Previously in Leeford Village: Jasmine has an appointment with Justin Wilkins at Cody’s bank to ask for a loan to buy a property in Leeford. Arjun Bandra has offered Allen Gomez the job of Leeford Market manager, which he has accepted.
Jason Owens has been up and about since the dawn chorus broke out over Leeford Village. He hasn’t slept much, if at all, spending the night rehearsing in his mind what to say when he appears on TV and radio, or in newspaper interviews. Perhaps someone will want to make a documentary about how he managed to track down and reveal George Dennis (former headmaster, erstwhile resident of Leeford Village, now residing in a Cornish hideaway with his wife, Clara), to be SS officer Karl von Würstchen. Once he had his speeches ready, his thoughts turned to money. Surely, there’ll be a reward? He looks at the photograph of Herr Würstchen and then George Dennis. George’s face is much rounder, but he would be quite a bit older when the photograph was taken and considerably more overweight. As a German officer he was much more handsome, with a chiselled jaw and slicked-back hair. No wonder Clara fell for him. Was Clara German? Does she know about George? Jason is following this line of thought when he is interrupted by a knock on the door.
‘Come in, Cody,’ says Jason, tugging at Cody’s jacket sleeve. ‘You weren’t followed, were you?’
‘Followed? By who?’ says Cody, releasing himself from Jason’s grip.
‘Good. In here.’
Jason leads Cody into his lounge. He picks up the cutting and the photograph and hands them to Cody.
‘Take a look. It’s the same person, isn’t it?’ he says, excitedly.
Cody peruses both pictures, comparing them side by side, then swapping them around. Jason looks at him expectantly.
‘No, mate. Nothing like each other,’ says Cody handing the pictures back.
‘I admit that on first appearance, there is not much of a similarity’, says Jason. ‘There’s a few years between the photos. Do you look like you did twenty years ago?’
‘More or less. As in more flesh, less hair.’
Jason hands the photographs back to Cody.
‘Take a closer look. Over the left eye of each of them.’
Cody sighs but obliges.
‘Oh, I see. The birthmark. It’s quite distinct isn’t it.’
‘Exactly!’ exclaims Jason, triumphantly.
Cody looks again.
‘I see where you are coming from. But I don’t remember George having a birthmark above his left eye. I would have noticed.’
‘These photos were taken twenty years ago. Neither of us knew George then. And when you think of George Dennis, what is his defining feature?’
Cody thinks for a while.
‘The way he speaks? Calling people “old fruit”, “my young porkpie”, that kind of thing?’
‘Not that. What was striking about his appearance?’
Cody shrugs. ‘Can’t think of anything.’
Jason points to his own eyebrows.
Cody shakes his head.
‘His Denis Healey eyebrows. Bushy as anything.’
‘Ah,’ says Cody, ‘yes. You’re right, come to think of it.’
‘Eyebrows that would hide a birthmark.’
Cody looks at the picture of a smiling George, sitting among his friends, with eyebrows that would not warrant attention.
‘I know what you’re thinking,’ says Jason, ‘but if he thought someone was onto him, growing his eyebrows would be a good disguise, yes?’
Cody nods his head. ‘Where did you get this photo of George from, Jason?’
‘There’s a social media page called Leeford Remembered. There are loads of old photos on it. Do you think I should alert the press?’
‘The press?’ laughs Cody. ‘I think you need to have more of a story before you get the press involved.’
Jason looks despondent.
‘But I think you might be onto something, Jace. I’m going to leave you to it,’ says Cody, handing back the photographs. ‘I’ll see myself out. Let me know how you get on.’
Agnes is sitting at the kitchen table when Jasmine arrives back at the flat.
‘How did you get on, then? she says, pulling out a chair and positioning it next to her.
‘He’s very dishy, isn’t he?’ says Jasmine.
‘Sorry, you’ve lost me.’
‘Justin Wilkins. The bank manager.’
‘I’ve never really noticed, to be honest. I’ve always been too worried about asking him for money to notice what he looks like,’ says Agnes.
‘He’s so smart. He said he used to be Wolverhampton Wanderers’ manager.’
‘Yes. He must be loaded, too.’
Agnes clicks her figures.
‘Ah, no. He managed the office there, not the team.’
Jasmine smiles. ‘That makes sense. I couldn’t imagine him pacing the dugout and shouting at the ref. He’s much too nice.’
‘Jasmine! Come back to earth, love. Did he say you could have the money?’
‘Those eyes. I’m sure he liked me, too.’
‘The money? Oh yes, I can have the money.’
Agnes puts her hand to her mouth.
Jasmine screams. ‘We’re going to live in Leeford!’
Agnes throws her arms around her daughter.
‘And I’m going to marry Justin Wilkins!’
‘One day, Mom. One day!’
Cody switches on the laptop. Soon he is trawling the Leeford Remembered social media pages. There are various posts about events and people over the years. There is a much younger Frank Watson, looking dapper in a wide-lapelled jacket and brightly coloured kipper tie. There are
photos taken in The Cross of various groups of drinkers, many of whom Cody remembers and a few about whom he had forgotten. As he scrolls further there is a picture of Thornton’s Chippy, his father standing proudly outside. A lump rises in his throat as he reads the comments people have posted. How his father was loved by the villagers! A few more taps of the keyboard and he arrives at the photo that Jason had shown him. It’s one of three photographs taken in The Cross that evening. The next is one of Ethel and Billy, locked in an embrace. How Ethel must miss Billy, thinks Cody, wondering if Edward Palmer, Ethel’s husband-to-be will ever be a replacement. The last of the three is a young Frank Reed, gurning into the camera. Cody smiles. Then he switches back to the photo of George. Then back to one with Frank Reed. He clicks on ‘zoom’. Then he clicks on the photograph of Ethel and Billy and zooms in again.
‘Oh, Jason. You fool!’ he says and leans back in his chair, laughing loudly.
Allen Gomez puts his phone on the table.
‘Who was that?’ asks Linda.
‘Bandra. He wants me…’
‘Stop right there!’ Linda springs from the sofa. ‘You are not getting into all that dodgy stuff with Arjun Bandra again!’
Allen shakes his head. ‘Nothing dodgy, Lin. He wants me to manage the market. Legit.’
‘Oh my God! Really?’ Linda kisses Allen full on the lips. ‘That’s amazing. We can buy a place of our own now, in the country maybe. We can have a car and …’
‘Whoa!’ says Allen. ‘Not so fast. I’ve got to meet him tomorrow. I have no idea what he’ll be paying me, but it won’t buy us a house in the country.’
Linda pouts. ‘Oh, well. Maybe a caravan first. I’m so proud of you.’
Linda’s phone rings.
‘It’s Sherry. I’ll tell her the news. Hi, Sis, you’ll never guess what just…when? how?’
‘What’s up?’ asks Allen. Linda raises her hand to silence him.
‘The next flight? Okay. We’ll get to the airport, somehow. Be careful won’t you.’
Linda puts her phone down.
‘What did she say?’ asks Allen.
Linda sits down on the sofa.
‘She says she’s coming back. For good.’
Linda shakes her head.
‘I don’t know.’
It takes a while for Jason to come to the door.
‘Oh, hello, Cody. Back so soon?’
‘Yes, Jace. I have been doing a bit of research of my own.’
Cody steps into the hallway and past Jason into the lounge. He spreads three A4 sheets of paper across the table.
‘What’s this?’ asks Jason.
‘See the picture of George, the one showing the birthmark above his left eye?’
‘Yes, that’s the one I have.’
‘Right. Now look at the one of Frank Reed.’
Jason picks up the sheet of paper.
‘There’s a mark on his shirt, just below the shoulder.’
Cody picks up the third sheet.
‘Now look at this picture of Ethel and Billy. See the mark on the wall behind them?’
Jason feels his face reddening.
‘It’s the same mark in the same position in all three pictures. Whoever took these photos must have had a piece of fluff or something on the lens. George’s ‘birthmark’ is a spec of dirt, a scratch, a foreign body somewhere in the camera lens.’
Jason drops the A4 sheets onto the floor.
‘I suggest you look elsewhere for your SS officer, sunshine, ‘cos it ain’t George Dennis.’
Cody bursts out laughing and puts his arm around a crestfallen Jason’s shoulder.
‘I’ll see myself out. Hahaha!’
Edward is sitting in Billy’s Café cradling a cup of chai latte, a new item on the menu that Ethel has reluctantly agreed to add, having been shown how to make it by David Ward who told her it’s the next big thing. Looking at Edward’s face when he took his first and only sip, she is not convinced.
‘Do you think Reverend Peterson will marry us, Ethel, with me being divorced?’
‘He has a liberal approach to his ministry, Edward. I can’t see him objecting.’
Edward goes to take a second sip of chai latte but decides against it.
‘What time are you seeing him tomorrow?’ asks Ethel.
‘Eight in the morning. He says he’s busy and it’s best to catch him early.’
‘Well, I’m sure he’ll agree. He’s known me for many years. Anyway, I don’t think the villagers would let us get married anywhere other than the church.’
‘I hope so, Ethel. I need to ask you an important question.’
Can I have a cup of normal tea? I’m not sure this is suited to my palate.’
‘Oh, Edward. You’re so polite!’