Previously in Leeford Village:
Cody is having an existential crisis, but decides to join Leeford Writers’ Group, despite Meredith being a member. Sherry is planning to leave the launderette, but Jason’s offer to speak to Allen Gomez on her behalf puts doubt in her mind. Frank appears to be very protective about the contents of his briefcase. Simon sees Ziggy shaking hands with a man in a suit outside the Dive and Greg Withall, Mandy Cleeve’s first husband, is out of prison.
It is difficult for Dr Jeremy Roberts to leave the surgery for an hour, partly because he has to lie, which is not in his DNA, but mostly because the thought of Mel Adams, other than in his consulting room, fills him with dread. He’s never been sure who instigated the relationship they had a couple of years ago, but he suspects it might have been a ‘grass is greener’ situation for both of them. Mel and Jeremy’s wife are good friends, as are he and Steve, Mel’s husband, and they very often attend concerts, or go for a night out in Birmingham as a foursome. If pushed, he would say that he flirted with Mel first, though in all innocence, if flirting can ever be totally innocent and that Mel picked up on it and reciprocated. The point at which it turned into something more serious, something he bitterly regrets, is more debatable, though he can remember the first night they spent together when he was supposedly at a conference in Wales. The affair had been brief, but intense, and it was Mel who had called it off, unexpectedly and without any explanation. Would he have continued had she not? He’s not sure, but what he is sure of is that it must never happen again and as he sees her walking across the park towards the bandstand, he feels a sickness in his stomach.
‘He was shaking hands with the manager of the Dive?’
Simon sighs. ‘Yes. Who, I’ve since found out, is also manager of the Kingsnakes.’
Zack feels a mixture of anger and confusion.
‘And they were advertising for a bass player?’
‘Yes. It said to apply to the manager of the Dive.’
Adam shakes his head.
‘I always thought he was a bit suspect.’
‘Really?’ says Clare. ‘Is this the same Ziggy you said was the greatest thing that ever happened to this band?’
Adam blushes. ‘Well, I’m not saying he’s not a good bass player, but that doesn’t make him a good person. Does it?’
Clare rolls her eyes.
‘What do you think, Clare? You’ve known Ziggy longer than we have,’ asks Simon, casting a glance at Adam.
‘Well, he was always really decent. I’m surprised he would do something like this. Though, when we mentioned the Kingsnakes at the last band practice, he did go very quiet.’
‘Well, there we are then. A guilty conscience,’ says Zack, pleased to find a flaw in Ziggy’s decency.
‘Do you think he’ll tell us? Or just not come again?’ asks Simon.
‘Here’s your answer,’ says Zack as Ziggy pushes open the basement door with his bass case and shouts, ‘hi guys!’
Sergeant Stephen Miller leans back in his chair, his fingers threaded together in front of him. A quiet outpost they had told him, when they offered him the position. A sleepy suburb. A backwater. The land that time forgot. If only, he thinks, if only! He considers his current case load: a PC who has absconded with a felon, a case of arson, the return to the village of a dangerous criminal and Vera Cleeve’s gnome stealing habit. Then there is the fête to police as well as trying to control Frank Watson on the Parish Council. His train of thought is interrupted by a phone call.
‘Hello, Sergeant Miller.’
Silence on the other end of the line.
‘Hello. Sergeant Miller. Who’s calling?’
More silence. Then a muffled male voice.
‘Sergeant Miller. I have some information for you.’
The accent is strange, thinks Stephen, though there are definite Welsh inflections.
‘Go on,’ he says, pressing the record button on his phone.
‘I might know something about your missing PC. PC Carr, I think his name is.’
Stephen sits up straight and picks up a pen.
‘Who’s this calling?’ he asks.
There is a short silence before the voice says, ‘Anomy…anonym…anonymous.’
‘OK. What do you know?’
‘First of all, I want to know something.’
‘I want to know what’ll happen to your PC if I told you where I am.’
‘Where you are?’
‘Yes. No. I mean, where he is. Yes, where he is.’
‘Well, you can tell him that he’ll have the book thrown at him and, depending on what the courts decide, he might even be put away.’
There is a sound on the other end of the phone that Stephen suspects is what panic sounds like.
‘You can also tell him that if he was to return in the next twenty-four hours, with Gail Perkins, then I will do all I can to plead mitigating circumstances.’
Stephen has noticed that the voice on the other end of the phone has grown weaker as the conversation has progressed.
‘OK. Thank you,’ says the voice, less Welsh now.
‘Yes? Argh! Damn!’
‘Come straight to the station.’
‘Yes, sarge. Thank you, sarge.’
Stephen puts down his pen and sits back in his chair. Only in Leeford, he thinks. Only in Leeford.
Ziggy makes a few minor adjustments to the tuning of his bass and plays a sequence of fast arpeggios that impresses Adam, though he makes sure no-one knows.
‘I’m ready,’ says Ziggy smiling.
There is an uncomfortable silence while the rest of the band look at the floor, their equipment, then each other. Eventually, it is Zack who nervously takes control.
‘Are you sure you’re ready, Ziggy?’
‘Yeah. What are we playing?’
‘Maybe we should play a Kingsnakes song?’ says Adam, surprised at his own sarcasm.
‘What? Why would we do that?’ Ziggy is no longer smiling, but looking very confused. Clare is watching him intently.
‘Maybe their songs are better,’ offers Zack, more confident now.
Ziggy shrugs. ‘Dunno. Never heard them.’
Zack looks at Adam, who looks at Simon, who looks at Clare who is still looking at Ziggy.
‘What a liar!’ exclaims Zack.
Ziggy unstraps his bass and rests it against his amplifier.
‘Liar? What? What are you on about?’
‘The Kingsnakes. Snake being the operative word, eh?’
Ziggy looks at Clare.
‘What? Man, this is weird.’
‘How did you think you were going to play with us and the Kingsnakes. Didn’t you think we’d notice?’
‘What the hell are you talking about, Zack!’
Clare has not seen Ziggy this animated before, but she is beginning to find it attractive.
‘I saw you,’ says Simon, ‘shaking hands with the manager of the Dive. The same guy that’s manager of the Kingsnakes. Who happen to be looking for a bass player!’
At this, Ziggy explodes into fits of laughter. When he recovers, his voice has resumed its calm authoritative tone.
‘Yes. I did shake hands with the manager of the Dive. And, yes, he is also the manager of the Kingsnakes.’
‘Told you!’ says Simon, gleefully.
‘I shook hands with him because he had agreed to give us our first paid gig at the Dive.’
‘Us?’ says Clare.
‘Yes, our band. I know him from a few years ago and he trusts me. I asked him for a gig and he said we could take the up and coming bands spot on a Sunday night.’
‘Yes, Simon. Really.’
Clare notices that Simon’s face is as red as Adam’s Stratocaster.
‘You idiot, Simon,’ says Zack, echoed by Adam.
‘I’m sorry, Zig. I thought…’
‘Yeah,’ says Ziggy picking up his bass and putting it in the case. ‘I know what you thought.’
‘What are you doing, mate?’ askes Adam.
‘I’m off. If you can’t trust me, there’s no point is there?’
He pushes past Adam towards the door.
Before he opens the door, he turns and points at Simon.
‘And, talking of trust, did you get the keyboard audition at the Dive?’
Vera Cleeve checks the date on her calendar. Five years to the day, half his sentence served. It should have been longer, she thinks, and Stephen Miller had agreed with her. ‘But the law is the law’, he had said, and Greg Withall had shown remorse and behaved perfectly while in prison and the parole board had no option but to release him. Maybe he has changed. Maybe he is no longer a danger and should be given a second chance. Maybe. She doubts it. She doubts it very much.
Sherry stands outside the launderette, a sad looking building, neglected for many years. The topcoat of paint is peeling off and the sign has been missing an ‘n’ for as long as she can remember. There is a crack in the corner of the large front window, where someone had once tried to break in, unsuccessfully. It is four o’clock and the place should be open until six. Linda must have closed early. To spend time with Allen Gomez? At first, Sherry had bought Linda’s story about using Gomez for his money, or at least his potential money, but now she was no longer sure. She has always believed that you can only be with someone you love. She had loved Allen once; from afar, but it was love. She now regrets it. She regrets everything. She regrets most of all the nerves that made her freeze when she auditioned for the TV talent show last year. How things could have been so different. She pulls a flake of paint from the windowsill. This is all I have now, she thinks, and feels a tear run down her cheek.
As she starts to walk towards home a car pulls up alongside her. She carries on walking, not looking at the car until she hears a woman’s voice, friendly and clear.
‘Sherry? Sherry Cross? I’ve been looking for you, everywhere!’