A Penguin, Random House Prompt
‘You run after someone who left a strange book on the bus and they go into a house. through the window you see………’
by John Yeo
The air conditioning had broken down in the block at midday. Swirls of hot air swished through the office as Stephen was attempting to contact his opposite number in Sydney, Australia. The team had been battling through regardless and tempers were fraying visibly by the second.
Stephen Hobbs, the manager of this successful advertising company, quickly got in touch with the buildings maintenance department.
‘Bludgers! What’s going on? How come the air con. is off? We are suffering from overpowering heat up here on the seventh floor.’
‘Sorry, Mr. Hobbs we are doing everything in our power to rectify the fault. One of our team is at this moment flying to the manufacturers in the North to purchase an important part. I’m not sure we’ll be able to get it fixed until tomorrow.’
Sam Bludgers, had been the superintendent of these luxury offices for ten years now and he had seen many situations of dire emergency in the past. However, he had never had to inform clients that the building would have to close for a while. There had always been a temporary solution to every unforeseen emergency in the past.
Stephen Hobbs was close to blowing his mind with worries about the business and the last thing he needed was to lose a day’s work because of the frailty of the infrastructure of the building. Unfortunately, he could see no way out of this situation.
‘OK Bludgers, We’ll have to call it a day and close the office. There’s no way we can continue working under these conditions. I will obviously be taking further advice on this loss of income. I realize it’s not your fault.’
Stephen and Marina, his hardworking personal assistant, made their way to the bus stop and boarded the bus together. Marina Manners had worked with him for about a year now and by sheer coincidence, they found they lived within a couple of bus stops of each other in the city suburbs.
An elderly lady was seated opposite them on the bus. The lady was conspicuous in her appearance by her huge hooked nose. This large nose was even more noticeable by the large brown mole protruding on her left nostril. Stephen couldn’t help noticing the tuft of tiny black hairs protruding from the centre of this mole. ‘Certainly needs a close encounter with a razor.’ He thought.
Marina got, off the bus at her stop and waved goodbye to her boss. Stephen smiled as he waved back, he admired this attractive young lady immensely and he planned to promote her to a higher position in the company at the end of the month.
The elderly lady got off at the next stop.
Stephen was about to settle back, in his seat when he noticed a brown paper carrier bag lying on the seat, obviously left behind by the elderly lady. He grabbed the bag and followed the lady off the bus, she had walked quickly away and he could just see her disappearing around a corner. Stephen shouted as loud as he could to try to attract her attention without any response, and he quickened his pace to try to catch up with her.
‘Damn it, this is going to make me late getting home. Feels like a large book in this carrier bag. I’ll just take a peek. Wow! Look at this gold lettering. I can’t make head or tail of it, seems to be written in a foreign language. I’d better try to catch up with the old dear, this seems to be a valuable book.’ About 100 yards ahead, Stephen watched the elderly lady enter a large detached, tumbledown house. Oddly enough the house had a thatched roof with wooden beams running across the front. This was quite unusual in this sector of the city.
‘Phew, thought Stephen, this ancient property must date right back to the reign of Henry the eighth, and the period of the inquisition. I have heard somewhere nearby is the site where countless so-called witches lost their lives.’
Stephen reached the front door and banged loudly on the door using a quirky door knocker in the shape of the head of a fearsome black cat. There wasn’t a reply even after several loud continuous knocks. The fearsome black cat on the door knocker appeared to be laughing, or was it just his imagination?
Stephen entered the property through an unlocked side gate, overgrown by brambles and nettles. Making his way around to the back of the house he came upon a large grimy window covered on the inside by grubby lace curtains. Stephen peeked through the window and to his horror he saw about six figures all wearing black cloaks with black pointed hats. There were black cats and a large metal cauldron in the centre of the room hanging over a purpose-built, soot-stained fireplace.
Strangely there wasn’t any movement in the room, except for one large black cat who suddenly stretched and balefully regarded him with large intelligent eyes.
‘Can I help you?’ A crackly voice from behind him enquired.
Stephen visibly jumped, startled and turned to see the elderly lady from the bus.
Oh! Sorry, you made me jump, I wasn’t expecting you to come up behind me like that. I followed you here to return this book you left on the bus.’ stuttered Stephen still shaken by what he had seen.
‘Thanks, dearie, I wondered what had happened to that, it’s my magical book of spells. I knew it would find its way home and bring me some interesting company. Would you like to come inside for a brew? I am all alone here and I would love a little chat.’
Stephen declined this kind offer, and said, ‘Sorry I peeked in your window and I couldn’t help noticing you have company already. I really must be getting along, I have several appointments to keep. Thanks all the same though.’
The elderly lady began to chuckle and cackle with laughter as Stephen’s words became clear to her. She continued to laugh out loud and finally, wiping tears of laughter from her eyes with the back of her hand, she said.
‘Oh, those are only the exhibits. Didn’t you see the notice over the front door, this is a waxworks exhibition. I’m Betty Humble the museum curator, I have to dress for the part. I’m only 25 years of age under all this makeup, come inside and have a nice cup of tea.’
Stephen hesitated for just seconds before he entered the house laughing at his stupidity for jumping to conclusions.
Oddly Stephen Hobbs disappeared from that day and he has never been seen since.
Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved.