“I thought that you were some sort of ghost whisperer,” Mrs Carter snapped as she flicked back her carefully styled blonde hair.
“Calm down, dear,” Mr Carter sighed. “Let the young man work.”
“I’m not really a ghost whisperer,” Kane said, looking nervously between the two. “But I can see ghosts and they usually tell me what’s going on. I can’t see any ghosts here.”
“See! You are a fraud!” Mrs Carter said, tapping her elegant fingernails on the bedside table. “I’m going to complain about you to your manager.”
“I haven’t got a manager,” Kane said helplessly.
Mrs Carter stared at him through narrowed eyes. “Liar.”
“Now, my dear,” Mr Carter said. “You know what happened in the supermarket.”
“That was a simple mistake that anyone could make,” Mrs Carter said. “But that tapping in the walls – explain that!”
“What tapping?” Kane asked, bewildered.
“If you shut up and listen, you’d know!” Mrs Carter said.
“Now, my dear,” Mr Carter said. “Give the young man a chance.”
Mrs Carter folded her arms and glared at Kane, who flinched. Mr Carter shook his head. “Why don’t we go downstairs and let the young man have some room,” he suggested.
“And let him loot the place!” Mrs Carter exclaimed. “Look what happened to your sister Beryl.”
“I’ll wait on the landing,” Mr Carter said. “I’ll hear if anything goes on. Why don’t you go downstairs and make us all a nice cup of tea. We’ll all feel better for a nice cup of tea.” He watched Mrs Carter leave, waiting until her dainty tread reached the bottom of the stairs before turning to Kane. “My wife is a little highly strung,” he said. “We don’t often come into the spare bedroom, but when she does, she swears that she hears a tapping. I suggested getting a plumber, but she won’t have it. She’s read too many vampire stories.”
Kane looked around the non-descript bedroom. “I can’t get ghosts to do anything,” he said. “But I can usually see if any are around. It’s not getting them to talk, it’s getting them to shut up. But I haven’t seen any around here.” He frowned. “There is a noise, over here.”
Mr Carter followed him over to the corner. “It sounds like a drip to me,” he said.
Kane nodded. “It sounds like a drip to me as well. Do you have any damp patches downstairs?”
“This is over the garage,” Mr Carter said. “I don’t think we’d notice as the garage is quite dark and damp.”
Kane jumped as a ghostly figure appeared next to him. “Um, hello. Are you haunting this place?”
Mr Carter shivered. “I can’t see anything but I can feel it! How do you deal with this?”
“I’m used to it, I suppose,” Kane said. He turned back to the ghost. “It sounds like a drip.”
The ghost nodded. “It is,” he said. “I’ve been here for a while, but I like to keep myself to myself. I never liked to make a fuss. And it’s not been too bad, but that drip has been driving me crazy.”
“Who is it?” Mr Carter hissed. “Is it a headless knight?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Kane said.
The ghost sniffed. “I’m Algernon Carstairs and I was a very respectable clerk at the bank. I got as high as Assistant Manager at the High Street branch. That was a few years ago, now. What year is it?”
“Are you stuck?” Kane asked.
Algernon nodded. “I’ve been here since 1937 and I just can’t seem to get over,” he said. “There was no manual or instructions. Can you help?”
“I think so,” Kane said cautiously.
“But first I’ll show you where that drip is coming from,” Algernon said. “I’ve been going out of my mind. I like my peace and quiet, you see. If you can get me over to the other side, it will the least I can do.” He beckoned Kane. “The drip is making a noise as it’s landing on a pool of water behind the skirting board in here, but the actual leak is up in the attic.”
Kane passed the information on to Mr Carter. “Is it easy to get to the attic?” he asked.
“We have those fancy stairs,” Mr Carter said, glancing around nervously. “The cold goes right to your bones.”
“I’m sorry about that,” Algernon said. “It’s one of the reasons I try and avoid people.”
Kane passed on the apology and followed Mr Carter as he let down the complicated folding ladder from the hatch into the attic space. “We should both go up and check,” he said. “But I don’t mind going first.”
“There aren’t any, well, ghost things are there?” Mr Carter asked.
“The cheek!” Algernon exclaimed. “I was very respectable and passed in my sleep, thank you so much!”
Kane passed that on. “There may be quite a bit of dust, though,” he said.
Mr Carter shook his head. “We had it all insulated and boarded out. My wife comes up regularly.”
Algernon nodded. “That woman is a demon for keeping the house clean,” he said. “I don’t know where she gets the energy.”
Kane started up the ladder. “The ghost says that your wife was very passionate about cleaning,” he said.
“The light switch is on your left,” Mr Carter said. “Yes, my wife is very passionate about a lot of things.”
Up in the attic, it was very clear where the water was coming from. As they watched, another drip formed from the dented pipe and fell on the stained boards underneath it. “Eventually it runs down a pipe and then starts dripping when it bends for the radiator,” Algernon said. “But it’s causing problems there, too. You’ll need to get it seen to straight away.”
Mr Carter stared. “It’s where they took out the old cold water tank. I thought that it had all been too easy. No house repair goes without a problem.”
Algernon cleared his ghostly throat. “I feel a little awkward about this, but Mr Carter seems a decent chap, and before I go I think I should do the right thing. It’s Mrs Carter.”
“What do you mean, about Mrs Carter?” Kane asked. Mr Carter paused at the top of the ladder and turned slowly to look at Kane.
Algernon cleared his throat again. “Well, as she didn’t know I was there, she wasn’t discreet – and I want you to know that I never stayed around. I’m not that sort of ghost. I mean, I have standards. But when Mr Carter talks about her being passionate about things, well, she’s pretty passionate about the young man two doors down. She pays him handsomely as well.”
It took all of Kane’s courage to pass the message on to Mr Carter. “I’m very sorry,” Kane said.
Mr Carter froze for a moment. Then he slowly reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. “I think that this is the amount agreed for the consultation,” he said, handing over a handful of notes. “And this is for passing on valuable information,” he added, pressing a substantially bigger wad of notes into Kane’s hand. “If you could please pass on my thanks to Algernon and then see yourself out, I would be grateful. You have to help him to the other side, don’t you?”
“Yes,” Kane said, “But it doesn’t usually take long.”
“Take as long as you need,” Mr Carter said. “I’ve got a lot to discuss with my wife.”
Kane and Algernon watched Mr Carter carefully make his way down the ladder then Algernon turned to Kane. “I feel a bit of a cad, but I can’t help but feel that I’ve done that man a favour. Now, while I would love to see that woman get her just desserts, it’s time for me to move on. Where do we start?”