Twenties Girl

Page 14


“You can’t be real,” I say impatiently. “You’re dead! So what are you, then-a ghost?”
There’s a weird beat of silence. Then the girl looks away.
“I don’t believe in ghosts,” she says disparagingly.
“Nor do I.” I match her tone. “No way.”
The door opens and I start in shock.
“Lara.” The vicar comes in, her face pink and flustered. “I’ve spoken to the police. They’d like you to come down to the station.”
It turns out they take murder quite seriously at police stations. Which I suppose I should have guessed. They’ve put me in a little room with a table and plastic chairs and posters about locking your car. They’ve given me a cup of tea and a form to fill in, and a policewoman told me a detective would be along in a moment to talk to me.
I want to laugh hysterically. Or climb out the window.
“What am I going to say to a detective?” I exclaim, as soon as the door has closed. “I don’t know anything about you! How am I going to say you were murdered? With the candlestick in the drawing room?”
Sadie doesn’t even seem to have heard me. She’s sitting on the window ledge, swinging her legs. Although when I look more closely, I notice that she’s not actually on the ledge, she’s floating about an inch above it. Following my gaze, she sees the gap and flinches with annoyance. She adjusts her position carefully until she looks as though she’s sitting right on the ledge, then insouciantly starts swinging her legs again.
She’s all in my mind, I tell myself firmly. Let’s be rational here. If my own brain has conjured her up, then my own brain can get rid of her.
Go away , I think as strongly as I can, holding my breath and clenching my fists. Go away, go away, go away-
Sadie glances over me and gives a sudden giggle.
“You do look peculiar,” she says. “Do you have a pain in your stomach?”
I’m about to make a retort when the door opens-and my stomach really does twinge. It’s a detective, wearing plain-clothes, which makes it almost more scary than if he was in uniform. Oh God. I am in such trouble.
“Lara.” The detective holds out his hand. He’s tall and broad, with dark hair and a brisk manner. “DI James.”
“Hi.” My voice is squeaky with nerves. “Nice to meet you.”
“So.” He sits down in a businesslike way and takes out a pen. “I understand you stopped your great-aunt’s funeral.”
“That’s right.” I nod with as much conviction as I can muster. “I just think there was something suspicious about her death.”
DI James makes a note, then looks up. “Why?”
I stare blankly back at him, my heart pounding. I have no answer. I should have made something up, very quickly. I’m an idiot .
“Well… don’t you think it suspicious?” I improvise at last. “Her just dying like that? I mean, people don’t just die out of the blue!”
DI James regards me with an unreadable expression. “I believe she was one hundred and five years old.”
“So what?” I retort, gaining confidence. “Can’t people of a hundred and five be murdered too? I didn’t think the police were so ageist.”
DI James’s face flickers, whether with amusement or annoyance I can’t tell.
“Who do you think murdered your great-aunt?” he says.
“It was…” I rub my nose, playing for time. “It’s… rather… complicated…” I glance helplessly up at Sadie.
“You’re useless!” she cries. “You need a story or they won’t believe you! They won’t delay the funeral any longer! Say it was the staff at the nursing home! Say you heard them plotting.”
“No!” I exclaim in shock before I can help myself.
DI James gives me an odd look and clears his throat.
“Lara, do you have a genuine reason for believing something was amiss with your great-aunt’s death?”
“Say it was the staff at the nursing home!” Sadie’s voice is in my ear like a screeching brake. “Say it! Say it! SAY IT!”
“It was the staff at the nursing home,” I blurt out in desperation. “I think.”
“What grounds do you have for saying this?”
DI James’s tone is even, but his eyes are alert. In front of him, Sadie is hovering, glowering at me and wheeling her hands around, as though to crank the words out of me. The sight is totally freaking me out.
“I… er… I overheard them whispering in the pub. Something about poison and insurance. I thought nothing of it at the time.” I swallow feebly. “But the next moment, my great-aunt’s dead.”