Much Dithering in Little Botheringham – 28

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

The police car drove to the bottom of the street at a sedate pace, turning around by the padlocked gate and returning to the main road equally quietly. Em’s mobile peeped. It was Agnes.
“Them buggers are on their way. We good to go, Em?”
“Yep. Let operation ‘thwart the bastard’ commence.”
Em and Ishmael walked to the top of the street where they waited in silence. First into their line of vision came an oddly formal little procession led by the familiar figure of Ronald Dump himself, flanked by Harmsley Gunn on his left and a thin man, with an earpiece in one ear and an iPhone glued to the other, on his right.
“Where are my pipers?” Dump’s strangely atonal voice sounded querulous.
“They said this is Dorset not Drumnadrochit. Then they effed off.” It was the thin man who spoke somewhat grimly.
“Schilling,” Ishmael spoke without moving his lips.
Em studied the man who was variously supposed to be either Dump’s right-hand man, or his boss, or even his boyfriend. She discounted the last strand of rumour, but which of the two other options was correct? The man himself was as unprepossessing as his boss if in a completely different mould. Dump was corpulent, bald, and smooth of skin, with one of those small heads that seems to have sunk into the rolls of flesh around the neck. Schilling, by contrast, was thin, bespectacled, saggy around the neck and eyes, and possessed of what looked to be a permanent five o’clock shadow.
The dynamic between the pair was difficult to decode, and Em decided it didn’t matter and gave up trying. Instead she stood quietly and waited for events to move along. The first sign of rent a mob came in the form of glockenspiel music and the sound of feet. Round the corner from the opposite direction to the Dump party came a group of sub-teenage girls, and a fair sprinkling of their grandmothers, playing a vaguely familiar tune on glockenspiel, tambourine, and penny whistle. They were followed by a troupe of trainee drum majorettes inexpertly twirling a variety of ‘batons’ – including at least two sets of nunchucks – and stamping their feet in approximate time to the ‘music’.
Ronald Dump positively beamed.
“Maybe we didn’t need the pipers after all, these lovely young things have come out to welcome me…”
Both lovely and young were perhaps open to interpretation, as was the musical skill of the orchestra. Em saw Ishmael frowning.
“Little Botheringham Marching Majorettes. Affectionately known in these parts as the panzer division. They don’t win many cups, but they’ve yet to be bested in a fight. If the Morris Men see them they run like blazes.”
Ishmael grinned his approval.
As the marching ladies bore down on his group, Harmsley-Gunn opened his mouth, then obviously thought better of it. Behind him, Em caught a glimpse of Ginny’s grinning face before the marching girls, and a crowd of local (and not so local) folk parted like the Red Sea as they encountered the Dump admiration committee. Coming back together again, the marchers turned smartly into the estate. The girls of the band stopped moving and marched on the spot, while those who accompanied them passed through their ranks and then turned to form a loose wall of flesh, duffle coats and Laura Ashley print. Having effectively blocked the road, the musicians turned around and broke into an enthusiastic if barely recognisable rendition of ‘We Shall Overcome’ led by Ginny who conducted with a baton that to Em, looked very like the one belonging to Major Harmsley-Gunn.
As the crowd behind them unfurled their banners and began to sing, it finally dawned on Mister Dump that this was whatever the opposite of a welcoming committee might be called.
He turned to his cohorts and snarled. “Get these people out of my way.”
Harmsley-Gunn stepped forward. “Go home all of you.” His little moustache bristled disgustedly. “And give me my cane back you atrocious female.”
Ginny ignored him but signalled the end of the singing as they completed the chorus, leaving the protesters standing in the silence of solidarity.
Harmsley-Gunn, face puce now with ill constrained fury waved his hands at them as if shooing a flock of chickens. “You are blocking the road to progress for the whole village.”
“What sort of an idiot thinks DumpCorp’s proposals are progress?”
The voice from the centre of the crowd was as resolutely middle class as Harmsley-Gunn’s own tones.
“The parish council thinks the plans are excellent,” Harmsley-Gunn spluttered. “We are unanimous. Now unblock the road before I call the police.”
The flour bomb that took him in the middle of his face burst just as it had been designed to do and left him standing like a forlorn ghost. Ginny slid the cane under his arm as if adding an accessory to a snowman.
“Not quite unanimous,” she said curtly.
Dump looked on in increasing amazement. He waved his pudgy little hands at the crowd. “Go away. Go away nasty people.”
Nobody moved.
Schilling spoke up. “Look here you lot. You can’t go about blocking public roads and refusing people access to their own property. Just go home and we will say no more about it.”
Ishmael grinned mirthlessly. “They most certainly couldn’t block a public road. But this isn’t a public road. It’s private. And there is no right of access to anywhere leading through it. So you’d be best advised to turn around and go home yourselves.”
Harmsley-Gunn, recovering from the assault to his person and dignity, drew himself up to his full height and flouryness. “As chairman of the housing association, I invite Mister Dump and his party onto the estate.”
“Nice try, old boy, but the trustees terminated their arrangement with the housing association two days ago. A little matter of malfeasance. The letter informing you is in the post.” He turned to Em with a slight smile “By the way do tell Jamelia that her work on that was watertight. I couldn’t have done better myself.”
As Ishmael spoke, Em could see a dozen or so DumpCorp security operatives moving purposefully towards the scene. The dog handlers were conspicuous by their absence and she idly wondered if Fang and Killer were still running.

Part 29 of Much Dithering in Little Botheringham by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook, will be here next week.

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