You can tell it’s real
Leslie broke in: ‘Was he – a lover of the arts?’
The table rapped once. Olivia said, explaining: ‘You can put your questions directly.’
‘Right,’ Leslie said. He paused briefly. ‘Did you know the painter, Wu Tao-tzu?’
The table began to rock. Howard provided the alphabet recitation. We waited for this tapping, stumbling speech.
Cynthia said: ‘Is that supposed to mean anything?’
I said: ‘Yes. A little trap that didn’t come off. Leslie asked a Sung mandarin if he knew one of the great painters of the T‘ang dynasty – a matter of four hundred years earlier.’
Piers said quietly: ‘And it’s not evidential, of course. Since at least one of us knew who Wu Tao-tzu was, the trap doesn’t spring.’
Lulu asked, bewildered: ‘What trap?’
Howard explained: ‘The suggestion is that one of us is Ming – doing a spot of faking.’
Lulu said indignantly: ‘Oh but it couldn’t be! You can tell it’s real.’
The table began to rock again, more slowly, almost sedately.
Howard said: ‘Is there a message for anyone?’
The answer was yes. We began to go round the circle, narrowing out. Was it for Piers? No. Was it for Lulu? No. Was it for Leslie? No. Was it for Olivia? The table rapped once. Howard began to take the message. We listened, hearing the words trickle through.
BITCH. BITCH. FILTHY BITCH. I’LL GET …
It ended in a confused flurry of bumping that tailed off gradually into silence.
Cynthia said: ‘Ming doesn’t seem exactly mad on you, Livia. Do you come here every week just to get insulted?’
Olivia said: ‘Not exactly. He isn’t usually so … violent.’