Mr. Batty took his leave of them and disappeared round the corner again.
“What do you think of that?” asked Pete. “I knew his son was a bit of a rogue, to put it mildly, and that a lot of people had it in for him, but THIS! I never thought he could be capable of something like this.”
“Well, whatever, I think it must have been to do with some dubious business deal that went wrong,” said Janice. “But how he came into contact with an American I can’t imagine.”
“It’s just all too awful,” said Cheryl. “Who would have thought something like this could happen here?”
“Why don’t we all go down to the ice cream parlour,” suggested Pete. “I could do with a good mug of coffee and a bite to eat after clearing up that jungle. I think we all need to relax a bit.”
They all nodded in agreement.
The ice cream parlour wasn’t too full, it being late afternoon by now. There was just a low buzz of people talking, and it wasn’t long before they were served. As usual, the radio was on in the corner, and snippets of local news were being given out. A scarecrow festival in Little Wallop, and a fancy dress competition at Upper Broadley. One or two dog shows, and a cricket match.
The music droned on, but suddenly there was an announcement that startled them all. Mr. Clarence Mel Batty had been arrested for the murder of Mr. George Whimbrush. The body of Mr. Whimbrush had been found on the aerodrome just outside Bigley Bottom. More details would follow.
Pete nearly dropped his mug of coffee and Cheryl spluttered and almost choked on her lemon drizzle cake.
“Oh my God,” said Janice. “And to think, we nearly got involved in one of his schemes. But something didn’t feel quite right, and we never went ahead with it.”
“Yes, we did have a narrow squeak,” said Pete. “He was such a good talker. He could have sold muck to a farmer. Such a charmer he was too.”
“They usually are,” said Geoff. “But what in earth made him go this far?”
“My cousin Susan will be in a right state,” chimed in Cheryl. “Not that I care much for her, but she must be in a bad way. And with her mother in that Nursing Home with Alzheimers as well.”
“It’s funny though,” said Pete. “Underneath all that charm I always thought there was something a bit nasty. He was just like his Dad.”
“I wonder how he came to meet that American though,” said Janice.
“Oh I’m sure he must have been up to some scam and maybe the American uncovered it,” said Pete.
“Yes, maybe they’d known each other for a while. The world’s a small place now what with the internet and everything,” said Janice. “Maybe he was trying to sell false legs!”
“Well you never know,” said Pete. “Have you seen that World War II anti aircraft gun sitting in the front garden of a house out on the river bank? It’s almost bigger than the garden, and taller than a flippin’ double decker bus. Looks right threatening almost hanging over the road.”
“My Mum told me a lot about the war,”piped up Cheryl. “The farm being almost at the end of the runway and everything. They would hear the planes coming back from bombing raids, and some of them were in a really bad way.”
“That must have been heart stopping,” said Pete.
“Yes, and some of them didn’t make it to the runway. They crashed into fields. My grandparents had their hearts in their mouths, worried sick that one would crash onto the farmhouse,” said Cheryl. “My Mum told me a lot about the war. Did you know she went and joined up under age, and became a balloon girl in Scotland?”
“Nope,” said Pete.
“Yes,” said Cheryl. “But eventually they found out she was under age and sent her home again.”
“Bet she went home with her tail between her legs,” said Janice. “My Mum never told me much about the war. All I knew was about the American airmen who were here after the war, based on the aerodrome. And how they could always get hold of nylons and nice things for the girls.”
“Yes, it’s funny to think that there was still rationing when I was born in 1948,” said Cheryl. “My Mum got married in the church in my auntie’s wedding dress because they couldn’t get the stuff for my grandmother to make her own for her.”
“Well we’ve come a long way since then,” said Pete. “And I’m not sure all of it’s for the better.”