Haunted

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ONEI hear the music before I even arrive at Mitzi’s. It is dubstep, and I know this because I was at a club last week and asked the girl I was with what the hell we were listening to. She told me it was dubstep and I told her it was awful and she nodded, although we didn’t leave because we were drunk.You expect that sort of racket in a club in London; out in the sticks in Kent, it is so unexpected it seems surreal. Mitzi lives outside one of those quaint villages the Tories always cream themselves over in a house that’s joined onto another. It’s not a semi exactly, the place is too rustic for that; more a couple of pissed old cottages that have slumped together and stayed there. On the two occasions I’ve visited here it’s been usually deadly quiet; even the owls sound cautious.I walk up the cobbled driveway. The music is coming from the house next door, which has every lamp in every room turned on. Light spills out along with the music, illuminating the garden and reaching into the surrounding fields.Mitzi is in a state of high excitement when she opens the door, reaching out and yanking me in as if to get me out of sight before anyone notices. This, too, is highly unusual. The inside of Mitzi’s place is cluttered with scented candles, little sculptures and figurines, as well as paintings and photos – usually of her, although I think I’ve spotted one of me in there somewhere.Like me, Mitzi is a t-girl. Neither of us is tall, but where I am lithe, she is tiny and delicate. She’s in her late twenties, so a few years younger than me.Her genius with makeup makes her already huge eyes even more elfin and beguiling. She also gets away with short hair, which only people with absurdly pointy cheekbones can. Tonight, I think the hair is dyed light blue, although she’s got most of the lamps off so it’s hard to tell. Only fairy lights around the fireplace illuminate her small living room, with its ancient walls that look like they’ve started melting, then decided against it.Tonight, the little knick-knacks and exquisitely-chosen ornaments are shaking in their obsessively-placed positions as dubstep shreds the crisp late-summer night. Mitzi pulls me into the living room, and we stand and stare at each other.“Kelly,” Mitzi says. “The man next door is trying to drive me insane.”“Well that’s stupid,” I reply. “You’re already insane.”“Yes, but I mean in ways I don’t enjoy and are of no use to me socially.”“Have you tried talking to him?”“He won’t open the door.”“This sounds serious, Mitzi. We should go to that pub down the road and torment old biddies by using the men’s and the ladies’ loos.”“The locals have got used to all that now. A couple even read The Guardian.”“For God’s sake! You should move.”“No, I’ve just got everything as I like it.”“Why is your neighbour doing this?” I say. “He was all right before, wasn’t he?”“He’s never been all right, Kelly. He is evil. That’s why I called you.”“I’m not evil.”“Your tvChix profile says you’re a witch.”“And a galactic agent.”“I don’t know what that means. Will you help me?”“Have you got gin?”“And tonic with elderflower, and lemons that have already been sliced.”“By you?”“Don’t be silly, darling.”“Okay, I’m in. What’s your plan?”“He’s scared of ghosts.”“Right.”“We convince him his house is haunted, so he moves.”I regard Mitzi, who exists in a liminal realm between joking and seriousness that is often hard to find one’s way around.“Haunted,” I repeat.“Yes. I’ve downloaded some pant-wettingly horrid ghost noises and bought a speaker system that is so small it can hardly be seen. I’ve also worked out the frequencies the bastard is using with that music –““It’s called dubstep.”Mitzi blinks.“Why?”“I don’t know,” I say.“It sounds like the description of a medieval washing facility.”“Don’t get the hump with me, Mitzi; I didn’t come up with it. Why are you yapping about frequencies?”“We can use different frequencies to cut through the noise.”“How unnervingly scientific of you.”“A man showed me.”“Of course he did.”“The bastard next door won’t know where the spookage is coming from, and we can properly freak him out. Over time he will either desist or vacate.”“How are you going to get the sound into his house?”“Drill through the walls.”“These walls have seen off glaciers, Mitzi. I fear your cordless will not be up to the task.”“I haven’t got any tools, Kelly. I always get men in for…”She thinks, then waves a hand in the direction of the kitchen.“Work?” I suggest.“Yes. That.”“So…?”“We use his tools.”“Um…”Mitzi leans forward and whispers, which seems over-the-top even for her.“He keeps his shed unlocked.”“How do you know?”“Spying, in a special cocktail dress.”I nod solemnly.“There’s one of those long wire things as well,” Mitzi adds.“An extension cable?”“I knew you were the girl for the job.”The music is starting to piss me off now.“Okay, Mitzi. Let’s şişli escort get ginned up and do this thing.”She leads me into the kitchen, whose shadowy contours reveal a farmhouse chic unbothered by the need to prepare food. She lights a small candle and pours a couple of large super-cold gins. She’s had the booze in the freezer, and the mixer and lemons too, and pours both over ice in large tumblers that look huge in her small, delicate hands. We get through a couple, but it’s hard to enjoy them with that racket, and I knock mine back.Mitzi fetches some long wires that she explains are the speakers and the cables. This is good; wifi is rubbish out here, so we don’t want to rely on that to get the sound signal into the house next door. The guy probably has a hammer drill with a small bit; we can use it on a low setting to get through the wall with his awful music covering the noise. If the first hole goes well then we can get up a ladder and do another hole into the bedroom as well. There might be putty or something I can use to plug the holes to avoid drafts. Failing that I’ll use mud.Mitzi has used my thinking time to get into another outfit, whose suitability I question before realising she will be there more in a guidance than practical capacity.Clutching the cables, we leave through the back door and slink down the garden, hidden from the neighbour by a high but neatly-trimmed hedge. It’s when we’re over the back fence and in the dense wooded area that we encounter problems.“Kelly!”“Shush!”“We’re being followed.”“How do you know?”“There is disruption in the undergrowth,” Mitzi says.“That’s you. Why did you have to wear that tutu?”“It seemed apt,” she says, and freezes. “There it is again! We’ve stopped, so it can’t be me.”“I can’t hear anything, except that music.”“We’re being followed, Kelly. By someone… or something.”“Someone or something? Who are you, Enid Blyton?”“I don’t know what that is.”I look around. It’s a cloudy night, and very dark. Mitzi is a vague shape beside me. I can’t make anything out in the gloom, and go to push on, but Mitzi clutches my arm. She is disproportionately strong, like an ant.“Kelly, I think we’re being stalked by a badger.”“Badgers don’t stalk.”“This one may be atypical, like the shark in Jaws.”“That film was not a documentary, Mitzi; how many more times?”The frenetic pace of the music sounds like anxiety; it grinds away at my mind.“Do you want to do this or not?” I sayI sense rather than see her glower at me, which feels like being menaced by a kitten. I move on and climb over the neighbour’s fence.I’m shielded from the house by another hedge, which hides the compost bins with their dense, heady cut-grass smell. I move past them and ease around so I can see through the shed window. In reflected light from the house, I notice the shed is well-organised; I can even make out the drill and extension cable.My heart begins to thud. Until now, this has all been theoretical, but we have reached the point of committing burglary, criminal damage and psychological assault. Put like that it seems rather less fun, but when you’ve walked in my heels long enough you realise you’ve got to make your own rules.Something sparks beside me.“What are you doing, Mitzi?”“I brought a candle, so we can see.”“You will burn the shed down. Put it out.”She does so, and the scent of sandalwood enriches the air for a moment.We get the shed door open. It creaks and we freeze, but the noise is drowned out by music from the house. I slip inside and Mitzi follows.I’m breathless now, and have to concentrate hard on what I’m doing. I take the cable because that’s lighter and hand it to Mitzi, then gently pick up the drill and look around for a toolbox.“Do you want the candle on?” Mitzi whispers.“Oh, all right.”She sparks it up. I spot putty! This is going to be easy. There’s even a ladder against one wall; an A-frame that looks new. I hand the drill and putty to Mitzi, who blows the candle out, stuffs it down her tutu along with the lighter, and takes the tools as I unhook the ladder.It’s as we creep out of the shed that I realise something has changed; something is very, very wrong.The music has stopped.“What the fuck are you doing in my garden?”  TWOHe is a massive shadow in front of the now-silent house. His face is difficult to make out, but light reflects off the shed window to part-illuminate blue eyes whose coldness is not obscured by their dimmed surroundings. I see them narrow as he looks at me; he blinks, as if he recognizes me, then turns to glare at Mitzi.I find my voice.“Just borrowing a couple of… tools for…an emergency…”He looks back at me. I nod at Mitzi’s house.“With that.”“You could have asked,” the man says. His voice is low and quiet; soft with dangerous anger.“We thought you were out,” I say.He looks back at Mitzi.“I thought you were out,” he says.“What?” şişli escort bayan I say.“We’ll just put these items back,” Mitzi says.She ducks into the shed, deposits the tools she is holding, trots back out and plucks the ladder from my grasp as if it weighs nothing.“What about your ‘emergency’?” the man says, his voice even quieter now.“We’ll just plug it with a duvet,” I say.“Fuck this,” the man says. “I’m calling the police.”He pulls a mobile from his trouser pocket and the screen lights his face. It’s a basic sort of face as if he is an early form of man whose performance has exceeded expectations. His stubble is the same length as his hair, which I think is brown.Neither Mitzi nor I can afford any more tangles with the law. I hurl myself at the man, but when I land on him he doesn’t even sway; it’s like grappling an island. I wrap my arms and legs around him anyway.“Run Mitzi! I shall obstruct the mouthpiece!”I hear scampering feet, some odd scrabbling, then silence.“Get off,” the man says.He smells faintly of Coach aftershave and marijuana. I shake my head.“I will bite through your neck. The gristle of it, everything.”I feel an absurd pulse between my legs at this frankly horrible threat, but before I can decide what to do I hear a whisper.“Kelly?”I lift my head from the man’s shoulder and turn around. Mitzi is on top of the shed.“Why are you whispering?” I hiss. “If I can hear you, he can hear you.”“Yes; it’s just that I’m stuck.”The fight goes out of me and I slide to the ground.“We thought you were trying to drive her insane with dubstep,” I tell the man.“That wasn’t dubstep. It was garage.”“No, it wasn’t. I like garage.”“I’m not fucking arguing,” he says. “Anyway, I thought Simon was out. I wouldn’t have had the music on if I’d known he was there.”“Simon?”“I’m not calling him Mitzi. We’ve been neighbours for years. It was always Sim– Wait, ‘Mitzi’? Is that because you drove a Mitzubishi?”“Not – no,” Mitzi says in a sullen voice.“It was a Colt wasn’t it?” the man says.“Yes,” Mitzi’s voice is even quieter now.“A Colt?” I say. “That sounds impressive.”“No,” the man says. “It was more of a keyring than a car.”“How dare you!” screams Mitzi.The man sighs and starts dialling.“Please don’t,” I say. “There must be something we can do for you.”He looks at me, then back at his phone.“I don’t like trannies,” he says.“Why?” I say, although without my usual fire.“You can punch Kelly in the face!” Mitzi cries.The man’s eyes widen; he blinks, looks at Mitzi and then looks at me.“Why can’t he punch you in the face?” I ask Mitzi.“You look like you’ve been punched in the face before,” Mitzi says.“You try presenting as female at a South London boys’ comprehensive!” I yell.“Comprehensive?” the man says.“Don’t be fooled by the voice,” I say. “I might sound like Alan Rickman, but I’m really quite common.”The man looks at me. His expression is odd. He has stopped dialling.I sigh and think it through.At a club, a few years back, a nice man called Steve who looked like a circus strongman asked if I would give him permission to knock me about a bit. I take a harsh view of domestic violence, and an even harsher one of violence against girls like us, but Steve’s proposition was different. What he had in mind was more of a ritual, with firm guidelines and permissions. The only reason I didn’t go along with it was because I had to be up early the next morning, but I’ve always been curious about what it would have been like.This man isn’t like kindly Steve though. This man is angry and probably dangerous. He had threatened to bite through my neck. The bit about the gristle was good, albeit terrifying.I lick my lips.“You get to slap the side of my face, open-handed, once,” I say. “If you then call the police, I’ll tell them you assaulted me.”He has not blinked, or taken his eyes off me.“Have you seen pictures of his ex?” he says unexpectedly, nodding at Mitzi. “Emma.”“I don’t know about any ex,” I said.“Simon went like that,” the man said, pointing at Mitzi’s tutu. “Emma couldn’t cope with it, so she came to me. We were together a while, and then she left. That’s what this is about.”“Oh,” I say, unsure how I feel about any of it, but anxious to get the slapping out of the way.“Yes,” the man says. “Emma was tall for a girl, athletic, nice chest, long legs, loads of thick dark hair with a fringe; big brown eyes and sex-doll lips. Nose was smaller but otherwise you’re the dead spit.”I spin around.“Mitzi!” I shout. “Am I some sort of Emma methadone?”Mitzi starts crying. Absurdly, the only thing I can think of is how her lovely makeup will be spoiled. I shake my head.“Let’s get this over with,” I say.He tenses. I keep my eyes fixed on his, but when his arm moves I flinch and blink, cursing my weakness. There’s no pain, just an odd spinning, then a greater darkness. I anticipate mecidiyeköy escort the feel of cool, dewy grass against my jangling face, but…I open my eyes. I’m still standing; I haven’t been struck at all. The darkness is the absence of light from the house now the man has switched the lights off. I stand there, and relief tinged with weird disappointment floods me like the delayed after-effects of two hefty gins. There is a patter of scampering feet and I look down at Mitzi.“I thought you were stuck,” I say.“I was, but I got better.”I nod, and head for the back fence.“Kelly?”I turn, and the moon chooses that moment to expose herself and flood the garden with dazzling white light. Mitzi glows like a celestial being and I remember why I put up with her.“Thank you,” she says.I extend my hand, she takes it and we head back over the fence into the woods behind the garden.“Is that badger still here?” I say, anxious to get back to the gin.“The fucker has retreated.”“Let’s go.”Back in the kitchen, we put half the bottle away in less than five minutes, adrenaline fuelling our drinking to the extent that I need to sit down. I stagger into the living room and slump onto one of Mitzi’s diddy but plush sofas. She follows with the drinks on a tray that has a picture of Audrey Hepburn on it and places the lot on a table she toes from under a nest by the telly. Then she sits beside me and strokes my hair until I calm down. Neither of us feels like talking.She screams.The man from next door is in the living room, like a demon we have unwittingly conjured. He wears black jeans, a black top, and no facial expression. He holds wires in hands that look like they’re used for whipping cattle.He has clearly changed his mind about the violence; or maybe he needed more kit to make a decent job of it. I am oddly relaxed, as if all of this is happening to someone else. Fuck it. He’ll lose an eye at least, and maybe a testicle.The man raises the wires.  THREE“Are these the sound cables I lent you?” The man asks Mitzi.“Ah,” Mitzi says. “Er… No.”I realise the wires are the cables we were going to use for our haunting; they just look tiny in those hands.“You borrowed cables from…” I begin to ask Mitzi, then turn to the man. “Sorry, what is your name?”“Terry.”“Yes,” Mitzi says. “He’s in IT, so it seemed like a good idea.”“IT?” I say to Terry. “From your build and general demeanour, I thought you might have been in the military.”“I was,” Terry says. “Now I’m in IT.”“And have you bitten through anyone’s neck before?” I ask.“Yes.”I expect him to say something like ‘I don’t want to talk about it’, but he doesn’t.“What was your plan, anyway?” Terry says.“We were going to convince you your house was haunted,” I say.“Is that why you were asking about frequencies?” Terry asks Mitzi.“Might be,” Mitzi says.I stare at her.“You really are a sociopath, aren’t you?” I say.“I’m not a sociopath,” Mitzi says. “I’m just organised.”Terry seems to fill the room, like dark expanding foam, without moving at all.“I’m terribly sorry about all this, Terry,” I say.“He likes being used,” Mitzi says. “And so do you.”I look at Terry and realise that like all good sociopaths Mitzi has the truth of it. Terry shrugs, coils the cables with the insouciant skill of someone who does that all the time and places the tight circles on Mitzi’s small, lacquered dining table. For a while no one says anything, and then Terry pulls a leather pouch from his back pocket and produces a third-smoked but still unfeasibly large spliff.“Ah, I have a strict no-smoking policy –”“Fuck off Mitzi,” Terry says and uses a Zippo to light the spliff.Mitzi tuts then slips off the sofa and heads into the kitchen. Terry exhales a plume of powerfully fragrant smoke and studiously ignores me. There are muttered curses from the kitchen, followed by the sound of impatient searching. I keep looking at Terry because he is suddenly the most interesting thing in the place. After a while, his eyes move so he is looking at me, but otherwise, he remains still. Mitzi comes back in with two ashtrays, one filled with water and the other with sand, and an actual fuck-off great fire extinguisher.“Really Mitzi?” I say.“The ceiling is wattle and daub,” Mitzi says. “Is it not, Terry?”“I don’t care.”Mitzi hovers, looking anxious, which seems to please Terry although neither his expression or body language change. I wonder if it’s a military technique and if so what possible use it could have in battle.I feel a sudden need to refresh my lipstick; God knows what state my makeup is in after all this excitement. My bag is by the door, so I get to my feet after an unseemly struggle against both gravity and excessive cushions to grab the reassuring luggage. It’s a mid-sized tawny leather affair with many pockets and compartments, all of which are as carefully arranged as Mitzi’s knick-knack collection. When a girl is off her face with one thing or another it’s good to know where important items are without any inconvenient rummaging. I consider heading to the loo, but for some reason don’t want to, and dither by the door.

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