Chapter nine

No Matter What

Chapter 9.

Thirty kilometres of open ocean at night in an under powered inflatable was always going to be difficult but luck was with Paul as the ocean was calm and there was a full moon. It took three and a half hours for him to make land fall. He knew from his research that this was a quiet area with no one living nearby, so he felt relaxed even though he was about to embark on the most dangerous part of this while endeavour.

He dragged the inflatable up the beach and did his best to conceal it in some bushes. Using a piece of bush he also tried to hide the drag marks in the sand left by the inflatable. He lay down in the inflatable and tried to get some sleep while waiting for the day to dawn.

Paul was dressed like a tourist on a hiking trip right down to the walking stick and back pack. He walked along the beach till he found a track which he then followed. After a few kilometres the track came out onto a dirt road and only a few kilometres further on he walked into a town. Now he was well off the normal tourist route so he was not sure of what sort of welcome he would receive from the locals. All he could do was walk through town and see what happened. The locals didn’t give him a second look. On the outskirts of town there was a garage which had some motorbikes for sale, they were pretty ratty old things but they might be better than walking. Paul did his best to communicate with the proprietor and with the use of some sign language and a few words of English they managed to make a deal.

He rode the bike out of town heading towards the capital city. The bike turned out to be a pretty good thing but not very fast, it took a big part of the day for him to get to the airfield were he had left his light plane. He checked that all was well with the plane, started it up and ran it for a while making sure every thing worked. He got the smoke bombs out of the plane and loaded them onto the motorbike, they were stored in bags that he laid across the bikes fuel tank like saddle bags. He paid the air field manager some more bribe money, which he called site fees and headed to a nearby motel.

The next day Paul rode the motorbike along the route he would be taking on the day of the break out just to make sure he knew where to go and what the conditions were like. He left the motorbike at a motel located about five kilometres from the prison, just next to a sports field. He then went to see Janet’s solicitor for a final briefing on the appeal, an appeal that was not going to happen. After his meeting with the solicitors he rang the helicopter hire company to check all was well and on track. There were no problems, all he had to do was pay a fee when he picked it up. 

He caught a taxi to the prison to visit Janet. She was in good spirits all be it some what apprehensive about what was about to happen, but at least something was going to happen. The waiting was the hard part of prison life. Paul managed to tell her what she had to do and what would be happening. As he left the prison he had a good look at the exercise yard and he also reminded himself of where all the power lines and trees were.

From the prison Paul made his way back to the motel. He tried in vain to eat some of the local food before killing a few hours in the motel room going over and over his plan. At around 9.00 p.m. Paul rode the bike back towards the prison to set the smoke bombs. The bombs would be activated by phone, all he had to do was dial a preset number in his phone and 30 seconds later all hell would break loose. He placed the bombs along the fence on the opposite side of the prison to the exercise yard and made his way back to the motel.

The alarm went off at 6.30 a.m. and Paul was out of the motel by 7.00 and heading to pick up the helicopter. All the credit checks and paper work had all ready been done with the helicopter company so all he had to do was sign a contract. He completed the pre flight checks and was in the air by 8.30 a.m. He went for a bit of a joy flight to kill some time. He headed towards the air field where the light plane was and then flow part of the route he intended to take with the light plane, before returning and heading for the prison. Everything needed to be timed just right as he only had a window of fifteen minutes when Janet would be in the exercise yard.

One minutes out from the prison he activated the smoke bombs. He could see the smoke billowing up over the prison walls as he flew towards the prison. Paul wasted no time sizing things up, he just flew straight into the exercise yard and landed, reached over and opened the door and Janet jumped in. The smoke was so thick he could hardly see where he was going. Janet hardly had time to settle in before they were in the air and flying at roof top towards the sports field next to the motel. It only took two minutes to get there and land. As they climbed out Paul noticed a bullet hole in the side window of the helicopter so luck was with them.

Paul and Janet ran towards the motel where Paul had left the motorbike, they jumped on and rode off, disappearing into the local traffic.

It was about an hours ride to the air field but with most of the locals riding small motorbikes, Paul and Janet were just part of the crowd. A few minutes into the ride a number of Police cars with there siren blaring sped by, heading towards the helicopter.

As they approached the air field Paul and Janet were starting to feel relaxed. They rode straight to the plane. For the first time since the escape Paul and Janet could talk, they hugged and just looked at each other but could not think of any thing to say.

Paul said. “We better get going, there is a long way to go yet.”

They both climbed into the plane and Paul started to do all the pre-flight checks. Due to the wind direction he had to taxi the plane to the far end of the runway before turning around and heading back down the runway and taking off. It was well over an hours flying time to the coast mostly over jungle. They flew at low level for the whole distance which took all of Paul’s concentration as any mistake would mean crashing.

Once they crossed the coast they had to climb to 10,000 feet in order to sky dive to the island where the yacht was. That meant they would appear on radar. With the island only thirty km’s off the coast Paul had to climb as quickly as possible because once at 10,000 feet they would need to get ready to sky dive from the plane. This involved strapping on the parachute as well as strapping themselves together as this would be a tandem sky dive. Paul gaffer taped up the planes controls so it could fly on its own while he and Janet got themselves organised for the sky dive.

Unfortunately they were not quick enough and by the time they were ready to jump they had flown passed the island. In order for Paul to pilot the plane around and line up on the island they had to unstrap from each other. This time it all went well with the plane nicely lined up on the island and Paul and Janet strapped together. Paul did a final safety check and then opened the planes door and they prepared to jump. About a minute or so later it was time and they jumped out of the plane, it then flew on, out over the ocean.

Paul pulled the cord and the parachute deployed. This was going to be tricky as they would be landing in the ocean. Paul manipulated the cords that steered the parachute as they floated down, trying to land as close as possible to the yacht. They hit the water about fifty metres from the yacht but the wind continued to drag them towards the land until Paul detached it. But they were still strapped together and struggling to keep afloat. Janet managed to detach herself which allowed both of them to swim to the yacht and climb aboard. They both lay on the deck totally exhausted for some time before Paul said,

“Now without a doubt that was the most exhilarating experience of my life, want to do it again?”

“No,” replied Janet while hitting Paul in a half hearted manner.

As the sun went down Paul cooked dinner which was baked beans on toast, with out the toast, but for Janet it was the best meal of her life. They sat on deck with the sun setting in the back ground as if they were on a sailing holiday in an exotic tropical location without a trouble between them. But they were not safe yet, if caught now Janet would go back to prison and both of them would be charged with every crime from prison break to littering. They needed to get out of territorial water plus some to be safe.

They sat there in silence trying to come to terms with their situation and even though they still had a long way to go before they would be safe both of them could not help thinking about the future. For Janet it would be getting back to her old life, her cat Colin, her house, nice food and not being afraid. For Paul things were less clear cut. He might be able to go back to his old life but if his burglar activities were to be discovered then it would be a new life as Mathew Johnson, one of his false identities.

Paul broke the silence with. “We need to make some changes to our appearances”

“What do you mean?” replied Janet.

“Well we need to cut our hair and die it.” said Paul. “And I have some new clothes for us both.”

“I’ve lost a bit of weight.” replied Janet.

“Your new clothes will fix that.” said Paul with a grin.

Paul when below and returned with a dress that looked a bit big for Janet.

“You could fit two of me in that.” Janet exclaimed.

Paul gave her the dress and said. “Go and try it on.”

“Its padded.” replied Janet.

“Go on, try it on.” Paul said with a smirk on his face.

Janet went below deck and after a few minutes returned looking very different.

“There’s no mirror on this boat, what do I look like?” Janet enquired.

“Bigger,” said Paul trying not to laugh. “A lot bigger.”

“Your turn. I assume you have something similarly padded” replied Janet.

Paul went below decks and returned a few minutes later. He looked like he had beer belly which made him look ten years older. Janet burst out laughing. Paul couldn’t help but laugh as well. They looked at each other and smiled, it had been a long time since they had laughed.

They dyed their hair, Janet became a blond and Paul opted for red, before getting the yacht ready to sail. Paul rased the anchor, slipped all lines, started the engine and manured the yacht out into open water before setting the sails. He set a course south that would take them into international waters. He had no running lights on and it was cloudy night so Paul felt relaxed about making it to international waters safely.

As the sun came up on a new day they were well out of territorial waters and safe but Paul kept a southerly course for a few more hours just to be on the safe side before turning east. A course that would take then towards the Western Australian coast. It was a hot day and they both were feeling the effects of wearing padded clothes, it was like having a jumper in summer. But Paul did not want to be identified just yet so they had to continue the deception. It was luckily they did as a few hours later Janet spotted a ship on the horizon; it was the shape of a warship. Soon after seeing it the radio crackled into life with.

“Unidentified Yacht of our port bow, this is Australian warship Sydney, hello, over”

The message repeated before Paul got to the radio.

“This is the yacht, Elisabeth, Hello Sydney how are you today, over” said Paul.

“Hello Elisabeth Just checking all is well. Did you see a light plane yesterday around 1500 hours, over.” Replied the Sydney.

“No, repeat, no,” said Paul. “Is there one missing? Over.”

“Yes,” replied the Sydney. “Last seen at 1500 hours near Gore Island, over.”

 “Sorry have not seen anything, over,” said Paul.

“What’s you destination? over,” asked the Sydney.

“Darwin, over,” said Paul.

“Thanks, over and out,” replied the Sydney.

The warship continued to sail in their direction and passed them about two hundred metres to port. Paul and Janet waved as they passed and a few sailors waved back.

Paul had been gone for over three weeks so Lizzy went to Paul’s house to leave a note under his door. As she was walking out an old lady came through the front gate and on seeing Lizzy said.

“Hello, is he home?”

“No,” replied Lizzy, “I think he has gone away.”

“Are you a friend I need to contact him?” replied the old lady.

“Well yes and no, I’m not sure,” Lizzy said hesitantly.

“He rents my garage and I have decided to move, it’s all too much for me now, I’m not getting any younger you know,” the old lady replied with a tinge of sadness in her voice.

“I’m Detective Sergent Elisabeth Bennet,” Lizzy said in her official voice and then went on. “Just where is this garage?”

The old lady was taken a back. “Is Paul in trouble?” she asked with concern.

“I’m not sure yet, can I have a look in this garage?” Lizzy enquired.

“Yes of course,” said the old lady. “It’s not far from here.”

Lizzy ushered the old lady towards her car but the old lady seemed reluctant.

“Its all right I will bring you back for your car,” Lizzy said to reassure her.

They drove to the old lady house and she took Lizzy around the back and let her into the garage.

Lizzy looked into the garage and started to walk in then turned and said to the old lady, “please wait outside,” before she continued. There was an old Ford Escort in one corner and a Holden Commador as well. But her eyes were drawn to one wall, it was covered with bits of paper. It was Paul’s great escape plan, but as she looked further, she found lists of addresses some of which she recognised as houses that had been burgled. She phoned for a complete search and forensic team.

Paul and Janet continued heading east towards the Western Australian coast which was a few days sailing away if the wind continued from the west. Paul was working hard with endless tacks as well as keeping an eye on there position. He did not want to get to close the coast until he had a fine calm day. He also wanted to put some distance between him and the Navy ship as even though they were looking for wreckage of a light plane, more than likely his light plane. They might also be looking for him and Janet. So he did not want them around once Janet and him entered Australian territorial waters.

It was just too hot for the padded clothes so they changed to more suitable clothing, and if a ships came along they would change back. A wind change came up over night which made sailing a lot easier and they were making better time. Paul was at the wheel and Janet came up and sat next to him, she looked at him and said nothing. Paul started to feel uncomfortable under her stare and said.

“What?” She continued to just look at him and he said it again. “What?”

“Tell me, when did you learn to sail, fly, sky dive? Where did you get the money for all this?” Janet enquired.

“Arr, well, I sold my house.” said Paul, knowing she would not believe him.

“All of this would cost more than the sale of your house. I know the bank owned most of it.” replied Janet.

“Well, I’ve been, sort of, impersonating Robin Hood, you know taking from the rich and giving to the poor, or more like a good cause,” Paul said with some trepidation.

“I see, you mean you stole it.” replied Janet.

“Yes” said Paul.

“I’m not sure how I feel about that,” replied Janet.

“Looking at it from the bright side, that’s how I met Lizzy.” Paul said hoping to change the subject and knowing she couldn’t resist a good romance.

“Let me guess, she’s a Police woman trying to catch you,” joked Janet.

“Yes.” Said Paul.

“I was only joking,” replied Janet. “But you always did have a thing for woman in authority,” and then went on, “tell me all about her?”   

But before he could Paul saw land on the horizon and had to change course. They had reached the Western Australian coast.

They sailed up the coast for the rest of the day and then out to sea to put some distance between them and the coast overnight. There were now about a hundred nautical miles from Wallott Inlet so once the sun came up Paul set a course but the wind was from the north so he was endlessly tacking. Janet was on lookout, keeping an eye out for the Australian Navy.

It was mid afternoon when they came up on Wallott Inlet. They changed back into their padded clothes just in case anyone was about. As they came inshore Paul pulled down the sails and started the engine and motored the yacht in. It was a large inlet but navigating the break water was a bit tricky. They motored about ten kilometres into the inlet, which was as far as they dare given the yachts draft. Paul dropped the anchor and they settled in for the night.                                       Copy right Jim Pope 2021