The Unusual Suspects – Episode 5

© Andrew Joyner 2001
© Andrew Joyner 2001


With the evidence in his hands, Kelso had found himself on the horns of a dilemma. To whom could he report the conspiracy he had unearthed? Both the military and the police had so many plotters in their ranks that to approach anyone in authority might be to sign his death warrant. He decided his best course was to get the evidence to a courageous organ of truth like The Sydney Morning Herald, which would surely have experts able to decode the document. Fearing he was being watched, Kelso had passed the document to the only person he knew he could trust, his old friend Victor Trumper. Trumper took up the tale.

“I was on my way to the Herald when Stella, the only person in whom I had confided, invited me to her chamber and served me a rather bitter cordial. I came to with a blinding headache, to discover Stella and the document gone. Obviously, she is in with the plotters. As, I imagine, sir, are you.” Stella’s bosom heaved. “Victor, it isn’t what you think. Yes, I took the document, but for an honourable cause. I am a suffragette, and I think it appalling that while the women of South Australia have the vote, women in the rest of this wide, brown land do not. I had been planning to use the document as a bargaining chip with the Governor-General, to attain voting rights for women. Unfortunately, somebody stole it from me on the train before I could do that.”

She turned to me. “I’m sorry, Charles,” she said. “But the only plan I could come up with for retrieving the document was to get some gullible, gallant fool like you to poke around asking questions. I’ve been following you to see if any of the suspects attacked you after you had questioned them. If so, it would have confirmed their guilt.” I will not say I was not hurt at being cast in the role of tethered goat, but I could not deny that my life had been made immeasurably more interesting by the affair.

Stella said that since learning that the plotters intended to make Henry Lawson the scapegoat in their assassination bid, she had spent the evenings wandering from hotel to hotel in the hope of finding and warning Lawson (who had been an enthusiast for her book, My Brilliant Career). She glimpsed him on one occasion, but he was so hopelessly drunk that her tale would have fallen on sodden ears. Since then, Lawson seemed to have vanished from all his usual haunts.