Harry by R L Humphries - Read Online
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Harry Harrigan is a young Australian accountant who’s been forced to return to his rural hometown by his brutal father who threatens harm to his mother unless Harry comes to work for him. Harry is trapped but eventually fights his father and escapes Monaldo with his mother. He’s employed quickly by a big American company which trains him as a financial investigator and sends him off into the world, perhaps never to return to Australia, and leaving behind Sara, the love of his life, who’s trapped in an unhappy marriage.
He’s engaged in one of the company’s biggest investigations, in Europe, when he takes a recreational flight one Sunday, to relax. The engine on his light plane stops and Harry recalls vague rumours of an attempt on his life. He thinks of Sara as he drifts silently over the coast of Dover, far below…
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ISBN: 9781483506449
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Harry - R L Humphries

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Chapter One

As hangovers went, this one was up there with the best.

I opened one eye and then the other. I knew where I was—back in my old bedroom, in my father’s mansion, in my old home town of Monaldo. No, not that father’s mansion, although I felt ill enough to be knocking at the gates.

I could see my Mark Twain books, my aeroplane models hanging from the ceiling and an old cricket bat leaning in the corner. Yep, I was back home.

It had been quite a welcome home party last night at the Watsons’. I have no idea what time I got home. Luckily I could walk/stagger home and hadn’t had to drive. I didn’t have a car anyway. Nowhere was very far away in Monaldo.

I showered and walked very gently down the stairs to the kitchen. My mother, Una, was there, awaiting me, I guess. Her bruises and cuts had progressed, the bruises reaching the yellowing stage and her cuts nearly healed. But it was not a good look on a petite, pretty, russet-haired, sweet lady like my mother, especially in Monaldo.

These injuries were courtesy of my brute of a father, Mr. Leslie Harrigan, accountant and burgeoning alcoholic. My mother said he’d slapped her but I thought punches, myself. This was all beyond belief and beyond my tolerance.

That’s why I was here. I’d been enjoying the Good Life in Brisbane. I was only 23 but I was a top-notch accountant, soon to be promoted to partner; I was doing well in my various sports and I was The Great Lover in my part of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Life had been good.

Then my mother had appeared in Brisbane to display her injuries at my Aunt Faye’s house at Hamilton. I was angered and thought I’d do something about it sometime but then my mother announced that she planned to return to her bullying husband. She thought he might have learnt his lesson. Beg your pardon, Mother? Hell, she was naïve!

But it was the Scottish way—‘stand by your man’ and all that crap. Faye did her best to dissuade her. She was the second daughter of the late Sir Harry and Lady Patterson. Joyce did her best to dissuade her. She was the third daughter. They didn’t have these silly Celtic notions. Their husbands were good blokes but they wouldn’t have dared touch these two redoubtable ladies.

But apparently, my mother, the eldest, had soaked up all the Celtic beliefs available to Patterson bairns and had already booked her seat back on the plane. I had to wonder why she’d come down at all. Faye and Joyce urged me to let Una stew in it, if that was her attitude. She had millions of dollars of Pattersons money and could move to Brisbane at any time. But, sadly, I knew I couldn’t leave her at the mercy of my father. She was my mother, after all.

I resigned from my good job but told my employer I hoped to be back soon. I told my cricket club I’d be back soon too and paid two months’ rent on my flat.

I didn’t expect to be in Monaldo for long—just long enough to give my father a good belting with the warning to leave my mother alone, and to exercise some revenge for the razor strop and trouser belt thrashings he’d dealt out to me as a child. I had the scars to prove it.

But when I got home, no, not home—to Monaldo, Mr.Harrigan had departed to his favourite secret fishing spot on the coast. He’d been doing this ever since I could remember, departing when a sentimental or significant event was nigh. Christmas, birthdays and I guess anniversaries were all marked by his disappearance. Christmas was ok by me. We went to Faye’s, a lady of great beauty and fun, who made sure we all had a good time. I loved Faye and Rod. He’d been a fighter pilot in the Pacific war and so was up there at the top of my list of boyhood heroes.

When Una and I sat down to breakfast this particular hung-over morning she asked me whether I was ready for work at Harrigan and Co. tomorrow.

Hold on, Mother, I said. I’m only here to ensure your safety, not to work. I plan to be back in Brisbane in a few weeks.

Oh, Harry! I should have told you. That’s what this is all about. He got drunk one night, woke me and told me to bring you home to work in the practice. When I refused he punched me.

Ah! They were punches.

No way, Mother. I’m not working for that man, ever! I’m here to protect you is all. I’m really just going to wait for him to turn up, have a quiet word to him, and a punch-up if necessary and then I’m off back to the fleshpots.

Then I don’t think I’ll ever be safe, Harry. I’ll be at his mercy at any time if you’re not here.

Now here was a whole new tack. I felt I’d been conned, and by my own mother. I had to stay, she thought. Bugger my wishes and plans!

Well, I still thought a good towelling up would teach him a lesson.

I was confident of being able to cope with my father even though he’d learnt his fighting in the street gangs of Paddington—boots and razors. He was big and tough, thickset with a jutting jaw and aggression oozing from him. He was the master of the king-hit, punch without warning, even from behind. I knew from mates that he was greatly disliked and feared in Monaldo because he owned a large part of it and was a cold-minded money-lender who controlled a lot of farmers and businessmen. Well, I didn’t fear him and I was not proud to be his son.

How did this villain come to marry my petite, cultured mother, I hear you ask.

My father might have been in street gangs and all that but he was magnificent with figures. He dragged himself away from the gangs of Paddington and became a highly-qualified and very clever accountant in Brisbane… a bit like his son. My grandfather, Sir Harry Patterson, who’d founded and built up the octopus industrial and retail conglomeration, Pattersons Industries, favoured the young Harrigan for his tenacity and skill and invited him out to dinner at the family mansion at Hamilton. For such an astute man, Faye had told me, Sir Harry was pretty dumb as far as Harrigan was concerned. Faye, tall, blonde and beautiful, frightened Harrigan with her beauty and personality. Joyce, the athletic and outspoken one, also made him veer off. But Una, by now fearing the dreaded shelf, said yes after a short, gruff courtship.

As soon as they were wed, Mr. Harrigan by-passed the lavish reception, dumped Una in his Model A, still in her wedding dress, and drove off to distant Monaldo, hundreds of miles to the north-west at the foot of the Great Dividing Range. It took them four days over rough, unsealed roads and unsteady timber bridges. There he wanted to open his own practice and live as far away from the snobby Pattersons as he could get. He was a sort of Young Lochinvar, I suppose, Aussie version, with a Model A instead of a white steed. But he lacked the panache.

He sent Una to Brisbane to have me a couple of years later and was less than pleased to find me christened and registered as Harry when Mother and I returned. Well, he should have been there. Upon her return, my mother, then living in a small timber cottage, produced plans for the huge timber mansion that became Castle Harrigan, my eventual name for it. She also produced a rail ticket back to Brisbane for her use in the event of any default. Presumably I travelled free. I hope so.

Les broke all records in having the big house built.

Apart from the beltings, I’d had an idyllic bush childhood with Alan Barton and Lawrie Chandler. It was Lawrie who’d led me astray last night. I rarely drank enough to produce a hangover.

Then I was sent to a posh boarding school in Brisbane for four years, then six years of accountancy study and work—ten beautiful years away from my father, except for a few holidays in Monaldo.

Faye and her husband, Rod, took over my upbringing. They were childless and I spent every spare minute of leave from school with them. They taught me things Una and Les would never have dreamed of and were better off not knowing.

The only thing that drew me back to Monaldo was boxing. Les had thought I was a bit of a sissy as a kid and had delivered me to Tardy Bennett, a part aboriginal boxer who’d done alright as a pro, but had come back to Monaldo and set up a gym at the back of his house. He patiently taught me how to hit without being hit, and how to develop my puny muscles. I really liked Tardy. Boxing was big in our district and we had plenty of fights against kids from neighbouring towns—Elmsford 40 miles down the highway, Aranda a bit further along and Craig’s Crossing still further away. A lot of our opponents were aboriginal kids and were very difficult to beat.

I won a few and lost a few until I went to boarding school where I started to build up my weight and strength and then I was undefeated. That brought me back to Monaldo in the holidays to fight with new confidence and I won everything. I became known as a hard puncher who could move around quickly. I was quick because I didn’t like being hit. It hurt!

Now I was big and quick. I was confident I could handle my father, dirty Paddington fighting and all. The Old Bull and the Young Bull. But where was he?

I’ve digressed haven’t I?

So Mother and I, this Sunday morn of the hangover, sat having breakfast amicably until she mentioned my bodyguard role and then my late night. I gently told her I was a big boy now and to expect more of the same, as long as I was here.

Then I went for a jog—a big one to shake off this hangover. I was going to cover the whole town to see what had changed, and to sweat hard.

Now a word about my beloved home town… beloved, despite my father. It had a population of about 4000 people and was draped over Monaldo Hill, which was one of the western foothills of the Great Divide. It was a dairying town with a big butter factory. The dairy farms ringed the town and then big cattle properties ringed them. There were big timber plantations and sawmills all over the place. A small coal mine operated just outside town. The town was prosperous at this time with three pubs at three corners of Cook Street, the main street, which ran up and over Monaldo Hill past the excellent shire hall and handsome Post Office. There were plenty of car dealers, nice shops and two Greek cafes, always a sign of prosperity.

It was a nice town.

Sitting at lunch later that day, I asked my mother why she wouldn’t consider my position and come with me to Brisbane, away from danger. Privately, I thought she was being bloody selfish. But she wouldn’t budge. She thought it was my duty to stay to protect her. I couldn’t believe it! More of that Celtic crap.

The next morning my beloved father appeared, all bright-eyed and healthy. When he walked in, he seemed surprised to see me.

But he concentrated on Mother, presenting her with a magnificent diamond necklace and profuse and abject apologies. Her eyes shone and I saw, with a sinking heart, that she’d forgiven him.

Then he turned to me. Harry! It’s great to see you again, son. Welcome home. Not at work I see.

Not going to work for you, Father. No way. Better get that clear, Old Man. I’m only here to ensure Mother’s safety and then I’m off. Do I have your assurance that she’s safe or do I have to belt it out of you?

Una moaned.

The street fighter was beginning to show. His eyes had hardened and narrowed and he was smiling grimly.

I think you could be out of your depth, son, he said. Pretty boxing under rules is one thing but my sort of fighting where your nuts are squashed and your teeth kicked in is another thing altogether. Better think it over. But let’s put that past us. Come for a drive with me, Harry, I want to show you something. Don’t worry, you’re in no danger.

I still thought I could handle him, despite his threat. He had to get near me first and I had a long and powerful reach. But I couldn’t admit any fear so I walked to his car with him.

He drove to the top of Monaldo Hill, to a small park there, and stopped the car. I was alert.

I assure you, son, that your mother is in no danger from me, unless you leave Monaldo. What’s the big deal anyway? I just want you to work in the business you’re going to inherit some day and I want to use your skills and knowledge now. Makes sense to me!

But I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. My mother was really in danger after all.

What did you mean about Mother just then, Father? I asked.

He smiled that grim smile and said, Leave and who knows what could happen if I’ve had a few whiskies. Stay and you’ll be here to protect her, if you can. Simple, Harry.

Then I think I’ll have to take her with me now, I said.

Your word against mine, Harry, and your mother has forgiven me now. She won’t go. Believe it or not, we love each other but if you do leave and take her with you, I promise, I’ll seek her out and hurt her. I might do time but I will have my way, son.

I could go the Police now, with your threat, Father.

Try it, Harry. No witnesses, my boy, and I think they know who pays them.

I got out of his car. I was trapped and I knew it. What a cunning old man!

Start tomorrow, Harry. You can walk home now and you can walk down to the office tomorrow. See you at dinner… a nice family dinner. Good to have you back, son.

He drove off, headed to the office I supposed.

I wasn’t far from Lawrie Chandler’s farm. I had to talk to him. Lawrie had been a policeman before buying his father-in-law’s farm and marrying Marion. And he was my best mate.

He was down ploughing but Marion signalled him back to the house. I sat down with them and told them of Les Harrigan’s threat.They were aghast and Marion was