

    Boy I knew you were a spunky lass Vikki - but that Hollywood adventure was something else. Sure it wasn't from a film you've seen lately?
    If not, may I apply to use it in one of my stories?

  7. June – this chapter is a tight piece. Great use of short and long sentences; imagery; presentation on the page for example where you write:

    Pip realised it was all but dark outside, paid the bill and stepped onto the footpath and into the gloom. Clouds blotted out the moon, and a skittish wind sent a scurry of dust into her eyes. She could taste the grit between her teeth.

    She quickened her pace.

    ‘nuggetty’ – loved this description!

    (...) – can you tell me why you use three dots in your writing/what does it signify? ( I’m just curious to know as it might help me in my writing)!

    Not sure about ‘unfurled’ where you write: ‘...unfurled her book’. Looking up the definition I think ‘unfurled’ would work better re ‘a map or even a newspaper’!?! Your thoughts?

  8. One other thing... I'd be interested to know how you approach your writing commitments in terms of hours a day/week?

  9. CATH
    Where to start - thanks for the bit about unfurled - I don't know how it got there! Have changed it to 'open.

    The three dots are called an 'ellipsis' and indicate that a word or phrase is missing which could clarify or complete the sense of the piece. I sometimes think I use them a bit too often. However, I think they're wonderful because I like to leave spaces in my work and encourage the reader to fill them in.

    Our wonderful Aussie writer Helen Garner said: 'Make gaps. Don't chew on it. Don't explain everything. Leave holes.'

    Hours per week? Wouldn't have a clue. It's different all of the time. I don't know whether you realise that I began 'Paternity' for instance eight years ago when I was doing my creative writing/history degree. I have written many drafts in the intervening years and in fact am polishing it again now as I go. A fanatic can't help but do that!

    A lot of my other stuff is left over from that period too.I still do a lot of writing because I love it, but I try to have a balance with the rest of my life (which is full).

    I began writing compositions at school and haven't stopped since. Journalism and other commercial writing in between. I remember I won a certificate in a children's competition in a Sunday newspaper when I was about twelve.
    All of that practice tends to make things easier ...
    My goodness 57 years since I left school!

  10. Pip is pretty tough, but two against one, and especially that pig Gazza. She needs to get her a Kubaton, and learn how to use it. I can imagine the fear she felt, but at least she didn't let it cripple or paralyze her.

    I keep picturing a small in stature girl I knew who was a cop. She could handle herself better than many of the men, and she was half their size.

    I wondered about Frank at first, but it just didn't work, but then what a potential twist. It's always fun to "read into" a story your own imaginative thoughts.

    Wow Vikki, that was a close one girl.

  11. Hi ERIC
    I didn't know what a Kubotan was so looked it up. We're funny in Oz and don't generally carry weapons of any sort, except that knives are apparently becoming more common in sleazy parts of big cities (among the young and/or shady).
    But, with Gazza and Robson hanging around I can see your point.
    To me Robson is as much of a horror as is Gazza because Robson is the person making the pace - the behind the scenes sneak who directs the violence at a distance. Gazza is the physical danger as a result, however.
    It does sound as though we may be lucky to still have Vikki eh?

  12. I would have done the same, gotten away from the goons any which way.
    I'm an early morn walker, well before dawn and have learned a wee bottle of hot pepper spray is a very handy tool for 2 and 4 legged beasts ;) Cheryl

  13. Hi CHERYL
    Yes, I can see we need to whisper in Pip's ear that she must take more care of herself!


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Cheers June