Leeford Village episode 105: A Ghost of a Chance
Catch up with the latest episode of the online serial by authors Michael Braccia and Jon Markes.
Previously in Leeford Village: John Peterson has something else on his mind (his son’s arrest) when Ted tells him about the ghost. Fortunately, Stephen Miller visits Zack to say that he will not be charged with handling stolen goods. Ken and Frank have an awkward telephone conversation about the planning issue and Cody is once again in trouble with the women in his life. Ted encourages Sally to lock up the pub as he goes upstairs to bed. As she enters the bar room, she seems to be experiencing a paranormal encounter.
The shape of a man rises from the other side of the bar. His face is white, the eyes glowing.
‘Aaaaaaargh! Ted, help!’
The man moves closer to her, hands outstretched. Sally faints, just as Ted stumbles down the stairs from the living quarters. He trips on the last step, falling face down. As he recovers and lifts his head, he sees a man lowering himself down so he is now obscured by the bar.
‘Sally! Are you okay?’
Still in semi-darkness, she is coming round. Ted fumbles for the light switch as Sally cries out again.
‘Ted, please, what’s happening?’
With the bar and snug now fully illuminated, Ted finds his wife sitting behind the bar, holding her head.
‘Are you okay, love?’
‘Bumped my head. Think I’m alright.’
‘I’ll get Jeremy – and the police!’
At this, he hears a thump. Later he will describe it as a ‘clang’, and in the confusion, and concern for Sally, he doesn’t investigate where the man has gone. It’s late, but he dials the number for Doctor Jeremy Roberts.
‘Who is it?’
‘It’s Ted. Sorry to bother you at home, Jeremy, but Sally’s had a fall.’
‘Haven’t you called an ambulance?’
‘I don’t think it’s too bad, but I’d appreciate it if you could pop round and check her over.’
A pause on the line.
‘Okay, I’ll get dressed. I’ll be round in ten minutes.’
Nigel pulls into the drive at the Cleeve residence. His wife, Mandy, is away on a course. Their daughter, Holly, who attends Spring Hill Junior (her mom teaches the senior students) is in bed. However, the downstairs light is on. She’s waiting up for me, he thinks. I wish I’d never agreed to get involved in this in the first place. Mom is a pain. As he trudges up the path, the front door opens.
‘Did you do it? Have you scared the living daylights out of him?’
‘Let me get in, Mom. I’ve had a belly full of this.’
He waves away the kiss on the cheek that Vera offers. He can barely look at her, shame and anger coursing through his veins.
‘I’ll make you a cuppa. Anything to eat?’
‘No, Mom, tea will be fine.’
She has the cups and a boiled kettle ready. She wants to sit down with him to discover if her scheme has worked. I’ll teach you to criticise my strike plans, Ted Coleman, she thinks.
‘Well?’ she says.
‘I wish you’d never asked me to do this,’ says Nigel, ‘and I don’t appreciate your constant threats about the meat from Coventry either.’
He rubs his hands through his thinning hair. ‘I’ve got no gripe with Ted – or Sally.’
‘Sally?’ she says, suddenly sitting up straight in her armchair.
‘Yes, we’ll be lucky not to get a call from Stephen - if they decide to involve the police.’
‘No, they won’t call the police, but what has Sally got to do with it? I told you that Ted locks up every night at the witching hour.’
‘The witching hour?’
‘Midnight,’ she replies.
‘Yes, well, he didn’t do it this time. Looks like he’d gone to bed and Sally locked up.’
The blood drains from Vera’s face.
‘Yes, I did. The mask, the LED eyes, the portable fan… and the hammer to smash the beer glass.’
Vera touches his arm.
‘Did you hide in the toilets before closing time as I suggested?’
‘Yes, Mom. That was easy. I thought the hard part might be getting out once I’d supposedly scared the begeebers out of Ted.’
‘How did you get out?’ Vera asks.
‘Down the corridor from the gents is a fire door. I checked that it worked without setting off any alarms earlier in the evening – no problem – so I was able to make my escape and shut the door behind me. As I opened the door, it made a bit of a noise, but I don’t think they heard it.’
Nigel tells Vera about Sally fainting.
‘Mom, I think she hurt herself. We’ll have to find out how she is. I’ll never forgive myself if anything bad happened. This is the last time I get involved in any of your schemes. You can tell the
council food inspector about my meat supplies if you want. I don’t care. If I’ve hurt Sally—’
Vera gives Nigel one of her ‘looks’. The type of look she gave him when he wouldn’t eat his sprouts as a seven-year-old. A withering look that Mandy reckons can melt steel.
‘Don’t be stupid. She’ll be fine, but don’t get asking questions, Nigel. Alright? I’ll find out in the morning. Pippa will know all the facts by lunchtime anyway.’
Jasmine calls for him twice more, getting louder each time. She’s not going down to him. Cody is being summoned to the flat.
‘Try not to burn or break anything, Jake’, says Cody, as he takes off his apron. ‘Coming, Jasmine!’
Cody skips up the stairs to the flat, pausing for breath before opening the door.
‘Sit down, Dad.’
‘How does Mom put up with you?’
Cody smiles, then thinks better of it based on the Agnes-style look coming at him like an Exocet.
‘Honestly, what possessed you to open my letter? You’re shaking your head – no need to deny it. How dare you pry into my affairs!’
Jasmine is in charge now.
‘So, it’s an affair with Justin—’
‘Again, how dare you! We are just friends, but it would be no business of yours if I was sleeping with him!’
Cody has now relegated his smile to a sheepish grin – not quite an embarrassed smirk. He knows when he’s beaten. He’s had plenty of practice.
‘And now this other matter,’ Jasmine continues. ‘No need to answer. Yes, you opened my letter. Yes, you threw it in the bin, pretending it was junk mail. Yes, you found Mom’s letter, and… no, I haven’t read it. Well, only the first couple of lines. Cody, er, Dad – it is private.’
He shuffles back in the chair and sniffs.
‘I agree with all of that and I’m sorry.’
‘You don’t help yourself, do you? Mom’s told me everything - the scams, the drunken coach trips, Meredith…’
‘Meredith?’ Cody is almost squeaking now.
‘Yes. Meredith. You’ve got no secrets now, but if Mom’s got one or two up her sleeve – including “old flames” – I support her with that and you are in no position to judge her.’
‘No buts, Dad. Put Mom’s letter where you found it and we’ll say no more about it, and she doesn’t need to know. Where did you find it?’
‘In the rubbish – when I was looking for your letter.’
‘Put it back, then. Now!’
Frank has been considering how he can help Ken and Violet. He feels responsible, but can he be blamed for Ken not obtaining proper planning permission for his outbuildings? Frank is relieved that the call he is about to make is not to the recently deposed leader of Banfield Council, John Sotherby, but to the newly elected leader, James Lindale, who runs a large accounting company in Banfield.
‘James, thank you for taking the time to speak to me.’
‘No problem, Frank. You know that most of the people on our side of the chamber admired what you did. Shook some of them up, you know, but you’ve gained their respect.’
‘Nice of you to say that. I decided that ambition must take a back seat to integrity.’
‘Very Churchillian. We must have a proper chat in my office in Banfield. I’ve got some ideas to put past you. However, what is it you wanted to ask me?’
Frank pauses, taking a deep breath.
‘It’s about Taylor’s farm.’
‘Aah. Thought it might be. Go on.’
‘Is there anything we can do? Ken made a mistake years ago that no one spotted. It only came to light when a few of us complained about the trees he planned to cut down having bought the land. English Oaks, Beech and Sweet Chestnut trees.’
‘And?’ says James.
‘There are two issues. I’m sticking to my guns about the trees. We have to preserve the woodland. I happen to know that Violet Taylor agrees with that.’
‘And the other issue, Frank?’
‘The planning permission, or lack of it, from nearly thirty years ago.’
This time it’s Councillor Lindale’s turn to pause.
‘What do you suggest?’
‘Well, I found a local by-law – number 562B - dating from 1948. Can I read it to you?’
No answer from Lindale, which Frank takes to be assent, so he continues.
‘It states that “any premises or developed ground shall be left in the amended state regardless of planning status for a minimum period of five years if a period exceeding twenty-five years has elapsed from the time of the development. It shall be subject to a review, and a vote cast in the chamber to define the action to be taken by the end of the five-year period. Such action to be put forward by the leader of the Council”. What do you think, James?’
‘Frank, I’m impressed. I’ve only been in Banfield for eight years - when we relocated the business – and as you know, I was previously a Councillor in Birmingham. I’m not aware of this Banfield by-law. Tell you what – I’ll give it some thought and I’ll get back to you.’
‘What do I tell Ken Taylor?’
‘Nothing for now. I’ll let you know.’