The Friday afternoon buzz at the Black Opal died to a whisper and I looked up from the conversation I was having with a woman I'd met only minutes before.

A huge man filled the doorway. He wore dusty boots, dirty jeans and nothing on his torso but a sweat-soaked leather vest. A matt-black, open-face motorcycle helmet dangled from his hand as he scanned the room for a familiar face.

The whole thing was a cliche; something out of the Louis L'Amour westerns I'd devoured after discovering them in my grand-dad's bookcase as a teenager. For outlaw, dusty from the trail, twin six-shooters hanging from his hips, read leather-clad bikie spitting bugs from his teeth. And while the Black Opal didn't have batwing doors for his grand entrance, I'm sure it was only because they would have messed with the aircon. Lightning Ridge is, after all, modern Australia's take on the Wild West.

The bar's patrons looked away and continued their conversations in muted voices. Like everyone else in the pub, I knew trouble when I saw it, especially when the man's eyes stopped at our table in recognition. The only problem was, I'd never seen him before.

The stranger turned stiffly and walked out, as if he'd seen all he needed to.

'A friend of yours?' I asked the woman opposite me.

'Of course not!'

'Well he recognised one of us.'

'So what makes you think it's me?'

I just smiled.

'I'm serious. I don't know people like that.'

'And I don't either.' Or I don't anymore, I thought. 'Besides, he's not from around here and to the best of my knowledge nobody like that's looking for me. But you're from the big smoke. And that bloke was stiff from a long ride; you could see it in his stance, probably on a Harley if I know the type. And he's not alone either. I heard at least two of them arrive shortly before he came in.'

I watched the woman's self-assurance evaporate.

'He wouldn't!' She said to herself.

'Who wouldn't what?'

'It's nothing. You're imagining things. That brute's got nothing to do with me.' She picked up her purse. 'Thanks for your time Mister Harris. I'd best find somewhere to stay until I can find that bloody real estate agent.'

'Try the Wallangulla. It's next to the bowling club up the street,' I volunteered to her back as I half-rose from my seat, taken by surprise at her sudden departure.

I watched, along with most of the men in the bar, as the woman made her way to the door. The biker's arrival in Lightning Ridge had certainly unsettled her and, if his looks were anything to go by, for good reason.

Reluctantly I gulped the last of my drink and stood, motioning for Joe the barman to open the back door so I could slip out quietly. He obliged with a key from his pocket, making a mockery of the sign above the door that said Emergency Exit. But then the safety of his stock has always been more important to Joe than the safety of his customers.

The heat was like a sweaty fist to the stomach and my eyes watered as I squinted against the glare from the dried mud that passed for a back yard. I pulled my sunnies from where they were hanging on the neck of my t-shirt and slid them on. Shit but it was hot. I'd far rather have stayed in the pub. I stepped softly through the even hotter blast from the air-conditioner's compressor as I edged along the back wall and looked around the corner. I wasn't looking for trouble but I'd find it quickly enough if the big man who'd come into the pub saw me watching him. He'd recognised the woman and he'd seen her with me. That would be enough to trigger a reaction.

As I'd suspected there were two dusty Harleys on the road, one straddled by the bikie from the bar and the other by a mate who was every bit as big but wore a grubby wife-beater under his leather vest and a beard halfway down his chest. I needn't have worried about them seeing me. Their attention was focused on a new-looking white BMW sedan as it headed up the road. Their leather vests bore the red and yellow insignia of the Warlocks, a motorcycle club I 'd never heard of. The two sat quietly astride their bikes, motors burbling softly, until the BMW turned in at the Wallangulla Motel. Then they eased away from the curb and followed.

'Bugger!' I said softly. I'd spent the past two years avoiding situations like this and would have loved to turn away; to pretend I didn't know what was happening; that I hadn't seen the two bikies follow the woman up the road; that I didn't know she was about to be threatened, or more likely roughed up a bit. Whoever wanted a message delivered wouldn't have commissioned somebody to ride all the way to Lightning Ridge to deliver it unless it involved a beating or worse.

I experienced the familiar rush as adrenalin surged; the narrowing of vision as the world closes in on a single point of focus and you know it's fight or flight time. I hated myself for the feeling; knew it could only lead to trouble. But the addiction was still there, maybe even stronger for having been held in abeyance for two years or more. I'll try. I really will, I promised myself, knowing it would be a waste of time.

I lifted my helmet off the Triumph's mirror and slipped it on, not bothering to do up the strap as I viciously kicked the '69 Bonneville into life. The bike was old and looked buggered, and that suited me fine. It meant nobody was going to steal it. Dust clotted the multiple oil leaks and the black tank was scratched from where I'd dropped it in the dirt while fooling around last year. But under the disguise it had been completely reconditioned and it started first kick, the uniquely British throb of a big twin between my legs a familiar satisfaction. The bike was a part of me, rebuilt maybe, battered definitely, but not beaten. A bit like it's owner.

I felt more alive than I'd felt in months as I followed the two Harleys up the road. I sensed the bike felt good too as I tweaked the throttle. It was wrong. I knew I shouldn't feel pleasure. But the thought of action was like an aphrodisiac to me.



Please review this book on Amazon.com


Harris carries scars from his service in Afghanistan but has his PTSD and anger management under control – most of the time.

Like many solo miners in Lightning Ridge, he uses just one name and it isn't the one he was born with.

When a couple of bikers turn up to deliver a beating to Elaine Flannagan, a woman he's just met, Harris intervenes – and finds himself pitted against her ex-husband, corrupt police and the Warlocks motorcycle gang. While he and his mate Truck try to keep Elaine alive they have to figure out how the mine she inherited from her father is linked to the threat to her life.


Action-packed, fast moving thriller, with a plot that twists and turns and keeps the pace moving throughout.  Convincingly set between Sydney and a very recognisable Lightning Ridge, the action takes place in an equally recognisable Australian context of bikie gangs, corrupt police, Afghanistan veterans, ordinary Aussies and others living at the edge. 

A well written thriller, in touch with its times and its place settings. A fairly high level of violence - not recommended for the squeamish, but a good read if this is your genre. – AAW.

Great reading: Love it - great pace and characters. Harris is a fantastic character. This is an easy reading thriller that is well worth it. Highly recommend it.
Michael - Amazon, Canada

A very good read: A well built story that keeps you reading and wondering what is going to happen next. I could not put it down.
– Stripes 3 - Amazon, Australia

A very good read: Well written, fast but consistent in pace and with strong characters and plot. The skillfully developed contrasting settings of the opal fields and Sydney-scape enrich the experience of what is a real page turner.
– Graeme - Amazon, Australia

High quality action: 5 star action and suspense of high quality.
– Happy Day - Amazon, Australia