Winter Spirits - Chapter II

Winter Spirits - Chapter II

A Chapter by Leigh
"

It was at that moment, on that gloomy Friday afternoon, I was standing in the middle of the kitchen, watching the house cats eat their dinner that I had just put down, when it all started.

"

Chapter II

 

 

Later on, at about 7 o'clock I did my rounds, going from door to door, collecting the rent money from each tenant in the house. As I passed the front door, I checked the large dresser used to dump uncollected post on, to see if anything had been put there for me. A steady swirl of air blew in through the large gap under the front door creating a breezy chilly atmosphere so that it felt like the freezing temperature outside. There was nothing for me only the usual collection of unwanted and broken items, such as inside out umbrellas, bags and a dirty old coat that had one sleeve ripped off and the regular piles of junk mail and letters for people who had moved out long since. The dirty old coat hung on one of the thick wooden pegs that surrounded the gloomy mirror behind the dresser, on which a layer of dust prevented any true reflection being shown.

 

“What is that doing there?” I heard a shrill voice suddenly say behind me. Mrs Davenport seemed to have come at me from nowhere again.

 

“What’s what doing where?” I replied, confused by what she was saying, turning abruptly to face her. She loomed closer and pointed with a spindly finger at a supermarket bag on the floor.

 

“What is that doing there?” she repeated her voice more annoyed and animated, emphasising the ‘that’ in the sentence.

 

“That? Oh that, I don’t know Mrs Davenport, I don’t know what it’s doing there”

 

“Well, what’s it doing there?” she said again, repeating the same words, but with more agitated intensity.

 

Did, ‘What’s that doing there?’ actually mean, ‘Can you move that item please?’ As though by saying her words in a slightly different way would give them a totally different meaning. She moved around me looking inside the plastic bag. It looked like old books inside. She stared back at me. I shrugged and she looked even more annoyed.

 

“Look, I don’t know what it’s doing there, it’s not doing anything, not that I can see,” I said still confused by her annoyance at such an irrelevant thing. She smiled as I spoke, enjoying getting me in a tangle and not sure if I was being funny with her or not.

 

“It shouldn’t be there dear, that’s what’s wrong with it,” she said sounding upset.

 

I looked at all the other stuff strewn around and wondered why that bag in particular had annoyed her so much as she drifted off into the darkness of the corridor. The corridor seemed to just swallow her up, the sound of her footsteps disappearing as she vanished, like some sort of sensory illusion. I knew she wanted me to tidy the whole area up and saw me as some sort of caretaker. If I started along that route, I would end up doing all sorts of jobs for people and the house in general. I was not a caretaker.

 

When I arrived at Mrs Davenport’s paint peeled door on the first floor, I paused briefly before knocking, trying to listen through the thick solid wood. Straining my ear, I could hear the familiar sounds of her shuffling feet and low singing that seemed to go on indeterminably. Every now and then there was a rattling sound and then the occasional crinkling of paper. I knocked twice and the pattern of the sounds within changed, stopped and then turned into a low religious chanting. There was the sound of her shuffling towards the door, very slowly, tortoise like and then she stopped, I guessed by the muffled acoustics a few paces behind the door.

 

"Who is it? Is that you dear?" She enquired her voice low and wispy, trailing off at the end as though running out of energy, bored already.

 

"Yes it's me" I answered and at that I heard the low lock slide across at the bottom of the door, the upper one at the top. I heard her fumbling about with her large iron key ring, looking for the right key.

 

"Just com-ing," she sang as she continued to undo the many other remaining locks. I heard the key clunking in as it turned in the central handle lock and the rattling of a chain. She opened the door on the chain, peering out to check it was me and took the chain off, half opening the door. "Hello dear," she said smiling, not seeming to know why I was there. So to enlighten her, I held up the big cloth bag of money and the receipt book so she could see.

 

"Oh, oh is it rent day? Do you know I'd completely forgotten all about that,” she paused just looking at me. “Hold on." She shut the door and the sounds of her moving about continued as before, interspersed with some low and annoyed talking and incoherent mumbling. After a couple more minutes there was a brief silence and then the door opened fully wide. She wore a blank, worried and pale expression on her shiny moon like face and looked whiter than ever. I began to realise at that moment what might be wrong. I felt a bit sorry for her, but had been advised by the landlord what to do and say. Also my own bitter experiences had taught me not to fall into the trap of giving tenants sympathy at too early a stage, but I did have an optimistic smile for her.

 

"Oh, well I haven't got the rent money dear" she said dramatically and then started looking through her empty wrinkled leather purse, as though some money might magically appear in it, appear from a compartment previously unseen, the purse looked like it hadn’t been used for years.

 

 

"Oh...well, right in that case, um well you know how the system works," I stated, fumbling the words I knew so well.

 

“No I don’t, not really, no..." she began and looked even more worried, as though I might say she would be evicted on the spot.

 

"Well the way it works is, it’s two weeks rent next week, next ‘Friday.’" I emphasised the word Friday. Her face lifted a bit with relief and gained composure. She held a hand to her chest and absent-mindedly twiddled with her pearl necklace. "But if you don't pay that, it's one week’s notice then you're out altogether. You’ll be asked to leave I'm afraid. Sorry Mrs D, it’s not me, it’s what I’ve been told to do by the landlord. That’s the system." The landlord was always abroad, sunning himself in Spain or Italy, probably on a beach somewhere I thought bitterly. The landlord who did absolutely nothing and was impossible to get hold of when there was any sort of incident.

 

"That's alright dear, it’s not your fault, I know you’re only doing your job, don’t worry. I'll have the money for you next week, I promise.”

 

‘OK' I said and with that she calmly shut the door. I stood the other side of that door listening to her put all the many locks back on and carried on with my rounds. As I clambered the creaky stairs I started to feel confused about her because I couldn’t work out her reactions. She seemed so calm and detached, people didn’t usually react like that, they would usually be much more upset and apologetic. It was odd to say the least. But why should I be worried? She was the one who should be worried surely?

 

Well the week ahead went through so quickly. Time advanced like a hot knife through soft butter, Friday to Friday just like that and so it was soon the time to do my usual rent rounds again. All through the days that passed I had a funny feeling that something was still wrong with Mrs D. Misses Davenport. ‘Mrs Eliza Davenport’ to give her, her full name. I knew that because I had all the rent cards with everyone’s details on. The non-existent fat landlord had kindly given me those, when he had gone on holiday for two weeks and then never re-emerged. After three weeks he had phoned from abroad and asked me to carry on as I had been. On the spur of the moment, foolishly I agreed. I don’t know why. With every passing week I assumed he would be back, but no. I had agreed with the landlord, the landlord who kept putting the rents up and getting me to give everyone the bad news, while he partied it up somewhere.

 

Something wasn’t quite right because I hadn't seen or heard from her at all. Usually she would say hello or be lurking in the hall talking to her cats and I felt it wasn’t just to do with the rent. She had been strangely quiet, curtains drawn, lights out. For a while I had a feeling she might've actually killed herself. So on one mid-week evening, when I didn’t have much to do, I stood on the main first floor landing listening for signs of life from behind her shabby and unkempt door. After more than ten minutes of quiet boredom and worry of being seen by the other residents that seemed to go on for an eternity longer, the intense and edgy silence was finally ruptured by a familiar loud shuffle and a rattling sound; I quietly moved on relieved and satisfied, but still with an uneasy feeling overall.

 

On my door to door rounds that week I left her to last. In those seconds of standing outside her door, waiting for her delayed response, after knocking on her door, I got a sudden and intense feeling of déjà vu that I had never experienced before in my life. Although I was in a general routine of actions that could only be very similar from one week to the next, I somehow knew there would be an exact repetition of the previous week’s abnormality. That she would make the same set of excuses about the rent. And so it happened.

 

'Is that you dear?' Came the familiar voice, 'Yes it's me,' I replied. She started opening the locks again and opened the door on the chain, staring out to check it was actually me and then took the chain off again half opening he door as last week. This was all normal. She stared at me innocently like an unsuspecting child.

 

"Hello dear," she said happily, smiling broadly.

 

 

"Hello Mrs D, have you had a good week?" I asked

 

"Oohh, I've had a lovely week. I haven't done much exactly mind, I've stayed in mostly just watching telly. I've got my cats to keep me company, Memmie, Alfie and Gilgy," she said reciting their names with happiness. All three cats had sleek coats and looked well cared for and loved. She paused, looking at me as though I should ask a question about her cats, about her strangely named cats, about their names specifically, but everybody who had cats gave them strange names, that wasn’t unusual I thought. These were cats that she wasn’t allowed to have though. She looked as though she was going to talk about them again, so I quickly interjected.

 

"Oh well it is rent day I’m afraid," I said light heartedly.

 

"Rent, oh rent, yes of course," she hesitated. "Hold on just one minute dear," she said her voice wavering and very uncertain, looking worried and starting to shut the door, leaving it ajar, with the smallest of gaps.

 

"I hate to say it, but it’s two weeks rent remember." I spoke loudly, trying to project my voice through the gap around the solid wooden door. She paused and I heard the usual shuffling, rattling noises from behind the door. I heard her talking to the cats, telling them off at first and then praising them, one after the other, was she just playing for time? Or was she so totally distracted, lost in her own little world. She came back looking as white as a sheet.

 

"I simply haven't got the rent money dear," she said unremorsefully, but also looking defeated, looking at me like I was the judge, jury and executioner.

 

"Oh no, are you serious? None of it?" She shook her head, frowning. "Oh dear, not good then," I exclaimed. I felt unnerved inside and my stomach tingled with fear as though full of lemonade as my sense of déjà vu was proved right.

 

"Yes I'm very sorry my dear I just need a bit more time," she said looking at the dusty floorboards, making herself look even more dejected and pitiful. There was quite a pause, an awkward silence.

 

"Look I should give you your notice and let the landlord know really..." I paused in mid-sentence, thinking, my brain whirring in a different direction from the words I was speaking. We stared at each other for a few seconds "…but I'll give you until tomorrow night. I'll give you one more day, if that will help, help you to get something sorted out," I said. The landlord wasn’t there and certainly wasn’t going to turn up and even if he did I wasn’t going to tell him anything, I was fed up with him. I felt more at ease with the déjà vu, now it seemed to fit.

 

"Thank-you very much dear, yes that will be just purrr-fect," she said looking at one of the cats, smiling broadly and slowly clunking the door to. By experience I knew what would happen, I would end up having to kick her out and at Christmas too. I felt like the villain, but what could I do? But strangely and contrary to that line of thoughts and feelings, as I walked away the feeling of déjà vu, I had not five or so minutes ago, just disappeared like a vapour. As I continued down the hall I heard her door creak open behind me and saw a long triangle of dull yellow light extend along the wall and across the floorboards and in it was the familiar outline of Mrs Davenport.

 

"Oh before you go dear," she called out.

"Yes," I said, turning slowly on the spot.

"This is a strange thing to ask I know, but are you doing your laundry tonight? You usually do," she said tentatively, with one of her cats twirling around her legs.

 

"Yes I am why?" I said, looking at the cat, annoyed at it being there.

 

"In the Laundry Room below?" she stated obviously

"Yes where else, why?" I said, getting slightly impatient.

"Oh, I, I never go down there dear, never," she hesitated

 

"Oh no, why not?" I asked, wanting to get away from her, not liking what I was beginning to hear.

"Not after what happened all those years ago."

"What do you mean? What happened?" I asked, now slightly curious.

"You mean you don't know?" she questioned.

"No, what? What are you talking about?" I asked with a margin more of intrigue.

 

"I thought everyone knew about it, about the story that's attached to this house," Mrs D said, looking up around her to confirm the place she was in, but only seeing cobwebs. "It doesn't matter it’s nothing"

 

"Nothing? It sounds like something," I said, now half interested and trying to be polite.

 

"Do you really want to know?"

"Yes I'm interested." I said.

"It’s better you do know if you're going down there I suppose."

"Right well go on then," I said, folding my arms trying not to look too bored. I remembered how long she had lived in the house, over thirty five years apparently, and I had only been there a year or so.  And so she started her story:

 

 

"As you know the house is Victorian and was originally lived in by a large family in the eighteen hundreds. The family had seven children and several servants. The servants lived in the basement, the basement where the Laundry Room now is." She paused looking at me

 

I could sort of tell where this was going and now she had my full attention.

 

"Well the servants had families too, families that were allowed to live with them in their quarters in the basement. They had to help out mind you and were regarded as under-servants. The butler had a wife and three children, the head footman had a wife and four children and there were others. They all lived in cramped, squalid conditions. There were no windows down there, not much light and not much air either. It was always damp and musty." Mrs Davenport was talking in way too much detail, she was telling the story like she had been there.

 

"Anyway as I said the butler had three children, two girls and one little boy. The little boy, he had a bad leg and walked with a limp. He had always been like it, ever since birth and in those days there was nothing much anyone could do about something like that. There were very few proper doctors available who knew what they were doing and if there were they cost way too much money."

 

I slowly nodded in agreement exaggerating my head movement and widening my eyes as if to say, 'You know all that, then you know too much' Mrs D looked at me as though reading my thoughts.

 

"That’s what I heard dear, that’s what I was told," she said admonishingly, slowing her words like a schoolteacher. She had just read my thoughts exactly I thought, it was like she had ESP.

 

"Anyway of course his bad leg slowed him down, so he used a walking stick most of the time." she said irritably now. "That wasn’t a problem of course, not until, well, what happened, happened. Anyway when the house was fully occupied, at its height, there might have been twenty five to thirty people living here. So things had to be highly organised, a smoothly run operation, with everyone knowing where to be and what to do. For a long while it was like that. They all did know their places, which made everything run like clockwork. The house ran very smoothly for years, decades in fact, until, well until there was that turn of events.” She paused staring into space as though recalling the events in her mind or what was recounted to her. “The Master's business folded over night and he lost all his money, in fact he went into debt. Are you with me so far dear?"

 

"Yes I've got it so far," I said quietly not knowing exactly where the story was going. I had got it so far and didn’t like it one little bit.

 

"Well they all had to move out in a hurry, they had to gather what they could and get out, servants and all. On one particular day there was a big rush to evacuate. The debt collectors were on their way to board the place up There was a frantic race to get out, to escape, to go to wherever they could, to wherever would take them in." Mrs D's talk was rushed and anxious, her eyes flitting, looking distractedly around the hall. "I suppose you can guess what happened," she asked rhetorically. I nodded. "Somehow that poor little boy got left behind and when the debt collectors came they locked all the doors and barred the windows, he got trapped dear."

 

"Poor little blighter," I said, getting involved with the story, but hoping there would be a reasonably happy ending.

"He got trapped down there in the basement for days. He shouted and screamed for hours on end, calling to get out, but no one heard him. He stomped around with his walking stick, bashing at the basement door, but no one came, no one heard him. As time went on he ran out of energy and his cries for help became weaker, there was nothing he could do, he was trapped, he gave up. In the end, as if things weren’t bad enough for him he fell down the hard stone steps and broke his leg and couldn’t move. Eventually he died down there dear," she said and she said it so ordinarily, like she was commenting on the weather. "He died down there, that’s why I never go down there."

 

"Sounds awful, awful Mrs D, but that was a long time ago, yes?" I reasoned, but again I thought she was giving way too much detail.

 

"It was a long time ago, a long time yes, but they say his ghost still haunts the servant’s quarters, that his soul is still there, that he is still stomping around trying to get out. That’s why I never go down there, never." Mrs D said, looking quite upset.

 

"You make it sound like yesterday, how do you know all this?"

 

"I've lived here a long time, you get a feeling about these things. Anyway there are the records in the local library." Mrs Davenport glowered at me, at my scepticism, at my disbelief of her.

 

"Have you ever seen anything? Or heard anything yourself?” I asked. Mrs D shot me a look again. She stared straight into me, piercing my eyes with hers, reading my every reaction, searching out my soul it seemed. For a second I looked at her blankly giving nothing back, showing no opinion, staying indifferent.

 

"I haven't, but as I said I do get feelings about these things." She paused, turning her head slightly as though listening there and then. "I knew people who lived here years ago, they told me things too. They say on some nights you can hear noises, the noises of him"

 

"Oh really. What from the basement?" I asked. Anyway who was 'They' all of a sudden?

"Yes they say you can hear him pacing around down there. The thump of his walking stick and the slap of his shoe against the hard flagstones, 'Thump', 'Slap', 'Thump', 'Slap'.” She stared at me unforgivingly again seeing how I would react, seeing if I was moved by her tale of woe, seeing if I was scared and I was slightly, but I wasn’t going to show her that. I stood in a daydream, stupefied, thinking about her story, wondering if it was true or not.

 

‘SLAP,’ she clapped her hands together right under my chin, trying to shock me. It broke me from my thoughts and I breathed in sharply, my frame heaving backwards. We smiled at each other, my smile a nervy fixed smile, hers a knowing one. ‘THUMP,’ her foot went as it stamped to the floor. I looked at her one last time; she was freaking me out now and annoying me.

 

“Ha, look I’ve got to go now,” I said turning away again. “Good night Mrs Davenport. That was a really spooky and horrible story by the way” I said taking my leave.

 

“Good night dear” she called. “It’s not a story,” she whispered quietly down the corridor, just loud enough for me to hear.

 

I walked in darkness all the way back to my room, not bothering to turn on any lights, challenging the black gloom of the unlit corridor and pitch black stairwells to scare me, saying to whatever might be there to come for me now and that I wasn’t afraid.

 

 

 

 

 


https://www.amazon.co.uk/Winter-Spirits-Leigh-Green-ebook/dp/B01B1U5RDC/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=winter+spirits&qid=1571392890&sr=8-1


Winter Spirits by [Green, Leigh]



Apologies, I cannot embed link into cover image 



© 2019 Leigh


Author's Note

Leigh
To read further go to my website www.leigh-green.wix.com/leigh and click 'books' or type 'leigh-green wix' into Google

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Reviews

You have a well paced, suspense building story here, with engaging characters. I think you can go somewhere with this one. I did, however, notice a number of awkward wordings and unpunctuated places. I suggest you engage a good proofreader to help you put it in first class shape.

Posted 2 Months Ago


you are a gifted writer my friend,lol,and you got that rent money

Posted 5 Months Ago



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Added on October 18, 2019
Last Updated on October 18, 2019
Tags: adventure, book, chapter, christmas, death, ghost, green, haunted, leigh, life, love, mystery, novel, spirits, suspense, spooky, story, winter


Author

Leigh
Leigh

B R I S T O L, United Kingdom



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