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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18. Chapter Eighteen

Joe woke at six the next morning, feeling rested and blissfully calm. He didn’t know how, but his dreams had been untroubled by images of violence and torture. He left his mum sleeping in her bed on the other side of the room and crept down to the kitchen, where he got all his homework done for that day. His mum came down just as he was putting the books away in his school bag.

“You’re up early, love. Bad night? Mind you, you were already asleep when I got home.”

He grinned. “I slept from half-five last night till six this morning; I feel amazing.”

“Well, that’s the first time I’ve seen you smile like that for some time – you must have needed it.”

“Yep – I’m ready to take on Tanner and sort out Gideon and still be back in time for tea.”

“Wait a minute – there’ll be no taking on Tanner while I’m around, Mister.”

“But, Mum…”

She held up a hand. “You saw him yourself – with his bodyguards, or whatever he calls those hired thugs. I’m an adult, and I still took a gun with me to meet him. You are to stay away from that man – you hear me?”

“Mum, I promised the spirits.”

“I don’t care if you made a pact with Satan himself and you’re about to lose your soul – you are not to go looking for Stuart Tansley; you are not to make contact with Stuart Tansley; and you are not to speak to him should he come looking for you. Do you understand me? Don’t look at me like that, Joe – you know what he’s like."

After his mum dropped him at school, Joe hung round by the gate, waiting for Yousef. Always the last one to arrive, Yousef came running through, several minutes after the bell had gone for register.

“What’re you doing here?” he asked Joe. “You’ll be late.”

“Yeah – thanks for that, mate. I hadn’t realised.”

“All right, Mr Sarky – what’s going on now?”

“Does something have to be going on for me to meet my best mate at the school gate?” said Joe. Yousef rolled his eyes. “All right,” said Joe. “I need you to cover for me. Tell Forester I’m in the bog or something, would you?”

“Why?”

“I’ve got to see a man about a ghost.”

“Joe – you can’t go and see that Tin Tin bloke on your own.”

“He’s called Tanner. And stop it – you’re starting to sound like my mum.”

“Well, I hate to say it, but maybe your mum’s got a point. That bloke’s bleedin’ dangerous, isn’t he?” Joe turned and walked out of the gates. “Wait, Joe – come back. You can’t go over there on your own.”

Joe reeled round. “I need you to stay here,” he told Yousef.

“And where are you planning on finding this bloke anyway?”

“I thought I’d start off on Harbridge Road – you know, that old industrial area. That’s where we saw him last time, in the car park of one of the factories, this big, redbrick one.”

“Joe, mate?”

“Yeah?”

“You’re a loony – you know that?”

“I think you may have mentioned it before.”

“Not going to change your mind am I?”

Joe shook his head. “Nope.”

“Good luck, mate. Don’t do anything even stupider than you’re doing already.”

“Cheers, Yous.” Joe started back down the street, turning at the next junction towards Runchester’s old industrial area. He had intended to walk, but he arrived at a bus stop just as the number eighty-five appeared, which went right to where he wanted to go, so he flagged it down and got on.

“You stalking me, lad?”

“Bernie! What’re you doing here?”

“Well, not neglecting my duties like you, mate.”

“’Eh?”

“School, lad. Where you’re supposed to be.”

“Oh, yeah. Got a free period first thing – and… I’ve got something I need to do.”

“Hmm,” said Bernie dubiously. “Well, you’d better sit down.”

The roads were clear this morning, and it took only ten minutes to reach Harbridge Road, where Joe rang the bell.

“You getting off here?” said Bernie.

“Yeah.”

Bernie glanced out of the window. “Joe, mate – there’s nothing here. It’s all disused factories and warehouses.”

“That’s right.”

Bernie looked out at him through the partition. “What sort of business d’you have round here, lad?”

Joe looked away. “Oh, just… someone I’ve got to see.”

There was no one else on the bus and Bernie opened the driver’s partition and got out. He took Joe’s shoulder. “Are you mixed up in something you shouldn’t be, lad? It’s not drugs is it?”

Joe met Bernie’s eye and shook his head. “No – it’s nothing like that.”

“Then you can tell me what it is.”

“No, I can’t.”

“If it’s nothing dodgy, there’s no reason you can’t tell me.”

“No, I… it’s just, you won’t believe me.”

“Try me, lad.”

Joe took a deep breath. “OK. It’s ghosts.”

“Ghosts?”

“Yeah – you know: dead people walking around.”

“Oh, I know what ghosts are, lad – I just didn’t realise it was that serious.”

“What d’you mean?”

“Well, I knew you weren’t all right in the head but ghosts?” He bent down and spoke gently, as if Joe might bolt. “Ghosts don’t exist. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you can be well again.”

Joe stared at Bernie. “Right,” he said. “Well, thanks for that. Anyway, I’ll catch you later, OK?” He pulled the handle on the folding bus door and leaped off. He raised a hand to Bernie in farewell, then took a deep breath and walked up the road towards the carpark where he and his mum had run into Tanner the last time.

The heavy rain of two days earlier had left small ponds in the pitted car park and Joe managed to step in one of them while avoiding another. He drew out a drenched shoe and felt the water seeping down through his sock. He shivered. There was no one about, so he cautiously approached the old factory. The lower hinges of the door were broken, so that it hung diagonally from its top hinges, giving a gap lower down where Joe could peer in. The place was empty. He couldn’t decide whether to be relieved or disappointed.

A sudden warmth in his pocket had him draw out the amber: it was glowing again. He shoved it back into his pocket and stood up, gingerly opening the door enough to slip in. It creaked loudly and that, with the sudden sound of voices, made him jump on the threshold. But a movement in the rafters caused him to look up and he saw that the roof space, far above his head, was filled with the lights, swirling movements and sounds of the dead. He stood in the middle of the factory and called up,

“I’m here. What do you want me to do?”

The swirling came down to his level and he had to block his ears against the moans and cries of hundreds of souls in pain.

They quietened down and he uncovered his ears. The chorus he’d heard in the car spoke then, “Thank you, Joseph Simmonds,” it said. “Thank you.”

“But what do I do now?” he asked.

“The ring,” came the reply. “You must seize Stuart Tansley’s ring.”

“Great,” muttered Joe. “I’ve got to get a ring from the Godfather of the Runchester mafia.”

“He’s coming, Joseph Simmonds. Tanner is coming. We cannot help you now.” They rose back to the rafters, where they continued to swirl and murmur. Joe looked round. The only place to hide was behind a rusting piece of machinery at the far end of the building. He ran over to it just as the door creaked open.

Tanner’s voice reached him, “So has he broken yet?”

“No, boss,” came the reply. Joe peeped out and made out the figure of one of Tanner’s henchmen. “But he’s about to. He hasn’t made friends with Mr Steel yet.”

Joe covered his mouth as the bodyguard held up a large, shiny blade. Tanner laughed. “Well, see that he does.”

“Yeah, boss. Will do. I thought later today. Let him sweat a bit first.”

Tanner nodded and drew a gadget from his pocket that looked like a big mobile phone. He started to mess with it. Joe couldn’t make out what the thing was. His breathing was so loud he was amazed they hadn’t detected him yet.

“You checked round outside yet?” asked Tanner.

“No, boss.”

“Well, do it now.”

The man left and Joe watched Tanner for a moment, as he studied the device in his hands. At last, Joe took a deep breath and stepped out from his hiding-place.

“Hello, Mr Tansley.”

Tanner jumped, then smiled as he took in Joe. “Well, well, well, this is an unexpected surprise. Little Joseph Simmonds, isn’t it? Gideon’s lad?”

Joe nodded. His voice had dried up, so he hoped he could appear tough without it.

“Come over here. I’ve got something to show you,” said Tanner, holding up the strange device.

Joe cleared his throat but didn’t move any closer. “What is it?” he croaked.

“It’s an ectoplasm detector,” said Tanner. “You know – for detecting ghosts. State of the art, this one: it can detect the ones that are just humour – you know, a mood or moment of extreme emotion – as well as your standard ones with bodies.”

“Right,” said Joe.

“You alone?” asked Tanner.

Joe hesitated. “There’s more coming,” he said.

“Hasn’t Marty Forester taught you anything? Never go into a hostile situation without back-up. My army-trained guards could teach you a thing or two.”

Joe shrank back and Tanner laughed. “Oh – you heard that conversation about Mr Steel, did you? Well, don’t worry – we don’t use quite such…extreme methods on children.”

“Anyway, I didn’t come to fight you,” said Joe.

“You didn’t? So what are you here for?”

“I just want the ring.”

Tanner sighed. “You already have the ring – I exchanged it for Gideon, remember? Not that that particular deal worked out very well for me.”

“Not that ring,” said Joe. “The ring that controls the Grip.”

Tanner’s eyes narrowed. “What do you know about the Grip?”

“Well…” Joe cursed his disappearing voice and cleared his throat again. “I know that you trade in spirits. And that you keep them prisoner.”

Tanner narrowed his eyes. “You know a lot for a spotty kid, don’t you?”

“Let me have the ring and I’ll keep my mouth shut, I promise. I don’t want anything else from you.”

Tanner threw back his head and roared with laughter, making Joe jump. “You’re in my factory, with no visible weapon and no back-up and you’re trying to strike a bargain with me?” He studied Joe. “You’ve got guts, anyway – I’ll say that for you.”

Joe tried to pull his quivering body into a stance that suggested he had guts. He forced himself to meet Tanner’s eye.

“And what’s in it for me?” said Tanner. “Say I give you the ring – what do I get in return?”

Joe shrugged. “A better conscience?” he suggested.

“I know,” said Tanner, “how about you work for me? Isn’t it you that’s got spirit sight?” Joe nodded. “Well, I could certainly use your talent round here.” He held up the spirit detector. “This little gizmo may be top of the range, but it doesn’t make up for true spirit sight – someone who can really communicate with the spirits. What do you say? You want to go into business with me?”

Anger rose up in Joe, making him bold. “You’d love that, wouldn’t you?” he said. “Gideon Burroughs’ little boy as your personal assistant. That would be the best revenge of all, I bet?”

Tanner sighed. “If all I cared about was revenge, do you think you and your dad would still be alive? You have to see beyond the petty insecurities of the living if you want to make it big in this life, Joseph.”

“Dad’s only still alive because he managed to get away. And there’s no way in hell I’d ever work for scum like you.”

Tanner smiled and waved a lazy hand. “Suit yourself. Anyway, I have got work to do, so, if you wouldn’t mind?” He gestured towards the door.

“I’m not going without the ring,” said Joe.

“Right,” said Tanner, pulling open his long, leather coat. “And what ring would that be now?” Joe gasped as he took in the hundreds of rings that lined Tanner’s coat. “I’ve got silver, pewter, gold, white-gold, ruby, sapphire, diamond… I think I’ve even got an emerald one somewhere. And what’s that thing that’s like a diamond but isn’t …oh yeah, cubic zirconia.” He smiled at Joe’s shocked face as he let the coat fall shut. But as he did so, Joe saw a flash of light come from the ring he hadn’t been shown: a large, black stone on Tanner’s right hand.

He looked away quickly, then deliberately caught Tanner’s eye. “I don’t know what ring I need,” he said forlornly. He held out his hand to the man. “I know when I’m beaten, though.”

“Good lad.” Tanner smiled as he took Joe’s hand, then shouted out as Joe’s nails clamped down around the ring on his finger and tugged. The ring came flying off and landed with a small thud somewhere on the wooden floor.

“Hey!” shouted Tanner. “What d’you think you’re playing at?” His shout brought the bodyguard running back in, this time with his fellow henchman close behind. “The ring,” said Tanner, “the jet one – you know, the Gripholder – Joseph Simmonds here just yanked it off me.” He gestured to the men to start scouring the floor, but a sudden crash made them all look up. Something had come through one of the windows, showering the floor with broken glass.

Tanner nodded at his men. “You’d better check outside.”

The men ran out, leaving Tanner glowering at Joe, while they both tried to spot the dark ring on the old wooden floorboards. The guards came back a moment later, dragging Yousef and Simon with them.

“Hiya,” said Yousef.

“What’re you doing here?” hissed Joe.

“Oh, you know – we thought you could do with some help. Anyway, it was double history,” Yousef pulled a face.

Tanner grinned at Joe. “Looks like your back-up arrived after all. Pity they’re a bit on the small side.” He nodded to his men. “You can let go of the boys. Stay close, though.”

The men released Joe’s struggling friends. Yousef straightened his clothing.

“Did you break that window?” asked Tanner.

“Us?” said Yousef. “Do we look like a pair of vandals?”

Tanner studied them. “Pretty much. Any more of you out there? Did you bring the whole kindergarten with you?”

“Nah,” said Yousef. “Just us.” Joe wanted to kick him.

Tanner caught Joe’s eye. “You’ve not trained your troops very well either, have you?” He yawned and stretched. “Anyway, you’ve wasted enough of our time.” He turned to the bodyguards, “See them out, would you?” The men nodded and moved to seize the three boys. Tanner looked at Joe. “Sorry you didn’t get your ring,” he said, with a grin. “By the way…?”

“Yeah?” said Joe.

“I might be prepared to overlook the ring incident, if you’re interested in my offer. Let me know.”

“What’s the ‘ring incident’?” whispered Yousef, trying to fend off a bodyguard.

As the other guard homed in on Simon, he shouted, “Ow!” and stumbled, then bent down, rubbing his ankle. “I think I’ve twisted it,” he whined. The guard grabbed his elbow, yanking him back to standing.

Meanwhile, the first guard seized Joe with one hand and Yousef with the other and heaved them outside. At the gate, the men released the boys, who rubbed their sore arms.

“Now, get!” said one of the men.

The boys trailed out of the gate while the guards headed back into the factory. Joe paused at the edge of the road.

“Come on,” said Simon. “Don’t hang around.”

“But I didn’t get the ring,” said Joe.

Simon held out his upturned palm. On it lay the large jet-stone ring.

“How’d you get this?” asked Joe, taking it from him.

“Oh, my poor, twisted ankle,” said Simon with a grin. “It was in a little hollow in the floor. I put my foot over it the minute that man with the nasty grin started talking about a ring.” He shrugged. “Figured it must be important. What’s this all about anyway?”

“I’m not sure,” said Joe. “I mean, I’m meant to rescue all these spirits that are trapped in Tanner’s Grip. But I’m not sure how the ring fits in.”

“You what?” said Simon.

“That man in there – Tanner – he’s controlling them,” said Joe. “And this ring’s something to do with it. I think we need to destroy it.”

Simon looked at Yousef. “You didn’t say he was a fruitcake.”

“He’s not a complete loony,” said Yousef. “He just sees ghosts and now some of them’ve asked for help.”

“D’you know, I think I’m starting to miss Freddie,” said Simon.

“Look, you can go if you want,” said Joe. “But I need to stay here.”

“You sure?” said Yousef. “Can’t we take that thing home and do whatever we need to do to it there?”

“I don’t think there’s time,” said Joe. “Also, I think we probably need to be near to where the centre of the binding power is – you know, Tanner’s headquarters.”

“You heard yourself?” said Yousef. “‘Centre of the binding power’ – where did that come from?”

Simon looked back nervously. “Look, whatever we’re doing, I think we need to do it and get out of here. You know, before Tanner’s mob come after us again.”

Joe nodded. “Can you see any large stones?”

“There’s one back near the factory,” said Simon. “I nearly fell over it when they dragged me out of there.”

“Right, we’d better go back in there then,” said Joe. They crept back into the car park and over to the lump of concrete Simon pointed out. “Here goes,” said Joe. He put the ring on the ground and picked up the block with both hands. But he froze: he could see Alisdair’s head on the ground where the ring should be. He backed away.

“Joe – what is it?”

He shook his head. Alisdair still lay on the ground, with the blood pooling round his skull.

“Joe, mate, pull yourself together. What is it? What can you see?”

A whisper came in his ear, “Not a very nice image is it?”

He whirled round. “Who’s there?”

“I thought you said he hadn’t lost it,” muttered Simon.

“Shh,” said Yousef. “There must be someone there.”

“You mean…?”

“A spirit,” said Yousef impatiently.

“You’re so like your dad,” came the voice again in Joe’s ear.

“Who are you?” shouted Joe, still whirling in search of the owner of the voice.

“Don’t you know?” said the whisper. “Can’t you guess?”

Joe shuddered as he realised where he’d heard the voice before – the drunkard in the vision: Gideon’s dad.

“…Mr Burroughs?”

“Oh, but you can call me ‘Granddad’.”

A sudden smash made Joe whirl again. Simon was standing sheepishly nearby, the concrete block in pieces at his feet and the ring glowing eerily amid the rubble. As Joe watched, a stream of mist shot up from the cracked jet stone. It rose and spread, creating a curtain of dense fog for a moment, before swirling off towards the factory.

“Thought we’d better get on with it,” said Simon.

“Thanks, mate,” said Joe.

“Oh how touching – the idiot boy has friends,” said Mr Burroughs’ voice. Joe turned again, and this time managed to locate him, standing in the shadows of the factory wall.

“Stop it,” shouted Joe. “What do you want anyway?”

“Only to see you dead,” said the spirit. “You and that other idiot boy I sired.”

“But you’re my grandfather,” said Joe. “Aren’t you meant to protect me?”

Mr Burroughs burst out laughing. He stepped out into daylight and Joe took a step back.

“Simon, Yousef: you’d better get out of here,” said Joe.

Instead, his friends moved to stand on either side of him, flanking him protectively.

“Don’t they understand they’ll just die too?” said the spirit.

“Si, Yous – get out of here. Otherwise, he’s going to kill us all,” said Joe.

He jumped as they were showered with lumps like large hail-stones, bruising their heads and bodies. When it stopped, Joe glanced down: it was the broken pieces of the concrete block.

“What the hell was that?” hissed Simon, but Yousef just shook his head at him to be quiet. “Listen, why don’t we make a run for it?” suggested Simon.

“He’s a spirit,” explained Yousef. “They don’t exactly let you outrun them.”

“Right,” said Simon uncertainly. “So… what? We just stand here and let some ghost we can’t see keep throwing things at us till we die of… death by concrete?”

“Something like that,” said Yousef. “Now shut up, will you?”

Joe was staring at his grandfather. “You don’t really want to do this,” he said.

“Oh but I do, Joseph. You have no idea how long I’ve waited for this moment.”

Joe stopped and stared at him. “It’s been you hasn’t it? All this time we thought it was Georgia leaving us all those messages and it was you all along?”

“I hope you enjoyed my little spectacle at your Moslem friend’s house. That was my own personal favourite.”

“You’re sick – you know that?”

His grandfather looked at him and moved towards him. “I am sick, Joseph, you’re right. But my sickness will end with your death.”

“How’d you make that out?”

“It’s simple, Joseph. You are the only progeny of Gideon’s seed – if you die, there will be no more rotten fruit from the tree.”

Joe backed away. “You don’t honestly think you’ll stop wandering the earth if you kill me, do you?”

“I don’t care, Joseph. I can wander the earth forever if I know you have been disposed of.”

“And what if I come back and haunt you?”

The spirit laughed again, a short barking sound. “Oh, you haven’t got it in you. You’re a coward, like your father.”

Suddenly, shards of glass from the broken factory window came soaring out of the building, their points aimed true as arrows at the boys.

“No!” they cried, and crouched down, covering their faces. But the arrows didn’t strike – after a moment, the boys heard the clink of glass hitting the ground. They uncovered their eyes and stood up uncertainly.

“What just happened?” asked Simon.

“Dunno, mate,” said Yousef.

But the amber in Joe’s pocket was burning, and he started to see spirits arriving in their hundreds: swirling masses of light and sound. They surrounded Joe and spoke in chorus,

“We will protect you, Joseph Simmonds. But you must leave now.”

“Er, mate – hate to tell you this, but we’ve got more company,” said Simon, pointing to the factory door, where Tanner’s men had just reappeared.

“Come on!” shouted Joe, heading for the gate.

As they ran, Simon asked,

“But I don’t get it, mate – I thought we couldn’t run from a spirit?”

“It’s OK,” panted Joe. “The spirits you saved – when you broke the ring – they’re holding him back for us.”

He turned to look over his shoulder and saw his grandfather’s spirit flailing as the other spirits held him in their swirling mass. As Tanner and his men tried to come after the boys, the glass shards regrouped and rained down on them. The men shouted and started backing into the factory.

Joe and his friends ran to the bus-stop and, for the second time that day, the bus came almost immediately. This time, the driver was no one they knew and they were able to sink into their seats and catch their breath before discussing all they’d just done and witnessed.

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