Authors: Adele Abbott
Witch Is When
The Bubble Burst
Published by Implode Publishing Ltd
© Implode Publishing Ltd 2015
The right of Adele Abbott to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved, worldwide. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, dead or alive, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
“You’re doing it again,” I said, trying to sound as miffed as I felt.
“What?” Kathy gave me her ‘who me?’ look. “What am I supposed to have done now?”
“You’re sticking your nose into my love life.”
“I didn’t think you had one.”
“I don’t, but—”
“Then I can hardly stick my nose into it, can I?”
I hated it when Kathy insisted on dragging logic into an argument.
My name is Jill Gooder, and I’m a P.I. I’d taken over the family business after my adoptive father died. My life had become much more complicated when I’d discovered that I was a witch. I wasn’t allowed to tell any human about the whole witch thing, and that included my adoptive sister, Kathy.
“Look—” she said.
It was never a good sign when Kathy began a sentence with the word ‘Look’.
“You and Jack Maxwell were getting on just fine until Susie what’s-her-face showed up. But now she’s gone, so you have a clear run at him.”
“It’s not as straightforward as that.”
“Of course it is. You either like Jack Maxwell or you don’t.”
“Even if I did, and I’m not saying I do. But even if I did, he hasn’t actually asked me out.”
“I could ask him for you then.”
“Don’t you dare. I still haven’t forgiven you for rigging the raffle.”
My phone rang.
“It’s him.” My throat had suddenly gone dry.
I nodded—still staring at the phone.
“Answer it then!”
“I’ll let it go to voicemail.”
Kathy snatched the phone out of my hand, and before I could stop her, she’d pressed the ‘answer’ button.
“Jill Gooder’s phone,” she said in a sing-song voice. “Hello, Detective Maxwell! It’s Kathy, Jill’s sister.”
I shook my head, and mouthed the words, “Tell him I’m not here.”
“Yes, she’s here. She’d just nipped to the loo, but she’s back now. I’ll pass you over.”
Kathy handed me the phone; she had a huge grin on her face.
I gave her a death stare, and whispered, “I’m going to kill you.”
“Jack. How are you?”
“I’m fine,” he said “I just wondered if you’d like to get a coffee some time?”
Kathy could hear both halves of the conversation, and was nodding like one of those stupid dogs that people used to have in the back window of their car. What? You still have one? Sorry—obviously nothing stupid about those at all. Lovely little things.
“Jill?” Maxwell said.
“Sorry. Kathy was distracting me. Sure, why not?”
Kathy fist pumped the air. So childish.
“How about tomorrow afternoon?”
“See that wasn’t so painful, was it?” Kathy said, once I’d ended the call.
“I guess not.”
“He must be keen if he got rid of Sushi for you.”
“Who says he did? She was probably transferred back.”
“Come on, Jill. How naive are you? He obviously did it for you.”
Susan Shay or ‘Sushi’ as I preferred to call her was an ex-colleague of Jack’s. She’d been assigned to the Washbridge force for a while, and had made things very difficult for me. I wasn’t sure if Jack had been instrumental in having her sent back or not—it was a nice thought, but I wasn’t entirely convinced.
Jack Maxwell and I may have buried the hatchet, but we were hardly starry-eyed lovers—we hadn’t even kissed yet. And besides, there was still Drake to consider. If what his brother had told me was true, I’d treated Drake badly. At the very least I owed him an apology.
“Earth to Jill.” Kathy nudged me. “Dreaming of Jack?”
“We’re just getting coffee. That’s all.”
“For now.” She smirked.
Kathy got a call from her husband, Peter. While she was distracted, I sneaked up to Lizzie’s bedroom. It was a stupid thing to do. When Kathy had guilt-tripped me into handing over my collection of beanies to my niece, I’d made her promise to keep them out of sight, so I wouldn’t be tortured by seeing their demise each time I visited. And yet, there I was sneaking in to her bedroom so I could get a look at them.
Oh no! I wished I hadn’t.
There were beanies everywhere: on the bookcase, on the bedside cabinet, on top of the wardrobe, but mostly on the floor. But that wasn’t the worst part. Kathy and Lizzie had developed a Frankenstein complex, and had begun to create ‘hybrid’ beanies by joining two beanies together to create what I can only describe as mutants—monsters. What was this one meant to be? I picked up the hideous looking thing.
“That’s a Zebodile.” Kathy had sneaked in behind me.
“I kind of like it. It was Lizzie’s idea to match the zebra with the crocodile.”
“Have you thought of taking her to see a therapist?”
“She doesn’t need a therapist. It shows she has an active imagination. That’s a good thing.”
“This?” I held the monster at arm’s length. “You think this is a good thing?”
“Sure. Why not? At least she has fun with them. That’s more than you ever did. You were too busy cataloguing them to actually enjoy them.”
There was no arguing with her. What did she care that I’d be having nightmares about Zebodile and his monster friends for months to come?
“There you go.” Kathy held out a Tupperware box, which contained only custard creams.
“What’s going on?” Alarm bells were already beginning to ring.
“What do you mean? I thought you preferred them this way. Untainted by other biscuits.”
I did—it was true. What worried me was why Kathy had chosen now to do it. She’d never pandered to me before.
“What do you want?” I said, after taking a couple of biscuits.
“You’re so suspicious, Jill.”
“I know you. What do you want?”
“Well, you remember you promised to have the kids while me and Pete go away for the weekend?”
“Come on. You know you did. For our anniversary.”
“Oh yeah, your anniversary—I remember now. But that’s ages yet.”
“It’s this weekend.”
“It isn’t. It can’t be. I’d have remembered. I went to the wedding.”
“That’s funny—so did I. And it’s definitely this Saturday.”
When I’d agreed to have the kids, the anniversary had seemed an age away. I’d figured there would have been enough time for me to come up with an excuse, but then I’d forgotten all about it.
“Don’t look so worried,” Kathy said. “As it turns out, I’ll only need you to have the kids on the Sunday. You can manage that, can’t you?”
“They’re going to the seaside on Saturday with one of our neighbours. They have a boy and a girl, about the same age as our two.”
“What about Saturday night?”
“Don’t look so worried. They won’t be staying at your precious show home.”
“I wasn’t worried.” Terrified more like. Goodness only knew what havoc my nephew and niece could cause.
“Anyway, they’ll be back late, so Courtney’s mum said they can stay at her place.”
Kathy laughed. “I don’t actually know her first name. She’s always been Courtney’s mum. Just like I’m Lizzie’s mum or Mikey’s mum. Anyway, the kids are going to have a sleepover there. You just need to pick them up on Sunday morning, and keep them entertained until we get back in the evening. Do you think you can manage that?”
“Why the long face, then?”
I shrugged. “I’m a just little disappointed. I’d been looking forward to having them for the whole weekend,” I lied.
“I could always talk to Courtney’s mum, and—”
“No! It’s okay. Sunday will be fine.”
Dodged a bullet there. How bad could it be for one day?
When I got back to my flat, I was so busy thinking about my upcoming coffee date with Maxwell that I let my guard down. I didn’t spot Mr Ivers approaching from my right until it was too late to make a getaway.
Mr Ivers was one of my neighbours. He was obsessed with movies, and could bore for England.
“Jill!” He was grinning, which was rather unusual for him.
“Mr Ivers. Nice to see you. Can’t stop. I left the bgghrh on the sggegt,” I mumbled.
“I don’t want it to burn.” Back to mumble mode. “The bgghrh.”
I should have known better than to think my feeble attempt at an excuse would put him off. He was clearly a man on a mission.
“I have news,” he announced.
“Aren’t you going to ask me what it is?”
Might as well get it over with. “What’s your news?”
“I’ve been offered my very own newspaper column.”
“That’s great.” In Insomniacs Monthly no doubt.
“I’m so excited. The Bugle are very keen.”
I should have known. The Bugle was the local rag which was to journalism what sardines were to—err—journalism. They both employed fishy tactics and they both stank.
“I gave them a copy of my newsletter,” Mr Ivers continued. “They liked it so much they’ve asked me to do a regular column.”
“Are they going to pay you?”
“No, but I get to see all the movies I want for free which means I can cancel the monthly subscription for my movie pass.”
“Good for you. I’m really pleased for you.”
“I do have some bad news though.” His face was suddenly solemn. “I may have to discontinue the newsletter. I realise that would come as a disappointment to all my subscribers.”
Both of them.
“I may not have time to write the column, and publish the newsletter. Hopefully it won’t come to that.”
I’d signed up for his ridiculous newsletter in a moment of weakness when I’d felt sorry for him. I hadn’t actually read any of them. I’d tried to put one in Winky’s litter tray, but he’d threatened to tear my hand off if I brought it anywhere near him.
“You could always take out a subscription to the Bugle.” His smile had returned.
“I’ll definitely give that some serious thought.” Believe that and you’ll believe anything. “Well, it’s been lovely talking to you. I have to get off.”
“There is one more thing, Jill.”
With Mr Ivers, there was always one more thing. My will to live was slowly ebbing away.
“The Bugle wants a photograph for the column.”
“Of you?” Wasn’t their readership plummeting enough already without actively scaring readers away?
“Yes. I think maybe I should have a make-over first. Hair cut, new suit—that kind of thing. You always look fashionable—”
At last. Someone had noticed, even if it was only Mr Ivers. I was slowly warming to the man.
“Perhaps you could come and take a look at my wardrobe?”
“I suppose so.” What do you mean two-faced? Why shouldn’t I give the poor man the benefit of my advice? It was the least I could do.
“What about your bgghrh on the sggegt?” He appeared concerned.
“What about the what on the what?”
“You said you had bgghrh on the sggegt.”
“Oh, yeah. I just remembered. I took it off before I came out.”
“Lead the way.”
“I don’t think you’ve been in my flat before, have you?” Mr Ivers said.
“I don’t think so.”
Oh deary me. Did you ever watch those TV programmes about hoarding? Yes, then you get the picture.
“Come through to the bedroom!” he called from somewhere behind several piles of newspapers.
Now there’s something I never expected to hear from Mr Ivers.
“Where are you?” I shouted.
“Straight ahead until you reach the Big Screen Monthlies, and then take a left.”
I followed the directions, and was relieved to find his bedroom was clutter free. It was, however, not purple free. Everything was purple. The walls, the carpet, the bed covers—everything.
“I can guess your favourite colour,” I said, trying not to sound as freaked out as I felt.
I laughed. Who knew Mr Ivers had a sense of humour?
“It’s true,” he said straight-faced. “I love yellow.”
I’d long had this theory that different people saw different colours when they looked at the same thing. Kathy had always mocked my theory, but maybe this was the proof. Maybe Mr Ivers saw purple as yellow.
“Yellow?” I glanced around. “You mean like this room?”