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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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.'
'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
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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
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
'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
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
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
'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?'
'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
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
'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
'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
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]