Elizabeth seemed like an ordinary old lady but the children had no idea she was on the run. Nor that she was on the run from an alchemist who died 500 years ago. And if that wasn’t surprise enough when they found out her grandfather had been a music hall ventriloquist and his dummy Mr. Binks held the secret to eternal life their lives changed. With danger at every turn the children decide to try to save Elizabeth but the spell they cast captures them in its grasp and will not let them go.
Artwork by Nia Ellis
Paperback. 134 pages.
£4.99 Amazon UK
$7.00 Barnes&Noble USA
Widely available online and from your local book store: ISBN 978-1-908867-0-70
Emily never misses anything. She can see the worried look on Jumshad’s face as her brother Jacob rattles Elizabeth’s front gate. They all feel nervous. Walking closer she sees the windows on Elizabeth’s house are all shut, unusual for her in the summer time. The curtains are pulled, which is even more out of character for a woman who gets up at six-thirty every day, and knew they always came to visit on the second day of their holiday.
“We needn’t have rushed,” Jacob says, glumly.
“What’s up?” she asks, turning towards
Jumshad. The boy looks at her and then at his shoes.
“No one knows,” he replies with a shrug.
“What do you mean?”
“Disappeared! When?” asks Emily.
“Last Thursday. The police were here all morning and again on the Friday but there’s been no sign of her. And they haven’t found any clues … or a body.”
“Jumshad,” cries Emily, in fright, “Whatever are you saying? Do they think she’s been murdered?”
“That’s just it,” says Jumshad, “I heard them talking. They said women of eighty don’t just walk off without telling anyone. One of her relatives came here over the weekend but the police wouldn’t let him in. They won’t let anyone in.”
“You’d have thought they’d have let her relatives in,” observes Jacob.
“I think the police are suspicious. They won’t let anyone near her home until they’re satisfied that … well that … ”
“That she’s dead,” Emily suggests. Jumshad nods and looks at his feet again. Jumshad feels the same sense of emptiness in his stomach that he had last Thursday when she first vanished. After all, Elizabeth had been more than a good friend to them all.
He had only moved to this part of London a year before. He had been introduced for the first time the previous November, and what with Elizabeth’s strict orders that they weren’t to disturb her during school term, he hadn’t had long to get to know her. Neither had Emily and Jacob but Elizabeth wasn’t the kind of person it took long to get to know. They all felt they had known her for years.
“Last Thursday,” says Emily, trying to recall what she had been doing.
“Overnight as well,” Jumshad tells them. “I saw her on the Wednesday in the coffee shop. Lunch-time. She said hello the way she does, as if she only half sees you, but we haven’t seen her since.”
“If that’s it, that’s it. Nothing we can do about it.”
“Jacob, Really! You callous … repulsive … pig,” reprimands his sister.
“Well it’s true,” says Jacob, in his defence. “Besides you’re a fine one to accuse me of being a pig. I’m not dieting.”
“Don’t pay any attention to him,” says Emily, glaring at Jacob and then looking at Jumshad, “Anyone would think he didn’t know Elizabeth.”
“OK, smart arse, just what do you think we can do about it? She’s vanished. I’m as upset as you but the police know what they’re doing and they won’t even let her relatives get involved. So what can we do, eh? Tell me that.”
“Oh, it admits it has feelings, well that’s something new,” argues Emily in her turn. “I suppose we should be glad of that. Maybe ‘its’ growing up.”
“Shut up,” orders Jumshad, in an unusually loud voice.
“Why do you two always argue. My mother’s told me that you’re both to come in. She didn’t think you would know and she said you could both have something to drink and eat with us but you can’t come in if you’re going to argue.”
Emily and Jacob instantly feel rather foolish. After the bombshell of his news, Emily’s mind is in a whirl. Elizabeth gone. Unbelievable. And though he won’t admit it, Jacob feels as if a thousand bees are buzzing in his brain. After all, you hear about people disappearing but it’s always on the television. When it’s someone you know, well, then it’s frightening.
“Was there any blood?” asks Jacob.
“Not that we’ve been told.”
“What a vile idea,” says Emily.
Emily wonders what could have become of Elizabeth. Jacob tends to get carried away with Jumshad’s new yoke and rudder as he loves anything with cockpits and flight control on the computer. She looks out of the window at Elizabeth’s house next door. It seems no different, no different at all. She feels as if she could reach out and touch the old lady, with her glasses and neat, short, brittlegrey hair. Shuffling along to the door to open it with her
long fingers and her smile which used to reveal she had all her own teeth.
“She can’t be dead. I refuse to believe it. Something odd has happened. Something’s wrong. I can feel it. She can’t be dead.”
She inhales the scent from a single, sandalwood joss stick burning on the mantelpiece in Jumshad’s front room, and watches as a tall man walks down the road with a teenager by his side. The teenager is carrying a tripod and two small cases. The tall man stops by Elizabeth’s gate. He makes a deal of consulting a letter and then he enters. Emily sits up.
“Come here you two.”
The boys walk over annoyed at not starting their dogfight and stare as the teenager sets up the tripod and places a theodolite upon it. The tall man wanders around the outside of the house and then they begin to measure it with a fifty-metre tape. After which the teenager walks to where the other man points, holding up a tall measuring stick on the boundaries of her garden.
“They’re surveyors.” Jacob tells them, as if they didn’t know.
“I thought you said the police weren’t allowing anyone near the place,” says Emily.
“They weren’t. They must have permission. Look, they’ve gone round the back.”
“Well, I don’t see surveyors could be much use unless they’re going to pull the house down,” points out Jacob.
“You don’t do you,” says Emily, surprised that he could think anything with a game to play.
“Its more likely someone is selling it. Making money from Elizabeth’s disappearance,” he suggests.
“You don’t need a theodolite to price up a house,” says his sister.
“I saw a curtain move” exclaims Jumshad.
“Where?” asks Jacob.
“At the bottom, front room. I distinctly saw it move, like there was a draft or someone on the other side.”
“Sure you’re not imagining it?” asks Jacob, staring with all his might but not seeing even a flicker of movement.
“Maybe.” Jumshad is always too ready to admit he is wrong.
“That’s it,” shouts Emily jumping up, “They’re inside. I bet they’re searching the house, beating the police ban by pretending to be surveyors.”
“Aren’t you being melodramatic?” asks Jacob.
“What would you know,” she says, angrily, “You don’t even care.”
She darts out of the room and to the front door with Jumshad just behind her. As the three of them belt through the door and reach Jumshad’s gate, the two men appear carrying a rewound fifty-metre tape. They eye the children, and Jacob mutters under his breath,
“Her imagination again. And now Jumshad’s just as bad.”
The men pack up half-an-hour later. Once they have gone Emily goes back to Elizabeth’s house.
“What now?” asks Jacob.
“Just checking something,” she replies, entering.
“You’ll get into trouble,” warns Jacob.
“So? If you’re scared you don’t have to play,” smiles Emily, who is sure those two men were up to no good and wants to find out if she is right.
“I can’t see any windows open,” notes Jumshad.
“Maybe they had a key,” suggests Emily, her hazel eyes exploring the house almost brick by brick.
“It’s nearly time for the bus home,” points out Jacob, “Mum expects us in at six at the latest.”
“Do you want to take some cake with you?” asks Jumshad.
“Stuff your silly cake,” storms Emily, disappointed that she wasn’t able to see any obvious signs of a forced entry by the two men.
“Hark at her, stuff the cake,” laughs Jacob in the street.
“That’s a first.”
Emily rounds on him and thumps him on the arm. He holds it mockingly to his side,
“Ow! Ow! Ow!” he howls, hamming it up. Emily bites her lip.
“Brothers,” she mumbles to herself, “Who the hell needs them.”