Brisbane - Wednesday December 11th, 1996
The cinema lights went up and people filed out, blocking the screen from view as the credits continued to roll and the stirring music rose to its final crescendo.
Carol and Babs waited until the first rush subsided then followed the rest of the audience.
Babs hesitated as they emerged in the Queen Street mall. ‘Do you have time for a coffee?’ she asked hopefully.
Carol fell into step beside her friend. ‘Yes, thank goodness. The detective business seems to be slowing down. Perhaps it really is the season of goodwill.’
In Koffies they ordered coffee and cakes and sat outside to watch the afternoon shoppers in the mall.
‘This is a luxury,’ Carol approved. ‘Movie matinees and time to watch the passing parade. I’ve been so flat strap I’d forgotten what relaxing felt like.’
‘I’m glad you’re not busy. I wanted to talk to you.’ Babs sugared her coffee, toyed for a moment with the spoon, then said baldly, ‘Wanda’s left Jon.’
Carol, unsurprised, said merely, ‘That was short-lived.’
‘She’s gone back to Pat.’ Babs said unhappily. ‘She rang me last week, from Sydney.’ She watched the froth settling in her cup. ‘She said she’d been totally wrong, leaving him like that. She’d sinned against the church.’
‘Is she back in Brisbane?’
‘No, Hong Kong. Pat was recalled by his father. Wanda said she’d only be absolved if she went back to her husband.’
Carol hid a smile. ‘This is the same husband she was so scared of, who would never leave Brisbane? The one his father thought wasn’t competent to handle the Sydney office?’
‘Apparently that wasn’t true,’ Babs said quickly. ‘I heard later that Jon applied for the Sydney appointment and Pat agreed he deserved a chance. Wanda didn’t know Pat was returning to Hong Kong. He let her think he was staying here.’ She frowned. ‘Perhaps he wanted her to leave him. His family would have been delighted.’
‘So, why go back? If he doesn’t want her and she’s scared of him, and his family’s against her?’
Babs sighed. ‘She thinks she has to honour her wedding vows. She can’t have a divorce, she’s Catholic.’
‘She should have thought of that earlier,’ Carol commented dryly.
‘She was very confused,’ Babs said. ‘I’ll tell you something, though. She is scared of Pat. She carried a little dagger around with her, in her handbag. She showed it to me once; an ornamental dagger with a handle like a dragon all twisted around. It looked more like a letter opener, but it was really sharp. That shows you.’
Carol finished her coffee. ‘It sounds odd to me. Are you sure she wasn’t playing some sort of game?’
‘She looked serious enough.’ Babs brightened. ‘Anyway, she’s invited me to spend Christmas in Hong Kong with them. I booked my flight this morning. She’ll call me next week and arrange everything. She said she just needed a few days, to get back together with Pat.’
Carol’s brows rose. ‘Isn’t she taking a lot for granted?’
Babs smiled reluctantly. ‘Can you imagine any man not taking Wanda back?’
Carol shook her head. ‘You’ve got me there. No, I can’t imagine that!’