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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14. Chapter Fourteen

 

They pulled up in front of Yousef’s house about twenty minutes later. Yousef’s dad was already waiting for them on the pavement.

“I’d better just go in – to warn Meena,” he said.

“Mr Khalil,” said Joe. “I think… look, I think you’d better not come up with us either.”

“But it’s my son they’re holding up there, Joseph.”

“I know, but… you won’t be able to communicate with them or anything.”

“You’ll just have to tell me what they’re saying, Joseph. I’m not waiting downstairs, wondering what’s happening, when my poor boy’s up there terrified.”

Joe’s gran nodded. “Of course. Right, everyone, we’ll wait here while Mr Khalil goes in.”

After a moment, Yousef’s dad reappeared at the front door, beckoning them in.

“Here goes,” murmured Joe, as he started up the path ahead of his mum and gran. His blood was pumping in his ears again and he wondered for a second how he’d got involved in all this. “Shouldn’t we wait for Georgia?” he asked his gran.

“Oh, she’ll turn up,” she said. “Don’t forget – we have the receptacle; she isn’t going to want to let that out of her sight for long.”

“They reached the hallway, where they met up with Yousef’s parents. I’ll wait down here, should I?” said Joe’s mum, and his gran nodded.

“Meena, what do you want to do?” asked Joe’s gran. “Are you going to stay down here with Sara?”

Meena shook her head. “No… I can speak to the spirits. I think I’d better come up with you.”

“Right, then.” She gestured to the Khalils to start up the stairs, and Joe followed, with his gran behind him. But stairs weren’t easy for her these days, and she stopped half-way up, at the turning-stair.

“Gran, are you all right?”

“I’m fine, lovie – you carry on up with the others and I’ll come after you as soon as I catch my breath.”

He left her reluctantly, but he needed to see Yousef, to check he was all right, so he followed Yousef’s parents to the top of the stairs, and then waited as they fetched a pole to pull down the loft ladder. It was a metal extending ladder, and it lurched horribly just as Mr Khalil set foot on it. There was a row of torches on top of a low cupboard on the landing, and Joe grabbed a couple and passed one up to Mrs Khalil as she followed her husband. Joe waited until they were both at the top before starting up himself. The ladder felt rickety and unsafe, especially as his legs were playing their trick again of going rubbery. He dragged himself through the hole at the top, and flashed his torch round, ready to face his opponent. The loft was empty. Yousef’s parents had vanished, and there was instead a huge space – far bigger than he would have expected given the size of the house below – with no sign of either Yousef or his captor. He spun round as something clattered behind him. It was the ladder, which now lay neatly folded up, with the hatch shut.

He tried to shout, “Gran! Mum!” but his voice, like his legs, let him down: it came out hoarse again, so that it barely sounded. There was a curious echo too, as if he was in an empty building. He tried again but, although he managed to project his voice a bit further, there was still no answer from below.

The sound of footsteps close by made him jump,

“Oh, come on, you don’t really think you’re in the same attic, do you?” said a familiar voice.

He shone his torch in the direction of the voice, and jumped again as he saw Gideon, sitting on an upturned packing case that hadn’t been there a moment before. “Dad! Are you OK?”

“’Dad! Are you OK?’” It wasn’t an echo – it was Gideon mocking him, in a high-pitched, whiney voice.

“Dad? What’s going on?” said Joe, faltering.

“Oh, come on, catch up.” said Gideon.

“You mean, you planned this?”

Gideon sighed and looked at his watch. “Will this take long? Only I’ve got a few pig guts to spill before breakfast.”

Joe covered his mouth. “That wasn’t you.”

“Oh, wasn’t it, now?”

“But… you’re not a ghost.”

Gideon grinned. “You’ll believe anything if you want it enough, won’t you? ‘My daddy’s come back to me – he loves me, after all these years’.” He said it in the mocking voice again. He yawned.

Joe felt frozen to the spot. He was barely aware of the tears that were streaming down his face.

“Can anyone play?” He recognised Georgia’s voice before he saw her. She sauntered across to Gideon, and threw an arm around his neck.

Joe took a step back. “What’s going on?”

“You and your mum are so gullible,” said Georgia. “You were such fun to play with, weren’t they, Giddy?”

“Mmmm,”said Gideon, putting an arm round Georgia’s waist. “Although their particular brand of naivety does pall after a while.”

“So, if you’ll just let me have my ring,” said Georgia, holding out her hand.

“I haven’t got it,” said Joe.

“Oh no, I forgot – my darling mother took it, didn’t she?” said Georgia. She whispered something to Gideon and Joe felt himself jolted roughly to one side. He fell to the floor and dropped his torch; it cast weird beams across the roof joists. There was a loud thud, and he reached for his torch again; the beam picked out the figure of his gran, slumped about a metre away from him, her chin on her chest as if she were asleep.

“Gran! Gran! Are you OK?” He sat by her side and tugged at her arm.

Georgia and Gideon laughed. “Isn’t he sweet?” said Georgia. “So devoted – like a puppy dog.”

“What…?” His gran opened her eyes, and quickly shut them again at the glare from Joe’s beam.

“Sorry, Gran.” He swivelled the torch away. “But you’ve got to wake up. It’s Georgia and Gideon, Gran.”

She opened her eyes again at once, and groaned. “What are those delinquents up to now?” she said.

Georgia grinned merrily at Gideon. “If you’ll just let me have my Receptacle, Mum, this delinquent will be on her way…”

“What have you done with Yousef…?” said Joe.

They laughed again. “Oh – he’ll be all right,” said Georgia. “I’m sure Mummy and Daddy are fussing over him right now – asking him all about his terrible ordeal.”

“If you’ve done anything to him…” began Joe.

Georgia took a step back in mock fear. “Oh no, nephew, please don’t hurt me with your… Oh – what is it again you’d hurt me with? I can’t remember… Your ferocious scowl?”

“Georgia…” said his gran, sounding more like herself. “What’s going on?” Joe helped her to her feet, and they faced their captors. “Are you not human after all, Gideon?” she asked.

“Not exactly,” he said with a smile. “I’m a passe-partout.”

“But Mum said…” began Joe.

“…I know – your mother told you exactly what I wanted her to. She lapped up my story of my being a changed man. She even believed that a passe-partout is offered protection by the spirits, in return for acts of kindness he or she has committed,” said Gideon.

“So, what are you?” asked Joe, stepping back and pulling his gran with him.

“Well, I am a changed man – that bit is true,” said Gideon, and he and Georgia sniggered. His face stretched grotesquely and his body distorted, until there was a towering shadow of a being in front of them, with an echoing voice and no obvious features – just eyes that were white and glowed. Joe heard his gran gasp and she grabbed at Joe’s sleeve.

“Oh no,” she murmured.

The creature metamorphosed back into Gideon. “You know what I am, don’t you, Eunice?” said the creature. “In fact, I was surprised you didn’t figure it out before – you were the one I was worried about.” He turned to Joe. “I’m a shape-shifter.”

“So you’re not really my dad?”

The figure laughed again. “You’d love that, wouldn’t you? What a relief that would be. Oh no – I’m still your father. You see, I was a man – once. But thanks to Georgia I have taken on some supernatural abilities, and am now many times what I was: in strength and abilities. But I still have blood in me.”

“Then you can still be killed,” said a man’s voice, and they all spun round, to see where it was coming from.

“Spooker!” said Gideon, and Joe shone his torch into a corner of the loft, where he made out the shape of his school teacher, Mr Forester, in the shadows. He had a torch fixed to his forehead, like kids at school wore when they went caving. “Well, well, well,” said Gideon. “Spooker Forester himself.”

Despite his own fear, Joe thought he detected a tremor in Gideon’s voice – as if Mr Forester might not be the first person he’d choose to see.

“Gideon; Georgia; Mrs Simmonds; Joe,” said Mr Forester politely, nodding with each name, but never taking his eyes off Gideon and Georgia. “Now, Joe, I want you to take your grandmother over to the loft hatch, unfold the ladder and get as far away from this building as you can,” said the teacher. “Can you do that?”

“If only they had a ladder!” shrieked Georgia, and Joe shone his torch over to where the ladder had been. There was no sign of either it or the loft hatch.

“Still playing children’s games, Georgia?” said Mr Forester.

“Oh but Spooker – they’re such fun!” said Georgia. She clapped her hands and laughed, and Joe found he was back down on the floor, crouching over his grandmother’s bleeding body, with a dripping knife in his hand. He staggered backwards,

“What…? How…?” He covered his mouth but a wail still came out.

“Joe, Joe, don’t let them do this,” said a voice, and he felt Mr Forester’s hand on his shoulder. “Whatever you thought you saw, it isn’t true.”

Joe staggered to his feet and shone his torch at the spot where he’d seen the corpse; there was nothing there. His gran was still standing, a few feet away, unharmed.

Joe moved towards her and, in the absence of an escape hatch, the two of them shrank back, into a corner.

Mr Forester was looking at Georgia. “What happened to you, Georgie girl?” he asked.

She looked away. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Well… you were certainly living on the edge, but something pushed you over. What was it?”

She glanced at Gideon by her side, in human form again, then back to Mr Forester. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He held her gaze. When he spoke again, it was quietly, intimately, as if they were the only ones there.

“I think you do, Georgie girl. I think something happened… something bad.”

Joe held his breath as Georgia started to cry. She didn’t make a sound, but Joe could see the tears reflected in the beam from Forester’s head lamp; they slid down her face like raindrops down a window. She tried to grin and shrug, but only managed half a smile.

“Oh, I know you better than that, Georgie,” continued Forester. “I was the only one you couldn’t fool, remember?” Georgia nodded and Joe looked at his gran. She was crying too. He took her hand and she smiled weakly at him, then they both turned back as Forester continued, “Was it murder, Georgie? Did you kill someone?” Georgia looked away for a moment, still with the tears slipping down her cheeks. Then Gideon interrupted,

“So what if it was, Martin? I’m sure you’ve noticed that there’s a survival of the fittest going on out there. It’s kill or be killed. Georgia chose to live.”

“Is that true, Georgie?” asked Forester. “Was someone trying to kill you?” Georgia shook her head as he went on, “No, it wasn’t you he wanted to kill, was it?” She shook her head again, and sobbed out one word,

“No.”

“Honestly, Martin,” said Gideon, “I can’t see where you’re going with this. So, many moons ago, Georgia killed someone. I think it’s a bit late to get her on the therapist’s couch now, don’t you?”

Joe’s gran started to walk towards them. She stopped in front of Gideon.

“You spineless, treacherous coward,” she spat out.

“Er… Gran,” called Joe. “I don’t think that’s a very good idea.” But she carried on regardless,

“You lying little self-serving hypocrite.” Gideon stood grinning at her. Joe went over to stand nearby, though he didn’t know what he would do if the Gideon creature wanted to lash out. He didn’t understand what had come over his gran. “Look what you did to my little girl,” she went on, still staring at Gideon. “Look what you turned her into.” He continued to grin, as if she were an amusing piece of entertainment at a cabaret. “Were you ever human?” she asked. “Did you ever feel a real emotion in your life?”

The Gideon creature sighed. “This is getting dull now,” he said. He raised his arms and projected a force that hurled Joe and his gran across the rough floor of the attic, so that they landed, crumpled, in a far corner. Joe’s knee collided with his mouth and he tasted blood.

“Gran… you all right?” he slurred. But before she could answer, the floor below them opened up into a chasm and they fell through, grabbing the edges of the hole just in time.

“Joe… I can’t hold on,” said his gran, and he reached out to her with one hand. But she slipped just as he caught her hand, so that the two of them were sent plunging down into the dark pit. They fell and kept falling, through darkness and rushing air, until Joe felt as if his ears would burst or his head explode from the pressure. Someone was screaming, and he didn’t even know if it was him or his gran making the noise – or something else altogether. He shut his eyes and gave in to the gravitational slide.

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