I can’t believe that it was so long ago that I first saw her. What must be over 45 years? The childhood memory is one of those few that are still vivid to me.
My dad was looking after the club known in those days as the “Hollies.”
It wasn’t his normal job he was a taxi driver, but he volunteered to run the place whilst Dougie and Millie went on holiday. I idolised my father and went everywhere with him, so I found myself helping clear up the club that particular evening. The one and only time I saw her.
My shoulders slumped immediately my father spoke. “Go up to the billiard room and clear the glasses up into the dumb waiter.”
“Can I take Candy with me?” I pleaded.
“Of course. But there really is nothing up there to be scared of, Pedro. It’s just us men blaming our bad shots on something more than inept snooker.”
His words didn’t make me feel any better and taking Candy our German shepherd dog wouldn’t help much either she was scared of the room as well.
The billiard room, everyone knew it was haunted. The men always spoke of how when they were playing snooker, suddenly the ball would shoot of at a different angle. Or how certain coloured balls would have been hidden in other parts of the room when they came up to play their first game of the day. Glasses moved from where they were placed and an atmosphere that could not be explained.
Although I had never seen her, I knew it was a she. And knew something bad had happened in that room. It was strange that the ghost was a she. The club was a men’s only venue and it really was a stuffy masculine place. But the worse place was that room.
I dragged myself slowly up the huge staircase with Candy trailing reluctantly behind me, she was already trembling and by the time my hand touched the big brass door knob so was I.
I peered into the room, the lights were always dim and it just made it worse. The heavy oak wood paneling dragged the atmosphere down even more. A smell of cigars and stale beer pervaded the air.
I started quickly to pick up the glasses and place them in the dumb waiter. Faintly the scratching noise began, getting louder and more frantic. I tried to shut the noise out.
“Mice”, my Dad had tried to tell me the last time I heard it. “Place is infested with them” Bloody big mice I had thought, not convinced.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw something. I figure in black and white. I swirled round, nothing. “Silly.” I said to myself she won’t show herself to you.
Candy was following me round like a bad smell, with one eye on the door ready for her quick escape. I had left the door open deluding myself that it would make things better. But the heavy oak door slowly creaked back on in hinges to shut itself and we were trapped for now.
Above one of the snooker tables the light flickered as if a bulb was going to go. And then I heard her. “I didn’t mean to. Please don’t put me in there. It‘s dark I‘m scared .Please no.” And then sobbing. And the scratching got louder. More frenzied.
I froze. Candy was cowering behind my legs trying to hide from – from nothing. There was nothing. Only the sobbing. And the scratching.
I bolted for the door and flung it open wildly. I ran full pelt down the stairs Candy overtaking me before we reached the last step.
As I rushed into the main bar my father must have seen the look of fear on my face. I ran towards him and he opened his arms. “What’s the matter Pedro?” he said softly.
“Nothing, I thought there was someone in the room and ….” I trailed off.
My dad smiled down at me benevolently, “There is nothing up there. It’s just a very creepy room. Too many male egos rest in there. I suppose I will have to go and finish clearing up there instead.”
He turned toward the same stairs I had just catapulted myself down.
“Daddy, if they ever pulled the panels down, what do you think they would find underneath?” I suddenly asked.
My father frowned, “Well probably pink walls. It was a girl’s school many years ago. Run by French nuns for the daughters of rich local gentry. Why? What do you think they would find?”
“Dead bodies. Something horrible happened in there I know it I can feel it. I heard her crying, they killed her. I know they did.”
My father had turned back, recognising my fear, a barely discernable frown on his face. “I think we will leave the glasses for the morning. Come on its time to go home. Mum will be waiting up for us. I shouldn’t have bought you out it’s much too late for you.”
We locked up together and walked over to his taxi. I loved his taxi. I loved the leather seats and the shinning black. I always felt special and safe in there.
As we pulled away I looked up at the window of the billiard room. And there she was, the face of her anyway. She stared for a second at me, pale as moonlight, she had an almost petulant look on her face, as if disappointed I was leaving her, but within seconds she was gone. I was about to tell my dad but thought better of it.
And now I’m back in my home town and each day I drive past the building and each time my head turns and glances up at the window. Do I hope I will see her? Or do I hope she was just my childish imagination?
One day they will knock the building down and then the truth of the place will be known. But for now I drive past and remember the scratching and the crying.