Previously in Leeford Village: David will not consider giving Allen a job as he has defaulted on a £20,000 debt for which David was the guarantor. The ‘shiny metal’ turns out to be part of a suit of armour. Adam finally makes up with both Cody and Meredith, but Cody still has the onerous task of convincing Agnes.
‘You can go in now, Sergeant Miller. Chief superintendent Smith is ready for you.’
Stephen doesn’t spend much time at Banfield station – quarterly review meetings, training, delivering offenders of the type who exceed the usual level of criminality in Leeford Village. The level to which Stephen has become accustomed (with the exception of seeing off Greg Withall) is a rare case of arson, the odd fisticuffs, speeding offences and the infamous ‘Gnome Mystery’. With Gail ensconced in Bronzefield, and Gary on his last chance, Stephen can, to a certain extent, breathe more easily and concentrate on community policing. He enjoys the PR side of the job, with the occasional adrenaline-bursting event. Well he did, until now.
‘Good morning, chief superintendent.’
‘Stephen, it’s been brought to my attention that you took it upon yourself to call in the Bomb Disposal Unit from Didcot. Is this true?’
‘May I ask why?’
‘Didn’t want to take any chances.’
‘So, a silver helmet found in a garden in a small village causes this much trouble, and, I hasten to add, expense?’
‘Yes, sir, sorry sir, but…’
‘No “buts”, Sergeant. I don’t want to hear any of your excuses. Heard them all before. What’s happening now?’
‘Birmingham Uni – a team of archaeologists.’
‘What the? Have you lost your mind?’
‘Don’t worry, Sir. This one’s a freebie.’
‘No cost – three keen undergraduates with their tutor. Digging up the garden as we speak.’
‘I take it you have the owner’s permission.’
‘For God’s sake, Stephen. Get back down there and smooth it over. Oh, and get everyone back to their homes.’
Flowers. That’s what I’ll get her, he thinks. There is a fleeting moment as Cody considers an alternative.
What if I bought the Inspector Morse Classic ITV Detective Series Complete Collection, Series 1-12? Had my eye on that for a while. £49.99 and free delivery from Amazon. Would Agnes like it? We could sit and watch it together. A binge session one weekend – get Adam to run the shop for a couple of days, and Suptra has offered to cover for us when we need a break – with some drinks, nibbles, pickles (Agnes loves her gherkins). She likes the Morse programmes. Hang on, is it Lewis she prefers? I didn’t like the spin-off so much, but Kevin Whately was brilliant as John Thaw’s sidekick.
He chastises himself. Don’t be daft, Cody, Flowers. That’ll do it.
He remembers George Owens taking a fancy to the blond sitting with her friend in the Cross all those years ago. Her friend became his wife. How he misses her. How could he have been so stupid to try it on with Meredith? Although he never got close enough to actually try it on. Meredith loves Adam and it appears he is taken with her as well. George thought that Agnes looked like Clodagh Rodgers and that she was going out with three blokes at the same time. ‘Out of your league, Cody,’ he said. Well, she liked Cody, and he fell for Agnes as soon as he saw her. They were engaged within six months.
We couldn’t have managed to start the business without her Dad, he thinks. He gave us £20,000 towards the deposit for the fish and chip shop and the flat. I wanted to make my own way, but it was a welcome boost for us. Years later, I saw Meredith for the first time – in the Cross – and thought she would replace Agnes one day. How could I do that to the woman who gave me our child and has stood by me all these years? Things are going to change. I must try to be less selfish, and how did Adam put it? Introspective. Whatever that means. Flowers it is then. I have got all the VHS tapes anyway. When the machine packs up I’ll tell Agnes I want the DVD set for Christmas.
‘Allen, where are you off to? Corrie’s just starting.’
‘There are more important things in life than finding out what Hilda Ogden is up to.’
Linda narrows her eyes.
‘When did you say you last watched Coronation Street?’
‘Only kidding. I’m seeing an old acquaintance. Business, not pleasure.’
‘What are you up to now?’
She presses pause without needing to look at the Freeview-Plus remote. The cobbled streets can wait. Years of taking in the ramblings of her younger sister, always ready with a quote or an opinion, has taught Linda when she needs to listen. This is one of those moments.
‘Allen, sit down and tell me. Please.’
He touches her hand and strokes her knee, Linda taking that as a signal for ‘wait for it, you might not like what I’m about to tell you.’
‘You know all that fuss with David?’
‘The twenty grand loan he paid off?’
‘You, David, Tricia and probably Ethel all think there is no chance of me repaying David.’
A blank look from Linda.
‘I love you, Allen, but your track record isn’t the best. How could we possibly afford it?’
‘I’m seeing Arjun Bandra tonight.’
‘He’s one of the directors who own the launderette.’
‘He can also help me to pay off David.’
‘Not another loan. He’s a shark!’
‘If we can find a way of getting back in with David and Trish, I’ll do it. It’s worth the risk. I want this Lin. This is important.’
‘I’ll support you, Allen, but no dogs and horses. Don’t let me down.’
‘Mommy, why can’t I go to the folk club with you?’ pleads the six-year-old Joanna.
‘Darling, it’s Mommy and Daddy’s turn to go out. You’ve been to the zoo and the cinema this week. Hasn’t she, Daddy?’
David Ward takes in a breath as if using a prescription inhaler for the first time whilst reading the instructions.
‘Mommy’s right, Jo. It’s our turn for some fun,’ he says, turning to face Tricia. ‘About time, isn’t it, Mommy?’ he says with a pinched expression.
A knock at the door stirs Tricia into action.
‘That’ll be Pippa.’
Pippa Philpotts is the heir to the throne that, within a year or so, Ethel will be vacating. ‘Queen of the Gossips’ is the title unkindly bestowed upon the owner of Billy’s Café by a group of predominantly male observers – David one of the leading members.
‘Will we ever get out tonight?’ he mutters.
‘Do you have everything you need, Pippa?’ enquires Tricia.
‘Think so. Finding Dory and The Return of Mary Poppins. That should do it.’
‘No, I mean do you have our mobile numbers? You know where we’re going, don’t you?’
‘Of course, the Marina Folk Club.’ As if to prove what little Pippa knows about either pop or folk music, she continues: ‘Do you know that young Roberta is singing a Beatles song with Jessica? With her just about to give birth as well. What will the reverend think?’
‘Beatles?’ says David. ‘In a folk club?’
‘Worse than that, love,’ says Tricia. ‘It’s a Marc Bolan number. I don’t think Lennon and McCartney had anything to do with it.’
‘I don’t really feel like going out, Adam.’
Lucy Stringer has just battled through her most difficult week this year. As if four nights sleeping in the Community Centre wasn’t enough, the constant whining of her husband was only topped by the importunity of the Council leader, one F. Watson, requesting forensic details concerning the sinkhole, the dimensions of the hole, the contents of the hole and when the Stringers thought the inconvenience they had foisted upon the Crescent would come to an end.
‘Frank,’ Lucy was heard to say, as she was attempting to ingest the second instant Cup a Soup that the intrepid volunteer, Suptra, had forced upon her in as many hours. She didn’t like to offend him. Frank, however, provided a means of unburdening herself of the stresses of the week without the associated feelings of guilt.
‘I neither know nor care about the size of the sinkhole. All I want is to get home and forget it ever happened. Is there anything else we can help you with?’
As Frank retreated, her better half, Adam, sympathised with her view but felt she had been a little rude.
‘You know what you can do with your sympathy, Adam. Speak to Stephen. He talks more sense than Frank. Find out when we can get home.’
After Sergeant Stephen Miller’s meeting with his superior officer, the news arrived with some celerity.
‘Thank God,’ Lucy was heard to say. ‘Our own bed.’
While packing up at the Community Centre to head for home, Adam finally persuades Lucy to attend the club where they have been members for over five years.
‘Okay, but we’ll have to leave at the 10 p.m. break when they do the raffle. The second half goes on to 11.30 p.m.’
‘No problem. Jessica and Roberta are on in the first half. Should be a giggle.’