A Short Detour
Verity and Ralph were part way across the green walking toward the village. This was not the correct direction to take, not if you had an appointment with Constance Lambush whose home sat atop Apple Crust Hill.
Ralph looked at his watch. Fifteen minutes to make a twenty-minute walk. They were going to be late. He glanced at his wife’s face. It was aglow with joy and something else, something more akin to pride. He knew that look. He had seen a lot of it lately.
Verity spoke as though reading his mind.
“We are just making a little detour. I thought we’d pop over to see Cybil and Jonah.”
Ralph nodded, smiled and then shook his head.
“Something wrong?” Asked Verity.
“Just a little concerned is all.”
Recognising the potential minefield that lay before him, Ralph’s response was more political than honest.
“Won’t your mom be anxious?”
With a dismissive wave of her hand, Verity brushed aside her husband’s anxiety.
“It’ll be fine. I’ll explain when we get there. She’ll understand.”
I bet she will, thought Ralph, after all, Cybil is her blood relative, her great granddaughter.
Ralph could sense Verity staring at him. It was as if she was analysing his reaction to her response.
“Why don’t you tell me what’s really perturbing you?” She asked, frowning.
“You’ve been seeing a lot of Cybil and Jonah lately. Not that I mind but I thought you didn’t want to usurp Eileen or Harvey?”
The Post Office lay some five hundred yards distant. To the right of the Post Office stood Molly Sharptack’s Tea Rooms. They appeared to invite the visitor with a reserved yet warm hospitality.
“Is that what you think I am doing? Pushing my way in?”
“Not at all, no. I am concerned only following on what you said, that you didn’t want to return as the rightful mom taking pride of place. I know you were sincere but the temptation, in light of having such a beautiful family presented to you, must be difficult to resist.”
For a moment, Ralph thought Verity was going to stamp her foot, a child again behaving in ill-tempered fashion. She had stopped, her hands clutched into fists, her chin out and her eyes, those beautiful grey eyes, flashing green like a spiteful cat.
“It isn’t as easy as I thought,” she said, “having a grandchild. It is as if Jonah is a bittersweet reminder of my greatest mistake. I love the boy. I feel compelled, as if by some inner desire, as though by a force of nature, to see him, be with him and his mother, my daughter, as often as I can.”
Ralph sighed. In his heart, he knew precisely how Verity felt. Even though he couldn’t condone her compulsion he understood it.
“You need to back off. I know what Cybil and Jonah mean to you but you were right when you said Eileen and Harvey had to come first. If you don’t maintain that thought, bad stuff is bound to happen and that will only hurt everyone including you.”
Hilary nodded saying nothing. Her silence revealed little but Ralph hoped her natural common sense along with her natural common decency would prevail.
“Hey!” cried Ralph, “see over there, in the centre of the common. Isn’t that Cyril with a bunch of police guys? Looks like they are digging up a large section of the common.”
Verity waved attempting to get Cyril’s attention. He didn’t see her but continued organising his fellow policeman with their excavation. An area of common was cordoned off with a large tent standing to the left of the dig.
Verity, glad of the distraction, began waving again. Ralph, realising his wife was using the opportunity of attracting the local police sergeant as a means of avoiding any more uncomfortable questions, sighed again.
As the distance between the couple and the dig grew less so Cyril spotted Verity and Ralph. Turning to the police officer before him he pointed toward the are being dug giving instructions on how to proceed. He then faced Verity and Ralph and waved back.
“Hello. Taking a stroll, are we?”
“Hiya Cyril. What’s with all the digging.?” Asked Ralph.
“Got a call from Inspector Lazarus this mornin’. Wants us to dig up a section of the common. Seems to think a body is buried here.”
“Really,” said Verity, “who’s body and why does he think that?”
Cyril chuckled. Not that he found exhuming corpses funny but the corpse in question certainly made him laugh.
“Remember back in the nineties when that Pagan Preacher fella came t’ Fekenham?”
“You mean Zebulon Cisonius?”
“That’s the fella. Him what drugged the whole village.”
Ralph looked mystified. “Who the hell is Zebulon Cisonius?”
“He was a rogue and a trickster and sheep rustler,” replied Verity, “we were all glad to be shot of him.”
“That’s maybe so but Adam Lazarus has received information that Zebulon Cisonius was murdered before being buried here.”
“When did this character first arrive in Fekenham then?” Queried Ralph.
“Nineteen ninety-four. Caused quite a stir he did.” Smiled Cyril.
“That he did,” agreed Verity, “but who gave Inspector Lazarus the lead on this apparent murder and why now after all these years?”
Cyril coughed, clearing his throat. “That’s the funny thing,” he said adjusting his tie, “it was Cheryl Bunkum.”
“The landlady of the Sinking Sun, over in Arkenfelt?”
“Yes, that’s her. Never have taken to her t’ be honest but that’s by-the-by. Anyway’s, Cheryl gave Lazarus the lead and he got directly on the phone t’ me. Want’s me excavate right where the cricket pitch is. Starting with the crease.”
“Did Cheryl indicate who the felon was who committed homicide?” Asked Ralph his curiosity getting the better of him.
“I don’t rightly know what a felon is but it weren’t no homicide it was murder. Anyways, even if I did know I couldn’t tell you. Wouldn’t be right, now would it?”
“Wait until Millie Mead hears of this. This news will keep her occupied for weeks.” Chuckled Verity.
“Make you right on that score,” laughed Cyril, “But don’t let me keep you. Where are you off to?”
“I thought we might pop in to see Cybil and Jonah.” Replied Verity, a large smile on her face.
“Oh, she’s got Jonah’s grandma and grandpa over today. They arrived early this mornin’.”
“Oh, Oh I see. Okay. Never mind. Another time perhaps? Well, we’d best be off. My mother’s expecting us.”
Ralph took hold of Verity’s hand squeezing it gently.
“Okay, buddy. We’ll catch you later. Love to the family.”
Cyril watched them go, hand in hand, the woman who had been his headmistress, the woman who he had feared for the best part of his life. He could detect something was wrong but was unsure what. He had always trod very carefully around Verity, or Miss Lambush as he still thought of her. She was still a daunting presence in his life. Less so now perhaps, now he was married, had a son and gained respectability having become a police sergeant but her forbidding reputation remained firmly fixed in his mind.
The pressure Ralph felt from Verity’s hand was unbelievable. It was as if she was clinging to a raft on a roiling sea. They, Ralph and Verity, fitted each other well, two puzzles from different boxes.
“You okay hon?”
Her reply came too fast, too soon, short, sharp, clipped.
A slim silence followed. The weight of which fell upon Ralph’s shoulders like an unspent tank shell. When she spoke again it was regarding a different topic.
“Have you heard from Yue Zedong?”
“Hmm? Yeah, yeah, I have. She wrote me a letter. She’s doing okay.”
He subconsciously tapped his pocket where the letter lay folded. He had no secrets from his wife sharing virtually all things with her but felt it best not to reveal too much of what Yue Wrote. Not that Verity couldn’t keep her own council, she certainly could, but the nature of his communications with Yue was best unknown to Verity. Ralph wanted only to protect his wife by disclosing nothing that could be used against or forced from her.
“Is she well?”
“Yeah. Said she misses Albion. Sends her best regards to you.”
Verity detected in her husband a reticence to discuss the subject of Yue Zedong so changed tack.
“I saw Lupini yesterday,” she said.
“How was she?”
“Fine, although concerned about Arthur.”
“Why, what’s that old reprobate been up to now?”
“Of that she was unclear but she suspects he’s returned to his former habits.”
“Of being a lothario?”
“Possibly, although at this stage Lupini has no evidence, not really any proof.”
“So why does she suspect her husband then?”
“He has been spraying on copious amounts of cologne, after shave and has taken to wearing a suit. Lupini is worried he is dressing up to visit another woman.”
Ralph started laughing. It was not a laugh conducive to humour but rather inferred Ralph knew something no one else did. Certainly, not Lupini.
“If you are enabled with knowledge of information I am not, please tell. Your cackling is infuriating,” Verity said.
“About a month or so ago I was approached by Rufus Barleycorn. When I say approached what I really mean is he called me at The Duck to arrange a meeting. I asked him what the nature of our getting together was he answered he would only tell me face to face. It was all a bit mysterious. Anyway, I agreed. We meet up in Muckleford, off the beaten track sort of thing. Apparently, he’d been contacted directly by Rupert Snatch-Kiss who had made him an offer for his business, the brewery that is. The figure Rufus told me was a staggering amount but Rufus told him he was interested. Strictly speaking, that wasn’t true. Rufus was very interested. He wants to retire.”
“He’s surely too young? He isn’t yet sixty.”
“Point of fact is he is sixty-four but, and this is relevant, he under no circumstance will sell to Snatch-Kiss. He hates the man for what he did to Fekenham and what he is doing to local business in general. He asked me to make him an offer saying how it would work well for me as being a restaurant owner his brewery and The Duck would fit neatly together. Maybe they would but I told him I neither had the wherewithal nor the desire. He then spoke with Arthur. I know this as Rufus told me. Arthur has been attending meetings with Rufus and the bank. That’s why he’s taken to spraying perfume all over his three-piece suit.”
“Not fornicating at Anais Sin’s establishment?” Asked Verity.
“Not even banging Black Betty.”
“You are so American,” giggled Verity.
“Ain’t that the truth,” laughed Ralph.
Yue Zedong’s Letter
My second letter in so many days. Sorry. What I must write is vital for you to know. Father’s condition deteriorates rapidly. His moods grow ever more extreme and his tempers uncontrollable. I fear the worst.
Our family suffers because of his fluctuating emotions. Today he crossed the line as far as our brothers and sisters are concerned. Upon learning of how Edith has refused to operate under his latest enjoinment he has taken measures to ensure she either does as told or faces his severest displeasure. That alone is enough to terrify any sane person.
Of course, the wider family, our uncles and cousins, have sworn allegiance to his commands and make home life unbearable. This morning, just after I posted my other letter to you, they attacked our brother beating him badly, breaking his bones and fracturing his ribs. His children were forced to leave home and hide.
These acts are intolerable. No wonder mother left when she did. If only she could enlist the help of our extended family in the west. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I doubt they would help though. Since the feud, we had, caused again by father and of which we seem to be seen in the same light, they refuse to speak to us.
His violent outbursts and those of his brothers and nephews make my life unbearable. So much so that I am now forced to leave home and travel far away from where he and his relations cannot find me. I hope to gather my sisters and brothers to my side so that one day, soon hopefully, we can reclaim the home that my mother made for us all.
The place I flee to is hidden from his sight. He cannot find us there. We shall return though but only when I have managed to gather all the various strands of our extended family together. When I do and mark my words, it will be the end of bullies, peace will reign again in our once happy home, songs will be sung of rejoicing and joy will rise up to embrace us all.
For now, as suggested at our last meeting when we both worked in that restaurant (remember?) things seem against us but right will prevail. Of this, I promise you.
For now, I sit huddled in the garden wrapped in a blanket to keep out the chill. The summer here has not been kind this year. Perhaps it too feels abused by our father. Azaleas of beautiful hues bloom nearby. I recall you saying your beloved liked the shrub. They are, as is she, very beautiful.
Give my best wishes to my namesake. Her help that day was very much appreciated. Favours like that should never be forgotten.
So until the sun shines over my house and love replaces brute force, remember me.
Never forget the words of Kong Qiu…
“If the people be led by laws, and uniformity among them be sought by punishments, they will try to escape punishment and have no sense of shame. If they are led by virtue, and uniformity sought among them through the practice of ritual propriety, they will possess a sense of shame and come to you of their own accord” and “If your desire is for good, the people will be good. The moral character of the ruler is the wind; the moral character of those beneath him is the grass. When the wind blows, the grass bends”
Elvis Linkthorpe had watched as first Ethel Blowvalve had ridden by in her chariot with Bladder at the front looking for all the world like a creature from mythology. Snorting and squeaking with the joy of the ride, a glee that bordered the insane. Bladder looked well pleased too. Then, a short time later, he witnessed Verity and Ralph crossing the green heading, or so it seemed toward the village. It was at this moment that Suzanne Beaufont entered the living room of the rectory. The sight that grabbed her attention was that of the village vicar naked apart from a pair of fawn Spanx tugged up high around his rib cage.
“Mon Dieu! What on this earth are you wearing?”
“Spank! Thought my tummy needed keeping in line.”
“But why have you purchased female Spanx and why have you cut away the gusset?”
“I didn’t know you could buy male Spanx. I cut out the crotch so my gentleman’s underparts could breathe.”
“You look like the bag lady whose bag has split and a dead turkey neck has through the hole fallen.”
Linkthorpe looked crestfallen.
“And why don’t men wax their sacs á billes? All those stray hairs poking through look very much the affreux.” Complained Suzanne.
Ignoring his lover’s complaints, the vicar continued. “I was thinking of wearing a kásáya for the Sunday sermon, you know with a samakaksika buckled around my middle. I thought the Spanx might present my figure in a better light.”
Suzanne’s eyebrows raised to dangerous levels. “Pourquoi ne pas habiller comme les prétres en France?”
“Well, we aren’t in France and I am not a French priest,” replied Linkthorpe.
“Okay. But at least let me purchase Spanx pour la homme. Think of the shock the Mille Meade will
get should your willy wombat poke through your robes.”
She had a point, thought Linkthorpe begrudgingly. “Okay. Fine with me.”
“Dieu merci,” smiled the French fancy passing her amourex a hand-written envelope.
Linkthorpe recognised the writing but as he looked up to Suzanne with fear etched upon his visage
so he saw another sight he recognised. The woman formerly known as Anis Sin had hitched her
skirt up around her hips revealing a singular lack of underwear.
“No, no,” implored Elvis, “I can’t, not now. The letter is from Bishop Boyle, Bishop Harmonious
Boyle. It’s a summons. He wants to see me.”
“Worry not my petite fruit you will rise to the occasion. You always do. Let me show you what I
And with, that the one-time French whore, sat astride the English vicars lap and smiled..
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.