EPISODE 83 - WILL HE MAKE IT

by Michael Braccia and Jon Markes

The protestors, radio reporter and the police surge forward. They reach the main entrance doors, beyond which the road turns to the left round the corner of the building, wondering what they will find. They are faced with a garbage truck, half on the pavement, and the driver shouting something incomprehensible. As they approach the truck, a police constable falls. Some protestors fall over him. He screams for help and a police sergeant calls for reinforcements, running towards his colleague. It takes no more than a minute for six constables, already on alert and armed with batons, to burst through the doors of the police station, just over the road from the town hall. Meanwhile, Frank Reed, Simon and Zack reach the garbage truck. This time they understand what the driver is saying.

 

‘I… I… saw him come off the roof. I heard a thump.’

‘Where is he?’ shouts Frank Reed. ‘Where is Frank?’

‘On my roof!’

‘What?’

‘The roof. He’s on my roof!’

~

 

‘Cody, I was just going to call you.’

‘Agnes, tell me it’s not you. Tell me we’ve been hacked!’

‘You mean the £20,000?’

‘So it is you. Who on earth is D. Grendel?’

‘Derek,’ says Agnes. Cody cannot see her looking towards the floor.

‘Who the hell is Derek?’

‘Cody, love, please come home so we can talk. Let’s not do this on the phone.’

‘Can’t. I’m in the middle of the protest. Just tell me you’re not in trouble.’

‘Trouble? No, not really.’

‘Agnes, I know you. Listen, I’ll get home as soon as I can. This had better be good!’

~

 

‘Code 3!’ the sergeant bellows into his radio.

‘Ambulance required. Man fallen from roof at Banfield Council House. Step ladders required. Injured man on top of council rubbish truck!’

‘Please repeat last part of message, sergeant,’ says the operator.

‘I repeat. Step ladder required – injured man on top of rubbish truck.’

‘Message understood. ETA five minutes.’

Frank Reed, Simon and Zack, with the help of the driver of the truck, are trying to climb up the back of the vehicle to get to Frank Watson.

‘Here, I’ll give you a leg up,’ says the driver, later to be named as Geoff Tromans.

Geoff has had health and safety regulations rammed down his throat by his supervisor for the last four years since the lady stuck on her balcony incident. Geoff was not thanked by the lady, who had popped out of the shower for some reason when she heard the rubbish being collected. She had then stepped onto the balcony at the front of her house and managed to lose her towel. Geoff, ever gallant, had grabbed a ladder (from the window cleaner conveniently working next door), climbed up and rescued her. Geoff was not thanked by his supervisor, who had been bombarded by calls from Banfield Radio, the local rags, and, strangely, several middle-aged ladies who had balconies. Geoff now refuses to climb up anything, including his truck, but he seems happy to leave the brave Leeford Bypass protesters to flout health and safety regulations.

‘Frank, wait there, we’ll get to him,’ says Zack, giving instructions to the man who villagers call the other Frank. Zack manages to scramble onto the roof of the truck and reaches down to help Simon to do the same.

‘How is he?’ asks Simon, knowing that Zack has recently completed a first aid course.

‘Frank, are you okay? Can you hear me?’ says Zack, touching Frank’s arm – causing him to scream out, uttering language that Zack had only previously heard during gigs with his band.

~

‘What happened, Cody?’ says Agnes, happy that he is back home.

‘If you mean was it a success, I would say mixed.’

He sits on the settee in the manner of a marathon runner who is not bothered about medals or a foil blanket. He needs to throw off his shoes, place his aching feet on his favourite footstool and wait – or hope – for a nice hot drink to be served by Agnes. This is provided just a little bit too quickly.

‘Thanks, love, but I haven’t forgotten about the money.’

‘In a minute, Cody. Tell me what happened today.’

‘You know we’ve got two teams.’

‘Yes, A and B. Did it work?’ she says, enthusiastically.

‘Sort of. Me, David, Ken, John, George and Ted started at The Cross. At first, no one understood what we were doing and there were swear words from drivers that I haven’t heard since school days. Quite an education, really.’

‘You had the banners?’

‘Yes, but you know how people are. David was threatened by Stephen, but it knocked the wind out of our beloved policeman’s sails when he realised that Gary Carr knew about the bypass protest in advance.’

‘Nice one,’ says Agnes, happy that they were staying on the topic of the protest.

‘We started to gain a few supporters, and the traffic backed up so much they were all turning round to find other routes.’

‘Were the press there?’

‘They were, until we heard the news from Team B in Banfield.’

‘Oh yes, what on earth happened there?’

‘You might say they generated some publicity.’

‘Good publicity?’

‘Hope so. Frank Reed led the group, with Steve, Jason, Allen, Nick, Simon, Zack, Nigel, Adam, Doug and Roy.’

‘And?’

‘Allen’s been accused of using defamatory language – Councillor Sotherby’s going to sue him and Frank Watson. They both accused him of bribery. Frank climbed onto the council house roof with a banner. He started shouting then fell off the roof!’

‘What? Is he okay?’

‘Don’t know yet, Agnes, but we’ve also heard that some of the lads have been arrested for inciting a riot, or something. Apparently, as they ran to get to Frank they fell over a copper who was injured in the process. Some more officers rushed out of the police station and piled into them. It sort of kicked off. Last thing I heard about Frank was when the ambulance took him to hospital.’

‘Hope he’ll be okay. You must go and see him. Who’s been arrested?’

‘Jason Owens, Nick, Jack and Nigel.’

‘The Banfield Four,’ she says.

‘That sounds good. We could use it. “The Banfield Four…”’ he muses.

Agnes touches his arm. ‘Would you like something to eat, love?’

‘Never mind that. Let’s get back to the £20,000. What the hell’s going on?’

Agnes decides it is time to tell him everything – how she had given birth to Jasmine and then how she had been taken away, through to how she had got in touch with Jasmine and then went to visit her.

‘I know,’ says Cody.

‘What do you mean, you know?’

‘I know about Jasmine. All those times you were on the phone, going out for a walk to “have an hour to yourself” – I checked the phone records.’

‘How much do you know, Cody?’

She is feeling strangely relieved.

‘I know that you visited her in Yorkshire and that she is married with a daughter. That’s it. I didn’t know his name was Derek. Now, what have you done?’

~

Frank’s daughter, Megan, is by the side of his hospital bed. He has a private room, in keeping with his needs, his politics, his need for privacy. But he has gained much more while sustaining serious injuries – the respect of his fellow protesters. As he fell from the roof – his fall thankfully broken by the rubbish truck – he survived, but sustained a broken right hip and femur and also dislocated his right shoulder.

‘Can they come in now, Dad?’

‘Yes, let’s get it over with, and let the nurse know I’ll need more painkillers.’

The nurse enters first, whispering to the visitors ‘no more than fifteen minutes, and only three of you.’

If she doesn’t insist on the limit, and allows into the room the small crowd gathered in the corridor, there would not even be room for the patient. There are not even enough chairs in the corridor for the throng, numbering more than the Leeford Village football squad. In the room, Cody speaks first.

‘I never thought I’d say this, Frank, but I am so pleased that you are alright. They’ll soon get you up and about.’

‘Thanks, Cody. Zack, come here, lad.’

As Zack steps forward to stand next to the bed, Frank takes his hand.

‘I want to thank you for what you did. You looked after me until the paramedics arrived. I’ll never forget that.’

Frank can’t say any more, the emotions that no one thought him capable of getting the better of him.

Zack smiles. ‘No problem, Frank. We’re all mates, aren’t we?’

‘Of course we are,’ says Ted, the third visitor. ‘Everyone’s asking about you, Frank. After what you did, we all know you’re on our side. David’s in the corridor with some of the others from both protest teams. They’re out on bail. The case comes up next Thursday at Banfield Magistrates’ Court.’

When the police constable in Banfield had fallen over, along with a few protesters, the sergeant had overreacted and misunderstood the situation. The six extra constables had charged, batons raised, arresting anyone who happened to be on top of or near to the injured officer.

‘I don’t think Dad wants to hear about that, Ted,’ says Megan.

‘I do, of course I do,’ says Frank, choking back the tears. ‘We’re a team, us Leeforders. We’ll keep fighting, won’t we, lads?’

~