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  • Michael Braccia

Leeford Village - episode 107

Episode 107: Friends - let's eat


Previously in Leeford Village:

 

Doctor Jeremy Roberts examines Sally after her encounter with the Leeford ‘ghost’. The bump on the head has not stopped her insisting that Ted phones the police. Agnes cannot understand Cody’s behaviour, and Jasmine is amazed when Cody admits to putting the letter in the kitchen bin. Agnes discovers her ‘private’ letter in the bin and panics. Vera doesn’t get any information from Pippa about Sally. Jasmine tells Agnes she is going to the bank ‘to sort out a few direct debits’.

 

~

 

‘Jasmine! Over here, I’ve got a table in the corner!’

 

Considering that they have agreed to keep their meeting low-key, Justin is doing a good job of attracting attention. They didn’t want to meet at Billy’s Café, but also didn’t want to travel too far -  not ultra-clandestine as Jasmine put it. They settled for the Albionn Café in Central Banfield, near the town hall and the library. When they arranged it, she queried the location.

 

‘But you’re a Wolves supporter, Justin. You were the manager there at one time, weren’t you?’

‘I was admin manager, not head coach. The café has nothing to do with West Brom – it’s spelt with two n’s – so I can cope!’

 

Everyone had turned round as he beckoned her to join him, but, fortunately, no one there seems to know them. A quiet corner – perfect for an assignation; Smooth Radio playing softly in the background. Percy Sledge is telling us what happens when a man loves a woman.

 

‘These are for you.’

‘You shouldn’t have, Justin.’

 

 Justin smiles as she places the flowers on the chair beside her.

 

‘No, I mean it. You really shouldn’t have.’

‘Sorry, Jasmine. Have I offended you?’

‘No, it’s just – I hope you understand – I’m not ready for a serious relationship. After – you know.’

‘I can wait,’ he says.

‘You might be waiting a long time, but can we just be friends?’

 

He drops his gaze, but asks, ‘shall I throw the flowers away?’

‘You will do no such thing. They’re lovely. Thank you.’

‘Have I got no chance, then?’

‘Look, Justin, let’s be friends and see how it goes. We can go out occasionally, but not around the village. If Pippa and Ethel get hold of this, wouldn’t it spoil it for us?’

 

Justin leans forward. ‘Will you tell Cody and Agnes?’

 

The look on her face gives him the answer.

 

‘Message received. Anyway, what do you fancy?’

 

 

 

She pauses before realising he is passing her the menu. His finger brushes the back of her hand as she takes the Specials Today sheet from him. They both laugh nervously and avoid eye contact for a few seconds.

 

She looks up at him and smiles.

 

‘Do we have a deal?’

‘Of course. Friends?’ he replies.

‘Friends. Come on, let’s eat.’

 

 

~

 

 

Fortunately for Nigel, his shop is devoid of customers as Vera enters.

 

‘Nothing from Pippa. I don’t understand it. The jungle drums haven’t worked on this occasion.’

 

Nigel looks around nervously. He’s working on his own today and he hasn’t seen a customer in twenty minutes, but he instinctively checks anyway. Just in case someone is listening.

 

‘Did you ask her about Sally – has Pippa heard anything about… the incident?’

‘Son, are you stupid, or what? We don’t want to raise suspicion, do we?’

 

Nigel nods his assent.

 

‘Suppose you’re right, Mom.’

‘I know I am.’

 

What Vera doesn’t realise is that Pippa has heard something, and she has relayed a metaphorical parcel of information (discovered by listening in to loose talk in the post office queue) to Hilda Peterson, the vicar’s wife.

 

~

 

 

‘You’ve got to be kidding, Ted.’

‘But John, you’re the ideal man for the job. The only man for the job!’

 

John Peterson picks up his Hymn Not Her coffee mug, stands up and walks to the Georgian window at the rear of his study.

 

‘The roses are looking nice this time of year, eh, Ted?’

‘John, I know you. Don’t change the subject.’

‘I’m not. I’m thinking. I always look at the garden when I’m thinking.’

‘Well, think about Sally. It might have only been a mild concussion, but she could have been badly hurt.’

 

 

John sits down again, puts both hands through his hair and scratches the back of his neck.

 

 

‘But isn’t it a police matter? I’m a vicar, but this is asking a bit much.’

‘It’s a ghost, John. Accept it. You ask people to accept things every Sunday morning.’

‘Not fair, Ted. That’s different.’

‘Well, I believe that both Sally and I have seen a ghost. I think it’s Billy. I don’t want to upset Ethel, but we need to get rid of it. I’ve already told you what I want.’

 

John sighs, and leans in towards Ted.

 

‘I understand that, Ted. But exorcism?’

 

 

~

 

 

‘Hello love. Did you have a nice time sorting out your direct debits?’

‘Funny. I’m making a drink, Mom. Tea or coffee?’

 

As Cody is working downstairs, Agnes has the rare pleasure of watching her favourite programmes – David Attenborough documentaries. The lion is just about to pounce on an unsuspecting zebra, so she makes a ‘T’ shape with her forefingers. Jasmine nods. Mom might like watching the behaviour of animals, Jasmine thinks, but Justin is not an animal. He’s the perfect gentleman, and he fancies me rotten. Would I marry him if he asked me? Maybe. One Day.

 

‘Penny for them, love,’ says Agnes, pausing the recording as Jasmine passes her the strongest cup of tea she will have for a while.

 

‘Mind on other things, Jasmine?’

 

She smiles as her daughter’s face reddens.

 

‘No, not really.’

‘Just tell me you had a nice time.’

‘Yes, I did. It was lovely,’ says Jasmine.

‘I’m so happy for you. Take your time. He’s a lovely bloke. Just one thing – don’t hurt him – he doesn’t deserve that.’

 

Jasmine goes back towards the kitchen door, but turns round to face Agnes.

 

‘Mom?’

‘Yes, love?’

‘Talking of hurting people, is there anything you should be telling Dad?’

‘What do you mean?’

 

It’s Agnes’s turn to blush.

 

‘I think you know what I mean. The letter. The letter you know that Dad has seen. I’ve seen it too.’

‘Did you—’

‘No, Mom, I didn’t read it. Not beyond the first sentence, anyway. I respect your privacy, but Dad is so worried.’


 

 

 

‘Is he? Is he really bothered?’

‘Of course he is. Whatever else he is, or what he’s done, he loves you. You know that.’

 

Agnes stands up and embraces the daughter she is still getting to know.

 

‘Darling, I love your dad, too. If I tell you what it's about, can you keep it just between the two of us?’

 

 

~

 

 

 

‘Please help me with this, John. We’re scared out of our wits.’

‘What does Sally say about it?’

‘She doesn’t believe it’s a ghost. She wants me to go to the police. We’ve got to act quickly. I’ve seen the film - it’s got to be done at midnight.’

 

The vicar’s eyes open wider than usual and he sits up straight in his chair.

 

‘What film?’

‘The Exorcist, of course.’

‘Don’t ask me to do this, Ted, please.’

 

Ted bows his head, then looks up and glares at John.

 

‘If I never ask a favour of you again, please do this one thing for me.’

‘Okay, I’ll think about it. If the bishop gets to hear about it, I’m in trouble. Anyway, Hilda’s just got back. She’s doing my favourite for tea – shepherd’s pie.

‘Oh, I’ll leave you to it, then. Can you call me later? If we’re on, I’ll see you about 11.30 – I’m sure you’ve got stuff to prepare.’

 

John’s eyebrows rise up as far as it is humanly possible for them to go.

 

‘We’ll see, Ted. I’ll call you after tea.’

 

 

~

 

 

 

‘Hello?’

 

Frank can see that it’s James Lindale’s number on his caller display.

 

‘Hello, Frank. I have an answer for you regarding your friend, Ken Taylor.’

 

‘Go on, James.’

 

Frank does something he hasn’t done for fifty years. He crosses his fingers.

 

 

‘We’ve looked into the by-law from 1948. Your information is correct, and it hasn’t been superseded.’

‘Does this mean we can help the Taylors?’

‘Yes, Frank, and I’ll give you the pleasure of telling them. We’ve had the vote. There will have to be a review within five years, but you might say—’

‘They’ve had a stay of execution?’

‘Yes, but more than that. I’ve got some ideas for a permanent solution. Ken would have to agree to not cutting down those beautiful trees on his new land, but I think we can help Ken and Violet run the farm until they retire.’

 

Frank thinks of one issue that is bound to come up.

 

‘Would they be able to pass the business on to their son after the review if it’s not favourable?’

‘Not sure, Frank. This is the best I can offer for now, but hopefully it’s something.’

‘James – thank you. I’ll speak to Ken.’

 

 

 

~

 

 

 

The shepherd’s pie consumed, with a glass of red Shloer happily imbibed by the recovered alcoholic, John Peterson, the couple settle on the sofa to talk about their day. John is not going to mention his potential battle with the ghost of Billy Lucas. Hilda is the first to speak.

 

‘You never guess what I heard today.’

‘Who from – not chief gossip in residence, Pippa Philpotts?’

‘You’ve got it. She brought our post over personally this morning, so I offered her a coffee. She couldn’t wait to tell me about it, and I’m not sure how much of it is true.’

‘About what?’ asks John.

‘The vicious attack on Sally Coleman.’

 

John takes a breath and grips Hilda’s arm.

 

‘What?’

‘Yes. Apparently, someone pretending to be a ghost – to frighten Ted – did something to Sally and she bumped her head.’

‘You’re kidding.’

 

Hilda can see an expression on her husband’s face that can only be described as horror.

 

‘John, what’s wrong?’

‘Nothing, darling, but I’ve got to go out. I have to see… someone – about something…’

 

He grabs his keys and heads for The Cross.


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