Rare Sight

Hi! Thanks for visiting. I hope you enjoy 'Rare Sight', which I loved writing - I've already written an early draft of the next book in the series. And now for the blurb: Joe Simmonds didn't ask to see spirits. It doesn't help that a teenage ghost called Georgia turns up, claiming to be the aunt he didn't know he had - and that she was murdered.
Add in a vengeful dead grandfather, an unscrupulous spirit trader and a couple of nasty murders, and Joe has a hard time just staying alive, as he learns what Rare Sight is, and how to use it.
Cover design by the talented Mark Dyball (though I've spoilt it by cropping!); image copyright Dundanim/Dreamstime

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8. Chapter Eight

Joe! Joe!” He ached. Every part of him hurt, but especially his head. “Joe!” Someone was saying his name. If he kept his eyes shut, they might go away. “Joe, mate, are you all right? Answer me, Joe.” He opened one eye a fraction, then shut it quickly.

“Too bright,” he said, and his voice came out like a croak.

The light went out and the voice tried again, “Joe, come on, look at me, mate.”

He opened the eye again, and this time managed to focus on the face in front of him. “Yousef? Yous? Is that you, mate? What’re you doing here?”

“I was going to ask you the same question, Joe. You’re in my house.”

“I am?” He closed his eye and tried to concentrate, but the throbbing all over his body made it difficult.

“Joe, can you remember how you got here?”

He shook his head and was shocked by the pain. “Ow.”

“You look pretty battered, mate. I’m going to get my mum.”

The word ‘mum’ made Joe focus. “My mum? And Gran? Are they here, Yous?”

There was a pause. “No… I don’t think so. But then, I haven’t looked. You are in our toilet, mate, with your head against the seat. I’m dying for a slash. D’you mind?”

Joe tried to shake his head, gave up and said, “No,” then winced as Yousef took bad aim next to him.

“Sorry, mate. I was desperate. Look… I’ll get my mum to see to you. But Joe… what are you doing here? How’d you get in? I thought you and your mum were coming over tomorrow night.”

“I… don’t know. I can’t remember.” His brain felt full of fog. He concentrated on fighting off sleep because he had a feeling his mum and gran might be in trouble. “Yousef…”

“Yeah?”

“D’you think you could call my mum now, on her mobile? Let her know I’m here – check she and Gran are all right?”

“Good idea, mate. I’ll do it now.”

Joe tried to lie back, but there wasn’t enough room. He listened to Yousef talking to his mum in another room, then heard Yousef walking back towards him, talking on the phone,

“Sure, Ms S. Yeah, pretty battered, but definitely alive… OK, we can try.” He bent over Joe. “Your mum wants to talk to you.”

He held the phone next to Joe’s ear.

“Joe, Joe? Is that you?” came his mum’s voice.

“Uh. Yeah, mum, it’s me.”

“You sound awful.”

“You and gran all right?”

“We’re fine, love, just relieved to know you’re alive. Are you badly hurt? What happened?”

“I dunno.” He tried to remember. “There was this voice…”

“We heard that, too. And there was a lot of other noise, and something whirling round and round.”

“That was me. I mean, I was the thing whirling round and round.”

“Oh no, Joe! You must have been terrified.”

Remembering his terror made Joe start to shake. He was freezing and his teeth wouldn’t stop chattering. Yousef put the phone back to his own ear. “Ms S? Joe can’t talk anymore right now. He needs some TLC. I’ll get my mum on to it… Sure, we’ll see you in a bit, then. Right. Bye.” He looked down at Joe. “Your mum and gran are coming to get you. Oh, here’s my mum now.”

Yousef’s mum’s face came into view.

“Joe, how on earth did you get here? And why are you lying on the loo floor?” She was wearing her dressing gown and her hair was dishevelled. She called something in Urdu, and Yousef’s dad made a bleary appearance, rubbing his eyes.

“Joseph?” he said. “What on earth are you doing on our toilet floor?” He said something to Yousef in Urdu and Yousef replied. He translated for Joe with a grin,

“Dad’s asking if you’ve been drinking.”

“No, Mr Khalil, I haven’t been drinking. I’ve just had a very bad experience with a ghost.”

“Ah, you too, ’eh? Tricky things, these spirits, aren’t they? Here, let’s get you up.” As he started to help Joe to his feet, Joe felt everything start to move again. Thinking he was just nauseous, he shouted out,

“I’m going to be sick!”, but his voice echoed back at him through darkness and he cried out as he felt himself being pulled from the warmth and comfort of Yousef’s dad’s arms.

This time there was no spinning – just a bleak, cold journey at tremendous speed, until he felt hands snatch him and place him in a sitting position in a hard, dark, freezing place.

“Joseph Simmonds,” said a voice, and he half-expected to find he was back at school, waking from a nightmare during a long history lesson. “Joseph?” said the voice again. It was a man’s voice, one he didn’t recognise.

As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he discovered he was propped up on some kind of bench, surrounded by trees. The moonlight showed him a tall, broad figure, standing a few feet away.

“Joseph Simmonds?” said the voice again.

“You’re not a ghost,” croaked Joe.

The man laughed. “A ghost? I should hope not. No, I’m as quick-blooded as you are, Joseph.”

“Who are you?” said Joe, wondering idly if this man was going to kill him. He realised that he longed for sleep so badly, it took the edge off his fear. Death would, after all, mean sleep.

“Don’t you know?” asked the man. “Haven’t you seen pictures of me?”

“No,” said Joe. “We don’t really go in for pictures in my house. Who are you?”

But he knew the answer even before he heard it,

“Joseph – I’m your father.”

“My dad’s dead,” said Joe.

There was a pause. “Dead?” said the man, stroking his bearded chin. “Is that what your mother told you?”

“Look…” said Joe. “I’ve been twisted and shoved and spun round till I feel like my insides are spilling out. If you’re really my dead dad come back to life, can you tell me about it tomorrow?”

“Of course, Joseph, I’m sorry. We must get you to bed.” And the man took off his own, long coat and wrapped it round Joe before scooping him up like a baby and carrying him to a nearby building that looked like a large shed.

It was warm inside and far too bright: the man turned down the lights when he saw Joe reel from the glare. He lay Joe down on a proper bed, removed the coat and put a duvet over him. Joe felt a soft pillow under his head, closed his eyes and slept.

When he woke, it was still dark and his body felt so stiff he could hardly move. He eased himself to sitting and squinted into the darkness. He wasn’t at home – where was he? A tall figure loomed into view and he remembered with a lurch all that had gone before.

The man came over. “Evening, Joseph. How do you feel?”

“Like something landed on me from a great height, squashed me flat and then rolled all over me. How long did I sleep for?”

The man consulted his watch. “About twenty-three hours. You were flat out, if you’ll forgive the pun.”

“My mum…” said Joe, thinking with a pang that by now she’d think he was dead in a ditch.

“I’ve sent a message to her,” said the man.

“That’s great – thanks. Is she OK?”

“She’s fine – and your grandmother, too. Can you manage something to eat?” At the mention of food, Joe’s stomach gave a growl.

“Yes, please,” he said.

As he watched Joe devour five slices of toast thickly spread with butter, the man explained that they were in, “The Valley of the Overlooked.”

“Where’s that then?” asked Joe. “I don’t remember seeing it in my Collins World Atlas.”

“The name explains it, Joseph. The Valley is full of forgotten spirits, those whom no one acknowledged even when they were alive. It’s a place filled with bitterness. The spirits here are often fuelled by rancour.”

“So… what are you doing here?”

“I’m trying to put right a wrong that was done years ago – long before you were born, Joseph.”

“No one calls me Joseph unless they’re mad at me.”

“I’m sorry. What should I call you?”

“Just Joe.”

The man smiled, and his smile was a surprise, completely changing his sombre face. “Very well, Just Joe it is.”

“What’s your name?”

“Gideon Burroughs.”

“Gideon…?” Joseph tried to navigate the jumble in his brain, to remember where he’d heard the name before. “But… you were Georgia’s friend – before she died.”

“So you have heard of me, then?”

“Well, only in the last few days, and only as Georgia’s mate, not as my… dad. Is that really true?” He looked at the big man, wondering what life would have been like with him in the house.

Gideon stared into the gloom. “Your mum and I… We were lost when Georgia went,” he said. “Georgia was so alive – well, it’s an awful cliché, but we couldn’t get to grips with her death. Sara, your mother, she’d fought badly with Georgia just before she died and she felt partly to blame. She felt she’d maybe pushed her sister into behaving more recklessly than if they hadn’t had the row.”

“Seems like everyone thought Georgia’s death was their fault,” muttered Joe.

Gideon turned to him. “But it really was my fault, Joe,” he said, and he looked intently at him. “If I hadn’t been such an idiot…” He paused for a moment, still looking at him. “Anyway, your mother and I started to spend a lot of time together. We shut out everyone else, because they couldn’t understand what it felt like to be responsible for someone else’s death. And they couldn’t understand how dull life was without Georgia. I can’t say I was a good influence on your mother…one more thing I regret in the catalogue of errors that was my young life.”

“So you got her pregnant?” said Joe.

“Oh – not until we were both old enough to get involved… in that way. I was bad, but not that bad. After all, I’d already destroyed one sister’s life…”

“But you abandoned us,” said Joe.

“Abandoned you? Your mother banned me from ever having contact with you. She said I was depraved, incapable of good.” He stopped for a moment, and Joe could see he was struggling to carry on. He sat down at the table and stroked his beard. “So I kept away. I couldn’t bear to risk damaging another life.” He met Joe’s eye again. “But I have thought about you every day. I have had news brought to me of how you were doing. I knew Sara would do a better job of raising you without me around.”

Joe swallowed his last bit of toast. “But you’re here now?”

Gideon stood up. “The Bitter Winds were going to carry you to the Edge of Hope. I had to intervene.”

“Well… thanks.” Joe rubbed his face. “I don’t get any of this – what’s going on, I mean.” He stood up, though his legs felt woollen, like after he’d had ’flu. “Will you take me back to Mum?”

“Of course, Joe.”

“And… can you stay with us? Till this blows over?”

Gideon hesitated. “We’ll have to see what your mum has to say about that.” 

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