Friday, October 31, 2014

The Adventures of Snowpuss and Gidley -prologue

The brownstone office looked down on William Street in downtown Sydney a good brisk walk from Circular Quay, if you had the time and inclination, or a five minute trip by car, but certainly not in peak hour, a meeting was taking place. Five people sat around the large conference table. Members of a special undercover squad with rather unkept hair and stern looks all watched the man at the head of the table.

 ‘The situation is out of hand; Rottnest has lost its parrots and we are catching stupid people carrying one bird, reptile or snake, but not the organisation. God help us if these idiots ever tried harder. Who is running this show and how many are we missing. Our endangered species list grows by the day and it isn't enough that we slaughter our own animals indiscriminately but these bludgers are walking through our airports with rare parrots, snakes whatever all rolled up in magazines.

 What I ask you is going out in bulk by ship by plane, by bloody UFO’s for god’s sake. It’s a well organised criminal organisation with international tentacles and lots of corruption’.

He sat back exasperated.  Throwing his pen on the table he cast about at the concerned faces, ‘can someone have an idea – please’.

The air outside grew colder as tufts of mist off the road wafted past as the recent shower wet the windows steaming off the bitumen,  shadowing the mood  in the room.

‘These jokers have to be taught that here in Australia they can’t do what they like, we have laws, crappy ones at best  but in the main our wildlife laws are strict -   in a sense they are, and yes’, he answered with one raised eyebrow ‘we have lost more wildlife in 200 years than in all the years before, we must stop the rampant destruction or our kids will have to visit zoos just to see a parrot – blast, I love the little buggers coming in of a morning to my bird bath and seeder, they make my morning – I don’t want that to stop, but some bugger is causing this on a wide scale and I want his ass on a plate –now!’

Sam sat back, he agreed but passion wouldn't do it, human, on the ground intelligence was needed, but where to start, where was the operation, where. Ideas were thrown around but a starting point was needed, undercover work had used four squads, twenty men and nothing apart from several tourists had been caught. They needed a break and soon or parrots would disappear in one lifetime and a little girl would keep asking her father the same question –‘where have all the parrots gone Daddy’.

It wasn't just the parrots or the wildlife wallabies, tree kangaroos, quokkas and platypus were being taken, even from legal private zoos. The scope of the crimes were unknown but they were extensive and told of a large scale operation, well maintained and sourced and must be done with help from authorities all on the gangs payroll, that was the conclusion drawn from the meeting.

Sam didn’t have a clue –where to start – where?

The meeting had ended and disgruntled men and women trooped out frustration their companion.

‘Sam, before you leave how about a word? The large man, over six foot, an ex Aussie rules player he had been given this job to curb the export of Australian animals and the violence that followed when people got in the way.

‘What’s brought this on’, Sam asked.

His Boss tossed a loose lock of hair brushing it away the eyes travelled to the window and back to Sam –‘Can you keep a secret’?

 ‘Of course but-’,

‘No buts this is confidential and stays that way. Okay someone up top way up top had an episode –something has rattled him, something big. No I know but it’s a secret he had more of an epiphany – let’s call it a moment, something showed him that what we are doing is wrong and more emphasis should be put on saving the animals, in short not just the environment but  the animals which are an important part –just as important as the sea life.

 You see if the whales are lost the sea dies. Our unique ecology depends on our native animals for soil, plant and mineral conservation. The land will die if the animals disappear and the fauna –plants will die out and our way of life will suffer –evaporate was the word he used, evaporate just like that’, as he clipped his fingers. ‘No one has ever seen him so spooked’.

 Christ’ said Sam, ‘what got to him?’

 ’Don’t know but he is telling treasury that more money is needed now – and they agree, it’s a bloody miracle, more money for agents from the treasury, but there it is.’

‘Now Sam, you caught the top man in the recent pedophile case and I am looking to you to get answers. the illegal wildlife trade is third only to that in drugs and human trafficking in scope and value; numbers in the order of tens of billions of dollars are at stake according to the Global Financial Integrity organisation, and CITES agrees that there are billions involved. The team has great agents and I am not playing favourites, but I have to depend on someone to get answers or my little girl will never speak to me again.

‘Well’, said Sam, ‘in the report black cockatoos, parrots and wallabies were highlighted. So because of your daughter I am going to concentrate on the birds and wallabies, basically the birds. International air traffic is well controlled maybe a cargo plane or my bet is a ship, comes in with legal cargo, goes out with mixed crates, and our stuff will be in some of them, not all as customs would be on to it, but trying to sort through all the cargo is a demons job. So I’m betting on the seas, so off to see somebody and I’ll travel up the east coast and stop when I get a sniff’.

‘Good but remember get backup if you get a bite, we will monitor your locator chip and your calls should use the ‘warrigal’ identity, okay’.

Sam smiled, ‘sure Boss and don’t worry we’ll find them’.

‘Yes that’s what worries me, if this is as big as I think you could be in for a shit-storm’

Sam wandered down the stairs to the basement where his turbo-charged Subaru was parked. He climbed in, checked the fuel level and headed for the Harbour Bridge and the road north, the hunt was on.

Sam pulled into a rest stop and pulling his laptop out he connected the system to global-net and checked his mail.

‘Nothing much but the reports indicates that these jokers are locals with professionally built cages –unusual right I’ll ring Colin and see'.

After talking to his friend in wildlife section of Dept. of Environment Colin informed him that they were scared and not of him, something about the delivery and they didn’t mind going to the lockup.

‘Jeeze Sam whatever you’re into watch yourself, these almost wet themselves at something’. 
He signed off and called another contact at the police station in Taree.

‘Good day Jock, yeah I was talking to Colin, the jokers with the cages, parrots mainly but something about it, they were scared stiff according to Col. That case of yours, you think they were supplying on a regular basis, and there were what 14 cages, a bit much for a local operation don’t you think'.

 ‘Yes - what I thought local guys have become organised and it look as if they trap and then deliver to somebody, not on-sell as they use to. ‘I’m going to set myself up on the coast and do some snooping, do the usual, a bum on the lookout. Righto I’ll call in and then go over what you have, and move up towards Port, any contacts there, right see you soon’.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Luck is a Four Letter Word

Have you ever thought of where luck comes from; a big bucket, a particular ray of light, or that strange cloud that seems to be hovering and moves as we move . Some days can be triumphs or disasters. The people who look inside our heads tell us it is the power of suggestion. Sometimes you wonder as you tempt lady luck.

Every day someone scratches a winning ticket, but I have never met one. Do you suppose they are taken away after they have screamed their heads off, and put into some kind of restraint? Or are they just trotted out each day so that ordinary mortals may feel the urge to try.

I have stood in awe and watched sane men and women scratch their way through the ticket, the surface of the table and eventually the table. As if the glittering prize had slipped under several layers of plywood. The poor unfortunates gnash their teeth, frown at the clear sky, mumble something unintelligible as they shamble away knowing that the grocery money has been seriously depleted.

One particularly disastrous day as I led the way from the newsagent, I mentally bemoaned my fate and fell over a wheelchair. I resolved to complete the day without further incident. I should have checked with the fates, because I had not seen the end of that day. Arriving home I collected my dogs, bait, and fishing rod and set out for our fishing spot.

Everything was normal until I had a bite. The reel seized up, the fish disappeared and wonderful lumps of nylon appeared. Ten minutes later we tried again. Another bite; the reel seized up and my lips moved erratically. I took the rig off and put it on the chair. Metres of line were lost in a maddened frenzy as dusk descended and blackness enveloped me.

Not a problem, we have a torch. It was as useful as a burnt match. The fishing line suddenly had a life of its own and another ten minutes disappeared into the past. Finally we were about to rig up when I discovered one of the sinkers had sunk, into the soft sand. One sinker would have to do in the mouth of a force-nine gale. Reaching for the hook and swivel on the chair, I discovered that it also had a life of its own and had fled.

Perseverance is the name of the game that was not going to stop me. At this stage I determined to catch a fish. Bending to pick up the bait, I looked around to discover that my bait, an inert bag of bait, had been resurrected and eloped with the hook and swivel. Not a problem, I picked up the chair to fling it into the bush. Somehow it had wrapped itself around my leg and I was flat on the ground.

Looking around to see if I was on a movie set, I sheepishly slunk to the car. The tackle box that would not previously give up its treasure of sinkers promptly emptied its entire contents down the gap in the back seat. I put the rod through the gap in the window and turned to go to the drivers' side. 

Alas the cloud had not finished. I was now attached to the rod, and certainly not in passion. As the hook drew blood my resolve not to scream was shattered.

I didn’t go back to that fishing spot again, in case somebody waited with a restraint and whisked me off to the place where all those winning ticket holders are confined.