Nick Jessop sat at the desk in his cluttered off at home, sorting through old papers, filing away the reports from old cases. He had been a paranormal researcher since leaving Oxford three years before, obtaining a PhD in physics and natural sciences, he joined the BIPI, British Institute for Paranormal Investigation almost as soon as he had obtained his doctorate, along with his lab partner and fellow ‘Ghost Nut’, Gareth Clarke.
Nick and Gareth had been involved with over two hundred investigations over the past three years and in nearly all cases had proven the apparent ‘haunting’ to be nothing of the sort, more often than not, a source of natural disturbance had been discovered to explain away bumps in the night, creaking floor boards, strange cold spots and the appearance of odd smells. Nick threw the handful of field reports left in his hand on the desk and sighed, this really wasn’t what he had expected three years ago when BIPI had contacted him, offering him a job.
He had expected at least truly haunted house, or at least, something he could not explain away, but still, the old sewers or badly founded buildings kept revealing their haunting as nothing but the human mind playing tricks on people. Nick longed for something more, something deeper and darker to explore, and was utterly lost in this thought when his phone rang,
“Nick” came Gareth’s voice from the receiver, “You busy?” Nick looked down at the mountain of papers before him,
“Nothing I wouldn’t mind putting off” he sighed
“Great, get yourself to Slough”
“Slough?” Nick replied, “What the hell do I wanna go to Slough for?”
Gareth laughed, “You’ll see, bring all the usual gear, don’t worry about recording equipment, I still have all the stuff from the Shipton house case”
“Do you ever unpack that van?”
“Ha, no” the phone went dead.
Nick turned on his computer and began looking up train times from Paddington Station to Slough over the next hour, it would take him about forty minutes to cross London on the tube, then as long as he could catch a straight through train, about another half an hour to Slough. He found a reasonable train and began packing his leather shoulder bag with books on haunting and paranormal incidents, which he always carried around like a bible or security blanket, and his laptop with its small mobile modem.
As Nick reached the front door of his tiny flat, he turned back to take one last look, he wasn’t sure why, he would undoubtedly be seeing it again in a few hours, no case Gareth or himself had ever been assigned to had ever lasted more than a night, two at very best, yet he felt the need to take it in, build a mental picture of his home in his mind. Nick closed and double locked the front door, not that he really had anything to steal, and climbed down the long flight of stairs to his buildings front door.
The tube trip was annoying to say the least, it was mid august and he had forgotten just how many students and children would be off school and university, making sitting impossible and even standing very hard. When he finally arrived at Paddington station, he decided go outside for a cigarette, having ten minutes till his train. He stood under the giant archway entrance to the station, he loved standing in the middle of London and just looking up at the tops of the buildings, a dizzy sensation, like falling always made him smile.
Nicks eyes fell back into the station itself, and for a moment, just a moment, he saw a woman, standing perfectly still, facing away from the huge crowd of commuters rushing the opposite way, he was sure she looking at him, not just in his direction, but straight into his eyes, and he felt a cold, icy shudder run down his spine. Then she was gone, a tall man in a pin striped suit passes in front of her, then she was gone. Nick felt sure he was imaging it, too many ghost stories and late night observation shifts.
Finishing his cigarette, Nick walked back into the station and headed off towards his platform, it was only four O’clock and the train was mercifully empty, only three other people shared his section. The train slowly pulled away from the station and Nick put his hands behind his head and closed his eyes, relaxing to the sway of the train on its tracks. When he opened them, he had to make a mad dash for the door, nearly forgetting his bag as he realised they were in Slough. Nick got off the train, feeling very dozy and disorientated, then crossed the bridge connecting the three different sections of the station together, then, headed for the main entrance and exit.
Standing outside, leaning against his dirty navy blue transit van, Gareth Clarke was laughing at Nick,
“Caught you sleeping did we?” Nick wasn’t amused,
“Oh ha ha ha, you saw that huh”
“Most of the station saw that” Gareth continued laughing, then opened the driver side door and climbed in,
“Come on we’ve got a meeting in twenty minutes”
“Where?” Nick asked, realising he still had no idea what he was doing there,
“The local rag, it’s about a five minute drive, but we should get there early, you’re gonna wanna see this place”
They drove through the main town centre, Nick thought the town looked just like any other, the usual shops and fast food restaurants, then, as they rounded a round-a-bout, Nick found he was actually quite surprised by what he saw, the semi industrial feel just fell away as lush fields and trees appeared, the only thing spoiling the view was a motorway, which lay behind a very new looking red brick and glass office building, and a old Tudor manor house, standing three of four hundred feet from the office block.
Gareth pulled down the drive towards the office block, he parked in a spare bay on the edge of the lot and got out, Nick following, unable to take his eyes from the house a head,
“Told you you’d wanna see it” Gareth grinned
“Its old” Nick said obviously,
“Er, yeah....” Gareth said sarcastically
“Sorry, thinking out loud” Nick replied, still staring at the house
Nick began walking towards the house, he pulled a small digital camera from his shoulder bag and starting shooting the house from different angel’s, trying to get the whole thing.
“You know we should probably go inside and talk to the editor” Gareth called from the van, “he is actually expecting us”
“Are you ever gonna tell me why?” Nick was getting annoyed
“Oh why spoil the surprise” Gareth grinned over at him.
The two made their way over to the offices and walked into the lobby, the receptionist gave there tatty jeans and Gareth’s leather jacket a very snooty look then picked up a phone receiver,
“I presume your hear about the, well, business across the way?” she asked in an overly put on posh voice,
“Oh in need one is” replied Gareth, Nick having to turn around to stop himself from laughing in front of the receptionist.
The receptionist pushed a button on the phones base and turned her nose up at Gareth,
“Mister Hedges there are two gentlemen in the lobby for you, yes I believe there from BUPA”
“BIPI” mouthed Gareth at her
“Oh, BIPI” the receptionist corrected herself, then she hung up the phone, “Have a seat, Mister Hedges will be with you shortly, Gareth shot her a very fake smile then wandered over to a couple of small cushioned chairs where Nick was already sitting,
“I think I’m going to marry her” Gareth said,
Nick was about to respond when a rather plump man with a tweed suit, a round balding head and rosy cheeks appeared before them,
“Good afternoon” he greeted them, “I’m Joseph Hedges, editor of the paper, would, you like to come up to my office?” Nick and Gareth stood up, shook Hedges hand and followed him through a set of glass double doors, an elevator where Hedges pushed the button for the third floor. When the doors opened they stepped out into a typical newsroom, large picture frames with the towns top stories hung over the walls, six or seven journalists were running back and forth,
“This way” stated Hedges, he opened a door at the very end of the hall baring the plague, Editor and Chief.
Nick and Gareth remained standing until Hedges had moved around to the opposite side of his desk and motioned for them to sit,
“Now, Mister Jessop isn’t it” Nick nodded, “I presume by now Mister Clarke has explained the situation?” Nick just tilted his head towards Gareth, who seemed to be enjoying himself a great deal,
“Actually my partner decided I should speak to you directly”
“Ah, well in that case” Hedges leaned in and rested his arms on his desk, “The manor has only been part of the paper for about ten years, before then it was broken down into several small apartments, and before then the town tried to maintain it as a manor, the problem is and was, no one will live there”
“Are we talking about disturbances on a continuous level?” Nick asked,
“Disturbances, damage, sightings...”
“Sightings?” Nick sat upright on his chair, Gareth often called it his ‘Meer cat’ reaction.
“Yes, sightings too, do you know anything about the White Lady?”
“Not something I’m familiar with, not round these parts anyway, a lot of towns have their own white or black ladies, I’ve lost count of the amount of house we’ve investigated where someone, at some point saw a white lady”
“18” Gareth said, Nick tossed him a ‘oh do shut up look’
“Well, I can’t say I know about anyone else’s, but ours is becoming a problem”
“You mean to the paper?”
“As I’m sure you can imagine, the paper is not a nine to five business, people often work late, very late to meet deadlines, and a lot of me reporters have offices in that house, I’m being overrun with complaints about noises, power failures, lost work on computers, hard drives emptying themselves, the list just goes on and on”
“Mister Hedges, you do realise we’re not, how can I put this, Ghostbusters, we can certainly investigate for you, but in very unlikely event we actually capture some evidence, I fail to see how that’s going to help?”
“It will if I can then prove to the papers investors that a new building is required” Nick thought he was beginning to understanding and sat back in his chair,
“Yes I think I see, Mister Hedges, well, I think the best thing for myself and my partner to do now is head over to the house and start setting up, we will need to be ready by night fall”
“I quite understand” replied Hedges, “the staff have already vacated the building for you, all none essential equipment has been removed to make room for yours” he stood up and held out his hand, “I’ll wish you both the best of luck and an unpleasant night” he beamed at them, perhaps thinking he was being funny, Nick and Gareth forced polite smiles, then headed back out of the office and towards the elevator,
“What an absolute arse” Gareth stated,
“I really hope we see sweet 'Fanny Adams' tonight” Nick replied, “would serve him right”