One February afternoon, the fax machine of the famous ghosthunter Hetty Hyssop spat out the following message:
My dear Mrs. Hyssop,
My name is Theodore Worm and neither I nor my dear wife, Amelia, are easily scared. Over the last few days, however, we have both experienced incidents that have devastated both our nerves and our health. A week ago my wife and I took over the management of Gloomsburg Castle, an estate belonging to the von Gloomstones. When we arrived, we heard rumors that a ghost had been up to mischief at the castle for years. Our employers never mentioned it, thought, and so we initially ignored the gossip. After all, we ARE living in the twenty-first century!
Since our arrival, however, we have witnessed such a number of puzzling and deeply disturbing incidents that we are gradually starting to doubt our sanity. Your company, Hyssop & Co., was recommended to us by OFFCOCAG (the Office for Combating Castle Ghosts). Please help us! We are desperate!
Yours sincerely (and deeply distraught),
Theodore and Amelia Worm
It wasn’t much to go on, but the three ghosthunters at Hyssop & Co. were well used to such a lack of detail in the calls for help from their terrified clients. After several failed attempts to speak to the Worms on the phone, the trio loaded their car with their basic ghosthunting equipment, added a couple of special devices for fighting off historical ghosts, and packed Toms’ brand-new computer, which enabled him to tap into the extensive data bank of RICOG (the Research Institute for Combating Ghosts). Then they set off for Gloomsburg Castle without further delay.
It was a cold, gray winter’s day and the rain was pelting down on the pavement as Hetty Hyssop drove her old station wagon into the little village of Gloomstone.
“Well, I can’t see any castle,” said Tom, pressing his nose against the teamed-up car window. “Just a church, two banks, and a takeout place. Not even a sign saying ‘this way to the castle’ or anything.”
“Right,” said Hetty Hyssop, stopping by the curb. “Then we’ll just have to ask. Hugo, make yourself scarce.”
“OOOOOOK,” breathed Hugo, and disappeared underneath the backseat, while Hetty Hyssop wound down her window.
“Excuse me!” she called out to a man rushing past with a sopping-wet dachshund on a leash. “We’re looking for Baron von Gloomstone’s castle.”
The man almost trod on his dachshund in horror. He swallowed, looked around, leaned closer to Hetty Hyssop, and whispered, “What do you want with that place?”
“Oh, I’ve got some business there,” Hetty Hyssop answered.
“Jeepers creepers, have you got a death wish?” hissed the man. “Turn around and drive straight back home while you still have all your marbles intact!”
“Thanks very much for your advice,” said Hetty Hyssop, “but you needn’t worry about my marbles. I’d just like to know the way. So can you help me?”
The man shrugged his houlders snad pointed down the road.
“First right, second left, then straight on until…”
He stared pas Hetty Hyssop, his mouth open.
“Straight on until?” asked Hetty Hyssop. “Until where?”
“There!” breathed the man, pointing at the white fingers gently lifting Hetty’s hat up into the air. His dachshund threw back its head and howled.
“That? Oh, that’s nothing!” Hetty Hyssop gave Hugo’s wobbly fingers an irritated slap. “Straight on until where, then?”
But the man couldn’t utter another single sound. He stood there with his mouth open whilst his dog wound its leash around this legs.
“Until whhhhhhere?” breathed Hugo, blowing his moldy breath into the poor man’s face. “Come on, spit it ooooout, or Iiiiii’ll tickle yoooooou, got it?”
“S—s—straight a—a—ahead u—u—until you get to the bu—bu—bus stop, then t—t—take the track across the field,” the dachshund owner burst out.
“Thanks,” said Hetty Hyssop. Then she hastily wound up the window and put her foot down on the gas pedal.
he poor man was left standing in the rain staring after them, completely befuddled.