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  • Michael Braccia

Leeford Village - episode 120

Episode 120 - The Republic of Leeford


Previously in Leeford Village:

 

Zack goes to Manchester to meet Clare. Cody is in Birmingham, searching for a new detective series on DVD to get his teeth into, while the Thornton’s hold a family conference. A man arrives at the post office, known to Pippa.

~

 

Cody is crawling along the M6, listening to recordings of The Adventures of Sam Spade that a friend (and fellow member of Behind the Magnifying Glass, an online forum for fans of detective fiction) has made for him. Agnes describes the forum as a mutual support group for ‘sad men living in a fantasy world’, whenever Cody is chatting to members of the group over Zoom. As a boy and then as a man, Cody fostered an image of himself as an American private investigator, operating in the shadows, sitting in a grimy office with ‘C. Thornton – PI’ etched into a frosted glass door. He would be wearing a fedora and a long grey overcoat. His private life would be kept secret from his clients, though they would suspect it involved several glamourous women, to whom he would be unrepentantly unfaithful. Sometimes he might have a dog which accompanied him everywhere or a cat with steel blue eyes that would sit on his desk and stare at his clients.

 

He is fantasising about this when there is a loud honking of several car horns behind him. He wakes with a start from his reverie and realises that the traffic lines either side of him are moving. He waves an apology to the car driver behind him, who waves back less politely. On the passenger seat is a box set of Jack Reacher DVDs, recommended by a young, knowledgeable lad in the shop.

 

Half an hour later, he is back in Leeford, driving down Market Street. A grandfather. He smiles to himself. And, soon, a grandchild that has never seen Morse - a great opportunity to rewatch the whole series. He wonders how old the child would have to be before he (he assumes the child will be a boy) would appreciate Morse. Maybe he could start him on something a little less demanding. Inspector Gadget! He is considering returning to the shop in Birmingham to buy an Inspector Gadget box set when he sees Jenny Windrush, Daniel’s wife, walking towards Burry’s He pulls up alongside her and winds down the window.

 

‘Congratulations!’ he shouts leaning over the passenger seat, one hand on the steering wheel. Jenny stops, and, as he is about to mount the kerb, so does Cody.

‘Hi, Cody,’ says Jenny. ‘Did you say, “congratulations?”’

‘Yes,’ says Cody. ‘You must be over the moon.’

Jenny frowns. ‘I must?’

‘I take it this is your first?’

Jenny looks up and down the street. ‘First?’

‘Yes. My first, too. Obviously.’

Jenny smacks her lips.

‘Well, I feel I should congratulate you, too, then Cody. Which I would, if I had any idea what you are talking about.’

Cody switches off the engine.

‘The baby. Your grandchild. You must be delighted. When did…er, I’m sorry but for the life of me I can’t remember the name of your son, er, or daughter. When did they tell you?’

Jenny leans into the car.

‘Cody. I really have no idea what you are on about.’

Cody slaps his forehead.

‘I am so sorry, Jen. Daniel obviously hasn’t told you yet.’

‘Told me? Told me what?’

Cody pauses for a moment.

‘Well, seeing as I’ve let the cat out of the bag, I might as well continue. You’re going to be a grandmother.’

‘A grandmother? Impossible,’ says Jenny looking totally bemused.

‘Oh, has it been difficult for…I’m sorry, I still can’t remember your kid’s name.’

‘There’s a reason for that, Cody. We don’t have any children.’

‘But, Daniel said he’s going to be a grandfather. Like me.’

Jenny laughs.

‘Cody, that’s great for you and Agnes. Pass my congratulations onto Adam and Meredith. But Daniel is certainly not going to be a grandfather. Now, I have to get on. We’ll pop into the chippy later in the week.’

With that Jenny continues up the street. Cody watches her enter the chemist’s. He scratches his head. He definitely said he was going to be a grandfather. Definitely. Why would he say that to Adam?

 

~

Sherry and Carlos are sitting on the sofa working their way through a large bag of nachos. They are watching a reality TV show, in which Sherry is engrossed. Carlos is staring at the screen without paying any attention to the goings-on of the characters sitting around a pool, accusing one another of cheating with partners they have only met that week.

‘Sherry,’ he says.

Sherry finishes crunching on a nacho.

‘What? OMG! He did sleep with her. I knew it. Didn’t I say to you that he was a snake in the grass?’

She grabs a handful of nachos. Carlos takes the bag away.

‘Sherry, I need to talk to you.’

Sherry’s eyes are fixed on the screen.

‘Yeah? What?’

‘If we stay here, do you still marry me?’ asks Carlos, switching off the TV.

‘Why are you asking that?’ Sherry returns her handful of nachos to the bag, but keeps one eye on the TV.

‘First, because it’s complicated. I already married.’

Sherry holds Carlos’s hand. ‘I know. But, you can get a divorce. It might take a while but we can wait.’

Carlos nods.

‘Second. You imagined living a life in Rio, didn’t you? Not here.’

‘Well, yes. But I know we can’t do that. Well, not right now. But, one day, maybe.’

Carlos squeezes Sherry’s hand.

‘Be honest with me. Are you wanting marry me, or Rio?’

 

~

Allen Gomez reads the menu pinned to Simon’s coffee cart.

‘What’s a flat white, when it’s at home?’ he asks.

‘It’s a double shot of coffee with foamed milk - less milk than a latte and less foam than a cappuccino.’

‘Hmm. A small latte then?’

‘Not really. A latte is a single shot and more milk.’

‘But I can have a latte with a double shot of coffee?’

‘Yes, we can do that.’

‘So, that would be a large flat white, then?

‘No. A flat white is only one size.’

‘But, a latte with two shots contains the same amount of coffee as a flat white.’

‘Well, yes.’

‘But more milk?’

‘Yes.’

‘So, it’s a large flat white.’

‘No.’

‘Yes.’

Simon sighs.

‘Okay, Allen. You win. Do you want a regular flat white or a large flat white?’

Allen ponders the menu once more.

‘Tea. White. Two sugars.’

 

~

 

Frank hesitates before dialling the number, but it’s a call he has to make. Eventually, he braces himself and taps the digits. The call is answered quickly.

‘Hello?’

Frank clears his throat.

‘Hello. Is that Duncan Thoroughgood, chair of Bordsley Parish Council?’

‘It is. Who’s this, please?’

‘Watson. Frank Watson. Chair of Leeford Parish Council,’ says Frank, emphasising ‘Leeford’.

‘Hello, Frank. How are you? I’ve been meaning to call you, actually.’

‘Oh?’

‘Yes. We are thinking of entering a team in the walking football league and wondering how to go about it. I heard that you are the manager of the Leeford team.’

Frank grunts.

‘No. That’s another Frank. Anyway, that’s not what I’m calling you about.’

‘I know. Because I was going to call you about that. You wouldn’t know that, so you can’t be calling me about it.’

Frank holds the phone away from his ear and looks at it for a moment.

‘Er, right.’

‘So, what are you calling me about, before I talk to you about the walking football?’

‘I’m calling you about…’ Franks pauses. ‘Have you been asked to conduct a census?’

‘A census? No. Aren’t we a few years away from a census?'

‘That’s the National Census. This is about the village itself. Bordsley, in your case.’

‘No. I’ve heard nothing about a census. Why would we want to do that?’

‘Because…’ Frank pauses again. ‘Have you spoken to Councillor Lindale, recently?’

‘James?’

‘You know him by his first name?’

‘I haven’t seen him for a while. Funnily enough, my wife had a text from him yesterday to say he was coming over at the weekend to have a chat about something.’

‘Your wife? Why would he be texting your wife?’

‘Well, James is her brother. Anyway, you were saying?’

Frank raises himself from his seat.

 

‘I see. Nepotism, is it? Well, Mr Thoroughgood, “Thoroughgood” in name only I suspect, this will only strengthen our fight. And we will fight you, as every independent, er, state, no, not state, every independent…’

‘Republic?’

‘Don’t be silly, man. Whatever we are, we are proud and we are together and we will not be defeated in our quest to remain independent. So, you can tell that to your brother-in-law and watch him quake in the very boots he is standing in!’

There is a few seconds silence on the other end of the phone, while Frank, now purple in the face, awaits a reply.

‘Okay, Frank. I’ll, er, pass the message on. Now, can we talk about the football?’

‘The wrong Frank!’ says Frank Watson ending the call and slamming his phone down on the arm of the sofa.

‘Frank? Are you there?’ Duncan Thoroughgood looks at his screen.

‘Who was that?’ asks Hazel, Duncan’s wife who has witnessed one side of the conversation from the other side of the sitting room.

‘Frank Watson. Chair of Leeford Parish Council. People said he was strange, but they didn’t say he was totally off the planet.’

‘What did he want you for?’

Duncan shrugs.

‘You know, I have no idea.’

 

~

 

The queue in the post office gradually reduces until the only person left at the counter is Harry. He starts to speak but stops when Pippa comes from behind the counter and crosses to the front door, which she locks, turning the sign round to Closed.

She looks out onto the street for a few seconds and takes a deep breath.

She turns back towards the counter.

 

‘Right, Harry. You’ve got three minutes.’


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