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Ruth Cogan’s amazing life on the Atherton Tablelands of Far North Queensland is filled with tragedy after her husband is killed and her son dies from a drug overdose.

From stolen gold to the murder of young aboriginals, this dramatic story climaxes with Ruth and her two friends pursuing drug dealers to Sydney.

Whilst the book is fiction, it has a ring of truth that can happen anywhere at any time!

 

In Store Price: $AU21.95 
Online Price:   $AU20.95

ISBN: 1-9208-9990-2
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 209
Genre:  Fiction
 


Cover art: Janelle Tibbertsma

 

 

Author: Freda Ellis 
Imprint: Zeus
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2004
Language: English

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

 

Freda Myers Ellis was born and educated in Yorkshire, England. She married Joseph Ellis and had three children.  Freda taught in schools in England and Australia after emigrating with her husband and son in 1969.  Freda now resides on Queensland’s Gold Coast and has had several poems published and also broadcast.  She is a member of Gold Coast Writers

PROLOGUE 

 

RUTH 

Tragedy after tragedy follows Ruth, but she bounces back, getting more and certain she’ll get her revenge. 

KATY 

Irish colleen full of life and fun, which invariably gets her into difficult situations, but her kind Irish heart always sees her through. 

DIANE 

Comes from a wealthy family.  Good education, trendy holidays and friends, but married to a playboy who finally gets his desserts. 

These three unlikely women become involved in a dangerous and death-threatening incident, which only by a miracle, they escape with their lives.

                 

FOREWARD  

 

The incredible, devastating, suffocating heat.

My hair was saturated. Salty sweat trickled down my cheeks and down the back of my neck. It was intolerable.

The few clothes I was wearing were firmly stuck to me. I'd swallowed numerous glasses of water and taken salt tablets.

The air conditioning was on and the fans swirling at full blast above my head.

The kookaburras and the cockatoos were happily stuffing themselves and dropping seeds all over the garden.

Bougainvillea and the tropical hibiscus bravely waved their dazzling orange and purple blossoms towards the blazing sun.

She would defeat them. She always did. By lunchtime they would be shriveled up and dead.

It was a cruel climate but it also had the power to hold and devour you. Eventually you surrendered and became part of this land. The Tablelands held me enthralled. I knew I would never leave.

Tourists arrived every day in buses and cars from Cairns to see the tea, coffee, rice and tobacco plantations, also the mountains, the volcanic craters and the amazing wild life.

The Tablelands certainly looked like the Garden of Eden, but it held many secrets.

I had merely unraveled one of them.

 

Chapter 1 (part sample)

  

“Good Morning…good morning. You lucky people enjoying life in the tropics."

The radio blared on echoing in the background. I turned towards the cupboard in the kitchen and put my breakfast dishes away. I must get down to my writing, I'd promised a poem for our St. Patrick's Day party. Ruth would be over. That was inevitable. Her visits were becoming more frequent. I couldn't be rude to her. I really wanted to get to know the people, but I needed some privacy to do my writing. I was a newcomer and my immediate neighbours were charming. I hardly saw them. They were as busy as I would like to be. Ruth was different. She visited me at least three times a day armed with fruit, preserves, pickles and the hot favourite of everyone, the lamingtons. I'd tried to repay her, but I was fighting a losing battle. This merely incurred more.   

However, as the days passed I discovered the real Ruth and without exaggeration, she was the most shocking gossip I had ever had the misfortune to meet. She hadn't one good word to say about the neighbours or anyone else. I doubt she ever heard one word I said. Her only interest was watching and imparting gossip. The minute she entered my house she made her way over to the window to watch the neighbours. She missed nothing.

Finally I had a brainwave. I would write about the Tablelands. I gave her a coffee and settled her down. "Ruth…I am writing an article about the Tablelands. Could you tell me about life here when you were a teenager and show me the comparisons from then until today?" Strangely Ruth became eager and excited to help me. I must admit it took a very long time because she still made her excursions to the window, but eventually I managed to get the most amazing story from Ruth. Ruth had a very lurid past. She certainly surprised me.

Ruth Cogan had three brothers and one sister. They had always lived just a short distance from Mareeba. They had a small property and were a very close family. At fifteen Ruth had left school and her parents got her a live-in position at the Convent in Mareeba. Her duties were to help Sister Concepta with the cooking and the cleaning. Sister Concepta was an excellent cook, and. Ruth was well trained. She was also very happy there. The sisters were a cheerful crowd. They were kind to her and she had her own room.

It was just two years later that her parents told her they were moving to Ingham. Her father had sold the property. It had been so dry the last two years and the year before the cyclone had ruined all their crops. It was impossible for him to provide for this family. He had taken a position on a large cattle station and a house was included. Ruth took one look at their glowing faces and decided she also would like a change.

The nuns were all very nice, but life was rather dull for Ruth. The sisters were sorry to see her go. They all turned up to wave them off and cheer them on their way.

It was a very tired and bedraggled family that finally arrived in Ingham. Mr. Cogan had been worried that the old truck would not make it, but it did. As soon as they entered the town they pulled over and all got out to stretch their legs. A tall, spare man was busily unloading a truck and Mr. Cogan went over to him and asked him if he could direct them to the Henderson’s property. He said he would be delighted and if they could wait a few minutes, he was going out that way and he could show them.

They discovered later that everyone called him 'The Pommie". He had an English accent, but they all liked him because he had a great sense of humour. Everything was fine until they reached the house they were to live in.

Their mother was in shock. It had two bedrooms and a very small room. Their parents had one bedroom, the boys squeezed into the other and Ruth and her sister Rachel, tried to manage in the small room. After supper mother gathered them all around her. "Ruth and Rachel my dears, I am afraid we shall need the small room for young Peter and that will mean you two girls will have to find live‑in positions until we can at least start to build on extensions." They all agreed. There was no alternative. Rachel was now sixteen and quickly found a position with a good family in Townsville. Her mother took her there and was very happy with the family.

The problem was Ruth. There was only one position in the paper for someone older. This was for a home help. She insisted on going out by herself and if she were suitable, she would stay. Her father, by now friendly with the 'pom' asked him if he would take her out there. He agreed, but he did not seem at all happy about it.

At last they arrived and Ruth asked him if he would wait in case she didn't get it. He nodded, but didn't say another word. She went inside and the man asked her if she had brought her clothes with her. She nodded and he marched out and called out to the 'pommie'. "You can go. She is staying." Ruth watched him drive away without a word and thought it was all very strange.

A hard‑nosed German, Herman Gotleibe owned the place. She didn't know they had gone through four girls in the past two years. She didn't like the atmosphere one bit, but it would do for the present. She could look for something else on her half day off. She was depressed when he showed her to her room.

It was not in the house, but above the cowshed and stables. The room contained an old dressing table with a mildewed, cracked mirror, a rickety old chair, two wire coat hangers and a single bed with a flock mattress. There was a pillow without a pillowslip and an army blanket on top. Ruth whispered, "Home sweet home". She could hardly believe her eyes. She next met Gerda, Herman's wife. There were six children and Gerda was around seven months pregnant. She certainly looked stressed out and weary.

Ruth was not allowed to eat with the family. She soon discovered her place was in the kitchen. The family had butter on their bread. Ruth had dripping. She didn't really mind the dripping except at teatime when she managed to sneak a spoonful of jam. The dripping did not go down well with the jam.

She had to be up at five am to light the stove, cook the breakfast, put up the children's school lunches and then dash along to milk the cows. When she mentioned her afternoon off she was smartly told she would have to be there a month before she could have that. Life was becoming a misery to Ruth. She had so little to eat and the work was sheer drudgery

At the end of the month she asked Gerda about her afternoon off. Gerda paced the room, the unborn child heaving up and down.

"No…no…you no have time off. I no look after childer. You must."

Ruth was furious. "I must see your husband. This is ridiculous."

"No…no…" she yelled “please he be very angry." Gerda was almost in tears. So Ruth left it another week.

It was eight thirty and Thursday. Sauerkraut night and Ruth was putting away the dishes. She hated sauerkraut and most of all cooking it. Herman always complained and said she did not make it properly. She knew this was true. Hadn't Sister Concepta always told her that if your heart wasn't in it, you never made a good job of anything? It was the preparing of it she hated most. Chopping up the onions and the bacon she did not mind. It was that evil smelling tin of sauerkraut. It made her sick. She never ate it.

She had just put the dishes away when Herman appeared at the door. He looked at Ruth then down at the floor. She'd scrubbed it only that morning but he'd stomped in with his filthy boots and she'd had no time to clean it up 

He was in a vile mood. One of his calves had died and she knew he was about to take it out on her. "'This floor is filthy," he yelled,  "what I pay you for girl?" He puffed out his cheeks. "Get down and do it now. Do you hear? I not pay you for nothing." Ruth was almost in tears. She hadn't the strength to argue with him. Wearily she dragged out the bucket and scrubbing brush and started on the kitchen floor. Her head ached, her knees ached. In fact she ached all over. By the time Ruth had finished and staggered to her room it was after ten o'clock. She was so weary she just fell onto her bed without undressing and fell fast asleep.

She awoke next morning to the sun streaming into her room. It was six o'clock. She had forgotten to put her alarm on. Herman would hit the roof. She raced into the kitchen and lit the stove and prepared the breakfast. As soon as she heard Herman's heavy tread coming down the steps she fled outside to milk the cows. Her head was spinning. She'd not had a morsel of food since the previous lunchtime.

She had just reached the last cow when she noticed a mug hanging on a hook near the door. Quickly she hurried over and brought it over to the cow. Squeezing its udder she filled the mug and greedily drank it down. She was just savoring the last drops when Herman's voice bellowed out at her.

"Got in 'eaven girl," he almost choked, "you thieving slut. Now I see why milk quota is down. You steal da milk and you haf not put childer's lunch up." He was livid. His face was scarlet. "I stop your wages. You pay for this girl."

Ruth's calm suddenly left her. She shot off the stool and faced him.

"You mean, greedy bastard. You work me like a slave and you don't feed me. I haven't had a half-day off in six weeks. I've had it mate, you can get another mug." She started for the steps to her room, but he grabbed her and twisted her round.

"Get back to the kitchen and make lunches and take childer to school." 

"You're hurting me you rotten brute. Let go of me," yelled Ruth. His eyes blazing, he started shaking her. Ruth felt really scared.

"You do as I say woman. What I pay you for?" He was spitting as he stormed.

For the first time, Ruth sensed real danger and her animal instinct took over. Up came her knee. Slam - bang. Right into his groin. He groaned with agony, then slumped to the ground. He certainly hadn't expected that from her, but what now? He was rising and he looked positively evil.

Just in time Ruth noticed the spade and grabbed it. He'd taken one step towards her when she raised it and let him have it. His eyes blurred as he sank back to the ground. Ruth took one look at the blood spurting from his head, then fled upstairs and picked up her few belongings. She must not forget her five weeks pay. It was in her top drawer. She knew she was going to need it.

Back down the steps she ran, took a quick look at Herman, then hurried out of the door. She hadn't one ounce of pity for him. He deserved it. She hoped he was dead.

As she made her way past the house Gerda came outside.

"Where you go Ruth?" she called, "childer’s lunches not done. Where you go?”

"I've quit," called back Ruth "you can put them up yourself and take them to school. I've had it!"

She ran down the drive and out onto the lane gasping for breath. She hadn't gone far when she heard the truck coming.

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