This is the second of the eight stories in the award winning Chronicles of Mark Johnson; which is on sale at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008BEDMSO
THE PORTHERN CASE
Since resolving the matter of the trapped spirits at the old Morton house a few years prior, Mark Johnson’s expertise and skills as a photojournalist were in demand again. He was now getting serious job offers for both his photographic and writing skills. Even though wealth was heading his way, Mark had not changed. He preferred to stay a recluse in his cottage by the coast, his only contact with the outside world being his lady friend, the artist Annette Palmer, and his agent, Phil Moore. He had met Annette a few months earlier while on a case. He had felt an affinity towards her from the moment they met.
Today he was out walking the dog, when the house phone rang.
“Hello, Phil, what can we do for you?" Annette asked.
“Hi, Annette. I think I might have a story for Mark, plus a chance of some art work for you at the same time.”
“Sounds interesting. Go on.”
"I've just had a call from a man called Patrick Kingsley. He said he'd like the two of you to meet him at Darringby."
“Did he say what he wanted us for, Phil?”
"No. All he said was that it would be right up your street, both for you as a painter and for Mark as a photojournalist.”
“Sounds interesting. All we need do is sell it to Mark, but we know how obstinate he can be at times.”
“You don’t need to tell me. I've known him a long time and I still can't work him out. Here he is making a living again, instead of just surviving, and you are still stuck in the back of nowhere with little comforts. Can’t you convince him to get some luxuries?”
“Now Phil, you should know there is no way I can get him to buy something unless he wants it - or I can coax him to get it for us. We're happy here. Neither of us watches the television. We have our music, our food and each other.”
“How about a new car for the pair of you? Your old one is near its end.”
“That’s true, especially as Mark can’t walk far these days, since his leg got injured.”
"Then how are we going to pitch this to get his interest?”
“I have to admit that’s going to be hard. He doesn’t go out on a limb for strangers, unless he spots something to pique his interest. Wait! I have an idea, Phil!”
“If you can get a vague idea of what this man wants, I can take the two of us out for a drive one day. I’ll take him in the direction of our mystery caller to see if he shows an interest.”
“Sneaky, but it might work," Phil laughed as they ended their call.
Days turned into weeks. Mark and Annette continued enjoying time together, loving the seclusion of their cottage. Annette sold her paintings at local fairs in the nearby town, which gave them a little extra spending money. Mark was happy taking photographs in the area, pleased to see his work admired as well as his writing being published and read. They were content with their lot.
Then one Tuesday the phone rang.
Mark answered. “Hi, Phil.”
“Hi, Mark. Is Annette in?”
“Yes, she is. I’ll get her for you. Can I tell her what it’s about?”
“Don’t worry, my friend, she’ll know.”
Mark was curious. What on earth was Phil phoning Annette about that she already knew? I wonder what can this be about? Phil only calls me ‘my friend’ when he wants something, he mused, stepping through the back door to find Annette.
As he strode into the garden, Mark observed Annette sitting in the far corner, looking out over the cove. As he watched the swooping of the gulls and guillemots amid the beauty of the countryside around them, he could see Annette watching the shoreline and could not help giving silent thanks for the gift of such a wonderful woman. They had been together for four months now, with never a cross word. Attuned to each other, they calmly discussed their differences of opinion, rather than fighting. Hugs of appreciation usually ended such debates.
“Love, Phil is on the telling-bone,” Mark called out. Recalling the television series Catweazle, he laughed at the phrase he had used.
“Oh, okay, on my way.”
As she passed him, she gave him a quick kiss and a hug. Mark knew something was afoot, but could not figure out what scheme his love and best friend were cooking up.
As Annette picked up the phone, she looked around to check where Mark was. He might be intrigued, but he always gave her privacy.
“If it’s to do with me, she will say something," Mark thought as he ambled over to the kitchen.
Phil started talking. “About the matter we discussed earlier - our client got back to me yesterday and said if you are still interested, you might be able to help solve a mystery.”
“How are you going to pitch it to Mark? You need to get him up there.”
“I have the answer already.”
“Oh! That quick? I thought it would take a lot longer.”
“You gave me the answer to our problem.”
“I did! How?"
“When you said we needed a new car! I saw one in the Market Holm Times last week that seems just right for us.”
“Well, that's lucky. It's just down the road from Darringby. Once you have the car, perhaps you can go for a ride to see what our friend wants.”
“That's what I thought we'd do.”
“He gave me directions. When you get to Darringby, take the Porthern Road, about two miles down the hill, you'll see an old derelict house that's supposedly haunted!”
“What happened there?”
“That's the mystery, nobody knows or if they do, they won't say. There have been reports of strange sightings and noises at all hours of the day.”
“That's odd! Most spirits come out at dusk. This has me really puzzled, Phil. I am truly motivated to drive Mark out there, now."
“Great news, Annette. So you think you can do it then?”
“Consider it done! When does he want to see us?”
“He didn't’ say. I explained about getting Mark involved in this and how hard it might be. We agreed that once you get Mark interested, you will phone me, then I can call him and we can see about arranging a meeting.”
“We can probably get things underway by next Tuesday. I know we will be free as Mark chose that day to get revitalized - no shooting or writing.”
When the weekend came, Annette started to drop hints about the trip.
“Darling, we really need a new car!”
“Yes. I suppose we do and we can afford one now. Let's put this poor old thing to rest; she's been good and deserves her peace now.”
“I saw the perfect car for us in the Market Holm Times last week.”
“I did wonder why you were reading it, love. Thought you might be thinking of us getting another house there.”
Annette laughed at the idea. “You! Talking of a second house? The very idea!”
“Well, what else was I to think?”
“No, I was just looking for a new car for us. It's something we need now, and Market Holm has the perfect one for us. I thought since we are free on Tuesday, we could pick it up then and later spend the day in Darringby.”
“Does this have something to do with that phone call from Phil a few days ago?”