Chapter 26. What have you done?
Steve had been thinking since Adam suggested Greece as a holiday. He needed to know what kind of relationship he had with Maeve. The more he thought about it, a forced date over at his place probably wouldn’t do it for either of them.
He was sitting at his desk in the station adding to the tower of used takeaway coffee cups, paperwork piled on either side, with a section in the middle for his laptop. He glanced at his less urgent pile, the case sitting on the top was the old case about the family in the woods. Thinking that was where Maeve was walking with Orla, he picked it up.
By the time Maeve and Orla got back to the house, Marianne was sitting at the table talking to Ada. There was something in Ada’s tone that had Maeve on alert.
“.....Where have you been hiding that you haven’t heard of TikTok? And I’m the ancient one here!” Ada was chuffed that she was more ‘with-it’ as she would say, than her granddaughter.
“Is that them I hear coming through the door?”
Even though they were both drained Maeve knew she couldn’t slip past without saying something. Orla and Maeve came in, still covered with mud, which had mostly dried and was flaking off. Marianne took one look at them and disappeared to put the kettle on, coming back with all the biscuits, cakes and any other snacks that she could find.
“So, what happened to you two?” Ada was dying to hear the story.
“Far more than I expected.” Maeve smiled weakly, looking at the pile of food growing on the table. “I can see you won’t give us the time to recover, but at least I can get changed, why don’t you make some fresh tea for yourself?”
Orla was pale and stayed sitting at the table as Maeve got up and left to wash her hands.
“It was awful, Ada,” said the subdued Orla as tears started to run down her face.
Maeve went upstairs, noting that Adam was in the box room almost bent double over his make-do desk, studying. Probably giving Marianne time on her own with Ada. He hadn’t noticed her. This time she made sure that her bedroom door was firmly shut before taking off her muddy clothes.
Mud washed off, clean clothes on, feeling more human, Maeve took a moment on her own before joining the call with Ada. It had been gruelling. This time Maeve had tuned-in, maybe it was thanks to Orla, or maybe it was the right time to see the child herself, but either way she had seen the little girl.
Maeve knew that Steve’s case was about twenty-five years old, so she had been looking for clues to see if that tied in. The girl had red leather, buckled shoes, with white ankle socks, she had lost one shoe and her knees were muddy. She had a red dress with a white ‘Peter Pan’ collar, the front of the dress was covered in tiny blue flowers over smocking, all of which were grubby from rolling around on the ground. The style suggested a different time, no Lycra leggings or light-up trainers, but still not definitive, some people still dressed their children in this kind of stuff.
The child was trying to communicate something to them, but didn’t have the words or perhaps they couldn’t articulate them. It seemed to be some kind of warning, but all that Orla or Maeve could actually hear was,
“I want to be a good girl!” Or sometimes “I am a good girl.” Then the child pointed to her missing shoe. It could hardly be that, could it? Upset over a missing shoe?
Orla and Maeve had followed the direction that she was pointing, just like the first time with Maeve, she led them to where Maeve had found the body.
As they got closer to the spot, the child’s distress intensified.
Orla tried first, “But you are a good girl, a very good girl.” The child paused, looked at her, and with great insistence repeated, “I want to be a good girl!” Almost angry, as if Orla was wilfully misunderstanding her.
Maeve tried a different approach, “You are a lovely girl. Can we help you?”
The little girl stared at Maeve, as if considering the proposition. Looked down at feet, pointed to her missing shoe, stamped her other foot and wailed, “I am a good girl!”
With that she was gone.
This was the first time that Orla had met an unhappy spirit, it affected her badly, she was shaken. Maeve being there, had kept Orla sufficiently grounded that she hadn’t fainted but it was close.
Back in her own bedroom, feeling stronger, Maeve was now ready to talk to Ada. As she came down the stairs she heard Orla sharing her side of the story. Marianne was being the caring big sister, rubbing her back and offering more biscuits.
As Maeve arrived Ada was doing the talking.
“Go on, have something to eat. I told you before this stuff takes a lot out of you, you will need the sugar. And I don’t want to hear any nonsense about ‘no carbs, I’m watching my weight’. Emotional experiences like this will burn through the calories.” Ada was walking a fine line between ‘pull yourself together’ and sympathetic grandmother. Ada knew that too much introspection was not good, you have to stay present in this world, plus she thought this was a great adventure.
“This is a real spirit, with a real issue. Not some woodland or water spirit or evil ‘will-o-the-wisp’. We can do something here. This is a good story.”
It was the phrase ‘a good story’, that Maeve honed in on.
“What do you mean, ‘a good story’? I think there is something going on. What have you been up to, Ada?”
Ada, shifted a bit in her chair, she didn’t quite squirm but Maeve had definitely put her finger on something.
“Well remember I told you that everyone, all the Mediums, were going online and had thousands of followers?”
Maeve’s heart sank, this was not going in a good direction.
“I did a bit more looking into it. And I discovered Tik Tok. Would you believe that my own granddaughter didn’t know what Tik Tok was?”
“Ada, stick to the point and explain what exactly you have done.” Maeve knew Ada’s ability to distract people with shiny paper rather than tell them the relevant information.
“Okay so. I signed up. And I got a following. I looked at what Judy Dench was doing, and I thought, I can do that.” She stopped, clearly there was more that she was not so keen to share.
Maeve wasn’t going to let her off the hook now.
“Back up a bit. What did Judy Dench do? And what did you do?”
Ada sighed, there was no getting around this.
“Dame Judy did what she does, she is brilliant. On Tik Tok she does jokes with her grandson, and even dresses up as a rabbit. It’s really funny.”
“I did what I do.” Ada was dragging it out, “I put on my old gear, did a good make-up session. And I had candles for lighting, creating a great atmosphere. I used my iPhone to record it.” This part clearly pleased Ada, she was happy with her work. “And I promoted what I do. Talk to spirits. In sixty second clips.” Ada folded her hands in her lap, looking as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.
“But you haven’t been talking to spirits for a while….There has to be more to it than that. Go on” Maeve knew her mother.
“I have a few followers now.” Ada stopped again.
“Really mother, you have to tell us, what’s going on?” Maeve was too tired to play games, her irritation was clear, she never called Ada ‘mother’.
“All right, all right, keep your hair on.” Ada was going to have to talk. She didn’t want to.
“So, I have millions of followers, millions of them from all around the world.” This didn’t sound too bad, “I am famous to a new generation and as a result all of my prints have sold. Liz and Charlie at RockPaperScissors are amazing and they have already paid me.”
She had paused, but this time everyone was waiting. Ada knew there was no getting out of this and couldn't find a good way of putting it, so blurted out “The tricky bit is that I promised I could still talk to spirits. And I used your story as the example.”
“What?” Maeve exploded, “You have told millions of people about the child in the woods? Is that right?”
Ada was struggling between hanging her head in shame and wanting to defend herself,
“I didn’t know it would go viral, did I?” She was defensive and contrite at the same time. It made her vulnerable, but right now Maeve was simply furious.
“Oh Christ mother, what have you done!”