Friday, 26 September 2014

The Lavender Witch, part 11

‘I would like to discuss this first,’ Gordon said firmly. ‘Do you know what you’re doing?’
‘Relax Gordon, I’m an expert in all things spooky,’ she joked moving towards the fire. ‘Move dog.’ Queenie pushed Nigel out of the way and plumped down rather heavily into the armchair. ‘Are you going to make some tea Sybil? We’re dying of thirst you know.’
‘Yes I’m just going to make some,’ she rolled her eyes at Kitty. ‘Sisters! Sit down and make yourselves comfortable.’
Sybil disappeared into the kitchen at the rear of the cottage. Kitty could hear the chink of the china cups as she prepared the tea.
‘Sybil has been telling me all about your adventures Kitty.’
‘Some adventures,’ said Gordon. ‘I’ve already told Kitty that this is it, if this doesn’t work then that will be the end of it. The house will be sold and we’ll move somewhere else.’
‘And what does Kitty think of that?’ She stared at him through the cigarette smoke while Kitty stared at both of them and shrugged doubtfully.
 ‘I don’t know,’ she confessed.
‘It won’t be the end of anything Gordon, it will go on and who knows it might affect Emily in the future or even her children. You can’t just walk away from this.’ said Queenie.
‘Yes we can,’ he replied sternly.
‘No,’ interrupted Kitty. ‘I feel that I owe it to great-gran and to Hannah to end this.’
‘Good for you girl, you’ve got Ava’s spirit as well as her looks.’ Queenie smiled at her looking pleased.
‘I don’t know about that,’ said Kitty faintly.
‘Nonsense, there’s more to you than you know.’
‘What have I missed?’ enquired Sybil coming back in with a loaded tray.
Gordon stood up and took it from her hands.  ‘I think I’m being out voted,’ he said crossly. ‘Sybil, sit here,’ pulling up a wooden chair for her next to Queenie.  ‘I think I made it quite clear to Kitty earlier that we would have one more go, we had a deal remember?’ he said turning to his wife.
‘Yes, yes, Gordon but what if this all goes wrong again, how are we going to walk away from it? And where are we going to live?’
‘Queenie will sort it, I have faith in my sister’s ability,’ Sybil said calmly.
Gordon shook his head in exasperation and then looked across at the old woman. ‘Why Queenie?’ he asked curiously.
‘Well it’s rather an unusual name.’
‘It’s Maud really,’ said Sybil.
‘Terrible isn’t it? I mean, do I look like a Maud?’ she said dramatically waving her arms about.
Kitty smiled at her. ‘No definitely not, Queenie suits you.’
‘I’ve always been Queenie; mother said it was because I used to order everybody about, like a Queen Bee, you see.’
‘I’m sure she said bossy.’
‘Whatever, so I was always Queenie. Oldest girl of ten so I had a lot of ordering to do.’
‘Bossing, more like.’
‘So,’ said Gordon, interrupting the two elderly sisters’ good natured bickering. ‘What are we going to do?’
‘Right,’ said Queenie. ‘First we will finish our tea and then we will go up to the house.’
‘Do we have to? Can’t we do it here?’ Kitty looked nervously at the group sat around the fire. ‘And what are we going to do anyway?’
‘Sorry dear but yes. We are going to get his spirit out of the house.’ She smiled confidently at them all and stubbed her cigarette out on the hearth.
‘Are you sure it is Beamish?’ queried Gordon.
She sighed and drained her cup. ‘Yes, it can’t be anybody but Robert Beamish. If anybody’s soul was going to walk this earth it would be his, he was an evil man. Totally driven by his hatred, but,’ she looked up cheerfully, ‘I’ll sort him.’
Gordon looked at her soberly. ‘And if you can’t?’
‘Don’t be so negative,’ she stood up and straightened her tweed skirt. ‘Come on let’s get at it.’
‘Do you need anything Queenie?’ Sybil inquired. ‘Do we need to take anything with us?’
‘I’ve got everything I need in my handbag, which is where?’ she asked distractedly looking around the room.
Gordon picked up a big tote bag from the floor. ‘Is this it?’
‘Yep,’ she rummaged through it. ‘Oh, the only thing I haven’t got is a jam jar. Sybil have you got one we can use?’
‘A jam jar! What are you going to catch him in it?’ he said in amusement.
‘That’s right; I’m going to trap his spirit in the jar.’ Queenie looked at Gordon and Kitty’s horrified faces. ‘Don’t look so worried you two.’
‘Tell me you’re joking, please.’ he exploded, looking even more unsure about the whole idea.
‘Now do I tell you how to do your job?’ she replied irritated. ‘No! I know what I’m doing. A jam jar is the perfect thing. Some people use boxes or bottles, but I prefer a jam jar, with a nice easy screw lid.’
Queenie looked at them. Kitty was looking increasingly worried while Gordon’s face was flushed with irritation.
‘What exactly did you expect me to do? Wave my hands about and say begone foul one?
There are certain ways laid down to deal with these situations. If we stick to the correct method then we will be fine.’ she said sternly. ‘And using a secure container for his spirit is essential.’
Sybil put an arm around Kitty and gave her a reassuring hug.  ‘Don’t worry, we’ll look after you.’
‘I don’t know if I can do this,’ she confessed. Kitty stared into the fire with her hands clenched between her knees, ‘I’m sorry,’ she said looking up at them.
Queenie grasped her shoulder and gently shook it. ‘If you don’t, Robert will win again. Do it for Hannah, Ava would want you to help.’
She stared up at the old woman and nodded slowly. ‘Yes you’re right, okay,’ she gave herself a mental shake. ‘Yes I can do this.’ and stood up.
Queenie nodded in satisfaction.  ‘Good, right let’s get going.’
Sybil pulled the door shut behind them and stared up and down the village street.
 ‘Quiet tonight, just as well.’ she remarked. ‘Are we going to walk or shall we take the car?’
‘I’m not going to walk all the way up to William’s,’ Queenie said firmly and looked at
Gordon’s car parked behind hers. ‘We’ll take yours; we won’t all fit in mine.’
He opened the doors and helped the two elderly women into the back seats.
‘I say this is rather nice Gordon, very posh,’ Queenie said admiringly running her hands over the brown leather.
‘Thanks,’ he replied drily. ‘I’m glad you like it.’
He closed the doors and got in behind the wheel. He glanced across at Kitty. ‘Are you alright?’ he asked quietly. ‘Are you sure about this?’
Kitty smiled nervously at him. ‘No, I’m scared stiff, what are we getting ourselves into?’
Gordon reached across and squeezed her cold hands. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll look after you. I promise.’

Hannah had pulled the bolts across on the door early that night. Michael had been up to visit her in the morning and had fitted the two new sturdy bolts onto the front door. He had been very concerned to see how edgy Hannah had become and had done his best to persuade her to return with him to the village. But Hannah had resisted his pleas and stayed firm in her desire to remain in her cottage. But she had become increasingly uneasy after Michael had disappeared down the path. Dusk was falling, the birds were still singing in the trees but as she stood on the doorway watching him leave she could not shake the feeling that she was being watched. A small finch suddenly burst out of the brambles trilling in alarm and she jumped, stepping back quickly she slammed the door and pushed the bolts home.
 Her supper that night was a dreary affair, a dry heel of a loaf and some pottage was all that she could scrape together, not that she was bothered. Hannah’s appetite had been poor for several weeks. Ava had tried to coax her to eat and she had eaten a little of the mutton pie that Ava had brought just to keep the little girl happy but when she left scurrying quickly back to the farm Hannah’s spirits had plummeted again.
Hannah ate her meagre supper huddled near the fire, her single candle burning low in the holder. The wax was winding to one side in the draught from the chimney. Hannah shuddered. Tis a sign of death she thought to herself. She put down her plate on the hearth and raked the embers of the fire together in a bid to coax a few last flames before she went to bed.
The kettle hanging over the fire was still steaming gently, and there was just enough water left in the bottom for Hannah to make herself a last cup of tea. As the tea steeped in the old brown teapot she began her preparations for bed. She slipped on her nightdress and then carefully unpinned her hair, placing the pins in a dish on the mantelpiece. Hannah began to slowly brush her hair, her hand slowing as she heard the familiar footsteps approaching up the path and her heart sank as the latch on the garden gate clicked.

Beamish smiled grimly satisfied with his nights work. The light breeze blowing around the hill caught the edge of Hannah’s nightdress fluttering it above his head and he stared up at the figure lying across the branch of the tree. Robert gathered up the length of rope and coiled it carefully and then slung it over his shoulder. His blackthorn stick was lying in the damp grass at his feet, he picked it up and grunted with displeasure at the sticky liquid on the handle. He was about to wipe it clean on the grass when he had a sudden thought; smiling slightly to himself, he rubbed the coil of rope over the end of the bloodied stick. Satisfied he settled the rope back onto his shoulder, grasped his stick and gave a last look at the still figure in the tree.
Robert picked his way down the dark path to the lane and walked on tiptoe into the deserted farmyard, the farm dogs remained silent and hidden in their kennels, recognising their master’s footsteps on the cobbles. He stole into the house, letting the latch on the front door click gently back into place and walked silently along the passageway to the parlour door and pushed it open. The fire had burned low in the hearth and Evans was sprawled across the hearth, drunk and clasping an empty tankard to his chest.
The soiled rope was dropped next to his pack of belongings and Robert smiled grimly to himself as he backed slowly out of the room leaving Evans still sleeping, unaware that his employer had entered the room.
 Beamish had left the house early the next morning and was inspecting his flock of sheep and their new lambs in the fields by the river, by the time he reached home a few hours later the alarm had already been raised. He met Rosie hurrying out of the front door of the farmhouse, she was wrapping a shawl around her shoulders against the early morning chill and started to speak as soon as she spotted him.
‘Mr Beamish,’ she gasped. ‘Tis terrible news, Guppy has just been here, it’s Hannah sir. He says she’s dead. He found her, sir, hanging in a tree.’ Rosie started to cry. ‘Oh sir what could have happened?’
She wiped a shaking hand across her face and stared at her employer in surprise at his continued silence. His face showed no emotion and he just stared at her.
‘Well?’ Beamish said flatly. ‘What do you expect me to do about it?’
‘But Mr Beamish, she’s your brother’s wife.’
‘My brother is dead, and,’ he said with a strange expression. ‘Now it seems my sister- in- law is as well. What an unfortunate pair.’
He pushed past her into the house leaving Rosie staring after him with a look of growing unease upon on her face. ‘You’ll not go up then?’
‘I’m sure Guppy can manage,’ Beamish replied shortly. He walked swiftly down the passage to the parlour and opened the door to the now empty room.
‘Where is Evans?’ he shouted after Rosie who was hurrying across the yard to the gate.
She paused and glared back at him.  ‘He’s gone, he heard Guppy telling me that Hannah was dead and he snatched up all his things and scarpered,’ Rosie stared at him triumphantly. ‘He won’t get far though, Guppy is rounding up some men to go and find him.’
‘Really,’ he said flatly. ‘Mr Guppy is taking quite an interest in this, very public spirited of him I’m sure. And where is the body?’
‘Still up there where he found it, he’s going for the magistrate as well.’ She wrapped the shawl tighter round her and turned her back on him.
‘And where do you think you’re going Rose?’
She whirled round and shouted at him, her voice echoing off the walls of the buildings. The pigeons flew out from their nests in the barn and flapped up and over their heads in panic at the sudden noise. ‘I’m going up there, to her cottage. What do you think!’
Beamish strode across the yard and grabbed her arm pulling her away from the entrance.
‘Get back to the dairy and your chores, woman. This is none of your business. Leave it to the proper authorities.’
‘Oh yes,’ she sneered. ‘That would suit you down to the ground, wouldn’t it?’ Rose pulled her arm from his grip and walked quickly out into the lane. ‘The less people see what has happened up there the better as far as you are concerned.’
‘What do you mean by that?’ He glared at her, the colour rising in his face. Beamish grasped his stick in a shaking hand and slammed it down on the paved yard. ‘You watch your mouth.’ he shouted at her.
Rose pointed an accusing finger at him. ‘I’ve been wondering what was going on in the parlour, with that drunk and his stinking mess over the fire. Now I know,’ her voice trembled as she stared at him. ‘Well he won’t get away with it, he’ll get caught and then we’ll see what happens!’
Rose stared out into the lane, her attention caught by the sound of hurrying footsteps approaching up the hill.
‘Rose,’ called Donald Trevitt arriving out of breath at the farm entrance, followed by his wife and two stout sons. ‘Any sign of him?’
‘If you mean Evans, no.’ She glanced back into the farmyard where Beamish was still standing sardonically watching the group clustered around her. ‘I’ve told him though,’ Rose jerked her head towards Beamish. ‘Not that he gives a damn.’
‘Well, well, look at all this,’ Beamish drawled. ‘The circus has come to town.’  He laughed slightly before turning on his heel and heading back towards the house.
He shut the door firmly in the face of their disapproving looks and they plainly heard the bolt being drawn across.
‘Well,’ said Mrs Trevitt slowly. ‘Perhaps Michael was right after all.’ She glanced at her husband in shock.
‘Aye,’ muttered her husband. ‘Maybe so.’
As one they walked on past the orchard to the path that Ava used every day and climbed the hill to Hannah’s cottage. The sound of crying reached their ears as they neared the garden.
They found Ava huddled under the large beech tree from which Hannah’s body was still hanging, she had her face buried in her pinafore and was rocking backwards and forwards as she wept.
Rose hurried over the damp grass to the child.  ‘Ava, Ava what are you doing here? I thought you were down in the village.’ She folded the girl in her arms and helped her up from the ground. ‘Come away child,’ Rose held Ava’s face pressed to her chest as she led her way from the dreadful sight above her.
‘I heard Michael tell Sarah, I thought he was fibbing, so I came up here,’ she sobbed.
Ava pulled away from Rose’s close embrace and stared back at the body hanging over the branch.
‘Oh Rose, poor Hannah!’ she started to wail hysterically clutching at Rose’s arm.
Rose wiped the hair back from her streaming face. ‘Come on my dear,’ she said gently. ‘Let’s get you down to the village; this is no place for you.’
‘I can’t leave her,’ she cried. ‘She’s my friend.’
‘Shush child,’ Mrs Trevitt gently took her arm and spoke to her earnestly. ‘We’ll look after her, and do everything that is needful for her now. You go with Rose.’ She looked at the other woman. ‘Take her to our cottage Rose, Ida is there with the younger children.’
Rose nodded and wrapped a plump arm around the little girl.
 ‘Come on dear; let’s get you away from here. There’s nothing that you can do for her now.’
On the way down the steep path that led to the village, they met Michael Guppy with three men from the village.
He paused, while he caught his breath. ‘Any sign of Evans?’ he asked.
She shook her head and glanced warningly at Ava.
‘Damn him.’
‘You think he did it? Beamish got right upset when he found Evans gone.’
Michael shrugged his shoulders and wiped his sweating face with his sleeve.
‘I dunno, maybe, I do know Hannah was worried though. I saw her yesterday morning and she was right spooked. Reckoned Beamish was out to get her.’
‘Beamish?’ said one of the other men. ‘But he’s family.’
‘Shush,’ warned Rose. ‘Not in front of Ava please.’ She pulled her close and carried on walking down the path. ‘I’m taking her down to the Trevitts’ cottage; let me know if you hear anything Michael.’
He nodded and said to the others, ‘Come on, let’s get up there and see what we can do,’ he paused for a minute and stared at the little girl. Michael hesitated not knowing what to say to her and satisfied himself with just patting her roughly on the shoulder. ‘Go on then,’ and jerked his head in the direction of the village.
Trevitt and his sons were standing at the base of the tree and staring up at the branch, they looked round on hearing the men’s approach up the stony path.
 ‘There you are Guppy, we were just wondering how we’re going to get Hannah down, we could do with a rope,’ he jerked his head at his oldest son. ‘Peter here thinks he can climb up and lower her down.’
Michael shook his head and pushed the three men out of the way.  ‘No, I’ll do it,’ he said roughly. He took off his jacket and laid it on the grass, and stared at the smooth trunk of the tree. ‘Can you give me a leg up and I’ll see if I can grab that smaller branch, I should be able to pull myself up from there.’
They linked hands and bent so that Michael could use their hands as a step, he reached up for the branch while from underneath helping hands propelled him farther up the trunk until he had both hands firmly on the branch.
Michael climbed carefully up the remaining few feet to the large branch over which Hannah’s body was laying. He inched slowly forward, feeling the branch giving beneath his feet.
‘Careful up there lad! That branch is going to break.’
Michael hesitated and eased his weight farther along the branch and leant forward to grasp a limp arm. ‘I’ve got her,’ he said panting and looked down at the waiting men. ‘I’ll try and lower her down and then you’ll have to catch her.’
He gripped her wrist and held firmly onto the branch with his other hand and tugged the body free of the branch. The sudden shift of weight made the branch creak alarmingly and as he leant forward to lower her down, the wood began to split just in front of him. There was nothing he could do as the branch slowly broke away taking the body of Hannah with it as it fell to the ground. Michael just had enough time to shout a warning to the men below before the branch landed. Hannah’s body hit the ground and rolled down the hill into the ditch bordering her garden.

Queenie stared into the farm yard as they drove past.
 ‘How’s William these days? I haven’t seen him for months.’
‘He’s fine, I saw him yesterday. I haven’t told him about this of course,’ replied Sybil.
‘Good, least said I think.’
‘Oh definitely,’ they nodded their heads and Sybil pursed her lips.  ‘He’s getting on a bit now, I don’t think he would be able to cope with this, you know.’
‘Hmm.’ they both nodded again.
‘Is this it?’Queenie leant forward and gazed at Orchard Cottage. ‘It looks nice, not too big and not too small.’ she turned to Sybil. ‘Something like this would suit you.’
‘Of course we remember this when it was still an orchard,’ said Sybil ignoring her sister. ‘It used to be full of apple trees.’
Queenie started grinning.  ‘Remember how we used to climb over the wall and steal the apples?’ They both started laughing. ‘William’s father used to get so mad with us!’
Kitty smiled back through the gap in the seats. ‘Sounds like you two used to have fun.’
‘Oh we did,’ said Sybil.  ‘There was a whole gang of us running about the village getting up to mischief. Of course William was part of it as well but he used to scarper when he saw his father coming. And he thought his son was so well behaved, butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth!’
Even Gordon smiled in response to the women’s laughter coming from the back seat.
‘I can’t imagine William misbehaving,’ he said.
‘Oh don’t you believe it, we used to get up to some pranks I can tell you.’
Gordon slowed the car to a halt and switched off the engine. Outside it was already dark.
They sat in silence looking at the house until Queenie stirred. ‘Come on everybody, let’s go in.’
‘Did we have to come in the dark?’
‘Well Kitty at least most people will be inside and won’t notice what we’re doing. That’s the idea any way,’ Queenie said practically. ‘The less they see the better.’
Kitty huddled deeper into the front seat, the cold knot in her stomach tightening even more.
‘Come on,’ Queenie repeated opening the car door. ‘The sooner we start, the sooner we’ll finish.’
Gordon pushed open the front door and flicked on the hall light, a cold fusty smell filled the house.
‘It smells damp, Gordon.’
He led the way into the front room and switched on the light.  ‘Come in here and I’ll go and put the heating on; warm the place through for a while.’
He disappeared into the kitchen while the three women waited, staring around the quiet room.
 ‘Ahh,’ Queenie spotted the Ouija board lying in the hearth and picked it up. ‘Well that’s not going to work very well now is it?’ she said examining the broken pieces and then threw the bits into the empty fireplace. ‘There, best place for that.’ She ran her hand over the wood of the fireplace.  ‘How strange that you ended up with this, fate perhaps?’ she asked gazing intently at Kitty who had walked slowly over to join her.
‘It was Gordon that picked the fireplace out, he found it at the local reclamation yard and fell in love with it. I didn’t like it at first,’ she confessed ‘I thought it was too big.’ Kitty gently touched the wood. ‘Strange isn’t it? How things are meant to be.’
Sybil had perched on the sofa while they waited for Gordon. ‘Is this the photo album you were telling us about?’ she picked up the old brown book and started flicking through the pages.
‘Yes, great-gran’s picture is in the back,’ Kitty moved away from Queenie and sat down next to her. ‘There she is,’ and pointed to the child stood at the front of the group.
Sybil peered closely at the faded photograph and started to gently laugh.  ‘Well, look at that.’ she said wryly.
‘What?’ asked Queenie.
Sybil pointed to a figure in the crowd and looked up at her sister. ‘Look who’s there.’
Kitty looked from one to the other puzzled. ‘Who?’
‘It’s Hannah, there, just standing to the right of Ava.’
Queenie leaned on the back of the sofa and peered at the book. ‘So it is,’ she twitched the book out of her sister’s hand and stared at the picture. ‘I wonder who’s wedding it was?’ she pondered, looking at the back of the page and then pulled the picture out of the album.
‘Queenie be careful with it!’ said Sybil in protest.
‘I want to see if there is anything written on the back,’ she replied briskly. She scanned the back. ‘What a shame, nothing,’ Queenie turned it back and stared at the group. ‘It might have been one of Ava’s older brothers.’ She handed the photo to Kitty. ‘You’ll have to do some research and find out who was married about 1839ish,’ she looked at Sybil lifting her eyebrows. ‘That would be about the right year wouldn’t it?’
‘Right year for what?’ queried Gordon coming back in. He looked keenly at Kitty who was sitting speechless on the sofa.
She held up the photo. ‘Hannah is in the picture as well as great- gran, look.’
Kitty handed it to Gordon who stared at the blurred picture. ‘Which is Hannah?’
‘She is standing to the right of Ava.’ Sybil came over to his side and pointed at the blurred figure.
‘Are you sure? It’s not very clear.’
Sybil smiled slightly. ‘That’s her.’
Gordon dropped the photo onto the coffee table and sat down next to Kitty.  
‘Okay?’ he asked putting an arm around her.
She nodded and stared up at Queenie. ‘What do we do now?’
‘Yes, well we’d better get organised. I’m sure he will be here soon.’
Kitty flinched. ‘What about Hannah? She’s not here.’
‘Yes she is dear, ’replied Queenie calmly.
‘But I always smell lavender when she is around.’
‘And we have been finding the stuff as well, scattered everywhere,’ put in Gordon.
‘Lavender? Oh! I know what she’s been doing. Lavender repels evil spirits, I suppose she’s been putting it across the thresholds?’
‘It was a traditional protection, everybody used it, Mother’s used to pin it to the clothes of their children as well for protection against evil spirits.’
‘Really? Perhaps that is why she gave some to Emily,’ said Gordon quietly. ‘That really freaked us out.’
‘Oh dear, she was only trying to protect you all.’
‘It didn’t work when Sheena was here, he got in then.’ said Kitty.
‘When she used that board she opened a door and invited him in and I don’t suppose that woman bothered to say a prayer for protection did she?’
They both shook their heads.
‘You were lucky nothing else came through, believe it or not there are worse things than Robert Beamish crawling about in the shadows.’
Kitty shivered and held Gordon’s hand tightly. ‘We didn’t realise.’
Queenie stared around the room. ‘Well I suppose we had better get started, come along,’ she said firmly to Gordon who was looking very reluctant
‘What’s going to happen do you know?’ he asked casting a worried look at his wife.
 Queenie sighed and pulled him out of earshot of Kitty, she looked at him earnestly. ‘You do love your wife don’t you?’
‘Of course,’ he answered indignantly. ‘How could you ask that? And why I’m letting her do this I don’t know!’
‘Because she has to, that’s what brought you both back home. Justice for Hannah.’
‘Hannah is dead.’ he said fiercely. ‘We can’t bring her back and what this is going to do Kitty I dread to think. This is looking more and more like a bad idea Queenie.’ He shrugged his shoulders helplessly. ‘I don’t think we can do anything about this situation at all, what’s done is done and if he’s as evil as you say what can we do about it?’
‘We can do this, Kitty can do this,’ she said firmly. ‘This is her home, she belongs here and she needs to claim this soil for her own. And Robert will be sent back to where he belongs. But she will need your help as well. I know it sounds corny but love is the strongest power there is and here Kitty is surrounded by people who love her. On this plane and in the spirit world. They will help you to protect her but they want justice Gordon.’ She waited for a while, staring at him but Gordon refused to meet her eye.
He stared nervously at Kitty, chewing his lip. ‘I don’t know, I really don’t.’
Queenie shrugged her shoulders and turning her back on him called the others over.
 ‘Come on, let’s get prepared. You too, Gordon,’ she said firmly staring at him. ‘It’s time.’
She took out from her pocket a bundle of dried leaves and twigs and lit them.
‘This is sage,’ she explained. ‘This will purify the room.’
 She wafted the burning twigs around them filling the air with an aromatic smoke. The bundle of sage slowly burnt down until the smouldering twigs reached her finger tips, she threw the remains into the fireplace on top of the broken board where it gently glowed, still releasing its scent into the room.
From her tote bag she pulled out four candles and placed them about the room, one on the fireplace, one on the book shelf, the other two she put on the table. She lit them one by one.
‘You’re not going to turn the lights out are you?’ Kitty sounded worried.
‘No,’ she replied calmly, ‘we want to be able to see what we’re doing.’
 She gestured to Kitty. ‘Right, I want you here in the middle, Gordon, here on the left of Kitty, Sybil on the right and clasp your hands around Kitty and I will stand in front. Now,’ she looked at each of them in turn. ‘We will be alright as long as you do exactly as I say, do you understand?’
Kitty and Gordon nodded.
‘Right, first I want you all to imagine yourself surrounded by a bright blue light, try to keep this fixed in your mind all the time, especially you Kitty. Sybil’s aura is very strong so she will be able to help you.’
Sybil looked at Kitty and smiled reassuringly. ‘You’ll be fine dear. We know what we’re doing.’
Kitty looked doubtfully at Gordon, who smiled slightly and nodded at her. ‘I’ll be right next to you all the time.’ he reassured her.
Queenie gazed at them all intently. ‘Good.’ she said.
She put the empty jam jar onto the table and pulled a bottle of water out of her bag along with several small plastic bags. She held out the jar to Kitty.  ‘Now I want you to hold this in both hands, straight out in front of you.’
Kitty took the jar from her and held it while Queenie unscrewed the lid and poured the water from the bottle into it filling it up half way then added a handful of salt.
‘What’s that?’
‘Water from the church font. Remember to hold it firmly Kitty and don’t drop it.’
Queenie hesitated and smiled grimly to herself. ‘Well, we didn’t have long to wait, he’s coming.’ As soon as the words had left her mouth, the temperature in the room plummeted. Their breath billowed out in front of them and Kitty began to shiver uncontrollably. The lights started to flicker. 
‘Oh no,’ whimpered Kitty.
‘It’s okay, keep calm.’
The candle flames began to flicker in a sudden icy draught that came from nowhere and sank lower and lower into the wax. As the room grew dimmer dark shadows appeared in all the corners of the room moving and swaying in the half light.
‘Stand close to Kitty. Gordon, Sybil, hold hands around her and keep the image of the blue light fixed in your mind.’
Kitty suddenly felt a crushing weight on her shoulders and she cried out in panic.
Gordon released his grip of Sybil’s hands.
‘No,’ said Queenie sternly. ‘Stay in your place Gordon. Think of the blue light Kitty, be strong. His evil spirit is powerless against the love and light that surrounds you.’
Kitty tried to concentrate on a blue light enveloping her and filling the room. To her side she could hear Gordon’s heavy breathing and on her other side she became aware of a strength emanating from Sybil. Kitty glanced at her, Sybil stared fixedly back at her, small points of light flickering in her pale coloured eyes. She looked away quickly and shivered again. The lights were dimming fast and she could only just make out Queenie’s face in the dark.
Strange shadows flickered across her face changing it into someone she barely recognised. Queenie’s voice came from the darkness.
‘Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
 Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil,
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray.
And do thou O Prince of the heavenly hosts thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls... Amen,’ she finished solemnly.
For a while there was silence and then a strange acrid smell rose up around them.
‘Angels of protection, guard us, help us, remove all unwelcome spirits from this place,’ she called out firmly.
There was a brush against Kitty’s hand making her jump.
 ‘It’s alright it’s just me,’ a little splash came from the jar that Kitty was holding. ‘Hold it tightly,’ ordered Queenie. ‘And repeat after me, what is dark be filled with light, remove this spirit from my sight.’
Kitty repeated it haltingly at first but gaining strength towards the end. Her hands were shaking so much that the water from the jar splashed onto the floor.
The odour of damp and rot grew stronger and dark shadows slowly rose up from the floor and swirled around her, engulfing her so that she could no longer see the other three in the room.
‘Close your eyes Kitty, imagine you’re surrounded by the light,’ Sybil urged her.
‘Be strong all of you, he will fight this,’ as Queenie spoke a strong wind blew up out of nowhere and swirled around the room, rattling the furniture and sending the lighted candles to the floor. What little light there was in the room was slowly being extinguished.
Queenie placed her hand over Kitty’s on the jar and dropped something into the water.
‘What is dark be filled with light, remove this spirit from my sight,’ she shouted above the noise of the wind howling around the room. The force of the wind made Kitty stagger, her hair whipping into her eyes but she carried on repeating after Queenie.
‘Good Kitty, keep going,’ she urged her.
 On either side Gordon and Sybil were joining in. Gordon’s voice was shaking and Kitty could feel his arms trembling around her.
Queenie dropped another rose thorn into the water.
 ‘Thou demon presence be no more.
Guardians of the spirit realm hear us and aid us.
Protect us and hinder those who bring harm to this door,’ she shouted.
A wave of nausea swept over Kitty and she began to retch.
‘Kitty,’ shouted Gordon. He dropped Sybil’s hands and grabbed his wife by the shoulders.
 ‘This isn’t working,’ he shouted at the old woman in panic.
‘Yes it is Gordon, stand firm.’
Kitty opened her eyes and stared up at him, Gordon’s fingers were digging into her arms and his face was contorted with terror.  ‘Kitty, let’s get out of here,’ he shouted and pulled at her arm. ‘That’s it, we can’t do this.’
Her eyes flickered away from his gaze and became fixed on something behind him, the dark swirling shadows were flowing together and had concentrated itself into one dark pillar that grew upwards to the ceiling. And before her terrified eyes it formed into the indistinct figure of a man.
 She found herself staring into the eyes of Robert Beamish.
Kitty screamed and dropped the jar.
‘Kitty!’ wailed Queenie.
There was silence just for a second, the wind seemed to pause and then with a sudden explosion the windows blew in, shattering the glass over the room and the cowering figures.
They huddled together on the floor, Gordon holding on firmly to Kitty and protecting her head with his arms.
Within just a few seconds of the window breaking, the wind suddenly dropped and the dark shadows disappeared into the corners of the room. They held their breath, waiting.
‘What’s happening? Has he gone?’ Kitty asked her voice wobbling.
‘No’ said Queenie struggling to get up off the floor. ‘Something happened, I don’t know what though.’
There was a sudden hammering on the front door.
 Kitty screamed again and buried her head into Gordon’s chest. The front door slowly opened, and in the dim light the four of them could see the figure of a man.

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