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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 finall

Cody, Nick and George poke fun at Ted about getting free drinks for football team meetings.  George Owens questions whether there would be eight divisions in a new league for ‘walking football’, but Ted still hasn’t spotted his own administration error.  The first match looms large.  Sherry has an appointment with the nurse and encounters Kelly Bale, who denies meeting Linda.  Sherry smells a rat, and that rat is called Gomez.  Stephen and Gary, Leeford’s intrepid thin blue line, visit Vera with the intention of interviewing her about the tribe of gnomes in her garden. Things don’t go exactly to plan and she demands a ‘warranty’.  Meredith muses about her chequered past but seems happy with Cody’s son and heir.



‘Ok, Zack, but are we ready?’ asks Simon, plugging in his keyboard.


‘Ready? There’s ages to go yet, Simon. We could have a two-hour set ready by the time the fete arrives.’


Of course we’re not ready, he thinks. We haven’t finished writing any songs yet. He’s not the only one thinking along those lines.


‘I’ve got a song we could use,’ pipes up Ziggy.


‘What is it? They’re not going to allow cover songs,’ says Zack, not entirely sure this is true, but he wants his own songs, whenever they are written, to take priority.


‘It’s not a cover - it’s my Dad’s’


‘Your Dad’s?’ questions Zack with the incredulous look he favours whenever Ziggy has anything to say.


‘Yeah, it’s a straightforward pop song.’


‘What’s it about,’ asks Simon, showing considerably more interest than the group leader, ‘and what’s it called?’


‘Bit corny really. “Love Me Crazy”.’


‘Let’s hear it then,’ concedes Zack.


‘He was about nineteen at the time, you know, late seventies.  He was seeing this bird every Sunday night at the Spring Hill Hotel.’


‘What?’ exclaims Zack.


‘No, not in a hotel room, you wazzock. They had discos at the hotel in those days.  Dad loved ‘em.  Claimed he could dance a bit as well.’


‘Dad dancing?’


‘Not then, he wasn’t even married.’


‘Get on with it,’ pleads Simon.


‘Anyway, he really fell for this girl.  Jacqui, I think her name was.  She seemed really keen, apparently, and said she would never leave him.’


‘Aah, shucks,’ interjects Zack again, not wanting to give Ziggy a chance.


‘They were dancing, and she told him she loved him - all that sort of stuff.’




‘She dumped him at the end of the night.’




‘He never knew.’


‘Somebody else involved?’


‘He didn’t know, but when he got home just before midnight...’


‘Midnight?’ snorts Zack, ‘midnight? Bit early wasn’t it?  Clubs go on till four in the morning these days.’


‘Not in 1978.  Not in Leeford you berk.  Licensing laws were different then.’


‘For pity’s sake, Ziggy, finish your story and get to the song before I grow a beard and join ZZ Top,’ pleads Simon, becoming increasingly irritated.


‘Well, just after twelve o’ clock the phone rang.  It had to be Jacqui.  Had to be.’


‘What did she say?’


‘We’ll never know what she intended to say.  He didn’t pick up.’


‘Answer phone?’



‘They didn’t have one in those days.  Just a bog-standard telephone.’


‘What did your Dad feel about it the next day?’


‘He used it in the song.  The last line.’


‘Which is?’


‘I wish I’d answered the phone.’


‘Let’s hear it,’ says Simon.


Ziggy plugs in his Ibanez Electro-Acoustic and starts to pick out a harmonious tune with his favourite chords - Am, G, Dm and C.  No one knew he could play and sing so sweetly, and with such emotion. This is the flamin’ bass player, thinks Zack.


‘I could not be happy without you

Knowing how much I care

You said that you’d never leave me

But that was all you could say.


And I said love, love me crazy

All I could do was run to you baby

And I said love, love me crazy

All I could do was run to you baby


I took you dancing on Sunday

And held you tight in my arms

You danced as though you were happy

But then you gave back my love.’


Ziggy then repeated the chorus, ‘And I said love, love...’ and onto the final verse, followed by the chorus three times:


‘You left me standing the same night

Crying, unhappy, alone

You called me just after midnight

I wish I’d answered the phone.’



No one notices Clare standing at the back of the room.


‘Oh, Ziggy, that’s beautiful.’


‘Thanks Babe.’


‘Babe?’ spits Zack.


‘Zack!’ shouts Simon.


‘I’m not sure about it, but it’s a pop song and it’s the best we’ve got,’ admits Zack, reluctantly.


‘There we go, then,’ says Ziggy. ‘My dad will be over the moon!’







‘Vera, how long have I known you?’


‘Well, a good while, Stephen.  You’re almost part of the family.’


‘Well then, you know I’ve looked after you.  Remember when Hilda sent me over here a couple of years ago?  Then there was Allen Gomez.’


‘Stopped him dead in his tracks, didn’t we?’


‘Exactly.  You trust me, don’t you?  No need for a warranty, um, warrant, is there?’


‘I suppose so.  Cup of tea?’


‘I want to see what my young assistant was shouting about first, Vera.’


‘He looked quite desperate for the toilet.  Does he often pull his trousers down in broad daylight?’


‘No, no, not usually... He’d loosened his..., never mind, he’s coming back down now.’




‘Mrs Cleeve to you, young whippersnapper.’


‘Mrs Cleeve,’ says Gary, in his I’m-an-officer-of-the-law voice, ‘we’re not going to find the gnomes in the garden, are we?’


Vera looks sheepishly across at Stephen, ignoring the now relieved Gary.


‘You won’t find all of them in the garden, only a few.  Some of them are mine.’



‘Why do you do it, Vera?’


‘I take them on gnome holidays, you know that.’


‘Yes, the odd one.  But hundreds?’


‘There’s loads packed away in the spare room and even in Vera’s bedroom.  Up to the ceiling, Sarge.  I even found two behind the loo.’


‘Sorry, Vera, we’re going to have to take you down the station.’


Crestfallen, Vera holds out her hands, ready to be handcuffed.


‘No need for that, Vera.  This isn’t The Bill, and you’re not going to get very far if you make a run for it, are you?’



‘We’re here then, Ted.’


‘George,’ replies Ted, ‘that’s what I love about you - stating the blummin’ obvious.’


Laughter rocks the minibus Frank Reed has hired, with George joining in, as they pull into the long driveway leading to the North Banfield Social Club.


‘Do you want to see their secretary, Frank?’


‘No, Ted.  I’ll concentrate on preparing the lads.  You focus on the admin side of things.  OK?’


‘Fine, Ted, I’ve got his name.  John Smart, General Manager and Club Secretary.’


‘Think that’s him approaching now.  We’ll find the changing room.’


‘Catch up with you in a bit, Frank.  We’ve got an hour before kick-off.’


‘Mr Coleman - John Smart.’


‘Ted, please, good to meet you, John.’


‘Do you have your bar-coded document?’


‘Yes, here you are.’


‘I’m sure it’s all in order.  I’ve been to your pub, ted.  Nice pint, and I have to say, lovely place, Leeford.’


‘Thank you.’


‘Now, you can join your team, and, basically, we’ll see you on the pitch.’


‘Cheers John, see you later.’


‘In the bar – my treat!’


The minutes tick by. The boys are beginning to show pre-match nerves, with Frank doing his bit to build up confidence.


‘I’ve seen some of their lads.  They’re even younger than me, and I’m the baby of the team,’ says Nick.


‘Pity we didn’t have enough for substitutes,’ pipes up George, ‘if somebody gets injured.’


‘In walking football?’ says Steve Adams.


‘Never mind all this negative talk,’ interrupts Frank, ‘in my day, we had much worse to put up with.’


‘What formation are we playing?’ queries Cody.


At that, the referee knocks on the door.


‘Got your team sheet, Mr Reed?’


‘Yes, here it is.’


‘Are you sure?’




‘Bit short aren’t you?’


‘I suppose, but we’re not professionals.  They may be short, my lads, but they’re stout-hearted.’


‘OK, let me confirm their IDs.’


‘What you mean, like a school register?’


‘If you like.  Now, Nick Allthorpe?’




‘Steve Adams?’






‘George Owens?’




‘Cody Thornton?’




‘Justin Wilkins?’


‘Present.  Sir !’


‘Er, Daniel Windrush?’


‘Absolutely, your honour.’


Down the corridor, their studs click and clack on the freshly-laid linoleum. They can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Literally. They eventually reach the pitch.


‘Bit big, isn’t it, Cody?’ says Nick, looking concerned.


‘What is?’


‘The pitch.  Thought it was three-quarter size.’




‘Hang on,’ shouts Steve from his left-wing position. ‘Their subs haven’t left the field.  There’s eleven in their half warming-up.  I’ve counted ‘em.’


‘I’ll have a word with the ref,’ asserts Nick, trying to take control, although Frank has omitted to appoint a captain.


‘Sir, a word, please?’ calls out Nick to the man in black.




‘When are their subs going to leave the field?  You’ve just blown for the kick-off.’


‘Subs?  They’ve only got one. Come on, let’s get started.’


‘But...,’ stammers Nick,’ they’ve got eleven players, we’ve only got six.’


‘Thought you had a recruitment problem.’




He blows his whistle, and eleven young, fit, footballers bear down on the Leeford Six, running at a pace that even the thirty-year-old Nick Allthorpe struggles with.


‘Hang on ref!’ screams Frank from the touch-line.


The ball runs out of play near Frank and Ted.  They confront the ref.


‘They’re running!’




‘It’s supposed to be walking football,’ pleads Ted.


‘No, this is Football Association rules football, Category A.’


‘But we’re Category B – walking football.’


‘Not according to your registration document you’re not,’ says the ref, ‘give me the damn ball so we can get on with the game.’

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