William stood in the doorway.
‘I heard a scream, what’s going on?’ He paused, staring at the two sisters and then around the room, his gaze lingering on the smoking candles. ‘What are you doing Queenie?’ he demanded advancing across the glass strewn carpet towards them.
She paused before answering and stared at him curiously. ‘So that’s what happened, well, well, I wasn’t expecting this.’
Sybil looked at her puzzled. ‘What do you mean dear?’
‘William, we needed William.’ They both stared at their elderly friend who was gazing at them perplexed.
‘It doesn’t matter now,’ Gordon put his arm around Kitty who was shivering uncontrollably and led her towards the door. ‘We’re leaving and this time we’re not coming back.’
‘You can’t go now!’
‘Queenie!’ he turned on her. ‘Look at my wife!’ he shouted. ‘Look what you’ve done to her.’
‘Wait a minute,’ said William anxiously. ‘What do you mean you’re not coming back?’ he followed them to the door and laid a restraining hand on Gordon’s shoulder. ‘What’s going on here?’
Gordon looked across the room at Queenie. ‘She can explain.’
Queenie nodded. ‘I will explain but not here, let’s find some neutral ground to have a chat. Come on Sybil.’ She gathered up the fallen jar and put it back into her bag. ‘We need to have a talk with William.’
The two sisters followed him out into the hall where Gordon and Kitty were waiting impatiently for them.
Gordon hesitated before opening the door. ‘Do you think it’s safe?’ and stared anxiously at the two old women.
Sybil nodded slowly and took William’s arm. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘I heard an awful noise and then I heard screaming, was that you Kitty?’
William peered into Kitty’s tear streaked face, she stared blankly at him before managing a weak smile.
‘Are you alright?’ He took her hand in his work roughened one and squeezed it gently. ‘What’s been happening here?’ he asked anxiously.
Her face crumpled and she sobbed out ‘It’s Robert, he’s here.’
‘I don’t understand, Robert who?’
He looked at her blankly and then looked at Sybil. ‘What’s she talking about?’
Sybil gently pushed the three out of the door. ‘In a minute William, we’ll explain outside.’ She turned to her sister who was following close behind. ‘Shall we go back to my cottage? I think that would be best don’t you?’
Queenie nodded in agreement and banged the door shut behind her.
They walked slowly along the drive to the lane; time had passed since they had driven up to Orchard Cottage and it was now dark, the night sky was filled with winking stars and high up on Castle Hill a fox barked.
‘Right, down to Sybil’s Gordon,’ Queenie said firmly.
‘No,’ he replied sharply. ‘That’s it! We’re out of here; we’re not getting involved in any more of this.’
‘Now let’s calm down a minute, I want to know what’s going on and what my grandfather has to do with this.’ The old man had stopped and stood in front of them determined to get an answer.
‘This is a story that shouldn’t be told in a dark lane William,’ said Sybil taking hold of his arm and pulling him towards the village.
‘Well let’s go into the farmhouse then,’ he said impatiently. ‘It’s closer.’
‘No,’ Kitty put in weakly. ‘Not in there, sorry,’ she apologised to the old man. ‘But you see it’s his house.’
‘Kitty is right we shouldn’t set foot in there.’ Queenie warned. ‘Sybil’s cottage will do. Come along.’
She led the way along the darkened lane until they came close to the entrance of the farmyard. She slowed to a halt, from across the paved yard came the sound of approaching footsteps, footsteps that Kitty immediately recognised.
‘Who’s that?’ bristled William. ‘Hi,’ he shouted striding forward, pushing past Queenie who put out a restraining hand, but he brushed impatiently it aside. ‘Who’s there? You’re trespassing.’
His voice echoed around the buildings but the footsteps did not slow, they drew closer and closer to the group huddled in the lane.
‘It’s him,’ whispered Kitty trying to pull away from Gordon’s tightening grip. ‘It’s him
Queenie,’ she hissed again.
Queenie nodded in recognition. ‘Yes Kitty it is,’ she said quietly. She raised her voice ‘Well Robert? What are you going to do now eh?’
William glanced at her quickly before returning his gaze to the entrance of the yard.
A dark shape slid into the shadows of the wall, and as they watched it gathered itself together pulling in the darkness of the night and becoming more solid.
A figure walked slowly out from the shelter of the wall and stood in the middle of the lane and raised his head. Dark sunken eyes stared across the intervening space between him and his grandson.
‘Oh my God!’ whispered William in horror. ‘It is him.’
The old man staggered back and would have fallen if Gordon hadn’t grabbed his arm to steady him.
‘William, are you alright?’ Sybil whispered to him urgently gripping his other arm to support him.
‘What in God’s name is this? He’s dead!’ William’s voice echoed around the lane making the apparitions face wince.
Queenie took a few paces forward and peered at the shade of Robert Beamish.
‘So that’s it! William is the key,’ she said triumphantly. She turned back quickly to the others. ‘Back to the house, all of you.’
‘Are you mad woman? We’re not going back in there,’ Gordon shouted at her.
He stared at the figure in the lane and watched in horror as it approached slowly towards them.
Queenie pulled Kitty back towards the house. ‘You have no choice now, he’s not going to stop. He’ll come after Kitty where ever she is.’
‘You don’t know that,’ he shot at her.
‘Look at him!’ Queenie shouted at him. ‘He is on the road! This road doesn’t belong to the Beamish family, it never has done. He’s not on his own soil!’
They backed slowly away down the lane to the entrance of the drive, William last of all. He stood frozen to the spot staring at his grandfather’s form approaching along the road.
Sybil pulled at his arm. ‘Come on William,’ she shouted at him.
‘I thought I had forgotten him,’ he whispered. ‘But one look at his face and it has all come back.’
Clouds drifted across the night sky casting even darker shadows onto the road but the shadow of Robert Beamish was darker still as he paced slowly forward; the regular thump of the stick hitting the tarmac echoing off the buildings.
Gordon slammed and locked the door once they were all inside. ‘What the hell are we going to do?’
‘Calmly Gordon,’ Queenie urged him. Taking Kitty’s arm she pulled her back into the sitting room. ‘We’ll start again and this time we have William and we won’t fail.’
‘What difference is he going to make?’
Sybil pulled him and William into place around Kitty.
‘Don’t you see? This time one of his own blood will be casting him out.’
He looked at William’s shocked face. ‘Will he be alright to do that?’
‘Well, are you going to help Kitty?’ she asked William.
He shook himself and looked back at her.
‘That man was the devil incarnate, I will stop him,’ he said firmly. ‘He made my father’s life hell and I thought I was rid of him,’ he paused and added, ‘And this time I will be rid of him.’
He leant forward and gave Kitty an awkward hug. ‘I don’t know what the hell is happening but if Sybil and Queenie say that I have to do this then I will, they’ve been giving me orders since I was a child and it’s a habit hard to break.’
Queenie refilled the jar and placed three red berries in the salted water.
‘Rowan berries,’ she explained then gave the half filled jar to Kitty. ‘Good for you William, now hold onto it this time Kitty and we’ll start again.’
‘What about the candles sis?’
‘No time for that now,’ she pushed her damp hair away from her face. ‘Surround Kitty you three.’
Kitty shivered slightly and held the jar tightly to her chest. Gordon was breathing deeply as he stared around the room. The lights were still high and bright and no shadows had appeared in the corners.
‘Perhaps he won’t come back,’ he said hopefully looking at Queenie.
She cocked her head listening to the noises outside; the sound of the fox barking on the hill was carried by the breeze that blew in through the broken window.
Slow footsteps approached the house.
‘He’s coming,’ she said calmly.
Sybil reached out and grasped Gordon’s hand and took William’s hand to form a circle around Kitty.
‘Remember to imagine yourself surrounded by the blue light.’
They nodded in response and gripped each other’s hands. Gordon looked at his wife’s face, it was very pale but she looked determined. She caught him looking at her and smiled slightly in response.
‘Okay, it begins,’ said Queenie.
The breeze blowing in through the shattered windows became colder and stronger, whirling around the figures in the centre of the room, whipping their clothes and hair around them. But their hands held firm and they stayed in place, surrounding Kitty.
Her breath plumed out in front of her face and out the corner of her eye she could see a dark shadow rising in the corner of the room. As it grew, the lights dipped lower and lower until Kitty could only just make out Queenies face in front of her. Kitty gripped the jar firmly.
‘Now after me, 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.’
The shadow wavered and flowed around the walls of the room as they repeated the prayer after Queenie. William’s voice rang out with each word and each word making the shadow tremble and shudder.
She reached into her pocket and pulled out the bag of thorns.
‘Thou demon presence be no more,’ she called out against the buffeting wind and dropped a thorn into the water. As it hit the holy water a low groan rose from the ground beneath the house and grew in strength until it shrieked and raged around the room, homing in on Kitty, swirling around and around her until she could hardly breathe. The jar jerked in her hand and she clutched at it desperately.
‘Hold it tight Kitty,’ Gordon shouted at her.
Queenie reached across the linked hands and dropped another thorn into the water.
‘Thou demon presence be no more.’
The groaning and shrieking grew and Kitty’s shoulders slumped under a huge weight that began pressing on her and she fell to her knees.
‘Guardians of the spirit realm, hear us and guide us, remove all evil from our path and let your presence protect us, we beg you,’ Queenie shouted.
She reached forward and tried to pull Kitty to her feet.
‘Stand up, come on,’ Queenie urged, but the wind continued to buffet her kneeling figure.
Kitty cried out, ‘Help me I can’t do this.’
They stared in consternation at Kitty kneeling on the floor.
‘Get up,’ they urged her. ‘Come on you can do it.’
She shook her head weeping, terrified of the black shadows that were whirling and shrieking around her. Kitty closed her eyes in anguish and then felt a gentle touch on her hand, her eyelids flickered opened and she could see a pair of child’s hands over hers on the jar. The child smiled encouragingly at her and tightened her grip pulling Kitty to her feet. The tiny figure stood in front of her, insubstantial but yet she could feel her touch and feel the child’s breath on her face. The little girl smiled at her and nodded encouragingly, shadows moved across her face changing it subtly, aging it until Kitty recognised the lined face.
One that she knew so well.
Her face changed again reverting to her younger self. Ava smiled again and pressed Kitty’s hands tightly over the jar.
Queenie reached over their joined hands and dropped in the final thorn.
‘What is dark be filled with light,
remove this evil from our sight,
I bless this house in the name of God and banish all evil from this place,
in the name of God.’
The shadows wavered; a shrieking groan echoed around the room and then faded sinking into silence.
The room was still dark apart from the shaft of light that was Ava. The rainbow colours that made up her form danced and flickered in front of Kitty. Her face came in and out of focus with just her eyes remaining steady, fixed on her great grand-daughter.
‘It’s great- granny,’ Kitty whispered, her eyes spilling over with tears. Without thinking she relaxed her grip on the jar and it began to tilt, the precious holy water draining out of the top. Ava’s spirit shook her head in warning and she realised with a start that he had not gone. If her great- grandmother was still with her and then so must Robert.
Kitty looked away from Ava and stared at the others. ‘Careful,’ she whispered.
Queenie nodded looking around the room.
‘Is he gone, is that it? Gordon looked across at Kitty. ‘Are you alright?’ he asked anxiously.
She nodded. The breeze had dropped but the room was still freezing, they were all shivering from the shock and cold.
William released his grip on Sybil’s hand and wiped a shaking hand over his face.
‘Thank goodness it’s stopped.’ He touched Sybil gently on the shoulder. ‘Are you alright?’
She nodded. ‘It’s okay William, we’re doing fine but,’ she said glancing across at her sister. ‘I don’t think it’s over yet, is it?’
Queenie shook her head. ‘No, look at the jar,’ she said quietly.
The water in the jar was still clear and empty apart from the rose thorns and the red rowan berries.
‘He’s proving to be a bit more difficult than I had thought,’ she muttered.
‘What are you saying?’ blurted out Gordon. ‘Can’t you deal with him?’
‘Yes, yes,’ she rushed to reassure him. ‘But we must be on our guard, he’s not finished yet.’
‘You’re right,’ hissed Sybil. ‘Look behind you!’
Just behind Queenie a black spot appeared hovering just inches above the floor, the stink of rotting flesh grew stronger and a low moaning and scratching noise came from the centre of the expanding shadow.
A low guttural voice whispered ‘Bitch...bitch...not on my soil....not here...slut of a child.’
Kitty gagged and began to retch as the foul stink grew stronger around her.
Queenie jumped at the first sound of the voice and turned to face it.
The shadow coiled and writhed growing in size until it reached the ceiling and then began to sink back down condensing into a cloudy figure.
‘Robert, you have no business here,’ she commanded him.
‘Witch....’ it muttered. ‘Witch...not on my soil.....slut...child’
She reached into her pocket and pulled out a jar of salt and scattered a handful across the carpet in front of him.
‘I bless this house in the name of God,
I banish all evil spirits from this house, in the name of God.’
She raised her hand and threw the rest of the salt into the whispering shadow. It parted as the salt hit and then flowed back together; a hissing noise came from inside the mass of shadows and then the sound of chill laughter.
They all froze and Queenie staggered back as though hit by an unseen blow.
‘Bitch....old woman....stupid bitch....my soil.’
She backed slowly to the group behind her.
Sybil whispered to her ‘Are you okay?’
Queenie shook her head, sweat stood out on her forehead and her whole body was quivering.
‘Queenie,’ wavered Kitty. ‘What are we going to do?’
There was a second unseen blow and Queenie fell to her knees holding up her hands to protect her face as she gasped out, ‘I adjure thee, most evil spirit, by almighty God, begone!’
The shadowy figure did not halt; it slid slowly forward and flowed around her, engulfing her shaking body until she was almost hidden from sight.
‘No!’ wailed Sybil releasing her grip of the two men’s hands, she threw herself towards her sister on the ground.
‘Sybil!’ William shouted as the two sisters were lost in the shadow. A scream was heard from inside as they were thrown violently to the side of the room.
‘Sybil, no!’ he pulled Gordon forward and thrust him towards Kitty. ‘Look after her,’ and staggered forward to the two still figures lying on the carpet.
Looming over them stood Robert Beamish, fully formed and visible.
William faced the spectre of his grandfather.
To one side the spirit of Ava appeared and slowly on the other side of the old man another flickering shape appeared. He was hardly aware of the two figures flanking him, he stared into Robert’s face, a mirror image of his own but so different in nature.
‘No,’ William said firmly. ‘I can’t allow you to do this. Go! You’re not wanted here.’
The form of Robert writhed in the face of his accusing stare and mouthed silently at him.
‘No I won’t listen to you,’ William shouted. ‘You were an evil old bastard, and damn it you still are! Go away and leave us in peace.’
‘Mine.. .’ he whispered glaring malevolently at William. ‘Mine....mine,’ it got louder with each word until it was shrieking ‘Mine... mine...’
‘You stupid old man, this isn’t your land, it’s mine! Mine! Do you hear me?’William shouted into his grandfather’s face. ‘You do not belong here, you are not welcome. These are my friends; I will not allow you to hurt them.’ William paused as Robert’s shade writhed under the hail of his words. ‘Now go!’ he commanded.
Robert’s body shook and trembled, the cloud forming his body began to dissipate into a fine mist that floated slowly up getting thinner and thinner before descending rapidly back to the floor.
Kitty pushed Gordon off and threw herself and the jar under the falling stream of mist before it disappeared back into the soil from where it came. The essence of Robert’s spirit was sucked inside by the age old magic of the thorns and the rowan berries and was imprisoned in the Holy water.
Gordon grabbed the lid from the table, slammed it on and screwed it down.
Inside the black shadows writhed and twisted against the glass, in constant motion searching for a way out of its prison.
‘Did you get him?’ a shaky voice asked from the floor.
Queenie and Sybil were sprawled across each other in a tangle of arms and legs. Sybil half rolled off of her sister and sat up groaning, she pushed a curl out of her eyes and stared shakily up at them. ‘Has he gone?’
Kitty held up the jar. ‘Look,’ she said triumphantly.
Queenie lay back on the floor. ‘Oh thank God,’ she said weakly. ‘What a bugger!’
‘Queenie! Language,’ said Sybil primly struggling to get up.
William hurried over and helped her up. ‘Sybil,’ he said ‘What can I say? All this trouble from him,’ he blinked back a tear. ‘I thought you had been hurt.’ He looked at Queenie who was still lying on the carpet. ‘Are you hurt?’ he asked suddenly worried.
She grinned at him. ‘No dear just getting my breath,’ she extended her hand. ‘Wouldn’t mind a bit of help though.’
He smiled and pulled her to her feet.
Queenie looked at him and gently patted him on the arm. ‘You shouldn’t feel guilty, this isn’t your fault, you don’t have to carry his guilt you know.’
He nodded and pulled a handkerchief from his trouser pocket and blew his nose. ‘But he was family Queenie; I do feel responsible for all this.’
‘Well you shouldn’t dear,’ Sybil put her arms around him and kissed his cheek. ‘You’re a good man William, you’ve nothing to feel guilty about,’ she added firmly. She looked down at Kitty who was still knelt on the floor with the jar held in front of her; she was staring fixedly at the writhing black shadows trapped inside.
‘Umm, Queenie,’ she nodded at Kitty and raised an eyebrow.
‘Oh yes,’ she replied and quickly took the jar from Kitty’s hands. ‘I’ll have that dear.’
Queenie walked away from her and put the jar carefully on the table. ‘There, it can sit there for a minute.’
Gordon picked up the chairs and pushed Kitty into one. He knelt down in front of her and stared into her glazed eyes. ‘Kitty? Are you okay?’ he lifted a hand and smoothed her tousled hair back from her face. ‘Kitty?’ he repeated.
She blinked and looked at him blankly for a minute before smiling faintly. ‘I’m fine Gordon.’
‘Thank goodness, I was getting worried,’ he said relieved. ‘Sit here and I’ll get something for us to drink; I need one after all this!’
Queenie and Sybil joined her around the table.
‘What a good idea Gordon. Whiskey if you have some.’
‘Sherry?’ asked Sybil.
‘I’ll have a look, it’s not something we usually drink but there may be some in the cupboard.’
He looked nervously at the black shadow in the jar. ‘He will stay in there?’
Sybil nodded and looked at William who was still hovering over her.
‘Come and sit down,’ she pulled out a chair for him and patted the seat. ‘Come on dear.’
He sat down slowly, still looking very shocked. He stared across the table at Kitty who was sitting hunched over, with her arms wrapped tightly around her waist. She was still staring blankly at the jar.
He looked at the swirling mass inside.
‘Will somebody please explain now?’
The two sisters looked at each other. ‘You or me?’ said Sybil.
‘I’ll do it, I’ll be more succinct. You tend to waffle dear. Well,’ she started ‘I suppose you’ve heard about Hannah?’ she looked at him raising an eyebrow. William nodded. ‘Hannah was accused of being a witch by a local farmer.’
He nodded impatiently. ‘Yes, yes. I know that, Kitty told me.’
‘It was Robert who paid the white witch to get rid of her.’
William stared at Queenie. ‘That was my grandfather?’ he looked across at Kitty. ‘You didn’t tell me it was him.’
‘We didn’t know then, Sybil told us yesterday.’
William rubbed his chin. ‘Go on,’ he said.‘Robert spread a lot of nasty tales about her, killing animals, blighting crops that sort of thing. Now whether he killed her or the white witch did, nobody really knows for certain but for myself I think he did it. But the man, Evans I think his name was, was paid one hundred pounds, which was a lot of money in those days. Anyway, to cut a long story short Kitty’s great grandmother Ava worked for Robert when she was young girl and she was friends with Hannah. At the inquest Ava testified that she had seen Robert threatening to kill Hannah but her evidence was discounted. It seems the whole matter was hushed up, Hannah’s death was put down as water on the brain. Robert never forgot or forgave Ava for standing up in court and denouncing him and Robert’s spirit took exception to Ava’s descendant returning to live on his land.’ Queenie looked at him calmly. ‘And you saw for yourself how he felt about it.’
William still looked confused. ‘Is this why you were asking all those questions about Hannah and Samuel?’
‘Oh,’ he stared at his hands clenched on the table. ‘And you think Hannah was murdered?’ he asked the three women.
‘I know this has been a shock William,’ Sybil leant towards him in concern. ‘But the circumstances surrounding her death were very strange.’
‘Yes,’ interrupted Kitty. ‘Her body was found hanging over a branch of a tree, and there was blood inside the cottage. In the account we found it was believed that she was killed by the devil himself.’
‘By the devil himself,’ he repeated quietly to himself looking blankly at the wall.
Sybil gently took his hand. ‘Now nobody is saying that Robert was the devil. Ah Gordon,’ she said looking towards the door. ‘That’s well timed; I think that William could do with a stiff drink.’
Gordon came in with a tray of glasses and a full bottle of whiskey. He looked at William’s pale face and poured a tumbler full of whiskey and put in front of him.
‘There you go, now,’ he said turning to Sybil. ‘No sherry I’m afraid, it’s going to have to be this.’ He filled four glasses and handed them out.
He lifted his glass. ‘Thank goodness that’s over with.’
‘Indeed,’ agreed William sipping his whiskey, he coughed slightly. ‘I’m not used to drinking whiskey.’ He took another gulp. ‘But this is going down well.’
Queenie drained her glass in one gulp and waved the empty glass at Gordon.
‘Nice, could do with a bit more though Gordon.’
Kitty was nursing her glass in clasped hands and staring blankly at the wall, Gordon looked across at her anxiously and put his hand on her shoulder. He squeezed it, ‘Are you feeling okay?’
She didn’t answer but suddenly leant forward and chinked her glass against the jar.
‘Up yours Robert!’ she said firmly. She looked up and met Queenies quizzical gaze. ‘Well?’ she asked defiantly.
There was a stunned silence for a while until the two sisters started laughing.
‘I agree with that,’ said Gordon grinning slightly. They started laughing and all raised their glasses in the toast.
Gordon knelt down next to her and put his arms around her. ‘Thank God that’s all over, I’ve been so worried about you.’
She didn’t answer, just put her arms around his neck and rested her head against his shoulder.
‘A witch though! How ridiculous,’ said William after a while.
Gordon straightened up and gave Kitty a kiss on the top of her head. ‘Yes and apparently she could turn herself into a hare!’ he said with smile.
‘Now that is ridiculous,’ agreed Queenie taking another sip of her whiskey. ‘A hare of all things, in the country as well. Is it jugged hare or jugged rabbit that they are so fond of around here?’ she asked her sister.
Sybil thought for a while. ‘Both, I think,’ she said rather muzzily. Her cheeks had gone a delicate shade of pink.
‘Are you alright Sybil?’ asked Queenie grinning.
‘I’m not used to whiskey you know. Nice bit of meat on a hare,’ she continued. ‘Makes a good pie. She wouldn’t turn herself in to a hare.’ Her eyes were slightly out of focus and Queenie prudently took the glass away from her.
‘I think you’ve had enough, Sybil.’
Gordon thoughtfully stared at Queenie while toying with his glass.
‘Why didn’t he just arrange an ‘accident’ instead of trumping up anything as ridiculous as that, accusing her of witchcraft of all things!’
Queenie glanced across the table at Sybil who was staring blearily at him.
‘Well... what do you call a witch? Black pointy hat and broomstick?’
He stared at her and smiled but his smile faded when he saw the serious expression on her sister’s face.
‘What?’ he asked flatly.
‘It’s difficult to explain but Hannah had certain abilities, shall we say, and she used this power to heal and her knowledge of herbs was well, amazing. Some people would view this as witchcraft I suppose.’ Queenie looked Gordon sternly in the eye. ‘She was a good woman and never harmed anybody and until Robert started all this fuss it was never a problem, they were grateful enough when they needed her.’
‘I think they just turned a blind eye. I say Gordon do you think I could have a coffee, that whiskey has gone straight to my head,’ asked Sybil.
‘Yes of course,’ he seemed confused for a minute, gathered his thoughts and got up slowly from the table. ‘So you mean after all this,’ he said indignantly. ‘She was a bloody witch?’
‘Gordon!’ exclaimed Sybil in distress. ‘She looked after so many people in the village and beyond, they used to come from miles around to get her advice. It was a black day when the village lost Hannah, in more ways than one.’
He looked apologetic. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that Sybil. Look I’ll just go and make some coffee, I’m having problems thinking straight,’ he hesitated and tried to speak calmly ‘I think the milk has gone off so it will have to be black.’
‘That will be fine.’ she turned to William who had been unusually silent while they talked. ‘Do you need a coffee?’
‘Oh yes I think I had better, I’m having problems thinking straight as well.’ he frowned to himself and went on slowly ‘Kitty, do you remember you were talking about Samuel’s death? How he drowned?’ He stared across the table at Queenie. ‘Did Robert have a hand in that as well?’
She looked uncomfortable and took another sip of her drink before answering.
‘Oh dear, I’m sorry William, but yes I think he probably did.’
He sat back in his chair and closed his eyes for a minute. ‘No wonder father never said anything about his death, mother never mentioned it either, the bastard,’ he added feelingly. ‘His own brother. What a monster.’
‘I wonder why he was like that?’ mused Kitty. ‘What made him become so ...well,’ she hesitated.
‘Evil?’ added William.
‘Sorry, but yes.’
He shook his head. ‘Bad blood, but there was nobody else in the family like that, so why he would turn out like it... strange,’ he mused sadly.
Gordon returned with a tray of coffee. ‘I’ve made coffee for everybody,’ he said. ‘And I found some biscuits as well.’ he placed the tray on the table and glanced around the table. ‘You’re all looking very glum, what have I missed?’
‘We were discussing Samuel,’ said Kitty.
‘Oh,’ he said thoughtfully and looked across at William. ‘I’m sorry.’
He looked up. ‘That’s alright Gordon, but I just never knew about any of this’ he stared at the jar on the table. ‘And what are we going to do with that?’
Queenie stirred a couple of spoonfuls of sugar into her coffee.
‘Well,’ she said staring about the rubbish strewn room. ‘I need my bag for that.’
Kitty eventually found it behind the sofa, she handed it over after giving it a vigorous shake.
‘Be careful it’s covered in little shards of glass.’
Queenie took it carefully and opened it, a shower of window glass scattered over the table.
‘Oh dear look at all this,’ she looked around the room. ‘I’m afraid your front room is in a bit of a mess.’
The window frame had splintered and was hanging half way into the room, the curtain rail had come down and there were strange scorch marks on the carpet. Gordon looked around at the mess.
‘Never mind,’ he said slowly. ‘It’s nothing that can’t be fixed, and,’ he added brightly ‘I didn’t like the carpet anyway.’ Gordon looked apologetically at Kitty. ‘Sorry dear.’
Kitty shrugged. ‘Doesn’t matter.’ she watched Queenie pull out a bundle of small sticks from her bag. ‘What are those for?’
She separated the bundle and pulled out one of the sticks. ‘Well,’ she held it up. ‘This is rowan.’ She found another. ‘This is holly and this,’ she held up one covered in thorns. ‘This is bramble.’
‘They are all very effective in holding evil at bay.’ Queenie started spacing the sticks around the jar and tying them on with red thread. ‘This will hold him inside the jar.’
Gordon sipped his coffee and watched.
‘Don’t look like that Gordon,’ she said without looking up.
‘I didn’t say anything!’ he protested but he carried on. ‘What happens if the jar breaks?’
‘We’re going to put it somewhere really safe.’
‘We’re going to put him where he should be,’ she said firmly with a wicked glint in her eye.
Sybil nodded. ‘I hope the village will be quiet, we don’t want anybody watching us.’
Gordon looked at them and winced slightly. ‘Oh dear, what have you got in mind?’
‘We’re going to put the jar into his grave,’ Queenie said firmly. She looked at William. ‘Any objections?’
‘Not from me,’ he said quietly.
Kitty sipped her coffee thoughtfully. ‘And he’ll stay in the jar?’
She nodded. ‘Oh yes he’ll stay trapped in there.’
‘For all eternity,’ added Sybil. ‘It doesn’t seem like a very nice thing to do to him but,’ she looked around, ‘I don’t think we want to go through this again do we?’
They nodded in agreement and Gordon reached across the table and squeezed Kitty’s hand.
‘I wouldn’t want you or the girls to have to experience this again.’
‘You’ll be able to move back into the house and know that everything will be okay,’ Queenie smiled at them both and nodded in satisfaction. ‘Although you will have to do a few repairs.’
‘I can help with that Gordon,’ William held up his hand when he started to protest. ‘No, no, I insist, it’s the least I can do for you both.’
Kitty smiled at him. ‘That is so kind of you, and we would be happy for you to help, wouldn’t we?’ she looked at her husband for confirmation.
‘I wouldn’t want to lose you as a neighbour, either of you.’ William smiled at Kitty as he spoke.
She impulsively got up and went round the table to give him a hug. ‘William, if it hadn’t been for me moving back in you wouldn’t have known about any of this. It must be so upsetting for you.’
William patted her on the back. ‘That’s alright Kitty, this isn’t your fault.’
Queenie looked at her watch ‘It’s getting late, let’s get on with it shall we?’ She picked up the twig covered jar and put in her bag. She slung it over her shoulder and helped Sybil to her feet. ‘Okay Sybil, sobered up yet?’
‘I’m fine now,’ her sister straightened her clothes and smoothed her hair carefully. ‘I’m just not used to strong alcohol.’
‘Me neither,’ said William taking her arm. ‘Come on dear, we can hold each other up.’
Gordon helped Kitty put her jacket on then patted his pockets.
‘Where did I put the keys?’
He headed back into the kitchen and called through a few minutes later. ‘Found them, next to the boiler.’ He took his coat off the end of the banister and shrugged it on. ‘Right, so it’s down to the graveyard?’
Queenie nodded and opened the front door.
Do you remember where his grave is?’ asked Sybil suddenly. ‘Because I can’t and I don’t fancy wandering around there all night trying to find it.’
Gordon paused in the doorway looking out into the dark night.
‘I have a torch in the garage,’ he looked outside. ‘And it’s pitch black out here now so I think we’re going to need it. A dark graveyard isn’t my idea of fun you know,’ he looked at his wife. ‘Does Kitty need to come? Perhaps it would be better if she waited in the car.’
Queenie walked over to his car and opened the back door.
‘Stop fussing Gordon and yes I do know where it is Sybil, and yes, a torch would be a good idea and a spade if you have one. There,’ she sighed. ‘Did I answer everybody’s question?’
She looked around enquiringly. ‘Yes? Good let’s go.’