Of witch hunts, vampires and hair salons.
My editor was impressed with my last interview with DS Tom McIntyre but upon seeing a photograph of Tom beside Tabitha, the woman who cut his hair she winced. “Why can’t I look more like her.” That comment led to a phone call to Tabitha and a week later I broached my editor with the story idea. Tabitha would style her hair for free while I interviewed her and my editor. Up until now of course my editor, Jodie Green hasn’t met a vampire and it took all my powers of persuasion to get her into the salon. I think however the idea of a free makeover swung it for me.
Tabitha McLean was born Seonag Donaldson in 1590, her oldest sister, Siusaidh was born two years earlier and the youngest child, Iseabail was born in 1594. Their mother, Marjorie however, died in childbirth leaving their father, Duncan to raise three daughters. Duncan was a tenant farmer but when he died in 1605 it was left to Siusaidh to continue raising her two sisters.
“It was the way it was done back then. We had no living relatives nearby but my father had left instructions that if anything should happen to him then Siusaidh was to mail a letter to a woman called Morganna who was living in France. He left the address of a man in Leith who would see to it that the letter got to her.” We’re sitting in her newest salon located in Stirling and she’s hung a sign on the door and closed the salon to customers while she attends to Jodie’s hair. My editor has her head hanging over a basin while Tabitha massages shampoo through her hair. Jodie opens one eye gingerly and looks at her for a moment as she does the calculations.
“You look good for four hundred and twenty four.”
“Four hundred and twenty three,” she corrects her, “I was born in November, but thanks.”
Tabitha has bright blue eyes, clean skin and a mane of wind-tossed blonde hair that evokes memories of the Farrah Fawcett look of the mid seventies. Coming in at just under five feet five she candidly admits she’s lost ten pounds since she launched Tab’s Hoose, the brand name for a string of hair salons scattered across Central Scotland. Starting in Glasgow five years ago, it’s taken her this long to get to Stirling.
“Most of my business is in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Falkirk,” she tells me, “before I did hair I was a PA for a hedge fund manager in New York, he liked my accent and my arse but when he touched it I quit and went into retirement. I needed to get some focus. I’d been a writer out in Los Angeles, a highway patrol officer in Denver, I ran a real estate business in Surfers Paradise, Australia, selling flats to fat retirees from interstate. Before that I was a surfer girl and ran a surf shop in Hawaii, I only got a job as a PA because I had this idea for a book and needed some research material.”
And what happened to the book?
“It’s been published under the name, Ashley Marie. I was tempted to use my real name but that might get me into legal trouble with my ex boss,” she begins drying Jodie’s hair. “Hair dressing was one of those things I did for vamps at the guilds in between watching films and surfing the Internet. I decided to do something entirely different and start my own franchise, I just didn’t realise how hard I’d have to work just to get it up and running.”
Tabitha pauses for a moment as she stares out the window.
“Elizabeth provided the start up capital on the proviso I give her a fifteen percent share, which I’m more than happy to do. She’s been good to us vamps. She wants me to do hair for her models when she launches House of McIvor here.”
“You know Elizabeth McIvor?” Jodie pulls the towel from her head.
“Aye, not from birth like the others but I was introduced to her when she was doing that show My Vampire Mom, I was one of the extras for a couple of episodes and when Morganna told her I was one of the vamps she was cool about it. Even back when she was ten she was focused, she had a maturity about her that was way beyond her peers. If that woman ever becomes President she’ll turn Wall Street on its head, believe you me. She doesn’t miss a trick.”
“Now she’s a woman I’d love to meet,” Jodie cuts in.
“I’ll introduce you if you like.”
“You’re doing the interview,” she gives me one of those steely-eyed looks I’ve come to expect, “no argument.” Not from me but I’m wanting to know of her life before she became a vampire and Tabitha is quite happy to fill me in on the gory details and it was a messy business no matter which way you slice and dice it.
“Six men died the night the witch finder came for me,” she’s standing behind Jodie with a comb and for a moment as she stares into the mirror she looks as cold as ice.
“They put me in a witches bridle, it had four prongs that stuck into my mouth, two prongs held my tongue down and the other two were embedded in my cheeks so I couldn’t put a hex on them and then they suspended Iseabail with her arms behind her so that her shoulders were dislocated. They had already bound Siusaidh and made her watch as they pricked us both with a knife heated over the fire. They wanted to know the names of the other witches and to save us she gave them name after name after name. Some of them I’d never heard of but she told me later she just rattled off names to make them stop.”
She flicks the comb through Jodie’s hair as she continues her story.
“I still can’t tell you how long it went on for, I was in too much pain but they came just before sunset and it was well and truly dark when their horses started neighing outside and we heard someone yell. The witch finder ran to the door but he was knocked to his arse when she came through the door.”
“Who?” Jodie and I both ask simultaneously.
“Boudica,” the name slips from her lips, “she had a sword in one hand and was holding something behind her back. The witch finder yelled for his guards and she held up a head and threw it at his feet and said, ‘you asked for a guard, I will grant you your wish.’
“It was over before I could blink,” she continues. “She sank her sword into the witch finder’s head, the blade went right down to his chin, and then she snapped the minister’s spine with a single blow to his back and forced his head into the fire and held it there until he stopped screaming.”
There was a stunned silence as she comes back to the twenty first century, Jodie looks a little pale and she told me later it felt as if she’d been there watching it happen.
“They took the bridle off me and brought my sister down from the ceiling. That was the night I first met Cat because she reset her shoulders and tended to my wounds. I’d heard stories of angels before then but that night I met the real thing. Morganna was there and she had the corpses of the guards brought inside. She stripped everything of value and then took us away from our home, which she torched to put people off the scent.”
The people of Clan Grey Raven took the sisters to Leith where Morganna’s latest ship, Raven Blood was at anchor. They sailed on the morning tide and she didn’t return to Britain until 1622, by that time she had become a vampire along with her youngest sister.
“Siusaidh had the chance to become one of us but to her dying day she refused to submit to the bite. She carried a lot of guilt for what happened that night, I found out later she had used gold coins to buy food and that’s what led the witch finder to our cottage. I didn’t find out until she was on her death bed, an old woman nearly blind but at least I got to say goodbye and tell her all was well. No Christian God could bar the gates of heaven to her but he might throw a few clergymen into hell,” she grimaces.
“It was a different time, I’ve lived a hundred lives since then and enjoyed most of them, I’ve been apart from Iseabail some of the time but we always try to make a new life as sisters and if that’s not possible we’re still close by. She’s a veterinarian at Feadon Farm in Cornwall, but we speak on the phone every week and manage a weekend city break once every month or two. We’re planning a weekend break to Venice in three weeks time.”
She’s busy with the scissors and I’m hanging back, afraid to distract her when Jodie asks what she thought of Scotland’s last real king. She rolls her eyes and keeps cutting.
“A detestable wee man. I never clapped eyes on the toad but he was a small minded man obsessed with finding witches. Before he became king of England he went to a witch pricking session. Not long after that he wrote that lamentable pile of shit on demonology and followed it up with another equally detestable book on the divine right of kings to rule. His son believed that nonsense until the day they cut off his head,” she lifts a lock of Jodie’s hair.
“I was in the crowd the day they led him out to be executed in front of the Banqueting Hall. We all went because we didn’t actually believe they would go through with it. He spoke to the people on the scaffold and then put his head on the block. I remember the great moan from the crowd when they cut off his head, even Morganna looked shocked because I looked at her when they held his head up for all to see. She looked at me and said, “I did not think they would do it.”
She lapses into silence and Jodie looks slightly queasy, she wants to know if it was a quick death and Tabitha nods imperceptibly.
“Considering they used an axe, which isn’t the most efficient tool, it came off with one blow. I’ve seen axemen take three sometimes more blows to finish the job. Back in the day it was considered public entertainment,” she manages a wry grin.
“We didn’t have Coronation Street or Strictly Comes Dancing, there were just nightly fist fights outside the whorehouses and the all too frequent executions. Morganna was never one for taking us to see an execution, God knows she’d seen enough by then but we went to see that one because she was checking out who was applauding and who was keeping quiet. She predicted that Cromwell would prove to be a worse tyrant than any English king and she was right enough there and all. There was a meanness to Cromwell, I’ve fed, clothed and housed Irish refugees who were dispossessed by that murdering bastard,” she chuckles.
“Sorry, I’m supposed to be making you look beautiful and here am I talking about beheading,” she flicks at her hair, “I think we’re going to make a new woman of you.”
With the history lesson over she finishes her task and managed to make my editor look younger. It’s something she drums into her stylists.
“The client comes to us because they don’t like the way they look, it’s up to you to do the best you can with what you’ve got. I don’t do an awful lot of cutting these days, I’m too busy going from salon to salon but I cut Cat and Sammie’s hair,” she glances at me. “And you’re next in the chair, that hairdo really doesn’t suit the shape of your face. By the time I finish with you, your wife will be hiring a private detective to make sure you don’t stray.”
The final assessment was given by Jodie as I drove her back to Glasgow.
“What an amazing woman. Do you think she’d agree to do a regular style column?”
Tabitha Donaldson owns a string of hair salons across Central Scotland known as Tab’s Hoose. She employs dozens of staff and finds the business challenging but invigorating. When not overseeing the day to day running of her salons she spends her time with friends and has an active social life. One of her favourite haunts is Lauders in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow where she finds the patter more to her taste. She can still recall the old barber shop downstairs. Glasgow’s Style Mile is also a magnet and there’s nothing she loves more than trawling the shops searching for bargains.
When my stepmom’s plane went down a part of me died, Cat was my world. In her place she left us to her friends, the Grey Ravens. Over the years I slowly came to realise her death was a mere facade. When we were reunited I learned the truth about Clan Grey Raven and her remarkable history. Some people will always love. Some people never lose hope. Some people never die…Smashwords Amazon.com