Deadly Voices

©“Mrs. Grant’s house is going to burn down tomorrow.”

Mary Driscoll sat with spoon raised in the air above her bowl of cereal. Her blonde hair had been tied back in a pony-tail and a large cotton bib had been tucked into the top of her pink party dress. Her seventh birthday promised to be exciting. All the children from her neighborhood were invited and her father, an architect, and owner of a large company had spared no expense. There would be a bouncy castle, a clown and pony rides.

“Where on earth did you get that idea, pet. That’s an awful thing to say.” Her father patted her head. “You mustn’t go around saying stuff like that.”

Mary dropped the spoon in her bowl. Her blue eyes widened and her lips tightened with childish impatience.

“I knew that as soon as I got up this morning, daddy. I smelled it too. The flames were coming out of the roof.” She stopped and closed her eyes for a few seconds. “And she’s going to die. You must tell her, daddy.” She began to cry.

Peter Driscoll put an arm around his daughter and bent over her. “You just had a nightmare, darling. Tell you what – I’ll go over the road and see Mrs. Grant and ask her to come over and go shopping with mummy tomorrow. They’ll be gone all day. You can go with them.”

Mary’s face creased into a smile. “Okay.”

***

Blanche Grant hurried across the road. A phone call from her son in New York had delayed her. She could see the Driscolls’ car in the driveway opposite and waved to Mary in the back seat. Mary was waving back but as she reached the bottom of the drive, she realized Mary was screaming at her and waving her away as the car started to reverse down the drive.

 Blanche stopped and waited for the car to pull up next to her. Too late, she realized there was no-one in the driving seat. The last thing she saw was Mary’s contorted face and the child’s hands banging on the rear window. The car veered off the driveway and ran over Blanche at increasing speed before ramming itself between two Firs.

It took several weeks after the funeral for the Driscolls to find out that the car’s automatic gearbox lever control had jumped from the neutral position. No-one could say why and after a thorough examination the tragedy was put down to an unfortunate accident and the death pronounced as Death by Misadventure.

The effect on Mary was short lived. After spending a week indoors, not talking to anyone, she eventually appeared one morning and over breakfast, agreed that Mrs. Grant’s death was an accident and was not her fault. Peter Driscoll decided the best thing for his daughter was a short weekend holiday on the lakes, a one hundred mile trip that they had enjoyed a few times before. Mary sat quietly in the back of the car and said nothing until they reached the outskirts of  Minton.

Minton was a small town of less than ten thousand that existed and relied on the tourist trade. Fishing and boating during the spring and summer kept the Lakeside Hotel and other guest houses alongside the lake full. A small park served as a picnic area year round and a site for traveling fairs. It was as they passed the fair that Mary became agitated. Shifting around in her seat to get a better view of the park and the rides, she punched the back of her father’s seat.

“Daddy, he said Mr. Liddle will fall off the carousel tomorrow when it goes wrong. Please, please, you must go and tell him.”

Astonished, Peter Driscoll stopped the car. “Whose he and when did you talk to him?”

Frustrated, Mary jumped up and down in her seat. “He just told me when I saw the fair. Please, daddy, we must go and tell Mr.Liddle.”

“If you do, all you are going to achieve is encouraging her. She’ll have you on a piece of string, Peter,” said his wife, Clare.

“Clare, it can’t hurt,” replied Peter. “Anyway, supposing she does have a gift.”

“Nonsense,” retorted Clare, “she’s leading you on.” She screwed her eyes up at Mary and pulled an exaggerated mean look. “You can fool your father, young lady but not me.”

Mary pouted and folded her arms across her chest. “He told me about Mrs. Grant too.” She turned her head defiantly and stared out of the window.

Peter Driscoll shrugged and winked at his wife. “Where did you get the name Liddle from?”

“I don’t know, daddy. He told me but  I knew it before he told me.”

“How?”

“Don’t know. I knew it though.”

“Okay, so who is ‘He’ and have you met him?”

“No, silly. How do you see a ghost? He just talks to me here.” She pointed to her head.

Peter Driscoll started the engine. “Okay, but we are just going to see if there is a Mr. Liddle.”

A few minutes later, they parked and walked to the fair entrance. A bright red caravan stood nearby, daubed with posters. A clown sat on the steps in usual garb with painted face and large shoes. He gave Peter Driscoll and Mary a  cursory glance before lighting a cigarette.

“Hi there,” said Peter. “I wonder if you can help me. I’m looking for a Mr. Liddle. Could you tell me if he still works here?”

A deep baritone laugh came from within the caravan. “Well, you must have known him from way back when, Mister.”

The door swung back on its hinges and banged loudly against the caravan body as a fat woman with a tattooed face appeared. “Say, when did you meet my husband? Must have been more than fifteen years ago.” She paused and puffed on a curved pipe, blowing smoke into the air.

“Well, I don’t really know him but my daughter does and she wants to meet him again.” He winked at the woman. “I take it he goes by another name now?”

“I’ll say,” she said. He’s been Ben Baron since we got married. This fair has been in my family for over a hundred years so Ben changed his name to mine.” She extended a hand. ‘I’m Janet Baron, the owner.” She looked down at Mary. “Now what did you want to see him about, pet? He’s just inside having a look at the carousel.”

Mary started to cry.

“Oh pet, you mustn’t cry. Tell you what, I’ll go and find him and bring him over, shall I.”

Peter Driscoll stopped her from leaving. “My name is Peter Driscoll. Let me explain,” he whispered.

Mary’s tears soon dried as she watched the clown make a dog out of some thin balloons.

“She thinks your husband is in danger of falling off the carousel when it goes wrong tomorrow. She thinks he might die.”

The smile evaporated. Janet Brown crouched down beside Mary. A man spoke to you, did he pet?”

Mary nodded. “You mustn’t let Mr. Liddle go on the carousel tomorrow.”

“Now don’t you worry, pet. Mr. Liddle is going nowhere near the carousel tomorrow because I’ll shut it down for the day – alright?”

“That’s a little drastic, isn’t it?” said Peter. “She’s only a little girl with a great imagination. I hardly think the situation warrants closing a kids ride down – not that it’s any of my business, but-”

Janet waggled a finger to silence him. “In our little community, we are very superstitious and messages from the other side are taken seriously. Your daughter is being used as a conduit for one particular spirit.”

“I’m sorry but I don’t believe that for a moment,” said Peter.

“Then how did she get a hold of my husbands old name? The voice she heard could be any one of some past family members.”

“No, replied Peter. We had already had one incident back home when a neighbor died after Mary got a message. It was the same voice – a man’s. The trouble was, the woman wasn’t killed the way Mary saw it. She was run over by our car with Mary alone in it.”

Janet shivered and crossed herself.

 

 

Comments

Oh yes, this is full of twists and turns. Loved the idea of the woman with the tattooed face, I wonder what they were of.

The twist at the end was great. I was wondering how it would fit in with the driveway accident.

This is good Ray...got an Edgar Allen Poe or Stephen King feel to it.