I have been informed by an Englishman that the term mini-van is not used in England and they have no generic name for that type of vehicle. Also a van is always a commercial vehicle. The Space Wagon was the first mini-van that was sold in England, so I am using that name.
Jonathan was dressed for school, wearing an almost complete uniform, gray shorts, light blue shirt and light blue knee socks. His gray and blue striped tie, which always reminded him of a noose, in his short trouser pocket and carrying his jumper. He took an apple out of the fruit basket and then picking up his father's keys, he held them up, saying, “I'll start the car and move it into the drive, okay, Da?”
Since he had done it over a hundred times before, his father just gave a wave. Jonathan was early this morning and neither Ricky nor Denny, his little brothers, who he rudely, but with secret affection, referred to as The Pests, were down yet. Taking a bite out of his apple, he was cheerfully thinking that he had put one over on them this morning.
Opening the door of the Space Wagon, he threw his backpack and jumper into the back seat where he would be sitting and got behind the wheel. Rolling his window down he fastened his seat belt, turning the key to start the Space Wagon and then pushed the garage door opener. As the door went up, he could see Ricky and Denny standing by the door. Sticking out his tongue at them, he slumped down in his seat belt where he could just reach the pedals and see over the steering wheel, put the Space Wagon in Drive. Ricky, the older of his two little brothers at nine and a half and as tall though much slimmer than Jonathan who was ten and a half, waved his fist at his older brother.
Jonathan just laughed at him. Denny was jumping up and down and then suddenly dashed back into the house. “Has to take a pee,” thought Jonathan to himself grinning with triumph as he stopped the Space Wagon on the slightly inclined drive and carefully put the mini-van in Park and put the handbrake on. He got back into a more comfortable position though leaving his seatbelt on until his father came out.
Ricky pulled open the side door and climbed in and did up his seat belt, pouting and muttering under his breath. He knew full well that complaining out loud to his older brother would do no good. He left the door open for Denny.
Their father preferred not to drive with the radio on when he was alone, so it was always off in the mornings. Jonathan turned it back on and listened as his favorite show came on. He didn't like much of the music, but it was a request line and he enjoyed showing off by making a request every morning and this morning was a special morning. He hit the speed dial on the hands free mobile phone.
The radio announcer came on the line, “This is Paul Reynolds, All Request Line, who do we have on the line.”
Jonathan said, with some excitement, “Hi Paul, this is Jonathan.”
Paul said with amusement, “Ah, the birdman. I'll just put you on the air. Well people our favorite little birdman has called again this morning. I don't think he's missed a school morning yet this year. What can we play for the birdman this morning.” Jonathan grimaced with annoyance. He hated the nickname Reynolds had stuck him with. He explained, “It's my mum and dad's anniversary today. My oldest brother Tony called and told me to request Hey Jude, by the Beatles.” Inside the house his parents were in the upstairs bathroom finishing up and they grinned at each other.
Abruptly, Denny yelled in his ear, “Jonny, the cars moving!!”
Checking to make sure Jonathan said, “Yer daft, it's in Park and the handbrake is on.” he looked out the window and they were indeed moving. “Yer right. Bloody hell.” He slumped down in his seat to stomp on the brake pedal and it went right to the floor and stayed there.
Jonathan pushed himself back up and looked over his left shoulder at his brother, “Ricky, get out the car, now!! And make sure you jump well clear!!” he barked as the Space Wagon was picking up speed. He was glad it was the athletic Ricky and not Denny. Denny, like Jonathan, had been small for his age but in the past two months he had added fifteen centimeters to his height to catch up to his peers and still tended to be a little clumsy, at the most inconvenient of times. He tried to undo his own seat beat, but it was stuck.
Jonathan was unaware he was still on the radio and wouldn't have cared if he'd realized that thousands of people could hear him, he was too frightened. He could see in the rear view mirror that Ricky was getting up from the ground and Jonathan was relieved Ricky hadn't been hurt. Jonathan tried to turn off the engine but the key was stuck as well and when he tried to put the gearlever into reverse, it wouldn't move. His parents were in a panic and were racing down the stairs to the front door.
Then it was too late, a hundred and fifty years ago this portion of the driveway had been blasted out of solid rock and the sides were at least sixty centimeters high on either side almost to the road and there was nowhere to get off. The Space Wagon was on the steeper portion of the driveway now and was picking up speed. Jonathan could see his parents just rushing out of the house in the rearview mirror just before the driveway curved away. Luckily, the steering wheel was still working, though nothing else was.
Jonathan's panic began to subside as he realized that this early in the morning the road wouldn't be very busy and with luck he could just shoot out of the drive and across into the field on the other side.
Jonathan's dread jacked up again as he turned the final curve in the driveway and with horror saw the Dawkins mini-bus, which should have gone by at least fifteen minutes before, stuck right in the middle of the driveway, no way to pass either in front or in back.
“Bloody hell!!!” Jonathan swore almost calmly. He knew all the kids on that bus. Most of them were friends of his. He turned the wheel to get off of the driveway at the only place where it was possible. Five years before the bridge had been shored up and in order to get to it they had bulldozed an opening into the side of the driveway just wide enough to get their machines in. Despite Jonathan inexperience at steering he hit it just right. The Space Wagon slid as neatly as you please through the opening and sped across the grass going through the flimsy wooden guard rail, plunging into the fast moving river ten meters below.
Jonathan suddenly found himself sitting on a chair outside of an office door. At first, he thought he had been dreaming and was outside the headmaster's office, but a very American voice from inside the office disabused him of that notion. “Come on in deary, the door's open.”
Jonathan got up cautiously and opened the door. A blonde woman was sitting on top of the desk with her feet on a chair painting her toenails. About twenty-five Jonathan realized that she was what on telly would be called a blonde bimbo.
“Yeah, honey,” she said, grinning at him, “That's what Harry's wife called me just before she pushed me overboard.” She pouted, “Now how was I supposed to know he was married. He certainly wasn't advertising the fact.”
Jonathan looked around wildly, before blurting out, “I didn't say anything!”
She said with amusement, “No, honey, but you thought it and most of the staff around here are perfectly capable of reading minds.” She smiled again, a twinkle, in her eye,
“Where is here,” Jonathan asked, completely confused.
She explained, “I guess if you had been a church goer, which I know you weren't, you'd call this Limbo. Personally I just call it the Waiting Room.”
“You mean, I'm dead?” Jonathan asked numbly.
She cocked her head, frowning a bit, before saying, “Now how should I put this, Grasshopa? Should I break it to you gently, or be completely frank? Ah yes, I think I'll be frank. As a doornail, young Jonathan Heron.”
“I think I need to sit down,” Jonathan said weakly.
She said uneasily, “Now, don't you go getting sick on me, Jonathan David Heron, after all you're already dead and you're not allowed to die twice.”
“I think I'll sit down anyway.” Jonathan said looking around and spying a chair behind the desk and wandered over to it, feeling mentally if not physically, wobbly.
Once seated he looked up at the blonde who was now looming above him still painting her toenails. “Who are you, you sure don't look like Saint Peter.”
She relaxed a little, telling him, “I'm Dawn, Dawn Farelli and I'm afraid you won't be able to see Saint Peter for some time.”
“How long?” he asked.
She said, distractedly, “Well, there was a teensy-weensy error in your case and I'm afraid that...”
Jonathan jumped up and yelled out, “How long?”
Dawn pouted again, saying, “Well you don't have to shout, I was going to get to it. In time.”
“How long?” Jonathan shouted, even louder.
“Well,” and then in a rush “Sixty-two years four months two weeks three days ten hours thirty-five minutes and ten seconds.”
Jonathan fell back into his chair and squeaked out, “Who are you anyway, Mr. Spock, or Commander Data. That's an awful long time. Can't I see him any sooner?”
“I'm afraid not, he's all booked up way into the next century.” Dawn said, shrugging her shoulders.
“What am I supposed to do in the meantime?” Jonathan asked.
“Well you could wait here.” Dawn said hunching her shoulder a bit expecting the next yell.
“Not likely, what are the other options.” Jonathan yelled. It seemed to be the only way to get answers out of her.
“Well, the only other one is that you can go back as a ghost and wait on earth until it's time to return.” she told him.
“Haunting and stuff, like that,” Jonathan looked interested, though only because of his schoolboy bloodymindedness.
Dawn shook her head saying disapprovingly, “I'm afraid not. That's no longer allowed, except under special circumstances.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do for sixty-two years? Heck, I never even liked waiting a half an hour for the pictures.” Jonathan said forlornly, spirits down.
“Well, it's been three weeks and they still haven't solved your murder.” Dawn mentioned.
“Murder!” Jonathan yelled again. She seemed to bring it out in him. To be fair she brought it out in a lot of people, Jonathan was just the latest. “Who'd want to murder me?”
She said hesitently, “Ah, sorry, I'm not allowed to tell you that. If you decide to go back I can maybe give you a hint.” Jonathan was glaring at Dawn and she weakened, “Well maybe a broad hint.” When Jonathan still glared, he did it so well, he'd had a lot of practice on The Pests alias his brothers. “All right I'll tell you who fixed the Space Wagon. That's my final offer.”
Grudgingly, Jonathan nodded, “All right, that'll do.”
She explained, “But you'll have to go through the proper authorities. Since all leads have dried up, for the present they've palmed it... er they've assigned it to Detective Constable Ivor McWilliams and you're in luck, he just happens to believe in ghosts.” Dawn grinned triumphantly.
Jonathan looked down at his school gear. Surprisingly he was wearing his jumper which, had been on the passenger seat and his noose, alias his tie. He asked, “Do I have do wear all this stuff? It was bad enough when I was going to school, I don't want to be seen dead in this getup.” When Dawn laughed at what she thought was a joke Jonathan said indignantly, “I wasn't joking, I don't want to be seen DEAD in this stuff.”
Dawn told him, “Humph. Well it's considered bad taste to go naked or in your underwear, but aside from that nobody will care what you wear. Only McWilliams will be able to see you anyway.”
Immediately Jonathan stripped off jumper, tie and shirt. Under the shirt, he was wearing a T shirt with a hand in the victory salute.
Dawn looked at him and raised her eyebrows, saying, “Somehow that doesn't seem to be something you'd choose.”
“The Pests chose it for my last birthday.” Jonathan said affectionately. “They didn't know what it meant. They thought it was a rude gesture and were very disappointed when they learned it wasn't.”
“You love your little brothers don't you?” Dawn commiserated.
“Yeah,” Jonathan said a little huskily. “I do. Who made the scheduling error and how come it took so long to get here? It wasn't you, was it?” he asked suspiciously.
“No, it wasn't,” Dawn said with spirit. “This guy made the same mistake with me three years ago. I gave him a good kick in the n... Well, just say I let him have it good. Usually we don't feel pain but he's screwed up a couple of times in the last hundred years and the supervisor decided to let him feel it for a few minutes and I was wearing pointed shoes. But now he's screwed up your life as well and then he went and put you on ice, to hide his little mistake. We just found out about it and brought you here immediately. He's going to get demoted this time.”
“All right, Dawn,” said Jonathan with jubilation, giving her a high five. “Now, you were going to tell me who fixed the Space Wagon.”
Dawn told him that, “He has a small garage at 245 Noble Road and his name is Ronald Noble. Pure coincidence as far as I know. Now, once you get in contact with McWilliams, you'll be able to find him wherever he happens to go.”
Suddenly, Jonathan was sitting in the back seat of a police car. It was very old and not in very good shape. The man driving was in his mid-twenties with dark brown hair, a little long for a policeman and he was smoking a pipe.
Jonathan spoke up, “They really gave you a fancy car, didn't they, Ivor?” he said, ironically
Not even questioning the sound of a voice coming from a backseat he knew had been empty a few minutes ago, Ivor McWilliams looked in his rear view mirror and could see Jonathan now sitting in that backseat. The fact that he could also see right through him didn't faze him a bit. Jonathan disappeared from the back seat and reappeared in the front passenger seat, sitting sideways looking at the man.
McWilliams said with a bit of a grin, “Actually, I figure I'm lucky to still be on the force. When I was on foot patrol, three cars ran over my foot and broke bones and another hit me in the leg and broke that. I thought that was it for my career in law enforcement, but they grudgingly admitted that it wasn't my fault. Instead they transferred me to the CID and use me as a gopher. Not as glamorous as I imagined police work would be when I was growing up, but I'm still helping to provide a service to the public.”
“Well, my source says that you've been palmed off with my murder investigation.” Jonathan said, wincing as they almost hit a parked car.
“Jonathan Heron?” said Ivor quietly. He might have been a little accident prone, but he wasn't slow.
“In person.” and then after holding up a hand, Jonathan said with a grin of his own, “Well almost in person, if I can see through me I'm sure that you can as well.”
“You're the first ghost I've actually talked to,” McWilliams commented.
Jonathan told him, more seriously, “Well you're the first live person I've talked to since I've been dead, so that makes us even. I hear the CID is stumped by my murder, well I've come to give you a hand. The man who sabotaged the Space Wagon is called Ronald Noble and he has a small garage at 245 Noble Road.” Jonathan said, wincing again as they came close to another parked car. “Did anyone ever tell you that you're a lousy driver.”
“Many. But I haven't had an car accident in over four years.” Ivor stated proudly.
Jonathan said, wincing again. “Well don't let it come as a surprise when you do. Now can you do anything about Noble?” he asked.
McWilliams said pensively, “About all I can do is go and see him and tell him that I heard from a source that he was the one that fixed the vehicle in your accident.”
“And what then?” asked Jonathan with interest.
Ivor waved his hand in the air saying, “My dear boy, you're a ghost. Once I leave, you keep an eye on him and see who he calls or who he goes to see.”
Jonathan conceded, “I guess I can do that. I'll find you when I've got the information.”
When McWilliams left, Noble took out a mobile phone and dialed a number. Putting his face a few inches from the keypad Jonathan easily saw all of the numbers. Being a ghost sure had its advantages.
Dawn had told Jonathan he would always be able to find McWilliams but not how. As he wondered about that very question, he began to move along the ground, moving faster and faster along the view was just a blur, until he stopped outside a house. Looking at the mailboxes, Jonathan saw that the house had been converted into flats and Ivor McWilliams was on the top floor. Jonathan walked through the door and up the stairs to the top floor where he passed through a second door into the policeman's flat.
Ivor was sitting at the table eating his supper and Jonathan stood looking at him for a moment envying that simple pleasure. Not wanting to interrupt his meal Jonathan sat down on a chair and waited for the man to finish before he made an appearance.
While he was waiting, he took a good look at Detective Constable Ivor McWilliams for the first time. In his mid-twenties, he had a serious mien that made him look older, but the twinkle in his eye gave a hint that he didn't take life as seriously as it might appear. Oddly enough, he had a familiar look and that puzzled Jonathan, wondering where he might have seen him before.
Once McWilliams, had finished his meal, Jonathan made himself visible and gave him the number he had watched being punched into the mobile phone.
McWilliams picked up his phone and dialed the number and they both listened as it was answered, “Lester Hanson residence, who may I say is calling. Hello, Hello, Kids again. Silly blighters.” and then the phone was hung up.
Jonathan looked at the policeman, saying, with assurance, “I know why I was murdered, now we need to prove it.”
Jonathan didn’t bother to check with Dawn to see if his planned activity was forbidden. He figured he'd find out soon enough if it was. Jonathan set out to haunt Ronald Noble. It wasn't difficult, as he found when he first arrived at the garage. Noble was a nervous individual to start with.
In fact Jonathan was really pleased when he pushed a wrench off a bench and it landed with a clang on the concrete floor, that Noble jumped into the air and spun around to glare at the fallen tool, beginning to swear vehemently. Jonathan was fascinated, he had heard a few of the words before but most of them were completely unknown to him. Fascinated and a little sad, that he wouldn't be able to pass them on to his mate, Roger Pierce and other school friends.
Thinking of school nudged his memory and he realized where he had seen Ivor McWilliams before. Ivor had been the police officer who had given the talk on the dangers strangers could pose, the day before Jonathan had died. McWilliams had been in uniform that day and he had looked completely different.
The other mechanic there gave Noble a clap on the back and said, “Take it easy, Ron, you're as jumpy as a cat lately.”
Noble just mumbled and turned away. As the morning progressed, Jonathan kept looking for places to cause a little mischief. He reluctantly decided not to release the metal rod holding the bonnet up on a car Noble was working on while the man was actually under it. But as soon as Noble turned away to get a tool from his work bench, the bonnet came down with a bang.
The man whirled around tool in hand to glare at the car. Slamming the tool back down on the bench, he opened up the bonnet again. Keeping his eye on the car, Noble picked up the tool from behind him on the bench.
Suddenly Jonathan knew that they weren't alone. He turned and gave a defiant look up at Dawn Farelli who was standing, arms folded glaring at him, one foot tapping on the floor. Dawn said to Jonathan emphatically, “Now I told you that we don't allow haunting anymore!!”
“You also said, except under special circumstances,” Jonathan said defiantly. “This bloke murdered me, I would think that would be the specialist circumstance of all.”
Dawn sighed with regret, telling him, “All right, I guess you're right. But if you'd dropped that hood on him, you could have killed him. You're got good credit Upstairs but it wouldn't last through something that serious. And you know what a hood is, I know you've seen enough American movies to know that it means the same thing as a bonnet.”
“I'll be careful,” promised Jonathan.
Noble was through for the day and was in his flat, which was within walking distance of his garage. He was already a nervous wreck from the pranks Jonathan had been playing on him all day.
The telephone rang and Noble picked it up, almost dropping the receiver. He heard the familiar voice of Ivor McWilliams, “Having a nice time, Noble?” Ivor gave a nasty laugh and he did it so well, he had been practicing it off and on all day. “Jonathan Heron doesn't appreciate the fact that you murdered him and endangered his family. He plans to haunt you until you confess. Have fun.”
With a shaking hand Noble put down the receiver, at the same time Jonathan dropped a full ashtray from near the ceiling. It hit the floor and smashed to bits. The man whirled around with a low moan of fear. Jonathan chuckled.
He watched Noble pick up the remains of the ashtray with shaking hands. After cleaning up the man slammed out of the flat. Jonathan figured that he was heading for the nearest pub. And Jonathan watched out the window to make sure the man didn't take his car.
Satisfied that Noble was indeed heading for a pub, or a wine shop, Jonathan found the remote of the telly and turned it on, clicking on the channels until he found something interesting. He turned the volume up, but in consideration of the tenants, downstairs he didn't put it up too high.
Jonathan was satisfied when Noble came in a couple of hours later, weaving a bit and stared at the live television set, fear working on his face. Noble grabbed the remote and turned off the set and then headed for the kitchen taking the remote with him. As soon as the man was out of the room, Jonathan used the manual controls to turn the set back on and turned the volume back up as far as it would go.
Noble came running back into the room, somewhat unsteadily and turned off the set, then unplugged it. Jonathan chuckled evilly and waited for him to leave the room and plugged in the set again and turned it back on. He crowed with delight when Noble came running back out of the kitchen with a chair in his hand and smashed in the screen, hitting it until it was definitely not going to be on, ever again.
A week later pale and haggard from the constant haunting and the occasional call from McWilliams, Noble turned himself in to Detective Constable Ivor McWilliams and signed a confession implicating Lester Hanson in the actual murder of Jonathan Heron and the planned murder of Raymond Heron.
Jonathan had been snooping in his father's old papers a couple of weeks before he died. They were in the attic and were in what his father referred to as the common domain. Any private papers were kept in his study and Jonathan wouldn't have even considered snooping in there.
He had found papers from the first years of his father's employment at Pri-Tech, where he was still working. He had found a form from the firm, which gave his father a stock option for 100,000 shares of the company. Jonathan had gone to his father and he had been disappointed when his father said that it was a misprint. When he first worked for Pri-Tech they were cash-strapped and they had offered stock up to a total of 1,000 shares as part of their salary and they were given a stock option to buy a further 1,000 shares. Not actually trading on the stock market at the time the owners had pegged the price of shares at £10.50.
When the firm had begun trading on the stock market, they were pleasantly surprised that the value had in fact gone higher than the quoted price. Raymond Heron was in at the beginning of what was a new industry and he had gone on courses and had taken courses on his own and had become a very important member of Pri-Tech's research team. Unlike many firms, they appreciated those who worked with their brains and he was well-paid so he had never sold the stock he had accumulated.
Since Raymond knew it was a misprint and being an honorable man, he had never tried to use the stock option and had only kept the form as a memento.
Lester Hanson had discovered that the stock option existed when he brought together a group of people to make a successful takeover bid. While Hanson ended up as the majority stockholder, it wasn't by a large margin. After putting in his own management people, they had discovered the stock option existed.
Hanson had carefully chosen those who went in to the takeover bid with him. While willing to work with Hanson, they could not work with each other and he would be safely in control of the firm. However not knowing Heron, Hanson ascribed to him the type of motives that he, Hanson had. If he had such an opportunity, he would have taken advantage of it instantly. He figured that Raymond Heron would do the same thing and if he had decided to exercise his stock option, the original owners, who were now minority stockholders, would have had to honor the option. If Raymond had then sold to one of the rival stockholders, he would have lost control of the firm.
Hanson wouldn't allow that. So, he hired Noble, who had worked for him on other occasions, to get Heron out of the way. Once Raymond Heron was dead, the stock option would no longer be valid. Both Hanson and Noble were tried and sent to prison for a very long time.
And did everything end happily ever after?
Hardly, Jonathan was happy, McWilliams was happy, but all of the family members were just as sad, the fact that the murderers went to prison satisfied none of them.