Daisy shifted nervously in her seat. “Grandpapa, are you sure about this?”
Her husband held her hand. “It’s okay. We’re doing the right thing.”
“It’s okay for you, Russ, you didn’t grow up with Grandpapa.”
“He’s not exactly your grandfather, though, is he?” Russ said. “I mean, he’s your great-great-great grandfather. And he’s old enough to know his own mind.”
Daisy looked across at the ghost sitting next to the fire. It was an open fire, hissing softly with the smokeless coal they had to use in this part of the city. Grandpapa had never countenanced changing to central heating. “But it seems so final.”
“I know what I’m doing, girl.” Grandpapa puffed on his ghostly pipe. “But I’ve stayed here long enough.”
“Is it about Mrs Henderson?” Russ asked.
“Russ!” Daisy hissed.
“I’ll have you know that I was always faithful to my wife, your grandmama…”
“Great-great-great grandmother,” Russ whispered to Daisy.
“… but I do admit that when Mrs Henderson moved in next door I was struck by her character.” Grandpapa ignored Russ’s comment. “And, yes, now that she has passed over, it has made me think that perhaps I should go and join my Millie…”
“Or Mrs Henderson” Russ murmured to Daisy.
“If you don’t mind.” Grandpapa snorted. “It’s time to join my Millie. I just hope you found someone suitable to take my case.”
“Are you sure you need help, Grandpapa?” Russ asked. “Can you not just, I don’t know, decide?”
Grandpapa shifted awkwardly. “I’ve not had any luck so far.” He admitted. “I may be a special case.” He puffed on his pipe again, enjoying the thought. “But hopefully you have engaged a suitable specialist, one who can manage matters with appropriate dignity.”
“He is the only one we could find,” Daisy said. The thought of the familiar, irritating figure disappearing left her unsettled. “But three separate people said he was very good. All the other people we asked were, well, fakes.”
“And he isn’t asking a fortune, like some of them out there.” Russ added. “If he can’t help us, it will have to be a priest.”
“No priests!” Grandpapa snapped. “I don’t approve of them. The old vicar ran off with his secretary and his replacement cooked the books.”
Daisy and Russ exchanged worried glances. There were plenty of stories about bad priests, but who else could get rid of ghosts? Daisy waved her hand at the table. “Are you sure we need to have this ready for him?”
Grandpapa snorted, “Anyone who can get rid of me will be a man of some courage, a man of discernment, a man of taste and refinement. It won’t be some teddy boy in a silly jacket or one of those punk mohicans. He will be a gentleman.”
Russ looked over the small table set aside for the ‘ghost whisperer’. “I hope he smokes.”
“All gentlemen smoke.” Grandpapa said. “Or they should. A man should be able to choose a good cigar. That’s how you can tell the quality of a gentleman. It may make all the difference in whether he accepts the case or walks away. And have you water for the whisky? I know we have soda, but some of the old guard take water with their whisky.”
Daisy and Russ avoided looking at each other. Grandpapa was becoming more and more out of touch, but Daisy had had the opinionated ghost in the background all her life and Russ had grown to love the old man – more or less. Neither could imagine the house without him. But now that the sprightly and scandalous Mrs Henderson had gone, a spark had gone out of the old spirit and he had become quieter and a little less visible. They jumped as the doorbell echoed through the room.
“Don’t keep him waiting!” Grandpapa said, “Or he may realise we no longer have staff! Go on – answer the door!”
Daisy and Russ raced into the hall and then paused at the door. Daisy looked at Russ. “If we open this door, we won’t be able to stop it.”
“If we don’t open the door, Grandpapa will carry on being miserable.” Russ said, “And he’ll make our lives miserable with it.” He looked at the door as if seeing it for the first time. “But I know what you mean.”
The doorbell rang again. “Open the damn door!” Grandpapa roared from the sitting room.
Daisy swallowed and, despite shaking fingers, opened the door. “Oh!” She looked at the skinny lad in the thin jacket and supermarket jeans and wondered what Grandpapa would say about this.
“Mr and Mrs Smyth? I’m Kane Thelwell. We spoke on the phone about a ghost.” Kane smiled nervously. “May I come in?”