Sadie unbolted the door and opened it. A tall grey-haired man stood on the doorstep carrying a briefcase. He looked at a card in his hand and said, 'You are Sadie?' and he apparently knew Sadie's surname.
Sadie explained that she had not called him out, but invited the physician indoors anyway. She took him up to Abigail's bedroom and the doctor gave the child a quick examination. He pointed out the rash on Abigail's arms and after shining his penlight torch in her eyes, he told Sadie it looked as if Abigail had the symptoms of meningitis. The doctor drove the girl and her shocked mother to hospital where Abigail was positively diagnosed as suffering from the potentially fatal condition. Because the brain disease was caught in its early stages, the antibiotics and other medicines luckily overcame the life-threatening condition.
But who had contacted the doctor to call him out to Abigail? Sadie was really puzzled by that mystery. She didn't have an idea at the time, but something later happened which gave her a good idea who the eerie helper was.
In 1989, a handsome middle-aged man called at Sadie's cottage. He said his car had ran out of petrol and he asked the widow if she could possibly lend him a few pounds so he could go and fill his can at the filling station down the road. The man offered to leave an expensive-looking watch as a security and promised he'd return later to repay Sadie. Sadie kindly gave the sincere-looking man a five-pound note and he seemed very grateful. He walked off to the filling station with his can and loaded it with petrol, then returned to his Ford Fiesta, which was parked up at a lane near to Sadie's cottage.
When the man had emptied the can of petrol into the Fiesta's fuel tank, he went over to the cottage and gave the widow the change from the five-pound note she had lent him. The man said he would set off right away to get the money he owed her, and although Sadie told him that wouldn't be necessary, the man left. He returned about six that evening with a bunch of carnations and the money he owed Sadie. The cottager was flattered, and when she accepted the roses, the man kissed her hand then turned, ready to walk away. Sadie suddenly said to him: 'Wait; you forgot your wristwatch.'
The man said 'Oh yes,' and walked back up the path to her.
Sadie said to the man, 'Come in and have a cup of tea.'
It had been quite some time since Sadie had had some male company, and she did find the man attractive. Over a cup of tea he told her that he was from Middlewich and that his name was Tim. In the course of the long conversation that stretched until 9 pm, Tim said that the girl he had gone steady with for four years had recently left him for someone else, and that he was now wary of getting involved with the opposite sex again. Sadie advised him not to become a recluse because of his experiences with one girl, and hinted that she was still looking for someone too. Sadie was almost forty but looked about thirty-five. Tim said he was twenty-six. Sadie thought the age gap between them wasn't too big, and she and Tim ended their chat that evening by swapping telephone numbers.
Two days afterwards, Sadie telephoned Tim but got a steady disconnected tone. She wondered if the young man had only given her a 'dead' number just to appease her. She didn't know what to think, but she hoped she would see or hear from Tim again. A few days later, the phone in Sadie's cottage started to ring. Abigail picked it up as Sadie was racing towards it. The girl said, 'It's for you Mum.'
Sadie grabbed the receiver and said :' Hello?'
Tim didn't reply. It was the voice of an old woman, and she said some horrible things about Tim from Middlewich. She said he was a bigamist and a confidence trickster who knew about the large amount of money that had been left to Sadie by her late husband.
Sadie was stunned by the claims and a little heartbroken. She asked the caller to identify herself, and the old woman told Sadie that her landlord would provide her with that answer. Tim paid another visit to Sadie one Sunday evening in the following week. This time he brought more flowers and a bottle of wine to the cottage. Sadie asked Tim about the strange telephone call she had received and what the anonymous old woman had said. When Tim heard about the caller's allegations about him being a bigamist and a conman, the young man suddenly got up, put on his coat, and left the cottage without saying a word. Sadie never set eyes upon Tim again, and several months later she learned from a neighbour that Tim was regarded as a rather shady character who had spent six months in prison for fraud. He was also rumoured to have two wives; one in Crewe and another in Chester. He was also currently living with a mistress in Middlewich.
When Sadie's landlord visited her one day, she told him about the mysterious old woman who had telephoned with her strange tip-offs. The landlord seemed very nervous all of a sudden. Sadie told him that the uncanny caller had said that the landlord knew her identity.
In the end, the landlord said that previous occupants in the Sandbach cottage had reported seeing the ghost of an old woman. The former tenants had also told him of creepy late-night nuisance calls from an old woman who gave advice and warnings. The landlord said he initially thought the stories were just exaggerations and excuses to leave without paying the rent. Sadie promised her landlord she would not move out because she regarded the ghost as helpful and harmless. The landlord then told Sadie that an old spinster named Enid had died at the cottage five years back. She had lived in the cottage for some twenty years, and was something of a recluse. There were rumours that she had been jilted in her youth and had never bothered with men again.
The only thing she lived for was the back garden. One afternoon she was found dead beneath the willow tree in the garden she had so lovingly tended. The coroner ruled that Enid had died from a massive stroke, but within months, the new tenants at the cottage reported seeing the spectre of an elderly woman crossing the lawn in the back garden one moonlit night. The landlord confessed that he also glimpsed Enid's shade one wintry evening. He saw her glide across the snow-covered lawn, but when he went to investigate, there were no footprints in the virgin snow.
The ghost hasn't phoned for a while, but whenever the phone rings, Sadie often wonders if its Enid calling. Sadie still hasn't found Mr Right and although Abigail is now married, her mother doesn't feel lonely, because she knows Enid is always around somewhere.
Are you expecting any phone calls tonight?...
This story reproduced with permission from Tom Slemen
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