Previously in Leeford Village: Suptra Singh’s niece, Nita Sangra, wants to visit India to explore her heritage and wants Suptra to go with her, and he is horrified. George Dennis is not well - he thinks he is still Head Master of his old school and Clara tries to get him to stay at home; she doesn’t want him wandering about. Linda and Sherry continue their petty arguments in the launderette, and the lads in the Cross misunderstand Jack when he enters the pub, but they are in for a shock.
‘Does Stephen know?’
‘I banged on his door and shouted; he got to George as I ran to fetch you.’
‘We thought you were doing your usual.’
‘Christ Ted, this is serious. I think George is stuck. Let’s get over there. Stephen’s called Gary.’
‘You didn’t tell me it was tipping down, Jack.’
‘Where have you been the last three hours?’
‘Working in the pub as usual, and watching the game with the lads.’
‘It’s a bloody monsoon out here, and the brook’s flooding.’
From his flat in Green Crescent, PC Gary Carr responds in less than five minutes. He arrives to find his boss, Stephen Miller, holding onto George who is not in a fit state to help himself.
‘What can we do to help?’ Ted bellows over the crashing rain.
‘Get Clara; she’ll be upset but we’ll need help to keep him calm.’
‘Fire Brigade on the way?’
‘Yeh, Gary’s called them, but response from Banfield can be over fifteen minutes. We haven’t got that long.’
‘Jack – go and get the lads, and call Doctor Roberts.’
‘How’s he doing, Stephen?’ Ted asks, joining the sergeant, PC Carr and George in the brook.
‘Barely conscious, and confused when he comes to.’
‘Bloody hell, Steve, it’s rising past his chin! Can’t we get him out?’
‘His foot’s caught in a broken branch or something!’
‘It’s too dark to see clearly, Sarge. Can we get some lights down here?’
‘I’ll sort it Gary - I’ll get the lads to drive the cars near the brook. Headlights should do it,’ says Ted.
‘Jeremy, thank God you’re here.’
‘I’ll take over holding George, Stephen. You need to organise things.’
‘He’ll be under in a few minutes. We’re going to lose him.’
‘Steve, I know this sounds crazy, but call Amanda. She’s just got home. Tell her to bring our scuba gear.’
‘We’ve done it every holiday for the last five years.’
Stephen runs up the bank and grabs his mobile from Ted who has anticipated Jeremy’s request.
‘Yes, Amanda. Jeremy’s with George. Please hurry.’
‘Gary - how long will the Banfield fire crew be?’
‘Just spoke to Control - ten minutes.’
‘Amanda will be here in five.’
Back in the Cross, the match is abandoned by the pub regulars, but not by the players and match officials. No one cares that Chelsea were two-nil up at half-time and that Wolves pulled it back to two-each with ten minutes to go. Even their precious football takes a back seat when someone is in trouble. Particularly a Leeforder. Five cars line up by the brook, full beams bearing down on the scene, engines running to allow quick movement when the fire service arrive. Amanda Roberts sprints to the edge of the lapping water, carrying the masks. Two of the regulars follow her with the oxygen tanks.
‘Thanks darling. Put one on George and help me on with mine.’
‘I’ll set up the tanks.’
As the masks are secured, the rain streaming from the darkening sky and the brook unrecognisable from its state just a few hours ago, the water gushes against the men and smashes against the low bridge just ahead of them. George is the first to go under, once again losing consciousness. Jeremy Roberts screams at Gary.
‘Hold onto him, I’ll see if I can free his feet.’
Gary Carr, a good five inches taller than George, can just about hold his head above the surface. Sirens blast through the night air and two cars are moved. Amanda stands helpless at the side of the developing torrent as her husband dives down to the bed of the brook. The fire engine shudders to a halt, doors fly open and six fire-fighters sprint to the water’s edge.
'My husband, Doctor Roberts - he’s under there!’
‘What’s happening Ted? Where’s my George?’
As Ted takes Clara’s hand and starts to explain, Jeremy rises to the surface like Excalibur and the firemen pull George free. Frank, Cody, Zack and now what seems like a pub-full of regulars are all there, cheering like the football supporters they are - for a hero, and for George.
‘Jeremy, is he going to be alright?’ cries Clara.
‘We’re working on him; we’ll do everything we can. Hold in there Clara.’
As his mask is removed, George splutters as his wife weeps.
‘He’s going to pull through, Clara; he’s going to be ok.’
Ethel serves her first coffee of the day. She’s grateful her cafe is located at the far end of the Precinct.
‘No, not the hairdressers. That’s two things in twenty-four hours!’
‘Looks like it, Sheri. Good job there was so much rain; kept a lot of it at bay.’
The flames could be seen from the Cross car park and the smoky stench picked up as far as the church in the opposite direction.
‘Was anyone in there – how’s Jessica?’
‘Think it started in the early hours; Jessica was called out.’
‘How do you know?’
‘Just seen Nick on his way to the centre. She’ll stay there with him while the firemen do their stuff. She’s very upset.’
The flower shop, music emporium, Meredith’s Cards and the sandwich shop were all closed as soon as the emergency services arrived. No apparent damage to any other properties, and it looks like the damage to the building itself is minimal. They appear to have caught it in time, but all the equipment and furniture lie in ruins.
These are the occasions when, yes, we are relieved that the annual insurance premium has been paid, but to the owner, they may well sit and reflect on a business built, developed and then possibly ruined. Jessica Townley, quite naturally, feels exactly that.
‘Darling, we’ll sort it out. Get the assessor in, everyone will help with the clean-up. A few weeks disruption.’
‘That’s one thing I have got right, Nick, I’ve already called him. He’ll be over later this morning.’
Cody Thornton, having a slow start to the day in the chip shop, after the excitement of the football match and George’s emergency, is drawn, not only to the events unfolding less than thirty yards away on the other side of Market Street, but also by the owner of Meredith’s Cards. Standing by the stalls, well clear of the ardent efforts of the fire-fighters, Miss Park cuts a forlorn figure. Cody wants to reassure her. For one infinitesimal moment, he wants to hold her as part of the consolation package he could offer. She hasn’t suffered like George or Jessica, but her business is being disrupted. Convinced that Agnes is calculating the direction of his gaze, he makes a speedy attempt at distracting her thoughts.
‘Batter ready, love?’
‘What were you looking at?’
‘It’s a mess, isn’t it, Jessica’s place?’
‘Well, yes, but nothing we can do.’
‘Thought I’d go over tomorrow and help with the clean-up. Frank’s already organised a whip-round.’
‘Would they do it for us?’
‘Course they would, you know they would.’
‘What’s for tea?’
‘We don’t get this excitement in North Banfield. If we didn’t work in Leeford, we’d miss out.’
‘Lin, what sort of answer is that?’
‘Just saying. What did you want?’
‘What’s for tea.’
‘We’ll have to eat that Spaghetti Carbonara.’
‘Why?’ says Sherry, with a look that suggests she’s practised exasperation at the School for Frustrated Sisters.
‘Goes off at midnight.’
‘Oh, for God’s sake, Linda, we’ve had this conversation before. Does it say “Use by” or “Best by”, and anyway, do you honestly believe that at two minutes past the witching hour, loads of food suddenly jumps up and says “that’s it, I’m off!”?’
‘Dunno what’s eating you, Shez.’
‘You are, most of the time. Look, if that spaghetti is alright now, it’ll be alright in twelve hours time. OK?’
‘If you say so. Anyway, it’s your fault.’
‘How do you make that out?’
‘You’re always scouring the end of the aisles at Spendfields. You know they specialise in massive discounts on short-dated stuff. You’re a Wally for the bargains.’
‘I do the budgeting. You’d just spend it all as it comes in.’
‘You make it sound so complicated.’
‘Forget it Linda. Gomez is coming. Wish you didn’t look at him like you do.’
‘Sherry...’ but the door opening curtails the sisters’ nonsense.
‘Sherry, could I have a quiet word?’
‘You Ok, Suptra?’
‘Not really Ethel.’
‘Here’s your coffee. You don’t have to tell me, but it might help.’
‘I told you I can’t go to India.’
‘It was a long time ago, but I got involved with a gang in Kolkata. I was really stupid. Took a loan from some gangster.’
‘Why, how much?’
‘Ten thousand dollars - to help my cousin in Birmingham. Looked like his business was in trouble.’
‘What happened Suptra?’
‘They gave me the money, and then I transferred it from my bank in Kolkata to my cousin, Jamani.’
‘I haven’t heard from him since. Disappeared. They called in the loan and I had no way of paying it. Plus the 15% interest.’
‘So, did you leave India?’
‘I had to. That’s why I came to Leeford over twenty years ago, and I can’t go back, Ethel. I don’t know how I’m going to explain this to Nita. I feel so ashamed.’