Authors: Gillian Larkin
not supposed to kill the fairies, you’re supposed to save them!”
they keep getting in the way. I’m trying to get to the diamonds,” I said.
time you kill a fairy you add 30 seconds to your time. And if you kill more
than ten fairies, which you nearly have, you’ll have to go back to level 1,”
Mark patiently explained to me.
took my hands away from the keyboard. “I give up! It’s too frustrating. I don’t
know how you can play these games all day, let alone design them.”
fun, once you get the hang of it. Making virtual worlds is great, you can do
what you like,” Mark
said with a grin.
stood up. “I’d better get on. You pay me to clean your home, not to play
my fault for slowing you down. My latest game is nearly finished and I wanted
to see how someone ... less experienced would cope with the beginning,” Mark
not sure if that’s a compliment! Shall I clean the bathroom this time?” I
nodded and then said, “Sit down a minute, Julia. I wanted to ask you something.
It sounds silly but I’ll ask you anyway. Do you believe in ghosts?”
didn’t know what to say to that, so I didn’t say anything. I sat back down and
waited for him to continue.
looked nervous as he carried on, “It’s probably my imagination but I’m sure I
can hear things, and sometimes I see things.”
things?” I asked.
hear a little girl crying for help. And then I hear screams and the sound of
looked around the apartment. “Well, you are living in a converted mill. I think
young children used to work in mills like these. You might have a ghost of some
poor child who got trapped in a machine and was mangled to death.”
doesn’t make me feel better at all!” Mark said. “It’s probably nothing. I
haven’t been sleeping well and it’ll be my imagination working overtime. One
more thing, a favour?”
looked at my watch. I would be late for my next cleaning job if I didn’t hurry
won’t take long,” Mark said. “I’d like your unbiased opinion on the complete
version of this game. From a beginner’s point of view.”
“As someone a bit dim?” I said with a smile.
never said that! You’re not dim at all. Someone intelligent who can tell me if
the game doesn’t make sense in parts. I can email you the prototype version and
you could have a quick look. You’d be doing me a big favour,” Mark said.
you have someone to do that for you? A games expert?” I asked.
frowned. “I do, but I’ve got a feeling that they’re not as trustworthy as they
used to be.”
was flattered that Mark would trust me with his latest game creation. “Okay.
I’ll do it. It might take me a few days to look at it properly.”
smiled. “Thanks Julia, you’re probably thinking I’ve gone mad. Talking about
ghosts and thinking my colleagues are out to get me.”
smiled back. I didn’t think Mark was mad, but he certainly wasn’t his normal
got your email haven’t I?” Mark asked.
was a loud beeping noise and a man’s face appeared on the computer screen in
front of us.
was Jasper Parker. He grinned at me like a crocodile would grin at its next
if it isn’t the delectable Julia,” Jasper said, he
almost licked his lips.
shivered. There was something about Jasper that I just didn’t like.
said a polite hello to Jasper and then stood up. “I’ll leave you to your call,”
I said to Mark.
walked to the kitchen area and picked up my cleaning supplies. I didn’t mean to
be nosey but I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation between Mark and
Jasper. Mainly because Jasper was shouting.
on, man! The game must be nearly ready by now. I’ve got three companies in
Japan waiting to buy it. I can get you big money! You don’t have to do
anything, let me do it all the talking,” Jasper was saying.
quietly answered, “I’ve told you before, I’m using the local company that I’ve
always used. They supported me when I first started out and I’m more than happy
to stay with them. Have you heard the word ‘loyalty’ before, Jasper?”
snorted. “Loyalty won’t make you rich. Just say yes and I’ll get things
didn’t want to hear anymore so I took my cleaning things into the bathroom. I
closed the door behind me so I didn’t have to listen to Jasper badgering Mark.
didn’t take me long to clean the bathroom. I straightened some bottles and had
a wipe around. I suspected that Mark cleaned his apartment before I came round
so that he could have more time to chat with me. It must be lonely working from
was still arguing with Mark when I came out of the bathroom. I raised my hand
in farewell to Mark. He waved back.
was a knock at the door. I motioned to Mark that I would open it.
opened the door to Annabel Christie. She did her usual examination of me,
looking me up and down, her nose wrinkling in disgust.
own nose wrinkled. Annabel’s perfume was obviously expensive but it was so
overpowering that it made my eyes water.
clutched her handbag closer and said, “Hello Julia. Don’t you have some ... scrubbing
certainly do,” I said, trying to smile. “Are you coming in?”
held her head up and walked past me.
didn’t want to hang around and listen to the ex spouses arguing. Mark told me
that Annabel only came round when she needed something, usually money. Even
though I didn’t want to know, he told me how much maintenance he pays her. It was
more per month than I made all year.
I closed the door I heard Jasper calling out, “Annabel! How beautiful you look
today? When are you going to come down to London and marry me?”
laughed as Mark replied, “A train leaves every thirty minutes. I can book her a
ticket straight away.”
were my busiest days and I was exhausted when I got home. I checked my messages.
None from my children. Too busy living it up at university no doubt. There was
one from my dad.
took my coat off, eased my shoes from my aching feet and then phoned my dad.
love. I’ve had a few calls about new cleaning jobs for you. I’ve got the names
and addresses. You’ll have to get someone to work for you soon, you can’t keep
putting in such long hours,” Dad said.
collapsed onto the settee, “I know but I’m too busy working to find anyone.”
can do it,” Dad offered. “It’ll give me something to do.”
Dad, I don’t know what I’d do without you. I’ll come over this weekend and
we’ll try and sort something out. How’s Mum?”
got head lice again. I’ve told her to keep away from the children in her class
but she won’t listen to me. I’ll be glad when she retires from that school.
I’ve had to go out and get that special shampoo again,” Dad complained. “The
man at the shop laughed when he saw me. He said they should start delivering
the stuff to me and save me the journey!”
chatted for a little while longer. I took down the details of potential new
clients and said goodbye to Dad.
turned on my computer. It was so old that it needed five minutes to warm up. I
went into the kitchen and put a ready meal in the microwave - tuna pasta bake.
By the time it was cooked my computer was ready to go.
logged onto my emails to see if there was anything urgent. I saw an email from
Mark with the subject title ‘Here’s the game! Enjoy!’
was far too tired to open the game now. I looked at the other emails. Nothing
needed immediate attention so I turned the computer off and then tucked into my
wished later that I had opened Mark’s email straight away. Perhaps things might
have turned out differently.
was back at Canal View Court on Thursday morning.
the caretaker, was standing outside the lift. He looked worried.
Steve, is something wrong?” I asked.
you clean for Mark Castle on Monday?” he said.
Why?” I put my cleaning bag down.
he say anything about going away? On holiday perhaps?” Steve asked.
He only tells me if it interferes with when I’m going to clean for him again,”
pointed to a pile of post, “If Mark goes away he tells me to collect his post
and to drop it into his apartment. Look at that pile. He hasn’t collected his
post for 2 days now. And you know how particular he is about collecting his
is strange,” I agreed. “Have you knocked on his door?”
nodded, “There’s been no answer but I’m sure I heard some sort of noise inside.
I didn’t want to use my master key in case he was in the middle of one of those
games of his. I wouldn’t want to disturb him.”
picked up my cleaning bag. “I’m due at Ivy Brown’s apartment now. We can go and
check on Mark on the way. If he’s in the middle of something, and we disturb
him, I’ll tell him it was my idea to check on him.”
rubbed the back of his neck, “There’s something else. The master key to the
apartments, I’ve lost it. Or it might have been stolen. I have a spare but my
bosses will go crazy if they find out I’ve lost the original.”
do you normally keep it?”
a hook in my office. And I keep my office locked. It’s a mystery. I’m sure I
didn’t leave it anywhere,” Steve said worriedly.
can have a good look for your key later. Let’s go and check on Mark first,” I
got into the lift.
the way up Steve said, “I could do with some more of your business cards. We’ve
got new people moving in and I always suggest you as a cleaner.”
smiled. “I know you do, Steve, and I can’t thank you enough. I haven’t got any
cards with me but I’ll drop some off next time.”
don’t have to pay me, you know, every time you get a new client through me,”
Steve looked uncomfortable. “I don’t like taking your money, you work hard for
absolutely insist on paying you. It’s only a small amount and I declare it on
my taxes! I love cleaning these apartments. They’re much nicer than some of the
places I’ve cleaned.”
got out of the lift and walked towards Mark’s door. I could hear something.
sounds like the game Mark was showing me the other day,” I said.
he is away with his fairies! We don’t need to bother him,” Steve began to walk
of a sudden I felt uneasy.
stopped Steve. “I think you should open the door. I’ve got a feeling that
something terrible has happened to Mark.”
was lying on the floor near his computer. I called out his name and ran over.
he all right?” Steve’s voice trembled.
didn’t take me long to discover that Mark was dead.
need to phone the police, and an ambulance,” I told Steve. I didn’t know what the
procedure was for dealing with a dead body, I’d never found one before.
walked over and crouched next to me. His hands shook as he touched Mark on the
arm, “Is he ... dead?”
nodded. “Do you want me to phone the police?”
straightened up. “No, I’ll do it.”
took out his phone and was soon talking to someone. I looked at Mark. His face
was twisted. There was a bottle of pills lying open at his side. I recognised
the bottle from his bathroom, but there was something different about the pills,
they looked a darker blue than normal.
finished on the phone. He walked closer to Mark and looked at his face.
looks like he’s been scared to death. Do you think it was his heart? He had a
weak heart, you know.”
didn’t know, he never spoke about it. I noticed the pills in his bedroom, and
the ones next to his bed. I didn’t like to ask him about them,” I answered.
went on, “He used to work for a marketing firm in London. He told me it was a
stressful job and he had to work long hours. His wife, well ex wife now, kept
wanting more and more things. He had a heart attack when he was forty.”
that why he works alone now? Less stress?” I asked.
be. I think he has to keep taking tablets, to keep his heart healthy. My
granddad has the same ones but they’re much stronger,” Steve said. Then he
sighed, “If it was a heart attack, that’s an awful way to go, all on his own.”
agreed. “What did the police say?”
sending someone round now. They said they’d get an ambulance sorted too. Will
you be okay here on your own? I’ll go downstairs and wait for the police.”
be fine, I’ll just ring Ivy Brown and let her know I’ll be late today.”
left me alone with the dead body.
wasn’t scared. It didn’t feel like a dead body. It was Mark. Someone who I’d
become friends with over the years.
looked around the room. I noticed the computer game was still playing. He must
have been putting the final touches to it. I’m surprised the computer hadn’t
gone into sleep mode if it hadn’t been touched for a while. Mine did.
didn’t know how long Mark had been dead, although he’d felt cold when I checked
him for vital signs.
Mark had died from a heart attack, what had brought it on? His tablets were
near by. If Mark took some at the onset of an attack, why didn’t they work?
was beginning to get a peculiar feeling about Mark’s death.