Much Dithering in Little Botheringham – 12

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

“We may have a problem or do have one?” Em asked, knowing Agnes was seldom that precise in her use of words.
“Okay. Do have. The vicar has a visitor.”
“Who?”
“A rat catcher. Didn’t stay long, but he took in a box of stuff and he came out without it.”
“Oh bother the man. I’d better keep an eye on the church hadn’t I? “Hadn’t we. I’ll be there in twenty.”
“I’d be glad of the company. I just wish we could watch both sides of the church. I can only see the back door from here.”
“Can’t you get that pesky bloody bat of yours to go and keep an eye from the lych gate?”
“Yes. Of course I can. Why didn’t I think of that?”
“It’s being close to the church does it. I find I’m thinking a lot clearer over this side of the village. But right now I’m on my way.”
Em felt comforted by the thought that Agnes would be with her, and she rather despised herself for those feelings. In an effort to reassert her normal control, she brushed herself down briskly and went to collect certain things from a large tin trunk in the attic. Once she had assembled what she thought she might need, she dressed in camouflage trousers and a neat khaki vest. Carrying her booty downstairs she loaded the pockets of the ancient poachers gilet that hung behind the back door before lacing her feet into the Doc Martens that Agnes had persuaded her into last winter. As by now the sun was turning the evening sky a lurid orange picked out with purplish storm clouds it was time to persuade Erasmus to cooperate. 
“Are you awake my friend?”
To her surprise he answered immediately. “I am. What do you require of me?”
“Agnes and I can watch the back of the church from here, but we can’t see the front.”
He was ahead of her. “I will hang in the lych gate. It’s high enough so I won’t be seen.”
Em felt him leave, just as Agnes slipped in via the back door. “I left the car in the pub car park.”
There not being too much else to say, they took themselves upstairs to where a window seat on the half-landing offered a perfect view of the back of the church. They sat down, comfortable in their silence, and Em looked at Agnes with an inward grin. She also wore camo, although hers was less tailored than Em’s and her pockets bulged with various things as Agnes was always one to be prepared for any eventuality. 
It occurred to Em that there was one vital piece of information she hadn’t passed on to her friend. “I just remembered what I haven’t told you. Erasmus says the vicar is a were.”
“Wolf?”
“No. And we don’t know what. Erasmus tells me the bats say he’s rodent.”
Agnes gave a humourless chuckle.
“A rodent? Then my money’s on him being a wererat. I can just see him fitting in well with those cunning, sneaky supes.”
“But a wererat becoming a vicar?”
Agnes shrugged. “They have their exiles, rogues and outcasts same as the rest of us, but the traits always run true.”
Em wasn’t convinced, there was something distinctly un-ratty about the man that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. “I suspect we’ll find out soon enough.”
“You got the silver bullets?”
“I have. If necessary.”
Agnes’ phone bleeped. She listened for a moment.
“Thanks. Can you follow him?”
She listened some more. “Right. See you.” Agnes put the phone carefully back in her pocket. “The vicar is on the move. Dressed like he thinks he’s Clint Eastwood I’m told. Arnold is following on his motorbike, but he has to keep well back. Oh, and Arnold has Petunia riding pillion.”
Em sighed. “But you never know, she might even be useful for the first time in her life.”
They resumed their study of the churchyard in the lurid light of a Disneyesque sunset. A movement at the edge of the little coppice that backed onto the churchyard caught Em’s eye. She stared and then as her eyes became accustomed to the half light under the trees she realised who it was.
“Agnes. Why do you suppose the Cropper woman is sitting in Dead Man’s Wood watching the church?”
“Azriel knows. But she is just about bound to get in the bloody way. I’ll go send her home.”
But before she had even got up from her seat, a strange looking figure slipped into the churchyard by the back gate. It was the vicar, loaded for bear and heading towards the church.
The two women ran down the stairs and down the garden path to where a low wall separated Em’s garden from the churchyard. Em was thinner and fitter than Agnes but even she wasn’t fast enough to stop Ms Cropper who ran into the church shouting incomprehensibly…

Part 13 of Much Dithering in Little Botheringham by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook, will be here next week.

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