Read Constable & Toop Online

Authors: Gareth P. Jones

Constable & Toop

Praise for
Constable & Toop
:
a ghost story extraordinaire

‘An extraordinarily witty story that accurately depicts the lives of the dead and compellingly describes the death of the living.'

The Ghost of Oscar Wilde

‘As with its London setting, this book contains all that life can afford and all that death will allow. I thoroughly recommend it to all readers, the living and the dead alike.'

The Ghost of Dr Johnson

‘There were many moments during the reading of Mr Jones' thrilling tale that I would undoubtedly have held my breath with excitement had there been any breath in my lungs to hold.'

The Ghost of Mary Shelley

‘I wish I had written this story.'

The Ghost of Charles Dickens

‘An intriguingly constructed story with an inventive young hero and an intricate mystery that had me gripped right up to the final page.'

The Ghost of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

‘I very much enjoyed the melancholy and tragedy contained within these pages. The humour was less to my tastes.'

The Ghost of Emily Brontë

‘Most ghost stories are written for the living. Here, finally, a story has been penned that will, in equal measure, appeal to the dead.'

The Ghost of Henry James

‘A singular literary joy from a most fanciful writer with a vivid imagination.'

The Ghost of Jane Austen

‘Unputdownable.'

The Ghost of Samuel Pepys

‘
Constable & Toop
is a book full of life and crammed with death. All in all, a splendidly macabre and amusing tale.'

The Ghost of Edgar Allan Poe

The author thanks C.P.J Field & Co for their kind permission to use the name
Constable & Toop

Contents

Praise for
Constable & Toop

Title Page

Dedication

Prologue: The Birth of a Ghost

1. Lapsewood's Paperwork

2. The Body in the Coffin

3. The Beauty of Alice Biggins

4. Uncle Jack

5. Penhaligan's Problem

6. Mr Constable's Good Nature

7. General Colt

8. The New Tenants of Aysgarth House

9. The Anger of Viola Trump

10. The Boy Tanner

11. Mr Gliddon's Dying Wish

12. Lady Aysgarth's Diary

13. The Man in Grey

14. The Blackened Church

15. The Death of a Ghost

16. A Trail of Infection

17. Doris McNally's New Residency

18. The Bell Tower

19. The Disappearance of Lil' Mags

20. The Boy in the Church

21. Lapsewood's Return

22. Charlie and Jack

23. Breakfasting Alone

24. The Vault

25. The Exorcism of St Winifred's School

26. A Parent's Past

27. Mrs Pringle

28. The Parisian Problem

29. Clara's List

30. The Burial of Mr Gliddon

31. Flouting Procedure

32. A Visitor

33. The End of Nell

34. Mr Sternwell's Last Will and Testament

35. Grunt in London

36. What If . . .

37. Stalemate

38. Jack's Last Breakfast

39. Destiny for the Dead

40. The Last Words of Enforcer Dawlish

41. One Tree Hill

42. Breaking Out

43. The Girl in the Kitchen

44. Emily's New Home

45. The Respectable Mr Reeve

46. Last Orders

47. Mr Reeve's Place Of Business

48. Those Who Mourn

49. Breaking In

50. Sam and Tanner

51. The Kitchen Killer

52. Fresh Blood

53. The Central Records Library

54. A New Ghost

55. An Apprenticeship of Thievery

56. The Responsibility of Murder

57. Poor Mrs Preston

58. The Return of Inspector Savage

59. A French Intrusion

60. Always Alice

61. Emily's Play

62. The Ballad of Paddy O'Twain

63. The Hell Hound

64. A Widow's Grief

65. Colonel Penhaligan's Agenda

66. The Work of the Devil

67. An Entertaining Exorcism

68. The Eleventh Hole

69. A Father's Guilt

70. Grunt's Decline

71. An Unexpected Visitor

72. Jack's Final Victim

73. The French Angel

74. The New Resident of Aysgarth House

75. Jack's Funeral

76. The Endless Corridor

77. Honor Oak

The writing of
Constable & Toop
: a note from the author

Copyright

For Madi and Lauren Bliss

Prologue

The Birth of a Ghost

In her last few moments of life, as the blood gushed from the knife wound in her neck, Emily Wilkins found her thoughts drifting to her mother's death. Mrs Wilkins had lain on her deathbed for weeks without uttering a word until finally, one day, she sat up, fixed her eyes upon Emily and spoke.

‘You're a good girl, ain't you, Em?'

‘I try to be, Mam,' she replied.

‘You deserve more than I've ever been able to get for you.'

‘I've never wanted for anything,' said Emily.

Her mother shook her head. ‘You never had no schooling, but you're a bright girl. I only wish I had done better by you.'

‘I just want you to get well,' Emily pleaded.

‘There's no chance of that now, my love,' said her mother. ‘I can hear them knocking for me.'

‘Who?' Emily looked up. ‘There's no one knocking.'

Mrs Wilkins smiled weakly. ‘Soon I'll have no choice but to answer. But promise me this, Em. You need to make the most of this life because who knows what lies on the other side of that door.'

‘What door, Mam?'

Her mother pointed at the blank wall beside her bed. Her smile was so full of sadness and regret that it drew yet more tears from Emily's eyes. She wiped her face with the cloth she was using to mop her mother's forehead.

Her mother coughed; a dry, throaty cough that sent a splatter of bloody phlegm into the palm of her hand, before she fell back and died, leaving Emily alone and orphaned.

At the time, Emily had childishly believed this final cough was her mother's body ejecting all of its blood before dying.

She realised how very wrong she was as the red liquid now gushed from her own throat. The human body contained much more than a handful of dry blood. The murdering hands that were taking Emily's life were covered in it.

The hands had appeared out of nowhere.

The right had closed around her throat. The left, around her mouth. Emily tasted the salty sweat of the skin as she struggled and kicked, but the hands were strong and this wasn't the first time they had been put to such use.

The blade slid across her neck so smoothly she barely felt it cut the skin. The blood gushed out like water breaking through a dam until the murderer's right hand closed around the wound, stopping the flow.

‘Can't 'ave you dyin' in the street like a dog, can we, girl?' snarled a voice. ‘That would never do.'

The hands dragged her up the dark, cobbled alleyway.

She could hear knocking.

‘Don't you heed that, girl,' said the gruff voice. ‘We ain't far now. Hang on yet.'

1

Lapsewood's Paperwork

Lapsewood dipped his pen into the pot of black ink, licked his fingers and pulled a piece of paper from the pile on his desk. In the top right-hand corner he wrote the date: 16th January 1884. His in-tray was stacked higher than ever and today's Dispatch documents had not been delivered yet. It concerned him greatly.

He didn't mind the work. Quite the contrary. In life, Lapsewood had lived to work. In death, he was no different. Work was orderly. It was structured. It was safe. It meant arriving early, sitting down at his desk and working his way through the paperwork to be completed by the end of the day.

Work was satisfying.

Except recently, there had been an unsettling amount of paperwork still left in the in-tray when the final bell tolled.

He tried staying late to get on top of it, but if old Mr Turnbull, the night watchman, found him at his desk he would take the opportunity to recount the tale of his bloody Crimean death, while idly scratching the gaping bayonet wound through his heart.

Lapsewood tried working on Sundays, but still the paperwork grew and grew. Perhaps he was being too conscientious about his processing, taking too long over each one, but he couldn't bear the thought of speeding up at the expense of doing a good job. The Bureau was all that stood between an orderly afterlife and utter chaos, and Lapsewood's Dispatch documents were a vital cog in that great machine.

The office door opened. ‘Morning, Lapsewood,' said Grunt.

‘Morning,' Lapsewood responded. He didn't look up.

Grunt was new. He had been hanged at Newgate for the murder of his wife and wore a silk scarf around his neck to hide the red marks from the rope. But the soft skin around his throat had been broken during the hanging, meaning that now, with no blood left in his veins, grey fluid seeped out, collecting at the top of the scarf. Every so often, Grunt would wipe it away with a spotted kerchief from his waistcoat pocket. Lapsewood found this habit utterly unacceptable. In his less charitable moments, he secretly wished that Grunt had been guilty of his crime, thus making him ineligible for Official Ghost Status and unable to work at the Bureau.

Grunt, however, was innocent. He had been hanged for another man's crime.

‘Penhaligan wants to see you,' said Grunt.

Lapsewood felt one of his headaches coming. This was not good news. Not good news at all. It had to be the paperwork. He knew what would happen. He would be called into Colonel Penhaligan's office, given a dressing down, then escorted to the Vault where he would reside until he was tried and convicted of professional incompetence.

‘Did he say what it was about?' he asked.

‘Nah,' said Grunt. ‘He just told me to tell you to come up and see him urgently.'

‘Urgently? He used the word
urgently
?'

‘I think so. Might've been
immediately
. Or just
now
. It was something like that, anyway.'

‘Grunt, this is important. Exactly what did he say?'

‘He didn't
say
anything,' replied Grunt. ‘He more bellowed . . .'

Grunt's smile suggested this was supposed to be funny.

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