Kane’s story can be read from the beginning here.
“I’m so sorry to involve you,” Adele said. “But I was finding it…” She trailed off and looked unseeingly past Kane and through the window behind him. “I’m hoping that it will be nothing and I can pull myself together.”
Kane managed a reassuring smile. “It’s okay. Sometimes it can be noises in the pipes, or mice. I’ve been called out to all sorts of places, and it isn’t always ghosts.”
Adele relaxed a little. “You were recommended by someone from my aunts’ church,” she said. “He said that you were more sensible than the usual ‘ghostbuster’ and I didn’t need to worry.” She hesitated. “But you will tell me if you see anything? Even if it’s not what you think that I want to hear?”
Kane nodded. “It’s always easier to deal with the truth,” he said. “Why don’t you tell me a little about the background?”
Adele ushered him into the immaculate, if old fashioned, kitchen. “I was brought up by my aunts,” she said. “It’s sort of complicated. My father was their half-brother, and twenty years younger than them, after his father’s second marriage. And he was quite old when I was born…” Again she trailed off, staring into space. She forced herself back into the present and flashed a brief smile at Kane. “I was two when my parents died and my aunts were in their late fifties. Neither of them had married but had lived here since they inherited from their parents.” She glanced around. “It was all that they had ever known.” She paused again.
“It must have been a challenge for everyone,” Kane said quietly into the silence.
“I suppose so,” Adele said. “I think that they did their best, but it was…” She looked down at the cup of tea she was clutching. “They didn’t approve of modern clothing, or music, or make up or anything. I mean, they grew up in the sixties, but it was like they were Victorian. But they did their best. And they really encouraged me at school. They didn’t understand computers, but they still bought me top of the range kit with all the extras.” Adele paused again. “They understood some things, though. I was always allowed privacy. That was more than many of my friends had. After I was about nine or ten, they said that my room was mine alone. They wouldn’t go in there. And they didn’t. I suppose it’s because they insisted on keeping their own space. They were always fair.” Adele swallowed. “I was never allowed in the attic. They said it was their space, just like my room was my space. Even after they passed, a few months ago, I didn’t want to go up. And that’s where the noises come from.”
“Are you worried that their spirits may be there?” Kane asked. “I’m sorry to ask, but how did they die?”
“Covid,” Adele said. “They were both elderly, it was the start of the pandemic before any of the vaccines, and they were already frail. They never had a chance.” She swallowed again. “I really miss them, even though we had been arguing. They weren’t sure about my boyfriend.”
“What does he think?” Kane asked.
Adele managed another smile. “He dumped me when I wouldn’t sell the house. The aunts were right about him. Sometimes I really miss them.” She looked up at Kane. “I’m sorry to be so maudlin. I suppose that you’re used to it.” She looked a little closer at the slight young man sitting opposite her. “How did you start with this? Mr Eastham said that you had a lot of experience.”
Kane smiled. “I’ve always been able to see ghosts. I just got into the way of helping people out. I can’t make ghosts do what I want,” he added, “but sometimes they listen to me. I usually pass on messages so that they can rest.”
“I’m sure that the relatives are grateful,” Adele said.
Kane thought for a moment. “It depends,” he said, trying to be tactful. “You meet all sorts, but it has its rewards.” He set his cup down and stood up. “I’d like to see the room, please.”
The stairs from the hall to the bedrooms were wide and sweeping but the stairs up to the attic room were cramped and twisted. Kane followed Adele as she forced herself up the final flight, her back straight and determined as she pushed open the solid wood door and walked forward. “Come in,” she said. “This is where the noises are coming from.”
Kane stepped past her and looked around. It was a snug room, a little dusty now, but you could see the good order shining through. There was a table in the centre of the room with two dusty glasses still on them. Two wing backed chairs were placed either side with cushions placed to support an elderly back. Footstools to help creaky knees were placed neatly to the side. There was an old-fashioned radio sat on top of a huge mahogany bookcase and small lap blankets and shawls folded on a rack in the corner. Kane braced himself as he saw the two ghosts of elderly ladies sitting upright and prim in the faded chairs. “Good morning,” he said politely.
“He can see us, Elsie.” The taller of the two ghosts stood and nodded. “Good morning, young man. I’m very glad to see you.”
“Do you know, Mildred, I thought that we would be here forever.” Elsie stood next to her sister and smoothed down her insubstantial skirt before turning to Kane. “I hope you wiped your feet before coming up here.”
“Yes, miss,” Kane looked nervously between the two ghosts. “And Adele showed me where to wash my hands.”
Mildred snorted. “That is as maybe. Well, now that you’re finally here, we have a message before we can get away.”
“It was all very difficult at the end,” Elsie added. “We weren’t allowed visitors. I was quite upset.”
“We both were,” Mildred added. She looked at Adele. “You had better say something to her. The child looks like she has swallowed a fishbone.”
Kane turned to Adele. “I can see two elderly ladies.”
Adele nodded. “I can see by your expression that it’s them. Are they telling you off?”
“Not yet,” Kane said cautiously.
“Don’t be smart!” Mildred snapped. “Seeing us doesn’t make you clever. And don’t slouch!”
Kane found himself straightening up. “No, miss.”
Elsie drifted over to the bookcase. “We have had a long discussion about this,” she said. “And we have agreed that there are two main messages. The first is that we want Adele to know that we are proud of her.”
Mildred nodded. “We may not have always showed it.” She pursed her lips. “We always felt that there was too much silly emotion around. We didn’t feel the need to go around expressing ourselves. That’s for the youngsters. We kept ourselves busy.”
Elsie nodded in agreement. “So you should tell Adele that we are both proud of her. She may not feel that. She always lacked confidence, you know, though we did our best. But if she looks in the bookcase, she may find some reassurance.”
Mildred drifted next to her. “And she should make more time with the young man from next door but two,” she added. “We always stressed that she should look for a young man in a profession and not a trade…”
“The washing could be dreadful if you married into a trade,” Elsie interrupted. “But it’s not so bad now with the new washing machines.”
Mildred gave her sister a sharp look before continuing. “He may only be a plumber, but he has a kind heart which is more than that other good-for-nothing has.” She sniffed hard and glared at Kane. “He wanted her to sell the house so that he could get the money, you know. We heard him on the phone.”
“And then poor Adele would be left without anything,” Elsie added. “Because men of that sort never stay around.”
“Pay attention, young man!” Mildred floated over to Kane. “Tell Adele about the young man next door but two and the bookcase. And that we are very proud of her.” She looked over to her sister. “Well, that’s that. Now we can go and find father.”
Kane watched the ghosts of the elderly ladies fade away before relaxing and turning to Adele. She was looking through the bookcase, looking pale. She looked up at Kane. “They kept everything.”
“They said that they were proud of you, and that you should pay attention to the young man next door but two,” Kane said. “Are you alright?”
“They kept everything.” Adele pulled out a folder. “Every school letter, every piece of art, every report. And they put notes.”
Kane looked over Adele’s shoulder. Attached to the school report was a sheet of paper covered with copperplate notes. “They really didn’t like your maths teacher, did they?”
Adele stared at the paper. “I know that I always got good marks after the first parents’ evening and he never said a single word to me in class after that.” She looked closer. “I always wanted them to be proud of me. Why didn’t they tell me?” She handed the folder to Kane and pulled out another. “And these are all the school photos. They put notes next to them about how well I was doing in the science classes, and how they were impressed by my essays. They even planned out how to buy the right books for me, as a reward.” Her voice broke. “I feel like I’ve finally got there. I’ve finally made it.”
“They also mentioned the man next door but two,” Kane said.
Adele managed a smile through the tears. “We’re going for a coffee tomorrow. They’re probably right about him too.”