One evening, pure evil visited the kitchen. We had cook's knives and they had .38 calibre revolvers. For a gut-wrenching moment it looked like it was on. Maybe I've seen too many movies but I could see gun muzzles flaring, knives slashing and blood spraying over the entree plates. We had a table for eight, and a table for four booked, but no warning of this potential massacre.
It all started an hour earlier as the restaurant owners and I took our evening meal-break out on the back verandah. As we ate a couple appeared from around the side of the building; a British tourist and his lady. They had perused the menu on the street and now wanted to eat. Terry, who was also the chef, explained we were on our break and that it would be another twenty minutes or so before an order could be taken. The bloke didn't like this and loudly insisted on service now. Terry, who was also a Pom, told him in an amused way to take it easy – like he was doing - and just wait. The man shouted some nasty things at Terry and the couple stormed off. Oh dear.
When we returned to the kitchen I saw that the side door was ajar and my chopping board heaped with half-chopped herbs was now scattered all over the floor. The British tourist had come into the kitchen and wreaked revenge on us recalcitrant cooks. This petty act of spite not only angered me, but also incensed the co-owner and maitre D of the restaurant – a tall Dutchman named Rain, who was dead ringer for the Marlboro Man. The two of us ran out into the street in search of this up-setter.
It was a small town with one main street and we soon found the culprit in the pizza joint. His lady's face dropped as we walked in. The bloke looked up with a mixture of guilt and anger, and then shock as Rain reached a big arm across the table and firmly took hold of the guy's hair. Then he very gently, I must stress the gently, banged the guy's head against the wall a few times, saying, “Do not come into our kitchen again.” It was all about humiliation - not physical punishment. Now properly chastised, the man stared in open-mouthed surprise as we turned and left the pizzeria.
Back in the kitchen Terry wasn't too thrilled that Rain had laid hands our quarry, but we soon forgot the incident. Half an hour later we heard a voice call from the side door, now open for the breeze, and two policemen came into the kitchen. I felt a cold chill run down my spine and I knew Terry would be sharing my unease. The Sergeant of police walking up to us was a dangerous and malignant man – a devil in fact.
Let's put this fear into context. This was the early 80s, in the rural north of Queensland, Australia. The state and local governments, deeply corrupt, were involved in shonky land deals, gambling, prostitution, drugs, and also dealt with violent criminal gangs. Many in the police force did the same and they were pretty much the armed wing of these utterly bent politicians. As well as enforcing the status quo, these crooked cops would also prey on anyone not in the approved conservative mould of that era. Hippies, greenies, bushies, freaks and anyone with tattoos or earrings were stopped, insulted, searched; sometimes slapped around and locked up. Indigenous people had it far worse suffering home invasions, rapes, severe beatings, murders and constant grinding harassment. It was a scary time and the police, known unsurprisingly as bully-men, were the nastiest gang in town, happily meting out sus justice and lifestyle busts at will.
The devil walking into the kitchen, his villain of a partner close behind, was one of the worst of these bastards. This depraved creep of a Sergeant had raped, beaten and banged up folk on bullshit charges for years. He was a real-life boogeyman, a monster who enjoyed the fear and loathing his dark power provoked around town.
The reason for this unpleasant visitation became obvious, when in the doorway behind the police appeared the hard-done-by face of the Pommie tourist. The idiot had called the police on us.
“This man says he was assaulted by someone here,” said the devil. “What happened?”
Terry explained that the tourist had trespassed in our kitchen and had thrown stuff around.
“Yeah, yeah I've heard all that – but I want to know what you did to him,” said the devil. Terry called out for Rain who came in from the restaurant and beamed at the police.
“That's him,” called the rascal from the doorway.
“This man says you assaulted him,” said the devil. ”What did you do?”
“What did I do?” said Rain looking puzzled.
“Yeah - that's what I said!” The devil grew angry.
“I did this,” said Rain and he reached out to the Sergeant, who was bare-headed, grasped his hair and began to gently shake his head as though banging it against an imaginary wall. The devil's hand flashed down to his gun. His partner also reached for his gun, his eyes going to Terry and I - and the knives in our hands. For a long horrid second we all looked at each other. This couldn't be happening I thought. A crazy domino-effect of sudden violence seemed imminent.
Then the Sergeant angrily knocked Rain's hand away. “What the bloody hell do you think you're doing?” he yelled. Rain looked most taken aback.
“I'm showing you what I did. You see it was nothing,” he said plaintively.
Uncomfortable silence filled the kitchen and Terry and I and the junior cop began to breathe again. The Sergeant, realising he could do nothing about the physical molestation he had received at Rain's hands, turned to the side door and pointed an accusatory finger at the root cause of his loss of face.
“You,” he yelled unpleasantly at the British tourist. “Piss off! Don't let me see you again or I'll lock you up for trespass and malicious damage.”
The dismayed tourist's mouth fell open for the second time that night and he quickly slunk off into the dusk. The devil turned back to Rain and gave him the evil eye.
“Don't . . . don't ever do that again,” he rasped meanly. Rain smiled in confusion, still not sure what he'd done wrong. Or at least pretending. Without a glance at Terry and I, the Sergeant turned and gestured for his partner to leave - and they left.
Rain raised his open hands at us as if to say -what just happened? Was there a twinkle in his eye though? I couldn't tell. Through hands clutched over our mouths, Terry and I whooped with adrenaline primed laughter.
“Jesus Rain!'” Terry finally said. “You don't want to be grabbing his hair! He's not just a policeman but a nasty one!”
Rain, who had spent his teens and twenties in Amsterdam and other very hip locales around the world, grew irritated. For some weird reason, his gentle vigilantism, and asked-for help in showing how he'd performed it, had cast him as the wrong-doer, earning him not only the policeman's anger, but also our horrified surprise.
“Australia,” he said in disgust. “Is like going back 20 years in time. But Queensland - that's going back 50 years!"