Previously in Leeford Village: The village posse, led by Frank Watson, visits Howard Smithson in the nursing home to enquire about Leeford Day. Just as Sgt. Stephen Miller has got to the bottom of the missing gnomes mystery, with Vera having confessed to setting up a Gnome Exchange (illegally procuring a number of gnomes in the process), he is informed that his trusty PC, Gary Carr has eloped with Gail Perkins, being held in custody in relation to the arson attack at the hairdressers.
‘Gail Perkins? Gary Carr and Gail Perkins? I’d never put them together. She’s not his type,’ says Vera, stepping into the hallway, feeling not a little relieved that the attention has been momentarily diverted from her misdemeanours.
Stephen rolls his eyes, knowing Vera will tell the whole of Leeford about the elopement before he arrives back to the station.
‘Not a word, Vera! OK?’ he says.
‘Yes, Vera,’ adds Sally, ‘this is a highly confidential police matter.’
Vera sucks her teeth and nods her head, slowly.
‘I see. In other words, you want me to keep schtum about what I have just overheard.’
Sally and Stephen chorus ‘yes’.
‘And not tell anyone. Not even my Nigel.’
‘Not even your Nigel,’ says Stephen, putting away his notebook.
‘Of course,’ says Vera, slowly, ‘there might be a price for my silence.’
Stephen looks at Sally, who is shaking her head.
‘And might I guess what that price might be, Vera?’ he says, sensing the direction the conversation is heading.
‘Well, the price might involve turning a bit of a blind eye to some of my little friends outside who, shall we say, might have found their own way here?’
‘Are you trying to pervert the course of justice, Vera?’ asks Sally.
‘I’d say it is more a case of tit for tat, Sally. Wouldn’t you agree Stephen?’
‘Ok, Vera. You agree to repatriate your, er, little friends within the next two days and we’ll consider the matter closed.’
The rest of the band gathered up their instruments and left the vicarage as soon as Zack disappeared from the rehearsal room. From his bedroom window, he watches them hurry down the driveway. To add to his humiliation, Clare is walking with Ziggy who puts his arm around her.
Zack sits forlornly on the edge of his bed. The band is over, his relationship with Clare is over. At first, he’d cursed his mother for exposing him as a fraud, but since then he has realised his own stupidity in thinking he could claim a thirty-year-old song as his own.
How stupid he must seem in front of Clare, particularly with Ziggy, her ex-boyfriend being in the same room; cool, calm, older Ziggy.
‘What an idiot,’ he mutters, throwing himself backwards onto his bed, beating his fists into the duvet.
‘What an idiot!’
‘What are you doing?’ asks Sherry, seeing her sister, Linda, sitting cross-legged on the table they use for sorting laundry into whites, colours and delicates, with her eyes closed, palms turned upwards, index finger and thumb forming the letter ‘O’.
At first, Linda pretends to ignore her sister but then she takes in a deep breath, letting it slowly out with a soft ‘whoosh.’
‘Meditating,’ she says, almost whispering.
‘OK, why are you meditating?’
‘I’m trying to empty my mind of all thoughts.’ She takes another deep breath.
‘That shouldn’t take long then.’ Sherry switches on the iron, ready to press a suit that Frank Watson has asked to be cleaned urgently.
‘I shall ignore that remark, darling sister.’
Sherry lays a pair of pinstripe trousers along the ironing board, thinking how much longer they seems than Frank’s legs, not that she has paid that much attention to Frank’s legs.
‘You should try this Sher, it’s fantastic.’
‘Oh, yeah?’ Sherry runs the hot iron to and fro, pressing a sharp crease into each trouser leg.
‘So, is your mind empty now? As empty as the machines you should have loaded with the service washes twenty minutes ago?’ Sherry takes the jacket, with its unfashionably large lapels and spreads it over the board.
‘Actually, it’s impossible to empty your mind completely. You need to have an object of focus. Something you can visualise. Something that makes you happy.’
The suit neatly pressed, Sherry puts it on a wire hanger, drapes a green plastic bag over it and takes a pink numbered ticket which she staples to a belt loop.
‘And what, dare I ask, is your focus when you are meditating?’
There is a moment’s silence, before Linda announces, ‘a family-sized bag of cheese and onion crisps.’
The band is gathered around the kitchen table in Simon’s parents’ house.
‘What are we going to do?’ asks Adam. ‘We can’t carry on without Zack.’
‘Can you talk to him, Clare?’ asks Simon.
‘I think I’m the last person he wants to see,’ says Clare, solemnly.
‘You’re very wrong, Babe. Very wrong,’ says Ziggy, much to the surprise of Adam and Simon, who mouth ‘Babe’ to each other and shrug their shoulders.
‘He’s all about you, Clare. That’s why he’s been trying so hard. I guess it was difficult me turning up,’ Ziggy continues.
‘Yeah. I didn’t think he’d mind. I thought we had a really strong relationship.’
Ziggy reaches over and holds Clare’s hand. ‘You do. He’s a great guy. I really like him, and you’re made for each other.’
‘Absolutely,’ chimes in Simon. ‘And he’s a really good guitar player.’
Adam kicks him under the table.
‘As well as being a great guy and made for you and all that.’
‘Who wants Zack most – me, or you lot?’
‘Well, now you come to say…’ says Adam.
‘Trouble is,’ says Simon, with a sigh, ‘I’ve known Zack for a long time, and he’ll be having a major sulk. He’ll take some persuading to re-join the band.’
‘Well, I have an idea,’ says Ziggy, with a broad smile.
‘Great, what’s your…’ Adam begins to speak, but is interrupted by Simon.
‘Sorry, but before we hear your grand plan, Ziggy, what’s with you and Clare?’
Clare and Ziggy look at each other.
‘What do you mean?’ asks Ziggy, looking genuinely confused by the question.
‘Well, I mean, I mean, er, how can I put it…?’
‘He means, do you still have feelings for each other?’ says Adam, coming to Simon’s aid.
Clare and Ziggy both laugh and Ziggy leans back on his chair.
‘Me and Clare? We were a nightmare together, weren’t we Babe?’
Clare nods. ‘A total nightmare.’
‘But, you both…’
‘Are still good friends, Sime. We never fell out. We just decided that we weren’t good together. We were only in a relationship for a month, or so, but we stayed in touch. Clare said she wanted a bass player in her boyfriend’s band and, well…’ Ziggy spreads his arms wide.
Simon and Adam look at each other, incredulously.
‘So, why do you keep calling Clare “Babe”?’ asks Simon.
Ziggy laughs so hard he nearly falls off his chair.
‘I call every girl I know “Babe”! Now, do you want to hear my plan?’
Back at the station, Sergeant Stephen Miller has spent the afternoon trying to piece together the movements of PC Gary Carr and Gail Perkins. They were pretty much as Sally had described them and, despite himself, Stephen has to admire their cunning.
‘You couldn’t make this stuff up,’ he says to Sally that evening as they are eating a plate of spaghetti bolognaise, his favourite, though he is not enjoying it as much as usual.
‘It’s very odd, Stephen. Was there any sign they might be attracted to each other?’
‘None.’ Stephen sprinkles pepper over his bolognaise. ‘Though, he made her lots of cups of tea.’
Sally smiles. ‘I don’t think that would necessarily win a woman’s heart.’
‘Perhaps not. I’m trying to think. They weren’t alone together very much. I’ll have to go through the interview tapes. Maybe there are some coded words between them.’
‘Do you know if they had anything to do with each other before she was arrested?’
‘Not that I know to. Gary always boasted about his many conquests and Gail Perkins was never mentioned. Anyway, the whys are not important right now. The important thing is, where are they?’
‘He’s in his bedroom – the light’s on.’ Simon whispers, even though he, Clare, Adam and Ziggy are standing twenty feet away from the house at the end of the Peterson’s driveway.
‘Great. Ok, let’s go,’ says Ziggy.
They walk slowly up the driveway, placing each step carefully, a layer of gravel crunching under their feet. A minute later, they are standing below the window of Zack’s bedroom.
Zack is on his computer, idly playing a game he has no real interest in. He had refused to come downstairs when his mother called him for tea and his phone is switched off. The light outside is beginning to fade, which suits his mood perfectly.
An alien rises up on his computer screen and sends out a beam of red light that vaporises his adopted character. He is about to switch off the machine when he hears a guitar playing the opening chords to the song he had tried to pass off as his own, below his window. A soft and pure voice sings the first couple of verses.
Just before the chorus, he gets up and goes to the window, standing slightly back, so as not to be seen. Below, in the half-darkness Clare is singing up to him, accompanied by Ziggy strumming a Spanish guitar. When they get to the chorus, they are joined by Adam and Simon, sounding like they are singing at a football match, but with every word sounding as if it comes from the heart.
Zack stands and listens, a lump in his throat. When they have finished, he opens the window and leans out.
‘Come back to us, Zack!’ shout Adam, Simon and Ziggy, in unison.
‘Come back to me, Zack!’ shouts Clare.
Zack laughs loudly.
‘Now I know how Juliet felt!’
Catch up on all the episodes and find out more here:
For more details visit www.michaelbraccia.co.uk