The Quarantine Station

Status: 1st Draft

The Quarantine Station

Status: 1st Draft

The Quarantine Station

Book by: Miranda J Taylor

Details

Genre: Historical Fiction

Content Summary


A new emigrant to the colony of Victoria, Australia in the 1850's faces tragedy and hardship as she labours to make a life for herself and her daughter, amidst the often harsh and cruel landscape
of a burgeoning new world.

 

 

Content Summary


A new emigrant to the colony of Victoria, Australia in the 1850's faces tragedy and hardship as she labours to make a life for herself and her daughter, amidst the often harsh and cruel landscape
of a burgeoning new world.

Author Chapter Note


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Chapter Content - ver.0

Submitted: December 08, 2020

Comments: 3

In-Line Reviews: 4

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Chapter Content - ver.0

Submitted: December 08, 2020

Comments: 3

In-Line Reviews: 4

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Chapter 15

Be Gone, Satan!

Kit buttoned her coat over her night dress and told Clara to stay in the tent until she returned. She lifted the lantern and followed the path towards the screams. The sound woke dozens of migrants from their slumber and they scurried onto the paths leading to the meals tent.

A woman stood with her back to the crowd, holding a lantern in front of her. She screamed again before a man’s comforting arm wrapped around her shoulders. She pushed her face into his chest, and he steered her away.

Just off the path to the privy by the lime kiln, lay the bloodied and naked body of a young lady. Her dress lay torn by her side and her unseeing eyes stared at Kit as she tentatively approached.

Kit’s hand went to her mouth and she swallowed hard to stifle her own screams.

Three policemen soon arrived, their uniform coats unbuttoned and each carrying a lantern. They placed them at intervals and the sergeant knelt beside the body while the constables urged the crowd to back up.

When Tom arrived, he insisted on Kit helping him to determine the cause of death.

“She’s my nurse,” he argued with the sergeant. “I need her to assist.”

“She’s a woman and this is men’s business.”

“Death is everyone’s business I’m afraid, Sergeant, and if you want to know how this woman died, then I suggest you let us get on with ours.”

He sniffed and stepped aside allowing them both to enter the circle of yellow light. They knelt at the woman’s side and Tom placed a hand on her bare arm.

“She’s been here a while. Perhaps several hours.”

“She’s been beaten, hasn’t she? Just like Ginny?”

Tom nodded. “But that’s not what killed her.” He gently raised her head from her chest to expose her neck.

“Oh, my God. What sort of monster would do that?”

“One with a lot of strength. The wound has severed through half of her neck. It would take some force to do that." His eyes rested on the contorted limb, laying by her side. “He may have pulled her arm behind her back and forced her to the ground. He then used a knife to cut her dress away and then he-”

Kit turned her head away when her eyes followed Tom’s to the thick dark smears of dry blood on the white skin of her inner thighs.

“He must have been covered in blood.” Kit eyes flicked to Tom. “Surely someone saw something this time.”

A sorrowful wail emanated from the crowd. People parted way to allow an elderly woman, holding her coat closed at her breast, to make her way to the front. She stepped towards a constable and spat into his face. Kit noticed the sergeant's hand lift to his mouth to hide a smile, just a little too late. The woman moved towards the body.

Tom and Kit stood and stepped away. 

“Oh, Polly.” The woman sank to her knees. “My darling girl. Why? Why? She wouldn’t harm no one. Not Polly. She's a good girl.”

Kit turned from the pitiful sight to the stern-looking sergeant, standing with his arms crossed and yawning as he tilted his face to the stars. She strode to where he stood and glared at him, daring him to meet her eyes with his.

“You must be so displeased at this little interruption to your night’s slumber, Sergeant. Are you going to do something this time? Why not start by asking the people here if they saw or heard anything?”

“I don’t tell you how to nurse, don’t tell me how to police. I’ll conduct my investigation all in my own good time.”

“She’s not a whore, Sergeant. She was that woman’s daughter.” Kit pointed to the woman sobbing with her cheek resting on the bare shoulder of the body. “She deserves to know what happened to her daughter and she's going to see someone hang for it.”

“Constables,” he shouted over Kit’s head. “Don’t let anyone leave before you’ve questioned them. Now, Mrs Monahan.” He leaned his face close to hers “You’ve done your job, now piss off and let me do mine.” He bumped her shoulder as he passed and made his way towards the crowd. The two constables, their eyes to the ground, touched their hat before Kit, and scurried off after him.

Tom stood by and watched the mother grieve before he gently took her by an arm and led her towards the warmth of the cottage. Before following them, Kit paused to watch a constable place a bed sheet over the body.

When Kit entered the cottage, Ginny dropped her mop and bucket and ran to her side.

“No one’s safe here anymore Kit; not you, not me, not the girls, not anyone.”

After leaving the grieving woman on a seat by the fire, Tom strode over to where the two women stood. He lifted his chin and stiffened.

“Starting tomorrow, I’m going to move the last of the sick people into here and lock all the single women in the other cottage for the night. They can stay under curfew from dusk till dawn. I won't listen to a word of argument."

“I think that’s a good idea,” Kit said.

“I thought you would disagree.”

“Before the attacks I would have, but now… well, as Ginny says, none of us are safe. Those three men that call themselves policemen are utterly useless and unless we do something, more of us will be harmed.”

Ginny, standing between the two, nodded hard in agreement.

“In the meantime, I think you, Ginny and the girls should stay in here. There’s spare stretchers over by the fire.”

“Thank you, sir,” Ginny said. “I’ll take you up on that offer.” She walked away carrying her damaged arm close to her torso and accepted the mop offered to her by Lizzy.

The dead woman’s mother sat by the fire, rocking and muttering to herself. Some of the patients propped themselves on their elbows and watched her silently from their stretchers.

“She won’t take tea, nor keep a blanket wrapped around her frail bones,” Margaret said softly to Kit. “I fear that upon seeing the work of the devil, he has possessed her himself.”

“She’s in shock, of that there is no doubt. She can’t be left alone. There must be one of us watching her at all times.”

“I can’t sleep for the fear of what’s out there myself, so I’ll watch her through the remainder of the night. You and Clara get some rest.”

“No, but I’ll sit with you by the fire.”

The two women pulled chairs over to the fire as Lizzy and Clara made themselves comfortable in the spare stretchers.

The dead woman’s mother seemed not to notice their presence. She shouted into the flames, “Be gone, Satan! Thy Lord is by thy side." 

Kit left the cottage at first light and headed for the place where the body was found. She pushed back the branches of the surrounding bushes, peering into their very cores. Apart from the dried blood, there was no evidence a murder was committed and no evidence of the killer’s identity.

Several days passed and an abnormal hush remained at the station. Women hurried past men they didn't know and single men stopped dipping their hats to the ladies out of fear of attracting attention. Under curfew, the women began quarrelling with each other from day two, and Kit and Margaret found themselves acting as peacemakers amongst the group. On the morning of day four, Kit made her way back to her tent to fetch her belongings to shower before curfew. A distraught young lad stopped her outside and grasped her arm.

“You have to come, Miss. I think she’s hurt. She won’t say anything to me.”

“Where, boy? Show me.”

“This way, Miss. Down on the beach.”

Kit picked up her skirts and followed the boy to the beach. Near the water’s edge lay a young aboriginal woman, half naked and face down on the sand. Kit knelt beside her.

“Help me roll her over,” she demanded of the boy.

The boy placed his hand under her shoulder and rolled her into Kit’s arms.

“Oh my God!” gasped Kit. She cupped her hand to her mouth. She carefully lifted the woman’s head onto her lap and pushed wet hair from her face.

The woman blew bubbles of blood as she tried to speak. The seeping black holes in her gums marked where several of her front teeth had once been. The wound to her chest sickened Kit to the point where she wanted to leave her and run. One of the woman’s breasts had been sliced from her body. Kit wondered how she had been able to cling to life at all, or even that she might want to.

“Go and fetch Doctor Walker and tell him to bring two men and a stretcher.” The boy stood still and watched on, eyes wide and fearful. “Didn’t you hear me, boy? Run!” He turned and ran as though the devil himself were chasing him.

“Can you hear me?” she asked the woman. “Who did this to you?”

“Big man,” she muttered.

Kit tore a piece of cloth from her skirts and held it to the wound on her chest.

“I’ve sent for help from the hospital. You’re going to be all right.”

The noise of a spear jabbing into the sand behind Kit startled her.

“She’s not going to no white man’s hospital,” Barungerin said.

He stood amidst a small group of men and women.

Kit quickly traced their footsteps in the sand back to the bushes and wondered how they had managed to be standing so close to her without her ever hearing their approach.

“She needs proper medical care. We can give that to her.”

“We can give her that too. It was one of your people that did this to her, she better being with us.”

“How do you know it was a white man?”

“If our people do this, we . . . ” Barungerin ran a finger across his neck. “No one ever do this to woman.”

Two men broke from the group and grabbed an arm and leg each and carried her away.

Barungerin scowled angrily at Kit. “If we find out who did this, he get the same punishment as our men.” He turned and trudged after the group who soon disappeared into the salt bush.

Tom and two men with a stretcher appeared on the beach and stumbled slowly towards Kit. They stood for a moment with their hands resting on their knees before Tom offered his hand to Kit and helped her from the sand.

“It was him. He did it again. But it was much worse this time. He tortured her. I didn’t want them to take her. She’ll die.”

“There’s nothing more we can do. She’s with her people. It’s better that way.” Kit stepped into Tom’s arms. He pressed her hard against him as though trying to protect her from everything imaginable. The two men turned and began making their way from the beach. “It’s you I’m worried about. I don’t know how to keep you safe.”

“Keep me close to you, as close as you can.”

“Then marry me, Kit. You and Clara can live with me. This is no place for a single woman and a young girl.”

She peered up at him. “Maybe you’re right.”

“Then, you’ll marry me?”

“I will think about it.”


© Copyright 2022 Miranda J Taylor. All rights reserved.

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