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.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Faerie Hills and Faerie Islands

A gateway to faerie land can be found under the hollow hills that rise up on pillars
during Lammas Tide (7th August)
The faerie portal can be opened by striking a faerie rock with a posy of primrose
 flowers.For your own protection you must use the correct amount of blooms 
(which I believe is five)
The rock will split and the entrance will be revealed. The faeries dislike being 
disturbed and will try to pull you through the entrance into their world and you will
 never be allowed to return to the land of mortals.
If, however, you have used the right amount of flowers they will be unable to do so
 and don’t forget, if you wish to see the faeries that reside within, remember to eat
 a primrose flower first and this will make all visible.

The hill of Ile in the west Highlands is a faerie dwelling in which the Faerie Queen
 resides. From here she hands out ,with the aid of a golden goblet, wisdom to all the 
women  of the world.
'Still on the hill when the wisdom was handed out' is the local saying for anybody less 
than bright.

Elva Hill (North East of Bassenthwaite Lake) is a faerie hill. Elva meaning the place of 
the elves in old Viking. The stone circle upon the hill is no longer complete, only 15 
stones of the original 30 remain.

Also on the banks of Bassenthwaite Lake is Castle Howe which is the site of a faerie castle.
 On misty mornings or sometimes late in the evening the reflections of it can be seen in
 the waters of the lake, but never the actual castle itself.

There was once three beautiful trees growing on the top of a hill and on moonlit 
nights singing could be heard and underneath the spreading boughs three green
 clad faeries would dance.
No one dared go close to the hill except the farmer who tilled the ground around
 the hill, he climbed to the once a year on Midsummer Eve to lay a posy of 
primroses at the base of each of the trees.
But  he did not linger on the hill, he made sure he was safe indoors when the
 sun set. It was a rich farm and he often told his three sons that 'My father 
always said our luck lies up on the hill; and when I am dead and gone do not
 forget to do the same and take the flowers up the hill. My father did so before
 me and as all our forbears did through out the years.'
They listened to their father but took little heed except for the youngest son, 
and when the old man died the farm was divided into three. The eldest got the 
biggest portion, the second took another and the youngest was left with the 
poorest strip of rough ground at the foot of the hill.
He did not mind too much and set about working his piece of land but he 
always made sure he was inside before sunset. The young man worked hard, 
sowing his crops and tending his cows; and when his brothers visited him they 
could not believe their eyes.
They became very angry and jealous as their farms were not thriving.
 'Who helps you in your work?' they demanded. 'There is gossip down in the 
village that there is singing and dancing every night. A hard working farmer
 should be abed.'
But their brother did not answer.
They carried on their ranting 'Did we see you up on the hill earlier, what 
were you doing?'
'I was doing as our father instructed before he died, it's Midsummer Eve.'
His brothers were very angry and did not even bother to mock him for his 
odd behaviour.
'The hill is mine,' warned the oldest brother, 'so do not let me see you up 
there again. And anyway I need timber for a new barn so I am going to cut 
one of the trees down.'
The next was Midsummer's Day but the eldest brother did not heed this; he 
took his wagons and his axe to the top of the hill. His brother saw him ride
 past and called out to him 'Remember what day it is!'
His warning was ignored and the eldest carried on to the three trees. 
As he laid his axe into the trunk of the first tree it screamed like a woman,
 his horses ran away in terror but he went on hacking at the trunk. The wind
 blew up and howled around the top of the hill and the remaining two trees 
lashed their branches in fury. Nothing stopped the man however,
he carried on chopping until the tiniest bit of trunk was left, it suddenly 
snapped and fell down on top of him and killed him.
Now there was only two green ladies left to dance on moonlit nights.
The second brother took the dead man's farm as well as his own but neither 
The youngest man carried on working his little piece of land and everything 
grew and flourished, and he never forgot to take the primroses up the hill 
on Midsummer Eve.
The second brother saw him toiling up the hill, and now being fearful of the 
trees shouted at him to stay away. 'Stay off my land, I am going to build a 
stout timber fence around the hill to keep your cows off. And I am going to cut
 one of the trees down to do it.'
That night no green ladies were seen dancing on the hill, the wind howled 
around and the leaves shook and trembled. The youngest son was very sad
 as he watched his brother stride past bearing his axe. Again the tree
 screamed like a woman as the axe bit into the trunk; he chopped steadily
 away being very careful that the tree fell away from him as it
came down. 
The youngest was watching from the lane below the hill; he saw the last
 remaining tree raise a great branch and bring it down on his brother's
 head and kill him.
So the remaining son inherited his brother's farms but he still lived in his little
 cottage at the foot of the hill, and up on top the green lady danced on alone
 in the moonlight.
Every Midsummer Eve he climbed the hill and laid a posy of primroses 
at the base of the remaining tree and his farms prospered from that day.

One Tree Hill is situated in Derbyshire and there are many among the
 locals who will not climb the hill especially in Midsummer's Eve, and they 
all know that it must never be fenced as it belongs to The Green Lady.

Some of the faerie islands float, some are underwater and surface only at night
 ( Islands can be made to stay on the surface if fire or steel is taken onto them).
Others can only be seen at certain times of the year. They all have endless spring
and happiness, ageing and sickness is unheard of. The most famous of the islands
is Breasail or Hy-Brasil, the homeland of the Formorians and Firbolgs which is
situated  to the west of Ireland in the Atlantic.

From the north of Wales sometimes the hazy silhouette can be seen of the Western
Lands just hovering over the sea. It  appears differently to each person that sees it,
sometimes a wooded island, to others a sparkling city high on a rock.

There is a faerie island on Llangorse Lake, the beautiful buildings and gardens can
be seen clearly from the lake side. It is linked to the mainland by a faerie causeway
that can only be used at certain times. The island is inhabited by a Faerie King 
and Queen.

Near the Lake Llyn Cwm Lilwich in the Brecon Beacons is a secret door to the land of
the faeries. It used to open every 1st May until a mortal stole a flower from faerieland,
since then it has remained firmly closed.

Llyn Dywarchen, Nantle Valley, Gwynedd.
This lake contains a floating spirit island which is constantly moved about the waters
by the strong winds.

There are two faerie islands that only rise from time to time in the Orkneys,
Hildaland and Hether Blether. They are both surrounded by a magical mist and can
only be seen briefly.
If you do see one make sure that you hold iron in your hand while travelling
towards it, the enchantment will break if you manage to set  foot upon it.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Grugach and the power of the stones

The Grugach from Scotland, is a kindhearted guardian of grazing animals, leading them to water and protecting them from harm. Although she is rather ugly, she is always welcomed into the crofters home. As she is always cold she likes to seek warmth at their fires but she  brings good luck with her.
Up until the 1900's inhabitants of the Scottish islands still left milk in hollow stones as offerings, in exchange they believed that she would bring good fortune to all their endeavors and look after their livestock.
Milk and oatmeal cakes used to be offered to standing stones as it was believed that the Grugach inhabited these stones. One stone called Clach-na Grugach 'Stone of the Long haired One' in Gairloch Ross shire was given daily offerings, there is another in Co Antrim Ireland called 'The Old Woman'.

  Sven Nilsson relates that in Scandinavia down to the end of the eighteenth century round  stones were smeared with butter or steeped in ale to bring luck to the house; while the Reverend S. Baring Gould tells us that in remote localities in Brittany the peasants still daub certain stones with honey, wax and oil.

(The Grugach are also known as Guagach, Grogachs, Gragon, Gunnas, The Hairy Ones, Herders and Firesitters.)

Our ancestors have always revered and worshiped stones, believing that within dwelt spirits of the earth.
Many stone structures have been built over the year, as places of worship etc. We are still unsure of the uses of  many of these sites.

The Standing Stones of Callanish, on the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides:
This is one of the most impressive and the most remote stone circles, it is situated on the hill overlooking Loch Roag on the west coast of the Island.
It was erected 5,000 years ago for religious and magical ceremonies.
In the centre is a giant monolith, 5 metres high, 
underneath is which a small chambered cairn. 
Surrounding this is a circle of thirteen stones, from this central point avenues of stones radiate North, South, East and West.
From the air it resembles a giant Celtic cross, 120 metres long and 46 metres wide.
Up until the 19th Century local people still visited the stones to celebrate Beltane and Midsummer (even though the local minister forbade these gatherings) it was believed that it would not do to ‘neglect the stones’.

At the dawn of the midsummer Solstice a glowing figure walks through the northern avenue, this sight is preceded by the call of a Cuckoo.

Many people believe that this  stone circle was used to calculate the movement of the moon from one solstice to another by aligning individual stones with points on the horizon.

There are many legends associated with these stones,  one is that  they are giants turned to stone by St Kieran  for refusing to be converted to Christianity.

Madron, Penzance.
The granite Men-an- Tol or Holed Stone lies 2 ½miles  from Madron, Cornwall.
This stone was the entrance to a tomb chamber and the stone itself possesses healing powers. Young children are passed through the hole, naked, nine times; this was believed to cure scrofula, rickets and other illnesses.

The stone circle near the village of Avebury has been the site of many strange 
Small bands of Faeries have been seen dancing around the main stone circle of 
this ancient monument in the moonlight, and lights and music have been seen by
 people driving past at night.
Two wide avenues of stones lead from this site, one to the west and one to the south.
The southern avenue leads to the Sanctuary on Overton Hill, this is another ancient
 site which consists of two circles of stone. 
Hackpen Hill Barrow, Avebury.
This is a Faerie hill where a shepherd boy once became lost. The Faeries took care of 
the boy and showed him their underground halls. He stayed with them for a while
 entranced by their music before returning to the upper world and his flock of sheep.
The Devil’s Chair is a huge stone, 14 ft wide by 13 ft high, It used to be  visited  at 
Beltane by the local  girls.They would sit upon the ledge and make wishes.

St Lythan’s Cromlech, Dyffryn, near Cardiff, South Glamorgan: The field in which this 
impressive Cromlech stands is known as the Accursed Field as nothing will grow here.
The hole through the centre of the stone is where the Spirits of the dead fly through. On 
Midsummer Eve the stone on the top of the Cromlech spins around three times and a 
wish made here on Halloween will come true.

Tara, Navan, County Meath.
This is an ancient burial site famous as the capital of the high Kings of Ireland and a holy site for 
thousands of years. Originally named Temair after a Princess Tea married an Irish King.
The Princess brought with her as a gift to the high Kings the Tuatha de Danann’s legendary  Stone of Destiny , the Lia-Fail. Much spiritual power and strength dwells in this stone and it is on this that the King would sit at his coronation. If he is the rightful heir the stone roars beneath him.
It was removed from Tara by Prince Fergus and taken to Iona, from there the Scottish King Kenneth 
MacAlpine carried it off to Scone.
But that was not the end of its travels; Edward the First then had it carried to Westminster Abbey in 1296 and built into the throne used for English Coronations.
Near the centre of the main part of the site is the Fort of the Kings and on top of the high mound stands a stone which is called the Lia-Fail although this is not the original stone of the Tuatha de Dananns.


Of course the most famous stone circle is Stonehenge, this is a prehistoric monument located in Wiltshire, about 2 miles west of Amesbury and 8 miles north of Salisbury. It is the remains of a ring of standing stones set within earth works, believed to have been built anywhere from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. Stonehenge is in the middle of the most dense complex neolithic and bronze age monuments in England. Situated on a major ley line, Woodhenge, on the same line is just a few miles away.

A recent well known visitor to Stonehenge!


There are numerous theories as to why this monument was built; at the time the inhabitants of the area were predominantly herders and farmers. These people left no written records, ( if there were any at all)
An avenue connecting Stonehenge with the River Avon is aligned with the solstice; recent discoveries suggest that the winter solstice was marked at Stonehenge with ritual sacrifice. The summer and winter solstice is still celebrated at this monument by the druids, and many visitors join them each for these celebrations.

(This photo is from the website of National Geographic.)

Most of us do not have one of these amazing structures in our back garden but you can have a small token that will bring you luck.
Stones with holes in them  are known as Hag stones, Holy stones, or Faerie Stones in England, as they are considered to be lucky. Fishermen hang them from their boats to bring them a good catch and to ensure their safe return.
They are also hung on buildings to ward off evil spirits.
Hag stones placed around horses’ necks at night will ensure that they are not stolen during the night by witches or pixies.
Stones have many magical and healing powers and if one has a hole (naturally occurring!) it is especially lucky, and if you find one in running water it is doubly lucky and should be buried beneath your doorstep.

Friday, 19 September 2014

The Lavender Witch:, serialised part 10

Part 10

‘No, no I won’t,’ Kitty reassured her. ‘But what are we going to do Sybil? We are at our wits end.’
Sybil looked up as a shadow passed the window followed by a swift rap. She said quietly ‘Don’t worry, we’ll talk later.’
 The door opened and William ducked his head through the low door.
‘Sybil? Ahh you’re back then.’
‘Come on in William,’ she called from her arm chair. ‘We were just talking about you.’
‘I wondered why my ears were burning,’ he said and closed the door behind him.
He caught sight of Kitty sitting near the fire, a slow smile spread over his face.  ‘Kitty, there you are,’ he came forward to greet her quickly ducking his head to avoid the low beams in the cottage. ‘I’ve been quite worried about you.’
Kitty smiled up at him, pleased to see him but the cat on her lap growled ominously at the old man.
‘Shush,’ Sybil reproached the cat. ‘William doesn’t mean you any harm.’ She stood up and motioned William to her seat. ‘Sit down and I’ll make some more tea.’
He sat down in her vacated armchair and stared keenly at Kitty across the hearth.  ‘I’ve been wondering where you both had got to. I called round and the lights were on and the front door was open. Is everything okay?’
‘We had to leave suddenly.’
He rubbed his hands on his knees and half smiled at her. ‘It’s strange but I’ve been feeling very uneasy about you for the last couple of days, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.’
‘Oh William,’ Kitty suddenly felt very guilty. ‘I’m sorry we worried you.’
‘Who’s worried?’ asked Sybil coming back in with a tray and casting a curious look at the pair sat by the fire.
‘Me, Sybil.’
‘Oh.., I’ve made a pot full, I’m sure you could do with another cup,’ she said looking at Kitty. ‘No William stay there,’ she said to him as he stood up. ‘And sit down before you bang your head.’
‘This cottage is just too small Sybil,’ he said stooping to avoid the low beam.
‘Bijou William, bijou,’ she said firmly. ‘And what are you worrying about now?’
 ‘I was just telling Kitty that I was worried when I saw the lights on in the house and the door open.’
‘Yes, I’m afraid we rushed off last night and forgot to lock up.’
Sybil placed the tray on the table and pulled up a small wooden chair to the fire. She handed him a cup of tea. ‘Here you are William.’
Outside the church bells started pealing.
‘Wow that’s loud.’ Kitty winced. ‘I suppose that is the downside of living so close to the church.’
‘I’m used to it now. When we first came to this house it used to drive me mad, especially on Tuesdays when it was practice night. But I don’t notice it so much now.’
William smiled slightly and winked at Kitty.
‘And no my hearing isn’t going, I saw that smirk William.’
‘I didn’t say anything,’ he protested. ‘Why don’t you go outside,’ he smiled slightly watching her.  ‘You’ll give yourself a stiff neck like that.’
 Sybil had half raised herself from the chair and was craning her neck to see out of the cottage window at the cars pulling up outside.
 ‘His parents have arrived, oh I like her hat,’ she exclaimed. She looked at the clock and started to fidget. ‘Well it’s nearly twenty to, I’ll get the coats.’
She hurried off into the small kitchen at the back of the house and came back shortly wearing a bright red duffle coat and carrying Kitty’s jacket. ‘Here you are dear,’ she looked at it critically before handing it over to Kitty. ‘It’s dried quite well. Are you coming outside William?’ she inquired. ‘Hurry up you two, I don’t want to miss anything.’
‘I suppose I’d better,’ he said standing up.
‘Mind your head.’ reminded Kitty.
William grinned ruefully as he rapped his head one of the beams. ‘Bugger!’
‘Sorry Sybil,’ He took Kitty’s coat from her hand. ‘Here let me help you.’
‘Thanks William,’ she hesitated. ‘I really am sorry that we had worried you, we just didn’t think.’
‘Don’t apologise Kitty, it was just me being an old fusspot, I’m not used to having neighbours.’
‘You’re an old worrier William,’ said Sybil looking at him in amusement. She opened the door. ‘Come on, and look at this, it’s stopped raining and the sun has come out. “Happy is the bride the sun shines on”,’ Sybil quoted happily.
Another three cars drove slowly down through the village and turned into the crowded car park.
‘There’s quite a few people turning up, they told me it was going to be a small wedding.’ Sybil said quietly as they walked down to join the group of onlookers gathered around the War Memorial, Kitty following reluctantly. A group of wedding guests walked across from the car park and climbed the stone steps to the church.
‘The groom comes from a large family Sybil so I guess they weren’t able to, look there’s Rose waving at you.’
She came hurrying over. ‘Sybil,’ she cried. ‘You got back in time, I was watching for your daughter’s car but I didn’t see it drive past.’
‘I got home about ten; thank goodness it’s stopped raining.’
Rose turned her attention to Kitty. ‘I’m glad to see you looking better; you’ve got a bit of colour in your cheeks today.’
‘Yes I feel much better today thanks.’ Kitty replied quietly.
‘I was so worried about you yesterday and I knew Sybil would want to know, so I had to call her last night and tell her, didn’t I?’ she said turning to Sybil, who absently nodded while watching more of the guests arrive.
‘What’s the time?’ asked Sybil.
‘It’s five to twelve,’ William said checking his pocket watch.
‘She’ll be here in a minute; I’m looking forward to seeing the dress. They had to go to
London to get it.’ Rose fidgeted, staring up the street.
‘Yes I know Rose, I told you.’
‘Did you? I thought it was Edith that told me.’
‘Well I told Edith in the first place.’

Behind them William rolled his eyes at Kitty and grinned. ‘Women and weddings!’
Kitty smiled at him and shyly acknowledged the many friendly and curious smiles and waves of Sybil’s acquaintances in the waiting crowd.
‘Sybil, Sybil,’ William said tugging at her arm to get her attention. ‘The car is just pulling out of the drive. Is it worth hiring a car just for that short distance?’ he questioned. ‘She could have walked down.
The two older women gave him a scathing look.
‘Isobel can’t walk down the road in her wedding dress, honestly, men!’ Sybil said to Rose.
The gleaming car bedecked with ribbons and flowers slowly drew to a halt by the church steps, Colin got and ran round to open the door for his daughter and helped her out.
‘You look lovely dear,’ Sybil called across.
‘Thanks Sybil,’ the young bride blushed and gave the waiting onlookers a little wave.
William smiled and called out ’You look lovely as well Colin, very dapper.’
Father and daughter laughed as he helped Isobel negotiate the slippery steps in her flowing lace dress.
‘Do you know how uncomfortable this get up is?’ Colin said to William.
‘Never mind, you’ll be back in your wellies tomorrow.’
Colin grinned at the crowd as he led his daughter proudly up the church path.
A car drew slowly up behind them, parking across the front of the cottages.
‘Oh dear, somebody’s late’ said Rose peering around William at the car.
‘It’s your husband, Kitty,’ he said.
 Kitty started guiltily as Gordon got out of the car, he looked none too pleased and replied gruffly to Sybil’s cheerful greeting.
‘You’ve just missed Isobel going into the church.’
‘What are you doing here? I thought you were at work.’ said Kitty.
‘And you were supposed to be at Eve’s waiting for her to get back,’ he said sharply in a low voice. ‘I thought you were taking Emily to the swimming pool this afternoon, she’ll be very disappointed that you’ve let her down.’
‘It was your idea to take her, not mine. I don’t remember you asking me what I thought about it.’ she replied suddenly feeling guilty.
‘Well I thought you would like to, I just wanted to know that you would be okay today while I was at work. ‘
William looked at the couple curiously. ‘Everything okay Gordon?’
‘Fine,’ he replied shortly and turned back to his wife. ‘You haven’t been up to the house have you?’
‘No,’ she lied. ‘I came to see Sybil.’
Sybil looked around at the mention of her name.  ‘Why don’t we go back in the warm and I’ll make some more tea,’ she suggested calmly looking at Gordon’s annoyed face.  ‘I’m sure you would like a cup wouldn’t you Gordon?’ Sybil looked at William and smiled. ‘And you won’t say no to another cup, will you?’
William hesitated, aware of the tension between the couple. ‘Well,’ he said slowly. ‘I should be going Sybil,’ he turned to Kitty. ‘I’m glad you’re alright,’ he glanced at Gordon’s stiff face and carried on. ‘I’ll be off now, I’m sure I’ll see you soon,’ he patted Sybil on the arm and turned and walked slowly away up the street.
‘Why are you being so rude to everybody?’ Kitty said crossly, quietly enough that nobody else could hear her except for her husband.
‘I wasn’t being rude.’
Sybil opened the cottage door and ushered them in, she looked at Gordon’s flushed face.
 ‘Don’t look like that, Kitty was right to come and see me.’  She closed the door behind them and pulled off her duffle.  ‘Perhaps it’s just as well William didn’t come in, now we’ll be able to talk freely about your problem. Now who wants tea?’
Kitty shook her head and glanced at her husband.
 ‘No thanks,’ he replied stiffly.
‘Well sit down Gordon, you too Kitty.’
Kitty sat back in her recently vacated chair and pushed Nero’s warm sleeping body out of the way with her foot, as soon as she had settled back into the armchair the cat jumped into her lap and curled up.
Sybil pushed the tea tray out of the way and laid her address book on the table.  ‘I’ll take your phone number, then I can ring you later.’
‘I’m going to call my older sister Queenie, she’ll know what to do.’
‘We’ve already had ‘expert help’ and I’m sure Kitty told you what happened.’ He frowned at Sybil and shook his head angrily at his wife.
‘Yes, yes, I’ve heard all about it, now calm down Gordon. Queenie will be able to help, I promise. I’ll ring her and see if she can come over as soon as possible. Though I don’t expect she will able to today, she lives in Dorchester now so tomorrow will be more likely.’
‘I’m not sure I want any more help, I told Kitty that we’re going to sell the house and that will be the end of it.’ He stared at the old woman and stood up.
‘But Gordon...’
‘That’s enough Kitty, you’re not going back into that house, I won’t allow her to hurt you or any of my family.’
‘Gordon!’ said Sybil sharply. ‘Hannah would never hurt Kitty.’
‘You don’t know that,’ he rounded on her.
‘Yes I do,’ she replied firmly. ‘Kitty is Ava’s great- granddaughter.’
Gordon stared at her in amazement.  ‘She can’t be, your great-gran was called Mary,’ he addressed Kitty. ‘This is nonsense.’
‘Gordon! Just be quiet and listen for a minute, Mary was her second name, I didn’t realise.’
He rubbed his hand wearily over his face. ‘Look Kitty, let’s just calmly think about this, you would have known if she was called Ava,’ he turned to Sybil. ‘I think you’ve made a mistake, it was a long time ago and things get muddled,’ he said trying to be patient with the old woman.
Sybil looked at him and smiled slightly. ‘No, no mistake Gordon and I don’t get muddled,’ she added firmly.
‘Then how do you explain the messages?’ Kitty asked him.
He shook his head in bewilderment.  ‘I don’t know, I really don’t know and why would anybody want to hurt you? Little Emily was in the house Monday night, it was awful.’ he groaned. ‘God, I wish I had never bought that piece of land. What the hell is going on?’
Gordon rubbed his hand over his chin and stared at Sybil in frustration.
‘Sit down and I’ll try to explain, ’she said calmly.
‘Go on then, try and explain this nightmare to me.’
He sat down again in front of the fire and looked at her expectantly. Sybil pulled up the small chair and settled herself, she placed her hands on her knees and began slowly, looking  intently at them.
‘Right, Ava, who was Kitty’s great grandmother, worked for Robert Beamish at Castle Farm, he was of course Hannah’s brother- in- law. After Samuel, Hannah’s husband, was killed, she became very ill, I think it was from the shock, she was pregnant with their first child at that time and it came too early.
‘A baby?’  Kitty stared across the hearth at Gordon. ‘Was he called Samuel? Because we found that other Samuel Beamish on the records. Was it hers?’
‘Yes, he didn’t live long, the poor little thing. The shock of Samuel’s death made Hannah go into labour, so,’ she sighed. ‘She lost her husband and her baby within a few weeks of each other. Ava used to go up with food and help nurse her and little Samuel until Robert found out.’
 ‘How did his brother die?’ he asked curiously.
‘Well I think that’s open for debate, whether it was an accident or it was something far more sinister, I don’t know.’
‘Would he kill his own brother? Was he that evil?’ asked Gordon shocked.
‘I don’t know how far he would have gone. After Samuel died he became obsessed with the land, he offered to buy the cottage back from Hannah and when she refused he started hounding her.’
‘He sounds a right bastard but what has this got to do with us?’ he asked stroking Nero’s ears.
‘His hatred of Hannah spilled out onto Ava, he made the poor girl’s life hell but she didn’t give up on Hannah. She continued visiting her and taking food up to the cottage,’ Sybil paused and stared sadly into the fire.
 Gordon looked puzzled. ‘But what about everybody else in the village? They must have known what was going on.’
She shook her head. ‘He could be so violent that they were all terrified of him and I’m sure they thought it would all blow over eventually. And as for thinking that any harm would come to Hannah it would never have crossed their minds, after all, why would it?’ Sybil shook her head. ‘So you see’ she continued. ‘That’s the problem, as far as he is concerned Ava has returned, so to speak,’ she nodded at Kitty. ‘And living on his land again.’
Kitty huddled in the chair clutching the purring cat close to her chest.
 ‘So the thing that was in the house, that came after Hannah, that was Robert Beamish?’
‘I don’t think there’s much doubt dear but as I said Queenie’s the expert. She’ll be able to tell you more.’
‘That makes sense,’ Gordon said slowly. He hesitated and looked at Kitty. ‘I saw him, the night we left with Eve. Remember there was somebody stood in the lane? And I saw him before on Monday night out of the window, I know I didn’t say anything but I didn’t think it was William then, it looked like him but he didn’t feel right. Oh I know I’m not making sense but I’m sure it must have been Robert.’
Sybil nodded slowly. ‘Well it sounds like it’s him, as I said Queenie will be able to tell you for sure.’
‘Are you sure she will come?’ asked Kitty.
‘Of course she will, she’ll be able to sort this out.’
‘I found an old photo album on Sunday, there was picture of great-granny at the back. She was stood outside The Anchor with her family. I think it must have been a wedding, she looked so happy.’
The grey cat stretched on Kitty’s lap and yawned showing its bright red tongue and sharp little teeth.
‘She was a happy little girl; it broke her heart what happened to Hannah,
‘Of course,’ said Gordon suddenly. ‘She’s the one that stood up at the inquest and accused Robert of murder.’
‘I bet that went down well.’
‘Luckily Ava was living at home then.’
‘And the man that was supposed to be a white witch, what happened to him?’ Gordon asked.
‘He wasn’t seen again, I believe they searched for him for weeks after but it was as if he had fallen off of the face of the earth. People said that he had done it but we knew better, not that it could be proved of course.’
Gordon stood up and took the pen from her hand, he scribbled his mobile number in the book.
 ‘There,’ he said throwing down the pen. ‘And you’ll ring us tonight?’
‘Yes’ she said firmly. ‘But stay away from the house tonight you two, just to be safe.’

Robert opened the door to the parlour and looked into the dimly lit room.
Evans was slumped in a chair near the smouldering fire, a tankard in his slack hand.
‘Well?’ he inquired. ‘How is it all going?’
The drunk roused himself and looked blearily at the figure standing over him.
‘Everything’s going well sur,’ he slurred staggering up.
Robert smiled slightly. ‘So the witch will soon be gone I hope?’ he stared at the bubbling pot on the hearth. ‘And you think that foul potion will do the trick?’ he questioned.
‘Oh yes sur, that’ll certainly do the trick, that’ll drive the evil harridan out of her cottage for good, yes sur for good.’ he swayed as he spoke.
Robert smiled in satisfaction. ‘Soon?’ his cold eyes flicked over the man.
‘Oh yes sur any day now.’
‘Yes, I think this is going to work out very well,’ he opened the door and paused. ‘I’ll get Rose to bring you some more ale.’
‘Thank ‘ee sur, most kind of ‘ee.’
Outside in the passage Rose was hovering; a pile of linen over her arm. She stared grimly at her master.
 ‘How long is he going to be in there? I need to get into the parlour to clean,’ Rose’s lip curled in disgust. ‘And it stinks in there, what is he doing?’
‘That’s none of your business Rose, just fetch another jug of ale for him and stay out of his way.’
Rose turned away from him and started walking towards the scullery.
‘Where’s that girl?’
‘If you mean Ava, she is in the dairy; she’s busy scouring out the butter pans.’
‘Well make sure she does her work properly, I’ve had enough of her running off up that hill.’
He paused and stared at the plump servant. ‘I’m just stepping out for a while; I’ve business in the village and don’t forget the ale.’
He pulled out his blackthorn walking stick from the stick stand and opened the front door.

‘I’m looking forward to getting into some clean clothes,’ said Kitty, pulling out a long sleeved T shirt from the carrier bag. She tugged at the plastic tags. ‘Have you got a pair of scissors or something? These labels won’t come off.’
Gordon looked up from the bag he was opening. ‘Throw it over,’ he said holding out his hand.
‘I don’t know why they make the tags so hard to get off,’ she complained.
‘That’s the idea isn’t it? To deter shoplifters,’ he put the label into his mouth and nipped it off with his teeth. ‘There,’ he said handing it back.
‘Can you do this one as well?’ She pulled out a thick jumper from the bag and tossed it onto the bed next to him.
‘God, how much did you spend in that shop?’ he complained, looking at the price tag.
‘We needed clean clothes Gordon.’ She held the jumper up to herself and looked in the mirror on the dressing table. ‘I think this will fit, it looks nice doesn’t it?’
‘Hmm,’ he sat quietly on the bed and watched her pull out various pieces of clothing from the store bags. ‘Kitty, I’ve been thinking.. .’
She looked up and lowered the blouse she was holding.  ‘About what?’
‘Well, at the weekend I’d like to go to Lyme and buy a new rod and reel.’
Kitty stared at him confused. ‘Why? You have loads of rods and reels, what do you want another one for?’
‘For you, a small light weight one, I thought I could teach you how to fish.’
‘It’s just that I’ve been thinking it would be nice to spend more time together, I’ve been so busy lately with work and then of course getting the house sorted. We haven’t had enough ‘quality time’ I’d think you call it.’
Gordon sat on the end of the bed, his shoulders slumped and Kitty noticed suddenly how tired he looked. He stared blankly at the shirt he was holding. ‘What do you think?’
‘But you like having peace and quiet when you’re fishing; well that’s what you always said.’
‘I know but that was when the children were smaller, it’s different now,’ he looked up at her. ‘It would be nice, we could go fishing together or you could bring a book. I could even get you a comfy chair to sit in. Just a bit of time together...’
‘Okay,’ she said. ‘We could take a picnic as well.’
He brightened. ‘Or stop for lunch somewhere. We’ll get this sorted and then we will go shopping for a rod,’ Gordon said decisively.
‘Alright if that’s what you would like.’
Kitty dumped the rest of the clothes on the bed.  ‘There you are, clean undies and socks.’
‘Thanks dear, I say these are jazzy,’ he said picking up a pair of red and yellow striped socks.
‘I thought you could have a change from black.’
A quiet buzzing came from the pocket of his coat that was lying on the window seat.
He pulled it out and looked at the number displayed on the screen.
 ‘I don’t recognise this number, I wonder if it’s Sybil. Hello? Yeah, she is great, so what time do you want us to come? Alright... no that’s fine... Where? Your place? OK and you’re sure she will be able to help?’ there was a long pause ‘Really?’ he said surprised looking quickly at Kitty. ‘Well then we’ll see you tomorrow.’
Gordon flicked the phone shut and threw it down on the bed. He stared blankly out the window, the rain had started again and was beating against the glass.
‘That was Sybil; she wants us to come to her cottage about six.’
‘What did her sister say about it?’
Gordon rubbed the stubble on his chin and looked worried. ‘Sybil said she has been expecting this and is all prepared.’
‘Expecting it, why?’
‘Sybil didn’t say.’ Gordon picked up the shirt he had dropped. ‘I could do with a shower.’
‘So we have to wait until tomorrow?’
‘Yeah ..., look Kitty are you sure you want to do this?’
‘I think we have to,’ she said quietly.
He stared at her. ‘Right, one last go at this and if it doesn’t work for whatever reason, that’s it! Okay?’
Kitty nodded.
‘It’s a deal?’ he asked again.
‘Yes it’s a deal. One last go.’


‘I think,’ said Gordon pushing his plate away. ‘That we should have a nose around Axminster this morning and see what we can find about the coroner.’
‘Where?’ asked Kitty, spreading butter on the last piece of toast.
‘We’ll start in the museum, then there is the library, I expect we’ll be able to use the internet there. We can ask about Hannah, if she is as famous as the landlord seemed to think, I’m sure they will have some information about her.’
Kitty looked at him in surprise. ‘Aren’t you going into work today?’
He fixed her with a firm gaze. ‘No, I think I will stay with you today.’
She half smiled at him. ‘Don’t you trust me dear?’
‘Not at all,’ he said grimly. ‘After yesterday, you’re just daft enough to go back to the house on your own.’
‘No I won’t,’ she said flatly remembering her visit to the house the day before. ‘Not on my own.’ Kitty hesitated and then asked ‘Are you going into the estate agent as well?’
Gordon threw his napkin down on the table. ‘No, we’ll see what happens with Sybil’s sister later.’
He looked up as Angela came into the dining room.
‘Was everything alright with your breakfast?’ she asked.
‘It was lovely thank you, and give our thanks to your husband for cooking it,’ Kitty half smiled at Gordon. ‘We are going to get used to being waited on, aren’t we?’
‘That reminds me,’ he said. ‘Is it alright if we stay another night? I can pay you now if it would be easier.’
Angela smiled at him while collecting the dirty plates.  ‘No, you can settle up tomorrow that will be fine. How is the move going? she asked curiously.
‘Fine,’ lied Gordon. ‘We’re just getting everything sorted, carpets, that sort of thing.’
‘Oh I see, now would you like some more tea or coffee?’
‘No we’re fine; we’ve got some things to do in the town so we’ll be off in a minute.’
‘Then we’ll see you later, have a good day,’ said Angela carrying the tray of dirty china back to the kitchen.

They parked in the car park next to the supermarket and walked up the steep hill to the centre of the small market town. The church of St Marys sat square in the middle of the green encircled by the streets and lanes of the town.
‘Where is the museum?’ asked Kitty staring up and down the street, she stepped to one side to allow an elderly man to pass on the narrow pavement.
He slowed, overhearing her. ‘The museum you say? It’s there through the arch,’ he pointed up the road. ‘Through the arch, it’s the door on the right and up the stairs.’
‘Thank you.’
‘It’s only small though,’ he warned.
‘That’s alright; we just want to do some research on Medbury.’
‘Oh Medbury, nice little village. That witch used to live there, I remember my dad telling me about her. Now what was her name?’ he stared off into the distance, his rheumy old eyes blinking, ‘Oh yes, Hannah Beamish, that was it.’
‘That’s right,’ Kitty said surprised.
‘Aye, my old dad used to tell me she was terrible, cursed crops, killed cattle, stuff like that.’
‘How did he know her?’
‘Oh you know how it is, people gossip, and I think his mother used to scare him with stories about the Witch of Medbury. Probably tried to get him to behave himself,’ he chuckled and stared at them thoughtfully. ‘Why are you interested in her then?’
Gordon took Kitty’s hand and squeezed it.  ‘Well we’ve just moved to Medbury, curiosity really,’ and started to move towards the arch. ‘Thanks for the directions.’
‘That’s alright, pleased to help, oh,’ he said, leaning on his walking stick and staring after them. ‘If you don’t find anything there perhaps the Tourist Information Office will be able to help.’
‘Thanks,’ repeated Gordon and pulled Kitty up the street towards the museum.
‘How strange that everybody remembers her as being an evil witch.’
‘Well dirt sticks, Kitty, and it makes a more interesting tale than if she was just a normal woman who was good with herbs.’
‘I suppose,’ Kitty sounded doubtful.
They walked under the stone arch, and just as the man had directed, a doorway opened up into a set of stone stairs that led up to the museum on the second floor.
‘This must be it,’ she said climbing slowly up.
 At the top a door to the right led into a small room which held an exhibition about the local Axminster carpets, while the door to the left opened into a large lofty ceilinged room filled with display cabinets. There were two women volunteers inspecting the display of Victorian jelly moulds set up on the tables running the length of the room. They looked up as Gordon and Kitty entered the room.
‘Morning,’ said Gordon looking around the room. ‘Hey, look at this,’ he pointed to a piece of paper pinned to the side of one of the cabinets. It was a list of ‘Notable Ghosts’ and halfway down was Hannah’s name.
Kitty read it. ‘Is that it?’ she whispered. ‘Anything else?’
They wandered along the cabinets, peering in through the glass at the displays of First World War memorabilia and an eclectic mix of items of ‘local significance’.
‘Do you have any information on Hannah Beamish?’ Gordon asked one of the elderly volunteers.
‘The Witch of Medbury.’
She looked doubtful. ‘I’m not sure that we do,’ she moved towards a pile of books in the window. ‘There might be something in one of these; there is lots of information 
on Devon villages but whether there is anything on the witch, I’m not sure.’ She looked up from the book she was flicking through. ‘What year would it have been?’
‘Well she died in 1841.’
‘It’s a shame Chris isn’t in today, he’s the expert on local history. Of course you could try the library.’
‘That’s where we’re going next,’ commented Gordon. ‘But thanks for the suggestion.’
‘Do you know where they would have held inquests in Axminster during the 1800’s? We found a report of the inquest but it wasn’t clear where it was held,’ asked Kitty.
The woman looked around the room.  ‘This is the old Court House so any inquests would have been held in this room.’
Kitty suppressed a shudder. ‘ Fancy being a fly on the wall that day.’
Gordon agreed ‘Yes,’ he turned to the woman and asked ‘Do you know anything about the coroner for that inquest?’
‘Sorry,’ she shook her head. ‘I don’t know anything about that, as I said you’re best bet is the library.’
Kitty put a few coins in the collection box on the way out and walked carefully down the worn steps to the street. Outside the early morning mist had gone and the sun had just broken through and was shining just enough to raise Kitty’s spirits. There were still a few holiday makers wandering around the narrow streets of the town enjoying the last few warm days of the year.
‘Right we’ll go to the library first and then a coffee,’ he looked up the street past the museum. ‘I think it’s up this way. Huh! Where’s that old man when you need him.’
Kitty tucked her hand under his arm and fell into step next to him.  ‘What a coincidence though,’ she said. ‘Bumping into somebody who knew about her, people have long memories around here. I wonder if it’s something to do with the slower pace of life?’
‘I think it’s more likely that generations of family are still living in the same area, and the family talk and gossip gets handed down, or talked down I should say,’ He looked at her as they walked slowly up the street. ‘Your mum’s just the same, she still talks about all your old family members as though they are still alive and kicking. What she did in the war and what her father used to say and do, she goes on for hours.’
‘Do you know she still has letters from her grandmother, she keeps them under the bed in the spare room. It’s strange isn’t it,’ Kitty went on. ‘We’re probably the first generation that doesn’t write letters anymore, we just pick up the phone and talk, and now of course it’s all e-mails. It’s a shame really all that, I don’t know, personal information, knowledge all just lost somewhere in internet heaven.’
‘Does it matter?’
‘Yes,’ she said surprised. ‘It does matter, when I read those letters and can see great grandmother’s handwriting it brings her closer, it also gives a feel of what her life was like.’
Gordon opened the door to the library and stood back to allow Kitty to go in. ‘Well there are other things to make up for it, like film, photographs, that sort of thing.’
‘But it’s not the same,’ she said firmly. ‘A letter is so personal; I don’t think I’ve ever written a letter to the children. I’ve sent birthday cards and Christmas cards of course and they always go in the bin within a few days. Don’t you think that’s a shame?’ she persisted.
‘No, not really,’ he replied. ‘Come on let’s go and use some of this modern technology to find out about our coroner. Do you know,’ he said staring at her fondly. ‘I think you must have been a Luddite in a previous life.’
‘I think I was born too late,’ she replied feelingly. ‘And he’s not our coroner and I don’t think I’m going to like him.’
The librarian looked up from her desk and smiled. ‘Good Morning.’
‘Morning, can we use one of your computers?’
‘Are you a member of the library?’ she asked. ‘If you are, the first half an hour is free otherwise I’m afraid its two pounds eighty.’
Gordon took out his wallet from his jacket. ‘Well we are but I think we’re going to need longer than half an hour.’
Kitty nodded. ‘After all we don’t know what we’re looking for yet. Do you,’ she asked the librarian, ‘have a local section? We’re looking for information on Medbury.’
The woman pointed to a small section of books opposite the desk.  ‘That’s the Local Interest section and if you look there,’ she pointed to the floor under the shelves where there were a pile of blue box files. ‘All that is the Domesday Project, it has information collected from all around the area. Medbury will be in one of those.’
Kitty left Gordon at the desk paying for the computer use and hurried over to the stack of files. She knelt on the floor in front of the shelves, pulled out the box marked Medbury and opened it. Inside it was crammed with brown manila folders. The top one was the Medbury folder, inside it was full of photocopied records and a few black and white photographs of the village.
Kitty looked up at Gordon, who had followed her. ‘It’s going to take ages to wade through all of it.’
Gordon pulled up a chair to the nearby table and sat down. ‘Well we’ve got until six so bring it over and we’ll start looking through it.’ He looked at the folder she placed on the table.
‘What’s in there?’
‘Well,’ she hesitated. ‘I’m not sure; it’s just copies of different articles about the village, lists of the inhabitants, forms, reports from the Vicar, anything that ever happened in the village.  And it’s all muddled,’ she complained. ‘This bit is from the 1860’s and this is 1920.’
Gordon emptied the folder and spread it out on the table.  ‘Let’s be methodical and work our way through it bit by bit,’ he put on his glasses and peered at the blurred photocopies.
‘A lot of this isn’t going to be of any help.’ he said after a few minutes of reading. He leafed through a few more pages and put them to one side. ‘These pages are the right date, but nothing of any interest in them.’
He put them on the discarded pile and pulled another sheet towards him.  Gordon paused, ‘Well this looks more interesting.’
Kitty leaned forward in excitement. ‘What?’
‘It’s a copy from a book,’ he turned the sheet over. ‘But it doesn’t say which, look Hannah Beamish,’ he read. ‘Was a well known figure in the village, very neat and clean about her appearance and kept her house in good order. She was also well known for the excellence of her cooking. Her dumplings were renowned for being the best and whitest made in the village. Hannah was also called upon regularly for her knowledge of healing and was a frequent visitor to the homes of the sick.’
‘What book did it come from?’ interrupted Kitty pulling the piece of paper from Gordon’s hand and peering at it excitedly.
‘It doesn’t say, I told you.’
She laid it back on the table and they both bent over it again.
 ‘Look,’ said Gordon pointing to a paragraph on the second page. ‘The first inquest held the day after her death had to be abandoned,’ he sat back in his chair and stared at the ceiling. ‘I wonder why?’ he said slowly and he reread the paragraph. ‘It also says that there is no record of her death anywhere.’
‘Well that explains why we couldn’t find it on that Family Search site,’ said Kitty turning to look at her husband.
‘How strange,’ he mused. ‘It’s looking more like somebody hushed it up very quickly.’
‘Who would have or could have done that?’ questioned Kitty. She continued to read until the end of the article. ‘Well there’s nothing more about it, just a mention of her being buried at the crossroads.’
Kitty pulled the pile of papers towards her and leafed through the remaining copies.
‘Damn,’ she said despairingly. ‘There’s nothing else about it in here.’
‘Well that was worth finding anyway, it shows that not everybody considered her to be an evil woman.’ He gathered up the pieces of paper and pushed them back into the folder. ‘Put this back and let’s get on one of the computers.’
Kitty tucked the box file back under the shelves and followed Gordon down the room to the row of pc’s.
 He called over to the librarian at the desk ‘Is it alright to use this one?’
She nodded. ‘Come and see me if you need more than an hour.’
Gordon nodded and sat down at the desk.  ‘Kitty, pull up that other chair and let’s see what we can find.’
‘Where are we going to start?’
‘What was his name? The coroner?  I can’t remember.’ asked Gordon.
‘Edward Foulstone,’ replied Kitty. ‘That’s a name you can’t forget.’
‘I can,’ he joked. ‘Now what shall we look for? Coroner’s reports perhaps,’ he typed it into Google and scanned the results that came up.
‘This doesn’t look very helpful,’ he grumbled opening a few of the links and scanning through the contents of the sites. ‘It says here that Coroners reports weren’t kept and the reports put into the newspapers were only summaries and not the full proceedings, damn! I can’t believe that,’ he added sounding puzzled. ‘There must be copies somewhere, I bet if we visited the County Record Office we would find them, but I don’t think we have time to do that and get back in time for six.’
‘How about trying coroners for the 1840’s Axminster?’ suggested Kitty.
‘That will throw up loads of rubbish.’
‘Try anyway,’ she urged looking at her watch. ‘Our hour will soon be up.’
Gordon glanced at the time. ‘What already? Doesn’t time fly.. .’
‘When you’re having fun,’ she finished.
‘No, I was going to say when you’re trying to find something on the internet,’ he sighed after reading the results of his next search. ‘No, nothing.’
‘Try Edward Foulstone then add coroner.’ She leant forward and peered at the results coming up onto the screen.
‘Nope, no good. We could try the 1841 census records again.’
‘Yes but we don’t know where he lived or what year he was born or anything.’ Gordon was beginning to get irritated, he ran his hand over his face and sighed in frustration. ‘There must be some information out there somewhere.’
‘But his name is quite unusual and he must be local, don’t you think?’
‘Okay let’s try it, I can’t think of anything else to try,’ he paused. ‘What was the site called?’
‘I think it was called Family Search or something like that.’
Gordon found the site and as soon as he had clicked onto it recognised it as the one that Eve had recommended. He typed in the coroner’s name. ‘It wants his date of birth, what shall we do?’
Kitty stared at the screen. ‘Well we left that box blank when we were looking for Hannah, so do the same for him.’
‘Okay and I will put in Devon for place of birth and see what happens.’
The site found details for five Edward Foulstones in Devon, three of which were not the right age to be the man they were after.
‘Well that counts those three out and we’re left with just these two,’ Gordon sighed. ‘At least I have enough credit left to look at both of these, which shall we look at first? So,’ he looked at Kitty. ‘Pick one, dear, which Edward do you choose?’
Kitty smiled. ‘You’re making it sound like a game show, what do I win if I pick the right one?’
‘A house,’ he replied half seriously.
Kitty squeezed his arm. ‘I’m sure this is going to work out you know, I have faith.’
‘In what?’ he asked.
‘Everything,’ she said firmly. ‘Let’s try the younger one.’
‘Now are you picking him for any logical reason or is it just a wild guess?’
‘No, I just think as he is the younger of the two then he might be inclined to be involved in any funny business.’
‘Funny business? Is that the technical term for tampering with evidence, etcetera, etcetera?’
‘Yes, now just get on with it Gordon, we’re running out of time.’
‘Well here goes,’ he clicked on the view more box and the younger Edward Foulstone’s details popped up.
 ‘Now let’s see,’ and he started to read out the details. ‘He’s living at Castle Hill House, Axminster, 31 years old, born Exeter, occupation Doctor, married. His wife is called Belinda, 27 years old born in Honiton. Arthur, son, 5 years old, born Axminster. Harold, son, 3 years old, born Axminster. Mary, daughter, 1 year old, born Axminster. Rachel, sister, 27 years old, born Exeter. Bethan Cox, servant, 35 years old, single, born Axminster. God! He had a houseful, though if he was a doctor I suppose he could afford it.’ he remarked in astonishment.
Kitty stared blankly at the screen. ‘Doesn’t prove anything, does it?’
‘Do you want to look at the other Edward?’ he asked. ‘Or shall we just go for a coffee?’
‘No, let’s carry on now we are here.’
The next details popped up onto the screen.
‘This one was 52 years old, a widower, born in Southampton, occupation journeyman. What the hell is a journeyman?’
‘Travel agent?’ suggested Kitty.
Gordon shook his head. ‘Not in 1841 Kitty! Well he lived in Seaton, with a housekeeper and two lodgers. This doesn’t sound like a coroner to me.’
‘So the Doctor is the most likely candidate.’
‘I think so, so arriving at a verdict of water on the brain and there to be no records of her death makes it even stranger, hmmm,’ he said stroking his chin and looked sideways at Kitty.
‘Hmm,’ she replied thoughtfully. ‘I think the Doctor is our man.’
‘I’m not sure this is going to help us at all but I don’t think there is anything else we can do,’ Gordon sat back in his chair and looked across at his wife. ‘It’s all up to Sybil’s sister now.’
Kitty stared blankly at the screen and said ‘We’re out of time anyway. And ideas,’ she added.
Gordon stood up and slipped his jacket on, he stared down at his wife sitting huddled in the chair. ‘Come on dear, nothing else we can do here. Let’s get a coffee.’

The evening was just drawing in as they drove slowly down the hill into Medbury, a faint mist hung just inches above the road, swirling and breaking away as they drove through.
Kitty shivered slightly when she saw the village lights below.
‘What was her name?’ Gordon asked suddenly breaking the silence.
‘Queenie, Queenie Beresford.’ replied Kitty.
‘Sounds like something out of an Agatha Christie novel. I wonder if she’ll be wearing tweeds and flat sensible shoes.’
‘It was Tuppence Beresford I think, I can’t remember what her husband was called.’
Gordon cast a puzzled look at her.
‘Agatha Christies’ characters in a book.’ she explained.
‘Did she murder her husband or something?’
‘No they were amateur detectives. I don’t remember much about the story. It’s a long time since I read any of her novels.’
They pulled up outside the row of cottages; a small yellow car was already parked rather haphazardly across the front of Sybil’s.
‘Do you think that’s her car?’
‘Probably,’ he replied. ‘Come on let’s see if she’s wearing tweed and looks like Miss Marple.’
The door opened before Gordon could knock.
 ‘Hello, I thought I heard a car, come in.’
‘Hi Sybil’ said Kitty quietly, walking into the small front room. Sybil’s little dog Nigel pottered over to greet her. ‘Sorry, Nero couldn’t come,’ she said bending and stroking his head.
‘Oh where is he?’ queried Sybil. ‘You could have brought him you know.’
‘We left him with Eve,’ explained Gordon ‘as we weren’t too sure what was going to happen tonight. Is your sister here?’ he questioned glancing around the tiny cottage.
Sybil bustled about taking their coats and pulling chairs up to the fire.  ‘Oh yes, she’s just arrived. Queenie is upstairs in the bathroom, it’s a long journey for her now, bladder problems,’ she whispered.
‘Are you talking about me Sybil?’ a voice queried from the staircase.
‘Kitty and Gordon have arrived.’ Sybil moved to the bottom of the stairs and called up.
‘I can hear them.’
‘Well are you coming down then?’
‘Yes,’ the voice said impatiently. Heavy footsteps started slowly down the narrow wooden staircase. ‘God these stairs are so steep Sybil, I wonder you don’t break your neck on them.’
The resemblance between an Agatha Christie character and Sybil’s sister ended with the tweed skirt she was wearing. Queenie Beresford was definitely not a Miss Marple. But her resemblance to Sybil was uncanny, including the pale coloured eyes. But while Sybil had neat greying hair, Queenie’s curls were bright pink and fluffy. Kitty instantly thought of fairground candy floss. A half smoked cigarette hung from her mouth.
‘Queenie I’d rather you didn’t smoke inside,’ Sybil complained. ‘You know I don’t like it and it isn’t good for you.’
‘It’s okay Sybil, I’m not running the marathon this year,’ she grinned and winked at Kitty. ‘Hi, you two.’
‘Hello Queenie,’ said Gordon politely holding out his hand.
‘Yep that’s me,’ she said ignoring his hand and greeting him with a hug. ‘Kitty,’ she said staring at her in surprise before giving her a hug. ‘You’re the spitting image of your great- grandmother.’
‘Sybil said I looked like her.’
‘Yeah you do; peas in a pod.’ She took a deep drag on her cigarette and stared at them. ‘Are you ready for this?’