As Chase came to the first window of the coffee shop he saw no one inside. He stopped at the door and gazed up and down the narrow street, a few people were milling about but as yet, no sign of his aunt. Chase pushed the door open and went inside. The smell of freshly ground coffee immediately filled his nostrils and underneath that the aromas of sweeter things. He scanned around the small shop – it was totally empty. All the tables and chairs eagerly awaited the presence of paying customers, but for now the only customer was Chase. His memory of the shop being a bit vague, he tried to think back as to how it once looked to compare it to here and now, but it was easier said than done. As he stood by the door taking in the coffee room a woman emerged from somewhere behind the serving counter.
“Good morning dear, can I get you anything?”
Mildly shocked, Chase looked to where the voice had come from.
“Sorry, I was miles away. Is it all right if I wait a while, I’m expecting someone at eleven.”
The woman smiled and extended her hand to indicate the tables and chairs.
“Yes, that’s fine dear. Take a seat where ever you want.”
Chase thanked her and chose a window table, he pulled out a chair and sat. He gazed out through the window but in such a narrow street there wasn’t that much to see. He glanced again at his watch: 10.51.
The sound of hissing and spitting filled the room as the coffee machine fired up a fresh brew. The woman began wiping cups and saucers with a tea towel while gently humming to herself. She laid them out before her in a neat line then looked up at Chase.
“Just visiting dear. On holiday perhaps?” She casually asked.
“Bit of both,” he replied, glad to break the silence. “It’s more a trip down memory lane for me. I used to come here as a child and stuff myself with your cream cakes. I’ve been coming here for years but somehow never found time to revisit this coffee room.”
“Oh really!” Said the woman holding a hand up to her mouth with wonder. “That’s interesting. The chances are that it was me who served you back then; I’ve been running this shop for about forty years. Fancy that.”
“Small child.” He held his hand up about three feet off the floor. “Accompanied by an adult, a young woman. In fact, the very same woman I wait for now.”
The woman behind the counter stared wide-eyed at Chase as recognition kicked in.
“Oh my goodness,” she said, all in a flutter. “You’re Henry Chase. Are you not?”
Chase looked at her not quite sure how to respond to such a probing question, but before he could answer the woman came over to the table and sat down. She leaned forward as if she was about to reveal a secret she didn’t want the coffee room to know about.
“I thought you and Celine would come in both together,” she said, in a forced whisper. “That’s what threw me. I had no idea until you explained. I know Celine very well, she still comes here you know? . . .Well of course you do.”
Her attention was then diverted to a couple who had just entered the shop, they sat down at a table removing their coats and casually looked around at the decor taking it all in.
“Sorry dear, have to go. Perhaps we’ll talk again later when Celine arrives?”
She rose from the table and started another conversation with the new customers while taking their orders.
Chase looked at his watch and in the corner of his eye caught a glimpse of a figure passing by the window, he shot up in anticipation as the door of the coffee shop opened. It was Celine.
The years fell away for Chase when Celine entered the shop, and momentarily he was a little boy again about to embark on another fantastic adventure with her. But the years hadn’t been so kind to Celine, her care-worn face looked haggard, old, with prominent wrinkles around her once sparkling eyes which now, were faded and misty. Her once glossy auburn hair had become grayish and looked stringy and lifeless. Celine was just sixty-two but looked older.
Chase felt his blood boil again, it took all of his self composure and restraint to keep the tide of anger at bay. If Petherton was standing in front of him right now he would find the sharpest knife he could get his hands on and cut him to ribbons as if he was a victim in a slasher movie. He breathed deeply and smiled.
Celine gave the woman behind the counter a warm smile and as Chase watched, her face seemed to transform and appear young again. His heart went out to her. Celine closed the door and looked around and spotted Chase who had begun to walk over to her.
“Henry! Darling!” She said. Her eyes began tearing up.
She rushed to him and hugged him like there was no tomorrow. Chase could feel her tremble in their embrace. Chase broke away slightly and kissed her on her forehead.
“Hello Aunt Celine,” he said softly, wiping away a tear from her face. “We have a lot to talk about. Yes?”
The woman behind the counter smiled at their loving reunion. She walked over to where they stood then pulled a curtain across to hide some tables from the rest of the shop. She placed a “private party” sign on a hook next to the drapes.
“Just so you can talk without any distractions,” she said with a smile then went back to the counter.
“Thank you, Jan,” said Celine. She opened her handbag and pulled out a tissue which she dabbed her eyes with.
Chase parted the curtains and they both sat down at the table by the window; the curtains fell back and closed behind them. Celine removed her coat and fussed with her hair for a bit, and once she had placed her handbag on a spare chair, turned her gaze upon her nephew.
“Well how have you been Henry?” She asked. Her hand reached out across the table and held his. When their hands touched it became obvious to Chase that his aunt was putting on a brave face despite the fact of her nervous condition.
“I’m fine,” he replied, and placed his other hand on top of hers. “But today is not about me. I need to know exactly what has been happening lately at the Lodge. Anything and everything – even if you think it’s of no consequence, I still want to know about it. I promise you Aunt Celine, this state of affairs is soon coming to an end.”
“Oh Henry. . .you can’t realise just how glad I am that you are here with me. You’re the one person in the whole world that has the ability to make me feel better. . .do you know that?”
Chase smiled warmly and patted the back of her hand.
“Don’t worry Aunt Celine, things are about to get a lot better.”
They both looked up when the curtains parted and emerging from the split came a young woman dressed in a posh, black and white waitress uniform; her hair was tied back in a bun. She was holding a tray that had coffee and cakes placed on it. Chase sat upright and withdrew his hands to make room for the tray on the table, he didn’t take much notice of the waitress and wondered where and when the order for coffee had been made? Celine began to laugh which was a pleasant surprise to him and made him reminisce of days gone by.
“Sir. Madam. Coffee and cakes?” She offered, in an airy voice which rang familiar to Chase but he couldn’t pin-point it.
“Oh my! Aren’t you the pretty one,” Celine said as she watched the tray being carefully put down on the table.
“You know me, Celine. Always willing to help mother out.”
There was that voice again! Chase looked up at the waitress and his jaw dropped after realising who she was.
“Hello Mr. Chase,” said Ingrid. There was nothing but amusement written all over her face.
Chase sat there dumbfounded by this surprising event and looked to his aunt, then Ingrid, then back to his aunt again. Both women began laughing at his stupid expression.
“Ingrid!?” He finally managed to say.
“Yes,” she replied. “My mother, Janice, runs this shop. I help out sometimes when I can. I simply couldn’t resist making an appearance today.”
“I see,” said Chase, as if a conspiracy had just been exposed.
“You wouldn’t have known about her in the days when we used to come here, dear,” said Celine. “She hadn’t been born yet. There’s six years between you and Ingrid and during the later years of our time here she would have been just a babe in arms.”
Chase stared up at Ingrid and nodded as he absorbed the information.
“Anyway,” Ingrid said. “If there’s anything more you need just come over to the counter. I’ll come back in a little while. I want to help Celine any way that I can.”
She smiled at Chase then parted the curtains and disappeared through to the other side.
“So tell me,” he said, lifting up his hands and pointing them to where Ingrid just went.
“It’s simple really,” said Celine, reaching for one of the coffee cups. “I’ve been coming here for years and through all that time I got to know Janice very well so we naturally became good friends, and after Ingrid was born I literally watched her grow up into the fine looking woman she is now. And you know how it is, good friends talk to each other about personal things, all sorts of things really, so Janice became the ear that would listen to all my woes. And because of our closeness it naturally transferred to Ingrid when she was old enough to understand – a bit like you and Edward. There wasn’t much that you understood about him until you became old enough to know better.”
“Yes, of course,” agreed Chase, noticing how much calmer Celine had now become compared to when he first saw her after entering the coffee shop. The difference was palpable.
“So how much do Janice and Ingrid know?” Asked Chase while stirring his coffee.
“No. Janice is divorced. There’s no one else.”
“Boyfriend. . Ingrid?”
“Oh, she’s had the usual ups and downs of young people in love. There’s no current love interest that I know about. Why do you ask, dear?”
“It’s nothing really,” said Chase. “I’m just trying to build up a picture in my own mind of all the players in the game. It’s better to know all that there is to know, rather than not know all the possible permutations present.”
“Oh, that’s my insurance salesman, inquisitive as ever.” Said Celine, knowingly, while cocking an eyebrow.
Chase smiled at her remark then grabbed a cake which he began to devour.
“Not having one?” He asked, still chewing.
“Not right now, dear, but you go ahead. Watching you eat those cakes transports me back to happier times.”
Celine studied her nephew while he chomped at the cakes. His hair had gone slightly darker than it once was, as a young boy his mop used to be a mid-tone brown colour, but as an adult it had darkened quite considerably. His facial features now appeared chiselled and well defined – as was his father’s. He had his mother’s eyes, kind eyes that look at you and leave you in no doubt that an intelligence is operating behind them giving their undivided attention.
Chase unfolded a paper towel and wiped his mouth with it, and after downing the coffee he folded his arms on the table, looked at his aunt and prepared his thoughts.
From the other side of the curtains came the busy sounds of people chatting, cups and saucers clanking together, the frothing and bubbling of espresso coffee, chairs being dragged back then sat on. Lunchtime had come and the shop had started to get very busy.
“So,” he eventually said. “Tell me about these recent sightings. How, when, and where.”
Celine began to fidget on her chair, obviously uncomfortable about voicing her recent experiences.
“Now that it comes to it, I don’t really know where to start,” she confessed, looking to Chase for guidance.
“From the beginning normally helps,” he assured her. “I tell you what. I’ll get us some more coffee and while I’m gone have a think about it. Try to order it in your mind and remember, it’s me you’re talking to, not an interrogator.”
Celine watched as Chase got up and passed through the curtains. With her mind a blank, she sipped her coffee and concentrated on remembering the past week’s events. No sooner had her thought process begun when Chase returned empty handed.
“Anything wrong, dear?” She asked.
“No. . .nothing,” said Chase, taking his seat. “Ingrid wants to hear your story, she’ll be along with the coffee in a moment.”
Several seconds later Ingrid came through the curtains with three cups on a tray. She set them down on the table and tidied up the remains of the previous order and returned them to the counter. She came back and seated herself next to Celine.
“Well. Here we are,” said Ingrid, casting an inquisitive look at Celine.
The air was thick with expectation, both Chase and Ingrid waited patiently for Celine to tell her tale. In the few moments that followed all that could be heard was the cacophony of voices coming from the other side the drapes. Celine sat up straight, took a swig of coffee, breathed in deeply, and then relaxed again.
“I hope when I’ve finished you won’t think I’m a crazy old woman,” said Celine, rather nervously.
“We would never think that,” offered Chase, supportively.
“It all began last Sunday night,” said Celine, looking down at her folded hands. “I needed an early night so I retired to my bedroom about nine-thirty. I didn’t go straight to sleep, but decided to read for a while. After about an hour or so I closed my book and got out of bed to draw the curtains. As I closed them my eye caught sight of movement down below, I saw someone lurking about the grounds. I had the presence of mind to turn my bedside light off before pulling aside the net curtains. I returned to the window and parted the nets so I could get a better look at whoever it was. The night lights around the Lodge were on, they’re not that bright but they do allow one to see quite far. The odd thing I noticed was that for some reason the figure – a man, didn’t cast any shadow on the ground. After living at the Lodge for as long as I have I know what evening shadows look like when backlit from the building, they have a long trail that extends from the driveway right out to the beginning of the lawn. I swear, there was no shadow. As I watched the figure moved away toward the lawn, it wasn’t walking but seemed to glide along the ground like it was floating. I couldn’t see any feet because the man wore one of those full length cloaks which cover everything up, so maybe that was why I thought he was floating – a trick of the light as they say. But then the most extraordinary thing happened. The man dissolved before my eyes, he just disappeared. It was quite shocking to say the least, I didn’t know what to make of it all. My first thought was to call the police and report an intruder, but what would I have said to them? I saw a man but he disappeared before my eyes? An invitation to get locked up if ever I heard one!”
“Who else was at the Lodge that night? Asked Chase, frowning.
“At that time, no one. The staff all go home about seven – as you know they don’t live in. Edward was at his club as per usual for a Sunday night. He gets home around twelve-thirty, so I was there all by myself.”
“Did you call the police?”
“No dear. As I said, I wouldn’t have known what to say to them. And besides that, I couldn’t say for sure if I imagined the whole thing or not. And I certainly didn’t give mention of it to Edward. . .talk about fuelling the fire!”
Chase nodded thoughtfully and signalled with an open hand for Celine to continue. Ingrid looked enthralled but said nothing.
“The next day during the morning I went outside to take a look at the area where I saw the man but found nothing unusual. I looked over the lawns just in case there were any tell-tale footprints but there was nothing to be seen. I asked our gardener if anything had gone missing from the shed, or if any of the plants had been trodden on, but everything was exactly how he had left it the day before. I left it at that and went about my day without giving it another thought. Later, when I went to bed I looked out my window – more from curiosity than anything else, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. Tuesday night, however, would be very different. I went to bed quite late that night, midnight to be precise. As I got changed into my night things, I had the most peculiar sensation come over me, the feeling you get when you know someone is watching you. I could feel unseen eyes trying to find me. . .very unsettling. I went to the window but saw nothing – no movement anywhere, but still that peculiar feeling wouldn’t leave me. I checked outside my room and looked down the corridor, I could see light coming from under the door in Edward’s room and saw his shadow moving about so I assumed he was going to bed as I was. I went back to my room and checked the window yet again but all was still and silent. I climbed into bed, turned the light out and tried to sleep. I must have dropped off for a while but suddenly snapped wide awake for some reason. I glanced at my bedside clock, it was one-thirty. I lay awake staring at the ceiling knowing full well that no matter what I did I wasn’t going to get much sleep in my present state of mind. I got out of bed and automatically went across to the window and looked out. I let out a gasp of shock when I saw that figure of a man again, he was right underneath my window, but this time he was looking up at me and pointing at me with a finger! I instinctively recoiled back from the window and in my panic, this time, I called the police and reported an intruder. You can guess the rest. The police came, searched the grounds but found nothing, took a statement from me, then spent a considerable amount of time talking to Edward who was most put out about the whole affair. I can only guess what he told the police about me. Nothing good that’s for sure.”
Celine reached for her coffee cup and took a gulp from it. She looked nervously at Chase and Ingrid but saw nothing that suggested disbelief in their faces.
“Celine,” said Ingrid, looking concerned. “What do you think it was that you saw?”
“You think it’s the legend of the spectre, don’t you?” Stated Chase. He could tell exactly what his aunt was thinking by her eyes alone.
“I didn’t know what to think at first, dear. I just put it down to the medication I’m on. You know, drug induced hallucination or something like that. But the thing is, I have never had such effects before so why now? The second time put me to thinking about the legend simply because I couldn’t give a rational explanation for what I saw. The third time I saw the figure convinced me that the legend is indeed true.”
“So what happened the third time?” Asked Chase.
“That was Thursday during the day,” replied Celine. “I was inspecting the flower beds and talking to our gardener about what I wanted him to do that day. After I gave him his instructions he went off to sort his tools out in the shed. While he was gone I looked around the grounds taking it all in. My eye caught sight of movement way over by the trees that line the outer walls. A figure smoothly emerged from the trees and came into plain view, it was him – it. I froze where I stood, unable to move, and as I watched it raised an arm and pointed at me again. I can’t say for how long this went on for, but just like the night when it vanished into thin air, it did the same thing again, it just evaporated before my eyes. The next thing I knew was when the gardener came back and asked me if I was all right. I must have looked rather pale, he had a very concerned look on his face. I told him it was nothing and went indoors to recover. I kept vigil for the rest of the day but didn’t see it again, and I certainly wasn’t going to call the police, either! Am I going mad?”
“No Aunt Celine, you’re not going mad,” said Chase. “I believe you saw something and we’re going to find out exactly what it is. As a matter of relevant interest, what do we know of the legend? I heard about the tale when I was a kid but outside of that I know nothing else.”
“Oh. . .hang on,” said Ingrid. She pulled out her phone, swiped the screen and began searching.
“Ah!” She exclaimed. “Here we go. Shall I read it out aloud?”
“Yes. Go on.” Agreed Chase.
“Right. The Spectre of Granley Lodge,” said Ingrid, matter of factly. “A local legend dating back to the sixteenth century. The Lodge, designed and built by Arlington Henderson in fifthteen-twelve was sold when complete to the wealthy Chase family. Hubert Chase, Lord of the Lodge, was allegedly murdered by jealous sister Beatrice over land rights and ownership. Proof or evidence of her part in the murder was never found and through the centuries remained unsolved. After the demise of Hubert Chase, Beatrice gained control of the Lodge and took up permanent residence until her sudden death one year later. The Lodge then passed to Hubert Chase’ eldest son, Robert. Suspicion surrounded the death of Beatrice Chase, it was thought that she was murdered but by persons unknown. There were no marks on her body that gave any clue as to how she died, and the only physical sign was that her face was contorted with an expression of shock. Medical opinion determined she died of a heart attack and local officials endorsed this verdict and registered her death due to natural causes. She died on All Hallows Eve. Rumours began to circulate that it was the ghost of Hubert Chase that had visited Beatrice and frightened her to death in a revengeful haunting over his unjust murder. Local legend speaks of a ghostly spectre haunting the grounds of the Lodge at Halloween time. A recurring haunting reportedly sighted by many generations of the Chase family down through the ages. The last officially reported sighting took place in 1912 during the Halloween celebrations. It is believed that the spectre revisits the Lodge when the rightful occupant is in mortal danger and whose presence is there to give protection.”
Ingrid put her phone down and looked at her two companions in wonder.
“Well,” she said. “What the hell do we make of all that?”
Chase cleared his throat.
“I think a visit to the library and town hall would be helpful.”
Chase reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his phone. Celine and Ingrid watched with question marks hanging above their heads. Chase pressed a button then placed the phone on the table so everyone could hear. The ringing tone sounded then stopped when the call was answered.
“Henry!” Exclaimed a voice. “How’s things?”
“Hi Bradley. I’m fine. You?”
“Can’t complain. What’s up?”
“I’ve got a bit of a situation that I could really use your help with. Fancy a trip to Colwyn Bay?”
“Colwyn Bay, Wales?”
“You got it,” confirmed Chase. “I’ll send you some info later on. Bye for now.” He hung up and smiled wickedly but triumphantly at Celine and Ingrid.
disclaimer: any similarities in names to persons living or dead is purely coincidental and are fictitious characters invented by the author.