Chapter One

Liberty Gibbens picked a piece of gravel out of her shoe and threw it across the room.  Idly, she watched it bounce and roll into the corner.  Then, quick as winking, it was picked up by an unseen hand and hurled straight back at her, catching her a stinging blow on the cheek before pinging off the mantelpiece and dropping with a final rattle into the bare floorboards.

Libby stared into the offending corner for a few seconds, lifting a hand to her cheek to check the damage.  A small flap of skin had been detached by the glancing blow, and she picked it off and examined it, then brushed it off her fingers.  Then she swivelled round in her chair, searching for the stone.  It was lying inert by the door, and she stood up and went to fetch it.  Standing in the middle of the room, she tried the experiment again.  Again the stone came hurtling back at her.  Forewarned, she managed to dodge it this time.  It hit the door behind her, which opened on cue.

‘I do apologise,’ said the solicitor, smiling as he walked back to his chair.  ‘I do try not to let myself be disturbed when I’m with a client, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.’

‘That’s all right,’ Libby murmured mechanically.  Then she drew a quick breath and, before she had time to change her mind, she said. ‘Do you have a ghost in this room?’

The man looked startled.  ‘Actually, we do.  How did you know?’

Libby bent to pick up the stone.  ‘It just landed one on me with this,’ she said.

‘Oh, my God!  I do apologise!  Did you throw it in the corner?’


‘Oh, I’m so sorry.  I do hope it didn’t hurt too much.  He can be quite … forceful … when he wants to be.’

‘It was kind of uncomfortable,’ Libby said.  ‘But that’s OK.  My fault, I guess.  That’ll teach me to throw things in other people’s offices!’

Mr Tubbs opened his mouth to reply, but she cut him off.  ‘The reason I ask, Mr Tubbs, is that I’m … interested … in ghosts.  I felt that this wasn’t a happy building when I first walked in, so it doesn’t surprise me to know that something tragic seems to have happened here.  Do you know anything about it?’

He hesitated.  ‘Well, only hearsay, of course.’

‘Would you mind telling me?  I’m curious.’

‘I don’t see why not.  It was a long time ago.  I’m not sure quite when, but several hundred years ago, I believe.  There’s a story that if you happen to be in the hallway at midnight, you might just see copious quantities of blood dripping down the banisters.  I’ve never seen it myself,’ he added hastily.

‘Do you know what happened?’

‘Well, all I know is that it is supposed to originate from the day when the father of the house came home and killed his wife and three small children, then himself.  The blood is said to be the wife’s.  But why a man would do that, and whether it’s true, I couldn’t say.’

‘Hmmm.  I wonder whether this was the children’s bedroom?  Throwing stones is often a child’s trick, after all.’

‘I have no idea what the layout of the house was at that time, but I suppose it could have been.  There are old plans in the archive here, I believe, along with some of the family’s papers.  I’ve considered investigating the matter myself, but you know what it’s like – time and tide don’t really give you a chance.’

‘Sounds highly intriguing,’ said Libby. ‘I wonder whether we could work it out together?  Do you think they’d mind?  Your partners, I mean?’

He considered this for a moment.  ‘Well, I’ve mentioned it to a couple of them, and they haven’t ridiculed the idea.  I’ll suggest it at the next partners’ meeting, and see what they say.  I don’t know whether it would be possible to settle these ghosts, but if we could … well, perhaps we could save a little on the heating bill!’  His laugh was a little apologetic.  ‘It does get awfully cold in here sometimes, unnaturally so, it seems to me.  A three-bar heater is not cheap to run, but I can’t have my clients freezing, and the radiator simply doesn’t put out enough heat, not matter what the engineers do to adjust it.’

Libby smiled.  ‘No, of course not.  I’d be interested to see what they say.  And if there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know.  I have a certain … talent … in speaking to the dead.  If I can get them to co-operate, and we can find anything in the family archive, we might just get to the bottom of this.’

‘Excellent!  I’ll let you know.  Now, about these papers …’

Adam smiled at her from his hospital bed as she approached across the ward.  ‘How did it go with the solicitor?’ he asked.  ‘Everything under control?’

She nodded.  ‘All present and correct.  They’ll be getting probate approved within the week, and then we can get the house transferred into my name, with the requisite clause to let Imogen live there as well, and then Mother’s estate is pretty much wound up.  They’ll only need to divide the money between us, and it’ll all be over.’

‘Thank God.’

‘Yes.  It’s been as painless as they could make it, but it’s still an unpleasant business.’

‘I know.  I’ve been there.’

‘Have you?’

‘My father died a few years ago.’

‘Oh.  I’m sorry to hear it.’

‘We didn’t really get on.  It’s going through everything to see if there’s anything you want to keep – stuff you left behind when you moved out, or would like as a memento of your childhood – that’s the upsetting thing, I found.  Have you finished going through the stuff at home?’

Libby shook her head.  ‘Not quite.  We’re only half-way through the attic, but the rest is done.  As you say, it’s upsetting, so we don’t do too much at a time.  And you get distracted, too.’

‘Oh God, don’t you!  Old schoolbooks, or photographs, postcards, things like that.  The memories come flooding back and you just sit and talk about the old days, and nothing gets done.’

‘Absolutely!’  She laughed.  ‘You know exactly what I mean!’

‘Been there, done that, got the old T-shirt back!’

‘One curious thing, though.’


‘At the solicitor’s.  They’ve got ghosts.’

‘Really?  Sounds like a case for Inspector Gibbens!’

She stuck her tongue out at him.  ‘Thank you!  But it just might be, in fact.  I’m waiting to hear whether the partners approve of Mr Tubbs’ suggestion that we check it out together.’

‘Wow!  Could be a new job for you.  How’s the old one coming along, by the way?’

‘Oh, nearly done now.  We’ve lifted Mary.  Jean Reynaud was only a few inches underneath her, and we’re working on him now.  Once he’s done, we’re finished.  We just need to get everything together and pack it up for the undertakers, and they’ll be reburied in Aylesford Cemetery, as planned.  The headstones are nearly all ready.  I think there’s going to be some sort of ceremony next week, if you’re able to come.’

Adam waved a hand at the assorted tubes and wires still sticking out of his body.  ‘Not unless they manage to get rid of all these first,’ he said, ruefully.

Libby sighed.  ‘I know.  Any idea how much longer?’

‘They reckon a couple of days; it depends, of course.’

‘I guess so.’

‘I’ll need a wheelchair, if I can come.  And someone to push it.’  His glance was shy, a mixture of hope and self-effacing deprecation.

Libby responded immediately, and warmly.  ‘Of course you’ll have someone to push it!  I still feel guilty that you got so badly caught up in things.’

He shook his head.  ‘It wasn’t your fault, Libby.  The man was a nutter.  He’d have taken out anyone that got in his way.’

‘Yes, but his “way” was in trying to get to me.  It was the fact that you were a friend of mine that put you in his way.’

Adam’s eyes dipped shyly to the bedspread in front of him.  ‘If you think it’ll make me not want to be your friend …’

Libby smiled.  ‘No, I really don’t think that.  But you’d feel the same if you were in my shoes.’

He looked up and gave her a rueful grin.  ‘I guess I would, at that!  No point trying to persuade you out of it, then?’

‘None at all.’

‘Fair enough.  You’ll look after me at the cemetery then, if I make it?’

‘Of course.’