Previously in Leeford Village: The day of the fête has arrived. Long-haired Reginald turns out to be an Elton John tribute act, much to the chagrin of Peter Redman, whose passion is pure folk music. Jasmine and Kim meet Cody for the first time. Frank Watson announces the bypass will not be going ahead.
There’s a collective cheer from the large crowd enjoying the attractions the fête has to offer. Once Frank has milked his applause and placed the microphone on the floor in front of him (resulting in a very high-pitched feedback whistle), he is approached by Ted Coleman.
‘Our protest worked then?’
‘Not quite, Ted.’
When the whistling subsides, Frank explains how a member of Banfield Council was tipped off that the leader, John Sotherby, had awarded the bypass construction contract to a company in Telford, of which his brother is a shareholder. When due diligence was carried out it was found that the plans for the bypass had not considered several sinkholes that exist along the route. The tender had been forced through by Sotherby, who was set to gain a significant sum of money, via his brother, when the bypass was completed. The council decided that the sinkhole issue was too prohibitive and cancelled the bypass.
‘Blimey,’ says Ted, ‘what about Sotherby?’
‘Arrested and thrown off the Council. I always knew there was something criminal about him.’
‘Well, however it’s come about, it’s good news for Leeford,’ says Ted, slapping Frank on the shoulder.
‘Indeed,’ says Frank, with a grimace.
Agnes, Jasmine and Kim are sitting on the grass, waiting for Cody to return with ice creams.
‘Does Cody really mean we can stay, Mom?’ asks Jasmine.
‘Yes, love. I’m not sure what’s been going on, but Cody’s a man of his word. Once you’re settled and everything is sorted with Derek, you can look for your own place.’
‘That would be lovely. Leeford looks like a wonderful place to live.’
‘It has its moments,’ laughs Agnes, ‘but I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.’
Cody is standing in the ice cream queue when Jason Owens walks past.
‘Hey, Jason! A minute!’
Jason doubles back and joins Cody in the queue.
‘Thanks, Cody. I’ll have chocolate with raspberry sauce and lots of sprinkles.’
Cody ignores the request.
‘When I was at your place, I spotted a file. Something about the Dennises.’
Jason shifts uncomfortably from one foot to the other.
‘Okay. Don’t tell a soul. George Dennis is an SS officer,’ he blurts.
‘Er, right. And how do you know this?
‘I have pictorial evidence, backed up by extensive research.’
Cody puffs out his cheeks.
‘I never had you down as a sleuth, Jace. I wouldn’t have spent so much hiring Bridgit Peabody if I’d known.’
‘Never mind. George Dennis? SS?’
‘Sshh,’ says Jason, putting his finger to his lips, ‘I don’t want this to get out until I publish my book. It will be sensational. I’m going to the tabloids.’
‘Hang on, mate. Tabloids? Aren’t you getting a bit ahead of yourself? This ‘research’. How well-researched is it?’
‘Very. Come round tomorrow and I’ll show you. But keep it to yourself.’
They are at the front of the queue. Cody orders ice creams, including one for Jason.
George Dennis? SS? Surely not, he thinks as he walks across the lawn to where Kim is demonstrating cartwheels to Agnes. And raspberry sauce on chocolate? Very odd.
One of the acts is finishing their set on the folk festival stage. Much to Peter Redman’s relief, the rest of the programme has been traditional folk music. The performance ends with a lively clog dance which the audience enjoys, clapping along and cheering as the dance builds to a crescendo. Except for Jack Simmons, that is, whose mind is elsewhere. In thirty minutes, he is due to announce the location, and therefore the winner, of the ‘Find the Helmet’ Competition, and he still has no idea where the helmet is hidden. The area of the lawn where flags potentially mark the
location of the buried treasure has been roped off and, throughout the day, fête-goers have been pointing to the flag under which they think the treasure is buried. Once the performers have left the stage, Jack wanders slowly towards the area where he thinks the rosebush, once his reference point, used to be. There are eight flags within a small area, any one of which may mark the spot.
He is stirred from his reverie by George Owens.
‘Go on Jack, tell me where it is. All the tickets were sold when I came to buy one, so it doesn’t matter if I know.’
Jack shakes his head.
‘Suit yourself then,’ says a disgruntled George.
‘I would tell you. If I knew myself,’ says Jack.
‘You’re the only one that knows. Aren’t you?’
Jack outlines his problem to George.
‘They dug up the rosebush?’ says George. ‘Without telling you?’
‘They didn’t know it was one of my reference points. It’s not the Peterson’s fault.’
‘So, the helmet might be under one of these flags, or none of them?’
‘That’s about the truth of it.’
‘And you’ve got to announce where it is, in half an hour?’
‘And you’ve no idea?’
George’s face breaks out into a huge grin.
‘Leave it to me, Jack my lad. Leave it to me.’
With that, George sprints across the lawn and out of the gate.
Suptra and Ethel have nearly sold out of cakes and the sorry sight of a wilted flapjack is not enticing any customers to their stand.
‘You’re particularly chirpy today, Ethel. I trust Edward is staying?’
‘Yes. He has to sell the property in Devon, then move here as soon as he can.’
‘That’s wonderful, Ethel. Are you and he courting again?’
Ethel laughs. ‘Courting? I don’t think I’ve courted since Billy. Let’s just say that Edward and I are going to take things a step at a time. There’s still a lot of issues to resolve. I need to know I can fully trust him.’
‘He hasn’t exactly been straight, has he?’
‘I didn’t know he was Doctor Palmer, nor about his ex-wife.’
‘He says he’s always been a private person and felt no need to inform me. But he also says he realises his mistake and has apologised.’
‘And you believe him to be sincere?’
‘Yes, Suptra. He’s a good man. I just need to learn to trust him again.’
Suptra is about to speak when he spots a figure striding across the lawn dressed in full combat gear carrying a long metal object. The crowd parts to allow the figure through, their faces a mixture of mirth and horror. The figure stops at the flags potentially marking the location of the helmet.
‘Stand back, everyone!’ shouts the figure. The voice is unmistakably George Owens.
‘George! What are you doing?’ whispers Jack, who has not moved since George left, twenty minutes ago.
‘Metal detecting. What I have in my hand can detect a small coin buried three feet in the ground, with pinpoint accuracy. Finding a large metal helmet will be no problem at all.’
A number of people have gathered around George and Jack.
‘I would like complete silence!’ announces George, switching on the metal detector and donning a pair of large headphones. He scans the area carefully, pausing every now and then, before shaking his head and moving on. Five minutes elapse and still no sign of the helmet. George moves a few feet away from the flags. The crowd closes in, as if watching a player take a vital putt at the Open. Suddenly, he removes his headphones and points to the ground.
‘Here, my man, is your helmet.’
Jack drops to his knees and begins pulling at the turf. After a couple of minutes digging with his hands, he touches metal.
‘George, you’re a genius!’ he shouts.
The crowd applauds, although if any one of them was to be questioned at this point, they would have to admit to having no idea what’s going on.
George stoops beside Jack. ‘I might be a genius, but you still have a problem, sunshine. There’s no flag here.’
The crowd disperses. George and Jack are left standing at least six feet away from the first of the flags.
Jack is suddenly animated. He runs over to the PA system and switches on the microphone.
‘Ladies and gentlemen. Due to a technical issue, the helmet, as in the Find the Helmet Competition, is not actually located under any of the flags.’
There’s a chorus of boos and cries of ‘charlatan’ from the audience.
Jack continues. ‘So, I have decided that the nearest flag is the winner of the mystery prize. And that flag is number seven!’
There is a scream of delight and Vera Cleeve steps forward.
‘It’s me, Jack. What’s the mystery prize? What have I won?’
Jack’s face turns red.
‘Oh. It’s you. Well, you’ve won a twenty-five-pound voucher.’
‘Wonderful,’ says Vera excitedly. ‘Where can I spend it?’
‘Er, in your Nigel’s butcher’s shop.’
Vera’s smile drops.
‘Say it again.’
‘In your Nigel’s butcher’s shop.’
‘Well, thanks a bunch, Jack!’
Jack is about to offer his apologies when Edward Palmer steps up and takes the microphone. He waits for silence.
‘I’m not one to normally make a public display, but today is different. I have decided I want to spend the rest of my life in Leeford Village, a place very dear to my heart. And I also want to spend the rest of my life with the woman I love.’
He looks over to the cake stand.
‘Ethel Lucas, will you marry me?’
All faces turn towards Ethel. She looks at Suptra and then towards Edward.
‘Yes!’ she shouts. Edward walks over to her and throws his arms around her. The crowd claps and cheers.
‘Wow, Jess. A search for a helmet and a marriage proposal, all in half an hour. Only in Leeford, eh?’ says Nick Allthorpe.
‘Harrumph!’ exclaims Frank Watson.