‘Okay,’ said Rufus, ‘this is what we know. Some time in the evening of 28th May this year, Robyn Farquhar aged ten, ran out of her parent’s flat in Forrest Road into the street. They thought she was tucked up in bed with a cold and didn’t know any different until they heard the sound of sirens outside. Robyn had been found by a passer-by in a state of unconsciousness. She was taken to the Edinburgh’s Sick Children’s Hospital where she remains in a coma rated, so I’m told, as a 4 on Glasgow Coma scale. This means she can open her eyes but there’s no one home.’
‘Rufus, please, this is a child we’re talking about,’ said Ruby.
I rolled my eyes and got another drink up.
‘Just trying to cut to the chase Rubes. There is some neurological activity, but not a great deal. She’s been in that state now for seven months and doctors are not hopeful because they don’t know what has caused the coma. Also not helping is the fact that it’s a deep one and it’s lasted for a long time.’
‘Her parents Pat and Gordon got in touch with me because they’ve been, well, hearing things in their flat and they think it’s haunted,’ said Ruby.
‘What sort of things?’ I asked.
“Started off as whispers, shit where it shouldn’t be, hey, that sounds like a good t-shirt slogan for an exorcist, don’t you think? Never mind, where was I? Oh yes, banging on walls, you know the usual,’ said Rufus. ‘But then it changed. Became more heavy-duty, nastier, if you get my drift.’
‘No,’ I said, ‘not unless you spell it out for me. And as for the slogan, you stole that from me when we were at Michael and Vic’s.’
‘And what a laugh that turned out to be. Okay then, voices late at night dredging up old secrets from the past, like Gordon’s affair, which Pat didn’t know about. Pat’s obsession with an ex, that Gordon didn’t know about and it went downhill from there. Things got more physical so to speak: plates being thrown and not just by the unhappy couple you understand, furniture upended, food spoiling in the fridge despite being just bought. Just you know, your classic demonic manifestations.’
‘Which is why you’re involved,’ I said. ‘So, correct me if I’m wrong but we’ve gone from a child lapsing into a coma to possible demonic possession, not of the child, but of the flat where she lived? Is that even possible?’
‘It’s not common, but having consulted the grimoires, it is possible. As you’ll know from your boyfriend Lukastor, there are many types of demon. Some possess places rather than humans. They are like humanity in that they can evolve to fit the conditions. They’re essentially parasites, arguably also like humanity. Anyway, that was the theory we were working on until Ruby did her thing and tried to contact Robyn. Take it away Rubes.’
‘Gordon and Pat gave me some of Robyn’s things,’ she indicated the objects on the table, ‘and I thought I’d give it a go even though we knew Robyn wasn’t dead. You remember that’s how I found Steph or Sophie or whatever she called herself.’
‘Oh, I think I still have a vague memory,’ I said getting an unwelcome flashback to our little showdown on the Castle esplanade with a particularly vile serial killer and pulling myself back with no little effort.
Outside something thumped against the window, a dark shape disappearing into the swirling snow.
“Brandy for everyone?’ said Ruby, pouring it out before I could stop her. The light was fading and I didn’t want to be here any longer than I had to. The photos on Ruby’s Wall of Death were also starting to creep me out. Unlike Ruby, I lived in the present and had no need of the dark, cloying weight of the past and the wants and needs of others dragging me down into it.
‘But I still don’t get why the parents wanted you to find her. They know where she is – she’s lying unconscious in the Sick Kids. If they’ve now got a haunting or possession surely that’s a separate thing? Hell it could have been triggered by events. There’s a missing link here, the one between the child and the goings-on.’
‘Pat and Gordon believe that someone, something has taken Robyn’s soul and is holding it captive,’ said Ruby.
‘Based on the fact that there is no physical explanation that can be found for the coma. Robyn hasn’t suffered a stroke, heart-attack, nor does she have a head wound. The entity in their flat knows things about Pat and Gordon that only Robyn would know.’
‘It might just be a powerful demon. It doesn’t mean something’s got hold of Robyn’s spirit.’
‘You don’t understand Rose,’ said Ruby. ‘They don’t just think the entity has Robyn, they think it is Robyn, in part anyway.’
‘That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard,’ I said. ‘How could it be Robyn, partly, wholly or any other way? And where does the captivity bit fit in?’
‘Well first off we don’t have all the answers and the ones we do beg more questions. I went to see Pat and Gordon last week and it was clear to me that they were, well, scared of Robyn, there’s no other way to put it. I don’t just mean now, but before the coma too. It turns out she’s psychic and, by their accounts, a very powerful one. She always knew things she wasn’t supposed to. Can’t be easy for the parents when dead members of the family and other random spirits are spilling secrets to their ten year old who then spills them at school until pretty soon there aren’t any left. Especially when as you know most people prefer to live in denial of that sort of thing. So some of the stuff the voices were saying wasn’t so dissimilar to what Robyn used to reveal. But there was a nastier edge to the goings on that weren’t typical of their child an intent you might say.’
‘While my heart really does bleed, there’s still not enough evidence to support what you’re saying,’ I told her.
‘I’m sorry Rose, I’m not explaining this very well. What I’m trying to say is that when I tried to contact Robyn, I was successful and she…spoke to me.’
I made a circling motion with my hand. Day was bleeding into night and the flat’s interior grew gloomier with every passing second.
‘She said that she was scared,’ Ruby continued, ‘that she didn’t know where she was, that she wanted to come home but couldn’t – and that she had a message for you. For you Rose,’ she looked at me with frightened eyes. ‘Why would she have a message for you?’
‘In the name of god woman,’ I said, hand over my eyes.
‘She said was to tell you that ‘The Ice Cream Man Cometh.’ Does that mean anything to you Rose? Rose?’