Leeford Village episode 104: Who's there?
Catch up with the latest episode of the online serial by authors Michael Braccia and Jon Markes.
Previously in Leeford Village: Jasmine receives good news about her divorce. Revd Peterson learns that his son, Zack, has been arrested. Jasmine and Justin have an awkward encounter due to Jasmine not receiving Justin’s letter. In rescuing said letter from being recycled, Cody discovers a different letter addressed to his wife, Agnes, from someone who has been missing her. Ted tells Revd Peterson that he has seen the ghost of Billy Lucas in The Cross, after Revd Peterson informs Ted that the church roof will cost £6000 to repair.
‘Are you sure, Ted?’ Revd Peterson takes a sip of his pint.
‘Absolutely, John,’ says Ted. ‘It was him alright, large as life – and Billy Lucas was always on the large side.’
Revd Peterson looks around the empty pub.
‘Where exactly did you see him?’
Ted points to a door leading into the gents’ toilet. ‘He was standing up against that door, holding a pint tankard in his hand. He had his own which we kept behind the bar for him. He won it for darts, I think. Ethel has it now. John, are you listening?’
Revd Peterson is staring into space.
‘Sorry, Ted. I was thinking about our Zack. You were saying. Over there? By that door?’
‘Did he say anything?’
‘No. He just stood there, only for a few seconds at most, before he completely disappeared.’
John walks over to the door. He waves his hand six inches from the wood, opens and closes the door a couple of times then stands looking out into the bar area for a few more. Ted looks on, a slightly bewildered expression on his face. Eventually, Revd Peterson sits back down.
‘What do you think?’ asks Ted.
John thinks for a while.
‘Well, he did act in all innocence. PC Carr says he’ll probably get off with a caution.’
‘Sorry? I’m not with you.’
‘Zack. And Simon. But it doesn’t look good, does it? I can see the headline now: Vicar’s son arrested for handling stolen goods. Dear, dear.’
Ted sighs. ‘I’m sorry John, I understand your, er, distress about Zack’s situation, but what about Billy Lucas?’
‘Billy? What’s he done? Oh, yes, your ghost.’
‘You’re not taking this seriously, are you, John?’
Revd Peterson shakes his head. ‘I’m sorry Ted, I’m just a little distracted. So, what do you want me to do?’
‘Do you believe me?’
‘About the ghost? If you saw it, then you saw it.’
‘Yes, but am I just imagining it?’
Revd Peterson shrugs.
‘I mean,’ continues Ted, ‘there are such things aren’t there? You must come across them all the time.’
Revd Peterson smiles. ‘Not all the time, Ted. In fact, in the many years I’ve been a vicar, let me see…exactly never.’
‘Oh,’ says Ted, meekly. ‘So, you don’t believe me.’
Revd Peterson finishes his drink with one large gulp. ‘I’m not saying that. I’ll tell you what, if you see him again, let me know straight away and I’ll pop round.’
‘Thanks, John. And I hope everything goes well with Zack.’
‘Thanks, Ted. Oh, I wouldn’t mention this to Ethel if I were you. It’ll be very disturbing for her.’
When Jasmine arrives back at Leeford Plaice, the lunchtime rush is in full swing. Cody and his assistant, Jake, reluctantly completing his two-week work experience placement, are only just managing to avoid colliding as they move around each other, Cody throwing buckets full of chips and slivers of battered haddock into the fryers and Jake serving up meals for hungry Leeford workers and wrapping them in paper. Jake had started slowly and was absent on his second day. A week into the placement, Cody was about to phone the school to ask if Jake really must come in for a second week when Jake’s work rate suddenly increased and he became more useful.
‘Hi Jas,’ calls Cody from behind the counter, ‘fancy some chips?’
Jasmine glares at him before running upstairs to the flat.
‘Women,’ says Cody, shaking his head.
Jake smiles, sensing Cody is in trouble.
Frank Watson’s voice is unusually quiet when he answers the call from Ken Taylor. At first, this phases Ken a little, until he remembers why he is making the call. The words come thick and fast.
‘Right Frank I’ll come straight to the point my buildings are going to be knocked down and it’s all because of you so what are you going to do about it?’
There’s a cough at the other end of the phone.
‘Hello, Ken. I’m so glad you called. It’ll give me a chance to…’
‘To what? A chance to tell me why you alerted planning?’
‘Ken, I didn’t alert planning. I merely…’
‘You merely mentioned it to someone on the committee, doing the big ‘Frank Watson routine’, yet again!’
‘No, I just wanted to…’
‘Wanted to drop me in it? I know you, Frank Watson. You can be a nasty piece of work when you put your mind to it!’
‘Ken, I want to tell you that…’
‘That I’m about to go out of business? I know that. I’m about to lose everything. Even Violet, probably!’
‘Well, I think Violet…’
‘You’ve been thinking about Violet? I bet you have. You’ve always had an eye for her, haven’t you? Well, when I’m sitting in the gutter looking for handouts, I’m sure you’ll be very attractive to her because she can’t see what a conniving, ingratiating, jumped-up…’
Ken is unable to complete his list of adjectives before Frank rings off.
Cody is sitting at the kitchen table, opposite Jasmine.
‘So, tell me how you managed to intercept, then lose a letter that was addressed to me and marked private and confidential.’
Cody relays the story, fully prepared to take the entire force of Jasmine’s wrath.
‘I’m so angry Cody. I can’t believe you would do that.’
Cody looks down at the table.
‘I know, love. And I promise this is the first and the last time. I don’t know what came over me. I suppose I just wanted to know what Justin is intending.’
‘Are you being the protective stepfather?’
‘Something like that.’
Jasmine shakes her head.
‘You really don’t have to worry about me, Cody. And Justin’s intentions are honourable, I’m sure.’
Cody nods. ‘Anyway, you’ll be able to see whether his intentions are honourable or not. I managed to find the letter. It’s a little, shall we say, ‘food stained’, but it’s intact. And, honestly, I haven’t read it. Well, not all of it.’
Jasmine reaches across the table. ‘Go on then.’
‘The letter. Hand it over.’
Cody reaches into his left pocket and palms the letter over the table to Jasmine, who picks it up and holds it in her hand.
‘If you don’t mind, I think I’ll read this in my room.’
When Cody is sure Jasmine is not coming back, he pulls out the other letter. Part of him does not want to read it. He unfolds it and begins:
Ever since you walked into my office…
‘Oh, no!’ wails Cody. He rushes out of the kitchen, shouting: ‘Jasmine! Don’t open that letter!’
There’s a knock on the vicarage door. Hilda Peterson is nearest and opens the door to be greeted by Sergeant Stephen Miller in full uniform.
‘Hello, Hilda. Is Zack in?’
‘Hello, Stephen. Come in. Zack’s in his room. Before I call him, is it good news?’
‘I’m sorry, Hilda, I need to speak to Zack first.’
‘I understand. I’ll get him. Go through to the sitting room.’
Sergeant Miller enters the sitting room and sits down on one of two huge sofas. A couple of minutes later Zack and Hilda enter. Sergeant Miller winks at Hilda who takes this as a cue to leave, patting Zack on the arm as she exits.
‘Close the door, Zack. This won’t take long,’ says the sergeant.
Zack sits on the arm of the other sofa. ‘Am I in trouble?’
‘No, you’re not in trouble. The jewellery has been returned to its owner and no charges are forthcoming. You’re off the hook.’
Zack slides down onto the sofa.
‘Wow. I thought…I don’t know what I thought, really. Only that I’d go to prison.’
Sergeant Miller maintains the stern expression he has worn throughout the conversation.
‘You and Simon have been lucky. PC Carr is at Simon’s now telling him the news. Let this be a warning not to get involved in anything like that again.’
‘I won’t. For def. And thanks.’
‘What will you do now? About your stall?’
‘Dunno. We’ve spent all the money. If you arrest the guy that sold the jewellery to us, can we have our money back?’
Stephen stands. ‘Unlikely.’
‘Then I guess our business venture is over before it begins.’
‘Seems like it. I’ll see myself out. Say “hello” to your dad for me.’
Stephen leaves the room. Almost immediately, Hilda enters.
‘So? What did he say?’ she asks, with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.
‘Six years, minimum.’
‘Six years? Oh, good grief. We’ll have to get your father, this is awful…’
‘Hold on, Mom. I’m joking. There are no charges. We are free men.’
Hilda drops onto the sofa, her face ashen.
‘Free, stupid men. Don’t you ever do that to me again!’
‘Will you lock up, Sal? I think I’m going to have an early night.’ Ted yawns, excessively.
‘I can do, love. You do look tired.’
Ted kisses Sally on the cheek. ‘Night, love.’
Sally finishes loading the glass washer. She steps into the lounge, checks the windows, and extinguishes the lights. She enters the bar room, locks the front door, and turns off the room lights. She places a stray glass she has collected from a window ledge in the lounge on the bar. She is about to turn off the lights behind the bar when she feels a draught around her shoulders. She turns to see where it is coming from.
The glass on the bar shatters.
‘Oh, my God!’ she screams.