Witch Is When Everything Went Crazy (14 page)

BOOK: Witch Is When Everything Went Crazy
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Chapter 19

 

“I’m really not sure about this,” I said, as I examined the line of socks strung across the outer office.

“I’ve run out of cupboard space,” Mrs V said.

“Even so. I’m not sure it conveys the right impression.”

“I thought it was rather Christmassy.”

“Here’s a crazy idea, why not take them home with you? And the scarves too?”

“That wouldn’t work.”

“Why not?”

“What would I give to your clients?”

“A friendly smile? A cup of tea?”

“Perhaps you could buy another cupboard for me to put the socks in?”

“Let me sleep on that.”

 

Winky was on my desk—he didn’t look up when I walked in.

“What have I told you about sitting on there?”

“Where is it?” His one good eye flitted back and forth as he looked around all corners of the room.

“Where is what?”

“It was over in that corner.”

“What was? Will you get down off that desk!”

“Not until you get rid of that mouse.”

“Mouse?” I climbed onto the leather sofa. I wasn’t scared—I just didn’t want to squash the poor little thing. “Are you sure you saw a mouse?”

“I suppose it could have been an Armadillo—of course I’m sure it was a mouse. Do you think I’m stupid?”

So tempted. “Why didn’t you catch it then?”

He gave me a look of sheer contempt. “Catch it?”

“Isn’t that what cats do?”

“I do not catch mice. I have far more important things to do with my time.”

“Such as?”

“I read a lot. And I think. I spend a lot of time thinking.”

“About what?”

“The meaning of life. Politics. Literature.”

“Salmon?”

“Salmon too.”

“I don’t see it.” I stepped down cautiously.

“You should call in an exterminator.”

I was sorely tempted to do that, but not for the mouse problem.

“They cost money. Why have a dog and bark yourself?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means I have you.”

“I’m not a dog.”

“I know.”

“Why do you want to bark?”

“Never mind. I don’t have money for an exterminator. You’ll have to get rid of it.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

He said something, but it was so quiet I didn’t catch it. “Pardon?”

“I’m scared of mice, okay? Happy now that you’ve humiliated me?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Then why are you laughing?”

“I’m not.” I bit my lip. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—” I couldn’t hold back the laughter another moment.

“I hate you.” Winky turned his back on me.

On my way out of the office, I asked Mrs V if she’d call in an exterminator. She couldn’t hide her disappointment when I explained it was actually for a mouse.

 

Daze had asked me to call in on her at the laundry. She was loading one of the industrial sized washing machines.

“Jill, hi.”

“How many different jobs have you had?”

“I get bored easily.” She closed the washing machine door, and pressed the ‘wash’ button. “The steam in here is playing havoc with my hair. Cup of tea?”

The tea came out of a vending machine at the back of the shop. The water in the washing machine would probably have tasted better.

“I wanted to apologise for the other day,” Daze said. “I shouldn’t have left you in the lurch like that. I’d double booked you with a werewolf money launderer.”

“That’s what your sidekick said. What’s his name, ‘Blaze’?”

“Yeah. Stupid name. What was he thinking? Daze and Blaze. We sound like a music hall act. I wanted him to be known as ‘Link’. What do you think?”

I shrugged. The levels of surreal in my life still surprised me.

“How did he do?” she asked.

“I wasn’t sure he’d be a match for Black, but he got the job done. The catsuit isn’t a good look on him though.”

“I’ve been telling him that for months, but I’m wasting my breath.”

 

“Tomorrow’s the big day!” Kathy screamed down the phone.

“Yay!”

“You could at least try to sound excited. It
is
my birthday.”

“I’m sorry. I am excited—honest. I’m just dead on my feet.”

“Then get to bed. You have to be on top form tomorrow. You and I are going to get hammered.”

The birthday tradition went back years. The rule was neither of us should work on our birthday, and we had to spend the whole day together. It was a bone of contention with Peter who felt Kathy should spend time with him and the kids on her birthday—I couldn’t say I blamed him. But still the tradition continued. Normally, I was up for it, but this year I had the slight complication of a wedding on the same day.

“What time are we meeting?” I asked.

“You shouldn’t have to ask. You know the drill. Usual time, usual place.”

“Are you sure you want to meet at Barney’s?”

“It’s a tradition.”

When we’d first started, Barney’s had been one of
the
places to go to in Washbridge—it had been considered ‘cool’. That was then. Now, it was a dive frequented by Washbridge’s lowlife. The place made my skin crawl.

“Barney’s it is then.”

 

Colonel Briggs met me at the door to his house. “Where’s your boy?”

“Barry? He’s at home—polishing his trophy.”

The colonel laughed. “And to what do I owe the pleasure?”

I brought him up to date with recent developments, in particular the arrest and confession of Dr Mills.

“I can’t believe it. I never would have thought anyone would go to such lengths.”

“A moment of madness, I think. I don’t believe he intended to harm Mrs Vicars.”

“What will happen to him?”

“That’s up to the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. It’s a difficult one to call.”

“I feel terrible.” The colonel sank into the chair.

“You couldn’t have known about the doctor.”

“It’s not that. I feel terrible for blaming Edna’s children. I had no right to point the finger at them.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it. Hector’s a nasty piece of work. If you hadn’t called me in, he might never have been brought to justice for the jewel robbery. Hilary turned out to be okay though. She’s just escaped from a bad relationship, and is going to use some of the money she inherited to start a new life.”

“Good for her.”

“But she wanted you to have this.” I handed him the cheque. He stared at it for a long moment.

“But why? Edna left the money to her.”

“Hilary knows her mother planned to change her Will to leave the Dog Rescue some of her money. She thought it was the right thing to do under the circumstances.”

“That’s so very generous. Why didn’t she come here herself so I could thank her?”

“I tried to persuade her to, but—well she asked if I’d do the honours.”

“Thank you very much. I’m really grateful. Please give her my thanks.”

“I will.”

We talked for some time, mainly about Edna Vicars and the Dog Rescue. When it came time for me to leave, he walked me to the door.

“I apologise for the state of the gardens.”

“They look beautiful.”

“They’re not up to the usual standard, I’m afraid. The grass needs a bit of a trim, and there are a few weeds peeping through. My gardener, Baxter, died recently. He’d been with me for nearly thirty years.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Good chap. Heck of a good chap. Still, comes to us all in the end, I suppose.”

 

Winky was eating.

“Happy now?” I asked.

“I’d prefer salmon, but this will do I guess.”

“I meant about the mouse.”

Mrs V had insisted that the exterminator use a humane mouse trap, and that she accompany him to witness the mouse’s release a safe distance from our offices.

“I don’t know why you went to all that expense.” Winky licked his lips. “I would have got rid of that little pest if you’d asked.”

“You said you were scared.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I’m a cat.”

“You were the one who said I should bring in the exterminator.”

“Have you been drinking the funny tea again?”

“Okay. If you’re not scared of mice, you won’t mind if I buy a couple from the pet shop. They can have the run of the office.”

“Don’t do that. They’ll scare the clients.”

 

Chapter 20

 

The day of the wedding had arrived. Whoop-de-doo.

Have I mentioned I’m not a big fan of weddings? Kathy can’t get enough of them. When and if I do get hitched, it’ll be a quick trip to the Register Office for me.

I’d been told to report to Aunt Lucy’s house—everyone was gathering there before going to the church.

“You two look gorgeous,” I said. The twins were wearing matching pink, satin dresses. “I’m surprised that you didn’t insist on having different colours.”

“We tried to,” Amber said. “Your mum wanted all three bridesmaids to wear the same colour.”

“Right. That explains it. Wait a minute! What do you mean three?”

“Your dress is in Mum’s bedroom.”

“What do you mean
my
dress?”

“You’d better hurry. The cars will be here in twenty minutes.”

“No one said anything to me about being a bridesmaid. I’ve never been a bridesmaid.”

“Now’s your chance.” Aunt Lucy patted me on the shoulder, as she scurried by. I noticed her hair was back to its normal shade of dark green—if you could call dark green normal. Grandma must have taken pity and reversed the spell.

“Why didn’t Mum tell me? She asked if I’d make a speech at the reception, but there was no mention of being a bridesmaid.”

“Maybe she thought you wouldn’t turn up.” Pearl adjusted a shoulder strap on her dress.

She’d have been right. “What if it doesn’t fit? I didn’t go for a fitting.”

“Neither did we. The first time we saw ours was just before you arrived. Mum used a spell to create them—they’re a perfect fit.”

“But they’re pink. I’ve never worn pink in my life.”

“There’s a first time for everything,” Aunt Lucy called from the living room.

 

I stared at my reflection in the mirror—there was a whole lot of pink going on. I couldn’t fault the fit—more’s the pity. I could have killed my mother. The problem was she was already dead.

“Jill!” Amber called from downstairs. “Come down. We want to see.”

“Yeah, come and give us a twirl,” Pearl shouted.

Someone was going to pay for this.

“You look so pretty,” Amber said, barely stifling a laugh.

“In pink,” Pearl said, and then the two of them collapsed into giggles.

“Ha, ha. Very funny.”

“Ignore them.” Aunt Lucy looked me up and down. “You look fantastic. Your mother will be so proud.”

 

“What on earth are you wearing?” Kathy’s jaw dropped.

My juggling act with the wedding and Kathy’s birthday hadn’t got off to a great start. “I’ve had it ages.” I tried to ignore the looks from the other customers in Barney’s.

“It’s pink.”

“Light red.”

“It’s a joke, right?”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“You look like you should be going ballroom dancing or to a wedding.”

“I like it.”

Kathy shook her head in disbelief. “What do you want to drink?”

“Coke please.”

“You’re not drinking coke on my birthday. You know the rules. Beer or spirits.”

“I’ll have the same as you.”

“Half a lager,” Kathy called to the barman.

“Coming right up. Is it for you or the sugar plum fairy?”

Everyone’s a comedian.

 

“Mother,” Aunt Lucy shouted. “You are
not
wearing that!”

While I’d been with Kathy, Grandma had arrived. She and Aunt Lucy were in the living room.

The twins were peeping through the open door, doing their best not to laugh.

“What’s happening?” I mouthed.

Pearl beckoned me closer. “Look,” she whispered.

“What’s wrong with it?” Grandma said.

“It’s a wedding dress!”

“Well? Are we or are we not going to a wedding?”

“Not yours! You can’t turn up to Darlene’s wedding wearing a wedding dress.”

Grandma did a twirl.

“Where did she get it from?” I whispered. “Is it the one she got married in?”

“No.” Pearl shook her head. “That must have perished centuries ago. She bought it from a charity shop close to Ever a Wool Moment.”

“Why?”

Amber laughed. “Because she’s nutty as a fruit cake.”

“Go and get changed!” Aunt Lucy shouted. “Or you’re not going!”

Grandma huffed and puffed, but in the end relented.

“Is Mum travelling with us?” I asked, after Grandma had left.

“No.” Aunt Lucy still looked exasperated after her run-in with Grandma. “She’s going to meet us at the church.”

 

“Where did you go?” Kathy said. “One minute you were there and the next you’d gone.”

“I needed the loo.”

“Are you actually going to drink that or just stare at it all day?”

“Sorry.” I’d been hoping to pour the lager into the nearby potted plant, but Kathy was watching me like a hawk.

“We need shots.” Kathy banged on the counter. “Two shots, bartender.”

“Isn’t it a bit early for—” I began.

“Shots for the sugar plum fairy and her friend coming right up.” He grinned.

 

“Jill?” Amber looked flustered. “Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”

I hadn’t told any of my Candlefield family about Kathy’s birthday. I didn’t want them to think that I wasn’t giving the wedding my full attention.

“Here!” She handed me a small bouquet of pink and white carnations. “Come on, the cars are outside.”

“Coming.”

Outside were two white limos. In the first car were Grandma, Aunt Lucy and Lester. In the second one were Pearl, Alan and William. I began to follow Amber towards the second car.

“Jill!” Grandma yelled. “You’re travelling with us.”

Great. I glanced at the twins who were doing a poor job of hiding their amusement.

“I thought I’d ride with the twins.”

“You thought wrong.” Grandma patted the seat beside her. “Get in.”

Grandma had changed into a red and black dress which was more ‘Halloween’ than ‘wedding day’. Aunt Lucy saw me staring at Grandma’s dress, and rolled her eyes.

“Have you been drinking?” Grandma put her face closer to mine. I shuffled along the bench seat.

“No.”

“Are you sure? It smells like beer to me.”

“I took some medicine.” I coughed. “Tickly throat.”

“Hmm.” Grandma wasn’t buying it.

The drive to the church took less than five minutes.

 

Everyone except Amber, Pearl and me had made their way into the church.

“How’s Mum getting here?” I said, looking back towards the gate.

“I’m already here.”

I turned around to find my mother dressed all in white.

“You look beautiful,” I said. She really did.

“Thank you, dear. You too. I hope you like pink.”

I forced a smile, and then turned to the twins. “Don’t you think she looks fantastic?”

They shrugged. How rude.

“They can’t see me,” Mum said. “You’re the only one who can see me while we’re out here.”

“What about in the church?”

“Grandma has cast a spell that will allow everyone to see us for the duration of the ceremony. It’s an incredibly complicated, level six spell, and will only last for a short time. She’s going to do the same at the reception during the speeches.”

Speech—I’d been trying to forget about that. I still hadn’t got anything down on paper.

The organist began to play the wedding march.

“Ready?” Mum asked.

I nodded, and we fell in behind her. Aunt Lucy was waiting just inside the doors. She took my mother’s arm and led her down the aisle—three visions in pink following behind. Alberto, dressed in an immaculate, black designer suit, turned to see his bride. It had just occurred to me that he was about to become my stepfather—a ghost stepfather. Drake and his killer smile were seated next to Alan and William in the second row.

The twins and I followed Aunt Lucy to the front pews, and the ceremony began. Aunt Lucy was the first to cry, followed by the twins. My eyes may have watered a little, but then it was dusty in the church—I totally didn’t cry.

 

“Why do you keep disappearing?” Kathy knocked back another shot.

“I nipped out to get you these.” I handed her my bouquet.

“Err—thanks. Where did—?”

“Do you like them?”

“Err—yes, thank you.” She rubbed her head—probably beginning to doubt her own sanity. Or mine. “Drink up. Time to move on.”

I pretended to reach for the shot, but accidentally on purpose knocked it over. “Whoops.”

“Come on, clumsy. Let’s find somewhere a bit more lively.”

That shouldn’t be difficult.

 

“Jill?” Pearl shouted. “Where have you been? We’ve been looking for you everywhere.”

“Sorry. I was feeling a little light-headed,” I lied. “I took a walk to clear my head. Where is everyone?”

“They’ve gone to the reception. We’re going home first to get changed.”

“Good idea.” Anything to get out of this pink horror.

The three of us split up. The twins made their way back to their place where the outfits they’d purchased especially for the evening reception, were waiting for them. I headed to Aunt Lucy’s to get changed back into the clothes I’d arrived in—the ones I’d expected to wear all day.

 

“Jill!” said Kathy. We were in Liberty’s, an altogether different proposition to Barney’s. Liberty’s was the newest, sparkiest bar in town. “What’s wrong with you? You were miles away.”

“Sorry, must be the drink.”

“Speaking of which, I need a cocktail. What shall we have?”

“I think I’ll stick with the lager.”

“No you won’t. Don’t you know what time it is?”

I was about to check my watch when she screamed, “It’s cocktail time!”

Oh boy.

 

Aunt Lucy’s front door was ajar. Had she come back too? “Hello? Aunt Lucy?”

I’d no sooner stepped inside than I was knocked to the ground by two figures who were headed for the door. Two hooded figures—Followers.

“Stop!” I screamed after them. As though that was going to work.

By the time I got to my feet and out of the door, they’d disappeared. Even if I’d seen which way they’d gone, I wasn’t exactly dressed to give chase. What had they been doing in the house? Had they been looking for something? I looked around—upstairs and down—there was no sign of any disruption. Had they been looking for me? If so, why run off like that? Should I tell Aunt Lucy?

I got changed, and checked my reflection in the mirror—it was good to be back in my own clothes.

 

Back in Washbridge, Kathy stared at me.

“What?”

She continued to stare, and then I realised.

“What happened to the pink dress? How did you—?”

I was never going to talk my way out of this one, so I cast the ‘sleep’ spell. I caught Kathy in my arms, and asked one of the security men to help me to get her to the taxi.

“Back already?” Peter looked at his watch. “This must be some kind of record.”

“She was hitting the shots pretty hard.”

Between the two of us, we managed to get Kathy into bed.

“What about you?” Peter asked once we’d crept out of the bedroom. “You still look sober.”

“I’m a bit merry,” I faked. “I’ll take the cab home. Tell her ‘happy birthday’ when she wakes up. Oh, and these are hers.” I handed him what was left of the bouquet, which Kathy had sat on during the cab drive home.

 

Back at Aunt Lucy’s, I heard a noise coming from downstairs. Someone was in the house. Had the Followers come back?

I crept slowly down the stairs. It was silent—had I imagined it? I peered into the living room—nothing. I edged my way towards the kitchen—ready to cast the ‘lightning bolt’ spell. Nothing there either. I must have imagined it.

A hand touched my arm; I spun around.

“Drake?”

“Are you okay?”

“What are you doing here?”

“The twins came back without you. I was beginning to worry.”

“I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. I’ll go and get my shoes.”

 

The reception was at the Candlefield Hotel. The exterior wasn’t very promising—a lick of paint was well overdue—but the interior more than made up for it. The ballroom was huge and beautifully decorated.

My mother looked even more breathtaking close up. “You look stunning,” I said.

BOOK: Witch Is When Everything Went Crazy
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