Alan Cavender - Ghost Hunter - risks all to help the trapped soul of a child.
|"James! Be a good boy for Mummy now, put all your toys back in the box."
Brenda Golding was annoyed with herself because she was now pushed for time. She'd been so enthralled with the afternoon television show, now it had ended, she realised she would have to rush. She'd only left herself twenty-minutes to collect her six-year-old daughter Aimee from school. Her two-year-old son James played on the floor in front of her with his toy cars, trains and aircraft.
She went to the hallway to get their coats. "Hurry now, James, or we will be late," she called back to him as she donned her coat. Returning to the living room, she gasped at the sight that greeted her. Each of the thirty or so toys, which until less than a minute earlier had been scattered across the living-room floor, now lay in straight lines of five—each line was of the right construction, each construction positioned exactly according to colour and size.
"I'm not sure poltergeist activity is something that really interests me," Alan said to Sophie over the phone, "but I'll give it some thought and phone you tomorrow to discuss it further."
He detected disappointment in her reply.
"Well okay, Alan. It sounds interesting enough to me and it is in your neighbourhood - so there is little to no travelling involved. In the meantime, I'll keep looking for something else."
Alan replaced the receiver on its cradle and massaged both his temples with his fingertips. Several things bothered him. First, was the potential poltergeist. Although he was certain souls were vulnerable to becoming stranded between planes, his former beliefs in rational explanations gave plenty of scope for doubt as far as poltergeists were concerned. He' need more information before deciding on any action. Second, his last venture into the spirit world had exhausted him both physically and mentally; he wasn't sure he was ready to take on another challenge. The seasons had turned full circle. It was a year since his first foray into the unknown—an event which had fundamentally changed his life and beliefs.
During that year, he'd assisted six - perhaps seven - souls to move on, although, he held no real view as to where moving on was. Catholic beliefs suggested souls between planes were in purgatory, and although he held no faith as predominant, he thought 'purgatory' was as good as any explanation offered. However, if he were honest with himself, he would have to admit the emotional side of the last twelve months disturbed him the most - giving rise to his reluctance to act. Not so much the emotions involved in the cases they had tackled - although the last one had been stressful - but his own emotions for Sophie, the wife of his best friend, Steven. His deep feelings for her had resurfaced, almost been exposed, and he felt they put a strain on the relationship.
His hands moved from his temples to cover his nose and mouth. Breathing a deep sigh through them, he forced himself to consider what the consequences of this poltergeist case being in London might be. It would certainly mean Sophie spending time at his flat alone with him; neither Steven, nor Sophie would expect anything different. In fact, it was probable he was the only one of the three who felt uncomfortable about the situation. Crossing the room, he poured himself a brandy and switched on his computer. He knew London quite well, but only the more affluent areas of Knightsbridge, Kensington and the West End. The East End and the former docks areas may as well be in Newcastle as far as his knowledge of them was concerned. He pulled up a street-map of the east end of London and searched for Charlton Place, in East Ham.
Well, he thought, at least I now know the general area.
It was only about eleven miles from his flat in Knightsbridge. He had a second thought, let's Google Earth the area, and see what its like. Alan was impressed. It showed a heavy populated, well-organised and thriving section of London he knew little about.
The following morning Alan phoned Sophie to tell her he'd decided to look into the poltergeist activity in East Ham.
"Steven is coming to town on business on Thursday, so I'll see you then," Sophie said. "I'll bring all the information I've got on this poltergeist thing and we can set a date to visit the family. I've already spoken to Mrs. Golding on the phone and she's all for trying to clear the whole thing up. It's frightened her - and the local clergy are reluctant to get involved."
Alan was relieved to hear Steven would be accompanying Sophie. She, on the other hand, was obviously relieved he was showing an interest.
"I'm glad you've decided to investigate the case," she continued. "I was beginning to think you've lost all interest in things paranormal."
"No, I haven’t lost interest," he replied. "But since there are so many semi-rational explanations for poltergeist activity, I'm finding it hard to drum-up any real enthusiasm for the case."
There was a short telling silence followed by a deep sigh, before Sophie pronounced, "Well, just in case you change your mind and decide not to take the case, I'll continue to look for something else. I'll see you on Thursday, Alan." The phone went dead.
He could tell Sophie was unhappy with his lack of interest. Alan could do little to relieve her feelings. He felt lethargic in general and indifferent toward this particular case.
Perhaps I'll feel better when I see her on Thursday and she presents some of the evidence.
"Well, what do you think?" Sophie was looking anxious. The only emotion Alan portrayed as he scrutinised the sheets of paper in front of him, was an occasional pursing of his lips. "Well?" she insisted.
Alan looked up at her and gave a slight shrug of his shoulders before answering. "At least there are no adolescent children involved."
Prior to his enlightenment into things spiritual or paranormal, poltergeist activity had been his 'pet subject' when refuting tales of ghostly happenings. Although not proven, he'd preferred to believe theories of psychic energy produced by adolescent, pubescent teen-agers. Usually, occurrences happening due to uncertainty as their bodies and minds went through physical and mental maturity.
He continued. "The family have only lived in the house for the last year. According to Mrs. Golding, this is only the third time anything untoward has occurred. The other times were so minor - things apparently moving from where they were left - it seems vivid imaginations could be the cause."
Sophie interrupted in an effort to bolster her case. "But this last occurrence was significantly different."
"A talented, precocious child playing with his toys," Alan offered.
"His mother doesn't seem to think so. He's never done anything like this before," she countered.
Alan shrugged his shoulders again. "Not that she has noticed, perhaps."
Sophie let out a deep sigh. "Well, Alan, it seems you have set your heart against this case. I think it's worth a look, but since you have so many doubts, it might be better if I keep looking for something a bit more substantial."
Her disappointment being so obvious, Alan relented. "Okay Sophie. Since it's only a few miles away, give Mrs. Golding a ring and ask if we can pop across this morning and have a chat."
Her eyes brightened and she gave him a broad smile as she searched her handbag for her mobile phone. "She's ever so nice - and truly concerned. I'm sure she'll agree."
He was surprised at how modern the home of the Golding's looked. He knew from his efforts on Google Earth, terraced houses were the norm in this part of London. He'd almost expected cobbled streets.
"Have you any idea how old these houses are?" he asked Sophie. None of her literature had supplied the information.
"None at all," she replied. "However, this part of London did take the brunt of the bombing during the war, so there must have been some regeneration afterward. Probably built in the fifties or sixties I suspect."
She parked her Aston Martin outside number thirty-two, which was the address they'd been given. Sophie rang the doorbell. A pretty woman in her twenties answered almost immediately.
"Mrs. Golding? I'm Sophie Heartstone and this is Alan Cavender, the man I spoke to you on the phone about."
The woman stared at Alan for a few moments before stepping back and offering them entrance. The hallway was narrow, only allowing one-person access until it widened a little at the bottom of the stairs. Mrs. Golding led the way into her living room where a little boy played with his toys on the carpet. He gave the visitors a quick quizzical look before returning to his toys.
"Is this James?" Sophie asked as she took a seat.
"Yes," his mother replied ruffling his hair with her hand.
Disturbed, the child got to his feet and toddled off across the room.
"I hope you don't mind the question, Mrs. Golding, but has James ever shown any special talents, or ever been diagnosed as autistic?" Alan asked.
Brenda looked shocked. "No to both questions, Mr. Cavender."
"I only ask," Alan put in quickly, "because you must be aware, I suppose, children of either condition are known to be able to do the things you described."
Brenda relaxed. "James is just a normal two-year-old, Mr. Cavender. Special to me and his father of course, but has shown no extraordinary abilities."
Alan nodded reassuringly. "I'm not special either, Mrs. Golding. Until a year ago, I would have been less inclined to investigate your problem than the clergy appear to be. However, for some reason I have acquired the ability to interact with spirits who have failed to complete their journeys to … well, wherever they are supposed to go. If this is the case here, I promise to be as unobtrusive as I can possibly be while I do—whatever it is I do."
He briefly told her of his visits to Aston Farm and Alverton Canal Bridge. He refrained from telling of the other two episodes he'd been involved in, judging they might frighten her; even so, she began to tremble. Sophie crossed to the settee and put her arm around her. James seemed to sense his mother's change of mood and toddled across to sit on her lap.
"Would you mind if I have a quick walk around the house, Mrs. Golding? I promise not to disturb anything," Alan asked.
The woman made an effort to rise; Alan forestalled her. "I would prefer to do it on my own if you don't mind, Mrs. Golding. I think it better you stay here with your son and Lady Cannonbury."
Brenda's head twisted quickly and she stared wide-eyed at Sophie—her mouth agape. Sophie looked at Alan then back to the woman next to her. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Golding, perhaps I should have told you my title, but I didn't want to either impress you, or deter you from accepting our help."
Brenda still looked shocked. Sophie continued.
"Now let's have a little chat about your family while Alan does his thing, and if you want, you can ask me about mine."
Alan left the room and went into the kitchen. It was clean and tidy with a door leading out into a small garden that Alan could see through the window. He turned and went to the bottom of the stairs.
He climbed the stairs to the upper landing and found four doors leading off it. The one immediately at the top of the stairs led to a bathroom, the next, to a small bedroom containing a single bed and toys suitable for a little girl. The third room, belonged to the adults of the house and the forth - which was little larger than a box-room - containing a cot and toys obviously belonging to James.
He spent a minute in each room, but felt and saw nothing. Shrugging his shoulders, he began to descend the stairs again. He got halfway down, when a small toy motorcar came bouncing down past him. He stopped, and with his heart pounding, slowly turned to look back up the stairs—there was nothing to see.
He returned to the top of the stairs and again entered each bedroom; this time starting with James' room. Nothing had changed and nothing felt different. Next, he went to the parent's room—with the same result. Entering the last bedroom - the one belonging to the little girl - he was aware of something peculiar. Whether he'd missed it the first time, which he doubted, or whether it had just occurred—it was still peculiar.
In the room, there were five teddy bears in varying sizes ranging from four to ten inches tall. All were against the wall in a sitting posture and all were facing him. What struck him as odd and perhaps new, was the fact they were stacked on top of each other - looking like an Indian totem pole.
He tried a gentle, "Hello," but nothing happened. He went out to the landing, leaned across the banister and called out, "Mrs. Golding, would you join me up here, please?"
Sophie and Brenda – who was carrying James - came to the bottom of the stairs.
"I would like you all to come upstairs please," he said lightly.
As they climbed the stairs to join him, Sophie gave him a quizzical look; he just twisted his mouth in reply. After they joined him on the landing, he asked Brenda to follow him into the bedroom. However, before she did - and after she handed James to Sophie - he said, "Please tell me if there is anything in the room you find different from the last time you went in there."
She'd barely entered the room when she gasped and started to back out again. Alan didn't ask any further questions, just guided the trembling woman back down the stairs to the living room.
"Tea or coffee?" Brenda asked her guests—both chose coffee. "It's only instant I'm afraid," she apologised. Both assured her that was fine.
In the last half hour, they'd all relaxed and were using each other's Christian names – though it took a little coaxing and time for Brenda to comply. Alan inquired how old the house was. Brenda didn't know, but thought her husband, Alex, might. How long had the people before them been in the house? This she did know. It had belonged to a middle-aged couple called Johnston who were childless and had lived in the house for about ten years prior to moving to Scotland. Who lived in the house before the Johnstons? She had no idea.
"If I could, I would leave tomorrow," she declared. "However, since we bought the place, house prices have fallen and we would find ourselves with negative equity. We just can't afford to move."
Alan sympathised and told her once things cleared up, there would be no need to move.
Brenda was reticent about staying even if things became quiet; she had two children to consider.
"Well," Alan said, "there is something here, we all agree on that. However, what it is I'm not sure. The meaning of the word poltergeist - is mischievous ghost or spirit, and I suppose that is what we have here. Whether, whatever it is wishes to move on, is another matter. I'm no exorcist. I can't force spirits to go away. I can only assist them if they wish to."
Sophie interrupted. "Perhaps I need to do more research to try and find out who this spirit might be. If we knew its name, perhaps by using it, we could provoke a more definite response."
Alan agreed. "Without the help of previous occupiers of the house, you might find that difficult. My own feelings are, it's the spirit of a young person—a child perhaps. That would account for only the use of toys in its manifestations."
After finishing his coffee, Alan took one more walk around the house and found nothing untoward. They left the house shortly after midday, promising Brenda they would keep her up to speed on anything they learned. Sophie would go to East Ham Town Hall to look up the history of the area, and Alan to the local library. First, they arranged to meet Steven for lunch. Alan had a plan.
"Whatever we find out this afternoon, I still want to spend a night or two in the Golding's house," he told them. "I would like the family to be absent when I do so, because of the two small children. To achieve this, I have two suggestions; the first is, I book into a hotel—that poses problems, again because of the children. "My second suggestion is, for you to invite them down to Monsaratte for a weekend. I'm sure they would not be able to resist such an offer and the children could have the run of the place. You of course, Sophie, would have to be present at Monsaratte to show them around and help them relax - whereas you, Steven, will be required to accompany me to East Ham."
His suggestions caused a kerfuffle. Sophie of course, wanted to go to East Ham with him.
"Why me?" she protested. "Why can't Steven look after them? He is capable—and good with children. I want to go with you, Alan!"
Alan looked at Steven, who just cocked his head to one side suggesting indifference; any solution was acceptable to him. Alan of course, had his own reasons for Steven, rather than Sophie staying in London with him.
Alan pressed his case. "Brenda has already met you - and you saw her reaction to your title. Steven, the seventh Marquess of Cannonbury, might be a title too much for them."
Sophie started to protest again, but this time Steven interjected. "I can see his point, Sophie. Goodness me! My title sometimes frightens Cabinet Ministers. In any case, it's about time I got involved again; you two seem to have all the fun."
Sophie went quiet. If Alan didn't know better, he would have thought she was sulking. Steven told them his meeting would be over by three-thirty and Sophie would be required to pick him up for their return to Monsaratte.
After dropping him off in Westminster, it would only allow her an hour to find information at East Ham Town Hall, before needing to return for him. Alan asked her to take him to the local library, then to forget him—he would make his own way back to Knightsbridge. He would phone her later that night and exchange information.
Alan found what Sophie had speculated about the wartime activity in and around East Ham, was essentially correct. The Luftwaffe constantly pounded the whole east end and dock areas of London. As to the specific location of what was now Charlton Place, he found the going tough, and hoped Sophie's efforts would be more forthcoming. In all - apart from learning a little history of the area - his afternoon proved fruitless. However, the phone call to Sophie that evening, proved more than enlightening.
"There were so many houses damaged by air raids, the whole area around what is now Charlton Place was redeveloped after the war. They started a rebuilding programme 1949, which went on until the early sixties. Charlton Place development began in 1952, and completed in 1955. They told me it is difficult to be precise about what streets and buildings occupied that particular site prior to redevelopment, because virtually everything required excavating.
"According to records, seventeen people lost their lives in that area, but, because of the evacuation of children to safer places, only two children are reported as lost."
Alan was now excited. "Who were they and what were there ages?"
"Charles William Cantor, aged twenty-months—as well as his mother and father. And Timothy Gale, aged five, along with his mother and grandmother—his father lost his life at Dunkirk. Timothy died instantly. His mother and grandmother survived for two and three days respectively after the bombing;"
Alan interjected. "I assume Timothy Gale to be our poltergeist - Charles is too young. I think this weekend, is too soon to invite the Golding's down to Monsaratte, it will after be next weekend."
There was silence for a few moments before Sophie spoke again. "Alan, I've been thinking …"
But Alan interrupted her. "Look, Sophie, we've discussed this. What I propose is the simplest solution. Let's not complicate matters."
She gave a heavy sigh and said, "I suppose so. When do you intend going back to see the Golding's to propose the exchange? I will have to be there - after all, it is me who is inviting them."
"I will leave that to you, but I suggest you give them as much time as possible to prepare for the visit. We don't know Mr. Golding's occupation—he might work weekends."
"Let's make it tomorrow, then. I better phone and find out when he finishes work, which will almost certainly be after dark. I won't return to Monsaratte tomorrow night. I'll stay at your flat and you can buy me dinner."
Alan almost choked. Like a fool, he'd not thought things out properly—and found himself in the very situation he'd tried to avoid. He tried one, last, desperate effort to get out of the corner he'd painted himself into. "Wonderful! Bring Steven and we'll make a party of it."
"I can't, he's leaving for York early on Saturday morning on business until Sunday night; we'll have the whole weekend to ourselves."
His heart was pounding, but there was no solution. "Very well, Sophie. What time will you be arriving?"
"About eleven o'clock." He could almost hear her smirking when she added, "Then, you can buy me lunch as well."
Roy Golding worked for British Telecom; he was six feet tall with a slim athletic body, good looking with dark brown, unruly hair that needed cutting. Roy witnessed nothing in the house and was a little embarrassed at his wife's revelations. However, he was a loving, supportive husband and worried about the effect these things were having, or could have on his children.
"Well, Roy," Sophie asked after putting her proposal to him. "Do you fancy hob-knobbing with the gentry next weekend?"
He looked at his wife and she nodded a 'yes' at him.
"Me missus does, and if it will help to clear up all this funny-stuff, I guess I'm for it too."
Alan was desperate to call out to Timothy. However, both children were asleep and he restrained himself; but a week was too long for him to wait to see if he could get a reaction. Therefore, he asked and received permission, to return on Monday.
When they left, Sophie made it abundantly clear she intended to stay the full weekend at his flat.
"Steven is big enough to look after himself—and has sufficient household staff to see to his needs."
Alan was perturbed, but decided to make the best of it and managed to get them seats at a West End show on Sunday. All his worries about the weekend proved unfounded. They enjoyed each other's company, consumed wonderful meals, were delighted with the show, with no embarrassing, intimate moments occurring. Everything was perfect—until Monday morning.
Brenda had shopping to do and was quite happy to leave the couple in charge of her house while she was gone. When they were alone in the house, Alan and Sophie went to Aimee's - the Golding's six-year-old daughters – bedroom and Alan called for Timothy.
"Timothy, Timothy Gale we are here to help you."
The teddy bears and other toys began to fly around the room—the disturbance lasting all of three minutes.
When the turmoil stopped, Alan repeated his words. "Timothy, Timothy Gale we are here to help you."
This time nothing moved, but both heard a child crying. The crying and sobbing became heartbreaking and continued for nearly an hour until shortly before Brenda returned. Alan was devastated—Sophie reduced to tears.
"I think I've disturbed something," he told both women. "Until I can finalise this, I think you should leave the house."
Brenda's mother lived in Bethnal Green and she arranged for her family to stay with her; making the excuse a water pipe had burst making the place unfit to live in for a week. She also contacted Roy, who returned home inside an hour. Although upset, he agreed with the proposed action, especially when the crying started again and he heard it.
Alan remained there until dark, but after an hour, Sophie was too distraught to stay longer and had to leave. Alan repeatedly called the child's name, but to no effect—the crying continued. It wasn't wailing, in fact it was barely audible, but it was insistent and heart breaking. After dark, Alan called Sophie at his flat and she came and took him home.
Refusing to take any food, Alan declared his intentions to Sophie. "I will have to go and get him."
Sophie was horrified at the idea. "No, Alan, you can't keep doing that! You nearly broke your health the last time, and I'm not certain you are completely over it."
Alan was adamant. "Look what I've done!" he exclaimed. "Not only have I rendered the Golding's house unliveable, but a child - lost for sixty years, is in distress. I'm not going to fight some evil entity this time and I'm sure as hell not going to leave that child in purgatory!"
Sophie phoned Steven. He left Monsaratte immediately, arriving three hours later. Both pleaded with Alan to reconsider, however, they could not deter him from his intended actions. Each day, they all visited the house in Charlton Grove, only to find the crying persisted. Steven, who was a staunch believer, prayed constantly, but to no avail.
Unlike the last time, when Alan required five days of food and sleep deprivation to reach a point of total collapse, this time it only took three—proving Sophie's point about his poor health. Still, Alan refused to retract from his chosen course.
On Friday morning, Sophie and Steven transported a desperately tired Alan to the house. They assisted him upstairs and on to the single bed in Aimee's bedroom—from the moment they entered the house, the crying started. As Alan fell asleep, Sophie kissed him fully on the lips.
Alan again found himself inside a grey mist - and he could hear the child crying.
"Timothy, Timothy Gale I am here to help you," he cried out.
The child's crying stopped. Out of the mist, a small child emerged dressed in clothes befitting the age when he died. There was no colour in this place, so Alan could not tell the colour of his hair, eyes or clothes; what he could see was the child's tear-stained, frightened face.
A bright light appeared behind Timothy and Alan pointed to it. "Your mummy and daddy are waiting for you; they want you to join them in there."
The child looked confused.
"Go on, through the bright light to your mummy," Alan said pointing to it.
The child was unsure—still confused.
Alan walked toward the light beckoning the child to follow. However, the child still hesitated.
"Come on, Timothy," Alan said holding out his hand - although he knew the child could not touch him - Alan wasn't of this place.
Timothy moved toward the light and as he did, he touched Alan's hand. Alan felt the touch and whispered, "Oh, shit!"
"Sophie, Sophie! He's stopped breathing," Steven screamed.
She threw herself on top of Alan, knocking Steven out of the way.
"Alan! Alan!" she screamed thumping him on the chest, then covered his mouth with hers—trying to blow air into his lungs; trying to give him the kiss of life.
Steven pulled her off Alan and took her place replicating her actions—Alan did not respond. Steven continually repeated the procedures, while Sophie felt for a pulse and at the same time, kept kissing his hand, which was now damp with her tears.