In our first anthology, some of the stories have gone on to become a series with episodes in Fan-tas-tic-al Tales and more to come in our next offering. This novella is the start of a ‘Spook Sleuth’s’ series.
THE SPOOK SLEUTH’S
(RESTING THE GHOST)
by Marion Martineer©2004
Bab Witch lived alone in a cottage down the lane off Merry Street. Every day she would say to her magic mirror –
‘Mirror, mirror, on the Floor.
Show me who will come to my door.’
The cauldron bubbled and her tummy rumbled,
The mirror swirled around inside its frame
Then a vision appeared, of three young children,
Who dared knock at the door in the name of fame.
Bab softly cackled to herself. He He He He
Sally, Joshua and Peter were playing on the slippery slide in the schoolyard. They were trying to decide on what subject to write a story about, so they could enter the Storytellers Competition, which had $500 as a first prize and a computer for the school.
‘What about the old lady in that creepy house, down the lane off Merry Street?’ suggested Peter.
‘Do you think she really is a witch?’ asked Sally.
‘No.’ said Peter. ‘She’s probably an old lady who wants to be alone.’
‘Yes,’ said Joshua with a spooky voice. ‘My Dad says she is a witch and she collects children and locks them up in her cellar.’
‘A wine cellar?’ Sally wondered aloud.
‘No, a children cellar! She puts a spell on them so they don’t grow up and the meat on their bones is always tender.’ The three gasped dramatically.
‘I don’t believe it!’ Sally insisted indignantly. ‘I think I’ll go along with Peter. She is probably a misunderstood old lady who would rather keep to herself. Maybe she would like to be interviewed so she can tell her side of the story.’
‘I like that idea,’ said Peter.
‘Yeah, but what if she really is a witch?’ Joshua teased.
Sally and Peter exchanged glances of horror. Then the school bell rang. The kids exhaled loudly and picked up their papers and pens.
‘OK, let’s meet at the old lady’s house tomorrow morning at 8 o’clock,’ instructed Sally.
The boys nodded and they went back to their class.
Early the next day…
A delivery ghoul arrived at Bab’s door.
‘Special delivery for B Witch from the Magnificent Magic Mirror Company!’
Bab’s ran to the door and exclaimed excitedly, ‘Ooooh! He! Hee! Heyh! How exciting is this?’ She cooed to the delivery ghoul. ‘I now have a mirror for my ceiling, to make my friends and foes a reeling! Ha! Ha! Ha!
The delivery ghoul was not very amused but said, ‘Yeah that’s great lady. But this mirror comes with a serious warning.’
‘The mirror – may be hung from the ceiling. However take caution, be prudent, and be admonishing! This mirror is fragile! Take care what spell you dial. Or the mirror will tremor, rock and rattle by ruck. If it falls, YOU will double seven years bad luck!’ The ghoul gave a cheeky grin.
‘Yeoow! Thanks for the warning. Now off with you.’ And she shooed him away. ‘I have special visitors arriving today.’
Sally, Joshua and Peter met outside the house as planned.
‘This place doesn’t look so spooky in the morning light,’ said a surprised Joshua.
‘Well, after you then,’ decided Sally, smiling.
So Joshua started walking along the path to the stairs, with Sally and Peter close behind. However, a very strange eeriness swirled around the three as they neared the front door. The three looked at each other after walking up the stairs and they all knew each of them was experiencing the same feeling. Sally, still urging Joshua, gave him a prod on the shoulder and he stepped forward to push the doorbell then quickly stepped back.
They listened carefully.
A cat meowed beside them. It was black with green eyes. ‘Typical’ they all thought, and turned their attention back to the door. The heard bumps and bands inside, then footsteps growing louder and, were they hearing shuffling?
The door creaked open. They looked upon the face of a lovely and still rather beautiful, old lady. She smiled sweetly at them and said, ‘Good morning, children.’ The tone was almost like a teacher but a little softer and warmer.
Surprised, they all chorused, ‘Good morning!’
‘And what do I owe this visit?’ Babs enquired. The boys were both dumbfounded only pushing out mumbles. Sally found it in herself to get down to business.
‘Excuse my friends, you see, we have a story competition at school and, well, we were hoping to interview you and turn out a winning story.’
‘Of course,’ Babs trailed off. This young lass was quite intriguing. ‘Do come in.’ Babs opened the door wider and the boys’ curiosity couldn’t be reined. They all walked in checking out everything carefully. Inside, the house was quite weird with lots of old antiques. ‘She must be really old,’ they thought. But when they looked at her again, they thought, ‘Maybe not.’
Sadly, there were no cobwebs. Babs kept a clean house, although, it did smell old and musty, just as one would expect from an old lady.
‘Would you like a delicious cup of hot chocolate?’ Babs offered.
‘Yes, please!’ chorused the children.
‘Ah, good manners too, how nice. Please make yourselves comfortable and I shall be back soon. It is lovely to have guests.’
Joshua leant forward from the lounge chair, ‘Sally, ask her if she is a witch first before we drink or eat anything. That way we will know if the food is safe or not.’
Sally was appalled, ‘I can’t do that. It’s not polite!’
‘Neither is spiking food with magic,’ Peter said.
‘I thought you were on my side?’ Sally was getting confused. ‘And don’t try tickling me!’
‘Who’s tickling?’ the boys asked puzzled. They looked up and noticed a feather waving around Sally’s ear. The three gasped and Sally screamed. Babs came in with a tray of hot chocolate and biscuits.
‘What is wrong?’ Babs saw the feather drop and had a knowing and annoyed look on her face. ‘Harold!’
The frightened children looked at Babs.
Sally found the courage to ask the important question.
‘A-Ar-Are you a witch?’
‘Yes! But you don’t have to fear me. It’s my deceased husband that’s a problem.’
‘Will he eat us?’ Joshua’s voice was shaking.
‘No of course not. He is only a ghost. Mind, you are lucky you missed the delivery ghoul earlier… he …he… He would have loved to have eaten you.’
The three looked at each other, horrified.
‘I have been expecting you. I had a new mirror delivered this morning. Yes, a magic mirror! I need help though. Will you help me?’
‘What do we have to do?’ Sally asked.
‘You mean, what will happen to us?’ Joshua corrected.
Peter was still trying to understand. He was sitting on the lounge watching a bowl float by. His eyes were widening but he sat frozen.
‘We are going to put my husband’s spirit to rest. He was not meant to be a ghost. There was a lunar eclipse when he died and some evil ghosts created havoc and stopped his spirit rising. He was a good man.’
‘Will it be scary?’ Joshua asked tentatively.
‘Well, not for me. I’ve done it hundreds of times. But for you – a first time experience – yes, it probably will be.’ Babs smiled and whispered softly, placing a hand on Joshua’s shoulder, ‘I am certain you will be courageous enough to live through it and tell the tale.’
Joshua looked over at Sally and Peter with surprise. They were watching Harold perform a show with moving objects and being rather entertained.
‘OK everyone! To the cellar!’ Babs exclaimed.
Sally, Peter and Joshua froze. ‘The cellar’ they all thought.
‘Peter and Joshua, would you bring the mirror with you? Be very careful. If you break it, this one brings double seven years bad luck!’ Peter and Joshua shared looks of concern and picked up the mirror.
‘Sally, be a sweetie and bring the tray please?’ and Babs went through a doorway leading to the cellar.
‘Do you think it’s a trick?’ Peter asked.
‘Not sure, but how does she know our names? We haven’t told her our names yet,’ said Joshua.
‘Well, she is a witch. Come on, aren’t you curious about what’s down there?’ Sally said as she went through the doorway. The boys followed.
Sally, Joshua and Peter trod carefully down the old stone stairs, all trying to look around without dropping anything. However, not much was to bee seen in the winding stair corridor, just a bit of damp on the walls and candles for light. ‘
‘Oh, how much further?’ Peter whined.
‘Not long at all,’ answered Babs, taking the try off Sally.
‘Thank you, Sally. Now boys, please place the mirror carefully on the table. I have arranged a hoist to secure the rope through these holes at the back.’
Sally decided to look around while the others were distracted by their work. ‘Hmm, a cauldron over the fire, spell book, plenty of cobwebs. Yes! I knew they would be here! What’s this?’ Sally reached out to touch something just as Babs came along.
‘Ah..ah..ah..’ Babs said with a smirk on her face. ‘Don’t you know curiosity can kill, especially little girls with a very strong will!’
The boys looked up quizzically.
‘Did you just rhyme on purpose?’ Peter asked.
‘Yes, I did and just as well. You see, it is essential for writing a spell. We witches, do it often, as you will see. Now hoist that mirror up so I can set my husband free!’ The boys did as they were ordered and secured it very tightly.
‘Now boys and girl come gather round. We have work to do, ingredients to be found.’ Babs pulled the cauldron out from the fire. Water was bubbling inside.
‘To this bubbling water we add:
A cane toad head
A paw paw seed
Four cockroach legs
Two handfuls of chickweed
Two cups of olive oil, and
Twelve centimetres of aluminium foil!
The children moved around the cellar and hunted out the ingredients, whilst Babs waited with her list.
‘Here’s a jar of cane toad heads!’ exclaimed Joshua.
‘Thank you,’ said Babs and she stirred the brew.
Peter caught a cockroach and brought it over. ‘Fesh cockroach legs!’ He added them to the pot, throwing the body on the fire.
‘What a waste! I could have used that later,’ Babs said.
Peter just shrugged his shoulders and went to look again.
Sally arrived. ‘Olive Oil in a cup.’ She started pouring, ‘One, Two.’
‘Thank you,’ said Babs stirring.
‘Found some pawpaw seeds. How many did you need?’ Joshua joked with rhyme.
‘Just one, thank you, son,’ Babs was enjoying this time.
‘Chickweed, wow! In this dark place. How?’ Peter had both hands full and emptied them into the cauldron with a dusting off his hands.
‘I pull the curtain from the window up high and sun shines in brightly from the big blue sky!’
Sally found the foil and came running over. ‘Does the measurement have to be exact?’
‘No, just enough to cover the pot and keep it all intact.’
They each took turn stirring the brew until Harold came down to check on the crew.
Harold knocked a few bowls off a shelf and frightened the children. They jumped with a scream, but Babs knew what to do.
‘Take these bottles children and fill them up quickly. Attach a squirter. Now we have to act slickly. With our backs all together, we will spray a fine mist in the air. When Harold is covered we will see him there.’
They did as they were told and gathered together. Sally gasped first as she saw Harold standing before her. The others turned around and couldn’t believe their eyes. Harold was standing looking at Sally with a smile on his face. His form was glowing; a soft pale blue and they knew he was ready – he knew what he had to do.
Babs acted quickly. ‘All gather around Harold. Circle him with hands clasped tight. Repeat after me carefully. We must get this right!’
Sally, Joshua and Peter’s eyes were nearly popping out of their sockets. They could all feel the hairs on the back of their necks standing on end. Terrible, swirling feelings were in the pit of their stomachs and if they were not all holding on to each other they may have run. They found themselves doing as Babs said, joining in the chant to release Harold.
‘Dear heavens, hear our calling. This spirit needs another rising. Give him judgement, ease his pain, don’t let his spirit remain in vain.’
The three looked in awe as Harold’s image turned around slowly then suddenly a light beamed in from the ceiling mirror. Harold blew Babs a kiss and all seemed to be going well until the evil ghost appeared. Their eyes were glowing red and they wanted to stop Harold from rising again.
‘Quick children, aim your bottles!’ Babs had terror in her voice. Sally, Joshua and Peter screamed. The evil ghosts came after each of them.
Sally felt cold hands grab her ankles. She screamed and aimed the bottle just in time as she turned around and sprayed the ghost. He arched his back in pain and held his face with his hands and he vanished with a sudden burst of blue mist.
Joshua, who had dropped his bottle, quickly picked it up just in time to stand and see down the throat of a ghost. He sprayed the mist into his stinky mouth as it tried to eat him up. The ghost burst into a shower of blue mist that didn’t even wet Joshua.
Peter wasn’t so lucky. He was running around the table to get away but the ghost was cutting through the middle in an attempt to slash him. Peter looked exhausted and Sally snuck up behind the ghost and sprayed it in the face as it turned to confront her.
The three breathed a sigh of relief, and noticed Babs floating near the ceiling. She was fighting the last evil ghost will all her might and her bottle was on the floor!
Sally yelled out, ‘What can we do?’
Babs said, ‘The dagger you tried to touch before, throw it to me!’
Sally ran to the bench where the dagger was. She took it and threw it by the blade to Babs. Babs did bit catch it. It landed in the last evil ghost, who screamed in pain as he burst into a blue mist and vanished. The dagger fell to the floor. Harold smiled and disappeared through the mirror and Babs drifted back down to the floor. She had a contented look on her face and said softly, ‘Thank you children. I am forever in your debt.’
Sally, Joshua and Peter were sitting together at the Monday morning assembly. The school principal Mr Willing was conducting the agenda. ‘Today we are proud to announce the winners of the Storytellers competition are from our school!’ Happy gasps emanated from the students. ‘Would the following students please come to the stage; Sally Catrell, Joshua Pitt and Peter McKenzie.’ The three exchanged shocked looks as they felt fellow students patting them on the back. They made their way to the stage and shook the hand of the principal and their photos were taken with a large oversized cheque and a computer!
After school, they met at the school gate and headed straight to Bab’s home. They knocked on the door and Babs hugged them. She knew they had won because her magic mirror had already told her the news. Inside hot chocolate awaited them and Babs read their certificates. ‘Oh, first prize for “The Adventures of a Lonely Lady” How lovely! I am so glad I had lots of normal adventures as well as some unusual ones. At least I may be viewed as normal now, thanks to you three.’
‘We are pleased too, because our parents don’t mind a bit that we visit you.’ Sally said beaming.
‘Yeah, and we’re looking forward to some great adventures of our own. Just not too many too soon, OK?’ said Joshua.
Peter just grinned and said with a laugh, ‘I still can’t believe it!’
Just then a delivery ghoul arrived at the door, ‘Emergency telegram for B Witch and the Spook Sleuths!’
Babs went to the door and snatched the telegram. ‘Oh dear! You spoke too soon Joshua. We have our first paying job…’