Things settled after the blob experience and I soon forgot the incident, daily requirements to earn a living taking precedent. The bath spiders still came, and with my assistance, went. Down at the Livingstone pub however, old Alfred remained a persistent and often annoying reminder. Each time I ventured through the door, he was there, sipping his precious whisky and eyeing me above a pair of misshapen, dirty glasses.
"Anything else happen yet?"
It was always the same question, followed by the same negative response, a shake of my head. Somehow, I never got the feeling he believed me and the ritual was very annoying to say the least. I felt tempted to tell him to shut up, but somewhere in my upbringing I'd been taught to respect the elderly and managed to refrain from an untoward response.
One Friday evening, while leaving the cottage on my way to the pub, I had thoughts of old Alfred waiting to pounce. My own company seemed a better option? Yes, I would buy a few cans, settle into the chair upstairs and enjoy a classical radio station. Perhaps I might even tackle the book I'd been threatening to read.
I was quietly enjoying a cool lager when the phone interrupted Tchaikovsky's Emperor Piano Concerto.
"Is that you Gary...?" A female voice sounded very distant.
"Sorry you must have the wrong number..."
"You're a fly one, you really are!"
"I beg your pardon, I..."
"Come home to mama, all is forgiven. There might be a little extra if you hurry! Come home to your darling Wendy..." A giggle followed.
"Look, you've got the wrong number, I'm not Gary!"
"Don't play games Gary, I'd know that accent anywhere, get home now or you'll regret it!" Her tone had changed.
This conversation wasn't going anywhere; I slammed the phone down.I was about to turn the volume back up when, you guessed it, the phone rang.
Lifting the receiver, I listened, taking care not to speak.
"Look Gary, I know it's you and this is my final warning. Get your backside down here or you'll be sorry!"
The line went dead.
Feeling understandably confused I eased back into my chair and took another sip. "Damned Cheeky," I thought. "The woman must be drunk..."
Tchaikovsky eased me back into the book. It was difficult however, the call dogging my thoughts and limiting any chance to concentrate on the subject matter. I glanced at the table clock; nine thirty! The pub would still be open and I needed some company anyway, especially after listening to that stupid woman.
"Anything happen yet?"
Alfred was in his usual corner. I gave him the customary shake of the head.
"Pint of smooth please!"
"You're late tonight darling!" The bar attendant grinned through a perfect set of false teeth.
"I wasn't going to come tonight Jenny, but I had some stupid woman on the phone calling me Gary, refusing to accept she had the wrong number and, threatening me with all kinds of you know what if I didn't return..."
"Someone's got your number darling; what have you been up to?" Jenny sang the words while a painted nail scraped the day's stubble under my chin.
"She called you Gary?" Alfred pushed unceremoniously through the crowd.
I sighed, Alfred the last person I felt like having a conversation with; I nodded.
"Give him a break Alfred; the man just wants some peace..." Jenny planted a pint on the counter.
"What was her name, the woman's name on the phone. Did she give you her name?" He ignored Jenny's plea.
"I think she said Wendy."
"Wendy, are you sure?"
I nodded, "Yes..., yes, I'm sure she said Wendy..."
Even in the dull glow of the pub I could see his face change, an alcohol red draining to a pail pink. He shifted away and pushing through the crowd, wobbled back to the corner.
"Did I say something wrong?" I looked at Jenny, uncomfortable with Alfred's reaction.
"Wendy was his daughter's name, Gary his son in law's name..."
"You say was?"
"Yes, she was murdered..."
"Murdered!" It was my turn to change color.
"Happened about five, six years ago; we don't talk about it as these things are best forgotten, shame poor man..."
"In the cottage?"
"No not at the cottage, I'm not sure where, but I do know she was murdered..."
"How... What happened?"
Jenny shrugged and moved to serve an impatient client.
I pushed my way over to old Alfred. "I'm so sorry, I didn't know. I'm sure it's pure coincidence, the names I mean. Please accept my apology for being so rude over the past few weeks..."
He nodded, "She loved music, beautiful lass, loved life, a loss to the world, such a terrible waste..." Two clear blue eyes visibly filled with moisture.
I squeezed alongside the old man, "Can I buy you a drink?"
"It's time I went home thank you. You know, if only I..." He stopped and changed the thread, "I suppose I read too much into your ghosts, more out of hope and a wish we would meet again, than real belief. Then, when I heard the names..."
"But why my cottage Alfred, there doesn't seem to be any connection?" I wanted more.
"They had a row and Gary stayed there the night my Wendy was murdered. I was a painter and decorator in those days and as it was empty had keys to the cottage. Gary didn't want to stay with me. I think he had a little bit waiting on the side, no proof mind you, and as there was an old bed well..."
The desire to press for more was almost overwhelming, but it was none of my business and I let discretion get the better of me.
"Radio Five, she loved Radio Five..." Alfred smiled, recalling some pleasant interlude in the distant past. He waved a hand, "Don't mind me, ramblings of an old man..."
With those words he bid me goodnight and left.
We never saw him again. Some said he'd passed away while others suggested he'd moved to another county.
I was sorry I'd gone to the pub, and fell into the solitary chair feeling lonely and depressed. It had not been a good evening! The low tones of Beethoven's Ninth did nothing to lift my depressed mood and I switched off, deciding the only place worth being, was in bed. Just as was about to turn off the light, a thought occurred to me. Of course, the last caller's number would be recorded. I rushed up the metal circular stairs, grabbed the nearest available paper, which happened to be a credit card statement, rummaged for a pen, and dialled.
"Telephone number..." At least it wasn't a blocked call, I scribbled, "...555 370 called... On the 5th..."
"But today is the seventh!" I was talking to myself.
If ever I had a strange feeling, it was in that moment. Perhaps the previous event, the arrival and disappearance of the 'blob', could be explained away as a nightmare, but this was no nightmare. The phone did ring, a woman did speak to me and yet, there was no record of her call, for that matter no record of any calls that day. Even more unnerving was the coincidence of her name being the same as old Alfred's daughter and, to make matters even more confusing insisting my name was Gary.
I fell into an unsettled sleep.
An awful din had me springing out of bed! It was the Rolling Stones thrashing out 'Angie' from the upstairs floor. I half staggered, half fell up the damned metal stairs, cutting a toe in the process. Swearing and cursing I reached for the stereo on/off switch.
I froze! The digital dial glowed Radio 5!
I pressed another channel, Radio 5, and another, Radio 5; all pre-select stations read Radio 5!
There was to be one further incident before Spider Web cottage and I parted company. Not nearly as dramatic as those already recorded, but I am sure, sufficiently uncanny to warrant a mention