Never Say Dye (A Sibyl Potts Cozy Mystery, Book 3) (8 page)

BOOK: Never Say Dye (A Sibyl Potts Cozy Mystery, Book 3)
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“Much talking is the cause of danger. Silence is the means of avoiding misfortune. The talkative parrot is shut up in a cage. Other birds, without speech, fly freely about.”
(
Saskya Pandit
a
)

Chapter Fifteen
.

 

It was a few minutes before nine at night, and I was doing a last minute tour through my house, making sure there was no clutter. I had just finished my inspection, when there was a soft knock at the door.

I hurried and pulled the door open, and there stood James, Alex, Michael, and Ken. There were four oversized black bags on the ground at their feet.

I wasn’t sure why I had agreed to this. James had cornered me that afternoon, and had asked if his team could come that night at nine to do an all night vigil in my home.

James smiled now and stepped inside, followed by the other three men. “Sibyl, thanks again for having us,” James said, and I smiled as best I could by way of response. I shut the door behind them and turned around, watching as each man set a black bag on the floor and took out different tools. There were cameras and strange electronics.

“Would anyone like some coffee?” I said. “Or some Cokes or something?”

“I’ll take a Coke,” James said. Ken and Michael nodded as well, so I went into my kitchen and pulled some cold cans from my fridge, and then returned to the living room to pass them out. James and Ken were sitting on the floor by the coffee table, going through the bags. I offered a can to Alex, and he took it and nodded. I sat on the couch, and watched them.

“Have you heard the stories about this place?” James asked me. Without waiting for a response, he continued. “I’m not just talking about the boarding house,” the ghost hunter continued. “This cottage is old, and it must’ve seen its fair share of deaths as well.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” I said, trying to not sound scared. It was one thing to think of ghosts by the sensible light of day, but thinking of such things by night was yet another thing entirely. I most certainly did believe in ghosts, but in the time I had been living in the cottage, I had not sensed so much as a single presence.

“Who ya gonna call?” the cockatoo screeched from behind me. I stood as Michael snickered beside me and James rolled his eyes. I put Max out the back door into the garden room. “It’s night time, Max; birds are supposed to be asleep at night.”

“%&%$,” was Max’s reply, so I put him in his cage, put a cover over it, and returned to the living room.

“Sorry,” I said to the group.

James frowned at me. “No problem, but we will need complete silence when we begin.”

I nodded.

“Now, I wanted to let you know who we’re trying to reach. I’ve done as much research as I can on this place, this cottage, the boarding house, and I think if we’re going to reach anyone here, it’s going to be Rebecca Settler.”

I had never heard the name, but I knew James was itching to spill the beans, so I simply waited, and sure enough, he launched into an explanation.

“Rebecca Settler had an Irish father and an Australian mother. She had come to the boarding house in the late 1800s at the age of seventeen, after both of her parents died of a fever. She got a job as a maid for the wealthy people who then owned what is now the boarding house, and for a while she lived there. The gardener at the time was a man of twenty five years of age named Andrew. He and Rebecca fell in love, and married, and they moved to live here in this cottage. It was built just for them.”

I yawned, and wished Mr. Buttons had been present, but, as he pointed out, my cottage was simply not big enough for five people.

James was still talking. “Rebecca and Andrew were married for almost a year, when Abraham came to the boarding house. He was a friend of the owners, and he had been injured in some accident - I don’t know, there’s not too much written about it.”

I listened with interest. I found myself taken in by the story, even though I couldn’t be sure it was true.

James went on. “Rebecca was tasked with nursing Abraham back to health. They spoke to each other a lot, and they had gotten to know each other, and they slowly fell in love. Now Rebecca was torn between the two men, but she decided she wanted to be with Abraham. When he was well, and he was set to return to his own home, Rebecca came to pack her things up. She and Andrew got into a bad argument, and Rebecca ended up dead.”

There was silence in the room. I had to admit it was a good story, and if James had made it up, I was impressed.

When James spoke again his voice was soft, haunting. “So, if someone is in this cottage, it’s going to be Rebecca. I’d like to try to speak with her. She’s stuck here,” he added.

“Maybe she has unfinished business,” Michael said, and Ken and Alex nodded.

“I’ve never seen her,” I said.

“You can’t always see ghosts,” James said, his tone condescending. “Have you felt her?”

“No,” I said truthfully. I was increasingly annoyed with James. It was now becoming obvious to me that he was lying, and I didn’t appreciate it. If he believed in spirits, that was certainly fine with me – after all, I did too. If James wanted to find proof of ghosts - well, he was welcome to do whatever he wanted. But to come here, and to tell me a story I suspected was completely fabricated, was really rubbing me the wrong way. I had had enough; I stood up. I intended to say something rude, but was sidetracked by James taking up a theatrical pose in the center of my living room, with Alex training a large camera on him.

“This is going to be a difficult investigation,” he said, in a voice deeper than usual. “At this location, we have two buildings, a boarding house and a cottage, and the resident spirits travel freely between them.”

And then it was over - he stopped speaking, and Alex put down the large camera, and set up a smaller camera on a tripod. “Is it okay if we set up a camera, some REM pods and an EMF meter in your bedroom?” James asked.

“Sure,” I said. I figured I might as well put with up it. After all, if one of these guys was the murderer, then I might get some clues after an all-night vigil with them in the close confines of my cottage.

“I need everyone to be silent, please,” James said. “I’m going to speak into this recorder, and then leave it in Sibyl’s bedroom for the night. Tomorrow, we’ll listen to it and see if anyone has responded to me.” He motioned for us to be quiet, and for Alex to film him. “We’ve come a long way to talk to you,” he said into the recorder. “Is anyone in here, in this cottage? Are you here, Rebecca? Are you here, Andrew? Please give us a sign that you’re here.”

He walked into my bedroom, with Alex following him, still filming.

The two returned moments later. “Now, that’s set up,” James said.

“Did you get any readings from the vigil at the boarding house?” I asked.

All four men nodded enthusiastically. “When we played back the audio, we heard all sorts of phenomena,” Ken said. “Voices, a violin playing, a scream, and there was a threatening spirit who kept telling us to leave. Plus, we had a camera in James’s room, and a small table in there rocked from side to side.”

I tried to recall all the ghost hunting shows I had seen on TV –
Haunting Australia
,
Ghost Hunters
, reruns of
Most Haunted
. “Do other ghost hunting shows get so much data?” I asked. “I mean, that sounds like a lot of stuff – more than I can remember seeing on TV.”

“Oh, that’s why the network wanted me to sign the deal,” James gushed. “We have better equipment. I’ve tweaked all the equipment and we get much better results than anyone else.” He smiled broadly, and I couldn’t help but notice that Alex, Michael, and Ken stared at him with admiration plainly stamped all over their faces.

“We’ll have to do it differently, as your cottage is so small,” James said to me. “We’ll all stay in this room with the cameras on and the voice recorders going. First of all, we have to walk around the room to make sure our readings won’t be influenced by anything electrical.”

I sat on the old, antique French chair and watched the four of them walk around with various forms of equipment. I was already having trouble staying awake, and the night was yet young. I suppressed a yawn, and wondered what James would say if I asked him if I could go to bed. I shook myself and reminded myself that I was here to catch a murderer. Cressida had very nearly fallen victim. Sure, Blake was back in town, but the bungling detectives were no doubt doing everything they could to shut the case down.

I looked around at the four men, James, Ken, Michael, and Alex. The fifth suspect was Dorothy. It was likely that one of the five was the murderer, so there were four out of five chances that the murderer was in my living room right now, and I was looking right at him. Of the four men, there was just something about James. Since meeting him, I had disliked him, then liked him, then tolerated him, and so on, back and forth. Something about him tonight, watching him with his lies, had made me uneasy. You either liked someone, or you didn’t. I sat for a few more minutes, and then I fell asleep.

 

“The moment a little boy is concerned with which is a jay and which is a sparrow, he can no longer see the birds or hear them sing.”
(
Eric Bern
e
)

Chapter Sixteen
.

 

I yawned widely as I rinsed the wriggling and squirming beagle puppy. It was an unusually busy day, with lots of last minute call ins. While I was grateful for the extra income, the timing was appalling - I was growing more tired by the minute.

I had known that giving in to a ghost vigil would impact my work day. Life was chaotic enough without being part of some sort of supernatural reality television show, but I had hoped to gain some clue as to the identity of the murderer.

I wasn't sure what to make of the previous night. I was, however, sure of one thing – it would be weeks before I stopped jumping at drafts and shadows. Having the four of them jumping and making a big deal out of every noise for the entire night would no doubt have my imagination working overtime for some time to come.

I had to wonder if they really believed in their work. It was hard to believe when I had seen with my own eyes James’s attempts to sensationalize their work with gasps and whispers to the camera. A greater problem was James's desire to capitalize on Sue's death. Even if James sincerely believed he could track signs of ghosts and such, it seemed cruel to hope that his friend was now a spirit haunting the place. This surely was an intimate matter – not something to be shared on television.

Then again, to be fair, perhaps James’s passion for his work had momentarily overridden his sense of decency. I remembered seeing a Dr. Phil episode on the strange and socially inappropriate things people did when dealing with grief. As long as it wasn't hurting anyone, there didn't seem to be a reason to make a scene of it.

I shook myself from my thoughts. I had to finish grooming all the dogs, drag myself home, and make dinner. I could only hope nothing came up before I got a quick shower and crawled into bed. I could barely stay awake now.

“Well Koda, you should be good to go,” I said to the impatient pup, as I took him out of the tub and rubbed him down with a soft towel. He was so excited to be done with his bath that he spun in a tight circle with an excited whimper. I laughed as I dried him with the dryer.

“How are things going in here?” Koda’s owner, Alysha, asked as she made her way in with a tray bearing two coffee cups and several cup cakes.

“We're just finishing up.” I smiled at the woman as I picked up a grooming brush, testing Koda’s fur to make sure he was dry before brushing him. Alysha was a new client, having hired me only recently, just days after getting Koda for her children.

Alysha set down the tray on a nearby table. “Are you feeling any better? You looked exhausted when you got here.”

“Oh yes. It was just a long day today,” I said, bending down to put Koda on a clean cushion in a crate. As I handed him a treat, I bemoaned the fact that although I thought I’d hidden my tiredness rather well, I obviously hadn’t. I needed to work on it before I went to my last two stops of the day.

“It seems like it.” Alysha handed me a mug of coffee and a cupcake.

“Thanks Alysha. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.”

“I imagine you’ve had your hands full,” Alysha said. “You live on the same property as that boarding house, correct? The one those ghost hunters are staying at?”

I could not help but detect a hint of something - concern or disapproval – in Alysha’s voice.

“That’s right,” I said, hoping Alysha would say more.

Alysha frowned. “I hope they’re better behaved there than they are in town.”

“Why? What happened? What did they do in town?”

Alysha shrugged. “I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s not anything really bad. I was in town getting my prescriptions, and I saw one of them at odds with Dorothy. She and the boy were all but screaming at each other right in the middle of the street.”

“Oh my.” I was at a loss for words. I knew Dorothy had a bad temper, but why would she yell at one of the ghost hunters in the middle of town? “What happened exactly?” I asked. “Which one of the ghost hunters was it?”

“I'm not sure, to be honest. I was too far away to hear what they were arguing about. It was the man with the longer, black hair, if that helps. The others hung back while he and Dorothy were having words with one another.”

James. Why would James argue with Dorothy? “Do you know which one started it?” I asked.

Alysha shook her head, “Sorry, I don’t know. It did go on for some time, though. It gave all the locals something to watch.” She laughed.

My mind whirled as I tried to think of a plausible reason those two would have to make a scene out in public. It wasn't as if they didn't run into each other often enough at the boarding house. They’d had plenty of opportunity to vent their frustrations in private. I would have thought Dorothy and James would have been professional enough to not take it to the streets.

“Maybe they said something about her cooking that didn't sit too well with her,” I said. “Dorothy is quite touchy about her food.”

“It didn't seem like that.” Alysha clucked her tongue. “It looked a lot more personal. They acted like they’d known each other for years. Something about it made me think it was something they had fought about before. The others in his little group didn't even seem surprised they were fighting.”

“Thank you for letting me know, Alysha.  And thanks for the coffee. I'll put it to good use.”

Alysha gave me a look of concern. “It's the least I can do. You make life so much easier, making home visits.”

My next two clients went smoothly. They were just shampoos, with no clipping involved. I parked the van and bought a large take out latté, which I consumed as quickly as I could. With my caffeine levels suitably elevated, I headed for the local library which had free WiFi and three computers for public use, where I would be away from the ghost hunters and prying eyes.

I had rarely been in the library, which was new but quite small, as would be expected in a town with a population of around three thousand residents. There appeared to be no librarian in charge, although there was a man arranging tourist brochures near the entrance.

“Hello, where are you from?” he asked.

“Little Tatterford,” I said, and the man’s face fell with obvious disappointment.

“I’m just here to use the computers,” I added.

He pointed to the back of the hall.

“Is there a charge for the computers?”

He looked at me as if I had grown three heads. “Charge? No, it’s funded by the Community Center. We all need to support the Community Center – they do several free services for the community. There’s a Zumba class every night in the Community Hall, and Cathy Palmer takes Boot Camp once a week. You run up the mountain carrying sandbags or tires.” He handed me a stack of brochures.

“Sounds great,” I spluttered, backing away after taking the brochures. “Some other time, perhaps - I just need to use the computers.”

I hurried down to the back of the library, relieved that the man wasn’t following me. The free Wifi was painfully slow, and the connection kept dropping out. I did manage to find an old photo of Dorothy, which I printed, and all it cost me was a coin donation and another conversation about fitness classes with the man.

 

BOOK: Never Say Dye (A Sibyl Potts Cozy Mystery, Book 3)
10.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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