“It weren’t my fault,” snapped
Jacob. His jaw was set as tightly as his arms were crossed against his chest.
smiled. “Take a seat, Jacob,” she said indicating the chair on the other side of
her desk. The boy plonked himself down, his face a picture of frustration and
streaked with recently dried tears. “Now, tell me exactly what happened.”
“I got to the
’all and went up to the long gallery like wot I was told to. I went straight
frough the door and there were all these toffs there. It woz a party. I ducked
and dived me way frough but as I passed the fireplace one of the dogs caught a
whiff ov mi and started growlin’. I just kept going but the dog follered and
the servant wiv a big platter of food didn’t see ’im and tripped and there woz
this right big clatter and…”
Mrs Tudor had
her hand held up waiting patiently for Jacob to stop. “Thank you”, she said as
he finally paused for breath. “I’d like to go through things in a little more
detail if you don’t mind.”
at the beginning you were—”
“In the long
gallery like wot—”
Tudor clenched her fist around the long string of pearls resting against the
bodice of her ornate dress. “I will ask the questions, you just need to provide
a short and succinct answer. Do we have a deal?”
in his chair and nodded.
“Now, you were
at Hardwick Hall yesterday. Why was that?”
“Well, it woz
part of mi training. Frankie said I’d got to do work experience like, and that
meant visiting places and doing stuff.”
“Frankie?” Mrs Tudor adopted her sternest of looks.
“Sorry Miss… I
mean Mrs Tudor. And it’s Sir Francis.”
was this your first instance of a visit?”
“I see. As it
would appear it did not go well, we need to find some positives, Jacob,
otherwise, you risk failing the whole training module.”
reached for her calendar. “Why did you visit yesterday in particular?”
sorry, err Sir Francis told me to.”
checked the calendar against the notes in Jacobs training record. “No.” She
said. “Sir Francis told you to visit next Tuesday.”
shrugged. “This Tuesday, next Tuesday, wots the difference Miss?”
week,” said Mrs Tudor, her left eyebrow raised to such an extent it almost
reached the edge of her gabled headdress. “This Tuesday was the AGHAST
organisation's annual dinner and awards ceremony. Next Tuesday was when you
should have paid your visit. It would have been the four hundredth anniversary
of your death, Jacob. But we’ll put that little faux pas to one side for the
moment. Now,” she continued. “You
arrived at the hall and went straight to the Long Gallery?”
see you as you walked through the mansion?”
his head. “Don’t think so.”
isn’t enough, Jacob. You need to be certain.”
“The door to
the gallery. Was it open or closed when you got there?”
“But you went
through without any difficulty?”
peasy Mrs T.” Jacob had a wide grin on his face. “Sir Frank told me his trick
for getting it right first time every time. And I did.”
smiled. “Well, that’s a positive then.” She dipped her quill into the ink in
preparation for adding a note to Jacob’s training record. Lifting her head from
her work she looked straight at the young trainee. “You said one of the dogs
caught a whiff of you?”
“Yes, Mrs T.”
at AGHAST Incorporated we always address our seniors as Mr, Mrs, Mistress,
Master or by their appropriate title. Am I making things clear?”
Jacob sat up
straight and lowered his eyes. The change in his demeanour brought a slight
smile to Mrs Tudor’s face. She didn’t really mind his use of the nickname.
She’d known for centuries that it was widely employed throughout the
organisation out of her earshot. But, there were standards to be adhered to.
Manners to be respected and an orderly approach to training and induction to be
maintained. These had been the principles that had gained Anne Tudor the most
senior post as Head of Training and Resources.
her notes. “You were instructed to walk the full length of the gallery, to
climb on the rocking horse and to set it in motion. If a dog caught a whiff of
you then you must have manifested too early, Jacob. Is that what really
Mrs Tudor.” Jacob set his shoulders back. “I know what I’m doing.”
widened her eyes and stared at the trainee for a moment. She turned to the next
page in the training plan. “Did you actually make it to the rocking horse?”
down. “No, Mrs Tudor,” he whispered.
“What was that
“No, I didn’t.
Wiv all the palaver and the five bird roast all over the floor I legged it. Did
smell good, though, that roast.”
pursed her lips as she shot Jacob her most penetrating look. “I see,” she said
rubbing the back of her neck. It had been a stressful period at the training
organisation, with one difficult interview after another. For reasons she
couldn’t yet fathom there had been a number of trainees who had had to repeat
modules and there had been a marked increase in incidents of insubordination,
insolence and disrespect within the training rooms. Mrs Tudor had been thinking
for a while that it was either down to the new intake of recruits being mostly
children and young adults or perhaps the new master, Sir Francis Drake
himself. She let out a sigh and
fingered her pearls.
“’Ave I passed
not Jacob. There are too many
lip began to quiver. “Are you sure Miss?”
winced at yet another infringement. She pointed to the large portrait of the
organisation’s founder that hung on the wall behind her desk.
Jacob, what does it say?”
at the picture and frowned. “I can’t read Mrs Tudor but it’s something about
guide and accury… um or somefing.”
glanced at the Latin words displayed on an ornate scroll below the coat of arms
our watchword,” she recited. “And relevance is our guide. You visited on the
wrong date, Jacob. This Tuesday you were neither relevant nor accurate. Next
Tuesday you would have been.” She paused.
Tears began to
stream down Jacob’s face. Not again, she thought. Deciding enough was enough
she got up from her chair and came round towards the boy. Regretting her
harshness, she perched on the corner of the desk. Her tiredness got the better
of her and, placing her hands under chin, she carefully lifted off her head and
placed it beside her.
|The Long Gallery, Hardwick Hall|
stretched. “Cor blimey, Miss can you teach me ’ow to do that?”
sighed. “Jacob, sweetie,” she said as she rolled her shoulders in an effort to
soothe the ache that had been there for far too long. “Let’s chat as friends
for a moment. You’re a very clever boy with a great future as an apparition
within this organisation. But you must learn to walk before you can run.
Patience is a requirement. At this Association of Ghostly Haunting,
Apparitional and Spectral Training we pride ourselves on our accuracy and
efficiency when it comes to frightening the living. In joining our group you
automatically sign up to those rigours.”
snuffled. Mrs Tudor felt in the sleeve of her dress for a handkerchief and
passed across a small white embroidered square. “Wipe your eyes and smarten
yourself up,” she said. “You will have to repeat the last module but that
doesn’t mean that we can’t begin the next one a little earlier than usual.”
strenuously blew his nose. “Fanks, Mrs Tudor,” he said handing back the sodden
piece of cotton.
“Keep it.” Mrs Tudor stood and tucked her head
under her left arm. “Come with me, I have some outstanding business at Hever
Castle tonight. It was an old stomping
ground of mine when I was young,” she said as she swept out of her office.
Jacob followed in silent awe.
This story first appeared on the UK Crime Book Club Facebook page on October 25th as part of the #ScaryShorts writing event.
Look out for another adventure for Jacob on December 29th...