Paranatural Detective Agency Vol. 1

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Part Six - Danger at Wisteria Cottage

Dan reached out for the beautiful solid brass cast Green Man door knocker and used it to rap out his presence on the door step of Wisteria cottage. Whilst he waited he admired the yellow roses that adorned a trellis opposite the gnarled ancient trunk of the climbing wisteria that clung to the façade of the cottage as though it was gaining nutrient from within. Soon enough the door was approached from the other side.

Dan waited rocking on the balls of his feet as the door was freed from an array of bolts, chains, and lever tumbler locks, eventually a friendly face greeted him, it was Hilda Grantham, one of the three Hildas and founder of the Superphysical gang. She gave Dan a warm hug.

‘Dan, oh how lovely, what a nice surprise! What brings you to the cottage? Are you in trouble? Oh do come in!’ Hilda stepped aside and almost pushed Dan inside.

‘I should have called you first, I’m sorry to drop by like this’ Apologised Dan.

‘Nonsense, you know you are always welcome here, come and warm yourself by the fire, I’ll let the gang know you’re here! Would you like some cake, I have your favourite, I made it last Tuesday, you know the jam coconut sponge!’ Before Dan could answer Hilda had vanished into the kitchen still chattering away as though he was by her side.

Dan removed his parka and draped it over the back of an armchair, the fire was crackling away merrily in the hearth and he stood in front of it rubbing his hands together as Hilda returned with her cousin Hilda Thompson and brother Eddie Brewer, all of them approached him all wide eyed, and speaking simultaneously. Dan greeted them all again, exchanging hugs and a warm handshake from Eddie, Hilda Grantham placed a plate of sliced cake next to a weeping fig plant on top of a small coffee table, not before long Dan could hear Hilda Thompson’s Jack Russell Terrier Wuffie, come scrambling in from the back garden, and within moments it was furiously leaping up at his legs as though its very life depended on it being able to scale him.

Wuffie’s white fur matched the colour of the hair on the heads of his three human friends.

‘Pull up a chair by the fire, you look frozen stiff!’ said Hilda Thompson

‘I’ll put the kettle on shall I’ Said Eddie and he disappeared with an over excited Wuffie scurrying behind him. Dan thanked Hilda Thompson as she slid a chair up behind him, and he sat down. Hilda Thompson and Hilda Grantham sat in chairs opposite him, Hilda Thompson’s frail elderly face beamed as she studied Dan’s face. Dan noticed that she looked to have aged a great deal since the last time they were together, he wasn’t sure of her age exactly, but he guessed she was in her late seventies.

Hilda Thompson was the trance medium of the gang; sometimes her gift took a lot out of her physically leaving her exhausted and somewhat worn out; lately she had left a lot of the mediumship work to her slightly more junior, and equally gifted cousin Hilda Grantham. Dan patted his knees and decided to break the silence that had grown around them both.

‘Eddie looks well’ Dan said, and then wondered why he’d said such a thing, as Eddie always looked in rude health.

‘Oh yes, Eddie is fine now, he had a bit of a sniffle last week, but he’s over that now’ Hilda Grantham replied. ‘But never mind us Dan, what has brought you to Wisteria cottage so soon? Is it your late wife dear?’

‘No, nothing like that, it’s…’ Dan was cut short as Hilda Thompson interrupted,

‘You know I will try to contact her again if you like, I know how much that comforted you the last time’

‘Thanks Hilda, but that’s not why I came, its work that brought me actually’ Dan explained.

‘Oh how interesting!’ Both Hildas spoke in unison and then chuckled, ‘Jinx!’ they both said.

‘Is it something to do with your para-whatsit agency?’ asked Hilda Thompson. ‘When are you going to bring your friend with you, we’ve been reading all about him in the papers, it seems you both are getting a bit of a reputation!’

‘You mean Hector, well he’s not really much of a people person, and I’m afraid he doesn’t entertain spiritualism, or mediumship like I do, it took me absolutely ages to get him to work with Alice!’

‘That’s a shame, yes such a shame, but you tell him from me, he is always welcome at the cottage, and such a dapper young man too!’ Hilda Grantham nodded at her cousin’s description of Hector. Dan smiled at the thought of Hector being described as a ‘young man’.

‘So please tell us about your latest case, it would be lovely to be able to help in some way!’ said Hilda Grantham. Dan reached over for his parka and dug into one of the long pockets; he retrieved a folded piece of paper as Eddie returned carrying a teapot and four cups on a tray. Eddie rested the tray down on the coffee table and began to pour the tea.

‘Are you familiar with the witch of Brackley copse?’ Dan asked. Eddie stopped pouring the tea. Both Hildas turned to look at one another, and then back at Dan. Eddie resumed pouring. ‘There’s been some disturbing…’ Dan was cut short again, this time by Eddie.

‘Dan, two sugars isn’t it?’ enquired Eddie whilst holding a pair of silver tongs.

‘What, err, no just the one please’ Eddie stirred Dan’s tea and handed it out for him to take, Dan thanked him and sipped his tea.

‘So, your looking into the Witch are you?’ Eddie said.

‘Oh you mustn’t, you simply mustn’t, whatever this case it, leave well alone!’ Hilda Grantham said.

‘What do you know about the witch?’ asked Dan. Eddie stood warming himself by the fire then answered Dan’s question.

‘We all know about the witch, everyone who lives in Carfax knows, well, those of a certain age or so!’

‘I see, but what do you know, specifically I mean?’ Dan finished his tea and placed his cup down so he could concentrate on what his friends were about to tell him.

‘She was real, not just a myth, she lived in Carfax, oh let me think, about three or four hundred years ago!’ said Hilda Thompson.

‘That’s right and the local villagers back then, they burned her didn’t they?’ added Hilda Grantham. Eddie corrected Hilda,

‘No they tried to, but they couldn’t do it, she had some kind of spell over them, so they left her for dead in the woods, tied her to a tree and she starved to death, or so the legend says. Thing is over the years, people have been seeing her!’

‘People?’ Dan started to scribble all this information down on a blank page at the back of the book he had borrowed from Hector; the book about the witch.

‘Those foolish enough to go looking for her’ Finished Eddie.

‘Yes and they always got into trouble, sometimes they never came back from the woods, or sometimes, not immediately, perhaps years later, it caught up with them’ Hilda Grantham wiped a tear from her eye and she hurriedly left the room.

‘Is she alright? I’m sorry, I...’ Dan stood up and was about to go after her when Eddie slapped a hand on his shoulder,

‘It’s okay Dan, leave her be, she’ll be alright in a minute, it’s the memories, all this talk of the witch’ Eddie cleared up the tea cups and carried the tray out into the kitchen. It wasn’t too long before Hilda Grantham returned.

‘Are you okay, I hope I didn’t...?’ Dan was concerned for Hilda,

′ Oh no please don’t worry, it was my late husband you see, he was interested in the witch, he was one of the foolish people who went looking for her, and I suppose he found the end’ Hilda trailed off and dried her eyes using a ball of tissue she had hidden up the sleeve of her cardigan. Dan really wanted to find out as much as he could about what had happened, but he decided tactfully that it could wait for another time. He wouldn’t have said anything more but Hilda Grantham continued. ‘Maybe it’s time this ghost or whatever it is was finally laid to rest. Dan if you need our help you will have it!’

Hector stood hands in pockets of his Crombie overcoat, collar turned up and fedora hat pulled down as far it could go to keep out the chill. He was watching the police and the forensics experts do their job.

A plastic sheet had been placed over the lifeless body of Neil Trenchard to shield any members of the public or junior officers from the gore beneath whilst a forensic work tent was being erected. Police officers were still putting up crime scene barrier tape to block off the car park to the back of the Carfax Standard office. Hector watched as a late arrival for work was ushered off the premises. Superintendent Joe Welsh came out of the open fire escape doors carrying two polystyrene cups of steaming instant coffee and made his way over to where Hector stood. He handed one coffee to Hector who received it gratefully.

‘So here we are again!’ said Joe in a strangely jovial tone. Hector was taken aback by Joe’s mirthfulness; he now believed that Joe actually seemed to enjoy the kind of case that was now steadily unfurling itself.

‘Indeed we are Superintendent, can I ask if the same singular characteristics have presented themselves again?’ Hector sipped at his coffee whilst Joe opened up a little black notebook and flicked through the pages until he had found his latest list of jottings.

‘They have Mr Saint-Sanson, they have! The victim was found to have deep lacerations to the front of his face resulting in the complete removal of both his eyes.’ Joe paused to slurp a mouthful of hot coffee. ‘The victim was discovered to be frozen solid, but in this inclement weather I suppose that’s hardly surprising!’

’Would I be permitted to inspect the offices, just briefly in order to satisfy myself of one or two things? Hector asked but was already striding his way over to the open fire exit.

‘Of course, I’ll come with you, the boys will stop you otherwise, err, this way if you please’ Joe had to run a little to catch up with Hector and he just managed to squeeze his portly form past him and enter the building first.

Hector was drawn towards Neil Trenchard’s office. A strange set of furrows etched deep into the walls of the corridor provided a trail that he and Joe followed. Hector used a small metal spatula to scrape within the grooves, collecting the shavings in a plastic tube.

‘You know it never fails to amaze me the variety of implements that you carry around in that coat of yours!’ remarked Joe. ‘We noticed those lines of course; I believe they were caused by that large desk outside the editor’s office.’ Joe gestured towards a heavy looking pine desk. ‘Must have scraped the plaster as they carried it down the corridor, it’s a bit of a squeeze!’ Joe carried on ahead and waited for Hector to join him outside Trenchard’s office. ‘And in we go!’ said Joe as soon as Hector caught up.

Trenchard’s office was in a state of disarray, there were files of paper strewn everywhere, and coffee mugs covered most of the surface space of both desks and bookcase, some had obviously been placed there for some time and they had become glued to the top of the desk from drips of their syrupy contents. Hector noticed that there was a memory stick jutting out of the PC on Trenchard’s desk.

‘We haven’t made a full inventory of the contents of the room as of yet, obviously we will need to recover as much paperwork as we can find, and also remove the computers and laptops for inspection’ Joe started patting his pockets as he searched for his notebook. ‘There was something you should know, now where in the blazes have I put the blasted thing, had it a moment ago!’ Whilst Joe was preoccupied with finding his notebook Hector stealthily removed and pocketed the memory stick from the PC, he winced afterwards realising that it was something he shouldn’t have done. ‘Ah here we are, yes, I listened to Trenchard’s telephone answering machine, there was a message from your colleague Dan Taylor, apparently he’d set up a meeting with Trenchard this afternoon. I was going to contact him myself to warn him about this latest event, but he wasn’t picking up his phone! Perhaps you should...’ Joe said and with his right hand he put his thumb to his ear and little finger to his mouth as he mimed using an old telephone receiver.

‘Yes I will call him immediately, he needs to know about this, look Joe I think I have enough information right now, if it’s okay with you I’ll get myself back to headquarters’

‘Of course, I bet this string of unusual events is keeping you two busy eh?’ Chuckled Joe, then he stopped laughing and pushed the office door shut so that the police officers milling about outside in the corridor couldn’t hear his next words. ‘So Hector, so far, what have you got? I can tell from the look on your face that you’re on to something!’ Joe slowly unfurled his little notebook and clicked downwards on the top of his pen, extending the tip. Joe licked his lips in anticipation as he studied Hector’s vacant cool expression.

‘I...we haven’t reached any definite conclusions yet, but rest assured superintendent, you will be the first to know’. Joe looked disappointed. ‘One more thing Joe, do you know the time of death for the unfortunate Trenchard?’ Joe flicked through his book once more,

‘Ah here we are, we believe it was somewhere between ten and twelve midnight!’ answered

Joe helpfully. ‘Why is that significant do you think?’

‘Midnight’ Repeated Hector. ‘The witching hour!’ Hector let himself out of Trenchard’s office, ‘Good day Superintendent!’ Joe scratched his head and then scribbled ‘witching hour’ in his notebook. He studied the words as he followed the path of Hector back along the corridor.

Wisteria cottage was bustling with activity; Dan helped Eddie Brewer carry an extra couple of spare chairs into the dining room. Both Hilda Thompson and Hilda Grantham had drawn the curtains and lit a variety of candles, some sitting in candelabras and others in an assortment of jars. Each candle was spaced out just enough to create the right atmosphere necessary for one of the Superphysical gang’s séances.

‘Would you mind if I plug my phone charger in, my mobile’s dead, been meaning to charge up all morning, might need to contact Hector, should something happen!’ asked Dan.

‘Of course, there’s a socket over by the grandfather clock see!’ Said Hilda Thompson and she pointed to show him exactly where. Dan knelt down and plugged in his phone whilst Wuffie managed to get a crafty lick of his face. ‘Oh Dan, would you bring Wuffie’s bed, we have to have him with us, he’s been so useful during these things!’ Dan nodded to Hilda and picked up Wuffie’s bed which was a basket containing a soft pillow, Wuffie instantly let out a barrage of protesting whelps at the sight of his bed being handled by Dan. Dan placed the bed down in the corner of the dining room; Wuffie jumped into it guarding it from any further tampering. A loud rapping filled the house,

Oh that will be Doris and Hilda, I called them earlier, told them we were having a gathering, it’s been quite a while you know, they were so exited!′ Hilda Thompson made her way to the front door. Dan took a chance to have a quiet word with Hilda Grantham as she continued to move the candles around; as he approached she asked if he could move the large candelabra from the disused mantel piece over to the top of the piano.

‘Oh that’s much better Dan, you know it has to right, perfectly right!’

‘Hilda, you don’t have to do this you know, I won’t mind a bit if you would prefer...’

‘No, no, no! I wouldn’t have said so if I didn’t mean it. I want to do it, it’s been a while, and it would be nice to know I still can!’ Said Hilda and she turned to go and greet the latest two arrivals, Dan took her elbow gently,

‘It might be dangerous!’ He said worriedly.

‘At my age, crossing the road can be dangerous, even taking a bath! I’m not prepared to stop bathing myself for fear of a fall now am I?’ Hilda winked at Dan as she walked with open arms towards Hilda Willis and Doris Beasley.

The meetings and greetings took several minutes,

‘Oh look at us, the three Hilda’s together again; it’s going to be so much fun!’ chuckled Hilda Willis. One by one each member of the gang seated themselves in the dining room; they all fitted around the oval oak dining table as though they were part of a set of interlocking ornaments. Dan sat to the left of Hilda Grantham, it was only Doris who sat away from the group; she sat down in front of the old upright piano in the corner.

‘Now we must hold hands’ Said Hilda Grantham, ‘Dan when you know that the spirit is present, try to communicate, start slowly with simple yes or no questions, and proceed little by little to the more complex questions.’ Dan nodded his understanding.

‘Always be calm and be very respectful of the spirits.’ Hilda Thompson added.

‘However, be careful and vigilant, at the very first sign of any rudeness from the spirit’s side you must politely ask it to leave, if it refuses you must end the session by blowing out the candles and switching the lights on, and don’t forget, when we are done thank the spirit for all its help and then end the session’ Finished Hilda Grantham. Dan nodded again and grasped Hilda’s hand tightly.

‘Now are we ready?’ Hilda Grantham enquired

‘Oh Hilly, the song, we haven’t got a song!’ said Doris as she turned from the piano to face the circle of friends.

‘Yes you are right, we always have a song don’t we, Dan I don’t suppose you have a song, something we can use to channel the spirit with?’ Hilda Grantham looked expectantly at Dan.

‘No I don’t...oh hang on I do have this’ Dan got up and quickly retrieved his parka from the other room, he pulled a diary sized black book from one of the pockets then resumed his place at the table again. Dan flicked through the book and finally stopped and dog eared a page.

‘It’s a rhyme, a kind of old nursery rhyme!’ Said Dan and he passed the book around the table.

‘Oh lovely, how does the tune go?’ Doris asked and she held her hands poised over the piano keys.

‘I haven’t the faintest idea, damn, what...’

‘Oh its okay Dan we’ll do what we usually do, we’ll sing it to the tune of Lean on me by Bill Withers! Now are we ready!’ Doris was itching to get going when Eddie remembered another thing that usually helped.

‘We normally have an object, something Hilda uses to focus on, but I don’t suppose you have anything of the Witch, I mean how could you!’ Eddie shrugged and Dan watched the group as they tried to think of something that could be used, then he remembered something else.

‘Of course! The print out.’ Again Dan left the circle and rummaged around in his parka, he came back with a crumpled piece of folded paper. ‘This is a print out of a photograph that was taken of Brackley Copse, Hector and I believe there is something odd about it!’ Dan held it up for them all to see, Hilda Willis fished out her spectacles so she could study the image more easily.

‘Well now we have everything. Are we ready?’ Hilda Grantham said and they all took up each other’s hands once more. Suddenly the room was filled by the melody of Lean on me, and after a prompt, feeling a little foolish; Dan began to recite the words from the rhyme in the book,

Stay away from the witches house, no man child dog or mouse, should ever go near the witches house’ Hilda Grantham focused on the printed out image of Brackley Copse and began to take in deep breaths.

When Dan had finished the rhyme Hilda Grantham let out a long sigh then slumped back in her chair.

‘Oh here we are she’s off!’ whispered Hilda Willis. Dan noticed the room had started to feel chilly, the candles on top of the piano began to burn high, all four flames roared. Doris stopped her playing and pushed her stool back away from the piano as molten wax began to spit and hiss. Hilda Grantham’s hands felt icy cold, so cold that it was causing Dan and Hilda Thompson discomfort to keep on holding them. A frosty film had begun to spread around the walls of the room, the breath of all six visibly hung suspended in the air like a winter fog. The whole table top had now iced over.

‘Hell’s bells! Extraordinary!’ exclaimed Eddie. Wuffie stood rigid in his basket and started growling, his eyes were fixed on the rigid frost covered form of Hilda Grantham, the candlelight coruscated off her frozen face, her eyes remained tightly shut.

‘Dan, look at Hilda, she’s frozen stiff, don’t you think we should...’ Before Hilda Willis could finish her words the print out of Brackley Copse began to spin inside an invisible vortex right in the middle of the table, it burst into flames disintegrating into a plume of ash. Doris shrieked causing Wuffie to bark loudly. Hilda Grantham’s eyes sprung wide open, but these weren’t Hilda’s eyes anymore, two black hollow sockets fixed on Dan as Hilda’s head swivelled like an owl to look at him. Dan gasped and tried to let go of Hilda’s hand but the grip was too strong, it no longer felt like Hilda’s hand, he winced as a set of sharp talons embedded themselves into his palm, and only the heat from his own blood prevented his hand from freezing solid. What now occupied Hilda’s body spoke to Dan.

‘Who calleth me hither?’ A rasping voice asked. Dan looked at his companions, all but Eddie looked to be semi-conscious, Eddie was struggling to free himself from a frozen hand lock, he was visibly shaking from the frost that was thickening all around them. Dan looked back into the lifeless black pits where Hilda’s eyes once sat. ‘Wherefore has’t thee called me hither?’ repeated the dry cold voice.

‘I-I called you, I wanted to know...’

‘How dare thee! Who doth thee bethink thee art? Behold at me! Behold into mine eyes little sir, thy eyes I shalt taketh!’ Dan could see black smoke begin to seep from the creature’s sooty eye sockets. Bravely Dan continued,

‘What do you want, why are you taking the lives of people in this town?’

‘I wast tied to a tree, I wast blinded, I wast setteth on fire! I seek revenge, revenge on all thee motley-minded mortals. I curse thee all and all the children of Carfax!’ The creature turned her face from Dan to look around the room, and at the book resting on the table, open to reveal the rhyme. ‘thy books and words art motley-minded! thou has’t no power ov’r me! thy candles, thy instrument of song, is worthless! I has’t hath learned thy modern sorcery, thy tools to capture thy visage, I wilt useth thy sorcery to killeth thee!’ The rasping voice had reached a fever pitch. The blood oozing from Dan’s hand enabled him to slip from the grasp of the thing that was using Hilda, he ran around the table and helped to unclasp Eddie’s hands and the hands of the rest of the members of the gang, Eddie and Dan helped carry each of them away from the table, only Hilda Thompson and what used to be Hilda Grantham remained seated at the table, their hands were locked solid.

What looked like black flames danced around the almost negative like image of Hilda Grantham, Wuffie leaped onto the table and continued his barking, one of the black flames arched outwards slamming into Wuffie who flipped backwards off the table and landed apparently lifeless into his own basket.

‘I liveth in all places, I see everything!’ continued the mocking abhorrence.

‘We’ve got to stop this; we’ve got to get Hilda back!’ Shouted Eddie

‘Thou has’t no power ov’r me, my power is stronger than yours!’

‘What do we do?’ Dan said almost begging Eddie for an answer. ‘Hector, he will know, I have to call him!’ Dan ran and unplugged his mobile phone from its charger, he saw that the battery was only nine percent charged, not enough to make a call he thought, instead he selected the camera icon and pointed his phone at the table, Dan reasoned that whatever was about to happen to him at least he would leave behind something for Hector to work on.

A black tangled vortex of smoke emerged from Hilda Grantham’s gaping mouth, swirling and gyrating until it melded into the shape of a crooked woman, the witch. Dan pressed the shutter icon on his phone, there was a flash. The witch’s face scowled and a long ear piercing screech emanated from her mouth as she came at Dan in a jerky gait. Dan froze, Eddie grabbed a mirror from off one of the walls and he ran in front of Dan pointing the mirror towards the witch, her screech reached a fever pitch. Both Dan and Eddie were thrown backwards by a tremendous force that saw the whole oak table shatter into a thousand fragments; large splinters tore into both of them as they were held against the wall by the ceaseless blast. The mirror shattered in Eddie’s hands and with his shining shield now gone Eddie succumbed to the rain of wood that knocked him to the floor. Soon the room was quiet. Bodies lay strewn across the floor covered by splinters of smouldering wood and shards of glittering mirror.

Dan was inside the old barn, there was a fire raging in a blackened stove in the corner; he had been collecting firewood for the stove. He carried over an armful of split logs and dumped them by the stove. With a fire mitten he gingerly opened the stove door; the heat from the fire within warmed his face as he packed more wood into the stove. He used the same mitten to close the stove door. Dan now stood hands on hips admiring the furnace he had created.

‘Dan! Dan quickly, we must go, the flood, it’s getting nearer!’ A voice called to Dan from the Barn’s gaping doorway, he turned.

‘Caroline? What are you doing here?’ Dan walked over towards a pale faced pretty petite woman, she wore a blue dress and the wind from outside the barn was tugging and pushing at her long ebony tresses. Dan threw open his arms as he attempted to hug her. She backed away.

‘Not now Dan my darling, you have to leave here, the flood it’s already at the village, it’ll be here soon, you have to get out, come, follow me!’ The woman turned and ran out into the night. Dan followed her outside, it was snowing heavily, he could feel the warmth of the barn begin to fade on his back as he attempted to run after her.

‘Caroline! I-I can’t keep up, I...’ Dan tried to run but his legs were heavy, they felt like they were made of concrete. He watched her climb into their Landrover that was parked nearby. ‘Wait! Caroline, wait for me!’ Dan gasped as he tried to move faster, the snow was blinding him, he slipped on the icy ground and banged his knee, the pain seared along his leg towards his hip, he cried out in pain.

‘Dan, don’t worry I’m coming for you!’ She shouted through an open window in the Landrover. The vehicle began to reverse towards him. The white reverse light dazzled him as it came closer and closer to where he sat in the snow, soon the only thing he could see was its brilliance, he almost felt lost within the white glare. He called out to her over and over.

Dan? Mr Taylor? Mr Taylor how do you feel? A female voice, a soothing voice was speaking to him. Dan saw the brilliant white light again; it was directly above him. He turned his head and saw a woman bending over him, she was wearing a blue uniform, she had a little clock fastened to her chest. Dan could hear an electronic rhythmic bleeping sound, he was aware that he was lying in a bed, suddenly he realised where he was, it was a hospital.

‘Mr Taylor, I’m doctor Hood, I’m afraid you’ve had a bit of an accident but you’re okay, just cuts and bruises mostly. Could you tell me your name?’

‘What, uh, yes, my name, Dan, Dan Taylor’ Dan spoke a little groggily.

‘And your age, do you know how old you are?’

‘Sure, I’m forty!’ Dan looked down at his arms, he had an intravenous drip and his chest was wired up to a heart monitor; the bleeping sound he had heard was his own heartbeat.

‘Mr Taylor, is there anyone we can contact, your next of kin?’ Doctor Hood asked.

‘He was calling out for someone called Caroline doctor’ the nurse added.

‘Is Caroline your wife Mr Taylor, would you like us to contact her?’ The Doctor asked

‘No, no you can’t, she’s, well she’s, uh it doesn’t matter. How long have I been here?’ Dan tried to sit up but the pain from his shoulder made him reconsider.

You’ve been here a few hours, you were unconscious when we brought you in, we think there was a gas leak, at the cottage, and it caused an explosion. Your friend a Mr Brewer called an ambulance, he made sure...′

‘My god, what about the others, are they alright?’ The memory of the horror at the cottage came flooding back.

‘Again mostly cuts and bruises, but I’m afraid there was a Mr’s Graham?’

‘Grantham! Hilda Grantham’ Corrected Dan

‘Ah yes, well I’m afraid she suffered a heart attack, but don’t worry, she is stable and being looked after here at the hospital, she’s a strong old girl, I expect she’ll make a full recovery’

‘Oh my god, it’s all because of me, I should never have gone there!’ Dan began to blame himself for bringing all the trouble to his friends. He almost wept.

’Are you sure there is nobody we can call, someone who can take you home in a day or so? The nurse asked again. Dan suddenly felt very tired, he shut his eyes.

‘Hector, I need to see Hector, he will be at the PDA office, call him please!’ Dan rattled off a telephone number and the nurse scribbled it down on the back of her hand.

‘I’ll call him for you, is he your family?’ The nurse asked

‘He’s my partner’ Dan answered before drifting into sleep again.

‘Give his boyfriend a call will you nurse, I expect It’s the pain killers making him groggy, he should be alright to go home later I should think’ Doctor Hood said as he strode away from Dan’s bed.

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