By Mary Cargill
Copyright 2000 Mary Cargill
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SPRING IS COMING
Imagine, if you will, a pretty little hamlet along the coast. A place where the daily life of the inhabitants is intermingled with summer visitors, of which there are many.
One such place is Bryde's Bay, nestling amongst gentle drumlins, its sandy beaches stretching for some two miles, offering exhilarating walks, with views across the sea to distant landfalls. Families enjoy coming to the holiday park at Gull Creek, with its many facilities and safe bathing being added attractions, not to mention the heated outdoor swimming pool at the centre of Bryde's Bay, beside the local cafe, the owner of which is a Mrs. Cherry Bunn, who was born in the village, and, apart from a few years spent overseas when her late husband, Eyst, was posted to India, has lived out her life here. Mrs. Bunn employs some casual help during the high season when the cafe does a roaring trade, but she is well able to manage on her own in the wintertime, as her customers consist mainly of the local populace, and a few day trippers.
At the eastern end of the village stands "NATDUNROMINYET", a luxurious coastal residence, which is approached by a tree lined driveway, running for some two hundred yards from the main road, which is called Douglas Street. This is the home of Madge Conda, whose ship came in quite recently, after a long, hardworking life in the city, where she and her sister, Sadie Smart, were brought up in the "tight end", overshadowed by the gantries of the local shipyard. Madge was living alone at present, since her husband - "Big" Shughie - was engaged in government service. Likewise, Sadie lived a few miles away in a little fishing village called Roller Cove, four miles north of Lesser Shambles. Great Shambles was three miles west of Bryde's Bay, and offered a wider selection of shops for the discerning buyer.
Madge and Sadie often went to the shopping centre in Great Shambles, travelling there in the comfort of Madge's new limousine, acquired lately on the strength of Shughie's last job.
One fine spring day, Madge locked her front door and got into her car, switched on the ignition, and the engine purred like a pussycat. ""These Jugulars are jist smashin'' thought Madge to herself. She drove down to Douglas Street and turned left. Easing her way through the village, she passed the 'Fly-by-Night' travel agency, next to which stood the Ex-Services club, where she saw the secretary, Colonel Victor E. March,(retired) , opening the door, and she gave him a friendly wave. The colonel doffed his hat to Madge, and hoped that she would not stop for her customary chat. "Really!" he thought, "that lady can be quite overbearing!"
Madge noticed the proprietors of the 'Pondicherry Emporium', the Khari brothers, Harry and Cashun, setting out their vegetable display on the stands outside the door.
"No sign of Sergeant Sandy Haire about the a station," she noted, "prabably over at Cherry's fer his mornin' tea," she said aloud, to no-one in particular.
By now, she had passed Knowe Way, a small housing estate, and had almost reached the far end of the village, where the local Parish Church - St. Bird-In-The-Hand stood. The Rev. Counter and his wife Melamine - a highly polished lady in the social graces - were out in the vicarage garden, cutting the grass and having a general tidy up after the winter storms. Madge blew the horn as she passed, and the Counters waved to her, sighing with relief when they saw her disappear around the corner.
Madge was on the by-pass by now, heading for the shops, where she would spend some time buying clothes, shoes and food, before returning for lunch. She thought that she would ring Sadie in the afternoon, and invite her over for tea.
Meanwhile, back in the village, Cherry was clearing up the tables after morning coffee. She looked out of the kitchen window as she switched on the dishwasher, and noticed Ardis Nails, the local builder, loading up his van with the necessary equipment required for a job which he was about to undertake. He looked up at the blue sky, then waved goodbye to his wife Ameron, and set off towards Lesser Shambles.
Cherry went through to the dining room and wiped the tables with the damp cloth which she was carrying. "Time to set up for lunch", she thought, as she glanced at the clock over the doorway. She could see most of the establishments in Douglas Street. Penny Black was standing at the door of her post office, enjoying the fresh air after an unusually busy morning. Old Mrs. Mole approached the pillar box, and nodded to Penny.
"Have I missed the post?" she enquired.
"Not at all," replied Penny, "Arnie Letters should be along any minute now for the noon collection."
Mrs. Mole, one time rector's glebe warden, and long time retired agent of MI 5, popped the mail into the box, and tottered on her way, almost colliding with Ivor Vacancy, manager of the Regal Hotel, who was leaving the police station, having collected an application form for the renewal of the hotel's entertainment's licence.
Cherry turned to look towards Great Shambles, and saw Philip N. Service attending to a customer at his garage. He waved to a young lady who happened to be passing on her bicycle. It was Sian Tung, returning from her stint at the nursery school. Sian, who had a Welsh mother and an Asian father, was very popular in Bryde's Bay. When her parents had returned to the Far East on business, Sian had decided to stay behind, as she liked village life, and the various activities which were well supported by the locals and visitors alike. She turned into the cafe, propped her bike against the wall, and removed a roll of paper from her saddlebag before entering the building.
"Hello Cherry. Could I have a cup of coffee and a salad roll please?"
Cherry poured the coffee and handed it to Sian. "That's a grand day for cycling Sian. It's good to see Spring on the way," she said as she brought Sian her salad roll.
"It sure is," replied Sian. "I say, Cherry, would it be all right to put this poster on your door?"
Sian unrolled the paper and showed it to Cherry. It read:
LESSER SHAMBLES OPERATIC SOCIETY
FEATURING SAM AND JANET EVENING
IN THE REHEARSAL ROOMS
FRIDAY 29th APRIL, 7-45 p.m.
"Go ahead and put it up," said Cherry, after she had read it. "I might go to it myself. Maybe we could arrange a group booking?"
"Good idea," enthused Sian. "Janet leaves her little boy Sonny at the nursery, so I could buy the tickets from her, when I know how many are going."
She put the poster on display at the door, and bade farewell to Cherry. "See you soon. I must be on my way," and mounting her bicycle, she headed home.
"Harry saw Sian passing the shop, and said to his brother, "Ees a very nice girl that Sian, what? I wonder she is not being snapped up before now, I'm telling you, Cashun"
Cashun, slicing some salami, nodded. "Oh yes, Harry. These Paddys are very slow on the uptake!" He wrapped the salami in a sheet of cellophane, and handed it to his customer, who happened to be Melamine Counter.
"Will that be all please, dear lady, or would his Reverence like a little Mango chutney to set off his lunch?"
"No thank you, Mr. Khari," came the rather nasal reply, "we are just having a little picnic lunch in the garden whilst we trim the borders."
Cashun bowed politely and Harry held the door open. Melamine nodded in gratitude as she left the shop. She unlocked the door of her trusty little Morris Minor and got in. With a great crashing of gears, and one or two 'kangaroo' leaps, she was off to the vicarage, and lunch.
"Oh my goodness me!" exclaimed Harry, "I expected to see the gearbox lying on the road outside our shop."
He locked the door, put up the 'Closed for Lunch' sign, and made his way to their living quarters upstairs for a quick snack and a rest.
She locked the school door, and the friends made their way across the playground to the schoolhouse. Derry Herd, the farmer who lived nearby, was out on his tractor, ploughing the top field. He gave the teachers a cheery wave which they returned. Gulls and crows wheeled above the tractor, hoping that Derry would turn up a tasty morsel for them.
Teenie made the tea while Rael checked the mail which Arnie had dropped in at lunch time.
"Nothing but rubbish, and an invitation to take out a year's subscription to the Racing Post!" fumed Rael. "Ah well, it will be useful as fire lighters."
"Tea is ready," called Teenie from the kitchen, "I'll take the tray out to the garden."
"Just coming dear," answered the headmistress as she slipped on her stout gardening shoes, more for comfort than anything else.
The pair of them sat on the garden seat, sipping their tea.
"Ah, that's better," murmured Teenie. "Oh look Rael, Willie Doitt must have been here. He has hoed the flower beds. I say! Don't the daffies look lovely?"
"Perfect. A sure sign of Spring. Have you finished your tea yet? I think I'll go back indoors and put a match to the fire, then I will mark the test papers, and we can sit with our feet up until supper time."
Next day dawned bright and clear. Rael and Teenie ate breakfast, and at twenty to nine, crossed to the school, The children were arriving with books and toys as instructed. Rael called to one of the older girls - "Sally Rodd, you may ring the bell."
After assembly, the pupils left their possessions at the back of the classroom and sat down at their desks.
"Right now, I want you all to clear out your desks, and throw any waste paper into the baskets," said Rael.
Whilst the children were thus occupied, the teachers spent the early part of the morning tidying their respective cupboards, disposing of old test papers and filled up exercise books. Wastepaper baskets were soon overflowing, and a couple of boys were dispatched to empty them into the dustbins outside.
"DON'T spill the contents, or else you will have to sweep the whole playground," boomed Rael to the disappearing backs.
The children worked hard, and earned themselves extra playtime. When they had gone outside, Teenie went to make coffee. She greeted Mrs. Caters, the school cook, as she prepared dinner.
"Lovely day, Miss Chance. Hope it lasts for the holiday."
Teenie's reply was lost to the lady as she upturned a large quantity of potatoes into the peeling machine.
During the time before lunch, the children played with the items which they had brought. Mock battles were fought between Power Rangers and Action Men. Some of the older children had brought board games, and the infants played with cars, trucks and dolls. At one o'clock, they all trooped into the dining room. Mrs. Caters served their meal which they all enjoyed. There wasn't a scrap sent back to the kitchen.
After lunch, the Rev. Counter called to wish all the children a happy holiday. He told them the Easter story, and presented each child with a chocolate egg. Teenie could see that most of the mothers had arrived at the gates, so, telling them all to be good, she let them go. The older children followed soon after, and within ten minutes, you could have heard a pin drop! The holidays had started.
THE COLONEL'S FEATHERS ARE RUFFLED.
Victor E. March, colonel, retired, unlocked the door of the ex-services club in Douglas Street, and entered the premises. Not wanting to be disturbed, he carefully locked the door again, and went down the hallway to his office. He had been secretary of the club for more years than he cared to remember, and enjoyed being at the centre of things, although today, he had to ring the chairman and treasurer to report that funds were missing from the members' bar. He hung up his coat, sat down at his desk and lifted the telephone. Having dialled the number of the chairman - Rear Admiral Perry Scope - he waited for a reply.
"Good morning Perry, March here. I say, do you think you could come down to the club sometime soon? I'm going to ring Kite to try and get him to come too."
"Certainly old boy. What seems to be the trouble?"
"Tell you when you get here. Not the sort of thing to discuss over the old blower y'know."
"Right then, see you soon."
Victor rang Flying Officer Kite, and he too said that he would come down straight away.
Twenty minutes later, the three office bearers were sitting in the little room.
"Well Victor, what is so important that you had to bring us here so quickly?"
"Dashed bad business Perry. Funds are missing," replied Victor. "I'd like to get something sorted out before the Easter Monday bash."
Perry turned to Kite. "How much is missing, Birdie?"
"About three hundred pounds," answered the treasurer.
There was a sharp intake of breath from Perry. "Trembling torpedoes!" he exclaimed, "do you think we should summon Sandy?"
"Wouldn't be a bad idea," said Kite, "what do you say Victor?"
"I say that we should call the sergeant right away," replied the colonel, his waxed moustache twitching. "I have my suspicions, but I won't say anything just yet."
He picked up the phone again, and rang the barracks. Constable Ringo Steele answered.
"Colonel March here. Is the sergeant available please?"
"Right sir, I'll just get him for you now."
Sandy Haire came on the line. "Hello Victor. What can I do for you?"
"Any possibility of you coming down to the club right away?"
"I could do that all right," said Sandy. "I'll be along in a few minutes."
Sandy told Ringo where he was going, and left the station which was less than a hundred yards from the club. Birdie let him in and took him to the office. Perry invited him to take a seat, and the policeman was told about the missing money.
Sandy rubbed his chin for a few moments, then put forward his suggestion.
"Gentlemen," he began, "I think that this is a job for CID. I'll get detective-inspector Ian Terrogator along this afternoon. He'll probably take a few dabs and have a general look-see."
"Very well," said Perry, "I'm sure that one of us will be able to attend this afternoon and give the detective all the help we can."
The others nodded their agreement as Sandy rose from his chair, bid them goodbye and took his leave.
"Right," said Victor, "no need for all of us to be here for the preliminaries. I have nothing planned for the afternoon, so I can slip over to Cherry's for lunch, and be back here for, say, two o'clock. I'll inform you both of any further developments."
"Good show March," said Perry. "I'd best be off now. Steffi will have lunch ready as she has to attend one of her confounded committee meetings later on." He nodded to the two gentlemen as he got into his car and drove off.
"What a mess," declared Birdie. "Never knew anything like this to happen since I first became a member."
!Indeed," agreed Victor. "Let us hope that the DI gets the case cleared up quickly."
He locked the door, and went over to the cafe. Whilst he was eating lunch, he noticed two men hanging about the car park. One was Slippy Skinner, who had never worked in his life, and was reckoned to be the ring leader of a gang of local petty crooks. The other one was Evan Elpus, who lived locally. He was an easily led man, who had fallen in to bad company. He had been given many chances by the people of Bryde's Bay, who employed him at different times, in the hope that he would reform, but the result was always the same. Articles would go missing, only to turn up in Evan's small lean-to at the back of his house. His wife, Annie Wyn, all credit to her, had stuck by him over the years. She hadn't a clue about housekeeping or cookery, and their large family - eleven in all - were often seen running about without shoes, and wearing clothes which were only fit for the bin. Any money which Evan obtained - legally or otherwise - would go on beer, cigarettes or horses, with the result that Annie would have to make do with whatever she could wheedle out of him. Her neighbours took pity on her, and handed her clothes for the children, which their own children had outgrown, and also made a bit extra at dinnertime to help feed the youngsters.
Victor looked at his watch. Time to go back to the club and await the arrival of the inspector. As he crossed Douglas Street, he saw the two boyos boarding the bus for Great Shambles. He didn't have long to wait. Ian Terrogator arrived with his assistant, detective constable Gus Tapo, who had been seconded to the local police from Interpol. Gus dusted the bar till for fingerprints, and had a general nosey around the place. Ian questioned Victor during this operation.
"Any strangers visited the club recently?"
"No. No strangers," replied Victor, "but those two boys Skinner and Elpus were here last week, and when I asked them about their validity as to service in the forces, they told me that they were part time soldiers."
"Humph!" grunted Ian, "full time pains in the neck, more like>"
By this time, Gus had finished snooping, and was rather pleased with himself.
"Several good dabs here sir. I'll take them along to the station and compare them with those on file."
"Jolly good work young man, what?" beamed Victor, as he showed the men out.
"Let's hope that we have a result for you soon," voiced Ian, as he and Gus headed back for the barracks.
"What a day!", thought Victor, as he tidied up the office and left the premises. It was half - past three, and he would be back at the club at eight o'clock for a meeting which had been arranged some time ago, to discuss the forthcoming dinner dance, otherwise known as 'Ladies' Night'. A dinner dance was the last thing that the colonel wanted with this debacle hanging over their heads.
He was deep in thought as he walked home. A tremendous screeching of brakes brought him quickly back to the present. He had just reached the entrance gates of 'NATDUNROMINYET' and looked round to see Madge returning from one of her prolonged shopping trips. He got such a scare that he had to steady himself against one of the eagle-topped pillars.
"Hy're ye Vic?" rasped Madge, "did I give yiz a wee fright luv?"
Victor's moustache positively quivered. He did not like anyone calling him 'Vic.' It made him feel like a jar of mentholatum. Dawn, his wife, always called him Victor.
"Well, dear lady, you did startle me."
"Sarry 'bout that. I thought I'd've made it through the gates afore yiz. Anyhar, ny that I've seen ye, d'ye think I cud have a coupla tickets fer the dinner dance fer our Sadie 'n' me?"
"Quite tickety poo," Madge. The tickets are on sale from tonight. I'll set two aside for you, and you can collect them when it suits."
"Great stuff Vic. C'mon ny, an' I'll run ye home. Ye luk fair whacked."
Madge opened the passenger door, and the colonel got in. The car was put into 'drive', and with a great shower of screenings, they set off for 'Rangoon,' the bungalow where Victor and Dawn had lived since his retirement from the First Foot and Mouth.
Victor closed the door behind him, took off his coat and collapsed into his recliner. Dawn came through from the kitchen where she was preparing their evening meal.
"Hello, my dear. Did you have a rough day? You look absolutely done in. Put your feet up and have a little nap. I'll be in the kitchen if you want me."
"Thank you my love. I'm so very tired I would certainly appreciate forty winks," he said, putting his head back on the cushion. In a few moments he was fast asleep.
THE HOLIDAY PARK
Over at Gull Creek, Howard and Hans Standing, brothers and business partners, were stocking up the site shop at the holiday park. They had spent the past few weeks preparing the caravans for the coming season. Howard was a qualified plumber, and Hans dealt with the electrical side of things. Together, they had refurbished the older vans, and along with some extra help, had cleaned all two hundred static holiday homes, cut the grass and made sure that all was ready for the holiday makers, due to start arriving on the following Saturday. The Khari brothers were responsible for deliveries of fresh food and bottled gas. The Standings retired to their office for a well-earned tea break.
"Make sure that the pay phone is working Howard. I'll make the tea while you check it out."
"Right Hans. I'll stick up a few numbers for the benefit of the campers. One for the Kharis, one for Husky Carter and one for Dr. Panacea at the health centre. He usually gets a few calls during the season."
"When we've finished out tea, I'll go over to see Clinker at the pier house. Maybe he'll come back with me and check the dinghies to make sure that they are seaworthy."
It was about an hour later when Hans turned into Jetty Road at Bryde's Bay. He could see Jerry Bilt standing at the slip way, examining his little rowboat which he used to take the yacht owners out to their craft, moored in the bay.
"Hello there Clinker," called Hans, "you're the very person I've come to see."
"And how can I help you?" asked Jerry, as he stood up and pushed his cap back.
Jerry was a retired merchant seaman, and had been pier master at Bryde's Bay for over twenty years. Anything he didn't know about boats wasn't worth knowing. He had made his own rowboat, and had one or two outboard motors for it, which he serviced during the winter.
"I was wondering if you could come over today and check out the dinghies for us," explained Hans.
"Surely I can, but it will be later on. I'm just waiting for my old pal Rocky Outcrops, the lighthouse keeper from Roller Cove. He said he would be here about one o'clock, so I could be with you about half past two, or three, if that's all right."
"That will be fine," smiled Hans, "see you then." He turned the van and went up the hill from the pier. Deciding to call at the garage, he turned right into Douglas Street. A few minutes later he arrived at the pumps, and waved to Philip, who was dealing with a customer inside the workshop. Ava Service, Philip's wife, took the money from Hans when he went to the kiosk to pay for the fuel!.
I suppose you are getting busy for the weekend," said Ava.
"Yes indeed. We are expecting quite a crowd over the Easter break."
Husky Carter, the local taxi man, pulled up at the pumps and helped himself to some petrol. He nodded to Hans and passed the time of day.
"Expectin' many visitors at your place Hans?"
"Oh aye, Husky. You'll probably be getting a few calls. Howard has put up your card beside the pay phone."
"Very good. Thanks very much pal. I have several advance bookings from your park already. Your regulars always ring early. They know that I am very busy at Easter. Matter of fact, I've just bought a minibus from Philip. Should do well, since the public transport isn't up to much at 'oliday times."
"Well done Husky. I'm sure you'll do well. I must put up a notice to that effect - maybe we could come to some arrangement about a private bus service from the park."
"Ah well, we'll have to see," said Husky as he paid Ava. "Must be on my way. Some of us 'as to work for a livin'. Old Mrs. Mole wants a run down to the 'ealth centre. She 'as an appointment with Nurse Jab, and she doesn't want to be late." He waved goodbye to his friends and left the garage.
"I must be on my way too," said Hans, walking towards his van. "I've some more jobs to do, then we'll be ready for all comers." He hurried back to base and went in search of Howard to tell him of the impending bus service. Howard listened intently and thought it would be a valuable asset, although he told Hans not to put up any notices about it until they had spoken to Husky and drawn up a rough time table. "By the way, I rang Dilly Help and asked her to start with us on Friday. She can give the place a final spit and polish, then work in the shop as and when needed until the end of the season."
Clinker arrived at a quarter to three and pronounced the dinghies seaworthy. "With care, these should last you all Summer, and you can give them a good old scrape and varnish next Winter."
Hans thanked him, and Jerry partook of the proffered glass of shandy. "Thanks boys. I'm sure I'll see you around." He started up his little motorbike and returned to Bryde's Bay.
True to form, Dilly arrived at nine o'clock on Friday and set to work mopping out the laundry room. "I s'pose these 'ere washing machines are all working," she muttered to Howard.
"Oh yes Dilly. I checked them all, and they are ready for use," replied Howard, feeling a bit peeved that Dilly should have to make such a remark.
"Right then. I'll go and see to the shop now."
"That's fine. We had a delivery of goods this morning. I've opened the cartons for you, so you can place the items wherever you think best, since it will be yourself who will be serving the folks."
Dilly emptied the mop bucket, and stood it in the corner ready for future use, then she made her way over to the shop. "Cor!" she exclaimed when she saw the mountain of cartons waiting to be emptied. "It'll take me hours to stack all this."
By five o'clock, Dilly had finished, and Hans had carried the empty boxes to the storeroom. "People are always looking for empty cartons Dilly," he remarked. "I've stacked them up in the back room if anyone asks you for one."
"Righto Hans. Well, I'll be off now. See you tomorrow."
"Goodnight Dilly, and thank you for all your hard work today."
"Don't thank me," replied Dilly, "thank the Lord that you have enough money to pay me!"
Hans chuckled as he locked up the shop and went over to the bungalow which he shared with his brother. - "A nice hot bath, a good meal, then a restful evening in front of the telly," he thought, "and I'll be as right as rain in the morning."
Ten o'clock next day, and the brothers were clearing up after breakfast when they saw the first car load coming up the drive.
"I'll go and see to them," said Howard, making for the front door. He arrived at the office at the same time as the car. The driver got out, brandishing his booking slip.
"Morning," he said, "I hope we're not too early, but the youngsters had us up at the crack of dawn, so we thought we'd just come on."
"That's all right," replied Howard, accepting the piece of paper, and referring to the large ledger on the desk. "Ah yes. Mr. Furstin and family, site A3. If you go on down the main drive, take the third on the left, and you'll find your van down near the beach. You should find all you need inside. Here is the key, and if you have any queries, don't hesitate to come up to the office. My brother or myself will be only too pleased to help. I hope you enjoy your holiday with us. Goodbye for now."
"Thank you," said Mr. Furstin, going back to his car . He headed off to find site A3.
Husky Carter arrived a short time later with a bus load of visitors whom he had picked up at the station in Great Shambles, by prior arrangement.
Hans and Howard were kept busy all morning, directing new arrivals to their respective sites. By five o'clock that afternoon, all the vans were full. The holiday park was well and truly open for the season.
Arnie Letters was digging over his garden at number ten, Knowe Way. Arnie was the local postman, and, since he finished early on a Saturday, he liked to come home and have lunch with his wife, Sakov, a Russian lady whose father had been in the KGB. After they had dined, Sakov would go to Great Shambles to meet her sister. Ima Rumone, and they would spend the afternoon going round the shops. This gave Arnie the chance to pursue his lifelong hobby of gardening. As a result of his labours, he won many prizes for his blooms and vegetables at the horticultural shows. St Bird-In-The-Hand would benefit at harvest time, and Arnie, being a kindly soul, would distribute his largesse amongst his neighbours, especially Anni Wyn Elpus, who now had twelve children, and not two pennies to rub together.
On this particular Saturday, Arnie's garden was alive with colour, the spring blooms making a magnificent show. He heard the gate opening, and looked round to see Derry Herd coming in.
"I've brought you a few bags of farmyard manure Arnie. Where do you want them?"
"Oh just put them over there where I am digging please Derry," replied Arnie. "Do you want a hand?"
"I'm all right thanks. I have the trailer out here in the lane way," Derry called over his shoulder.
Arnie went into the kitchen to make them both a cup of tea. They sat on the garden seat, surveying the scene.
"Great show of daffs there Arnie," remarked Derry.
"Aye. It seems to be a good year for them," replied Arnie, filling his pipe for a quick smoke before resuming his work.
"Must be off now. Thanks for the tea pal, see you soon," and with a wave, he was off, back to the farm at the top of the hill.
Arnie heard the telephone ringing, and hurried inside to answer it. Ivor Vacancy, manager of the Regal Hotel, was on the line. "I wonder if you could help me Arnie? Our usual florist has let us down, and I thought that perhaps you could supply a large bunch of flowers for the foyer?"
"That should be all right," said Arnie. "Send someone round in about twenty minutes, and I'll have them ready for you."
"Great! You've certainly saved my bacon. I won't forget you for this."
Arnie went back outside, and gathered a mixed bunch of daffs, irises and tulips. He wrapped some newspaper round the stems, and just as he was finished, young Sacha Torte, an apprentice pastry cook, came round to collect them.
"Mr. Vacancy said to give you this," she said, handing Arnie a twenty pound note, "and the flowers are lovely," she added.
"But this is far too much!" gasped Arnie.
"Well, Mrs. Gypsophila charges us far more than that, so just you keep it," said the young girl, as she closed the gate after her.
Arnie put the money into his pocket, and taking up his digging fork, started to spread the manure over the newly dug vegetable patch. By the time he was finished, it was almost five o'clock. "Sakov will be home soon," he thought. "I'd better go and get cleaned up. I'll take her to members' night at the club on the strength of the flowers," and he went upstairs for a hot bath.
He had dressed in a new pair of slacks and a crisp white shirt when he heard Sakov coming in.
"Hello darlink. Where are you?"
"I'm upstairs getting cleaned up, baboushka," he replied.
Sakov came into the bedroom to see him. "You look so 'andsome Arnie, but please, I am not your grandmother!"
"Just my little term of endearment my love," soothed Arnie, as he reached for his bottle of 'Eau de Charolais', a Christmas present of after shave from his sister-in-law." Right. I'm ready for an evening at the club with my charming wife," he said, as he combed his remaining hair into place.
"Ah. So we are goink out tonight?" quizzed Sakov.
"Yes indeed. Just a little treat, since I sold some flowers to the hotel this afternoon," Arnie explained, and he told her what had happened. "You get ready my dear, and I'll prepare the tea. We'll go along about half seven, to make sure of a good seat."
He went down to the kitchen and took some chops out of the fridge. When he had cooked their meal he called to his wife "tea is ready."
"Ant I am ready for it," she said, descending the stairs.
Arnie stood in the kitchen doorway and stared at his wife. "Oh," he gasped, "you look so beautiful. Is that a new dress?"
"Thank you dear, and yes it is. I bought it today. I thought you would like it," she smiled.
"Perfect. Perfect," he breathed, as he gave his wife a hug. "Now, sit down, and let's enjoy our meal.
Arnie proudly escorted Sakov to the club, and felt like a teenager on his first date. Victor E. March greeted them when they arrived.
"Good to see you, old chap, what?" barked the colonel. "Good evening Mrs. Letters. Nice to see you again."
Sakov nodded in acknowledgement. "Thank you Victor. It is good to see you too, and looking so well. Is Dawn with you tonight?"
"Oh yes. The old girl is about somewhere," beamed Victor. "Probably upstairs in the members' room. You'll see her when you go up," and he went along to his office with Perry Scope, who had just arrived with his wife, Steffi, who, on seeing the colonel beckon to her husband, followed the Letters upstairs.
At the top of the stairs, beside the cloakroom, the members' lounge ran the entire length of the building. Horseshoe-shaped seating was built in along the seaward side, with magnificent views across the bay. Each cubicle held ten people comfortably, twelve at a pinch. The centre of the floor served as a dancing area, the perimeter carpeted in a rich, red Paisley patterned style. A small dais stood at one end of the room, where visiting groups would play for the dancing. The bar was situated beside the entrance doors, and offered waiter service for the members and their guests. More seating was available along the side facing the windows, consisting of leather chairs arranged around small tables.
Sakov left her jacket in the cloakroom and rejoined Arnie. They entered the members' room and noticed Ardis waving to them. Quite a large crowd had gathered already, and the Letters sat with the Nails. They exchanged greetings. Sian was there with her fiancé, Will Tell. They were hoping to get married in the Autumn, when Sian's parents would have returned to Bryde's Bay. As is the norm, the ladies eventually sat together, comparing news and local gossip, whilst the men discussed the forthcoming cricket tour of the West Indies.
"Do you know that old Mrs. Mole will be one hundred years old next month?" asked Sian. "What about organising a surprise party for her in the community hall? We could each bring something in the food line. I'll ask the other ladies when they arrive."
"Good idea," agreed the others. "Isn't she marvellous for her age! So sprightly. You wouldn't think she was anywhere near one hundred!"
Sian spoke to the other lady hamleteers, and they were in total agreement. "We'll organise everything nearer the date," she said. "It will be on the tenth of May, so keep that date free."
"And don't let the cat out of the bag," twittered Teenie, who loved surprise parties.
Everyone was sitting chatting, waiting for the music to begin when the doors burst open, and in walked Madge and Sadie. Madge was wearing a diamante -encrusted shocking pink dress, with matching turban. Sadie had on her 'little black number', much more suitable for the occasion. Madge looked around the room, and spotted two seats near the bandstand. "C'mon our Sadie. There's a couple o' seats beside Jerry Bilt and Rocky Outcrops."
They made their way down to the vacant places and sat down.
"How're yiz doin' lads?" boomed Madge, beckoning a waiter. "Let us buy yiz a wee drink. Whadd'll yiz have?"
"Thanks Madge," said Jerry, "I'll have a glass of lager."
"Same for me thanks Madge," added Rocky.
"O.K, then," said Madge to the young waiter, "two glasses o' lager, a shipyard special fer me, an' a Spanish Sunset fer Sadie here, an' don't ferget the cherries."
Sian came down to their table, and told the sisters of the party plans.
"Ach, dear luv her," said Madge, nearly choking on her cherry. "Yiz can count on us til help yiz, but we're nat too well up on cookin' fancies," she admitted. "Still, anything yiz can find fer us til do, jist say the word - shoor, call roun' at the house fer a wee coffee 'n' tell us what yiz want."
"Thanks Madge, I'll call round next week."
Derry and Avu Herd were sitting with the two schoolmistresses and the Services. The Standings joined them, and Penny Black,accompanied by Cherry Bunn made up that particular party. Big Dipper and his Roller Coasters started up the music, and the dancing began. Downstairs in the office, Victor and Perry were discussing the success of the Easter Monday festivities.
"Must have been the biggest crowd since Boxing Day," said Perry.
"Yes, old boy, what? Dashed good show."
They were interrupted by a knock at the door, and in walked Ian Terrogator, along with Sandy Haire, who was wearing civvies. He was off duty tonight, and intended going upstairs when the two gents had been given the good news.
"Well sir," began Ian, "we have apprehended the two boys who took your money - Slippy Skinner and Evan Elpus were spotted by Ringo Steele, spending money like it was going out of fashion. He arrested them, and eventually Elpus admitted to the crime, amongst others. We managed to recover most of the money, less about fifty pounds, but I'm afraid that we cannot return it to you, as it is needed for evidence. However, I'm sure you will be able to claim the shortfall from your insurance company. If you give me their name, I can fill out the appropriate form at the station, and send it on to them."
"Well, that is good news," beamed Victor, "jolly good work by your chaps, what? We are insured with the Royal Kidney Company, Transplant Street, Great Shambles."
"Thank you sir, I'll see to it right away," said Ian as he left the office.
"That's a dashed good man you have there Sandy," said Perry, turning to the sergeant. "On the strength of this good news, perhaps you would like to join us in a celebratory tipple?"
"I don't mind if I do," replied Sandy.
"And I don't mind if you don't!" laughed Victor, as the three friends went upstairs.
"Just like the relief of Mafeking," remarked Perry.
"I must let Birdie Kite know the good news," said Victor. "I'll give him a land line in the morning. Apparently he is visiting his old uncle at the 'Avro Anson' retirement home over at Lesser Shambles tonight. He sent his apologies for non attendance."
"Bah!" grunted Perry, "probably making himself known to the matron down there to make sure he gets a place when he needs it, what? Cheers."
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