Previously in Leeford Village: Agnes is puzzled about Cody’s attitude to the money she gave to Derek, and Cody goes missing. Frank is once again chair of the Anti-Bypass Protest Group. Jason has a special file on the Dennis family, and an already preoccupied Cody knows about it.
As Agnes is shedding tears while talking to Tricia Ward, Cody is already on the train from Birmingham to Leeds. He has no connections in the world of private investigation, but as an avid Morse fan, he loves a mystery. Aware for many months that Agnes had been sending and receiving calls and texts, he had decided to do something about it. She always says, ‘we have no secrets, you and me’, but he had kept his love for Meredith secret - for a while - and Agnes had certainly kept her life as a Stripogram under wraps until Zack and Simon had stumbled upon the chest concealing the offending ‘uniform’. Yes, she keeps secrets, he thought. Keep calm, Cody, follow the evidence. Start with the calls and texts. He managed to download the data from her phone to his laptop. The box in his loft with a rat’s nest assortment of cables eventually came in useful. His next step – what to do with the data. He discovered that Agnes had a daughter. She lives in the Leeds area and is married to a man called Derek Grendel. Having accessed the information, Cody decided that he needed some expert help, and he knew just who to talk to in order to get that help.
‘Cody, this is a rare and unexpected pleasure!’
Vera Cleeve keeps herself to herself, after the fall-out of the trouble caused by Greg Withall, Mandy Cleeve’s ex-husband, and the gnomes. The less she hears about those the better.
‘I need some advice. Well, information, really, Vera.’
By the end of the first cup of tea and his third Rich Tea (Cody’s favourite), he came to the point.
‘I know that over twenty years ago, you made use of a private detective.’
The weekends of passion with Sid Spade flashed into Vera’s mind. She had employed him to follow her ex-son-in-law and she had fallen in love with the P.I.
‘I know the story, Vera. You know that anyone in the village only needs to spend an hour in the café, or the post office come to that, to find all the juicy details about any villager.’
‘Including you, Cody. Including you.’
Cody felt his face reddening.
‘Well, yes, fair enough.’
Vera sweeps her hair from her face with the back of her hand.
‘What do you want, Cody?’
‘The other detective - the lady - how old was she then?’
‘Early thirties. Only just left the police force.’
‘Would she still be in the business?’
Vera smiles, and reaches over to the coffee table at the side of her armchair.
‘I’ve got her number in my phone book. I… well, let’s just say I still know her.’
A final biscuit, a slurp of tea, a quick thank you to Vera, and Cody was soon in his car making the call. Bridgit Peabody agreed to meet him outside the village in a café in East Banfield. She claimed that she was immediately available as she had just finished a case. Work must be slack, Cody thought.
‘Is your wife likely to tell you everything?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Cody, ‘and I’m not sure she knows everything. One thing’s for sure, I don’t trust this Derek bloke.’
‘We must go to Leeds as soon as possible before Grendel absconds with the money. From what you say, he’s in control,’ says Bridgit.
‘What now?’ said Cody.
‘New Street station. Two tickets to get us to Leeds.’
Edward Palmer has been happy in Devon – as happy as he can be without Ethel Lucas by his side. He spends most of his days (weather permitting) sitting on his favourite bench on the promenade, making notes for his next book. This one has been nearly ten years in the making. He visits his illustrator – his ex-wife – a couple of times a year, agreeing with what the BBC interviewer has said about the illustrations in his last book. ‘Wonderfully Hogarthian’. They are, he thinks, but she is my illustrator. Yes, she’s my ex-wife and we are on friendly terms, but I love Ethel. I don’t think she will ever speak to me again – I deceived her over the offer I made on a property for Clara and George, never told her I’d been married, and didn’t reveal that I was ‘Doctor Edward Palmer’ and an author. Will she ever forgive me?
Edward trudges back to his bungalow, unlocks the front door and hears the beep-beep of the message log on his phone.
‘You have three messages. Message one:’ - Edward’s publisher requesting a meeting.
‘Message two:’ – his ex-wife / illustrator asking if the last illustration was okay.
‘Message three:’ – a woman’s voice.
‘Edward, it’s me. Call me, please.’
A tear forms and trickles down his cheek.
‘Ethel, oh Ethel.’
‘You promised me, Derek.’
‘Listen, Jasmine. You know how it is in business. Cash flow’s not been good. The debts are piling up.’
She sits on the edge of the armchair, clasping her hands.
‘How could you?’ she says, ‘it was supposed to be for our future. And you lied to Mom about being made redundant. Why we couldn’t have told her about your failing business beats me.’
‘How could I? You’ve got a nerve, Jasmine. You’re the one who lied to your mother.’
‘I know, and I regret every minute. She wants us in her life.’
Derek’s brow tightens and he takes a deep breath.
‘You told her we were desperate for another child. Can you sleep at night after what you’ve done?’
‘Derek, I don’t think we can get past this. I’ve dedicated my life to Kim – all you think about is money.’
‘What do you mean by that?’
‘I can’t do this anymore, Derek. I’m leaving you.’
‘You’re not taking Kim away,’ he says.
‘She’s my child, not yours!’
With Frank Watson still recovering in hospital, The Revd John Peterson and Nick Allthorpe, manager of the Community Centre, have resumed their weekly ‘fête preparation’ meetings. They already have in place the ‘Find the Helmet’ competition run by Jack Simmons. John is not completely happy with Jack’s methods. He has dug multiple holes in the vicarage garden (the location for the upcoming fête), depositing forty numbered flags on the top of the small mounds of earth. Only one of the holes contains the infamous helmet. The winner’s prize hasn’t been decided yet, but it won’t be the helmet. That’s going back to the university – as Jack says, ‘it’s going on display for the local history students to study.’
Without the military precision of the Frank Watson method of organising events, John and Nick are cutting it fine in terms of allocating stalls, appointing stallholders and arranging catering. However, preparations for the folk festival are well underway. Former adversaries Jessica Townley (Nick’s partner) and folk club chairman, Peter Redman, are now working together to make the folk festival the heart of this year’s Leeford Village fête. Businessman Arjun Bandra is winning friends after offering to fund the equipment hire and staging. Artists’ names are being kept under wraps, but Jessica has hinted that the village should be ready for a few surprises.
Thursday has arrived. Four men in smart, grey suits enter. Jack Simmons, Nick Allthorpe, Nigel Cleeve and Jason Owens. The sombre looks on the faces of the Leeford villagers as they cram into the small gallery at Banfield Magistrates Court suggest that the gallows await.
‘Will they go down?’ Vera asks.
‘Shouldn’t think so,’ says Mandy. ‘That police officer fell over, didn’t he?’
‘Serious assault, I heard,’ says Pippa. ‘Seems they kicked him as he lay on the ground.’
‘Not my Nigel!’ shouts Vera.
‘Silence in court!’ squeaks the balding, bespectacled clerk of the court.
‘Who does he think he is?’ whispers Sally Coleman.
‘He’s in charge of the courtroom until the judge comes in,’ says Ted.
‘Magistrate,’ says John.
‘Magistrate. It’s a magistrates court. They don’t flog ‘em or hang ‘em until it goes to Crown Court,’ says John, smiling.
‘All rise!’ shouts the clerk of the court, seemingly growing in stature, straightening his tie and smiling weakly, with a sprinkle of subservience as the magistrate, a large man with a handlebar moustache walks into a hushed court. Two much smaller men follow him towards the bench, sitting on either side of him.
‘Thought you said there was a magistrate?’ whispers Ted, ‘not a flamin’ committee.’
‘He’s the Presiding Justice. The other two are his underlings, so to speak,’ explains John in a hushed voice. ‘Hang on, he’s going to start.’
The magistrate reads out what John later describes as ‘parish notices’. He explains the format of the proceedings, then pauses to take a sip of water, wipes his moustache and coughs.
‘We are here today to examine the evidence and decide if the defendants, Mr Jack Edmund Simmons, Mr Nicholas Allthorpe, Mr Jason Owens and Mr Nigel Maximus Cleeve committed the offence of assaulting a police officer. The lesser charge of affray will also be considered if deemed appropriate.’
A gasp from the assembled villagers, but Ted displays a broad smile.
‘Maximus? How did he keep that quiet?’
The magistrate resumes.
‘This is a grave matter. Fortunately for the defendants, the police officer, seriously injured in the line of duty, is making good progress, but we take incidents such as this extremely seriously.’
‘Pompous old dipstick,’ is clearly heard from the gallery. The magistrate pauses and stares at the assembled throng.
‘Any repetition of comments, or indeed any noise from the public gallery and you will be removed from the court.’
‘Free the Banfield Four!’ shouts Ted.
There is silence as the magistrate draws breath and then states:
‘Take that man’s name and address and remove him from the court!’