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  • Michael Braccia

Leeford Village - episode 106

Episode 106: Next customer, please


Previously in Leeford Village:

 

Sally encounters The Cross’s ghost, which turns out to be Nigel Cleeve, sent by his mother to frighten Ted. Jasmine instructs Cody to put the letter addressed to Agnes back where he found it – in the bin. Frank discovers an old by-law that might help Ken Taylor hold on to his farm buildings.

 

~

Doctor Jeremy Roberts shines a light into Sally’s eyes.

‘You’re fine, Sally. Just a bit of concussion. Try to stay awake for the next few hours and call me if you are feeling sick or have a bad headache.’

‘Stay awake? I don’t think I’ll ever sleep again without seeing that man’s face.’

Jeremy packs his instruments into his bag.

‘If you do start to have nightmares, let me know and we can help.’

‘Thanks, Jeremy. It’s good of you to come out this late,’ says Sally, rubbing the back of her head. ‘You were certainly quicker than the police. Where are they, anyway?’

‘They’ll be here soon, love. They must be dealing with the Banfield louts coming out of the pubs, says Ted opening the door for Doctor Roberts.

‘At this time of night? On a Tuesday?’ says Sally.

‘Well, Jeremy. Thank you again,’ says Ted, ignoring Sally’s comment and shaking the doctor’s hand. He checks Sally isn’t looking and whispers into Jeremy’s ear, ‘and, erm, let’s keep this incident between ourselves, eh?’

‘Of course,’ says Jeremy, looking puzzled. ‘Goodnight, both.’

Ted closes and locks the door. He stands for a while, leaning against the door frame, before walking across the bar room to Sally, who is sipping a glass of water.

‘How are you feeling, now, love,’ he says.

‘A bit giddy but getting there. It was such a shock. Where are the police?’

Ted rubs his chin.

‘They’re not coming.’

‘What do you mean, “they’re not coming”?’

‘I didn’t call them. I decided against it.’

Sally frowns, which makes her head hurt even more.

‘Ted. We’ve just had an intruder. He could’ve killed me!’

Ted kneels next to Sally and takes her hand.

‘He wouldn’t do that. I’m not sure what he wants, but he wouldn’t want to hurt us.’

Sally pulls her hand away. ‘I’m the one who’s concussed, but it’s you that’s making no sense. What on earth are you talking about? And who’s “he”?’

Ted bites his lip.

He is a ghost.’

Sally shakes her head then wishes she hadn’t.

‘Oh my God, Ted! You’ve fallen off the wagon, haven’t you? Oh, please say you …’

‘No, Sal. I’m sober as a judge. What you saw tonight and what I saw last night was the ghost of Billy Lucas.’

‘Billy Lucas? As in Ethel’s husband? Ethel’s husband who died years ago?’

‘The very same. I spoke to John Peterson about it, but he wasn’t much help to be honest.’

Sally pinches her arm and then Ted’s.

‘Ouch! What are you doing?’

‘I’m checking that we are really here and that this isn’t some sort of strange nightmare. Now, rather than calling the vicar, call the police, tell them we’ve had an intruder and to get over here. Now!’

 

~

Agnes, Cody and Jasmine are eating breakfast. Jasmine is trying to scrape out the flesh of a grapefruit without spraying juice everywhere, Agnes is working her way through a bowl of homemade muesli and Cody is sitting in front of his usual breakfast fare of two fried eggs, two Lincolnshire sausages, and three slices of back bacon.

‘Are you off your food, Cody?’ asks Agnes.

Cody prods one of the sausages with a fork. ‘Not very hungry this morning. I’m feeling a bit queasy to be honest.’

‘Oh dear. What about you, Jas?’

‘Er, fine, yes.’

‘You must be sickening for something, Cody. It’s not like you not to eat your breakfast.’

Cody mumbles something indistinct. Jasmine shoots him a look. Cody mouths, ‘what?’

Agnes goes to speak again, but the rattle of the letterbox downstairs stops her.

‘That must be the postman. I’ll go,’ she says, pushing back her chair.

‘Are you expecting something in the post, Agnes?’ asks Cody.

Nothing in particular. It’s probably bills.’ Agnes leaves the room.

‘Dad!’ whispers Jasmine. ‘What are you doing?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Acting like this.’

‘Like what?’

‘Like a petulant child. Eat your breakfast!’

‘Don’t want to.’

‘Did you put the letter back?’

They hear Agnes walking up the stairs.

‘Yes, in the bin,’ mumbles Cody.

‘Outside?’

‘No. That one,’ says Cody, pointing to the grey-coloured pedal bin in the corner of the kitchen.

‘You idiot,’ says Jasmine, just as Agnes enters the room, shuffling a handful of envelopes.

‘Who’s an idiot?’ she asks, putting the envelopes on the table.

‘Cody is, Mom. For not eating his breakfast.’

Agnes sits down and resumes eating her muesli.

‘That’s a bit harsh, love. If he’s not feeling well, then he’s not feeling well.’

‘Of course. Sorry, Dad,’ says Jasmine, scowling at Cody.

Cody picks up the pile of letters.

‘Bills. I said they would be,’ says Agnes through a mouthful of muesli. ‘That’s the only post we ever get.’

Cody pushes away his plate.

‘I’m going out,’ he says.

‘Best you do,’ says Agnes, ‘a bit of fresh air might do the trick.’

Cody and Jasmine look at each other for a moment before Cody leaves the room.

‘Grumpy so-and-so,’ mutters Agnes.

 

~

After what has seemed a longer than usual wait in the queue, Vera Cleeve stands in front of the post office counter.

‘Do you have a parcel for me, Pippa?’

‘I may have, madam. Could you give me your name and address?’

‘Eh?’

‘Your name and address. I can then see if we have received a parcel for you.’

‘Come on, Pippa. Stop messing about. I’ve been here long enough as it is.’

‘Well, if you need to make a complaint about any of our services, there is a form you can download from the Internet. Could I please have your name and address?’

Vera turns to the ten people behind her in the queue. A man, three places back, calls out, ‘come on love, get on with it!’

‘It’s not me,’ says Vera, ‘it’s her.’

‘Well, whoever it is, I haven’t got all day,’ says the man.

Vera gives him a look as only Vera can, then addresses Pippa.

‘Just give me my parcel, or I’ll come round that counter and get it myself.’

Pippa takes a step back.

‘I find your manner to be threatening, madam and I should like to inform you that post office staff have a right to, er, a right to…hang on a minute.’ Pippa reaches under the counter and produces a thick manual, which she flicks through until reaching page forty-three. ‘No, that’s not it.’ She flicks more pages. ‘Here it is! Post office workers have a right to refuse service to anyone who interferes with the well-being or safety of staff or patrons. What’s a “patron”?’

A smartly dressed lady standing directly behind Vera explains. ‘A patron is another name for customer, love. Particularly someone who comes in regularly.’

‘Yeah, like me!’ says Vera.

‘Thank you, madam,’ says Pippa, looking beyond Vera. ‘There were quite a few words they used on the training course that I didn’t understand, actually.’

‘Ah, now I get it. You’ve been on a course, says Vera.

Pippa stands up straight.

‘Yes, I have. And I won a certificate at the end of it.’

‘Oh, well done,’ says the smartly dressed lady. The man three places back groans.

‘Right,’ says Vera, reasserting her authority, ‘if we’re going to have to play this game, my name is Vera Cleeve.’

‘And your address?’

Vera gives her address.

‘And do you have any means of identification?’

‘Identific…yeah, you. You can identify me.’

‘I’m sorry, madam. I need to see your driving licence, passport, or utility bill.’

‘Oh, for crying out loud.’ Vera rummages in her handbag. ‘Here’s my library card. Will that do?’

Pippa looks down at her manual.

‘Oh, I don’t know, Vera. They never said anything about library cards.’

‘Ah! You called me, “Vera”!’ says Vera, excitedly.

‘Yes, I did,’ says Pippa. You said that’s your name when I asked you earlier.’

‘But, how do you know I am who I say I am?’

‘Well, it says you are. On your library card.’

‘Exactly. So, my library card proves who I am.’

‘I suppose so.’

‘Then I will ask you the question I asked when we first began this nonsense: do you have a parcel for me?’

Pippa looks behind her at an array of parcels lined up on the shelf. She inspects the addresses of each one, then returns to her position at the counter.

‘No. I’m afraid there’s no parcel for you today. Please come back tomorrow.’

There is a collective groan from the queue, which is now snaking out of the post office onto the street. Vera stomps out of the door.

‘Next customer, please,’ says Pippa in a well-rehearsed, chirpy voice.

 

~

Jasmine begins to collect up the breakfast plates.

‘Leave those, Jas. I’ll do it. You must have things to do.’

‘Thanks, Mom. I’m going to the bank if you must know.

Agnes smiles.

‘Oh, yes?’

‘Yes. To sort out a few direct debits.’

‘“Sort out a few direct debits”. That’s what they call it these days, is it?’

‘Call what?’

‘Never mind. Have a good morning.’

Jasmine kisses Agnes on the cheek. ‘I will. Bye.’

Agnes clears the table. Cody’s meal is still untouched on the plate.

‘What a waste,’ says Agnes.

She steps on the pedal and the lid of the bin flips open. She is about to scrape Cody’s breakfast off the plate when she sees the corner of an envelope. She reaches down and takes it out of the bin, spilling Cody’s discarded eggs onto the floor.

‘I’m sure I…I did, the bin outside. How did it…?’ she says to herself. The plate drops to the floor and cracks in two.

‘That’s why he was off his food. He knows!’


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