Authors: Adele Abbott
They looked so very peaceful now. The ‘sleep’ spell had done its job, but it had been a close call. I’d had to wait until the dogs were close enough, before casting the spell on each of them in turn. The last of the three had almost been on me when he slumped to the ground.
The site was divided into two distinct areas: the power station itself with its huge cooling towers to my right, and to my left, the expansive office buildings. Nature was already beginning to reclaim the land, with weeds growing out of every crack in the concrete.
The large double doors were locked, but I soon found a broken window—there were plenty of them. Inside it was cold and damp. Everything of any value had long since been stripped out. It would have taken me all day to search every office, but I had a better idea. The ‘listen’ spell brought the building to life. A million and one sounds invaded my head. Water dripping—maybe a broken pipe or a tap. A thousand small feet—the place was no doubt home to any number of rats, mice and creepy crawlies. And then, from somewhere among that cacophony came what sounded like a voice. A very weak voice. I re-focussed, this time filtering out all other sounds.
I headed towards the voice, being careful not to stumble over the debris which was scattered everywhere. When I reached the stairs, I hesitated. The voice had fallen silent. After a few seconds, it started up again—barely audible even with the ‘listen’ spell. I reached the top floor, and followed the voice along the corridor—hugging the wall. The sign on the door read ‘Conference room 3A’. The small glass window in the door was broken. Through it I could see him.
The man tied to the chair was tall and gangly. The only light in the room came from a broken skylight above his head. I pushed the door open slowly. I was conscious there might be others in the room. Once inside, I began to walk slowly towards the man. His head was bowed, so he didn’t see my approach until I was only a few feet away.
“Help me!” His voice was weak. “Please, help me.”
After untying him, I made a call to Maxwell.
“I’ve found Norman Reeves. He’s going to need an ambulance.”
Thirty minutes later, Norman Reeves was in A&E, and I was in my favourite interview room with my favourite detective.
“You should have called us before you went charging in there.”
“I wasn’t sure he’d be there. It was just a hunch.”
“Some hunch. How did you know?”
“I think Reeves was actually abducted before the night that he and Natasha supposedly visited the restaurant. Reeves is a skinny giant. The man on the restaurant CCTV was only a few inches taller than Natasha—I’d hazard a guess that was Dominic Whitelaw. Also, the driver’s seat in the abandoned car was pushed all the way forward. There’s no way Reeves could have driven with the seat in that position. Natasha or Dominic must have driven it to the car park—they probably took out the only CCTV camera the day before. They needed to make it look like Reeves had taken a train.”
“How did you put Cutts and Whitelaw together?”
“Natasha Cutts works for a temp agency. Three years ago she was assigned to work at the power station. Her boss was Dominic Whitelaw. I’m pretty sure they’ve been having an affair ever since.”
“That still doesn’t explain how you knew where to find Reeves.”
“Whitelaw still has access to the power plant. He’s been overseeing its closure. Like I said, it was just a hunch. Reeves should be able to fill in the blanks when he’s recovered.”
“He was lucky you found him when you did. I’ve spoken to the doctor at A&E. She said another twenty four hours and he probably wouldn’t have made it. The only reason he’s still alive now is because he managed to catch a few drops of rainwater which had dripped in through the broken skylight.”
“What’s going to happen to them now?”
“Natasha Cutts and Dominic Whitelaw are being taken into custody as we speak.”
“And the money?”
“That’s anyone’s guess.”
“Will you let me know if it turns up? I want to tell Kathy. Hopefully, it’ll be good news.”
I stood up.
“Whoa, just a minute. We aren’t done yet.”
I sat back down.
“You haven’t explained how you managed to view the CCTV from the restaurant or how you managed to gain access to the power station.”
“A lady has to have some secrets.”
I decided to drive to Candlefield. It was much slower than casting a spell, but it was way more relaxing.
“Jill!” Aunt Lucy greeted me with a hug. “Come on in. I was about to make a cup of tea. Would you like one?”
“That would be great.”
“Milk. One and two-thirds spoonfuls of sugar?”
“Your mother tells me that you found her ring. She was so thrilled.”
“I was thrilled for her. She did say something that confused me though.”
“Oh? What’s that?”
“She said the ring would pass down to me.”
“And so it will.”
“Yeah, but that’s the bit I don’t understand. Normally possessions are passed down when someone dies, but my mother—well—”
“I see what you mean. It’s simple really. Your mother will only be a ghost for as long as she chooses to be. After that her spirit will move on.”
“That’s right. In fact, the only reason she chose to remain here as a ghost was because she wanted to make sure that you were safe. She didn’t know how you’d cope with the transition to being a witch.” Aunt Lucy took a sip of tea. “She needn’t have worried on that score.”
“So she could leave at any time?”
“In theory, yes. But then again it could be decades or even centuries from now.”
“I’ll be long gone by then anyway.” I laughed.
“What do you mean?”
“You haven’t realised, have you? As a witch, you don’t age in the same way as a human does.”
“No one told me that.”
“I’m sorry dear. There’s so much we take for granted. I forget sometimes that this is all still new to you. Witches are not immortal, but they do age much slower than humans—probably one tenth as fast.”
Maths was never my strong point, but I did the calculation.
“So a witch could be six hundred years old, but only appear to be sixty?”
“Thereabouts. It’s way more complicated than that. The more time you spend in the human world, the quicker you will age.”
“Do all witches live to such a great age?”
“Not all. Just like humans, some fall victim to illness or injury. Like I said, witches are not immortal. Although your body will withstand much more than that of a human, and will recover much quicker, you’re not invincible.”
“How old is Grandma?”
“In human years? About eight hundred and fifty.”
“No wonder she’s cranky.”
Aunt Lucy laughed.
“I’m afraid I’ve had a couple of run-ins with her recently,” I said. “Since she opened the wool shop.”
“Don’t worry your head about it. I’d be more surprised if you hadn’t. She’d try the patience of a saint. How is her shop doing?”
“Very well as far as I can tell. She’s a mean marketeer, I’ll give her that.”
Aunt Lucy made us a snack, and said, “You mentioned you wanted to talk to me about the wedding.”
“Mum said I’ll be expected to give a speech. That’s the first I’ve heard of it.”
“Just keep it simple. Say a few words about what it means to be reunited with your mother. That will have everyone in tears—except Grandma of course. Then wish the happy couple well, and you’re done.”
“Aren’t there any special witch formalities or customs I need to be aware of?”
“No. The ceremony is pretty much what you’d expect in the human world. Incidentally, have the girls mentioned the hen night to you?”
“No.” I hated hen nights with a passion.
“They will. They’ve been talking about nothing else.”
“It’s not really my kind of thing.”
“They’re going to be disappointed if you don’t go.”
“The main reason I wanted to see you,” I said, trying hard to put the hen night out of my mind, “was about Kathy, and her family.”
“Are they okay?”
“Yeah, they’re fine. It’s just that when I came to my mother’s funeral, I didn’t know the rules about not telling humans about Candlefield. Anyway, I told Kathy, and now she wants to come over with the family. I don’t know what to do.”
“You’ve tried the ‘forget’ spell I take it?”
“Yeah, but it doesn’t seem to unseat the memory from when I originally told her. Peter and the kids know too. The holiday they’d planned has fallen through, so now Kathy has had the brilliant idea of them all coming here. I’m supposed to ask you if they can stay with you.”
“Oh dear. That is a bit of a mess.”
“Leave it with me, and I’ll see what I can come up with.”
“Please, pretty please,” Amber said.
“You have to come, Jill.” Pearl could have won medals for pouting.
“Hen nights really aren’t my thing. I’m getting too old for that kind of thing.”
“Nonsense. You’re not much older than us. Please say you’ll come.”
It was my own fault. I should have steered clear of Cuppy C. Aunt Lucy had warned me that they were hell-bent on getting me to go on the hen night.
“How many people are going?” I asked.
“Two others apart from you two?”
Pearl frowned. “No, just us two.”
“What about my mother? She’s the one getting married.”
“A lot of the clubs are a bit sniffy about letting ghosts in. And, besides she told Mum that she was too old for that kind of thing. She wants you to go though.”
I studied Amber’s face. Had my mother really said that or was it just a ploy to get me to agree? “What about Aunt Lucy?”
The twins shared the same horrified expression. “Mum?” Pearl said. “We don’t want her there.”
“She doesn’t want to come anyway,” Amber said. “She can’t bear to be separated from Lester. Yuk!”
“I like Lester.” Although I still hadn’t got used to his moustache.
don’t have to watch them smooching. It shouldn’t be allowed.”
“So, then.” I finished off the last few crumbs of the strawberry cupcake. “The hen night is just you two?”
“And you,” Pearl said.
“Please!” Amber pleaded.
Saying no would have felt like smacking a kitten. “Go on then. But I’m not staying out too late. I’ve got a lot on at the moment.”
They hugged me.
“Now we have to decide what you’re going to wear.” Amber was the first to release me.
“You need something new and spectacular!” Pearl said.
“We have to go shopping right now!” Pearl began to take off her apron.
“What about the shop?”
“Amber can look after it.”
“No way!” Amber threw her apron onto the table. “If you’re going, so am I.”
“It’s your turn to hold the fort.” Pearl had her arms crossed—she meant business.
“What about yesterday when you went out to get your nails done?”
“That was an emergency.”
“You’d only had them done the day before.”
“One of them was chipped.”
“I’m sure I can manage to go shopping alone if you two are needed here.”
They turned their gaze on me, and then back to one another—and laughed.
“You’re so funny, Jill,” Amber said.
What? I was capable of picking out clothes.
“You may be kicking our asses with level two spells, but—” Pearl looked me up and down. “Seriously?”
“I look okay, don’t I?” I was wearing my favourite grey slacks and a freshly ironed white blouse.
, but you have to look
” Pearl said.
“Definitely,” they said in unison. Well at least I’d got them to agree on something—my fashion sense sucked.
Neither of the twins had any intention of missing out on a morning’s shopping, so they left Cuppy C in the hands of their two assistants, who if I read their body language correctly, weren’t particularly sorry to see their employers leave.
Before we set off for the shops, the twins decided that it would be a good idea for me to see the outfits that each of them had bought for the hen night. They said it would give me an idea of what ‘spectacular’ looked like. Neither girl had seen the other’s outfit yet.
I stood in the corridor, outside the twins’ bedrooms.
“Ready?” Amber called.
“Ready!” Pearl replied.
I took a deep breath. I had a horrible feeling that I wasn’t going to like ‘spectacular’, but I couldn’t let my feelings show. Whatever the girls were wearing, I’d say I loved it. I just wished I was a better liar.
“Three, two—” Amber began the countdown. “One!”
The two bedroom doors flew open, and out stepped ‘spectacular’.
Amber was closest to me, and she saw the look on my face.
“What? Don’t you like it?”
“You did it on purpose!” Pearl screamed.
Amber spun around to face her sister.
“I bought mine first! You can take yours back!”
If I’d laughed, they’d have probably killed me. The blue mini dress that Amber was wearing was indeed spectacular. So was the identical one worn by Pearl.
“How was I supposed to know you’d bought that?” Pearl screamed. “You should have told me.”
“I asked if you wanted to see my outfit, but you said ‘no’. You said I had no taste!”
“Maybe you could both wear the same?” I said.
The twins turned their gazes on me.
“Or not. Daft idea. Scrub that.”
“So what are we going to do?” Pearl said.
“I’m not taking mine back.”
“Neither am I.”
And so it was decided. All three of us would look for a new outfit.
The duplicate dress incident actually worked in my favour because the twins would now be focused on their own purchases instead of mine. It was remarkable how similar their tastes were. Every time one of them spotted a dress they liked, the other one homed in on it too.
“I saw it first!”
“In your dreams!”
“Girls, girls.” I stepped in. “You’ll tear it.”
“I saw it first, Jill,” Amber said.
“She’s a liar. I’d already picked it up.”
This was worse than a shopping expedition with Kathy’s kids. At least they didn’t fight over the same toys.
“Enough!” I said, in my school headmistress voice. “This can’t go on.”
“It’s her fault!”
“Shush, both of you. If you don’t stop this, I am not going on the hen night.”
I waited until I had silence and their full attention. “Okay, this is how it’s going to work.” I took out a coin. “Amber, call. Heads or tails?”
They shared the same puzzled expression.
“Heads or tails?”
She called heads. I tossed the coin.
“It’s tails. Pearl you get to choose. Right or left?”
“I don’t understand—”
“Pick one. Right or left.”
She shrugged. “Right.”
“Okay. You have to stay on the right-hand side of the high street. Amber you have to stick to the left.”
“But Michy’s is on the left,” Pearl said.
“Firstme is on the right.” Amber complained.
“It’s swings and roundabouts. There are enough shops here for both of you to find something. Agreed?”
The twins pouted, then shrugged, but finally agreed.
“What about you?” Pearl said. “Which one of us are you going with?”
“Neither of you. I’ll choose something for myself.”
They both laughed.
“I promise to choose something ‘spectacular’. You can both meet me back here in two hours. I promise I won’t actually buy anything until you’ve approved it. How’s that?”
They reluctantly agreed and hurried off.
Now, all I had to do was find something spectacular.
The moment I spotted it, I knew I’d found the one. But was I brave enough to try it on, let alone go out in it? I expected the young witch on the fitting room to give me a ‘really?’ look, but she just handed me a tag.
Kathy had always insisted that I had nicer legs than her, and that I should show them off, but I rarely wore anything above the knee. The red dress was at least an inch shorter than I’d normally wear, but that wasn’t the truly spectacular part. Cleavage! Who knew?
“You first Pearl!” Amber insisted when the three of us met up later.
Pearl took out a green dress which made the one I’d tried on look like a maxi.
Amber nodded her approval.
“It’s lovely,” I agreed.
Amber had chosen a yellow dress which flared out below the waist. A little longer than Pearl’s, but with a lower neckline.
Pearl loved it. So did I.
“Now it’s your turn.” Pearl turned to me.
“Have you found something?” Amber said.
“I have. Follow me.”
It felt like prom— not that I’d ever been to prom. The twins were waiting for me outside the fitting rooms. I took one last look in the mirror. I didn’t care what they thought, I loved it anyway.
My legs felt like jelly as I walked out. They looked me up and down, glanced at one another, and then said in unison, “Spectacular!”
By nine o’clock the three of us were ready to party, and although I say it myself, we looked hot!
“Party time!” Amber said.
“I feel like dancing.” Pearl did a sexy shimmy.
“Me too.” The voice came from behind us.
“Grandma?” All three of us said.
Grandma was resplendent in black satin. I’d never seen her wear make-up before, but tonight she’d plastered it on.
“Where are we going first?” She began to shuffle her feet in what was either a dance or the prelude to a seizure.
All colour had drained from Amber and Pearl’s faces. “Grandma?”
“Why do you keep saying that?” Grandma began to shake her booty. Something no one should have to witness.
“Are you planning on coming with us?” There was desperation in Pearl’s voice.
“Of course I am. Didn’t think I’d miss a hen night did you?”
“Mum’s staying at home,” Amber said.
“Pah. Old before her time that daughter of mine.”
“It’s going to be noisy,” Pearl said.
“And hot,” Amber added.
“I can’t wait.” Grandma made for the door. “Come on, what are you waiting for?”
The three of us shared the look of the condemned.
“We have to lose her,” Amber said.
For once, the three of us could agree on something.
First stop was DingDing, a small club that catered mainly for witches and wizards. Although there was no actual policy barring other sups, ninety nine per cent of those inside were witches or wizards. And tonight at least, the ratio was two wizards for every witch.
“How are we meant to pull with her here?” Pearl said when Grandma took a toilet break.
“No one is going to dance with us while she’s here.” Amber sighed.
“What was that dance she was doing?” We all laughed while keeping an eye open in case she returned.
“You two shouldn’t be trying to
anyway,” I said. “What about Alan and William?”
“We’ll only be flirting. You have to flirt on a hen night—it’s the law.”
“I hope Grandma doesn’t start flirting.” I spotted her walking back towards us. “Shhh! She’s here.”
“This place is lame,” Grandma declared. “Let’s go somewhere else.”
I was already shattered, and ready for bed. “Why don’t we find somewhere quiet where we can sit down for a while?”
The twins gave me a look, but it was nothing compared to the one that Grandma shot my way. “Sit down? What’s wrong with you? This is meant to be a hen night. You don’t ‘sit down’ on a hen night; you get out on the floor and shake your booty.” She gave me a quick demonstration. “All that time you’ve spent with humans has made you soft. Come on, let’s find some real action.”
“What are we going to do?” Amber said, in a whisper as the three of us trailed behind Grandma who was shaking her booty all over the street.
“We have to lose her,” Pearl said. “This is a disaster.”
“If we do, she’ll kill us.” I kept my eyes on Grandma just in case she turned around.
“Whatever she does to us, it can’t be any worse than this,” Amber said. “We’ll never be able to show our faces again after tonight.”
It was now or never. “Quick!” I grabbed the twins and pulled them into the doorway to our right.
“What are you doing?” Pearl said.
“Just follow me.”
The maître d’ smiled. “Table for three?”
“Yes please. Can we sit over there?” I pointed to the far side of the restaurant.
“I’m not hungry,” Amber said, as he led us to our table.
“Just go with it.” I picked up a menu and pretended to study it.