Gordon gently tapped on the front door but they had already been spotted. Emily was on look out duty in the window so they didn’t have long to wait before the door was flung open.
‘Hello.’ their little granddaughter bobbed up and down with glee.
Gordon scooped her up. ‘Hello my little poppet.’
‘You’re having tea with us,’ she told him putting her arms around his neck.
‘Yes, and what are we having for tea?’
‘Chips,’ said Emily firmly.
‘No we’re not,’ said Eve coming into the hall and greeting her mother with a hug. ‘You had chips last night Emily. We’re having roast chicken.’
‘I thought I smelled something nice,’ Gordon kissed her on the cheek. ‘How are you?’
‘I’m okay,’ she said looking intently at them both. ‘Mum you look terrible, what’s been happening?’
‘Everything is fine,’ Gordon lied.
Kitty flicked a quick look at him and tried to keep her face blank but Eve wasn’t fooled, and stared back at him in disbelief. She shut the door behind them. ‘Come on in and I’ll make some tea.’
Kitty followed her into the kitchen while Gordon was pulled into the front room to inspect Emily’s new doll. Nero padded after the two women and snuffled hopefully around the floor looking for crumbs.
Eve turned to her mother as soon as they were alone. ‘Okay what’s happened?’ she asked firmly.
‘And it’s no use lying and saying everything is okay, it obviously isn’t otherwise you wouldn’t be staying in a guest house tonight!’
‘Okay,’ Kitty glanced over her shoulder and shut the kitchen door. ‘We held a séance.’
‘What!’ yelped Eve in horror. ‘Are you mad?’
‘Shh!’ Kitty warned her glancing at the door. ‘I know but we thought it would help and it did in a way,’ she added thoughtfully.
Eve looked at her curiously ‘And?’
‘It is Hannah, she has been haunting us if that’s the right word for it and it’s something to do with me and somebody called Ava. We thought she meant you, you know Ava... Eve. But it wasn’t.’
‘Who is Ava?’
Eve put the kettle on while she listened, watching her mother intently as she moved around the kitchen.
‘I don’t know, I don’t recognise the name at all.’
‘And that was it? I didn’t realise you knew how to hold a séance mum.’
‘Well, we had help if you want to call it that, Sheena from the public house in Medbury came, we thought it would be okay,’ Kitty paused remembering the fear and nausea that had overwhelmed her. She pulled out one of the kitchen chairs and sat down.
‘Something or somebody came after Hannah, Sheena said it was a man and that is was being drawn to me. She said it had an evil aura or something. It threw the Ouija board across the room and smashed it.’
‘You were using a Ouija board, are you insane?’
Eve banged a cup of tea down in front of her slopping the hot liquid over the table.
‘I know,’ she said flatly. ‘It was a stupid idea, dad really freaked out when he heard that, he wants to sell the house.’
‘Good,’ snapped Eve. ‘I should bloody well think so!’
‘We can’t sell, that’s our home.’
‘Mum you’ve only been in there a few days.’
‘Yes I know but....’
The door opened and Emily came in pulling Gordon in behind her.
‘Look at my dolly nanna.’
Kitty picked her up and put Emily on her knee. ‘Isn’t she pretty, what’s her name?’
‘It’s my new one,’ she said pulling the pink hair back from the cheerfully smiling face. ‘Her name is Hannah.’
A chilled silence fell over the room.
‘Emily why don’t you call her something else, something pretty like Candy anything but that,’ Eve looked appealingly at her parents.
‘Yes,’ said Gordon slowly. ‘Who’s that pop singer that you like so much? Bouncy? Call her that.’
‘No, this is Hannah.’ she clutched the doll to her firmly and stared stubbornly at her mother. ‘She’s nice.’
‘Of course she is and it’s a very nice name.’ Kitty gently stroked Emily’s fine hair back from her forehead.
‘Kitty,’ He shook his head in exasperation and sat down at the table. ‘Can you believe she wants to stay in that house?’ he asked Eve.
‘Mum’s been telling me all about it dad.’
‘I thought we agreed we weren’t going to say anything.’ he glanced over Emily’s head and gave Kitty a hard stare.
Kitty looked at him. ‘It’s no good lying, Eve’s not stupid. She knew something had happened.’
Eve fiddled about by the stove turning down the potatoes and checking the roast in the oven. ‘Mum’s right, I knew just by looking at your faces,’ she hesitated staring into the pan of potatoes and gently poking them with a knife. ‘Do you have any idea who the man or spirit was?’
‘No,’ said Kitty blankly. ‘Who would be mad at me?’
‘Apart from me?’
‘Shut up Gordon, it’s not my fault.’
‘It didn’t come up on the deeds then? Quarter of an acre, complete with apple trees and a ghost.’
Gordon smiled weakly at his daughter. ‘Funnily enough, no!’
‘Sybil is coming home tomorrow,’ said Kitty.
Eve put some plates on the table. ‘And who is Sybil?’
‘Ah! The oracle of the village.’
‘I hope she is going to be an oracle,’ said Kitty warmly. ‘I’m hoping she will be able to clear this mystery up, I want to get back into my house.’
Gordon leaned forward and glared at her. ‘I told you we were selling.’ he said firmly.
‘No buts, I’ve made up my mind,’ he patted her hand. ‘Now don’t worry, I’ll sort something out in the morning.’
She sighed and gave Emily a hug before she scrambled down and climbed onto Gordon’s knee.
‘Gramps, give dolly a kiss,’ she said pushing it into his face. Gordon puckered up his face, making Emily squeal with laughter.
‘You give me a kiss,’ he said tickling her.
Eve drained the vegetables and took the chicken out of the oven.
‘Emily, can you get down? I’d like gramps to carve the chicken,’ She put the roast and a serving plate on the worktop. ‘You don’t mind do you dad?’
‘Of course not,’ he stood up and started to carve. ‘This smells really good Eve, I didn’t realise I was so hungry until I started doing this; we have been surviving on sandwiches the last couple of days.’
Gordon quickly carved the bird into slices and then handed the piled plate to Eve.
‘Isn’t Rob home for tea?’ asked Kitty.
She set the cutlery on the table and was searching for the place mats in a drawer.
Eve glanced at her watch ‘He should be home soon; I thought I’d make our meal earlier tonight, I thought you would be hungry.’
Gordon nodded. ‘I am,’ he gave Emily a squeeze ‘are you hungry?’ he asked her.
‘No’ she said firmly making her doll dance along the table ‘I want chips.’ She suddenly dropped her doll on the table and ran into the hall. ‘I can hear daddy’s car.’
The front door opened and Rob pushed his way in arms full of shopping bags.
‘Hi’ he called through.
Emily pulled open one of the carrier bags and rummaged through the biscuits and crisps inside.
‘Did you bring me some sweeties?’
‘After tea, Emily,’ he picked her up and carried her through into the kitchen. ‘Hello all.’
‘How’s everything going?’
‘You’ll never guess what my crazy parents have been doing!’
Eve gave him a hug and took the shopping bags and dumped them on top of the cupboards.
Rob looked at his in laws and raised his eyebrows. ‘Oh?’
Eve hesitated and glanced at Emily playing on the table. ‘I’ll tell you later.’
‘Okay,’ he said and shrugged his shoulders.
Rob looked rather tired Kitty thought as he pulled out a chair and sat next to her.
‘What’s for tea?’
‘No we’re not,’ Eve said irritably. ‘I told you we’re having chicken.’
‘Are you being a pest Emmy?’ asked Rob.
‘Yes,’ she smiled brightly at him. ‘I’m being a pest.’
Kitty grinned at her cheeky smile and turned to Rob. ‘Did you have a good day at work?’
‘No,’ he said bluntly. ‘Terrible. What’s going on with the house then? he asked curiously. ‘Are you staying there tonight?’
‘No, we’re in a guest house for tonight.’
Rob raised his eyebrows and looked inquiringly at her. ‘Oh?’
Eve gave him a meaningful look that clearly said things had happened.
‘I was talking to Graham at work, you remember him don’t you?’ he addressed his wife. ‘He got divorced last year.’
‘Oh yeah, I remember.’
‘He seems to think a new house would go just like that in Medbury, well sought after location he called it.’
‘Well, the market is very slow at the moment,’ put in Kitty.
Eve put the plates on the table. ‘I was thinking there are other options if you can’t sell it; you could rent it out and then rent something for yourself or perhaps part exchange.’
Gordon picked up his knife and fork and began to eat.
‘We’ll see,’ he said between mouthfuls. ‘I’m going to see an estate agent tomorrow and see what they can suggest, I’ll sort something out.’
Kitty stared at her food; she didn’t feel that hungry and just listlessly pushed the chicken around the plate.
‘Aren’t you hungry mum?’
‘It’s lovely dear, really, it’s just I’m not feeling too good.’
Eve sighed. ‘Well I thought you would want a decent meal.’
‘This is lovely Eve,’ put in Gordon. ‘Don’t worry I’ll eat Mum’s share if she doesn’t,’ he cast a worried look at his wife. ‘You’d feel better if you ate something.’
Kitty nodded and put a piece of chicken onto her fork.
‘This is very nice Eve,’ she said. ‘We didn’t want to put you to so much trouble.’
‘It’s no trouble; I picked up the chicken on the way home from work.’
‘If you went shopping how come I had to get some as well?’ Rob asked irritated.
‘I didn’t take my shopping list and I was in a rush so I forgot a load of things,’ she stared across the table at him. ‘It won’t kill you for once, having to do some shopping.’
Emily was carried off upstairs at seven by Rob for her bath and story, while Gordon, Kitty and Eve sat in the lounge.
‘Are you working tomorrow Eve?’
‘Yes I have to drop Emily off at playgroup first and then I’m working until twelve. Why?’
‘I’d like mum to stay here if you don’t mind, I want to go into work and check on a few things. Then I can go to the estate agents and have a word with somebody about the house.’
Kitty looked up meaning to protest but caught Gordon’s eye and kept quiet.
‘Yeah that’s okay, let yourself in and then we’ll see you when we get back. Perhaps we can take Emily down to the swimming pool in the afternoon?’
‘That would be great Eve,’ said Gordon thankfully. ‘Mum would like that.’
Rob walked quietly down the stairs. ‘She’s gone off already, two pages of her story and she was out cold.’
‘What are you reading her War and Peace?’
Rob smiled slightly and sat down on the sofa next to Eve.
‘I wish I could sleep like that,’ she said feelingly. ‘It takes me ages to drop off.’ She looked inquiringly at her parents. ‘Well? So what else has been happening apart from your ridiculous séance?’
Rob looked at them horrified. ‘What, you’re not serious!’
Eve nodded at him. ‘Yep they did, can you believe it?’
‘Oh you two,’ he looked from one to the other. ‘This is getting out of hand, I thought you would have calmed down by now, it’s all nonsense.’
Kitty looked across the room at her son- in- law, and Rob stared back defiantly.
He went on ‘How could you believe in anything so ridiculous. There must be an explanation for all this. I was talking to some of my work mates, new houses move and make strange noises,’ Rob turned to Eve who was curled up next to him. ‘That’s all you heard I’m sure.’
She looked at him doubtfully. ‘It didn’t seem like that at the time.’
He patted her on the leg. ‘I’m sure it was nothing Eve.’
Rob glanced across at Gordon who was glaring at him.
‘It wasn’t nothing Rob, there is something in that house and it’s after Kitty.’
‘Who told you that?’
‘It was a psychic from the village; she runs the pub with her husband.’
‘And how much did you pay her?’
Gordon’s face flushed with annoyance. ‘We’re not that stupid, we didn’t give her anything.’
Rob looked cynical and glanced at Kitty. ‘She probably knew you were vulnerable and was playing on your nerves Kitty.’
‘There is nothing wrong with my nerves,’ she replied flatly and gave him a level look. ‘We know what we saw Rob.’
He shook his head and stood up impatiently. ‘Anybody want a drink? He asked picking up the half empty bottle of wine. ‘Kitty? Gordon?’
Kitty shook her head.
Gordon drained his glass and held up it up. ‘I’ll have another.’
‘Oh,’ said Eve suddenly standing up. ‘I nearly forgot.’ She ran out into the hall and came back with a piece of paper. ‘I looked it up on the web while I was at work.’
Eve perched on the edge of the sofa and spread the piece of paper out on her knees. ‘Now let’s see, water on the brain. It’s called Hydrocephalus; it’s a build up of fluid inside the skull leading to brain swelling. Caused by injury or stroke possibly,’ she looked up. ‘And the symptoms are seizures, insomnia, headaches, vomiting, memory loss and the one that has the most bearing on this is poor balance and co ordination,’ Eve looked up from the paper. ‘Does that sound like somebody who could climb a tree?’
Rob sighed ‘Is this to do with that silly story about the witch?’
‘Damn it can’t you all just drop it? Kitty imagined it all and has sucked you two in as well.’
There was an uncomfortable silence after Rob’s outburst. Kitty shifted slightly in her chair under his accusing look.
‘Perhaps we ought to go,’ she appealed to her husband.
‘No don’t go,’ said Rob suddenly looking embarrassed. ‘I’m sorry that wasn’t fair Kitty.’
She stared at him. ‘No it wasn’t and you’re not being fair to Eve and Gordon either. They know what they saw.’
‘Well,’ he replied shaking his head. ‘It’s just so ridiculous, it was the middle of the 1800’s, it’s not as if it was the middle ages or something. After all,’ he continued. ‘There was a coroner’s report wasn’t there? So there couldn’t have been any foul play.’ He looked across the room at his father in law. ‘Well Gordon?’
‘You’ve got a point. No,’ he gestured at Kitty to be quiet. ‘The coroner’s report, perhaps we should try and find out more about it and the coroner himself.’ He sat forward spilling a bit of wine on the carpet in excitement. ‘We might find some answers there.’
‘Whatever we find out doesn’t alter the fact that Hannah’s spirit is present in our house,’ Kitty said impatiently.
‘Yes but mum, don’t you see? The more you find out the better. Perhaps it would become clearer why she is there.’ Eve looked at her dad. ‘Maybe the report would shed some light on it, I’m sure it wouldn’t be that difficult to find out about it.’
Gordon nodded in agreement. ‘I could have a quick look while I’m in the office, see what I can find out on the web. We did well with finding information about Hannah, maybe I’ll have the same luck with this.’
Kitty nodded. ‘I suppose it’s worth a try. Eve while I remember can you keep Nero here tonight, it’s too cold for him to sleep in the car tonight and he won’t be allowed in the guest house.’
Eve nodded. ‘Emily will be pleased; she loves it when the dog sleeps over.’
Gordon nodded satisfied. ‘He won’t be any trouble and I can walk him tomorrow afternoon so don’t worry about that.’
‘Kitty, Kitty, time to get up.’
She stirred and rolled over, half opening her eyes. ‘Hmmm.’
‘Come on it’s seven o’clock, breakfast is at eight.’
Kitty sighed, pushed the duvet down and yawned. ‘Seven already?’
‘Did you sleep well?’ he asked putting a cup of tea next to her on the bedside table.
Kitty rubbed her head and sat up. ‘I don’t remember, so I guess I must have. Did you?’
‘Yep. I slept like a log, full tummy and a few glasses of wine and I was out cold. Do you want to shower first or shall I?’ he inquired.
‘Oh you go on,’ said Kitty flopping back onto the bed and pulling the quilt back up.
He twitched it down. ‘Hey don’t go back to sleep, sit up and drink your tea. I won’t be a minute.’
Gordon pulled a towel off the rail and vanished into the tiny bathroom. She could hear him in the shower quietly humming as he splashed water about.
‘You sound cheerful.’
‘I said... Oh never mind,’ she called. ‘You can’t hear me anyway.’
The sound of running water stopped and Gordon came out wrapping a towel around his middle.
‘The water is lovely and hot Kitty.’ He picked up his tea and drained the cup. ‘I’m looking forward to my breakfast.’
‘After all that food you ate last night? I don’t know where you put it.’
Gordon stared at her still lying wrapped up in the quilt. ‘Are you going to have a shower?’
Kitty sat up sleepily. ‘Yes, yes I’m getting up.’ She swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood up. ‘It’s cold,’ she complained.
Gordon put his hand on the old cast iron radiator under the window.
‘Well the radiator is warm; it’s just a very cold morning. A hot shower will do the trick.’
Kitty pulled a few things out of the bag. ‘I don’t suppose you packed any clean underwear?’
He was rubbing his hair dry with the towel. ‘Go commando,’ he suggested.
She gave him a withering look. ‘Maybe twenty years ago, perhaps I could borrow some from Eve.’
‘Well hurry up,’ he urged her starting to get dressed. ‘I’m dropping you off at Eve’s before nine so we’ll have to rush breakfast,’ he reminded her.
‘Okay, okay,’ she replied heading for the shower.
Gordon pulled into the empty drive of the little semi- detached where their daughter lived and checked his watch.
‘Damn, looks like we’ve missed her.’
‘What’s the time then?’
‘Five to nine.’
‘Oh she’s already gone. Emily starts playgroup at nine.’
‘Yes,’ he said impatiently. ‘That’s what I just said!’
‘Okay, chill gramps,’ she said calmly.
‘Chill?’ he said starting to laugh. ‘You’ve been listening to Emily again.’ He got out of the car and leaned in the door. ‘You’ve got the door key haven’t you?’
‘It’s in the glove compartment,’ Kitty hesitated. ‘I can let myself in if you want to get off to work.’
‘No, no, I’ll see you in and settled, I’m sure there’s something on the tv for you to watch.’
Kitty opened the car door and got out. ‘I’ll be fine Gordon,’ she said impatiently.
He took the key out of her hand and opened the front door.
‘I’ll try not to be too long at work.’
Nero bounded out from the kitchen delighted to see them both and pranced round Kitty looking for attention.
She bent and gave his ears a gentle tug. ‘I hope you behaved yourself Nero.’
‘I’m sure he did,’ he turned to her anxiously. ‘Now you’re going to be alright aren’t you?’
‘I’ll be fine,’ she repeated and followed him into the tiny hallway. There was a note propped up on the hall table.
Gordon picked it up and handed it to Kitty. ‘You read it; I’ve left my glasses in the car.’
“Help yourself to tea etc, See you about twelvish. xxx,” she read. ‘There you are, I’m all sorted; tea and telly.’
‘Okay,’ he gave her a hug and kissed the top of her head. ‘That’s fine, now I can go to work and not worry.’
He opened the door again and handed her the key. ‘Here you had better have this back.’
‘I might take the dog for a walk.’
Gordon looked at her doubtfully. ‘Well okay but don’t go too far, Eve and Emily will be expecting you here when they get back.’
‘I know,’ she said firmly and pushed him out of the door. ‘Off you go or you’ll be late.’
Gordon looked at his watch. ‘I am late!’ and hurried to the car. He gave Kitty a wave as he backed slowly out into the road. Kitty waited until she saw him drive off towards the town and then went inside the house and shut the door.
She wandered aimlessly around the house unwilling to put the television on and watch the usual bubblegum programmes that were on at that time of the morning.
In the kitchen the dirty breakfast things were stacked neatly in the sink, Kitty rolled up her sleeves and filled the sink with hot water and began to wash up the china. She smiled to herself as she rinsed Emily’s little pink and flowery cup and dish and then left it to drain while she wiped down the worktops.
It was all dried and packed away within half an hour, the clock ticked slowly and the desire to return to the village grew and grew as she paced around the small house. The knowledge that Sybil would be returning sometime that morning made the feeling stronger. Of course she reasoned she had no idea at what time Sybil would be there so she might miss her altogether but still the urge to return to the village pulled at her.
‘Oh damn it!’ she thought and grabbed her handbag and the front door key and opened the door; she hesitated and returned to the kitchen to leave Eve a note.
That done she called the dog and pulled the door firmly shut behind them and hurried off to the town centre to the bus stop.
The small shuttle bus drew to a halt at the end of the lane. This was the closest that Kitty could get to the village using local transport. She climbed carefully down the steps urging Nero to follow, his nails scrabbling on the stairs as he tentatively climbed down. Kitty waved to the driver as the bus pulled slowly away leaving her standing alone in the deserted country lane.
She zipped up her fleece, settled her bag on her shoulder and started walking up the lane that led to Medbury. The road as usual was quiet, there had been heavy rain the night before and the road was awash with the muddy water that had run off the surrounding fields.
The sky was looking increasingly overcast and there was low rumble of thunder in the distance. Kitty picked up her pace hoping to get to the village before the rain came on again.
She doubted that she would be welcome in the pub if it rained too hard and for a fleeting moment she thought of their front door key that was lying in the bottom of her bag.
‘Not on my own!’ she said aloud.
Nero looked around at the sound of her voice and looked at her inquiringly before losing interest and resuming his exploration of the badger sett at the side of the road. The animals had dug out an extensive run through the hedge and the piles of waste from the holes spilled out onto the road. Kitty walked around the orange mud that was being washed down the road by the rain and called the dog out of the hole.
The first few spots of rain pattered on her head as she reached the top of the hill that overlooked the village. Down in the valley Kitty could just see the rooftops, the church spire rising out of the drizzling rain. She peered over the hedge to see if she could spot Priddy Cottage but the row of cottages was hidden by the roof of the village hall.
There was a crack of thunder as Kitty walked into the village and she grinned wryly to herself hoping it wasn’t an omen.
Kitty called Nero to heel slipping the lead over his head, she hesitated, glancing towards the cottages and then gazed up the hill towards their house. Then without another thought she walked up the hill towards Castle Farm and the orchard. She slowed passing the farmyard and glanced in looking for Mr Beamish but as usual the yard was deserted. Kitty walked tentatively along the side of the wall until she reached the entrance to the gravel drive.
Nero whined and tucked himself in close to her legs, Kitty’s heart started to thud in her chest but even so she felt herself drawn towards the house, it still looked welcoming and peaceful. Her feet crunched on the gravel as she walked slowly towards to the front door.
A slight noise at her feet made her jump. The grey cat stood on the doorstep fixing her with a pale eyed glare.
‘Hello puss, have you been waiting for me?’ Kitty reached down and ran her hand gently along the cat’s back. It sat down on the step and glared at her.
‘Well you look grumpy,’ Kitty said unzipping her handbag and feeling for the key. She hesitated, staring down at it nestling in her hand. ‘How silly is this,’ she said to herself.
Struggling with an overwhelming urge to open the door and enter the house her hand involuntarily moved towards the handle. At her feet the cat stood up suddenly and growled menacingly. Surprised she stared down at the furious cat; its fur was standing on end and it continued to hiss and growl at her. Unnerved by the cat’s behaviour Kitty moved back from the door, and tugged on Nero’s lead pulling him away from the furious feline. He stared in baffled surprise at the spitting cat, pushed his nose forward to give it a curious sniff and got a clawed swipe across the snout for his troubles. Nero yelped and jerked back out of reach of the furious cat and its claws.
‘Okay cat,’ Kitty said slowly, looking at the door and replaced the key into her bag. ‘You’re probably right.’ She stared up at the windows, a chill prickling ran over her skin and she shivered.
‘Come on Nero, I think it’s time we left.’
The cat trotted after them, staying a few paces behind all the way down to the village.
Kitty walked on unaware that the cat was following, she slowed passing the shop and peered into the lit interior, but there was a teenage girl serving behind the counter so she moved on heading towards the cottages near the church.
The rain was falling steadily by now and Kitty and the dog were soaked by the time they reached Sybil’s cottage. She noticed with relief a light on inside and tapped on the door waiting impatiently while drips ran off the eaves of the cottage soaking her even more. The door opened and Sybil stood inside a warm smile of welcome wreathing her face.
‘Kitty, how lovely to see you; oh you’re so wet, come in,’ she urged standing to one side.
‘Is the dog alright to come in? He’s very wet as well,’ Kitty apologised.
‘Yes, yes, come in, don’t worry about him.’ and she shut the door firmly against the driving rain.
The door opened straight into a small front room, a gas fire was popping in the hearth and two comfortable armchairs were pulled up in front of it.
‘Come and sit down and dry out, let me have your coat. I’ll hang it up in the kitchen.’
‘Thanks Sybil, it’s lovely and warm in here.’
Kitty shivered and moved thankfully towards the fire, struggling out of her coat. Nero pushed his way past her legs and flopped down on the hearth next to Sybil’s little dog.
‘Your dog’s making himself comfortable already Kitty, why don’t you sit down as well?
Sybil turned on a small table lamp behind the armchairs. ‘There that’s better; it’s so dark this morning...I hear you’ve been trying to see me... Rose,’ she replied to Kitty’s inquiring look.
‘Ah, the flower lady.’
Sybil looked puzzled.
‘She was arranging some flowers in the church yesterday.’
‘Of course, I forgot she would be doing the flowers. That’s why I came back early, it’s
Isobel’s wedding today and I want to see her go into the church,’ she stared out of the small cottage window. ‘But look at this weather, what a shame!’ Sybil turned back to Kitty and explained. ‘Isobel is Colin and Sara’s daughter, they live at Forge Cottage. Have you met them yet?’
Kitty shook her head.
‘Rose was quite worried about you Kitty, she said you looked so ill,’ Sybil stared intently at her face.
‘I wasn’t feeling very well yesterday.’
‘Well you do look very pale, how would you like a nice hot cup of tea?’
‘I would love one,’ she said gratefully.
‘I’ll go and put the kettle on and I’ll hang your coat over the radiator, that’ll soon dry it out.’
Kitty looked at her sodden fleece hanging from Sybil’s arm. ‘Oh dear it’s dripping all over your carpet,’ she said feeling guilty.
‘Now stop worrying Kitty, I’ll get a towel for the dog and then we can dry him off as well.’
Kitty huddled closer to the fire, as she slowly warmed up she noticed in amusement that her damp clothes were starting to steam.
Sybil bustled back in with a towel over her arm and carrying two cups of tea. ‘Here you are,’ she said handing Kitty a steaming mug.
She sipped it slowly, noticing gratefully that it was already sweetened.
The elderly woman sat down with a sigh in the opposite chair and watched Kitty over the rim of her cup as she drank. The room was silent except for the slow ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece.
Kitty shifted slightly under her silent scrutiny, she thought curiously that she hadn’t noticed before how pale Sybil’s eyes were, almost colourless.
‘Well?’ she asked quietly making Kitty jump. ‘What did you want to see me about?’
Kitty put her empty cup down on the hearth next to the sleeping dog and clasped her hands together over her knees. ‘Sybil I really don’t know how to start.’
‘Start at the beginning, always the best way,’ she said calmly watching Kitty fidget in the armchair.
‘Do you remember I told you I was hearing things in the house?’ she paused and watched Sybil nod. ‘Well other things started happening, strange things. I heard footsteps and there was somebody in the house with me,’ she said quickly.
Kitty gazed at Sybil’s blank face but pressed on. ‘And Gordon saw somebody, it was a woman, in the house, but the doors were locked and she disappeared.’
‘Yes, I know this sounds ridiculous Sybil but we think we’re being haunted by
Hannah...Hannah Beamish,’ she repeated staring at Sybil’s calm face. ‘You don’t believe me do you?’ she said flatly. ‘Eve’s car got damaged by her and she was so frightened. Well we all were.’
Sybil looked at her in astonishment. ‘That’s ridiculous Kitty.’
‘That’s not all Sybil,’ Kitty continued determined to tell all, she rubbed her hands together. ‘We held a séance.’
‘Oh dear, oh dear’ interjected Sybil shaking her head. ‘Why on earth would you do anything so silly? Why did Gordon let you do that?’
‘Gordon was there,’ she said defensively.
Sybil raised her eyebrows and put her cup down on the small table next to her.
‘Well that was a very foolish thing to do. You open the door to the spirit world like that and you never know what might come through.’
Kitty looked at her stunned, a strange sense of unease sweeping over her.
‘And what happened then? You haven’t told me everything have you?’ she said staring hard at Kitty.
‘No Sybil,’ she confessed. ‘Sheena used her Ouija Board.’
On hearing that Sybil closed her eyes and shook her head slowly. Her eyes suddenly flicked open and she leant forward.
‘Who is Sheena?’
‘From the pub, she told us she had done this before.’
‘And you believed her?’
Sybil thought for a minute. ‘Oh I know her, I’ve seen her around the village; all beads and black lace!’ she said scornfully.
‘That’s the one,’ Kitty smiled slightly.
Nero stirred slightly lifting his head; a faint scratching was coming from the front door.
Sybil’s little dog heaved himself up from his position in front of the fire and pattered over to the door, he wagged his tail, staring at Sybil with an expectant look. She pulled herself up and walked across the room.
‘Out of the way Nigel,’ she opened the door. ‘Hello’ she said looking down. ‘Come in.’
The cat walked slowly across the carpet to the fire and settled down next to the dog, it stared thoughtfully at Kitty then started to groom itself.
‘Oh it’s your cat.’ exclaimed Kitty in surprise.
‘No dear, it isn’t anybody cat, she belongs to herself.’
Kitty reached down and gently stroked the wet fur. ‘Hello puss, it was at the house earlier,’ she raised her head and caught a strange look of satisfaction on Sybil’s face. She stirred uneasily. ‘It must have followed me down.’
‘I expect she did, well, what happened next at your séance? You didn’t finish telling me.’
Kitty hesitated looking at her inscrutable face.
‘Well we had messages, it was Hannah first and then somebody else came.’
‘Ahh,’ said Sybil slowly.
‘Sheena said it was a man,’ she stared at Sybil who was nodding thoughtfully to herself and staring at the floor.
‘That he had an evil aura and he was being drawn to me. We left after that. Gordon wants to sell the house,’ she rushed on in distress. ‘But it’s my home Sybil, I don’t want to leave.’
‘And you shouldn’t have to my dear,’ she said calmly. ‘It seems to me that you have been meddling in things you don’t understand.’
‘But we needed answers Sybil! And who is Ava? That was one of the messages.’
‘Yes, Ava. I’ve never heard of anybody called Ava.’
‘Really? Well how strange,’ Sybil looked surprised.
‘It has something to do with me.’
‘Yes dear,’ she leant forward and put her hand on Kitty’s knee, her pale eyes staring intently at Kitty’s face. ‘I thought you realised, I thought that was why you came back.’
Kitty sat back in her chair a sudden prickling running up her spine; she stared at the old woman.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Ava was your great grandmother.’
Kitty held her breath in amazement for a while then suddenly breathed out in relief.
‘No, no.’ she exclaimed. ‘You’re wrong Sybil, great- gran was called Mary.. Mary Marsh’
Sybil shook her head slowly and settled back in her chair smiling slightly at the startled woman opposite.
‘No dear, Ava was your great- grandmother. Mary was her second name. When she left the farm and went back to her parents at Axmouth she insisted that everybody called her Mary. She just couldn’t bear the name of Ava after that.’
The clock ticked slowly over Kitty’s head, on the hearth the cat had finished its grooming and stretched, then jumped nimbly into Kitty’s lap. She absently stroked it while staring at Sybil with a troubled expression.
‘So Ava was a relative? Are you sure? And she was Hannah’s friend wasn’t she?’
Sybil nodded slowly. ‘They were very close; Hannah thought the world of that little girl. You look like her you know. Same eyes, same mouth.’
‘Did you know her?’ Kitty asked surprised.
‘No, but somebody told me you resembled her.’
‘Oh...’ it suddenly dawned on Kitty. ‘So Ava, my great-gran, was the servant girl? From the inquest!’
Sybil looked at her in amusement. ‘You’ve finally got it.’
‘Well who was the farmer then?’
Sybil stared at her for a minute, a strange expression on her face. She carried on flatly ‘It was William’s grandfather, Robert Beamish.’
‘But Hannah was his sister- in- law, his brother’s wife!’ Kitty said horrified. ‘Why would he want to do that to her?’
Sybil sighed and stared pensively at the cat on Kitty’s lap. ‘He hated her and he hated his brother. Strange things families,’ she sighed again. ‘Both from the same parents and yet so different. I think in the end he became so twisted with his hatred that he hated everybody, especially Ava.’ she looked across at Kitty.
‘He hated Ava as well?’
‘Oh yes, after the fuss the inquest caused, he hated her with a vengeance. That’s why she left the village, she had jobs offered to her here but it was better that she left. Safer.’
Sybil looked at her with a faint grimace. ‘You don’t really think that Old Nick himself came and snatched Hannah away do you?’
Kitty shook her head. ‘Of course not, that’s ridiculous. And the man he gave a hundred pounds to, what happened to him?’
Sybil shrugged. ‘Nobody knows, he just disappeared after they found Hannah’s body.’
‘Do you think he did it?’
‘Maybe, although he was such a drunk I’m not sure he was capable of anything.’
‘How do you know so much about it?’ she asked in amazement.
Sybil paused and smiled slightly. ‘Family dear; family talk. We were all related in the village, one way or another. Up to about twenty or thirty years ago I could count on one hand the people that weren’t family, but not now,’ she sighed. ‘It’s all changed but,’ she stirred herself. ‘That’s life and perhaps it’s just as well.’
Outside a few cars drove past the cottage and pulled into the car park. From her position by the fire Sybil craned her neck to peer out the window.
‘Oh look the guests are arriving already; Isobel is due at the church at twelve.’
Kitty looked up at the clock on the mantelpiece.
‘It’s quarter past eleven, I should be going really,’ she said slowly. ‘Eve will be home at twelve and she will be expecting me to be there.’
‘Did you drive over?’
‘No,’ she smiled. ‘I had to take the bus; Gordon went into work this morning so I couldn’t use the car; he left me at Eve’s house. I’m afraid he’s not going to be pleased with me. Sybil’ she went on diffidently. ‘Does William know about all this?’
‘No dear,’ Sybil looked aghast. ‘I’ve never mentioned any of this to him, after all it is his family and I’m very fond of him. I wouldn’t want to upset him,’ she looked at Kitty and said sharply. ‘And don’t you say anything to him either.’