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‘In Search of the Elusive Panda’

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or

The Green Peak Canyon Expedition.

Chapter three

 

A duck and a family of ducklings.

 

Kathy and Rory followed Rita without a word. Kathy stared at the flowers on Rita’s dress as they walked. She didn’t focus on the swaying hips of Rita and the large hibiscus flowers and green leaves of the pattern. Her brain was swirling with questions.

What had Rory done? Surely he wasn’t doing anything illegal, was he? What if they were thrown in jail? How would she explain this to her parents?

Then anger replaced the fear. How dare he involve her in this! It was sordid and unnecessary. She turned to him and glared. He looked a little worried, and definitely scared.

Rita bustled into the police station, greeting the officer at the desk.

“Just taking these two into room three for questioning,” she stated without looking at the officer. He grunted and waved her through.

She pushed opened the door and they went inside.

Rory began to speak. “Honestly …”

He got no further.

Rita planted her ample backside on the chair behind the table and told them to sit opposite her.

“Now,” Rita said. “You young people don’t look to me to be hardened criminals, but why were you talking to Jake.”

“Well … He was paid to get money from the CEO of Panegui Company.” Rory explained.

“You sure you’re not organizing a smuggling operation to take refugees to Australia?” Rita sounded suspicious. “That’s what we think Jake has been doing. We’ve been watchin’ him for months.”

“No way,” Rory was shocked. “Damn. If I’d have known that I’d have steered clear of the guy.” He turned and gestured to Kathy. “Kath here is my cousin and she’s off to China to take photos of the Giant Panda. She has nothing to do with any of the dealings we had with Jake. If we can get her on her way I’d be really grateful. Anything you want to know, I’ll be happy to tell you.”

Rita looked at Kathy.

“Why are you doin’ that?” She asked.

Kathy had sat quietly wondering what to do. Her voice came out as a squeak.

“Just an assignment for school.”

“Where are your parents?” Rita wanted to know.

“Somewhere in America as far as I know,” Kathy answered. “I’ll give them a ring and you can talk to them if you wish.”

She began to rummage around in her bag for her phone.

“I can’t find my cell phone,” She gasped. “Rory, Where do you think I lost it?”

Rita sighed. This wasn’t going how she had imagined. Obviously these two young people were not guilty of anything more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Almost immediately, there was a knock on the door. An officer came in.

“We just brought in Jake,” he told Rita. “He’s taken the rap for the people smuggling but said these two had nothing to do with it.”

Rita nodded. “I’d already figured that out,” she said. “Too young and innocent!”

*

About fifteen minutes later, Kathy and Rory were searching the area in the park where they had had their lunch.

“I can’t see your phone anywhere,” Rory said, still keeping his eyes down looking around the bench.

Kathy was feeling cranky as a reaction to the fright of being taken to a police station in a strange country. She looked up from her own search.

“God, Rory – I’m still shaking! I was so scared!”

“Me, too.” Rory agreed. “Dad would have killed me if we’d got into any more trouble.”

“Nope!” Kathy moved over near a small pond, even though she didn’t think she had wandered that far away from the bench at lunchtime.

“I’d have got in first and done that before your dad even had the chance!” She stood up and massaged her back with her hands. “I think the phone must have been picked up. It’s nowhere around here. Damn! I’ll have to get a new one.”

She looked out over the pond. A duck and her family of ducklings swum towards her, no doubt hoping for a feed of bread.

A little boy came running up from behind Kathy holding some bread in his hands. Just as he got to the lakeside, he slipped, and then, as if in slow motion, slithered head first into the pond.

The ducks scattered.

Kathy heard a woman yell in the background, but she didn’t look back. She took immediate action.

Jumping in, she grabbed the little boy by his clothes and dragged him from the water just as the woman reached the bank.

The woman picked up the boy and hugged him so tight that Kathy thought she’d do more damage than the fall into the water.

“Oh honey, don’t ever scare me like that again,” she said as she picked the toddler up into her arms. She turned to Kathy.

“Thank you. Thank you so much. I can’t thank you enough!”

Kathy stood quietly, water dripping from her clothes, her feet squelching in her shoes, and smiled at the little boy who had started to cry.

“No worries,” she said to the woman holding the boy. ‘Just a normal reaction, I’m sure. – anyone would have done the same.”

The woman smiled and hugged the little boy even harder.

Kathy went over to the bench and sat down with a thump. She was exhausted.

“Can I do anything to repay your kindness?” the woman asked, still cooing and kissing the little boy whose wet clothing stained the front of his mother’s dress.

“I’d just like to find my cell phone, and get to China!” Kathy said as Rory put his arm around her shoulders.

“I have a friend of my husband who fishes in the Arafura Sea – maybe he can help with the last bit.” she offered.

Maybe the drenching she had endured might end up being worth it!