EPISODE 23 -  NO GUARANTEE

By Michael Braccia and Jon Markes


Previously in Leeford Village: Ted has received confirmation that The Cross’s football team has been accepted into the league, but he fails to read the small print. Linda has arranged another clandestine meeting with Allen Gomez, insisting they go to his flat. A community of gnomes has been discovered in Vera Cleeve’s garden, a baffling case for Miller and Carr, Leeford’s very own crime fighters. With Leeford Day approaching, the nonagenarian Howard Smithson may be able to provide historical information.


‘Free beer is it then, Ted?’ asks Cody, looking at the others gathered around the largest table in the lounge of The Cross.

‘How do you make that out?’ There is a slight tremor in Ted’s voice as he contemplates the cost of providing eight pints, gratis.

‘Well, we wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t told us to come, so you can’t expect us to have to pay for something we wouldn’t have wanted under normal circumstances.’

The others nod and mutter in agreement.

‘But most of you are in here every night.’

Cody winks at Nick.

‘Yes, but that’s through our own volition. We’ve been press-ganged here tonight.’

Ted sighs. ‘OK, half-a-pint each, but only after I have said what I am going to say.’

Cody smiles. ‘I’m having you on Ted, but thanks for offering.’

Ted grunts and produces the letter he has received from the Banfield and District Football League. He waves it jubilantly in the air.

‘I have the great pleasure of informing all of you that we have been accepted!’

‘Into the League?’ asks Frank Reed.

‘Yes, Frank. We’ll be in Division Eight, of course, but every team has to start somewhere.’

George Owens looks quizzically at Ted.

‘There are eight divisions of walking football teams? The same as the eleven-a-side?’

Ted looks at the letter. ‘Must be. It clearly says we have been accepted into Division Eight.’ He prods the piece of paper in his hand.

‘Walking football is very popular these days,’ says Nick. ‘I am surprised there are eight leagues, though.’

‘Well, that’s as maybe, but not only have we been accepted into the league, we have our first game a week on Sunday!’

‘Who are we playing?’ asks Nick.

Ted looks at the letter.

‘North Banfield Social. Away.’

There is a collective intake of breath.

‘North Banfield Social. The police are there most nights,’ says George.

‘I know it’s a bit rough, but that’s the youngsters causing trouble. This is walking football, George. I’m sure it’ll be played in the right spirit,’ says Ted, unconvincingly.


~


Sherry Cross flicks through a magazine, imagining how she would look wearing each celebrity’s outfit. An article about how to meditate yourself slim holds her concentration, before it is broken by her name being called over the waiting room’s speaker. She stuffs the magazine into her bag and takes a short walk along a corridor to the nurse’s room. She knocks on the door.

‘Come in,’ calls the nurse, not a voice with which Sherry is familiar.

Nurse Kelly Bale greets Sherry with a smile, exposing a row of perfectly straight white teeth.

‘Oh. Hi, Kelly. I wasn’t expecting you.’

Kelly walks over to a drawer and takes out a couple of needles and a phial of orange liquid.

‘No, it’s my day off usually, but Angela has childcare issues. So, I’m covering.’

Kelly checks Sherry’s notes on the computer screen.

‘You know the drill, I suppose?’ she asks.

‘Yeah, every three months. A good dose of B12 to keep me going.’

Kelly jabs the top of Sherry’s arm and in a couple of seconds the procedure is complete.

‘That’s it, then. See you in three months’ time.’

‘Thanks Kelly.’ Sherry picks up her bag and blushes a little when she sees that Kelly has spotted the magazine sticking out of the top, with a ‘Leeford Surgery – Do Not Remove’ label stuck to the front cover.

‘Oh, I hope you and Linda managed to have a good chat,’ she says as she is about to leave the room. Kelly is disposing of the needle and preparing for the next patient.

‘Sorry?’ she says, looking up at Sherry.

‘The other night. You and Linda? She went to see you.’

‘Your sister, Linda? I haven’t seen her for over a year. Let me think…’

Before Kelly has a moment to think, Sherry is shouting ‘Gomez. Gomez. I knew it,’ as she rushes past a line of waiting patients.

~

‘How much longer are we going to sit here, Sarge?’

PC Gary Carr crosses and uncrosses his legs for the third time in a minute.

‘As long as it takes,’ is the unwelcome reply from Stephen Miller.

‘I don’t think my bladder can hold out for as long as it takes!’ Gary unfastens the belt on his trousers, which gives him some relief.

Stephen Miller is looking out of the driver’s window, as he has been for the past two hours. Of all the cases he has had to deal with, the mystery of Vera’s gnomes is the one that has perplexed him most and he is determined to get to the bottom of it, even if it means waiting in the car at the end of her road all night.

‘Sarge, I’m going to have to find a bush, or something.’

Stephen is about to explain the law about urinating in public when he spots Vera.

‘There she is, getting off the bus!’

PC Carr looks to the end of the road and sees Vera Cleeve laden with a shopping bag in each hand, ambling up the street.

‘I wish she’d walk quicker,’ he says, shifting his position. ‘Shall I go and help her?’

‘No. We have to maintain an element of surprise. Catch her off guard.’

Gary looks at his sergeant and wonders how many episodes of Starsky and Hutch he has seen.

Eventually, Vera reaches her front door and turns the key.

‘Right, here we go,’ says Stephen, excitedly, jumping out of the car.

He is about to apprehend Vera before she steps into the house, when PC Carr calls out to him. ‘Hang on, Sarge!’

Stephen turns and is faced with the sight of PC Carr standing next to the police car pulling up his trousers from around his knees.

‘What are you doing?’

‘The belt, sarge. I forgot.’

Vera Cleeve has slipped into her house. Stephen and Gary knock on the door. It is a while before she answers, in which time Gary has clocked a large yellow bush which would provide adequate cover from the road if needed.

Eventually Vera answers the door.

‘Oh, hello Stephen. And Gary.’

‘Good evening, Vera. Mind if we come in?’

Gary hops from foot to foot. Vera looks at him with a puzzled expression, then realises why they might be standing on her doorstep.

‘I’m just about to have my supper, actually. Could you come back another time?’

Gary shakes his head.

‘No, Vera. We need to talk to you now,’ says Stephen, calmly.

‘Right now,’ interjects Gary, much less calmly.

‘What about?’ asks Vera.

‘Let us in and we’ll tell you.’

Vera thinks about this for a moment.

‘I don’t have to let you in, do I?’

‘No. You don’t have to. But it would not be good for you if you refuse us entry. We’d like to ask you about the rather large collection of gnomes you have in your garden. Could we take a look?’

Vera bites on her bottom lip.

‘Gnomes? I don’t know what you are talking about, Stephen. I truly don’t.’

Gary has decided that deep breathing might help him and he is walking up and down the driveway sucking in air and exhaling it slowly. Vera and Stephen watch him for a while, shaking their heads.

‘Well, if you’re not going to cooperate, we will just have to search your property for what we believe to be stolen gnomes.’

‘You can’t,’ says Vera, emphatically, folding her arms.

‘We can’t?’

‘You don’t have a warranty.’

Stephen suppresses a smile. ‘A warranty, Vera?’

‘Yes. I’ve seen it in the telly. You have to have a warranty to enter private premises.’

Stephen is about to explain Vera’s error when Gary rushes past, pushing Vera to one side and dashes up the stairs. He opens doors into Vera’s bedroom, then a small box room before finding the bathroom. A shout of ‘Alleluia!’ can be heard throughout the house.

‘Hmm,’ says Vera, ‘entering an old lady’s house without a warranty. That’s not good is it, Stephen? Not good at all.’

~

Meredith Park is cashing up at the end of a profitable day. The new range of stationery has been a success and she is pleased with herself for having taken the risk in buying it. She takes the float from the till and locks it in a desk draw. She has closed a little earlier than usual, to make sure she is ready for Adam when he arrives to take her to the cinema.

At first, she had been very secretive about her relationship with Adam, partly because of what the gossips might say about the age difference and partly because of his reputation for being a womaniser; she did not want to make herself look a fool. However, it has been a few weeks now and Adam has been very attentive, running across from the chip shop to see her each day as soon as the lunchtime rush is over. She has been to dinner a couple of times at Adam’s house and gets on well with Cody and Agnes, Adam’s parents, although she always feels Cody is uncomfortable in her presence.

She takes a look around the shop and congratulates herself on her achievement. The past few years have been a nightmare, but she is beginning to think she can finally put it all behind her now. That was another life, totally different from the life she has now. She is Meredith Park and though she can never speak about it to anyone, not even to Adam, perhaps it is time to bury the past and the dark shadow of Meredith Evans, for ever.

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