Previously in Leeford Village: Jeremy Roberts has agreed to run the Tombola at the village fête but refuses to help on the committee. Megan Watson reminisces with her Dad about Sally, her Mom, although she was too young to remember her. Zack has his fingers burnt through the Pound Challenge scam he set up, but gets away with it – just, with Frank being humiliated. Clara will not be charged over the valuable ring, and the local police continue to interview Gail Perkins about the fire. Linda and Sherry have a strained conversation about the unintended ‘double date’ with Allen Gomez, and he hasn’t even turned up yet.
‘But it’s not till next year,’ exclaims Simon Brown.
‘We might as well form the band anyway. Be a laugh, and it’s something to do.’
‘You’re bound to say that, Zack. My money’s on you being lead singer,’ jumps in Adam.
‘I’m the one with the sound-proofed music room at the vicarage; a perk of being the vicar’s son. Plenty of room – could you match that at your Dad’s chip shop?’
‘He is the oldest, Zack, and he is the best lead guitarist we know.’
‘Don’t worry, I’m happy to play guitar and follow instructions. I haven’t got time to lead a band and organise stuff anyway.’
‘That’s settled then. Anyone object to Clare on drums?’
‘What?’ shouts Simon, a bit louder than he intended. They have been close friends at school for nearly five years and he always knows when Zack is manipulating him. This is one of those occasions.
‘You know she’s good. Please don’t tell me you want an all-male band.’
‘Ok,’ says Simon, ‘but we still need a bass player.’
‘Got some ideas, and I think Clare knows someone.’
‘Who’s organising the talent contest anyway?’ asks Adam.
‘Nick and Jessica at the Community Centre. He used to be in a rock band, and she’s a regular at Bowman’s Folk Club by the marina.’
‘S’pose they’ll be judges as well.’
‘Spot on Si, and would you believe it, accompanied by Monsieur Frank Watson.’
‘Who’s going to write our songs?’ asks Simon.
‘Don’t you worry about that. I’ve written one already,’ answers Zack.
Stephen draws his chair closer, fixing his gaze on Gail, not wanting to miss the slightest hesitation, a careless word, even the tightening of her mouth as the stress levels increase.
‘What have you got against Jessica Townley?’
‘Come on Gail, we’ve seen your reaction. You hate her, don’t you? You helped somebody set fire to the salon.’
‘It wasn’t me!’
‘Gary, get Gail a cup of tea, will you?’
‘Never mind the sugar,’ snaps Stephen Miller, nodding towards the door.
As Gary leaves the room, Stephen places his hand on Gail’s right arm.
‘Now, Gail, you know me well enough. I’m not letting this go. Whatever you did, we’ll find out. If you helped somebody, you will have to tell us. It can only help your situation.’
‘I can’t tell you who it is.’
‘Ok, let’s step back. What has Jessica done to you? She wasn’t at the salon when the accident happened, was she?’
‘She was responsible.’
‘Maybe, but you didn’t make a big fuss at the time. You just put the claim in and you won. End of story.’
‘Wasn’t just the accident.’
‘Ah, we’re getting somewhere. You have a grudge against Jessica. Right?’
‘Not her. Him.’
‘Who do you mean?’
‘What’s he got to do with it?’
‘We were together for a while, until SHE came along.’
Tuesday 6.10 p.m.
‘He’s here. What shall we do, Lin?’
‘Leave the talking to me – I know his type.’
The sun decides to fall slightly in the sky, hiding behind a collection of cumulonimbi. The occupant of the car indicating right into the short driveway has no control over the movements of the heavenly bodies, but the timing is perfect. Shadows cast by the library building creep forward just enough to conceal the two sisters.
Allen Gomez switches off the ignition, knowing full well that he is fashionably late. He likes the idea of trying out the younger sister. Linda intrigued him, possibly beguiled him, but he likes both of them; Sherry’s fresh youth against something in Linda. Yes, that something that drove him into a mental somersault. Maybe I’ll plump for Linda after tomorrow night, he thinks. For tonight, let’s have some fun with Sherry. Spotting a flicker in the security light’s beam, he senses movement by the wall.
‘Who is it? That you, Sherry?’
‘Two for the price of one, Allen!’ snaps Linda.
‘What? You’re supposed...’
‘Yeh, supposed to be here tomorrow. That right?’
‘What’s going on?’
‘That’s what we’d like to know,’ says Sherry, unable to retrieve the metaphorical scratching in her voice.
‘Listen girls, I’m sorry, but this is a bit of a mix-up.’
‘Damn right it is!’ Sherry bites back.
‘Shez, leave this to me. Go home! I’ll see you later.’
‘Yes. I’ve dealt with worse than our Mr Gomez.’
Sherry avoids eye contact with her six o’clock date as she exits the car park, dragging her feet as if the effort is too great.
‘She’s gone. Alright, Mr Gomez. A word,’ she says, pointing to his car.
‘Move it into the corner. We don’t want to be disturbed, do we, Allen?’
‘What, you mean…?’
Steve Adams and Nick Allthorpe share one passion – football. More specifically, Banfield Town, currently languishing in 22nd place in the Southern Region Division Five.
‘You used to play, didn’t you, Nick?’
‘I didn’t give myself a chance. Three games with Town’s reserve side, that was it.’
‘Simple really - football, the rock band and girls. Guess which two came out on top!’
‘This is different though. Even Cody and George are applying.’
‘Oh come on. George Owens. He’s pretty fit for fifty-five.’
‘How about it then? Shall we both apply?’
‘Go on then. Not a bad way of keeping fit, and it’s about time Leeford had their own team.’
‘Hey, Nick, guess who the head coach is?’
‘No, don’t tell me, not Frank!’
‘Well, sort of, but don’t panic, it’s Frank Reed. Even he thinks he’s too old - even for six-a-side walking football.’
‘Of course, Steve. He played for the Town back in the sixties and seventies.’
‘Played until 1983 – cracking midfielder – looked after himself.’
‘Nice bloke as well,’ says Nick.
‘It’ll be interesting to see who else applies. Come to think about it, where do we apply? To the centre?’
‘No, Ted’s taken on the role of Club Secretary. The list’s behind the bar. Ted reckons we might be able to play in the Banfield and District Division Eight by next Season.’
‘Wonder if there’s a Division Nine?’
‘Hello Clara. Tea?’
‘I’ll have a bun, Ethel. And a cuppa of course.’
‘I should be, but it doesn’t feel like it.’
‘Do you want to talk about it?’
As she poured the boiling water into two mugs, she knows, of course, that Clara wants to talk about it. Ethel’s role in the village is much more than café owner. She has carried on the tradition started by Billy, her late husband. He was a great listener, not nosey, but he had a knack of saying just the right thing. Ethel appears to have carried on the mantle.
‘Now, my dear, is everything ok?’
‘No different with George, but he’s not going to get any better.’
‘Back with its owner. Suptra is in the clear, thank goodness, and I’m not being charged. I will have to take a break from the shop, though. Not sure how long it will take Sheri to forgive me, or to trust me again. Mind you, she did tell me to concentrate on George.’
‘My dear Clara, have a break. Sheri will come round. She’s knows that you are basically a very honest person. Otherwise, it’s great news, isn’t it?’
‘Of course, weight off my mind, and I need more time at home anyway. But, the shame...’
The tinkle of the small bell signifying a movement of the front door makes both women look up. Suptra and Nita enter the cafe.
‘We don’t see you two in here together very often. Tea and chat?’
Ethel offers a table in the corner, but Suptra has no secrets now – not from his friends.
‘No, can we sit with you ladies?’
‘Of course,’ says Clara, pleased to have completed her business.
‘We’ve come to a decision. Oh, and before I carry on – Clara, please forget about the ring. You meant well, and I forgive you for what happened.’
‘Oh Suptra,’ says Clara, touching his hand.
‘We’re friends, Clara, and we wanted to tell you and Ethel together - we’re never going to India.’
‘What about your ambitions, Nita?’
‘It’s too complicated and too dangerous. My Uncle Suptra’s safety is my priority, and he cannot go back – ever. And if he can’t go, then I won’t.’
Suptra grasps her hand and kisses her lightly on the cheek. Tears form in Ethel’s eyes.
‘Oh, I’m so pleased for you. You are our dear friends and we have been so worried.’
‘Right, Gail, we’ll get back to your motivation, but you must tell me what part you played in the fire.’
‘I…I have knowledge of chemicals.’
‘Before I left the salon, I took a copy of the set of keys. It was quite a while before the opportunity presented itself. I had almost decided to throw away the keys and forget it, until I met him for the first time a few months ago.’
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