• Gina Fegan

Chapter 3. What happened next...

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

Sunday morning started off perfectly. Another sunny day, the garden was alive with flowers, clematis scaling the hedge and merging into the hawthorn blossom. Wallflowers scenting the world. Even the cat, who Maeve thought was on the spectrum, looked happy and contented.

This was the sacred time of the week for Maeve and her daughters when they took the time to enjoy each other’s company; to gossip, to catch up on the drama’s of teenage life and generally set the world to rights. It had become a ritual of lazy chats over the breakfast table, the large cafetiere of fresh ground coffee with plenty for a second cup, and the weekly treat of the ‘fresh from the oven’ perfect pain au chocolat. Conversation never lagged, Marieanne was stressing over A Levels and Orla although chilled about schoolwork was developing body image issues.

After breakfast Maeve went for a walk to get the Sunday papers. In the fresh morning air the revelations of yesterday seem unreal, but if she was to accept the idea of ‘spirits’ being part of her world, how would it impact on her daily life? Should she share this with the children? Would she have to? What if her children treated her the way she treated Ada, as some sort of pathetic weirdo? Maeve hadn’t mentioned it so far because she hadn’t worked through it yet, and up till yesterday she had been a total skeptic. How could she do such an about turn? Even if she did, she wasn’t sure what to say. The girls were very well aware that Maeve didn’t have the best relationship with her mother. It would have been good to have someone to share it with....

Lost in her thoughts, she had forgotten to stop at the newsagent before she realised it and was already halfway across Beverly Meadow heading towards the town centre. Typical Maeve thought irritably, she often found that when not paying attention her feet, or her car, would take her wherever her auto-pilot dictated. “Hello”. A pretty young Asian woman addressed her with some trepidation. “I don’t want to bother you but…” Here we go again, Maeve found the people who stop you and ask for money surprising, they don’t always look in need. She kept a £1 coin in her pocket because she hated the look of disappointment if her pockets were empty. Holding out the coin she began to wish the young woman good luck. “No, no, I don’t need money.” She paused. “I think you are a friend, you have a kind face. Something bad is happening, we need your help. Please, go to the police. Ask for Stephen Maguire. Tell him I sent you. You will hear more. When you can. You need to tell Stephen that I can talk to you.”

She pointed to the city centre. Maeve turned back to ask her her name but she was gone. Maeve didn’t just see that the woman had gone, she sensed it too, she could no longer feel her presence.

This was disturbing. Lovely girl, sunny day, but a meaningless message. Plus Maeve was aware that she didn’t even have a name to reference. She had picked-up a profound sense of sadness. Was this some kind of test? And if it was, would it be the kind of test that she wanted to pass? On the other hand she was also curious, who wouldn’t be. Was there a puzzle to be solved? And this was her own experience, Ada wasn’t involved at all, yet. Up till then she had been enjoying the walk. What harm if she was to walk to the police station and ask the question. If no one at the station knew a ‘Stephen Maguire’ then that would be that, end of, no harm done. Ada had been right, Maeve thought, it was feeling the other person’s upset that made her want to help. Normally the desire to fix people problems was just for friends or work colleagues but right now she felt an overwhelming desire to help this woman out.

Maeve texted the kids to let them know that she was off for a walk and promised to drop into the Goods Shed on the way back and pick up some fresh sourdough bread, Ashmore cheddar, Italian sausage rolls and enough fresh veg for a snack lunch and proper supper. These were all things that would go down well and if she was quick they would have time to do something nice in the afternoon too.

Picking up her pace she took the back route across Canterbury avoiding the tourists for at least half of the High St. Passing the Cathedral entrance in Buttermarket, she turned right via Pret and Castle St. She made it to the police station in about 30mins, not bad going. 

As she approached the station Maeve was conscious that she had never actually been inside the police station or any police station. She had seen them in films and on TV but didn’t actually know if it was open or how to get in? She stopped. This was one of those moments in life when you have to decide, it would be easy to turn around and go home, would she regret it? Having read any number of self help books she knew that in order to change your life sometimes you have to say ‘yes’ and do things that make you uncomfortable. Maeve reflected on the many things in her life that she needed to change. This wasn’t the obvious path, but what the hell? Standing tall, she plucked up her courage, crossed the road and headed toward the building. She found the entrance on Old Dover Road, walked up the ramp, and went in.

Sunday must be a quiet time at the station as there was no one waiting, she went straight to the front desk. Conscious of the absurdity of her mission she half mumbled ‘is there a policeman called Stephen Maguire?’, to the officer seated behind the desk. As luck would have it, Stephen was passing on his way out for a break as she asked the question. “Who wants to know?” He said with a laugh as he eyed her up, she was an attractive woman in her early-forties, definitely worth a second look. Flustered Maeve felt herself blushing and mumbled that she had met a girl in the park who had sent her to see him. He stopped laughing. “I have a very important meeting: - with the best coffee in Canterbury! Why don’t you walk with me and tell me what exactly happened. It sounds like it might be a prank. Someone playing a joke on you.” He wasn’t unkind Maeve mused but clearly wasn’t convinced that she would tell him anything of value.

As they walked, Maeve retold her encounter. Thankfully she thought, Stephen seemed to take her seriously and asked very specific questions, did this woman have a watch on, any remarkable jewellery? Or anything that might stand out as noticeable. She told him all the details she could remember. By this time they had reached the coffee shop and as he ordered the drinks Steve quietly said “I will tell you the whole story. Let’s see if there is anyone outside in the back, it’s often empty.” Once settled with excellent coffees in front of them he paused as though to collect himself and then began his side of the story.

“Nearly ten years ago now, not long after I started with the force, I was put on a murder case, a young Asian girl, a student in the University. One Saturday night she was walking back to Uni after a few drinks with her friends in town. She took her normal route walking by the quieter back streets, as she crossed the park, Beverly Meadow, someone she knew attacked her and killed her leaving her body in the bushes.” Maeve felt chills down her spine and moved closer in. “When I visited the crime scene the next morning, I felt something. It was almost as if she was still there, still alive, I couldn’t talk to her, but I could feel her distress. I was also aware that she knew her attacker.” 

Stephen paused head down towards his cooling coffee with a slightly embarrasssed look on his face continued. “Then I did a foolish thing, I mentioned it to my colleagues. Well, the lads in the station have seen a lot of the more unpleasant sides of life and most are pretty ‘hard nosed’. ‘Feeling something’ was considered soft, and showed how green I was. It turned into a station joke, every time I appeared someone would go ‘woohoo, the ghost is here to talk to you’ or they would give me a message that the victim wanted to make a statement. I don’t know why but it really stuck and I still get the occasional ‘fake’ message, when you started I thought someone had set you up to it. Looking at your face, it’s more like we are both being set up.”

There was nothing for it, Maeve thought, she had to tell him about her experience in Margate, about her mother, Ada, and what Ada does. Feeling exposed worrying that she would come across like one of the ‘kooks’ that hang onto Ada, the very ones she had spent my life avoiding Maeve began with her disclaimer. “To be very clear, this isn’t something that I believe in! Well I didn’t believe in, now I am not sure. Actually you were the test for me.” She spoke quickly, then paused to collect her thoughts. “The woman in the park was very specific about your name but didn’t give me hers. I thought if I went to the station and they had never had a policeman by the name ‘Stephen Maguire’ that would be that.” Looking directly at Stephen she continued, “the fact that you are a real person is a good thing and yet I don’t really know what it means.” Pause. “ Earlier, you were asking me specific questions, why? And what was her name? She didn’t give it to me.” 

He was quick to answer “Susan Lin, not a very Asian name but apparently a lot of people adopt an English name when they come over to study here. Makes it easier for us Brits to remember. Specific details are because I wanted to know if you had any information that wasn’t already in the public domain. There are some details that we didn’t share. We often get people from the same world as your mother, who make claims that they can communicate with the dead, normally for a fee. We try to fend them off so that they don’t cause any further distress to the family.”

“I know what you mean. That’s exactly why I have never wanted anything to do with that world!” She sighed, there was a pause in the conversation. “It might be the coffee but as we have been talking I have been replaying this morning’s scenario in my mind and there was one thing that I thought was a little odd but didn’t think it was worth mentioning. But maybe it is. She, Susan, had only one earring. I know lots of people wear one as a fashion statement but it wasn’t like that. Both her ears were pierced and as I said her clothes were clean, neat, student style, probably Jack Wills, not cheap anyway. The earring was blue like a sapphire stud, one of a pair, but the other one was missing. It didn’t fit in with the rest of her to have only one. Another thing; I have been wondering why did I immediately think she wanted money? I have this weird sense that her hands were dirty, I am not 100% certain but it’s a strong impression. You know the way they say you make a decision about someone, whether you find them attractive, or not, within the first few seconds.” There was a beat, Steve was silent, he was looking at Maeve, she couldn’t read him, was he looking at her because he found her attractive, or was it disbelief?

Emphatically Steve said, “You couldn’t know that!” 

His tone had changed completely. Maeve was taken aback “Not know what?” 

Stephen’s body language had changed completely from that vulnerable moment of sharing to professional and highly irritated copper, Maeve was getting anxious wondering what exactly had just happened.  “I think this has gone far enough,” he said standing up to leave. “Someone from the station is definitely setting me up. What a shame, I thought you were a nice person. I liked your company. Too bad. They won’t make a fool of me again.”

Now annoyed at his lack of explanation Maeve was equally sharp. “Okay, I have no idea what you are talking about. Here is my number. When you have checked it out you can call and apologise. If Susan contacts me again and I have any further information I will leave this message, ‘coffee at the Micro Roastery’, if you show up great, if not, then you don’t.” She had done her bit and had made the effort for the young woman. Almost to her surprise he took it.  Still cold, but calmer he asked “What’s your full name?” “Maeve, Maeve McPhillips, I was pleased to meet you. Let’s see shall we?” With that they both left, awkwardly walking in opposite directions. 

Supper finished. Maeve had begun to recover her equilibrium. The girls had gone off to their rooms to get ready for the morning. They had planned an episode or two of something light to watch. So she had half an hour to herself. She picked up the phone to Ada.

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