Perkins’ Ghost – Chapter Twenty Seven

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CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN

FOLLOWING ALL the grief that had been connected with David’s death, the whole town seemed pleased when word spread that Tiffany was pregnant. The general feeling of doom and gloom evaporated and a celebratory mood emerged. The quilting-bee group got together and began stitching a quilt for the unborn child; a group of Tiffany’s closest friends were at her door with swatches of colours for the baby’s room; a new crib was delivered and not a resident of Liverpool was seen without a smile. Some made comments that one life had been traded for another, others speculated on the name.

~ ~ ~

“Sergeant Hill, Ernie here,” Ernie Growers said, into the telephone.  “I don’t quite know how to tell you this but Perkins’ grave cover is back in its normal position.”

“When did that happen?”

“Well that’s the strange part, see. I was raking up in the back corner, where I was when you came by to talk to me. You know where? That day when you put the yellow police tape to mark off the area? Well, I was putting the leaves in the green bin like the reverend told me to. Then, when I looked up I saw that the yellow tape was gone. I thought it must have been you crawling around and I was curious to see what you were up to, so I called out to you. When I didn’t get an answer I wandered over to see what was up. Well, there was nobody there, but everything was back as it was supposed to be, all neat and tidy, as if it had never been moved. Even the yellow ribbon was all gone. Was it you who took it Sergeant?” he asked, and paused waiting for an answer.

“No, it wasn’t me Ernie.”

He continued, “I was sure that there was nobody there except me, so I wandered around for a while, even though I knew I’d not get paid for wasting time and stuff. If you ask me, I’d say old man Perkins must have been out for a stroll and decided to crawl back in there. But, you know, I’m not much of an expert in that sort of stuff.”

“Hold it there Ernie,” Hill interrupted. The last thing he wanted to hear about was ghosts.

“Yes Sergeant.”

“Where are you now?”

“I’m down at the corner store and I’m using their phone. I’m not getting paid for this wandering around but I thought it was important. I can’t afford one of those mobile gadgets, not that I’d know how to operate it.”

“Ernie! Listen to me!” Hill said, losing patience and almost shouting.

“You don’t have to yell, I’m only just down the street from you, not in Hong Kong.”

“Ernie, I’d like to meet up with you, over at the cemetery. Would that work for you?” Hill asked very slowly and patiently, checking his pockets for a tenner to give Ernie a little something for his troubles.

“You know I’m reliable. My ma always told me….”

“Ernie! I’ll be there in ten minutes,” Hill interrupted again, avoiding a long discussion of Ernie’s family, dead or alive.

 

“You see that Sergeant?” Ernie pointed to the grave. “Even the grass is trimmed as if I’d done it myself. But I didn’t. I wasn’t going to get myself in trouble interfering with police business. See there, trimmed as neat as can be, even under where the grave cover was tilted? I’m no detective, though I always thought I’d like to be one. I went to work out in the oilfields in Alberta for a while but that didn’t work out so well either. I also tried my hand at….”

“Ernie! Let’s just stick to the facts.”

“Yes Sergeant. I’d say that it must have occurred between ten and ten fifteen. I say that because I finished my break at ten. I sat right over there so as I could keep an eye on things just as you told me to. I ate my ham and cheese sandwich. I then walked over to that far corner and relieved myself. I didn’t do it on no graves either. I got my respect. My ma always said….”

“Ernie! The facts.”

“So when I was done doing my you know what? I turned and started picking up leaves and looked this way. At first I thought my eyesight was going, because there it was suddenly all neat and tidy. I called your name of course. There weren’t nobody else around and no equipment was fixing nothing. I can guarantee you that. And when you didn’t answer I walked straight over here for a better look and there was no mistaking it. It was all in order. Truthfully, I have to say that I was pleased to see it was fixed. Then I got worried and feared that you’d think it was me messing around. I take my job seriously you know. My ma told me….”

“Ernie…! And what about the yellow police tape?”

“Well now that’s a tough one to explain see. Like I told you. I looked up and it was gone. How can something that glows bright as the sunshine just evaporate into thin air? I thought about that one when I was walking all the way to the phone. And by the way, Betty didn’t believe me when I told her I was helping you out. I had to tell her it was police business before she’d let me use the phone. She looked at me like I was lying, but I know the truth and I don’t tell no lies. My mama told me….”

“Ernie! Here…here’s a little something for your troubles.” Hill said, handing him a ten dollar bill. “And I’ll talk to Betty, over at the convenience store, to let her know I had asked you to keep an eye.”

“Does this mean I’m on the payroll? If only ma could see me now,” he said, taking the money.

“No, Ernie…you’re not on the payroll. I’m just paying you for the extra time that you put in to making the call,” Hill said.

“Gee Sergeant, you didn’t have to do that,” Ernie said, blushing and pushing the bill deeply into his pocket.

 

Hill left the cemetery but returned later when Ernie was gone. He needed some time to be alone near the grave. It was almost noon and the sun was high enough so that the only shadows were those from the old-growth trees. He searched for signs of footprints or those of heavy equipment. There were none. He tried lifting the edge of the heavy grave cover but it would not even budge. He photographed it from every angle and ran his hand over the lettering that had been cut into the marble.

Hill was lost in concentration and jumped when Ernie came up behind him and said, “I thought you might be coming on back here. It’s got me puzzled too. I forgot to mention that there was this here button on the grave cover.” He took a tiny tissue-wrapped parcel from his pocket and opened it to reveal a button. “It was lying right there in the center. I slipped it into my pocket when I went to phone you, fearing that someone would come along and steal it when I was gone. At first I thought it was a nut fallen from the tree, then I saw those there holes and wondered if maybe it was evidence.”

Hill turned the button between his fingers and immediately knew that it was old, as old as the KOR buttons that he and the other three had. But it was not a KOR button. He felt that it might be similar to one that Perkins would have worn on his jacket more than two hundred years ago. He wondered if maybe Glenda was right and that Perkins had in fact walked amongst them. Hill quickly realized how foolish that thought was. He pushed the absurd idea aside as he slipped the little tissue-package into his pocket.

“You know your police stuff Ernie, I’ve got to give you that. I’ll keep it as evidence for now but you can rest assured that you will get it back when the investigation is closed.”

“Really? I haven’t ever had any evidence of my own before. In fact I don’t get much given to me at all. My ma always said….”

“Ernie! Thanks and I’ll keep in touch. I know that I can always rely on you.”

“I might be over at the park too,” he said, proudly. “I’ve been hired to clean up the trash over there. My business is growing. Maybe one day I’ll be one of those troubadours like my ma said I would.”

“Would that be like an entrepreneur?” asked Hill.

“That’s right. That’s what I meant. You know your words good. I didn’t get out of grade eight.”

END OF CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN 

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“Linda has published fifteen books. She blogs about the publishing world, posts useful tips on the challenges a writer faces, including marketing and promoting your work, how to build your online platform, how to get reviews and how to self-publish.”