Added: 13 October 2010
Just when we thought all was quiet, we’ve heard from Jenny again.
See what you make of it.
OK so last week was conference week and there were two things that Jenny should have been doing; either 1) holed up in the Westminster office trying to finish all the work she has left to the last minute or 2) actually being at conference attending receptions for free food and drink and writing speeches on local transport or businesses. But Jenny had done neither. Instead she had been exiled to the constituency and that’s where it started to get spooky. She ended up being very busy as the result of a chance encounter so only just managed to make sense of what happened herself.
It all started as Jenny’s boss had a grand project he wanted doing and she had to go and help. It was exactly the kind of busy work he usually came up with but it was the most important thing in the world right now. Far more important than Jenny having fun with her friends at conference. So she was in the wilds of nowhere earnestly working on nothing. Jack, her boss, had pointed out that this would give her time to bond with the constituency office staff. So far there had been little chance for bonding. Jenny had met the four of them and she was staying with one, but they were all busy with their own work and lives. Husbands, children, school runs and weekly food shops but, with canvassing and leafleting thrown in, almost all these things were alien to Jenny.
Jacquie had given Jenny her induction to the rickety old office that was over 5 floors above a butchers shop and overlooked a graveyard. After the health and safety stuff which no one had ever explained to Jenny before, it was then Jacquie dropped in.
‘And never mind the ghost or the gremlins as Pat likes to call them.’
‘The ghost, things go wrong or are moved, especially the computers – we all blame it on the ghost or the gremlins.’
Jenny tried to keep a straight face but failed, so this was the fabled office humour she had heard so much about.
‘We all know its Jack really.’ She said letting Jenny in on the joke.
‘Are you sure?’ Admittedly she blamed Jack for things going wrong in her office but she did not have a good track record with spooky things.
‘This is your corner’ Jacquie said at the end of the induction. It actually was a corner with the oldest PC she had ever seen in it amongst the dusty box files.
‘Remember there is no IT support here, if it goes wrong we have to try to fix it first and the net is super slow.’
Great, Jenny thought.
‘I am sure I will be fine’
‘If you’re sure’
Jenny set to work compiling the surveys. The computer was too slow to check Facebook and see what her friends were up to and mobile reception was patchy at best.
Jenny got up to make herself a cup of tea and when she got back the surveys were on the other side of the desk. She must have left it that way and forgotten or had Jack come in? She shouted downstairs.
‘No’ was the answer
‘OK thanks’. Weird. Next task was to make graphs. Jenny normally was OK with this, but these weren’t working. It was as if they undid themselves every time she turned her back. Jenny must be doing something wrong or maybe it was a virus? She picked up the phone to PICT then remembered where she was so she ran a scan and eventually it came up nil. One of the women in the office, Nell, was leaving early to pick up her kids.
‘Can I use your PC please? There seems to be a ghost in my machine’
Jenny was joking but a shiver went down her spine as she looked out over the graveyard.
The same thing happened on Nell’s machine at first but she eventually made some headway. Jenny looked at her watch it was 6 pm. Her ride from Pat had probably gone and she would have to trudge up the hill. The buses were erratic and expensive. There was a rattling sound downstairs not in the butchers but first floor she hoped.
‘Not funny’ she called downstairs.
‘What?’ Jack answered
‘Sorry didn’t realise it was you boss.’
‘What are you still doing here?’ He shouted up. Jenny being more civilised walked downstairs.
Though it’s not like she had an active social life here. Jack was logging onto his computer, she hoped, just to check his diary and not to send her more work.
It was then Jenny noticed the computer mouse moving by itself.
‘Mouse!’ She screamed.
Jack looked round at the floor.
‘For God’s sake. There are mice in the countryside.’
‘No…but…’ Jenny realised how crazy that was so went with Jack’s theory.
‘I have got to go to a meeting. Do you want to come with me?’
Jenny would normally say no but jumped at the chance of getting out of there. She swore she heard goodbye as they left but dismissed it.
Jenny was very edgy the next day but she managed to mostly convince herself that it was the rural air or cider that had made her see the mouse move by itself.
It was a long day again as she had to write her conclusions into a speech for Jack. It was funny; the words kept moving round on the computer. It was like there was someone else trying to write it. She gave up and went for coffee – not the best thing for nerves but when she went back to the screen it said ‘Hi’.
‘Not another mouse.’ Jacquie said.
‘Ha ha.’ Jenny said. She was really beginning to suspect that it was not her boss behind all the weird things; he could make up 60% of them but not this. There was no way he could do this by accident. She picked up the phone and said Hi. At least it wouldn’t look like she was talking to herself.
‘Hello Jenny.’ An echoey voice said.
‘What the hell is going on?’ She said quietly.
‘I am a ghost.’
‘Jenny I really hope you are not talking to a constituent.’ She heard from downstairs.
‘No.’ She replied simply.
‘Who are you?’ Jenny said quietly.
‘This used to be my house.’
‘When?’ Jenny asked. ‘Are you a friendly ghost?’ Jenny really meant was he on the right side, as the last thing she wanted to be dealing with was a political poltergeist.
‘What do you want?’ In every movie Jenny had seen the ghost wanted something.
‘Let me get a word in. My name is or was Geoff Adams and I want to make sure my wife, Emmie, got or is getting the pension she is owed. I see the people in the office doing these things all the time.’
Jenny’s message from the great beyond was casework.
‘When did you die?’
’35 years ago, I was 40.’
Damn – so his wife could be alive. She did not mean that the way it sounded. Jenny hated casework it was hard work and she always tried to pawn it off on the constituency office.
Great – so there had literally been a ghost in her machine who was now on her phone, and wanted her to solve his problem or she would never get any work done.
‘Why do you think she didn’t get the money?’ Jenny asked.
‘Because you are working in our house.’
Jenny said she would ask what to do next and get back to him. She needed help but there was no way she could ask a colleague so she checked w4mp but there was no guide on representing the dead. Just then the power went out. Jenny heard muttered swearing from downstairs. She looked accusingly around the room and on the dead computer screen appeared ‘NOT GUILTY’.
‘Bloody power cuts. I lost my letter again.’ Jenny heard Jacquie say.
‘Is everyone alright?’ Jenny shouted up & downstairs. She did not want to go downstairs in the dark. The stairs were treacherous enough in the light.
A shout came from down, downstairs: ‘I think the photocopier fused or something. Right when I needed those leaflets.’
Jenny’s phone rang and she took refuge in answering it.
‘Hi Bob you used to be a caseworker right?
‘Only I have this problem…’
Jenny explained leaving out the ghost part, substituting a friend of the family who had dementia for Mrs Adams.
‘How would you check?’ Jenny asked.
‘What’s the name?’ Bob asked
‘Just tell me what to do please…’ She said avoiding the question.
Bob explained in great boring detail what to do. Jenny spared Geoff the technicalities but said it would take a while. The lights flickered back on, Jenny breathed a sigh of relief and went downstairs. She needed air so decided a belated lunch was owed.
When back in the office Jenny decided to start with what she knew: research. Looking through on-line press cuttings and articles, she started to see a pattern emerging. Odd missing widows pensions stories from all over the country when husbands had died in the early 80’s. There was something about this she couldn’t quite see yet. She started to write out the widows names from the articles. Arthur, Angel , Armstrong – hang on they all began with A. That was weird. Very weird. So early 80’s beginning with A. Sounds surprisingly like an admin or computer error. What was she onto here?
No articles about Emmie Adams. She was going to have to follow Bob’s instructions and do the casework.
Jenny decided to work the phone. Bob had told her about the hotlines on w4mp so she tried the one for DWP. She managed to ascertain that Emmie was still alive after some coaxing and a lot of bluffing but they would not divulge anything else without Mrs Adam’s permission. The lights flickered on and off at the news Emmie was alive. Geoff was happy Jenny guessed.
The next step was to find Mrs Adams and ask her about the pension and possibly get her written permission to enquire further, at least she had the research to talk about and was not completely going on the word of a ghost. She needed to remember not to mention the ghost. That never ended well for JLH in Ghost Whisperer.
Jenny was afraid that this may involve a trip to the library to start with old local papers but she tried the electoral register first. There was only one Mrs E Adams. A call to directory enquiries later and she was typing in the number hoping she had her story straight.
‘Yes?’ Voice too young for Mrs Adams.
‘I wanted to speak to Mrs Emmie Adams; is she there, please?’ Please.
‘I am her daughter – what’s this regarding?’
‘My name is Jenny and I am calling from Jack Homer’s office.’
‘I have been researching pension companies after a query came in and I am worried there was a lack of provision by a certain company from 1980-1985 with widows whose surnames begin with A.’
Jenny could almost hear the disbelief down the phone.
‘Its just a suspicion at the moment, I think it was an admin error or computer glitch, that is why I wanted to contact your mother?’
‘Hold on- my mum was supposed to be getting a pension?’
‘I am pretty sure she was – you would need to contact the company to double check.’
‘My mum has just been working and now living off the state pension all because of a computer error?’
‘Probably? I would need to make further enquiries to check and I don’t want to get your hopes up.’
‘I will talk to my mum but please keep me informed.’
Jenny promised to and as she put the phone down she realised she had unearthed a possibly national campaign issue so needed help from higher up. She went to the fifth floor to see Jacquie who said they weren’t normally in the business of touting for casework but this could be a very worthy cause. There was a glint in her eye that Jenny didn’t like and when Jacquie suggested that they put a press release in the regional media appealing for people to get in touch, Jenny knew she was thinking about ten steps ahead with Jack on the News at Ten. She would need Jack’s permission for this. It was time Jenny talked to him and maybe he could bring Jacquie back down to earth.
Jenny went back to her corner and the computer flickered when she entered so Geoff was there. Good she needed to vent.
‘OK so your wife is alive. I have possibly uncovered a major error by a pension company on the word of a ghost that my colleague wants to start a major campaign about. What the Hell am I going to tell my boss?’
‘Jenny’ – October 2010
Read Jenny’s other adventures. They’re on the main alt.guides page.
If you want to comment or ask for more, let us know via the Feedback form, below.