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Friday, 26 January 2018

Vampire Farmer - Penny Farthing Mystery - Chapters Nine and Ten


Penny Farthing Arrives in Allenbury

Penny parked the hire car outside of Madge’s cottage. Grabbed her handbag and suitcase, locked the car then headed up the path to the front door. The door opened before she had time to knock. Madge opened her arms, hugged her then pulled her indoors. ‘Thank goodness you’re here,’ she said.
‘What happened to you?’ Penny noted the bruise and dried blood on Madge’s forehead.
‘Come into the kitchen. I’ll make tea and tell you all about it.’ Madge led the way through to the back of the cottage. Reached for the kettle. ‘Sandwich or cake? Or both?’
‘I ate on the train, but cake would be nice.’ Penny took in the functional rather sparse kitchen. ‘Come on then tell me.’
‘You’ll never believe what happened last night.’ Madge set mugs of tea and a Victoria sponge on the table, they sat opposite each other. ‘I’d been busy in the church. When I’d finished I locked up. I started to walk down the path and I heard voices, and they weren’t heavenly voices either!’
‘You can get medication for that Madge.’
‘Hah! Very funny. I am telling you Penny, I heard voices.’
Penny sipped her tea, studied her friend’s face. There was no doubt in her mind Madge was serious. ‘Go on.’
Madge set her mug on the table, bent forward. ‘I crept round the back of the church. It was very late, but there was a full moon so it was bright. And the voices didn’t stop, it wasn’t my imagination.’ Madge tapped the side of her head. 'I didn’t want whoever it was to see me. I was scared.’

‘Whatever did you see?' Penny waited for an answer. 'Why did you run?’
‘That’s just it,’ Madge pulled a face, ‘l can’t remember anything else.’ 
Penny reached across the table, held Madge’s hand. ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get to the bottom of this. One thing we do know is something or someone frightened you, and you don’t frighten easily.’
‘There was more than one voice and I thought I recognised them. If that’s the case, I do hope I’m wrong. I really banged my head, I’ve no idea how long I was out, but I don’t feel well today. I’m shivery and feel nauseous.’
‘Well, that’s hardly surprising, my dear, with what happened.’ Penny poured more hot tea. ‘You must have a quiet day.’ A knock at the front door interrupted their conversation.
Madge stood up. ‘I’ll get it,’ she said 'probably a parishioner.’
‘You stay put.’ Penny put a hand on Madge’s shoulder. ‘I’ll get it.’
As soon as she opened the door Penny knew she was face-to-face with the vicar. The dog collar was a big giveaway. ‘Hello, Vicar Toogood. I’m Penny. Penny Farthing, Madge’s friend,’ Penny said, extending her hand. ‘Go through, she’s in the kitchen.’
‘Ah yes, Mrs. Farthing. Good to meet you. Call me Phileas.’
‘And you must call me Penny.’ His handshake was firm, and he looked her straight in the eye. Not a man with something to hide, Penny thought, making her wonder even more what had got Madge so worked up about him. She followed him into the kitchen. ‘Please sit down, Phileas, I’ll pour you some tea. It should still be hot, we’re just having some with a delicious slice of cake.’
As he went to sit he noticed Madge’s injury. ‘Madge, what on earth has happened to you?’ Phileas went round to her to take a better look.
‘I’m fine, thank you.’
Penny noticed her friend flinch. ‘It happened last night. She was in the…’
‘Shower,’ Madge interjected. ‘I was in the shower. I was using a new shower gel, it must have made the tray slippy. I fell. I feel really silly about it now.’
‘You should have a slip mat.’
‘I have. I forgot to put it in.’
‘Just you have a quiet day, Madge.’ Phileas drained his tea cup and got up to leave. ‘I’ll deal with church business today. I’ll leave her in your safe hands, Penny.’
Penny nodded. Both women remained silent until they heard the latch on the front door click. ‘What was that all about, Madge,’ Penny raised her eyebrows, ‘why didn’t you tell him?’
‘Because I don’t trust him.’
‘He was a gentleman, he was genuinely concerned about you.’
‘There are two sides to that man.’
‘Are you up for going to the cemetery and trying to retrace your steps? It might jog your memory.’
‘I’ll get my coat.’

At the cemetery they started from the church door and followed Madge’s movements to where she heard the voices.


The Vicar Visits Jacksons Farm

Ben hadn’t slept well after his experience in the cemetery. Every time he’d closed his eyes not only could he see the woman’s body he had dug up and the beautiful jewellery she wore, he relived what followed; the voices, the people. He wondered if he dared tell anyone about it, perhaps report it to the police. He hadn’t realised some people were buried wearing jewellery and makeup until he saw that beautiful ring and necklace.Were those people grave robbers, after the jewellery? Or, is Tom Twatters a vampire, like me? he’d thought, they do breed after all. A ring of vampires in Allenbury, now that’s something you don’t see every day.
‘Did you go out last night, or were you up early?’ Kitty said to Ben as he walked through the door after milking.
‘Couldn’t sleep. Nightmares.’ He kicked off his wellies.
‘Must have been the full moon, you always had nightmares, when you were a little boy, around the time when the moon was full.’
‘It’s the werewolf side of him,’ Don sniggered. ‘He’ll have been out all night biting folks and sucking their blood.’ He rocked back in his chair laughing.
Ben ignored his father’s comments. ‘I’ve got a new drone. Fitted some lights to it. Thought I’d have a practice flying it in the dark.’
‘What the hell’s a drone?’ Don said.
‘It’s a spy quadcopter with a camera, bit like a helicopter.’ Ben could tell his father had no idea what he was talking about. ‘I’ll bake this afternoon Ma, bake some cakes for us all.’ He looked at his father. Then I’ll take some more of your blood.
‘Vicar’s popping in later today. We’ll have something sweet to give him, and maybe you can take some to the play rehearsal for the cast tonight?’ Kitty said.
‘I could bake an extra batch, might sweeten them up a bit, something needs to. You’d think they’d seen their arses some of them.’
‘Don’t be like that, son. I’m sure they try their best.’ Kitty always saw the best in people.
‘You don’t have to direct them,’ Ben grumbled.
‘I’m assuming you’ll do some baking for the after show party?’
‘I’ll make a few cupcakes and a Victoria sponge. I dropped one in for Madge the other day. She was expecting a friend to visit for a few days. What’s Vicar calling for?’ The thought of that man in their house unsettled Ben.
‘A visit to see how we are getting along. Somebody told him we were both feeling tired and a bit out of sorts.’
‘Aye, it was me.’ Ben wished he’d never fired off at him now.
‘Nothing wrong with me. At least nothing a pint of beer wouldn’t put right,’ Don pushed his plate to one side. ‘Can’t eat any more of this, I’m full.’
‘That’s a first, Da.’ He smiled sympathetically at his father. His thoughts didn’t match his smile.
‘Are your teeth stained, lad?’ Don said.
‘I don’t think so.’
‘Drinking too much alcohol.’
‘Off the beer now, Da. Remember Doctors orders.’
‘I forgot. You’re a vampire now, aren’t you! You do have some bizarre stuff going on in your head.’
Ben kept looking across at his dad and smiling to himself, especially when he dipped his fried bread into the tomato sauce and put it in his mouth. Reminds me of drinking your blood, Da, he thought.
Ben was in a pickle but what could he say? He frowned, ‘You know Ma, I’m still not sure about the Vicar. I have a funny feeling about him. Maybe he shouldn’t visit. How long’s he been here?’’
‘About a year. He’s a lovely man. Has something happened?’
Ben shook his head. ‘I just think there’s more to him than meets the eye.’
‘Don’t be bloody stupid, you’re talking about a man of God!’ Don said.
‘Aye, I am.’ Ben wanted to tell them what he had seen in the cemetery, but knew they wouldn’t believe him. All he could do was watch and wait, and go to church. ‘I might start going to Church,’ Ben said.
‘You—church! Now that’s a sight to be seen,’ Kitty laughed. 
‘You’ll have to tell vicar to take the garlic down that’s hanging in the doorway or you’ll not get through the door. Not now you’re a vampire and all,’ Don laughed.
Ben retreated to his room.
Don, what have I told you about upsetting the lad.’
‘He can take it. Can’t understand why the sudden interest in attending church,’ Don picked up the newspaper.
‘I think it’s a good thing. Just hope he keeps it up.’
‘Must be something in it for him. That’s all I can say.’
‘You’re a cynic, Don.’
‘Ha! You get on with your knitting woman, and be quiet.’

Upstairs in his room Ben put on a dress, another costume department purchase for the play. He knew it would wind his Da up. He appeared back in the kitchen looking like a sorry throwback to Hollywood’s glory days.
‘What’s he been buying now?’ Don said to Kitty.
Kitty ignored her husband. ‘Beautiful dress Ben, and a good fit.’
‘Give me strength.’ Don thumped the table.
His plan worked, he was certainly winding his Da up. Ben turned away from his father, put on one of Kitty’s aprons and started to mix cupcakes. When they were cooked he ushered Don and Kitty out of the kitchen into the sitting room while he added the special lemon icing.
‘Right, here you go.’ Ben placed a laden tray on the table. He poured the tea, then sat down to wait.
‘You not having any cake, Ben?’ Kitty asked.
‘I’ve already had two while I was mixing the icing,’ Ben lied.
‘You should have been a waitress instead of a farmer,’ Don teased.
‘The lad’s winding you up, have you not caught on yet?’
‘What are you talking about woman?’ 
‘He’s trying them out for the play,’ Kitty looked at Ben, then back to her husband. ‘He’s having a bit of fun with you, because of your reaction when he tried the first dress on,’ she laughed.
Don scowled, shook his head ‘Well, I’m pleased you both think it’s funny.’ He bit into a cake then washed it down with a mouthful of tea.
Soon both were sleeping. Don’s lips reverberated as he breathed out. Ben reached into his apron pocket for catheter and needle, pushed the needle into Don’s arm and watched the blood drain down the tube. ‘See Da, I always get my own back,’ Ben said, ‘plus you’re helping me to get better.’
There was a knock at the door. ‘Blast! The Vicar. I forgot he was calling.’ Ben slid the needle out of his father’s arm. He needed somewhere to hide the gear. ‘I know.’ He lifted the coal bucket, pushed the gear underneath, hid the mug of blood behind the bucket. There was another knock, louder this time. Don and Kitty started to rouse.
‘What was that?’ Kitty said.
‘Someone knocking at the door,’ Ben said, ‘I’ll see who it is.’
‘Must have dropped off,’ Don said.
‘Me too.’ Kitty ran her hands through the back of her hair.
‘It’s the Vicar,’ Ben shouted.
‘Come on through,’ Kitty said.
‘Sit yourself down, Vicar,’ Ben invited, ‘I’ll make a brew.’
‘Don’t forget the cake,’ Don said.
‘I won’t.’ Ben struggled to stop his lips curling into a smile.
‘Clever lad, your Ben,’ Vicar Toogood rubbed his hands, sniffed the air. What’s that dreadful smell? he thought. He took out a handkerchief and held it to his nose. ‘He always makes a nice cake.’ He waited until Ben was out of ear shot. ‘Why is Ben wearing women’s clothes?’ His sickly smile revealed brown stained teeth.
Don, feeling embarrassed said, ‘It’s to do with the play he’s directing. Likes to try stuff on to see what it looks like before rehearsal.’
‘Oh, I see. What a good idea.’ The Vicar didn’t look convinced.
Kitty started to laugh. ‘Don’t look so serious Vicar. It’s true. He’s trying them on for your brother Wally, he has a part in the play and is about the same build as Ben.’
‘Well, that’s something I’ll look forward to seeing.’
Ben carried a fresh tray through with tea and enough special lemon cup cakes to feed an army. He’d have to put his parents back to sleep before taking the Vicar’s blood. He couldn’t miss this God given opportunity to take another living person’s blood.
Once all three were asleep Ben got to work. He retrieved the gear from beneath the coal bucket, barely wiping the needle before plunging it into a vein in the Vicar’s left arm. While humming the hymn Jerusalem he drained the blood into the Vicar’s empty teacup. It took a lot of willpower to stop and not just let him bleed to death. He’d really took against this man.
Ben took two batches of blood, the catheter and needle into the kitchen and stashed them in hiding places. Returning to the sitting room he settled into a fireside chair pretending to doze until they all woke up.
The Vicar was the first to break the silence. He checked his watch, ‘I didn’t mean to stay this long. I have a meeting to go to. I can’t remember if I asked, but are you up to arranging the flowers for Saturday’s wedding, Kitty?’
‘Would love to vicar, but I’m not up to it at the moment.’
‘Not to worry, dear, I’ll ask someone else. I do hope you both feel better soon.’
Ben stood. ‘I’ll see you out vicar.’ He walked with the Vicar towards his car. ‘I’m glad you came to see them.’ No response. ‘Where did you say you lived before moving here, if you don’t mind me asking Vicar.’
‘I didn’t.’
That’s it then, he’s not going to tell me, thought Ben, as the Vicar marched off, got into his car and drove away. He had a lot to think about; the first thing being getting out of the damned clothes, they were driving him nuts. Walter was welcome to them.


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