Sunday, 26 April 2015

Tales of Fekenham Swarberry - UNPUBLISHED WORK - Book Four - The Politics of Turnips - Part Two 'Departures' - Chapters Twenty One and Twenty Two


FEKENHAM GAZETTE

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November 2007

2/6d

Muckleford bank raid


An audacious bank robbery was enacted at the Muckleford branch of Oxford and Dunham Bank yesterday morning when four men dressed as Santa Claus bound and gagged Deputy Manager Terrence Humshaw and Assistant Deputy Berlinda Warthatch.
When Mr. Humshaw was questioned he said it had been a terrifying ordeal and that he had seen things no man should. When pressed to say more he refused to comment but alluded to a ‘hair-raising experience.’
Miss. Berlinda Warthatch was more forthcoming adding she had never been so embarrassed in all her life.
She accused the robbers of having ‘molested her, manhandling her and taking liberties with her skirt and undergarments.’
“One of the gang, the leader I think, was a rude man; a very rude man; so rude indeed that he abused me verbally and the one thing I cannot abide is a rude bank robber.”
The branch manager, Royston Nettle paid a tribute to the local constabulary whom he said had been ‘amazing.’
He made special mention of Detective Inspector Adam Lazarus who was heading the investigation but also Sergeant Debbie Sundae. “A lovely pair,” he stated. Gladys Pewterpot, Mr. Nettle’s secretary, also complimented the CID men.
“We are all confident that the police force under the leadership of DI Adam Lazarus, such an upstanding member, will soon catch the thieves and bring them to justice.
Fekenham’s own Sergeant Cyril Updike, recently a father for the first time, had this to say.
“These men may have pulled a fast one dressing up as Santa but make no mistake the only bells they’ll hear this Christmas will be those of a police car chasing them to jail.”

 

Fifteen year old Billy Twist and his sixteen year old girl friend Sally Braganza-Smythe have mysteriously disappeared causing much concern for their parents. Anita and Shazli Braganza-Smythe, parents of the missing girl were beside themselves with worry last night.

Sally’s father, Shazli voiced his concerns.

“Sally is the sensible one but I am very concerned that she has not contacted us. She normally does. I just hope it is the boy’s influence and nothing worse to fear and that they both have stayed out overnight for a laugh.”

Billy’s Mum Julie rebuffed Mr. Braganza-Smythe’s comments.

“Billy is not daft. He plays for the adult squad of Winchester FC. He is very mature. Shaz should not go round blaming my son. We should be concentrating on finding them and not making nasty, snide comments.”

The Fekenham Police force are tied-up with the bank robbery but said they are giving the teenagers disappearance full attention.

 

 

Other news....

Verity Lambush who only recently resigned as of the end of this term from Fekenham Senior School has now announced she is entering politics and will be running for election as a Whig representative in the next campaign due in two years’ time.

When asked why this change of career plan so late in life the soon to be ex-head had this to say:

“I appreciate your newspaper’s regard for my age. I will promise to fulfil my duties irrespective of how old I am in as honest a way as I can manage. If only your newspaper could do the same and concerned itself with reporting news and not passing facile commentary we all would be happier.”

Parminter Fullcock was unavailable for comment as he had booked an appointment to see his party leader, Andrew Flair. Speculation has it that Fullcock wants to discuss the proposed and very unpopular vegetable tax.

 

 
  

Oxford and Dunham
Albion’s Premier Bank
18, Muckleford High Street
T:555555
Your money is in safe hands.
 

 
NOTICE
 
The Soft Room - Fekenham Swarberry
 
Would all clientele frequenting the above establishment in Fekenham High Street please note the conveniently situated used condom bin now fitted to the outside of the premises. Please use this facility and do not dispose of soiled material by throwing them in gutters or hedgerows.
 
Muckleford District Council
 
Toby Trotter – Clerk of the Council   
 

  

Poostick is still missing. Please contact Vera Puddle at the Kings Head in Muckleford if you see a black and white cat that answers to that name.
There is a £20 reward
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Chapter Twenty Two - Resolution


The morning arrived too soon for some and not soon enough for others. Ernie, a man used to sleepless nights, arrived, as he had said he would, early at the Ramhard’s cottage. Both Verity and Ralph were up and dressed. Both look tired. It was Verity who opened the door.

“Ernie! This is early even for you. Come in. Ralph is in the kitchen brewing himself coffee. Is there anything I can get you?”

Ernie said there wasn’t. He followed Verity down the short hall and into the kitchen. Outside the window, rain had just started to fall.

“Morning Ernie, great day to go searching round the countryside for two teenagers huh?” grinned Ralph.

Ernie said nothing but pulled out the wallet he had found which he gave to Verity. Verity opened it then gasped.

“Where did you find this Ernie?”

“On the village green right where the circus had been,” replied Ernie

Ralph stepped forward with his right hand outstretched.

“May I see it?”

Verity passed the wallet to Ralph.

“It’s Billy’s,” she said.

Outside the rain had started to fall, heavy and hard. The sky had gone from November grey to thunderous black.

“It don’t look so clever does it?” suggested Ernie, his strong cockney accent flattening vowels.

Ralph turned to the game keeper-come-poacher-come-handyman.

“What do you make of it Ernie?”

“Hard to say really, perhaps Billy dropped it”

Verity seemed to maintain a more cynical view.

“Or a struggle ensued during which the wallet fell out of Billy’s pocket onto the green.”

Ernie made a smacking noise with his mouth as he shrugged his shoulders.

“Maybe,” he conceded. He didn’t sound convinced.

Verity moved to the kitchen window where the day had apparently returned to night.

“Helluva day to going looking for missing kids,” opined Ralph. “Still, we said we would. What are you going to do Ernie?”

Ernie turned to Fekenham’s retiring headmistress.

“Verity?”

Whenever deep in thought, Verity always clasped her hands behind her back as she found that this prevented any tension knotting her muscles.

“I believe both Sally and Billy have been abducted. Of course I have no proof of this but my instincts tell me I am right. Ralph’s car only holds one passenger whereas mine has room for three. Ernie if you take Ralph’s car perhaps you might pick up the trail left by the circus?”

Ralph went to protest at having his pride and joy, his Aston Martin, lent to someone but refrained from saying anything.

“I’ll do my best. You alright having me drive your motor Ralph?”

“I guess it’s for a good cause,” replied Ralph reluctantly, trying to smile nonchalantly.

“Good,” said Verity. “Now we have a plan let’s brave the weather and join in the search.”

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Apart from the different locations, each of the groups met with pretty much the same end result. As hard as they looked the less evidence of Sally or Billy they found. To all intents and purposes the teen lovers had vanished.

Although Cyril had stipulated only teams of four were to search the given hamlets, villages and town, there were many among the locals who felt inadequate in what they were doing and therefore took it upon themselves to go beyond Fekenham to look. Tom Theobold who had closed down his long-surviving family ironmongers and re-opened it in Muckleford took his car out beyond the boundary as described by Cyril on the off chance he may find the missing couple.

Another man who found himself unable to wait within Fekenham was school PE teacher Mister Ballbanger who had a fondness and admiration for Billy’s talents. He took it upon himself to drive to Winchester just in case the pair had gone there. He started early, parked the car down a side street and then proceeded to make house calls. By evening he had managed to call on a great many homes but had only scratched the surface of the ancient city and with nothing to show for it.

Ethel, Susanne, Ruth and Delores had no luck in Wick. They too knocked on as many doors as they could but no one they spoke to had seen anyone matching Sally or Billy’s description. By nightfall they returned to Fekenham feeling downhearted but hoping that someone else had enjoyed better luck.

Anita, Julie, Shaz and Nathan had performed the same action in Muckleford but to no avail. The townsfolk all did their best to help, listening attentively and with sympathy as the parents of the missing children repeatedly asked their questions but not a single soul had seen either the teenagers or anything remotely suspicious. It all came harder for the people of Muckleford to hear of missing children right after having the bank robbed by armed masked men. Some even questioned what the world was coming too. Sadly no one had a ready answer to give.

Although Verity lacked faith in searching Birchtickle she, along with Ralph, Elvis and Brigadier Largepiece, did as requested. They looked high and low but found nothing, not a sign of the teenagers. Will, Noddy, Elton and Ted Sandpip encountered the same when they searched through Arkenfelt. Wherever Sally and billy were it was not in either locality.

It was a sad bunch of Fekenhamites who met at the church that night. They were wet, cold and utterly dejected but none more so than Julie, Anita and Shazli.

Cyril could sense the collective despondency and immediately took the initiative.

“Whilst you were out trying to find Sally and Billy I contacted police HQ in Winchester I spoke with the inspector who is heading up the bank robber investigation and alerted him to all the repellent facts. Obviously, he is stretched at the moment what with chasing bank robbers and all but he has pulled in more of us coppers to start a proper search. Not that yours wasn’t good enough but Inspector Lazarus feels we should now extend the search to include railway stations, ports and airship strips. I would also like to add that this is all a bit recent; Sally and Billy’s disappearance I mean, so Julie, Anita and Shaz and the rest o’ you come t’ that should not go getting depressed. There is still every possibility that they both will show up.”

If Cyril actually believed the last statement he hadn’t sounded very sincere but at least the village were happy to learn of the police force’s swift response.

Verity though had other ideas. She turned to Ralph who nodded his silent affirmation. The hunt for Sally and Billy was on.

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Ernie’s accent, that flat East End voice that often sounded like a veiled threat, along with his weasely looks, denied the virtues of the real man. Ernie had a big heart and that shouldn’t imply he had a deformed cardiac capacity but that Ernie Stallworthy was of a generous disposition.

He was, in spite of his very humble background, a highly intelligent individual whose grasp of life, how it really works, gave him sufficient edge when dealing with others. He had been charged with locating where the circus had gone and that was exactly what he was doing. He had little idea which route the circus had taken and so had to rely on the scant information he had received and his own instinct.

Before leaving Fekenham, the circus had let it be known they had toured Albion and now were heading back to Europe. They had first arrived in Ireland in the Spring then moved on to Scotland before moving down south to Wales and finally England. It struck Ernie that if they were going to head for Europe then, in all likelihood, they would first visit France. Of course this was purely guess-work as they could just as easily have gone to one of a number of Northern European countries.

The problem was that once in Europe, with its quasi-federal state, movement was free of virtually any border control which meant the circus could go where they wanted. And as Europe is a big place they would be all the harder to find. Ernie drove directly to Poole where he spoke with a customs man he knew. Bunging a bloke a few notes was the method Ernie often employed. By and large such transactions worked admirably well. A circus had recently boarded a ferry sailing for France. Ernie thanked the man, shaking his hand as he did so. With a vague idea of where the circus had gone, Ernie turned Ralph’s car around and headed back toward Fekenham.

It had taken the best part of the morning to get to Poole. It would take nearly as long to get back. Ernie drove the car with all due care. It was all very well and good Verity instructing Ralph to loan his car but Verity was a woman and women just don’t get the importance of owning a car like Ralph’s. It was an Aston for goodness sake! Ernie drove the car as though it were made of gold.

As three o’clock arrived so Ernie cruised into the outskirts of Fekenham. The first place he passed was that of Brigadier Largepiece. Ernie was surprised to see the military gent, along with Urpington Crust assisting what appeared to be a wounded man through the gates of Trimpton House. The man was of a similar stature to Lord Crust but far thicker set. The man’s arm was in a sling and he appeared to have an injured leg as both Crust and Largepiece were supporting him. Ernie drove on putting the incident into the back of his mind.

There was no one at the Ramhard’s cottage when Ernie parked the car on the drive so the locked the vehicle up and posted the keys through the letter box. Tired and hungry, Ernie made his way home to Martha. He would return to speak with Ralph and Verity later that evening..

When evening arrived, Ernie slept on. He missed the meeting at the church so instead went directly to Verity and Ralph’s home. When he arrived there a large Jaguar was parked on the drive right next to the Aston Martin. The Jaguar was Arthur Bentwhistle’s. Ernie knocked at the door.

“Hi Ernie, come in. Go straight through, Arthur and Elvis Linkthorpe are already here,” greeted Ralph who waved his hand vaguely in the direction of the living room.

Seated next to each other were publican and priest, one dressed in casual shirt and jeans the other in what appeared to be an African tribal smock. In front of them, reclining in a easy chair, was Verity.

“Arthur, Vicar,” motioned Ernie with a nod of his head to which both men politely replied with a hello.

“Ernie,” said Verity, “please take a seat and tell us how it went. Did you find where the circus is headed?”

Ernie held both hands palms upward as he pulled an enigmatic face.

“Possibly. I bunged the geezer at the terminal a tenner and he confirmed that a circus certainly did catch the ferry bound for France but beyond that who can say? He weren’t too sure if they were going to Calais or Cherbourg and of course wherever they land don’t mean they are going stay there does it?”

The point Ernie made was of course true but Verity took some comfort in the fact that a circus, and how many circuses board ferries every day, was destined for France.

“I accept what you say Ernie but at least we know they have gone to France. It’s a small start but start nonetheless. You may wonder why Arthur and Vicar Linkthorpe are here?”

“The thought did cross my mind.”

“They have volunteered to help in our search. After all the more hands the better.”

Ernie cast a withering gaze over both men. He would have liked to have asked where Arthur’s hands had been and if the vicar’s hands were of any use to anyone. He didn’t though, instead he said, “What about the old bill, that Lazarus fella, have you told them what you are up to?”

Ralph walked in chewing on an apple.

“The police had already contacted all the ports and air strips. Unfortunately, their processes, as good as they are, take time. The local police of course are caught up looking for the bank robbers and two missing teenagers, as worrying as it is for their parents and the local community is not a priority. They are after all seventeen and sixteen. They may have skipped off somewhere for the hell of it.”

Verity jumped in at this point.

“It is very unlikely they did. They are both responsible young adults.”

“I know, honey, and that’s the point I am making. As far as the police are concerned the pair of them are big enough and smart enough to know what they are doing. If they were a tad younger the police’s attitude would be different. Don’t get me wrong, I think what you say is right. Sally and Billy wouldn’t just take off like that.  Someone has taken them or something has happened.”

The fire in the grate crackled as a log crumbled to ash. Ralph picked another log from the basket then threw it onto the embers. Arthur spoke.

“If we do go off in search of ‘em, and I fer one am up fer it, how are we goin’ t’ go about it. We can’t just chase off t’ France without a plan?”

Verity stood up, brushing down her dress as she rose.

“We have two cars, yours Arthur and Ralph’s. Both are fast. We have comwands so we can communicate with each other. We will need someone here to keep us to date on any events pertaining to the missing teenagers. We set off tomorrow morning at first light, Ralph will book our tickets this evening, and then we catch the ferry to France. Once there we will reconvene and make what further plans need to be made. If we have to split into two parties then we remain in constant touch so that we can synchronise our efforts - all clear?”

“I’ve been to France before you know,” said Elvis Linkthorpe with a smile and a wink. “I speak the lingo.”

Arthur Bentwhistle slapped his hand on the cleric’s knee.

“Don’t even think about,” hissed the publican emphatically recalling their last trip to the continent.

After Verity’s insistence that Ernest, as she called him, sleep on the sofa, the night had passed quickly. The morning dawned dull and overcast. Ernie had slept like a log but as he only ever required a few hours sleep was awake before anyone else. Verity came down with Ralph who prepared breakfast for them.

As they were eating a knock came at the cottage door. It was Arthur and Vicar Linkthorpe.

“Mornin’ all!” cried Arthur amiably “All set?”

Ernie snatched up a half slice of toast that Ralph had buttered, clamped it between his teeth as Verity whisked away the plates from the table.

“As ready as we’ll ever be,” declared Ralph, looking slightly miffed as his slice of toast was tossed into the bin. The vicar and Bentwhistle were already fully dressed; Arthur in a thick roll neck sweater, whilst the vicar had on what appeared to be a voluminous tent with a hood. Ralph fetched two duffel coats for Verity and himself. With that the four friends, leaving Ernie behind as sort of base control, climbed into their respective cars then drove off toward the port.
 


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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

2 comments:

Hobbes said...

Enjoying it!

Russell Duffy said...

Glad to hear it. Thanks.