Authors: Jean G. Goodhind
WALKING WITH GHOSTS
A HONEY DRIVER
JEAN G GOODHIND
|Chapter Twenty One|
|Chapter Twenty Two|
|Chapter Twenty Three|
|Chapter Twenty Four|
|Chapter Twenty Five|
|Chapter Twenty Six|
|Chapter Twenty Seven|
|Chapter Twenty Eight|
|Chapter Twenty Nine|
|Chapter Thirty One|
|Chapter Thirty Two|
|Chapter Thirty Three|
|Chapter Thirty Four|
|Chapter Thirty Five|
|Chapter Thirty Six|
|Chapter Thirty Seven|
|Chapter Thirty Eight|
|Chapter Thirty Nine|
|Chapter Forty One|
|Chapter Forty Two|
|Chapter Forty Three|
|Chapter Forty Four|
|Chapter Forty Five|
|Chapter Forty Six|
|Chapter Forty Seven|
|Chapter Forty Eight|
|Chapter Forty Nine|
|Chapter Fifty One|
|Chapter Fifty Two|
|Chapter Fifty Three|
|Chapter Fifty Four|
|Chapter Fifty Five|
|Chapter Fifty Six|
|Chapter Fifty Seven|
|Chapter Fifty Eight|
|Chapter Fifty Nine|
|Chapter Sixty One|
|Chapter Sixty Two|
|Chapter Sixty Three|
|Chapter Sixty Four|
|Chapter Sixty Five|
|Chapter Sixty Six|
|Chapter Sixty Seven|
Honey Driver was very aware of her own mortality. She knew as sure as eggs were eggs that one day she would die. Up until tonight, though, she hadn’t anticipated falling off her perch for a few years yet. After all, wasn’t forty-five the new twenty-eight? But, then again, spending an evening trying to find evidence of the spirit world – otherwise known as one of Bath’s famous ghost walks – was bound to make you have funny thoughts.
Going on a ghost walk had been Mary Jane’s idea. She was thrilled at the prospect. ‘And it’s my birthday, so it’ll be a real treat for us both.’
Mary Jane was kind. Mary Jane was a friend. She was also not quite on this planet. She believed in ghosts, spirits, poltergeists, table tapping, guardian angels, and fairies at the bottom of the garden.
‘I’ll check my diary,’ Honey had said. Pointless. There was nothing in it. No shindigs with fellow hoteliers; no invitations for drinks with Steve Doherty. Where was he when she needed him?
And now, here she was, traipsing around Bath in the middle of a deluge.
‘It’s raining. Maybe we should try another time,’ suggested Honey hopefully. ‘Ah, don’t be silly, girl! Ghosts don’t mind a drop of rain!’
? It was now raining cats and dogs and plenty of other domestic animals, and Honey’s trainers were sodden; a dewdrop of water clung to the tip of her nose. She’d started sneezing; not one or two blasts with time in between to dig deep for a packet of tissues. These were continuous, like beads on a rosary going round and around and around. This walk could be the death of her!
All around her, water gurgled down drainpipes, chuckled into drains, dripped from window ledges, and cascaded in shimmering arcs around amber-glowing street lights. It would have hammered off an umbrella – if she’d brought one. She shoved the tissues back into her pocket. Water trickled in too. Dire! She reminded herself that it was Mary Jane’s birthday. She had to stay bright. Now, how could she do that?
Rain, rain, rain. And umbrellas. She thought of Gene Kelly!
I’m singing in the rain … …’
Without the advantage of an umbrella or hitting the right key, she skipped into the road.
It was Mary Jane who shouted; Mary Jane who tugged her back by the scruff of the neck. A motorcycle barely missed running her down.
‘Maniac!’ Honey shouted. As fast as he’d come, he disappeared into the darkness leaving a plume of water in his wake.
‘I didn’t get his number. If I had done, he’d be toast,’ said Mary Jane with a curse-ridden glower.
‘Never mind. You got me. That’s all that matters.’
‘If he’d swerved he would have avoided you anyway.’
Mary Jane was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed despite the downpour. She was a doctor of the paranormal who’d decamped from California to the Green River Hotel in Bath purely so she could be in closer touch with her relatives –
relatives. Old Sir Cedric, Mary Jane’s favourite ancestor, had passed over some time in the eighteenth century. But then Mary Jane herself was on the plus side of three score years and ten and believed in forward planning.
‘I’ll be joining the spirit world before very long. I hate being the newbie, don’t you? Always hated that at school and college and suchlike. Doesn’t hurt to make contact with people before you actually join them.’
It was like listening to an aged aunt conveying her plans for visiting a long-lost relative in Australia.
Honey asked how long the walk would last. Mary Jane assured her it lasted two hours. Her heart sank.
‘Surely not tonight. Not in this weather?’
Mary Jane’s response fell on her like a jumbo jet. ‘It’s bound to. Might even take longer. It’s popular with seniors.’
This was bad news. Not all seniors were as fit as Mary Jane. Walking sticks and, worse still, Zimmer frames, sprang to mind. The world went hazy. Even the jolly lights of the Theatre Royal next door to the Garrick’s Head seemed to dim as if the news was as spirit-sinking to them as it was to her.
A small group of people had gathered in the wide alley outside the main door of the pub. The ghost-walk guide, a slip of a woman with lank hair and a pale face, smiled nervously at her little group. She seemed in a worse state than any of them. The inclement weather gave the impression that the poor chick was slowly melting away. The rainwater drummed on her pink umbrella, ricocheting in a fine spray on to everyone else.
Honey shook the vision of warm bed and warm drink from her head and adopted what passed for an attentive expression. The guide was about to address them.
‘My name is Pamela Windsor, and I’m very new at this, so do bear with me. Unfortunately our more seasoned guides were unavailable this evening. I’m sure you’ll understand.’
Droplets of water dripped from Honey’s hood as she nodded. Of course she understood. Why wasn’t everybody as sensible?
‘I have to take your names,’ the unfortunate guide went on. ‘And I’m giving you labels so I know who everyone is. I’m aiming to write an article on it – just for a local magazine you understand.’ She laughed nervously. No one objected.
Pamela entered their details on a curling piece of paper attached to a clipboard. The heavy downpour was swiftly turning it to papier mâché and the ink was beginning to run, but full marks to Pamela for perseverance.
Group members, most of whom were wearing hoods or sporting umbrellas or both, gave their names.
While Mary Jane bubbled with enthusiasm, Honey studied the rest of the party, praying that anyone needing sticks or a walking frame had stayed at home.
There were four men complete with wives; two of the couples were American, one couple was German, and the other Swedish. There were also two middle-aged Australian women who appeared to be together. They were giggling like schoolgirls. They’d been the last to vacate the bar of the Garrick’s Head. A slight but definite whiff of gin came with them.
There was also a young man wearing a green waterproof cape and speaking with an accent Honey couldn’t quite place. There was thankfully no sign of anyone with a walking frame.
Honey’s elation was short-lived, though. A taxi pulled up. The front passenger door opened and an umbrella appeared. It was followed by a woman of rather advanced years, wearing flat shoes and using a walking stick.
The taxi drove off, the redness of its brake lights obscured by a mist of water. Its passenger pushed her way to the middle of the group.
‘My name is
She thrust her fist and the fee at the slender young woman.
‘Hi. I’m Hamilton George,’ said one of the American men, propelling his hand forward. ‘Call me Hal. What do we call you?’
Honey exchanged as much of a surprised look with Mary Jane as she could muster; it wasn’t easy looking at or seeing anything from beneath a plastic hood.
‘Was that a Midwestern accent?’ Honey muttered through the side of her mouth.
‘Midwest USA for sure. Takes all sorts,’ Mary Jane murmured back.
Of course it did. Bath was a Mecca for tourists from all over the world. Most came to suck up the atmosphere, do the Jane Austen stuff, wander around the Roman Baths, and drool over the possibility that a centurion à la Russell Crowe in
had once bathed naked in its sulphuric waters.
Their guide issued them with name tags. ‘So I can remember who everyone is,’ she explained again.
Despite the lack of space on the labels, Her Ladyship insisted on using her full title. ‘Lady Templeton-Jones is how I prefer to be addressed.’
‘Lovely night for ducks,’ chortled one of the Australian women as though it was the most original joke in the world.
ducks you meant,’ giggled her friend. For a brief moment the rain did nothing to obliterate the fug of Gordon’s gin. At least
were enjoying themselves.
‘Right,’ said their guide, tucking away her clipboard inside her roomy pink raincoat. ‘We’ll start here at the Garrick’s Head. As most of you will know, David Garrick was a great actor in his day and many old pubs attached to theatres are named after him …’
She went on to recount the strange goings on in the Theatre Royal itself, referring to various performances in modern times and the amount of people who’d seen or heard ghostly apparitions.
‘The Grey Lady actually appeared at a performance in front of eight hundred and fifty-seven people!’
The group was impressed. The number was so exact; not eight hundred and fifty – eight hundred and fifty-
It had to be true!
‘I never knew spirits were so brazen,’ someone said.
Mary Jane was a bit sniffy. ‘It’s not a spirit. It’s a ghost, the result of a traumatic happening. Spirits are different. They just exist in a parallel world and make contact when the mood takes them.’ She said it with the air of someone quite used to getting a call from the other side.
Pamela Windsor nodded respectfully. ‘Now if anyone wants to use the rest room …’ Half her group trooped back into the pub. Once they returned she gave an in-depth history of both the pub and the theatre and the smell of jasmine that preceded the appearance of the Grey Lady.
‘Next we’re off to The Circus, via Queen Square …’
Like a line of limp laundry, they followed.
The ghost of Queen Square came and went – or rather it didn’t.
‘No sighting.’ Mary Jane sounded disappointed.
‘Must be the weather,’ said Honey under her breath.
As they made the gentle descent to their next stop, Mary Jane leaned close to Honey’s ear. ‘I don’t think we’re going to see anything interesting. I’m getting bad vibrations from this group. They’re not spirit-orientated.’
‘Some are,’ said Honey. Her eyes were on the Australian women. They were playing hopscotch through the puddles. One of them had brought a hip flask. Whoever made the biggest splash had a sip.
‘These people need spirit counselling,’ Mary Jane muttered.
‘I need a new pair of trainers.’ Honey eyed the excess water squelching out through her lace holes. The laces kept coming undone, trailing behind her and getting soggier by the minute. Every few minutes she stopped to tie them up. She began to get left behind.
Enthused with her favourite subject, Mary Jane kept pace with the guide.
Honey found herself trudging along next to the woman with a title and a walking stick. She felt obliged to make conversation. ‘So! You’re titled. How come?’
‘That’s none of your business.’
‘Sorry. No offence.’
They trudged on, along the raised gravel path where folk of substance used to strut their stuff. Black-leaved trees dripping with water rustled in the darkness.
Someone’s comment on the sound drifted back to her. ‘Like a stiff taffeta skirt.’
There was nothing elegant happening in Honey’s mind, unless you put hot chocolate and a hot-water bottle in the same league as eighteenth-century fashion.
She and Her Ladyship caught up with the rest of the group on the grass in the centre of the Circus.
Pamela’s take on the Circus and its strange happenings flew over her head. Her shoelaces were trailing again. She bent down.
‘Ever onward! Next, the Assembly Rooms.’
Pamela stabbed at the air with her brolly.
The group trailed along behind her. Honey brought up the rear.
The tall buildings lining the road threw black shadows that even the streetlights failed to penetrate. The walkers dropped back towards Gay Street, taking a right into an alley which took them down the back of the antique markets.
Thanks to her shoelaces she dropped back again and it came to the point where she couldn’t see the group and couldn’t hear them. Only Her Midwestern Ladyship was close at hand. It occurred to Honey that the old dear was getting slower and slower. She stopped to let her catch up and chanced a smile when she did. ‘You’re not a psychic, I take it?’
Honey tried to make conversation again. ‘And you’re not afraid of ghosts?’
The older lady gave her a withering look. ‘It’s the living you have to fear, not the dead.’