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BlackEagle Girls
The Sacred Secret

Chapter 15 - Tasmania, via the toilet

'What's happening? Why are the police on the phone?' said Rachael Davies, charging into the Control Room, looking just as dowdy and distraught as the character Mary Loxton, whom she had been portraying only minutes before.

'Yes, yes, thankyou Officer, I'm sorry too that it was so hard to get through, but apparently when scenes are being shot here the switch-board tends to hold calls until there is a break. Yes, she's here now, I'll give you over to her.' Monica Bateleur, the whites in her eyes somehow magnified, passed the phone to Rachael and turned to the youngsters who were now all  standing, clustered around expectantly. 'Children,' said Monica quietly, 'let's just go outside where I can talk with you while Rachael has a chat with the Police.' With a nod to Stefan Manns, the Director, she guided the group out onto the landing near the stairwell.

'What is wrong Mother? Is it about Father and Mister Black?' said Monique as she clutched at Priscilla's arm.

'Yes, the Police in er... Camberwell... that is where we are staying isn't it? Yes, well they say that the Tasmanian Police in Hobart have contacted them about some sort of messages they have received.'

'Like what?' said Henry, jigging on the spot.

'They were reports from a man your father knows who lives in Huonville, I think the Officer said that was somewhere outside of Hobart. This man, a Mister Kerrigan, has been keeping in contact with Jean-Michael and your Father by C.B. radio while they went off on a trip to the south end of Tasmania. The first message from them two days ago was about some sort of confrontation with people down there. Then another shorter message came saying that they were leaving their vehicles and setting out on foot to follow a walking track toward the Ironbound Range. They were apparently well equipped for overnight camping... '

'So what's the problem?' said Henry, looking almost disappointed.

'The problem is another communication from them to the man in Huonville by mobile phone, they said they had been followed and that someone had shot at them... '

'Really!' exclaimed Priscilla, shocked.

'I am afraid that is what I was told,' answered Monica, her hand caressing Monique's head, 'and that is about all we know.'

'We've got to get home!' shouted Rachael, rushing frantically out of the Control Room. 'Come on kids, Monica! I am so sorry Stefan Darling,' she called over her shoulder as she hustled the others towards the stairwell, 'but this is an emergency, the police have just had another report while I was speaking with them. Mathew and Jean-Michael are in some sort of terrible trouble!'

'What is it?' asked Stefan Manns, emerging close behind her.

'I don't know, only a garbled call about being followed by men with guns and having to get off the walking track somewhere near a place called Louisa Plains, something about going after a lion or a tiger, then the phone cut out! Oh Stefan, we have to get home and find out more, I'll ring as soon as I can. Tell the rest of the cast that I'm sorry for running off! Sorry Stefan my love! Please phone for a cab!'
And so saying, Rachael ushered the others down the stairs and headed them towards reception.

They all got back to Silverglade Road in a state of shock, Rachael hitting the doorbell and finally using her key to get inside. Harry was barking madly as they entered. There was a note on the hall table.

'Oh fine!' said Rachael, skimming the words, 'Amelia has gone down to Geelong to stay overnight with her Brother Stuart, Aunt Beth's not well. That's all we need right now! She says that we can fend for ourselves and that she'll be back by late tomorrow evening!'

'What shall we do now for the best?' said Monica, her hands visibly trembling as she guided Monique and the others down the hall.

'What?' shot back Rachael. 'We'll do what we decided in the cab! You ring and get us the first available flight for Hobart, and since Granny's not here... I don't know... ' she ended in a bewildered whimper.

'It's alright Mum,' said Henry, turning back, 'us guys can stay here by ourselves. Harry and Gizzard will protect us.'

'I think,' said Monica, 'that it would be best if Monique, Priscilla and John went back to Hopewell Hall. After all, if you and I are going to get a flight down to Tasmania this evening, they should not remain here by themselves overnight.'

'And what about Henry?' said Rachael, looking wretched and clearly in need of guidance.

'Ah, Henry! Well he cannot stay home alone. We will have to take him with us.'

'Yeah, but what about Harry and Gizzard?' said Henry, looking down at Harry who was now sitting quietly by his feet.

'Feed Harry, he will not starve for a day, after all he is a dog you know, and give your little lizard whatever you give him extra,' said Monica.

'Excuse me,' said John Wynd, looking anxious on the periphery of the conversation, 'but if you're taking Henry with you, could you take me too? I mean I can pay the fare, I've got some money at school.'

'Why would you want to do that for?' asked Rachael distractedly.

'Oh, um, I just thought Henry could use the company, you know.'

'Well that is very kind of you John, but Rachael and I could not bear the responsibility of taking you out of the state without the school's permission,' replied Monica, and turning back to Rachael she went on, 'now we had best get started. Girls, you and John go upstairs and pack your bags. Henry, better put some things in an overnight case too. Rachael, find me the number and I shall ring the airport and make a booking for six or as soon after. It's four-fifteen now so we'll have to hurry.'

'Right', said Rachael, straightening up and getting her act together as she thumbed through her notebook, 'here's the number for Tullamarine, and this one is the taxi company. I'll ring Amelia on the computer phone and let her know what's happening and you book a cab as soon as you know what time our flight is. Meanwhile I'll just go and get out of these clothes and wash off the makeup; better let the local Police know what we're doing, here's their number too, and ask who we contact in Hobart, oh and kids,' she said, turning to Priscilla, Monique and John, 'I can trust you to get back to school on your own, can't I? It will be a bit too much of a squeeze to fit all of us and our luggage into the taxi and time isn't on our side anyway.'

'Sure Mum,' said Priscilla, 'and you will ring us when you find out what's happening... and stuff... ' she trailed off and tears sprang into her eyes. Monique, who was also looking tearful, put her arm around her friend's shoulders.

'Yes my pet,' as soon as we know anything,' said Rachael gently, brushing away a real tear and trying desperately to disguise it with a shake of her head.

'Psst! Harry! Psst!'

Harry, who had been trotting past the upstairs toilet door, disappeared from sight and then popped a cautious pair of eyes back to peer inside. 'Miss Priscilla, you're on the toilet!' he whispered.

'No I'm not... Well yes I am, but I'm just sitting on it. I'm not doing anything!' she hissed.

'As you say,' he replied, his furry black head tilting from one side to the other.

'Can anyone see you?'

'Not at the moment, the boys are in Henry's room, and Miss Moniq... '

'Good! Get in here.'

'But you said... '

'Don't fool around at a time like this, get in here!' Priscilla pushed the door closed with her foot as Harry squeezed inside. 'This is about the only place I can talk to you upstairs, what with everybody gallomping back and forth,' she whispered, 'now what can we do about Dad and Jean-Michael... You do know what's happened don't you?'

'Yep, I heard it on the grape-vi... Miss Priscilla, could you pick me up? I'm getting a crick in my neck.'

'What? Oh alright,' she leaned forward and lifted Harry up. ' This is just great, Dad's in all sorts of danger and I'm sitting in the dunny with an alien on my lap! Come on, tell me what to do!'

'I think it's time for your first big test Miss Priscilla.'

Priscilla, who was about to say something else, suddenly halted, her mouth hanging open. Then, shaking her head as if she wasn't sure, said, 'What do you mean, "big test"?'

'I want you to tell John Wynd about why you and Monique are the BlackEagle Girls.'

'You mean like about you and Wasat and the Tree House and being able to fly and... '

'Not everything in fine detail, just enough so that he understands that we can get him down to Southern Tasmania quicker than any aeroplane and closer to where he would want to go than if he'd been flown in by helicopter.'

'Where he would want to go? What does that mean? And why me?'

'Because you and he have more in common than either of you realize,' said Harry, thoughtfully. 'And if he's to be convinced of such a weird story in a very short time, it's best that it comes from someone with first-hand experience. As to where he would want to go, it's well within range of where your Father and Jean-Michael are now travelling... '

'What's happened to them? How do you know? Are they alright?'

'Yes, both of them are fine, at least up until my last report which was just before you came home.'

'Report from who?'

'Oh, Skewer, he's... '

'One of yours, right?'

'Right, and when you get there he'll make contact with you.'

'We're...We're going?'

'You wanted me to do something, I'm doing it, you're going, real soon. Just as soon as you've done your bit with John.'

'What will I say to him?'

'Start by telling him that you've got a secret.'

'Right! Then I jus... You don't mean that he... The Sacred... '

'He'll never tell you that, but he'll know that you know when you say these two words; Yunki and Karthina, they are the names of the other two keepers of the Sacred Secret. Remember them.'

At that moment there was a sudden rap at the toilet door as Henry and John passed by, and Henry's muffled voice, 'C'mon Cilla! Fallen in have you? Hurry up, Mum wants to lock up and get going!'

'So what do I do now?' urged Priscilla.

'First, you, Monique and John should get yourselves off to Tsuang Tsu's house, you got her address?'

'Yeah sure, then what? We're supposed to be going back to Hopewell.'

'As you will be, eventually, but after your Mum and the others are on their way, hurry over there. Don't tell John anything just yet. Wait until you're up at Riversdale Road and then only say that you're stopping in at Tsu's. When you get there will be the time to talk to him one on one. Remember, he has a part to play in this. You and your folks are going to need him just as much as he's going to need you. Off you go now, and don't forget to wash your hands.'

'Why? I haven't actually been... done... you know.'

'You've been patting me.'

'So? You got a bath not long ago.'

'Right, but I do doggy things, scruffing around in the garden, digging up bones, mooching about in the fertilizer, it's part of the gig, sniffing the garba... '

'Erchhh! What happened to the sanitized alien?'

Harry stared into her face with his intense dark eyes, 'Don't argue, just do it. Put me down and leave the door open, I could never figger out how to use one of these things anyway, can't get my leg up high enough. Now flush and go! '

It was almost six o'clock by the time the trio arrived at Tsu's picket gate. The lovely old brick house was set well back amongst many flower beds and there were stands of silver birch on either side of crazy paving that wound down to the front porch.

Only twenty minutes earlier, the girls had said their teary goodbyes to Rachael, Monica and Henry, while John Wynd fidgeted anxiously with his bag, a frown of concern on his face. Harry had been given his dinner and was hanging around Henry outside as a cab drew up at the curb.
In a matter of moments Harry had been sent back inside the house, the front door locked, and the hand luggage packed into the taxi.
'It might be nothing at all,' said Rachael, patting Priscilla's hand and reaching out to John Wynd, who seemed as upset as the rest of them. 'Probably we'll come home together and have a good laugh about it. Do take care dears, and tell Louis what's happened. Give him all my love... '
The cab pulled away, leaving Monique holding out her empty hand where, moments before, her mother's fingers had rested.
After waving goodbye, the girls turned their heads back to the front windows and caught a glimpse of Harry, peering out at them through the curtains before he hopped down and disappeared from view.

Now the three were through the front gate and hastening down the path toward the house of Fon Jien. As they arrived at the porch steps, the front door opened and Tsuang Tsu appeared with Terri Tori-Toff at her side. 'Hi girls,' said Tsu. 'Hello John,' she added lightly, beckoning them inside.

'Yeah, um, Moni, you go in with the girls,' said Priscilla, giving Monique's arm a little forward pressure, 'I want to talk to John for a minute.' She put her carry-bag down on the steps as if to confirm this.

Monique took the hint and followed the other two into the cool interior as Terri chatted on, telling her that she was staying with Tsu for the weekend and how they had gone to see a movie that afternoon and had only gotten back an hour before.

Outside, Priscilla apprehensively bit at her lip, while John stood looking at her with an expression of impatience and curiosity. 'Well, what do you want to talk about?' he quietly asked, dropping his own bag next to hers.

'Er... I've got a secret!' she blurted out, and was instantly sorry to have opened with the line.

'Good for you,' he said, nodding slowly. 'Is that all?'

'Um, no, that is, not really. I just want to tell you my secret.'

'It won't be a secret if you tell it to me, and why should you want to anyway?'

'Because it concerns you, in a way,' said Priscilla, edging cautiously forward. 'I think you and I have something in common, something hidden that we share without knowing that we share... Oh... ' she trailed off, feeling inadequate to the task before her, but mindful of Harry's words, "I think it's time for your first big test, Miss Priscilla."

A faint smile began to steal across John's face, and then, growing serious again, he said, 'Look Priscilla, it's very nice of you to think that you like me and everything, and I do like you very much,' and as an after thought he added, 'and Monique and the others too. But right now I can't have a girlfriend, it just wouldn't be fair to anybody... '

'Girlfriend!' said Priscilla, snapping out of her trance. 'Who said anything about a girlfriend?'

He stared back at her as if he'd just stuck the garden rake down his throat. 'Well... I thought you were meaning... '

She began to giggle and took hold of his hand. For a moment she felt his fingers tense, then he relaxed them and grinned with relief. 'O.K. I'll bite, what do we have in common then?' he asked, relaxing.

'A secret,' she replied, and at once he withdrew his hand.

'You might have a secret, but I don't,' he said rather sharply.

'I want to tell you my secret so it will help you to understand what I mean,' persisted Priscilla.

John turned away and leaned his shoulder against the white trunk of the nearest birch. 'I don't know what you're on about, but if you have to tell me this secret, get on with it, I need to get back to school,' he said sullenly.

'You're going to run away, you want to get to Tasmania somehow, don't you?' said Priscilla, carefully following her intuition.

'I don't know what you're talking about,' he replied, a little too quickly.

'What if I could show you a way of getting there faster than by plane?'

'Like what?' he scoffed, his back still to her.

Priscilla took a deep, deep breath. 'Like by travelling in an alien space craft that looks like a tree-house. Monique and me have been in it a couple of times and it's pretty cool. It will get us there in a blink... ' She heard what she thought was a faint chuckle.

'And you've met these aliens, and talked to them, have you?' he asked with no attempt to mark his scepticism.

'Only one!' she replied, stung by his sneering remark, 'He's Harry, my dog... ' she ended limply, knowing that sounded pathetic.

John Wynd turned slowly to face her, 'Look, Priscilla, I know that you're under a lot of stress because of what's happened to your Dad and Mister Bateleur, but you really are starting to sound unhinged... '

'I know about The Sacred Secret,' she cut in, and the words this time made him blink.

For just a second he looked startled, then he continued, 'I think maybe you should see if Tsu might have something to calm you down, perhaps... '

'Yunki and Karthina,' she interrupted him again, 'Warragul, Yunki and Karthina are the three keepers of The Sacred Secret; your secret, John. Now you know mine and you know that I know yours, and I know that you are sworn to silence so you don't have to say any more. We just know together,' she ended as gently as she could.

John looked at her in astonishment, she could see his mind working frantically, trying to make sense of how she could have discovered the names of the keepers, and attempting some sort of defence against her claim. At that precise moment there came a rather loud SNAP! Startled, John winced as if he expected a tree branch to come crashing down nearby.

'Turn around,' said Priscilla, pointing over his shoulder. 'Look!'
John turned and found himself staring at a dilapidated tree-house with loose boards and peeling paint, that was now hovering amongst the silver birches.
'Give in,' said Priscilla.

'I don't believe this, I don't believe this, I just can't believe this,' John kept repeating, as he and Priscilla entered the cool interior of Fon Jien's house and hurried down the hallway toward the sound of voices issuing from a door that led into a room filled with books. Monique was there, as were Tsuang Tsu and Terri Tori-Toff, and there was a tall man dressed in a cream coloured suit and white shoes, who turned to them as the pair entered.
'Welcome to my humble library, Mister John Wynd. I trust you are now ready for our journey?' said Fon Jien, in his softly spoken, sing-song voice.

John could only nod, his mouth was far too dry to speak. All of them were smiling at him in such a beguiling manner that he was simply overwhelmed.

'Very well,' said Fon Jien, lifting the atlas that he held in his hands so that Priscilla and John could clearly see that it was opened at a map of Tasmania, before placing it on his desk, 'then we have not a moment to lose. We have been in contact with Mister Harry, and he informs that it will be useful to us, and to yourself, if you will come along on our mission.
Now, whilst Miss Priscilla has been appraising you of her knowledge of your situation, we have been busy making certain preparations and, rest assured Mister John Wynd, that we here in this room have no idea as to what has transpired between the two of you. That is a secret best kept to yourselves.
However, it is a certainty that all here have a common goal; that is to make a swift journey to the most southern end of Tasmania, in the hope that we might somehow bring about a result suitable to all who are peacefully involved. In this endeavour, we trust that you will give your support.'

John was dumbfounded. His eyes seemed to be goggling out of their sockets, such was the shock of this dream-like scene. He could only mutely nod and later, after Fon Jien's house had been locked up and they were all aboard the ridiculously flimsy thing that looked like an ancient tree-house from outside, but seemed some sort of clinical space vehicle on the inside, could he speak.

'Welcome aboard the BlackEagle,' said Harry's familiar voice from out of nowhere, 'and make yourselves comfortable. You will be crossing Bass Strait and arriving on the South West coast of Tasmania in a few minutes. It will still be daylight for another hour and a half.'

'Please,' said John, his voice cracking as he spoke, 'can we stop off at Hopewell Hall first. There's something I have to do. It's really most urgent and won't take very long.'

'I think we can allow you that much,' Fon Jien answered from where he reclined on one of the six low couches that had slid soundlessly out of their cabinet housings.

'The situation down there has stabilized for the time being, however Mister Wynd, it would not do for us to delay any longer than necessary,' said Harry's voice. 'Settle back, you will be at Hopewell, ah! There already. You have ten minutes, do you wish to be seen or unseen?'

'Oh! Um, seen I think, I haven't gotten used to the idea of not being seen just yet,' said John.

'Very well. Remember that when you step outside. Best to duck along behind the hedge until you're clear, and don't forget that no one else but you can see this craft,' Harry replied.

The door opened and John stumbled out behind the hedge that ran along in front of the Dorm buildings.
Being a little after seven o'clock on a Saturday evening there were very few students or staff about and all of these were on the cafe side of the Quad.

'He will come back, won't he? said Terri.

'What? do you think he's gone to hide under the bed, or tell someone?' asked Priscilla.

'That would be most unlikely,' said Fon Jien, reassuringly. 'Who would believe him. This craft is invisible to any who might chance past, and John has his own reasons for wanting to go with us. That much we all know. He will be along presently.'

It was in fact only another eight minutes later that John, clutching a leather case, appeared through the Dorm entrance and hurried down the hedgerow. Those inside could see him approaching through several of the windows where their silver screens had risen to reveal the outside world. As he tumbled into the BlackEagle and the door slid shut behind him, Harry's voice said, 'Take a seat Mister Wynd, and hold tight. This being your first journey, the sensations over distances take a little getting used to.'

'I can't believe that's your dog Har...oooh!' began John, but the words were sucked away as the BlackEagle silently rose and raced into the southern sky.

It seemed only cheek-distending, eye-popping, hair-standing, breath-taking moments later that Harry's voice said, 'You have arrived. It is now seven forty-two, Eastern Standard Time. When you are ready you may disembark. I like that word, it's rather like a dog with tonsillitis. Don't forget to check the toilet, each take a Hand Activator and a pair of night-sight goggles, now displayed in the open drawers near the exit door. You will find suitable clothing and footwear in the wardrobes by the ablution cubicles. Fon Jien and Tsuang Tsu have brought along some provisions that you will need for this excursion. All of you are about to face a situation of extreme gravity. When you depart the BlackEagle you are on foot and on, no pun intended Miss Terri, dangerous territory. This is a wild and desolate area. Behind you lies the hardy tourist foot-track that crosses the Ironbound Range and winds on to the Red Point Hills and Cox Bight, before you to the south-west are De Witt Island and the Maatsuyker Group and nothing much more into the oceans of Antarctica.
Your present location is somewhere along the shore line of Southern Tasmania, beneath the lee of the Ironbound Ranges. Miss Priscilla, Miss Monique, your Fathers are here. I can't tell you exactly where because I don't know that yet, but Skewer will hopefully contact you before dark as you travel along the cliffs. Fon Jien, do make certain that these young folk take every precaution, the way is tough going and there are no sign posts. Be careful near the edges.'

The group inside the BlackEagle looked out at a vivid sun, riding golden into the west. The sky was still a brilliant blue, the land about open, windswept and empty with sparse, low growing vegetation spreading away toward the horizon. Even at the height of summer's rule the going, devoid of any paths, looked spongy at best.

'Couldn't we just sort of cruise about and locate the girl's Dad's in the BlackEagle?' asked Terri, trying on a pair of solid mountain-boots for size.

'This is a very large area,' said Harry, 'you might wander around for days looking. And why wag your own tail when you have someone else to wag theirs for you? Skewer knows you're here. Better to let him find you. I am reliably informed that you should make your way up into the Ranges. It is very rugged, but you all have the ability to levitate at need. Bear in mind, conditions do apply. Levitation is a limited resource, only to be used at utmost need.'

'Why? Does it make us get too light-headed?' said Priscilla, grinning as she buttoned the front of white coveralls from the wardrobe rack.

'Do I have to remind you that this is no time for levity Miss Priscilla, or you'll be laughing all the way down and wondering at the same time why flying is best done in aeroplanes.'

'Well is Mister Skewer going to be invisible?' said Terri, as she peered out through one of the portals, 'I can't see anything moving anywhere.'

'You're not looking in the right place,' answered Harry. 'Now remember everyone, the Hand Activators have switched off all sight, sound, touch and smell. To all intents you are invisible, but be aware, even though you travel undetected, you can still suffer injury by tripping and falling. Watch where you put your feet. And don't forget, I shall not be with you...'

'Every step of the way!' completed Priscilla and Monique together.

John Wynd stared at the others as if they were crazy, and yet he too struggled into a coverall and hefted a  back pack onto his shoulders.

The group stepped down from the BlackEagle and sank into sludge. Fon Jien, who ventured out first, was now also clad in a white coverall with a hood hanging at his shoulders. A chill, bracing wind whipped about them as they moved off. With them they carried supplies of water, food and two small, light-weight nylon tents.
Monique, taking a long breath of the pure, crystalline air, turned to gaze back at the BlackEagle. There it hovered slightly above ground level, looking completely ridiculous; a falling apart tree-house on an open, empty void, the peaks of the distant Red Point Range striking off to the left, the open Louisa Plain bordering the Ironbound Ranges. Turning, she began to follow the others, slowly plodding into the south.

Chapter 16 [next]

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