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Could it be the cheese?

CHAPTER 18

In the last episode, we described some conversations and incidents at the Winter Fayre. Mrs Post and Alky discussed tourists; and we heard of Rex’s personal fears surrounding attendance at the event. Mr Johnson entertained the ladies, and God bless the Women’s Guild, the Scouts and the police for turning up! And of course Patricia blushed.

David was always on the door at the Winter Fayre. It suited him well, saving him from long conversations inside. But even on the door, he couldn’t completely escape human interaction:

‘Is it worth it?’ asked a father, when asked for the 30 pence entry fee.

Is it worth it? David thought it a stupid question.

‘It’s not really a question I can answer,’ he replied.

‘Well, is there someone here who can answer it?’ said the father, playing a little to his young son. ‘Some one better qualified, perhaps.’

‘There’s no one here who can answer it.’

‘It’s a fairly simple question!’

‘Not even Buddha could answer it.’

‘Really? I didn’t realise my own profundity,’ said the father, with some irony.

‘Oh, it wasn’t profound,’ said David. ‘As I said, it’s merely a question that only you can answer. You are your world. No one else can tell you whether or not, something is worth it.’

‘You sad, depressed and angry little man.’

‘You may be right, but there are benefits in darkness.’

‘I wouldn’t hold your self up as an advertisement. Take your bloody 30 pence. I just hope its better than last year.’

He dropped the money in the tin.

‘It’s 30 pence for each member of the family,’ said David.

The father raised his eye brows, and put a further 60 pence in the tin.

‘It’s for a good cause,’ said David.

‘My only good cause today is my children! Let’s just hope they enjoy it! Come on, guys. Let’s leave Mr Happy to darkness.’

He strode off inside the church.

David looked across the graves towards the High Street: ‘Most people wouldn’t think it worth sitting by a hole in the road, at midnight. But it can be. It just depends on which hole, and which midnight.’

‘A witch at midnight?’ said Mrs Pump, catching only the last few words of David’s grave yard reflections. ‘The Winter Fayre is looking up all of a sudden!’

*

‘The toilets are good this year,’ said Lord Jo.

‘Oh, well, I’m very glad,’ said Rex. ‘I cleaned them myself!’

‘Yep. A lot of people think they’re the highlight of the whole event,’ said Lord Jo, and it was at this point that Rex realised he was being sarcastic. The idea that the toilets were the highlight was a cruel jibe at the event organiser.

‘And much, much more, you promised on the poster,’ continued Lord Jo.

Rex was at least ready for this: ‘I didn’t mention the tea stall,’ said Rex. ‘The teas are doing good business in Mrs Pump’s capable hands.’

‘No longer.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘The tea stall has closed down.’

A look across the church confirmed this to be true, which was disappointing.

‘The tea urn blew a fuse, and Mrs Pump called time on refreshments.’

‘All refreshments?’

‘All refreshments.’

‘Even the squash?’

‘Even the squash.’

‘She could have continued with the squash,’ said Rex, a little shaken. ‘She could have continued with the tea as well. What’s wrong with a kettle? It doesn’t have to be an urn.’

‘Perhaps you better speak with her,’ said Lord Jo, well knowing that Rex wouldn’t. He didn’t speak with anyone in that ‘look, just what do you think you are doing?!’ sort of manner. And particularly not to Mrs Pump.

‘So now the refreshments have gone, what else is there, eh?’ asked Lord Jo in a rather carping tone. Would he let nothing rest?

Rex was just sensing another defeat when two local children ran up to him, and tugged impetuously at his jumper.

‘Mr Priest Dog Reverend Collar! It’s fantastic!’

‘Is it?’ said Rex, trying to quell his surprise.

‘Yes. It’s fantasmagoria!’

‘Well, I’m very pleased.’

‘Inky is doing bicycle races round the graveyard, and it’s utterly and completely brilliant!’

‘Ah, the bike races!’ said Rex, ‘I’m so glad you’re enjoying them!’

Rex knew nothing about any bike races, but seized the moment: ‘Yes, we wanted more things for the kids this year, and felt Inky was just the man. You know what he’s like with bikes! You run along now, young children, and have a lovely time!’

‘Oh we will, Mr Church Tower! We will!’

Rex waved them on their happy way, and then turned to Lord Jo: ‘You were saying?’ he asked.

But Rex’s moment of triumph was sadly short lived, for at that very moment, Lord Jo began to turn pale and double up in pain: ‘I trust you’ve considered Health and Sa – aggghhh!’ he gasped, as he collapsed on the floor.

Rex watched Lord Jo begin to writhe in pain. And Rex was sinfully pleased:
‘About time too!

*

Patricia was quickly on the scene. She wasn’t a pathologist, but then Lord Jo wasn’t yet a corpse, and she had been a nurse before her ill-fated time in publishing. ‘Let me through,’ she said. And her verdict? She didn’t like what she now saw. Lord Jo was rolling around on the church floor, clutching his stomach, and clearly in some agony. ‘Men do make a fuss of even the slightest pain,’ she thought to herself, ‘but this looks rather more serious.’

‘We need to call an ambulance!’ she said to Rex. ‘His appendix has burst.’

‘His appendix??’ asked Rex.

‘He needs quick hospitalisation.’ It was a quick and decisive diagnosis, in an otherwise confused situation.

‘An ambulance may take some while!’ said Mrs Pump who had now joined them. ‘It will need to come from the Cottage hospital at Lesser Needing.’

‘That hospital was closed down last week,’ said Jane, very aware that Lord Jo had eaten at least two of the Scout’s muffins.

‘Closed down last week? This does not bode well,’ said Rex.

Dr Hafiz then appeared on the scene, breaking through the gathering circle of concerned faces. He was quickly on his knees, beside the writhing body, asking Lord Jo where it hurt.

‘F***ing everywhere!’ he replied.

‘You must just let me feel your chest,’ said Dr Hafiz firmly.

Lord Jo was past objection, and soon the doctor’s hands pressed both tenderly and hard, seeking the sore places, and listening for the patient’s reaction. He was quickly on his feet. ‘Mr Johnson. You must get this man to a hospital in the coach. If I am not very much mistaken, he is suffering from severe food poisoning.’

Patricia volunteered to put her nursing skills to good use, and travel with him, and within five minutes, Mr Johnson, Lord Jo and Patricia were speeding westwards as fast as the winding lanes allowed. Certainly Patricia had never before appreciated what a good driver Mr Johnson was.

He wasn’t just a funny man, Mr Johnson.

*

‘Any clues as to what might have caused it, Dr Hafiz?’ asked Jane.

‘There was a strong smell of cheese on his breath. Has there been any cheese available at the Fayre?’

‘There was some cheese in the porch,’ said Cadbury, jumping out of the gathered circle in excitement, and putting up hr hand, like she used to in class. ‘I remember, because Lord Jo said he loved cheese and went and ate most of it.’

‘Really?’ said Dr Hafiz. ‘Is the cheese still there?’

Two of the Lesser Needing ladies went to check. They had their own cars and were competent in such matters. But the news they brought was not good – there was no cheese in the porch; and neither was there any trace of it ever having been so. No plate, no crumbs. Just Cadbury’s word.

‘We need to find out who placed it there,’ said Dr Hafiz.

‘If it ever was there,’ said one of the Lesser Needing ladies, a little unimpressed by Cadbury.

‘Oh, we can be quite sure it was there, as the girl tells us. No one scans the horizon like Cadbury. The question is: who placed it there, and who removed it? Much light will emanate from that discovery.’

And then the strangest thing happened; something never forgotten in the history of Misty Longings.

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