“When the kites are both in working order, what do you plan to do with them? Just pleasure flights around the local area?” Godfrey asked Toby. He dug a slim metal case from an inside pocket, and pressed a button on the side so that it sprang open. Toby and Ginge each took one of the thin cigars on offer.
“Well, I want to get my hand in on flying again. And if I can teach Eileen to fly, then we’ll have some fun mock dogfights, I suppose. I may get a two seater for the training, which would be far more practical than the idea of having her sit on my lap, I suppose.”
“But not as much fun.” Godfrey flicked his lighter into life, and held it out for the other two.
“No. But probably safer.” Toby admitted with a smile and a slight blush. “Papa and I did fly-bys at the local village fêtes for a few years. I would like to start doing those again as well.”
Ginge didn’t smoke as often as he used to. He spent his days working around highly inflammable substances, and had decided it was safer not to carry red hot embers around between his lips. The high quality tobacco of the cigar made him a touch light headed, but at least he didn’t cough.
They had made a slight detour, and now stood at the end of the runway, looking out over the lake. A light chop on the water broke the reflection of the pink and gold evening sky into thousands of tiny slices. Perhaps there was something more than mere tobacco in this cigar, Ginge mused, staring at it as he held it out to flick the ash away. To break the silence, he changed the subject completely. “What is the story behind this ghost you talked about earlier?” He was glad of whatever censor had worked to keep him from blundering into the subject of Toby’s father’s death straight on.
“I don’t believe there is a ghost. But there are some very strange noises in the house of a night. You’ll likely hear them, unless you are a very deep sleeper. I think they may be sex noises, for want of a better word, but they are distorted, and they seem to echo around the building.” Toby flicked the ash off his cigar, and turned his gaze to the big house.
“Who could possibly be making sex noises in your house?” Godfrey asked.
“We have a young staff, you may have noticed. And they are all attractive and energetic, not just…. Any number of them could be carrying on a relationship. I suspect that even Lynes has sexual feelings on occasion. But Melissa has persuaded herself that the sounds are those of a haunting. When Papa died, she became adamant that the ghost did it. He did have a most peculiar expression frozen on his face when we found him the next morning. It could have been terror, but, well…. I have looked at myself in a mirror as I…. have fun with myself. And he could have been pulling one of those faces just as easily as silently screaming.”
One of the reasons Jiggleswick Air was at the house was to provide some insight into the death of Toby’s father. So Ginge felt he should ask some questions, now that the subject had come up. He glanced at Godfrey, and saw that he was clearly waiting for the interrogation to begin. “So he died in his bed? If it’s not too rude to ask, was Melissa with him?”
“I didn’t enquire too closely into the romantic life of my father and stepmother. But they did not always sleep together. Melissa insists that they were not enjoying marital relations, as she calls it, on the night he died. Or for many of the ones before.”
Ginge was beginning to piece together a theory about what could have killed the late Lord Carstairs. But he didn’t want to expand upon it just yet. He simply nodded, and tried to appear deep in thought. Which would have been easier if he hadn’t just got cigar smoke in his sinuses and gone cross-eyed.
Getting no comments or questions on his narrative so far, Toby carried on. “And now she’s got herself so het up about it all that it’s damaging her health. That fraud Donald’s not making it any better, whispering his nonsense in her ear, and playing up the ghost story.” Toby waved his cigar angrily, crushing it between his fingers.
“I meant to ask, but got all caught up in aeroplane maintenance. Just who is Donald? He is a new addition to your household, but he does seem to have made himself at home.” Godfrey asked.
“He’s a charlatan. He claims to be an exorcist, a speaker to the dead, a….” Toby lifted his arms, exasperated, as if putting the next line into quotation marks. “A traveller of the higher realms. He claims that he can find the truth about Papa’s death, and rid the house of any spirits responsible for it. I say he’s more interested in moving himself into Carstairs Hall. He already has his feet under the table, as it were. I suspect he’s after Melissa’s share of the inheritance, at the very least.”
“You’re lord of the manor now. You should remove him.” Godfrey said.
“Would that I could, old chap. I was a fool, grieving for Papa, and losing myself in keeping the businesses in order, and I missed it until it was too late. I don’t know just how deep he has his fingers into Melissa already, and what harm he could do to her if he decided to. If only I had been more suspicious of him when he first arrived here. I would have had him thrown in the lake.”
Toby took a long draw on his cigar. “No, there is only one thing I can hope to do now. Find a way to prove that he is a charlatan, before it’s too late. That was why I asked you to visit, God. That, and knowing how much you would like to see Erin again. And why I asked you to bring along anyone you thought could solve a mystery.”
“So, the first thing we need to do is properly track down the source of these ghostly noises, and prove they’re more carnal than supernatural.” Godfrey said. “Ginge, I believe that sort of thing is one of Jiggleswick Air’s specialities.”
“In a way, you are correct. But I must ask. If I find out that it’s just one of the maids having some fun with a footman, or even a footman having it with a gardener, what will happen to them? I don’t want to be getting anyone fired.” Ginge asked.
“No, of course not. Melissa may make a fuss over lewd behaviour, but I have final say over the staff. I will have to insist they find somewhere for their fun that doesn’t echo all around the house, though.”
“That’s good to know. I have some suspicions already. I’ll investigate them, and may be able to report back on it in the morning.”
“Excellent. If you can clear that up, that will be the first step towards getting Donald out the door. When he’s gone, I can see about squaring things with Melissa, and undoing any damage he leaves behind.” Toby dropped the tiny stub that was left of his cigar, and ground it out with his foot. Ginge and Godfrey followed suit. “Well, I suppose we should head back to the house. I have some paperwork to catch up on before supper. Perhaps you two would like to play a bit of snooker before you change.”
They wandered down to the house at a gentle amble. When they entered the grand hallway, Godfrey led Ginge to the left, whilst Toby went to the right. The offices used as offices were on one wing, whilst the same space on the other was taken up by the library-cum-games room. A large snooker table stood in the middle of the space, surrounded by dark wood bookshelves with old leather bound tomes arranged as much by colour as subject.
“A wager on each game, do you think?” Godfrey suggested.
“I’d best not. I barely ever play this game, and a mechanic’s wages aren’t all that high.” Ginge picked a cue from the circular rack, and carefully tested its weight and balance.
“Very wise. But I know where the whisky is kept in this room. So, how about the winner of each game drinks a finger of finest scotch? That should help balance the next game a touch.”
“Those are terms I can play on.”
Ginge didn’t get a single sip of whisky after any of their four games. Godfrey played with the easy skill of someone who spent many hours in a smokey room, playing this game. Even taking two fingers after the third game didn’t seem to affect his aim in the slightest. Ginge had suspected that Godfrey might be an expert, and was glad he had passed on the bet.
“Are there any other games you’re an expert at? So I should know not to wager anything against you on them.” Ginge asked as he put his cue back in the rack.
“Well, billiards, obviously. I am terrible at darts. Which is odd, because I’m the department champion with a rifle and a bow.” Godfrey missed the hole he had to thread his cue through on the rack. He tried again, then again. Third time lucky. “I tend to find that, once there is some alcohol in me, and my vision goes fuzzy, I can still aim based upon the blurs, and somehow do better than when I’m looking at crisp outlines. There may be some scientific principle to be worked out from that, but…. It is time to go and get ready for supper, I suppose.”