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Excerpt from 4 Bones Sleeping - a ghost no more     Home




A ghost.

One 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.

She 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.

I 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 though.’

Stuart leant back and stared hard.

It’s cold out there.

I 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.

The 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.’

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.

The 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.

My 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.

But 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.

I 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.

I 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 I suppose.













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