His tales of Nungwarra, the white crocodile spirit of Long Hole, in the Australian outback, have entertained many a tourist.
But Ted is using the legend for his own less-than-honourable purposes.
And legends have a way of biting back…
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‘Huge, he was,’ the beefy man in the worn Akubra said, spreading his arms expansively. ‘Massive. Five metres at least, I reckon. And as white as a ghost.’
His audience was rapt, spellbound as much by the storyteller as by the tale he spun. They were tourists, mostly from America, fresh off their air-conditioned sprung-comfort coach and tucking into a pre-paid pub tea before spending the night in Long Hole Hotel’s twin-share rooms. They would be off after breakfast the next day to see Katherine Gorge, but tonight they were here, at their ‘overnight stay at an authentic outback pub’. Not so outback as some places, being halfway between Tennant Creek and Katherine and within coo-ee of the Stuart Highway, but the arrangement benefited both tourist operator and the Long Hole’s publican, John Collins, quite well.
Collins sat behind the bar now, idly polishing a glass, watching Ted Byrne spin his white-croc tale to the tourists. He had it down pat now, just the right amount of bait thrown out and reeled oh-so-gently in. The Americans were the easiest to hook, having no idea of rural Australia and so willing to believe almost anything about the ‘wild outback’. Collins could see no harm in Byrne’s money-making scheme – so long as nothing illegal was done within his pub.