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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5. Chapter Five

“Er… why’d you leave all the windows open, Joe?” said Yousef, stopping as they got outside Joe’s house.

“We didn’t.”

“Oh, well… maybe your mum’s back early.”

“The car’s not here.”

“Oh, right…”

They looked at each other. Joe had taken out his door key but he couldn’t decide what to do.

“D’you want to call the police?” asked Yousef.

Joe shook his head. “No – this is bound to be something to do with Georgia.”

“Oh, yeah, good point: ‘Well, officer, we think the villain might be the ghost of my dead aunt.’ The coppers probably wouldn’t go for that, would they?”

“Probably not,” muttered Joe. He wasn’t concentrating. He was walking towards the front door, willing himself to be brave enough to go inside the house and investigate.

“Joe, what are you doing? You’re not planning on going inside are you?”

Joe tried to get the key to turn in the lock; his hands were shaking so hard it was almost impossible to get it to do what he wanted. At last, the door clicked open and he pushed it wide. There was nothing to see, and he took a deep breath before stepping over the threshold.

“Joe, bleedin’ ’ell. Joe… All right, I’m coming with you. But if there are any evil axe-wielding banshees in there, remember it was all your idea.”

Joe’s blood was thumping so loudly in his ears, he was half-surprised Yousef couldn’t hear it. “It’s just Georgia clowning around,” he muttered to himself. But, if he was honest with himself, he was  terrified of Georgia. After all, Georgia’s idea of a practical joke seemed to involve painting on the car in what might have been blood. Did ghosts have consciences? Did they care about hurting people? He had no idea.

“Argh no!” Yousef’s shout made him jump. Yousef was standing in the living room doorway. Joe turned away from the kitchen, where everything – apart from the open window – looked as it had when they’d left that morning.

“What… what is it?”

“You’d better see this, mate.” Yousef was leaning on the living room doorframe, looking shaky. He made way for Joe, who froze when he saw the room.

The sound that came out of his mouth was something like, “Errrrghurrgh!”

“I know.” In six-foot letters across three walls of the room read the words,

“YOU WILL DIE”.

Joe’s legs gave way without warning and he sank to the floor with a thud.

“Come on, mate – let’s get out of here,” said Yousef. He took Joe by the hand and tried to pull him back up to standing. “Come on, Joe, help us out, here – you weigh a ton.”

“I know. It’s just…” he pointed at the graffiti.

“Just some joker having a laugh I expect,” said Yousef, but his voice cracked half-way through. “Come on, Joe, get up. I’m not staying here, and I’m not leaving you on your own.”

Joe held on to the doorframe and dragged himself to his feet. His legs had turned soft where the bones should have been. He let Yousef support him out of the house. “But… what about all the windows…?”

“Sorry, mate, but I’m not going back in there. We’ll wait nearby, where we can keep an eye out for passing burglars. Mind you, I’d wish them luck going in that place.”

They sat on the wall of Mrs Phillips’ house across the street, until she came out, shouting,

“Oi, you boys, get down from there! You’ll have to find somewhere else to loiter…” She peered at Joe. “Oh, Joe, is that you lad? I haven’t got my glasses on.”

Joe and Yousef had stood up, despite Joe’s wobbly legs. “Yes, Mrs P. Sorry about that.”

“What’s wrong? Is something the matter?”

“No, Mrs P. Just I forgot my keys is all. We’re waiting for my mum to get back. We’ll move…” He tailed off as a man’s face appeared at an upstairs window. It was the face of Mrs Phillips’ husband – her dead husband. The man caught Joe’s eye and raised a hand.

Mrs Phillips smiled. “Oh no, love, you’re all right. I thought you were a pair of trouble-makers till I saw it was you. You wait there with your friend, love.” She went back inside, but Joe was stumbling away down the street. Yousef caught him up.

“Where are you going? Don’t you want to wait for your mum and warn her?”

Joe shook his head. “There’s a ghost in that house, Yous. Mrs Phillips’ dead husband Sam was just stood there at the window, waving at me.”

“Your neighbourhood is just too creepy, mate.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Look – isn’t that your mum’s car now? We’d better walk back to meet her.”

Joe nodded and they trailed across the road to where his mum was parking the little Fiesta outside the house.

“Hello, Yousef,” said Joe’s mum as she stepped out of the car and locked the doors. “What a nice surprise. How’s your granddad doing, love?”

“Oh, not bad, thanks, Ms Simmonds. He’s coming out of hospital next week.”

“Oh, that’s good news, lovie. And your mum?”

“Er… before you go in the house, Joe’s got something to tell you.”

She turned to face him. “You haven’t lost your keys again have you, Joe? Only that’s the third set you’ve had this year.”

“No, Mum. It’s not the keys. Where’s the graffiti gone on the car anyway?”

“Oh, I took it through the car wash and would you believe that it all came off? Good as new.” She beamed.

“Look, Mum…” She was heading towards the house, so he gripped her sleeve before she could get any nearer to the gate. She turned to him in surprise. “Don’t go in the house, Mum.” She looked at the building.

“Oh – all the windows are open. Oh…” She put a hand to her mouth. “Have we been burgled?”

“Not exactly. At least, I haven’t really looked to see. Look, Mum, it’s just… there’s some more graffiti.”

“Oh, God, no. Where is it this time?”

“All over the living room walls. It’s worse than last time.”

“Is it about Georgia’s being murdered again?”

“No, it’s worse than that. You’d better come and see.”

Yousef took him by the shoulder. “Just tell her, Joe. You can’t let her go in and see that without telling her first.”

“OK, OK… It says, ‘You will die’.” He looked at her. “Mum…?” Her shoulders were shaking. “Are you laughing?”

“I’m sorry – it’s either that or burst into tears. And it’s got to be another of Georgia’s pranks, lovie. I’m sure it’s nothing to get too worked up about. Just a bit more cleaning that we could do without.”

“But, Mum…” She was striding ahead of him down the path, and into the house. Joe caught Yousef’s eye.

“We’ll have to go back in,” said Yousef, and Joe nodded. They crept into the hall, but his mum wasn’t standing by the living room door as they’d expected. They walked through the hall, investigating the kitchen and even knocking on the door of the downstairs toilet, but she didn’t answer.

“Mu-um!” Joe shouted up the stairs, but again there was silence.

“We going up?” asked Yousef, and Joe nodded again, stepping on to the bottom stair. He could hear Yousef breathing hard in fear, and his own hands were so sweaty they kept slipping on the hand rail. A few steps up, he stumbled, and Yousef jumped in shock and cried out.

“Sorry – just tripped,” muttered Joe as Yousef patted his chest in panic. “Come on.”

They rounded the bend in the staircase and time slowed. There was no sense and too much sense to what was in front of them: his mum, hanging from the landing light, swinging from a scarf that was tied round her neck.

“What, what is it, mate?” whispered Yousef, and Joe pointed to the body, unable to move or get his head round what was happening.

“What, Joe, what is it?” said Yousef again.

“My mum,” croaked Joe, and at that moment, his mother walked out of the bedroom.

“Well, nothing up here, at least,” she said.

The swinging figure lifted its head and looked straight at Joe. With a wink, it vanished, leaving him sobbing with relief, terror and incomprehension.

He sat down on the landing floor and put his head in his hands. He couldn’t handle this – none of it made sense and it terrified him. His mum sat down next to him and put her arms round him.

“Joe, love, will you look at me?” She peeled his hands from his face and tilted his chin so that he had to look her in the eye. “Joe – what did you see just now? Why were you making all that fuss?”

“I…” he pointed to the place where the hanging figure had been. He couldn’t get the words out. Yousef crouched down beside them.

“You said, ‘My mum,’ didn’t you, Joe?” Joe nodded. “Did you think you saw your mum?”

He nodded again, “Yes. She was there…” he pointed again. “She had…” he put his own hand to his throat.

“She was being strangled?”

“Sort of… She…” He still couldn’t speak. He felt as if saying it out loud might make it true.

Yousef grinned. “Come on, mate, give us a clue – is it a book or a film? How many syllables?” His mum smiled too.

“Perhaps he’d like to phone a friend?”

“Different game, Ms S.” Joe started to smile in spite of himself.

“Listen, Joe, love,” said his mum. “I think we should move out – just for a bit, until things settle down.”

“No!” said Joe, and he was shocked at how determined he felt. Yousef and his mum looked at him. “It’s just… that’s what they want, isn’t it?”

“Is it?” said his mum in surprise.

“Yeah… they want to freak us out. They want us to move out.”

“Tell your mum about that boy in the playground,” said Yousef.

“Oh, yeah… This boy – a ghost – came at lunch. He was called Sebastian. Said he had a message from Georgia.”

“From Georgia? And did he?”

Joe nodded. “Oh, yeah. His face went all blank and Georgia’s voice came out of his mouth. She said she wanted me to nick Gran’s ring. Didn’t say what for.”

“She wanted you to take your gran’s ring?” Joe nodded. “And you’re sure it was Georgia’s voice?”

“Definitely. Look, Mum – I think we should at least wait to hear what Georgia has to say tonight.”

His mum nodded. “OK.” She turned to Yousef. “You should go home, though, love. I’m sure there’s no real danger, but still…”

“Yeah, Yous,” said Joe. “It’s been great having you here, mate – thanks for that.”

“No worries,” said Yousef. “Can’t say I’ll be sorry to get out of this place, though. No offence, Ms S.”

She smiled wryly. “None taken, Yousef.” They walked him downstairs to the front door.

“You sure you two’ll be OK in here, though? I mean, I will stay if you want…” They ushered him out and closed the door, then Joe looked at his mum.

“You know what I said before about not letting them scare us into moving out?”

“Yes, love?”

“Well, do you suppose going out for dinner counts? Only I don’t think I want to be here any longer than I have to.”

His mum smiled and ran a hand through her curly hair. She looked tired and pale. “Oh, I think we might be allowed to go out for an hour or two without it counting as running away.” They grabbed their coats and his mum got her bag, then they headed into town.

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