Nick stood at the lead lined window, staring out into the blackest night he had ever known, below, in the between the trees in the woods, a white light was darting along the path leading to the manor house. Nick watched expectantly, his hands were sweaty and gammy, his body shook from head to toe with fear. Finally, the light broke through the woods and the figure ran out into the clearing in front of the house.
Nick watched as a young girl with long blonde hair in tight jeans and a tee-shirt stopped dead in her tracks and looked up at him, Nick stood slightly back, his eyes met hers then she lifted her arm carrying the lamp, she was pointing behind him and screaming something, but Nick couldn’t hear what she was saying through the glass, she kept pointing and shouting, her eyes wide and face white with fear,
BAM, BAM, BAM,
He was at the door, trying to smash his way into the bedroom, Nick pushed his back up against the window, trying to formulise a plan, but he was too scared to think straight,
BAM, BAM, BAM,
Nick watched the door lurch on its hinges,
BAM, BAM, BAM,
Nicks whole body was shaking from head to toe, his hands were sweaty and gammy, he had no idea what to do,
BAM, BAM, BAM,
The door suddenly sprung open and Mary stepped into the bedroom, holding the axe above her dark locked head, eyes menacing and blood shot,
BAM, BAM, BAM.
Nick shot up in bed, the laptop slipping off his lap and threatening to fall on the floor, he just caught it in time,
“Hello?” he called as he pulled it back onto the bed,
“Mister...I mean, Nick, diner will be served in about half an hour, would you like it up here or in the bar?”.
Nick scratched his weary head, a little dazed and confused, remembering where we was and who was talking to him, Nick called back,
“I’ll eat downstairs thank you, Mary, I’ll be down in a few minutes”,
“OK dear, see you in a mo” and he heard her heavy footsteps heading back down the stairs.
Nick got out of bed and walked to the small sink in his room, splashed cold water on his face then lit a cigarette, leaning out the window so not to stink the room up,
“Well, that was odd” he told the empty room, “I haven’t dreamt about Upton for over a year?” he was puzzled by the nightmare, the girl he had seen, from what he could remember of the dream, had not been the white lady, but the girl he had seen in the farm yard that afternoon, and as for Mary the landlady being an axe wielding maniac, well, it was just a dream, he hoped.
Nick collected up his leather shoulder bag and headed downstairs into the bar, the atmosphere could not have been more different from the afternoon, the place was packed. Old men and their wives, younger couples and groups of local teens, Nick walked to the bar and waited for Mary to finish serving a pint of ale to a very old man,
“There you go, Old Bob, now go sit down and I’ll carry it over to you, so you don’t spill”,
The old man picked up his pint and tried walking away, sloshing the beer all over the polished hard wood floor,
“No, Bob, hang on, oh for god’s sake” Mary shook her head, “Deaf as a post, that one” she spotted Nick and strolled down the bar to him,
“Good evening Mary, thank you for the wakeup call, I’d have slept all night otherwise”,
“Oh, not a problem, Nick, now, how about some of my fresh stew and dumplings?”,
“Sounds great” Nick lied, he hated stew,
“Well, you go find yourself a table and I’ll be right over, would you like a drink?” she fished around for a pint glass,
“Actually, may I have a coffee? I have a lot to do and I’m afraid a pint will just put me back to sleep”,
“Of course dear, I’ll bring it over in a sex”.
Nick thanked Mary again then turned back to the pub’s crowd, he certainly wasn’t going to be short of many people to talk to, he spotted a free table for one, next to a young couple, a good looking, dark haired and well tanned man and a blonde woman with her back to him, the guy certainly looked about the same age as Nick, perhaps this would be a good place to start. Nick strolled over and plonked himself into a wooden chair, then opened his bag and removed his note book and a small digital Dictaphone.
Nick was just getting settled and was about to try and listen in on the couples conversation, when Mary appeared with a large tray containing, a huge bowl of stew and dumplings, a boiling hot mug of coffee and a letter, Nick thanked her again then stared down at the letter, he took a swig of coffee then picked it up, opened it and pulled out a single, small piece of paper with messy handwriting, it read,
Meet me tomorrow in the churchyard of St. Helen’s come alone at 3pm,
Nick turned the white envelope over but found no writing on it at all, whoever had sent it, had hand delivered it, he must remember to ask Mary who had brought it for him.
Nick dug into his meal and found he did not mind Mary’s stew as much as he thought he would, perhaps it was simply due to the presence of so many fresh ingredients, but Nick was actually really enjoying it, so much so, he went back to the bar to ask Mary if there might be a little left, to which she beamed and disappeared into the back to pour him another bowl full. When Nick returned to his table, he watched the young man he was sitting next to stand up, kiss the blonde woman he was with on the cheek, the vanished off towards the toilet, then the blonde woman turned around to look at the other customers and Nick nearly choked, it was the girl he’d seen at the farm, and worse, she recognised him.
“So, still stalking people?” she asked,
“Hi, err, yeah sorry about staring, guess I was ‘middle-distancing, in a world of my own”,
“Middle-distancing my bottom?” she asked sternly,
Nick cringed, what the hell did he say now?,
“I, errr, what I mean is”
The blonde started laughing, “I’m joking, my names Jenny, Jenny Abbot” she held a hand out to him,
“Nick Jessop” Nick replied, taking her hand and hoping he wasn’t blushing too much,
Jenny rested her face against one hand, leaning an elbow on the table, she was looking right into his eyes, Nick hated that,
“So, Nick, what brings you to our little ass end of no-where, just checking out the sights?” she threw him a half cocked, cheeky grin, Nick laughed, still rather embarrassed,
“Actually I’m here for the night life”,
Jenny finished the smile, her blue eyes gleaming in the pubs lighting,
“Imeanghosts” he blurted, then trying again, “ghosts, I’ve been hired by the village officials to look into reports from some of the locals about paranormal disturbances”,
“Really? So you’ll be in town for a few days?”,
“Well I haven’t even gotten started yet, so I guess so, yeah”,
Nick was about to ask Jenny if she fancied being his tour guide, when the man she’d been sitting with arrived back from the toilet,
“This is David, Dave, this is Nick, he’s a ghost hunter”,
“well, not exactly a hunter...” Nick tried to correct her, but David interrupted him,
“Ghost hunter huh?” Nick did not like the way in which David had asked the last question, there was a definite patronisation in his tone,
“So, you’re like a Ghostbuster or what?” he was laughing as he spoke,
“David, be nice” Jenny told him,
“What? I am being nice” David responded,
“No, not a Ghostbuster, I don’t think you actually could bust a ghost, what with them being dead” Jenny grinned at Nick, David however looked less than amused,
“So what do you do when you find one?” David asked,
Nick had a fleeting memory of an old door busting open, of himself jumping at the figure behind the door, flying through him at crashing into a wall,
“Usually, I collect whatever evidence I can then take it back to BIPI”,
The second Nick had said ‘BIPI’ he really wished he hadn’t, honestly, BIPI, what a stupid name,
“BIPI huh, is that meant to stand for something?”
“British institute for paranormal investigation”, it wasn’t Nick that had answered, but Jenny. Nick looked her in surprise, not many people had ever even heard of the institute, least of all a rather attractive farm girl from, as she had put it, the ‘ass end of nowhere’,
“Yes, that’s right, I’m the senior investigator”, this was an outright lie, but who was hurting?
“So, David”, Nick continued, “What do you do?”,
“I’m in accounting, I work in Colchester and London, big accounts, big bucks, that’s me”,
“Accounting huh, that sounds....fun?”, it really was more a question than a comment, to be honest, Nick didn’t think he knew of a more boring profession, David suddenly rolled the sleeve of his shirt up and looked at the shiny silver Rolex on his wrist,
“Damn, Jen, we have to go, well, was nice meeting you, Mick, take care yeah, come on Jenny” and with that David grabbed the suit jacket hanging on the back of his chair and walked swiftly from the pub,
“Wow, one day in town and I’m already annoying the locals, Jenny stood up smiling, she pulled her light blue denim jacket over her tee-shirt,
“Oh, don’t worry about him, he’s just grumpy all the time, well, it actually was nice to meet you Nick, now you be careful, OK?”,
“You mean ghost hunting?” he asked,
“No, I mean staring at girl’s bums”, and with that, she threw him another cheeky grin and wink, then, walked off after David. Nick tilted his head backwards towards the window behind him, he pushed the flowery curtain hanging over it to one side and looked out to the car park, watching Jenny getting into a car with David,
“Lucky, snobbish, stuck up....”,
“You finished then, dear?” Mary had appeared at the table to collect his plate,
“What? Oh yes, thank you, Mary”.
Nick went outside for a cigarette, he sat down on the picnic bench he’d used earlier that day and took in the village at night, it looked very different. The sheer lack of any street lights hid most of the village from view, although the sun had not completely set, the position of the houses and shops cut off the last few rays of light from reaching the pub. The street looked quite eerie, as the light disappeared the road seemed to vanish into a black abyss,
“Stop spooking yourself” he told himself, then the pub door opened, flooding the street with light and chatter. The old man Mary had called ‘Old Bob’ was being helped by another man, a few years younger, out to the road, then, a mini-cab pulled up,
“Evening Bob” called the driver,
“Ello, Elton” Bob called into the cab window as his friend opened the back door for him. Nick watched as the very old man climbed in awkwardly, then the cab rolled away, into the dark. Nick turned back to the pub, looking in and listening to the noise of the punters chatting and gossiping, he felt tired and really could not be bothered to start interviewing people today, besides, he should probably go talk to the people who’d hired him first.
Nick finished his cigarette then went back to the bar to collect his bag, he was just about to go up to his room when his eyes landed on the letter again, he picked it up and went over to see Mary, who was sipping her fourth glass of red wine and laughing with the customers sat around the bar top,
“Mary, do you know how left this for me?”,
“One of the local kids brought it for you, said someone had given him a fiver to do it”,
“Oh, OK” Nick was baffled, who would pay a kid five pounds to bring a note into the bar for him?
“Well, I’m gonna head upstairs I think, It’s been a long day”,
“OK dear, well, breakfast is seven till ten, do you need a wakeup call?”,
“No, I’ll set my alarm, thanks anyway, Mary, goodnight”.
Nick walked upstairs, went into his room, threw his clothes into a heap on the floor and crashed onto his comfy bed. He climbed under the warm duvet and put his hands behind his head, closing his eyes, he found his thoughts were only interested in one thing, Jenny, and her moron boyfriend. He thought about the way she had rolled her eyes when he’d started talking about accounting and money, the way she had stood up for Nick when David had mocked his career, and, with a very small smile on his face, Nick fell fast asleep.