The four wheel drive pulled around the corner and into the cloud of vulgarity. In the middle of it was a man sat up against the building and clutching a wound on his leg. A number of passers by clamoured around in spite of the screams.
True Blue jumped from the passenger side and cut through the crowd. He knelt by the bloody mess and clasped his hand over the stranger’s to apply more pressure. The hero’s jaw clenched; it was not the time for anger.
“This man needs an ambulance,” he said. “What happened here?”
His gaze landed on a boy nearby whose face was white with shock.
“Th-there were some guys in a ute,” he stammered. “Probably drunk, throwing bottles, an’ swingin’ a cricket bat from the tray. O-old man here took a hit, was cut up pretty bad when he fell…”
The man on the ground, dressed in only thongs, stubbies and an open tropical shirt, roared in agony; he likely didn’t mean to drop four letter words on the nation’s former champion, but pain had blinded him to reason.
“Where are they now?” Blue demanded.
“Not far! They were only here a minute ago, and headed toward the water tower!”
The hero bellowed, “Cath!” Blood seeped between his fingers despite his best efforts, and the wound was deep.
Seconds later and the woman was beside him with a first aid kid, pulling hands free so she could get a clearer view of the damage. She scowled more than a few times as her patient attempted to bat her away.
“I’ve called an ambulance,” Cath growled. “You head off and find who did this!”
With hands still dripping the old hero stood and marched back to the wagon. The door slammed shut and rubber burned as the vehicle tore down the street to the outer reaches of town.
Night had fallen, and nothing seemed to exist outside of the reach of the headlights. True Blue mulled over the road, combing every inch, knowing the path so well that he could have followed it with eyes closed. Somewhere along the trail of dirt were answers to the night’s violence.
Then he saw them.
True Blue slowed to the side of the road and dropped the high beams. His vehicle stopped short of the white ute where several men were sitting in the tray, laughing and nursing beers. They weren’t local, or else Duncan would have known them; then they might have known to think twice when he stepped out to greet them.
“Oi,” he barked; the men did not turn to greet him. “You fellas been having a good time?” By his tone True Blue did not appreciate their definition of ‘fun.’
“Who’s this crusty old bugger?” one of them laughed.
His mate chuckled. “Piss off, mate. Haven’t you got anything better to do?”
The hero said nothing but clenched his fists. Without a word he marched to the ute, reached to the closest bloke he could, nabbed him by the collar and threw him over his head and to the bank by the road. It was all he needed to grab their attention; True Blue backed away as man by man rolled from the vehicle, but not once did he flinch.
“You think it’s all in good fun going around and beating up black fellas,” he grunted. “You know you put a couple of good men in hospital and left another bleeding on the street; not that I suppose you lot care that much.”
“Did you just call us racist?” one of them called. “Nah, we just don’t like dole bludgers. Not our fault they’re all black.”
“Oi, someone make this old bastard shut up,” another droned.
What happened next was like clockwork; the closest of the five threw his weight into a punch, but was side stepped by the veteran. The attacker doubled over when a knee flew into his gut, and was spread out on his back by the elbow meeting his jaw on the way down.
The old man with the beard remained undeterred.
“Come on! Have a go if you think you’re hard enough!”
Under the headlights two silhouettes lunged from either side, one to latch the hero’s arms and the other to deliver blows from the front. No sooner had True Blue’s arms been caught that his head thrust back, shattering the nose of his would-be assailant. With brute strength the champion overturned his foe, launched him over his shoulder and into the path of the other attacker. A single kick to the sternum was all it took to pacify the remaining foe.
True Blue peered to the side of the truck, down to the shreds that had become his shirt, and back again. There a lone figure with a rifle, the kind commonly used by farmers, tracked back from his unshaken enemy.
“Shouldn’t have done that, mate,” True Blue huffed.
The shooter jumped into the passenger seat and screamed for the driver to move. Wheels kicked up dust and propelled the ute into the darkness where they hoped justice could not follow.
With long strides True Blue broke into a sprint. A few seconds longer and the vehicle might have gotten away, but the old fella had some stamina left in him yet. His hands snared the towbar and the rest of him was dragged along as his boots fought for traction; they weren’t the same reinforced soles he used to wear when fighting for his country.
Then with a great heave they stopped; the back wheels turned helpless as True Blue lifted the back end of the ute. Exhaust billowed in his face like the wails of a trapped animal, followed by a stream of curse words from the driver’s seat.
“I hope you’re wearing your seatbelts,” the hero said.
Another great push sent the ute tail over head and crashing onto its back. Fragments of the shattered windscreen rolled under the headlights, but the chassis remained intact. True Blue bent down to inspect for signs of life and found two semi-conscious men hanging from their seats and moaning.
“Let that be a lesson to you,” he smirked.
Victory was cut short with the blaring of red and blue nearing the site. Anyone else might have run, but True Blue stepped to the middle of the road with his hands above his head.
Boy, did he have a yarn to tell.
To be continued…