EPISODE 47 - ELECTRIC WARRIOR
by Michael Braccia and Jon Markes
‘Yes, Jessica. From Electric Warrior. 1971.’
‘Not another Top of the Pops special?’
‘No, just an album track. Should be a bit folkier than some of Marc Bolan’s singles.’
‘You talk about him like you know him.’
‘Hardly, he died in 1977 – thirteen years before I was born.’
‘You are a fan. Anyway, give me the chords when you get chance and I’ll give it a try.’
‘G, E minor, F, C, oh, and a bit of D.’
‘That was quick.’
‘Prepared it in advance. I’m really looking forward to the gig and I can’t wait to sing with you.’
Roberta Peterson, twin of William, is a seventies-style wannabe pop star. Her contemporaries, into the likes of Taylor Swift, Mariah Carey and Britney, scoff at the musical predilection of the vicar’s daughter. ‘At least it’s not Psalm 23,’ someone had said. ‘She does like her sheep.’
Roberta has been onto Jessica for months about the possibility of duetting with her at the Marina Folk Club Singers’ Night. Jessica is an accomplished singer/songwriter and regularly appears at the Marina. ‘Singers’ Night’ is for those not quite up to the standard of the resident band and certainly not in the same league as the professional artists who grace the Marina stage. However, well thought of as a regular performer at the club, Jessica likes to encourage the amateur singers and musicians. She’s offered Roberta the chance to not only perform with her but also choose the song.
‘This will be a challenge,’ Jessica thinks to herself.
What do you mean, Lucy, shiny?’
‘Like I said, shiny metal.’
‘In the sinkhole?’
‘Adam, how many times do I have to say it? David Ward was walking past our garden - you know, the garden behind our lovely house we’ve had to abandon – and he suddenly stopped. He called me over, and there it was.’
‘Please stop saying that and come and look.’
‘Not easy love. I came past the house fifteen minutes ago and the police had put up an extra barricade. Can’t get close to the hole now.’
‘Nor our house,’ she says, her eyes beginning to fill with tears.
‘Speak to David. He’ll tell you.’
‘Love, please don’t upset yourself. They’ll get the problem sorted. Anyway, I’ll ring David now.’
‘Ethel, how could you?’ exclaims Linda.
‘What do you mean?’
‘We wanted to buy the café from you. Me and Allen.’
‘Oh. You never said. I am sorry.’
‘We’ve been preparing papers and doing proper research,’ jumps in Allen.
‘Sorry love,’ says Ethel, ‘I had no idea.’
‘Has it gone through yet, Ethel?’
‘I’m waiting for the final word from David.’
Allen touches Ethel’s hand, and as she looks up at him, she sees for the first time genuine sadness etched on his face. Also, for the first time, she realises that he has changed - Linda is mainly responsible for that. Allen takes a breath and holds Ethel’s arm.
‘Do you mind if I ask what they’re offering?’
Ethel reaches into her bag for the draft document that she had drawn up with Tricia.
‘Here,’ she says.
‘Sorry, Allen. You can see I have no choice. Once I had made my mind up to retire, there was no way that anyone could make me a better offer. You do understand, don’t you?’
Allen turns to Linda.
‘Sorry love, we can’t compete with this.’
‘Listen, Allen,’ says Ethel, ‘why don’t we all go to see David and Tricia together? I have an idea.’
‘Hi, Jessica. Thought I’d catch you here.’
‘Roland. Is it ready?’
‘In the car. New pick-up and strings. Good as new. Better than new. Tried it myself this morning – lovely sound.’
‘I’ve been managing to practise using my old acoustic, but you’re an angel for getting it ready in time for next week’s Singers’ Night.’
‘I’ll be there. Do you need piano accompaniment?’
‘What’s your fee? I know what you professionals are like,’ she says with a grin.
‘Don’t insult me, Jess,’ he says, returning a smile.
‘It’s a charity do, so I’ll give you a freebie.’
She kisses him lightly on the cheek as Nick opens the door to the office.
‘Not interrupting anything am I?’
Roland Wade has been a close friend for years. They got to know him when Jessica bought her first electro-acoustic guitar from his shop near the market. The following day he drove a young student to London for an audition with the National Youth Orchestra. He has always downplayed his own musical talent, but Nick and Jessica were at Banfield Town Hall in 2014 when he played an Elton John medley in a regional competition. The impact of his renditions of ‘Your Song’, ‘Candle in the wind’ and ‘Don’t let the sun go down on me’ have stayed with them ever since.
‘When’s the baby due?’ asks Roland.
‘Three months to go.’
‘I am,’ says Nick, ‘but Jess is just doing too much, as usual.’
A look from Jessica tells him that not only does he constantly repeat the mantra but that he should reduce the frequency. She does, however, appreciate the thought, and loves him for it.
‘Must go,’ says Roland. ‘I’ll bring in your precious Ibanez. See you at the Marina next week, Nick?’
‘Right, Ethel. What’s this all about?’
‘David,’ interjects Tricia, ‘that’s a bit sharp.’
‘Sorry, Ethel. Before you say anything, I’m happy to sign. But why have you brought Linda and Allen with you?’
Ethel shuffles in her chair, offering Allen a nervous smile as she prepares to deliver her speech. Linda, on the Wards’ sofa next to Allen, holding his hand, splutters as the second Arrowroot hits the back of her throat.
‘You okay, Linda?’
‘Thanks, Tricia. Went down the wrong way.’
‘Can we get on,’ snaps David, eliciting another look from his wife.
Trying to ignore the stare that Tricia gives her husband, Ethel continues.
‘I’m so pleased you’ve agreed to the terms, David. As you know, Tricia and I went through the details, and I assume you are happy for me to work for you on a part-time basis?’
‘Of course, Ethel. Two years minimum, as discussed,’ David replies.
‘How will you run the two cafes?’ asks Ethel.
‘Shall I explain, David?’ offers Tricia.
He concedes the chair to his wife, who maps out their plans for the first twelve months of trading. The name Billy's will remain, retaining the ethos of a typical village coffee shop. One caveat – there will be a full range of coffee types and brands. Ethel accepts this as the march of progress, keeping her reservations private.
‘I’ll run Billy’s on a day-to-day basis,’ Tricia continues, ‘with David concentrating on the existing sandwich shop. We will begin to differentiate between the two shops as we introduce sit-down meals at Billy’s, where we will have more room for tables and chairs.’
‘Sit-down meals, Tricia? I already do sit-down meals.’
‘Sorry, Ethel, we don’t mean to offend you,’ jumps in David, ‘but I’m talking about more than just beans on toast or a bacon sandwich. Pasta meals, hot pot, that sort of thing.’
‘I’ve done them on request - Linda, I did minestrone and croutons for you and Allen only last week.’
As Linda nods to demonstrate her concordance with Ethel, David clears his throat in a manner suitable for someone who wishes to conclude the current negotiations.
‘Are you sure you will cope?’ asks Ethel.
David, clearly irritated by the direction of the meeting, again enquires as to the presence of Linda and Allen.
‘Well,’ says Ethel, ‘I have an idea.’
She pauses to take a sip of the new coffee that Tricia has asked her to sample. A slight shock to her taste buds, then a deep after-taste that is not altogether unpleasant.
‘Would you be prepared to consider employing Allen and Linda as co-managers of Billy’s Café?’
Before David can answer, the telephone grabs his attention.
‘Bit busy at the moment, Adam. Got Ethel and her friends here - talking about the café.’
‘Oh, yeah, you’re expanding, aren’t you?
‘I suppose you could say that. Anyway, if it’s quick, what is it mate?’
‘That “shiny metal” in the hole. Do you know anything about it?’
‘Oh, I forgot about that. Meant to phone you. Very strange it was.’
‘In what way?’
‘When I saw it, my first thought was – it’s a bomb.’
‘Your second thought?’
‘Okay, Paxman, calm down. If it’s an unexploded bomb from the Second World War it would be dirty, rusty, covered in soil and clay…’
‘Well, it looked like new, like…’
‘Like a plane’s fuselage or …’
‘David, don’t tell me you think it looks like a spaceship!’
‘Well, it did.’
‘You’ve been watching too much Doctor Who, or that old film, you know, Professor Whatsit.’
‘Quatermass and the Pit.’
‘That’s the fellow.’
‘Adam, maybe my imagination has run away with me, but Stephen has called in the military and there are extra barricades and roadblocks in Green Crescent.’
‘Ridiculous. We’re stuck over at the community centre, and they won’t let us back in the house, but they’ve said nothing about this.’
‘Well, they won’t until they know what it is, and if it’s a bomb of some sort…’