Witch Is When Everything Went Crazy (5 page)

BOOK: Witch Is When Everything Went Crazy
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Maxwell scored a strike and punched the air.

As soon as Adam released the ball, I cast the spell. The ball which had been headed for the gutter, slowly spun back towards the centre of the lane, gathered momentum, and hit the kingpin full on. Strike! Adam stared open-mouthed. Maxwell and Bill did the same.

“Go Adam!” I shouted.

Adam turned to me—his face a picture, as I gave him a high-five.

Bill’s technique was flawless. The bowl spun towards the king pin once again, but this time it seemed to overshoot, and took out only the pin on the far right hand side. For the longest moment, he stared at the pins in disbelief. His second attempt wasn’t much better. Just when it appeared it might give him another spare, it veered to the left and missed altogether.

I wonder how that could have happened. Snigger.

With my next two attempts, I earned us a spare while Maxwell drew a blank on both attempts.
How strange.
By the final frame, Adam was really enjoying himself. His score of one-hundred and sixty was a personal best. I’d deliberately kept my own score a little more modest. Maxwell and Bill were livid. Neither of them could understand what had happened to the form that had put them within reach of winning the league. It was the last frame, and with only Maxwell and me left to bowl, the scores were tied.

I picked up the ball, smiled at Maxwell, and made the perfect delivery which gave me my first strike of the evening. I turned to him, grinned, and said, “How’s that for a strike,
baby
?”

He wasn’t amused. He was even less amused when I scored two more strikes with my final two bowls. Adam was dancing and jumping around like a man possessed. Maxwell and Bill looked like rabbits caught in the headlights.

“Good luck,” I said to Maxwell as I returned to my seat.

The game, the league title and the cup rested on Maxwell’s next attempt. I was about to cast another spell when I thought better of it. I’d give him a chance. Win or lose now—it was up to him. He stood perfectly still for what felt like an age, and then delivered the ball. All eyes were on it as it careered down the lane. It started out on the right, but then the spin took hold and it moved towards the kingpin. The pins flew in all directions.

All except for one.

“We won!” Adam grabbed me around the waist and spun me around. It seemed like the whole of the bowling alley erupted in applause.

Bill stormed off. Maxwell looked at me, and smiled.

 

“I suppose I deserved that,” he said, once we were outside.

“I suppose you did.”

“I’ve never played so badly.” He shook his head.

“I guess the pressure got to you.”

“I guess so. I thought you couldn’t play. Where did those three strikes come from at the end?”

“I’ve told you before. I can do magic.”

Chapter 6

 

“Another two are missing!” Mrs V said, as soon as I walked into the office.

“Another two what?”

“Scarves. This is getting beyond a joke. Did you tell Detective Maxwell?”

“Of course.”

“Did he say he’d put out an APB?”

“Something like that.”

Mrs V sighed. I’m not sure she believed me. “And there’s another one of these parcels.” She handed me the offending article.

“Cat treats? Why do they keep sending these?”

 

Winky was waiting for me. “Did I hear treats mentioned?”

He may have been deficient in the eye department, but there was nothing wrong with his hearing. “You’ll get fat.”

“We all have our cross to bear. The old bag lady out there is ugly, you’re OCD and I’m a little overweight.”

“I am not OCD.”

“And
I’m
not a talking cat. Now hand over the treats.”

There wasn’t time to argue. My accountant, Mr Robert Roberts, was due at any moment. When we’d first met, I’d thought the name was a joke. Who, with the surname of Roberts, would name their son Robert? Cruel parents you might think, but you’d be wrong. Mr Robert Roberts was christened James Roberts, but had changed his name by deed poll. True story.

“Good morning, Ms Gooder,” Robert Roberts said.

“Good morning, Mr Roberts.” I’d long since given up on asking him to call me Jill.

“I’ve been going through your paperwork.” He gave me the same look as he always gave me around this time.

“Okay?”

“It really won’t do.”

“It won’t?” I should introduce Robert Roberts to Grandma. Something tells me they’d hit it off.

“It most certainly won’t. You can only enter legitimate business expenses to offset profits.”

Profits? What were they? Was that supposed to be a joke? It was difficult to tell with Robert Roberts. He would have made a brilliant straight man.

“I thought that’s what I’d done.”

He sighed the sigh of someone tired of dealing with a moron.

“A linen basket?” He held up a receipt.

“Yes?”

“Why does a private investigator need a linen basket?”

“It’s for Mrs V.”

He shook his head—none the wiser.

“My PA/receptionist. You met her just now.”

“The woman who tried to give me a scarf?”

“That’s the one.”

“Why does she need a linen basket?”

“Because Winky got into the mail sack.”

“Winky?”

I pointed to the ball of fur which was snoring on the window sill.

“A cat?”

I nodded.

“So.” Robert Roberts scratched his nose—one of his many nervous ticks. “Let me see if I have this straight. You bought a linen basket to replace the mail sack to prevent the cat getting to the mail?”

“Close, but no coconut. The linen basket is to stop Winky getting at the wool.”

“Wool?”

“Mrs V’s wool. She knits. Scarves.”

“Have you branched out?”

“How do you mean?”

“In addition to your main business, do you now sell scarves?”

“Scarves? No. That’s just something Mrs V does.”

“So, a hobby then?”

“I guess so.”

“In that case, you can’t claim for the linen basket.” He ripped the receipt in half. “And this?” He passed me another receipt. “Eye patches. Is this for some kind of disguise when you’re following someone?”

“They aren’t for me.”

“For your receptionist?”

“For the cat.”

Winky stirred, and looked up. He was sporting an eye patch in a pleasing shade of green today.

“He’s wearing an eye patch!” Robert Roberts exclaimed.

“That’s right. That’s what I was trying to tell you.”

He ripped that receipt in half too.

“So?” I tried to sound upbeat. “What’s the verdict over all?”

Robert Roberts studied the figures on his laptop. “Not good.”

“But not bad?” Ever the optimist.

“More like terrible.”

“Oh.”

“The business seems to be lacking one vital ingredient.”

“What’s that?”

“Paying customers.”

“I have four cases on right now.”

“How many of those are for paying customers?”

“More than none.”

“How many?”

“Precisely or approximately?”

“Precisely.”

“One.”

 

I had an appointment to see Hector Vicars, and I was just about to leave the office when Winky stepped in front of me.

“Out of my way,” I said. “I’m running late.”

“I need a favour.”

“What kind of favour?”

“Check the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet,” he said.

The parcel in the drawer was addressed to a Mrs Lake in London SE1. “What’s this?”

“Would you post it for me?”

Who was Mrs Lake, and why was Winky sending her a parcel? And what was in it? There was no time to ask; I was already running late. “Okay.” I grabbed the parcel and hurried out of the door.

 

It took me less than a minute to work out that Hector Vicars, Mrs Vicars’ son, was a complete tool. He showed me into a room that he insisted on referring to as his ‘trophy room’. In fact, it was a small living room with a threadbare sofa, a matching armchair, and a huge TV mounted on the wall. In one corner of the room was a glass fronted cabinet which looked like it had been made from flat-pack. Inside the cabinet were half a dozen trophies interspersed with photographs of Hector, standing next to an assortment of rally cars.

“Do you race, Hector?”

“No one calls me that. Call me Heck.”

“Do you race, Heck?”

“I used to.”

“Were you any good?”

“What do you think?”

He didn’t want to know. “Why did you stop?”

“Retired at the top, didn’t I?” His comb-over wasn’t working, but his bad breath certainly was.

“When did you last see your mother?”

“Don’t remember. A few months ago, maybe.”

“Did she ever talk about her Will?”

“Is that what this is all about? Did that stuck-up prat, Briggs, put you up to this?”

“I
am
working for Colonel Briggs.”

“He’s an idiot. He should be shot along with those stupid dogs of his. He tried to con Mum out of her money.”

“I understand your mother was fond of dogs. Wasn’t she a judge at the dog shows?”

“Just a stupid hobby.”

“What kind of car do you drive?”

“I don’t have a car at the moment. No job, so no money for a car.”

“Where were you on the day your mother died?”

“How should I know? Shooting probably.”

“Shooting?”

“Rabbits, birds, squirrels—”

“So, basically any defenceless creature?”

“Yeah. Do you shoot?”

“No.” But I was sorely tempted to start—no prizes for guessing who’d be the target. “Are you sure you didn’t drive by your mother’s house that day?”

“I told you. I ain’t got a car.”

“Your mother’s next door neighbour told me that your mother said your name just before she died.”

“Old Ma Draycott? She’s not the full shilling.”

“So you weren’t there?”

“Told you that already, didn’t I?”

“Did your mother ever mention changing her Will in favour of the dog charity?”

“Never. She said she was going to leave it to me and Hills, and that’s what she did.”

Another wave of bad breath wafted my way—my cue to leave.

If Mrs Vicars
had
cut her son out of her Will, no one would have blamed her.

 

The so-called ‘Action Committee’ was everything I’d expected it to be—and less. Peter had stayed at home with the kids, who were still reeling from the news that their long anticipated holiday had been cancelled. According to Kathy, Mikey had taken it particularly badly.

“Who’s in charge?” I asked Kathy.

“Dominic Whitelaw. That’s him over there.” She pointed to the front of the room.

“The guy in the luminous pink shirt?”

“No.” She laughed. “That’s Gerald. Dominic is standing behind him.”

“The short guy?”

“Don’t let him hear you say that. He’s a bit sensitive about his height.”

“Who put him in charge?”

“He appointed himself.”

“Nice to see the democratic process is alive and well in Washbridge.”

“To be fair, no one else wanted to do it. Dominic used to be a bigwig at the power station. Some kind of senior manager, I think. He’s been overseeing its closure. He’s used to organising and public speaking.”

“Okay, everyone!” Dominic called the meeting to order. “Before we start, I thought we’d agreed that we’d restrict all of our meetings to those involved in the loss.” He stared pointedly at me. Before I could speak, Kathy was on her feet. “This is my sister, Jill. She’s a private investigator. Some of you probably already know of her through the work she did on the ‘Animal’ serial killer case.”

There were several nods around the room.

“I’m sure your sister is an excellent private investigator,” Dominic said. “But our best hope of recovering the money lies with the police. I saw the article in the Bugle. It doesn’t appear your sister has the best of working relationships with the constabulary.”

“Can I say something?” I got to my feet.

“I’m afraid not,” Dominic interrupted. “As I’ve already said, these meetings are restricted to those directly affected. We’d rather allow the police to do their job. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

“Hold on a minute!” Kathy said.

“It’s okay.” I took her hand. “I’ll go to your place. You can fill me in when you get back.”

Dominic shot me a smirk masquerading as a smile.

 

“You’re back early.” Peter greeted me at the door. “Where’s Kathy?”

“The meeting is still going on. The head of the committee didn’t want any outsiders there, and he certainly didn’t want
me
there.”

“Dominic Whitelaw? The man’s a pretentious ass.”

The kids were still up. Both of them were much more subdued than usual.

“We can’t go on holiday,” Lizzie said, clutching bion to her chest.

“A bad man stole the money,” Mikey said.

“I know. It’s really horrible. I’m sorry.”

“It isn’t your fault,” Lizzie said. Bless. I almost cried.

“I know.” I forced a smile. “Do you still like magic, Mikey?”

“Yeah! Mum says I can have a magic set for Christmas.”

“What about you, Lizzie?”

“I like clowns better.”

Really? That was just plain wrong.

“I tell you what, kids. I know a magic trick. Why don’t we go into Mikey’s bedroom, and I’ll show you.”

“Don’t I get to watch?” Peter pouted.

“Sorry. This is for kids only. No grown-ups allowed.”

Mikey led the way. Lizzie and me followed

“What kind of magic can you do?” Lizzie asked.

“Are you a magician?” Mikey shuffled closer to me.

“No. I’m a witch.”

Lizzie shuddered. “I don’t like witches. They scare me.”

“You’re a baby.” Mikey teased his sister.

“I’m not a wicked witch. I’m a good witch. Good witches aren’t scary. You aren’t scared of me are you Lizzie?”

She shook her head, but still looked a little unsure. She hadn’t completely forgiven me for the Lego hotel incident.

“Which is your favourite car?” I asked Mikey.

He looked at the rows of model cars which were on the shelf above his bed.

“The Ferrari.”

“Go and get it for me, then.”

Mikey scrambled onto the bed, grabbed the Ferrari and passed it to me.

I placed the model car on the floor in front of me, and said, “Are you ready?”

“What are you going to do, Auntie Jill?” Lizzie asked.

“I’m going to make it disappear.”

“You won’t lose it will you?” Mikey sounded worried.

“Of course not. It’s only a magic trick. Are you both ready?”

They nodded.

“I can’t hear you.”

“Yes!” they both shouted.

I cast the ‘hide’ spell, and the car disappeared from view.

BOOK: Witch Is When Everything Went Crazy
12.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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