Much Dithering in Little Botheringham – 8

‘Much Dithering in Little Botheringham’ is an everyday tale of village life and vampires, from Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook.

Earlier that same afternoon, Em had been debating which of her quietly coloured jersey dresses to shove on for the monthly meeting of the Ladies whilst wondering to herself what this Cropper woman was going to be like. From the voice – she assumed wispy, middle class, and somehow not happy. The phone breaking into her thoughts was, for once, a welcome distraction.
“Emmeline Vanderbilt speaking.”
“Ah. Good afternoon. Christopher Charles Cassington here.”
For a moment Em was at a loss. Then she remembered. This was the bat man. Injecting her voice with a warmth she was far from feeling she responded.
“Good afternoon Mr Cassington. To what do I owe the pleasure.”
“Your colony of bats.”
“Hardly ‘my’ colony, but what about them?”
“The colony is being registered with the authorities as we speak, theoretically ensuring its protection. But I’m not a trusting man, and I have my ear to the ground. I heard rumours that the bats may be in danger, so I have taken a few precautions. This evening, before the bats awaken fully I’m bringing in a ringing team to ring and weigh and record. In addition to the volunteers there will be: a team from Natural Nation taking photographs, a journalist and photographer from Batty about Bats magazine, and a crew from Middle England TV filming a piece for the local news.”
Em began to feel truly fond of the odd little man. “Oh. Well done,” she said fervently.
“I thought you might want to come along and speak to the telly people. I’m not good with that sort of stuff. And you look. Ummm. Imposing.”
Em laughed. “Very well. What time?”
“Six-thirty.”
“Very well. I’ll be there.”
She put the phone down. Grinning. The jersey dresses would have to wait, as would the Ladies. Casual, she thought, if impeccably tailored.
Promptly at six-thirty a smallish convoy of vehicles drew into the village street. There was a minibus full of earnest bat-ringers, a Land Rover emblazoned with the Natural Nation logo, a bulky outdoor broadcast van, a white Volvo she guessed was the Bat magazine, and a Frog-Eyed Sprite she recognised with a wry grin. The vehicles disgorged their passengers and Em quietly tagged onto the end of the crocodile which made its way into the church. 
Erasmus briefly appeared on her shoulder. “The small bats will cooperate. Once I made them understand this would spike the vicar’s guns.”
“We hope. But thanks.”
He flapped off and Em made her way into a church that was now a hive of activity. The television reporter was a fattish man in a loud sports jacket, and Em wasn’t looking forward to speaking to him. But he had his eye on different bait. There was a coltish teenager with dimples among the bat-ringing crew and he already had an avuncular arm about her shoulder. She caught Em’s eye and offered the suspicion of a wink before gazing soulfully at the reporter.  Em retreated to a quiet corner and prepared to watch the show. The pretty teenager managed to tactfully shake off the reporter, who straightened his toupee before giving a piece to camera about the colony of rare bats found in the belfry of St Barnabas Church in Little Botheringham.
He was in full spate, and the comely teen was displaying a newly-ringed bat, when the church door banged open.
The vicar stood in the doorway, he was breathing heavily and his face was puce with rage.
“Get out of my church,” he bellowed. 
The television cameraman, with the faultless instincts of his ilk, turned his lens on the furious clergyman in the doorway.
“Switch off the camera. Switch off the camera. Switch off the camera and clear off.”
He was all but dancing with rage, and Em wondered what he might do next. She wasn’t due to find out, though, because a gentle voice spoke from the back of the church.
“Do calm down, Reverend Turner. All necessary permissions have been granted.”
The vicar jumped as if he had been stung as the owner of the voice stepped towards him. Bishop Esmond’s principal secretary arrived at his elbow and placed an admonitory hand on his biceps. 
The secretary turned his practiced smile into the lens of the camera.
“My colleague and I will just clear up this little misunderstanding. Carry on.”
He waved a white hand and steered the fulminating vicar out into the churchyard.
Em found Arnold at her side and they high fived. 
“Get out of that you bastard,” she crowed.

Part 9 of Much Dithering in Little Botheringham by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook, will be here next week.

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