Leeford Village episode 101: Carat or carrot?
Catch up with the latest episode of the online serial by authors Michael Braccia and Jon Markes.
Previously in Leeford Village: Zack and Simon buy some gold jewellery from a trader in his transit at a car boot sale. Ken still won’t speak to Frank Watson, and Sherry receives a love letter from Brazil.
‘What brings you to the Jewellery Quarter, Simon?’
John Spraggs knows Simon from his days as a junior scout leader. Eight years older than Simon, he started working as an apprentice in the Quarter at the age of sixteen. Now, at twenty-seven, he has risen through the ranks at Paradise in Gold to the position of assistant sales manager. He was always interested in gold. His South African father taught him about the varying amounts of gold going into rings and other jewellery. 24 carat means pure gold with no other metals. Lower caratages contain less gold - 18 carat contains 75% gold and 25% other metals. In the UK, 9 carat is the lowest caratage permitted to be called gold.
Simon explains how they came by the bag of jewellery. He notices how John’s eyebrows start to defy gravity as he inspects each piece, emitting ‘aah’ sounds and giving the odd shake of his head.
‘Well?’ says Simon.
‘Hope you didn’t pay too much for this stuff.’
‘What? Is it all rubbish?’
‘No,’ says John, ‘the lady’s watch is alright, but the rest… well.’
Simon’s brow is more furrowed than usual. He wipes the developing sweat from his hands on his trousers and stares at his old friend.
‘Give it to me straight, John. How much?’
‘How much are they worth or how much will I offer you?’
‘I didn’t expect you to make me an offer. We’re going to sell them at Leeford market.’
‘Woah there, Simon. Just stop there!’
‘What?’ exclaims Simon.
‘Firstly, the only decent piece, as I say, is the lady’s watch. It should retail at about £100.’
‘Not bad,’ says Simon. ‘And the rest?’
‘Job lot, it’s worth no more than £75.’
‘Oh my God,’ says Simon. ‘We paid £350 for all of it.’
‘Mate, you’ve been done, and one more thing—’
‘One more thing?’ interrupts Simon.
‘Yes, you won’t like this. I can’t make you an offer for this stuff, and you need to get rid of it.’
John takes a breath.
‘Because they are stolen goods.’
‘Is that you, Carlos?’
As Sherry says those few words - the first time she has spoken to Carlos since she flew from Rio – she thinks about the conversation with her sister. She has told Linda the full story, and has also shown her the letter. ‘Oh, Sherry, that’s so beautiful,’ she said.
Linda is so happy that her little sister is back home, but more than anything she wants her to be happy. ‘You must ring him, Shez. Do you have his number?’
Sherry does have his number. She didn’t realise until she unpacked that Carlos had sneaked a card into her suitcase with his address, home and mobile numbers. Even before the letter arrived, she had gazed at the card on which Carlos had placed a single, small ‘x’.
Sherry clings to the telephone, her hands shaking. She can hear his voice over the line, but she wants to be with him. To touch him. He replies to her question.
‘Yes. Did you get my letter?’
‘Of course. It was lovely. Did you mean it?’
‘Sherry, I meant every word. My English not so good, but I have missed you so much.’
‘Oh, Carlos, I’ve missed you, but you’re engaged!’
‘No, no, darling, that’s my dad.’
‘What do you mean – your dad?’
‘He offered Anita a job, a room and—’
‘Yes. We are very – how you say – traditional family. Old-fashioned. I never proposed to Anita. She lovely girl, but not the girl for me.’
Sherry doesn’t know what to say. She had fallen for Carlos almost immediately after she first met him, but thought she had made a big mistake, especially after the conversation with Anita.
‘You feel it was an arranged engagement, Carlos?’
‘You mean like arranged marriage?’
‘Yes. Is that how it was?’
‘My dad means well, but he can’t control my heart. I love you, Sherry.’
‘Oh, Carlos, I love you too.’
‘But Ken, don’t you remember what you said after Frank had helped you in the lift that got stuck?’
‘Makes no difference. He’s ruining us. All down to Mr Frank Watson. Who does he think he is?’
Violet looks down at the floor, then touches her husband’s hand.
‘Listen love, you know he’s a good man – deep down. He’s told me how sorry he is. Please give him a chance.’
Ken inhales then exhales, shaking his head.
‘No, it’s no good, Violet. He’s reported us and they’ll close us down.’
‘No, Ken! I won’t have it,’ she snaps. ‘If you won’t sort this out with Frank, I will!’
‘What do you mean, Violet?’
‘I think he can help. He explained to me that he objected - still objects – to all those beautiful trees being cut down for our expansion. He has a point, doesn’t he?’
Ken’s face has turned purple.
‘Whose side on you on? Are you my wife or not?’
‘Of course I am, and I love you dearly, but you’re a stubborn man, and if we carry on like this, we will lose everything!’
‘What do you expect me to do?’
‘Talk to him. Give him a chance to explain. He might have some ideas how we can get through this. He knows the local authority planning systems. Please, Ken.’
‘Okay, okay, I’ll talk to him, but I’m making no promises.’
Violet sighs, and sits down at the kitchen table.
‘That’s all I ask,’ says Violet. ‘Now, shall I put the kettle on?’
‘Pippa, shouldn’t you be opening up ready for the afternoon rush? It is pension day.’
Pippa Philpotts, postmistress of this parish, looks at Ethel in the manner of a grammar school form master presented with an ink-spotted eleven-year-old who has, once again, brought a note to say he can’t do P.E. because his granny has ‘gone to a better place’. Invariably, in the case of the eleven-year-old’s granny, the ‘better place’ is Banfield Bingo Hall rather than a permanent place of rest.
‘Ten minutes won’t matter. We need to sort out this—’
‘Gossip?’ calls out Agnes.
‘It’s not gossip!’ Pippa and Ethel shout simultaneously.
‘What is it then?’ asks George, listening to this increasingly fascinating conversation taking place at the table in the far corner of the café.
‘Never you mind, George Owens!’ snaps Ethel. ‘Don’t you have a stall to run?’
George gives Ethel one of his classic sarcastic smiles.
‘Don’t mind me,’ he says, as he opens the door. ‘Anyway, Ethel, your doorbell’s not working.’
She throws a dishcloth at the market trader as he leaves the café, but she smiles nonetheless, mumbling ‘cheeky whatsit’ under her breath.
‘Can I join in?’ enquires Jasmine.
‘Yes love,’ says Agnes, ‘join our female enclave.’
None of the ladies has spotted the one remaining of the male contingent who regularly frequent Billy’s Café.
‘Coven, more like,’ says Steve Adams.
‘If you’ve finished your coffee, could you please leave,’ says Agnes.
A frown forms on Ethel’s face, torn between wanting to avoid upsetting her regular customers and agreeing with Agnes.
‘Steve is a paying customer, Agnes, but you’re right, we need some privacy, don’t we?’
Steve exits the scene, muttering a parting comment that, fortunately, is not heard by the four women who continue the important business at hand.
‘Where were we, Pippa?’ says Agnes.
‘Paradox of virtue, that man,’ says Pippa.
Agnes looks at Steve through the café window, jerking her thumb in his direction. ‘Steve?’ she says.
‘Yes, he was a model of impropriety in the business with Mel and Suptra. Stoke, he was, I tell you – Stoke.’
Jasmine, new to the workings of the village, barely suppresses a giggle and nudges her mother’s elbow, whispering ‘doesn’t she mean stoic?’
‘What?’ says Pippa.
‘Nothing, Pippa,’ says Agnes. ‘Jasmine was just saying we have to get back by two-thirty.’
Distraction over, Pippa continues.
‘He threw Mel out after she’d spent the night with—’
‘No, Pippa!’ says Ethel. ‘That’s not true.’
‘It’s what I heard.’
‘Well, let’s move on. Tell us what you heard about Frank Watson and Ken Taylor.’
Pippa pauses, but wants to direct the discussion in another direction.
‘No, I want to tell you about an ex-SS officer in our midst…’
While Jasmine is being indoctrinated into the ways of the Leeford womenfolk, she is unaware of the two envelopes being delivered to Leeford Plaice – both addressed to her. One marked special delivery (Leeds postmark) in the hands of the local postman, the other being hand-delivered by a nervous-looking local bank manager. The two men almost fall over each other opening the door to the chip shop.
‘You first,’ says the postman.
‘No, please, I want a quiet word with C-Cody.’
The special delivery now delivered, Cody smiles as Justin Wilkins hands the envelope to him.
‘Aah. To Mrs Jasmine Grendel. Strictly private and confidential.’
‘For sharing that information with three other customers that have just followed me into your fish and chip establishment.’