It was all the vicar’s fault. She went on a pilgrimage to Oberammergau and came back fired with almost missionary zeal. And now Joss Beckett co-owner of The Fair Maid and Falcon, one of the busiest pubs in the south of England, is committed to organising a walking Nativity…
I picked up my phone and called Danilo Lovell. Danilo is a paranormal investigator and medium, who just happens to own his own tv production company and who owes me a number of favours. Of course he said no. So I called his grandmother, his wife, and his head of security – all of whom are friends of mine. Then I sat back and waited. It didn’t take long. Danilo called back.
“Bitch,” he said entirely without heat. “Why are you making me waste time and money on a bloody Nativity play?”
“But Danilo, it’s a walking Nativity play. And it’s currently a clusterfuck.”
He laughed. “So it needs sorting out. But why me?”
“I was rather thinking a documentary. If done right it could even net you yet another BAFTA nomination.”
I could have sworn that I heard the wheels turn as he thought that one through. When he spoke it was in an entirely different voice. Now he was all business.
“When can we meet with the clusterfuck steering committee?”
“They’ll be here on Thursday morning at eleven, thinking they are going to have to crawl to me for help.”
Danilo chuckled. “Meaning their gratitude to me would know no bounds. Better and better. I’ll be there. With Paula, and possibly Grandmother, in tow. Until then…”
He hung up and I leaned back in my chair, luxuriating in the feeling of a job well done. After a couple of minutes of self-congratulation I got down to payroll duties and consigned the whole Nativity play thing to the back burner.
It was nearly five o’clock when there came a tap on my office door. Recognising the small noise as being likely to be small people, I got up and went to open the door. My three-year-old twin daughters stood outside hand in hand, looking more than a little apprehensive. I crouched down to their level and wrinkled my nose at them.
“Is Daddy Beckett hiding behind you, my loves.”
They nodded their heads energetically. Ali spoke first “Yes he is. And he’s very frightened.” She stopped speaking and Roz took over. “He says,”she lowered her voice conspiratorially, “that he has been a stupid man, and you might be cross with him.”
I laughed and drew my darlings into my arms. After I had kissed their rosy cheeks and smoothed their shining blonde curls I raised my voice.
“Benedict Beckett, get in here and stop being such a wuss.”
He stuck his head around the corner and I could feel him all but tasting the atmosphere. When he found it calm and friendly he came all the way into the room and sat his bottom on the corner of my desk.
“Sorry Joss,” he said in a voice of real contrition. “I should know you have more than enough to do with a business to run and three kids to manage.”
Ali pulled firmly on my sleeve. “Auntie Stella did call Daddy a plonker,” she whispered in tones of deep shock.
I couldn’t keep my face straight any longer and I grinned at my little family. “I expect she did, because he did a silly. But it’s all right now because I sorted it out.”
“How do you mean sorted it out?” Ben sounded worried.
“It’s okay love, I haven’t thrown you to the wolves. I called in a favour and now the walking Nativity is Danilo’s problem.”
For a moment he looked at me as if I had grown an extra head, then the simple beauty of my plan dawned on him. “Oh, wonderful. He has all the resources and the expertise to make it something special. But how did you make him agree?”
“I sicced Grandmother and Bethan on to him.”
“That’d work. But will he do his best in those circumstances. I mean he don’t do anything for nothing, so what’s in it for him?”
“Another BAFTA nomination maybe for the documentary they are going to shoot.”
Ben’s grin spread from one ear to the other and he leaned between the twins to kiss me full on the mouth with much noisy enthusiasm. Roz waited until he lifted his head before pursing her pink rosebud of a mouth and patting his arm.
“See,” she said comfortingly, “me and Ali protected you.”
Ben picked the girls up in his big arms, kissing and tickling them until they were a giggly mess. “You did indeed protect me. Now shall we ask Mummy if she has finished work so we can go home for tea?”
To be concluded tomorrow…