Thirty five years later, that old house in the quiet leafy suburb is once again a private residence. It is protected by high fences, freshly-painted wrought-ironwork gates of the kind which open and close automatically at the press of a remote control and, no doubt, the most sophisticated of burglar alarm systems.
I pass by from time to time - that leafy suburb is just five minutes drive from one of the city's major arterial roads - and sometimes I park nearby and walk the tree-lined pavement outside. The grand bay windows of what was once the Pink Room are just visible through the fence and shrubbery. From a distance, the room looks beautifully appointed and recently re-decorated, although in a much more modern style than that poor Rave and I had encountered. But it is a slightly clinical appearance. The curtains are never closed yet there are never lights showing from that window, even when the rest of the house is lit up like a Christmas tree. Even now, it does seem like that room, and only that room, is never actually used.
Many a time have I stood outside the house, braving the drizzle for which Manchester is justly famous and remembering the events so long ago. I have a theory about the presence Rave and I had sensed in the Pink Room. To me, the - well, ghost is the word I have come to use - felt distinctly feminine; surely, any occupant comfortable in that room must have been female.
Whether it was truly a ghost, or a projection of one of the Archetypes that Rave's readings had led him to consider - the Trickster or the Devil, perhaps - the palpable presence in the Pink Room persisted because of some deep and unsatiated drive.
To me, the presence was somehow hungry, urgently needing something, something elemental which was, it seemed, in my power to give. It was sex, and the release that it brings, that the ghost wanted. But it was its - her - reaction to Rave was the telling feature.
Back then, Rave and I were similar in many ways - the same age within a month or so, very similar family background, good students in hard subjects, and so on. There was one difference, one which I think must have triggered the ghost's antipathy. It was Rave's incipient homosexuality, a quality which he had finally acknowledged on that fateful evening.
Much later, I undertook a certain amount of research in the archives of the newspapers. I uncovered the edges of a story, one which might explain something of what is, ultimately, inexplicable. A former resident of the old house, a woman trapped in a loveless marriage to a man who was, she had discovered too late, fundamentally homosexual; a man unable to appreciate the delights of her body and the pleasures of her flesh; a man unable to satisfy her own increasingly-desperate needs and demands.
Her frustration and her anguish eventually drove her to suicide, after many late-night fights and screaming matches. It was an unexpected death, one which shocked and shamed her husband, a man who had for so long been trying to hide his sexual preferences, perhaps even from himself.
It was the husband who had so thoroughly cleared out the Pink Room, bundling up and discarding everything which would have reminded him of his dead wife. Maybe he had intended to strip even the furniture from the room, to erase even the last vestiges of her presence. But some trick, some force still remained, which sealed the room against such a course. The woman's ghost finally drove the husband from the house and from the country, in due course forcing him to sell the building cheaply so that he could be rid of it and everything that it contained.
It was the ghost's discovery that, of the two young men who had entered her presence, one of them shared the same preferences as her husband. Her disappointment, her anger, must have been strong if it had somehow persisted in the Pink Room; it was certainly strong enough to drive poor Rave to the brink of insanity.
If you have enjoyed this story, then why not take a look at the others in this collection? An eclectic mixture of science fiction and mystery/ghost stories under the title ...Then a Miracle Occurs.
You may also enjoy my earlier collection of fifteen interlinked short stories under the title Four Square Less One. Can you work out the hidden connections between all of the stories?
I am now working on a new series of Private Eye fantasy novels. The first is called Findo Gask - Goblin Detective, featuring the eponymous Private Eye, Findo Gask himself.