Part Six - Reunion
Hector and Alice had left Hector’s Austin parked in the garage around the back of the old University that was now home to the Paranatural Detective Agency headquarters. On the way back from Carfax Abbey station they had stopped off to buy an Indian take-away as they planned to discuss matters concerning the disappearances and deaths at the station probably until the early hours.
As they approached the main front door into the University they were both illuminated by a dazzling flash bulb. They both turned to see a man with a pock marked face somewhere in his early forties who they presumed was a reporter, he took a couple more shots on his Canon EOS M mark 2 digital camera before Hector spoke.
‘What do you think you’re doing? Who are you? A reporter?’
‘Good evening Mr Saint-Sanson, off another case are you, busting another ghost perhaps!’ The reporter kept on taking shots. Hector gave the door keys to Alice
‘Better go inside, I will deal with this’ Hector approached the man whilst Alice unlocked the front doors. ‘You didn’t answer my question, are you a reporter?’
‘Please! More of a journalist I would say! Hey is that Dark Alice with you?’ The reporter took a few quick shots as the petite form of Alice slipped inside the doors. ‘Listen I’m a big fan of your work, your stories sell papers, look here’s my card I’d love to tag along on one of your cases, and I would be discrete!’ Hector pocketed the card and tipped his hat at the reporter.
‘Oh and by the way I don’t bust ghosts’ said Hector as he entered the building
‘So is that a yes then, can I tag along so to speak?’ Hector popped his head out the door,
‘That’s a definite no! Good night!’ Were the final words spoken before the door was shut locked and the blind closed.
Upstairs Alice was reuniting with Dan Taylor, Hector’s friend and colleague when Hector came into the consulting room.
‘Of all the nerve!’ he said as he handed Dan the bag of curry and poppadums’. Dan went to the small kitchenette to fetch some plates and cutlery. Alice walked over to the window and looked down at the street below. The reporter was hanging about.
‘Do you often get this problem?’ she asked Hector.
‘It started a few months ago, bit of a pain. There have been a few high profile cases, the demon barber down Dock End place, and then there was the Witch of Brackley copse. We have drawn attention to ourselves’
‘Eventually you might want to find new premises’ Alice added whilst closing the curtains.
‘That would be pointless, wherever we went the same would happen eventually!’ Spoke Hector before simultaneously tossing his hat onto a red antique Chinese tea table and flopping into one of a pair of Royal club armchairs. Dan re-entered the room carrying two lap trays filled with delightfully smelling food,
‘You’re still wearing your coats!’ Dan said as he handed the trays to Hector and Alice, ‘I’ll just get mine’ he said and fetched his own tray. Alice sat down on the floor near the fireplace; Dan sat in the other armchair. ‘So what’s the business that’s brought us all together again!’ he said. Alice scooped up some curry with her fork before answering,
‘A legend, a story that might be true’
‘You are referring to the legend of Roland Frapples, who apparently will drag you kicking and screaming into the train tunnel at Carfax Abbey station if you call his name, at least that’s how the story goes isn’t it?’ Hector added.
‘There is always some truth to all legends though, and I’m sure it’s the case for this one I bet!’ said Dan.
‘I believe there is Dan, and I was there tonight with Hector, and I did feel something, something bad, I need to go back and do it properly though, it was all spare of the moment tonight, shouldn’t do that really without psyching myself up, if you know what I mean!’ Alice finished then carried on eating.
‘There has to be something to all the deaths and disappearances over the years surely, they can’t all be explained away as coincidence or misadventure and the like! What do you think Hector?’
‘Well Dan, as Alice said I was there tonight, just having a preliminary scout around, there is something, but I can’t put my finger on it! I think we might learn more when Alice does her thing’
‘Well I’m planning to do my thing as you say tomorrow night, I felt something tonight that perturbed me a little, so I’d like to ask if you’d both come with me tomorrow, that’s if you…’
‘You don’t even have to ask, as if we’d let you go there by yourself!’ Dan quipped.
‘Of course we will, I need to get to the bottom of this, this agency has been commissioned to act following the recent missing teenagers’ Hector explained
‘Oh, who’s commissioned you?’ Alice enquired
‘A senior executive in the local council, apparently his own daughter was one of the latest missing teenagers’ Hector answered using a melancholic tone.
‘I see, therefore he has a vested interest in getting to the bottom of this and I bet the pay for this job is good!’
‘Very good Alice!’ Dan answered for Hector. Alice’s mobile started to ring, she answered the call and put the phone to her ear; it was her girlfriend Erika, Alice rose from the floor and nipped into the kitchenette to talk privately. Moments later she reappeared smiling,
‘That was Erika, she was wondering where I was, I told her I’d be home ages ago, you know how it is when I’m with you two, lose track of time completely!’ Alice laughed and scooped up the last bit of her curry with a hunk of naan. ‘I ought to be going really’
‘I’ll run you back’ said Hector and he rose from his armchair placing his food down on top of the Chinese tea table in front of him.
‘Oh no it’s okay I rang a taxi, told him to wait at the top of bridge street, I will sneak out the fire escape and try to avoid that reporter, I bet he’s still outside!’
‘Are you sure? I don’t mind running you back’
‘I’m sure. I’ll pop round tomorrow let’s say around nine? Give us time to get ready before we head down to the station’ Alice kept talking as she put on her coat and wheeled her carry-on through to the back lab, she shouted goodbye and Dan shot up in order to close the fire escape door behind her as it was awkward and prone to jamming. When he came back into the room Hector was clearing away the remains of the dinner they had enjoyed.
‘Hector I think I will come round early tomorrow, Diane and I were going to trawl through the internet and microfilm reports of all the dead and missing teenagers, we think it might be useful to collate it all and maybe try to spot a pattern’
‘I was going to suggest that myself, I’ll help you, hey why don’t you stay here tonight, you can use the put up bed, then we can get going early’ Dan nodded,
‘Good idea, get a head start before Diane gets in!’ Hector helped Dan set up the bed near the window and then he retired to his room down the corridor. Dan peeked out through the curtains, the yellow glow from the nearby sodium street lamp picked out the outline of the reporter below; he could see the glowing end of the cigarette the reporter was sucking on as he stood outside watching the old University building. Persistent thought Dan and he smiled and switched off the lights.
Diane entered the PDA office at precisely nine am. She shouted into the study with her usual chirpy ‘It’s only me!’ which was met with two warm hellos from Dan and Hector. As Diane made her way into the study she was amazed to find a clutter of books and old newspapers along with a multitude of empty coffee cups and crumbed dinner plates.
‘Untidy for you two isn’t it?’ Diane sniffed the air, ‘I can smell curry!’
‘Yes we had one last night, with Alice. Sorry about the mess, we got carried away’ explained Dan. Diane came over to where both Dan and Hector sat in opposing armchairs and she leaned over Dan’s shoulder to see what he was reading.
‘Found anything interesting?’ She asked. Dan enjoyed the aroma of Diane’s perfume, he glanced up at her; she had her blond hair down about her shoulders and was wearing her signature vivid red lipstick. Dan held up a scrap book for Diane to see, on the page was a newspaper clipping about a dead teenager who was discovered in the tunnel at Carfax Abbey station over a decade ago. ‘How horrible!’ she said.
‘We both started about six this morning, we’ve literally pulled out lots of events around the station, we’re trying to put them into chronological order, will you help’ Dan handed Diane a pile of papers.
‘For you Mr Taylor, anything!’ Diane took the papers over to her side desk and sat herself down; she began to sort through the pile making notes on a jotter with a pencil. Hector reached out for a coffee mug and took a swig of air from within, then pulled a face,
‘More coffee is in order I believe!’ Hector made his way into the small kitchenette.
‘Do you know there is a man outside watching this building?’ Diane said
‘Yes, we think he’s a reporter!’ said Dan with a chuckle.
‘What, another one! It seems as soon as one of them gets bored another one appears!’ Diane said and she stopped writing for a while and swivelled her desk chair around to face Dan. ‘And what about you Dan, how have you been keeping?’
‘Oh you know same old, same old!’
‘Are you sleeping any better now?’
‘To be honest yes, yes I am, the dreams about Caroline, they are not so frequent these days!’ Dan smiled nervously attempting to put a brave face on for Diane’s benefit.
‘That’s good Dan that really is. It’s just like I said, it’s probably the guilt you feel about what happened, causing the dreams, you know’
‘You’re probably right Di, I will always feel guilty, I know I did everything I could, but…’ Dan looked down at his feet, he could feel the hurt and the grief begin to well up again and he made a determined effort to stop it this time. ‘Say, how do you fancy that drink we promised, down at the Owl tavern, we’ve been putting it off for too long!’ Diane smiled, but Hector emerged from the kitchenette carrying a cafeteria of fresh coffee; he answered for her,
‘Good idea Dan, the three of us haven’t had a jolly for quite some time!’ Dan noticed the look of disappointment begin to filter across Diane’s face, and suddenly he realised that perhaps, there was something happening between the two of them, an ember that if allowed to grow, possibly could kindle something very nice.
‘Well actually…’ before Dan could finish explaining to Hector that three would probably be a crowd, the doorbell buzzer rang out. Hector strode out of the office,
‘That’ll be Alice!’ he bellowed as he made his way to the door. Dan glanced over at Diane but she had turned away to print something from her desk top. Dan thought about the ephemeral nature of missed opportunities. It will keep he thought.
It was deep into the afternoon when Hector, Dan, Diane, and Alice all gathered around a central desk. Diane had collated all obtainable records of disappearances and deaths of local teenagers at and around Carfax station. Hector opened his small leather bound notebook as Diane began to read aloud each incident,
‘The first account I could find was a Mrs Frapples, who was found dead half way inside the tunnel, this was in nineteen forty!’ Diane was interrupted briefly by Alice,
‘I wonder if this Mrs Frapples was related in some way to the ghost of Roland Frapples, the ghost that is supposed to haunt the station?’ pondered Alice.
‘I think the coincidence would be huge if it were not the case!’ Added Hector and he scribbled something down in his book. Diane continued,
‘There was another death close to the platform in nineteen forty-eight, then a little later in nineteen fifty-four a group of teenagers went missing after they went off to play near Carfax station. The next case I could find was twenty years later, two local boys, known by the police as trouble were both found decapitated inside the main tunnel, one of them was found to be clutching a magazine article about the legend of Roland Frapples. There were four further reported cases, and I actually remember these as I’m sure the rest of us do! One was in nineteen eighty-seven, a homeless girl who lived around the station, then nineteen ninety-two, remember this one, the girl with the dog?’ Hector and Dan both nodded as they recalled the unfortunate incident where a fourteen-year old girl who believed her dog who had gone missing had been taken by the ghost of Roland Frapples, she went off into the tunnel searching for him, the police found her burned remains huddled under the overhang of the platform gap the next morning. ‘The other dates are two thousand and seven and two thousand and ten and I don’t have to remind you about those do I? And now finally the latest three teenagers last month, Sam Pleasance, and John and Debra Russell. That’s all we’ve got I’m afraid’.
‘That’s excellent Diane thank you!’ Hector said as he finished his scribbling in his notebook.
‘You don’t need to write it down, I printed it all see!’ Diane handed a sheet of A4 paper to Hector, Hector waved it away preferring his own notes, Dan took the paper from Diane and put it together with his other note papers he had generated during the afternoon.
‘Well I think we have enough information to be going on with for now. The rest we will get from our investigation tonight!’ Hector said and then turned to Alice, ‘Are you sure you want to go through with it tonight?’
‘Of course, it’s what I do, besides we need to clear this up, help the town, do our job!’ Dan cut in,
‘I have been prepping all the gear as usual, making sure we have enough batteries for the Dictaphones, EMV detectors, cameras are charged’ Hector snorted slightly in ridicule of Dan’s reliance on his paraphernalia, Dan as usual took no notice.
‘Great, what time shall we go?’ asked Alice.
‘Probably best wait until the last train has passed through Carfax; we don’t want to run the risk of accidents’ Said Hector.
‘It says here that the last train is eleven ten!’ Diane added after a quick look at an internet portal. Alice stood up,
‘Good, then we go to the station around eleven! In the meantime, shall we all go out for dinner?’