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The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 1 of 83

Honey Bush Farm

“You thought I’d finished with you.”

Khai lost his balance as a podgy fist thumped him in the chest. The

skateboard slid under him, and he was on his back in the road. Oh no, he

thought, not again. Not twice in one day.

“What’s this Mutant? A skateboard - Kyla?”

“Leave it alone Frank.” Khai scrambled to his feet. “And its Khai not

Kyla,” he added through gritted teeth.

Frank picked up the skateboard. “Make me! Why did your mummy give

you a girl’s name?” Crack! The skateboard splintered as Fat Frank hit it

against a nearby tree. “Skateboards are for wimps.”

“That was my Christmas present!” Khai shouted. He lunged at Fat Frank

but was too late.

“Gotta go,” Fat Frank leered at Khai as he jumped into the limousine that

appeared on cue. Khai watched the shiny black car disappear. The skateboard

was smashed. He kicked it into the bushes. "No cell phone, no skateboard,

they're gonna call me a real loser at school. And they'll be right!"

Tall trees lined the track - their naked branches formed a network of

shadows in the dirty. You sound like I feel, he thought, looking at the yellow

grass as it sighed wearily in the breeze. “I wish I was in Gansbaai now, surfing

with my friends, instead of here.”

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The trees gave way to land that had been cleared for planting. "Just wait

Fat Frank, I’m gonna get you for this?" mumbled Khai as he trudged along the

dirt track to Honey Bush Cottage. Head low, shoulders stooped, he dug the toes

of his shoes into the red earth and kicked up dust as he walked. He wiped his

nose on the back of his hand. Adjusting his heavy satchel, he unlocked the front

door and let himself in.

“Mum! Mum?” Sighing Khai threw his satchel on the floor. Text books

spilled out in disarray. In the kitchen he found a scribbled note stuck on the

fridge with a magnet.

Khai, have gone to do some last minute shopping before your little sister

arrives. Will be back soon. Lotsaluv Mum.

“That’s just great!” He made himself a steaming cup of Milo then traipsed

into the lounge. He dropped into a chair next to the roaring fire and stared into

the dancing flames. Man, I could be out on the sea right now with Sean, Billy

and Hannes - the sun setting while we wait for the next wave. The Milo and

warmth of the fire made him yawn and soon he was asleep.

“Hey sleepy head how was school?” He mother stood beside him gently

poking him in the ribs. He looked at his mother through half closed eyes. “Khai,

answer me, I asked you a question.”

”He bullied me again!” Khai sniffed.

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“Who? Frank?” His mother asked.

“Who else? Fat Frank got me twice today.”

“Khai, stop calling him that!”

”But he is fat and he’s a bully.”

“Two wrongs don’t make a right. Now what did Frank do?”

“I was walking across the quad when Fa- Frank appeared. I tried to avoid

him like you said. I tried to walk past and pretend I hadn’t seen him but he

tripped me and shoved me to the ground. All the other kids gathered round us.

Some took out cell phones and recorded it. He started saying things.”

A spent log fell through the grate sending sparks up the flue. Khai sighed

again. His mother slowly eased herself into in a chair on the opposite side of the

fire place.

“What kind of things?” Monique coaxed.

“Oh - that we’re poor and that’s why I don’t have a cell phone like

everyone else. I’m a mutant because I am tall and have freckles. Mum-?”


“Why can’t I have a cell phone like all the other kids? Then he’d leave me


Monique rubbed her forehead and frowned before looking him in the eye.

“Khai - dad and I will get you a cell phone for your birthday but I don’t think that

you having a cell phone would make any difference. Frank would probably still

bully you.”

“Well I’m fed up?” Khai folded his arms. “I hate school. I want to
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go back to Gansbaai.”

“You know that’s not possible – that farm has been sold. Have you

made any friends since you started at the farm school? You need someone in

your corner.” Monique rubbed her well rounded belly and made herself more

comfortable in her chair.

“The kids at school are afraid to talk to me because of Fa- Frank.”

“You’ve got a good head on your shoulders think of something,” his

mother closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead again.

“Yeah like what?”

She opened her eyes. “Oh I don’t know. Maybe try laughing at the

insults he gives you or agreeing with them. If he sees that he can’t get to you, he

will have to look for someone else to bully. People like that are actually

cowards. Deep inside they are insecure. They hide behind a tough mask.”

“Easier said than done mum.”

“Just try it and see.”

“I feel like hitting him,” Khai punched his open hand with a balled fist.

“No Khai! That is the worst thing you can do. It will just increase

the cycle of violence. If you want me to, I can see the principal.”

“Oooh no, uh-uh!” Khai pushed himself out of the chair. “The last thing I

need,” he shouted as he headed for the front door. “Is Frank adding ‘mummies

little boy’ to the list of things he already calls me. I’m going for a walk.” He

slammed the door shut.

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Khai watched the girl lying on her stomach on the rickety bridge that

spanned the stream. Every so often she smiled to herself. Why is she so

happy? He thought. She shouldn’t be here this is our farm not hers. This

is my place. Dappled shade across her back sprang to life every so often

as the wind tugged at the tree branches high above her. Every so often

she tucked strands of her blond hair that had escaped her pigtail behind

her ears. Picking up two dead leaves from the pile next to her, she

released them into the, clear, running water. She jumped up. Ran to the

other side of the bridge and waited for the leaves to reappear.

Yippee,” she cheered, jumping up and down. “The maple leaf team

won.” A twig snapped as Khai stepped out from his hiding place.

She turned at the sound. “Oh Hello!”

Khai frowned. “You do know you’re trespassing.”

She nodded. “I know. We don’t have a stream on our farm, you’re

so lucky.” She walked back to her pile of leaves and lay down again -

ready for the next race.

“Where’d you stay? I’ve never seen you before.”

“Rooibos farm - my dad bought it two months ago and we’ve just

moved in. He says the way to go is the organic route. Whatever that

means –“

“So what’re you doing?”

“I’m playing Pooh races. There’s a nice current here and different

leaves travel at different speeds.” She looked at the leaves she was
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holding and dropped them into the current where they were swept away.

“Will you have some races with me?” Emma asked hopefully. “It’s more

fun when there is someone else to play with.”

Khai lay down on the bridge, “Yeah, I’ll pooh race you a couple of

times. Are you going to go to the farm school?”

“Mmm,” Emma nodded as she selected her leaf for the race. “Will

you be my friend - it’s just easier if you know someone?”

Khai glanced sideways at her, “yeah I’ll look out for you, just keep

away from Fat Frank.”


“Oh just some boy at school.” What would you say if you knew I’m

afraid of him and that he is just so strong and beats me up? “He’s not

very nice but don’t worry, I’ll protect you. So what’s your name?”

“Emma and I’m ten years old – going on eleven,” she held out her

hand. “And you?”

“Khai and I’m eleven years old – going on twelve.” He held back a

smile as she briskly shook his hand, unaware that he was teasing her.

Emma laughed. “What kind of a name is that?”

“It’s a Hawaiian name that means the ocean.” Khai snapped. Why

does everyone have to make fun of me when they get the chance, even

this girl?

“Oh. Did I say something wrong?”

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Khai sighed. “No. Sorry. I‘ve just had a -” He saw her staring at

him waiting for his answer. “Oh don’t worry about it.”

“Please,” begged Emma. “Tell me what’s wrong? Why did you snap

at me just now?” She frowned as she tried to understand.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Emma watched as Khai stood up and

dusted himself off. “I have to go and do my homework and supper will

soon be ready,” he muttered.

Emma sprang to her feet as he started to walk away. She grabbed

his wrist. “Please tell me?”

Khai swung around, grabbed Emma by her arms and shook her.

“No! I told you I didn’t want to talk about it. Now leave me alone!” He

shouted. He pushed her. She fell and landed on her back.

She struggled to her feet. “You bully,” she screamed, her hands in

balled fists at her sides. “You hurt me, look at my arms. My dad warned

me about boys like you.”

Khai’s mouth fell open as he realised what he had done. He

watched as the red marks on her arms grew darker. Her one elbow was

bleeding. “Oh Emma, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to.” He gently took her

arm again. “Let me look at that.”

“Let go of me,” Emma broke loose from Khai’s hand. “Why are you

in such a bad mood? I just thought you looked sad.“ She shuddered as

she took another breath and backed away from him pointing a finger at
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him. “What did I do to make you so angry? You’re a bully! I hate you!”

She turned and ran away along the path that led to Rooibos farm.

“Emma wait!” Cupping his hands around his mouth he shouted at

her retreating back. “I’m sorry Emma. I’ll see you at school tomorrow. I’ll

make it up to you. ” She disappeared from view.

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Chapter 2

Sugar Bush Wood

The break bell sounded ending a double period of Biology. Khai

entered the quad - I hope I don’t meet Fat Frank now. He heard children

teasing someone, a crowd had surrounded the victim and he could hear

Fat Frank’s voice.

“What’s this Emma? Hey everyone, Emma’s written a poem.” Khai

could hear Emma’s voice competing with the children who were laughing at


“Give it back. It’s mine.”

Khai turned to walk away - for once it wasn’t him being teased –

then he heard Emma begin to cry. He bit his bottom lip – if I turn back

now I’ll have to face Frank. Mum didn’t want me to get into a fight - but I

have to make it up to Emma. She’s avoided me for two weeks and won’t

even look at me when I try to speak to her. I have to help her!

Inhaling deeply, his head high, his stomach full of butterflies - he

walked to the crowd and fought his way through to the centre. Emma sat

on the ground crying, her new school books in the dirt beside her. Her

hockey stick lay broken in two.

“Frank, leave her alone.”

“Oooooh Emma’s mutant boyfriend – Kyla - has arrived,” Frank

leered. The children laughed.

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“I mean it Frank - pick on someone your own size.” The crowd

went quiet. “What - someone like you?” Frank bounced around on his

feet, his hands up in front of his face like a professional boxer. He leapt

forward. Khai side stepped the first punch, his heart beat wildly. He wasn’t

a fighter. Frank was fast. Khai didn’t see the blow that knocked him onto

his back, his jaw throbbed and he tasted blood. Frank stood over him. He

raised his foot to kick Khai in the leg. Khai grabbed Frank’s foot,

“Use his foot, push him Khai,” Emma shouted from behind Frank.

Khai pushed hard.

“Aaaaah!” Frank fell backwards over Emma and hit his head.

Emma uncurled herself and grinned briefly at Khai. She sprang to her

feet. Grabbed her broken hockey stick – ready to strike Fat Frank with it.

“No! Emma, stop!” Khai lunged at her and pinned her arms to her

sides. “It’s ok,” he whispered into her ear. “Fat Frank isn’t going to hurt

you again.”

Frank lay on the ground rubbing his head, “I’ll get you for this

Mutant - and your little girlfriend!”

The crowd lost interest and melted away.

“Khai you’re bleeding,” Emma spat on the cuff of her school shirt to

wipe away the blood from his split lip. Khai pulled her hand away from his

face and smiled.

“No Emma, you’ll make your sleeve dirty. So am I forgiven?”

“I guess so.”
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“That’s a relief.” Emma gave him a spontaneous hug. “Hey Emma,

do you want to go to a really cool place after school today? There’s a

swing over a river.”

“Cool. Yes, let’s go.”

“Okay but there’s just one thing I have to warn you about,” Khai

wagged a finger at her. “We have to be very quiet. There’s a crazy old

woman who doesn’t like children. Some people say that children have

disappeared and have never been found. Still want to go?”

Emma nodded. “I’m not scared.”


The rope protested as Khai pulled the swing to the river bank. He

checked to see that the rope and round seat were safe.

“Okay Emma, climb on. I’ll hold it for you.” Emma hesitated. “What’s


“Only if Lutando comes with me.” Khai glanced at Lutando who was busy

picking bark off a nearby tree.”

“Why did you bring him with you?” Khai asked in a low voice.

“Because he’s new at school, he started the same time I did

and doesn’t know many people. At least I knew you. You go first though.”

Khai sat on the seat, a leg on each side of the rope that went

through its centre. He lifted his feet and swooped across the river almost

reaching the other bank. Way above him the branch where the rope was
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attached dipped a little. For an instant he was suspended before the swing

began its great arc back across the river. “It’s safe,” Khai laughed as he put his

feet down to stop the swing taking him back across the river. His face was

flushed. “Now it’s your turn. I don’t know how you expect to fit two of you on the

swing.” Emma smile, “we can if we both stand on the

seat. Hold it steady so I can climb on.”

“Are you ready?” Khai asked.

“Yup. Come Tando.” Lutando’s face lit up in a smile.


“Come Khai,” Lutando indicated the swing.

“What all of us?”

“Yup, they do this in action movies.”

Khai saw Emma nod her head.

“Oh what the heck – climb on Tando. I’ll jump on behind you. Just leave

room for my feet. Can you both swim if the rope breaks?”

Emma nodded. The air rushed passed her ears as the swing gained

speed. She cried out in fright but it soon turned to laughter as Lutando let out the

best Tarzan yodel he could make. They didn’t try to stop the swing as it

repeatedly swung to each side of the river until it was too late.

“Khai?” Emma looked up at him.


“How are we going to get back to the river bank?”

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“Don’t worry I’ll jump in and wade to the bank and pull

the swing in.”

Splash! Lutando jumped into the river. “Let’s climb the trees. Last one to

the bank is a slug.”

“Hey wait for me.” Emma launched herself off the swing into the water.

“The person who climbs the highest wins.”

“What’s the prize?” Lutando began to climb.

“Um – a box of Smarties or Jelly Tots.”

“Okay you’re on,” Khai climbed quickly.

In minutes they were all at the top of a big Oak.

“It’s beautiful up here,” Emma looked out at the wood. “Can you imagine

what it must look like in summer when the leaves are on the trees? If we were

light enough to jump across the tops of the trees. It would be so cool. I bet they

would be soft and springy.”

“Hey guys – who is the highest?” Lutando looked from Emma to Khai.

“Well your out of it squirt. Your head is the lowest of us all.”

“That’s not fair Khai. Emma said it was the one who climbed the highest.

I can’t help it is I’m shorter than you.”

“Yeah right!”

“Why don’t we all chip in and get some sweets. We all made it up to the

top and are at the same height.” Emma smiled. “Or, we could see who can be

the quickest down. First one to put their feet on the ground wins.”

“It’s a deal. Ready steady go!” shouted Lutando.

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The tree shook and groaned as they made their way down through its


“Beat ya!” Emma said as she landed gracefully on the ground after

swinging off one of the higher branches.

“How did you do that?” Khai asked.

“Gymnastics. That’s how we were taught to exit the parallel bars.”

Khai smiled. “You know what – you’re alright. So I guess we’re buying

you sweets.”

“Yes - but don’t worry, I’ll be sharing them with you. Oh no – I’m toast!

My mum’s going to kill me.” Emma looked at her wrist.


“I took her bracelet without asking her, it’s gone. It was on

my wrist when we were on the river – if I think back it wasn’t when we were

climbing the tree. She told me if I ever did it again, she’d ground me until I’m

twenty-one years old.” Khai saw her eyes fill with tears.

“Don’t cry Emma, we’ll find it. We can look at the river.”

Not to be outdone Lutando gave Emma a smile. “Don’t worry, I, zee Pink

Panther will find your bracelet for you if he can’t.” Lutando pointed at Khai

“Look the current is stronger on this side of the river and it seems to slow

down by the reeds a bit further down.” Khai pointed out.


“So, your bracelet is light and is probably stuck in the reeds.”

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“Eew what’s that smell?” Emma pinched her nose between

her fingers to block out the stench as they walked towards the reeds.

“I dunno,” Khai parted some of the reeds.

“Oh no! Oh Gross! Look at the dead frog and fish!”

“What made them die?” Lutando shook his head. “This is horrible – I

had a pet frog - Hoppity. He was my best friend.”

Khai picked up the frog. “The skin is all blistered and funny.”

The rumble of an approaching car made them freeze.

“Is it the old lady?” Emma looked at Khai.

“I don’t know. Let’s hide – quick - behind those boulders.”

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Chapter 3

D.E.S.Troy (Pty) LTD

“Stop the car!” Mr. Troy instructed Bill his chauffeur. “This is it.” Heaving

his heavy frame out of the car he inhaled deeply as he surveyed Sugar Bush

Wood. Nodding his head he turned to Bill.

“Inhale Bill, can you smell it?”

“Yes sir. Very clean not like the city at all. I always loved coming here as

a child. One day I want to bring a child of mine here –“

“No! You idiot! Money! Progress! Expansion!”


“Yes. You don’t think I bought this wood for its beauty – did you? Come

let’s take a short walk.” Mr. Troy led the way down a steep embankment to a foot

path that led into the woods. “These blackjacks are a pain.” He bent to pull the

sharp black seeds out of his socks. “Bill. Bill?” Mr. Troy looked up. “Bill!”

roared Mr. Troy when he saw him a short distance away, blowing on a dandelion

that he had plucked and watching the white bundles of seed float away on the

light breeze. “What in heaven’s name are you doing?”

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“Well,” began Bill nostalgically. “I use to blow on the Dandelions when I

used to come here as a child to see if it was true -that you can tell the time by

blowing on them.”

Mr Troy sighed and rolled his eyes to the sky. “Enough,” he snapped.

“Now get over here and help me get these black jacks out of my socks.”

“Yes sir.” Bill made quick work of Mr Troy’s socks. “It’s really pretty here,


“What’s pretty about it? Nothing beats the sound, smell and feel of crisp

R200 notes. Once my part of this wood has been ripped out of the ground, the

pesticide factory built and the river re-routed to cool the machinery, then you’ll

see true beauty. I just wish that interfering old woman would sell me her share of

the wood then the factory would be even bigger.

“Picture it Bill. No need to make any big changes to the path of the river to

the factory – now that saves money. The river will be perfectly positioned right

next to the factory.”

Bill frowned. “Sir, but that will mean the waste will end up in the river.”

“So! The current has – will - carry it away.”

“Has? But –“

“No buts Bill. I employed you as a chauffeur. Do not question me. You

wanna keep your job so you can look after you sick mother? I suggest you shut

up and do what I pay you to do – which is not to think but to drive.” Turning

abruptly Mr Troy made for the car. “Come, let’s get back to civilisation, this place
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is terrible.” A strong gust of wind swept out of the wood, up the embankment,

carrying the sounds of the wood and a smell of pine with it.

“Will you hurry up!”

“Yes sir, I’m coming.” Bill took one last look at the wood and watched the

gnats dart in and out of the weak winter sun rays. He pictured the premises he

was about to drive to - dirty buildings and industrial towers belching black smoke

into a blue sky built behind a rusty metal fence and a huge archway that

identified it as D.E.S Troy (Pty) Ltd.

“They want to build a factory here.” Emma looked at the wood as she

climbed down from her hiding place. . “They can’t - where would we play then?”

“This is serious,” Khai ran his hand through his tousled brown hair. “I

couldn’t see who the people were.”

“Khai, where’d Tando hide?” Emma looked along the bank of the river.

“Dunno, maybe he decided to sneak off home.” Khai was busy rolling

down the legs of his school trousers.

“Khai your legs.” Emma pointed at the angry red rash from his knees to

his feet. “What’s it from?”

“Yours are the same.”

“Oh no,” Emma looked at her legs. “I thought it was just gnat bites.”

“Are yours itchy like mine.”

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“Aaah –i-aaah-i-aaah. Whoa, look out - get out of my way! Quickly!

Quickly!” Thud. Lutando landed hard on the ground next to them. A broken

Weeping Willow branch still clutched in his hands.

“What are you trying to do?” Khai glared at him. “Kill yourself.”

“No –“Lutando looked hurt. “I just wanted to see what it’s like to be

Tarzan.” Seeing Emma he smiled. “So young maiden, are we going to find

your bracelet.

“I hope so.”

“Well, there is no need to look anymore. I’ve found it,” Khai held the

bracelet above his head. “It was in the reeds.”

Emma took it. “Thanks. But what are we going to do to save the woods?”

“Let’s go for another swing while we think,” Lutando had a bounce in his

step as he walked towards where the swing hung silently above the river. “This

wood is such a cool place to hang out.”

“Yes, and if we don’t save it we won’t have a swing to play on or trees to

climb anymore,” Khai sighed.

A dark shadow fell across them. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?” .

All three of them jumped. An elderly woman - her unkempt, white hair scraped

back into a bun - glared at them.

“I – we were playing on the swing. Emma lost her bracelet. We

found a dead frog and fish in the reeds -” Khai began.

“ENOUGH!” She shouted. “Do you know how your noise

could quite well have disrupted my breeding program? I have not spent all these
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years trying to build up the numbers of the black-footed cat for children to destroy

it.” With her gnarled index finger she pointed to the path that led out of the

woods. “Get out of here and don’t come back.”

“We’re sorry,” Khai mumbled his apology as they

backed away from her. Emma scooped up her shoes from the ground and ran

after Lutando who had broken into a run and disappeared from view along the


“Okay, let’s stop here,” Khai sat down on the path. “I don’t think she’ll

follow us all the way to the edge of the wood.”

“I don’t get it,” Emma said as Khai tied his shoe laces.

“What?” Khai absentmindedly scratch the angry red rash that had


“Well the Black-footed cat prefers the renosterveld environment, not a

thick wooded area like this. I hope she doesn’t tell our parents.”

“Me too, my mom’s about to have a baby. My dad will kill me if I cause

trouble now.’”

“I really liked playing in the woods,” said Lutando, as they trudged home

along the narrow wooded path.

“Thanks for finding my bracelet, Khai.”

So whatcha going to do now?” Tando stopped as they entered the road

along side the wood.

“Go home I guess,” Khai turned to leave.

“Do home work.” Emma sighed.

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“See you tomorrow then.”

Chapter 4

The Warning

“Got much homework?” Lutando called. He braked hard. His bike slid

sideways, causing clouds of red dust to rise.

“Man, Lutando,” Emma waved her hand to clear the dust away. “No I

don’t but I’m going to Khai’s farm for the afternoon.” She looked at Lutando’s

ebony face, little beads of sweat gleamed in the sun on his forehead.

“Well I have - see you tomorrow at school.” He popped a wheelie, almost

lost his balance on the uneven ground and sped away over the hill.

“Did you see this?” Emma held up the local newspaper she had pulled

from her bicycle’s front wicker basket.

“No,” Khai negotiated the path that led into Sugar Bush wood.

“Newspapers are boring.

“Look.” Emma stopped her bike and held out the newspaper so Khai

could see the front page article. The headline read, “Community Icon is for

Environment”. A photo of Mr. Troy smiled back at them. “It says here that Mr.
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Troy of D.E.S.TROY Industries has bought this very wood and has given his

commitment to saving the environment.”

“Well that’s not a bad thing. Is it?” Khai began to slowly cycle up the

slope into the dappled shade of the trees.

Emma rolled her eyes and sighed. “Boys can be so dense,” she said

quietly to herself. “It wouldn’t be,” Emma called out as she followed him. “But

he’s the owner of that chemical factory in Town! The people we heard yesterday

in the wood said they were going to rip it up. Hello - put two and two together

and you get Troy Industries.”

Emma passed Khai where he had stopped on the track. “I’ll beat

you to the big Oak tree. Last one’s a triple loser.” Emma placed her fingers in

the symbol of a triple loser against her forehead before she pedalled furiously

over the top of the hill and disappeared from view.

Khai chased her on his bike but braked sharply at the top of

the hill. Emma’s bike lay on its side. Her right arm was in the grip of a very large

man. His short hair and square jaw made him look like a cyborg with human


“Khai, help me!” Emma shouted. “Let me go!” She kicked out with her

feet but missed him. Effortlessly the man picked Emma up under one arm and

her bike and its contents with the other. He casually walked towards Khai.

“You and your sister are trespassing,” he said gruffly. His mirror glasses

hid his eyes and all that Khai could see was his own reflection in them.
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“Just put her down – please,” Khai gripped his handle bars until his

knuckles were white. If he won’t, there’s not a lot I can do. The man sneered at

him and then put Emma and her bike on the ground.

“Get out of the wood and never come back,” he ordered. Khai watched

the man walk back to the spot where he had first seen him holding Emma. He

picked up a hammer, nails and a number of boards one of which he nailed to the

nearest tree. Curiosity got the better of Khai and instead of heeding the man’s

warning he followed him.

“What are you doing? I don’t see why we can’t still use this shortcut after

school.” The man swung around, his jaw muscles flexed as he clenched and

unclenched his teeth as he walked towards Khai. I felt liberated when I stood up

to Fat Frank and helped Emma I just wish I’d done what this man told me to.

Bending slightly so that his mirrored glasses were on eye level with Khai the man

hissed, “you’re in school, why don’t you read the boards I am putting up?”

Khai turned his attention to the board. NOTICE – THIS IS



“That still doesn’t explain why it would be so terrible if we used this path to

get home, its not like we’re hurting anyone or thing,” Khai persisted.

“Because,” the man snapped. “There won’t be a wood in another couple

of week’s time. It will be open land ready for construction.”

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“So Soon?” Emma was over her fright. “So this is a lie.” Emma argued

as she pulled the local newspaper out of her bicycle basket. “It says here that

Mr. Troy is concerned about the environment.” Her index finger tapped the story.

The man took the paper from her, crumpled it into a ball and threw it into

the wood. “Now, GET OUT OF HERE! SCRAM!” he yelled.

Khai and Emma scrambled onto their bikes and didn’t stop pedalling until

they reached Honey Bush cottage. Breathlessly leaning their bikes up against

the cottage wall, Emma scowled. “Did you hear what he said?”

“He said a lot of things Em, which one are you talking about?”

“The part where he said the wood will be gone in a few weeks.”

“Yeah, I don’t know what we’re going to do about it or how we can stop it.”

“I just hope –“

“Hope what Em?”

“That the man doesn’t tell my parents that we were trespassing in the


Khai laughed. “You’re a goody two shoes. You’re always worrying about

whether your parents will find out.”

“I don’t like to get into trouble. Besides my parents smother me and I don’t

need to be grounded. That’d drive me mad.”

“Tell them it was my fault. I’m used to being in trouble with my folks.”

“How come?” Emma frowned as she waited for an explanation.

Khai sighed. “Well when I was seven, I broke a leg jumping off the

roof with my home-made hand glider. Then when I was eight, I burnt
The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 25 of 83

down the shed trying to build a huge volcano for a school project without

my dad’s help. I wanted to impress him but instead I got a hiding and was

grounded for a month.” Khai rubbed his behind as he recalled the hiding.

His dad’s disappointment in him hurt more than the hiding itself. “When I

was ten - I blew a hole in the cottage roof when I built a homemade rocket.

It was unbalanced and flew sideways instead of upwards - it flew into the

roof and blew up there.”

Emma clapped her hands together and laughed. She looked at

Khai with a look of admiration. “I think that is so cool.”

“You do?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Mum!” Khai called out as he and Emma entered the lounge. Everything

was quiet. The fire burnt low in the grate and his dad’s newspaper lay on the floor

beside his chair. Something was wrong. “Mum!” Khai’s dad, Daniel, came out

of the bedroom, a finger to his lips. “Dad, what’s wrong? Where’s mum?”

“Your mother is fine, she’s sleeping. Khai you have a little sister – Belle.”

Daniel picked up Monique’s knitting from the sofa and put it away. Then his

straightened the pink cushions on the floral sofa.

“Oh, could I see her please,” Emma clasped her hands together.

Daniel looked at his son and then at Emma, “just for a few minutes.”

Khai’s mother slept deeply, her long blonde hair spread across her pillow.
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“Isn’t she lovely? She’s just like a doll.” Emma smiled as she watched

Belle produced a bubble as her rose bud lips move in her sleep. “I love the

smell of baby powder.”

“She’s alright,” began Khai. “She’s a bit small - she can’t play soccer or


“She can’t - but I can,” Emma sighed. “I wish I had a big brother like you.

I have twin sisters, they’re so close and I’m the odd one out,” she whispered. “I

bet you’ll be a great brother to Belle.”

Khai gave her a friendly punch on her arm. “Okay - this is getting boring.

Iet’s go and see what’s for supper. You are going to stay for some?” Emma

nodded but remained beside the crib. “Emma, come!” Khai whispered.

“Okay.” Emma gentle moved a teddy bear closer to Baby Belle and blew

her a kiss.

“Khai – we didn’t get to see you this morning before you went to school.

Here’s a little something from your little sister.” Daniel held out a box wrapped in

paper as they entered the kitchen.

“Is it what I think it is?” Khai’ eyes widened. “A cell phone.”

“Well open it and see.”

“Dad what are we going to have for supper? Mum won’t be cooking.”

“Well there are pizza bases in the fridge and we can make our own.

How’s that sound?”

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“That’s cool. Come on then,” Emma opened the fridge and unpacked the

pizza bases and various toppings for the pizza.”

Khai sat down at the wooden table and tore open the paper and

gasped when he saw the cell phone box. Jumping up he hugged his dad.

“Thanks dad this is great!” he shouted.

“Keep it down Khai, your mother and Belle are asleep at the moment.”

“Sorry dad,” he whispered. He sat down and started pressing buttons on

his phone. Emma watched Khai as she wiped down the green counter top with

a cloth before they created their pizzas.

“So how was your day at school?” Daniel asked as they re-entered the

lounge with their cooked pizzas.

“Fine,” Khai’s monosyllable answer was followed by a long silence.

Daniel winked at Emma as Khai pick up his cell phone and forgot about his pizza

- a look of concentration on his face. Emma grinned.

“So I take it that you’ll be doing more chores around the house to earn

money for your pre-paid vouchers now?” Daniel asked mischievously.

“Yeah.” Emma and Daniel laughed. “What?” Khai looked bewildered.

“You didn’t hear a thing I just said to you, did you?” Daniel ruffled Khai’s

hair with his hand. Khai shrugged and returned his attention to his cell phone.

“Emma, you really made lovely pizza seeming as techno boy here was

way too busy to help.” Daniel collected Emma’s empty plate.

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“Actually dad, something strange did happen on the way home from

school today,” Khai looked up at his dad.

“Go on.” Daniel moved towards the kitchen door.

“Em and I were taking a short cut through Sugar Bush wood, when we

were stopped by a really large man.”

“He was scary,” Emma added.

“He didn’t hurt you or Emma, did he?” Daniel’s face expressed concern

as he turned to look at them.

“Oh no – it was nothing like that,” Khai sat back in his seat. “He was

putting up trespassing boards and told us we mustn’t use the short cut anymore.

The boards were a message from D.E.S Troy Industries.”

“Well, I know that Mr. Troy has bought a large portion of the wood to help

conserve the area. Just do what the man asked, stay out of the woods,” Daniel

turned to leave thinking that the conversation was over.

“That’s the point dad. The man told us that we wouldn’t be able to use the

short cut because in a few weeks’ time, the wood was going to be cut down and

a chemical factory built there.”

“And we overheard two people we couldn’t see in the wood yesterday

talking about exactly the same thing,” Emma nodded.

“Look there must be a reasonable explanation.” Daniel looked at the

ceiling as if it would give him the answer. “The man probably doesn’t even know

why he was putting up the trespassing boards and wanted to scare you off.”
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The baby whimpered in the next room. “Look Belle might be waking up

and I want to see if your mother wants a cup of tea.” Daniel left the room.

Khai sighed and shook his head. “I don’t think we’re going to get any help

from my parents. They are too busy with my sister. In fact I don’t think my dad

believes there is a problem.”

“Don’t worry Khai - I’m sure we can figure it out.”

“If we can’t, the wood might be destroyed and then there will be nowhere

to play anymore.”

“I know,” Emma snapped her fingers. “Lutando! Lutando can help us – I’ll

talk to him tomorrow at break.”

“How can he help?”

“His dad works at Mr. Troy’s factory. I bet you he could find out when the

wood will be cut down.”

“Do you think he can find out without giving himself away?” Khai was

doubtful. “He is always trying to be a super hero.”

“Well I’ll see tomorrow. Now let’s hear some of those ring tones.”
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Chapter 5

Double Oh No

The break bell sounded.

“Em, did he agree to meet us?” Khai found Emma making her way along

the corridor.

“He did but when the break bell went Miss Naidoo asked me if I’d help

carry a pile of books to the staff room, so I am on my way to the bike shed now.

“Cool bananas we can go together then,” Khai slowed his pace so Emma

could walk beside him and not run.

They emerged from the school building - made their way to the bike shed.

No one was allowed in this area of the school during the school day because of

its use by children who illegally smoked. They turned the corner into the bicycle


“I don’t see him,” Khai scanned the rows of bikes.

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“H-h-here...” Lutando lay curled up in a ball in the dirt unable to breath.

Emma ran to his side and knelt down beside him. He had a cut above his

right eye and his right knee was bleeding. Emma helped him into sitting position

but he was gasping for air.

“Was it Fat Frank?” asked Khai. Lutando nodded. “Okay just catch your

breath. He punched you in the stomach didn’t he?” Lutando nodded again.

“Did he follow you?” Khai looked around them to make sure that Frank was no

where around.

“He was smoking,” Lutando gasped. “He said I had better not tell. He

hit, kicked and punched me. I hate feeling like this. I hate being bullied by Fat

Frank. I wish I was like the Karate kid or Superman.”

“Oooh! I want to punch him right on the nose,” Emma clenched her fist

and swiped at the air.

“Emma, one day is one day, when Fat Frank will meet his match. There’s

always someone bigger and nastier out there.”

Lutando looked at Khai and Emma. “What did you want to see me


“Your dad,” blurted Emma excitedly.

“My dad? What’s he got to do with the price of eggs?” Lutando rubbed

his tender stomach while he sat on the ground. “This better be good. I don’t

want to’ve been punched for nothing.”

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“Your dad works at D.E.S.Troy Industries - doesn’t he?” Emma sat back

on her heels. “I remember you saying so when we newbies had to introduce

ourselves to the school at junior assembly.”

“Yeah he does.” Lutando’s eyes no longer watered. “So what’s this


“Well,” Khai began. “What does he do there?”

“He’s the fleet manager.”

“What does that mean?” Emma wrinkled her nose.

“He makes sure that all the vehicles are working and go for their services.

He has to check all the log books for all the vehicles. ”

“Is it true?” Emma asked impatiently. “Is it true that Mr. Troy is planning

to chop down Khaki Bush Wood?”

Lutando laughed. “No silly. He said he was for conserving the place.”

“I don’t think he is.” Khai retorted. “Lutando, yesterday we were stopped

by a man as we made our way home. He was putting up trespassing boards at

the edge of Khaki Bush Wood and told us that the wood was going to be

chopped down within a few weeks.”

“So what do you want me to do?” Lutando stood up and dusted himself


“We need you to ask your dad in a way that wouldn’t make him suspicious

what is going on at the factory. Will you do that?” Khai held his breath waiting

for Lutando’s answer.

“You mean like spy for you?”

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“Yes,” Emma clapped her hands together.

“You mean like 007,” Lutando pretended to hold a gun.

“Oh boy,” Khai bent his head forward and sighed. “This is going to be a

long day.”

“Exactly,” Emma encouraged.

“Step aside James Bond 007, make way for Seboko, Tando Seboko –


Lutando and Emma laughed. Khai got to his feet.

“At this rate it’ll be Double Oh No. So will you do it or not? Break is

almost over and we have to get back into the school without anyone seeing us.”

Khai picked up his satchel.

“Yes I’ll do it,” Lutando smiled. “Tomorrow is Saturday - I’ll let you know

what I find next week. Let’s meet here on Monday first break”

Khai, Emma and Lutando met at the bike shed and to their relief Fat

Frank was nowhere to be seen.

“Have I got news for you,” Lutando savoured being the centre of attention.

He had spent much of his life in the background of everything that went on

around him and now he had a chance to shine. He face became serious.

“Before I tell you what I found out you have to promise me something.”

“What?” Emma danced from one foot to the other in her anxiousness to

hear what Lutando knew.

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“You can never say the information came from my dad otherwise he would

be fired from his new job.”

“Okay,” agreed Khai. “We both promise.”

“Well, you’re right Mr. Troy is planning to deforest his half of the wood. He

is going to build another factory.”

“I knew it,” shouted Emma, pointing her index finger at Khai, glad that she

was right.

“Wait there’s more.” Emma stopped celebrating and waited for Lutando to

continue. “He has already started using the wood at night as a dumping ground

for waste products.”

“Khai, we were all wading in the river. The rashes on our legs - there

must have been toxic waste in the river then.”

“Don’t worry Emma, the rash has gone now. It was probably just dry skin.

Lutando didn’t say waste was being dumped in the river. Right Tando?”

Lutando shrugged, “I don’t know where they’re dumping it in the woods.

All I know is that some vehicles are making short trips in the early hours of the


“Just how did you get this type of information from your dad?” Khai asked


“Well he brought the log books home to check over the weekend. While

he was helping my mum in the kitchen, I went into his study and looked through

some of them.”

“Is it every night and at the same time?”

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“No. Sometimes it’s three times a week and others its once a week. The

only thing that does stay the same is the time. The trips are all between

midnight and four o’clock in the morning. Listen got to go now, I hope it helped.”

“It did Lutando, you’re a star,” Emma gave him a hug. “You really are


After Lutando had left Emma turned to Khai. “So what now?”

“We need to go to the wood tonight and see what they are up to.”

“At night! In the dark!”

“Don’t worry Em, I’ll go. I know you probably have a bedtime curfew and

being a girl you’re probably scared and don’t want to traipse through the


“I’ll have you know,” Emma cut in angrily. “I am a Tomboy and I can go to

bed anytime I like. Meet me at the barn on my farm tonight at eight.”

“At least there’s a full moon tonight. My torch batteries are almost flat,”

Khai banged his torch against his hand.

“Where are we going?” Emma asked Khai. “How do we know they’re

even going to come to the wood tonight?”

“Well let’s just see if we can hear anything for a while.”

The hours dragged and Emma fell asleep against Khai’s shoulder where

they sat sheltered from the wind between the roots of an Oak tree. Khai’s eyes

were heavy. His head lolled forward. Sleep won.

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Khai’s eyes snapped open. Why is my heart racing? What woke me

up? Gently he shook Emma who rubbed her eyes as she looked around.

“What?” She mumbled.

“I don’t know something woke me up.” Before Khai could continue, the

wind carried men’s’ voices to them and then the dull thud of heavy objects being

moved. “Come,” Khai whispered. “It sounds like they’re by the river.” Khai and

Emma ran to the reeds and watched.

A group of men off loaded barrels from a truck. Tipped them over and

poured the contents into the water. When the barrels were empty they reloaded

them onto the truck and drove out of the wood. The only sound remaining was

the sound of the gently flowing river.

“Khai,” whispered Emma. “They’re poisoning the river. What are we

going to do?”
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Chapter 6


Residences arrived at Ridgeway Community Hall for the meeting - their

breath erupted in white clouds as they spoke to one another outside the hall and

hard ground crunched underfoot. Posters had appeared on lamp posts and in

bus shelters. Pamphlets had been pushed through post boxes all with the same



Invites all Ridgeway residence to a meeting at Ridgeway Community Hall

Saturday night 19:00

Spokes person Mr. Troy will be available for a Q and A session

Khai looked at the rapidly growing throng of people in the hope of seeing

Emma. He saw Lutando with his parents. Lutando gave him a cheeky grin,

winked and gave him a thumbs up.

The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 38 of 83

“Khai,” Monique called. “There are three seats over here.” She adjusted

Belle’s weight, who, despite the growing rumble of the crowd, slept peacefully in

the crook of her arm. Khai saw Emma as she entered the hall with her parents.

“It okay mum, I’m going to sit with Emma.”

“This is quite exciting,” Emma bubbled over with energy. She looked

around at all the people from the town many she had never seen before. “Who’s

that man walking in now?” She pointed at a bearded, muscular man, his blue

eyes twinkle as he greeted people.

“Oh, him - that Shewbro.”


“He is the leader of S.A.L, Saving Anything Living. He fights for the

environment and animal rights.”

“He’s got an awesome Kombi.”

“What?” Khai smiled. “That beat up old lime green thing with flowers and

“peace” painted all over it.”

“He looks like he could be a movie star.”

“Please! From what I’ve heard, the people don’t like him or SAL much.”


“They’re weird that’s why.”

“Look he’s coming over here.”

Shewbro smiled at Khai and Emma. “Is this seat taken?”

“No,” replied Emma.

Shewbro sat down and made himself comfortable.

The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 39 of 83

“Hey do you know who put up the posters and posted the pamphlets?”

Emma whispered.

“We’re about to find out,” Khai nodded his head in the direction of the

stage. Mr. Troy’s portly figure moved towards the podium. The noise faded into

silence as Mr. Troy surveyed the audience with his cold grey eyes.

“Good evening Ladies and Gentleman, thank you for attending this

meeting at such short notice. The meeting is basically to reassure you that

although I run a number of pesticide and poison factories, that my latest

acquisition of fifty percent of Sugar Bush Wood is for conservation purposes. I

believe that this meeting was necessary as some very nasty rumours have been

floating around that I am going to change it into another factory. I assure you I

am not. I believe when you take from nature you should also give back.”

Shewbro snorted loudly. “Pfhhh – I’ve heard that before.”

Mr Troy glared at the area of the audience where the comment had been

made. “I will however be chopping down a few trees to make room for lodgings

and laboratory space for the conservationists I intend to employ.”

There was a nod of approval and smiles from many members of the


“Now that the little misunderstanding has been cleared up do any of you

have any questions? A number of hands shot up and Mr. Troy patiently

answered them.

Emma nudged Khai, “let’s ask him about the trespassing boards in the

wood and the stuff they were dumping in the river the other night.”
The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 40 of 83

Khai looked around uneasily. “Em – I don’t know whether he would

answer them and besides the adults seem to believe him.”

“We have to try,” Emma’s face became a frown. “If you won’t I will.” She

stood up and raised her hand but Khai pulled her down.

“Wait I’ll do it.” He hesitated, took a deep breath and stood up. Mr. Troy

had just finished answering a question and looked around the hall. His eyes

came to rest on Khai with his hand up.

“Yes young man, what’s your question?”

“Why are you putting up trespassing signs in Sugar Bush wood?”

Mr. Troy laughed coldly. “Well surely that’s obvious? I own the land!”

The audience politely laughed. “Next question,” Mr. Troy pointed at an elderly

lady in the front row.

“I’m not finished!” Khai shouted.

“Yes you are,” Mr Troy snapped.

Shewbro stood up. “Mr Troy, why don’t you allow this young man to finish

asking you his questions?”

“He is wasting my time and everyone else’s time too. Who are you

anyway? His father?”

“No just a concerned citizen.”

“Well you don’t have to worry anymore - everything has been explained to


“Has it? Why are you afraid to let this young man ask you questions?”
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Mr Troy locked eyes with Shewbro, sighed and turned to Khai. Through

gritted teeth he spoke. “What other questions do you have?”

Shewbro sat down again.

“Why did the man putting up the boards tell us that we wouldn’t be able to

use that part of the woods soon because it was going to be cut down to make

way for another factory?”

“What?” Mr. Troy scowled.

A rumble of sound rolled around Khai as the audience quietly spoke

about his accusation. . Shewbro smiled and slowly nodded his head.

“Quiet! Please!” Mr. Troy waited until silence returned. “I have always

admired the way children have such vivid imaginations. If one of my employees

told you that, then I need to have a word with him and I am sure he was probably

joking with you.”

“No he wasn’t!” Emma shouted as she jumped up. “What about the stuff

you emptied into the river in Sugar Bush River two nights ago. What about the

dead frog in the reeds and the rash Khai, Lutando and I got on our legs after

wading in the river?”

Mr. Troy’s face twitched. He grabbed the lectern His knuckles turned

white. His voice shook as he answered acidly, “One dead frog does not

constitute a pollution spill. I assure you I was fast asleep and no where near the

river. I’m not young anymore, late nights aren’t for me. Dear sweet girl, your

imagination is even greater than your friends.”

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“Is it?” Shewbro raised his voice as he stood and walked down the aisle

towards Mr Troy. “Is it her imagination? I know your type.”

Mr Troy narrowed his eyes. “I don’t recognise you.”

“You,” Shewbro pointed at Mr Troy while he looked at the residence.

“And others like you have no respect for the environment and I am more likely to

believe these children than you.”

“How could you possible believe them?”

“Because – they have nothing to gain from lying but you sir have

everything to gain. I’m sure our paths will cross again soon.” Shewbro stalked

out of the hall.

Mr. Troy ignored all further questions and changed the subject. “As we

end this meeting, I would just like to say that that man whoever he is - doesn’t

know what he’s talking about. I would like to thank my son, Frank, who

distributed the posters and pamphlets.” Mr. Troy left the podium and was

followed by Fat Frank who had been sitting in the front row.

“Khai! Is it possible? Fat Frank is Mr. Troy’s son? “ Emma’s mouth hung

open as she watched Frank receive a stiff pat on his back from his father. Both

of them appeared unused to displays of affection.

The citizens of Ridgeway filtered out of the hall. Emma and Khai found

themselves next to Mrs. Gillian. Tonight she had tidied herself up. She had

swapped her plaited hair for a bun and she wore a tweed jacket with designer

jeans. She was in a good mood and nodded her head slightly as she greeted

people with a warm smile.

The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 43 of 83

Emma tugged on Khai’s arm, “Mrs. Gillian is beautiful.” Her whisper had

been louder than she thought and she found herself looking into Mrs. Gillian’s

smiling face.

“Thank you Emma.”

“You know my name?”

Mrs. Gillian looked from Emma to Khai. “Yes I do and Khai’s and

Lutando’s. I make it a point of finding out all I can about people who come into

my part of the wood. Tell me - were you serious when you asked Mr. Troy those

questions just now.”

“Yes” Emma nodded her head. “You should have seen the rash on our

legs after we had got my bracelet back - all red and yucky.”

“Mrs. Gillian -” Khai hesitated. “I bet if you check the reeds now you’ll find

more dead frogs. They poured a few barrels of something into the river two

nights ago.”

“I did look the day I found you at the river but there were a few fish but like

Mr Troy said nothing there indicated poisoning. Leave this with me. I’ll look

again tomorrow morning.”

“What are we going to do about the wood being chopped down?” Emma


“Now that,” Mrs. Gillian said a far away look in her eyes “is another kettle

of fish altogether.”

Mr. Troy pushed past with Fat Frank just behind him.
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“Mrs. Gillian, we have to go,” Khai dragged Emma by her arm after him

with one hand as he fiddled with his cell phone. He pushed his way through the

crowd of people lingering outside the hall until he reached the limousine that Mr.

Troy and Fat Frank were about to leave in.

“Mr. Troy,” Khai called out breathlessly. Mr. Troy’s face was frozen in a

cold smile as he looked at Khai.

“You again - what is it this time?” He raised his eyebrows and waited.

“I know – we know,” Khai pointed at Emma standing just behind him, “that

you dumped poisons into Sugar Bush River. We were waiting for you and we

watched what your men did.”

Mr. Troy’s face darkened in a scowl. “You were waiting? You knew my

men were coming?”

“Yes, so you do admit that you let your men poison the river.”

“I want to know how you knew they would be there,” hissed Mr. Troy.

“Someone had to have told you. Who was it?”

“None of your business,” Emma said.

“Frank!” Mr. Troy turned in his seat and raised his hand to hit his son.

Frank’s eyes widened. His nostrils flared and he closed his eyes as he braced

himself for the blow.

“It wasn’t him!” Emma shouted. “We don’t speak to Fat Frank he’s a


Mr. Troy lowered his hand and Frank let out a sigh of relief. “I want to

know who told you.” Mr. Troy opened the car door. Bill jumped out of the
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driver’s seat and ran around the car to hold the door for Mr. Troy. ‘Go’ he

mouthed to Khai and Emma.

“Come Emma, I’ve got what we need.” Khai and Emma turned and ran

into the remnants of the crowd.

They stopped behind a pillar. “What did we get?” Emma asked

Khai produced his cell phone a smile on his face. “A recording of Mr.

Troy’s confession.” He pressed a button and his happiness turned to one of

anger. “No! Oh you stupid, stupid, idiot!” Khai ran his hand through his hair

and looked at his phone before kicking the pillar with his boot. “Arrrrgh.”

“What?” Emma pulled his arm down so she could see the screen of his

cell phone. “It’s recording.”

“I know,” Khai groaned. “I accidentally left it on pause, now we don’t have

his confession and no one is going to believe us.”

“Well,” said Emma folding her arms across her stomach, “we’ll have to find

another way. I think Mrs. Gillian believes us.”

“How could I be such an idiot?” Khai shook his head and looked at his cell

phone again.

“I think you were really brave,” Emma pulled at Khai’s arm and led him

towards their parent’s cars at the edge of the car park. “You know, now that we

know Fat Frank is Mr. Troy’s son and we saw how he treats him, it’s easier to

understand why he is such a bully himself.”

The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 46 of 83

“Emma,” Emma and Khai froze at the sound of Fat Frank’s voice. They

turned slowly to see Fat Frank looking at his feet a little way from them. He


Emma half hid behind Khai. “What are you still doing here, everyone else

including your dad has gone.” She glanced around for the protection of an adult

but Khai and her parents were still chatting on the hall steps. .

“I told my dad I wanted to walk home.” He never looked up but stared at

his feet. “Thank you,” he whispered.

“For what?” Emma stepped out from behind Khai.

“For standing up for me back there - no one has ever done that for me

before.” He turned to go. Emma took a step towards his retreating back but Khai

stopped her.

“Frank?” Emma called out. Frank turned to look at her for the first time

since he had spoken to her. “Friends?” She held out her hand.

“Emma!” Khai looked at her in horror.

Emma raised her head in an act of defiance and looked from Khai

to Frank. “Friends?” Frank stepped forward and very gently took her small hand

and shook it. He gave a weak smile.

“Friends,” he whispered. He looked at Khai with a hopeful look.


“Oh no, I don’ trust you. Em’ you are so trusting.” Khai started to protest

but saw Emma watching him, arms folded. Oh I’ve had enough for one night. I

don’t have to mean it. I just don’t want to have a fight with Emma. Sighing, he
The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 47 of 83

slowly raised his arm to shake Frank’s hand but refused to say the word “friends”

as he did so. “You know Frank - if you really wanted to be a friend you’d help us

stop your dad from cutting down the wood.”


“Give us information.”

Frank held his breath. Then he nodded and let out his breath slowly.

“Okay, I’ll help you. I owe you.”

The black limousine slid into view as Khai and Emma’s parent’s car tail

lights disappeared out of sight of Ridgway Town Hall.

Fat Frank opened the back door and climbed in.

“So son, do they believe you will help them?” Mr. Troy’s eyes glistened in

the dark.

“Yes dad, they do?” Fat Frank leered at his father. “They are so stupid.”
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Chapter 7


“What’s all of this?” Khai rubbed his eyes as he answered his front door.

“Morning, I’ve brought breakfast. I raided the cupboards at home.” Emma

walked passed him with a satchel slung over her shoulder. She laid everything

out on the kitchen table.

“Emma - I was still sleeping. What’re you doing?”

“We’re going to make protest posters to put up around town!”

“I can’t draw.”

“You don’t have to draw - you said you had a computer.” There was a

knock at the door. “Oh that’s probably Tando.”

“You’ve invited Lutando?” Khai rubbed the back of his neck. “Emma this

is Sunday, my parents are still sleeping. If we wake the baby I’m in for it.”
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“We’ll be quiet, now open the door and I’ll find some plates so we can eat.”

Khai stood open mouthed watching Emma open cupboards. Sighing he opened

the door.

“HALLO PEOPLE!” Lutando shouted as the door opened - huge

sunglasses on his face.

“Shhhhhhh! You’ll wake Belle!” Khai hissed.

“Who?” whispered Lutando.

“My baby sister.”

“Oh I see.” Lutando accidently bumped the kitchen table causing it to

scrape across the floor. “When do we get started on these posters?” Khai

scowled at Lutando. “Or we could just have breakfast first.” Lutando sat down

and took the muffin Emma offered him.

“Khai, please can we use your computer, it’s the only one we’ve got,”

Emma begged.

“Okay. Alright just be quiet.” Khai whispered.

“So we’re clear what we are trying to achieve here?” Emma asked as she

looked at the boys.

“No!” Khai shook his head. “We don’t even know when Mr. Troy intends

to cut down the wood.”

“Oh we will shortly,” Emma said struggling to get the lid off the coffee jar

but it was stuck. “Khai please open this for me.” She held out the jar. Khai

didn’t take it straight away.

“You didn’t?”
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“Didn’t what?” Emma feigned an innocent expression.

“Invite Fat Frank here?”

Lutando’s eyes widened in fear, “Aw-aw.”

“Well where else were we supposed to meet? He’ll be here soon.” As if

on cue there was a soft knock at the door. Khai opened the door for the third

time. Frank shyly stepped inside.

“Hi er- I – um, found out that my dad plans to cut the wood down in four

days time. It depends when the graders can get there.”

Emma gasped. “So soon? Thanks Frank, now we can start putting our

plan into action.” Frank turned to go and Khai opened the door for him. “Frank?”

Would you like to help us create some posters? Khai’s got a computer.”

Khai pulled a face behind Frank’s back and sighed. “Well I’ve never tried

before - my dad says if a thing doesn’t make money then it’s pointless.”

“Well grab a chair and help then.” Khai shut the door and headed for the

bedroom. “Where are you going?” Emma asked.

“To switch on my computer so you guys can make some posters,” Khai

said over his shoulder before disappearing down the corridor. “Hey – are you

coming or not?”

Khai looked up as Lutando, Emma and Frank returned to the kitchen, the

first three posters were finished.

“Look Khai,” Emma held up the finished posters. “This is my one.” The

poster had a border of fir trees. In the centre in thick, black, bold Comic Sans
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MS it read, “SAVE SUGAR BUSH WOOD FROM TROY!” Khai saw Frank flinch

and for the first time felt sorry for him.

“How about mine?” Lutando gave a naughty grin. At the top of his poster

he had inserted a pair of wonky looking black sun glasses from the on line clip art

- on either side at an angle he had inserted text in bold black writing “Double OH

NO!” The main message was printed in bold, capital, multi-coloured words in


“You must see Frank’s one.” Frank held it up. In each corner of

his poster he had inserted a picture of planet earth and in Constantia font, he had



“It’s beautiful,” Emma clapped her hands together. “Now you need to go

and make one Khai. We have already printed a few of our own.”

“I’d better go,” Frank mumbled as he got to his feet. “My dad will wonder

where I am when he wakes up.”

“Frank could you take a letter to S.A.L for us?” Emma asked.

“It’s OK Em – Lutando will take it for us.” Khai snatched the

envelope from Emma

“I will?” Lutando looked at Khai questioningly.

“Yes you will.” Khai placed the letter in Lutando’s hands and pushed him

out of the front door.

“I can take it to SAL for you,” Fat Frank eagerly held out his hand.

“No really – its okay.”

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Fat Frank scowled, shrugged and let himself out of the cottage.

“Why didn’t you give it to him?” Emma shook her head.

“Because I don’t trust him – that’s why.”

There was a quiet knock at the door. “What now?” Khai swung the door


“Where’s SAL?” Lutando grinned and lowered his sun glasses over his

eyes so that his face was once again drowned by them.

“Their office is in the high street.”

“But – its Sunday,” Lutando looked doubtful.

“Shewbro, the leader sleeps on the premises. Just throw a stone at the

upstairs window above the shop front and he’ll open for you.”

“Is there any vine I can climb and a balcony I can hop onto – maybe?”

“Lutando just -throw - a – stone. Oh and watch out for Fat Frank

ambushing you along the way.” Khai sighed and ran his hand through his hair

as he watched Lutando leave.

“Khai, Emma, come quickly.” Lutando burst into the kitchen.

“You can’t possible have got to Shewbro yet, it’s takes twenty minutes to

get there,” Khai looked at his watch. “You’ve only been gone ten minutes.”

“I didn’t go to Shewbro,” Lutando caught his breath.

“Why not?”
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“Something is happening in the woods. I could hear heavy vehicles

heading for the woods as I reached the main road.”

“Mr. Troy,” Emma and Khai chimed together.

“Let’s go,” Khai made for the door.

“There’s another thing,” Lutando grinned. “Before I heard the graders, I

saw weird coloured kombi’s parked in the woods.”

“That’s Shewbro.”

“How did they know Mr Troy would be in the wood now?” Emma asked as

they left the cottage.

“I could hear Sherbet shouting something about being prepared just in

case,” Lutando shrugged his shoulders before jumping on his bike

“It’s Shewbro, Tando, not Sherbet.” Emma laughed. “Hey wait for me.”

”They’re over there,” Khai propped his bike against a tree and crept

forward until he could see what was happening from behind some bushes.

“Weird - why are they playing musical instruments and some of them are

chaining themselves to the trees?” Lutando shook his head.

“Look over there, here comes Mr Troy.” Emma pointed at the limousine

that had stopped.

“WHAT IS THIS?” Mr. Troy stormed into the circle of SAL supporters.

“You are trespassing.”

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“And you sir – are about to commit a crime against the environment,”

Shewbro retorted.

“I am not! I explained my position at the meeting in the town hall - which a

dare say you didn’t attend. I need to clear some trees for the purpose of building

research laboratories and lodgings for the scientists.”

“You are a liar! People assume your positions.” Shewbro clapped his

hands and the remaining people scurried to chain themselves to the nearest


“This is madness,” blurted Mr. Troy. “Enough of this, you get out of here


“We can’t do that,” Shewbro responded and snapped the padlock shut on

his chain that held him to a tree facing the graders that now trundled up the

tracks towards him.

“Unchain yourselves now,” Mr. Troy’s veins bulged on the sides of his


A jeep stopped next to Mr. Troy’s limousine and Mrs. Gillian climbed out.

“Mr. Troy, do you mind telling me what is going on?” Her green eyes

sparkled with anger. Then she noticed the S.A.L members chained to the trees

and she smiled. “So this is where the music was coming from.”

“Mrs. Gillian, I am merely trying to clear some space for the buildings

needed for the conservationists. These tree hugging, bunny hugging hippies are

obstructing me on my own land.”

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Mrs. Gillian shook her head as she gazed at the flustered Mr. Troy. “How

do you explain the death of fish and frogs in my section of the river?”

“I have no idea madam, but there are many explanations.”

“Such as?” Mrs. Gillian tossed her plaited hair over her shoulder.

“Well – well for instance it could be a disease within the species. Or- or if it

is poison, the ground around here is very absorbent – mmm, yes, that’s it,

maybe that’s how it happened and somehow poison leaked into it. You don’t

honestly believe the children. They’re imaginations are vivid. I tell you what -

when I have cleared a large enough area I will invite you to see for yourself that

the wood is still standing.”

Mrs. Gillian was uncertain and started to walk back to her car deep in

thought. Then she had an idea. “Mr. Troy, I’ll pay you double whatever you

paid for this land. You are aware that the charity I founded H.O.P - Heal Our

Planet - is doing some very delicate breeding work here in the wood? Too much

noise could upset the program.”

“I am aware of the program and I will tell them to keep the noise down

and - no - Mrs. Gillian, I am not prepared to sell this beautiful wood to you.”

Mrs. Gillian returned to her jeep, in a state of indecision. Sitting in her

jeep, she watched Mr. Troy waving fists at the men and women chained to the

trees. Leaning over to her glove compartment she withdrew a letter she had

found pinned to her door at her cottage in the woods. In childish scrawl it read -

Dear Mrs. Gillian, We have news that Mr. Troy is going to cut down the

wood in four days time but we don’t believe it and think it s going to happen
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sometime today. His son told us. We are putting up posters around town and

have let S.A.L know.

K, L and E

Are the children misguided in their belief or is it true. Sighing she started

her jeep and slowly made her way home. An uneasy feeling gnawed at her

stomach. I guess the upside to this situation is that S.A.L will aggressively fight

for this wood until the last one of them is hauled away by the police. She smiled.

It will be very difficult to remove them. They were seasoned environmental

fighters. Right now - I need to phone my lawyer - there are things I need to find

out regarding the wood.

“Hey look, there’s Mrs. Gillian’s car,” Emma pointed at the red jeep parked

outside Cheng, Naidoo and Hlatswayo law firm. “I wonder what she is doing

here on a Sunday.” Through the glass front Emma could make out the

silhouettes of Mrs. Gillian and one of the lawyers leaning over a desk looking at

papers and big thick books. I wonder if it has anything to do with the wood.”

“Dunno,” Khai replied quietly as he concentrated on knotting the string.

“Em, hold the poster a little higher so that I can tie the string around the pole and

hook it on the metal bit so it doesn’t slide down to the ground.” From his vantage

point on top of the concrete municipal dustbin, Khai could see their posters

attached to every second pole along the high street and outside the main church.

Very soon people would arrive for the first Sunday service of the day and they
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would all see the poster protest. “I hope this works.” Khai called down to


“It will,” she said smiling at him as she squinted in the brightness of a

perfectly, blue morning. “I think this is my favourite poster.”

“What - my one?” Khai sounded surprised.

“Yes!” Emma nodded. “I didn’t know you liked poetry.” Khai had chosen

a rainbow as the backdrop for the poster and typed a haiku poem in Arial Black

font which read:-

There is a green wood

Under threat from Mister Troy

Help us stop him now!

Khai jumped down from the dustbin and rubbed his hands on his jeans.

“Yeah well, it’s not the type of thing you advertise when you are trying to avoid

the school bully.”

At the church, cars arrived and bells pealed. Parishioners stopped to


“Look they’re reading our posters,” Emma pointed at the church goers.

“Well we’ll soon know if our plan has any affect,” Khai bit his lower lip. His

face showed doubt. “Let’s see how S.A.L is doing in the woods.”

They cycled towards the Khaki Bush wood unaware of what awaited them.
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Chapter 8 Wheels in Motion

“Quickly men,” Mr. Troy blew on his hands and rubbed them together.

The sun was setting and an icy wind blew in gusts between the trees. “Get these

graders into action. Chop this wood down before the do - gooders arrive. S.A.L

has been let out on bail so no doubt they’ll be back soon.”

Men with whirring chain saws attacked the trees. Graders pierced the soil

tearing bushes from the earth.

Turning to Fat Frank Mr. Troy smiled. “Now this is more like it.”

“How’d you find out about S.A.L dad?”

Touching the side of his nose with his index finger, he winked. “Very

important business rule, keep your friends close and your enemies even closer.”

Fat Frank nodded his head and smirked. “I’ll remember that.”

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The moonlit curtains coloured Khai’s bedroom a greeny-blue. He sat up in

bed. What woke me? Everything was quiet - then the sound came again. A

soft tapping - looking at his curtains he could make out a shadow at his window.

He jumped out of bed. Crossed the room and tore back the curtain. Emma had

her hand raised to tap again. He threw open the window.

“Emma, what are you doing? It’s –“Khai looked at his watch. “Midnight!”

“Khai,” Emma shivered in the cold. “Mr. Troy is back, he’s cutting down

the forest. I could hear the chainsaws and graders from our farm when the wind

blew the right way. I had no reception, so I couldn’t phone you.”

“How sure are you?” Khai pulled her through the window as she struggled

to lift herself over the window mantle and closed it again.

“As sure as I can possible be.”

“Well we’ll have to put our plan into action.” Khai nodded.

Emma frowned. “What plan?”

Khai bit his lip. “Well -” He ran his hand through his hair.

“I’m listening,” Emma cocked her head.

“Phone Lutando and see if he can phone the children from our school to

meet us in the woods.”

“I’m going to phone Bill too.”

“Bill who?”

“Mr Troy’s chauffeur.”

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“He’s nice and besides he slipped me his cell number at the meeting as

we were leaving. I think he’d help us.”

“You didn’t tell me.”

“I forgot – until now.”

Emma pressed speed dial and waited for the line to connect. “Hallo –

hallo Bill?” Emma stuck a finger in her other ear even although Khai’s bedroom

was quiet. “Bill - its Emma. I can hardly hear you. Where are you? We need

your help. Oh -” Emma nodded as she listened. “Can you get away?” Emma

quickly pressed the cancel call button and looked at Khai with wide eyes.

“What’s wrong?”

“Bill is already in the wood. He had to drive Mr. Troy there. Mr. Troy

grabbed Bill’s phone from him to see who he was talking to. That’s why I ended

the call.” Emma’s phone started ringing. “It’s Bill’s number – I bet its Mr. Troy.”

Khai grabbed Emma’s phone and killed the call.

“Did he say he’d help us?”

“He said it’s going to be difficult to get away from Mr. Troy but he’ll try.”

“So we can’t be sure.”

“I’ll phone Lutando now but what else can we do?” Emma sat down on

the bed and sighed.

“We need to let Mrs. Gillian and S.A.L know what is happening.”

Twenty minutes later, Khai and Emma reached the edge of Sugar Bush

wood on their bikes. The sound of destruction was deafening. Wood cracked.
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Tree boughs gave way to chainsaws. The earth shuddered as decade old trees

fell. The vibration of graders shook the ground. A hare scampered out of Mr.

Troy’s part of the wood, sat up on its haunches - nose twitching as it looked

around for danger before dashing away into the quieter part of Sugar Bush Wood

owned by Mrs. Gillian.

“Poor thing,” Emma watched it go. “At least he’ll be safe on Mrs. Gillian’s


“No time for that now – come on we’ve got to let Mrs Gillian and Shewbro

know. It would be so much easier if they had cell phones.”

“Why don’t they?” Emma asked. “Well Shewbro doesn’t believe in the

radiation cell phones give off and Mrs Gillian is so old. I think she’s afraid of

them. Her landline number is X- directory.” Khai began to pedal towards

Ridgeway Town.

Emma didn’t move. “Wait – shouldn’t we split up?”

Khai cycled back to her. “I thought you’d be afraid of getting lost.”

Emma grinned and pulled herself to her full height. “Hallo – I just cycled

all the way to your farm on my own in the dark. I think I can do it.”

Khai smiled and nodded. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Tell you what –

why don’t you let Mrs. Gillian know, she is closest. I will ride to town and alert

S.A.L and Shewbro. After you’ve finished there, phone Lutando and get him to

phone all the school kids, so we can make it as difficult as we can for Mr. Troy.

Meet me at Ridgeway Dam when you are finished.”

“Why Ridgeway dam?”

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“You can see Mr. Troy’s part of the wood from there.”

“Okay, seeya then.” Emma turned her bike around and pedalled into the


Mrs. Gillian’s lights were on when Emma reached her cottage and she had

barely knocked when the front door opened. Mrs. Gillian was in her usual

dungarees and her hair was plaited. She held her overcoat, scarf and gloves in

her hands.

“Oh Emma, I was just about to leave and find out what that noise is in the

wood. I presume you know something - seeming as you’re riding around the

wood in the early hours of the morning?”

“Mrs. Gillian, Mr. Troy is back. His men are grading and cutting the wood.

Khai has gone to let Shewbro and S.A.L know. It’s the same place as earlier

today. I just have one more thing to do now that I’ve let you know. Can I use

your landline please? My cell battery is dead.” Emma phoned Lutando.

“Lutando, Mr. Troy is back in the woods. I need your help. Please phone

all our school friends and tell them to meet us in the wood. They’ll hear the

noise, that’s where they must be.” Emma winced as she held the phone away

from her ear to allow Mrs. Gillian to hear Lutando singing Batman’s theme song.

“Okay Tando, meet us at Ridgeway Dam when you’ve finished making the

calls.” Emma sighed, cut the call and looked at Mrs. Gillian.

Mrs. Gillian smiled, shook her head and sighed. “Emma is he alright?”

She pointed to the side of her head.

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“Yes Mrs. Gillian. He just likes to think of himself as a super hero.”

“You mentioned Ridgway Dam. Why on earth would you all be meeting


“Well according to Khai, you can see Mr. Troy’s property.”

“I tell you what – you continue with your plan. I have a few things to do

myself.” Mrs. Gillian nodded her head - a determined look on her face. “Then I

will join you at the dam.”

The light made Lutando jump and blink. He put his cell phone away in his


“Just where do you think you are going?” Lutando let go of the door

handle and turned to face his father.

“Out?” he squeaked.

“At quarter to one in the morning, I don’t think so.” Lutando’s father looked

at him sternly.

“But dad I have to go.”

“There’s no ‘have to’ about it.”

Lutando looked around the room as if looking for an escape route. “Okay

dad, if I can give you a really good explanation – can I go?”

His dad was silent and then pointed to a kitchen chair. Lutando jumped

onto it and impatiently waited for his dad to sit down. “So what’s this all about?”

“Mr. Troy is busy chopping down the wood and Khai, Emma, Mrs. Gillian

and S.A.L are trying to stop him. I have to go and help - they need me.”
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Lutando’s father shook his head as he looked at his son. “Tando, Mr. Troy

explained at the meeting what he intended to do. Over the years I have heard

your stories of fighting aliens and adventures with cartoon heroes that have

sprung out of your comic books but this –“ His voice faded away.

“Dad, it’s true. If you – if you don’t believe me why don’t you go and have

a look. You’ll see I’m speaking the truth.”

There was silence in the kitchen. Then his father nodded his head.

“Alright, I’ll go and see.”

“Thank -” Lutando’s sentence was cut short by his father’s wagging finger.

“If it isn’t – I’ll never believe another word you tell me. Is that clear?”

Lutando nodded and stood ready to leave the house. “Where’re you going?”

“To help.”

“Oh no – to bed.” His father pointed in the direction of his room

“But dad -”

“No buts – go to bed.”

Lutando nodded his head and dragged his feet as he made his way to his


“One more thing Tando,” his father watched him go. “You wouldn’t have

happened to have gone through Mr Troy’s logbooks the other day when I brought

them home.”

“No, why would I?”

“Its just that they were in a specific order and when I went to check them

they were all mixed up.”

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Lutando nodded as he looked at his feet, “sorry.” His father shook his


His father left the house fifteen minutes later once he had seen Lutando

was back in bed. The back door clicked shut. Lutando jumped out of bed.

Pulled off his pyjamas to reveal he was still dressed. Quietly he hummed the

theme tune of Batman as he tied his shoe laces and smiled to himself. He let

himself out of the house and rode towards Ridgeway Dam. Once out of ear shot

of his home and pedalling hard - Tando breathlessly sang his version of the

Gummy Bears

“Dashing and Daring, Tando’s not a-scaring. He is the hero of the hour.

A call to action, a flight into danger, wi-i-ith a-all his super power. Tandoooo

man, darting here and there and everywhere, his ability’s beyond compare. O-

oh here comes Tando man.”

Khai propped his bike against the wall outside Shewbro’s flat. He flexed

his hands - his fingers were stiff from cold. He threw a stone at Shewbro’s


No response.

He tried again.

No response. “Come on,” he mumbled under his breath. He picked up

his third stone when the security door to the flats clicked open. He opened it

and walked up the ill-lit staircase to Shewbro’s apartment. His flat door was

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“Come in – don’t let the heat out, we have to conserve energy. That’s

why the world is in the state it’s in.” Shewbro ordered Khai from inside the flat.

Shewbro sat on a bean bag in the lounge, several candles were lit and a CD of

whale sounds was playing. “How can I help you?”

“I’m Khai. Mr. Troy is back in the woods.”

“What!” Shewbro sprang to his feet, rapidly blowing out the candles.

“How long ago did he start?” He wrapped a long scarf around his neck and

searched for his torch under a pile of papers on a desk.

“I’m not sure – sometime before midnight. His men are cutting down the

trees and uprooting the bushes.”

Shewbro grabbed his coat. “We have to let other community members


“Well, Emma has let Mrs. Gillian know and Lutando is getting the children

to go to the wood.”

Shewbro paused and slapped Khai hard on the arm, “Good boy.


“Can you help us?” Khai impatiently rubbed his throbbing arm and was

anxious to head for the dam.

“Yes. Yes of course. I’ll contact everyone immediately. Make no mistake

we’ll stop him.” Shewbro’s smile revealed even white teeth. He stroked his close

cut beard. His blue eyes twinkled. He seemed so friendly and not nearly as

fearsome as he had done earlier in the day when he was swinging from the

trees. “I’ll see you in the woods then.”

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Khai began his journey to Ridgeway Dam and was glad that this time the

wind was blowing from behind him and not into his face.

“Coffee?” Mr. Naidoo offered a cup to Mrs. Gillian as she seated herself in

one of the leather chairs in the lawyer’s office.

“No there’s no time for that, there have been some developments in Sugar

Bush wood. Mr Troy is chopping it down right at this minute, there is no doubt he

is bent on levelling every tree. So Mr. Naidoo, I know it’s the early hours of the

morning but can you pull some strings.” She looked at him hopefully.

“Mrs Gillian, I have just the thing in mind, leave it with me.”

“Could I use your phone, there’s one last thing I need to do, it should

shock Mr Troy.”

“Go ahead.”

Smiling Mrs Gillian pick up the receiver and dialled.

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Chapter 9 – Justice

Khai braked hard and skidded to a halt next to Mrs Gillian on the dam wall.

“There you are!” Mrs Gillian rattled her keys impatiently. “Emma gave

me your message.”

“Have you seen Emma and Lutando?” Khai wiped sweat from his face.

“No, I’ve just arrived.”

“They should’ve been here by now. Something’s happened.”

“Is this the right place?”

“Yup. We’ve been here before to skim pebbles across the water. Hang

on I’ve got an SMS. It’s Lutando. It says, ‘I’ve broken my leg. I’m near the


“Phone for an ambulance,” Mrs Gillian ordered as she strode towards her


“I’m on it.” Khai pressed the emergency button on his phone as he turned

his bike around.

“Wait where are you going?”

“To find Lutando,” he shouted as he cycled into the woods.

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Ten minutes later Khai reached the swing over the river. The moon hid

behind fast moving cloud.

“Tando! Tando where are you?”

The river gurgled peacefully by.



“Tando?” Khai knelt down next to the dark wriggling figure. The moon

appeared and threw light on the scene. Lutando lay on his side. His feet and

hands tied and a gag across his mouth. Khai ripped the gag from his mouth.

“It was fat Frank,” gasped Lutando. “He - he used these animal lassoes to

catch us.”

“Then you didn’t send the sms? You don’t have a broken leg?”

“No – Fat Frank ambushed me as I took a short cut past the river. He

was already in the wood. He took my phone and first sms’ed Emma and then


“So he tricked us.” Khai undid the rope around Lutando’s wrists. “I told

Em, we should never have trusted him and that he was bad news.”

“That’s right mutant. You guys are so stupid.” Frank’s voice cut in. A

rope dropped over Khai’s head and shoulders - tightened and pinned his arms to

his sides. “Your girlfriend can’t help you now Kyla.”

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“I don’t need Em’ to fight my battles,” Khai fought the rope.

“Come on mutant, I’m gonna tie you to a tree and stop you interfering with

my dad’s dreams. When you’re all taken care of - I can go and watch ugly trees

be chopped down.”

Emma bound and gagged to a nearby tree fought her restraints. Khai

leaned back and dug his heels into the earth. Frank pulled harder. That’s right

Frank, just like in a game of tug-o-war. Just pull a little harder. The right moment

came. Khai ran forward adding his momentum to Frank’s. The rope lost

tension. He shouldered Frank in the chest. PUSH! Frank stumbled and fell

backwards into the river. Free of the rope Khai helped Lutando untangle his

feet from the rope.

He could hear Fat Frank heaving himself up the river bank as he tore off

Emma’s gag and worked on the knots holding her to the tree.

“Quick, Khai, he’s almost out of the river,” Lutando whispered.

“I’m going as fast as I can, this knot won’t loosen.”

“Hurry!” Lutando’s voice squeaked.

Emma’s eye’s widened as she stared at a point behind Khai’s head, “Khai


Turning, Khai felt a breeze as Frank’s fist collided with the side of his face.

He landed on his back - sprang to his feet and dodged another punch.

“Khai, pull,” shouted Lutando

The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 71 of 83

“You don’t think you’re going to catch me again like you did on the

playground do you?” Frank spoke through gritted teeth as he tried to stop them

chattering in the cold. Water formed a puddle around where he stood.

“No,” Khai grinned as he saw Frank had stepped into the lasso trap he

had escaped from. He scooped up the rope - pulled hard. The rope tightened.

“Hey what’re you doing?” Frank bent to release his feet.

“Push him Khai,” Emma shouted.

“With pleasure.”

Frank splashed back into the water.

“Come let’s get to Mr Troy’s wood now,” said Khai after untying Emma.

Frank climbed quickly up the river back this time. “I’ll – get – you – for –

this – Mutant. This isn’t over.”

“Let’s find our bikes,” Lutando was already running down the path leading

to the road.

“No time for that – run!” Khai shouted as he pushed Emma ahead of him.

The ground trembled under running feet. “He’s not far behind us. Go!”

“I need to stop,” gasped Emma.

“You can’t we’re almost at the road.”

“I don’t know how he’s keeping up with us.”

Khai looked back along the path. Frank was on Khai’s bicycle, pedalling

hard and gaining on them.

The path gave way to the woodland road.

The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 72 of 83

“Hey look there’s Mrs Gillian talking to the ambulance men, let’s catch up

with them. She’s probably giving them direction to the swing.”

They ran – shouting all the way. “MRS GILLIAN! WE’RE SAFE! FAT


“Quickly get in my Jeep.”

“Do you remember the horrible rash we had on our legs?” Emma asked as

they drove to Mr Troy’s part of the wood.”

“Yeah?” Khai frowned.

“Well Fat Frank is going to have it all over him. And it serves him right.”

All three of them smiled at the thought.

“One thing’s for sure, Mr Troy and his son have to be stopped.” Mrs

Gillian nodded her head as she sped along the road.

Chaos met Mrs. Gillian’s jeep as it arrived in the wood.

S.A.L hung in the trees above the graders and Mr. Troy’s men. Parents

shouted at their children to get out of the trees - which the children refused to do.

Mr. Naidoo was speaking to the head policeman and showed him an official

looking document.

“Get out of my trees. You irritating people!” Mr. Troy shouted at the

S.A.L members. “I will make sure you rot in jail. How dare you!”
The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 73 of 83

The blue police strobe lights mixed with the camera flashes of the

journalists who captured the scene for the early morning news.

“Dad,” Lutando saw his father through the crowd - sweaty and out of

breath. Lutando ran across to him. “You see I wasn’t lying. Did you and Bill

manage to block all the tracks?”

Bill appeared behind him a grin on his face.

“We did our best –“ He placed a hand on the top of Tando’s head as he

smiled at him. I think Bill and I have managed to slow down the trucks from

entering the forest.”

Bill nodded in agreement.

“Bill!” roared Mr. Troy when he over heard the conversation. “You traitor

– you no longer have a job – how dare you. This is the thanks I get for giving

you employment!”

“Oh no –“began Bill. “Please Mr. Troy. My mother…”

Mr. Troy had already turned his anger on Lutando’s father. “Consider

yourself fired too.”

A message sent over the police speaker system from one of their vehicles

brought a semblance of quiet to the crowd. “Ladies and gentleman, quiet please.

Attention, we need calm and quiet.”

The crowd gathered around the police vehicle. Mr. Troy pushed his way

to the front, his face was flushed and he was breathing heavily. He faced the

crowd and glared at them.

The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 74 of 83

“Get out of my wood! Take your brats with you. Police arrest those

bunny huggers – get them out of my trees. NOW!” He shouted.

“Not so fast Mr. Troy.” The crowd parted to allow Mrs. Gillian through.

“As your neighbour, I want you to clear a few things up for me. Why are you

cutting down the wood in the dead of night if you are only cutting down a small

section to build homes for conservationists?”

“I don’t have to answer your questions!”

Mrs. Gillian bit the inside of her cheek and narrowed her eyes. “Maybe

not - but let’s hear what Dr. Laoshi has to say about the water and animal

samples he received earlier today.” Dr Laoshi was guided to the front of the

crowd by one of the policemen. “Dr Laoshi, what did you find out?”

The Chinese vet spoke quietly, unused to speaking in front of people. He

inhaled and his voice rose in strength as he warmed to his subject. “Being the

weekend it was very difficult to get someone to do urgent tests but we managed,”

he began apologetically. “There are definitely poisonous substances in the river

that flows through your part of the wood Mrs. Gillian - it has either been dumped

in higher up on Mr. Troy’s section of the wood or directly into your section. Fish

are very sensitive to poison, because they "breath” it rather than ingest it, the

water samples showed high percentages of industrial poisons. There are still

more results due on the frogs but they will take a little longer.”

“Thank you,” Mrs. Gillian smiled at Dr Laoshi and squeezed his arm

reassuringly as he walked past her. He was relieved to no longer be the centre

of attention. He blended back into the crowd.

The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 75 of 83

“This is madness,” Mr. Troy fumed. “We’re finished. I am not going to

stand around here anymore and be harassed on my own land.”

“No we’re not finished,” Mr. Naidoo stepped forward.

“Who are you?” Mr. Troy looked Mr. Naidoo up and down.

“I am Mr. Naidoo acting on behalf of my client – Mrs. Gillian.”

Mr. Troy rolled his eyes. “I might have guessed as much. A lawyer.”

“Based on the current evidence,” Mr. Naidoo continued ignoring Mr. Troy’s

rudeness. “We have managed to get a temporary court interdict which stops all

activity in your part of the wood. No more cutting down of the wood may be done

until this matter is resolved and –“Mr.Naidoo paused. “I have a warrant for you

arrest, which the policeman will now perform.”

“You can’t arrest me! What for? How dare you - all of you. Frank? Call

my lawyer.” Mr. Troy frantically looked around for his son.

“I’m here dad.”

“What? Why have you arrested him?” Mr Troy’s voice rose in loudness

when he saw his son in handcuffs.

“For stealing my bicycle, kidnapping and assault,” Khai shouted.

A policeman stepped forward - he placed a hand on Mr. Troy’s shoulder.

“Mr. D.E.S.Troy, I am Inspector Ribomo from Ridgeway Police Station. I am

arresting you in terms of the National Environmental Management Act 1998

Section 7 - for allegedly endangering an entire community by dumping toxic by-

products into Sugar Bush River which may have seriously endangered Ridgeway
The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 76 of 83

Town’s drinking water source and allegedly causing the death of wild life and

polluting the environment.

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used

against you in a court of law. You have the right to lawyer, if you cannot afford

one, the state will appoint one.”

“Get your filthy paws off me,” Mr. Troy swatted the policeman’s hand from

his shoulder.

“Mr. Troy, you can either come quietly or I will have to cuff you.” The

policeman dangled a pair of silver handcuffs on his index finger that reflected the

flashing blue lights.

Mr. Troy hesitated before he turned to walk away. The policeman was

faster and fitter than Mr. Troy. He drew Mr. Troy’s one arm behind his back and

snapped on a handcuff. In a few seconds Mr. Troy was frog marched to a police


“Wait,” Mrs. Gillian called out. I need to ask Mr. Troy one last thing.”
The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 77 of 83

Chapter 10 A New Adventure Awaits

“Mr. Troy.” Mrs. Gillian spoke through the mesh on the police van window.


“Mr. Troy, my offer remains. I’ll buy this wood from you at double the

price you paid for it and there is more.”

Mr. Troy snorted. “More - what more could there be?” He looked ahead.

“Not only do I want to buy this part of the wood but I would like to buy your

factory.” Mr. Troy’s head snapped around. Cold grey eyes glared at her. His

top lip curled, showing yellow teeth.

“My factory? What could you want with a pesticide factory?”

“Well I thought I could change a bad situation into a good one.”

“Really,” he laughed coldly. “How?”

“I want to turn you factory into a museum to teach people about our planet

and the importance of conservation”

The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 78 of 83

“No-no-no,” Mr. Troy shook his head. “Not on your life. That is my life’s

work. My dream. I will not have it destroyed. You selfish, interfering woman.”

“If – no when you go to prison you won’t be able to run your factory.

When you are freed do you really think that Ridgeway town will allow you to

continue your business? The town will work you out one way or another. Trust

me on that.”

Mr. Troy was silent. “Alright but the factory will cost you three times as

much as the wood.”

Mrs. Gillian smiled and held out her hand to shake on the deal. “I’m sorry

- I forgot you’re a bit tidied up right now.” She smiled at her own joke. “I’ll have

my lawyer draw up the documents.” She stepped back and the vehicle pulled


“Why the sad faces?” Mrs. Gillian asked when she saw Lutando being

comforted by Emma.

“My Troy fired my father. It’s all my fault - if I hadn’t told him about the

wood he wouldn’t have come out here and helped Bill move the logs into place

and be fired.”

Emma nodded her head. “The same has happened to Bill and he was

Mr. Troy’s driver.”

The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 79 of 83

“Well that’s no good is it?” Mrs. Gillian smiled. “Find your father and

bring him to me.”

Night gave way to early morning light. The last few vehicles left the forest.

Children had been rounded up. The excitement of the night had died. Shewbro

was collecting the last of his chains and ropes. He waved at Khai before

climbing into his kombi.

“Here he is Mrs. G,” Lutando smiled at Mrs. Gillian.

Mrs. Gillian raised an eyebrow, “Mrs. G – is it?”

“Tando, stop being rude, that’s not the way we brought you–“Lutando’s

father was cut short by Mrs. Gillian.

“Don’t worry about that Mr. Seboko. I hear you are unemployed at the

moment?” His father looked at Lutando his mouth open. Lutando gave a weak

smile unsure if his father was cross with him.

“Well?” Mrs. Gillian asked.

“Well – yes - er, Mr. Troy just fired me.”

“Well I have a job offer for you. How would you like to be the curator of

the new museum I am planning to build where D.E.S Troy industries currently

stands? I am presuming that you prefer to help the environment rather than

harm it?’

“Yes I do. Thank you, I really appreciate it.” Lutando’s father shook Mrs.

Gillian’s hand before giving Lutando a hug and smile.

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“It’s the least I can do for your help in saving the wood.” Mrs. Gillian

smiled. “The entire breeding program I run was put at risk and could have

failed.” She turned to walk away.

“Mrs. Gillian…Mrs. Gillian,” Bill called to her retreating back. He caught

up with her – “you wouldn’t have a job for me too. I was also fired.” Bill looked at

her hopefully.

A sad look passed over Mrs. Gillian’s face. “Bill, I’m sorry but I don’t have

any other positions. The positions on my breeding program are full and until I

have the museum up and running I won’t know what other jobs there will be.”

Bill’s shoulders slumped and he looked at the ground. .

“Thank you anyway - I thought I’d just see.” He mumbled as he walked

away - head down. Emma and Khai watched Bill.

“Khai can’t we help him.”

“How Emma? You can’t put the whole world right.”

“It’s so sad though. Oh great!”


“Here come my mum and dad.”


“You don’t understand – they’re so protective of me.”

A shrill voice reached them. “Emma, are you alright?” Her mother

smothered her with a hug and kisses. “My poor baby.”

“I’m fine mum, really.” Emma helplessly looked at Khai’s grinning face

over her mother’s shoulder and rolled her eyes.

The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 81 of 83

“You had us worried sick.”

“Its okay – I’m fine.”

Khai’s father walked up beside them. “I thought I’d find you in the thick of

things. Why the down faces? You’ve just saved an entire wood. You should be


“We are,” Khai looked in Bill’s direction. He was already walking along

the track that would lead him back to town - he had left the limousine where it

was. “It’s just that Bill was fired for helping us and now he has no job.”

“Maybe there is a job for him,” Daniel began to smile. “Yes maybe there


“Well let’s tell him then dad.” Grabbing his father’s arm Khai began to run

after Bill. “Bill wait!” Khai shouted. Bill stopped walking. “Bill this is my father.

He has good news for you. Tell him dad.” Khai urged.

“Yes well –“began Khai’s father. “Bill, my wife has recently given birth to

Khai’s little sister and I want to spend more time with them. I need to free up

some of my time on Honey Bush farm. I also want to spend more time with my

son here.” He put an arm around Khai’s shoulders. “So would you be interested

in learning about farming? We have a small spare cottage that you and your

mother could move into.”

“Would I? What a question. Yes I’d love to learn how to farm.” Bill

rubbed his hands together.

Daniel held out his hand to Bill. “Consider yourself employed.”

The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 82 of 83

Emma, Khai and Lutando walked to the path that led into the wood to find

their bicycles, when Mrs. Gillian’s jeep pulled up next to them.

“Thank you for saving the wood. Good night. Or should I say Good

Morning. Gosh it’s been along night.” Mrs. Gillian yawned before she drove


“Do you think she’ll let us continue to play in the wood now that we’ve

saved it?” Lutando asked.

“When we do we’ll just have to be really, really quiet,” said Khai.

At the edge of the forest, Khai, Emma and Lutando drew to a halt and

watched the weak wintry sun rising from behind a kopje.

“We make a good team, don’t we,” Emma looked at Khai and Lutando.

Khai nodded, not taking his eyes off the sunrise.

A hard gust of wind blew and wrapped a piece of newspaper around

Emma’s leg. She bent down, retrieved and read it. “Oh no.”

“What’s wrong Em?” Khai asked.

“Khai read this. We have to do something.” Sighing Khai took the

newspaper from her, rubbed his eyes and read it with Tando peering over his


Animal Shelter in Distress

The Environteers by Fern Yates Page 83 of 83

Ridgeway Animal Shelter is in danger of closing down due to a lack of

funds. The shelter only has enough food for the animals for another three

months - all animals will have to be put down if a sponsor is not found soon.

Anyone who can help can contact Mr. Huffy on 565-565 6565.

”The animals need our help,” Emma smiled.

“Yes,” cried Lutando. “Let’s do it! I’m looking forward to helping the

animal shelter.” He held out his hand and waited until Khai and Emma had

placed their hands on his. “Environteers to the rescue.”

“To the Environteers,” they chorused.

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