The Terrible Case of Mr. Spoxal
The Adventures of Millie and Sandra
When a blood curdling scream rose up and spread its horror throughout the neighborhood, no-one expected it to be Mrs. Spoxal, the grocer’s wife. Millie and Sandra, who were staying with their aunt in Launceston, climbed from their beds, pulled back the curtains and squished their faces against the window. They tried to look down the street where the neighbours were all running.
‘Just open the window,’ Millie said with Sandra breathing down her neck, but Sandra only pushed in tighter.
Millie’s nose was touching the old wooden frame of the window and was certain she heard a crack.
‘Here,’ she said pulling back, and Sandra almost fell over, ‘I’ll open it.’
Millie unlatched the window and they stuck their heads outside. They were looking down the street from their upstairs bedroom when they saw all the neighbours running from their houses to see who was screaming.
‘What do you thinks going on?’ Sandra asked.
‘Don’t know but look at Mr. Chalmer’s run,’ Millie said.
They were quietly laughing when their aunt opened their door, and pulled their heads inside. They looked as guilty as they felt.
‘What do you thinks goin’ on?’ Aunt Millie asked and squeezed in between them. ‘Couldn’t get a good look from my room.’
‘Don’t know, aunty, but look at old Mr. Chalmers. He’s been running down the street since we heard the scream,’ Sandra said with a giggle.
Aunt Millie looked out the window and stifled a laugh.
‘It’s not funny. You girls should know better. You should respect your elders,’ she said with a stern voice. ‘He gardens all day. Probably has bad knees.’
There were more screams, and the neighborhood had begun to gather at the end of the street.
‘There’s nothing for it,’ their aunt said, ‘we’re going to have to go down there.’
The girls were dressed and ready to go within minutes. Aunt Millie had rushed and brushed her hair in such a hurry that when she met them at the front door, a loop of grey hair was sticking up on top of her head.
‘You’ve got a loop, aunty,’ Millie said pointing.
‘Oh, my,’ she said looking in the mirror next to the door.
She tamed her loop with a twist and a tuck, then checked the girls over, and straightened of her floral dress.
‘Ready?’ she asked.
‘As ever,’ the twins said in unison.
‘Right! Let’s go see, shall we? And Millie?’
‘Keep your guard up my girl, we’ve no idea what we’re walking into… what you’re about to see,’ she said. ‘Remember your training.’
‘Sandra?’ Aunt Millie said.
‘Keep your eyes open and remember everything you see,’ she said. ‘Millie and I will be looking beyond the scene for clues.’
The three walked to the mailbox, turned left, and knew from the crowd ahead, where to go.
‘What do you thinks happened?’ Sandra asked.
‘Not entirely sure, dear,’ their aunt said. ‘Ever seen a ghost?’
‘Yes,’ Millie said. ‘From a distance and it waved at me.’
‘Good, because I do believe we’re about to interact with one up close and personal. You’re younger. Your light’s brighter, it’ll be drawn to you, Millie. Be prepared.’
‘Okay,’ she said trying to prepare herself.
If approached, Millie thought, don’t draw attention to myself… Oh, and speak to it psychically.
On that note, she felt her aunt’s hand in hers, then saw all the neighbours, but right in front of Millie was Mr. Spoxal. He had his back to her, and he was floating. Millie was able to see the crowd right through his stomach and became caught up in a trance. She moved her hand up and it went straight through him.
‘Seeing something?’ her aunt asked squeezing her hand.
‘Mr. Spoxal,’ she whispered.
‘Ask him what happened.’
‘Hello Mr. Spoxal. You probably don’t remember me—’
‘Millie,’ he said turning to look straight at her. She was taken aback. ‘You have to find the flowers.’
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I have to find the flowers.’
Millie was shaking, but her aunt kept hold of her hand to share her power.
‘He has to find the flowers,’ Millie whispered.
‘Sandra,’ their aunt whispered, ‘take a walk around, see if you can see any flowers.’
‘Check inside too?’ she asked.
The aunt put her focus back onto Millie. She’d begun to squeeze her hand so much; she was losing circulation.
‘Millie,’ she ground between clenched teeth. ‘You need to let go a little.’
With that, Millie released her grip and her fear.
‘What’s he saying?’
‘He was murdered,’ Millie whispered. ‘What do I do?’
‘Ask him if he knows who it was?’
‘He’s shaking his head… hang on. What? Sandra?’ Millie asked.
‘What’s that ‘bout Sandra?’
‘He’s shaking his head really fast, where’s Sandra?’
‘She went over—’
‘There?’ Millie asked, pointing to the door to Mr. Spoxal’s house.
‘Yes, there,’ her aunt said letting go of her hand.
They rushed towards the open door and Mr. Spoxal had attached himself to Millie.
‘Flowers,’ he was saying and shaking his head from side to side so fast that Millie couldn’t watch without feeling sick.
‘Sandra?’ Aunt Millie called pushing her way through the crowd congregated around the body, ‘Sandra?’
Sandra had wandered around the crowd but as she reached the other side, she saw through the door, a lovely big chocolate cake on the kitchen table. It was obvious that two slices had been cut from it, but only one had been eaten.
While everyone’s busy, she’d thought, why not. They’ll never miss another slice.
She was about to take a bite when Millie reached her.
‘Put that down,’ she said, slapping it from her hand.
There was a splat as it hit the ground and chocolate splashed up Sandra’s legs.
‘What are you doing?’ she growled just as her aunt reached them.
‘What’s he doing,’ their aunt breathlessly asked.
‘He’s… oh, hang on,’ Millie said looking down at the cake. ‘Is that… I mean, are they—’
‘Flowers,’ her aunt said. ‘How odd.’
‘Eww. What are they doing in a cake?’ Sandra asked and dry retched.
She had a bad experience when she was younger, one day she ate all the honey suckle flowers in their yard and got sick. She hadn’t really liked flowers since.
‘Millie, ask if he knows who murdered him? We’ll have a look around,’ her aunt whispered, ‘and remember, ghosts can get mixed up when they get to the other side. You have to listen to every word.’
‘Okay,’ Millie said, then looked up to look Mr. Spoxal in the eyes.
While Sandra and their aunt quietly searched the small kitchen, Millie prepared herself to talk with the ghost again. Her stomach was churning, but that was her cross to bear.
‘Um… Mr. … Mr. Spoxal?’ she asked. ‘Do you know who murdered you?’
‘Flowers… with flowers,’ he said then let out a moan that made Millie shiver.
‘He just keeps saying flowers, with flowers—’
‘With?’ her aunt asked.
‘Ask him if he knows what kind of flowers?’
‘Do you know what kind of flowers?’ she asked.
‘Ooooohhh leeeee,’ he moaned.
‘Ooooohhh leeeee,’ he moaned again, and it moved through her body.
Millie shivered and took a deep breath to calm her nerves before telling the others what he said.
‘He said, Oley. Only he moaned it.’
‘Were you scared?’ Sandra asked as she lifted an old newspaper from the table.
‘Of course, I was!’
‘How delicious,’ Sandra said with a cheeky smile.
‘Wait until you see your first ghost, then tell me how delicious it is,’ Millie snapped.
‘What are you doing in here,’ a male voice asked from the doorway.
The girls all spun on their heels to see who it was.
‘Oh, Frank,’ their aunt said, ‘looking for clues of course.’
Aunt Millie smiled and Frank, the local policeman, grinned.
‘Thought that’s what was going on,’ he said. ‘I see you’ve got help this time.’
‘Yes, these are my nieces, Sandra and Millie,’ she said.
‘So,’ he said, ‘what’ve ya got for me?’
‘Well, there’s an odd flower in the cake… see there?’ their aunt said pointing to the piece on the floor.
‘Aye, I see,’ he said.
He bent down, and with a pencil, he shifted the cake around to get a better look.
‘So, what does it mean?’ he asked.
‘How should I know?’ Aunt Millie asked.
‘Come on, just give it up, Mill’s,’ he said with a smile.
‘Well, Millie, this one,’ she said pointing to young Millie, ‘said Mr. Spoxal keeps talking about the flowers and when she asked, he said “Oley,” does that mean anything to you?’
‘And when did young Millie speak with Mr. Spoxal,’ he asked taking a notepad from his pocket.
‘Why, just now,’ she said.
‘Come on, Mill’s, you know I can’t write that stuff down.’
‘I know, but his ghost—’
‘Shush,’ he said and looked out the door to make sure no-one was listening. ‘Can you call … it, something else?’
‘How would you like me to address him, the newly deceased, the dearly departed, what?’
Frank took a deep breath, closed his notepad, and said, ‘We’ll go with ghost.’ Then whispered. ‘But keep it down… an’ how’d she drag you two into this?’
‘They’re special,’ their aunt said, ‘now can we get back to the flowers before all and sundry are upon us?’
‘Okay,’ have you asked where he got the cake?’
‘I never thought about that—’
‘It’s why I get the big bucks,’ he said.
‘Go on Millie, ask him?’
Millie asked the ghost, but his voice, his body had begun to fade.
‘Please,’ she said. ‘Can you tell me before you go? Who gave you the cake?’
‘Charming… flowers… cake… I die.’
Millie repeated his message as the last of Mr. Spoxal drifted into the ether.
‘Charming, flowers,’ their aunt said and kept repeating the words. Then suddenly she said quite loud, ‘Oley.’
All were looking at her, waiting for her revelation but their aunt had gone into a trance.
‘What’s happening?’ Sandra asked.
‘She’s checking her memories,’ Millie said. ‘To—’
‘To see what it is she’s remembered,’ Frank said and Millie smiled.
‘I’ve got it,’ their aunt finally said, ‘but why? Why? Why? Oh dear, that’s it.’
‘What’s it,’ everyone asked.
‘Mrs. Spoxal had an admirer,’ she began, ‘It was the talk of the town. I’m surprised you don’t know… anyway, it wasn’t reciprocated, but the gentleman was insistent, and he’s a flower connoisseur. Grows Oleander in his front yard. A highly toxic poison.’
‘You don’t mean… Mr. Chalmers?’ Frank asked, unable to hide his surprise.
‘Go ask him if he gave Mrs. Spoxal a chocolate cake,’ aunty said. ‘He won’t know we’ve found the flowers.’
Frank made his way through a much more orderly crowd since the police had arrived. Aunt Millie and the twins peered around the door and watched as Frank approached old Mr. Chalmers. They couldn’t hear what was being said but saw the moment Mr. Chalmers realised he’d been caught. He tried to run away, and the girls had to stifle their laughter… all of them.
Frank stood watching him with a half-smile, then took two strides and grabbed the fleeing man by his shoulder. He made his arrest, Mrs. Spoxal was a mess, and Aunt Millie straightened her dress then took the girl’s home.
‘How are you feeling, Millie?’ she asked. ‘It was your first real ghost, and I’m glad it was Mr. Spoxal, some of them can be quite nasty.’
‘I wasn’t feeling too bad until you said that.’
‘Anyway,’ Sandra said. ‘You promised fun, and excitement. I think you fulfilled your promise, hey Mil’s?’
‘Can’t argue with that.’
‘Cake anyone?’ their aunt asked.
With the pressure of the day behind them, they couldn’t help but laugh.
‘I’ll have mine without flowers, please,’ Sandra called as she left the room.
‘Fruit cake please,’ Millie added.