The Voice from Beyond 

‘Bugger,’ I said to my husband a couple of months ago,’I think they have let the house again.

When we first bought out property six years ago, the fence at the back of the small patio was a shaded oasis, with trees from the next door neighbour’s backyard allowing a little greenery to peak into our paved world. The property was on a quarter acre, with the house sufficiently far away from ours that the only time we registered life was when the two dogs were in the back garden.

Then the Australian dream came crashing in and with it bulldozers who destroyed the house and levelled the sand so the owner could do what everyone with a garden now seems to want to do: subdivide.

In no time whatsoever, three town villas were standing in the space, and what had once been garden next to our fence had become a tiny back patio leading off a sliding door to the living room. Perth being Perth, and summer lasting for ages, we got to enjoy way more of our new neighbours’ lives than we actually wanted, as they left the back door open and the TV on loud enough so that they – and we – could hear both it and the spectacular rows they would have from time to time.

Their lease, though came to an end eventually and they moved on and for a while the house has been empty and blissfully quiet. Until one day I came home to hear a woman having a conversation from her seat in that back yard, with another woman who seemed to be at the back of the house. Why they could not sit together and chat was a mystery, but it seemed that once again we were going to enjoy some neighbour time.

But I was wrong. That one afternoon came and went and the house remained unoccupied. Perhaps, I mused, they had been looking around it and decided they were not interested.

‘I wonder where those two women went?’ I said to my husband.

‘I wonder why you need to know,’ was his reply.

I had forgotten completely about them until a couple of days ago when I got back home from work and opened the patio door. They were there again chatting and I was sure it was the same two women: an older lady who was apparently sitting in the patio area, having a conversation with a younger woman. Once again this was conducted at a volume to allow the one inside to hear the one outside who did not seem to think that moving closer to her audience might be an idea.

The older woman was giving the sort of advice, commentary and general support statements you might hear exchanged between women who are commenting on ex boyfriends or the fitness of a mutual acquaintance to raise children. Somewhat annoyed that this eavesdropping was being foisted upon me, I close the door to shut out the noise.

When my husband got home I asked him if he had heard anyone moving in that day.

‘They are back, I think.’ I hissed.

‘You,’ said my husband, ‘are getting just like your mother.’

I have no idea what he is talking about, although we did used to call my mother The Detective.

The next day, like a pair of phantoms, they were gone again.

I have come up with a couple of theories. Either they are an apparition, or maybe they are in a crime syndicate and they have stuff stashed at the house for their gangster partners who have hired the property as a safe house. Maybe the gangsters are doing time and the women are keeping the cash safely hidden until they get out.

Or maybe the woman inside the house is a cleaner that the rental agents have hired to dust once a month and the older woman comes along to keep her company?

Nah – I think the gangster story sounds a lot more plausible.

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