Marie and Sir John sat in a small sitting room and were preparing to take afternoon tea. A collection of dainty sandwiches and small cakes were already on a tiered tray next to a line drawing of the HMS Dreadnought, signed ‘E Howarth’. 

“So I spoke again to Lady Howarth, and she explained her latest initiative,” said Sir John to his wife. “She has sent for the Bishop. Apparently he can perform an exorcism which is guaranteed to work, no matter how diabolical or malevolent the haunting. He should arrive tomorrow.”

Sir John sat back and looked at the small pile of sandwiches and cakes in front of him, without touching one.

“I’m invited to attend to observe, and in Lady Howarth’s words, ‘learn’.”

He continued to look at the pile in front of him without moving.

“You are not ‘ungry?” said Marie. “You are waiting for the tea?”

“More the former,” admitted Sir John. “It’s our first case, and we don’t have an answer to our mystery. I’m not even sure if the ghost is this peasant boy or the gambling ancestor… or somebody else”

The maid came into the room carrying a tray with a teapot, cups, and sugar and walked carefully over to the couple.

Butter Fingers 2“Butter Fingers!”

“I know what you mean,” said Marie. “I am sure there is more to this than it seems. But we are not completely lost. We ‘ave some clues. For example, we ‘ave ‘EH + AC’.”

A loud crash interrupted the two, and they saw the maid had dropped the tray a few feet away from them. She looked white with shock at the act.

“I’m so sorry, sir,” she said and started to gather up the pot and things. “Really, really sorry.”

“Never mind,” said Marie. “No one is ‘urt.”

She took the tray out, and the Jennings continued their gloomy reverie.

“Of course, we don’t know who AC is … and it ends tomorrow for sure?” said Marie, thinking of the mournful boy she had seen.

“It seems that way. The Thanatograph is not to come to the exorcism, either. Apparently Lady Howarth did not appreciate its presence. I’m paraphrasing; what she said was a bit more direct than that.”

“We ‘ave so little time,” said Marie, as the maid brought another tray. “If only we knew what it meant, ‘the letters spell it out’.”

There was another crash, and the Jennings both looked at the maid. She had dropped the second tray and the tea things were scattered on the floor.

“Butter fingers!” she said absently and began picking up the things, flushing red.

“No problem,” said Sir John with a forced jollity. “Er, perhaps we’ll leave the tea for today, just the, er, sandwiches and cake will be fine.”

The Howarth Haunting: Chapters 11 & 12

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