Circle of flight, p.1
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       Circle of Flight, p.1

           John Marsden
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Circle of Flight


  John Marsden’s life recently took a new turn when he established a small alternative school just outside Melbourne.

  Candlebark School, with 75 students, embodies John’s commitment to education that is imaginative, lively, spirited and invigorating. He has applied the same principles to his writing, which is now read avidly around the world, but never more eagerly than in Australia, where his sales have passed two million.

  Recently John became only the fifth author to receive the prestigious Lloyd O’Neil Award. He joins Ruth Park, Tom Keneally, Morris West and Peter Carey to be honoured for lifelong services to the Australian book industry.

  circle of flight

  Also by John Marsden

  So Much to Tell You

  The Journey

  The Great Gatenby

  Staying Alive in Year 5

  Out of Time

  Letters from the Inside

  Take My Word for It

  Looking for Trouble

  Tomorrow . . . (Ed.)

  Cool School

  Creep Street

  Checkers

  For Weddings and a Funeral (Ed.)

  This I Believe (Ed.)

  Dear Miffy

  Prayer for the 21st Century

  Everything I Know About Writing

  Secret Men’s Business

  The Tomorrow Series 1999 Diary

  The Rabbits

  Norton’s Hut

  Marsden on Marsden

  Winter

  The Head Book

  The Boy You Brought Home

  The Magic Rainforest

  Millie

  A Roomful of Magic

  The Tomorrow Series

  Tomorrow, When the War Began

  The Dead of the Night

  The Third Day, the Frost

  Darkness, Be My Friend

  Burning for Revenge

  The Night is for Hunting

  The Other Side of Dawn

  The Ellie Chronicles

  While I Live

  Incurable

  Circle of Flight

  circle of flight

  JOHN MARSDEN

  John Marsden’s website can be visited at:

  www.macmillan.com.au/johnmarsden or

  johnmarsden.com

  First published 2006 in Macmillan by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited

  1 Market Street, Sydney

  Copyright © Jomden Pty Ltd 2006

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations) in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, including photocopying, recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

  National Library of Australia

  Cataloguing-in-Publication data:

  Marsden, John, 1950– .

  Circle of flight.

  For young adults.

  ISBN-13: 978 1 4050 3767 9.

  ISBN-10: 1 4050 3767 9.

  I. Title (Series: Marsden, John, 1950– The Ellie chronicles).

  A823.3

  The characters and events in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  Cover design by Liz Seymour, Seymour Designs

  Set in 12/14.5 pt Legacy Serif by Post Pre-press Group

  Printed in Australia by Griffin Press, Adelaide

  Papers used by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd are natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in sustainable forests. The manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.

  These electronic editions published in 2010 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd

  1 Market Street, Sydney 2000

  The moral right of the author has been asserted.

  All rights reserved. This publication (or any part of it) may not be reproduced or transmitted, copied, stored, distributed or otherwise made available by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical) or by any means (photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise) without prior written permission from the publisher.

  Circle of Flight: The Ellie Chronicles

  John Marsden

  Adobe eReader format

  978-1-74197-095-1

  EPub format

  978-1-74262-448-8

  Mobipocket format

  978-1-74197-497-3

  Online format

  978-1-74197-698-4

  Macmillan Digital Australia

  www.macmillandigital.com.au

  Visit www.panmacmillan.com.au to read more about all our books and to buy both print and ebooks online. You will also find features, author interviews and news of any author events.

  This book is dedicated to you, because you are the pioneers . . . Jake Rushford, Piper Kelly, Mitchell Gandolfo, Grace Hannan, Sarah Wilkinson, Jesse Fitzmaurice, Alessandro D’angelo, Luke Walker, Kiara Cimino, Luke Mitchell, Robert Nowland, Mercedes Lewis, Jamieson Fay, Katie Nowland, Emily Eliades, Jemma Reeves-Singles, Catherine Abourizk, Nick Lindsay, Brock Cowburn, Jesse Colcott, Jordan Tzovlas, Amy Marks, Zach Colcott, Chris Tzovlas, Michael Mortimer, Jake Reeves-Singles, Kim Nieuwenhuizen, Hannah Stewart Smith, Alex Kibble, Sabrina Lewis, Matilda Fay, Laura Bright, Zoe Hawke, Olivia Bland, James Allbon-Wellm, Beck Russack Riches, Bianca Cimino, Kevin Singh, Monika Crljen, Laila de Silva, Sarah Eliades, Oliver Leverton, Declan Cutler, Nick Stocky, Owen Kelly, Rory O’Connor and Issabella Cimino.

  I thank, for stories, ideas or answers to sometimes esoteric questions, in no particular order, Matthew Townsend, Cameron Smith, Warwick Kirk, William Siu, Michelle Mitchell, Bellbirds and Blowflies by Molly Keys, Mount Hesse by Peter and Phyllis Kininmonth, Australian Criminal Law by Colin Howard, Hanna Pirie, Bob Mitchell and, for enhancing and changing my understanding of the world, as well as telling me the Himmler story, Keith Johnstone.

  CHAPTER 1

  YOU COME UP the driveway. You’re late, but you knew you were going to be. That’s why you took the ute to school this morning. And told Gavin to catch the bus. He’ll have been back for two hours now. On his own. But you’re not stupid. And he’s not stupid. You both know what to do. He’s been good about it. He takes the precautions. When he gets off the bus he doesn’t just jump on the new fourwheeler and herb straight on up to the homestead.

  He knows. And so do you. You detour into the bush, find a spot where you’ve got a good view of the house. You take a look. You watch for hostile visitors, enemy soldiers, an ambush. Even if the house looks OK, you still take care. You approach from a different direction each time. You use your eyes. If it’s Gavin, you can’t use your ears. But you use something else, better still. Your instinct. Your sixth sense.

  Gavin knows. He knows that if there’s any sign of trouble, there’s a bolthole the two of you have organised, down near the lagoon.

  He knows that if you’re there on your own you go out to feed the chooks and dogs, and check the stock, but you’re careful about it. Change your pattern all the time. Never leave by the same door twice running. Lock the house behind you. Take the rifle.

  And you do the same things yourself. Today for example, you don’t go in the main gate. You use the bush gate into the Parklands paddock. You stop behind a couple of trees, get out and take a good look at the house from across the creek. You notice that everything looks fine. Washing on the line, Polaris in the machinery shed, axe stuck in the chopping block where you were splitting wood last night.

  Marmie’s still in her run. That’s a bit unusual. Normally Gavin’d let her out. He loves that little dog.

  Then you see it. One little thing is wrong. The front door’s wide o
pen. Your heart starts hammering. You get back in the ute. You take off with a clumsy foot dance involving the clutch and the accelerator. You come at the bridge at a bad angle. The bridge is just a couple of logs with planks laid across them, and no railing. You think for a moment that you’re going to roll off it, onto the rocks, into the water. Now your stomach is lurching. But you make it across the bridge.

  You forget about security. That bloody Gavin. If he’s just been careless . . . but what are you thinking? You want him to have been careless. Careless leaves the other option a trillion k’s behind. Oh Gavin, please be careless. You can have both the Kit-Kats after tea tonight if you’ve been careless.

  You jam on the brakes and stop the ute right in front of the house. You throw open the car door and jump out. Not for the first time you run into a building that could be full of guns, with death waiting for you. You don’t even think of that until you’re crossing the threshold. It seems like an abstract thought, interesting to a scientist perhaps.

  A few metres down the corridor you tread on something. In fact you nearly wrench your ankle. You look down. It’s a spare magazine for a rifle. It looks to be full, loaded with bullets.

  Now it’s too late to do anything else, so you go on.

  You already know what you’re going to find. Underneath the fear and horror and panic there’s a cold realisation, that Gavin’s body will be somewhere in the house. You can picture what those bullets will have done to his little body. You’ve seen their effect on adult bodies, the men in the barracks, your mother in the kitchen. You go first to his bedroom. His school uniform is there. God, for once he actually changed out of his uniform when he got home. It’s still on the floor, and the shirt’s all scrunched up, but for Gavin that’s what you expect. The rule is that he changes every afternoon, as soon as he gets home. He actually does it about once a week. His Redbacks aren’t there, but he could have left them on the veranda, like he’s meant to do but never does. There’s no sign of a struggle, but most importantly, there’s no sign of the horror that you know awaits you somewhere. The open front door and the magazine full of bullets have told you everything. You run back to the kitchen. Nothing there either, except memories, terrible vivid images.

  You go to the TV room. And you see everything, as though you were there when it happened. The chair on its back. Gavin’s favourite chair. The cushions scattered. The television with a hole smashed through it. Sharp glass fragments, milky white, everywhere. It’ll take hours to vacuum every last piece. No Redbacks, but one of his ug boots, the short ones that come up just past the ankle, lying on the floor, between the sofa and the door.

  He always wears those after he’s done his jobs.

  You run back out through the house. You’re crying, but not much, and there are no tears. You’re saying his name over and over in a kind of weeping way, but there’s no point to that, because he couldn’t hear you anyway.

  You stand in the middle of the front drive. You’d make a good target for anyone with a high-powered rifle, for anyone with no conscience, for anyone who takes life because they like it, for anyone who has a particular reason to hate you for what you did during the war.

  You see something that you missed before, when you were racing up the driveway in the ute. His other ug boot, about thirty metres away. Your brain clicks a few times as it processes this information. And something deep inside your mind tells you that there’s still hope. Not much, but just a chance that he might be out there somewhere, and alive. But you’re not a blacktracker. Sure, you’ve picked up a few things over the years. Sometimes you’ve been able to follow a cow who’s about to calve, and you’ve found the hidey-hole she’s made. You’ve followed the trail of the motorbike, to find your dad when he was working somewhere in a paddock and you had a message for him from your mum. Sometimes that was ridiculously easy, especially when he was riding through long grass, or a crop.

  Not long ago you did follow some of Gavin’s tracks when he nicked off on a motorbike to follow his heroes, Homer and Lee. But with the rain there are so many tracks around the homestead at the moment that maybe even one of the legendary blacktrackers, the Aborigines who can follow a lost child across rocks and sand, would be struggling here.

  And now you have a lost child, and he could be one kilometre away, or a hundred, and he could be to the north or the south or the east or the west. And he could be going further away with every minute. This is a big country. You don’t know where to even start your search.

  And chances are you’re just searching for a body anyway.

  CHAPTER 2

  WE KNEW WE were a target. We found out in a way that caused me a lot of internal chaos. First, Lee and Homer and Jeremy and Jess had crossed the border on a mission that ended up creating some chaos over there. The idea was that they would stop a group who were going to attack a target on our side of the border. Get them before they get you, the best defence is attack, strike while the iron’s hot, all that kind of stuff. I had no problems with that in principle, especially after what had happened to my parents and Mrs Mackenzie, and to Shannon Young and her family. Not to mention hundreds of other people who’d been wounded, or worse, by visits from an enemy who we weren’t supposed to be fighting any more.

  This particular mission had gone wrong, although we got out of it OK in the end. I hadn’t intended to go but I got sucked into it by Gavin, and found myself with the others in a very intense situation. For a while it looked like we’d be getting out of it in body bags.

  It was quite a few weeks before we were off on another mission. It was meant to be sooner but they kept putting it off. But this time I volunteered to go, for two opposite reasons: partly because it was meant to be just a little mission without a lot of danger, but partly because I wanted to feel danger again. One of the effects war had on me was that I got bored really easily these days. It was hard to settle down to routine. Brushing your teeth, feeding the dog, studying for a test, these things did not have the gut-grabbing excitement of towing a steel dumpbin through a rain of bullets while you hoped your friends, who were hiding in the dumpbin at the time, didn’t get killed. I didn’t want to be addicted to this kind of stuff, I knew it was unhealthy, but like all addictions it had its hands around my throat before I knew it was there.

  Liberation, the organisation that I didn’t even belong to, the organisation that was so secret I knew only a couple of its members, had offered me a new quad bike to replace the one I’d lost when we’d had our deadly rendezvous over the border, but the bike came with a string attached. They made it clear that I was expected to use the bike on a new trip. Pretty long string. But this time I gave in without a fight, for the reasons I said. I tied Gavin to Mrs Yannos with some of the leftover string, not quite literally but almost, and went with Lee and Homer, just the three of us, out into the sweet night air.

  ‘Your mission, should you choose to accept it . . .’ The boys told me the night before where we were going and what we’d be doing. It was what you call a sensitive mission. I swore oaths of secrecy and even now can’t say much about it, but it involved meeting someone deep in enemy territory and giving them a parcel. It was a very well-wrapped parcel – seemed like a strong cardboard box with about a hundred metres of tape around it – and none of us had a clue what was in it, but when we met the man he said, ‘Thanks, this will keep quite a few people happy,’ I wondered if it might be drugs. Had Liberation turned me into a drug runner? Maybe I should have thought this through a bit more, and not trusted so much in people I didn’t know. Then the guy smiled at us and said, ‘You seem very young. Do you know how much is in here?’

  He seemed so relaxed and his English was almost perfect. I shook my head. He shrugged and said, ‘Well, enough for a luxury car. They must trust you a lot.’

  I realised then that it was money, and felt guilty for not trusting the Liberation people. I admit I also thought, ‘Gee, I could have paid off a lot of the farm debts if I’d known that earlier.’

  The
man gave Homer a packet of papers, a big envelope stuffed with bits and pieces in a pretty messy way, like they’d just been shoved in there. Back we went, as dawn greyed the sky. It was such an easy trip that I wondered if security was getting a bit slacker now. It was difficult at times to remember that if we were caught we would face death. It wasn’t until we were back on our side of the border, the safe side, that I realised we’d been turned, not into drug runners, but into spies. The papers might have looked like a big mess, but I’d say they were pretty hot. The guy we’d met was probably being paid for spying and now we were in the same category as him, even if we were amateurs. Everyone knows the penalty for spying, in pretty much any country. The Americans electrocuted that Jewish couple, the Rosenbergs I think their name was, in the 1950s, because they claimed they were spies for Russia. When it comes to spying, people don’t muck around.

  Back home I fed the boys omelettes for breakfast. Homer went off with the envelope full of papers, Lee went to bed, and I went to school. Partly I went because I’d promised Gavin I’d be on the bus, but partly because it amused me to go. I wanted to be able to sit through each class, have recess and lunch like normal, hang out with the usual people, knowing all the time that while they’d spent the night doing homework and watching TV and then going to bed, I’d spent it spearing through the night on the quaddie, in enemy territory, carrying a huge amount of money, meeting a spy, collecting secret documents, risking death. How weird life was. How amazing that an average human like me could be so adaptable. I did fall asleep a couple of times in lessons but the rest of the time I spent wondering how I had ended up in this strange existence.

  In the next few days, though, I found myself feeling bugged about the trip. I had the feeling Homer knew something that I didn’t, and apart from Poland China pigs and taking diesel engines apart, that doesn’t happen a lot. If you could see Homer’s school grades you’d have to agree. I like feeling superior to Homer whenever I can, I don’t mind admitting that, because he’s so good at making other people feel inferior, so it was doubly or even triply annoying to think that he was sitting smugly on some secret knowledge. It was my fault because I’d refused to join Liberation, the group which organised these parties. I didn’t even know who was in charge of our local branch, only that it was someone Homer and the others nicknamed the Scarlet Pimple. It could have been Homer himself, or Jeremy, or anyone else for that matter. Could have been any one of half-a-dozen macho young guys in the district. Could have been a girl. Could have been Gavin or Mrs Yannos or Mr Rodd. Chances were that it wasn’t though.

 
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