The first sight that greeted Pluto’s dog walkers when they reached the Square was a jolly bunch of men sitting on the benches outside the Gun. Jeff was the first to spot Lou and Rachel, and sent up a cheer at their approach. “Come on over for a drink, ladies; they’re on the house! Has your snotty friend gone back to London yet, Rachel?”
Lou and Rachel looked at each other and giggled like a pair of schoolgirls. Jenny decided that someone needed to act in a responsible manner under the circumstances. “Uncle Mark has just arrested him for twocking, no insurance and non-payment of fines and congestion charges. The BMW is going to the pound, and will need to be recovered by the owner. Stop giggling Mum, and you, Auntie Rachel. You should know better!”
“Sorry Jenny. You shouldn’t have made the comment about Uncle Mark though.”
“That’s okay Lou,” said Jeff grinning. “Most of the Village knew that Mark was a copper anyway. Apart from the Dick-Head family that is. Some of the boys have been helping Mark out with a bit of snooping concerning the comings and goings at the Quayside. What will you have? That includes you girls as well, but soft drinks and crisps only. I don’t want to lose my licence.”
“Two draught ciders please Jeff?”
“Water for Pluto too? Probably got a few dog biscuits knocking around.”
“I’ll come in and give you a hand Jeff.” said Lou, following him into the pub.
“Sorry to hear about Pete, Lou.” said Jeff as he started to pour the drinks. “He may have gone to the bad but he was still a part of the Village. If it’s okay, we’d like to make a donation to the funeral. Rachel’s ex has already made a sizeable contribution, but there’s more coming in.”
Lou gulped and had to turn away. She had been trying so hard to push Pete’s death to the back of her mind, but the thought of a funeral and how to pay for it made it all seem real. Jeff came round the bar and put a comforting arm around her shoulders. “I know it’s a shock Lou, but you have a lot of friends here and we know that since Pete left, you have worked like a trojan to give your girls all that they need. You make the world’s best cupcakes too!”
Lou laughed. “I’ll pop over to the shop; I’ve got stock in the fridge for tomorrow, and I’d far rather share it with you lot than the tourists.”
Having taken all drinks outside and given Pluto his reward, Lou took Sarah and Sally over to the tea shop. Jeff sat down next to Rachel, who was halfway down her pint of cider already. “She’s worried about organising and paying for Pete’s funeral; bad enough that he pushed off and left them, but having to sort out his funeral is a double blow. I’ve said that we’ve already raised some money from your ex, but that’s only a drop in the ocean.”
“Mark and I talked about it this afternoon,” said Rachel reassuringly. “He will sort out the police side of things; there will have to be a post mortem because of all the injuries, but I’ll see to the practical stuff. Lou is the only family I have, even if we aren’t actually related, and she’s been there even more for me, since Sam and I split up. I’m in the fortunate situation of having a good salary, low overheads, and dead relatives who left me very well off. Mark has refused to let me pay rent all this time, and I’ve made some extra money out of the articles I’ve written. I’ve been asked to write a book about the Village, so any tales you have to tell will be very welcome. I was going to rent out my flat in London, but … well I might be making the move permanent, so selling it would be more sensible really.”
“You’re definitely staying then? Sammy boy didn’t persuade you to go back to London?”
Rachel laughed and shook her head. “Jenny looked out of the window and said there was a grumpy old man outside. I looked at Sam with different eyes at that moment, and she was right. A very unpleasant person who expects everyone to do as he says. I don’t want that kind of person in my life any more. Despite falling into a prickle bush and being threatened by Damaris’s little brothers, I’ve been very happy here, happy in the same way that Lou and I were when we were younger.”
“And what about our Mark?”
“Time will tell, but he’s everything that Sam isn’t. He’s also been an extremely good friend.”
“Best way to start off I always say. Here’s our Lou with a load of cakes and scones.”
Lou and the girls put the trays of food on the tables, and stood back watching them disappear rapidly. Rachel’s phone rang and she got up and walked a few yards further up the Square where it was quieter. It was Mark, and though the news he gave was a little disappointing, he had a second piece of news that was more promising. She told him where they were, and what Jeff had said about the funeral and the reluctant fundraising courtesy of Sam.
Rachel went back to spread her news. “It seems that the car wasn’t stolen after all; Adele ‘forgot’ that she had lent it to Sam, she has also settled her parking fees and congestion charges. The car is still impounded however because Sam wasn’t insured to drive it. Adele’s daddy will be sending a fully insured member of staff to get it released. Sam has been fined and got points on his licence, but was very kindly taken to the train station so that he can get back swiftly to Adele’s loving arms.”
“And how does that make you feel, our Rachel?” asked Jeff.
“Relieved to see the back of him, and I can’t help wondering if he’s realised just how big his bald patch is now? The other piece of news came from my editor Tony. Mark spoke to him about Sam’s predicament, and he said that Sam could sort his own messes out but that he needed some copy about the incident from me, and as soon as possible. I’d better make tracks and get my laptop booted up. Shall I take Pluto girls, or do you want him for a bit longer?”
“Please leave him with us for a bit, Auntie Rachel? We’ll bring him home after tea.”
Rachel said her goodbyes and set off home, smiling at the bunch of happy munchers and drinkers. She was just getting her front door key out when she was aware of a noise behind her. Turning around she saw the two D-H boys who had been hiding in the bushes. One was holding a cricket bat, and the other was brandishing a riding crop. What Rachel could also see was Mrs Kneller, peering over her garden fence and making telephone signs with one hand.
“Not so stroppy now that you haven’t got your dog to protect you.” said the twin with the cricket bat. “You’ve upset our sister and got us banned from the village. We aren’t going to let you get away with that. We’ll make sure that when you’ve recovered from the thrashing we’re going to give you, you’ll go back to London and never come here again.”
Rachel assumed that Mrs Kneller had phoned for help but in the meantime, she surreptitiously felt in her pocket. Jenny had returned the rape alarm and very kindly put the new batteries in it. She felt that stalling for time just a little bit longer might give the cavalry a chance to arrive. “Why is your sister upset? She was never engaged to Mark.”
“Yes, she was! He came to our house for dinner once, and he took her out a couple of times, and besides, our Mother said that they were engaged. Damaris has been and had some work done on her face so that Mark would fancy her again, but it went wrong and now she can’t leave the house. That’s your fault and you’re going to pay. When we’ve finished with you, Mark won’t want to look at you ever again.”
The cricket bat wielding twin took a menacing step closer, and Rachel pressed the button on the rape alarm. The ear-splitting noise made them both jump back, although they had both heard it before. At the same time Mrs Kneller popped up from over the garden fence and directed her garden hose at them both. Rachel took the opportunity to move to the safety of the front porch, and as she did, Jeff’s pickup roared into the driveway, loaded up with his brother and several other fishermen, all carrying high-powered water pistols that they aimed at the boys. From the horrendous smell, the liquid in the pistols had come from the water tanks near the Quayside, redolent of old fish and mouldy seaweed. Not long after after the water battle commenced, a police car screeched to a halt in the driveway, and the skirmish ended with the D-H boys cowering by the bushes, wet and extremely smelly. Not surprisingly, he beat policeman was reluctant to have them in his car, and called for a van to collect them.
“Are you alright Miss?” he asked Rachel, seeing the cricket bat and riding crop on the floor.
“Thanks to Mrs Kneller and the lads, these boys didn’t have a chance to attack me, but they made it quite clear that they intended to give me a beating with those weapons. I’m quite happy to give a statement.” said Rachel.
“And me.” said Mrs Kneller. “I saw them being dropped off outside by their mother. You might find her parked down the road waiting for them so that she could dispose of the evidence. That makes her an accessory before the fact, doesn’t it?”
The policeman forced a smile and took out his notebook.
Jeff and the lads returned to the square, giving Mrs Kneller the opportunity to hose the driveway down and get rid of the smell of elderly fish. “I’m not wasting good water on those two,” she said. “I expect you’ll have to put them in those white Noddy suits when you get them to the station. I wouldn’t put it past them to have knives or something in their pockets as well. You’d better frisk them too!”
When the police van arrived, the boys were reluctantly patted down, and as Mrs Kneller suspected, they were both carrying Swiss army knives. Rachel shuddered, thinking what damage they could have done her, and astounded that their mother had colluded with them in such an evil pursuit. All because of Damaris and her fantasies about Mark. The all-seeing Mrs Kneller put her hose away and came round the fence. “Come on, my lovely. We need to get you inside and away from all this.”
“Oh lord! I almost forget. I need to set up my laptop and send some copy up to London before Sam gets back.”
“You get in the kitchen and do your writing; I’ll get you a drink.” She turned to the police constable. “You don’t need us for now do you? Come round later on for the statements. I’ve got a nice fruitcake just out of the oven.”
By the time Mrs Kneller had poured Rachel a generous glass of sherry, the laptop was up and being frenetically typed upon as the day’s events tumbled out onto the keyboard.