Chapter 22. Crowded.
Maeve had gone from no one in the house to full house plus a guest, so private space was now at a premium. She had lost her box room office. Orla had offered to sleep there and give Adam her room. Adam chivalrously had said he wouldn’t hear of it. The winning argument was Marianne who pointed out that all Orla’s stuff was in her room so if Adam wanted any peace he’d be better off with Meave’s files than Orla’s clothes. She didn’t add that if Edward re-appeared he habitually tidied Orla’s room, which might freak Adam out altogether. They had gathered that he was a sensitive type.
Maeve was now lying on top of her bed Skyping Ada on a precariously balanced iPad with the bedroom door shut.
“One minute I was feeling sorry for myself all alone, now I’m scheduling meals and fighting for a minute to myself.”
“It’s well for some. Don’t complain, I’ve started picking up a pebble on my beach walk to have someone to talk to. People are keeping themselves to themselves, there’s not much ‘cheery banter’ anymore.”
Maeve smiled to herself at the idea of Ada talking to a stone, she must be desperate.
They’d caught up on Maeve’s river adventure.
“So any thoughts?” Maeve needed to hear about Ada’s experiences when she could communicate with the other side, but they both recognised that most of this was beyond her.
“I may have nothing to do, but I haven’t been doing nothing.” Ada really wanted to help.
“I tried talking to my old friends on the other side. Still nothing.” She sighed, disappointed.
“Anyway, I went back to what I used to do when I was trying to understand it all. I got in touch with some old friends in the ‘medium’ world and checked out the International Psychics Association and the Spiritualist Association of GB.”
She took a deep breath before launching into,
“And...Oh my Gawd! The world’s gone mad. They do it all on Zoom now with huge live streams, PayPal, and hundreds of people.” Ada was in awe. “You don’t get the drama though, the dark room, the incense, the single candle.” Ada had always loved the trappings. “I know it’s not your kind of thing. But all the trappings help me with channelling. I’ve always found smell important. Don’t know how you could do it through a screen?” Maeve was following the path of Ada’s thoughts so wasn’t surprised when she changed direction with renewed passion.
“There’s an awful lot of scammers; those buggers are clever.” Ada wasn’t feeling sorry for herself now, she was preparing for the charge.
“We’ve got to do something about it. We always had trouble before but with social media and the internet it’s completely exploded. Charlatans everywhere.”
Maeve didn’t want to crush Ada, but this was an area she wanted to stay well away from.
“Look Ada, this is your hobby horse, not mine. I’m trying to handle what I can do, I’m not ready to save the world.”
Ada was deflated.
“I suppose. I can see that. You’re still learning. Talking of which they did have some interesting things to say about ‘natural spirits’.”
Maeve was a little irritated,
“Sure aren’t all spirits natural, how could you have a synthetic one? Made of plastic? That’s ridiculous.”
“Hold your horses. I mean, a spirit from the natural world, the woods or the river. We don’t normally deal with them but you might have.” Ada was back in control with information to impart.
“Remember I went off on one about ‘Will-o-the-wisps’? And you thought I was mad. Well I wasn’t. They exist.”
Ada was settling back, she had a story to tell.
“First, if you are googling it watch out, ‘nature, wood and spirit” comes up with some kind of DIY treatment with white spirit and plywood.” Knowing that she had Maeve’s attention, Ada had a habit of deviating from her subject. Maeve raised an eyebrow.
“Okay, okay, so this is what I found. I think you may have made contact with the Green Man, or as I now know, possibly the Green Woman. These fellas seem to be all over the place.” Ada was waving her arms to indicate the whole world. “They are spirits connected with nature and rebirth, and of course rebirth comes after death, you have to have death first.” Ada was thoughtful
Maeve wanted to head off another deviation, so prompted “And?”
“Well you can imagine…. You’ve seen them around, on Churches, peoples’ homes. I’ve seen some in Canterbury. Carvings or paintings of the Green Man. Obviously, they are connected with spring, plants, trees etc. And definitely active at this time of year. You know the way we bring lots of greenery into the house around Christmas time? That’s likely for them. To call them back.”
Ada checked to see if Maeve was still listening.
Maeve was frowning with concentration,
“I’m not sure what it would have to do with me?”
Ada was also known for strange logic and frequently lost herself in convoluted explanations.
“I was thinking, Canterbury’s been a sacred site for a very long time, people have been living there since 6,500BC. It is a special place, it may be why you wanted to live there.”
Maeve understood that Ada was still thinking and just throwing ideas out there. This time Ada was a little more hesitant,
“So far, you have been connecting with people who needed help. Maybe this time it could be a different kind of connection, maybe it’s the wood or the river calling. Talk to Orla, she’s the eco warrior.”
Maeve was considering this with a certain level of scepticism, it was beginning to sound far-fetched.
“Hmm, I’ll think about it. It felt more everyday real than that.”
It was late afternoon before Steve made it round to the house. Maeve thought he might have timed it for some afternoon tea. The blueberry squares were still fresh enough.
Maeve had moved everyone out of the room, it wasn’t really a dining room, but it was the room with the table that everyone sat around. It had french windows which opened onto the garden, now with draft excluders running along the floor. It meant that there was a table between her and Steve, making it more official. And it was private.
Marianne, Orla and Adam were sitting next door, hypothesizing, internet surfing and listening to music. They were enjoying getting to know each other. Adam had had a pretty rough time since he came to the UK and was revelling in the company. The girls were competing for his attention.
Clearing the plates to one side, Maeve said,
“Thank God you were there. I still don’t know what exactly happened but I know that I wanted to stay down there.” Steve was smiling but Maeve was a little embarrassed by the level of gratitude she felt, so shifted the conversation.
“We could chat for ages, but let’s get the police stuff sorted first. What’s the issue?”
Steve was enjoying the easy feeling in the house. This was the kind of home where you weren’t worried about where you sat, or if you had mud on your shoes. It was warm, in all senses. He thought that Maeve had the right priorities. He took his time, if he’d smoked a pipe he would have lit it.
“The body you found in the woods had a mark on the back of his head, as if he had been hit by a golf club, remember?”
“And indeed, the body wasn’t that far from the golf course.” He took an imaginary suck on the fictional pipe, he was in no rush.
“Your ‘friend’ who lives in the trees, he said he thought that there was something going on.” Another pause.
“And I said I was worried about the woman who apparently committed suicide.” Steve was laying it out as much for himself as for Maeve.
“Also you asked me to check out any older incidents that took place there.” He paused to make sure that Maeve was concentrating on what he was saying.
“That’s the position and that’s quite a few areas of concern. I doubt if there actually is any connection. But I want to check each one out.” A beat. Maeve wanted to know what he had discovered but didn’t want to seem impatient, so waited though you could see the tension in her clenched jaws.
“So, I was called back to the station yesterday because I had asked for more information on the ‘suicide’ in the river. When they found the body, it had been there for a while, there was some decomposition.”
Steve wasn’t keen on going into a graphic description. These images are hard to get out of your head, no need to put them there unnecessarily.
“Getting to the point, on first inspection police on the scene didn’t look too hard, because it was so clearly a suicide, so things were missed. The forensic report came in later, but no one was asking questions, so it was filed.”
He paused again, before looking directly at Maeve, “She didn’t drown. She was already dead before she hit the water.”