Justin wove his way through the thick crowd, running the gauntlet of the daily subway rush. The daily grind of getting to the office was wearing him down. Day in, day out, never ending, never changing. He grumbled struggling into the already packed carriage. He swore under his breath as he found himself pressed up against a tall thickset man. The strong smell of sweat filled his nostrils, making him gag slightly. He tried to manoeuvre himself away only to get pressed up against an equally as tall woman; unable to turn away, he was forced to stare into her cleavage for the rest of the journey. Two stops later Justin squeezed himself out of the sardine-can train and breathed with relief as he walked the half block to his office building.
Maureen, his secretary, checked her pad, shaking her blond pony tailed head. “No, Mr. Randall. Do you want coffee?”
Justin smiled “That would be great Mo. Then can you check my diary and bring in my appointments please.” He opened the door to his office, walked over to his desk and dropped his briefcase on the floor, before slouching back into the padded leather chair behind his desk.
What was he doing? Why the hell did he put himself through this everyday when he could just as easily work from the comfort of his home? All he needed was a phone, a secretary willing to work for him via phone conversations, and an internet connection. He swung his seat around so he could look out of the window. What a view! He waved at the guy in the building opposite his. The dark haired man waved back, blushing and grinning.
Justin chuckled to himself; two years he had been waving to that same guy, and he still hadn’t got the nerve up to call him or go by his office.
“Mr. Randall, I’ve got your appointments.” Maureen entered, her pad in one hand and a steaming mug of coffee in the other. “You have a 9:30 with Mr. Howard.” Justin rolled his eyes; he’d forgotten he had to meet with the director today first thing. Maureen ignored him and carried on. “An eleven with Susan Jefferys, and oh, yes, a 2:30 with Dunhelm, Fforbes and Co.”
“Dunhelm, Fforbes? Oh right! I know now.” Justin shuffled his papers, searching for the letter he had received earlier that week from the British solicitors. He was intrigued; why would a British company want to contact him? Maureen coughed and pointed to her watch, grinning smugly.
“Bitch,” Justin huffed.
“Takes one to know one, sweetie,” The secretary snapped back. “Hope he fires your ass.”
Every time he had to see the stuffy director they went through the same silly banter. “You’d miss me.”
“Like I’d miss the plague,” Maureen retaliated.
Justin picked up his case “Wish me luck?”
Maureen smiled. “You don’t need it babe, you’ve been blessed by an angel.”
“I do it so beautifully though.”
Justin walked out of his office, still shaking his head. He’d miss her if he left. No, he’d just have to put up with the train.
After he had been balled out by Howard, met the not-so-delightful Ms. Jefferys, and spent most of the meeting trying to keep her hands off his ass, he jumped the train over to Dunhelm Fforbes offices.
Justin sat in the spacious reception waiting for his appointment. The room was decorated with tasteful black and white prints of former partners, and English landscapes and buildings. He fixed his eyes on a rather large print of Tower Bridge spanning the river Thames in London. He studied the print; double-decker busses, black cabs and right-hand drive cars. ‘Wow I wonder if I’ll ever see it for myself?’ he wondered.
“Mr. Randall, Mr. Fforbes will see you now.”
Justin jumped at the receptionist’s sudden interruption of his thoughts. He picked up his briefcase and jacket, and followed her into another spacious room. Fforbes came from behind his desk, his hand outstretched for Justin to shake. “Mr. Randall, so pleased you could make it. Please take a seat. Coffee?”
Justin nodded “Please.”
Fforbes pressed his intercom. “Penny… two coffees please, pet.” He turned his attention back to the blond curly-haired man sitting and waiting patiently for an explanation. “I’m sure you are wondering why I asked to meet with you.”
“Well, I have to admit I am curious.” Justin smiled his thanks as a cup of coffee was placed before him along with a plate of chocolate biscuits. His eyes lit up as he was offered one. “Thank you.” He bit into the thick Cadbury chocolate covered cookie, dropping crumbs down his shirt.
“Do you know a gentleman by the name of Duncan Meriden?”
Justin thought for a moment then shook his head again. “Can’t say the name rings a bell.”
Fforbes opened a dossier, “Let me see, Duncan Meriden … apparently he was your great, great uncle … your dads side I believe.” The solicitor studied his notes. “Yes, I’m right. Well, Mr. Randall, it seems that Mr. Meridian had no other relatives he liked, because he has left his whole estate to you. Congratulations. You have just joined the elite to the tune of £250,000,000.”
Justin choked on his biscuit, sending splatters of chewed cookie over the desk.
“Fuck! I mean … I mean … I mean fuck!”
Forbes was quite understanding and ignored Justin’s outburst. “ That’s approximately $387,499,999 give or take a few cents, at the exchange rate as it stands today. ”
The blood drained from Justin’s face as he stared at the piece of paper placed in his hands.
“I believe there’s also a house. Du-dum-der-dum,” the older man sang to himself as he rifled through yet more papers, finally finding the one he was looking for. “Yes, I was right again. It’s an 18th century manor house, thirty miles outside London. Oh, there’s a clause!”
Justin was still stunned. “London,” he whispered. “$390,000,000. This is unreal.”
Fforbes wasn’t listening. “Mmmm. Your uncle stipulates that for you to inherit the money, you must live in the manor house for a total of two months. If you spend one night away in the stipulated time, you will forfeit the inheritance and it will go to Battersea Dogs Home. “ Fforbes looked over his spectacles at the shocked client. “Mr. Randall?” He pressed his intercom “Penny, a glass of brandy please, pet.” Fforbes folded his notes back into his dossier as Penny came in, holding a large brandy glass.
“I’m rich. I’m rich.” Justin repeated himself over and over in a monotone tone voice. “$390,000,000,” He looked at the elderly solicitor. “RICH.” He screeched, leaping out of his chair as if the penny had just dropped. He screamed and began po-going round the room. “I’m rich, I’M RICH, I’M RICH.” Fforbes looked at the brandy glass, looked at Justin then downed the amber liquid. He had the sudden feeling he was going to need it more.
The rest of Justin’s day was a blur. He had left Dunhelm, Fforbes with a plane ticket clenched tightly in his hand. He signed paper after paper in a total daze, and was now was standing staring at on open suitcase. Fforbes said he would be met at Heathrow and driven out to the house, where he would be filled in on the finer details. He took a long slow breath, inhaling in deeply so his chest rose, then released it. A wide grin spread across his face as he remembered Howard’s face as he told him to shove his job where the sun don’t shine. He had kissed Maureen goodbye and written her a check for $100,000 before he left. Justin chucked all his clothes into the open trunk, then snapped the lid closed, sitting on it so he could do up the locks.
He took one more look at his apartment and scooped up his little kitten, popping him into a carrier. He patted his pocket ensuring he had kitty’s pet passport; after all, he didn’t want poor little kitty to spend six months in quarantine when they reached London. Holding kitty in one hand and his trunk in the other, he dragged it to the elevator and down to the street where a big black limo was waiting to take them to JFK.
Hours later, Justin stood waiting for his luggage to come off the carousel. Kitty was still curled in his carrier, out for the count from the drugs that had been administered to his tiny body so he would sleep through the flight. Spotting his trunk, he reluctantly urged his tired body into motion, catching hold of the strap and hauling the heavy luggage from the convayerbelt. He heaved it onto his trolley and pushed it out through customs, pausing only to have his passport checked.
Justin stepped out through the double doors and into arrivals scanning the waiting throng. He was meant to be met. He caught sight of a sign with his name on it. He made his way over to the young woman wearing a black suit and a peaked cap.
“Ma’am, I’m Justin Randall.”
The young woman smiled, “I’m Janis, I will take you out to the house, and Mr. Dunhelm will meet you there. Shall I take your cat, sir?” Justin handed kitty over and followed her out to the waiting car.
“Does it ever do anything but rain here?” Justin stared out through the side window at the constant downpour.
“Believe it or not, up till this morning we were experiencing a heat wave,” she laughed.
“Now that I find hard to believe,” he laughed back.
The house was magnificent. Janis led the way and he followed, carrying kitty, who had come round on the car journey. The kitten spat, his back arched, as they entered the large high-ceiling hall. “What’s wrong kitty? Don’t you like our new home?” Justin placed the carrier on the floor and spun around, taking in the glory of the 18th century abode.
A tall dark-haired man appeared suddenly, startling Justin. “You must be our young American friend, I’m Gregory Dunhelm,” Justin shook his outstretched hand.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Randall. Shall we proceed into the lounge?” The dark haired solicitor extended his arm, indicating the room he meant, and Justin walked through the open doorway into a large room, that was dominated by a beautifully carved fireplace. White dustsheets covered all the furniture; even the portraits hanging on the walls were protected. Dunhelm pulled a sheet off, revealing an early 20th century couch.
“Please sit down, Mr. Randall. I took the liberty of having some tea made for us.” As if on cue, a young woman entered the room carrying a tray. She placed it on top of a still covered table, then left.
“I’ve arranged for your luggage to be taken up to the master bedroom. Sugar?” Dunhelm asked as he poured the tea.
Justin shook his head, declining the sweetener.
“Your uncle was very attached to this place, so attached in fact that he has put a clause in his will, that if you decide after the two months, that you don’t want to continue living here, you can close the house up. You are not allowed to sell it.” Dunhelm sipped his drink, smacking his lips in appreciation. “His wishes are that the house is passed on to your favourite nephew after your death, you must also ensure that you re-invest the majority of your wealth and pass that on too. If you decide to live in the house then, you have no commitment to do either.”
“I take it then that Uncle Duncan didn’t live here.”
“No he spent the required two months then left. Although he did modernise the place a little.”
Justin looked around him, trying to see where.
“Yes, spent a small fortune having gas lighting put in.”
Justin raised his eyebrows. “Gas!”
The dark haired solicitor sniggered. “You have to remember, Mr. Randall, that Mr. Meriden moved into the house in 1899. The house has been empty since.”
“How old was he?” Justin exclaimed.
The solicitor sniggered again. “He has been dead a number of years; the actual bequest was made in 1983. You should have been informed on your 21st birthday, but I’m ashamed to say we have only just tracked you down.”
“What’s that?” Justin was distracted by a large oddly shaped covered piece of furniture.
“It’s a grand piano.”
“Ohh, cool.” The young blond jumped up and rushed over ripping the dustsheets away, revealing a highly polished Rosewood instrument. He opened it and tapped out a simple tune.
The house stirred at the sound of the notes.
“So all this is mine?” Justin asked, clarifying his situation.
“Yes sir, so long as you stay in the house alone for the next sixty days.” Dunhelm gathered up his papers and stuffed them into his briefcase. “You may, of course, go out during the day, sightseeing and what-not. I do believe there is a car in the garage … your uncle had one installed for you.” The solicitor held out his hand and Justin shook it. “That’s it, then. I’ll leave you to acquaint yourself with your new home. I do hope you will be very happy here.” He handed Justin a card. “If you need anything, give me a call.”
Justin saw him out to where Janis was waiting at the limousine. He waved goodbye, before going back inside clutching a big bunch of keys. Now that everyone was gone, the house seemed even bigger, and his footsteps echoed in the hall as he made his way into the lounge. He sat down on the couch and looked around him, making a mental note of what he needed to buy. He decided that a stereo and a TV were the of the up-most importance. Of course that was after he had called an electrician.
Justin stirred, and rolled over on the old couch, the small tabby kitten had curled up beside him. Kitty lifted his triangular head, sniffing the air. A small growl rumbled in his chest and the hair on the back of his neck stood up. He hissed, spitting at the empty room, his back arched. Whispers floated through the room, soothing, reassuring, and kitty relaxed slightly. His bright gold eyes staring at something only he could see. He began to purr loudly, rubbing his small body against the nothingness, curling his tail and lifting up as if being stroked. Kitty mewed, and jumped off the couch following the spectre to the kitchen. The battery operated refrigerator opened on its own, and a pot of cream floated across to the worktop, gently pouring into a waiting saucer, which then floated to the floor. Kitty meowed loudly in thanks and tucked into the treat.
The spectre drifted silently back to where Justin lay sleeping. He reached out brushing aside a stray curl. “Is it you?” He whispered, “I’ve been alone for so long. Stay with me.” the sleeping man stretched, yawning, smacking his lips together as he opened his eyes. The supernatural being dissolved into nothingness before Justin could focus.
The lithe blond yawned loudly and swung his legs off the couch, he lit a candle before walking sleepily into the kitchen looking for his kitten. “Kitty-cat? Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” He paused confused; he didn’t remember pouring cream for his pet. He certainly didn’t remember leaving the fridge door open and the cream on the side. “Boy kitty-cat I must be more jet lagged than I thought.” He scooped up the tiny fur-ball petting him, making him purr contentedly. “Lets go find our bedroom baby.”
Justin carried the kitten up the wide-open plan staircase and along the long landing, opening doors, holding his candle high and peering into the darkness. Finally he found the master bedroom. His trunk had been opened and his clothes hung neatly in his wardrobe. ‘I must thank Dunhelm,’ he thought. He dropped the kitten onto his bed and went into the en-suite bathroom.
On the bed the fluffy tabby sat up sniffing the air again, and began to purr, rolling over for an unseen hand to rub his belly. He jumped up and swatted playfully in the air at a feather that seemed to dance just out of his reach. Justin leaned against the doorframe, watching as the kitten leaped and danced, clawing at the tempting plumage. Justin chuckled as the cat leaped and doing a half somersault landed on the bedroom floor, with a very indignant look on his face.
Justin picked up the tiny cat and dropped him back on the bed, then crawled under the covers himself, snuggling down. He suddenly remembered the candle and sat back up, blowing it out before he settled himself again.
As Justin slept a figure began to form beside him. Elongated limbs filled out and thickened. A soft sigh escaped the ghostly lips, as the entity reached out and caressed the sleeping mans face.
“Is it you?” the soft sweet voice asked. The spectre’s steel blue eyes burned into Justin’s face, trying to see the answer. His rich golden brown hair fell loosely round his face as he leaned in and brushed his mouth over that of Justin’s, a smile lit up his face as the man responded in his sleep. The ghost laid next to Justin all night watching him, committing every line, every _expression to his memory. As the sun began to rise, the entity sighed softly and faded into thin air.
Kitty jumped up on to his owners chest and pushed his little black nose against Justin’s, he mewed loudly. Justin opened his eyes suddenly, jumping as the golden eyes peered piteously into his.
“Oh kitty-cat let me sleep.”
“You want to go potty don’t you?”
The kitten jumped off the bed purring deep in his chest as he paced up and down by the closed door. Reluctantly, Justin rolled out of bed and let the desperate kitten out, following him down to the kitchen, where his litter tray was sitting neatly by the wall. “Well now I’m up, I had better get organised.” He scooped up the cat that was now busy winding himself round his legs and carried him into the living room, dropping him onto the couch. Justin began to pull the dustsheets off the rest of the furniture, folding each one neatly. He cringed at the old stuffy armchairs.
“Item no. 1 on my list kitty-cat. A new suite.” The kitten purred contentedly and began to wash himself. “Well you sure settled in, being as you was all teeth and claws when we first arrived.”
Justin carried on uncovering the rest of the room. When all the furniture was revealed, he started on the paintings. Generations of young men stared back at him, all in their early to mid twenties.
“Gee, I guess they don’t have any women in this family. Either that or they really didn’t like them much.” The kitten just looked up at him and mewed. Justin uncovered another portrait, and gasped, stepping back to get the full effect of the beautiful oil painting.
It was of a young man, again in his twenties. The man had a long regal nose and a slightly pointed chin that sported a thin strip of hair. High sculptured cheekbones set off sapphire blue eyes, that Justin felt looked straight into his soul. The whole image was framed by a mane of golden brown curls that hung down to the young mans shoulders. “Well hello beautiful.” Justin leaned in trying to make out the signature, giving up when he couldn’t. “You have to move you know that don’t you?” Justin looked round trying to decide where to hang the painting. “There has to be a better place, somewhere where you can be seen easily from anywhere in the room.” carefully he lifted the delicate painting down, frowning at the dirt that marred the lovely face. ‘He needs a good clean too’ he thought. “Aha!” his unexpected outburst caused the kitten to jump so high he fell off the couch. He leaned the portrait against a table and reached up, removing the mirror that hung over the fireplace, lifting it down and replacing it with the beautiful young man. “Now sweetheart, isn’t that nicer? What do you think kitty-cat?” Justin turned to look at his pet rolling his eyes as the kitten lifted his leg and proceeded to lick his balls, totally uninterested.
Most of the morning was spend in exploring. Justin went through every room, uncovering furniture and pictures. He found more paintings of the enigmatic young man, most of which had been stored away. He pulled them out, wiping away the dust and arranging them so he could study them all at the same time. “Now why would a lovely like you be relegated to the back of a cupboard?” he asked aloud, going over in his mind which rooms would benefit from the beauty he had uncovered. Casually he glanced at his watch. “Shit!” he left the paintings where they lay running down to the hallway, grabbing his jacket as he passed.
He wrenched open the door of the garage. “Ohh fuck me!” he exclaimed as he fell into a crouch in front of the car, his hands spread over his face, as he stared in wonder. There in the dark confines of the brick built garage was a bright red 1972 Ferrari Dino 246GT. Tears welled in Justin’s eyes as he propelled himself to his feet and walked round the incredible piece of machinery. “Uncle Duncan” He whispered, “I love you.” With shaking hands he unlocked the car, sliding behind the wheel, getting a feel of it. Justin took a deep breath and started her up. The engine roared to life, and Justin nearly wet himself with anticipation. Sliding it into gear he eased off the hand break and pressed the accelerator. The bright red motorcar leaped forward, and Justin screamed with excitement, applying more pressure to the pedal he took off in the direction of the nearest village.
Finding an electrician wasn’t as simple as he thought it was going to be, firstly he had a hell of a problem just understanding what the hell was being said to him, but then when they found out where he was living he found himself the centre of attention. Everyone wanting to know where he came from, and how long he was planning to stay.
Justin stood at the counter of the pokey post office, as the postmistress sorted through her personal files looking for what she called a ‘sparky’, Justin hoped she meant an electrician but really didn’t like to ask.
An old man standing just behind him spoke up. “So, you are the young heir to Meriden’s fortune then?”
Justin turned and smiled, “Yes sir, I arrived yesterday.”
“So you spend your first night in the old house then?” The old man continued, not really listening to Justin’s reply.
“Well yeah, as soon as I can get the electrics sorted and a phone installed it will be quite cool.” Justin grinned at the postmistress as she handed him a piece of paper, with a phone number on it.
“Have you met the ghost yet?”
Justin froze. “Ghost… What ghost?” He swallowed hard, not many things scared him, but the supernatural was different.
The old man grinned. “I take it that old bugger didn’t mention the place is haunted when he left it to ya?”
“No, no one said a word.” Justin’s mind was working overtime trying to remember everything he had been told the previous day.
The old man volunteered some more information. “I was just a lad when Duncan Meriden came to the house, he was about your age, didn’t stay long, just long enough to inherit his fortune. Then he locked the place up and never went near it again.”
Justin wet his lips. “This ghost, is it malevolent?
The old man laughed. “Joshua, malevolent! Never.”
“He has a name?” Justin looked incredulously at the senior citizen.
“Of course he has a name. Poor, poor Joshua. He’s been alone for so long. No one stays you see, not past the sixty days. They can’t cope with Joshua’s presence, one of the inheritors even attempted to have him exorcised.”
“And?” Justin asked getting a sudden idea.
“Failed of course.”
“Oh” Justin was crestfallen.
“See Joshua wasn’t ready to go.” The old man handed over his pension book to the postmistress, who was listening closely to the conversation.
“It was such a tragedy, what happened to him.” She added. “It’s no wonder he’s trapped in that house.”
Justin’s interest was sparked again. “What … what happened to him?”
“Died of a broken heart he did. It’s a bit of a legend round here.” The old man added.
“Tragic.” The postmistress agreed.
Justin raked his fingers through his hair. “Tell me then!”
The old man rubbed his chin. “Joshua was … how can I put this? Not batting on the same cricket team as the rest of us chaps.”
“You mean he was gay?”
The postmistress smiled, “In them days dear it was illegal in this country. Joshua was said to be a lovely looking boy, and although most folks round here knew of his preferences, no one talked about it.”
It was obvious that the pair had told this story more than once before because as one finished talking the other took up the narrative.
“His father hated the fact that his son wasn’t interested in girls, but the final straw was when Joshua met Justin,” the old man said.
The postmistress continued. “His father went ballistic, locked Joshua up and drove his lover out of the area. Rumours said that he killed the boy. Poor Joshua was never allowed out of the house again. He died a few years later, tragic waste of his life.”
“It was after old Mr Chasez had died that his brother took over the house and it was him that first passed the house to his favourite nephew, stipulating the conditions of inheritance.” The old man leaned on his stick as he spoke. “ Over the years many youngsters have moved in, only to leave.”
Justin listened intently to the mournful tale of the two star-crossed lovers. “Why doesn’t anyone stay?” He asked softly.
The old man smiled. “Only they know that. Bye Doris, bye young man. Maybe I’ll see you again, that’s if you decide to stay.” The old man left the shop.
Doris waited patiently while Justin held the door for the elderly gentleman then asked, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“You could tell me how I go about getting a phone put in.”
Going back to the house was hard; he opened the door warily, inspecting the hallway. He crept inside, closing the door behind him. He leaned back, his hand still on the handle. “Hello?” He called. “I’m coming in.” apprehensively he stepped away from the door and keeping careful vigilance made his way to the living room. The kitten sat up and mewed loudly making him jump.
“Holy shit!” He exclaimed. “Kitty you scared the crap out of me, all those ghost stories are making me jumpy. Like ghosts really exist,”
The kitten licked his paw and wrapped it round his ear, gazing up at the beautiful longhaired man sitting next to him, with his golden eyes.
Justin giggled and walked over to the fireplace, gazing at the lovely man portrayed. “So you are Joshua?” He said.
The ghost stood up from where he sat next to the kitten and moved to behind Justin’s shoulder. He reached out a ghostly hand and caressed the side of the blonds face.
Justin shivered and reached up trailing his fingers down the path that Joshua had just touched.
“Is it you?” Joshua whispered into Justin’s ear before he faded away. The blond man stared into the sapphire blue eyes of the man in the portrait, and shivered.
“What is it you are waiting for Joshua? Why can’t you rest?” he asked. A candle flickered alight on the fireplace as Justin watched, mesmerised, as a melody filled the air. Justin snatched up his kitten and ran to his bedroom, locking the door behind him. He vaulted into his bed, pulling the covers up over his head, shaking. Kitty sat next to Justin and watched as Joshua walked through the door and sat on the bed by his terrified owner. He purred loudly and rubbed his lithe body against the spectre. Joshua unthinkingly stroked the small animal watching Justin till the first rays of light broke through the window.