b3.7 Wendell watched Evie Lane extract herself from her van. Without hesitation she approached him, with a dazzling smile.
b3.8 “I’m Evie,” she said, and she reached out her hand. Wendell responded and they shook hands, but still he was silent.
b3.9 “Evie Lane,” she said then. “Here from Seattle. Landscape design? Hired online? Expected?”
b4.0 “Oh, yes,” Wendell finally managed & he let go of her hand. But the way she moved, & her confidence.
b4.1 He recalled a woman years ago, a breathless voice on the telephone, a woman who leaned toward him when she spoke.
b4.2 “Is Ms. Oat around today?” Evie asked. And Wendell came out of his memories. “Yeah,” he said. “Iris is inside. I’ll get her.”
b4.3 Iris and Evie shook hands. Iris smiled and watched carefully. “Let me show you the garden areas,” she said.
b4.4 Just then Jill arrived home from school. She joined the tour around the yard.
b4.5 “I’m Jill,” she said. “& I need room for my Poison Plant Garden.” Iris looked surprised, then pleased. “Yes,” she said…
b4.6 “I want an underground tunnel.” Iris added. Evie tilted her head, but she smiled. She was there to serve.
b4.7 As the women spoke, Wendell watched. He followed Evie with his eyes, & she glanced back at him, just enough.
d1 Margaret Benson pulled down the parlour blinds. They darkened the windows behind the lace curtains, & they darkened the room.
d2 Then she went to the mantle and opened the door on the old clock & stopped the pendulum.
d3 She gathered candleholders from the central table and carried them to the kitchen, to replace with new white tapers.
d4 She covered an oval wall mirror with black velvet cloth & trimmed the wicks on 2 oil lamps. (You never knew: candles or lamps.)
d5 Margaret did these things every second Sunday afternoon in preparation for the afternoon séance in her parlour.
d6 She settled the new candles, then she made a pot of tea, & as she brought out the cups the doorbell rang. Things began.
d6 Billy Killins was the first to arrive. He was old and elegant and utterly gay, a gentleman & a scholar, loved by all.
d7 Billy was part of ‘the circle’ as a seeker of two who were beyong the veil, or dead: Lola (his mother) and George (his cat).
d8 (Of the two, he mostly missed George.)
d9 “Margaret love,” Billy said, and he kissed her cheek. “Let me help you with the tea. How are you? You look a little tired…”
d1.0 It was a wonder how Billy could make things easier. ‘You are so kind,’ Margaret said. Then,‘I had a dream. That George came.’
d1.1 This made Billy smile, and he patted Margaret’s arm. Then the doorbell rang and Iris Oat arrived.
d1.2 Iris had her grand-niece, Jill, with her. This made Margaret uneasy. Jill had come before, a young skeptic.
d1.3 ‘Welcome, welcome,’ Margaret said. Billy took coats (it was chilly fall outside) and Margaret served tea. Blue arrived.
d1.4 Blue taught drama at the local high school. He was 42 and had been spiritually connected ever since his LSD experiences at college.
d1.5 When Blue attended, things happened. So Margaret was thrilled to see him.
d1.6 Everyone else had finished their tea, and eaten Margaret’s lemon cookies too, when Natasha arrived. (One never knew.)
d1.7 Natasha was the medium. Sometimes she came, sometimes she didn’t.
d1.8 Margaret was very excited this day: Billy & Natasha both. Oh, but Jill present as well. Anything might or might not happen.
d1.9 Billy gathered up the empty teacups and shooed the guests toward the dark parlour. Iris whispered to Jill,”You promised.”
d2.0 “Sit by me dear,” Billy said. Jill truly liked Billy, and she plunked herself in the chair beside him at the round table.
d2.1 “What do you think Billy?” Jill asked. “Something with us today?” And she smiled, and Billy laughed softly. “Have faith,” he said.
a6.2 “OK, I’ll be out.” Bill shut off the phone and cursed silently. “You stay just where you are,” he said to Robbie,
a6.3 “I haven’t finished with you.” He stumped back to Tom Fordyce. “How the hell did they get here so fast?…
a6.4 “We’ve hardly been here an hour ourselves. One of our Livingston boys, I bet. I’ll pull his sodding balls off when I find him.
a6.5 “I’ll go and see them and tell them to bugger off. But they won’t.” He looked around. Broxburn Plants was an old walled garden.
a6.6 The house it had once belonged to was long demolished. Subsidence from the oil shale mines had seen to that.
a6.7 But the red brick walls were intact, enclosing the nursery snugly. “We’ll need more men on the perimeter. One to each side.
a6.8 “Keep the cameras well away from the walls. At least we don’t have to worry about helicopters. We’re right under the flightpath
a6.9 ..to Edinburgh airport.” Although he was fuming internally, Bill knew there was no point in alienating the press.
a7.0 He went to the gate. There was only one camera crew so far STV. They’d be a few minutes ahead of their rivals. A nice scoop…
a7.1 They’d be pleased with themselves. He might extract something useful. He engineered a smile. The effect was mildly terrifying.
a7.2 “You are fast off the mark,” he said. “Congratulations. I’ll give you a statement. But only in return for something.”
a7.3 “I’d like to know what brought you here.” There was hesitation. Could Twitter count as a source that should not be betrayed?
a7.4 The consensus seemed to be that it was public, and fair game. “Look for #uncanny death on Twitter,” said the TV front man.
a7.6 “Thank you, I’ll do that,” said Bill. “Right, ready?” He waited for the camera to swing in. “This is all you are getting BTW
a7.7 “And no questions”. Bill did not look good on camera. He knew opinion agreed he should be banned when children were watching.
a7.8 “The police were called to Broxburn Plants this morning. A person has died. The police are treating the death as suspicious.
a7.9 “That is all I have to say for the moment. I shall let you know when we have any more information.”
a8.0 He turned away, ignoring the shouted questions, and shut the gate firmly behind him. He rang Tom. “I want someone under 25 here
a8.1 …right away. CID, uniformed, pathology assistant, don’t care. Send the first person you find. I’m by the gate.”
c1.8 The West Lothian Courier, with only three full-time reporters (not counting sport), is not used to breaking big news stories.
c1.9 Its format has not changed for thirty years, and the advent of colour printing is the biggest thing that ever happened to it.
c2.0 The fact that it had a Twitter feed at all was thanks to Janice Boyd, who was the administrative assistant and general dogsbody
c2.1 She did this because she had a soft spot for@jimbyrnemusic. His sad voice reminded her of rain, and told her she was not alone
c2.3 When she got to work, she pulled up Twitter and saw Euan’s tweet. It was maybe worth ringing Stuart, who covered news.
c2.4 Stuart was brusque. “I’m busy, Janice. Track this guy down yourself if you want. It’s likely just some joker.”
c2.6 Janice had always wanted to be a newshound. She had an itch about this one. She put the phones onto an anodyne hold message..
c2.7 …opened Facebook and set about tracking down Euan Mccrum. It did not take her long.<
d2.2 Billy had white hair & beautiful clothes. He always wore a sport coat, of linen in summer, and usually a fine hat.
d2.3 On this chilly fall day his coat was Harris Tweed, with a cashmere scarf. He had a kind smile, and a fierce sense of humor.
d2.4 To Iris he resembled Truman Capote. Perhaps because he was a novelist: mysteries. Could be he came to the circles for ideas.
d2.5 He had an elegant little house on the other side of Newport, not far from the old lighthouse, but he traveled the world a lot.
d2.6 Sometimes there was an air of sadness about Billy, and Iris knew there had been a love & a death. She had known him for years.
d2.7 Margaret Benson’s house was small, with coved ceilings and wood floors. She had fake Oriental rugs around, and 1940’s furniture.
d2.8 She waited patiently for her dead Hubert to appear, exactly as she had waited dinner on him for their 40 years of married life.
d2.9 Now Margaret turned off the electric lamp & Natasha struck a match, & then one candle flickered weakly in the darkening room.
d3.0 Natasha wore a long dress with wide soft sleeves, all in deep red. She rose from her chair now with outstretched arms.
d3.1 Billy whispered to Jill, “Such a drama queen,” & Jill giggled. Iris kicked Jill under the table. Natasha gave them a Look.
d3.2 Then, in a majestic voice, she invited the dead to come, & also her coyote spirit guide. The circle joined hands around the table.
d3.3 All was silent except for a light hum from Natasha, seated now, her eyes closed. Billy squeezed Jill’s hand once.
d3.4 Jill squeezed back twice. Billy squeezed 3 times. Jill tried to swallow a giggle. Beside her, Iris squeezed her other hand, hard.
d3.5 “There is a woman manifesting,” Natasha said. “She’s here for—her sister Iris. & young Jill…& a message for you, for both of you.”
d3.51“You must take care of one another,” Natasha continued. “You must be aware. There is a garden—“
d3.6 Natasha’s eyes remained shut & her head moved from side to side. The candle flame flickered in the window draft. Jill listened.
d3.7But there was another sound. Something terrible. It was a ghastly choking noise & it came from under the table. Natasha opened her eyes.
d3.8 “Oh for Christ’s sake,” Blue said. Margaret Benson was on her feet. “Fluffy!” she cried. She turned on a lamp. “Not on the rug!”
d3.9 But Fluffy the cat had already vomited on the carpet beneath the table. He moved six inches & did it again.
d4.0 Then, gracefully, the cat emerged. He walked casually from the room, his tail switshing a bit. He clearly felt much better.
d4.1 The party moved to the kitchen while Margaret crawled around under the table with rags & a small bucket of water & some Argosheen.
d4.2 Natasha sometimes had a Russian accent, or maybe it was Italian, but now she sounded more like Brooklyn.
d4.3“I got a headache,” she said. And she gathered her cordouroy cape and left.
d4.4 Billy knew where to find the wine & the stemware. It became a party & he was host. He moved among the guests.
d4.5“Iris,” he said. “You received the only message!” Jill laughed. “Oh not at the message Aunt,” she said. “The cat!”
d4.6 “Well I think the message was remarkable,” Iris said. “You know, Billy, I am just having the landscaping begun at my house.”
d4.7 Billy was interested. “Well,” Iris continued. “Jill found me a designer, through the Internet. She picked an excellent woman…
d4.8…named Evie Lane, from Seattle. Drawing designs as we speak I think, in town, at the Sylvia Beach. Fitzgerald Room. Perfect for her.”
d4.9“Sounds expensive,” Billy said. But Iris had turned to reassure Margaret that no one minded the cat.<
d5.0 Blue stood with his back against the kitchen counter and finished his second glass of wine. He was sandy haired & boyish looking.
d5.1He taught English and also theater at Jill’s Newport High School. Everyone there called him “Blue” & not his name: Roger Filp.
d5.2He was Jill’s Freshman English teacher, & she’d had a crush on him since September. She moved across the kitchen to where he stood.
d5.3 “That landscaping woman arrived,” she said softly. “The one you helped me find online.” Blue smiled & nodded.
d5.4Jill went on. “She has a van and everything, and looks like a real professional. I think we made the right choice.”
d5.5 Blue sipped his wine. “Groovy,” he said, and Jill laughed. He looked his gray eyes at her. “Has she planted anything?” he asked.
d5.6 His voice was quite low, and smooth. Jill looked up at him, and she was suddenly self-conscious. She blushed.
d5.7 “No, no plants yet. She’s designing. And I’m going to have my own garden. I want to grow deadly plants. You know, poison ones…
d5.8 …Ancient poison ones.” She hoped he might be impressed with her unique and unchildish interest. “No kidding?” he said. “Be careful.”
d5.9 At that moment, Margaret came into the room, still holding a rag. “Has anyone seen Fluffy?” she asked
d6.0 No one had. Everyone put down their glasses and spread out to look. It was Iris who found the cat. Fluffy was on the porch.
d6.1 The cat was dead. The corpse was still warm, but there was a trickle of blood from its nose. Iris bent to pick it up.
d6.2 She turned its head towards her and recoiled. The pupils of the cat’s eyes were grossly expanded, there was no color to be seen.
d6.3 It looked more like an owl than a cat. But it was definitely dead.<
[So..over to you. (Evil grin). Please note my careful spelling of color]
[YOU KILLED FLUFFY!!!]
[This changes everything E. Poor Fluffy. And just spelling color my way doesn’t absolve you from this.]
[Look, I didn’t kill her. One of YOUR characters did. Why blame me?]
[Just know, Fluffy shall be avenged.]
Grace says: I for one will never forgive Kininvie for his unspeakable “facilitation.” He’s going to have to do something remarkable to get back in this cat lover’s good graces. Ya hear that, K?