Witch Is When Everything Went Crazy (3 page)

BOOK: Witch Is When Everything Went Crazy
5.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

 

Chapter 3

 

At this rate, I was going to have to take on an assistant. As well as the Colonel Briggs case, I now had two other items on my to-do list: the missing holiday cash and the missing ring. The trouble was that two out of those three were unpaid, so maybe the assistant would have to wait.

“Why are you ordering treats for that horrible cat?” Mrs V asked when I walked into the office the next morning.

“What treats? I haven’t ordered anything.”

Mrs V passed me a parcel. It was addressed to ‘Winky the Cat’ care of my office address.

“Someone must have ordered them.” Mrs V huffed. “It’s bad enough you waste your money on premium cat food and full cream milk.”

“It has to be a mistake. I’ll look into it.”

I’d no sooner stepped into my office, than Winky was all over me. “Did I hear ‘treats’?”

I was too busy to worry about why someone would have sent Winky a parcel of cat treats. They were here now, so he might as well enjoy them. I ripped open the packet, and scattered a few on the floor. “Don’t eat them all—” Too late. He’d already vacuumed them up.

“More!” he insisted.

What the heck? Anything to keep him quiet. I threw them to all four corners of the room. If he was going to eat them, he’d at least have to work for them.

“You couldn’t just put them in my bowl?” he complained.

 

The last time I’d called this number seemed like a lifetime ago. Back then, I’d known nothing about my ‘other’ family, and I’d been oblivious to the fact that I was a witch.

“Daleside Nursing Home.”

“Hi. My name is Jill Gooder. My mother passed away in your nursing home a few months ago. I want to speak to someone about a ring she was wearing.”

“Hold the line please. I’ll put you through to Admin.”

The woman in Admin took my mother’s details and my phone number, and promised to give me a call back after she’d checked their records. She assured me that any jewellery on the deceased was always recorded and accounted for.

 

The rest of the day was taken up chasing down the children of Mrs Vicars. Neither of them seemed too keen to talk to me until I turned on the charm offensive. What? I can do charm when I need to. In the end, I’d managed to set up appointments to see them both.

I also managed to catch up with my accounts—a job I enjoyed about as much as a visit to the dentist.

Peter called to tell me that the newly formed Action Committee had arranged a meeting. In my experience an Action Committee usually meant a ‘talk a lot, but do nothing remotely useful’ committee. I said I’d attend anyway.

 

A couple of days earlier, the twins had sent me a message to say that they’d finally found the courage to tell Aunt Lucy about their engagements. Despite their apprehension, she’d been delighted, and had insisted on organising a family dinner to celebrate. I was invited. The meal was at Aunt Lucy’s, but the message hadn’t made it clear if Grandma would be there. Maybe she’d be too busy with her new wool shop venture. I could always hope.

 

I arrived in Candlefield a few hours before the dinner was due to start. I’d spent all day on the phone chasing my own tail, and needed to wind down.

The twins were working in Cuppy C. Barry was lying in the corridor upstairs, and came bounding over the moment he caught sight of me.

“Let’s go for a walk. Can we? Can we?”

I couldn’t refuse the big, soft thing, but I fancied a change from the park. I still found it surprising how warm and welcoming most of the inhabitants seemed to be. Everyone I encountered along the way said hello, and many of them knew my name. Maybe humans could learn a thing or two from sups?

After an hour or so, I found myself in the market square. It was much quieter than on my previous visit. I daren’t venture into the heart of the market because Barry was showing way too much interest in the food on offer. Instead, I skirted around the edge. About halfway around, one stall caught my eye: ‘Spell Accessories - everything for the busy witch/wizard’. That was me—I was run off my feet. There was no food stall nearby, so I felt safe taking a closer look.

There was all manner of gizmos, many of which I didn’t understand. One thing that caught my eye was something called a ‘Stor-a-Spell’. These were small trinkets which came in a variety of shapes. As far as I could make out, they allowed you to cast a spell which the trinket would then store for a set period of time before activating it. I could definitely see how that might be useful.

Further along the row was a stall selling pet food and toys. Barry was more than a little interested in the food, but I managed to hold him at bay while I purchased a squeaky plastic bone.

“What’s that?” Barry said.

“It’s a toy for you.”

“Can I eat it?”

“No, you mustn’t eat it. It’ll make you poorly. It’s for you to play with. Here.” I dropped the toy at his feet.

It had no sooner hit the ground than he grabbed it between his teeth, which made it squeak. Just as quickly, he dropped it and scrambled behind my legs.

“Don’t like it!” he whimpered.

“It’s only a toy.”

“Don’t like it.”

“There’s a little squeaker inside. It can’t hurt you.”

“Don’t like it.”

Oh well. That was money well spent.

 

Grandma was seated at the head of the table—she’d made it to the engagement party despite the demands of her new business enterprise—oh goody. William and Alan, who were seated next to their fiancées, looked as nervous as kittens. Lester, Aunt Lucy’s new love interest, looked relieved not to be the one under the spotlight for a change.

“Why did you bring these young men here today?” Grandma asked.

Amber and Pearl exchanged a nervous glance. “To celebrate our engagement, Grandma.”

“I know that. I’m not stupid. I meant why would you want to expose them to your mother’s cooking? Aren’t you worried it will scare them off?”

Aunt Lucy gave Grandma a look of disdain, but said nothing.

“Mum is a very good cook,” Amber said.

Pearl looked aghast at her sister—no doubt wondering when she’d developed a death wish.

“So, William and Alan.” Grandma’s gaze switched between the newcomers. “Why?”

William’s Adam’s apple did a jig, as he looked to Amber for help. She shrugged. He took a sip of water. “Why what?” he said, nervously.

“Why did you wait until now to tell us that you were engaged?”

William looked again at Amber who this time attempted to come to his rescue.

“We announced it as soon as we could.”

I looked at Pearl and Alan. They were both staring down at the table.

“Really?” Grandma said, looking at both the twins now. “That’s not what I heard. I heard that you have both been engaged for some time.”

Busted!

“Yes, well,” Amber stuttered. “We did actually get engaged a little while ago—”

“We had meant to—” Pearl said.

“How come I didn’t know?” Aunt Lucy said.

“Because you were too busy smooching with Moustache Man over there to notice.” Grandma threw a glance Lester’s way. He began to twizzle his moustache nervously.

“You haven’t been wearing a ring—either of you.” Aunt Lucy challenged her daughters.

How I loved these convivial dinners.

“Oh but they did,” Grandma said. “Just not when you were around.”

That woman saw all—knew all.

“Sorry, Mum.” Amber bowed her head.

“Sorry, Mum,” Pearl said.

Grandma cleared her throat.

“Sorry, Grandma,” they chorused.

“Oh well,” Aunt Lucy said. “It’s official now, so let’s toast the happy couples.”

We all raised our glasses—even Grandma.

“To Amber and William, and Pearl and Alan.” Aunt Lucy proposed the toast.

“Amber and William, and Pearl and Alan.” Everyone clinked their glasses together except Grandma who was already halfway down hers.

Despite Grandma’s warnings about the food, the meal was delicious, and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone—including Grandma, even though she’d never have admitted it.

 

“Who will you go to your mum’s wedding with?” Pearl asked when we were on dessert.

“I’ll be on my lonesome,” I said, scooping up a spoonful of jam roll and custard. “Unless, I can bring Barry.”

“Sorry, no animals allowed.” Aunt Lucy laughed. “What about the man you went to the karaoke with. What was his name again?”

“Drake. Drake Tyson.”

“How do I know that name?” Grandma said.

I shrugged. “I don’t really know him all that well. We met when I was walking Barry.”

“You should get in touch with him,” Pearl said. “Ask him to go with you.”

“We’ll see.”

I was relieved to hear a knock on the door. Anything to divert attention away from me.

Pearl went to see who was there.

“Oh hello?” I heard her say. “Did you want to see Jill? Why don’t you come through?”

“Well, well,” Grandma said. “Look who it is.”

I
was
looking, and the puzzled expression on my face must have matched that on Drake’s.

“Hello everyone,” he said.

“We were just talking about you.” Grandma’s smile was more scary than reassuring. “Were your ears burning?”

Drake stuttered something unintelligible.

“Grab a chair.” Aunt Lucy came to his rescue. “You’ve missed dinner, I’m afraid, but there’s plenty of jam roll and custard.”

“Thanks.” He took the seat beside me. “I love jam roll and custard.”

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi yourself.”

“I wasn’t expecting to see
you
here today.”

“I wasn’t expecting to
be
here. One minute I was wondering what to put in the microwave, and the next I was knocking on your door.”

I turned to look at Grandma. She smiled a knowing smile.

Despite the manner in which he’d been delivered to the house, I was glad of Drake’s company.

After getting his bearings, he seemed happy to join in the celebrations.

“Will you be taking Jill to the wedding?” Grandma asked.

I gave her a death stare—like she’d even notice—or care.

“Wedding?” Drake looked at me.

“My mother’s. My late mother’s.” Man this was complicated.

“She’s a ghost?” He helped me out.

“Yeah. She’s marrying Alberto. Her childhood sweetheart.”

“Is he Italian?”

“Welsh.”

“Of course.”

“So, Drake.” Grandma hadn’t done with us yet. “Will you be taking Jill to the wedding or not?”

Floor, please open up and swallow me—right now.

“It would be my pleasure.” Drake smiled. “If that’s okay with you?” He looked to me for approval.

“Of course it’s okay with her,” Grandma said. “She’s got no one else to go with.”

And while you’re at it, floor, open up and swallow Grandma as well.

“Don’t forget I can read your mind, young lady.”

 

I’d been excused washing up, and had managed to manoeuvre Drake out into the garden where I thought we might have some privacy.

“I’m sorry about that,” I said. “You don’t have to go to the wedding if you don’t want to. Grandma can be a bit of a bully.”

“I
do
want to.” He took my hand. “Provided you haven’t already planned to go with someone else.”

“Didn’t you hear what Grandma said? No one else wants to take me.”

“I don’t believe that for a moment, but if you’d like me to accompany you, it would be my pleasure.”

“Okay. It’s a date then. Well, not a
date
date, more of an
appointment
.”

“Appointment? How romantic.” He laughed.

“You know what I mean. It’s good of you to take me, but it doesn’t mean it has to be a date—I’ll shut up, shall I?”

“Yeah. Quit while you’re behind.”

 

After Drake had left, Pearl and Amber caught up with me.

“Do you like him?” Pearl asked.

“Yeah, he’s nice. You do realise that Grandma magicked him here, don’t you?”

“We guessed. He didn’t know which way was up when I answered the door.”

“Still it’ll be nice for us all to have partners for the wedding,” Amber said.

I managed a smile, but was worried that this might make my juggling act with Kathy’s birthday even more difficult.

 

 

Chapter 4

 

Level two spells were—well—a whole new level. Although I was excited to have moved up, I was terrified that I’d mess up big time in front of Grandma.

Somehow, I had to find time to practise, but it wasn’t easy with all the cases, paid and unpaid, which were starting to stack up. I’d set the alarm an hour earlier than usual, so I could devote a little time to magic before I set off to the office.

Grandma did at least give me prior warning of the spells which we’d be focussing on in each lesson. I was fortunate that I found memorising the mental images fairly easy now. Amber and Pearl had both admitted that they still struggled to commit spells to memory quickly, which probably explained why they’d been stuck on level two for so long.

It took only a matter of seconds to memorise the first ever level two spell which I tackled, but when I tried to cast the spell, nothing happened. The spell that was causing me so much grief was called ‘listen’. It was meant to give me super enhanced hearing for a period of five minutes, but so far—nothing. I thought maybe I’d mixed up the images, but I double and triple checked, and still it didn’t work.

“What’s wrong with you?” I shouted at the book of spells. Maybe there was a mistake in the book. Maybe the wrong image had been listed or the sequence was wrong. Was there some kind of help desk I could call? I could just picture it:

‘Book of spells - your call is important to us - you are twenty-thousandth in the queue.’

 

If I messed up, could Grandma drop me back down to level one? She could, and she would. Or she might do something much worse.

“Help!” I screamed in frustration.

“You called?”

I almost jumped out of my skin. My mother’s ghost was hovering in front of me. She looked concerned. “Are you okay, Jill?”

“Yeah, sorry. I’m just struggling with this spell, and I’m worried what Grandma might do.”

“Is this your first attempt at a level two spell?”

I nodded. “Maybe it’s too soon for me to move up.”

“Nonsense. Remember you’ve already performed spells well above level two.”

“Yeah, but I messed those up.”

“I’m not so sure you did.”

“I can’t understand why it won’t work. Could the book be wrong?”

My mother gave me a look.

“I guess not.” I sighed.

“Whatever you do, don’t say that to Grandma. It wouldn’t go down well.”

“So why isn’t it working? I’m sure I have the images memorised correctly.”

“There’s much more to being a witch than simply being able to memorise the spells. As Grandma so eloquently puts it: ‘Any half-wit can remember a spell’. At level one, you can get away with simply being able to remember the spell, but as you move up the levels it becomes more about the execution—the focus on the desired outcome. Do you remember when you used the ‘shrink’ spell?”

 

How could I forget? I’d been trying on a dress in a shop’s changing room when it had become well and truly stuck. I’d used the spell to shrink myself, so I could get out of it, but I hadn’t anticipated that I’d end up totally naked when my underwear also fell from my tiny body.

“You saw that?” I blushed.

“Don’t worry. It’s a common mistake.” She smiled. “Although it doesn’t always have such embarrassing results.”

I’d felt bad enough at the time. If I’d realised my mother was watching, I’d have been totally mortified.

“That’s a perfect example of why focus on the desired outcome is so important. It’s what separates the most powerful witches from the rest. What had your desired outcome been?”

“To get out of the dress without losing my underwear.” I was still wincing at the memory.

“If you’d focussed on precisely that outcome, then your underwear would have shrunk along with you. With any given spell, there is often a certain amount of flexibility. It’s up to you to use your focus to achieve the outcome you desire. Do you remember the focus you applied when you performed the level five spell? You must bring that same level of focus to every spell from now on. Do you see?”

“I think so.”

“Give it another try then.”

I closed my eyes and shut out everything else. I was no longer aware of my mother’s presence or even of the room around me. Every ounce of my concentration was focussed on executing the spell. I didn’t even have to think about the sequence of the images, it was as if my memory was on auto-pilot.

“Ouch! Ouch!” I clamped my hands over my ears to muffle the sounds that were assaulting them from every direction. I could hear a dozen different voices. The birds in the garden seemed to be singing through megaphones.

My mother’s voice cut through the chatter. “Focus on one sound. Filter out everything else.”

I closed my eyes again, and focussed only on her voice. Slowly every other sound faded into the background.

“That’s it,” she said in a whisper that almost burst my ear drums. “You should be okay now.”

“Thanks,” I said, but she’d already disappeared.

I’d have to learn how to control this particular spell, or I’d end up with perforated ear drums. In the time remaining before the spell wore off, I decided to try to pick up on a single conversation. From the background chatter, I picked out one conversation in particular.

“Ooh, Ivy. You’re so sexy.”

Hmm. Maybe I should tune this one out before it became embarrassing.

“My little Candy-floss.”

What? It couldn’t be. Was I suffering some kind of side-effect from the spell? I’d recognise that voice anywhere. Mr Ivers was one of my neighbours, and someone I did my best to avoid. He was a film buff who had a degree in boring.

“Ooh Ivy. Your eyebrows are so hot.”

Ivy? Who called Mr Ivers, Ivy? Hot eye brows? He had a mono-brow. And, who on earth was Candy-floss?

Before I could learn any more, the spell had worn off, and my hearing had returned to normal.

I simply couldn’t take in what I’d just heard. It was hard enough to imagine Mr Ivers with a woman—any woman—but to hear her getting hot and bothered about his mono-brow—I must have been high.

Even though I couldn’t get rid of the image of Mr Ivers and his hot mono-brow, I was pleased to have mastered the spell.

 

As I left the flat, I heard voices. Walking towards me along the corridor was Mr Ivers. On his arm was a voluptuous young woman, with orange hair and matching lips. The two of them were laughing and chatting—totally oblivious to my presence. Normally, I’d have slipped back into my flat to avoid him, but I was too stunned to move. As they squeezed past me, I said, “Morning, Mr Ivers.”

He glanced my way, but didn’t speak. As they walked away I heard the woman say,” Who was that Ivy?”

“No one, Candy-floss,” he replied. “Just some woman who keeps bothering me.”

I felt as though I’d slipped into another dimension. I’d been blanked by Mr Ivers. That was an all time low even for me. And who on earth was Candy-floss?

 

I was still reeling from my encounter with Ivy and Candy-floss when I arrived at the office. If an alien space ship had been parked outside, I couldn’t have been any more stunned than I already was.

“Have you taken any of my scarves?” Mrs V greeted me.

“No, why?”

“Some are missing.”

How could she tell? The cupboard was creaking under the weight of them, and every drawer in her desk was full of them too.

“You do give a lot of them away.” To every visitor whether they wanted one or not.

“There are definitely three missing. Someone’s been in my cupboard. You should investigate.”

“Investigate?”

“It’s what you do isn’t it?”

“Yeah. Sure. I’ll add it to my list.” My ever growing list of unpaid cases. Maybe I should re-register as a charity?

 

I’d put off the call for as long as I could. Since my ‘date’ with Jack Maxwell, and after finding out about the Camberley case, I’d wanted to try to clear the air—professionally speaking. We hadn’t had the best of working relationships—understatement of the year? I was nervous because I had no idea what kind of reception I might get. Would I get the version of Maxwell I’d seen on our ‘date’? The one who’d been charming and easy to talk to. Or would I get the other Jack Maxwell? The one I’d come to know and hate; the one who looked at me like I was something he’d trodden in.

“Detective Maxwell, please.”

“Who’s calling?” said a bored voice on the other end of the phone.

“This is Jill Gooder.”

Now for the moment of truth. Was I still on his black list? I tapped my fingers nervously on the desk.

“Hello?”

His voice took me by surprise. I’d expected to be told he was unavailable or at best, that he’d get back to me.

“Detective Maxwell?”

“How very formal. I thought we were on first name terms now.”

“Sorry.
Jack
. I wasn’t expecting you to—”

“What?”

“It doesn’t matter. Look, I wondered if you could spare me a few minutes today?”

“How does ten-thirty sound? I can give you fifteen minutes then.”

“Ten-thirty? Fine. I’ll be there. Thanks.”

That had gone better than I could have hoped. Maybe Kathy had done me a favour by rigging the raffle after all.

“If it isn’t too much trouble.” Winky said, as he jumped onto the chair opposite me. “Do you think I could get some food? I’m starving. And some milk too—before you dash off to see lover boy.”

“Don’t call him that.”

“Jack and Jill went up the—” He jumped off the chair just in time to avoid the ruler I threw at him.

“No need for violence,” he said.

“My relationship with Detective Maxwell is strictly professional.”

“If you say so. ‘Jack fell down and’—”

“I have a stapler and I’m not afraid to use it.”

“You should have heard yourself on the phone just now.” Winky mocked, “
I wonder if you could spare me a few minutes today
. You sounded like love’s young dream.”

Winky did a scarily accurate impression of me.

“That’s rubbish.”

“If you say so. Now, how about that food?”

Love’s young dream? What nonsense. What did he know? And why was I having this debate with a cat?

 

Mrs V handed me a sheet of paper as I made my way out of the office.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a description of the missing scarves. I thought you’d need it when you put out an APB.”

“APB? Right, thanks. I’m off to see Detective Maxwell.”

“Such a nice man. Don’t you think you should change first?”

“Change?”

“You look a little—dowdy—maybe something a little more alluring?”

“This is strictly business. I’ll be fine.”

“If you say so, dear. Maybe he can help to find the missing scarves.”

“I’ll be sure to run it by him.”

 

It was such a beautiful day that I decided to walk to the police station. As I passed by the bus stop, I did a double take. The shop that Grandma and I had visited only a couple of days before had been totally transformed. The sign read ‘Ever a Wool Moment’—I still preferred ‘Stitch Slapped’. The interior of the shop had been decorated, carpeted and refitted with new shelving and a counter. On the floor were dozens of boxes—some of them open. Two young women were busy stocking the shelves with wool of every colour. I pressed my nose to the glass to get a better view. One of the women noticed me, smiled, and mouthed the words ‘we open tomorrow’. I smiled back. There was no sign of Grandma, but somehow she’d managed to transform the shop, hire staff and was all set to open. How had she managed that? Magic must have been involved.

 

 

BOOK: Witch Is When Everything Went Crazy
5.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Across a Summer Sea by Lyn Andrews
Lover's Gold by Kat Martin
Ghost Time by Eldridge, Courtney
Primary Colors by Kathryn Shay