Police Magistrate Robert Dawson rode with Doctor Lewis Davidson along the final miles to Boloco Station, ahead of the rest of the party. They were near the end of a forty mile journey on this Saturday – a long days ride for horse and men.
They were travelling towards the only hint of green on the dry dusty plain around them. Further away, in the distance, the high mountains of the alps – shimmering deep blue in the late afternoon heat.
They had worked together before. Dawson respected Davidson and, unlike the rest of the medical men, Davidson did not whine about the pay for this work. He was quiet. Dawson liked that.
Dawson pulled up his horse at the top of the rise. Boloco Station was ahead of them – a collection of buildings surrounded by tall trees nestled into a bend of the river. He looked at it for a moment, his face closed. “We will wait here for the clerk and the tracker.”
Davidson watched him carefully. Dawson was an older law man, his hair greying and home cut, whiskers catching the last of the sun, in full suit and tie despite the sun’s temper. Tall and independent, he ran this district with an iron fist.
“Been here before?” Davidson started, conversationally. Dawson reached for a water bottle and drank the last of it before answering. “I don’t get here often. But I have been right through this country, over the mountains. All the way down the river and into Gippsland and the Southern Ocean. ” Davidson protested, “I heard Buckley opened up the cattle track.” Dawson responded, “I opened up the road to Mallacoota and into Gippsland along the Coast myself, years ago. Only cattle thieves like Buckley used the mountain tracks. Take care around men like him and Kirwan.”
They watched the shadows start to fly over the land towards them, as the sun set in the mountains.
“Let’s go”, Dawson said as the others pulled close. He gave his horse its head and, sensing water and feed close, the horses slipped into a trot, raising dust behind them.
Senior Constable Henry Bryan met the party a little way from the station. He gave instructions for the rest of the party to make camp at the station, but drew Dawson and Davidson to the creeks edge to water the horses.
Dawson started. “The message you sent said the Long Tailor was dead.”
Bryan nodded and told how he and Constable Ford had set off in pursuit of the bushranger but had been informed on the way of the discovery of his body. He had been found dead at the top of the rise beyond Boloco Station near Mowenbah and his body taken there.
Dawson looked at him sharply. “Who killed him”? Bryan fought the urge to look away. Dawson was twenty years in this job – the last ten as Police Magistrate of the region, No one knew it better than him, and he knew every crack and crevice Bryan might run for. “It looks as though he fell off his horse, sir.” Their eyes stayed locked tight until Bryan shrugged.
Dawson asked, “What arrangements have you made for us?”
“Master Brown has offered you accommodation and meals until the inquest on Monday, sir”.
“That is kind of him, but we will hold the inquest tomorrow, Sunday.”
“Can you do that? Master Brown said that Coroners cannot conduct hearings on Sundays?”
“I am not a Coroner. I will conduct the proceedings as a Police Magistrate once the local church service is complete and Lewis finishes the post-mortem. Where is the body and his belongings now? Is Kirwan mixed up in this? Have you questioned him?”
“I have left the coffin at Mowenbah – it is cooler up there and the body is going bad fast. I have made arrangements for the tack and horse to be brought down when needed. No-one has seen Kirwan.”Dawson thought quickly. “There should be no excuse for the men of this District to attend the proceedings. You will be giving evidence so Constable Ford will assist me. Now, let us go and avail ourselves of the hospitality of Boloco Station.”
That evening they were treated to roast lamb, followed by fine pale imported ale. The owner of the Station, was not happy about the changed plan but put the annoyance behind as he toasted Queen Victoria, the Governor of the colony and the coming prosperity. They traded stories of the early days, Brown telling stories of heavy snowfall at his other holding at Mowenbah – on the high rise closer towards the alps.
Dawson restricted his contribution to a brief reflection about his youngest son, Percy, who was just starting to speak. He withdrew with apologies at the first opportunity and walked with his pipe to speak with the tracker in his party.
He found him a little way from the buildings, looking into the bush. “What is it, John?” The tracker was tense, hardly moving. “Someone was out there, watching you”, John said softly. They waited a little longer before the young tracker shook his head, “Gone now.”
Dawson relit his pipe. “I want to know who it was. Leave it now until morning.”
But in the morning, John found no tracks, “Swept clean”, he said. "Just a cockatoo feather."