Rudd sees the mission truck down below, and slaps the steering wheel with relief.
“Yesss. I think he’s there.”
“Well that’s the truck he was in last time I saw him.”
The vehicle is parked against the edge of the tea factory. It is one of the few inside the security fence. Rudd points out the flash of its red roof to Katania as they lurch down the bumpy track to the estate offices. She adjusts her sunglasses.
“I hope you’re right and that he’s actually here. And that he’s presentable.”
“And free,” Rudd mutters, as he stops beside the entrance barrier.
The guard greets them with a broad smile and confirms that the priest is on the premises. “Perhaps he meets the workers … perhaps the manager.”
Rudd parks, and decides they should try the office first. He leads the way under the huge corrugated iron roof, and on down past the shaking dust and noise of the conveyor belts, to the corridor of offices that run along the far end. The first door they come to has a small sign saying ‘Manager’. Rudd knocks, while Katania pats the dust off her trousers.
“Come in,” a voice shouts.
Rudd pushes the door wide, and Katania steps past him into the room. He follows, and as soon as he enters he feels confident that he is close to finding a solution to her problem. There, already on his feet, is the tall, composed man Rudd recognises as Father Norman. Beyond him, and still behind his desk, the manager is not so quick to stand. By the time he is on his feet, and sending a questioning look at Rudd, the priest is already shaking Katania’s hand, his smile polite beneath brown, swept back hair.
Rudd crosses the room to speak to the manager. He knows him well, for he usually leads the tea tours offered to lodge guests. They exchange greetings, and Rudd explains the interruption, then turns back to Katania, but sees in an instant that no help is required, for Katania and the priest appear to be close to an agreement. Within minutes it is arranged that Father Norman will come up to the lodge as soon as his business in the factory is finished.
And that is it. With little more than a brief nod to the manager, Katania exists the office and Rudd, irritated, hurries after her.
“Good. That’s done,” is her only comment as they bounce back up the hill, past the village, and then down again to the lodge.
Rudd drops Katania by the front door, and then decides on an impulse to park the truck in the garage. Just in case, he thinks, without wanting to think any more about why.
Back in the medical room he shuts the door with relief, and leans against it. He wants to start the day again, to bring a sense of order back to his plans, and to forget Katania’s arrogance. Agitated, he rolls up his sleeping-bag, and collects his shaving kit.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023