She’d thought he was delivering something the first time. The outline of a figure behind the opaque panel of glass at the back door was dark, indistinct, and when she’d opened it – her mouth already forming the first syllable of Hello – he’d gone. She’d checked the immediate vicinity; he might’ve been one of those impatient delivery drivers who rang, dropped and left a card, but she’d found nothing.
The next time he’d been standing across the road as she was hanging out the washing; same dark figure, youngish she thought – perhaps late teens – wearing dark clothes from beanie hatted head to Doc Martin boots. She’d looked up, squinting and shielding her eyes with a hand to see better. He was at the bus stop but he wasn’t facing the road; his face was on the house; on her. It’d given her a shiver but she’d ignored it and carried on pegging out clothes. When she’d looked again, he’d gone, but she hadn’t heard the wheezing whine and hiss of a bus’s brakes.
She finally mentioned it to Ryan after the fourth time the landline rang and nobody was on the other end.
‘A boy?’ He said ‘What kind of boy?’
‘I don’t know. Medium height, youngish – eighteen, nineteen maybe – all in black, beanie hat, big boots, the usual teen thing.’
‘And he’s never said anything.’
‘He’s never been close enough. Although I had the feeling he might’ve been following me in the shop this morning.’
‘This morning?’ Ryan was apprehensive. ‘Jesus, Kate. And you’re only telling me now?’
‘There’s been some empty calls,’ she said. ‘On the landline.
‘What like heavy breathing?’
‘No, nothing like that. Normally I put it straight back down but this time I listened a bit. There was a kind of rustling. Like leaves on trees or long grass… waves maybe…’
‘And the boys?’
‘I don’t know. They’ve said nothing. And I haven’t mentioned it to them. Obviously.’
‘Okay, let’s keep it that way. I’ll call the local stations see if there’s any known activity in the area.’
She’d been loaded to the chin with folded laundry the next time. Careful to take each stair slowly because of the narrow footwells, Kate had been sliding against the wall for balance, when all of a sudden he’d made a mad dash from the landing and swooped soundlessly down the stairs, disappearing at the bottom. Immediately she’d dropped the pile of clothes and sat down to catch her breath, wondering if it had happened at all; everything’d been so fast. Ryan had insisted on police presence.
‘You know about the previous occupants?’ The officer waved away an offer of tea, resting a notepad on his knees.
No, Kate told him, they knew nothing; hadn’t even thought to ask. They’d just fallen in love with the house and that’d been all they’d needed to know.
‘Quite a turnover of occupants, this place,’ the officer continued. ‘The last couple couldn’t cope with the visitations; said it was affecting the gentleman’s heart.’
‘Visitations?’ Ryan frowned.
‘The lad. Nathan Chambers. He’s your visitor – so they say, anyway. Me; I’m not convinced – I’m not into all this spirit/apparitions stuff; doesn’t make sense to me. Nope, ‘til I see it for myself I’m what’s called a non-believer.’
‘Hang on a minute,’ Ryan leaned in. ‘Spirit? You mean this Nathan boy is – what – a ghost?’ he snorted. ‘So you’re telling us that this boy Kate’s been seeing is dead? Seriously?’ he made another snort of derision and clamped both hands behind his head. ‘I’m sorry, this is bollocks – no offence – it’s just complete and utt…’
‘How did this … Nathan Chambers… how’d he die? And why does he keep com-…’
‘Kate!…. No! Come ON!’
‘No, Ryan, listen. I’d like to know. I’m the one who’s seeing him. I want to know what happened.’
‘Ok…’ the officer checked Ryan before he continued. ‘So the story is – and it’s before my time so purely heresay – Nathan lived here with his parents. When they told him he was adopted he went mad; resented them for not having told him before, flew into an adolescent rage etcetera etcetera. Story goes he became obsessed, fanatical about tracing his roots and when he did, he discovered he’d been one of three siblings. There was also a letter his birth mother had written specifically requesting the three boys remain together and going on about curses and other nonsense if it didn’t happen. ‘Course this tipped him over the edge. He threatened the nurse at the adoption unit, came home, murdered both his adoptive parents in their sleep then disappeared. His body washed up on a beach over the way a few months after. Sad really.’
Ryan sat back in the armchair staring at a corner of the ceiling.
‘So he had siblings.’ Kate said. ‘Brothers he’d never known and brothers that – by rights – should’ve remained together. That’s so sad. The life they missed together. No wonder Nathan was so upset. But why is he still here? I mean… wouldn’t he still be searching for the other two?’
‘Well,’ the officer stood up. ‘Maybe he’s got other plans. Like I say, I don’t hold with such things, although there’s plenty around here who do. Mrs Manners in the post office knew the family -knew Nathan –if you want to dig a bit deeper. So, sorry but I can’t help; it’s not in my jurisdiction to apprehend the dead.’
Ryan snorted from the chair again and watched Kate walk the officer to the door.
‘What should I do?’ Kate asked. ‘Should I speak to him? Try and help him? Find out what he wants?’
‘If it were me,’ the officer adjusted his hat, ‘I’d listen to me mam – she says if you ignore something long enough it’ll soon go away. Hang on… what the -…’
Ryan’s yell boomed from the living room to the hallway and, arriving breathless at the door, he slapped his hand against it, panting and pale.
‘The school just called. The boys are missing. A teacher said their big brother picked them up at midday to walk them home for lunch but they haven’t returned. Kate?’
Written for the www.creativewritingink.co.uk prompt 25/08.2016