Back at the Royal Munster, I tell Joe about my extraordinary meeting. He can't believe Gardiner was so forthcoming. 'How come he opened up to you? He thinks you're a journalist. I'd have thought someone in his position wouldn't trust a journalist with the time, never mind admit to being an accomplice to murder.'
'It was . . . strange,' I agree, for want of a better word. 'He said he wanted to confess, and maybe that was partly true, but I think he was also worried about me stirring up interest among his associates. He had to stop me asking questions and taking this further. That meant coming clean or killing me. I guess telling me the truth was less of a hassle.'
'Maybe he knows something about the Andeanna impostor,' Joe suggests. 'He's profited most through Menderes's death. Maybe he arranged the set-up.'
'I considered that. But Gardiner was set to take over anyway when the Turk retired. Everyone says they were like brothers. I don't think he was involved.'
Joe shrugs. 'So, where next?'
'It's time I paid Greygo a visit. He might be able to give us the name of Andeanna's lover.'
'Andeanna's dead lover,' Joe corrects me.
'Alive, dead . . . ' I grimace. 'It doesn't seem like there's much of a difference any more.'
Gregory Menderes doesn't want to talk. I have his number - picked it up during the course of my investigations - but he's heard about me, the book I'm meant to be writing, and once I identify myself, he hangs up every time I ring, sets the phone to voicemail if I persist.
Joe suggests waiting outside the mansion, but I don't want to chase after him like an ignorant paparazzo. Instead, I leave him be for a while and kick my heels around the Royal Munster, thinking about Andeanna and all that I've learnt about her, trying to piece the various links of the mystery together.
I phone Greygo the following Wednesday and he cuts me off. When I call again and get directed to voicemail, I leave a message. 'I've uncovered some alarming secrets about your mother. If you don't meet with me, I'll have to publish them unapproved and uncorroborated. I don't want to do a smear piece, but if you leave me no choice, I will.'
A couple of minutes later the phone rings. 'If you're bullshitting me, you'll regret it.' Greygo has a strong Cockney accent, nothing like his father or mother. At least not the mother I knew.
'I'm not bullshitting you,' I assure him. 'I wouldn't bother you if it wasn't important. I've spoken with your grandfather, so I know how much - '
'Andrew?' he interrupts, surprised.
'I interviewed him in Birmingham. He told me about - '
'Andrew let you in?' Greygo interrupts again. 'He answered your questions?'
'Yes. I've also been in contact with Bond Gardiner and others who knew your parents. I want to paint as complete a picture of your father's life as I can.'
'That's why you're ringing? To get my opinion of him?'
'No. At first, yes, that was all. Now there's more. I learnt something yesterday that changes everything. This is personal, maybe nothing to do with the book. It's about your mother.'
Greygo is silent. Finally, when I think he's going to cut me off, he snaps, 'Do you know where I live?'
All too fucking well!
'Can you meet me this afternoon, two o'clock?'
'There'll be guards. Come alone. You have two minutes to impress me, so start with the big revelation.'
'Thank . . . ' He hangs up. ' . . . you,' I finish, and grin victoriously.
I call Joe to let him know of the development. He's worried - he talks about stepping into the lion's den - and asks if he should call the police if I haven't contacted him by evening. I tell him not to bother, just dial a good undertaker. He doesn't laugh. He wasn't meant to. I was being serious.
It's weird returning to the Menderes mansion, feigning unfamiliarity. I'm met at the gate by an armed guard who makes me leave my car outside and walk up the drive ahead of him to the front steps, where I'm subjected to a body search by two of his colleagues. If Bond Gardiner was thorough, these guys are absolute, and stop just short of a rectal probe.
Gregory Menderes, known to one and all as Greygo, awaits inside, seated in one of the mansion's smaller rooms, a leather-lined study. He's behind a desk. A thin layer of stubble crowns his shaven head. He's dressed in a white suit. His face is darkly tanned. He doesn't offer to shake hands.
'Sit down,' he growls.
Even though the room is dimly lit, I can see his mother in his features. He looks a lot like her, same nose, mouth and eyes, although his are a soulful blue where hers were a vibrant green. The memory of Andeanna - my Andeanna - brings a lump to my throat.
'Get on with it,' he orders briskly, and I cough the lump away.
'Your mother was murdered.'
Greygo stares at me coldly. 'Is that it?' he asks. I've no answer to that. I can only nod dumbly, stunned by his nonchalant reaction. 'I don't know who filled your head with such nonsense, but they were wrong. If that's all you came to tell me, this meeting is at an end.' I stare at him wordlessly. 'That's your cue to leave, Mr Sanders.'
Finding my tongue, I splutter, 'You don't understand. It was your father. He killed her.'
'Ridiculous,' Greygo snorts. 'My father loved my mother.'
'Sure,' I sneer. 'He loved her so much, he knocked the shit out of her every time she looked sideways at another man.'
Greygo's eyes narrow to slits. 'Did my grandfather tell you that?'
'Yes. But he wasn't the only one.'
The Menderes heir nods slowly. 'They tried to hide it from me. They thought I didn't know. But children always . . . ' He snaps back to attention. 'That's neither here nor there. My father didn't kill my mother, no matter how many times he hit her. Now, if that's all, I'm a busy - '
'She had a lover,' I bark, determined to make an impact. He says nothing, but I can tell by the way he fidgets that I've got to him. 'Your father killed them. He arranged the crash to look like an accident and had Bond Gardiner dispose of her lover's body.'
Greygo lifts one of his hands and chews a fingernail. 'Since Bond is the only person in the world who could have told you that story, I assume you picked it up from him?'
'I can't reveal my sources,' I reply weakly.
Greygo smiles thinly. 'It couldn't have been anybody else. I'm shocked that he confided in you. He never told anyone about this, not even me. He thinks I don't know, and I'm happy to let him go on thinking that.'
'You mean you knew about the murders?'
'I know about a murder,' he corrects me. 'Axel Nelke's.'
My face grows ashen.
'That was the name of her lover,' Gregyo continues. 'The man my father murdered when he caught them betraying him.'
I'm glad I'm sitting down. All the strength has drained from me. I feel like a sack of moon rock.
'Are you all right?' Greygo asks, something close to concern in his tone.
'Nelke,' I gasp.
'Do you want a glass of water? Some fresh air?'
I wave away his offers. 'Did . . . one of your father's bodyguards . . . go missing shortly before his death?' I wheeze.
'I heard that one of your father's men disappeared. That he might be a suspect.'
Greygo frowns. 'I haven't heard anything like that. I don't keep a close tab on everything that happens, but I'd have been informed of something that important.'
'No guards have gone missing?'
I reflect on what that means, but my mind is a blank, and if there are conclusions to be drawn, I can't draw them.
'This Axel Nelke that your father killed,' I croak, staring at the smirking ghost in the room who went by that name before I strangled him with a telephone cable not too far from where I'm sitting now. 'Describe him.'
Greygo laughs. 'I was ten years old. All adults looked the same.'
The ghost of Axel Nelke cackles silently and flips me the finger.
'Did he have any children?' I ask.
'I don't think so. He was single when he and my mother . . . ' He grimaces.
'I don't understand this,' I moan as Nelke's ghost presses closer, puckering up his lips as if he's going to kiss me, then snapping at me with his fog-like fangs. 'It's like a nightmare, and the more I try to wake up, the further into it I slip.'
Greygo stares at me uncomprehendingly. After a while he stands and starts for the door. Afraid that he plans to summon the guards, I lurch to my feet and block his way. As he takes a sharp step back, I raise my hands to show I mean no harm. 'I know how strangely I'm behaving. I'm sorry. This is the first book I've written. It's stressing me out like you wouldn't believe.'
'Then drop it,' Greygo says drily.
'Maybe I will,' I sigh, pretending that's an option. 'It just seems to get crazier the further I run with it.'
Keeping a wary eye on me, Greygo sits and points towards my chair. Once I'm seated, he asks why I reacted that way to the name of Axel Nelke. Thinking quickly, ignoring the ghost of the man in question as it tries to distract me, I start talking.
'I began this book shortly after your father's death. At first I meant to tell his story in a traditional fashion. Then a man calling himself Axel Nelke told me that Mikis Menderes had been seen with a woman the spitting image of your mother in the weeks prior to his death, and that she'd vanished afterwards. That fascinated me and led me to . . . '
I stop. Greygo's face has misted over and he's smiling benignly. He gets up, heads for the door and beckons me to follow. Outside, he dismisses the guards and leads me on a tour of the mansion, although he doesn't talk about the rooms, just glides through them, touching the walls and furniture as he goes.
'Bond Gardiner lied to you about my mother,' he says as we mount the stairs. 'He wanted to misdirect you. This is what really happened.
'My mother enjoyed a short affair towards the end of her life, with Axel Nelke, one of her guards. My father suspected from the start. They had a couple of close calls, which should have been warning enough, but they persisted. Things came to a tragic but predictable head. He killed Nelke, I'm not sure how, though I think he strangled him.'
I flinch at that. Nelke's ghost raises his chin and smugly points to the mark around his neck. 'And your mother?' I ask.
'He gave her one hell of a beating, I'm sure, but he loved her and would never - could never - have killed her.'
'But Gardiner said - '
'Mr Sanders,' he tuts, 'do you think I'd have shared this house with my father all these years if he'd murdered my mother?'
'If you didn't know about it . . . ' I mutter.
'But I have known, for five years or more. Nobody murdered my mother.' He pauses. We're outside one of the guest bedrooms. The corridor is long and empty. Nevertheless, he lowers his voice and says, 'She killed herself.'
He starts walking again. After a moment of horrid pause, I hurry after him, catch him by his right arm and spin him round so he's facing me. I'm not surprised to see tears in his eyes. 'It was suicide?' I hiss.
'Yes. My father killed Axel Nelke. Bond got rid of the body. My mother lost her will to live. A few weeks later she went out driving, took a sharp turn off the road and deliberately rammed her car into a tree. Obviously that makes me feel sick every time I think about it, and yes, I blamed my father to an extent. I wish he'd been gentler with her, more understanding, as he was with me. But she made the decision to give up. My father suffered when he lost her, more than he ever admitted. Hating him would have served no viable purpose.'
I take in this latest twist, mind reeling. 'A witness said there were flames in the car before it crashed.'
'There couldn't have been. It was suicide.'
'You can't know that for sure,' I disagree. 'Nobody was in the car with her. You want it to be suicide, so you don't have to blame your father.'
'It's not a theory,' he replies softly. 'It's the truth.'
'How can you know?' I huff. 'Only one person really knows, and she's . . . '
' . . . dead,' he finishes calmly. 'But the dead can talk, and this came straight from the horse's mouth.'
'What the hell are you talking about?'
Greygo looks me calmly in the eye. 'Do you believe in ghosts, Mr Sanders?'
I take a step away from him and glance at the seven shades huddled around me. I expect them to snicker and mock me, as Nelke's ghost has been doing, but they only stare at me accusingly, still and serious. I almost run, for some reason afraid of what Gregory Menderes has to tell me, but I'm compelled to hear him out. I have to know the truth, or at least his version of it.
'This used to be a haunted house,' Greygo says. 'People have often asked me what it's like to lose your mother at such a young age. I've never been able to tell them, because until recently, I hadn't truly lost her.'
He starts to walk again. I trail after him, listening numbly. The ghosts follow in a line, like mourners at a funeral, Nelke slipping into place among them, the sad little girl at the head of the procession.
'Her spirit came to me the night of her death,' Greygo says. 'I awoke to darkness, scared, somehow certain that my mother was dead, only to find her by my bed. She didn't speak, but in my head I heard her telling me it was OK, I had nothing to fear, she wasn't going to leave me. I fell back into a deep sleep. When my father came to break the news to me in the morning, I took it serenely, knowing she wasn't really gone.
'She's been patrolling the halls of this house ever since. Always at night. It's hard to describe her. She looks real, like when she was alive, but at the same time there's something insubstantial about her.'
'This is madness,' I croak.
Greygo shrugs. We've come to Andeanna's room. He stands in the doorway, gazing in. 'My father kept this room as she left it. She spent much of her time here, seated in her favourite chair or lying on the bed.' He closes the door gently, lovingly. 'I don't know if anyone else saw her. Our servants sensed something - so many refused to work nights that eventually we employed them only in the day - but I never heard them discussing her. I think my father knew. I suspect that's why he never married again.'
'And Axel Nelke?' I ask sceptically. 'Does he hang out here too?'
'No.' Greygo frowns. 'It's only ever been my mother. I don't know who the person you spoke with could have been, how he knew about her or why he told you what he did. Where did you meet him?'
I open my mouth to answer, then shut it sharply. What can I tell him, that I met Nelke here? That I also met with his dead mother? Oh, and by the way, I'm the guy who killed his father, but it's OK, I did it because Andeanna told me to?
'Show me your mother,' I say instead, challenging him to back up his wild story with proof.
Greygo's face softens. 'She doesn't come any more. Not since my father died. I like to think she was waiting for him, that they're together now and have moved on to a better place.'
'Very romantic,' I scoff. 'Or perhaps she was hanging around to see him die. Maybe she was waiting for revenge. Maybe she set up his murder.' Greygo stares at me as if I'm mad. Maybe I am. Right now I don't know where this world stops and all the other worlds begin. I've criticized Joe for jumping to phantastical conclusions, but now I find myself leaping higher than he ever did. 'An eye for an eye, a life for a life. Perhaps she found a way to materialize outside of this house. Maybe she hired the assassin who . . . '
Gregory Menderes bursts out laughing. 'That's insane.'
'You're the one who claims to have lived with a ghost,' I remind him.
'A ghost, yes, the shade of a woman who died of extreme unhappiness. Not some zombie who arranges assassinations. Besides, as I said, my father didn't kill her, so there was no call for revenge.'
'You're back to that again. How do you know? How can you stand here and claim to - '
'Does the name Etienne Anders mean anything to you?' he cuts in.
I'm about to tell him it doesn't, when I recall the mystic the fake Andeanna encouraged me to see when I was researching Spirit of the Fire. 'Yes,' I say cautiously.
'Do you know how to contact her?'
'I have her number.'
'Arrange a meeting. Tell her I sent you. Ask her to put you in touch.'
'In touch?' Now it's my turn to stare at him as if he's the mad one. 'In touch with who?'
He smiles thinly. 'If you can't figure that out, you're not half the detective you think you are.' He offers his hand, and in a daze I take it. 'Good day, Mr Sanders. I should show you to the door, but I'd like to be alone for a while. I'm sure you understand.'
'But the ghost . . . your mother . . . the truth . . . '
'Etienne can explain better than I can,' he promises. 'You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Go see her. Call me when you're finished, if you like, though I don't think you'll need to.' He nods curtly, wheels away and heads back to his study.
I stand on the landing, brain cranking creakily. Then, with the ghosts following, still in a sombre line, I shakily make my way down the stairs and stumble away from the house of madness and death, into the shadowy mysteries beyond.
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