that no longer dwelt along the Vauxhall Bridge Road in London, but someone
that still lived close to the Thames. In the salubrious village of Sonning
now, just east of Reading. Not the tenements and the flashing, slashing
razor blades of old. The ghost had not only come back to life, but had
become a social climber who had somehow moved upwards. His wife appeared
much younger; I imagined too much make up on her face. I could see the
expensive, glitzy jewellery and the well-tailored suit. Like her husband,
the blackest of black.
confirmed her name, but without the cockney drone. Home Counties and well
educated too, but dull. Flat monotone that indicated someone grief stricken
and trying to retain some control over her emotions. Or maybe someone
heavily sedated, perhaps both.
turned across to Stuart and whispered in his ear, ‘Get outside and take some
pictures of the father when he comes out. Stay out of the way when you do it
Stuart leant back and stared hard.
It’s cold out there.
ushered him out with the back of my hand as the coroner briefly listed the
injuries, lung and kidney damage. Either of which probably would have killed
her. If the damage to the back of the skull hadn’t done the job instantly
that is. He detailed the drugs and then came to the more interesting detail.
sex a couple of hours before the fall. I let my mind drift, two
hours? One hour? Minutes? The voice droned on, something inserted up the
anus. Not full anal penetration though, then the coroner stopped, raised his
large head and addressed the parents.
‘I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but Celia was pregnant.’
Mably had kept that from me. I felt the air whistle out from my lungs. I
heard the mother gasp and lean against her husband. He never put his arm
around her. Just stared at the coroner. I thought the coroner unused to such
a withering gaze. He coughed a couple of times and then began to read the
witness statements out. Both Tommy and Stopcock Arthur breathed sighs of
relief that neither parent wanted to question them.
Then the coroner apologised for itemising all of the distressing detail and
then promptly announced an accidental death verdict. Don groaned and shook
his head, vigorously enough to catch the coroner’s eye. Who blinked a couple
of times at this show of dissent, before releasing the body for burial, once
again commiserating and then he stood. Despite his dullness, a sentimental
and sensitive man who had tried to spare the parents more pain. He’d done
that to the best of his ability and upset the local constabulary at the same
time. I closed my notebook and watched the coroner sweep out with all the
elegance of a bulky tramp steamer bobbing up the river Clyde.
usual murmurings from the gallery, like a swarm of bees buzzing away in the
background. I glanced away to my left at the half a dozen reporters.
Shuffling out, avoiding my eyes… good. My feelings of bitterness hanging
over me diverting any offers of a drink and halting the fraternal farewells.
Farewell to the outsiders muscling in because they see a rich, suicidal
public schoolgirl with a penchant for older men and various drugs. I watched
them off the premises, gone forever I hoped, they’d lost interest. Not even
a suicide verdict, what an anti-climax for them.
glance went back to the grieving parents, both with heads bowed and both
sitting resolutely in the chairs. Then he stood and without the merest of
words to his wife, he strode for the exit. I felt my mouth hang open. I
thought he was going to glance my way and my heart stopped, my chest stopped
as well in apparent sympathy.
he just stared fixedly in front, there could be no mistake. Fuller of face
that’s for sure, but the cheekbones, the skin colour and most of all those
piercing eyes. Teddy looked good, not much younger back then and not much
older right now. He pushed the door open rather like a rugby player’s stiff
armed hand off. Never bothered to wait for his wife and the door swung back
into her face. Well used to this sort of behaviour I guessed, she just
sighed and then followed him out of the building.
sat back down, spread the fingers of my right hand and massaged my pounding
temples. As Harry would have put it… “fucking hell”. If I hadn’t have been
so shocked, so disoriented I could have sat back in wonderment at how fate
had knitted all of our lives together like this. Treachery apparently woven
to longing, aspiration chain linked to resentment. Throw in some
romanticism, more adoration, lust, a murder or two, probably a missed bus in
their somewhere. Hurl a late train or two and a cancelled flight into the
equation and then the ringmaster pulls the strings and we all dance the
dance. Surely it couldn’t be another dance of death? It was thirty five
years ago. Back then that tango was to the death and now forever etched into
my memory. And here we are once again, fate, or coincidence?
Either way I had the feeling of a solitary rabbit cornered by a fox out on
the prowl. I crept out into the car park, the earlier winter sunshine
replaced by heavy cloud and an icy blast straight down from Greenland. I
scanned the scene, saw Stuart hurrying away, camera in his left hand. He was
going to the
same safe haven as I intended to. After the ghost had driven his black Ford
Grenada out onto Church Street and past me.
Mr and Mrs Ghost, both with expressionless
features, faces clamped tight. After all, you’d expect nothing less from a
pair of phantoms.
rushed headlong down Grove Street, raced past my office and on towards
friendly faces and comfort that I craved. Past Goldstone’s shop, I noticed
him out of the corner of my eye, mouth open and ready to exchange
pleasantries. I flashed past, crashing through the door and into the public
bar. Hit between the eyes by the heat from the blistering coal fires that
blazed away at each end of the bar. Stuart was leaning against the bar
talking to Shirley, he smiled my way and pulled me a pint. I sighed, what is
it to be nothing less than predictable, ah well that’s reassuring in itself