Authors: Adele Abbott
That’s when it struck me. Grandma wasn’t one to give in easily, but she definitely was one to hold a grudge. She must have hated having to back down over Mrs V’s toad legs. How better to take her revenge than to put some kind of curse on Mrs V’s knitting? No wonder she was losing stitches, and it had nothing to do with digital knitting needle jammers.
Time for another showdown.
As I waited for the lights to change, I spotted a familiar face coming towards me. Natasha Cutts’ face looked like thunder, and she became quite animated, as she screamed into the phone.
It took her a moment to register who I was. “Oh, hi.” She pressed the ‘end call’ button.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“That’s okay. It was just—err—my mother.”
“Are you okay? You seemed kind of upset.”
She smiled nervously. “I’m fine. You know what mothers are like.”
I nodded. She should try having a ghost-witch for a mother.
“I’d better get going,” she said, and was gone.
“Don’t you have any work to do?” Grandma said when I walked into her shop.
“Reverse the spell,” I said.
“I already did. Her legs are perfectly normal now.”
“That’s not what I meant, and you know it.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“What I said before still stands. I’ll never go to Candlefield again, and I’ll—”
“Renounce your witchmanship, blah, blah, blah.”
“I mean it, Mrs V is off limits. Reverse the spell which is making her drop stiches.”
“You’re no fun at all, are you?” Grandma sighed. “Okay, I’ve reversed it.”
“No more, okay?”
“Okay, I get the message. Mrs V is off limits. Happy now?”
For now maybe, but something told me I was going to be made to suffer for this later.
“Mum?” It still felt kind of weird doing this. “Mum?”
“Yes, dear?” My mother’s ghost appeared behind me. “Is everything okay?” She was standing/hovering just in front of the French doors.
“Everything’s fine. How are the wedding preparations going?”
“Getting there. How’s your speech coming along?”
Speech? What speech? “Err—nicely.”
“Is there something you need? I was in the middle of making breakfast for Alberto. He loves a good fry up.”
“I have something for you.” I took the ring out of my pocket, and held it out to her. Her hand began to tremble.
“Mum? Are you okay?”
She put a hand to her mouth; tears were welling in her eyes.
“I’m okay,” she managed. “Just give me a moment.” She reached out and took the ring. “How? How did you know?”
“Alberto told me. Don’t be mad at him.”
The initial shock over, she moved over to the sofa. “Come here.” She patted the seat beside her. “I’m not mad at him. How could I be?”
“You should have told me about the ring,” I said.
“I didn’t want to bother you. I knew you’d feel obliged to do something about it, and you already had enough on your plate.”
“It’s beautiful.” I touched the ring as it lay on her open palm.
“It’ll be yours one day.”
I smiled, unsure exactly how that would work, but for once in my life, too diplomatic to ask.
“My wedding day will be complete now,” she said. “I have everything I need. The man that I love, my grandmother’s ring, and my beautiful daughter.”
Both of us were in tears now.
“You’d better get back to Alberto’s fry up,” I said, wiping my eyes.
“Thank you again.” She was still staring at the ring when she disappeared.
Speech? No one had said anything to me about a speech. What was I meant to say exactly? I’d only known my mother for a matter of weeks, and then only as a ghost. Should the speech be serious? Funny? I knew nothing of the conventions of sup or ghost marriages, and I highly doubted I’d find a book on it in the local library. I was going to need help. Aunt Lucy’s help.
I called Kathy to let her know that Norman Reeves’ car had been found.
“What does that mean?” she asked.
“The police think he abandoned it there, and left on a train.”
“What do you think?”
“The evidence certainly points that way.”
“That’s not what I asked, Jill. What do
“The more I learn about him, the less likely it seems that he’d steal the cash. If his co-workers are to be believed, he’s a shy, honest man who would be horrified at having an overdue library book. The problem is he isn’t here to defend himself. Maybe he did do it. Stranger things have happened.”
“So is that it? Do we kiss goodbye to the money?”
“I still have a few leads to follow up, but I wouldn’t want to get your hopes up.”
“What about Candlefield? Have you managed to sort anything out yet?”
“I’ll be seeing Aunt Lucy later today. I’ll keep you posted.”
As I made my way out of the flat, I heard what sounded like someone crying.
“Hello?” I said.
The young woman stepped out from the alcove where the mail-boxes were located. Her eyes were red and puffy, and her make-up had run, so it took a few seconds for me to realise it was DeeDee aka Dee.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yes.” She sobbed. “I’m being silly.”
She broke down in tears again. I hated it when people cried; I was never sure what to do. “There, there.” I put a hand on her shoulder. I’d seen Kathy do that with Lizzie.
I waited until she’d cried herself out. “Okay now?”
She nodded. “He’s a pig.”
“Ivy, yeah. He’s a pig.”
“He dumped me.”
She sobbed again. “Yeah.”
“Did he say why?”
“He’s found someone else.”
That would make number three, in the space of a week.
“How did you meet Mr—Ivy?”
“At the Regent.”
“The hotel near the station?”
She nodded. “They have a speed dating night there once a week.”
“You met Mr Ivers at a speed dating night?”
“Yeah. We hit it off straight away.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of thing did he talk about? The movies?”
“Movies? No. I don’t actually remember what we talked about. He was just so—” She hesitated. “Fascinating and funny. I’d never met anyone like him. And now, he’s dumped me.”
She broke down in tears again.
It was another ten minutes before she’d regained composure enough to go on her way. What was I missing? The man was a certified bore, and was no looker. How had he landed himself not one, not two, but three dates? Why was a beautiful young woman like Dee in floods of tears because he’d dumped her? It made zero sense. My ‘something’s fishy’ meter was sounding. I’d already signed up for an online dating site; why not give speed dating a try too?
I gave Aunt Lucy a call to ask if I could go over to see her later that day. I wanted to pick her brains about the wedding speech I was supposed to deliver, and to see if she had any bright ideas on how I should handle the ‘Kathy/Candlefield’ situation.
Mrs V looked much happier; her knitting needles were moving at warp speed.
“Everything okay?” I asked.
“No more dropped stitches?”
“Not a single one. How did you manage to sort it out?”
“I had them install an anti-jamming device. You shouldn’t have any more problems.”
“Thank you, dear. I knew I could rely on you.”
What? What was I supposed to tell her?
“This came for you.” She handed me an envelope.
Seamus-the-wheel had prepared a short report: Hector Vicars had a five year ban for drink driving, effectively ending what had been a promising amateur career in rally driving. So much for ‘retiring at the top’. He didn’t currently have a car registered in his name.
Hilary Vicars had a dark blue Saab registered in her name. It had never been reported to the police as stolen, but Seamus had managed to track it to a breaker’s yard. He’d located it before the vehicle had been crushed, and he’d paid the yard owner to hold onto it until Seamus gave him the nod.
In the spirit of our new style co-operation, I updated Maxwell on my findings in the Vicars case. I told him about Hilary’s car, and what Mrs Draycott had told me about Edna Vicars’ final words. He said he’d get someone to check out the car, but he was sceptical about what Mrs Draycott had supposedly heard.
“Calling for her son when she knew she was dying? That’s hardly surprising.”
“You don’t think she might have been trying to tell Mrs Draycott who was responsible for her death? Who was behind the wheel?”
“It’s possible, but I’m going to need a lot more proof before I can arrest him.”
“How’s the love life?” I asked Winky who was perched in his usual spot on the window sill.
“Has Bella gone AWOL again?”
“No. She’s there. Look!”
Sure enough, beautiful Bella, the feline supermodel, was in her usual spot across the way.
“Who is she signalling to?”
“You might well ask.” Winky sighed.
Winky’s flags were by his side on the window sill.
“Is she two-timing you?”
“If I find out who he is, I’ll cut his nuts off.” Winky hissed.
“Have you asked her why?”
“She says she doesn’t want to get serious.”
“Supermodels. They can be like that.” Obviously, I spoke as a leading authority on the subject. “How about some dinner?”
“I’m not hungry.”
Crazy, psycho Winky was exhausting, but sad Winky was kind of heartbreaking.
It didn’t take long to find out that Natasha Cutts worked as a temp with the QuickTemp Agency which was located a few streets from my office.
“Good morning,” the young woman said. The name on her badge was Peach. Poor girl.
“Morning, I’d like to sign up as a temp.”
“Sure. Follow me.” Peach led me behind a blue screen, and gestured for me to take a seat.
“I’ll need to take a few details from you.”
“Jasmine Pear.” What? If she can be a peach, I can be a pear.
“10 Apple Drive, Washbridge.” Too much? I have to keep myself amused somehow—it helps me get through the day.
Peach gave me a look. I smiled reassuringly.
“What type of position are you looking for?”
I can’t tell you how tempted I was to say ‘fruit picker’, but I decided that might be a step too far.
“What experience do you have?”
“I’ve been working in a solicitor’s office for the last four years.”
“That’s good. What’s the name of the firm?”
“Cherry, Cherry and Berry.” I just couldn’t help myself.
“I’ve never heard of them.”
I’d had my fun. Now it was time to get to work.
The sound was almost deafening. Papers lifted off desks and began to swirl around the room in a vortex of air. Peach was pushed back in her chair by the sheer force of the wind.
“What’s happening?” I said. If only Washbridge Amdram could see me now, they’d sign me up on the spot.
“I don’t know.” Peach struggled off her chair, and began to fight her way to the front of the room. The other staff were desperately trying to gather papers and files that had been scattered all over the floor.
For my first attempt at the ‘vortex’ spell, that had gone very well. Not only had I judged the power just right, but I’d also positioned it so that I escaped the worst of the devastation.
“What’s happening?” a male voice said.
“I don’t know,” Peach sounded almost hysterical. “It’s like a whirlwind or something.”
I grabbed the mouse, clicked on the menu option, and selected ‘name search’. Fortunately there was only one Natasha Cutts listed. I had a notepad to jot down the names of the companies she’d worked for, but when I saw the third one on the list, I knew I had what I needed.
The mini tornado had run its course. I switched back to the screen where Peach had been entering my details.
“Sorry,” Peach said. “I really don’t know what just happened.”
“Not to worry. I can see you’re busy. I’ll come back some other time.”
“You might want to get your air conditioning looked at,” I said, on my way out.
The power station had been a victim of the transition away from fossil fuels. Despite a petition, signed by over twenty thousand people worried about local jobs, the plant had closed. Decommissioning and demolition were scheduled for the following year, according to press reports. In the meantime, the buildings stood as a bleak reminder of lost jobs and livelihoods. The perimeter was protected by a tall, steel fence topped with razor wire. Signs warned would-be intruders that the site was protected by guard dogs.
My previous attempt at levitation had been something of a disaster, and a source of much amusement to Grandma. This fence was much taller, and the razor wire would be a lot less forgiving. I couldn’t afford to make a mistake.
I rose gradually off the ground until I was a foot above the razor wire, and then edged slowly forward until I was clear of the fence. Now came the difficult part. This was where I’d got it spectacularly wrong last time when instead of a slow, controlled descent, I’d dropped like a stone. I was wiser and more experienced now, and determined not to give Grandma any more ammunition to use against me. She’d already be gunning for me after the Mrs V incident.
Slowly does it. Perfect! I was on the ground, and not a bruise or cut to be seen. Now, all I had to worry about was the three dogs which were racing towards me—teeth bared.