THE BONE IS
An Extract From An Inspector
Napoleon Bonaparte Mystery
What made Bony look to the
westward when the machine passed over the boundary fence, instead of to the right to
observe Green Swamp Paddock, which seemed to be so important to his investigation, he
could not recall. As the gate passed beneath the plane, he saw the netted and barb-topped
barrier lying like a knife blade along the centre of a ruler-straight brown sheath
dwindling to a point some three miles away.
For only a
half-second did he see this cut line and the fence, but during that fraction of time, he
saw, about three-quarters of a mile westward of the gate, a white horse standing in the
shade of a tree on the Karwir side of the barrier. Opposite this horse, on the Meena side
of the barrier, stood a brown horse, also in the shade cast by a tree. Both animals were
saddled, and appeared to be neck-roped to their respective trees. Stockmen chance-met and
enjoying a gossip, Bony surmised.
now was flying along the seemingly endless fence towards the homestead beyond the plain
already sliding to pass beneath them. It appeared like strands of black cotton knotted at
regular intervals, the knots being the posts. The plain folded away mile after mile to the
clean-cut horizon west and south and east. Behind them, the mulga forest was drawn over
the swelling curve of the world.
were being devoured of two a minute. Down there on that road loaded wagons drawn by
bullocks once moved at two miles to the hour.
to the south grew dark, darker still, to become saw-edged with tops of tall trees,
bloodwood-trees bordering the creek against which stood the Karwir homestead. Tall and
taller grew the trees like a row of Jack's beanstalks, and at their feet straight-edged
silver panels resolved into the iron roofs and walls of buildings. The fans of three
windmills caught and sent to the oncoming plane the rays of the sun. Dust rose from toy
yards constructed of match sticks, yards containing brown and black ants and two queer
things that were men.
interest Bony gazed upon the big red roof of the homestead itself, noting the orange-trees
almost surrounding the buildings, the trees themselves surrounded by what appeared to be a
canegrass fence. They passed over a narrow sheet of water, another line of bloodwoods, and
now a little to the left stood the corrugated iron hangar beyond which was the spacious
landing ground. A few seconds later they were on the ground, once more earth-bound. The
yawning front of the hangar opened wide and wider to receive its own as Young Lacy taxed
the machine into it. Then came abruptly an astounding silence in which lived a very small
you are, Bony. We have arrived," announced Young Lacy.
to think that twenty years ago one would have had to travel that road on a horse or in a
buckboard," Bony said, smiling down at Young Lacy, who first reached the ground. The
cheerful young man accepted the proffered suitcase and waited for Bony to join him.
come back to put the crate to bed," he said. "Come on! The old man will be
waiting to meet you. Be prepared to meet a lion. The dad's got a lot of excellent points,
but strangers find him a bit difficult. The best way to manage him is to refuse to be
shouted down. To begin well with him is to continue well."
laughed softly, saying:
you for the advice. In the art of taming lions I have had a long and constant practice. It
seems that your father conforms to a type to which belongs my respected chief, Colonel
conducted the detective across a bridge spanning the creek, thence to a narrow gate in the
cane-grass enclosing the big house. Within, he was met with the cool fragrance of gleaming
orange-trees, and the scent of flowers in beds fronting the entire length of the
fly-proofed veranda along the south side of the house. He followed Young Lacy up two
steps, and stepped on to the veranda, linoleum covered and furnished plainly but with
studied comfort. Standing before one of several leather-upholstered chairs was Old Lacy -
a patriarch of the bush, with a pipe in one hand and a stock journal in the other. His
feet were slippered. Gabardine trousers reached to a tweed waistcoat open all the way. His
plain white shirt was of good quality, but he wore no collar and no coat. His hair was
thin and as white as snow. His beard was thin and as white as his hair. There was power in
the grey eyes, and character in the long Roman nose. No smile welcomed the detective.
is Detective-Inspector Bonaparte," Young Lacy announced.
exclaimed Old Lacy, like a man who is deaf. Young Lacy did not repeat the introduction.
Bony waited. To have spoken would have indicated weakness. "A detective-inspector,
eh? You? 'Bout time, anyway, that that fool of a Police Commissioner sent someone to look
into this murder business. Well, the lad will show you to your bunk."
Bonaparte," Yong Lacy said with slight emphasis on the title, "can remain here
with you, dad. No arrangements will have been made for Mr. Bonaparte because Diana went
out before I left for Opal Town, and I forgot to tell Mabel to prepare a room. I'll get
her to make a pot of tea, and then fix one of the rooms."
All right!" Old Lacy seated himself in the chair he had but recently vacated, and he
pointed to another opposite. "Sit down there, Bonaparte. What are you, Indian or
you." Bony sat down quite happily. "I am Australian, at least on my mother's
side. It is better to be half-Australian than not Australian at all."
the devil did you rise to be a detective-inspector? Tell me that," the old man
demanded with raised voice.
Bony restrained the laughter in his eyes, for he clearly understood that this baiting was
a real man's method of testing a stranger. Before him sat a man who, having conquered life
by fighting all comers, detested weakness; one who, having fought all comers, continued to
do so by habit. Calmly, Bony said:
career as a detective, following my graduation from the university at Brisbane, would take
a long time to describe in detail. In this country colour is no bar to a keen man's
progress providing that he has twice the ability of his rivals. I have devoted my gifts to
the detection of crime, believing that when justice is sure, the community is less
troubled by the criminal. That I stand midway between the black man, who makes fire with a
stick, and the white man, who kills women and babes with bombs and machine guns, should
not be accounted against me. I have been satisfied with the employment of my mental and
inherited gifts. Others, of course, have employed their gifts in amassing money, inventing
bombs and guns and gases, even in picking winners on a racecourse. Money, and the
ownership of a huge leasehold property, does not make a man superior to another who
happens to be born a half-caste, and who has devoted his life to detention of crime so
that normal people should be safe from the abnormal and the subnormal individual."
grey eyes slowly had crept a gleam. When Old Lacy again spoke his voice was less, much
if I don't think you are right," he said. "I've known lots of fine blackfellers
and more'n one extra good half-caste. I've known many white men who've made a pile and
think themselves king-pins. And as for those swine dropping bombs on women and children,
well they're less than animals, for even dingoes don't kill their females and little pups.
Don't mind me. I'm a rough old bushy in my ways and talk. I am glad you came. I want to
see justice done for what I think happened to Jeffery Anderson. You'll be a welcome guest
at Karwir, and you can expect all the help we can give. You'll want that, after these
months following Jeff's disappearance."
that I am sure, Mr. Lacy," Bony asserted, conscious of the warm glow within him
created by yet one more victory over the accident of his birth. "The lapse of time
since Anderson was last seen will, of course, make my investigation both difficult and
prolonged. I may be quartered on you for a month, possibly six months. I shall not give
up, or return to Brisbane, until I have established Anderson's fate and those responsible
I like to hear a man talk like that. It's the way I talk myself, although not so well
schooled. Ah - put it down here, Mabel."
uniformed maid placed the tea tray on a table between the two men, then vanished through
one of the house doors. Bony rose to say:
and sugar, Mr. Lacy?"
sugar, thanks. Can't afford it at my time of life. In fact, I never could."
is expensive, I know," murmured Bony, taking two spoonfuls. "Still, aeroplanes
and things are expensive, too."
The old man
think I am going to like you, Inspector," he said.
The extract above is from "The
Bone Is Pointed" by Arthur W. Upfield.
Scribner Paperback Fiction. -