Previously in Leeford Village: Nick and Jessica realise who might be responsible for placing the incendiary device that caused the fire in the hairdresser’s; Linda has made her move on Allen Gomez and confessed her feelings for him; Suptra Singh has told Sgt Miller that Clara gave him the ring to sell.
‘Where have you been? I’m starving!’
Sherry is standing at the end of the hallway as Linda enters, brushing a stray piece of grass off her dress.
‘Starving? Don’t you eat, if I’m not around to feed you?’
Linda hangs her jacket on a coat peg, knocking off a couple of scarves in the process. She curses and wraps them angrily around the coat hook.
‘Ooh, someone’s got a mood on them?’ says Sherry, rearranging the scarves.
‘Leave me alone. I’m tired.’ Linda brushes past Sherry and goes into the kitchen. Sherry follows her. Linda opens the fridge, grabs a carton of orange juice and takes a long drink.
‘And I’m hungry! Where have you been?’
‘O my God! Do I have to tell you everything?’ Linda sits down and spreads her arms across the table.
Sherry sits opposite her sister.
‘No,’ she says, quietly. ‘You’ve been a long time though. I was worried.’
Linda groans. ‘OK. If you must know, I’ve been…oh, don’t cry.’ She stands and walks round to Sherry, throwing her arms around her. ‘I’m sorry. I’m being a cow, aren’t I?’
Sherry nods. Linda kisses her on top of the head.
‘I’ll make us some tea. Burgers and chips ok?’
Sherry nods again. Linda goes to the fridge and takes out a packet of burgers and a bag of oven chips.
Sherry sniffs, then blows her nose loudly.
‘So, where have you been?’ she asks.
Linda takes a deep breath, then breaks into a smile as she notices the calendar on the back of the kitchen door with one date circled in red.
‘I’ve been…shopping. In Birmingham, if you must know.’
‘Birmingham? I could have gone with you. Why didn’t you tell me?’
‘Because, dear sister, it is your birthday very soon and I wanted to get you something very special!’
Sherry blows her nose, again.
‘And did you?’
‘Did I? You bet I did! You’ll love it!’
Linda separates two frozen burgers
‘So, where is it?’
‘You didn’t come in carrying any bags.’
Linda turns to face the sink.
‘I’ve hidden it.’
‘If I told you that, it wouldn’t be hidden, would it? Just be prepared to be very surprised, though you’ve almost ruined it!’
Stephen Miller is just about to put the phone down, when he hears a voice on the other end.
‘George. It’s Sergeant Miller. How are you?’
‘I’m as well as can be expected, Stephen, thank you. What can I do for you?’
‘Actually, it’s Clara I need to speak to. Is she there?’
George shouts upstairs.
The next voice Stephen hears is Clara’s.
‘Hello, Stephen. This is a surprise.’
‘Hello, Clara. It’s not a social call, I’m afraid.’
‘Oh?’ Clara signals for George to leave the room.
When he has left, she whispers, ‘what has George done now?’
‘George. Nothing. And, I’m hoping, neither have you.’
‘I’ll get straight to the point. Did you at any time give a diamond ring to Suptra Singh?’
There is a long silence on the other end of the phone.
‘Clara? Are you there?’
Clara sits on the chair next to the phone table.
‘Clara? I think there’s been some misunderstanding and I’m afraid Suptra…’
Stephen is interrupted by a barely audible Clara.
‘I want to hand myself in.’
‘I’m sorry, Clara? Did you say you…’
‘Yes, Stephen. I want to hand myself in. How do I do that?’
Linda is watching a film on TV, while Sherry is watching Linda working her way through a family-sized packet of cheese and onion crisps.
‘What happened to the diet?’ she asks, as Linda grabs another handful.
Linda waves a crisp in the air.
‘You know what, Sherry? I don’t care about my body anymore. This is how I am. Some people, naming no names, find me very attractive.’
Something catches Sherry’s eye on the TV and she lets Linda’s comment pass.
Her concentration is broken by the flashing of her phone perched on the chair arm. A text message:
Hi Sherry. This is Allen. Would u like 2 go out with me 1 eve? Your choice where 2 go. Will understand if u don’t. Get back 2 me. IMPORTANT: don’t tell sis. Keep 2 ourselves, for now. Allen xox
‘Who’s that?’ asks Linda, through a mouthful of crisps.
Sherry rests the phone on the arm of the chair.
‘Oh, it’s just…ah, I love this bit!’ She points to the TV and claps her hands.
Linda gives her a bewildered look. Before she can ask the question again, her phone beeps. A text message:
Hi Lin. Thanks for today. I loved being with you, although it was not what I expected! I want to see you again. Your choice where 2 go. Will understand if u don’t. Get back 2 me. IMPORTANT: don’t tell sis. Keep 2 ourselves, for now. Allen xox
‘Phone company. Damn nuisance, always asking me if I want an upgrade!’
PC Gary Carr knocks on Sergeant Stephen Miller’s door and enters his office.
‘She’s here, Sarge.’
‘Gail Perkins? Take her down to the interrogation room. I’ll be there in a few minutes. Clara is on her way and I want to make sure she’s OK when she arrives.’
‘OK. I’ll sort Gail out.’
Gary is almost out the door when Stephen calls him back.
‘Clara says she wants to hand herself in. Do you think she stole the ring?’
‘Dunno, sarge. Doesn’t sound like Clara. But it is the ring that’s on the jewellers’ list of lost, or stolen items.
‘Well let’s hope there’s a reasonable explanation. I can’t imagine arresting Clara!’
‘Want a cuppa?’
Linda looks at her sister in disbelief.
‘You’re asking me if I want a cup of tea? Do you even know how to make a cup of tea?’
Sherry sticks her tongue out at Linda and goes into the kitchen, picking up her phone on the way. As soon as the kettle begins to make a noise, she begins texting:
Hi Allen. Car park back of library. 6.00 Tuesday. Won’t tell Linda. Sherry xoxoxo
Linda listens for the kettle to make a noise, then begins texting:
Hi Allen. I loooveeedd today. Meet me in car park back of library. 6.00 Wednesday. Won’t tell Shez. Lin xoxoxoxo
Five minutes later, Sherry walks into the lounge carrying two cups. She puts them down on the coffee table and sits back in her chair.
‘What’s happened?’ she asks.
‘In the film. What’s happened?’
Clara sits opposite Stephen Miller, her hands resting on her lap.
‘So, Clara, you want to hand yourself in. Do you know what that means?’
‘Yes, Stephen. Of course, I do.’
‘Are you saying you have committed a crime?’
‘Yes. I wouldn’t be handing myself in, otherwise, would I?’
‘No, of course not. I am presuming this is something to do with Suptra and your mother’s ring.’
‘Yes. Except the ring was not my mother’s. I found it.’
‘Yes. In a handbag. A handbag someone handed into the shop.’
Stephen sits back.
‘Go on, Clara. Tell me the whole story.’
It has been a quiet lunchtime in the chip shop and Cody is draining the last of the chip oil into a large metal can. He sighs heavily, just as Agnes appears carrying a mop and bucket.
‘Oh dear. Someone’s not happy,’ she says, dragging the mop over the entrance. ‘What’s up?’
Cody twists the lid on the metal can and tucks it away under the counter. He holds his back and grimaces as he bends.
‘Nothing, love. I’m fine. Just a bit down.’
He half-smiles at Agnes, but she is busy swishing the mop to and fro across the floor.
‘Maybe you need to go upstairs and play some more dance music. You seemed very happy when you were doing that.’
Cody feels another twinge shooting down his leg.
‘I think my dancing days are over, Agnes. I have to face the facts. I’m getting old.’
Agnes laughs. ‘Getting? I thought you’d already got there!’
Cody does not respond. He looks out of the doorway at Meredith’s shop.
‘Oi, I’ve just mopped there!’ says Agnes, running the mop into the back of Cody’s leg.
As he passes Agnes, she drops the mop and holds his hand.
‘Look, love. We can’t help getting old. The thing is, I love you even more the older you get!’
Cody hangs his head. ‘I don’t deserve you. I’m being very stupid.’
‘You’re not stupid, Cody. You’re a good man.’
She cups Cody’s face in her hands.
‘Now, how about you and I get dressed up and go the pictures in Banfield? There’s that new film with whatshername in. You know, the one off that programme.’
Cody shakes his head.
‘She’s married to him; the one with the eyes.’
‘Going out with you tonight, Agnes, will make me the happiest man in the world!’
Stephen Miller opens the door of the interrogation room. Gary Carr is sitting at a table opposite Gail Perkins.
‘A word, Gary.’
Gary steps into the corridor.
‘I’m developing a rapport with Gail, sarge. I think there’s chemistry between us.’
‘Not funny, PC Carr. Not funny at all!’
Stephen Miller lowers his voice.
‘Suptra Singh is totally innocent. Clara Dennis has got herself into one hell of a mess. I’ll tell you the whole story later, but she thinks she has stolen the ring she gave to Suptra to sell.’
‘Her mother’s ring?’
‘Yes, except it’s not her mother’s. She found it and didn’t give it back. The best thing we can do is contact the ring’s owner, explain the situation, particularly Clara’s difficulties with George and try to stop her pressing charges. If she does, we can let the matter drop. But, first, let’s deal with Gail Perkins.’
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