Runaway! - Cover


Copyright© 2017 by Ernest Bywater

Chapter 06

Back Home?

The plane from Auckland, New Zealand, lands at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport in Mascot just before six in the evening local time after a three and a quarter hour flight in the Emirates A380 Airbus. This isn’t the first time David has flown in an A380 but this is his first time in the Business Class of an Emirates plane, and he found it to be the most comfortable flight he’s had in Business Class of any airline he’s used.

He has an easy and quick trip through immigration due to being an Australian entering the country from New Zealand on his Australian Passport with only his carry-on bag and one item of luggage. The woman from Customs checks the passport is valid and passes him through.

David takes a taxi from the airport to Central Station where he buys a ticket on the next train to Rivers before getting something to eat. At eight thirty in the evening he’s sitting on the train with his backpack and one bag when the train pulls out of the station. Just before 3:00 a.m. the train pulls into Rivers Railway Station and David gets off. He’s awake due to having slept on the planes and having some naps on the train ride. So he walks to the taxi stand and takes a taxi to the Royal Hotel in Bowen’s Creek, making the driver happy to have such a large fare on a slow night.

On arriving at the hotel David pays the taxi driver by credit card and walks over to the late night service door to ring the bell. Although it’s just after four in the morning the door is quickly answered because when he booked his room David let them know when he’d likely to be arriving, so the owner set his alarm for half an hour ago to be up to answer the door.

Little time is taken with signing David in and showing him to his room so he can get settled and have some sleep before getting up for a late breakfast.

Mid-morning that day, a Saturday, David is walking up the hill to see his house. Although he’s been away for nearly seven years and it’s rented out it’s still his house and his home. He’s walking across the drive when two girls about ten years of age come out through the gateway on in-line skates. Instinctively David drops to his knees while spreading his arms wide to catch the girls before they pass him. He’s standing on the footpath with the road only a pace behind him. After catching the girls he stands, still holding them, walks into the yard, sets them down on the little front lawn, turns, shuts the main driveway gate, and pulls the smaller person sized driveway gate shut behind him before turning to lean on the gate while saying, “Always shut the gates before playing in the drive on your skates, bikes, or anything else on wheels. If you can’t stop the gate will stop you with only a bruise. If the gate is open and you get on the road a passing car may stop you with many broken bones. Get hit hard enough and you may lose an arm or a leg.”

Both the girls look at him with very wide eyes while the two women standing at the front door smile and one says, “Thank you for catching them. Hopefully they’ll listen to you because they never listen to me.”

David looks up as he says, “I hope so, Missus Jacobs, I hope so!”

“Do I know you? You don’t look familiar.”

“No, we’ve never met. The owner asked me to check on the house while I was in the area and he told me your name.”

“Oh. I’ve never met the owner, nor do I know his name. I just know Jenny here, the real estate agent, and Mister Williams of the trust that owns the house. Do you know much about the house?”

“Yes, I do. I helped build it. Which is why I’m checking up on it.” The other woman turns at David’s comment on helping to build it and she takes a very close look at him.

After a moment Jenny says, “Is that you, David?”

“Yes it is. But, I’m sorry, I can’t decide which of the three people I know named Jenny is you.”

“Jenny Dole, you used to call me ’Jen Doll’ because of the way my mother always had me dressed up like a Barbie doll.”

“It’s good to see you’re doing well, Jen.”

“David, we were told there’s a safe in the house but we can’t find it. Can you show it to us, please?”

He smiles, nods yes, and walks through the gate to the footpath to the front door. After stopping to shake their hands he walks into the house, goes to the fireplace in the dining room, and pushes on the bottom of a piece of panelling beside the stone chimney and above the low mantel. The panel depresses then pops out a little bit while he says, “This has a spring loaded catch you push to release. Then you lift it up to access the small safe built into the stonework of the chimney.” While talking he lifts the panel up and he uses a short rod on the chimney side to hold it up by setting the rod into a hole for it. A small safe door is now visible. David enters a six digit code to unlock the safe and he opens the safe door. It opens toward the chimney so it’s easy to get at from beside the fireplace. The only thing in the safe is a rolled up tube of papers which he removes before he points to a sticker and a key on the back of the safe door while saying, “There’s the instructions on how to change the code and these papers are a set of the full plans of the house. They also include the post construction modifications the Council doesn’t know about.”

David turns away from the safe to hand the papers to Jenny while he asks, “Do you know about the ’Playroom’ downstairs?” Both women shake their heads no while wondering what downstairs as they don’t know of any downstairs area of the house. He smiles as he adds, “We had to dig a lot of dirt out of the hillside to get down to rock to set the foundations on, thus much of the area under the house is hollowed out. So we built a nice playroom into it with a hidden door.” He leads them out the back door and down the stairs to the backyard.

The stairs start just a bit uphill from the centre of the back verandah and are under the extended roofline so they’re protected from any of the bad weather. David stops when he steps onto the concrete path at the bottom of the stairs, reaches back to the last upright for the handrail on the house side, and pushes on the board beside the upright. A section of the trim panelling closing off the under house area pops open when it swings away from them to go under the house while he says, “Adults have to duck when entering because the verandah floor is only one and a half metres off the outside ground here.” He ducks when he enters the room by stepping over the one hundred and fifty millimetre high concrete edging that goes around the bottom of the underfloor trim panels. He reaches to his left and turns the lights on. The women can see a small area of about one and a half metres square before some steps go down into the ground. After walking down the stairs David has enough room to stand upright and raise his arms a little above his head without hitting the ceiling. The two women follow him in to look at the room.

Some old furniture is in the room, along with a sound system, an old television, plus a small refrigerator sitting open and turned off. There are a few pillars in the room with one very thick one below where the fireplace is, and all of them are covered with wood panels. There’s a bench along the street wall with cupboards under it. A number of books are sitting on the bench. Mrs Jacobs steps back outside and calls, “Alice, Bonnie, come into the backyard,” before returning to the room.

The two girls take their skates off and run around the house with the skates in their hands. When they don’t see their mother they look at the verandah and notice the open door they never saw before, so they enter the room to find the large playroom that’s under the house. They move through the room staring at everything. When they reach the cupboards they find some of them have a number of games and toys in them.

Alice says, “I wonder who owns all these games and toys.”

David grins as he says, “You do, now.” Which causes them all to turn and look at him. So he adds, “I doubt I’ll have any need for them for ten or twenty years so you may as well have them and enjoy them, then pass them on to someone else when you no longer want them.”

Both girls, grin, race to David, and hug him while thanking him for the toys and things. Mrs Jacobs is just staring at him. Jenny knows this is the home he lived in so she understands the situation a lot more.

While standing there David thinks on what he knows of this family. Mrs Jacobs is a widow who works part-time for a local solicitor. She and the girls moved into this house just after David left because her husband got word he was being transferred to the Army Base near Rivers when his current deployment to Afghanistan ended. Although it would be a long commute for her husband Mrs Jacobs liked the house and the town so she rented the house. They’d just got settled in when the news came about her husband being killed in Afghanistan. None of them wanted to move again so they stayed here and she found a job to supplement the pension she gets from the Army. They don’t have a lot of money, but, like many people, they get by.

The one disturbing thing about visiting the house he grew up in is it no longer feels like ’home’ to David. It’s just ’the house he used to live in.’

When the girls let go of David to explore the room further he turns and walks out into the yard. The two women walk out to watch him. He walks further down the huge yard to stop at the large vegetable garden. When Mrs Jacobs found the large vegetable garden here she kept it up, and she’s found it very useful in reducing their food costs. David looks at how well cared for it is, turns to look at the fruit trees along the fence, and smiles when he makes a decision. He gets out the cheap throw-away cell phone he bought while waiting for the train in Sydney and he calls Mr Williams. When the phone is answered he says, “Mister Williams, David Jones. I’d like you to draw up the papers for me to add the Jacobs girls to the trust as beneficiaries, but first transfer half the money to the trust account in the USA I gave you the information on last week. Please also arrange to have everything in secure storage shipped to the address in Arizona I gave you last week. This place doesn’t feel like home now and it’s obvious to me it is home to them. So I want the girls to have it. Call me when they’re ready and I’ll sign all of the papers.”

Mr Williams replies, “I’ll do that, David. I’m sorry you’re not coming back on a permanent basis, and I blame the welfare bitch for that. However, I understand how you feel.”

After closing the phone David turns around to look back at the two women still standing back near the stairs. He walks over to them and says, “I’m sorry, Jen, but after I sign some papers later today you won’t be managing or renting this house. Two of the trust beneficiaries will be living in it so you won’t be able to charge them rent.” He turns to see a hurt look on Mrs Jacobs’ face and adds, “Don’t worry, you won’t have to move. This is no longer ’home’ for me while it is ’home’ for the girls. So I’m adding the girls to the trust as beneficiaries. You’ll have to work with Mister Williams about how to pay the rates and other related bills like the building insurance but you won’t be paying rent any more.” Both of the women are stunned he’s just giving away such a valuable house. When they go to speak he says, “An officious State government harpy forced me to run away so I could stay free and sane. I ran to Arizona, that’s not my home but it’s more of a home than this house is now. I’m well off and I don’t need the money while you and the girls need the home you so obviously love, so I’m giving it to the girls. As Grandfather used to say, ’Things are nothing while people are everything.’ And I now know exactly what he meant by that. Enjoy your home. Now I have a grave to visit and some papers to sign. Have a nice day.” He turns, walks down the side of the house, and out onto the street before either woman can react.

Alice comes out of the playroom, looks around, and asks, “Where did the nice man go? And who is he?”

Jenny turns to Alice, smiles, and says, “That man is David Jones. When his parents were murdered in the Indonesia bombing he came to live here with his grandfather. They built this house while living in an old wreck of a house that sat where the garage is now. They lived here until his grandfather died of cancer then he ran away from the welfare people. This was his house, until today. Now it belongs to you girls and he’s left here to go back to where he went when he ran away just before you came here. He visited to say goodbye to where he grew up.”

“I wanted to thank him for the toys and books.”

Mrs Jacobs says, “He saw how much you and Bonnie love this place and didn’t want you to have to move house again so he made changes to allow you both to live here forever. All he wants is for you to be happy.”

“Staying here with all these new toys and not having to move! I think we’ll be very happy, Mum,” is Alice’s reply.

After an hour’s walk through the town David is standing before his Grandfather’s grave while telling him about what he’s done in the last several years and about giving the house to the daughters of a deceased soldier. He can feel his Grandfather’s approval when he gets to the part about giving the house away to the girls.

He’s still there an hour later when Mr Williams catches up with him to sign the papers. While David signs Mr Williams asks, “David, why did you do it this way?”

“I can’t give the house to the girls due to their ages. So if I give it to their mother and she remarries her new husband could take it away from them. This way the girls get to feel ownership while it keeps it safe from outside events. Also, because I’m still a member of the trust you can contact me to help out if there’s any problems,” is David’s response.

“Good thinking. What will you do now?”

“Go back to the States and find a place to call home.”

Payback - Sort of

The next day Mr Williams drives David into Rivers and helps him to check into a hotel near the railway station. After putting his things in his room David visits the local office of the State child welfare people to have a word with them.

At their front counter David gives them his name with his date of birth and says, “I believe some of your idiots are looking for me.” The receptionist just gives a plastic smile while she finishes writing his details down before she takes the slip to someone further back in the office.

A little later another woman comes to the counter with a file in her hand, she asks David for ID and he shows her his passport. She smiles as she says, “I’m sure you know the department no longer has an interest in you now you’re over eighteen. So why did you come in?”

David grins as he says, “To gloat. I’m sure the harpy who stopped me from being able to live by myself in the house I helped to build thinks I ended up as one of the homeless people when she forced me to run from her and whatever institutionalised hell she was organising for me. Well, I was forced to grow up early and I ran to New Zealand then to the States where I found a distant cousin on my mother’s side to live with. He taught me a lot, and while there I helped to save the lives of a few people. I’m now a trained paramedic and I own my own software company.” He pulls out his wallet and hands her one of his business cards. “I write software and sell it to others to market for me. The last program I wrote and sold has already paid me several million dollars in royalties. I want her to know I’ve become a success in spite of her attempts to hinder my life just so she can put another gold star on her career folder.”

Riiiight! I wasn’t here when you were here before but I’ve heard about the case. Your disappearance made the local newspaper headlines for several weeks. When they traced you to New Zealand they searched high and low but found no trace of you. The interesting thing is the state and national media picked up on your case. In the year after you ran we had a dozen other teens about your age take off as well. We managed to find five of them but the rest stayed vanished. However, you’re the third to come to one of our offices to tell us about making good on their own.”

“It does make you wonder how well the harpy who chased me away represented the Department and how she affected people. If it doesn’t, it should.” The woman smiles and nods her agreement, but she doesn’t speak while she writes on the file. When she finishes writing inside the file she closes it, picks up a stamp from a nearby desk, and stamps the cover with ’Closed.’ The two smile at each other before turning away from the counter and going on with their lives.

The next day David starts his long trip back to the USA and home.


David is back at the Window Rock Airport two weeks after leaving Jason there. When he walks off the plane he smiles at the memory of what Jason said two weeks earlier, and the feeling of being home David feels right now. He leaves his bag at the airport while he enjoys the walk over to Jason’s house where he’s greeted with a knowing look.

Over the next few weeks David contacts all the real estate companies who deal with land around the Navajo Nation Reservation. None have any land for sale, but they note his details for when they do. He doesn’t want a house in any of the urban areas but he is looking for a large area like a ranch near to or adjoining the reservation.

For the next few months David works on his new computer program between shifts of working for the local emergency services to alleviate a short term shortage of staff which is due to people taking advantage of having him being there so they spend time with their families. David also spends a lot of time going for his walks in the desert, where he notices a lot of it is the same as before while some of it is different now as well.

David gets a phone call from a real estate agent in the middle of December. The lady says, “We’ve a property north of Flagstaff that’s sort of for sale. It’s a deceased estate and one heir wishes to sell out while the other heir wishes to stay on but doesn’t have the money to buy the other out. It’s a large ranch and it can be split up but neither half is big enough to work by itself. The one wanting to stay on owns property adjoining it and the only other neighbour is the Reservation. Are you interested?”

They agree to meet in Flagstaff the next day so David can have a look at the property. He leaves for Flagstaff that afternoon so he’ll be on hand first thing in the morning.

David and the real estate lady meet at a breakfast place as planned and drive out to the property in David’s camper while she directs him. When they get on the property they spend a few hours driving around to look it over. At one point he stops to get out of the camper to walk out into the desert for a couple of miles and just stands there. On his return to the camper he nods at the woman as he says, “Right, Linda, let’s go see what they have to say.” She smiles at the idea of a quick commission.

Thirty minutes later they’re sitting at a table looking at a detailed map of the area with the ranch marked on it while talking to the heirs. One is the son of the deceased and the other is his brother’s widow. The brother died as a result of the same accident. The owner died on the scene but the brother lived for two days and inherited half of the ranch. She inherited from him but she wants to get away from the area and the memories.

Linda hands David a slip of paper while saying, “This is the valuation of the ranch as a whole. That’s how much you’d have to pay for it. From that they need to pay a few related debts.” She hands him another piece of paper and adds, “This is how much is needed to pay out one heir and to pay off the debts. Which is what Steve would prefer.” She touches the map which has a plastic cover with lines and markings on it, “This map has the ranch broken up into sections based on the per acre cost of each of the areas. A large part of the value is in the buildings right here and the better land to the south, which is what Steve wishes to keep.”

David slowly nods then replies, “Assuming we start with the land along the whole of the northern side of the ranch and I take a full strip of land where would my southern boundary be for that amount of value?” Linda checks some figures she has, uses her calculator, measures a part of the map to mark the northern seventy percent of the property.

After having a close look at the topographical map to identify the area Linda marked he draws a line a little below hers and says, “I’ll buy that part of the ranch if you agree,” after marking what he wants.

While the others talk about his offer David stands and walks over to the window to look outside at the landscape. These buildings are in the southern part of the property and the landscape is very different to the northern part while it’s the northern part of it he finds is calling to him.

Several minutes later they’ve the papers ready, all it needs is David to sign and to organise the payments. He smiles, gets out his computer to check his bank balance, and transfers the full payment amount to Linda’s company’s escrow account before he signs the papers. Linda and Steve need to have the deed changed with the County and then he’ll be given the deed for his part of the land. Linda will handle the rest of it. All are happy the sale is done and each of them has what they want.

A few days later Linda couriers David’s new deed to him. He goes to talk with the President of the Navajo Nation Council and is then sent to speak with other Council members about his proposal.

There’s a section of land near the northern border which is higher than most of the rest and that’s where he plans to build his residence but he has no need or intention to do much with the land. Thus he’s talking to the Council about their ranch operation just inside the southern border of the Reservation and about half a mile or so from where he’ll build. The people working the current ranch on the Navajo Nation land will have the free use of his land, other than a small fenced area around his house. This’ll allow them to expand their operation and to employ more people on the ranch due to the great increase in area to use for more stock.

David hires an architect to design an environmentally friendly house which blends into the landscape of where he wants it. The architect likes the challenge and is left with the project. Buying the land cost David a lot of money but he still has plenty in the bank to build with. However, he knows the house will not be cheap to build where he wants it.

David hires local people to build the house when the plans are ready and approved by the County. They’re good and fast so the house is ready to occupy within six months. Due to the location and the high cost of getting electricity to the house it’s designed to use wind generators and solar panels to provide 12 volt power for all of the house electrical needs, along with a multi-fuel back-up generator. The house has five heating and cooking systems in place: electricity, wood, fuel oil, bottled gas, and sunlight. The house is a six bedroom ranch style one built into the hillside plus two suites for domestic staff to live in as well as a large attached garage built into the hillside with only the door visible. Due to the colours used in the construction the house isn’t visible until you’re very close to it. David is very happy with the finished product. He likes the way natural light is provided to a lot of the interior rooms via large skylights with mirrored tubes, he also likes the use of insulation and natural heat convection to refresh the air while it maintains a comfortable environment within the house.

After living in his house a month David hires an older widow from the local tribal members to be his housekeeper and cook. The only issue is she sees herself as his keeper too. The reminders to stop work and to go to appointments are OK but the procession of eligible young women who visit are another issue once David realises he’s unintentionally hired a matchmaker.

David registers with the local authorities to be called in to work as an emergency paramedic when they have a real need. He also gets called in to work some shifts to allow some of the people time off. He doesn’t need the money so he does the work and donates his pay to local charities.

His program on touring the USA is finished and sent to Mitt just after he moves into his new house. So he starts a third program to teach people about the desert he loves and how to be safe walking through it.

A lot of David’s spare time is spent walking the local desert and some of the locals are surprised when they find him miles from home on foot. However, they soon learn this is one of his ways of relaxing and he’s an experienced desert hiker. It doesn’t take long for David to settle into a simple routine of writing code, going for walks, and enjoying his house which is his ’home’ in every sense of the word. He truly feels at home.


The only gun David owns is the Winchester .22 rifle he bought soon after he arrived in Window Rock in order to have a rifle with him on his desert walks. All of the other guns he’d used over the years belonged to other people and they’ve all been given back to their owners. Even the Beretta M9 he used on his trip was Jason’s. David never bothered with buying many guns because he always knew he was returning to Australia and he couldn’t have the guns there. However, he’s now back in the USA on a permanent basis and he decides to have his own guns. After talks with Jason and a few others David tests guns at a local gun shop before he buys the ones he likes the best.

His first purchase is three of the Beretta M9A3 pistols in the earth tone colour so he can have one in the house, one in the camper, and carry one with him. This way he’ll still have a spare nearby if he has to surrender a gun to the police after using it to defend himself or others. The newer model is a little different to the one Jason has. This model has a seventeen round magazine instead of the fifteen rounds in the original model and it’s a little more robust. David finds the new gun easier to grip and use than Jason’s pistol.

For a long rifle he goes with what he knows and he buys a Barrett M98B rifle using the .338 Lapua Magnum round. This is the same as Jason’s rifle he used in the competitions; it’s just a newer production run with the best scope available for it. Unlike Jason’s rifle the scope on the new one has a built-in range finder. It’s a bit more complex to use but he doesn’t have to carry a separate range finder with him. It also comes with a much lighter carry case which is also suitable for field use.

His last gun is a Bond Arms Snake Slayer IV in .45 Long Colt loaded with .410 shotgun shells as his close range anti-snake shotgun for when he goes on his walks.

He now has a full set of his own guns he knows how to use and he’s happy with their performance.

Danger in the Desert

In September there are reports of stock being stolen from around the area. Although they haven’t been hit yet David thinks it’s just a matter of time. He studies the maps of the ranch until he locates a spot south-west of his house where there’s a higher elevation that’ll give him a good view of most of the ways onto the ranch from the south.

The next day David sets out carrying his camping gear, a desert camo cover for his tent, his Barrett M98B with the high quality scope he bought as a hunting rifle due to his familiarity with the gun, a top quality digital camera, solar panel, food and water for a week. Although it’s a large and heavy load he’s carrying it only takes him a couple of hours to reach his chosen spot, evaluate it, find a place to use, and set up camp. From here he can see most of the southern border of the ranch and all the approach roads: official and unofficial. He sets up within a fold in the ground near the top of the rise so he’s hidden from view. He’s in an arrangement where he can spend most of his time lying at the front of his tent working on his laptop computer while also checking the area. There’s little traffic in the area and he can see a long way so he can work for a few minutes then look for movement while maintaining his watch for intruders.

Mid-morning of his third day on site David sees two stock transports and a pickup truck approaching the area. He picks up his binoculars to have a closer look at them. He sets up the camera to record what they do and calls the Sheriff’s Office to report the trespassers. They’ve no one near by and all their cars are busy on calls. They’ll send a car out when they can. David continues to watch and record the activity while the trucks stop, unload some off-road motorbikes, and some temporary fencing.

Since it looks like the operation the ranch uses to round up mustangs David calls the ranch and when they answer he says, “Wild Wolf, Light Arrow, do you have anyone out collecting stock in the south part of the ranch today?”

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