Ghosts at Rotham Inn

by Phineas Redux



Summary:— An author in search of peace and quiet instead encounters a number of disquieting disturbances to his personal harmony.

Disclaimer:— This story is copyright ©2022 Phineas Redux. All characters in this story are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Notes:— Halfordshire is fictional.

Caution:— There is some light swearing in this story.


Halfordshire, one of the lesser shires, lay cosily north-west of Norfolk with Lincolnshire on its left-hand, The Wash in its face; just in that position whereby passing travelers, especially in motorised vehicles, could easily miss the fact they had entered the shire never mind left it again without noticing. The shire town was, of course, Halford with the second largest being Rotham-on-the-Wash, followed by the only other town of significance, Dunstan some five miles inland to the west from its neighbour.

I give these rather precise geographical details just to ensure the listener or reader knows exactly where they are as this tale, story, memoir, anecdote, or old wives’ tale—the customer is free to finally make their own decision on this possibly important matter—unfolds in its entirety.

Rotham sits on a the south-eastern shore of the great Bay, the name of which the astute reader or listener can easily guess, or simply refer to my first paragraph above, with a short pier where coastal steamers called to off-load hundreds of day trippers in the season as well as hosting a small fishing fleet. In an artistic sense the town was almost wholly Victorian in design and architecture, having no greater buildings of worth than the medium-sized Town Hall and the Museum; but what I am most interested in at the moment is the single Inn, The Bowline, herein residing the bulk and portent of the story I wish to place before the avid listener.

I continually refer to readers or listeners because this essay is primarily going before the Public by means of the excellent BBC Radio Company in London—listeners countrywide; with, hopefully, a volume to follow at the end of the series (an author should always think positively, and ahead).

Anyway, perhaps I should begin? Yes—Yes! Begin! So, anyway—isn’t it strange how difficult one finds putting into words ideas, suggestions, and possibilities one has thought over in minute detail for several months quite clearly in the mind? And yet putting the whole thing before the listener in words turns out to be a difficult task. Perhaps I should make a stab at simplicity—starting from the beginning helping, no doubt?

Oh dear, where does a story of this almost mystical ambience actually begin? I say mystical because there is an element of both Science and Supernatural mingled within the body of the tale; or certain elements of both, at least. So where should I begin my tale? At the beginning, I believe is the usual modus operandi, but where was the beginning, in so complex an affair as the one I wish to cover?

This is a much more difficult task than I at first thought; when Mr Tompkins, my Producer, first suggested the tale I had told him as suitable fodder for the masses—er, I mean, a delightful tale for the discerning listener, I had thought it eminently likely to fit the bill: but, oh dear, how curiously unsuitable it seems now, in hindsight, and the dire necessity of repeating the facts, such as they were, over the microphone to a waiting audience—fast, no doubt, losing any confidence in my being able to remember my own name never mind tell a long story confidently over the airwaves!

I had expected this to be the shortest of introductory paragraphs, a saliently worded near Spartan prologue, a quick preface, a light preamble to greater events, a prolegomenon of the most acute aptness; but instead it has transformed, in a most strange manner, into the veritable Slough of Despond itself! And all I want is to tell a family friendly Tale of Horror, Ghostliness, and Terror for Halloween! Aah, wait a mo! I’ve got it! In medias res!—let it be so—


“Mr Trelawny, sir! The bed-cover’s stained—looks like blood, sir!”

No-No!” Mr Trelawny, in his turn, intercepting this suggestion before it could fully relish its first breath. “Only an oil stain, I think you’ll find. Get another; go on, swift and sure makes a good servant; we mustn’t keep Mr Garfield waiting. The room will be ready in an instant, sir! Might you like to wait in the bar? Take a refreshment, perhaps?”

“Seems I’ll have to.” Mr Garfield submitting to Necessity as he found it. “I’ll be having a snifter, let me know when I can take possession.”

“Certainly, sir.”

The bar of the Bowline was a small one; cosy in its way, certainly, but not exerting itself to grand superlatives by any means. A few tables, a scattering of well upholstered settees, and a gentle wood fire in the massive fireplace endearing it to tired travelers of all description. The few residents presently in situ were the usual mixed bunch always to be found in such circumstances in small seaside towns out of season; a sporty young lady in well-cut tweeds looking appallingly athletic, an obvious solicitor looking mournful as he should, a tradesman in excellent circumstances if his well-covered corporation was any judge of the matter, a middle-aged man who looked alarmingly like a bookies’ runner, and a remarkably beautiful lady in a brown dress who was obviously the town Librarian, a literary twinkle residing behind her brown eyes as if focusing on another victim as she gazed steadfastly at Mr Garfield as he sat on a stool at the bar beside her.

“Don’t ask for a pink gin, laddie.” She nodding significantly as one who knew. “You’d only regret it. A rum punch’ll set you up—you lookin’ as if you need setting-up, if I may say so. Been a long journey, and the snowy roads not helpin’, I expect?”

Garfield, nothing loth, jumped into conversation without a shred of shyness; he having several grumbles to exercise and this obviously the perfect opportunity.

“You can say that again—”

“Don’t ask fo—”

“Figure of speech—dam’ snow-covered roads, my MG nearly went into the neigbouring fields so many times I lost count. Dam’ snow, dam’ roads, dam’ fields! Say, just before I reached this hole’s environs thought I saw a dam’ stagecoach on the road to my left as I entered the town! Can that have been so? I mean—”

“Hardly, sir,” The solicitor, to Garfield’s right, butting-in without shame as if an old friend. “last coach of that ilk was the Halford Flyer, and it went belly-up in Eighteen-forty-nine—the Railways, y’know.”

Oh! Must have been a delusion, then; not the first, I’m sorry t’say. War wound, y’see.” Garfield pursing his lips nervously. “Nice rum, you were right, Miss, er—?”

“Lambert, Sofia Lambert.” She admitting this with a wide grin. “Nice t’meet you, er—?”

Hah!” Garfield seeing the funny side of the exchange. “Garfield, Kenneth of that ilk. I’m an author; well, I write things, y’know. Not that the Public takes much notice I have to admit, but one carries on the banner manfully nonetheless, eh?”

“Have I read anything of yours’, then?” The solicitor bucking-up splendidly at this literary direction of the conversation.

“Let’s see, ‘Bloody Death at Hardknock Hall’? ‘Murder in Triplicate’? ‘Seven Went In, None Came Back’?

Oh, those kind of stories!” The solicitor clearly losing all interest in the subject.

“One does what one can!” Garfield feeling the critical tone of the man’s silence as only a hard-working not quite successful author could. “I get along, y’know.”

Iimph!” The solicitor unconvinced.

“Room for one more?” The athletic lady strolling up to take a stool on the Librarian’s left hand. “Hi, Sofy! You drive an MG? MG C, I assume?”

“Is there any other sort?” Garfield rather snappy, still under the influence of the amateur literary critic on his other side. “Sorry, no—it’s a TD, actually; rather a good humored little vehicle when it wants to be.”

“Nice; my Riley two-seater kicks back like an American mustang, no control at all—shows fits an’ temper at the least little thing on the road.” She sighing as from long experience. “Wish, often, I’d bought a Jaguar instead. Names’ Diana Veringham, by the way—nice t’meet ya.”

“Lady Levenstane drives a Mercedes-Benz Thirty-Eight Sports!” Sofy putting this item of local news in for whatever reason.

“She can afford it.” Diana twisting her upper lip in a most engaging way. “Anyway, belonged to her brother before the War.”

“Yes, well, there you are.” Sofy giving this abstruse rejoinder without further explanation.

“Staying long? On holiday? Dam’ strange time of year t’take it, mind you!” Sofy changing the subject. “Only ask because I’m pushy that way, ha-ha!”

“Sofy Lambert’s the village gossip, I warn you.” Diana laughing as with an old friend’s reputation. “Tell her your inmost secrets and the whole county’ll know the next mornin’.”

“That’s so not true!” Sofy nudging the ribs of her companion with intent, making sure not to spill her drink meanwhile.

It was just short of 8.30pm, if the ancient Grandfather clock in the corner could be relied on; the fire in the deep stone-lined fireplace emanated a warm glow while the crackling wood gave an almost hypnotic invitation to close one’s eyes and snooze.

“I fancy sitting by the fire and warming-up some.”

“Why not, Mr Garfield.” Sofy taking the opportunity quickly. “The settee there’s soft an’ comfortable. The bar doesn’t close till ten-thirty, let’s make ourselves comfortable; no-one else of any importance’ll be in meanwhile, take my word on it.”

Two minutes later the group had re-located to the close environs of the warm flames and waves of gentle heat; the ladies on the settee with the solicitor, now known to be Mr James Cameron, in the corner—Mr Garfield residing on the easy chair on the other side—all as cosy as the supposed natural denizens of the nearby rug. Diana Veringham set the conversation going.

“Quite good beer, this. Comes from a local brewery, nice flavor. Say, what with the snow-blocked roads and the chill in the air it seems the appropriate time to indulge in ghost stories. And this is an Olde Worlde Inne, y’know. The Halford Flyer used to roll up here regularly in it’s day.”

“Driving here I was too cold to think of such things; but now I’m warming-up back in civilisation I feel more tempted.” Garfield acknowledging the fact. “Not that I actually know of, or have been involved in, anything remotely supernatural. Wouldn’t know a ghost if it socked me on the jaw for ignoring it, y’know!”

“You’ve arrived at the perfect place, then.” Cameron entering the discussion again. “This Inn’s supposed to have no less than three ghosts of its very own, to start with.”

“And there’s an old tale that the Halford Flyer can still be seen on its old route on certain occasions.” Sofy giggling at the thought. “Never met it on my peregrinations myself, though.”

Oh, yes?” Garfield hardly convinced.

“Yes,” Diana nodding, as one with the relevant gen at her fingertips. “The legend goes that, at certain times of the year, the Flyer pulls into the old stables, under the high arch at the back of this Inn; then someone, as might be whoever, resident at the time, climbs in and is driven off never to be seen again! This all taking place in the darkest of night, of course.”

Garfield pored over the story for a few seconds.

“Makes a good tale; not sure but I couldn’t make something of it.”

“Why not?” Cameron smiling at the thought. “Give the old town some notoriety.”

Oh, I’d change the names; can’t have Rotham made the cynosure  of all eyes, y’know; not playin’ the game. No, I’d call it something else, maybe even re-locate it to some other county, just t’be safe. An author always living in fear of legal summonses or subpoenas from irate Mayors’ and locals’, y’know.”

The chat paused for a comfortable few moments before Diana spoke up again.

“Want to hear the history of this old ruin? Three ghosts? You can’t argue with that!”

Garfield, taking a sip of his whisky, smiled indulgently.

“Always in the audience for a good thrill—bang away!”

So encouraged Diana sipped her Shanghai Skipper delicately, licked her lips, and began in a low voice.

“In Seventeen-seventy-seven Mary Wollstonecraft—the same whose daughter later wrote ‘Frankenstein’—stayed here for a week. While here she was, ah, annoyed by the attentions of a local Society man of means. He owned a large estate and country house some three miles away—all gone now, of course; just open empty fields to show today. Anyway, he made his attentions too obvious; so much so that one night breaking into her room upstairs with evil import he was met by the lady with a horse pistol which she discharged into his face, blowing his head off. Terrible mess, especially as the remains fell on her bed. Her maid, present throughout, able to verify the run of things Mary was got off without a stain on her character, which was more than her bed’s linen did, soaked in gore, apparently.”

“Yes,” Sofy taking up the tale. “Sheets and spread dripping in the crimson stuff. So the old legend goes that every anniversary of the event the linen of the bed, whatever bed it may be in these modern days, shows the stains to this day for a few hours. It’s made several visitors stand back and take notice over the years, so legend goes.”

“Which room?” Garfield asking, though he already had a fair idea of the answer.

“Yours, I believe.” Cameron giving of this information with a light wriggle of his shoulders. “Heard the Innkeeper saying where your digs were earlier.”

Ah!” Garfield feeling there was nothing else to say.

Another hiatus occurred, while everyone sipped their drinks to see if they still stood the test of time; then Garfield took up the cudgels again.

“Someone said there were three ghosts available? What about the third?”

Diana was up for this.

“Jerry Craggins!” She nodding wisely, as one who had the original accounts safely stored in the Library’s vaults. “Murdered his mother, a local Excise man, and a farm labourer. Fled to this Inn, threatened to burn the place down, from his stance in an upper room, then hanged himself when the militia was called in.”

Yep!” Sofy grinning widely. “It’s said that every anniversary you can see his corpse hanging from the improvised rope he made round a chandelier fitting in one of the rooms upstairs, no-one knowing which, apparently. From the various sightings over the years it seems likely he changes rooms on each visitation, just to keep everyone on their toes, y’know!”

“Well, there’s enough there to fill a whole volume!” Garfield attempting a light laugh, and failing rather miserably. “Food for thought, certainly.”

“If you really are in the Wollstonecraft Room at least there’s a fair chance you’ll see that whole ghastly affair for yourself.” Cameron bucking-up enormously at the thought of someone else’s discomfort. “How long did you say you’ll be staying?”

“A week.”

Hah, plenty of time!”


When the Grandfather clock in the bar downstairs chimed 11.30pm Garfield, in his room on the first floor, heard it distinctly. He was sitting on a hard chair at a desk in the corner writing-up his experiences as was his daily habit. Not so much a diary as a series of accounts of scenarios seen and participated in; this thus allowing him to embroider events as he saw fit, a great benefit for an ambitious author. He often thought, in private, if he had only had the opportunity to tutor Mr Pepys something really entertaining could have been made of that Diary!

Although primarily a Thriller writer Ghost, or Horror, stories and anecdotes were as grist to his mill, too; he having a sweet sideline in providing several monthly magazines with those ingredients in the form of short stories. In fact he was already the proud author of two anthologies of such works, thereby putting his name before the Public very nicely thank you.

The particular murder mystery he was at present engaged on could, he had recently realised, benefit from one of the main characters experiencing a supernatural occurrence in the course of avoiding being the next victim. To this end he was poring over the stories he had listened to earlier downstairs in the bar, wondering if any one would, if suitably transposed, fit the bill. The stagecoach roaming the local roads at dead of night, or whenever, could he thought be discounted as hardly relevant; the man hanging from a chandelier was far too passé; while the story about Miss Wollstonecraft had certain possibilities, if handled in the right way.

Finally satisfied with his recording of events and possibilities, he closed the folder, laid his pen aside, and proceeded to get ready for bed. The work of making sure the door to the corridor was locked shut, the windows ditto, he finding fresh air a nuisance rather than a benefit, he undressed throwing his clothes haphazardly on the recently vacated chair, diving between the cold sheets with gusto though in a state of nature, his usual habit. Ten minutes later he was fast asleep.


The Grandfather clock, when it did what it had to, woke him from a deep dreamless sleep; listening he discovered it was now half-past two in the morning precisely, if the clock could be relied on, a notion he had no exact information on. Anyway, he was awake and, as he very well knew, getting back to sleep was going to be the usual struggle.

He had left a bottle of Evian water in his car now silently sleeping in one of the converted stables behind the Inn; there was a white enamel sink and tap in the room but he was rather suspicious of the local water; a half bottle of whisky in his carrying-case on the floor nearby he decided to leave to its own slumbers. All that was left, to satisfy a curious thirst, was to dive into some clothes, tiptoe downstairs and see if a raid on the kitchen might supply results. A worry he might be mistaken for a burglar and find himself at the receiving end of the Innkeeper’s shotgun gave him pause for a moment, but then he regained his courage and set off along the dark corridor hoping he was going in the right direction for the stairs to the lower floor.

Having no slippers, making do with his ordinary heavy leather shoes on bare cold feet, he was rather concerned his almost offensively loud footsteps would wake every guest in the Inn, but he made it to the kitchen without incident. A quick search through various cupboards at last discovered a bottle of orange juice, and a plate of small pork pies. It was the work of seconds to find a notepad and pencil, write down what he had taken and his name and room number and place this confession in a prominent place before taking his ill-gotten gains and retracing his steps.

Back in his room he pottered carefully across the dark interior, placed his goods on the desk, then returned to the light switch by the door which he clicked on with enthusiasm at a job well done. Turning to regard his swag he glanced at his disrupted bed with the clothes flung back and stood transfixed, all thought of sustenance suddenly gone. On the white sheet covering the exposed mattress was a large dark stain which intent examination, from a distance, easily revealed itself to be blood—and fairly recent blood at that, it still glistening in the harsh light from above.

What the Hell!”

The first thought was, of course, he had suffered some wound or effusion during his sleep which had been painless; slapping himself all over he went on to throw his clothes off once again, examining his body as well as he could from all angles—the long mirror on the door of the wardrobe coming in very useful at this dramatic moment. But no wound, contusion, cut, or even bruise showed itself; to all intents and purposes he could regard himself as uninjured.

What the Hell!”

When you leave a room, to come back only a short time later to find your bed soaked in blood, the first thing that comes to mind, after verifying that you are yourself not in the process of exiting this world at a rate of knots for entirely unknown reasons, is to look for the body that was! Garfield took a reconnaissance of the whole room, at first quickly by eye, then carefully by searching every inch available for that purpose; nothing was to be found.

What the Hell!”

The next object was to decide what to do? Should he wake the Innkeeper, which would by necessity probably mean everyone else in the Inn too? What would be the outcome? Police officers, curious guests, an irate Innkeeper, and how he was going to explain a blood-soaked bed with no body to provide a viable reason for such he had no idea whatever. Would he be looked on, perfectly soundly he had to admit, as a murderer? Would he be taken in custody and made to confess under bright lights and the threat of being roughed-up? Or was that only America? He really didn’t know; a situation he found more embarrassing than anything else, considering his career choice.

What the Hell!”

Finally, seeing no other course before him, he decided to place all hope of understanding in future enlightenment, and whatever Gods might be awake and sympathetic at the time. Taking the uppermost blanket, which seemed to have escaped the general disaster, he sat on the easy chair by the cold fireplace, wrapped himself in it and began to think of possible explanations, or indeed confessions, that might fit the bill and see him not taken in charge by the official representatives of the Law the next morning. Worrying on the likely outcome of this disastrous adventure he was again deeply asleep within five minutes.


The morning light flooded the small bedroom with all the harsh chill of such illumination reflected from snowfields outside. The sky was however cloudless so the sun shone all the more powerfully, glaring unconcernedly into every corner of the room. Slumped in the padded easy chair, wrapped in the thick blanket like some antediluvian monster, Garfield flickered his eyelids, opened them an instant and immediately regretted doing so.

Ooh! Aah! What the Hell!”

Shielding his aching eyes with a hand he climbed painfully to his feet, took a few deep breaths to fill his lungs with the life-giving element, and sighed loudly; then he remembered.

What the Hell!”

Much as he wished otherwise he felt compelled, as if by outside forces, to gaze on the scene of the crime; the bed lay as he had last seen it, except that the disturbed bedclothes were pristine, no stains or blood to be seen anywhere on them. Astonished almost beyond belief Garfield stood transfixed for several seconds, unable to believe his own eyes, then stepped forward to examine the structure more closely. A long gaze over every visible inch revealing nothing of note he gingerly pulled the clothes all the way off the mattress, only to show that there was no trace of blood anywhere to be found—the bed, as a bed, fulfilled its normal purpose and nothing more.

What the hairy Hell!”

Rescued from the thought of spending the rest of the day in the local police cells he next wondered if the Innkeeper would look on him as somewhat deranged if he ordered a whole bottle of whisky, and nothing else, for his breakfast!


That evening, around half past seven, when the usual crowd had staggered into the Inn’s popular bar to revive themselves after pushing the hours of the past day along in the accepted manner, Garfield felt impelled to reveal his last night’s adventure, or period of torture as he felt it.

“Drink!” Cameron nodding soberly over his first pink gin. “Doesn’t matter how many you have, it’s always the last that does the business.”

“I was not drunk!” Garfield hastening to scotch this idle and, he felt, ill-natured rumor. “I only had two whiskies throughout the entire evening, as you all very well know, having watched me sink both.”

“Yeah, that’s right.” Diana acknowledging the inescapable fact. “Only had three Shanghai Skipper’s myself, and didn’t feel any the worse. Of course, nearly hit a lamp-post on the way home—what it was doin’ in the middle of the road I don’t know, had t’swerve hard t’miss the dam’ thing, but there you are!”

Her listeners remained silent, taking what moral they could find from this reflection; then Sofy started asking awkward questions.

“Tell the Innkeeper?”

Hell, no!” Garfield sure of his position there at any rate. “Didn’t want to get myself in hot water. Have a suspicion he wants t’keep the possibility of such going’s-on private, not for public consumption, y’know. Probably have turfed me out on my ear if I’d said anything about it. Had the devil of a job gettin’ him t’change my room this afternoon. Said I didn’t like the view from the window, but he gave me a funny look, all the same.”


“What?” Garfield slightly bemused by the sudden change in topic. “Whose dream?”

“Yours! It was a dream; you dreamed the whole thing’s all.” Sofy apparently wholly assured of the authenticity of her assumption. “Couldn’t have been anything else.”

Taking a moment to absorb this new theory Garfield had to admit its likelihood.

“Well, I’m not saying it wasn’t, but it seemed all the same mighty lifelike—real, y’know.”

Having slaked his first thirst Cameron had now switched to strong Gibsons’, gently swirling the tiny pickled onion on the end of its stick with professional aplomb.

“Dreams are strange things, Plato has something to say on the matter somewhere, can’t remember where. Beckford, too. And as for Freud, well!”

“I was not having a sexual episode, thank you very much!” Garfield a trifle shocked by the supposition. “A perfectly ordinary drea—no, it wasn’t, I’m still quite sure it was real.”

“If so, where’d the blood go, in the cold light of Dawn?” Sofy asking a perfectly proper question.

This had been troubling Garfield all day and he had yet to come up with a satisfactory answer.

“I don’t know—I don’t know!”

“If you’ve changed rooms you’re well out of it, anyway.” Diana coming back into the fray, sipping something very fruity in a thick glass. “All you need worry about now is Jerry Craggins, hanging from a light fitting in lieu of the chandelier!”

“The prospect is not one I find any humor in, thank you!” Garfield standing on his principles.

Cameron, well oiled by now, had switched his thoughts to more important matters.

“Anyone got a good tip for the Two-thirty at Epsom tomorrow? Red Leopard’s penciled in at three to one, but Tolly’s Uncle’s comin’ up at five to three.”

His listeners, uninterested to a man and woman, merely wondered how to change the subject back to that which did hold their interest.

“To believe in ghosts you’ve got to believe in ghosts.” Sofy making this complex yet straightforward judgement with all the certainty of the scientific outlook. “I mean, if the Supernatural doesn’t exist, well, you’re knackered aren’t you?”

“I’d rather believe that than that I’d turned into a sozzled old soak without realising same, thank you.” Garfield feeling the tone of the conversation was going downhill faster than he found comfortable.

“Did you see Mary?” Diana taking up the material side of the problem. “Wollstonecraft, I mean. Her, or the cad Lord of the Manor actually getting his?”

“No, just the, er, stained sheets—and they’d reverted to normal by the morning.”

Ah, pity; no material evidence, y’see.”

“I realise that all too well, Miss Veringham.”

“Diana, please.”

“Thank you.”

“No other witnesses?” Sofy taking a different line. “I mean—?”

“I was not during the night attempting to out-Casanova Casanova with one of the maids, if that’s what you imply.” Garfield almost at the end of a very short tether by this time.

“Sorry, only a theory.”

“Abandon it, please.”

“Yes, er, quite.”

“We’ll just have to put it down to unexplained circumstances.” Cameron coming back to some level of sobriety. “You experienced something, connected with the legends surrounding this mouldy old dump; whether what you went through has any basis in reality will simply need to be left to further investigation. Something else may yet occur. You’ve changed to a different room—that gives old Jerry his chance, at least—don’t you think?”

Garfield had finally had enough.

“I didn’t find Mary’s bloody sheets in the least invigorating. I am not a Ghost Hunter, far from it—absolutely the opposite, in fact. And as for Jerry Craggins, he can swing from the light bulb as much as he dam’ well likes, no skin off my nose!”

“That’s the spirit!” Diana sparkling wittily with a wide grin. “The British Spirit, if you’ll pardon the reference, through and through!”

Enough was enough.

“I’m going to bed.” Garfield making his intention plain to one and all. “And I point to the fact, for future reference, I have only had the one whisky and soda this entire evening. Goodnight!”


The new room might have been expected to resemble its compatriots in the old Inn but nothing, Garfield soon found out on taking possession, could be further from the fact. The white enamel sink in the corner was actually a hideous light blue, the bed was made of what looked like white maple in a very Scandinavian style; there was a single sheet and thick loose duvet in place of a multiplicity of blankets. And the walls were painted pure white all round; even the tall wardrobe was clearly the fruit of some modern stylist’s worst nightmare. The Innkeeper had obviously taken the theme of renovation to its absolute extreme, whether by reason or accident could not be decided, at least by its newest tenant. On looking round his new temporary abode Garfield felt less at home than he had ever felt anywhere.

God, what a dump. If Jerry comes t’visit he’s welcome t’the whole boiling!”

The little desk was one of those modern contraptions with thin metal unsteady  legs and hardly any elbow room on the bare surface. But Garfield, impelled by ancient inbred habit, buckled down to the task of recording the events of his day as usual. This taking him nearly an hour, through constant hiatuses to decide if anything at all had actually taken place of any worth recording, he eventually sat back with a sigh of tiredness.

Dropping his pen unceremoniously he turned to contemplate the bed, wondering how comfortable he would find it. After a few seconds blearily looking at the duvet, itself a ghastly pale green that made him think of nothing other than nausea, he suddenly realised there was something not quite right about what he was looking at. Taken with the situation he sat up eyeing the bed with a now sharp critical eye, as an eagle the landscape sliding below its wings.

Then it came to him—there was a pale but visible shadow quivering with faint ripples over the duvet. It took him a few more seconds to analyse the sight then he realised it showed a taut rope suspended from some unseen fitting on the ceiling with, below, the silhouette of a male body hanging therefrom.

Oh, for crap’s sake!”

Lifting his gaze he discovered the actual light fitting, a single white bulb, hung from a cord some way over to the left of the shadow which itself had no corporeal connection with the physical fitting. Of hanging rope, or hanging body come to that, there was not the faintest sign—only the shadow.

God! Even he can’t stand the décor of this dam’ room!”

While he sat contemplating what his next move must entail there came a knock on the door, making him jump with unwanted memories of Poe’s Raven. But the door next opened to reveal only the figure of the Innkeeper come to supply his guest with the hot cup of Ovaltine earlier requested.

Coming into the room with the tray held before him like gifts for a Regal Emperor he suddenly started, taking a step back and tensing visibly. His eyes flickered for a moment, then he regained control, advancing like a General at the vanguard of his troops, though his voice seemed a trifle shaky, all the same.

“—er, here’s yer Ovaltine, sir. Hopes yer likes it. I’ll be goin’ now, sir; g’night!”

Ah, just a mo’,” Garfield taking command himself. “thought I’d ask your opinion on the décor. Here, in this room, I mean. Rather different from the other rooms, I fancy; trying to modernise the ambience, I take it?”

“Ambience, sir?” The Innkeeper’s voice sounding less steady by the second. “What’s that?”

“The style, the décor.” Garfield almost grinning evily as he educated the man. “What, for instance, do you think of the bed—over there, with its green duvet?”

Without glancing the least fraction of an inch towards the object indicated the Innkeeper kept his now obviously scared eyes fixed on Garfield throughout.

Oh, yes, sir; quite in order, sir. I must go now, things t’do downstairs, y’unnerstan’. G’night, sir.”

With this parting goodbye he shot back out the door into the safety of the corridor without a parting nod, the door shutting of its own accord behind his fleeing figure.

“He knew!” Garfield sneering impressively. “He saw the shadow as clearly as I! And can’t stand to confess same in case it affects his custom, I bet! Dam’ ingrate.”

Standing up and turning to the cause of his latest trouble he regarded the shadow still trembling as if in some form of slight motion over the duvet.

“And if you think, Jerry, you’re going to interrupt a good night’s sleep for me you can dam’ well think again. Give me two minutes to strip, then I’ll be below the cover and fast asleep so quickly it’ll give you and your shadow a migraine, I dam’ well sincerely hope!”

Suiting his actions to his words less than five minutes later saw Garfield, after draining his Ovaltine to the last delicious drop, fast asleep in the chamber, taking not the least encumbrance by the presence of the ghostly apparition still flickering optimistically over his duvet.


Next evening, at somewhere close to eight o’clock, saw everyone of the party once more re-united in the civilised crush to assuage their hard won daily thirsts with a pint of the usual, thanks.

“Had a good night?” Cameron first to broach the only subject on anyone’s lips.

“Splendid, thanks.”

Oh, no ghosts?”

“Not what could be called actual ghosts, no.”


“But something?” Diana quick on the uptake. “Thanks, mine Host—A Shanghai Skipper’ll go down nicely to start with, anyway.”

So implored Garfield made free with the details of his latest encounter with the un-natural, Super- he would not allow.

Hmm, sounds like ol’ Jerry’s losin’ the will t’live! Not puttin’ his best into it at all!” Cameron sipping the first of his nightly four Gibsons’.

“Think he gave up on that score some time ago.” Sofy smirking at her joke. “A Martini, thanks, don’t bother with the olive; so fattening, don’t you find?”

“Know what you mean about the modernising in this place.” Diana sighing deeply at harsh memories.” Had to stay here for a few days a coupl’a years ago, after the fire at my place. Petrol can I had in the garage was leakin’ an’ one of my cast-off cigarette-ends ignited it! Terrible conflagration. My old Austin went belly-up, of course!”

“So you’ve experienced Jerry and Mary in your short time here?” Sofy bringing the conversation back on track after this un-interesting aside. “Only leaves the Halford Flyer, I suppose?”

“Them as gets in same’s supposed never t’get back out again—at least, in this physical world, y’know.” Cameron looking significantly along the bar towards both the barman and his next Gibson.

“Don’t take any notice of that old wives’ tale.” Sofy assured of her opinion. “Everything, including the ghosts, seems t’be goin’ to the wall around here. Do you know, there used to be no less than five huge Country Houses round these parts, complete with mighty estates each?”

“Yeah,” Diana speaking of what she knew. “An Abbey, a Hall, two Priory’s, and an Old Place! All gone, only empty farmer’s fields to show now.”

“Yep,” Cameron allowing he had some of the actual documents to prove this legend in his vaults. “All the Bigwigs gone belly-up; lack of servants, higher taxes, rates, and Death duties—done for them all in the end.”

“So,” Sofy continuing. “if you’re given the choice of a ride in the Flyer the Driver’ll probably be only too glad to have a customer at all to think of anything other than taking you where you want to go these days.”

“I’ll make a note of it.” Garfield sighing gently.

“Much of your holiday left?” Diana truthfully interested. “Got much of your next novel completed?”

“Not much of either,” Garfield admitting the limitations of his present life. “of the holiday or novel! Came here thinking it’d be a nice quiet place to write, but turns out the atmosphere’s not conducive to the Muse at all, sadly! Have t’leave in a couple more days.”

Oh, well, let’s hope the Flyer turns up trumps where Jerry and Mary fell short.” Cameron passing the subject off as a lost cause. “Barman, where’s my Gibson, my throat’s parched!”

“Sofy an’ I are holding an At Home tomorrow evening.” Diana perking-up as the barman handed her a second Shanghai Skipper, the absinthe therein giving it a sickly yellow-green tone. “Half-past nine; wan’na come? I’d be glad.”

Garfield took quick stock of his entertainment schedule for the next two days and, finding such completely barren, accepted without further demur.

“I’ll be there, ladies, come Hell or High Water!”


The room, when he entered it late the next afternoon, after a couple of hours spent walking the town’s streets up to the ankles in snow, showed just as cold and uncomfortable as on its first appearance. Garfield, not caring a fig whether Jerry Craggins showed up for a repeat performance or not, couldn’t be bothered to scan the room for traces of his unwanted meta-physical guest. What did take his interest was getting to grips with his latest novel. Starting out as a solid middle of the road mystery, it had gradually over the course of the intervening week metamorphosed into first a murder, then a science-fiction, before transforming, as its final incarnation, into a supernatural tale of Woe and Tragedy. The author, settling to his task again at the flimsy desk, now on chapter four and raring to get on.

As all serious authors soon find when you settle to the grind Time seems to go faster by far. You start at 11.00am., write a few paragraphs then, glancing at the clock, find it is already 4.00pm! Never fails. On this occasion, he having no interest in Jerry, whether he chose to appear or no, Garfield was soon deep in that ongoing trance which supplies page after page without any mental effort at all.

Finally, having paused only to adjust the desk lamp in the deepening dark, he realised that something close to eight o’clock must be just round the corner. Loth to give up his run of luck, imagination-wise, he turned to the sink in the corner where a metal kettle lurked; his intention being to place the full receptacle on the gas-ring and make a comforting cup of tea. But as he rose to effect this noble aim external circumstances intervened yet again.

First, the remembrance of his accepted invitation to Sofy’s crush At Home came back to mind, making him quiver at the lack of time he had to dress and get there. Then, from somewhere outside on the road, his window only having a view of the yard and old stables at the rear of the Inn, Garfield heard a clatter and rumble as of a heavy vehicle having trouble maneuvering on the snow covered road; then came a nearer clatter, accompanied by the sound of many horses’ hooves and a rattling of equipage as the unseen conveyance came to a halt apparently immediately under his window.

“What the Hell now? As if I have any time to find out!”

But, going over to the window he glanced out and was taken aback with the sight that met his eyes. On the greasy snow covered cobbles of the ancient yard sat a full-rigged six horse stage-coach, complete with said horses and coachman on the high seat wielding a long whip and gesturing with it up to his window, as if requesting his customer to get a dam’ hurry on, mate, or I’ll be off without yer!

“Well, I’ll be dam’med!”

But, not waiting for any further example of the Supernatural, he turned to his bed where a heap of his outside clothes lay.

“If he dam’ well wants a passenger, by all that’s Holy, he’s got one at least!”

Four minutes later, not caring whether he made enough noise to wake the Dead or not, Garfield found himself, clothed in tweed suit and heavy outer coat and gloves, on the white cobbles by the side of the amazing historical equipage.

“No room inside, sur.” The coachman’s tone deep and rich. “Can come up alongside I, if preferred!”

Garfield took a quick glance inside the nearest side-window of the coach, seeing only vague shadows inside but, convinced of the coachman’s sincerity, climbed rather amateurishly to the seat beside the driver.

“That’s right, sur. Here, wrap this blanket round yer legs, get right comfortable; are ye right then, sur? Then let’s be on our way; a turrible long way t’go a’fore Dawn, ye knows. Where be yer goin’ by’n’bye, sur? Hopes it ain’t far, mind; roads is awful turrible bad wi’ the snow t’night.”

“Miss Veringham’s cottage, please, fast as you like.”

Ah, know’s it well, sur. Won’t take but a mite o’no time at all, sur. Hang on t’that wood corner, things gets varyin’ bumpy, dependin’ on speed wi’ this rig, y’see, sur! Away, Sam! Away, Horace!”

With this loud imperative command to his two leading steeds by the coachman and a sharp crack of his whip in the air Garfield found himself out on the road in record time, hardly having any notion of how the huge heavy machine had accomplished the maneuver through the Inn’s tight high stone arch. Seconds later the Inn had been left behind amidst what was obviously an incoming snowstorm, the flakes hitting Garfield’s face like cold slaps from a particularly impatient enemy. The coachman, to his eyes, almost nothing more than a great bulk by his side, being engulphed in a greatcoat of many layers of thick wool that seemed to the author good enough protection for an Arctic explorer.

There was no other traffic on the roads that evening; hardly surprisingly, Garfield found himself thinking, considering the state of the weather. The coach, though tipping from side to side over every yard like a ship at sea, but keeping its course nonetheless, rolled on along the road as if made specifically for just these circumstances. The coachman kept a chilly silence, but Garfield could hardly blame him, considering the significant physical effort it obviously took to control the coach and horses over the snow and along the roads with their tight bends and inclines.

“You do a good job, my man!”

“Experience, sur.” The coachman bellowed back in Garfield’s ear. “Thirty year if a month! Know every pothole an’ ditch from Halford to Rotham an’ into Norfolk, sur. Been in every one in my time, y’see—ha-ha!”

Thinking it expedient not to attempt further light converse Garfield settled back, as much as was possible, to simply enjoy, if that figure of speech covered present circumstances, the run as much as he found possible. Two minutes later a further thought struck him.

“You do know Miss Veringham’s place, then?”

Oh, yus, sur. Have no fear thar. I’ll put yer down nice as ninepence right by her front door. Won’t be more’n another five minutes, sur. Hang on!”

They were by this time out in the country beyond the town, Garfield recollecting that Sofy had said her cottage lay some two miles further along the road. Hoping they were actually going to make it, the snow still falling heavily and blindingly, he sat tight holding onto a protruding wooden flange with the grip of madness. To add the last straw to his woes two minutes later he saw, approaching from the opposite direction at what now seemed an unnatural speed, a pair of headlights in the distance.

“A car! What’re you going to do?”

From the coachman’s reply he seemed fully aware of the upcoming meeting of such varying modes of transportation, not flinching in the least.

Ah, fear not, sur! Many’s the time I’ve set sich at stand, sur! They gen’lly takes to comin’ to a halt like as if they’ve been grabbed in the rear by a giant; their brakes bein’, I’ve a mind, somthin’ stupendous, sur! Jes’ you wait an’ watch, see if I ain’t right!”

An instant later the headlights lit up the struggling horses and bulk of the coach in a glaring beam. The car, still unseen in the dark, wavered across the road, regained its legal side then came to a halt as the coach, the Coachman not in the slightest having decreased speed himself, shot past like a cannonball from a gun: leaving the car in the dark behind it like a Leviathan striding through the night.

Jesus! That was close!”

“Nuthin o’the sort, sur!” The Coachman laughing deeply below the thick scarf wrapped round the lower part of his face. “Works every time, like I said. Don’t hold with these horseless carriages myself, sur. Infernal inventions, to my mind; hosses good enough for everyone these thousand year past, sur, and safe fer another thousand in my view, if only let be.”

Ten minutes later, Garfield having sunk into a stupor wherein he felt able to accept almost anything that might occur, natural, Supernatural, or whatever else might come, the coach suddenly pulled up in the now deepening snow next to a low metal gate on the left side of the road.

“Here we be, sur; Miss Veringham’s cottage, that bein’ her front gate. You may find it a bad go tryin’ ter get back t’the town tonight, sur; expect she’ll find yer a bed fer the night, supposin’. Well, g’night sur, hopes yer found the Halford Flyer good enuff fer yer needs, sur?”

“Very much so, Coachman—thank you!”

A moment later the huge ungainly equipage had rolled on into the dark night, the falling snow hiding its further progress from sight within a few seconds.

“Well, I’ll be dam’med!”


In the warm living-room Sofy, Diana, and Cameron were all present, eager to know how the intrepid explorer had made it to the cottage in such awful weather.

“You took the Flyer?” Cameron dumbfounded. “I’ll be dam’med!”

“Much what I said myself.” Garfield grinning at the memory of his adventure.

“It really was the actual Flyer?” Diana hardly able to believe the fact. “The Halford Flyer? The Flyer that hasn’t run, at least physically, these hundred years or more?”

“The very same.” Garfield accepting his unique position with Princely disregard for the conventions. “Dam’ bumpy an’ cold, I give you that, but it got me here.”

“Who was the driver?” Sofy frowning over this esoteric detail.

“Couldn’t say; wrapped up like a mummy, only in swathes of woolen greatcoats, wide-brimmed hat, and a scarf that hid his features altogether. Rather a bulky man, but that again might have been due to his enormous attire. Couldn’t really describe him at all, except for his deep voice, for what that’s worth.”

“Well, it’s been another adventure; but again, one that’s left no bodily or corporeal evidence of its existence.” Cameron coming it the cold solicitor which took up his daylight hours.

“Can’t help that; all I can say is, it happened!” Garfield nodding with the certainty of this fact at least.

“Put it all in your new novel, of course?”

“Of course! Say, Sofy, is that a Tequila Sunburst in that cocktail on the table? Can I have one too, please!”


The End