Simon Parke  
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And much much more!

CHAPTER 15

In the last episode, we established that although Mrs Pump wasn’t Satanist, she did still lie; we also witnessed Jane breaking up the party at Algernon’s, and Patricia clinging to a curtain, profoundly regretful of ever stepping inside the Manor. We ended rather peacefully, however, with Jane standing on the old station platform, remembering different days.

The Kid settled the fire, and left Inky wrapped warm and asleep with gurgling crows. She had other business to attend to.

Inky seemed at peace as he lay there, held in the arms of the Tilting Tower. He had eaten bread and cheese, washed down with some hot tomato soup. ‘Perhaps the monks once ate this very same meal!’ he said, looking around at the deserted ruin. ‘Do you ever see their ghosts?’

The Kid smiled, and opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out.

‘Have you lost your voice?’ asked Inky. ‘Or did you never have one? Some people never have a voice. I read that.’

The Kid shrugged her shoulders.

‘People who can’t speak are called ‘dumb’,’ said Inky. ‘It’s very sad, I imagine. I expect some people wish I was dumb!’

This may have been true.

‘But it would be jolly interesting to find out why it happens,’ continued Inky. ‘Faskinating! What makes certain people dumb? Now there’s a question!’

The Kid wanted to say that she did have a voice, but just not one that any one could hear. She had a voice inside her, but that somehow it died on reaching her lips. She might as well be gagged, really. Indeed, sometimes she dreamt that she was, gagged and struggling to breathe. On those occasions, she woke in a sweat – even on a very cold night.

‘Of course, everyone has something wrong with them,’ continued Inky reassuringly. ‘Cromwell had a wart on his face! I was reading about it last night. And they say that he actually came here to Misty Longings, all those years ago, when the nation was at war with itself!’

The Kid raised her eyebrows in interest. The history of this place did hold a fascination for her.

‘The trouble is – ‘ said Inky, suddenly deflated.

The Kid looked at him enquiringly. He looked so sad, and she wished him to speak his disquiet; to name the pain etched across his pale face.

‘Well, the trouble is,’ he said – ‘when I listen to what people say, I sometimes think that nothing’s changed; that in Misty Longings, we are still at war with ourselves.’

And with that, Inky put his thumb in his mouth, and fell fast asleep; while the Kid pondered these things in the firelight.

*

The Kid made her way through the Abbey ruins, to the river’s edge and along to Monk’s Bridge. It wasn’t the original bridge of course, because that got swept away in the Great Flood of 1465. But it was the site of the original bridge, which was once crossed daily by the monks taking their honey to market. There had been a country fair in Misty Longings since records began.

The Kid stopped halfway over the bridge, and looked down into the dark water flowing beneath her. She had sometimes thought of joining it, in fatal swirling union. But less and less these days, and certainly not tonight; for tonight she was full of life, like a green shoot in spring. And who can stop a thrusting shoot?

She made her way to the well at the bottom of the High Street, where sometimes she saw the girl, who rocked forwards and backwards and asked about an army. She wasn’t here tonight. The Kid then started the walk up the Street to the hole: the hole she had found, and now felt so drawn to again.

What was it with this hole?

*

‘It was your perfume,’ said Lord Jo. ‘It goes before you and stays long after you have gone. As soon as I reached the staircase, I suspected.’

They were sitting in the kitchen. Lord Jo held a large glass of brandy, while Patricia sipped white wine.

‘So that’s how you knew it was me!’

‘That’s how I bloody knew.’

‘Well, I’m impressed, Lord Jo. I only use the faintest of sprays.’

‘The pong’s stronger than a cowherd, my dear – if a little less covered in shit.’

This wasn’t quite the convivial drink Patricia had anticipated. Earlier in the day, she had imagined casual conversation about holidays on Greek islands, or interested chat about the new art gallery in Lesser Needing. But compared to half an hour ago, this was pretty much like heaven.

‘And the rolling pin?’ asked Patricia. ‘Did you really need that?’

‘Who knows what state you were in – or who you were with? That was a consideration: did you have a partner in crime?’

‘But there was no crime!’

‘Really?’

‘Really!’

‘Because even now you’ve told me your story, Patricia, the words ‘tosh’ and ‘load of’, still rather hang in the air – if you know what I mean? Do you know what I mean?’

‘No, I don’t know what you mean!’

‘Well, put it like this – in my world, it’s not that easy to end up in someone’s bedroom by mistake.’

‘Well, you must believe that it was entirely by mistake!’

What was Lord Jo suggesting?! Patricia was mortified.

‘Really?’ asked Lord Jo.

‘Really!’ replied Patricia.

‘Not according to Mrs Pump.’

‘Mrs Pump? I don’t understand.’

‘More wine? Because I certainly need some more brandy.’

*

David had been drawn outside by the cat’s loud ‘meeoow!’ – such a plaintive and demanding cry. He put down The Final Scream, dodged the puddles on the café floor and stepped outside. Wearing only t-shirt, shorts and slippers, he wandered up the High Street until he reached the hole. There he stopped. It was too dark to see into, but from the abyss appeared two cat’s eyes, and a screeching complaint.

‘Oh dear,’ thought David. ‘A cat has fallen in. Not good for my present position concerning the hole.’

He was a member of the pro-hole lobby. But even he had to recognize that this was the hole’s second victim in just 24 hours, which was not a good statistic. It may have traffic calming tendencies; but it didn’t seem to be calming anyone else! And if he wasn’t very much mistaken, the second victim was none other than Azure – the many-homed cat of Misty Longings. Sure, she belonged to Dr Hafiz, but really, she belonged to the village. She often visited the café when the cans of tuna were opened.

‘How does that cat know when you make the sandwiches?’ Rex had once asked. ‘Strange – because she never comes to me when I make mine.’

It wasn’t strange at all. Rex’s sandwiches were widely regarded as dry and very weak on filling; and apparently the cat community concurred.

*

Meanwhile, speaking of Rex, we find him tonight with some blue and red magic markers in his hand. ‘It is important that the church embraces the latest technology,’ he said to himself.

And yes, he was working late because there’s nothing ‘nine to five’ about a priest’s job. Well, of course, it isn’t a job; it’s a ‘calling’. And only the very committed need apply! ‘Rust never sleeps, and nor does a vicar!’ he sometimes said to himself, as he scribbled away.

He was busy with the sign for next Saturday’s Winter’s Fayre:

Tombola, plants and gifts
Raffle
And much, much more!

He did hesitate slightly over the final line. He remembered with some discomfort a conversation with Lord Jo, about last year’s sign – which had been exactly the same.

‘So where’s this ‘much, much more’ Vicar?’ Lord Jo had asked him, when they bumped into each other at the event.

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘The Winter Fayre. It’s not what it says on the can.’

‘You’ve lost me, Lord Jo!’

‘Well, I can see the tombola, plants, gifts and raffle – but I don’t see anything else.’

‘Ahh!’

‘So I was just wondering about the ‘much much more’ you talk about on the sign. Get my drift? From where I’m standing, I can’t see any more at all.’

It had all been rather embarrassing, and certainly Rex did not wish for a repeat of that conversation. Who would? But then again, would anyone come to the Fayre if he simply told the truth? No one wishes to be deceitful, and particularly not the religious who can have no truck with the low cunning of much modern advertising. But you couldn’t just put ‘tombola, plants, gifts and a raffle’ on the sign; not if you wanted a crowd. If you wanted a crowd, you had to suggest the possibility of something more; something teasing, tempting and rather wonderful – even if it didn’t exist.

So once again, Rex put ‘and much much more!’ on the sign. Only this time, he had an ace up his sleeve. If anyone questioned him, he would point them to the tea urn. ‘There’s tea as well!’ he would say. ‘Did you not notice that? Yes, there’s tea! And toilets! Did the toilets also escape your gaze?’

Tea and toilets were certainly ‘much, much more’! Rex’s revenge – and he looked forward to it.

In fact, he should have mentioned the tea and toilets to Lord Jo last year.

‘I always think of the best lines after the moment has passed,’ he mused wryly.

*

Just then, the vicarage doorbell rang, and Rex was amazed to see Mrs Post standing there; and in something of a state. Was that sick down the front of her cardigan? It certainly smelt somewhat odiferous!

‘This is not as it looks, Father,’ she said, in a rather slurred manner. ‘I’ve just been overworking.’

She then fell forward onto the hallway floor.

Rex tried to catch her, but failed. It was, after all, some while since he’d played rugby for the under-13’s, when sharp reflexes and regular physical contact were very much the order of the day. His early growth spurt had made him the tallest in the team and those were undoubtedly his finest days; his halcyon days, as they say.

‘Big Rex!’ they called him back then.

By fifteen, however, he had become quite short, and never recovered the name, apart from in jest.

So yes, as I say, he failed to catch Mrs Post, who fell like a dead soldier onto the worn out carpet of the vicarage hallway.

‘No two days the same!’ thought Rex, as he contemplated the prostrate body of the village postmistress at his feet at midnight.

*

At last! Billy had found both the kettle and the fridge. Perfect! And there was some interesting food inside. He couldn’t turn on the lights, obviously, but it didn’t matter. He’d finally located what he needed, and the good thing was that no one would ever find him here.

Unless, of course, he flipped, at some incredibly inappropriate moment.

Ooops! Let’s hope not!

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