Monday morning was a whole new scene in Boroughford upon Tweed. Instead of being a relaxed market village, it became the hive of work-based activity. C&C became the takeaway coffee haunt for those who worked at the Council Chambers, mainly those trying to make themselves look more important whilst The Purple Rinse Brigade took up their posts at the W.I. Offices just outside the Council Chambers. Jenny herself became part of the weekly rat race, donning a grey suit, black roll neck and heels to transform herself from wife and friend who loved the outdoors into the Features Editor of the only paper that mattered; The Boroughford Gazette. It probably was a little self indulgent for a small fishing village to have its own paper but as far as villagers were concerned they deserved it and anyway, it served the whole county and not just Boroughford. As Jenny walked the length of High Street, she glanced over to Pip’s Books, to find the “open” sign was firmly stuck on the door and Pip was indeed in residence.
‘I am going to kill him.’ Jenny said to herself, loudly enough to gain a few strange looks from passers by. ‘He’s supposed to be resting!’ she offered as an explanation but was ignored. With a shrug, Jenny glanced down at her watch and realised that she wouldn’t have time to run and grab a coffee despite the fact that a) Alex had left the house while she was still in bed and b) she really needed a caffeine hit but alas it was not to be. With a deep sense of regret and an even bigger sense of annoyance Jenny pulled her handbag further onto her shoulder, put her head down and made her way to the office.
The Boroughford Gazette was always a place where you could fall over a human body and not notice. The Health and Safety Officer at the Council had already warned the owners several times about the over occupancy but this had fallen on deaf ears. And of course, the HSO would do anything to enforce his complaints for fear of upsetting the Mayor’s granddaughter who just so happened to be a high-ranking member of staff. So that’s why the office remained the overgrown playground it was today. The first thing Jenny had to do when she opened the door was to duck to avoid a flying paper aeroplane that had been masterfully crafted by the Office Juniors. The looks on their faces as Jenny picked up the offending item and then shoot them a raised eyebrow was enough to think they had come face to face with the Queen herself that, in the paper’s terms, they had. The fact that they were only met with a silent look rather than a full on dressing down was far more terrifying. Jenny really didn’t have the time or the patience for their puerile humour so just threw the recyclable aeronautical feat of engineering in the waste bin. The office was its usual buzz of telephone calls, the sound of keyboards being abused and employees trying to look a lot busier than they actually were. Jenny weaved in and out of the desks that were bunched too closely together to be safe before she reached the safety of the little room she called her haven. Jenny’s office was probably the smallest room in the building but it was the quietest and away from the flying paper objects and staple fights. Her desk was just large enough to hold the ancient computer that was probably older than the Death Trap at C&C, a telephone that rarely worked, a few notepads and of course the photograph of the four of them sitting on the Rainbow Sun alongside a photograph of her wedding day and one of Alex, leaning on the Harbour Wall looking out over the horizon with the broadest and most natural of smiles on his face. It was Jenny’s favourite picture and if she couldn’t stare at her husband in person then the photograph was the next best thing. Shrugging off her jacket, Jenny turned on the computer before she sat down on the chair that not only had three wheels instead of the standard four but also could be declared a national monument and placed in a museum.
‘So what have you got in store for me today then world of news.’ She said to herself, clicking into her emails. The first three were the usual junk mail, with the fourth being an almost full-page rant from Jamie about the fact that Pip had disobeyed his direct order to stay in bed. Jenny made a mental note to give Pip a lecture at C&C during her lunch hour because for once in his quite mad life, her brother was actually in the right. On the subject of Pip, as Jenny feared, the rest of the emails were from “concerned citizens” aka The Purple Rinse Brigade, demanding to know if the paper was going to “name and shame” the hooligan that dared to tear up the High Street.
‘Oh God…’ Jenny smacked her head into her desk and rocked back and forth causing her messy bun to fall out slightly. ‘Why my life?’
‘Comes with the territory.’ Jenny raised her head to see her editor standing in the doorway. As he beckoned her to follow him, Jenny let out a low pitched groan and started to wish that she was the one who stayed in bed that morning.
Malachi “Mac” Morris was a stout Irish ex-pat who still held onto the views and manners of the 1970’s man. Upon entering his office, Jenny never failed to be shocked at the utter rubbish heap that her editor worked in. The dark red leather chair was ripped in most places and being held up by a selection of old books. Pip would have had a fit if he had known. Mac himself looked as though he was eight months pregnant with his trousers being held up by braces that were straining to break free against his tea stained shirt. This was enough to cause a normal human to run the other way alone but it was compounded by the fact that he constantly chewed cigars to get the indoor tobacco hit that he craved. Jenny took a deep breath, brushed off some yellow, aged newspapers off the only half decent chair in the room and sat down, reminding herself not to breathe through her nose.
‘Grizzly business over the weekend wasn’t it May.’ Mac leaned back tugging at his braces. Jenny sighed, still wishing for the day her boss actually called her by her first name.
‘I didn’t think it would be that well known yet.’ Jenny rolled her eyes, knowing that Pip’s near miss was the gossip of the village within five minutes of it actually happening.
‘Ah you know this village lass.’ Mac replied, leaning forward to pick up a cigar. ‘News travels fast. How is young Peter?’
’Pip is doing fine thank you.’ Another thing Pip would have gone mad over. It was a well-known fact that he hated his real name and no one ever dared call him it, not even Jamie.
‘Glad to hear it.’ Mac took a deep breath and for a moment Jenny feared that shirt buttons might be lost. ‘Now, the reason I called you in is that we need to run with this story, with your brother in law’s permission of course. This is something that the village needs to know about. There’s a thug out there and he needs to be brought to justice and we at this most loyal of papers are the ones to do it.’
‘We are?’ Jenny furrowed her eyebrows together in an exasperated fashion. This was the very last thing she needed.
‘Of course girl!’ Mac exclaimed, hands waving in the air, tobacco falling everywhere. ’We are the leading light in this County and villagers, even those over there need to be protected.’
‘I understand that Mac…’ Now it was Jenny who was leaning forward. ‘But surely we should get all the facts first before we decide to scare everyone to death.’
‘Ack!’ Mac lightly banged the desk, causing Jenny to jump back slightly. ‘Facts are for those idiots who think they police this village. What is needed now is action. So, what I suggest for you is to write up what you saw, the whole shebang if you will.’
‘But I didn’t really see anything apart from Pip writhing around in agony.’ Jenny defended, really not wanting to be the one to incite panic in the village. ‘Please Mac, I really think we should wait.’ Mac sat back in his chair, the remaining leather cracking as he did so. Jenny could see the cogs turning in his head hoping that this was a good sign.
‘I still think we should focus on catching this playboy…’ Mac began, causing Jenny to close her eyes in silent prayer. ‘But I suppose you do have a point. Ok, new plan. Go out and get as much information from those who were in High Street on Saturday, once we have a bucket load of testimonies you can put that brain of yours to work and get a feature in this paper like there has never been before. Or so help me I will go out and drink that vile fake Guinness they have at the pub until I retch.’
‘Thank you Mac, I’ll get right on it.’ Jenny got up and smiled as she left the office knowing at least that she had won a stay of execution if not the whole battle itself.
Lunchtime was a welcome break for Jenny. As soon as her phone informed her that it was past one o’ clock, she grabbed her jacket and bag, made sure that Mac was taking his mid morning nap and belted out the door, swearing that she would rip off the genitals of anyone who told her boss that she had left the office. C&C had flung its arms open to the young blonde woman, filling her senses with the smell of freshly baked baguettes ready for the lunchtime crowd and the mouth-watering sensation of the cakes looking at Jenny through the window of their home behind the counter. Inhaling as deep as she could, Jenny made her way through the crowd over to her favourite stool, shrugging off her handbag and placing it on the counter before sitting down. The Purple Rinse Brigade soon followed Jenny inside and accosted the poor, barely out of her teen’s waitress who only worked during the busy periods, barking their orders at her whilst she tried to balance three trays on her arms.
‘Busy today.’ Jenny said to no one in particular as a flustered looking Alex appeared, his black shirt covered in flour and hair sticking up at all angles.
‘Ah if it isn’t the love of my life.’ He said, with a deep but happy sounding sigh. ‘Fancy changing careers for an hour?’
‘Nah, you’re alright.’ Jenny smiled, in between Alex’s delicious flour and coffee flavoured “hello” kisses. ‘But I could grab my own sandwich if that would help.’
‘You know what, this is the one time I would argue with you.’ Alex lifted the part of the counter that separated him from the customers and allowed Jenny through to the part of C&C that customers never saw. The kitchen itself was far from the industrial palace that people thought it was, in fact it was more of a “home” kitchen and fitted in with the entire feel of the coffee shop itself. The cream agar was in full swing, baking the latest of Alex’s creations whilst the fridge and freezer held the sweet treats that were destined to be consumed happily by the after school crowd. The counter itself was covered in flour and various ingredients with only a small square section left clean for making sandwiches and coffee; the Death Trap standing proud almost taunting Jenny with its presence.
‘That thing still here?’ Jenny pointed out, placing her handbag in the only place she felt it would be safe, on the window sill by the sink.
‘It still works and it makes good coffee. Now shut up and make your lunch before Mac sends out his search party.’ Alex playfully slapped Jenny on the bottom before he made his way back into the baying crowds. Jenny shook her head and rolled up her sleeves before going on a treasure hunt.
Upon finding the perfect mix of cheese and pickle along with a spare chunk of brown bread and a bottle of ginger beer, Jenny, having expertly put them all together, leaned backwards against the counter as she munched away. Being in the kitchen of C&C always brought back the memories of her slightly rebellious teenage years. Especially those of her and Alex sneaking in there after hours to make what they thought was a much better use of a sturdy counter top as it were. Jenny closed here eyes at the very thought of what they had both done in that very room attached to such a public place but it was what Jenny looked back upon as an innocent time in their lives, a time that was also tinged with a slight, unwanted sadness. That was the year when her parents had decided to disown Jamie and Jenny. Their actions did not go down well with their grandparents and instead of facing up to the fact that their son had made his choice to be with Pip and Jenny had supported him wholeheartedly, Williams and Angelina May shipped themselves off with the declaration that their children and their “unnatural views” no longer mattered. Since that day, they were rarely spoken of in the village, which suited the May siblings down to the ground. Jenny smiled and breathed in deeply almost choking herself on the remains of her sandwich. Taking a large swig of her ginger beer, knowing that she was going to regret the heartburn it would give her later, Jenny was abruptly awoken from her lunch time day dream by the sound of slightly raised voices coming from the other side of the open door. Two specific voices in fact. Groaning audibly, her worst fears were confirmed when Alex poked his head around he door and smiled awkwardly.
‘Guess who’s joining you for lunch.’
‘You’re supposed to be resting! Why don’t you ever listen to me? Am I an invisible entity or something?’ Jenny did not feel like facing up to her big brother and his tantrums today. They were made all the worse by the fact that on this very rare occasion he was actually right; there was no way Pip should have been in work when he was under strict doctors orders. The rolling of green eyes didn’t help much either but Pip did it anyway.
‘You are not an invisible entity my dear but I know my own body and I’m telling you that I’m fine.’ He responded sending Jamie into more of a tizzy.
‘Oh! So basically you’re telling that I don’t know you? After ten years of practical marriage I don’t know you. Ha!’ Jamie retaliated, folding his arms in the usual manner.
‘My word what a fuss.’ Mrs Claymore piped up with a huff gaining her a death stare from the elder of the May siblings. Jenny had given up counting to ten and decided to just sit back and let them ride it out, until Alex nudged her that was.
‘Can you please sort him out. This is the busiest time for me and that brother of yours is going to scare my customers away.’ Jenny turned to face Alex whose cheeks were redder than she had ever seen them. She couldn’t make up her mind whether it was lunch rush exhaustion or the fact that he had finally had enough of the troublesome couple. In any event, she took another deep breath and rolled up her sleeves ready to do what she had to do.
‘Right you two, off we go is it.’ Jenny said, taking Jamie and Pip’s arm and pushing them towards the door.
‘I’m hungry though.’ Pip protested, almost certainly limping more than he needed to in order to gain sympathy.
‘I haven’t had my lunch yet either.’ Jamie added. ‘We both work you know, even though one of us shouldn’t be.’
‘Oh here she goes…’ Pip rolled his eyes and stopped dead right next door to The Purple Rinse Brigade.
‘Honestly, it’s no wonder their parents left…’ Mrs Claymore muttered under her breath but just loud enough for the May siblings to hear.
‘Oh God…’ Alex said, upon seeing both Jenny and Jamie’s head turn towards the older and formidable woman. Pip himself also starting backing away knowing that it was pretty inevitable that C&C wouldn’t have a roof by the time lunch hour would be over.
‘What did you just say?’ Jenny said, her eyes flashing the same amber colour as Jamie’s.
‘I…I can’t quite recall.’ Mrs Claymore placed her hand dramatically on her chest and turned to her fellow ladies for assistance. Jenny pursed her lips and moved closer to the table, ready and waiting to do what she had wanted to do for years.
‘More tea ladies!’ Alex quickly tried to defuse the situation.
‘Forget the tea.’ Jamie interjected. ‘An apology would be nice.’
‘An apology for what exactly?’ Mrs Claymore huffed, slightly more relaxed knowing that the proprietor of the establishment was obviously on her side. ‘Speaking the truth. Such an unnatural temper on the both of you should have been curbed when you were children. Your Grandmother would turn in her grave.’
‘That’s it!’ If Alex and Pip hadn’t held back Jenny, then Mrs Claymore and her Purple Rinse Brigade would no longer be C&C’s longest serving regulars.
‘Right, you two in the back now!’ Alex ordered, pushing the siblings back into the kitchen whilst promising the customers that there was absolutely nothing to worry about.
‘Should have let me batter her.’ Jenny and Jamie were now sat on the counter top, both with camomile tea in their hands to try and calm them down. Alex had phoned Mac and cried that Jenny had turned up at C&C full of a temperature and that she would be taking the afternoon off. There was no way he would let her go back to work in such a temper. And as for Jamie, his work at the Records Office was on his terms anyway, so an afternoon off wasn’t unheard of. Pip had returned to the bookshop only to serve a few customers before switching the sign to “closed” and returning to the coffee shop. The lunchtime crowd had thankfully dispersed and even Mrs Claymore and her group had taken up their residence in the WI Office once again amidst mumbles of “shame” and “unspeakable behaviour towards a lady”. Alex had promised them free scones the next time they popped in on the proviso that Jenny and Jamie would be nowhere in sight. Once Alex had cleared up the remaining tables, he left the young waitress in charge of the front whilst he went back into the kitchen to sort out his wife and brother in law.
‘You cannot “batter” an old woman.’ He said, refilling the Death Trap. ‘I know she winds you up and what she said was uncalled for, but she spends a hell of a lot of money in here that I don’t want to lose.’
‘So, customers are more important than the feelings of your wife?’ Jamie asked in a rare show of sibling protectiveness.
‘Don’t start.’ Pip slapped Jamie’s arm.
‘Of course they aren’t.’ Alex replied with a sigh. Jenny glared at him over the top of her teacup. Jenny rarely lost her temper, in fact she was the peacemaker of the May family, but if someone mentioned her parents then the blue touch paper that had lain dormant for twenty-eight years was suddenly full of sparks and ready to rock.
‘Look,’ Alex walked over to Jenny and placed a tentative hand on her thigh. ‘I am not agreeing with Mrs Claymore, the opposite in fact. All I am saying is that maybe a little less aggressive next time she says something please.’
‘If she does it again there won’t be a next time.’ Jenny replied, sipping on the tea that left the top of her mouth dry. ‘No one talks about those two to me like that. And you know damn well they don’t.’
‘Amen sister.’ Jamie said holding out his hand and receiving a “high five” in return.
‘What did I just say?’ Pip raised his eyebrows.
‘Right, can we just draw a line under the whole thing please because I still have a business to run.’ Alex said, upon hearing the chime of the bell above the door. Jenny and Jamie looked at each other and in silent agreement they nodded, internally promising that they wouldn’t do anything like that again. Alex sighed in thankfulness and returned to the coffee machine that was now rattling so much it was sending vibrations through the counter top the siblings were sitting on. Pip leaned his head to peek around the door into the coffee shop itself and upon doing so his face drained of all colour.
‘What’s the matter?’ Jamie asked, jumping down. ‘You look as though you’ve seen a ghost.’
‘Oh my God… that’s… I’m sure it is.’ Pip strung random words together to try and make a sentence. Alex and Jenny had noticed the slight commotion that was going on and decided that they would investigate. The four of them walked into the front of C&C and were confronted with not only a car parked right outside, but a complete stranger, dressed in Saville Row finery, surfer’s blonde hair and sunglasses perched firmly on the end of his nose despite the fact that it was now beginning to become overcast outside.
‘Sorry Alex, I tried to tell him he couldn’t park there.’ The young waitress flustered.
‘Its ok Trinny, I can handle it.’ Alex replied, reassuring her. ‘The young lady is right, I’m afraid you can’t park your car there. In fact you can’t park anywhere in High Street.’
‘So, are you the owner of this establishment?’ the man asked, removing his sunglasses and revealing a set of ice blue eyes. Jenny disliked him on the spot and stood close to her husband, arms folded, glare fixed. Pip stood behind Jamie and held onto his partner’s arms so tightly that Jamie himself had started to feel slightly worried.
‘Yes I am.’ Alex answered, with all the professionalism he could muster. ‘Alexander Hill.’ Alex didn’t offer his hand but Jenny raised an eyebrow. Turns out that Alex didn’t seem to like him either. He never used his full name to people unless he wanted to keep his guard up.
‘Ok, fine little place here.’ The man answered nodding and looking around. ‘Noticed it as I drove past the other day.’
‘You shouldn’t be driving down here. Its pedestrianized.’ Jamie said, with a slight anger in his voice as Pip’s grip tightened.
‘There were no signs.’ Saville Row Suit as Jenny had mentally christened him was starting to get on her wick. But then like pistons firing everything fell into place. Car parked outside, driving down High Street when he shouldn’t have been, Pip frightened to death….
‘It was you!’ she yelled, stepping from behind Alex, her temper still intact from earlier.
‘What was me?’ he asked.
‘You were the one that almost killed Pip!’ Jenny continued, standing on her tiptoes to try and get up in the man’s face.
‘Oh yeah!’ he said with a smile. ‘Quite funny actually. His own fault for being up a ladder. I mean, who does their own cleaning these days.’ That was the last thing the man said. The last thing he saw, was Jenny’s fist hurtling towards his face…