Tim McGuigan, solicitor and reluctant trustee turned to Kane. “Can you see any ghosts here?”
Kane looked around the dusty flat. “Hang on a minute, sir.” He moved slowly around the living room and pushed into the bedroom.
“The old lady died in hospital,” Tim said. “I suppose her spirit might have returned here.”
“You have her will, don’t you?” Kane asked.
Tim sighed deeply. “I think that Ms Beresford had a sharp sense of humour and hated her relatives. I have the will. I’m looking for the codicil.”
“Co da what?” Kane peered reluctantly into the bathroom and then returned to the living room.
Tim followed him. “It’s a legal addition to the will that is kept with the original will under normal circumstances.” There was an edge to his voice. “This is not normal circumstances.” He paused and then shrugged helplessly. “You may as well know. I loathe breeching client confidentiality, but I think any clue will help you. And Ms Beresford wasn’t exactly my client. She had already lodged the will when I bought the practice.”
“So you never met her?” Kane asked.
“No,” Tim said. “But I’m getting an idea of her. The will listed individual requests to her carers, made allowance for bills, taxes and payment for the funeral, and then said, and I quote, ‘the remainder of my goods and chattels to be divided among my relatives as stated in the list dated 14th November 2007, with the remainder to be sold and the proceeds to go to my nominated charity together with any money or monies remaining.’ I have memorised the dratted thing.”
“Is that a problem?” Kane asked.
“Look around. Somewhere there is a detailed list of who gets what of the art.” Tim shook his head. “That’s an original Hockney, and that’s a Moore. The art in here is worth a fortune. And then there’s the collected first editions of books. Some of them are worth thousands. All of her relatives are clamouring to get their share of the…” Tim’s training asserted itself. “I mean, they want to be able to have whatever legacy is due to them. And the charity has pitbulls for their legal team. My receptionist handed in her notice yesterday.” He turned to Kane. “Can your Auntie help? I know that she’s found people that are, you know, passed over in the past?”
Kane shook his head. “She’s fading,” he said. “She’s getting ready to pass over. I’m going to miss her, but it’s only right.”
“I’m sorry,” Tim said, patting the young lad’s shoulder.
“It’s okay,” Kane said. “I’m sort of ready.”
Tim smiled sadly, then looked around. “I don’t know what my predecessor was thinking. I mean, there could be artwork worth over a million pounds here, and we have no idea who should receive it. We’re going to have to store it, insure it and still try and find that list. He must have been mad. I can’t think what made him agree to that sort of madness.”
“You’d be surprised,” a voice behind Kane said.
Kane turned. The ghost was of an older woman with bright orange hair and wearing a pink velour tracksuit. “Ms Beresford?” he asked.
“That’s me!” she said. “As for how I persuaded the solicitor – I may have passed my prime, but there were a few tricks in the old dog yet. You see, Mr Clough had a weakness for…”
Kane desperately tried to cover his ears as Ms Beresford started to explain in minute detail exactly how she had persuaded the former solicitor. “It’s okay, you don’t need to tell me.” He turned to Tim. “She used sex.”
Tim looked at the embarrassment glowing from Kane. “I can tell. Has she appeared?”
“Yes,” Kane said. He turned to the outrageous lady. “Why did you hide the list for the relatives?”
“None of them have done a day’s work in their lives,” Ms Beresford said. “I thought it would do them no harm to exert themselves to find the list.”
“But they can’t come here until the list has been found,” Kane pointed out. “It’s Mr McGuigan that has to do the work, and he’s done nothing to you.”
Ms Beresford frowned. “But at least that shiftless lot will have to wait a while, and that’s something.”
Kane relayed the information to Tim and then turned to Ms Beresford. “How did you choose which charity to leave it to?”
“I chose a big one for the main will with a royal sponsor,” Ms Beresford said. “It was more or less at random. But the trustees are legally obliged to get the best deal possible for the charity, so they have to fight to keep the will as written.”
“Very clever,” Tim said after Kane had explained.
“It’s the cats’ shelter that I really valued, and I managed to put a decent amount their way when I was alive,” Ms Beresford said. Her ghostly face softened. “I helped out there, years ago. I’ve never forgotten.” She looked into her past. “I’ve always been a bit adventurous, with sex, but this was with love and it was different. I’ve always wondered what happened to her.”
“Did you leave anything to her?” Kane asked.
“I didn’t know where to start looking,” Ms Beresford sighed. “Besides, I could have more fun thinking about the useless lot scrambling for their pennies. They’ve ran up credit cards and loans waiting for me to die. The longer they wait, the more the interest will eat up the portion they get. And I’m going nowhere. Not until I see them work for it.”
Kane turned to Tim and moved a little aside. “I don’t think that I can persuade her,” he said. “Do you think you could arrange for the relatives to come and look?”
Tim stared at him. “It would be a riot. I’ve met the relatives, and while I’m not happy about being stuck in the middle, I don’t blame Ms Beresford for a second. They are…” His solicitor training kicked in. “They are difficult.”
“I suppose we could start looking,” Kane looked around.
“There are hundreds of books, all perfectly sized to have a small list in them,” Tim said. “The list could be inside the cushion of a chair or sofa, but we can’t do anything destructive because that would reduce the value of the estate and, trust me, those relatives would sue.”
“Perhaps we can go and get a coffee and plan what to do next,” Kane said. He looked at the smug shade of Ms Beresford.
He was interrupted as the ghost of Auntie Brenda shot into the room. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere! April’s had her baby and it’s a girl!”
Kane sighed in relief. “Are they both alright?”
“They are both fine,” Auntie Brenda assured him. “She’s a bit tired, poor kid, but the little girl is doing fine – a bonnie 7lb 4oz and they’re calling her Louise.”
“That’s a lovely name,” Kane said. He turned to Tim. “Sorry, it’s Auntie Brenda’s ghost. She brought some news…” he trailed off as he caught a glimpse of the expression on Ms Beresford’s ghostly face.
Ms Beresford was staring at Auntie Brenda, who was staring back. Auntie Brenda took a step forward. “Jocasta?”
“Brenda?” Ms Beresford’s ghost had lost all semblance of colour. “Is it really you?”
“I’m so sorry,” Auntie Brenda said, her voice suddenly younger. “But you know what my family was like and they whisked me away.”
“I tried to find you,” Ms Beresford said, her voice breaking, “But it was no good.” She took a deep breath. “I behaved disgracefully.”
“So did I,” Auntie Brenda said, and laughed her deep, throaty laugh. “Thank goodness we did!” She turned to Kane. “It’s time for me to go. Give April my blessing.”
Kane watched the two women fading gently. “Where is the list!?”
“Bedside table on the left, second drawer down, taped to the underside of the drawer,” Ms Beresford said over her shoulder before turning back to Auntie Brenda. “I can’t wait to hear all about it!”
Then they were gone.
Tim listened patiently as Kane tried to explain what had happened. The solicitor shook his head as he carefully removed the bedside table’s drawer. “It sounds like they are about to cause trouble wherever they end up,” he said. “I did a bit of research on Ms Beresford, and she did a lot of good on the quiet, while being very loud on the scandal.”
“Auntie Brenda fostered kids,” Kane said, “And she did her best even with the hardest ones.”
Tim neatly unpacked the contents of the drawer onto the dusty bed and then turned the drawer over. He started taking pictures with his phone as he eased off the yellowing envelope and pulled the flap open. “I can’t be too careful,” he said. “Ms Beresford’s family are not nice people.” He glanced over the list and his jaw dropped. “Look at this!” She’s listed everyone of her living relatives, with a family tree – look- and left them each a teaspoon. That’s it. One decorative teaspoon. It says that there’s a drawer full in the kitchen and she got them cheap from an auction house.” Tim looked at Kane, wide eyed. “And all the art and valuables are listed, and they’re all left to different charities.” He grinned. “There are a lot of cat charities listed.”
“The family are going to be furious, aren’t they?” Kane said.
Tim stared at the list as if he was holding a ticking bomb. “I think I’ll stick to zoom meetings for this. It might be safer.”