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Green Fingers

Project Paranormal

Author: Dark Star

Season 2

Part 21

 

**

 

Green fingers are the extension of a verdant heart. ~ Russell Page

 

**

 

Green Fingers

 

 

Hillcrest Hotel, Dorset

 

"If you finish the last two rooms on this corridor, I'll do those across the hall. That okay with you, Alice?"

 

Alice threw the dirty sheets and towels into the black bag for the laundry. "Fine with me, Maggie." Rummaging about underneath the trolley, her muffled voice muttered, "We got any more sheets? I thought there were more here…"

 

"Didn't I get enough?" Maggie apologised. "Sorry. Give me a tick and I'll nip downstairs and get some for you."

 

Alice shook her head. "It's all right. I'll just…"

 

Maggie laughed. "You'll just take forever." She laughed again when the older woman glowered good naturedly at her. "I've got it."

 

She was still smiling when she pressed the button on the lift to take her to the basement. At 63, Alice was still pretty spry for her age, but Maggie knew that the long shifts were starting to get too much for her.

 

The lift ground to a halt, and the door slid open. Maggie moved forward to step outside, and stopped abruptly.

 

What the…

 

The room outside was in semi darkness; but more importantly, Maggie had never seen it before. Frowning, she stepped back and checked the floor number to make sure she hadn't ended up on the wrong level. Very strange. She pressed the basement button again and waited. Nothing happened; the door remained locked open and the lift obstinately immobile.

 

Great. Just great. She sighed as she punched 'basement' into the lift controls, growing more agitated when nothing worked.

 

A sound outside the lift caught her attention, and her heart lurched. Don't be stupid, she told herself. Been watching too many movies…

 

"Charlie?" She called, wincing as her voice echoed loudly around the still room. "Is that you?"

 

There was no response from Charlie, and Maggie stepped out into the unfamiliar room. She must have just pressed the wrong button, she decided, and now it was jammed. There must be some stairs down here somewhere, and they couldn't be all that far away from here.

 

Another sound came from the room, a sort of soft scraping, and Maggie suddenly realised what the noise was. Charlie sometimes had trouble with his left leg; the result of some kind of motorcycle injury when he was a lad. Maybe he was having trouble again?

 

The scraping sound came again from the other side of a stack of barrels, and she turned toward it. "Hey, Charlie," she said brightly, heading toward him. "Do you need…"

 

Grinning, she hurried round the corner of the wooden containers… and screamed.

 

*

 

Westbury, Giles' study.

 

"So what's the sitch, Giles?" Buffy expectantly perched herself on the edge of Giles's desk, and completely ignored his frown of disapproval.

 

"The… sitch, as you call it," Giles replied, deciding not to make an issue out of the desk, "is this." He paused to consult his notes, and then continued, "I've had a call from the manager of the Hillcrest Hotel. One of his employees was found, completely distraught, in the lift."

 

"Fascinating," Buffy replied dryly. "So how does this concern us?"

 

"The girl - one Maggie Peterson, insisted she had seen something in the basement."

 

"What kind of something? Vampire?"

 

"Unknown. The staff were unable to get any sense from the girl and sent her home. She immediately gave in her notice and refuses to set foot in the place again. She had worked there for three years, before this."

 

"We have a job, then." Buffy grinned at him. "Want me to check it out?"

 

"We'll both go," Giles smiled and confided, "It sounds rather intriguing."

 

"You should get out more," Buffy said affectionately. "Are you ready?"

 

Hillcrest was situated, as the name implied, at the top of a hill and overlooking the sea. They were met in the lobby by the manager who then discreetly whisked them into his office.

 

"I'm sure you understand," he hastened to explain, "that I want to keep this strange business quiet?"

 

"Quite so," Giles concurred. "We will be as discreet as possible, but we do have some questions."

 

"Of course," the manager replied. "What did you want to know?"

 

"Did anybody else see anything strange?" Buffy interjected before Giles could speak.

 

The manager shook his head. "Nobody heard anything, or saw anything. It's very strange, because everything was normal." He frowned, and added, "I called you in because, well… Maggie isn't really the type to imagine things."

 

"Can you tell us what happened?" Giles asked gently.

 

"As far as I can gather, it was a normal shift. Maggie and Alice were working on the first floor…"

 

"Doing what?" Buffy asked.

 

"Cleaning, changing sheets… the usual things." He motioned them to sit down, and continued, "they ran out of clean sheets, and Maggie went downstairs to collect some fresh ones." At Giles's enquiring look, he explained, "we keep them in the basement."

 

Giles nodded, and the manager said, "When she hadn't returned, Alice went down to the basement to look for her. She found Maggie sobbing hysterically in the lift." He shrugged. "That's about all I know. It's probably best if you take a look around yourselves. My staff have been told that you'll be coming, and have been instructed to assist you. Please don't discuss this with our guests; they can't help as they never go down to the basement."

 

"Well," Giles said cautiously, "There's probably no need to involve them at this time." He turned to his slayer and said, "Shall we?"

 

"We shall," Buffy agreed brightly, and followed him from the office. The lift was located over at the far side of the lobby, and the short journey down to the basement was conducted in a contemplative silence.

 

The doors opened out into a well-lit and industrious area. Hotel staff scurried to and fro, and the atmosphere was cheery - reflecting nothing that could be construed as scary.

 

Well, almost nothing, Buffy amended, when a very severe looking woman strode by, barking instructions at a couple of teenaged girls.

 

**

 

"Really, Angel - she was so harsh!"  Angel chuckled as Buffy retold her account of her trip to the hotel, and mimicked the scene in the basement.

 

"But nothing was found?"

 

"Nothing," Buffy confirmed, sitting next to him on the sofa. "Giles managed to make an appointment with the girl in the lift for this evening. Do you want to come with?"

 

"Giles doesn't want to go?"

 

"Can't." Buffy replied, squirming round on the couch so that she faced him. "He's got a client coming in this evening."

 

"Yeah," Angel wrapped his arms round her waist and pulled her close. "I'm your man."

 

*

 

Maggie Petersons' home.

 

"My daughter will be down in a minute," Jeanne Peterson said, showing the visitors into the living room. She hesitated, lowered her voice, and glanced up the stairs. "I don't believe in the supernatural," she told them. "But Maggie saw something down there. She hasn't been the same girl since that day."

 

"We'll do what we can, Mrs Peterson," Buffy said as earnestly as she could. "In what way has she changed?"

 

"Maggie loved life. Always laughing… but now, she is so sullen that you'd think she was a different person."

 

Buffy opened her mouth to reply, but sounds on the staircase made them all look up in anticipation. The girl that entered the room looked tired and drawn, as though she had been ill. It had been a hot day, but the girl had a shapeless beige cardigan pulled tightly round her body. Maggie looked impassively at the strangers in her lounge.

 

"Miss Summers? Mr… Angel?" she asked.

 

"Just Angel," the man replied, giving her a small smile that might have made her melt a little while ago. Before.

 

"Do you want me stay, dear?" Jeanne asked hopefully. "I could just…"

 

"I'll be fine, mum." Maggie waited for her mother to leave the room, and offered her guests a seat. She closed the door when her mother left. She went to the sofa and sat down next to the blonde. Noting distractedly that the man, for some strange reason, had chosen to sit in the corner, she explained,  "She doesn't believe me."

 

"Well, we might." Buffy said gently. "Why don't you tell us what happened?"

 

Maggie swallowed. "It was a normal day. It was quite busy, because this time of year we get a lot of holidaymakers. Alice and I were getting on really well, but we were getting low on sheets. I… I offered to go down… below… to get some fresh linen. I got into the lift, and I… I…"

 

"It's okay," Buffy said as softly as she could, wishing that Giles had taken this meeting. He was so much better with this stuff.  "Just take your time."

 

"When the lift opened, it was to somewhere I had never seen before. I thought it might have been to a lower floor than where I normally go, and when the lift wouldn't work, I decided to go and find my way out.  I heard… this noise, and I thought it might be Charlie."

 

Buffy glanced at Angel. Charlie?

 

"That would be the caretaker?" Maggie nodded, and Angel asked, "Why would the noise make you think of Charlie?"

 

"He's got a gammy leg," she explained, her speech slowing down, as if she could postpone having to tell these people what she had seen. And maybe have them laugh at her. "And it sounded like a dragging noise. But… when I… looked…"

 

"You saw?" Buffy prompted.

 

"This… thing," she blurted out.

 

"What did this thing look like?"

 

Maggie took a deep breath. The investigators hadn't laughed at her, so she might as well get it all out. "Like a person, only not. Nobody I've ever seen before. It must have been seven feet tall, and it had two hands, two legs, great big teeth and was wearing a funny jacket. It was green."

 

"The jacket was green?"

 

Maggie  shook her head. "No it  - the thing - was green."

 

"Has anybody else ever seen anything like this before?"

 

Maggie'e eyebrows went up. "You think I would have gone down there, if they had?"

 

Buffy had no answer to that. Um… what else should she ask?

 

"So," this was from Angel, "What was the dragging noise?"

 

"Oh, that," Maggie replied, her eyes large. "That would have been its tail."

 

 

**

Summerdown House.

 

Angel’s car pulled into the drive, and stopped next to the blue Audi parked in front of the kitchen.

 

"Must be that new client," Buffy commented. "I wonder if we're supposed to join them?"

 

"No idea. Let's go and find out."

 

Leaving the black Porsche securely locked, they made for the kitchen where the lights were still on.

 

Martha was busy in the kitchen when they arrived, and after exchanging pleasantries, she told them, “Giles said he would like you both to join him in the study when you got back.”

 

“Thanks Martha,” Buffy responded and turned to go down the hall. Martha stopped her with, “Do you think you could take this drink to him?”

 

“Of course I…” Buffy began, her words trailing away when she saw the drink in question.

 

Martha smiled ruefully, placing the baby’s bottle in her hand. “He has company,” she explained.

 

When they reached the study door, Angel tapped softly and waited for the expected ‘Come in’. Inside the study, they found Giles talking to a young couple. The woman sat in the chair facing Giles, her arms folded tightly round the form of a small baby wrapped in a lace shawl. An earnest looking man stood behind her, his expression grave.

 

“Hello,” Buffy said to the assembled group. “Martha said that you wanted us?”

 

“Indeed,” Giles responded, introducing them as his colleagues to the couple who turned out to be Lewis and Amy Stewart, and their daughter, Susan. Buffy handed the bottle to Amy, her thoughts wandering back to when Dawn was a baby, and how much she had enjoyed feeding her. For some reason, Amy seemed reluctant to feed the baby, and Buffy watched curiously as the young mother awkwardly settled the infant on her lap, and began unwrapping the white shawl to feed her. The baby’s hand uncurled from its hiding place inside the white lace. Fascinated, Buffy couldn’t help observing the perfect, chubby little fingers as they reached for the bottle. Fingers so beautifully formed, so tiny, and so completely and utterly green.

 

Buffy wasn’t certain if she’d managed to hide her gasp or not, but Giles was saying gently, “Apparently Mr and Mrs Stewart are rather concerned about Susan.”

 

“What happened?” This was Angel, as he stepped closer to the baby to get a better look. Amy had by now removed the child’s lacy shawl, and it had become clear that it wasn’t just Susan’s fingers that were green; every inch of exposed skin was the same garish shade.

 

“She was born like this,” Lewis was saying, rubbing a comforting hand on his wife’s shoulder. “The doctors are baffled. They’ve run tests for rare disorders of pigment, malfunctioning genes… they don't really know what’s caused it.”

 

“Somebody said…” Amy murmured shyly, “That it might be… supernatural. We’ve tried everything else… do you know what’s wrong with her?”

 

“You believe she’s under a spell?” Giles asked.

 

Amy blinked.

 

“Is there such a thing? I mean… is it possible?”

 

Giles smiled at her reassuringly. “Let’s find out, shall we?” He got up, picked up a white powder from his desk, and went to stand next to her. He said there was no need to stop the baby’s feed; he was just going to perform a ‘ritual of exposure.’ Amy tried not to look worried as he sprinkled the powder in a circle around her and the baby, and touched a powdered digit to the baby’s forehead.

 

Returning to his desk, he read the incantation as quietly as possible so as not to alarm the child’s already spooked parents, and then he studied the baby. Nothing. He repeated the process over again, and waited. Nothing was happening or being revealed.

 

“Good,” Giles said with forced brightness. “It’s not a spell, so we can rule that out.” He looked up at the vampire hovering in the edges of the room. “Angel – would you mind?”

 

Amy looked up at the rather large man that had suddenly appeared at her elbow. She hadn’t heard him move, and yet – there he was. Angel leant forward over the baby, and gently used his thumb to wipe away the white powder. Surreptitiously, his fingers traced over the baby’s pulse, and vampire senses tuned into the rhythm of the child's body. He stood up, meeting Giles’s eye as he did so. He knew what Giles wanted to know. Demon?

 

Angel gave the merest shake of his head, and Giles nodded. Human, then.

 

“So,” Giles was saying thoughtfully, “Did anything unusual happen during your pregnancy?”

 

Lewis stared at him. “Like whirlwinds and earthquakes, you mean?”

 

Giles winced. “Ah – no. I don’t think the recent apoc… uh…. Weather altercations have any relevance to this.” But he filed the suggestion away for investigation. There had been a lot of supernatural phenomena on the loose when Amy was carrying the baby, and it couldn’t be ruled out completely. “I actually meant, did you take any drugs or do anything unusual?”

 

“Or eat a lot of green vegetables?” Buffy suddenly said, and blushed when everybody looked at her. “Well… I heard that if you eat a lot of carrots you go orange, so I wondered…”

 

“Well… no.” Amy said. “I did eat greens, of course but, not to excess…”

 

“She didn’t eat anything to excess,” Lewis added. “She had a lot of sickness during the pregnancy, and it didn’t really clear up after the first three months, either, as everyone said that it would.” He turned to Buffy.

 

"Your guess isn't as odd as it sounds," Lewis smiled at her. "The doctors did say that something called Green Sickness was common about a hundred years ago. Its proper name was… Chloryll, or something like that."

 

"Chlorosis," Angel said softly, drawing eyes to him.

 

"Are you a doctor?" Amy asked. 

 

"No. But it's not green sickness."

 

"How do you know? They said they haven't seen a case of green sickness for decades."

 

"I've travelled," Angel improvised. "In some remote areas an occasional case shows up. I've seen a couple."

 

"Oh." The couple seemed to accept that explanation.

 

Susan made an odd noise as Amy put her against her shoulder and patted her back. Angel stirred, reminded uncomfortably of Connor, and Buffy caught his eye. She smiled encouragingly, and Angel acknowledged her empathy with a small smile.

 

"Does Pylea mean anything to you?" he asked.

 

Lewis blinked. "That's in Spain, isn't it?"

 

"Bit further away, actually."

 

Giles asked the worried parents a lot more questions, and finished the meeting with an agreement to visit their home the following day for investigation. When they had gone, Giles said, “Well? Any suggestions?”

 

“A Changeling?” Angel suggested.

 

Buffy frowned. "Changing into what?"

 

"Changeling," Angel corrected. "A child replaced by fairies."

 

"Oh." She gave him her most winning smile. "I knew that."

 

"The child was born green, so I don't believe it’s a changeling."

 

"How'd you know it wasn't green sickness?" Buffy asked. "How is it different?"

 

"The shade is completely different and the children were obviously sick. Susan looked healthy enough apart from the colour."

 

"Chlorosis was an iron deficiency, was it not?" Giles asked, earning a nod from the vampire. "If I recall correctly," Giles went on, "It was prevalent in the middle ages. It was referred to as the…" he cast an apologetic glance at Buffy."… Virgins' disease. They believed it could be cured by marriage."

 

"So not the answer in Susan's case." Buffy retorted indignantly. "What's with the Pylea thing?"

 

"Another dimension." Angel explained. "Many of the inhabitants there are green. I thought it might be connected."

 

"That might not be too far from the truth," Giles said. "There is an account of two green children who appeared at Woolpit in Suffolk during the 12th Century, and another very similar account of children who appeared in Banjos in Spain, in 1887. According to the tale, the children wore strange clothing and spoke in a strange tongue. They would eat nothing but green beans, even though other foods were offered.

 

'The boy died, but the girl survived and grew up. She learnt to speak English, and said that she had come from a land that had no sunlight. There are differing accounts on how they reached here, from hearing bells to walking along a long tunnel or through a cavern."

 

"But Susan was born, Giles. How can she be from another dimension?"

 

"I'm not saying she is, Buffy. But right now it’s the only suggestion that we have." Giles started clearing away his notes on the session. "How did your meeting with Maggie Peterson go?"

 

"She said that she was in a room she hadn't seen before, and encountered this big green demony thing. Are we going back to check it out?"

 

"Tomorrow." Giles confirmed. "The demon was green?"

 

"Yeah. Think it's connected to Susan?"

 

The filing cabinet clanked shut. "Perhaps we will find out tomorrow."

 

 

*

 

Another round of interviews and exploration at the Hillcrest Hotel produced nothing of any value. They had tried looking for any telltale signs that demons had been in evidence, but again, they could find nothing. After the exploration, Buffy decided to take a detour over to the Castlepoint shopping centre to do some shopping. She was itching to spend some of the financial windfall that had recently been bestowed upon them, and Giles returned home to keep his afternoon appointment with the Stewarts.

 

The couple ushered him into their comfortable lounge, its fresh, clear lines reminding Giles of a Scandinavian appearance. Amy brought in a tray from the kitchen that displayed three china mugs of hot coffee, a small bowl containing sugar, and a plate of carefully arranged chocolate biscuits in the middle.

 

Giles politely accepted his coffee and a biscuit, and waited for Amy to sit down next to her husband on the sofa.

 

"Did you make that list I asked for?" Giles asked.

 

Lewis picked up a folded piece of paper from the coffee table and handed it to him. "That's the list as far as we know," he said. Giles unfolded the piece of paper and scanned the list of names and dates, neatly written down in a line on the left hand side. "Thank you," he replied, refolding the paper and placing it inside his wallet for safekeeping.

 

 He then got out his notebook and slowly worked down his list of questions.

 

**

 

Summerdown house, Giles' kitchen.

 

"Don't forget your bag," John reminded his wife, as she prepared to turn off the kitchen lights and follow him out to the car.

 

"Forget my head if it wasn't screwed on," she muttered, returning to the kitchen table where her handbag waited for her attention. Just as she reached it, the telephone rang. John groaned as she veered off to answer it. They were never going to get home tonight at this rate.

 

"Hello? Summerdown house, office of Proj…. No, Mr Giles isn't here right now. Can I take a message for you?" Balancing the phone against her ear, she reached for the notepad. "Hillcrest Hotel. You've seen… oh. My. Well, try not to worry. I'll see if I can get somebody to come down to you."

 

When she had put the receiver down, Martha turned toward John. "Do you know if Buffy or Angel are at home?"

 

"I've just seen the young lady go up the steps to the flat," he responded. "What's wrong?"

 

"There's something peculiar happening in the basement."

 

*

 

 

Hillcrest Hotel

 

The lift doors opened out into a room that was not the basement. It had much the same dimensions as the basement room, but that was where the resemblance ended. Buffy opened up her backpack and pulled out a small axe; she'd wanted to bring the bigger one, but Angel had pointed out that she couldn't be seen carrying an offensive weapon in a public building, so she had opted for something more discreet. They stepped cautiously out of the lift, and stopped in the semi-darkened non-basement to listen. Slowly, as though joined by string, they moved through the unfamiliar area with caution. A sound, a soft click-click, could be heard from the other side of an archway, and they went toward it.

 

Resting alongside the wall, they could clearly hear the click-click from the other side. Taking a deep breath, they suddenly rounded the corner, ready to face anything.

 

A green creature, around four feet tall, and with a long tail scraping along the floor, was standing the other side of the arch, a round fruit clutched in its scaly claws. The click-click was the sound of its claws clipping together as it tried to squeeze the fleshy red fruit open. With the sudden arrival of Buffy and Angel on the other side of the arch, the creature dropped its fruit with a loud screech. It spun, tail whipping, and snapped at them, claws scraping at the air and teeth snarling.

 

Angel dived under the flailing arms and wrestled the creature to the ground. He rolled out of the way, and Buffy moved in and swung her axe at the creature. It shrieked, scuttling away, and they followed it down the corridor, where it had fled, amazingly fast, and vanished. But they knew it was there somewhere, and they began kicking and pulling obstacles out of the way to find it.

 

They discovered the creature crouching under a table, its body curled up tight into a ball, and it was making an odd snuffling noise as it rocked. It kept repeating one phrase over and over.

 

Buffy looked at Angel. "What's it doing?" Her eyebrows rose. "Is it crying?"

 

But Angel was concentrating on what the creature was saying. It sounded to Buffy like, 'Okha, bree mi' but she asked, "Can you understand it?"

 

Angel frowned. "It sounds like a mixture of a couple of demon languages that I know. I can't be sure."

 

Buffy sighed in exasperation. "Then guess. What do you think it's saying?"

 

"I think, " Angel said slowly, "That it's saying, 'I want my mummy.'"

 

**

 

Giles' study.

 

The desk was covered in books, the computer keys clicked - slowly - as Giles typed in his commands. Every so often he stopped to scribble down notes the old-fashioned way, on paper. He hadn't completely lost his distrust in modern technology.

 

Suddenly, he stopped. Double-checked. Made notes. Yes! Smiling, he made more notes on his piece of paper. He'd found the link he was looking for, and tomorrow he would visit the Stewarts' home with his findings. He stood up, heading for the kitchen. Time for a cup of tea…

 

**

Hillcrest Hotel, basement.

 

"It's a child?"

 

"I think so."

 

"Wonderful. And you scared it."

 

"I  scared it? You're the one with the axe!"

 

Buffy suddenly remembered that she was carrying the offensive axe, and placed it gently down on the floor. She showed the creature that she carried nothing in her hands. "Can you ask it what it's doing here?" she said.

 

Angel attempted to communicate with the wailing creature hiding under the table. It took a long time before it had calmed enough to talk to them, and more time before Angel managed to get some kind of pidgin communication going with it.

 

"It says it lives here," he said, finally.

 

"In the basement?" Buffy exclaimed. "That can't be right."

 

More frustrated and fractured conversation. "I think it's saying that we have invaded its home."

 

The green creature suddenly started chattering profusely, and Angel waved his hands frantically to slow it down so that he could understand. Finally, he said, "It wants to know if we're the monster, or… bogeyman… who appeared to his brother. No, not brother. Sister? Um… sibling of some sort, anyway."

 

"Monster?" Buffy queried. "Oh! Maggie! It must mean Maggie."

 

Angel said something to the little creature, and it got up and scurried away.

 

"What did you say to it?"

 

"I told it to go back to its family and stay there. Something is happening here, and I didn't want it to get trapped. We should be getting back ourselves, Buffy."

 

"Do you know what's going on?"

 

"I have an idea," Angel said as he started back towards the lift. "But I think we'll need Giles."

 

**

 

"You think it's a portal?" Giles asked when they returned to the house, and found him in the kitchen.

 

"Not a portal," Angel replied. "More a breach of some kind. The Queen told me last year that the walls between dimensions are thinner now. She said they would thicken up, but it would take time." 

 

"Hmm." Giles started up the hall toward his study.

 

Following him, Angel asked, "Is there any way that we can seal it?"

 

"I believe so," Giles said, stopping in front of his shelves of books. He reached up for Hebron's Almanac and pulled it off the shelf. "I'm sure I've seen something that would be of help."

 

"Do you need any…" Buffy asked half-heartedly.

 

"No, no… I can manage," he assured them, engrossed in his book, and hardly noticed that they were already halfway into the hall for their getaway. 

 

Researching was something that he knew. This was what he was best at, and Giles settled down to find what he was looking for. 5am, research done, he stretched. He should go to bed. But he was too psyched to sleep and he decided to go over to the hotel and seal the breach straight away. He hesitated in the yard, wondering if he should wait for Buffy. But the lights in the flat were out, and he didn't want to wake her. This should be straightforward, anyway.

 

Arriving at the hotel, the night porter recognised him and let him in. In the lift down to the basement, he wondered what he would see. When the door opened, it turned out to be nothing. The lights were off, and he scrabbled around on the wall, looking for the light switch. Clicking the lights on, the basement flooded with welcome light. There was no sign of the alternative basement, or of green demon children. He started checking around the walls of the basement, carefully pulling at baskets and shelves where he could, to see behind them. Eventually, he found what he was looking for. Behind a stack of wicker laundry baskets, he found a pale shape, about three feet square, in the wall. But it was more than a shape, it looked thin, like a sheet of frosted glass; but the alarming thing was, the sheet was bulging outwards, pulsating, as though something was trying to push its way out.

 

Quickly, he opened his briefcase, and began his preparations for putting up a mystical barrier to seal the breach. Effectively, he was going to put a plaster on it.

 

**

 

The Stewarts' driveway.

 

Giles pulled up on the tarmac outside the young couple's home. He flexed his shoulders to loosen up stiff muscles. He'd barely had enough time for a quick nap and a shower before his meeting with the family. His work in the basement had taken longer than expected, especially as he had spent some time searching around for other breaches in the basement, but fortunately, had found none. He had run into the manager as he was coming to work, and Giles explained that he thought the problem would not be recurring.

 

The front door opened, and Amy Stewart, green baby in her arms, waved at him.

 

"You have news, Mr Giles?"

 

"Indeed." This time Amy took him through to the kitchen, and they settled themselves on the breakfast stools. She explained that Lewis had been detained at work but would be home soon. Giles assured her it didn't matter, and placed his case on the breakfast bar, and tried to ignore the sad and wilted plant that resided there.

 

Giles opened his case and pulled out his notes. "The list you gave me - your family tree - only took me back a couple of hundred years. What I was looking for was much further back - to the middle ages, in fact."

 

Amy frowned. "How is this relevant to Susan?"

 

"I discovered that one of your distant ancestors - one Beatrice Mayfield - hailed from Lenna in Suffolk." Giles paused for effect, and then added, "Just a few miles from Woolpit."

 

"Woolpit?"

 

"The name derives from Wolf's Pit. In the 12th Century, two green children suddenly appeared there. The boy died, but his sister lived and later married a  man from Lenna. I believe that Susan is a descendant of the girl, that she carries some of her genes, and is a throwback to that child."

 

"Is there anything that we can do?"

 

"The green girl lost her colouring with time, and I believe that when Susan starts eating solid food, she will, too." Giles pulled a little packet out of his case. "If you mix a teaspoon of this in with each feed, it should help." At Amy's alarmed expression, he added, "it's just protein, it won't harm her. I've checked it out with someone who knows about these things. He didn't add that his expert, in this case, was Martha.

 

"I can't thank you enough," Amy said, "for helping my daughter. I was so worried about what would happen if she has to spend her life being green." She rocked the baby against her hip. "What happens if she doesn't lose her colour?"

 

"Then call me, and we will investigate further. I don't think it will come to that, Mrs Stewart. If all else fails, there are ways to conceal high colouring, even green, and I can help you find somebody to assist with that."

 

"Thank you," Amy replied, sipping her coffee. She was a little unsure as to know what to say next. Reaching forward, she pulled the droopy plant closer.

 

"Tell me, Mr. Giles. Do you know anything about houseplants?"

 

Giles brightened instantly. "Well, I have read recently…"

 

End.

 

 

Author Notes:

 

The Hillcrest Hotel in this story is a fictitious establishment. Woolpit and the legend of the green children is true, and one account can be found here.  Chlorosis - Green sickness - was not uncommon in times gone by, and as Giles pointed out, was caused by an iron deficiency and poor diet. The little green demon recovered from his trauma, and grew up to tell the story of the mad people in his basement to his enthralled grandchildren.

 

 

 

 

 



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