A FriendMature

                               After he had gauged himself on as much of his breakfast as he could manage, Nick gave Mary his thanks and left the pub, stepping out into the bright summer sun.  The street’s were relatively quiet, most older villagers going about their daily routines,  Nick checked his watch, eleven o’clock, if was going to meet the person who had sent him the letter, he had five hours to go visit the town officials, then start his investigation, plenty of time.  The village town hall was located just down the road from the pub, past a few small cottages and a small row of shops.

                               Nick stopped outside the main door to finish his cigarette, taking the building in, like the rest of the village, it was stone built with a flint roof, quite large and remarkably school like.  Nick stumped out his cigarette and walked in through the main door.  The lobby was well air conditioned he found it quite refreshing after the still warmth of the summer air, a young man was sitting behind the reception desk, looking extremely board,

“Excuse me” Nick called, making the young man jump in his seat,

“Sorry, I didn’t hear you come in, can I help you?”,

“My names, Nick Jessop, I’m here to speak to the mayor”,

“I’m afraid the mayor is out of town, his assistant is available?”,

“That will be fine I’ll wait on over there, shall I?”

“Certainly, I’ll just call mister Peters for you now”,

Nick made his way over to the corner or the lobby and sat down on one of three arm chairs surrounding a small coffee table which had a stack of out of date magazines on it.  After a few minutes, a man in his mid thirties, well dressed in a pin striped suit and very well groomed hair approached the table,

“Mister Jessop?”,

“Hello” Nick relied,

“I’m Colin Peters the mayor’s assistant, would you like to come with me?”

                                      Nick stood up and followed Peters to a large flight of stairs leading up to two more floors, the hall seemed quite drab and dull, the only decoration a few scattered pot plants and photos of the country-side adorning the walls.  They walked up to the first floor Peters opened a set of double doors and moved off the staircase, Nick on his heels, they were now in a creamy coloured corridor with a deep brown carpet, they walked past several small offices.  The place smelled of disinfectant, like a hospital, Nick hated that smell, reminded him of the hours each week he’d sat in the waiting room of his psychiatrist, that had been Terry’s idea after Nick had made the mistake of mentioning his dreams about Upton.

“In here please, Mister Jessop” Peters was standing by an office door, holding it open for him, Nick walked past into the room and waited at the desk, the office was quite small and very bare, only a single, small potted plant sat on top of the filing cabinet,

“Please, have a seat, Mister....”,

“Nick, please”,

“Nick,” Peters indicated to a chair and Nick sat down.  Peters stood over Nick for a moment, Nick wondered if he was being sized up, then he took a seat opposite Nick and leaned on his elbows, crossing his hands in front of his face,

“Miste....Nick, tell me what you know about our little village”,

“Just what I’ve read in the file provided by my supervisor, you’ve never had a history of supernatural disturbances before, but recently we’ve been receiving a lot of reports from the local residents, sightings of loved ones and such”,

“Make no mistake, Nick, I am not fanciful man, I do not believe in ghouls and ghosts and the like, and it was not the decision of the council to involve BIIP at all”,

“Err...its BIPI”, Nick corrected Peters did not look amused,

“Well, whose idea was it?”,

“We were contacted by your office after the influx of complaints, the local authorities had been made aware of the situation, but the police are, shall we say, Ill equipped to investigate such matters, apparently people had begun calling the police to report intruders in their homes because the police would not respond to none crime related incidents anymore”,

“People get scared” Nick replied sternly, he didn’t like Peters attitude, “There must be people living alone in this village, older members of community who would just appreciate an officer knocking on the door, a quick look round?”,

“That is not what we pay the police force for, now, what I’d like you to do is just spend a couple of days, and nights, obviously, poking around, doing whatever it is you do, write up a nice report declaring absolutely nothing wrong, and leave.  No offence”,

Nick frowned, he was used to this kind of attitude from small town authorities, never ready to admit there was anything actually wrong with their little tidy clean villages and towns,

“Mister Peters, I will do my job the way it is expected, and may I remind you that BIPI offers a free service to anyone who can offer any real evidence that there is an unnatural presence in their home”,

“Meaning?” Peters asked angrily,

“Meaning” replied Nick, knowing full well this suit had absolutely no power over him or his investigations, “IF I am asked to perform any private investigations by any residents of this village, then I will stay, and report any and all findings to my office”,

“I was told you would be cooperative, mister Jessop”,

“And I will, mister Peters, I am simply trying to warn you that keeping ‘a lid’ on these things, isn’t always possible”,

Peters stood up and walked to his office door,

“I think you’ve made your point, mister Jessop, I’ll speak to you again when you’ve had time to, well, investigate”,

Nick stood up and despite the lump in his throat, offered his hand to Peters, who shook it grudgingly, then Nick left the office, Peters closing the door behind him.

Peters walked back to his desk and sat down, picking the receiver up from the telephone base, he dialled the main desk,

“Henry, get me the head of BIPI, now”.

                                           The entire meeting had lasted less than five minutes, yet Nick still found finding his way back out of hall a challenge, all the doors were the same colour, all the walls looked the same and there did not appear to be any signs anywhere.  Nick wandered around the corridor, opening the occasional door, looking for the stairs again, one particular door had been hiding two employees who were having a passionate kiss in an office,

“Oh, god, sorry, errr, could one of you point me towards the stairs?”,  the rather irritated male pointed across the corridor, “Thanks” Nick nodded then closed the door, he crossed the corridor and then found the set of double doors he and Peters had exited the staircase from.

                                 As he was about to descend the stairs, Nick paused, hearing voice coming from the landing on the second floor,

“If Peters or the mayor finds out what you’re planning”,

“They won’t, I’m sure this Jessop blokes on the level, I saw him at the Boar last night, looked pretty cool to me”,

Nick craned his head over the banister as much as he dared, trying to see the people talking, it sounded like two men,

“So you’re actually going to meet him?”,

“What choice do I have, you’ve heard everyone talking, you know what their saying, if it’s true then...”,

“Then there is nothing we can do about it, is there?”,

“But maybe it will help this ghost hunter with his, well, whatever he does”,

‘Why does everyone say it like that?” Nick thought to himself,

“Just be careful, OK, give him whatever he needs then shut your mouth about it, please?”,

“I promise, mate, anyway, back to work, see you at the pub tonight?”,

“Yeah, I’ll be there, see you then”,

Nick heard a door open and close, then footsteps on the stairs, not wanting to get caught ear wigging, Nick rushed down the stairs as quickly and quietly as he could.  Reaching the lobby, the young man behind the desk called goodbye to him as he left, Nick waving a hand in farewell as he stepped back out, into the sun.

                                    Nick was just considering going back to the pub for an early lunch, although he was still very full from his huge breakfast, when a blue flashing light caught his attention.  Two police cars and an ambulance were parked at the very bottom of the street Nick turned down the road and began walking towards them.  As he reached the house they were parked in front of, he watched as two paramedics carried out a stretcher, a body bag lay on top of it.

                                A large crowd had formed a few feet from the house, pointing and watching, chattering in each other’s ears Nick noticed a small group of elderly women all standing together, they appeared to be crying, a couple of them were still in dressing gowns, they looked extreme frail, then Nick spotted Jenny across the crowd, smoothing his hair down, he pushed his way through the throng towards her, she too appeared to have tearful eyes,

“Hey,” Nick greeted, “What’s happening?”,

“It’s Old Bob,” Nick had a fleeting memory of an old man being helped into a cab outside the Boar the night before, “His carer found him this morning, apparently he had a heart attack late last night”, Nick hesitated for a moment, then put a hand on her shoulder, rubbing her back,

“I’m sorry, was he very Ill?”,

“That’s the strange thing,” Jenny replied, “Ok, he was old, and had arthritis in all the joints in his body, but Bob was strong, he’d never so much as had a cold”,

Nick looked at the black bag on the stretcher, now being loaded into the back of the ambulance,

“People do have heart attacks without being Ill,” Nick told her in a sympathetic tone, “It was probably just his time”.  Jenny nodded and then leant her head against his shoulder, putting an arm around his waist, despite the warm sun, Nick could feel himself shaking, “Look, I’m going to head back the pub, wanna join me for lunch?”,

“I can’t,” Jenny answered, “I have to meet David, but we’ll be in for a drink tonight, If your free?” she really seemed quite hopeful,

“Well, I’ll have to see how the investigations going, but if I don’t have any other plans, I’d love to”,

“Great,” Jenny replied, wiping a tear from her eye, “then it’s a date” and she walked away.

                                    Nick decided to go back to the pub and write up some notes, he still had a couple of hours before three, and after the conversation on the stairs, was even more curious.  Nick walked into the bar and found Mary chatting to a old man at the bar, they hadn’t noticed him come in as the door had been propped open.  He couldn’t help but over him them as he walked to the other end of the bar,

“I can’t be doing with it anymore, Mar,” the old man seemed quite upset about something, “every night, the noise, the smell, it’s driving me insane”,

“Poor dear,” Mary replied softly, stroking the old man’s hand, “I wish I could help....,” then she saw Nick, “Mister Jessop, perhaps you could help?”

Nick strolled over and shook the old man’s outstretched hand, he was much strong than he looked, tall, but very thin and looking absolutely exhausted, deep purple bags under both eyes, which were almost completely red they were so blood shot,

“This is Keith Abbot, he run’s.....”

“Oh the farm, down the lane?”

“Er, yeah,” Abbot looked extremely confused by Nick knowing this,

“Oh, I met your daughter, Jenny” Nick wished he had put it another way almost instantly, Abbot was now giving him a very judgemental look, the air suddenly felt very tense,

“Anyway,” Mary spoke up, “Mister...I mean, Nick, is one of them superstitious investigators”,

“I think you mean supernatural, Mar” replied Abbot, “So, Nick, is it, you gonna help us then?”

“Well, that all depends on what’s going on, Mister Abbot”

“Call me Keith, never been one for the Mister, and whatcha mean, what’s going on, I told your office what was happening when I called”

You called?” Nick hadn’t meant to sound so surprised,

“Yeah, amongst others”, replied Abbot

“Why don’t you start off by telling me what’s been going on as far as just you are concerned” Nick flipped open his note book and took a biro from his pocket,

“Fine, but don’t you go tellin Jenny none of this, she don’t know and don’t need to, or David”

“Does David live at the farm too?” Nick knew this had no bearing on the investigation, but he couldn’t help himself,

“Yeah, course he does, when he’s not livin it up in the flat of his in town, well he is my son you know, where else is he gonna live?”

‘Son, YES!’

“Of course,” Nick replied coolie, “So anyway, tell me about the disturbances”

“Why don’t I just leave you to men to chat” Mary disappeared out back somewhere,

“It started about two years ago,” Abbot started, “Started with bumps”


“Yeah, in the hay loft, down in the barn, first I thought it was just the rats, some of em grow to the size ov beavers round ere, anyway, after a couple daysa  constant banin and thuds I decided I better go ave a look”

“And what did you find?”

“Nothin, not a thing, all the traps were still set, none of the poison had been touched, not a trace of a rat”

‘In a country barn?’

“Doesn’t that seem slightly odd, for a barn in the country I mean”

“Well yeah, course it did, usually i’m changin the traps every other day, then there was other stuff” Abbot leaned in close to Nick, “I know my farm, I know when somethin ain’t right, the horses won’t settle in their stable, the chickens won’t lay or sleep, all they do is scream all night”

“Animals often pick up on supernatural activity long before we do” Nick tried to reassure him,

“Do they of’en kill’em selves?”

Nick was taken back, he’d never heard of an animal injuring itself on purpose during a haunting,

“What happend?”

“Jenny’s horse, Star, was locked up in her stable, same as every other night, bout three o’clock in the morning, I get woken by this orrible screamin, like nothin I’ve ever heard before”

“You sure it wasn’t an animal?”

“I’ve lived in these parts all my life, there ain’t no animal round ere that makes a noise like that, I don’t care what you do to it”,

“So what do you think it was?”

“I don’t know, but wish I’d followed my instincts and gone out to look, the next mornin, I got up at five as normal, went out to feed the chickens and take the horses down to their paddock, but when i opened Star’s stable door....” his eyes welled up, hands trembling, “from what I could tell, she’d smashed her head against the back wall, she must have charged it at full pelt, and more than once”

Nick stopped writing and stared at the old man, he was swilling the last dregs of his pint round in its glass, “I’ve seen some things in my time, but nothing like that, never”

“What happened after that?”

“It was like a disease, first the barn, then the stables, spreadin out across the farm, noises, vandalism, animal deaths, its puttin me outta business”

“You mentioned a smell, to Mary I mean, as I came in”

“That didn’t start till about a week ago, before Jenny got home from university, at first she thought some small animal had died under the floor boards, I didn’t, I knew it was something else, took Jenny three days to notice that it wasn’t there during the day.”

“What about David?”

“David, he buggered off to his flat in town the first night of bangin”

“Have you actually seen anything?”

“Oh yeah, I seen somethin alright, and I hope to never see anythin like it again”

“What was it?”

“I was out on the fields, god, it was only two days ago, anyway, it was out late, checking the gates were all locked proper, when I saw someone standing in the middle of the field, just watching me.  I called out to them, but they never answered I went over, just to make sure they weren’t up to summit, when I recognised him”

“Who was it?”

“My father, but it couldn’t be, I told meself, he died in 1967, broke his neck during a fall from the barn roof”

“From the barn you heard the noises in?”

“Yeah, that’s right, and that’s the first thing I thought too, but it don’t make no sense”

“Why not?”

“Because aren’t these spirits supposed to be unhappy, walkin the earth with unfinished business, that’s what the northern chap on the TV say’s”

“Most of the time I’d have to agree, but then a lot of sightings of ghosts or apparitions are only ever talked about, one person say’s  they saw something, the person they tell in turn passes the story on, mass sightings are very rare, so actually attributing the actual sightings to real deaths is very difficult”

“So basically you’re sayin he could be back for any reason?”

“Can you think of a better one than love for one’s children?”

“HA!” belted Abbot, “It weren’t love in his eyes, when I got close enough, I could see his face clearly, I can’t think of any other word for the look he gave me, evil”

“Evil?” Nick sat up, this was a strong word to use, and a worrying one, he’d had his fill of evil spirits,

“Oh yeah, I sometimes like to close my eyes and remember my old dad, smiling down at me, teachin me how to run the farm, but this thing, there was no love in its eyes, just hate, and when it spoke”

“It spoke,” Nick opened his bag and pulled out the digital recorder, “OK, if you don’t mind?” Nick indicated to the recorder,

“No that’s fine, anyway, yeah, he spoke, told me I had to go with him”

“Go where?”

“I don’t know, and I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t hang about to ask”

“You ran?”

“Damn right I did, as hard and fast as I could, not to brave”

“It was the right thing to do, believe me, I know”

Abbot straightened himself up, then gave Nick another approving look, “Why don’t you come stay at the farm tonight, have dinner with me and Jenny, and David if he feels like gracin us with his presence”

Nick wasn’t sure exactly why Abbot was inviting him, maybe he just wanted an expert there for reassurance, maybe he thought Nick would be able to stop the disturbances,

“Very well, but you can tell Mary” Nick joked, and the two men shared a laugh,

“You two getting along then?” Mary asked appearing on the other side of the bar,

“Mary, if you don’t mind, I’ll be staying at the farm tonight, good a place as any to start my investigation”

Mary laughed, “As long as I get paid, dear, you can stay where ever you please”

                                       Nick and Abbot chatted for a while longer, mostly about Peters whom they both agreed was a little too up himself for their liking, then after Abbot had left, Mary served Nick a fresh ploughman’s lunch.  He sat in the sun outside writing up his notes and sending a text to Terry on his progress so far, what there was of it, for the time being, he left the letter out, wanting to see what came of it first.

                                    Nick finished writing and checked his watch, quarter to three, the church stood upon a small hit a few minutes outside the village, so, he lit a cigarette, pulled his bag strap over his shoulder and started walking.  Some of the people he passed gave him pleasant smiles and nods of welcome others, seemed less thrilled about his presence in the town and threw him scornful frowns and disapproving glances before pretending they hadn’t seen him, Nick had just taken to wave and call, “HI THERE!”, at them, trying to keep Terry’s promise of discreet in mind.

                                  Nick arrived at the church and waited for three at the main entrance, looking around the deserted church yard, the church itself was very small and very old, the same stone build and flint roof as the rest of the village, yet it seemed more decayed.  At five past three, Nick decided to stroll around the building, he reached the back of the church, when he spotted a young man standing with his back against the back door,

“You the ghost hunter?”

“I’m Nick Jessop, and yes, I’m the paranormal investigator, are you then one who left me the note?”

“That’s right” he was very young, no more than twenty, he was wearing an baggy jumper and ripped jeans, with white trainers, he had a mop of untidy black hair and deep brown eyes,

“And you are?” Nick asked,

“Doesn’t matter, I’m leaving town tonight, and you should do the same”

“Really and why is that?”

“Because of them”

“Them, them who?”

“They know what’s going on, and they want it to happen, god, if they find out I’ve spoken to you”

“Who? What the hell are you talking about?”

The young man moved closer and pushed his face into Nick’s, grabbing him by the scruff of his tee-shirt and pulling him closer”


“Get....out....of.....town....”  a crack came the bushes behind them, both men turned and watched, waiting to see what had made the noise, then the bell in the church clock began to chime, the young man looked terrified, he let Nick go and turned to run,

“Hey wait, come back” Nick called after him, but he had disappeared down the lane,

“Great, what a helpful friend you turned out to be!” Nick lit a cigarette then turned back to the bushes, he couldn’t see or hear anything moving anymore, but he could not miss the revolting, rotten smell.

The End

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