“Are you sure this will work?” asked Lucy.

“No,” snapped Mary.

“Well, I don’t think we should do it if it’s not going to work. We might open up a portal or something.”

“Port?” said Frank suddenly. “Well, it’s a bit early in the day but I suppose I could have one. Yes, thank you.”

“No, Frank, not port, portal,” replied Mary irritated. “Do try and pay attention!”

The three friends sat around a card table in the little bedroom, hands reaching out towards each other but not quite touching.

“Alright, then, I will begin,” said Mary. She was their leader, usually, so that was fine. 

Mary reached out and grabbed Frank’s hand first because he always needed more guidance. Then she turned pointedly to her friend on the left. Lucy dutifully accepted Mary’s hand, despite her concerns about the portal, and the session began.

“Rachel, are you there?” whispered Mary.

The room shimmered in the morning heat. Thin beige curtains hung limply across small grimy windows. Three dandelions drooped in a long forgotten vase and an old blow fly vibrated helplessly on one of the window sills.

“Rachel, can you hear me? It’s Mary.”

The three friends sat patiently, each one trying not to give in to the certainty that they were wasting their time. Rachel couldn’t hear them because she was rotting in the ground and all this ghost stuff was just the filthy tranquilisers talking.

“Can I have a biscuit?” asked Frank.

“No,’ snapped Mary. 

“I wouldn’t mind a biscuit,” offered Lucy kindly. She played a gentler hand than Mary but often got her way. “Here you go, Frank. There’s just enough for us all. Would you like the last one Mary?”

“No”, snapped Mary again. “Be quiet and concentrate! Rachel, please, if you are there we need a sign.” 

The room lay silent except for the muffled sound of ginger nuts moistly giving way to dentures.

“Rachel, dear, the thing is that we have to talk,” continued Mary. “I know we were separated suddenly and it has been hard for all of us. It’s not that we don’t love you dear, of course we do.” Mary looked at her two friends who responded with reassuring nods. “But poor old Lucy nearly had her own heart attack when you appeared in the hallway the other night and we don’t want to lose her the same way.”

“I think she just wanted to show me the pearl, knit, pearl pattern she was doing before she died,” Lucy whispered. “She had her needles with her and everything.”

“Can I have the last biscuit?” asked Frank.

“No, be quiet Frank!” hissed Mary. “We’re still going ahead with the plan, Rachel dear. And Frank thought Enso had looked quite perky at lunch the other day so he asked him if he wanted to come along. But we seem to have lost Enso again, so it’s still just the three of us.”

The room remained silent as the old friends sat, thinking about their plan; months of dedication, designing escape routes, working out the sequence of events that needed to take place before they could make their break. Frank would be the decoy, Rachel and Mary the charge sergeants and Lucy would come up the rear with the biscuit trolley. Then, quick as a whip, out the ladies toilet window.

Mary began again. “We thought about abandoning everything when you left us, Rachel, and it will be bloody tough going without you at the helm, we know that. But we have decided there’s nothing for it. Nothing here, not even you, dear. So you can’t blame us for pushing on and I know that you won’t.”

Lucy sniffed and wiped a tear from her cheek. Frank squeezed her hand. Mary gave a deep sigh.

“So, Rachel dear, we need to ask you to leave us now because it’s terribly unsettling when you pop up at the end of the bed. Frank’s bladder can’t take the shocks anymore and he’s  getting into awful trouble with Slobby Cindy. I know you wouldn’t want that for him.”

The three sat silently again, waiting, listening. The blow fly had stopped humming and somewhere in the background a radio had started to play.

“Alright then, dear. Good bye. God bless and we’ll see you soon – but not here.” 

Mary pulled her hands away from the others and placed them promptly in her lap to signal the session had ended. She looked down at her shoes so no one would see her emotion.

“Can I have the last biscuit?” asked Frank.

Lucy smiled and reached across the table for the bowl and then stopped. “Where has the biscuit gone?”

Everyone looked at the empty bowl.

“She always took the last biscuit without asking,” said Frank, and chuckled.