Witch Is When Everything Went Crazy (7 page)

BOOK: Witch Is When Everything Went Crazy
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“Okay, okay. Just give me those.”

Did I trust him? Not as far as I could throw him. But the threat of Mrs V taking her revenge might be enough to curtail his scarf thievery.

 

Holy moly. I’d lost track of time. My lesson with Grandma was scheduled to start in ten minutes. Maybe she’d be so drunk that she’d forget. Some chance. I had to get there, and get there fast. Whenever possible, I still liked to take the car to Candlefield. The journey along quiet roads, through beautiful scenery, was a great way to shake off the tensions of the day. Luckily I had a backup plan. I could use the level three spell which Grandma had shown me when I’d been stuck in Candlefield without my car. It wasn’t an easy spell—it could be exhausting—but right now it was Hobson’s choice.

 

I hadn’t yet mastered the landing, and once again landed on my backside with a thud.

“That had to hurt,” Amber said.

“What level is that spell?” Pearl asked.

The twins had been waiting outside Grandma’s house when I landed, unceremoniously in front of them.

“Level three.” I picked myself up—trying to resist the urge to rub my sore bottom.

“Wow!” Amber said. “You really are leaving us behind.”

The twins had been stuck on level two for some years. The last thing I wanted to do was to make them feel bad.

“Not really. This is my first level two lesson today. I’m going to need your help.”

“Why are you three waiting out here?” Grandma appeared in the doorway. “Come on in. We have lots to get through.”

We followed her inside.

“And Jill, brush your trousers down. You have gravel on your backside.”

Chapter 8

 

“Grandma’s new shop, Ever A Wool Moment, opened today,” I told the twins in a voice loud enough for Grandma to hear. “It was a great success.” What? I’m not above a little sucking up.

“When do we get to see it?” Amber asked.

Grandma was stony-faced. “Why are you discussing my shop?”

Whoops.

“I just wanted to tell the twins how well the opening went.”

“Is this the right time?”

I could tell from her expression that the answer wasn’t ‘yes’. “Sorry.”

“You all need to pay attention,” Grandma said. “You two.” She pointed to the twins. “You have been stuck on level two for too long. It doesn’t reflect well on me.”

Amber and Pearl both studied their feet.

“And you.” Grandma turned to face me. “No more gossiping about yarn. Understand?”

“Got it. Sorry.”

There was only one spell on the agenda today. Grandma had said that one level two spell per lesson was enough. No arguments from me there. Today’s spell was ‘listen’ which had been responsible for introducing me to Mr Ivers’ mysterious love life.

“I hate this spell,” Amber whispered to me.

“Me too,” Pearl said.

“As I’ve told the girls a million times,” Grandma said. “Level one spells are easy. From level two onwards it’s all about focus. Any idiot can memorise a spell.”

The twins exchanged a glance.

“At least that’s what I used to think.” She glared at Amber and Pearl. “These two appear to be the exception to the rule. Maybe you’ll be able to drag them up with you, Jill.”

I felt terrible. The last thing I wanted to do was embarrass my cousins. “I’m sure we can all help one another.”

The twins managed a smile. Grandma didn’t.

She left the three of us alone for ten minutes to give us time to prepare.

“I always make a mess of this one,” Amber said, desperately studying the book.

“I’ve never managed it yet.” Pearl was looking over her sister’s shoulder.

“Do you remember the images?” I asked.

“Yeah, I think so,” Pearl said. “I’ve tried it so many times that I know them off by heart.”

“Me too.” Amber nodded.

“Then forget the book. It isn’t going to tell you anything you don’t already know. I tried this spell at home, and I couldn’t get it to work either, but then my mother appeared and told me what I’d been doing wrong. It’s like Grandma says, it’s all in the focus; it’s all about the concentration.”

“I’m afraid I’ll forget the images or mix them up,” Amber said.

“That’s the problem right there. Instead of focussing on casting the spell, you’re worrying about remembering the images, but they’re already in your memory. Just focus your mind on the desired result. Nothing else.”

The twins looked at me, and then at one another. They weren’t exactly exuding confidence.

 

“Time’s up.” Grandma had rejoined us. “We need to go outside for this.”

The three of us followed her. I noticed the twins were holding hands.

“Jill,” Grandma said. “You can go first. Do you see those two women at the bottom of the hill?”

I nodded. The two women in question were deep in conversation. The younger one of the two had a pram. The older one was staring down into the pram.

“I want you to tell me what they’re saying.”

Wasn’t eavesdropping rather rude? Not if Grandma ordered you to do it.

I closed my eyes, and remembered what my mother had told me. Focus. Concentrate. This time the blast of noise didn’t come as such a shock, and I was able to quickly filter out all sounds except the conversation between the two women.

“The older one said that the baby reminded her of her son when he was a baby. The younger one said she hasn’t had a good night’s sleep since he was born.”

“Very good,” Grandma said. “Amber, you can go next.”

Amber released her sister’s hand, and stepped forward. She looked terrified. I felt so sorry for her.

Grandma looked up the hill this time. “See those two young boys. Tell me what they’re saying.”

Amber looked at me, and I mouthed the word ‘focus’.

She nodded and closed her eyes. I studied her expression as she began to cast the spell. After only a few seconds, she smiled a huge smile.

“The one on the bike said that he’s going to the park. The other boy said he isn’t allowed to go because he didn’t do his homework.”

“Well done, Amber,” Grandma said. “Not before time.”

Pearl looked even more nervous than her sister had done. After Amber’s success, the pressure on her was even greater.

“Focus,” Amber said. “It really works.”

Pearl tried to smile, but looked close to tears.

“Do you see the man and woman up there, on the opposite side of the road to the two young boys?”

Pearl nodded.

“Tell me what they’re saying.”

I had everything crossed. Amber did too by the look of it. Although the twins spent most of their waking hours squabbling, they obviously cared deeply for one another.

Pearl closed her eyes; the concentration was etched on her face.

“He asked her what’s for dinner. She said whatever he makes.”

Amber embraced her sister. I embraced them both.

 

“The cupcakes are on us!” Pearl said, as we walked up the hill.

The lesson was over, and Grandma had declared herself satisfied with our performance. True praise indeed from her.

“Thanks, Jill.” Amber gave my hand a squeeze. The twins were walking either side of me.

“I didn’t do anything. It was down to you.”

“We couldn’t have done it without you.” Pearl squeezed my other hand. “Goodness knows we’ve tried often enough.”

I was pleased to have helped them, but was still a little embarrassed. I was acutely aware that I was still very much the newbie. The twins had been witches since the day they were born. But then, I guess I had too—I simply hadn’t known it.

“You’re going to be a great witch,” Amber said. “Just like Grandma.”

Pearl and I both stopped and looked at her.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean
just
like Grandma. You’re way too pretty, and kind. When I said—”

“Keep digging.” Pearl teased her sister.

“You know what I mean. You’re going to be a level six witch. And at the rate you’re progressing, it won’t take long.”

“She’s right,” Pearl said. “We’ve grown up with lots of witches, and hardly any of them have advanced beyond level four. None of them have made it all the way to level six, but you will.”

I was overwhelmed, but knew I had to keep my feet on the ground. Much as I loved my cousins, and appreciated their kind words, I wasn’t sure they were the best judge of my abilities or potential. Grandma would probably have had a different take on it.

 

It took me a while to track down Antonio’s Italian Restaurant. Hardly surprising as it was in the back end of nowhere. The food must have been exceptional. Why else would anyone have travelled all that way when there were more Italian restaurants in Washbridge city centre than you could shake a pizza at?

As always, I tried the formal, official approach first. I asked the manager if I could view his CCTV.

‘Need a warrant blah, blah, blah.’

‘Data protection blah, blah, blah.’

‘You’re not the police blah, blah, blah.’

No one could say I hadn’t tried, but now it was time for plan B. Invisibility really was a witch’s best friend.

It took me a while to track down the room where the CCTV monitors were located, so I was forced to hide in a broom cupboard for thirty minutes in between periods of invisibility. The restaurant was empty because it wasn’t due to open for a couple of hours, and most of the staff were in the kitchen. The CCTV monitors were in an office which was only slightly larger than the broom cupboard. The door was unlocked—security was all very low key.

The on-screen menu listed the CCTV recordings by date. Two clicks with the mouse, and I was viewing footage from the night in question. There were only two cameras. One focussed on the bar; the other on the pay desk. That made sense because if anyone was going to try to rob the place, those would be the likeliest targets. Despite its out of town location, Antonio’s was obviously popular. On-screen a steady stream of customers could be seen walking by the pay desk on their way in and out of the restaurant. At around the eight-fifteen mark, I saw Natasha Cutts walk in. The man at her side had his back to the camera. Two hours later, they reappeared, the man waited for her at the door while she paid the bill using plastic. I still couldn’t get a good look at Norman Reeves who, on this evidence, was a cheapskate who allowed his date to pick up the bill.

 

When I got back to my flat, I gave Kathy a call to update her.

“Not much to report so far,” I said. “I’ve spoken to Natasha. She was pretty upset. She thinks everyone blames her.”

“She shouldn’t take any notice. Most people know it’s not her fault. There are always a few loudmouths willing to throw accusations around.”

“I’ve checked the CCTV at the restaurant where they ate. That was the last time she saw him.”

“How did you manage to view the CCTV?”

“If I told you that, I’d be forced to kill you.”

“Don’t go getting yourself in hot water with the police again. Not now you and Jacky boy are on such good terms.”

“What have I told you about calling him Jacky boy?”

“You and he have made up though, haven’t you?”

“For now, I guess. Although I still haven’t forgiven him for trying to make me look a fool at the bowling alley.”

“You didn’t tell me about that.”

“It was nothing. He asked me to make up the numbers for some police league thing.”

“You? Ten-pin bowling? That’s a laugh.”

“That’s what he thought until I handed his ass to him.”

 

 

Chapter 9

 

It took Kathy a couple of minutes to stop laughing. Why did she find the idea of me winning at bowling so hard to believe?

“How are the kids?” I asked.

“They keep asking when Auntie Jill the witch is going to give them a repeat performance. I think you may have started something there.”

“I only know the one trick.”

“You’d better get swotting up on card tricks then or you’ll have some disappointed kids on your hands. Speaking of which, I’ve had a brilliant idea.”

Two words I’d hoped never to hear from Kathy’s lips were: brilliant and idea. Her ideas were rarely brilliant, in fact most of the time they struggled to be mediocre. More worryingly, they invariably involved me.

“Aren’t you going to ask me what it is?” she said.

I didn’t want to know. I really didn’t want to know. “What is it?” I just had to ask, didn’t I?

“I was thinking. After all the disappointment of the holiday cancellation, we could take the kids to Candlefield. If you can find your way there, that is.” She laughed.

“Candlefield?” I wasn’t laughing.

“You remember. The land that SatNav forgot. From how you described it, the kids will love it. Do you think your family will be able to put us up? Or is there a cheap B&B?”

Did the ‘forget’ spell work over the phone? I tried it—it failed miserably.

“What do you think?” Kathy asked. “Brilliant idea or what?”

“Brilliant, yeah. Have you mentioned this to Peter and the kids?”

“Yes. We were talking about it all of last night. Pete’s up for it and the kids can’t wait.”

“Great.”

“When could we arrange it? It would be fantastic if we could do it on the same dates as the holiday had been planned for.”

“I’ll have to talk to Aunt Lucy and Grandma. I’ll see what they say. I’d better get going—criminals to catch and all that.”

 

Mrs V was AWOL when I arrived at the office the next morning. It wasn’t that long since she’d had a spell in hospital. I hoped she hadn’t had some kind of relapse.

“Have you seen Mrs—?” I stopped dead in my tracks. “Winky, what are you doing?”

“What does it look like?”

“It looks like you’re waving two tiny flags around.”

“They aren’t that tiny.”

Because obviously it was the
size
of the flags that was the point at issue here.

“Okay, why are you waving those average size flags around?”

He was sitting on the window sill, and had yet to look at me.

“How do you spell ‘cutie’? Is it a ‘Y’ or ‘I E’ at the end?” he asked.

“I E, I think. Never mind that. Why are you waving them around?”

Winky sighed—obviously annoyed by the interruption. “I am not ‘waving flags around’ as you put it. This is semaphore.”

“Sema—”

“phore. Yes. What about rendezvous? How do you spell that?”

I walked up to the window and looked out across the way.

“There’s another cat over there with flags,” I said.

“Well of course there is. You didn’t think I was talking to myself did you? That would be crazy.”

Totally. Whereas two cats exchanging messages via semaphore was completely sane.

“Who is she? I assume it’s a she?”

“Bella.” Winky sighed. He was smitten.

“How long have you and Bella been exchanging semaphore messages?”

“Not long. She wants me to get a phone, so we can text. I’d have got one by now if you hadn’t shut down my scarf sale operation.”

“Scarf
theft
.”

“Whatever.”

“Speaking of scarves, have you seen Mrs V?”

“Not today. Missing her already.”

“I wonder if she’s ill.”

“I’m sorry, but you seem to have mistaken me for someone who gives a monkey’s. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have sweet nothings to semaphore.”

 

There was a time, not so very long ago when I’d lived in the land of the sane. No witches, no magic spells, and no crazy cats waving flags at their girlfriends. Happy days.

I decided to go and check on Mrs V. As I walked out of the building, I glanced up. Bella, Winky’s new love interest, was still waving her flags around. She appeared quite animated—maybe they were talking dirty to one another—it didn’t bear thinking about. I wondered if I should pay a visit to the flat where Bella lived. Did her owners know about their cat’s exploits? In the end, I thought better of it. Any conversation which began with the sentence: ‘Do you know your cat is sending semaphore messages to my cat?’ couldn’t end well.

 

As I drove past ‘Ever a Wool Moment’ I glanced inside, and spotted Mrs V behind the counter. Parking wasn’t allowed anywhere along the road, but there were no wardens in sight, so I decided to take my chances. I’d only be a couple of minutes.

Mrs V was taking a payment from a woman who was stocking up on yellow yarn. I waited until they’d finished.

“Mrs V?”

“Jill! Have you decided to take up knitting?”

“Me? No. I was just wondering what you’re doing here.”

“Working, dear. It’s been incredibly busy. We’re almost out of number nines.”

I nodded as though I had a clue what that meant. “Aren’t you supposed to be working for me?”

“Of course, but your grandma asked if I’d mind standing in for a couple of days. Just until the full-time manager starts.”

That was nice of her. Nice to be consulted.

“Good of you to drop by, Jill,” Grandma said.

She’d done it again—crept up on me without my hearing. “Grandma. I didn’t see you there.”

“Obviously.”

“Mrs V tells me she’s working for you.”

“Only for a couple of days. Is that a problem?”

“Problem? No, of course not. No problem at all.”

“Good.” She glanced out of the window. “You might want to get going. I think you’re about to get a ticket.”

 

You have got to be kidding me. “Miss!” I called to the traffic warden who was checking my registration plate. “I’m back. I was only inside for a minute.”

She turned to face me.

“Daze?”

“Hi, Jill. Can we take a ride? I need a word.”

“Sure, yeah. Jump in.”

As we drove away, I glanced at her uniform.

“Do you like it?” She touched the jacket.

“I thought you worked in fast-food. Undercover, I mean.”

“I like to change things around. It stops me getting bored, and keeps the Rogues guessing. I’m not sure how long I’ll stick with this one though. I’ve had some real abuse—one guy was lucky I didn’t turn him into a slug.”

As we pulled up at a red light, I felt eyes burning into me. I glanced over to the car alongside me to see Kathy waving.

I waved back.

“Who’s that?” Daze asked. “She looks a bit crazy.”

“That’s Kathy, my sister. Well, adoptive sister to be precise. She’s a human—she doesn’t know about—you know.”

“Should I wave back?” Daze asked.

“Why not?”

As soon as the lights changed, I sped away. Memo to self: Before I saw Kathy next, I’d need to come up with an explanation for why I’d had a parking warden with me in the car.

I drove out of town, found a quiet lay-by, and pulled over.

“Was that your grandmother in the wool shop?” Daze asked.

“Yeah. It’s her latest venture.”

“How do you feel about that?”

“I’m not crazy about it. At least before she opened the shop, I could find refuge from her in the human world. Now, she’s right down the street and is stealing my staff.”

Daze laughed. “Relatives? Who’d have ‘em?”

I would. Even though some of my new family were a sandwich short of a picnic, it was still better than having no family.

“I need a favour,” Daze said.

This sounded like more unpaid work—Robert Roberts would be thrilled. “What’s that?”

“I’m on the trail of a rogue vampire. I’ve been after him for a while now, but he’s smart and keeps giving me the slip.”

“What’s he done?”

“The usual. Seduced young women, drunk their blood and left them for dead.”

And I thought
I’d
been on some lousy dates. “Where do I come in?”

“It just so happens, you’re his type.”

“Slim, attractive, intelligent and funny?”

“O negative.”

I shuddered. “Blood type? You’re kidding?”

She wasn’t. “I need you to put up a profile on the dating website he frequents.”

“What’s that? Bloodsuckingmatchmakers.com?”

She laughed. “No, it’s just one of the regular dating websites.”

“I know they ask for a lot of personal data to help them make a match, but I didn’t realise they asked for blood type.”

“They don’t. He has certain preferences when it comes to appearance—I’ll provide you with a photo that will fit the bill. When he meets his victims—err—dates—he can sense their blood type. Those with other blood types get a meal and a goodnight kiss. Those with O negative become
his
meal.”

“But he’ll realise something is wrong when the photo in my profile doesn’t match—this.” I framed my face with my hands.

“Not a problem. You can cast a spell that will make him see what he is expecting to see.”

“Will the ‘doppelganger’
spell work—with a vampire I mean? Won’t he see right through it?”

“It’ll only fool him for a short time, but it should be long enough.”

“Not to sound too much of a wimp, but won’t it be dangerous?”

“You’ll be fine. I’ll be close by, and as soon as he makes his move, I’ll be on him.”

“Makes his move? Care to define that?”

“I have to wait until his fangs are out or the case will be dismissed.”

“Let me make sure I have this right. You want me to be the bait. And you can’t step in until he’s about to sink his teeth into my neck?”

“You’ve got it. I’ll owe you one.”

“Let’s hope I’ll still be around to collect.”

I dropped Daze back in the city centre just in time for her to issue a ticket to a woman who’d left her 4x4 in a no parking zone while she had her nails done.

 

My phone rang. It was the nursing home.

“I’m very sorry. I’ve checked our records, and your mother didn’t actually have any jewellery on her when she passed away.”

“That’s not right. She was definitely wearing a ring on a necklace. It had been her grandmother’s wedding ring.”

“Did you see it yourself when you visited her?”

“No.” The state I’d been in on that particular day I doubt I’d have noticed if she’d been wearing a top hat. “But, I’m sure she was wearing it.”

“Maybe she took it off before coming into the home?”

“No, she was definitely wearing it.”

“Not according to our records. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help.”

Something didn’t smell right.

 

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