The Corner House

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My book of short stories THE JACK LOCKWOOD DIARIES is free right now, you can download a copy here

This is one of them, to give you a taste:

THE CORNER HOUSE

Corner House was a horrible building. I never liked it, even when I used to pass it as a small boy. Large, sprawling, ugly and made of dark red bricks, it hovered on the edge of town like a black cloud.

After a catalogue of miserable disasters befell all of its previous owners, it had been brought by a property company, but before they could secure it, squatters moved in, and several of them were drug users. The three druggies who’d died there all in one night, had, allegedly, injected tainted heroine, and since then locals avoided the place, and it had attracted a ridiculous reputation as being haunted.

This was why Ali and Gerry had been able to buy it from the company relatively cheaply. The roof was leaking, there was dry rot in the cellar, woodworm in the floors, and all the plumbing needed replacing. Gerry, a keen DIY builder—who remodelled houses for enjoyment— was keen to renovate the place, but had a full-time day job. But Ali, who worked as a translator from home, and would have to spend plenty of time in the house alone, wasn’t so enthusiastic about their acquisition.

I was passing by her jungle-like front garden, noticed her kneeling down and trying to clear some undergrowth, and we started chatting.

“Blow this, Jack, fancy a coffee?” she said, leaning back and pulling off her gardening gloves. “I’ve had about enough for one morning.”

She seemed a pleasant friendly lady, and I already knew Gerry a bit—he often popped into my local in the evenings, the Dog and Duck. They were an easy-going couple, practical, no-nonsense, optimistic.

“It seemed a great idea to buy it at first, but God, living here,” she said to me as we sat at the kitchen table. “It’s such a bloody miserable place, like living in a mausoleum. No point starting decorating yet of course, not till the main building work’s done.”

“Bit of white paint on the walls will cheer the place up no end,” I agreed.

“There’s other stuff, Jack. I catch sight of things out of the corner of my eye sometimes—must be my imagination. But I come into a room and I get this horrible spooky feeling, you know? As if someone doesn’t want me to be there. And another thing is this huge electric bill.” She passed across the electricity company’s bill. “I mean this is after just one month!”

“Sounds like an electrical problem,” I agreed, shocked at the astronomical size of the bill.

She nodded. “Gerry’s asked Sparky Joe to take a look.”

“Sparky’s a brilliant electrician, he’ll find out if there’s a problem,” I told her. But I was intrigued. “You know I can’t think of any electrical fault that would guzzle electricity like this. You don’t even have electric heating, do you?”

“No, or even a spin drier. We’ve thought long and hard. All we’re using is the lights, the computers, the TV, fridge and that’s about it.”

“Have you inspected the whole house?”

“Sure, all the rooms. Gerry’s even checked out the cellar.”

An idea was forming in my mind. “Have you looked in the loft?”

“The loft? No, I don’t think so. Gracious, Gerry’s been so busy, I don’t think we’ve even got a ladder at the moment.”

“Can I take a look?”

“Sure.”

That’s when I noticed the funny smell in the house. Ali agreed it was awful, but she’d been told it was the putrid stench of dry rot, but I wasn’t so sure.

On the upstairs landing, I managed to find a long pole—the kind with a tool on the end for undoing loft-hatch fasteners—and I used it to twist the hasp on the catch on the square panel in the ceiling. As it dropped down, the smell became overpowering, and we stepped back.

There was a pull-down metal ladder, and soon I was climbing up into the area.

There was the answer! Cannabis plants were blooming everywhere, and above them were the heaters, several of them, glowing hot, in the brightly-lit area.

Being an upfront, no-nonsense lady, Ali insisted on calling the police immediately, they duly arrived and arranged disposal of the plants, and told her that even though she’d been technically committing an offence, it was blindingly obvious that the cannabis farm had no connection with her.

A few weeks later I met Sparky Joe in the Dog and Duck, and brought up the solved mystery of Corner House.

“Trouble is, they’re still using masses more power than they should be,” Sparky said, scratching his head. “The juice just seems to be vanishing into thin air. I’ve checked all the circuits. Just can’t understand it.”

“Don’t they say that psychic phenomena can absorb electricity for no reason?” I suggested. “Those three druggies died there all on the same night, remember?”

“Ghosts you mean?” He smiled at me pityingly. “Surely you don’t believe in nonsense like that, do you Jack?”

The other stories can be downloaded for your kindle here

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