Not Haunted

“It’s not haunted.” Darren stalked into the flat’s entrance hall.

DC Hines flinched as a moan echoed through the flat. “Are you sure about that?”

Darren gave him an impatient look. “Yes, it’s just magical effects. I’m just here as a favour to your boss.”

The air temperature dropped and, despite the lights, it seemed a little darker. DC Hines swallowed. “How dangerous is this?”

Darren appeared unaffected. “It’s just like watching a video. It’s nothing.”

DC Hines looked around. “I’ve got the warrant. All we need to do is find the disc.” He quickly checked the bathroom. “Normally I take a team-” He flinched as a growl sounded at his shoulder. Darren ignored it and moved into the living room.

“It’s not ideal to get a team in here,” he said. “And the effects are likely to increase the longer we are here. We need to get a move on.”

“Isn’t there anything you can do?” DC Hines asked, checking the toilet cistern and taking a quick look behind the bath panel.

“It’s magic.” Darren said. “It’s not my field.”

“But you don’t seem affected by it.” DC Hines said, trailing after Darren and then coming to an appalled halt in front of the shelves of discs. He swore.

“I’ve seen it all before.” Darren said, glancing around. “And, fortunately for us, it was done by an amateur.”

DC Hines opened the first of the cupboards. “I’m going to need a team to get all these out,” he said. “I mean, there are thousands and he’s going to argue about every single disc.” He started taking photos, his hands shaking a little at the deep growls.

“We haven’t time.” Darren said. “There’s too much at stake. Stand still, for heaven’s sake.”

DC Hines watched as Darren paced slowly around the room, the growls rising and falling as he moved. “What’s going on?” He retched as a foul stench wafted through the air.

Darren shook his head. “What a complete amateur.” He kicked over the large potted plant on the floor by the cabinets and pulled out a large knife from his jacket.

“Is that knife legal?” DC Hines asked.

Darren ignored him and prised off the base of the plant pot. “The growls got stronger when I got near to this.” He grimaced. “And the stinkbomb was set off.” He pulled out a small, plastic wrapped package from the dirt underneath the plant. The knife slit the packaging with unnerving ease and a clear case containing a single, unmarked disc fell out. “It’s how I knew where to look. Like I said, a complete amateur.” He handed the case to DC Hines. “We can check it in the car, away from the special effects.”

DC Hines, swallowed, nodded and moved with speed towards the door. “Thank goodness he was old school.”

“That’s vampires for you.” Darren said, following DC Hines out of the door and shutting it carefully behind him. “Just be thankful it wasn’t on reels of tape.”

Being Careful

I reluctantly answered the phone. Kay was my best friend, but I knew what she would say. “Hi.”

“Thank goodness you are safe.” Kay sighed. “One day you will look before you leap. There could have been anything waiting for you.”

“I’m fine.” I said. “And I did a lot of research.”

Kay snorted. “Looking on Google maps isn’t research.”

“It’s just as I expected.” I leaned back against a packing case. “The rented house needs a major clean, the library I’m supposed to sort out is a mess and my employer is sort of a sweetie but hasn’t a clue.”

Kay laughed. “Trust you to fall on your feet. How you have got through life in one piece is a mystery. You just charge at things without ever considering what might go wrong and somehow find things working out.”

“There are some amazing books in the library.” I said. “There’s some volumes that are so rare and antique that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a catalogue. I’m going to be busy for a while, and the pay is great.”

“I’m really pleased for you.” Kay said. “Anyway, the reason I called was your housewarming present. I know it’s only rental, but it’s a new home. If you look in your blue case, tucked into the top corner, you’ll find a package. Go and get it. And when you find it, please be sensible!”

I found the blue case on the bottom of the pile, of course, and found the small packet Kay had tucked there for a surprise. Wrapped in blue paper, with a long list of safety precautions, was a candle with my favourite scent. I set it on a sturdy packing case, lit it with the matches Kay had included, and sat back. The uncertainty and homesickness slipped away and I spent a few moments appreciating Kay’s kindness before getting on with the cleaning – taking due precautions around the lit candle, of course.

Countryside

“Is it definitely this way?” I was sure I had stepped in something squishy.

“Hmm?” Charles walked forward a little. “Yes, the man in the shop said it was along here.”

The man in the shop was fine with Charles but never seemed to take to me. Conversations paused as I walked in and he asked me if I wanted any ‘special orders, like them olives?’ and looked somewhat disappointed at my purchase of potatoes and carrots. “Did he say how far?” It felt like I had walked miles.

“Not far.” Charles looked around and took a happy breath. “That’s wild garlic over there. We could cook with it.”

I stumbled over a lump in the path. “Only if we get it away from where people walk their dogs.”

Charles laughed. “You wait until I get the garden sorted.”

That was the deal. He sorted out the garden, I dealt with the house. We had moved in too fast. Really the whole place needed to be gutted. The wallpaper was older than me and I didn’t like to speculate about the plumbing. “It’ll be great.”

“Look, it’s just down here.” Charles strode ahead.

I waved away the midges from my face and followed. The dim green tunnel of the lane opened up and then I was in the sunlight and looking over the incredible view. Woodland mixed with patchwork fields and the sun slanted down on the glowing, late spring landscape. I glanced at Charles and the delight on his face was as strong as the sunshine as he took a deep, refreshing breath of country air. The tension in his shoulders had gone and there was a sparkle in his eyes. Moving to the country was definitely worth it.