A Ghost Story for Christmas
by P.T. Mayes
Copyright 2012 © P.T. Mayes
"Good evening, Mr Geoffreys."
"Good evening, Wilbur," said Clive Geoffreys as he handed the ancient concierge his damp hat, umbrella and coat. "How are you?" He managed to say this without the slightest hint of human interest infecting his voice, a skill he had learnt while running one of the largest investment brokerages in the City for many years.
"I'm very well, sir," said Wilbur as he ferreted the garments away into a cubicle, knowing that the revered gentleman had neither heard nor cared. "Good trip, sir?"
"Very pleasant, indeed," said the venerable gentleman, who had recently left London for a quiet life on one of the larger Inner Hebridean islands, on the orders of his doctor. "Although it's always a pleasure to return here, even if it is just to make sure Patrick's winning streak is undimmed."
"From what I hear, it has not," said the concierge. "Foggy night tonight."
"Wilbur, Crenenby Court is always foggy, even when the rest of London is not, although I'm not entirely sure how that is possible. Must have something to do with the drains."
"You're probably right, sir," said Wilbur. "And may I ask who your guest is?"
"This -- " said Geofferys proudly, stepping aside to reveal a tall, broad man with a mop of sandy coloured hair standing awkwardly in the doorway, "-- is my son, Tyrone. He has been working and living in New York for the last few years but will be moving here to London next spring. He is to become a new member."
"A new member?" muttered Wilbur, his furrowed brow furrowing even more than it normally was, which was a great deal. "Why, he can't be a day over forty-five!"
"Forty-three, to be exact. New blood, my man!" said Geoffreys, already striding down the richly carpeted hall towards the Reading Room. "Come on Tyrone. Time waits for no man, and especially not for a Geoffreys. Chop chop!"
The younger man quickly handed his coat to the shambling concierge and scurried after his father, choosing to ignore the doorman's grumbling remarks.
"Under forty-five? Tsk! Why, they'll be admitting children next. Or worse than that... women! It's the end of the world it is, or something very close to it"
"Is he quite alright?" Tyrone asked his father when he caught up with him beside a very old oak door, the wood so black it looked like it had been forged out of iron.
"Wilbur? Of course he's alright," said Clive, one veined hand placed on the large brass handle. "Just a little senile and hard of hearing, like most of us here at Miggles. Now this is the Reading Room, where most of the action happens. From here on keep your voice low and do not stare, or you'll cause an incident. The last time we had an incident we lost four members."
"Lost? They resigned?"
Despite its great size and age, the door opened soundlessly. The father gave his son a smile to boost his confidence and indicated for him to go ahead.
The thought of "action" had raised Tyrone's sprits somewhat, but as soon as he entered the Reading Room he knew his father's idea of "action" was quite different to his own, which involved lots of sports and many activities that were as pointless as they were dangerous. The room was large, at least as large as a rugby pitch-and-a-half, and yet it was as stuffy as an old cupboard that hadn't been aired in centuries. Here and there little groups of worn brown leather sofas crowded around low tables upon which were scattered well-thumbed copies of The Times, Telegraph and the FT. Threadbare Persian carpets covered the black floorboards as the equally aged serving staff shuffled around, either carrying a bottle of wine, cognac, Scotch or port, to a particular table, or carrying away an empty one. The wainscoted walls were covered so many trophies, trinkets and paintings -- often portraits of powder-faced men in wigs so impressive they would have frightened small children and dogs -- that the smoke-stained wood could barely be seen. It was then that Tyrone noticed something peculiar, or rather smelt it.