‘Abberton House’

 

These are the first few chapters of my second novel, please have a read 🙂

Abberton House

 

Introduction

February 1916

The house stood on an old, retired farm in a small village near Skipton, North Yorkshire. It was built in the mid nineteenth century by a young man called Robert Abberton. The bricks were multi-coloured as though it was a beautiful mosaic painting. The large blue wooden door was in the centre of the rectangular house. There were windows on either side with matching blue frames and shutters. On the first floor were several more windows and standing tall on both sides of the roof were large chimneys.

Robert Abberton’s family had owned and farmed the land for many years and once he married and inherited it he decided to build a bigger house for his growing family. The farm thrived however the same could not be said for Robert’s young family. The harsh northern winters had taken their toll on them with his wife dying young from pneumonia leaving him to raise their only child alone. Robert never remarried. When his son Joshua was older he married a local girl called Mary and together they had an only child; Elizabeth. With no sons to inherit the farm it was passed on to Elizabeth and her husband Henry in 1914 once both her parents had died.

Now in her late twenties, Elizabeth had given birth to three children. Mary was the oldest at ten years old. She was very mature for her age and loved to help her Mother out with the housework and looking after the two younger children. She resembled her Mother with long dark hair and rounded face with green eyes. Charlotte was seven but not as keen to assist with the cleaning as her older sister. She was very mischievous, not necessarily naughty, but definitely cheeky and loved by all who met her. She had the look of her Father; brown eyes and curly fair hair. Toby was two years old. He had very chubby cheeks and fair hair. He was very curious and followed Charlotte around, watching her get in to trouble, usually trying to mimic her actions. He didn’t speak much, usually only managing to mutter one syllable words.

Through the front door, you were faced with a huge, wooden stair case. To the left of the stairs you were led in to a great living area with a vast fire place. It was a great sized room for a big family. To the right of the stairs you were taken in to the kitchen. It was big enough for a large, family dining table in the centre of the room. Near the back of the kitchen was a door on the left-hand side which went in to another smaller room situated behind the staircase. It was not big enough for a dining room so could be used as an office or study. Then at the rear of the kitchen was a door which led out to the back of the house. As the farm was no longer in use it left the family with a lot of land. Some of the fields were rented out to neighbours and some were kept as a place for the children to explore and enjoy. Elizabeth had a patch for vegetables to grow and a hutch to keep a few chickens. Back to the house, the staircase led you to a long landing which was the length of the entire house. There were three double bedrooms and a bathroom.

Elizabeth’s husband Henry was a very handsome man. He was a doctor which was not a bad profession for someone so young and from a working-class background. He had excelled in school and was supported at university by a wealthy family he had grown up with while his own parents worked in service for them. This was not the kind of opportunity experienced by many people but this particular Lord and Lady did not have any sons of their own to watch succeed in life, so they decided to help Henry and give him every opportunity they felt he deserved. He would never forget their kindness. Now a doctor in a small but thriving village and with a healthy and content family around him he could not have been happier.

Henry was popular in the village. He was a kind man and loved by everyone. He would see his patients as and when he was needed. He would see the elderly Mrs Fincham first thing in the morning, little Charlie’s chicken pox in the afternoon, old Gerome’s gout in the evening (which was painful after a long day at work in the fields) and then help deliver Alice’s second baby in the early hours as it could not wait until the sun came up. After three long hours of labour, baby Edward was born and Henry would walk on home reaching the door just minutes before the sun tried to make an appearance. He would get a few hours sleep before Mrs Fincham would be back with another ailment.

When the war with Germany began he did all he could as a doctor, but eventually that call up letter came and in November 1915 he left his home and was sent for training to join the army. It was the first time he had been away from his family. In February 1916, after a short visit home to see his family, he left for France. As he was a doctor he would not be placed in the infantry so would be safe from danger, or at least this is what he told his worrying family. He would be gone for several months with no chance of a visit home until the summer at least. It would be a long four months.

 

 

December 2015

It had always been Catherine’s dream to live in a large, old farm house out in the Yorkshire countryside. She had always lived in new, modern apartments in a busy and loud town centre where there was never any peace from neighbours (above and below) and the constant noise of traffic. She could never begin to imagine how nice it could be to wake up to the sound of birds chirping to the sunrise rather than the sound of bin lorries and bottle bin collections. In fact, the only birds to be found in the town centre were pigeons and the working ‘birds’, and there was nothing beautiful or harmonious about either of them.

 

Living so close to town and in a small apartment was not an ideal environment to raise her daughter. Isabella was now five years old and had a very big imagination. When woken up to the sound of the new upstairs neighbour’s cries and screams of passion Bella had no doubt as to what could have caused such loud screaming. The spider that her daddy had killed the day before had come back as a ghost to haunt the building and spent the night terrorising upstairs. She’d hoped it would come to her room the next night…

 

Nothing scared Bella. This made things easier for Catherine who was often alone while her husband occasionally worked through the night. He was a fire fighter so worked long, varying shifts which kept him away from his family but he would then have several days at home to spend time with them, but this was not always as relaxing as it sounds. Catherine worked from home. She had set up her own cake decorating business. She was getting a lot more clients so money was coming in nicely however it usually meant that the kitchen was piled high with cakes and icing and cake boards. Another reason to seek alternative (larger) accommodation.

 

There was no need to look for somewhere close to town. Catherine had most of her supplies delivered to their home and Adam didn’t mind a long drive to work. He was able to sleep at the station if necessary so was happy to find a house out in the countryside as Catherine wanted.

 

Abberton House was perfect, just what they wanted. The kitchen was big with room for a dining table so the spare room to the back could be used for Catherine’s business. The lounge was large with an old open fireplace and a conservatory had been added on to the back in recent years. There were three bedrooms upstairs, room for another baby which they both wanted but had put off due to lack of space in the apartment. The garden was the size of a football field. It used to be a farm but the last family to live there had sold most of the land but kept a very decent sized area for themselves.

 

The house had been empty for several years but was in surprisingly good condition. All that was needed was modernising and decorating. Adam knew that his wife would have had plenty of ideas before they had even put in an offer. He was expecting a battle between them and the sellers who would want as close to the value as possible, but as it was their first mortgage he wanted to bring the price down as much as he could. However, the sellers called back within the hour to accept. Adam and Catherine were over the moon. After renting for so long and putting away as much money as possible, they would finally own their own home.

 

Two months after the offer was accepted, they moved in.

 

Chapter 1

February 2016

It was a cold and wet Friday morning when Adam and Catherine got the keys to their new house. This was not a good omen, according to their elderly neighbour back at the flat. ‘The first day is rain, the last is pain’, she had said when they’d returned to pack their belongings. She was always full of superstition so they knew not to pay any attention. The rain did not put them off filling their two rented vans with their belongings and setting off to their new home. Bella was in school and would be spending the night with her Grandparents so Adam and Catherine would not need to worry about her during the move.

At 11am they arrived at the house. Adam had driven the first van with Catherine driving their car. The second was driven by two of Adam’s colleagues, Martin and Paul. They had to be back at the station in the afternoon so would stay long enough to help unload the furniture. Adam had managed to secure a few days leave so he would have plenty of time to move in and get things sorted. They started with the furniture, their sofa looked tiny in their new large living room. It barely filled a corner. It would definitely mean a shopping trip for a new suite. The kitchen looked very empty as they didn’t have a dining table yet, they used to eat from the breakfast counter at the flat as there was no room for anything else. Catherine made sure that all her baking equipment was moved to her new work space and the beds were all set up so they would have somewhere to sleep. After all the day’s work they would definitely be ready for a long sleep later.

It took most of the day but they were finally in. Martin and Paul were thanked before they left and promised a crate of beer each for giving up their free time. There was still a lot to do, not to mention the long list of companies and utilities that needed to be notified of the move. By 6pm it was starting to get dark. The rain was finally easing off. They decided that enough was enough and it was time to eat. Adam’s mother had given them a homemade lasagne which just needed heating up in the oven for 20 minutes, knowing they wouldn’t have time to cook something for themselves. It was a blessing as they were both starving.

“I’ll get the lasagne sorted,” Catherine said, “You go set up the TV and DVD player and we’ll just watch a movie. I’ll ring Sky tomorrow to come and set us up.”

“Will do,” Adam yawned, there was a knock at the door. “Hang on I’ll get that first. Maybe it’s a new neighbour offering us some apple pie.” He said in a badly attempted American accent.

Catherine laughed. She left him to it and set about trying to understand the new oven. It was very large, much bigger and better than the electric cooker she’d had at the flat. There were two ovens, six hobs and a separate grill. This would be amazing for her baking, she thought.  She could get so much done and the business would grow in no time. She found the right setting and then put the lasagne on the shelf and set the timer. When she looked up and out the window she saw an old man standing in the garden, staring at nothing. She could only just make out his wrinkled face staring at his surroundings, confused. He held his hands across his chest holding what looked like a tissue, rustling it with his shaking hands. He wore brown trousers and a long grey cardigan which had holes here and there. She noticed he was wearing slippers. He must be frozen.

Catherine went to fetch Adam but he was already making his way back in to the kitchen.

“Well that was odd,” he started, “it was an old man. He was looking for his wife. He didn’t seem to hear me he just kept asking where she was, said she vanished with the children and then walked away. I didn’t know what to do.”

“I think we should call the police, I saw him stood in the garden, he’ll get pneumonia if we leave him out there all night.”

“In the garden you say? Where was he? I’ll try coaxing him inside and then sit him in front of the fire to keep warm.” Adam reached for his coat.

“He’s just out there.” Catherine pointed to the window but the man was no longer there. “Oh, he’s gone!” She went to the other window to look further around the back of the garden but he wasn’t there either.  “Go look for him before it gets darker, I’ll call the police and see if there’s been any reports of a missing person.”

Adam went out to look for him and Catherine phoned the police. She gave a description and they promised to come out to check the land for him. There hadn’t been any reports of a missing person but they would check with the local residential homes to see if anyone had snuck out of their rooms unnoticed however the nearest home was three miles away so he would have had a long walk if that’s where he came from.

Adam returned after fifteen minutes, wet and cold from the rain.

“I couldn’t find him.” He put his coat near the fire to dry. “He can’t have gotten that far but there were no signs of him anywhere. What did the police say?”

Catherine relayed the conversation. The police would do a search of the area and then let them know if they find him.

“Well if the any of the homes are missing a resident there’ll be uproar so they’ll be out searching,” Adam said, “and if a little old lady has lost her husband I’m sure she’ll be on to the police in no time. He seemed really confused, he might have dementia or something.”

“Yea, I suppose we’ll just have to keep an eye out. We don’t have any curtains yet so won’t be hard. If he comes back we’ll just have to get him inside and phone the police back”.

Catherine wandered back in to the kitchen. She opened the oven and the smell of lasagne filled the air. She’d forgotten how hungry she was. Adam got the plates out of the cupboard and Catherine loaded them up with food. Adam’s mother was a great cook, they couldn’t wait to tuck in.

 

Later on, when their bellies were full and they were nodding off on the couch, there was another knock on the door. When Adam looked out he noticed the police car.

“Hello Officer,” he said, “Is everything ok?”

“You called earlier about an elderly gentleman on the property?” the young officer asked, removing his hat.

“Yes, we did,” Adam said, Catherine appeared at his side, “Have you found him?”

“Unfortunately not,” he responded, “none of the homes are missing anyone and no one else has reported a missing person. We’ve had officers out searching your garden, sorry if we’ve disturbed you, and the surrounding area but we’ve not seen him. I just thought you’d like to know, and if you do see him again please call me directly on this number.” He handed them a card with his name, PC James Shackleton. “Try bring him inside if you can, keep him distracted and warm until we get to him.”

“We will do, thank you for letting us know.” Catherine said, taking the card.

“Not at all,” he returned his hat to his head and set to leave, “Have a good night.”

He walked down the garden path and Adam shut and locked the door. He yawned and stretched and Catherine wrapped her arms around his front. They stood for a few moments enjoying the peace not only from their surroundings but also from being child free for the night. It was a novelty and an opportunity they weren’t going to waste.

“Time for bed?” asked Adam.

“Mmmm, definitely.”

 

Chapter 2

 

“Are you ready for the new house Bella?” Catherine looked back from the passenger seat of the car to Bella who sat behind the driver’s seat.

“Yea mummy, Grandma said my room will be lots bigger.”

“She’s right! You will have loads of room to play now. Lots more space than before.”

“I can’t wait!”

They drove through the busy bustling town of Keighley engulfed by loud noises of screaming children being ignored by their parents, drivers honking their horns and the smell of exhaust fumes and takeaways filled their car. Soon they would be out of the busy city and in the countryside.

Once they were there the noise had gone and the air smelled fresh, it was noon but there was still a presence of frost which made the air nice and crisp. They were soon on the lane to their new house when Bella would see it for the first time.

“Here we are,” Catherine said as they pulled to a stop, “Oh hang on don’t go yet,” Bella was already trying to free herself of her seatbelt, “Daddy will help you out.”

“I want to see I want to see!” She screeched. “I want to see my big room!”

“I want never gets.” Adam piped in. He used his scolding tone but winked at her from the rear view mirror.

Bella blushed as she smiled back at him, now waiting patiently for her door to be opened. She was never naughty and almost never got told off, but she could occasionally get overexcited.

“Here we go then.” Adam said as he opened her door and helped her jump out. Catherine unlocked the front door and they let Bella walk in first. It was the biggest house she had ever seen, but she didn’t show any apprehension before entering. She ran straight in to the hallway and up the stairs in front of her. She went in and out of every room, her heavy steps echoing loudly in the rooms downstairs. They would certainly know where she was if she was playing hide and seek.

“Wow!” they heard Bella cry out. “My room!” Catherine and Adam reached her room and found Bella lying on the floor like a starfish. “Look at all my room! I can play properly now.”

“Yes you can,” he Mum said. “And now Daddy can build up all those toys that Santa brought you for Christmas.”

“Not until he’s had a cup of coffee,” Adam responded, “Are you going to stay up here Bella so Mummy and me can go downstairs for a drink?”

Bella didn’t reply. She was too distracted in her room so he and Catherine made their way downstairs to make a drink. They each stood in the kitchen with their drinks going over what new furniture they needed to buy and when they would have chance to get to Ikea and other shops to have a browse. They didn’t have the internet set up yet so couldn’t look online. They could hear Bella running around in her room. The sound moved to the landing, to the bathroom, the spare room and finally their room. They left her to explore and took themselves to the living room to sit down. She’d be down in no time. The noise had returned to Bella’s room above where they were sitting and they sat quietly listening to her.

“What on earth is she doing?” Adam asked. “It sounds like she’s training for the marathon! She can’t be doing this if I’m trying to sleep through the day. I have some night shifts coming up soon.”

“I’ll go see. She’s over excited, she’ll calm down once she’s settled in.”

Catherine made her way upstairs, careful not to make too much noise herself. It was cold on the landing, it reminded her that they would need to figure out the central heating. When she got to Bella’s room she was surprised to find her asleep on her bed. She called her name but there was no response, she was fast asleep. She must have tired herself out, Catherine thought. She walked over to the bed and placed a blanket over her. Bella always looked so peaceful when she slept, she always fell asleep in a funny position, this time her hand was placed awkwardly under her face. Something in the doorway caught Catherine’s eye, a flicker of movement. There was nothing there when she looked up so she soon forgot about it.

“She was fast asleep on the bed when I got there,” she told Adam as she re-joined him in the living room, “All that running around must have tired her out. That or she stayed up with your Mum all night.  I bet she won’t sleep tonight now.”

“She’ll be fine, she’ll sleep. I’ll take her for a long walk around the garden later, that’ll definitely tire her out.”

There was a bang from the room above and then the sound of little feet running up and down the landing.

“Bella?” Adam called out. “What are you doing love?” he turned to Catherine who had started to make her way back upstairs. “That was a quick nap.” He left her to it and switched on the laptop, forgetting for a moment that they wouldn’t have Wi-Fi for a couple of weeks. He’d have to wait until he got back to the station in a couple of days. He closed it back down and pulled out his phone. The signal was weak but he might be able to connect to the internet this way to check his emails and Facebook. Catherine reappeared a moment later. “What’s wrong?” he asked seeing the confused look on her face.

“She’s still asleep in the exact same position under the blanket where I left her. She hasn’t moved. And I found this outside her room, it wasn’t there when I left or I would have fallen over it.” She held out one of Bella’s teddy bears. She didn’t remember unpacking this one yet. How did it get on the landing?

“Bella probably grabbed it whilst making all that noise, heard me shout up and then jumped back in bed. You know what she’s like. She’ll be messing about.” The noise upstairs started again. “Leave her to it for now. In any case I won’t need to run her around the garden later to tire her out.”

Adam’s reasoning made sense, but Catherine was certain that Bella hadn’t moved even an inch. How could she get back in to the exact same position so quickly with her left hand under her face, little finger on her lip pulling her mouth slightly open?

 

A little after 2pm, Bella appeared in the kitchen where she found her Mum unpacking pots and pans.

“Mummy, I’m thirsty.”

“Ok darling, would you like some water or milk? Daddy has gone shopping so will be bringing home some juice for you.”

“Can I have milk please?”

“Here you go darling, I mixed some chocolate powder in it for you.” She handed the drink to Bella and she started gulping it down, almost spilling it down her top. “You were being very noisy upstairs after I left you. Did you decide on more running around, exploring?”

“What Mummy?” Bella stopped drinking. Catherine raised an eyebrow at her before responding, Bella understood and rephrased. “Pardon Mummy?”

“Much better,” Bella occasionally forgot her manners so they liked to remind her, “you’d fallen asleep so I put the blanket on you, but then we heard you running around again. It makes a lot of noise you know so maybe we should have a house rule, no shoes in the bedroom, ok?” Catherine wasn’t mad, there was no need to be, but Bella looked back at her Mum bemused.

“Mummy I’ve been asleep. I only woke up now and came down for a drink. I haven’t been running again, I promise” she looked to the table and saw her teddy. “Barney! Yay! I’ve been waiting for you to unpack him for me.”

She picked up the teddy and walked back up to her room, leaving her shoes at the bottom of the stairs.

Chapter 3

 

“How long will it take you to get to work?”

“About an hour if traffic isn’t too bad,” Adam was putting his uniform and some food in to his rucksack for work, “Will you be ok?”

It was Sunday morning and Adam’s first day back at work since the move. Now he was faced with leaving his family alone in the new house he was feeling anxious. It had only just dawned on him that they were no longer living in a highly-populated area, they were quite alone out here.

“We’ll be fine, it’s no different to being alone at the flat. Bella will be in bed early to prepare for her first day at the new school tomorrow, I have lots to do and I’m expecting a call from a couple enquiring about a wedding cake later so don’t worry.”

“Ok.” Adam picked up the car keys and gave his wife a kiss. “I should be home just after ten tonight if nothing major happens. Call me if you need me.”

“I will, I will, now go or you’ll be late.”

She watched her husband walk to the car and then drive out of sight. She made sure the door was locked knowing that Adam would not be happy if she’d left it open for anyone to walk in. She knew there was less risk of danger here than when they lived at the flat but she didn’t want him to worry about her when he was supposed to be focusing at work. She hadn’t been completely honest with him though. She wouldn’t be ok, but only because she still hadn’t figured out how the central heating worked. The radiators would come on but after half an hour they would switch off again. She kept the fire on in the living room and made Bella bring her toys downstairs where it was warm.

“Bella?”

“Yes Mummy?”

“I’m going in to the back room to do some work. Let me know when you get hungry and we’ll make some lunch, ok?”

“Will do, Mummy.” She carried on playing with her farm animal set and talking to each individual animal and talking to an imaginary friend. “You look after the horses and I will look after the pigs. Yea like that!” Catherine felt sorry for her when she did that. She couldn’t wait for her to make some school friends so she could talk to some real children instead of made up ones. Catherine would make sure to speak to some of the other Mums to arrange a play date some time.

Catherine took herself to her new office and set about looking through the paperwork given to them by the solicitor in search for instructions on the heating. There were various kinds of documents, some dating back to when the house was built; deeds, tenancy agreements from land being leased, solicitor’s documents from land being sold, building regulations for the construction of the conservatory, instructions for the oven, decades old newspaper articles and many other things but nothing relating to the heating. She would have to mention it to Adam when he got home. Spring was coming but it was still bitterly cold during the night.

Catherine kept herself busy through the rest of the day. She received a phone call from her sister in London, made lunch for her and Bella, then a phone call from the new clients and a date was set for them to have a meeting at the house the following week. It was mid-afternoon when she decided it was time for a break and a sit down in the warm living room with her daughter. Whilst she was in the kitchen, Bella came running in.

“Mummy, there’s a man in the window.”

“Excuse me?”

“A man Mummy, an old man. He keeps walking around the garden and then looking in the window.”

She knew straight away who it was. How could he still be lost? Maybe Adam was right and he did have dementia and this would be a frequent occurrence. When she glanced out of the kitchen window she saw him walking back down the garden away from the house. He was wearing the same old clothes.

“You wait here Bella ok? Mummy needs to speak to him. Stay here.” She instructed her daughter whilst quickly putting on her coat. She unlocked the door and ran down the path towards the old man. “Excuse me? Sir? Can you hear me? You need to come inside, it’s too cold out here.” He couldn’t hear her, he kept on walking ahead of her looking all over, left to right, as though searching for something. “Mister? Oh…” just as she was about to reach him she tripped over a root and landed on her knees. Adam would need to deal with that root. It’s one thing having a lost old man wandering around the garden but it would be really bad if he got badly injured in the process. “Bloody hell.” There was a small hole in her jeans from the fall. She looked up and the man had vanished. Where has he gone, she thought, he was barely walking one mile an hour. She looked all around but couldn’t see him anywhere. How could he have vanished so quickly?

A cold shiver went down Catherine’s spine, and not just because of the cold wind around her. She looked back at the house and Bella was stood in the doorway holding Barney and staring at her Mum.

“Did you see where he went?” Catherine asked Bella, hoping she would shed some light on the situation.

“He disappeared.”

“Yes I know that, but where to?”

“No he disappeared, he vanished.”

“People don’t just vanish Bella,” they walked inside and shut the door, “he must have walked or run somewhere? Did you see?”

Bella shook her head, she didn’t know what else she could say. She saw him vanish in to thin air. Catherine locked the door after one final glance outside. How did he vanish so suddenly?

Chapter 3

 

“How long will it take you to get to work?”

“About an hour if traffic isn’t too bad,” Adam was putting his uniform and some food in to his rucksack for work, “Will you be ok?”

It was Sunday morning and Adam’s first day back at work since the move. Now he was faced with leaving his family alone in the new house he was feeling anxious. It had only just dawned on him that they were no longer living in a highly-populated area, they were quite alone out here.

“We’ll be fine, it’s no different to being alone at the flat. Bella will be in bed early to prepare for her first day at the new school tomorrow, I have lots to do and I’m expecting a call from a couple enquiring about a wedding cake later so don’t worry.”

“Ok.” Adam picked up the car keys and gave his wife a kiss. “I should be home just after ten tonight if nothing major happens. Call me if you need me.”

“I will, I will, now go or you’ll be late.”

She watched her husband walk to the car and then drive out of sight. She made sure the door was locked knowing that Adam would not be happy if she’d left it open for anyone to walk in. She knew there was less risk of danger here than when they lived at the flat but she didn’t want him to worry about her when he was supposed to be focusing at work. She hadn’t been completely honest with him though. She wouldn’t be ok, but only because she still hadn’t figured out how the central heating worked. The radiators would come on but after half an hour they would switch off again. She kept the fire on in the living room and made Bella bring her toys downstairs where it was warm.

“Bella?”

“Yes Mummy?”

“I’m going in to the back room to do some work. Let me know when you get hungry and we’ll make some lunch, ok?”

“Will do, Mummy.” She carried on playing with her farm animal set and talking to each individual animal and talking to an imaginary friend. “You look after the horses and I will look after the pigs. Yea like that!” Catherine felt sorry for her when she did that. She couldn’t wait for her to make some school friends so she could talk to some real children instead of made up ones. Catherine would make sure to speak to some of the other Mums to arrange a play date some time.

Catherine took herself to her new office and set about looking through the paperwork given to them by the solicitor in search for instructions on the heating. There were various kinds of documents, some dating back to when the house was built; deeds, tenancy agreements from land being leased, solicitor’s documents from land being sold, building regulations for the construction of the conservatory, instructions for the oven, decades old newspaper articles and many other things but nothing relating to the heating. She would have to mention it to Adam when he got home. Spring was coming but it was still bitterly cold during the night.

Catherine kept herself busy through the rest of the day. She received a phone call from her sister in London, made lunch for her and Bella, then a phone call from the new clients and a date was set for them to have a meeting at the house the following week. It was mid-afternoon when she decided it was time for a break and a sit down in the warm living room with her daughter. Whilst she was in the kitchen, Bella came running in.

“Mummy, there’s a man in the window.”

“Excuse me?”

“A man Mummy, an old man. He keeps walking around the garden and then looking in the window.”

She knew straight away who it was. How could he still be lost? Maybe Adam was right and he did have dementia and this would be a frequent occurrence. When she glanced out of the kitchen window she saw him walking back down the garden away from the house. He was wearing the same old clothes.

“You wait here Bella ok? Mummy needs to speak to him. Stay here.” She instructed her daughter whilst quickly putting on her coat. She unlocked the door and ran down the path towards the old man. “Excuse me? Sir? Can you hear me? You need to come inside, it’s too cold out here.” He couldn’t hear her, he kept on walking ahead of her looking all over, left to right, as though searching for something. “Mister? Oh…” just as she was about to reach him she tripped over a root and landed on her knees. Adam would need to deal with that root. It’s one thing having a lost old man wandering around the garden but it would be really bad if he got badly injured in the process. “Bloody hell.” There was a small hole in her jeans from the fall. She looked up and the man had vanished. Where has he gone, she thought, he was barely walking one mile an hour. She looked all around but couldn’t see him anywhere. How could he have vanished so quickly?

A cold shiver went down Catherine’s spine, and not just because of the cold wind around her. She looked back at the house and Bella was stood in the doorway holding Barney and staring at her Mum.

“Did you see where he went?” Catherine asked Bella, hoping she would shed some light on the situation.

“He disappeared.”

“Yes I know that, but where to?”

“No he disappeared, he vanished.”

“People don’t just vanish Bella,” they walked inside and shut the door, “he must have walked or run somewhere? Did you see?”

Bella shook her head, she didn’t know what else she could say. She saw him vanish in to thin air. Catherine locked the door after one final glance outside. How did he vanish so suddenly?

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