Chapter ten

No Matter What

Chapter 10.

Paul and Janet woke to a new day when they would be going their separate ways. Paul unloaded the life raft, threw it overboard while holding the inflation cord when the cord pulled tight the raft instantly inflated. It was not very big so it would be a bit tight for Paul and Janet  and it would have to be rowed, but according to the GPS they did not have far to go. Paul was keen to get going even though it felt like they were in the middle of nowhere he was aware that with the growth of the grey nomad movement someone could appear at any moment.

They climbed aboard the raft and started rowing. They made slow progress taking it in turns to row until the GPS indicated they were at their location. They climbed out of the raft and made there way up the embankment but nothing looked familiar to Paul. Had they passed the cars or were they further up stream? The landscape looked much the same in all directions but there were some trees a few hundred metres up stream so they walked towards them.

As they got closer things started to look familiar and then Paul spotted the camouflage netting over the Forrester’s. After removing the netting Paul check around the cars and all seemed well, the tyres had air in them, so he opened the door of one of them, inserted the key and tried to start it. It fired up with out problem. He tried the next one but no such luck, the battery was flat so after a bit of manoeuvring he jumper lead started the second Forrester.        

Last time Paul was here he found his way back to the road by following the tracks left by the Forrester as he drove them to the river bank, but those track were long gone. But he did have a compass bearing so with Paul driving one and Janet the other they headed of into the desert. After a few kilometres they came to a rough area which Paul recognized from when he delivered the cars so they knew they were heading in the right direction. After a few more kilometres as if by magic they found the road well – to call it a road is over stating things a bit, it was more like a track. Ahead of them lay a hundred and fifty kilometres of dirt road and most of it was in poor condition. Paul and Janet took some time out to eat, drink and talk about what lay ahead.

It was slow going for the first twenty or so kilometres as the road was rough and not all that well defined but after a while it started to open up a bit. They started to make good time travelling at about fifty kilometres per hour but they had to be very watchful as every now and then without warning the road would turn rough with large pot holes that could swallow a Forrester.

It took a little over three hours to get to the Great Northern Highway which was the main road between Darwin and Perth. As they approached the highway they pulled over as this was the point were they would be going their separate ways. Janet would turn left and head towards Darwin and Paul would turn right towards Perth. They got out of the cars and had a bite to eat and a drink as it was a good forty degree and they needed to keep hydrated. As they stood in front of one of the Forrester’s using the bonnet as a table Paul said.

“Well just turn left here and follow your nose, you’ve got money, and food and water, so your will be right. If you get tired stop and sleep in the car, if all goes well you should be in Darwin by eight or nine tonight.”

Janet just looked at him and said. “I still don’t see why you can’t come with me you said that they don’t have any evidence against you.”

“Not when I left they didn’t, but you never know. Lizzy’s pretty smart so it’s better to be safe than sorry.” Said Paul. And then, “As soon as I get to somewhere with the internet I will look up what the media are saying and if there is nothing about me being a wanted man then I will turn around and meet you in Darwin.”

“If all is well I will wait for you in Darwin, but what if you are a wanted man?” replied Janet.

“Well then this is good bye,” said Paul. “I’ll miss you.”

Janet said nothing, just looked at Paul and wiped the tears from her eyes as they hugged. Paul walked to his car trying to hide the tears, turned and waved and then called out.

“Don’t forget to get Colin out of the cat home.”

“As if I would,” she replied.

Paul followed Janet for the last few hundred metres of the dirt road before they turning in different directions.

Janet had no ID or drivers licence and the car was registered in Paul’s name so if she was pulled over by the Police things would be difficult. She might get a small fine for not having her licence with her but she had not done anything against Australian laws. Australia had no extradition treaty with the country she had just escaped from so there would be no problems in that regard. With a bit of luck she would have a trouble free trip home with no Police interaction. She felt free driving through the out back and even though she wanted to get home she also liked the idea of a few weeks drive across the country.

Paul headed south travelling under the name Mathew Johnson. He had a drivers licence and the car was registered under that name. The ID’s were solid so he had no fear of running into problems with the Police. It was late afternoon before he pulled into Broome. He found a motel and was looking forward to a good nights sleep. The motel had internet access so he checked out the media coverage of the great escape. As it happened in a country with a restricted media there was not a lot of information about the escape itself but he did find a number of reports.

Even though Paul knew deep down that he would have to start a new life as Mathew Johnson, he still hoped he could go back to his old life. Reading the media reports it become real to Paul that from now on he would be Mathew Johnson. He found one report about burglaries which had a picture of Lizzy standing outside the garage with the caption reading, “Head investigator Detective Sergent Elisabeth Bennet.”  

It took Janet just short of two weeks to get home. The next day she went to the cat home to collect Colin. When she got home the Police were standing at her front door waiting for her. As she walked towards her front door carrying Colin in a cat cage, Lizzy said.

“Hello my name is Detective Sergent Elisabeth Bennet and this is Detective Constable George Blake.”

“You must be Lizzy, I’ve heard a lot about you, nice to meet you.” Janet said as she put Colin’s cage down and put out her hand to shake hands with Lizzy and George.

Janet opened the front door, picked up Colin’s cage and said. “Come on in you two, would you like a cup of tea or may be some orange juice?”

“No thanks, can I ask you,” but before Lizzy finished Janet said. “George can you shut the door behind you, I just want to let Colin out.” And then “sorry Lizzy, go on.”

“Can I ask you, do you know the where about’s of your brother Paul,” enquired Lizzy.

“What no small talk Lissy, straight down to business.” said Janet while letting Colin out.

Colin ran out of his cage and straight into the bedroom.

“Now that’s a great welcome home after all this time, Colin.” Then turning to Lizzy and George she said, “cats, don’t you just love them.” Janet continued, Paul tells me you were going to look after Colin if things hadn’t worked out, thanks for that.”

“Do you know were Paul is,” Lizzy asked again.

“No idea Lizzy, I wish I did. I wish non of the last twelve months had happened or better still, I wish I had never won that holiday,” said Janet.

“Where did you last see him?” Asked Lizzy.

“On the Great Northern Highway heading south,” replied Janet.

“What was he driving?” asked Lizzy.

“A Subaru Forrester,” replied Janet. She then added, “but Lizzy that was two weeks ago so he is long gone as will be the car.”

“I know,” said Lizzy.

“Are the newspaper accounts of your escape accurate?” asked George.

“That’s not part of our enquires, Constable,” said Lizzy.

 “I know, its just sounds incredible,” said George.

“Its alright Lizzy, it was unbelievable and its a miracle I am standing here today. The media only know half of it,” Janet explained. “I just wish …,” she paused, “things could of turned out different.”

“Thanks for your cooperation. We may have more question at a later date,” said Lizzy.

Lizzy and George started walking towards the door.

“No problem Lizzy,” replied Janet.

Lizzy stopped at the front door, turned to Janet and asked.

“How is he?”

“Last time I saw him he was fine,” replied Janet.

Paul had been on the road for three weeks when he finally arrived at his destination. One hundred acres of what could only be described as very poor quality land about an hours drive west of Kempsey, just outside a small village called Bellbrook. Paul had purchased it years ago for next to nothing with the intent of using it as a bit of a get away. He had got as far as building a small cabin on it but time had over taken him and he had not been there for some time. He had sold it to himself, well, Mathew Johnson some months earlier so it was safe in terms of anyone tracking him down. It was all a bit over grown and dishevelled but it was home now and he could see potential.

Over the next six months Paul worked away turning a small cabin into a home, building a shed and setting up the gardens. He even got a part time job mowing grass at a nearby camping and bush walking resort.

Paul needed to get his Ford Escort out of storage in Sydney so he travelled by train to Sydney. It was still registered but had been sitting for some time so he expected to have some problems but as it turned out all it needed was a new battery. While in Sydney he could not resist visiting Janet so he got a taxi to the end of her street and then used the rear entrance so no one would see him. She was not home so he let himself in and waited, Colin recognised him right away and came over and sat on his lap. He didn’t have long to wait for Janet. He heard her open the front door so he stood up pushing Colin onto the lounge, Janet couldn’t believe her eyes and ran over and hugged him.

“How are you?” Janet asked.

“Fine,” replied Paul.

“What are you doing here?” asked Janet.

“Picking the car up,” Paul replied.

“Not that old Escort,” said Janet.

Paul just smiled which meant “of course.”

“How long before you have to go?” said Janet.

“Only a few hours,” Paul replied.

“Long enough for dinner,” said Janet.

“You cooking”? Paul asked.

“Yer of course,” said Janet.

 Janet went to the kitchen and started getting things ready.

“Have you see anything of Lizzy?” Paul asked.

“Not lately,” said Janet.

Paul sat on the lounge and Colin came and sat back on his lap, while Janet continued getting dinner ready.

After dinner Paul asked. “How have things been for you?”

“There was a bit of media and Police attention for the first few months but that has died away now.” Janet said and then continued. “Life is just about back to normal, I got my old job back and other than the occasional bad dream I’m good.”

“What about you?” Janet asked.

“Not too bad. Living the quite life out in the bush,” said Paul. Then he smiled at her, a smile that told her exactly how he was.

Time passed very quickly and before they new it, it was time for Paul to leave. Janet gave him a lift to where the Escort was stored and they parted again.

Paul pulled into a garage and bought some petrol and a bunch of flowers. He only wanted a red rose so he pulled one out of the bunch and gave the rest of the bunch to the woman behind the counter. He drove to the end of Lizzy’s street, walked to her house, it was just after mid night. Keeping to the shadows he made his way to her front door, quickly picked the lock and quietly made his way inside. He made his way to her bed room, he could see her lying on the bed in the moon light, which reminded him of the last time he saw her. He placed the rose and a note on her bed side table. The note simply read,

          “miss you”.

Paul left, locked the front door after himself and walked back to his car and headed for home.                     Copy right Jim Pope 2021