The ensuing telephone conversation which took place between Chase and Bradley after their shared rude awakening was like no other either of them had ever had before. There were times during their childhood when they engaged in other-worldly fantasies, but that was just kids at play pretending everything was real for the fun of it. However, this was very different in the sense that what they both briefly saw defied any rational explanation in the adult world. The pair of them had woke at more or less the same time when the alarm was sounded, and although miles apart, their actions were in unison with each other when they both arose out of bed to clamber across to a computer screen.
Once Chase had rubbed his eyes and focussed his vision, his eyes were immediately drawn to a figure of a man standing below Celine’s bedroom window. That was when his phone rang and temporarily distracted him. After answering the call from Bradley he went back to his desk and sat down. They both watched in silence as the figure hovered back and forth as if set by a pre-determined path. The man, clad in a long dark cloak, looked totally out of place fashion-wise, and with no discernible colour appeared dullish gray. The mounted wall lights pointing down from the Lodge didn’t help to identity who it was, but instinctively, and going by stature alone, Chase felt sure that it was not Petherton.
It was all over just as soon as it began. The mystery figure did the exact thing that Celine saw it do; it raised a hand up and pointed at her bedroom window, then suddenly evaporated into thin air. It took a moment or two for Chase and Bradley to snap out of their shared hypnotic state, but when they did reality came flooding back and in their excitement both began talking at a frantic pace at the same time. After regaining their self composure and, once a more orderly conversation could take place, Bradley assured Chase that the system was healthy and no malfunction had occurred and, what they had just seen on camera had actually happened and was real. Bradley then instructed Chase in how to call up a replay from the server; this they both did for several minutes – watching it over and over.
Inside the mind of Henry Chase a battle now raged between emotion and logic. He knew full well that he had to make a decision, determine a course of action and then act upon it. With all that had just transpired he never thought to check the time, but it was always right in front of him if he’d only had the presence of mind to focus on it. His eyes now trained to the bottom left of the computer screen where the digital clock silently displayed the current time: 03:01. He raised his eyebrows and suppressed a yawn, then stood up and began pacing around the room while still in conversation with Bradley. If he didn’t truly understand before, then now he totally got how stupid he would feel if, like Celine, he called the police to report an intruder and have them go to the Lodge to find nothing yet again. He dismissed this absurd idea on the realisation that any action taken would have to be done by him. So what was he to do? The question mark hung over his head for a considerable amount of time until Bradley made the first call. He said that, because of his closeness to the Lodge – only a few miles away, he would drive over there and scope out the grounds and check his camera set-up at the same time; something he was going to do during the next day but now was as good a time as any, the only caveat was that he would have to use a torch and would look suspicious if any one saw him, namely the police doing night patrols. Despite the risks, which didn’t really equate to much, they both agreed it was a good idea and Bradley hung up the phone to get himself ready.
After Bradley hung up Chase had made a decision, not by choice, but by necessity. In the natural order of things he would have told Celine about the security cameras in the coming afternoon, but that was not going to be possible now, and the last thing he wanted to do was to phone his aunt at three in the morning to tell her what had just taken place. He had to remind himself that, without all the facts at his disposal his aunt’s life was not a pawn in a chess game and couldn’t be treated as such, despite all his misgivings he had to put Celine first. The one indisputable fact he had to go on was that someone was actually standing at the front of the Lodge pointing up at her bedroom. He already believed his aunt when she first recounted the tale of her sightings – he had no reason not to, and now having seen it for himself did two things: it compounded the mystery and gave credulence to the reality of it. In a continuing commitment to be self honest he realised that in the act of protecting his aunt, he hadn’t been entirely honest with her and withheld his innermost thoughts and conclusions. He also decided to keep secret the installation of cameras around the Lodge, and now he would have to tell her over the phone rather than face to face, this made him feel cheap. The only exception was the conclusions he reached during his reading of Penny Tenys’ book the previous night that had planted seeds in his mind which had blossomed into a train of thought he never knew he was capable of – let alone believe. But this would all end soon; the time to be secretive was done with. All of these thoughts had raged a battle within his mind in the few seconds that passed after Bradley had hung up. With a resolved determination he scrolled down the contact list on his phone and dialled Celine’s number. The time was now 03:11.
Celine, surprisingly enough, had remained quite calm while Chase unloaded all his confessional burdens – despite the fact he chose to call her in the middle of the night to do it. Apart from a gasp when she was told that he had seen the spectre outside the Lodge, she had listened to the rest of it in total silence. The one thing that had struck a chord with Celine was the fact that her nephew now referred to the sighting as the spectre, this he had never willingly done before and, by the time Chase had finished telling all, she understood why. The conversation ended at 03:31, and on a parting heads-up he told her of the presence of Bradley outside the grounds and that she should not worry if she saw strange dancing lights in the trees. He also added that he himself would be there too in a short while. After hanging up Chase got dressed and scrambled around his room to gather his stuff then headed out. After figuring out how to unlock the hotel’s security system on the door he made it out to the car park, jumped in his car and sped off into the early morning darkness.
With empty roads ahead he made good time and arrived at the Lodge just before 04:00; he broke all speed limits to do it. The quiet secluded road which led to the main gate of the Lodge had veins of side roads which led to various private housing located further back behind a nest of strategically placed trees and hedgerows. A few street lights were placed here and there that gave a warm glow to the immediate area, but outside of their influence there was only pitch darkness. As he turned into the road he dimmed his headlights and reduced his speed to a crawl; the engine of the Mercedes purred to a whisper and would not be heard by anyone. As he made his way up to the main gate the Lodge loomed into view in all its lit brilliance standing a little way back from the grounds. He looked around for Bradley’s car but didn’t see it at first; he must have parked somewhere not so obvious which was the sensible thing to do. He drove past the main gates and eventually came to a small lay-by on the right-hand side of the road and it was there he found Bradley’s car parked up. There was enough room in the lay-by for two cars so he pulled up behind Bradley’s and turned the engine off. The cold night air greeted him when he got out and a noticeable dead silence, he made his way back toward the main gates looking around to see if he could see any signs of his friend. A flicker of light caught his eye over to the left so he made a bee-line for it. The outer boundary limits of the Lodge were surrounded by a red bricked wall and just in front of that, a few feet into the grounds, stood the magnificent perennial trees. Chase reached the spot where he estimated the light had come from and scanned the area. A moment later a light flicked across his face from above followed by a vocal psst.
Chase watched in the gloom as Bradley climbed down from a tree branch and disappeared behind the wall. Seconds later the sound of something being thrown over the top of the wall cut through the silence followed by the sight of Bradley scrambling over it. He grabbed at something then dropped down in front of Chase landing with a thump. It now became apparent how Bradley had executed this death defying stunt – he had used a portable rope ladder with attachment hooks.
“Henry!” Bradley whispered, giving his old friend a hug. He was donned in a black leather jacket and jeans, and anyone seeing him dressed so in this situation would have immediately thought that he was up to no good – a burglar in action.
Chase smiled and returned the hug – patting his back.
“You remind me of the SAS,” said Chase, returning the whisper while looking his friend up and down. “Black ops specialist.”
“Well, I’ve got to look the part, haven’t I?”
“So how’s things here,” asked Chase.
“Just checked the last camera, they’re all in the green. Nothing wrong.”
Chase nodded. He had expected this.
“Henry,” said Bradley, suddenly looking serious. “What the fuck was it that we both saw?”
“That my friend was the fabled Spectre of Granley Lodge.”
“Huh? You’re now telling me that you believe it? You told me it was all an elaborate plan instigated by Petherton.”
Chase nodded again, acknowledging his past theory.
“That was my initial thought because it was the best fit, it suited my belief.”
“And now what?” Bradley looked at Chase with a blank expression.
“Well Brad, a lot has changed since we last spoke and I’ve learned some things that have spun me round to a different way of thinking. And what happened here this morning has only reinforced my notions of what is going on.”
“So what is going on then? Bradley put in.
“For starters, why did we see what we saw? If Petherton was behind it all then why would he unleash the spectre when no one would see it? There would be no point, and to hope that my aunt would wake up at three in the morning and see it is a bit of a stretch to say the least. No. I’m now convinced that Petherton hasn’t installed the means by which he could perpetrate such a hoax in order to mentally disturb my aunt. There is something happening here which has always been in place but many have failed to realise it. That’s not to say that I think my aunt’s life is not in danger, on the contrary, the very fact that we have seen the spectre is confirmation that it is.”
Bradley frowned and looked confused.
“Henry. . .I don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me. If Petherton is not trying to kill her, then who is? Are you saying that the spectre is?”
Chase shook his head.
“No. That’s not what I mean.”
Bradley held his hands up in a sign of defeat.
“For Christ’s sake Henry just tell me what you do mean.”
“It’s Petherton. He plans to kill her.
“But you just said that. . . . .?”
“I said that there was no way that Petherton had perpetrated the hoax,” Chase cut in. “I didn’t say he wasn’t intending to kill her. I believe he has definite plans in place for Halloween. I also believe that he will use the legend of the spectre to divert blame away from himself. He plans to claim that the spectre was responsible for the death of my aunt. The legend is well known around these parts and to stir up the pot again will serve him well in his plea of innocence to clear his name. That’s what I think is really going on.”
Bradley remained quiet while he absorbed what he had just been told. He chewed his bottom lip as he mulled over his response.
“So let me get this straight,” he eventually said. “You’re saying now that you believe unequivocally in the legend and what we saw was indeed the spectre?”
“Yes I do.”
“And you also believe that the very reappearance of said spectre is proof enough that your aunt’s life is in danger from Petherton?”
“Yes I do.”
“And you’re convinced this will all go down at Halloween time?”
“Yes I do.”
“So how do you suppose he’s going to commit this act of murder and then shift the blame to the spectre. How is he going to do it without leaving any evidence behind which an autopsy would reveal?”
“That, Bradley,” said Chase, raising an eyebrow. “I don’t know.”
“Well it’s now the thirtieth of October,” said Bradley, looking concerned. “You have a day left in which to figure it out. What are you going to do?”
Chase considered the question carefully.
“It comes down to faith Bradley, faith that history will repeat itself in a timely manner. I know what you’re going to say, that I am not a man of faith but there are exceptions and this is one of them.”
“So you’re going to do nothing,” Bradley asked, incredulously.
Chase shook his head and smiled.
“No Bradley, I didn’t say that.”
“Henry, stop farting about with the whole mystery thing and tell me straight,” said Bradley, sounding slightly irritated. “You’re spinning me in circles of confusion. . .this and that, blah blah blah, this and that. What the hell are you saying?”
“I’m saying my dear friend, that I firmly believe that what will take place tomorrow will be a repeat of what happened here in nineteen-twelve. If Petherton tries to kill my aunt with whatever means at his disposal, then the very thing he’s trying to commit will be committed upon him instead. And no. I’m not going to do nothing but I do plan to be inside the Lodge at all times tomorrow. I am going to watch proceedings like a hawk and won’t take my eye off the ball. It’s that simple.”
“Well at least that part is clear,” said Bradley, as a look of curiosity spread across his face. “Why don’t you just remove your aunt from the Lodge then nothing will happen.”
“Yes, you’re right. But that’s just one day in the life of. Eventually, my aunt will have to go back at some point, and when she does the situation will not have changed – her life would still be in danger from Petherton, but this time there will be no safety net as such and it’s not possible to watch over her twenty-four-seven. I’m not saying that my plan is perfect or without risk, but better to have a plan than none at all. Granley Lodge belongs to my aunt, she is the rightful owner, but apart from that it is her home and I will not see her driven out of it by anyone, or, carried out of it in a wooden box. My stand will take place here tomorrow. Petherton needs to be flushed out and exposed for what he is, and this is the ideal opportunity to do exactly that.”
“Ok. But what if your aunt doesn’t want to go through with your plan,” Bradley quizzed. “She might be too scared to. What are you going to do then?”
“Like I said, my plan’s not perfect. I intend to go through it all today with my aunt after Petherton has left for his office. I need her to see that it’s the only way to finally rid herself of the cursed life she’s living and, that in the end everything will turn out for the better. It’s the only thing I can see to do. She has to put her trust in me.”
“Well good luck with that old mate,” said Bradley, placing a hand on Chase’s shoulder. “If you need me to do anything more you only have to ask.”
“Anything more!” Chase raised his eyebrows as a grin appeared on his face. “My dear friend, you have already done more than what I could have ever hoped for. I knew that installing your cameras was a good idea, but I never thought they would bear fruit as quickly as they did. It is because of your help that I have been able to formulate my plan in the first place. They gave me real evidence with which to work from, evidence I sorely needed to realise something I have been in denial of through my own stupid ignorance and unwillingness to believe that anything else could exist outside of the physical world. So I thank you for that and I owe you one, a big one!”
“Steady on there old chap,” said Bradley, looking slightly embarrassed. “They’re only cameras, you know?”
“Oh, they’re so much more than that,” returned Chase, with authority.
“You’re welcome,” said Bradley, warmly. “But Henry. I don’t want to sound funny, but what if Petherton decides to shoot your aunt with a gun. Your plan would be in tatters.”
A wry smile formed on the face of Henry Chase.
“Yes it certainly would be, but that’s not going to happen.”
“Why?” Asked Bradley, shaking his head in wonder.
“Because in order for Petherton to commit murder and then blame it on a ghostly legend, he can’t use anything in the physical world to do it. He can’t turn round and claim to the authorities that a ghost turned up and used a gun to shoot my aunt. That would be ridiculous and he’d probably end up in a nut-house. No! Whatever he plans to do will involve subtlety, an outside influence that caused a fatal accident, or something like that. But a gun or other weapon, no chance. In every mysterious death blamed on the spectre, there was never any marks on the victim’s bodies to suggest that they died through a physical medium. No weapons, no hand marks, no bruises, nothing. And if Petherton has been acquainting himself with the legend – which I believe he has done, then he is fully aware of each and every circumstance surrounding the deaths and he plans to emulate them.”
“You really have thought this through, haven’t you,” said Bradley, sounding impressed.
“It’s been an interesting few days for me – a learning curve if you like. I began this venture with a closed mind convinced of my own prejudices and beliefs. But as the days went by my static opinions were challenged at every turn I took until finally a picture took shape in my mind, a jigsaw if you will, and with each new thing I learned I gained another piece to the puzzle. Slowly, one by one, they all fell into place and after I found another piece last night, it seeded in me a new way of thinking. Then surely enough, I found the very last piece with the aid of your cameras. Now I believe I am in possession of the full picture. How’s that for a descriptive metaphor?”
“Blow your own trumpet why don’t you,” said Bradley, jokingly. “Bloody brilliant I think.”
“Thanks for that, but I’m yet to convince my aunt of it.”
“So what’s next bud. It’s bloody freezing out here, I need to warm up a bit.”
Chase hadn’t noticed just how cold it was during their conversation; he was far to engrossed in relaying his ideas. He plucked his phone out and the lit screen told him it was now 05:07.
“Right,” said Chase, coming to a decision. “Get yourself back to the hotel, there’s no need for you to stay any longer. I’ll phone you later on today and give you an update when I have one.”
“Ok,” agreed Bradley. “Sure you don’t want me to stick around?”
“The company would be most welcome but soon I will have to skedaddle myself while Petherton emerges and drives off. I’ll drive down one of those side roads until he’s gone then drive up to the Lodge.”
“You sure he’s going to work?”
“Pretty sure,” ventured Chase. “It’s Wednesday, he doesn’t normally take week days off. But if he does I will meet up with my aunt as already planned. Got it covered.”
“If you say so.”
Bradley gathered up his things and made ready to leave.
“Thanks again Bradley, I couldn’t have got this far without you,” said Chase, as he gave his friend another hug.
“Catch ya later,” said Bradley, as he moved off toward his waiting car.
Chase watched as Bradley slowly disappeared into the dark. A minute later a car drove by and Chase bent down and gave Bradley a farewell wave. The red tail lights grew dimmer and dimmer and vanished as the car reached the open road and sped off out of sight. Chase made his own way back and paused at the main gates of the Lodge. Everything remained still and quiet, Celine’s bedroom was in darkness. Once satisfied all was good he walked over to his car, got in it and waited for time to pass. Petherton normally left for work around 06:00, so he had a little while to wait. He turned the engine on and the Mercedes obediently purred to life. With the wonders of modern technology the heating system took a few moments to begin gushing hot air inside the car. The warmth made Chase feel tired, and after being up for most of the night he felt he had a right to be. But he wouldn’t allow himself to start napping out, he needed to keep himself alert for when Petherton left. At 05:50 Chase pulled out of the lay-by and positioned his car on a side road so that he could still see the main gates of the Lodge. There he waited like a sniper ready to take out a target when it appeared. Not long to go now, he thought.
Disclaimer: any similarities in names to persons living or dead are purely coincidental and are fictitious characters invented by the author.