“Yes, here in Tunbridge Wells we’ve got it all, the infamous Mineral Spa – often frequented by royalty, a theatre and the world-renowned Pantiles, an elegant shopping area, laid out way back in 1638. Plus many organisations and charities including the English Basket-weavers’ Association, Welsh Bagpipe Players Worldwide, and of course, the Kent Kite Club. Please see me after the tour if you would like a free guide to local clubs and events.”
The tour guide gave a sickly, toothy grin, then led the rest of the hot and tired tourists off to another ‘interesting’ part of the city. Mr. Mohandas Rashid, a tall dark Indian with a furry moustache, took a long breath as his eyes scanned the area for a snack bar, no such luck. He glanced at his watch. Damn! It was five to six! He had five minutes to get from the town centre to Derricks’ house, carrying his heavy suitcase, packed full with clothes and memories of times gone by. The journey was going to take at least twenty minutes! Derrick and Mohandas had been close friends since pre-school, and they’d been neighbours on an estate in Hemel Hempstead, but they hadn’t seen each other since University. Mr. Rashid paused as he thought over the contents of the case, and wondered what it would be like to see his old chum; would they still have the same things in common? Would Derrick not like his suit? It would be all right, even if they didn’t get on; it was only going to be for a few days. Mohandas wondered whether he should have brought his old...
kite, Derrick might think it was a bit childish, then again Derrick said on the phone to bring it, but Mohandas thought he might have been joking… “Stop worrying!” Mohandas told himself, as he reached for the suitcase and headed for ‘Redneck Drive’.
After an exhausting trek through the dirty streets of the sub-orderly town, Mohandas came across a brand new sign with the simple ‘Redneck Drive’ in bold black letters looking down on him from the side of the last house in the road.
“I guess this must be it.” Mohandas said to himself as he reached inside the top-left pocket of his bleach-white, iron-pressed shirt for the letter stating his friends’ address. ‘Canterville Chase, Redneck Drive, Tunbridge Wells, Kent’. Mohandas glimpsed up the road. He could see a few outside lights on and a few shocked cats running off at the approach of a stranger. Mohandas looked at the houses, relatively new, quite upmarket, with brand new Toyotas decorating each plot. At the end of the cul-de-sac was a church hall, with notices concerning local trivialities plastered to a peeling turquoise painted board to the left of the entrance, with an orange lamp illuminating the papers. Mohandas walked down, looking at the house names as he went. About the sixth house down on the left-hand side was an average-sized abode, about 1 or 2 years old maybe, with a wooden name plaque with classical lettering telling him that this was ‘Canterville Chase’.
Mohandas looked around as he prepared to cross th
spotless road, saw nothing, and crossed. Before Mohandas reached the other side though, a bright red sports car came whizzing around the corner, which lead onto the main road. Mohandas only just managed to move out the way of the speeding vehicle, and as he spun round to take a look at the offensive party, he just managed to catch a shimmer of light spinning around a turn, the flash car was still accelerating! Mohandas threw an annoyed grunt and waved a finger at the vanished car, but decided not to pursue the tyrant. With a quick brush down, Mohandas continued to cross the red-tarmac sea that was Redneck Drive and went up to the house. Mohandas paused before knocking, wondering what a good opening line might be. Mohandas peered into the lace-curtained window, inside was the unmistakable Derrick Harper, in a relaxed, but tense ‘I’m anxiously waiting for an old school friend to knock’ pose on his maroon velvet sofa, watching television. As if sensing he were being watched, his old chum slammed down the remote control and started toward the window, waved a friendly two fingers at him, and headed toward the doorway. Mohandas stood back and the front door opened.
“Hey! How are you doing, you old son of a gun! Come in! Sit down! I’ll get you a cuppa. Now, tell me about your journey…” Derrick’s face had totally lit up, with an uncanny resemblance to the way he had looked after playing one of their schoolboy pranks all those many years ago. Derricks’ hands were held out in an amiable gesture welcoming Mohandas into his newly furnished home. Mohandas followed him into a fresh-looking green-blue and bright yellow hall and took his dry-cleaned suit off.
“Love the decorating! How long did it take?” Mohandas asked.
“You do? Rachel, my girlfriend, is an interior designer, as you can see, she’s very good. She helped with both sides; the practical and the planning. Oh, where are my manners? I’ll take your coat,” A very tense and hurried Mr. Harper held two outstretched arms, ready to grab Mohandas’s overcoat. Mohandas couldn’t remember if Derrick had always been that way… Mohandas handed over the overcoat, and Derrick promptly put it on a florescent blue coat peg. “Okay,” Derrick sighed deeply, then looked Mohandas up and down. “Why, Rashid, I do believe you’ve put on weight! Must be all those cream buns we stole from the tuck shop as kids!” Derrick laughed.
“Don’t remind me! I’m a lawyer now! I’d like to forget about those mischievous escapades of ours…” Mohandas smiled and shook his head as if to relieve himself of the memory.
“What?! You never told me, how come? I thought you had your heart set on being a doctor? I was going to be the legal one remember, I’m the cop! Out with it! Explain your change of heart.” Derrick asked with a puzzled smile stretched across his multiple chins.
“Oh, doesn’t matter, it’s a long story. Anyway, did I hear the mention of a cup of tea?”
“Oops! Sorry, I forgot all about it. Hey, I’ve got a better idea, lets pop down the