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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11. Chapter Eleven

There was a long silence, while Gideon pretended to concentrate on the road. They got back to Joe’s gran’s with only one more near miss – a motorcyclist who overtook just as Gideon decided to turn right without signalling – and Joe let go of the handle and relaxed as his father pulled into the driveway, switched off the engine and turned to face him.

“It was all a long time ago, you know, Joe. I’m not the boy I was then.”

“Go on,” said Joe, holding his breath. But Gideon shook his head and got out of the car. Joe followed him to the house with clenched fists. As Gideon walked across the doorstep, Joe took a deep breath and tried again. “Come on, you’ve got to tell me what’s going on, Gideon,” he said. “We’re all being attacked by ghosts, and you’re just walking round as if it’s got nothing to do with you.”

Gideon turned round and Joe took a step back – the man filled the doorway and looked quite intimidating now he was riled. “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Gideon, speaking quietly but with great emphasis on every word. “You are a schoolboy, with no experience of the real world. There are people out there with no morals, who don’t care about anything but themselves, or making money. Stuart Tansley was one of those people even when I knew him, all those years ago at school. He would have dared another boy to walk on broken glass if it gave him a thrill. He doesn’t know empathy, compassion, humanity – they’re all just words to him.”

He looked at Joe for a moment, then turned and went upstairs – he’d been promoted to a proper bed instead of the sofa, and Joe was now having to share a room with his mum. Joe wandered through to the kitchen, where he found his gran taking a cake out of the oven. She placed it carefully on top of the cooker, then looked at Joe.

“So – what did you think of Gideon’s new car then? It must have been nice to get a lift home for once? You’ve been a while – did he take you out for a spin?” She smiled at him, but he couldn’t smile back.

“What’s wrong?” She walked towards him and put a hand on his arm; she still had the oven mitts on.

Joe sighed and looked at her. “It’s Gideon, Gran… Everything that’s happening is to do with him.”

“What do you mean?” She took off the mitts and put a hand on Joe’s shoulder. “What’s going on, love? What are you saying?”

He made himself meet her eye. “…the ghost stuff. Your ring… me getting carted off to the Land of Spooksville… Georgia making trouble. All the stuff with Yousef’s family…”

“You mean the writing on the mirror?”

He shook his head. “Well, that too, but now they’ve had a ghost leave a dead pig in the house, with its insides all spilled out everywhere.”

His gran put a hand to her mouth in horror. “That’s disgusting. It must be even worse for them – aren’t they Moslems?”

Joe nodded. “Yeah – it’s like the worst insult. You know… like what Georgia did to that Hossein family.”

His gran froze. “Oh… I can’t believe Georgia was really responsible for that.”

“Mum says she did it.”

“Oh… but she can’t have understood what she was doing – not really.”

“Gran, she was like twelve or thirteen – the same age as me.”

She patted her hair into place, but it was a distracted gesture – she was somewhere else in her mind. “Oh…” she said again, and she was in such evident distress that Joe felt bad for insisting.

“How soon can we eat that cake?” he asked her. She pulled a chair out from the table and sat down. “Gran… I’m sorry,” he said. “It probably wasn’t Georgia. I mean, what do I know about it? I wasn’t even born.”

“How did I go so wrong?” she murmured.

“What do you mean?” asked Joe.

“How did I bring up a monster? What did I do wrong?”

Joe had no idea what he was meant to say. His gran looked like she was about to start crying – he’d never seen her cry before. He wished he was safely upstairs in the bedroom. He heard the front door open.

“Look, there’s Mum – I’ll just go and see her,” he mumbled, but his gran was gazing into space and talking quietly, as if there was no one there to hear.

“Perhaps if I’d stopped her when I saw her with the knife… but I didn’t really think… how could I have known? What kind of a child would plan something like that?  Their little feathers all bloody…” Joe didn’t know if he was meant to be listening or not. He looked back towards the hall and saw his mum standing transfixed in the doorway.

“You mean… Georgia killed my chickens?” she said. She didn’t move – it was as if everything had paused for a moment and there was just his gran sitting at the table, staring straight at his mum, and his mum, standing in the doorway, staring back. His gran looked away first, turning her eyes to the floor and nodding. “But…” said his mum. “You said the fox had got them.” His gran met her eye again.

“Didn’t you think that was strange,” she said slowly, “when they’d all been locked up for the night?”

“I thought… I thought I must have forgotten to shut the latch properly. I went over and over it in my head. I thought it was my fault. Why did you let me think it was my fault?”

“Darling, I thought you knew.”

“If I’d have known, I’d have killed her,” said his mum, and she said it with such venom that Joe went cold.

“That is a terrible thing to say, Sara,” said his gran.

“It’s true.” She started to cry, but she seemed angry. She took a few steps towards his gran. “What else did she do that you didn’t see fit to tell me? What other crimes of Georgia’s did you cover up?” She spat the words out, and he saw his gran wince.

She rubbed at the empty space on her finger where the ring should have been, and avoided Sara’s gaze. “Too many to count,” she said at last, quietly. “Did you ever read that book by Oscar Wilde – The Picture of Dorian Gray – where the evil man stays youthful and beautiful, but the portrait of him in the attic turns more hideous and haggard with every crime he commits?” His mother nodded. “Well, I always thought Georgia must be like that – I couldn’t understand how her crimes didn’t show on her face. The things I covered up, Sara…”

“Yes?” said his mother. Joe held his breath, convinced someone would remember he was there and send him out, but no one did. His gran stood up and walked over to the window, where she gazed out.

At last, she turned back towards his mum. “The chickens were just practice,” she said.

“I’m sorry?”

“You understand me,” said his gran, slowly, “The chickens… they were just to see if she had it in her to kill. They were just the practice. The ‘terrible thing’ she did to you – killing all your chickens – was just the warm-up act for Georgia.”

“What do you mean?” asked Joe. “What did she do after she killed Mum’s chickens?” He didn’t really want to know, but he felt like he needed to hear the answer – he’d only imagine even worse things otherwise.

“That’s enough, Eunice,” said Gideon’s voice from the doorway, and they all jumped.

“Gideon,” she said, looking at him imploringly, “isn’t it time?”

He shook his head. “No,” he said. “There are some things you and I have had to live with for a long time; I don’t see why the others should have to be tormented, too. Do you?”

Joe’s gran carried on looking at him for a moment, then shook her head. “No,” she said with a sigh. “I suppose you’re right.”

“But…” said Joe. He couldn’t believe his gran could tell them this much, then not put them out of their misery. “What did she do?”

“Well,” said Gideon, in a bright voice, “you’ll all be pleased to hear that I’ve decided to start putting this mess right. Much of it is my fault, so I’m going to take the responsibility and …”

“…Who did Georgia kill?” It was Joe’s mum who said this, but she wasn’t looking at anyone, and she said it really quietly. She was sitting at the table with her head in her hands. “Who did Georgia kill?” she said again, as if they hadn’t all stopped and stared at her the first time she’d said it.

Gideon and Joe’s gran exchanged a glance. “Kill?” said Gideon at last. “What would make you say that?”

“If killing my chickens was the ‘warm-up act’ according to Mum, then who did she kill afterwards?” She was looking at Gideon now.

“Sara, I…” he stopped. He took a step towards her and tried again. “You have to understand…”

She took her hands away from her face and looked up at him. “What do I have to understand, Gideon? Was this all your fault? What happened with my sister?”

“Joe, please go upstairs to your room,” said Gideon, without taking his eyes off Joe’s mum.

“I haven’t got a room,” said Joe. “I’m sharing with Mum, remember.”

Gideon looked at him. “Then please go upstairs to the room you share with your mother. Now.”

Joe trailed out of the room. He paused in the hallway, but Gideon was obviously waiting to hear his footsteps on the stairs, so he ran up and shut the bedroom door loudly without going inside, then crept back down. Gideon was talking in a murmur. Joe tiptoed over to the kitchen doorway, but the door was closed. He heard his mum shout,

“Get away from me!” Then she yanked open the door and strode out before he had time to hide. But she just marched past him and out of the house.

“Mum,” he called after her. “Mum! Where are you going?” She strode over to the car and climbed in, and he ran after her. He opened the front passenger door just as she was starting the engine. “I’m coming with you,” he said, leaping in. They sat in silence for a few minutes as she drove. She sat hunched at the wheel like a racing-car driver. “Where are we going?” he asked her.

“Away from here,” she said, then sniffed.

“Mum… are you crying?”

She wiped her eyes and nose on her sleeve and swerved as she did so, narrowly missing a collision with a yellow Mini. “Sorry,” she said. “It’s just… a bit much to take in.”

“What is?” He was hanging on to the strap above the door, and having horrible flashbacks to his journey home from Yousef’s with Gideon. Perhaps this was actually how he was going to die: not through anything supernatural, but by being driven by his mum or dad when they were clearly in no fit state to be at the wheel of a moving vehicle. “Mum, pull over.”

“What?”

“Pull over, Mum. You shouldn’t be driving. Look – there’s a parking bay coming up on the left; pull in there.”

Astonishingly, she did as he told her, steering into the bay and turning off the engine. Then she put her head on the steering wheel and started to sob. What was it with the women in his family? They were crying more today than they normally did in a year. “Is it something to do with whatever Gideon told you?” he asked. She sat up and sighed and wiped her eyes on her sleeve again. Joe rummaged in his pockets until he found a grubby bit of toilet paper. “Here,” he said, handing it over.

“Thanks.” She dabbed at her eyes and nose, then began to sob all over again.

“Tiresome, isn’t it?” said a voice he knew too well. He swivelled round and saw Sebastian sitting on the back seat behind his mum. Sebastian was picking his nose then wiping his finger deliberately on Joe’s mum’s headrest.

“Stop that,” said Joe.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Does ghost bogey bother you?”

“What do you want now?” said Joe.

“Oh…” said Sebastian, examining his fingernails, “Just calling by to see how you’re getting on. Not very well, by the look of things. What’s the matter with her, anyway?”

“None of your business,” said Joe.

“Suit yourself. Only I might have been able to help.”

“Help with what, exactly?”

“Oh… righting the karma, if you know what I mean. It’s all gone a bit off-kilter, hasn’t it? We just need to straighten a few things out.”

Joe looked hard at him, ignoring his mum’s sobs from the neighbouring seat. “What sort of things?”

Sebastian stopped examining his fingernails and leaned forwards. “Well… say – for instance – you handed over Gideon, then Tanner would be thrilled. He might even be grateful enough to give you back the Receptacle.”

“Are you trying to make a deal?”

Sebastian nodded. “That’s exactly what I’m doing. You give Tanner what he wants, he gives you what you want.”

“But I don’t want Georgia’s Receptacle.”

Sebastian raised an eyebrow. “You don’t?”

Joe’s mum lifted her head back off the steering wheel for a moment. “Is that Sebastian?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

“Tell him… we… aren’t… going… to… do… any… deals… with… Tanner,” she hissed. She sat up straight and pushed her hair off her face. “In fact, tell him Tanner had better watch out because I’ve got a score to settle with him.”

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