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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4. Chapter Four

“You’re late, Joe,” said Mr Forester, when he finally got to class. The teacher tapped his watch and looked at Joe.

“Sorry, Mr Forester – someone graffitied on our car,” said Joe. “All over one side it was – it looked a right mess.”

Mr Forester looked at him for a moment, and Joe held his breath; the huge teacher was known for his biting sarcasm.

“An interesting excuse, and not one I’ve heard before. You may take your seat. Now, take note, everybody – no more of your feeble, ‘Sorry I overslept, Sir.’ From now on, I want imaginative stories, à la Joe, here.” He raised an eyebrow at Joe, who did his best to smile as he sat down and received a slap on the back from his mate Yousef.

“Nice one, Joey-boy,” he whispered. “You’ll have to write my excuses for me in future.”

Joe shrugged and Yousef looked hard at him. “You all right, mate? Only you’re a bit peaky.”

“Look… can we talk later?” said Joe.

“Break time?”

Joe nodded and leaned over to share Yousef’s history book, having left his own at home.

The time dragged. Mr Forester made a double history lesson about as much fun as slowly bleeding to death in a leech-filled swamp. When the bell finally went, Yousef had to pinch Joe awake. “You’re drooling, mate.” He swiped at his chin, but was too late – a couple of girls sitting across the aisle were pointing and laughing. Oh well, about time he gave them another reason to think him a complete loser.

“Great,” he muttered, as he grabbed his bag and followed Yousef out to the playground.

“What’s up, mate?” Yousef asked, as soon as they reached their favourite bench at the far end, well away from any teaching staff.

Joe sat down and rubbed his face. “Do you believe in ghosts, Yous?”

“What, big white ghouls that shout, ‘Woooo!’ as they trail round the graveyard?”

“Not exactly, no.”

“Hiya!” Their friends Freddie and Simon landed with a thump on the bench next to them.

“God – Pargeter went on and on in double physics, didn’t he, Si? We couldn’t get away.” Freddie looked from Joe to Yousef. “What’re you two looking so serious about?”

“Ghosts,” said Yousef.

“What about ghosts?”

“Dunno – ask him,” shrugged Yousef.

Freddie and Simon both turned to Joe.

“We’re all ears, mate,” said Freddie.

“Oh, nothing, really. I just saw this programme – you know, on ghosts – and I was wondering if you lot believed in them.”

“Woooo!” said Yousef again, and the others laughed. Joe gave up and sat back as Yousef began to chase the others round the playground, waving his arms and pretending to be a ghoul.

Joe felt an icy blast on his neck and then a voice spoke, so close to his ear it made him jump,

“What did you expect?”

The voice came from a small boy sitting next to him on the bench. He held out his hand. “I’m Sebastian,” he told Joe.

Joe slid away from him along the bench. “You’re a ghost.”

Sebastian sighed. “I prefer the term ‘spirit’ – it gets away from so many of the common misconceptions about us.” He waved a hand in Yousef’s direction.

“You know a lot of long words for a little kid,” said Joe, wriggling away from him along the bench.

Sebastian bridled. “Well, I was terribly gifted.”

“I’ll bet. Done in by a jealous rival at the Super-clever Kid Awards, were you?”

“Leukaemia,” said Sebastian.

“Ow. Sorry.”

The boy shrugged. “It was a long time ago. Anyway, I digress. Georgia sent me. She asked me to give you a message.”

“Well? What’s the message?”

But Sebastian was looking weird. His eyes went dark and blank, and his jawbones stretched open far too widely. Joe wanted to look away, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the awful face with its yawning mouth. Then, without Sebastian’s lips moving, Georgia’s voice came out of the spirit’s mouth:

“Get me your gran’s ring, Joe. I need the ring.”

Sebastian blinked. “Did the message get through all right?”

Joe was shaking. He hoped he wasn’t going to wet himself. He hadn’t been this scared since the ghosts in the tunnel.

He stood up, even though his legs were shaking. “Can you go now?”

“Go? Why?”

“Please… just go away. I can’t handle this. You were talking with Georgia’s voice. It was too spooky.”

“Hmm. Spooky. What a strange thing – for a spook to be spooky.”

“Just go.”

Movement close by made Joe jump. He swivelled round to see his three friends lined up, watching him.

“Who are you talking to?” asked Freddie.

“Me? Nobody. I was… just practising that bit from Hamlet we’re doing later.”

Yousef looked at him. “We’re reading it, Joe, we don’t have to know it by heart.” He rolled his eyes. “You’re such a bleeding swot.”

Sebastian was still sitting on the bench. He was smiling. “Welcome to your new life, Joe Simmonds,” he said. “Now you’re spirit-sighted, you’ll find yourself caught between the living and the dead, truly belonging to neither, yet having to meet the demands of both.” He passed through Joe, leaving him clutching at his stomach as if a glacier had set up home there.

“Really, mate, I’m worried about you,” said Yousef, shaking his head. “I mean, look at you, shivering when the sun’s out full blast.”

Joe spent the rest of the day wondering what Georgia would have to tell him and his mum that night. The message about the ring just confused him – what would she want with his gran’s ring? She couldn’t really imagine he was going to steal it for her? He sighed and tried to focus.

“You OK, mate?” whispered Yousef. “Only the bell’s about to go and you haven’t copied anything off the board yet.”

Joe sighed again and rubbed his eyes. “I’ve just got… stuff going on at home,” he whispered back.

The bell sounded and Yousef stood up. “Come on, I’ll walk you to the bus.”

As they got outside the school gates, Joe decided not to give himself time to chicken out. “I can see ghosts,” he blurted out.

“You what, mate?”

“Ghosts,” said Joe. “I keep seeing them. One in particular.”

Yousef stopped just in front of Joe and swivelled to face him. He said something so quietly, that Joe thought he must have misheard him.

“What? What did you say?” Joe asked.

“My mum… she sees spirits,” said Yousef.

“What… Meena?”

Yousef nodded.

“Why’d you never say before?”

Yousef shrugged. “Same reason you never did.”

“But… it only just started with me. I mean, three days ago I could suddenly see all these ghosts in this tunnel Gran and me go through all the time. I never saw them before.” He took a deep breath. “I’ve been bricking it, Yous. I hate it. And there’s all this awful stuff going on with my dead Aunt Georgia, who reckons she was bumped off. And I thought you’d think I was a nutter if I told you.”

Yousef nudged him. “You are a nutter. That’s why we like you. But can we rewind a bit here, Joe? What’s all this about a dead Aunt Wotsit?”

“Oh… she was my mum’s sister, apparently.”

“She must have unfinished business,” said Yousef, in a serious voice.

“Where’d you get that from? I mean, that’s what my gran says about the spirits, but what do you know about it?”

“Oh, you know, my mum tells me and my sister about it sometimes. She says the really persistent spirits – you know, the ones that keep making contact with you – have the most to sort out.”

“Oh, great...” said Joe sarcastically. “And there was this ghost earlier. You know, when you all thought I was being weird in the playground.”

“You mean there was a ghost standing there when we were talking to you?”

“Well, he was sitting on the bench, but yeah. I can’t believe you really thought I was practising Hamlet. He scared the living daylights out of me, Yous – he just appeared. This little boy, really thin and pale. Died of leukaemia, apparently.”

“The whole thing sounds really creepy, mate.”

“It was – oh and Georgia said she’d come over tonight to talk to me and Mum about what she wants.”

“So can your mum see her too?”

Joe shook his head. “No – and that’s a right pain because there’s all this stuff going on between them and I have to try and stop them rowing the whole time, even though Mum can’t actually see or hear Georgia. It’s mad.”

“Look, your bus is coming. D’you want me to come home with you for a bit?”

“Is that all right?”

“Yeah – I’ll just text my mum to let her know I’ll be a bit late. She’ll be fine. I want to hear the rest of it anyway.”

The driver turned out to be Bernie, who’d been so kind to Joe the day before.

“Hello, me old mate – good to see you. Not going upstairs, are you? Stay down here, will you, so I can keep an eye on you?”

“It’s OK – I’ll watch him for you mate,” said Yousef, steering Joe by the elbow towards the stairs. “What did you do anyway?” he asked.

Joe shrugged. “Oh, just fell asleep on the top deck. Bernie – the bus driver – was dead nice about it.”

Yousef shook his head. “You need looking after, you do,” he told Joe as he followed him up the stairs.

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