Part Nine - Relinquished
Alice was kneeling down in the darkness, she placed a small lantern down in front of her, and she fidgeted because the cold ballast was digging into her knees. She took a small tea light candle out of her coat pocket; Dan passed her a box of matches,
‘Are you sure you will be able to contact Earnest and Roland again?’
‘I’m sure Dan; you know all we have to do is call for Rolly’
‘But isn’t that dangerous? Remember what happened last time; we could hardly control things could we!’
‘It won’t be like last time, I’m going to protect myself!’ Alice rubbed at her shins; a week had almost passed and the blisters had almost healed. Dan walked back along the darkened tracks looking for Hector; the night was unusually mild for the time of year, and it had been raining, the rain washed old stone flags of the platform shone in the moon light. Before Dan could leave the mouth of the tunnel Hector appeared.
‘There you are, what have you been doing?’ Dan asked whilst Hector removed a pair of riggers gloves and tossed them to the side of the tunnel,
‘I was just checking in with Joe Welsh, making sure the train station was well shut off to the public, his policemen are at the exit and entrance gates, he’s doing us a big favour this time you know!’ Said Hector and he patted Dan on the shoulder, ‘Where’s Alice?’
‘Oh, she’s about half way down, come on I’ll take you to her’. Dan led Hector back to Alice who was now sitting illuminated from the glow of her candle. Hector squatted down next to her,
‘Are you sure you can keep Roland back until...the other one appears?’ said Hector nervously.
‘Of course, Roland knows me now, we made a link, he will remember that!’ Hector stood up and watched Dan as he fished out his EMF detector he switched it on and waved it around in front of him. Alice had now closed her eyes and began to meditate, she imagined a powerful white light like a rope, it started at her head and slowly wound itself out round and around forming an imaginary cocoon all around her all the way down to her feet, this was her protective aura, Alice took this meditation even further by imagining a circle of mirrors all around her reflecting the light aura back onto her in the darkness. She stood up and began to call for Roland Frapples.
Gregory Hickman was crouched low behind an automatic ticket machine; he had been waiting patiently for the policeman who was standing in front of the entrance to move away. The drizzle of the evening was splashing off the top of the ticket machine onto his back and was beginning to soak through his thin coat; he could feel small cold patches around his shoulders and shivered.
Gregory eyed a large clock on the platform; it was a quarter to midnight. When his eyes dropped to continue his vigil of the policeman he was pleasantly surprised to see him ushering two teenage boys away from the station who were both perched on what looked like BMX bikes. Gregory took his chance and stealthily slipped behind the police officer and onto the platform.
Making his way along to the old disused waiting room he again crouched low in the doorway. He had a good view of the tunnel and the platform from here. He took out his camera and set it up ready for whatever was to happen here tonight. He had been paid well for his piece on the phantom train a fortnight ago, the whole town was buzzing and talking about the ghosts of Carfax Abbey station and Gregory Hickman was not going to have his thunder and prestige taken from him by another reporter, he had earned the right, he had spent the whole of last week staking out the offices of the Paranatural Detectives or so they called themselves. Lighting himself a cigarette to help him pass the time he glanced along the platform, his cigarette then dropped from his gaping mouth. Gregory stood in the waiting room doorway and rubbed his eyes in disbelief.
Dan’s EMF detector started to buzz wildly, two small red LEDs began to flash intermittently at first and then they remained constantly illuminated. Hector watched as Dan revolved on the spot until the noise from the EMF had reached a steady pitch.
‘I think something is about to manifest...over this way!’ Dan shouted and he pointed almost to the exact place that they had had their previous encounter with Roland Frapples. Hector instinctively reached into his pocket his fingers searched for the quartz crystal he usually packed in there; he withdrew his hand when he remembered what had happened to it during their previous escapade, instead he turned up the wick on the old Tilly lamp he’d brought. Alice was slowly rocking on the ballast, murmuring to herself in a trance like state. ‘Over there! I can see...I can see...it!’ Dan said softly this time. Hector and Dan watched as ball of incandescent light drifted along in the darkness of the tunnel towards them. Hector crouched down; his head now at the same level with Alice.
‘He’s here’ Hector whispered. Alice’s eyes snapped open in time for the first heart stopping squeal from the rusty wheels on Roland’s wheel chair.
‘Stay close to me, both of you, I’ll increase the protective circle to cover you’ Alice said as she gripped both Hector and Dan by the hand. The pale flickering Tilly lamp picked out the misshapen features of Roland Frapples, frantically propelling his chair ever closer to all three of them. Alice rose from the ground and held up her hand, ‘Stop!’ She commanded. Roland’s chair hissed as it came to a standstill; the wheels were glowing red hot. Both of Roland’s huge fists began to project outwards towards them and then they retracted the moment they came into contact with Alice’s circle of protection. ‘It’s okay Roland we’re here to help you, it’s time for you to go home. You don’t have to do this anymore; you don’t have to work anymore!’ Alice had barely finished her last word when the skeletal form of what remained of Earnest Kent flickered into corporeal existence inches from them.
’And what of me, I have to work don’t I? There’s no ressst for me, no ressst for the wicked is there?′ His unexpected sudden appearance made all three jump. Earnest reached out and gripped Hector on his shoulder, Hector winced, as Earnest’s bony fingers like a row of ivory daggers, almost pierced his shoulder blade.
‘The circle, he was able to break it!’ gasped Alice in disbelief.
′Aye and I can break you an all!′ Spoke Earnest, his voice sounding like a moaning wind mixed with the hiss of a locomotive blowing off steam. This time he gripped Dan by the chin with his other hand.
‘Earnest...listen Earnest!’ Alice began, Earnest released both Dan and Hector; they staggered backwards rubbing themselves to remove the chill from Earnest’s icy fingertips.
’Eh? You sssspoke my name. How could you? How could you know who I am?′ Earnest had now focussed all his attention on Alice.
‘Earnest, I know who you are, I know why you’re doing what you’re doing, but you don’t have to, not really. You are dead, you have died and...’ Alice was cut short,
′I know I’ve bleeding died woman! Tell me ssssomething I don’t bleeding know!′ Alice breathed deeply and continued to work on Earnest; she was acutely aware how dangerous it was to engage a spirit, in fact two spirits whilst her protection had been damaged.
‘Earnest, I’m sorry you died, truly I really am, and you did not deserve that’
’Deserves got nout to do with it! That bugger o’er there, he did it, broke the bleeding train, so now he does my bidding, he took away my chancesss, he...′
‘I know Earnest, and I’m sorry, but you can have your chance back, you have died and so have your loved ones, they have been waiting for you, they love you so much, you can go to them’
′I know I can go to them, I’m making my own way to them, I’ve been doing it for weeksss! I’m almost there!′ Said Earnest, and a grin began to spread across his fleshless face.
‘Weeks? You haven’t been doing this for weeks; you’ve been doing it for years, for decades!’ Hector spoke up, Earnest’s smile dropped as he turned to look at Hector.
′Decades? Why ssssay you decades?′
‘Time has passed by Earnest, your time, your life, the way of life you once knew, all gone, there’s nothing left for you now, you’ve reached the end of the line, come with me, I’ll show you’ Hector began to walk back along the tracks to the mouth of the tunnel illuminated by a full moon. Alice and Dan accompanied him. Earnest turned to Roland,
′You wait here′ he said then followed Hector Dan and Alice out of the tunnel.
When Alice and Dan emerged from the tunnel, they gasped with wonderment when they saw the platform.
Cushing hill was emblazoned across metal name plates. The platform was decorated by barrel upon barrel of flowers. With a flourish Hector presented the scene to Earnest. Earnest slowly took off his driver’s cap and sunk to his knees.
′I’m here, finally I made it, I finished me sssshift I did!′ Earnest hung his head and appeared to sob quietly to himself. Alice turned to Hector and was about to ask him how, but Hector put a finger to his lips in a gesture to silence her before offering her the chance to finish her work. Alice turned to Earnest,
‘You are here, you can go home, please go home, let Roland go home, let all the people that you used go home, they all deserve it, like you deserve it!’ Earnest stood tall once more as a tumultuous hissing began to fill the station. Pressing themselves against the platform overhang Alice, Hector, and Dan watched as a solid looking old steam engine pulling a train of carriages slowly rolled out from the tunnel stopping on the tracks in front of them. Earnest floated upwards on the wind; he appeared somewhat transparent; on the platform he stiffly walked over to the train of carriages. One by one Earnest opened the doors of the carriages,
’The train terminatesss here! Please alight for all changesss. Mind the gap pleassse’
Suddenly the locomotive was filled with a white light, the light was intensely radiant but it didn’t hurt the eyes of Hector, Dan or Alice as they watched all the souls fly out of the carriage doors like sparks of light.
‘It’s beautiful!’ said Alice as she almost cried.
‘Not any kind of light you can describe on earth is it!’ Hector added, and all three watched as the flood of orbs appeared to be sucked into the gaping mouth of the tunnel. None of them noticed the flashes from Gregory Hickman’s camera as he took a barrage of photographs from the far platform.
‘Why are they going into the tunnel?’ Dan asked. Alice answered for him,
‘The tunnel is acting as a porthole to the place where the souls need to go, if they choose to’.
When the last orb had been consumed the spirit of Earnest simply turned then walked a slow amble towards the bridge at the far end of the station. He faded away as his lustrous form merged with the beam flooding downwards from a yellow platform lamp. When Hector, Dan and Alice looked around the station even the once solid old locomotive had vanished, the only clue to it ever having been there was a nebulous plume of steam that wandered ever higher towards the sparkling stars.
It was a quarter past three the following day and it was raining heavily against the window from which Dan Taylor peered. Alice Washington saw Dan at the window of the upper floor office of the Paranatural detective agency; they both exchanged smiles and a hand wave greeting before Alice entered the foyer of the old University building.
Alice entered the office of the PDA to find her friends Hector-Saint Sanson, Dan Taylor, and Diane Appleton all merrily drinking tea and eating rich dark cupcakes whilst sitting around a cheerful coal fire.
‘Have you seen?’ Alice said as she held up a copy of the latest edition of the Carfax standard. She tossed off her long black overcoat and briefly untangled her equally long dark tresses. Dan reached for the newspaper and Diane offered Alice a cupcake which she gratefully accepted. Dan read from the paper aloud,
‘Town rid of its ghosts! Local paranormal detectives send ghosts packing! And look, they even have a photograph!’ Dan held up the paper for Hector and Diane to see. The photograph depicted blurred blobs of light spiralling upward from the platform. There was even a photograph of Hector and Alice as they were leaving the Owl Tavern days before. Hector moved over to the window; he could hear a commotion outside. To his horror he saw a mob of curious locals gathering outside the University.
‘Looks as though being in the spotlight again will have its little problems!’ Hector said as he drew the curtains.
‘Look at us, the local celebs!’ Alice laughed.
‘My guess would be the reporter who we caught hanging around the other night’. Hector motioned for Alice to sit down by the fire, he then nodded at Diane who got up and walked over to her desk; she picked up a brown paper envelope and handed it to Hector, he then offered it to Alice.
’What is this? She said looking blankly at the envelope. She opened the envelope by tearing off one end and took out a folded cheque, her eyes widened as she read the sum written across it. ‘I don’t understand what is this for?’
‘We were paid rather handsomely for this engagement, it’s only right that you should be remunerated’. Hector said and he smiled at Alice, ‘We couldn’t have done this without you!’
‘I told you I never do this for the money, it’s not about the money’ Alice spoke sincerely,
‘I know but it will help, especially with Erika I think!’ Alice offered the cheque back to Hector,
‘I couldn’t, I don’t want our friendship to change, to become a matter of business’.
‘It won’t change Alice really, but you deserve this!’ Dan added this time, Diane nodded and handed Alice another cupcake; Alice smiled and accepted the sweet offering,
’I shouldn’t you know, and I’m not talking about the second cake! I make enough money from my magazine, you know that. Alice accepted the cheque and ate the cake greedily. ‘You know I’d really like to know how you managed to transform the station like that.’ Hector placed down his empty cup of tea on top of the old Chinese tea table that was positioned between the two club chairs. He wiped his mouth with a napkin and then explained,
’I had the Cushing Hill signs made up by a local sign printer; they are magnetic and just stick over the usual station name signs. I commissioned a local florist to prepare the barrels of flowers; I remembered that photograph you showed me of how Cushing Hill platform looked. All four enjoyed each other’s company well into the late hours, the tea was replaced by wine, and the cupcakes by pizza, and eventually the curious crowds outside began to disperse as the seasonal chilly wind began to pick up.