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Authors: Charlotte Calder

The Ghost at the Point

BOOK: The Ghost at the Point
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Contents

Cover

Blurb

Logo

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Epilogue

Acknowledgements

About the Author

Copyright

Dedication

Dorrie wonders if Aunt Gertrude’s stories are true. Is there really a ghost boy roaming the cliffs?

The thought makes her shudder.

But how else can she explain the shadowy figure she glimpsed moving through the stringybarks? And the other strange happenings around the point?

Dorrie is determined to discover the truth – even if it means confronting a ghost.

Chapter 1

Dorrie Jose only had one pair of shoes – her button-up boots. She only wore them a few times a year, on special occasions, and now they were too tight. Like most children on the island in 1931, she nearly always went barefoot.

She sat on the edge of her bed, slumping into the saggy mattress, and wriggled her toes up and down. She must have grown since she had turned twelve a few months ago. But there was no getting out of wearing the boots tomorrow at her cousin’s christening. By the end of the day Dorrie’d have blisters galore.

She sighed and pulled off her boots, dropping them on the floor. Then she hopped off the bed and went to see if she could spot Gah out in the bay. She padded along the verandah and down the path to the point, watching for snakes as always. It was the time of year when they were out a lot, filling up their bellies before their winter hibernation.

There was a loud meow and Poppy skittered out of a bush. Dorrie bent to stroke her cat, then kept going. Poppy stalked along behind like a miniature grey-and-white lioness.

The point always reminded her of a witch’s crooked finger. She stepped over some spinifex and walked right out onto the end. It was so narrow that if she’d taken a small jump to the left or the right, she would be over the cliff and into the sea. The waves slapped at the rocks below; the tang of dried fish and shag droppings curled up her nose. Half the point was made up of bird poo, layers and layers of it on the limestone.

Her arm shielding her screwed-up eyes, Dorrie gazed out across the water. Through the glitter she could just make out the dinghy and the stumpy figure of her grandfather standing in the bow, intent on his line. Gah always stood up when he fished, but Dorrie preferred to sit, her chin resting on her arm along the side of the dinghy, her eyes following the line down into the greeny depths.

One day a shark would come along and bite her nose off, Gah was fond of saying. But so far the only shark she’d ever seen had kept moving. A huge grey shadow gliding underneath them, longer than the dinghy. She’d sat very still, not breathing.

Gah had been baiting his hooks at the time, and he simply said, “Come to take a look at us, eh?”

The dinghy was coming in now, Dorrie saw, so she went down the path and walked along the beach to help.

The whine of the old outboard rang out across the calm water. As he approached the beach, Gah cut the motor and tilted it forwards, while Dorrie rolled the iron boat rollers down to the water’s edge. Gah passed her the fish basket, cold and heavy with its catch, and then hopped out.

There was a rippling of water and a blowing of air. Dorrie glanced up at the dolphins gliding past on their evening fishing round. Five or six of them, only a few yards away.

“Lots of salmon there tonight for ’em,” said Gah.

Dorrie nodded. Gah unscrewed the outboard and they carried it to its hidey-hole behind a bush in the sandhills. Then they hauled the wooden boat up onto the rollers and dragged it up the beach. This was all done with only a few words between them.

The same could be said for cleaning the fish.

“School all right?” Gah’s knife scraped rapidly back and forth over the whiting’s body in a tiny shower of scales.

“Mmm.” Dorrie hooked her knife into the cavity of her own fish; one expert twist and the guts spilled in a neat little mound onto the cleaning table. She threw them to the waiting pelican and, with a cawing rush of wings and water, it drove its great beak through a crowd of squawking gulls to grab them.

Then she remembered something and laughed.

“Ned Brown put a dead snake under Miss Taggart’s chair – she screamed! He nearly got the cane; she was so cross.”

Gah grunted, but she sensed his smile. “You children’ll find yourselves without a teacher if you keep that kind of caper up.”

Miss Taggart, who had arrived on the island six months before, had not taken kindly to life as the sole teacher of the thirteen pupils at the Watson’s River School.

“Be a good thing.” Dorrie grinned. “There’d be no school.”

But as she scrunched down to the water to wash the headless fish, she wondered whether it actually would be so good without school. Not riding the five miles there and back every day on Sampson, rain or shine. Not giggling with her friend, Sarah, heads in their hands, while spit gobs flicked from the ends of the boys’ rulers went whizzing past their ears. Not playing hopscotch by the water tank at lunchtime, or red rover all over, with everyone joining in.

School was all right, she thought, most of the time.

Most evenings Dorrie got supper while her grandfather made his fish-selling round to Jasper’s Cove. Until the Great Depression had hit a couple of years before, Gah had worked as the town’s only solicitor. Now in his declining years, he said he was much happier eking out a simple life as a fisherman. Even though he did worry about the lack of money for things like shoes for Dorrie, despite her reassuring him she couldn’t care less.

Tonight, they were having cold pie for tea, so Dorrie came along for the ride into Jasper’s Cove. The old truck rattled and bounced its way over the dirt road, barely more than a track half the time. Dorrie could see the stones through the gap in the floor beside the gearstick.

Sometimes in the warmer weather, there’d be a snake lying in the road, but Gah tried to avoid running over them – they could wrap themselves around the axle and come winding up through the holes like a submarine periscope. It had happened to Elsie Robertson’s parents once. Her mother had screamed so hard her father had run off the road and hit a tree. Fortunately, no one was hurt, including the snake who shot over Mrs Robertson’s lap and out the window, more frightened than anyone.

Most of the mailboxes were made of old oil drums with one end cut out. Dorrie got out and deposited the newspaper-wrapped parcels of fish into the boxes of each of their regular customers, and then collected the money left out. Being Friday, there were plenty of takers, and they made two deliveries, up the narrow tracks through the bush and paddocks, right to the farmhouse doors. Once to old Mrs Pettigrew, who was eighty-eight and nearly blind, and once to Nobby Duckfeather, a widower who’d had both legs blown off in the Great War.

Then it was up the steep, winding bends of Cobblers Hill, the truck grinding and juddering, and even stalling a couple of times. When this happened it always felt as though they were going to plunge backwards through the rickety fence at the side of the road and roll into the gully, but they never did. Jaw clenched, Gah would yank on the handbrake and start the motor again, hopefully on the second or third try, not the seventh or eighth.

At the top of the hill, there was the view down over the golden folds of paddock to Jasper’s Cove. The little town sat on a rise, looking out across the strait to the mainland. Even now, after hundreds of times glimpsing it, the scene still seemed like something from a picture book. As though you could reach out over the water and touch the line of hills on the other side.

The strait, however, was actually eight treacherous miles wide. Dorrie had only made the crossing a few times, and on her most recent trip, last year, she’d seen just how rough it could get. They’d been travelling to her great-aunt’s funeral up in the city, and a lot of the passengers had been horribly seasick. Even Dorrie, who had been out in stormy seas since she was tiny, felt a little green.

At Jasper’s Cove, Gah sold the rest of the catch outside the pub, while Dorrie went into the store to get some more wicks for the lamps.

There was no electricity at their end of the island – they used candles and kerosene lamps for lighting, and had a kerosene refrigerator. Hot water came from kettles heated on their wood stove. And as for a toilet … the long-drop dunny down the path behind the shed had long ago been christened the thunderbox.

Now, as she pushed open the shop door with its jingling bell, three faces swung around to her. There was the familiar one of Mr Buntle the grocer, but the other two belonged to a man and a woman Dorrie’d never seen before.

“Ah,” said Mr Buntle, “here’s Dorrie, his granddaughter.”

The strangers peered at her for a moment, then glanced at one another.

“Hello, dear,” said the woman. She had a round face, small sharp eyes and arms that hung like hams on either side of her stout body. “You live at Ned’s Point, do you?”

Dorrie nodded. They leaned forwards eagerly.

“And would your …
grandfather
be about?” asked the man, clasping and reclasping his hands. He was the complete opposite of his companion, all bones and hollows. His belt barely kept his trousers up.

Dorrie felt her chest tighten with unease. She pointed through the window.

“He’s over there, outside the pub, selling our fish.”

“Oh.” They spun around, their heads darting like a couple of strange, unmatched birds. Gah, his hands on his hips, was chatting to two of the locals, Timothy O’Leary and Clarrie Corkbutt.

“Thank you, dear,” said the man, and in a flash they were out of the shop and heading for the pub, the lady waddling to keep up with her stork-like companion.

Dorrie made a face. “Who on earth?”

“Search me.” Mr Buntle frowned and scratched his head. “They were asking all kinds of questions.”

“I’ll be right back.” And Dorrie took off after them, through the door and across the road.

BOOK: The Ghost at the Point
6.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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