Not all caught up? Never fear! Part 1 is available to read here.
The strange events had started the evening before the mailman incident. They were no stranger than having up to twenty ghosts singing or talking inside your head at any time – but they were strange all the same.
Annie had been working at the Outside Inn, wiping down tables and ignoring the fact that the ghosts had formed another loud prayer circle, when someone grabbed onto both her wrists and pulled her into a hug, sobbing messily into her shoulder.
It was Nutmeg Jones wailing that her little brother Alan had gone missing.
Once Annie had got her to stop crying enough to explain what she was doing, Nutmeg Jones had seemed surprised at the question. She was the same Nutmeg Jones that Annie had gone to school with, who apparently hadn’t taken the initiative now she was an adult to change her name from ‘Nutmeg’ Jones.
“It’s me, don’t you remember? – you were always nice to me and Alan at school.”
Annie could only remember a couple of occasions where the two of them had ever made contact. Nutmeg had a hard time at school, she didn’t quite have that knack for tamping down her weirdness and people tended to avoid her, apart from the ones who picked on her. Alan Jones had been a sweet kid though, he was a couple of years younger than them and had a habit of following Annie round during their lunch breaks.
“There are people, they took him. I’m sure. They’ll be after me now… ” Nutmeg paused and gave an exaggerated look over both shoulders, “and probably you too.”
“Me, why me?”
“I’m pretty sure they’re following me. By coming here I’ve probably made you a target too. You can’t trust any of these people.” She waved an arm carelessly around at the empty pub, using the other arm to fill her pockets with the salt shakers from the neighbouring tables. “– got a corkscrew?”
Annie dumbly handed her the one she carried in the pocket of her apron.
Annie retreated to the condiment trolley, watching as Nutmeg Jones took a tour of the room, picking up random bits of tableware and shoving them into the many pockets of her blue overall. She’d shaved off all her hair and as Annie watched her she thought she saw Nutmeg slip a knife into one of her big worker boots. Annie decided she didn’t really want to get on her wrong side.
“I need to leave. It’s good to have you on my team Annie, I knew you’d agree to help. You always seemed to like Alan. Remember, trust no one. I’ll see you soon.”
Annie was left staring at the space Nutmeg had filled. Then she went back to wiping tables, the ghost’s prayer circle had stopped by that point and they’d returned to normal.
“Is that my pen?”
“Damn your pen Gladson, why’s that alarm going off again.”
Neither of them had noticed the man sat watching them from the darkest corner of the pub.
He’d spent months in the same spot, always watching and had grown a little obsessed with her, he’d even taken to smiling and tipping an imaginary hat whenever she looked in his direction, which – with all the hat-tipping – had become confusingly often.
Every time she looked over, he tipped his hat, she frowned, and he made a note of her facial expression. Over and over all night long. It was exhausting for them both.
Annie and the man-who-was-not-the-mailman looked at one another for half a second before she took the ghost’s advice and slammed the door, quickly clicking the deadbolt into place. She then turned on one barefooted heel and legged it out the back of the house.
Annie was running along the road behind her house, barefoot and regretting it, when Nutmeg Jones jogged alongside her, a trainer in each hand.
“Looks like they found you. You better come with me.”
Annie didn’t see she had much choice apart from to shove on the shoes and run to catch up with Nutmeg who was continuing her steady jog up the street.
“I don’t think we were followed,” Nutmeg said once they were safely inside her house. Annie clutched her chest, trying to catch her breath.
There was a sound coming from upstairs; it sounded like a man was singing. Nutmeg was busy bolting the door behind them and Annie glanced at her, she wasn’t sure if Nutmeg would be able to hear it too.
“Bathroom?” she panted.
“Up the stairs.” Nutmeg peered out the front curtains, monitoring the movements of the dog walkers outside.
At the top of the stairs the singing was louder, Annie pushed the door open with her toe. Inside she found someone who looked a lot like Alan Jones.
“I thought you were missing?”
“He’s missing to some people, so he’s missing.” Nutmeg had materialised behind her.
“What’s going on?” Alan Jones looked between Annie and his sister. “What’s that thing sticking out of your arm – you’re bleeding everywhere.”
“You are bleeding everywhere.”
Annie looked down and saw, still wedged into her flesh, the corkscrew she usually carried round in her work apron. It even had the Outside Inn logo on it.
Want to find out what happens next? You can read part 3, here.
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