Jonathan was sitting crosslegged on the floor of Ivor McWilliams flat when the police officer came home from work, elbows on thighs, chin in hands, glumly staring at nothing.
Ivor said to the boy, “You don't look in good shape, I can see right through you.” Since Jonathan was a ghost and Ivor had been greeting him the same way for the last two months, the joke had grown very stale, but it usually drew at least a smile from the boy.
This time it only drew a glare, then Jonathan gave himself a shake and then smiled weakly, “Sorry, it's not your fault. I try to stay away from my famiily. It hurts to see them but not be able to touch them.” He got to his feet, “I put supper on, it should be just about ready.”
Jonathan sat across from Ivor to keep him company while he ate. He explained morosely, “I felt I had to go to the school this morning, for some reason. And when I get there, what do I find in the playground? Ricky's acting like Denny, self-contained and wanting to be on his own. Denny's acting like Ricky, all nervous energy, always on the go. Then there's Roger off at one end of the playground acting like the whole world’s on his shoulders and ignoring everybody and I can tell all three of them are hurting."
He explained, “I drifted into the teacher's lounge. First time I was ever there and it felt odd, like I was trespassing. Some of the teachers were sitting at a table talking. I heard that Roger's parents were killed in a car accident two weeks after I died and he's living with his uncle. They've never gotten along and Roger hates his uncle, though he likes his aunt. One time we were visiting her, when his uncle came home early. He was really upset, for some reason and he and Roger got into an argument and after a few minutes he got fed up and hauled off and slapped Roger.”
Jonathan said, “Roger glared at him and then ran out of the house. I got really mad at the man too and since he wasn't my uncle, I kicked him as hard as I could in the shin. It was very satisfactory when he doubled over in pain, grabbing his leg. I took off after Roger.” Jonathan grinned at his comment, obviously it was still very satisfying, but then an angry look appeared on his face. “Roger had a black eye today. I think his uncle hit him again.”
Jonathan sighed, before saying, “But getting back to the teachers, Roger's teacher, my former teacher was there and so were The Pests' teachers. All three of them were worrying. Denny's teacher was worried because his grades were slipping and Ricky and Roger's teachers were worried about, of all things, the fact that their grades were actually getting better. One of them, Ricky's teacher said, 'I always knew he was capable of getting better grades, but I never expected to see it and I dislike the way he is now. I wish he'd go back to the way he was. I miss the loveable little kid he used to be, with sloppy homework and lousy grades. always talking in class, always in trouble, not the perfect little student he is now.'“
Jonathan explained, “Roger was always a better student than Ricky, but the teacher said it was unnerving to see him in class now, attention completely focused on him and ignoring everything else that was going on around him.”
“It sounds like what they need right now is each other.” Ivor said sardonically.
Jonathan sat up straight, a glint of excitement in his eyes, He burst out, “That's a great idea, now how do we go about doing it?”
He looked at Ivor, who threw up his hands in disgust, saying, “Don't ask me. I was only kidding. You'll have to think of a way all by yourself.”
“You're a great help, come up with a smashing idea and then bail out on me.” Jonathan said disapprovingly.
“I don't know how you persuaded me into doing this.” Ivor complained.
Jonathan said sharply, “I know, you've told me time after time that it was an accident, but still it was your idea and besides, I could hardly walk five miles with a bloody great brown envelope in my hand now could I, I think someone might have noticed. Now stay here and act like the good Detective Constable you are and watch.”
Jonathan left Ivor still grumbling, as he walked toward the back door. It was close to two AM but the moon was up and there was plenty of light. When he reached the back door, there was a gap between the door and the floor and he slid the envelope through it, then walked through the door. Picking up the envelope he made his way through the downstairs and then up the stairs to Roger's room.
The door to his friend's room was open and he looked around in nostalgia and sadness. Jonathan had spent many a good time in this very room. He shook himself and then went over to the far side of Roger's bed, he knelt on the floor. Counting floorboards out from the wall and pushed on the catch that opened Roger's secret hideout.
Taking the brown envelope he folded it in two and put it under Roger's diary and some other papers, which were his and Roger's attempts at writing stories.
Jonathan closed the hiding place and made his way back down the stairs. He was about to go out the front door when he heard a sound in the cellar. He cocked his head to listen and heard several more noises. Going over to the cellar door, he walked through it, into a dim torch lit basement. He went down the stairs and into the furnace room where the light was coming from.
This was a much older house than the one in which Jonathan had lived and in this room the floor was made up of flagstones covering a dirt floor. There were two men in the room and one of the flagstones had been lifted up and one of the men was in the process of digging a shallow hole. Finished he put down the spade he had been using. “Manny, are you sure that nobody will be coming here, I hate to leave two kilos of cocaine just sitting here for someone to come and steal it from us.”
Manny said patiently, “Tom, I told you, according to the bloke at work, his brother-in-law and sister died in a car crash a few weeks ago. When he got left with the kid, he was delighted at first but then he found out that all of the money his brother-in-law left was held in a strict trust fund, to keep up the house until the kid is old enough to either live here or decides to sell it and money for future education. The solicitor also has the discretion to pay out for the kid's clothing and other essentials plus a small payment to the brother-in-law.” he grunted in laughter. “Obviously the deceased knew the type of man his brother-in-law is and if there had been any other choice he wouldn't have sent the kid to live with him.”
He explained, “The solicitor, with the boy's permission, decided to rent the house out and the new tenants don't move into the house until the beginning of next month. That's three weeks away, so it'll be empty until then and we only need it for two or three days until we meet the buyer. Now let's get this stuff buried.”
Manny handed Tom a small box well wrapped in plastic and Tom placed it in the small hole, putting some of the dirt on top to cover it. They put the rest in a garbage bag, that they would take away with them and the two of them placed the flagstone back in place
Jonathan walked through the front door of Roger's house and out to the car. Getting in he said to Ivor, “Move up about thirty meters and without turning on your lights.”
Ivor with exasperation did as he was asked. Jonathan sat sideways in his seat and asked “Have you heard of a couple of drug dealers, named Manny and Tom?”
“Sure Manny Armand and Tom Hayes. Why did you see them in your friend's house?” Ivor joked.
He gaped in astonishment when Jonathan smiled devilishly and said, “Sure, They just buried a couple of kilos of cocaine in his basement. Duck down, here they come now.”
Ivor ducked down in his seat, not sure, if Jonathan was having him on, but not taking any chances. The two men, one carrying a garbage bag, walked by the car. Jonathan thought that for criminals just coming from burying a stash of drugs, they weren't very alert.
When they had gone past and were a little way from the car, Ivor raised up until he could just see over the steering wheel. He nodded, recognizing them in the bright moonlight. “That's them all right. Not a very bright pair.” he said with disgust.
Jonathan explained, “They plan to meet their buyer in the next two or three days. I guess they didn't want to have it on them until then. I think you might want to watch this place for a while.”
Ivor said sarcastically, “Sure I just go up to my sergeant and tell him that the ghost of Jonathan Heron, told me he saw two men bury a stash of drugs in an old friend's house.”
Jonathan waved his hand in the air, saying with amusement, “You're the copper, it's up to you to figure it out.”
“I guess I could tell him that a source saw the two of them coming out of an empty house. He might want to search it, right away and then we get the drugs but lose the traffickers.” Ivor said speculating out loud. Jonathan at the moment more concerned with his own plans tuned him out.
Ivor pulled up in front of the Heron residence, at twelve o'clock the next day. He pulled a sheet of paper folded several times from his pocket. Banging it lightly on his hand a couple of times, he sighed, “I hope this works, Jonathan.”
Ivor got out of the car, went up to the front door and knocked on the door. Obviously, Mrs. Heron had been watching him come up the driveway for the door opened immediately. He knew she was in her early fifties, but she could have passed for a woman twenty years younger, her body, still youthful and athletic seeming. “Hullo, Constable, how may I help you?”
Ivor told her solemnly, “Well, Mrs. Heron, occasionally I do some public relations work, you know going around to the schools in uniform giving talks. I gave a talk at your son's school just before he was killed.” A tear glistened in her eye, but didn't fall. He felt uncomfortable. “I always tell the kids that if they have any problems they can get in touch with me. That I was easy to find, because I was the only Ivor McWilliams in the local phone book.”
He held up the papers, saying, “Well when I got up this morning I found an envelope in my mailbox. Since there was just the one I took it out of the envelope and shoved it in my pocket. Sometime during the morning I threw the envelope away. I finally looked at the letter and it was a request from Jonathan asking me to pass this to you.”
her the sheet of paper. She opened it and looked at it.
Dear Constable McWilliams,
I don't know why, but for the past week, things have been feeling, darker and darker. Today it really feels bad. If I should die, bring this note to my mum for me, please.
Jonathan D. Heron
As I told, the Constable things have been really feeling dark lately. I don't know if anything is really going to happen, but I think it is. I know you and dad will be sad, but you've lived for a while and I'm really worried about how The Pests will take it. They're only young. What they really need is a big brother, to give them a thumping now and then, since I won't be able to do that anymore.
I left an envelope in Roger's secret hiding place in his bedroom. You'll have to get him to show you where it is. I love you Mum. I love you all.
The tears were streaming down her face now, yet she felt almost happy for the first time in weeks. “Thank you, Constable, thank you very much.” She said.
For some reason, Ivor no longer felt as bad and he drove away with a light heart.
Jonathan had been bedeviling Sam Burroughs, Roger's uncle, all afternoon and he had him hopping mad by the time he entered his driveway. He kept the man at a boil all through supper until he saw his mother pull up outside. He knew it would be after supper, she did all her serious visiting after supper.
She knocked on the door, a little uncomfortable, since the only time she had met Sam Burroughs was at Roger's parents funeral and she had disliked him on sight, though Edith, was a childhood friend. Burroughs answered the door and she told him why she had come. He yelled up the stairs, “Roger, you little b... Someone's here to see you.”
Roger came hurrying down the stairs. Jonathan thought affectionately, 'Good old, predictable Roger,' as he shoved the rushing boy into his uncle.
Burroughs anger which had been at the straining point all afternoon finally boiled over. He snarled, “You little bastard. Watch where you're going.” and he gave Roger a hard slap on the face.
Jonathan stood back with enjoyment as he watched his mother drop her purse and swing from the hip, her hard fist, catching Burroughs perfectly, right on the chin, with a click like two billiard balls striking each other.
“Jeez,” Jonathan heard from behind him. He turned around to see Dawn, eyes wide with astonishment. She said in amazement, “I had a boyfriend once who was a fighter. If he'd had a punch like that, he'd'a been champeen of the world.”
“Me mum,” Jonathan informed her, “had six brothers and her father was a boxer when he was in the army. Her brothers all wanted to learn how to box. What her brothers did, my tomboy mother did. They all had amateur fights and, though none of them turned professional, one of them fought in the Olympics and won a bronze medal. He told me if that my mother had been a man she would have won gold.”
Dawn looked at him shrewdly, “You planned this!” she stated.
“Of course, now listen,” Jonathan told her.
“He looks real peaceful, like that.” Edith Burroughs said, looking down at her husband with evident relish. She took hold of Roger by the shoulders and gave him a push toward the stairs. Telling him, “Go upstairs and get your stuff together.”
Roger looked back in awe as he scurried up the steps, cheek red from the slap. Edith looked at Jonathan’s mother, with high good humor, “You'll take him, Rach?”
“Of course, Edie.” she looked wryly down at the woman's unconscious husband. “Raymond always says he's glad that I'm the fighter in the family, he rather hates violence.”
“It was just a matter of time,” Edie said philosophically, “they were like oil and water, they never would have mixed. I've been querying my family on the quiet, but nobody was willing to take him. Millie's parents both died when she was a child and after she described the way she grew up, I couldn't have let the government have him. He's never dared hit our children, but I rather thought he'd been doing so to Roger. I couldn't get the boy to admit it and I couldn't let him go until I had a place for him, arranged.”
She said, “I'll inform Roger's solicitor in the morning about his new home. There's a little allowance to help with food and clothing.” She saw Rachel look up at the stairs and knew without looking that Roger was on his way down, the beginning of love starting to show in Rachel's eyes. Edith knew it wasn't firm yet but it was a good starting point, “But then I don't think you care about the money, do you, Rach?”
Rachel just murmured a reply, which Edith couldn't really make out, but she smiled with approval anyway. She said her good-byes to Roger telling him he was welcome to visit anytime, she would make sure that Sam wouldn't touch him again and gave him a firm and loving kiss goodbye.
Dawn looking at the scene, said admiringly just before she disappeared, “I think you do good work, kid.”
Jonathan appeared in the passenger seat of Ivor McWilliams police car. “Is there any activity?”
Ivor looked at Jonathan, saying “It's a little early, boyo.”
“I just wanted to make sure. My mum and Roger are on their way here right now. I wouldn't want to put them in any danger.” Jonathan explained, calmly.
Ivor picked up a radio and flicked it on. He said, “Banks, there's going to be two visitors. The boy who inherited the house and a woman. Copy.”
The radio crackled, “Roger. A woman and a boy. Out.”
Ivor looked at the boy, “The sergeant was a bit doubtful, but he said if I wanted to put in a little unpaid overtime and could get some volunteers he wouldn't oppose the watch. Banks is a good friend of mine and he agreed to spend two or three days on it with me.”
“Good.” Jonathan said, seeing some lights coming down the roads. “That's probably them now.”
It was. Ivor turned his head away so that Mrs. Heron wouldn't recognize him as she drove by and parked in front of the Pierce's house. She got out and walked around the car to where Roger was waiting and they walked up the walk together. Roger took a key from around his neck and unlocked the door.
They went in flicking on the lights and climbed the stairs to Roger's room. Rachel looked down at the boy, asking, “Do you want to go in and get what Jonathan left and keep your hideout's exact location a secret?”
Roger thought seriously for a moment, then shook his head, telling her, “It doesn't matter, I'm not going to be living here anyway for a long time. I don't mind if you know.”
Rachel smiled at him and ruffled his hair, saying, “Thank you Roger, for trusting me.”
The boy blushed and he moved away quickly turning on the bedroom light. Going around the bed he flipped the secret catch and took everything out of the hole and then closed it again. Since he wouldn't be living here again, at least for a long while, he wanted to take his stuff with him. He separated it, taking out the brown envelope and handing it to Rachel.
Rachel unfolded it and then laughed at the inscription on the envelope. She showed it to Roger but he looked at it solemnly and didn't laugh. It read: 'Roger this is for my Mum. If you dare to open it, I won't let you sit on me ever again!!!!!'
“I gather you know what my cryptic son is trying to tell you.” she said.
Roger nodded, saying, “Yes. You know how angry he could get at times.” Rachel winced, did she remember, it gave her a headache just thinking about it.
Roger smiled a long slow smile, telling her, “Well, he relied on me to keep him calm at school. On occasion that meant I actually had to knock him to the ground and sit on him until he calmed down. He's telling me there that if I opened that envelope, he wouldn't be my friend any more.”
Rachel looked at him soberly, as she realized for the first time just how much her son had trusted the little boy sitting on the bed with her.
Roger abruptly got off the bed and getting a plastic bag put the rest of his stuff in it. She got up carrying the envelope and left the room and he followed looking around him for a minute before shutting off the light.
If Raymond Heron was surprised that they suddenly had a new member of the family, he didn't show it. He welcomed Roger with open arms, literally, as he gave him a big hug. Neither Denny nor Ricky in the background were quite so welcoming.
When Rachel sat at the kitchen table and motioned the others to sit, Roger started to go into the living room to give them some privacy, she put her hand on his arm and said, “Stay. Please.”
Uncomfortable, Roger joined them at the table. She opened the envelope to find a dozen sheets of paper stapled together at the top and the bottom and a smaller envelope. The first sheet had around the bottom staple. '!!TAKE OUT STAPLE!!'
Rachel took out the staple and turned the first page. She gasped and everybody got up from their chairs and surrounded her. It was a picture of the Heron family, a little crude, but everybody clearly recognizable. Rachel and Raymond were standing and between them were the three boys, with Jonathan right in the center, with Ricky and Jonathan the same height. Puzzled, Rachel turned the page. It was exactly the same, except that Jonathan was no longer drawn in as solidly. Each of the next five sheets was the same except that in each Jonathan was a little less visible, until on the last sheet where he had stood was blank paper.
Turning over the next sheet revealed a faint figure, standing several inches taller than Ricky, As she turned over the next few sheets each successive page was drawn in more solidly. By the third sheet, the figure was clearly recognizable as Roger and on the last sheet Roger was standing in the middle arms around Denny and Ricky's shoulder and Raymond and Rachel's arms were around his shoulders.
Ricky flung himself away from the table then and ran out of the kitchen and they could hear his feet pounding on the stairs.
Rachel picked up the envelope and opened it, to find another one this one addressed: 'To Mum, Dad, Denny and Ricky who I imagine has run up to his room to sulk and try not to cry. But especially for Roger.'
opened that and drew out another sheet of paper.
'The last Will and Testament of Jonathan David Heron
This might seem silly. What does a ten year old have to give?
Well I'll try.
To Raymond Heron, my father I give my love, for always being there when I needed him and letting me slide out of a few punishments that I deserved.
To Rachel Heron, my mother I also give my love and my gratitude, for the years of care, when I was well and especially when I was sick and for bearing with my lousy temper.
To Ricky and Denny, The Pests, but MY PESTS, I also give my love and I'm glad to have been your brother.
To Roger, I give the love of a friend and place into your hands my little brothers who need a big brother now an then to thump them, or hug them, or stand up for them.
Jonathan David Heron
PS: since I don't think this is a legal will, I think I can give Roger some advice. Go upstairs and cry with Ricky, but first I think you'll probably have to wrestle him to the floor and sit on him and maybe thump him a couple of times.
PPS: I'll be waiting for you on the other side.'
Only Roger was not shedding tears by now but he was close. He felt Raymond's hand on his shoulder and he looked up into those wise eyes, unashamedly shedding tears. He said quietly, “Go. Like Jonathan said, go give Ricky a thumping.”
Upstairs, Roger found Ricky in his room hiding behind his bed and sulking. When he saw Roger he yelled, “Leave me alone,” and began throwing things at Roger. Since his ammunition was old stuffed toys, they hardly deterred Roger. He grabbed Ricky by the arm and pulled him out from behind the bed, into the center of the room, where there was more room to maneuver, he took hold of Ricky and began to wrestle him to the floor.
Ricky was thin, wiry and athletic but so was Roger and he was much taller as well, so Ricky soon found himself lying on the floor with Roger sitting on his chest, his knees holding Ricky's arms down. Since Roger knew that what Jonathan called thumping had a good dollop of tickling in it, he began to tickle Ricky. While not as ticklish as Denny, Ricky was still very ticklish and he was soon writhing and giggling hysterically.
Finally Roger stopped and allowed Ricky to calm down. Getting up he pulled Ricky to his feet and then sat down on the side of the bed pulling the younger boy down beside him. He began to speak, slowly, hesitantly, “It's all right to cry for Jonathan. He deserved it. He was really a good person. It seems he picked me to be your new big brother, though how he knew that he would die or that I would need a new home I don't know. It's time to cry. You for Jonathan and me for my parents and my friend.”
He pulled Ricky into a tight hug; his head resting on the top of the younger boy's head and suiting action to words let the tears he had held back for so long begin to flow down his cheeks. After a short time he could feel Ricky joining him, sobs of sorrow suffusing the smaller boy.
Jonathan watching from the doorway was well content, there was nothing like a good mutual crying session to bring people together. He heard faintly in his mind, 'As I said, kid, you do good work.'
Jonathan was glad that in helping Roger and The Pests he was able to say to his family the things he hadn't had the chance to say.
Watching a house was a pretty, boring occupation as Jonathan had discovered over the last forty-eight hours. He yawned ruefully, wondering why he yawned, since he couldn't sleep. There were two figures approaching on foot along the road and it took him a moment to realize who they were. He told Mcwilliams, “Hey, Ivor, the company we've been waiting for is here. Stay down I'll tell you when they turn into the Pierce's place.”
When they had done so, “They're heading for the back now.” Jonathan observed.
Ivor was annoyed, saying anxiously, “I wish the sergeant had believed me and put together more men, we might have been able to follow them to the buyer.”
Jonathan observed dryly, “Well, you may be in luck, there seems to be two additional people approaching on foot. It would be a very strange coincidence if they didn't have something to do with what's going on.”
Ivor picked up his radio, saying, “Banks, the two we were expecting are at the back of the house and we've got two additional playmates. Are you and Nikki ready?”
Jonathan looked at Ivor in surprise, as the reply came over the radio in one word, “Ready!”
Jonathan blurted out, “I didn't know you had recruited any one else!”
“I didn't, Nikki is Banks Rottweiler bitch. As long as they don't have any guns I don't think we'll have any troubles with them.” Ivor said suggestively.
“All right, I'll go see if they have weapons that go bang or boom!” Jonathan said, disappearing from sight. He decided to check the new pedestrians first and though one of them had a knife he didn't have anything that would go bang, nor did the two inside.
Ivor, Banks and Nikki snuck into place in the backyard and waited as patiently as the two men already there. They became alert when the back door opened and the two men came out with the box. They used torches to check the contents and once they'd exchanged parcels, Ivor spoke up over a bullhorn, “This is the police, you are all under arrest. Stay where you are.” which of course the criminals did not. However Banks, Ivor and Nikki had soon collared three of them and the fourth met his fate at the hands of the phantom wheelbarrow pushed into his path gleefully by Jonathan.
When Ivor returned home from work, Jonathan was up in the air, literally. He was sitting crosslegged, floating two feet off the floor watching a football match on telly and cheering wildly.
“I gather things are going somewhat better.” Ivor suggested mildly.
“Absolutely fantastic,” whooped Jonathan. “Ricky and Roger's marks are plummeting and Denny's are rising.” He giggled, “I think Denny's teacher is going to be somewhat disappointed. Some of Ricky's attitude that he was imitating seems to have rubbed off on him permanently. I don't think his marks are ever going to go as high as they were.”