I saw them as they stood on the steps of the summer house. Translucent figures backed against the sky and the early light, locked in each others arms like they would never part. Each knowing that this night could be their last.
Through their bodies I could see trees and the lawn, even a rabbit taking an early breakfast. It was perfectly calm and quiet except for the eerie cry of a Peacock on the other side of the house.
Silence rather than an absence of noise, like the world had stopped for a second. It was a moment out of time, a vision of long ago granted only to me.
The sweetest of partings and the bitterest of regrets. Unlike them I knew full well what would happen and that this was the end for both. The vision faded as the sun came up and I stood for a moment, the dewy grass soaking my feet.
Then I turned and walked back into the house, after all I was part of the living world and they were not. I shivered, it wasn't fear, just the sting of a crisp autumn morning.
Peter was waiting for me, come in a moment he said and led me to the kitchen. I knew my wife would still be fast asleep in our room so I followed him.
Here dry yourself. I warmed my feet by the Aga then he bid me to sit. You saw them didn't you, I see it on your face he said. I nodded I had always wondered he smiled.
We had been told the story when we arrived at the hotel and there was a leaflet by the bed. In this very house Sir George Cartwright a man driven mad with jealousy over a wife half his age, had lain in wait for her lover.
It was a powder keg waiting for the match, a house seething with resentment. In 1916 Sir George had brought his beautiful young bride to live at Marston Hall. Wounded and home from the front was Adrian his 30 year old son from his first marriage, and a friend, artist Joe Wilson visiting on leave.
The three younger ones hit it off famously but it planted a little seed in Sir George which grew into a monster of resentment. By October when Joe visited again Sir George's paranoia had grown to the point where he was practically unhinged, if a man so much as looked in Angela's direction.
In his madness his suspicions fell on Joe, good looking arty and fun.
On Halloween night George lay in wait outside his wife's bedroom, convinced that Angela's lover was sneaking in . He was determined to stop it for good. At three in the morning he fired at a figure on the landing, it fell to the floor never to move again.
The house was roused and the full horror of the situation revealed. Sir George had killed his only son. Filled with remorse he took himself off to the library and put a bullet into his brain, took the 'Gentleman's way out' as the British say.
Six months later Angela gave birth to a son who was never certain of his parentage, and she never lived down the scandal.
Peter handed me a mug of tea.
My father always wanted to know, he said. To the end of his days he wondered, but his mother would never let on. Now for some reason you have been granted that privilege.
I'm a big tough policeman I smiled, but I've always been a little more sensitive than I let on. Call it a Copper's intuition, whatever, but it isn't the first time I've been able to see things that others can't. Something called me out into the garden, so I followed and waited.
Generally it's for a good reason.
So are you going to tell me? Peter said sipping his tea. Were Joe and Angela lovers? I shook my head, no they weren't I said gently. Sir George was your grandfather after all.
He looked confused
I smiled, Adrian was Joe's lover not Angela. He was coming back into the house after a last meeting with Joe before he left for the front the next day. That was when George saw him.
I think Angela knew, but she kept their secret to the end of her days.
Wow, that was one I really didn't expect Peter said sitting down.
What happened to Joe I asked?
Peter took a deep breath.
Killed at the Somme a couple of weeks later.
He handed me a Newspaper with a little article about the discovered remains of a WW1 soldier being identified by his military number as a Captain Joseph Wilson. They are trying to track down some relations but as a far as I know he had none. .
I have written to ask if we can have the remains buried here with Adrian's he said. I can't see why they would object can you? No reason at all I said.
The hotel was beginning to stir.
Better get the breakfasts going Peter said. Thank you for laying a ghost for me. I smiled, it wasn't up to me. I guess it was just time for them both to leave.
I never told my wife why I left some wild flowers outside the summerhouse. She's used to me so she patted my hand as we drove away. Sometimes it's just better to leave things unsaid.