(first printed in Writers and Readers Magazine)
There are those who say that the best things in life are free, and there are those who say that the best things in life are the unexpected. The joy of two special school friends suddenly reuniting after a very long time is one of those best things in life...
The two carriage silver and blue country train arrived in the late afternoon of a very sunny day at a small village's railway station. Only one person who was not a railway staff member was on the platform; an excited red headed woman dressed in a baggy flowered blouse, blue jeans and brown wide brimmed hat who waited anxiously.
Only one passenger stepped off the train. She was dressed simply but fastidiously in a tilted white straw sun hat with a blue and white scarf wrapped around it as a band, a blue dress with white polka dots with matching white belt, shoes, and handbag worn diagonally across her. She carried one black suitcase and an unopened blue and white patterned umbrella in her right hand; in the other hand she carried a large shopping bag holding something that could not be seen.
The two gleefully waved, gave each other ecstatic smiles and ran to each other to embrace.
'Brownie!', laughed the woman who had waited on the platform.
'Sweetie!', answered the visitor.
'I haven't been called that in years! Seeing you is just like old times; hearing you is just like old times!'
'I was worried you'd be upset if I called you "Sweetie"!'
'No one's done that since school; I'm not upset at all! When your surname's "Cadbury" you have to get used to the jokes, Brownie. Or should I call you by your other school nickname, "Good Luck Kate"?'
Kate gave an evasive expression, 'No one's called me "Good Luck Anything" since school...'
'I've never been able to get used to your absence since we finished school. They always placed us together in everything, as I came right after you in the alphabet, Miss Brownleigh.'
Amanda Cadbury's voice changed from loving laughter to panic.
'The train is leaving! Did you get all your luggage off, Brownie?'
Kate Brownleigh continued her enticing smile. 'I travel light, this is all I have.'
Mandy resumed her smile and laughter, '"Light?" I'd say you travel featherweight! I'd need a bag the size of your suitcase just for my cosmetics!'
'Well, I don't wear any, so that does lighten my load. I only carry what's necessary.'
'Well, they're very necessary for me! I've more freckles than face! But you did pack something that you won't need; an umbrella...unless you use it for the sun. We've been in a drought for weeks and there's no sign of any rain in the near future.'
Kate's smile changed from happy to mischievous, 'Well, you never know...you never know...'
'I know we've tried everything from praying to Indian Rain Dances, but no luck! Now, isn't it time for tea?'
The happy pair made their way to Mrs. Stephens' homelike cafe where they sat at a table by a large window that provided a view of the main street. The window was framed with attractive old fashioned floral curtains tied back with gold ropes and the curtains were matched by their tablecloth. They ordered a pot of Earl Grey tea and pieces of carrot cake baked that morning. There were no other customers.
'I've got to go to the bank before they shut. Would you mind the shop for me, Mandy?', asked an elderly Mrs. Stephens.
'With pleasure, Mrs. Stephens'.
'Now this is a very different world from what I'm used to. I think I'm going to love it here.'
As Mandy poured the tea from the pot covered with a colourful tea cosy she reflected,
'I never expected to see you, and here you are.'
Kate poured her milk in her cup, '"If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail".'
'That sounds like one of those old proverbs you always loved to quote. Who said that, Lewis Carroll?'
'Well I LOVE the unexpected. You don't get much of that in a country town.'
Kate opened her shopping bag to reveal an attractive gift wrapped parcel with blue ribbon and bow.
'This is for you.'
'Brownie! You didn't have to do that!'
'To be honest, I feel quite guilty about springing my visit on you at such a short notice. I thought you'd be so busy and wouldn't have any spare time or room, so I'm very grateful when you said you looked forward to having me stay with you.'
'We're not in civilisation anymore, Brownie. Time stands still in a small village. Like you said, we're in a very different world from a big city. Not only in distance, which you can understand, but in all the ways things are in places like this. I've lots of space and lots of time and there's no one I want to spend it with as much as you! No one makes me laugh and feel good the way you do. I always think about you and the fun we had together. You're not going to believe this, but a couple nights ago I dreamt that I wanted to see you again, and then I got your telephone call! And here you are. Here you are!'
Mandy delightedly opened the parcel and gleefully held up an old book in excellent condition.
'The Mouse that Roared!!! Do you realise how long I've been looking for The Mouse that Roared? How did you know I wanted it so badly and couldn't find it and how did you find one?'
They heard the sound of massive thunder. The two friends turned to look out the window and viewed teeming rain in monsoon proportions.
'"Good Luck Kate" to the rescue!!! We've been looking at the weather reports like we look at our watches and there's been absolutely no mention of any rain whatsoever! And now...'
A man's face suddenly appeared against the window wildly staring at the women. He began banging on the cafe window and shrieking.
'KATE! KATE! KATE!'
Kate screamed hysterically.
'GET ME OUT OF HERE MANDY! GET ME OUT OF HERE NOW!!!'
Leaving Kate's suitcase, umbrella and hat in the cafe the pair ran through the kitchen out the rear door. The pair became drenched in the rain that had totally cleared the streets of pedestrians. Mandy led Kate on a roundabout way to her car parked near the railway station. She started her car and rapidly drove away from the railway station car park to her home as Kate kept her head below the window.
'For God's sake, Kate! Who the hell was THAT???'
Kate was seated on a couch in Mandy's living room. She was dressed in a white terrycloth bathrobe with her blonde hair askew as Mandy, dressed in a T-shirt and a pair of dry trousers sat by her side consoling her. Kate glared at the person sitting across from them.
Police Senior Constable Thompson was seated in a chair opposite the pair. He was about the same age as the women, but he looked older due to his years of frequent stress and sleeplessness as a policeman. He was lean, tall and fit, however he had sympathetic brown eyes and a non offensive style of humour that invited conversation. A table between them was set with coffee for three with a large clear glass coffee pot in the middle. All three were sipping the hot comforting caffeine as the pouring rain continued.
Kate continued her glare as Mandy spoke.
'We didn't expect you to arrive so quickly, Constable Tom. We were both completely drenched when we ran out the rear of the cafe to my car at the station. When we got home I rang the police and Kate just got out of the hot bath when you arrived, so please forgive our appearance. We ran so fast that we left Kate's suitcase, hat and brolly in the cafe.'
'There's nothing to forgive. I was in your area when I received the call saying one of you was frightened by someone, so please fill me in. Who was he and why did he frighten you, Miss Brownleigh?'
Kate coldly snapped a remark,
'I have nothing to say to the police.'
Mandy soothingly replied, 'I think anyone who was scared the way we were when that crazy man pounded on the window shrieking your name would want to talk to the police.'
'You thought wrong, Amanda. I didn't know you'd call them while I was having a hot bath...'
'I've known Constable Tom for ages, Brownie and I never think of him as a policeman. He's a dreamer like we used to be; that's why he became a policeman. What did you say you wanted to accomplish?'
'To crack a murder case that puzzled the experts, to bring the guilty party to justice and to rescue a damsel in distress.'
'How's it been coming along?'
'I'm cracking up. I'm puzzled why I'm still here, the guilty seem to be getting away and all the damsels I know only give me distress...'
'Well, that's a nice thing to say!'
'Present company excepted. You give me coffee.'
The Constable poured himself another cup.
'You take it black. Isn't black coffee what they give to drunks?'
'The first thing I learned on the job was that the last thing you want is a wide awake drunk. I've got to be wide awake though. With this sudden downpour we're expecting all sorts of calls.'
'Kate's been my best friend since school. We were like two peas in a pod and we were always together in school because my name followed hers alphabetically. I dreamt I wanted to see her and suddenly she rang me that she would be arriving on the train to stay with me. I've been trying to get a copy of The Mouse that Roared for years without any luck and Kate brings me one. Then she arrives on the train carrying an umbrella like Mary Poppins and suddenly the drought breaks. We called her 'Good Luck Kate' in school as she'd always brought good luck.'
Constable Thompson kept chatting with Mandy feeling that Kate wouldn't be able to resist joining the conversation in her own time.
'Some people say that things happen in threes. The first time is happenstance, the second time is coincidence, the third time is fate...'
Mandy continued, 'Kate proves good things happen in threes...'
'Who was it who once said, ''The best things in life come in threes, like friends, dreams, and memories?'
'Mencius', replied Kate.
Mandy and the Constable noticed her anger was subsiding.
'Who's he when he's at home, Miss Brownleigh?'
Kate continued, 'Sort of the number two to Confucius; he tried harder but no one knows who he is, only what he said.'
'I knew lots of people like that...'
'I'm sorry to be rude to you, I just do not want to talk to the police.'
'Well, that's that then. Do you mind if I have another piece of cake, Mandy?'
The door burst open, the same wild eyed and sopping wet man who frightened the women at the window in the cafe was pointing a revolver at the Constable.
'Nobody move! Kate, you're coming with me!'
'Is this the man you weren't talking about, Miss Brownleigh?'
Mandy replied that indeed he was.
'Shut up! Throw me your gun, piggy or I'll kill you!'
'It's too miserable a night to argue, want some coffee?'
The Constable quickly glanced at Mandy then back to the wild eyed intruder.
'Mate, don't give yourself a heart attack...'
Mandy gave a loud gasp and collapsed to the floor. When the man looked at her the Constable threw the scalding contents of the glass coffee pitcher across the room. The man howled like an animal, dropped his revolver and covered his face. Kate screamed as the Constable propelled himself from his chair tackling the man. Constable Thompson rolled him over, put him in an arm lock and proceeded frisking the man with one hand.
'My name is Senior Constable Thompson of the Merringatta Local Area Command. I am placing you under arrest for Section 60 of the Crimes Act of 1900, assault and other actions against police officers.'
The man was screaming half in pain, half in defiance. Mandy got off the floor and embraced Kate who returned the hug.
'I'll kill you like I did Deano Roberts you piggy bastard! Do your stuff Kate! Make him die! Make him die! MAKE HIM DIE!'
'How are you going to do that, Kate?'
'She's got the power, piggy, she's got the POWER. If you have her on your side you can do anything, ANYTHING!'
'His name is Donald Colman and until the other day we were in a relationship. I was with him when he won a large amount of money in a card game. I told him how and why the girls in school called me "Good Luck Kate". We went to another card game and Don won again. He had me come with him one night, he didn't tell me why. He met someone on the street and shot him. The man he killed was carrying a small backpack full of money. Don said I brought him luck and the next day he'd have me come with him to do a bank robbery. I managed to get away and rang Mandy from my flat, packed a bag and left figuring he wouldn't find me in Merringatta. I don't know how he found out I came here.'
'I beat it out of your roommate, slut! I'll beat the hell out of you when I get you!'
'Where you're going you'll only be able to beat yourself off for the rest of your life.'
'Slut! Where's my luck? WHERE'S MY LUCK????'
Constable Thompson placed the handcuffs on Don Colman and picked him up off the floor.
'Three strikes you're out, loser.'
Kate began crying.
'What's going to happen to me?'
A suddenly maternal Mandy answered her.
'You'll be staying with me! It's my turn to give you some luck...'
Constable Tom walked his handcuffed prisoner towards the door and said farewell.
'Good luck, Kate...Happenstance, coincidence, fate...things do happen in threes...You've given me my three strokes of luck too! I believe Mandy will now be doing the same for you...'
Author Notes: I am the author of three Extra Dimensional/Ultraterrestial military science fiction novels MERCENARY EXOTIQUE, OPERATION CHUPACABRA and WORK IN OTHER WORLDS FROM YOUR OWN HOME! as well as two travel books THE MAN FROM WAUKEGAN and TWO AUSTRALIANS IN SCOTLAND. I live happily ever after with my wife in paradise (coastal Kiama, NSW Australia).