Authors: Adele Abbott
“Wow!” Mikey shouted.
“Where’s it gone?” Lizzie asked.
I glanced to my right at the full length mirror on the front of the wardrobe. In the reflection I could see the car was still there on the carpet in front of me. “Shall I make it come back?”
They both nodded.
I reversed the spell, and the car reappeared.
“Can you show me how to do that?” Mikey asked.
Whoops! I should have anticipated that.
“It’s a witch’s secret. Witches aren’t allowed to tell.”
“Aah.” Mikey’s face fell.
“You’ll be able to do lots of tricks like that one when you get your magic set at Christmas.”
“Will you help me?”
“Show us another trick,” Mikey said.
“What are you lot up to?” Kathy walked into the bedroom.
“Auntie Jill’s a witch,” Lizzie shouted.
“She can do magic,” Mikey said.
Kathy looked at me. I shrugged.
“Auntie Jill and I need to talk now. Go and play with your dad for a while.”
When they’d left, Kathy said, “What was that all about?”
“I was trying to take their minds off the holiday.”
“Since when did you do magic tricks?”
“Just some sleight of hand. Something an ex-boyfriend once showed me. I was trying to cheer them up. Anyway, what happened after I left? It can’t have gone on for long.”
“It didn’t. Total waste of time. Dominic just said it was in the hands of the police now, so all we can do is wait.”
“We’ll see about that.”
“Morning, Mrs V. You’re looking rather splendid this morning.”
“Why thank you, dear. Thought I should make the effort for the grand opening of your grandmother’s shop.”
I should have realised that Grandma would have invited Mrs V too. Winky would just have to man the office while we were both out.
“You don’t think the tiara is too much?” She pointed to her head, just in case I wasn’t sure where it was.
“Not at all.” For the red carpet at a movie première. “It matches your silver choker nicely.”
Two-faced? Who? Me?
“Are you going home to get changed before the opening?” She glanced at my ensemble.
“I thought I’d go like this.”
“Really? In that top?”
Nothing wrong with a green blouse.
“And those trousers?”
Grey slacks never go out of fashion.
“I think I look okay.”
“Yes, well.” She sighed.
Never before had two words conveyed so much disapproval.
“I posted your parcel,” she said, adjusting her tiara.
“The one you left on my desk.”
Winky was on my desk, staring at the computer screen. He didn’t bother to look up when I walked in.
“What’s going on with these parcels?” I demanded.
“Shush, I’m busy.”
I had to hand it to him; the way he manoeuvred the mouse with his paw was impressive. But then: cat - mouse. Made sense I guessed.
“Don’t shush me. That’s my computer.”
“I won’t be a minute. Pour me some milk while you’re waiting.”
Enough already. Who was the boss around here? Don’t answer that.
I walked up behind him, and looked at the screen. “Oh, no!”
“Tell me you aren’t selling Mrs V’s scarves.”
“I’m not selling Mrs V’s scarves.”
“Yes. Surprisingly, they fetch a pretty penny.”
“You can’t do that!”
“I can. It’s actually surprisingly easy. The only difficult part is getting the parcel to the post.”
“That’s not what I meant. They aren’t yours to sell. And besides, you’re a cat.”
“Your point is?”
“What do you do with the money—” The penny dropped. “You ordered those treats, didn’t you?”
“What else am I going to spend it on?”
I snatched the mouse away from him, and shut down the computer. “No more. You can’t go around stealing other people’s property and selling it.”
“It’s called theft.”
“She has thousands of scarves. I’m doing her a favour.”
“What if I split the profits with her fifty fifty?”
I’d no sooner turned onto the high street than I saw them.
The man-sized ball of wool handed me a flyer with the headline
‘Grand opening today!’
All along the street, on both sides, were people dressed as balls of wool - each one a different colour. It must have cost Grandma a small fortune, but that presupposed that she’d actually paid them. Maybe they were all under a mind control spell. Nah, she wouldn’t do something like that. Who was I kidding? Of course she would.
The glossy, full colour flyer had a photo of the new shop. At least Grandma had had the sense not to include a photo of herself—that would have scared everyone off.
The shop was full—the flyers had apparently done their job. That, plus the champagne which was flowing freely. I declined the offer of a drink, and made my way through the crowd in search of Grandma.
I found her deep in conversation with Mrs V and two other women who were also sporting tiaras. All of them looked me up and down disapprovingly.
“This is Jill, my granddaughter. As you can see, she’s made a real effort today.”
Mrs V mouthed, “Told you so.”
“Nice promotion,” I said by way of a diversion. “All you need now is a brass band.”
The words were no sooner out of my mouth than I heard the trombones and trumpets begin to play. Where was that champagne? I needed a drink. My pockets were full of discount vouchers which the man-sized balls of wool had been distributing liberally. The crowds kept on coming. After an hour, I was all yarned out. Grandma was at the rear of the shop with the blue rinse brigade, so I took my chance. Freedom!
“Sneaking away already?” Grandma said.
“No. I—it’s—I have an appointment.”
“Don’t forget you have a lesson later. I expect you to be there on time.”
“No problem. I’ll be there. Congratulations again on the opening.”
I really did have an appointment, although I doubted Grandma believed me. Hilary Vicars was not at all what I’d expected her to be. After my meeting with her obnoxious sibling, I’d feared the worst. In fact, Hilary was polite, unassuming, and more importantly—she didn’t have bad breath. Her boyfriend, Battery, though was another matter entirely.
“Could we speak in private?” I asked.
“Hills wants me here,” Battery said.
I know what you’re thinking—Battery? Her boyfriend obviously hadn’t earned the nickname because he was full of energy—Battery was a huge lump of lard. Maybe his nickname was short for ‘assault and battery’. He had thug written all over him—no really—he actually did have ‘thug’ tattooed on the fingers of each hand. Classy.
“I’m sure Hilary can speak for herself,” I said.
Hilary turned to her boyfriend who shook his head. At least I think he did—he had such a thick neck it was difficult for him to move his head at all.
“I’d like Battery to stay,” Hilary said without making eye contact with me.
“Okay. I want to ask you a few questions about your mother, if that’s all right?”
She nodded, but still didn’t make eye contact.
“Did she ever mention changing her Will?”
“She did? What did she say exactly?”
“She said she was going to leave some money to Washbridge Dog Rescue.”
“How did you feel about that?”
“You must have had some feelings about it. It was money you’d probably expected to inherit.”
“I don’t really like dogs. One bit me when I was little.”
“So you didn’t like the idea of your mother leaving her money to them?”
Hilary shook her head. I couldn’t fault her honesty.
“When did you last see your mother?”
“A few days before she died.” Tears welled in her eyes as she spoke.
“Did she say anything about the Will then?”
“No. We talked about her garden mainly. She was very proud of it.”
“How was she? Health wise?”
“She had angina, but other than that, she was okay. She had regular check ups at the surgery. She said home visits were for old people.” Hilary managed a weak smile at the memory.
“That’s enough questions.” Battery stepped forward.
“Just one more thing. What kind of car do you drive?”
“I don’t. It was stolen—”
“That’s it!” Battery took hold of my arm. I toyed with the idea of casting the ‘power’ spell, so I could throw him across the room, but I thought better of it.
“Mrs V, do you remember the name of that guy my dad used to use to trace cars?”
“You mean Seamus-the-wheel?”
I found his number on Dad’s old Rolodex and gave him a call.
“Hello?” he said. I loved that Irish accent.
“Seamus, it’s Jill Gooder, Ken’s daughter.”
“Jill. How are you darlin’? It’s been ages and a day.”
“I’m okay, thanks. How about you?”
“I keep going, you know. As long as there’s Guinness, I’ll be okay. What can I be doing for you?”
“I was wondering. Do you still do the cars?”
Seamus-the-wheel knew everything there was to know about cars, but his speciality was in finding them. He worked both sides of the law. If you needed a particular car stealing, he’d find it. If you’d had a car stolen, he’d find it. His methods were a black box, and it was understood that no questions would be asked. Dad had used Seamus on several occasions, and he’d always delivered.
“I’m mostly retired, but I still keep my hand in for a few old friends.”
“Would you be able to help me?”
“You shouldn’t need to ask, darlin’. Anything for Ken Gooder’s daughter. What can I do you for?”
I gave him the names and addresses of Hector and Hilary Vicars, and asked if he could check on any cars that the siblings owned, or may have owned in the recent past. He promised to have something for me within a few days.
Kathy had arranged for me to talk to Natasha Cutts, the girlfriend of Norman Reeves, the holiday fund organiser who had disappeared along with the cash. Natasha made me look tall; she barely came up to my chin.
“Hi.” She seemed to have the weight of the world on her shoulders. “Come in.”
We went through to her living room. Every surface was covered with thimbles.
“You collect thimbles.” Nothing like stating the obvious.
I wondered if she had them catalogued—I was guessing she did.
“Since I was six.”
“Nice.” I’d just about exhausted my thimble-related conversation. “Do you knit?” Perhaps a discount voucher for Grandma’s shop might cheer her up.
“Knit? No. Why?”
“No reason.” I pushed the vouchers back into my pocket.
“Everyone blames me.” She began to cry.
I checked my pockets for a tissue, but could find only discount vouchers.
“I haven’t heard anyone blame you,” I lied. I’d actually heard plenty of people sticking the boot in during my brief attendance at the action committee meeting. Guilt by association as far as they were concerned.
“How long have you been with Norman?”
“Not long.” She sniffed. “Only a few weeks.”
“Had he been acting strangely at all?”
She shook her head.
“Did he have money problems?”
“Not as far as I know, but then we never really discussed money.” She stood up. “Do you mind if I make a cup of tea?”
“Sure. Go ahead.”
“Would you like one?”
“Please. Milk and one and two-thirds spoonfuls of sugar.”
I followed her into the kitchen where she put on the kettle, then blew her nose. “Sorry about this. It’s all getting a bit too much. Would you like a biscuit?”
She offered me the biscuit tin, and I was about to refuse when I spotted that it was full of custard creams—and only custard creams!
“Don’t mind if I do.”
I slipped the third one back into the tin. “Thanks.”
By the time she was on her second biscuit, she’d come around a little. “Norman seemed like a good guy, you know.”
“When was the last time you saw him?”
“We went to that little Italian restaurant. Antonio’s it’s called.”
“I can’t say I know it.”
“It’s out of town. The food was great, but the service was a little slow.”
“Did he seem okay? Did he say or do anything out of the ordinary?”
“Nothing. It was a lovely evening.”
“Did you go home with him afterwards?” Subtle—that’s me.
“No. We both had work the next day, and we’d been drinking, so we took separate cabs.”
“Do you have a recent photo of him?”
“Only on here.” She picked up her phone, scrolled through the menu, and then held it out for me to see.
The tall, gangly young man was obviously camera-shy.
“Could you email that to me?”
I asked a few more questions, and then took my leave—taking particular care to avoid any thimble-related accidents on the way out.
There was no sign of Mrs V when I got back to the office—no doubt still enjoying the free champagne with the other yarnies (woollies)? She’d left another delivery of cat treats on my desk.
“I believe these belong to you?” I held out the packet of treats.
“Gimme, gimme, gimme.” Winky weaved through my legs.
“This is the last time. Got it? No more selling Mrs V’s scarves.”
“If you do, I’ll tell her you’re responsible for the missing scarves, and there’s no guessing what she might do. It’s a long way down from that window.”