PAPERBACK BOOKS
NORTHERN ASSIGNMENT

northern
 

Northern Assignment follows the ongoing adventures of Brian Kelso. With a reputation that precedes him, this partly retired investigator receives a call from an old mate, Alan Cowden, who wants him to go to Melbourne to investigate the sudden disappearance of a good friend’s daughter.  

Carmelita is a 16 year old who has been brought up by an over-protective mother and a strict father who owns a nightclub. When smooth-talking Tony, a cunning criminal, sweeps her off her feet, she runs away with him. Little does she know that Tony is involved with two marijuana plantations in North Queensland and that he plans to kill her. 

With the help of an ex-colleague at the Atherton Police, Kelso tracks her down and a dramatic climax plays out where Carmelita learns the hard way that a sex-only relationship is meaningless. 

This story has been described as a tear-jerker that also portrays some thrilling drama-filled moments. 

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ISBN:   978-1-921919-33-6
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 214
Genre: Fiction

Cover - Clive Dalkins

Author: John Meskell
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2013
Language: English

Books by the same author 

UFO’s Food for Thought

Murder without Reason

Neurotic Predator Unmasked

Gross, Unethical Conduct

The Dragon’s Breath

Calypso Queen

 

 

–CHAPTER ONE–

  

Autumn was beginning to bring in cooler winds when Reginald Brian Kelso, private investigator extraordinaire, with a thriving practice in Toowoomba, Queensland, received a phone call from a friend of his in Melbourne.

‘Hi, Reg, a blast from the past from an old comrade in arms. This is Alan Cowden – do you remember me?’

Kelso was genuinely pleased to hear from this old friend, a man who had entertained him on many occasions when he was in Victoria on various police matters and who was attached to the Melbourne Major Crime Squad as a Detective Sergeant.

‘It’s great to hear from you, Alan. When do you think you might poke your nose up this way, so I can reciprocate for your wonderful hospitality you showed me when I was in Melbourne?’

‘Well, I’d like to, especially at this time of the year. Believe me, it’d freeze the balls off you here at the moment. But at this point in time a trip up your way into warmer conditions is not on for me, unfortunately. But how’d you like a trip to Melbourne for a couple of days with all expenses paid? I might have a job for you that I believe would be a piece of cake for a man of your capabilities if you’re interested,’ said Cowden.

‘What do I have to do, kill some bastard?’ Kelso laughed.

‘No, nothing as dodgy as that. I have a good friend whom you’ve met on a couple of occasions with me – he has some domestic problems and it would seem those troubles may have crept into Queensland.

‘He read in the newspapers down here about your exploits with that young fellow wrongly accused of murder and the Supreme Court judge scenario. He asked me to contact you and inquire if you’re interested in looking into a matter for him. Of course, as you can imagine, journalists down here have gone completely ape shit over you and the fiasco surrounding the judge. You’d know the routine: who you are and all that stuff, and no doubt you’d know what they’re like – anything for a story.

And in fact what his old friends Alan Cowden was telling him was an actual reality for journalists being active and gifted as they are, and always on the lookout for a good story to prop up their names in the literary field, swooped onto the circumstances of this grave and extremely deceitful investigation like a plague of blowflies on a piece of meat when it was discovered, a young man had been wrongly convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a woman and her daughter. A frustrated grieving and desperate parents with no where else to turn sought an audience with Reginald Kelso a well known and respected Private Investigator in their city of Toowoomba in an effort to induce him to look further into the their cause. To Kelso, at first it had all the earmarks of an almost impossible task but there was something that caused him to inform the parents he would look into the matter.

Kelso’s initial investigations turned up some very interesting and embarrassing matters concerning the conviction of this young man and subsequently a humble Government was forced to free the young man from prison and at the same time, paid out the sum of two million dollars to the aggrieved party. The whole and disgraceful scenario made headlines in newspapers throughout Australia, New Zealand and other countries throughout the world and most importantly, in the Melbourne Newspapers  

‘Anyhow, our good friend down here is desperately looking for someone who can use a bit of discretion with his problem and I’ve suggested that you might be just the solution he needs.’

 ‘Thanks for the compliment, Alan. If he’s a friend of yours of course I’ll have a look into it. But I want you to know one thing: I won’t touch divorce matters under any circumstances if that’s his problem.’

 ‘No, no, nothing like that. It’s concerning his daughter who’s cleared out from home and is up there somewhere in Queensland,’ Cowden explained.

‘Alright, I can get down there late on Friday at about 5pm – can you meet me at the airport?’

 

When he was a Detective Sergeant with the Queensland State Police Service Kelso had built up a fearsome reputation and was like a festering sore always bobbing up at the wrong time just as criminals were about to become actively engaged in some nefarious activity.

He was a big man standing over two metres tall and weighing in at about 110 kilograms, superbly fit despite a previous cigarette habit, and training regularly each day to maintain his fitness. He was a continual topic of conversation amongst his working peers and because of his uncanny ability to knock about he had an outstanding network of informants.

His fearless approach in tough matters caused others to gossip with jealousy about his methods and many resented his influence with notable criminals, which he had built up over his career.

It had been a practice of his never to betray anyone who confided in him – passing him information he was seeking. It was a reputation Kelso had built up over a decade of time that he never went back on his word and consequently he became respected and trusted by many members of the underworld. While he was scrupulously fair with anyone he had dealings with, at the same time it was well and truly understood by all that nobody crossed ‘the big fella.’

Kelso’s downfall came about in quite extraordinary circumstances. Previously he had solved some big household burglaries involving millions of dollars in jewellery and money. At the time of each burglary the huge homes concerned had been fitted with the latest sophisticated, electronic alarm systems, yet access was gained with money and jewellery being stolen.

Early one morning the Brisbane Mobile Patrols picked up a criminal under suspicious circumstances and Kelso was called in to talk with the suspect, whom he knew. Because the man was able to tell Kelso who the jewel thieves were, he was not charged with being a suspected person as he probably should have been, but was let off instead.

Much later when Kelso had been transferred to Toowoomba in charge of the Criminal Investigation Branch his informant had been found murdered, shot to death in a car at Mooball in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales.

Police in that state arrested the murderer who turned out to be the brother of one of the jewel thieves, who had murdered Kelso’s informant in an act of revenge. In a routine fingerprint check the informant’s prints were matched to those found in four houses broken into prior to the night the police had found him wandering in the streets.

It was the chance of a lifetime for Kelso’s enemies within the hierarchy of the Queensland Police Department and they homed in on this information with fiendish glee, arguing that Kelso would have known about these minor burglaries.

And, even if he didn’t, he had been grossly negligent and should have checked with the fingerprint section to make sure. At last they now had something concrete to attack him with and perhaps have him sacked for incompetence.

However, Kelso also had many friends in the hierarchy who argued strenuously that no action should be taken against him because of his outstanding record and service to society. With the present Commissioner at the time being his number one enemy, for whatever reason, unknown to Kelso, he was subsequently given a ruthless alternative: resign with all entitlements or be sacked with nothing.

Try as he might, Kelso could not rally any support to suppress the decision, so with a heavy heart he capitulated and resigned from a job he had virtually given his life to. He had many good friends within the hierarchy of the Police Department, whose hands were tied when it came to assisting him in this crisis, for those friends were simply outnumbered by the new regime creeping into the system.

But that was not to be the final hurrah with the Police Department. Several years later, after he had established himself as a competent private investigator in Toowoomba, a middle-aged couple paid him a visit at his office requesting him to look into their son’s conviction for the double murder of a woman and her daughter in the suburb of Mount Gravatt, Brisbane.

They were convinced he did not commit the murders and after speaking with them Kelso became very curious about the matter. Subsequently, because of his intervention which caused the matter to be reopened for investigation, the young man was freed from prison after serving over two years for a crime he did not commit.

The embarrassed Queensland State Government paid out a compensation of two million dollars to the man for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment. Later, the grateful family generously rewarded Kelso for his services.

 

On Friday evening Alan Cowden was there to meet Kelso at Tullamarine airport. They motored through Melbourne city before continuing along Queens Road to St Kilda where Cowden pulled into a vehicle reception area in front of one of St Kilda’s biggest hotels, where he had booked a room for Kelso.

After collecting the keys they took the elevator to the eleventh floor. Kelso’s room was spacious, with a king-size bed, a lounge, refrigerator, and one of the biggest and most magnificent bathrooms he had ever seen.

Kelso smiled broadly; it was perfect accommodation with a majestic view of Melbourne looking out towards Port Phillip Bay and Hobson’s Bay to the right.

‘I’m going to have a quick shower and change my clothes,’ he chortled, immensely pleased with the arrangements. He emerged from the bathroom a short time later, dressed in a long-sleeved, red casual shirt and long dark trousers with slip-on shoes and socks. From his luggage he chose a beige sports coat.

Cowden drove four kilometres to the ‘Que’ nightclub in Richmond and Kelso’s interest quickened. He knew the owner of this particular establishment, an Australian-Italian named Constanino Tuskini whom Kelso had met on several occasions when he was on duty with the police service in Melbourne.

When Tuskini sighted Kelso he was overjoyed. ‘Long time no see, Reg,’ he said, shaking his hand warmly. ‘I’ve been reading about you in the newspapers and how you were responsible for a young man being released from prison after being gaoled for two murders he didn’t commit. Alan tells me you’ve resigned from the police and have your own private investigation business in Toowoomba. I never knew that and I’ve never been there, what’s it like?’

‘Well,’ said Kelso smiling, ‘it’s a wonderful city – gets a bit cold in winter but being situated at the top of the Great Dividing Range that’s to be expected. Still, it’ll do me.’

Tuskini nodded excitedly with his dark eyes sparkling. ‘Ah, my friend, I think I’m going to need your help. But first let’s eat then I’ll tell you about my problem,’ he said as he guided them to a table.

When they finished their meal the red wine continued to flow and Tuskini sat back and lit up a cigar. Kelso was absolutely craving for a cigarette and his host lighting up a cigar did not make it any easier for him but with renewed determination he dismissed the urge from his mind.

Instead he leaned over the table and said, ‘Well, Con, the meal was delicious. Now you’d better tell me about your troubles and I’ll see if I can help.’

‘Well, it’s hard to know where to start,’ replied Tuskini worriedly. ‘I guess a lot of it’s my fault, or my wife continually tells me it is,’ he said, running his hand through his receding hair.

Kelso interrupted him, ‘Con, I want you to understand one thing – since the release from gaol of young Landers up in Queensland for murders he didn’t commit I have been inundated with work. I recognise quite a lot of it has eventuated from publicity I have been fortunate enough to receive but to me that doesn’t matter for so far as you’re concerned. It’s now payback time for the hospitality you have extended to me on many occasions during many of my visits to Melbourne, when I was with the Police Department. So you go ahead and tell me what your problem is and I promise I’ll do the best I can to help you.’

Tuskini cleared his throat nervously and began. ‘My daughter’s cleared out from home. Nothing new, I guess, in this day and age, but I don’t know where we’ve gone wrong, honestly I don’t. I’ve searched my brains for a reason and my wife is simply driving me insane with continued hysterical ravings. Carmelita’s only sixteen. I believe she’s somewhere near Cairns in North Queensland,’ he said, obviously distressed.                      

‘How long has she been gone?’ Kelso asked.

‘About a month now. When my wife came home from a church meeting she found Carmelita was gone. Some of her clothing was missing together with one of her suitcases. I was here at my club when she phoned and you can imagine how I felt when she told me what she had discovered,’ he said despairingly.                    

‘Why do you say it could be your fault?’ asked Kelso.

Tuskini puffed hard on his cigar. ‘Well, Carmelita has reached that age where you can’t tell her anything. No doubt you’ve run into one or two of these young ladies during your experience, where the oldies don’t know anything about the scenario of modern-day goings-on.’

He sighed heavily before continuing. ‘In her opinion she knew everything there was to know about life. There were a few boys hanging around and I guess my paternal instinct came out and I wouldn’t let her go out at night when she wanted. When she was allowed out I imposed a curfew on her but according to her mother I was too strict.’

 He threw both arms up in the air in an act of despair, ‘What could I do? I was here at my club until the early hours most mornings. This place is our livelihood, our bread and butter, and I couldn’t be at home all the time watching her. My wife Margarita was always running to church meetings so I guess Carmelita didn’t get too much supervision.’ Tuskini sighed again and took a sip of red wine.

‘For your information I am married to a fanatical, church-mad, church-indoctrinated woman, always crossing herself and mumbling prayers. But don’t get me wrong, she’s been a wonderful mother to Carmelita and I couldn’t wish for a better wife, but this thing is splitting us apart. She’s just about out of her head with worry and of course I’ve been getting the blame for the whole thing.’

‘How do you know she’s gone up north to Queensland?’ Kelso inquired as he sipped his wine.

‘Alan found a girlfriend of Carmelita’s who’s received a letter from her,’ Tuskini replied.

‘Yeah, that’s right,’ said Cowden. ‘I’ve got the letter here.’

He handed the letter to Kelso who read the part where Carmelita requested her friend to keep her whereabouts secret. She wrote that she was at a place near Cairns and was enjoying herself. She would write again soon. He saw the envelope was postmarked Cairns.

‘There’s no doubt this is from her?’

‘It’s her writing alright,’ said Tuskini. ‘I’d know it anywhere.’ He pulled a photograph from his wallet. ‘This is a photo of her taken at her sixteenth.’

He took the photo from him. Wow, she’s a stunner, Kelso thought to himself. He studied the photograph. ‘Can I keep this?’

‘Sure,’ said Tuskini. ‘I’ve got more at home. I’ll get them for you if it’ll help.’

Kelso pocketed the photo. ‘Well, anything you can give me will be useful although she stands out like the proverbial lighthouse in a storm. Anyone who’s seen her should remember her.’

‘Does that mean you’re going to see if you can find her for me?’ Tuskini anxiously asked.

‘Sure,’ Kelso replied. ‘I’ve got a few connections up in North Queensland and if she’s there I believe there’s a good chance of turning her up.’ He refilled his glass. ‘If I do find her I’ll let you know where she is and what she’s doing.’

‘My good friend,’ Tuskini exclaimed. ‘All I want her to do is to come back home to us and if you do find her I earnestly beg you to please convince her to come home. Now I can tell her mother I’ve hired you to find her and that alone will ease what I’ve been going through, believe me.’

Kelso turned to Cowden. ‘What’s been happening regarding police inquiries?’

‘A report’s been sent to the Cairns police,’ replied Cowden, ‘with just about everything you’ve been told here tonight. That was a few weeks ago now but we haven’t heard back from them and I can only assume they haven’t been successful in locating her.’

‘Well, don’t get too excited about that, Alan. You know police procedures as well as I do. They’ll get around to having a look for her all in good time. She’s sixteen and only a missing person at this point. There’s nothing urgent, is there? For instance, she’s not suicidal or in danger or in a situation that could be life-threatening?’

‘When you look at it like that the answer is no, as far as we know,’ said Cowden. ‘I’d thought of that and that’s one of the main reasons why I suggested to Con that he should engaged you to track her down. You might be able to do it a lot quicker.’

‘Well, I guess you’re lucky that the Landers/Hardkendal affair is now well and truly over and I have a bit of time on my hands. If she’s there I’ll find her,’ Kelso said confidently.

 

The next morning Cowden arrived at the hotel early to pick up Kelso and drive him out to Con Tuskini’s palatial old home overlooking Port Philip Bay in Beach Road, Sandringham.

On arrival they drove straight through open double wrought-iron gates and along the driveway to the front of the house. Cowden rang the doorbell and a middle-aged, attractive woman dressed in slacks and a blue striped T-shirt opened the door. Her eyes crinkled as her smile welcomed them. From her dark hair and brown eyes, Kelso knew he was looking at Tuskini’s wife; her resemblance to Carmelita’s photograph was remarkable.

Cowden introduced them. ‘This is my friend from Queensland, Reg Kelso. He’s a private investigator and Con’s hired him to try and find Carmelita.’

Margarita smiled radiantly. ‘Ah, Mr Kelso, Con has told me all about you. We have been driven almost insane with the worry of our daughter. Please help us,’ she implored as her smile crumpled.

Tuskini appeared from inside the house. ‘How about some coffee? Come on, Margarita, get cracking with some coffee and something to eat,’ he said to jolly her along.

Kelso could see Tuskini’s concern for his wife. Although he had been the proprietor Que Nightclub for the past twenty years, which sometimes included an illegal casino, illegal liquor distribution and a place some of the ‘girls of the night’ traded from, he still loved his wife. Despite the warnings from his doctor Tuskini liked to drink brandy and smoke big cigars. Generally, though, he ran a clean place and there was never much cause for the police to go there officially.

His establishment had a name of being a ‘Coppers’ Club’ but he didn’t mind that as it kept unsavoury people out of his nightclub. He took great pleasure in entertaining interstate detectives, who came to his restaurant from time to time with their Melbourne counterparts, and that was how he had first met Kelso.

Tuskini had gained a reputation of being a gambler and there were always several games being run out the back of his restaurant for those in the know. He was never known to welsh on a deal no matter how large the bet was. Consequently the licensing police also got to hear about his activities and continually checked him out. Unsmiling, unfriendly men, who looked through his books and searched his premises, finding nothing, and leaving as stony-faced as they were when they first arrived. Tuskini knew, however, that without a convenient tip-off received from one of the hierarchy now and then he would have been prosecuted.

Tuskini had many friends in the police including those in the hierarchy, whose palms he greased for protection now and then. He could see nothing wrong with that; after all, it was like paying for insurance and the pay-off was very small compared to what he made from his gambling. He made a few enemies from opposition clubs and some people were forcibly ejected from time to time.

Margarita, on the other hand, was the complete opposite to him and never went near the nightclub except for special occasions. Instead, she was avidly engaged in church socials and functions to which she devoted most of her time. She regularly attended church and despite her attempts she could not motivate Con to go with her.

The lack of interest on the part of her husband was probably the only serious arguments they ever had. He had made it quite clear, time and time again, that he did not care how heavily involved she became in church matters or what she did for the church so long as her plans did not include him.

 

With her parents’ absence from home Carmelita was able to get out of the house as often as she liked and knew almost to the minute when her father and mother were to arrive home. She was in her final year at high school, an average student and popular with her friends.

One night when she was out with her companions at a milk bar she met Anthony Page and became infatuated with him. Foolish and impetuous, spoilt to the extreme, Carmelita fancied herself as being real cool and believed there was not too much about life that she did know about.

She had no way of knowing that Page was not a trainee manager for an oil company in Melbourne as he made himself out to be but was looked upon by Melbourne detectives as a half-baked criminal known to them as a would-be-if-he-could-be and nothing more than a punk, to better describe him.

However, Carmelita now formed an intricate part of Page’s future plans. He placed her in the category of a lonely, lovesick young fool craving for attention. He knew her father was wealthy and lived in a flash home at Sandringham and he intended to use her to his full advantage. But in the early stages he did not know how he was going to work out his scheme.

When he and Carmelita became intimately involved he intended to keep it that way and believed if he could dangle her on the string for a few more years maybe her father might have to accept him into his family. It was Page’s ambition to one day become a person of means and it was the one barrier in society he would love to crack. Now he saw Carmelita as the key to breaking down that barrier.

One Wednesday evening he picked Carmelita up outside her home in Sandringham and it was not until 11pm when Margarita arrived home that night to find her missing. At first her mother did not suspect anything was amiss but after another half an hour went by she began to have feelings of anxiety. She went to Carmelita’s bedroom where she discovered a suitcase and clothing were missing. Margarita felt nauseous, went hot and cold all over, and in a panic phoned her husband at the nightclub.

Kelso went with Alan Cowden to a shop at Brighton Beach not far from where the Tuskinis lived. They spoke with a young woman named Pamela Beveridge who was Carmelita’s close friend.

‘Hi, Pam, this is a friend of mine from Queensland. He’s a private investigator and Carmelita’s father has obtained his services to try and find her. As you would be no doubt aware her parents are in a terrible state of distress about her clearing out from home. Will you help us and tell him what you know?’ Cowden asked.

‘Yes, sure, that’s cool, Mr Cowden.’

 Kelso smiled at her. ‘My name’s Reg Kelso, Pam, just call me Reg. What can you tell me about Carmelita’s trip to North Queensland? Any little thing at all that might help find her.’

‘Well, I haven’t heard from Carmelita since she wrote a letter to me, which I gave to Mr Cowden, but if she gets in contact with me again, like I said, I’ll tell Mr Cowden.’   

‘Pam, did Carmelita have a boyfriend?’ asked Kelso, watching the girl closely.

For a moment she looked uncomfortable, and then shrugged.

‘Well, yes, she did, although I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone. I liked Carmelita, she was a real friend. We shared our secrets but I’ve got no allegiance to him. Frankly, I can’t see what Carmelita ever saw in him and to be truthful I think he’s a terrible creep. She told me she was in love with him, can you believe that? I know he’s the person who she went away with because I saw her just before she left and she was all dopey about this pending trip. She went on and on about Tony and how much she loved him and what a wonderful time they were going to have together.’

Kelso and Cowden exchanged a look.

‘Do you know Tony’s surname, Pam?’ asked Kelso.

‘Tony – Anthony Page is his full name.’

‘What about sexual relations with this Tony Page, did she say anything about that?’ Kelso asked in a quiet voice.

‘She told me they were jumping into the bunk together all the time. Of course, Carmelita was sex mad. Insatiable, for want of a better word.’

According to Pam, Page was her first guy. ‘She told me Tony was adamant about using condoms and having safe sex and that made her feel secure. Her parents didn’t know about him and she kept that one big secret from them. Tony was frightened of her father and he had good reason to be. Carmelita told me her father could get anyone “fixed up” if he didn’t like them.’

‘What sort of a car did Tony Page have?’

‘It was a blue Kombi Volkswagen – I can’t remember what the number plates were but he was fanatical about keeping it washed and polished,’ Pam said. ‘I’ve got a photograph of it with him and Carmelita – would you like to see it?’                                    

‘I sure would,’ Kelso replied.

She went inside and came back with the photograph. He saw a tall, thinly built youth with long hair and silver rings in his ears and another through the skin over his right eyebrow.

Con would freak out if he saw this, Kelso thought. Definitely not Con Tuskini’s kettle of fish. Beside Page and looking coyly up into his face was Carmelita and he could see quite plainly the Victorian registration plate affixed go the Kombi.

‘Can I have this photograph, please, Pam? It might come in handy for me at a later date.’

‘Sure,’ she said. ‘I’m only sorry I haven’t got anything better for you, it’s the only one I had of his van.’

‘It’s better than nothing, Pam. Do you know who his friends were in North Queensland?’

‘No, and I don’t think Carmelita knew either.’

‘I’d like to thank you for talking with us, Pam. I don’t think there is anything more I need to know at this stage. If you hear from her again will you get in touch with my friend Mr Cowden?’

She nodded. ‘Sure, I said I would.’

They left her and drove back to the hotel to pick up Kelso’s luggage. ‘Well what do you reckon, Reg? Do you believe what she said?’

‘Why not?’ Kelso replied. She doesn't seem to like this Tony too much and gave me the feeling that she's concerned about Carmelita being in the company of this bloke. I believe it's a real good lead to work on and the photograph of this Tony together with the registered number of his Kombi Van is great material and just what I need to assist me. I’m glad Con hasn't seen this photograph, for you could back it in, he'd just about have a heart attack at the sight of Carmelita – looking wistfully up at her boyfriend. Cowden took him to the airport to catch his flight back to Queensland and at the airport he handed Kelso a large thick envelope.

‘This is from Con. There’s ten thousand dollars in the envelope to cover your expenses and if you need more there’s plenty available from the same source. He didn’t know if that was enough and felt a bit embarrassed so I told him I’d give it to you. I wish you luck, you have my office number and here’s my home number.’ He handed Kelso a slip of paper.

‘Will you check this registration number out for me and I’ll ring you from Toowoomba?’ said Kelso as he handed Cowden the registration number of the Volkswagen Kombi.

‘Sure thing. I’ll also check and see if Page has any previous convictions.’

 When Kelso boarded the aircraft and was seated, his active brain began to formulate impending action he would have to undertake. It had been a while since he had been to Cairns and he knew to undertake a successful investigation on behalf of his friend it would necessitate that he travel there.

 He knew his services were in heavy demand at various clubs and functions, not only in Toowoomba but in Brisbane and other places concerning the Landers/Hardkendal fiasco, and knew he would have to put those speeches he intended to make on hold for a few months, perhaps for six months, now he had decided to take on this North Queensland assignment. Contented he dozed off to sleep and was awakened by the hostess announcing their arrival in Brisbane.

 The first thing he noticed when he walked from the aircraft was the difference in temperature after being in Melbourne. It was much warmer in Brisbane and he was pleased to be home again.

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