Authors: Adele Abbott
Witch Is Why
The Laughter Stopped
Published by Implode Publishing Ltd
© Implode Publishing Ltd 2016
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.
Knock, knock, knock.
I’d been working late on a case, and hadn’t got in until gone three in the morning. Jack had long since gone to work. I’d woken up just long enough to tell him I wouldn’t be going in until lunchtime at the earliest. But now some idiot was knocking at the door.
Knock, knock, knock.
Maybe, if I ignored them, they’d go away.
Knock, knock, knock.
This time it was much louder. They obviously weren’t going to take the hint.
I felt dreadful, but I somehow managed to crawl out of bed, and make my way downstairs. I was still in my PJ’s, and had bare feet.
Knock, knock, knock.
Whatever happened to patience? Somebody was going to get a piece of my mind.
“At last! I thought you were never going to answer the door.”
It was Mrs Mopp. I’d forgotten all about her.
“Sorry, Mrs Mopp. You’d better come in.”
She looked me up and down, disapprovingly. “I specifically told you to make sure that everyone in the house was dressed when I arrived.”
“Yeah, sorry. I—err—I was working late last night.”
“We all have our cross to bear, dear. For instance, I’m standing here talking to you when I could be cleaning.”
“Where’s the man of the house? I hope he’s not walking around half naked too.”
“Jack’s gone to work. I’ll go upstairs and get changed.”
“Not before time. I’ll make a start down here.”
The bed looked so inviting. All I wanted to do was crawl back under the covers, and go to sleep, but there was no chance of that with Mrs Mopp downstairs. Somehow, I managed to summon up the strength to shower and get dressed, but I could still barely keep my eyes open. What I needed was coffee—very strong coffee.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Mrs Mopp shouted, as I stepped into the kitchen.
“I was going to make myself a coffee.”
“I’m in the middle of cleaning the kitchen, you can’t possibly come in here. Go and wait in another room until I’ve finished.”
“But I really need—”
I considered lying on the sofa, but decided that wasn’t such a good idea because I’d probably fall asleep. If I did, Mrs Mopp would no doubt lift up the sofa, and throw me onto the floor. I sat in the armchair instead. Ten minutes later, she came in.
“You can use the kitchen now. I’ll have a cup of tea.”
“Huh? You want
a cup of tea?”
“Yes, please. And I’ll have two custard creams.”
“Right. How do you like your tea?”
“No milk, no sugar, and very strong.”
I left Mrs Mopp busy in the living room while I made her a cup of tea, and myself the strongest cup of coffee known to man. When I checked the Tupperware box, there were only two custard creams left. Two! That meant none for me. Great! I put them onto a small plate, and took her tea and biscuits through to the living room.
“Don’t spill the tea. Put it down there on the table.”
I did as I was told, and was just about to sit down.
“You can’t be in here while I’m working. You’ll have to have your coffee in the kitchen, and don’t spill it.”
The coffee slowly but surely seemed to wake me up. I spent the next couple of hours dodging Mrs Mopp.
“Ms Gooder!” she called from upstairs. What was wrong now? I was beginning to think I’d rather do the cleaning myself.
“Yes?” I said when I got to the top of the stairs.
“I hope you don’t expect me to clean in
.” She pointed to the spare bedroom. “I can’t even get through the door.”
“No, of course not. That’s—err—that’s just full of old furniture.”
“Most of it looks like junk.”
“It belongs to Jack.”
“Really? Does he have no taste?”
After she’d finished, Mrs Mopp took her cleaning materials and equipment back to her car. When she came back into the house, she seemed to be waiting for something.
“Was there something else, Mrs Mopp?”
“Oh yes, the payment. How much did we say?”
“It’s sixty pounds plus materials. We’ll call it seventy.”
“Right. Err—I’d actually forgotten you were coming today. I don’t have any cash on me.”
“That isn’t a problem.” She pulled out a handheld card machine from the pocket of her apron.
“I take all the usual cards.”
“Oh? Right. Okay.” I found my purse, took out my credit card, and made the payment.
“I’ll be back in a fortnight’s time at eight-thirty on the dot. Please, no PJ’s next time.”
“No PJ’s. Got it.”
Mrs Rollo must have been watching through her front window because as soon as I stepped out of the house, she hurried out of her front door.
“Jill! I’m glad I caught you. I baked some scones yesterday, and I thought you and Jack might like some.”
“That’s—err—very kind of you.”
“I’ll just go and get them.”
Maybe she was better at scones than she was at Victoria sponge cakes?
“There you go. They’re cherry. Is that all right?”
“Yeah, cherry’s fine. Thanks, Mrs Rollo. You did say two, didn’t you?”
“Yes. One for you, and one for Jack.”
“Right, okay. Thank you. I’ll take this—err—I mean these inside. Jack and I can have it—err—them tonight.”
“Bye then, Jill. Have a good day at work.”
I took the solid block of whatever it was into the house. It was impossible to tell where one scone ended, and the other began.
I was just about to climb into the car when I heard an engine. Coming up the pavement, on the opposite side of the road, was what appeared to be a small train, pulling two wooden carriages. As it got closer, I could see the driver. He was wearing a cap, and holding a flag, which he waved at me.
“Oh? Morning, Mr Hosey.”
He brought the train to a halt right across the road from where I was standing.
“Do you like her? I made her myself. I call her Bessie.”
“So I see.” The name was written in large letters on the side.
“It took me almost eighteen months to build her, but it was worth it, wouldn’t you say?”
“Yes—err—do you use it at charity events?”
“No. I won’t allow children on Bessie, with their dirty hands and feet. I just drive her around the block: up this street, down Rose Avenue, around Lilac Street, and back up Primrose Avenue. I could take you for a ride if you like? It will only take about twenty minutes.”
I checked my watch. “Not right now, thanks, Mr Hosey. I’m actually running late for work as it is. I’d better get going.”
“Maybe another time.” He tooted his horn, and set the train rolling.
I’d just parked in Washbridge when my phone rang. It was Kathy.
“Jill, are you at work?”
“Nearly. I’ve just arrived in town.”
“You lazy madam!”
“I was working on a case until gone three this morning. I’d planned to have a lie in, but then our cleaner turned up.”
“You have a cleaner?”
“It wasn’t my idea; it was Jack’s. He said it would give us more time, but I didn’t realise what an ogre she was going to be. She’s a right bossy-boots. Almost as bad as you. I had to make tea for her, and she took my last two custard creams.”
“Oh dear.” Kathy laughed.
“It’s not funny. Anyway, what do you want? I’ve got to get to work.”
“I thought I’d let you know I’ve been offered that job as a presenter at Wool TV.”
“Really? Congratulations. You must be thrilled.”
“I might not be able to take it.”
“I’d assumed it would be a full-time position, but it’s only one day a week and the money isn’t great, so there’s no way I can give up my job at Ever.”
“But surely you still want to do it?”
“Of course I do. I think I’d be good at it, but I don’t see how I’m going to manage it. Your grandmother is never going to agree to give me one day off a week, is she?”
“I suppose not. So what are you going to do?”
“I told them I’d have to think about it. Anyway, I’d better let you go.”
“Okay. Speak to you later.”
It was Mrs V’s day in.
“Morning, Jill.” She looked down in the dumps.
“Are you okay, Mrs V?”
“Yes. I suppose so.”
“You don’t sound it. What’s the matter?”
“I’m not complaining because I know it’s my own fault, but I’m beginning to regret going part-time.”
“I thought I’d enjoy the rest, but I’m just bored. If Armi was off too, then it wouldn’t be so bad; we could do things together. But he’s working full-time. I know there’s nothing to be done about it. I can’t expect you to get rid of Jules; it’s not her fault.”
“I might have an idea which could help.”
“Really? What’s that?”
“I was talking to Kathy just now. She’s been offered the presenter’s job at Wool TV, but it’s only one day a week, and not enough money to give up her current job. Maybe you could talk Grandma into letting you cover for Kathy while she works at Wool TV. That way, you get something to occupy your time, and Kathy gets to do her presenting job.”
“That would be great.” Mrs V’s face lit up. “I know I said I’d never work at Ever again, and I certainly wouldn’t want to work for your grandmother full-time, but one day a week might be okay. And if it helps Kathy too?”
“Kathy would be thrilled. Why don’t you talk to them to see if you can sort something out between the three of you?”
“I will. Is it okay if I go down there now?”
“Of course. Off you go.”
I almost jumped out of my skin. I hadn’t noticed the small clock on the wall behind Mrs V.
“You have a clock, Mrs V?”
“Yes. Armi got it for me. They had a two for one offer at the Cuckoo Clock Appreciation Society. Do you like it?”
“Err—yeah, it’s—err—very nice. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a cuckoo clock in an office before.”
“That’s why I thought it would be such a good idea. And, you’ll be pleased to know I’ve put one in your office as well.”
“Great! Tell Armi thank you for me, would you?”
A cuckoo clock? What sort of impression would that give to a prospective client if halfway through a serious conversation, a bird popped its head out, and started cuckooing? But I could hardly take it down; Mrs V would be mortally offended.
When I walked into my office, I found Winky sitting on the sofa; he was staring at the cuckoo clock which Mrs V had put on the wall above the sofa.
“Don’t talk to me now, I’m busy.”
“There’s a bird in that box up there. The next time it sticks its head out, I’m going to have it.”
“You do realise that’s a clock, don’t you?”
“I don’t care what it is. There’s a bird inside it, and when it comes out again, it’s dead meat!”
“But it’s not actually a real bird.”
“Of course it’s a real bird. It keeps coming out and tweeting at me.”
“Does it make a sound a bit like this, ‘Cuckoo, cuckoo’?”
“That’s it! That’s exactly how it sounds.”
Oh boy! Winky was something of an enigma. The cat was the mastermind behind any number of money-making schemes, and yet here he was, apparently convinced that the bird inside the cuckoo clock was real.
Wow! Just wow!
Only then, did I notice that the floor close to my desk was covered in cogs, nuts, bolts, brackets, spanners, screwdrivers, and all manner of things mechanical.
“What exactly have you been doing here, Winky? Why is all this stuff all over my office floor?”
“I’m building something. Can’t you see?”
“If I told you, you’d only mock.”
“I would never mock you, Winky.”
“You mock everyone. That’s what you do.”
“I promise I won’t mock. What are you building?”
“It’s a time machine.”
“A time machine?” I burst out laughing. “Of course it is.”