Dec 112023

There are patches of blue in the sky, alongside some grey, white clouds. It’s a coolish day and the yew leaves are tossing back and forth on their branches. The green lawns are lush from the Scottish rains.

‘I cannot see you,’ cries Angus. Then, he hides behind a tree and occasionally pokes his head around its trunk. He is about eight years old. He wears his corduroy trousers, a flannel shirt and a tartan jacket. He sneezes from the flowering heather blowing through the air.

Down below, he catches a glimpse of an old, stone building that looks like a castle with its gothic style windows and turrets up on its walls. It has a wide entrance door and latticed windows. Perhaps, a Lord or Lady lives here.

Angus cannot see his friend anywhere. He looks down upon the castle and wonders if his friend, Maisie has entered it.

‘Hello Maisie, where are you? Have you gone into the castle?’ he shouts. Some peacocks wail up on the grassy area and their long tail feathers trail behind them.

He looks to the left and then, to the right and then, hurries towards the castle. He can see that the heavy, wooden castle door is ajar so he pushes it further open and it creaks ominously.

Cobwebs hang down from the rafters, a musty smell lingers everywhere and dust covers all of the furniture. A large ironwork candelabra hangs down from the ceiling and it holds white, pillar candles. A wood fire is burning in the fireplace and sparks fly about.

The floor is like nothing that he has seen before. It’s made of slate of different shades of blue and grey and they feel cold under his feet and Angus shivers. Maisie is nowhere to be seen. His breath becomes quicker as he sees a knight in battered armour standing in the corner of the room. Is it real?

As he hears the creaks and groans of the ancient building, an old woman hobbles using a stick into the dining room. She taps her stick against the floor and cries out feebly, ‘Who are you? What are you doing here, young man? This is my home and you are trespassing!’

The old lady’s long dress is made of shimmering silk and lace and as she speaks, she pulls up her woollen, tartan shawl around her shoulders.

‘I’m Gus and I didn’t know anyone lived here. I’m searching for my friend, and we were playing Hide and Seek. I don’t know what trespassing means.’

‘It means …’

‘Boo!’ cries out Maisie from behind a carved door.

‘Now, what is going on? I’m waiting for my son to come home. He is out riding on the moors and he will be furious to see you two here in our home. Now, hurry on and don’t let me find you here again!’

Gus can hear the tree branches scratching against the windows and he begins to tremble. His heart beats quickly and he cries out to his friend, ‘Come on Maisie! Let’s go! We need to get out of here!’

They both run to the door, and Lady Thistlewaite slams it shut. Suddenly, it opens again and she peers out, agitated.

‘I’ve changed my mind! You can cook my dinner! I want lamb stew and vegetables. All of the ingredients are there on the bench. Cook has called in sick. The kitchen is that way!’ The old lady points her stick out to the back of the dining room.

Gus and Maisie trudge off to the kitchen and they see lots of pans and utensils hanging from a steel rod. They start chopping the vegetables and see a variety of meat bones lying on a plate.

‘You can peel the potatoes, Maisie and watch the knife. It’s very sharp!’

‘I absolutely will Gus.’

They cook up the carrots, potatoes, peas and broccoli in a large pot and then, add the bones. It simmers away on the cooktop. After a while, the smell of the stew makes Gus hungry.

‘I’m famished.’

So, he ladles out some of the stew onto a plate. He munches on the meal and the lamb shanks are tasty and tender.

‘Mmmh! Mmmh! ‘he says and he cries out to Maisie, ‘Have some! It’s really quite delicious!’

‘Won’t the old bat want some?’ asks Maisie.

‘Aye sure, there’ll be plenty to go around.’

The kitchen becomes fogged up from all of the steam.

Then, suddenly Gus hears a loud piercing scream coming from the other room. They rush in to see the old woman lying on the floor with blood pooling near her head. They look closer and see a knife protruding from her.

‘What the heck!’ screams Gus, ‘How did that happen? We’d better scram!’

Holding hands and trembling, they push the door open and rush outside.

Then, out of the corner of his eye, Gus spots a pale apparition with hollow eyes suspending in mid-air near the trees.

‘Crikey! I think it’s a ghost, this place is haunted. We’d better find a place to hide.’

‘Aye, I’m feeling petrified now and we might be the next ones to be killed …’

‘There’s a building over there. Let’s go in!’ cries Gus. He pulls open the door.

The ghost shrieks and floats across the misty moors.

It’s known as Tilley’s House and it’s surrounded by hedges, roses and Scots bluebells.

Gus’s palms become sweaty. The children don’t know what to do and Gus searches for somewhere to hide. Then, he spies the hall cupboard.

They crawl under coats and umbrellas and squeeze in between boots and shoes and Gus quickly slams the door.

They can hear loud thumping noises coming from outside the hallway. Gus cringes and gasps in fear and they both huddle closer together.

They hear loud bangs outside as the intruder wanders through the house shooting randomly. The bullets ricochet off the walls. The two children clutch each other’s hands and their faces become white with fear.

‘Where the hell are they? I can smell their blood!’

An umbrella falls from its hook in the cupboard and makes a loud crash.

The intruder takes aim at the kids, but as he does so, the ghost slithers past and knocks him over. He falls flat on his face onto the umbrella. He screams with pain and clutches his bleeding eyes. The children quickly make their escape and scream at the tops of their lungs.

They race through the front entrance and the grim gargoyles up above cry out in rasping voices ‘Watch where you go! Watch where you go!’

The children sprint up the hill with their jackets flapping in the breeze. They can hear the loud voice of someone chasing them.


Several years later, Gus and Maisie go for a walk in the same district. They reach a graveyard at the bottom of the valley and there are some rocky outcrops.

Gus sees a scrawny, black cat slinking in between the gravestones. Then, they stumble upon a gravestone weathered from the heavy frosts but they can still see its engraving.

‘The old lady has passed on and has flown up to heaven,’ says Gus.

‘Oh, we can come back another day to do that. In the meantime, we need to

‘We need to find out who killed her and who was firing all those shots at us all those years ago.’

They wander around the graveyard for a while longer. A rambling rose covers an arbour and weeds grow thickly in between the headstones.

Suddenly, the skies blacken and rain thunders down. The children run for cover and rush into a building. Once there, they spot a doorway leading down. They descend down the steps following a labyrinth of a stairwell. It becomes darker and gloomier the further they go down.

‘I cannot see, Maisie!’

‘Neither can I!’

They reach a room that is extremely dark and cold.

‘I think it’s a dungeon!’ calls out Gus.

There lying on the ground is a skeleton and a hunting rifle lies besides it.

‘I think we found our killer, Maisie!’