HWSNBN (He Who Shall Not Be Named)

Chapter 8

Gavin joined me at the bottom of the pool by grabbing me around the waist. I hadn’t seen him, in my race to reach the other end. I turned and kissed him. That set us on another path entirely and we didn’t think of exiting the pool for quite a while, and only then after Gavin looked at his watch.

We have to keep this for another time, Jane – they’ll be here soon.

I’ll remember that and don’t think I won’t. I flashed my eyes at him and swam for the edge. He hauled himself out and held his hands out to me, lifting me as if I weighed ounces instead of stones.

I ran for the towel cupboard and dragged some out for us both, “Here, love…you’ll need another for your hair.” I wrapped one around me and gave Gavin another one. We were drying each other’s backs when Gavin’s phone rang in the kitchen.

“Shit! Hope that’s not a fucking call-out?” dropped out of his mouth as he hurried into the kitchen to answer it. I followed him, wrapping my head in a towel.

“What!” he bellowed into the phone and then he listened for a minute or two. “Dozy bugger, Luke…thought we were on a call out. Go to the Indian restaurant on the High Street and ask Raffi for a mixed bag, and say it’s for me. He’ll know what you mean and I’ll pay you when you get here.” He listened again. “Okay, in an hour; bye.”

“We should have invited Phil and Jenny.”

“We still could, Jane. I know Phil’s number and I could get Jenny’s, easily enough; that’s if you’d think she’d come?”

“I think she likes him. Didn’t you see her watching him, down in that hole? He didn’t mind what he touched and she quite admired him for that. She also get’s on with Luke, like a house on fire.”

“Okay, I’ll ring control for her number and you can ring her.”

By the time Charlie and Luke were due to arrive, we were in comfortable clothes. A taxi had been ordered for Phil and Jenny so that they didn’t have to drive, and I had the dining room decked out with some of the lovely china, from the dressers in the kitchen. All we had to do was light the candles on the table.

“This looks lovely, Jane,” Gavin said as he wrapped his arms around me.

“I’m still in awe of this room. Do you realise, I haven’t seen half the rooms in this house, yet?” I looked down the dining room and couldn’t believe I lived in such a posh place.

Gavin laughed, “We have been a bit busy since you moved in,” loaded with tonnes of innuendo, and before I could answer him, the doorbell rang. Gavin took hold of my hand and we hurried to let them in.

“Come in, please?” Gavin said and let the door swing open. Charlie’s smile was the first thing I saw. He had two bottles of wine tucked into his body which gave him a hand free to give me a hug and shake Gavin’s.

“Can’t believe this bloody mansion; great digs!”

“He talks for England! Move your ass, Charlie, this food’s getting cold,” Luke said behind him, laden with half a dozen takeaway bags, stuffed with cartons. Charlie laughed and stepped away from the door, his eyes taking in the size of the hall.

“Hi, Luke. I’ll show you where the kitchen is.” He followed me down the side of the staircase. I pushed open the kitchen door, where I had dishes warming in the oven for all the goodies he’d brought for dinner.

“Love this house, Jane,” he observed as he pulled out hot dishes with his bare hands. I helped him to fill them with food; lids back on to keep everything warm before they were ensconced in the oven again.

“Me too, Luke. I’ve only been here a couple of days, and I’d no idea Gavin had bought it for us, well over a year ago. Sneaky little bugger.”

Gavin laughed at me from the door and said, “Look who’s here?” Phil and Jenny came into the kitchen followed by Charlie.

“Thanks for the invite, Jane, and you Gavin. What a house!”

I gave her a hug and caught the smile on Phil before I got to him. “Thanks for coming, both of you, and I’ll find out what’s here, when we get the conducted tour as I’ve only seen a couple of rooms, so far.”

“We’ve just been getting acquainted,” flowed out of Gavin’s mouth to smirks from them all.

The oven slammed shut. “That’s all okay in there – if you want to do it now?” Luke offered.

“No time like the present. Come with me?” Gavin took hold of my hand to steer me through the door to the hall again with the others following, intrigued to look around this lovely house. He stopped us half-way along the hall and faced the oak panelling on our left.

Why have we stopped here?

Gavin let go of my hand and said, “Be patient, Jane.” He placed his hands either side of some vertical mouldings and pushed them apart. The wooden panels slid effortlessly, without a sound. Tears threatened at the sight before me.

The whole room was tastefully decorated. Centred, on top of the large Chinese rug was a very low and long slate table, with pads to sit on, placed on the floor around it. Against the walls were the most exquisite pieces of Chinese furniture I’d only ever seen in books. All gilded and embellished with hand-painted medallions set into the large black or red lacquered cabinets. Gavin left my side, turned on lights and walked across the room to one of a matching pair that stood either side of the large Georgian window.

When he’d opened both doors, he stood back. The same care had been taken on the inside, as well. In fact, it was even more beautiful than the outside. I don’t think it had ever been left open, long enough for daylight to fade anything, which, when I looked closely, were dozens of tiny drawers; each covered with a different part of the overall painting. Willows draped over water – mountains on small islands, boats, bridges and little men; too much to take in properly and all with a small ivory ball in the centre for a handle. The outside edge of the painting was picked out with a thin gold line on the black lacquer. Stunning.

I looked back at the others as I hadn’t heard a peep out of them. Hardly surprising, they all had their mouths open, staring at the different pieces of furniture.

I heard Gavin laughing; he’d closed the cabinet and took hold of my hand again. “I think we should eat – to quiet around here.” That woke the buggers up and they giggled to each other and us.

“Bloody hell, Gavin; was all this here when you bought the house?” Phil asked.

Gavin smiled, “No, Phil – it was an empty shell. Remember when I refused every offer to join you all at the pub? I filled my weekends and nights decorating, and hunting down everything you’ll see in this house. Thank God for the internet.”

“Remind me to book you when we find a flat?” popped out of Luke’s mouth.

Once we’d helped ourselves from the numerous dishes that filled the table, the chat started up again. Gavin was a great host and had topped everyone’s glass up a couple of times.

“Thanks for inviting us to your first dinner party, and this house is to die for.” Jenny quickly realised the relevance of the words that had fallen out of her mouth and laughed along with us; not only about our situation but also that she was a master at dealing with dead bodies.

I asked her, “What age were you when you began helping out, Jenny?”

“I suppose I was seven or eight – I don’t really remember. My granddad saw me watching him one day and asked if I wanted to come closer. I was fascinated and couldn’t learn it all quickly enough, but once I had, it wasn’t enough for me. That’s why I joined up, as soon as I was allowed, and have always taken my holidays when my mum and dad needed a break.”

Phil suddenly jumped in, “Would they object to you being in a relationship?”

Jenny flashed him a lovely smile, “No they wouldn’t, Phil. They always ask if I’ve met someone special – now, maybe I can answer them.” Phil’s emotions soured.

Half-way through the meal, Charlie rose to his feet with his glass in his hand and cleared his throat. “I’d like to say something. This is the first time we’ve been invited to dinner at a friend’s house, and I say that because we feel we’ve known you for years, instead of hours.” He raised his glass, “To Jane and Gavin.” Luke, Phil and Jenny picked up their glasses and toasted us. I was gutted and so was Gavin.

The two boys felt our emotions and it was Luke who spoke up, “You’ve both made us very welcome and maybe we haven’t put you off and we’ll see the rest of this house, one day?”

Can I say it, Gavin?

Go ahead, Jane.

“You’ve been forced by your landlady to have separate digs and we’ll rattle around in this house; do you fancy moving in and sharing it with us? We felt the same, as soon as we met you.” They got up from the table and while one gave me a hug the other shook Gavin’s hand – both so emotional they couldn’t speak. They didn’t need to; we knew exactly how they felt.

Phil got up and topped the glasses again and we sat down to finish our meal.

“There’s one other thing we will show you when we’ve finished,” Gavin said and looked at Jenny and Phil. “We have a pool and you two are welcome to use it whenever you want. We’re in it every day, before and after work.”

They looked at each other and giggled. Phil said, “I’ve been mates with you at work, since you came here, Gavin, and now you truly are my friend. That goes for you all and you know how I feel about Jenny.” He looked at her and reached for her hand.

She held it, giggled, and said, “We may like to try it out, Gavin – any objections?”

I laughed out loud, “We skinny-dip, Jenny, as long as you don’t mind?”

“Fine by me,” she looked at Phil, “Okay with you?”

“Show me the pool!”

It wasn’t long before we’d all had enough to eat and everyone helped to clear the dining room. Jenny stood at the sink and rinsed everything for the dishwasher. Gavin had asked the lads to help him with something, leaving us to natter while we tidied everything away.

“I’ve had a great time, Jane and I know Phil has. Thanks for inviting us tonight. It pushed us together, much faster than it was going. He was always so shy around me.”

“I think that’s bloody changed.” She laughed with me.

Gavin came back in and filled the kettle. “I’m making coffee as you shouldn’t swim on a full stomach, Jenny, it’s dangerous.”

“Christ, I forgot about that; perhaps another night?”

“You’ll be fine if we sit and relax a bit…to let your food go down. It doesn’t matter to us, we could eat lead and still have no problems; don’t fancy the taste though.”

Jenny was in fits, doubled up, over the sink. She stood up, “I keep forgetting you’re not human – to me you are, no matter what anyone else says.”

“That’ll do us, Jenny,” Gavin said as he collected the crockery he needed for the coffee, and laid it out on a large tray. He found an enormous cafetiere and spooned the coffee in so that it was ready when the kettle boiled.

I finished wiping down the worktops and asked, “Where are we drinking that as we should get a few more chairs, if it’s in here, Gavin?”

“Look in the pool room, Jane?”

I went to the door and the three lads were sitting on basket chairs with a table in the centre. Luke looked up, “Great pool, Jane. Come and sit down and Jenny.”

I’ll be there in a minute. We heard from Jenny.

Gavin came out, carrying the tray. I moved to give him some room and once it was on the table we sat together opposite the two lads.

Jenny came out, “I’ve put the dishwasher on, Jane saves you a job.” She sat beside Phil. It wasn’t until then that she saw the pool. “Fucking hell!” We howled with laughter. “I didn’t expect something that bloody big.” She stood up and walked over to the edge, put her hands on her hips and looked down the length of the pool.

On her way back to her seat, Gavin said, “Jane sees the dead everywhere, as you know, but what you didn’t know was that she has them hounding her until she swims on the bottom to get rid of them, for a few hours peace. That’s why I looked for a house with a pool.

“This house stood empty for a long time. It was compulsory purchased by the council when they decided to put a road through here, and it didn’t materialise. The lead on the roof was stripped and every wall was covered in black mould when I looked around it. The others sold off quickly, but this one was always in such a mess, no one gave it a second glance. When I was posted here I was in digs, saw Jane in the pub and knew we’d be together someday. I’d listened to her with her friends, and knew she loved swimming, though, not the reason why. I looked around for a house with a pool, found this one, and I filled my time rejuvenating it, in my wait until she was free.”

“How the hell did you do all this, in such a short time? Did you get builders in?” Phil asked, dumbfounded.

“Don’t be shocked by this, either of you? I don’t sleep and Jane only needs a couple of hours a night.”

“What? Not ever?” Jenny asked.

“Not since I was bitten. Vampires are awake all night, humans all day and we’re stuck in the middle, either awake for 24hours a day, or, like Jane, some have to have a couple of hours sleep.”

Charlie threw in, “We don’t either.”

“You poor sods!” Jenny exclaimed. She looked rather amused by our smirks and after a few seconds she quickly realised, it wasn’t a problem to us. “Now who looks the bloody idiot?”

Gavin laughed, “It’s a lot for you to understand, any human really. I’m surprised the team accepted us, so readily, Jenny.”

She laughed out loud and couldn’t speak for a minute, “Sorry. By the time the two lads spread it around about Jane’s antics with the boss, everyone wanted in.”

“Those poor bloody women had been tapping his shoulder for an hour and then he tried to accuse me of killing them; asking me where I was at a certain time. Bloody cheek! And he still blathered on so I showed him exactly how they were killed – he didn’t like it much.”

Amid all the giggles, Gavin cuddled me and kissed my head, “And if you hadn’t done that, Jane, we wouldn’t be heading the team.”

“We wouldn’t be here, either,” Luke added, “Or Rod. He was at our briefing with Reese.”

Something clicked in Gavin’s head, “Does that mean you’re just attached to us, like Rod?”

“Afraid we are and your SOCO team,” Charlie answered, “They mean to do it right, this time, Gavin. You’ll like Reece – cool guy who will listen to everything you have to say, to get the job done faster.”

We heard music playing, “Shit! I thought I turned that off; sorry.” Jenny raked around in her bag, mainly to shut the noise up. “My brother’s idea of a joke; I’ll give him Magic Roundabout when I see him,” she explained, just as she stopped it playing. She walked away from us to take the call. I knew she had to go only I didn’t say anything. We could hear her voice drop a tonne and say goodbye to whoever had called.

“Sorry, I have to go. They’ve got a huge job in; my dad’s had the flu for days and he’s working down in the shop. That was my mum – she’s worried. He won’t wait until the staff start work, tomorrow. Looks like I’ll have to kick his backside back to bed.”

Gavin pulled his phone out and keyed in a taxi’s number. While he ordered it she sat beside Phil, almost in tears.

“I’ll see you home, Jenny,” Phil said to her. He looked at his watch, “We’d have had to leave soon, anyway – time’s flown.”

We waved them off, having asked them to come home with us, after work, tomorrow, when they could swim as long as they wanted. They looked happy enough when they left and I noticed they were holding hands.

“Match-maker,” Gavin whispered on the way to the kitchen. The boys were drying the cups we’d used for coffee.

“We’ll be making tracks – have to feed, Gavin.”

“You don’t have to go home, Charlie. There’s a fridge full, upstairs, and it’s better than the shit you’ve had to put up with unless you buy your own?”

“We couldn’t organise anything like that, in digs. The landlady did her nut when I asked for a fridge. I had to lie and say it was for medication – well it was, wasn’t it?” He laughed, thinking about it.

We took them upstairs. Gavin said they could have his end of our floor, tonight, and tomorrow they could see the attic. They looked as intrigued as I was but Gavin didn’t give in to the pleading, from me, no matter how long I went on.

He joined me in my shower room and soon shut me up.

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