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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9. Chapter Nine

“What… stay here? With us?” His mum didn’t seem too keen on having Gideon anywhere near her, never mind in the house. She’d even made a fuss about his sleeping there overnight after he’d returned Joe safely.

They had agreed it made sense for her and Joe to stay at his gran’s for the time-being, as his gran had more room, and the three of them felt safer together. Now he had to persuade her to include Gideon in the arrangements. He led her into the living room, where they could talk without Gideon overhearing.

“I thought we might be safer if he was with us,” he said.

She laughed, but it wasn’t a nice sound. “Safer? With Gideon?” she said.

“Mum, he’s quite a bit older than when you knew him. I think he might have grown up,” said Joe. “What did he do that was so bad, anyway?”

“What didn’t he do? He was involved in all kinds of shady things, Joe. I should never have got mixed up with him. It would certainly have been better for Georgia if she hadn’t done.”

“Don’t be too hard on him, Mum. He’s really sorry for everything.”

“Is that what he told you?” She looked at Joe. “He’s got to you, hasn’t he?”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh…” she waved a hand, “…he’s done the whole Downtrodden Man act and you’ve fallen for it.”

Joe lost it. “Mum, this isn’t all about you and some bloke you slept with umpteen years ago, before the dinosaurs. I think we could really do with some help at the moment. I don’t know if you noticed, but I was nearly whisked off to some place that didn’t offer a return fare. Gideon seems to know a bit more than we do about the spirit world. I think he could help us.”

His mum paused. She walked over to the window, and gazed out for a minute. Then she turned back. “You’re right,” she said.

“You what? You mean he can stay?”

“If your gran’s OK with it. And there have to be ground rules.”

“Sure. Whatever.” He couldn’t help grinning. He hadn’t expected his mum to give in so easily.

His gran came in. “So what’s been decided?” she asked.

“Mum says Dad can stay,” he told her with a grin.

She raised an eyebrow. “So it’s ‘Dad’ now, is it?”

“Well,” said Joe, “he is my dad, isn’t he?”

Gideon seemed quite happy with the idea that his bed was the old sofa with the worn-out springs. He didn’t even seem to mind that Joe’s mum wouldn’t speak to him directly, but insisted on going through Joe.

“Tell your father,” his mum said, “that he may stay, but only if he abides by the house rules. He should wipe round the bath after he uses it, and not leave the toilet seat up.” Joe repeated the message in a monotone, and Gideon winked at him before responding.

“Tell your mother that a clean bath is an unhappy bath,” he said. “And, as there are now an equal number of men and women in this household, it’s only right to cater for the needs of both genders. I would appreciate if it she would reciprocate by leaving the toilet seat up after use.”

His mum gave up and left the room. But Joe noticed that she had made a bit more effort than usual over her hair, and had even put on make-up.

He went after her. “Mum, I think we need to call a meeting. You know – to discuss tactics, that kind of thing.”

She stopped. “Good idea, love. Will you tell the others? We’ll meet back in the kitchen in half an hour, say.”

“OK.”

At the beginning of the meeting, his mum, despite sitting opposite Gideon, seemed determined not to make eye contact with him.

“Umm. Before we start… I haven’t thanked you yet,” she murmured, looking down at the table.

Gideon made a show of glancing behind him. “Oh – are you talking to me?” he said. “What do you have to thank me for?”

“For saving Joe,” his mum whispered.

“Oh – that…” said Gideon. “That was nothing. It was my pleasure.” And he turned to Joe and put a hand on his shoulder. Just the warmth of his hand made Joe feel safer.

“So…” said Joe’s mum. “Who knows something they’re not telling the rest of us?”

His gran sat up very straight. “Why are you looking at me?” she asked indignantly. “What makes you think I’ve got something to hide?”

“Sorry, Mum, I didn’t mean to look at you…”

“…The lady doth protest too much,” murmured Gideon, and Joe’s gran glared at him.

“Well, Gran,” said Joe. “You never did finish telling us about the ring. Why would a spirit have taken it? What would they want it for?”

“Oh…” said his gran, and Joe noticed that now she was the one avoiding eye contact. “…I expect they wanted the ruby.”

“But come on, Gran, why would a ghost want a ruby? Not much use in the spirit world, is it?”

There was a long pause. Then Joe’s mum suddenly turned to his gran. “It’s more than just a ring, isn’t it? It must have some kind of power or something.”

There was an even longer pause, while the three of them looked at Joe’s gran and she looked down at her fingers, rubbing the empty space where the ring should be. “What is it?” said his mum. “I think you’d better tell us. After all, we’re all having to deal with the spirits. Look what happened to Joe.”

His gran sighed and looked up. “You’re right, I know. It’s just… I thought it was all over. I can’t understand how it’s starting up again.”

“How what’s starting up again, Gran?” Joe asked.

She met his eye. “Georgia. I can’t understand how Georgia’s come back again after…” her voice got gradually quieter, but the last two words sounded like, “…the exorcism”.

His mum looked at her. “You exorcised Georgia?”

“Oh, Sara, I had to. She was causing even more chaos as a spirit than she had when she was alive.”

Joe looked at her. “So what’s this got to do with the ring?”

She sighed. “It was the… Receptacle. We had to imprison her in something that had a personal connection to her. We didn’t have much left of hers and I thought the ring might do, because she had stolen it, after all – she had touched it and owned it, even if only briefly.”

His mum shrieked. “You mean you’ve been wearing Georgia on your finger?”

“Oh no, it’s not like that,” said his gran. “The exorcist assured me she’d have no conscious existence in there.”

“How convenient,” murmured Gideon, but she didn’t seem to hear.

She sighed. “I should have buried the ring in a lead casket, as the exorcist advised,” she went on. “I thought, somehow, she’d be more secure where I could keep an eye on the ring.”

“So how did she get out?” asked Joe.

“I honestly have no idea. I suppose the ring didn’t offer a strong enough link after all, and was too weak to hold her… I don’t know enough about these things. I didn’t even realise she’d got out until you and your mum told me two days ago. And then I saw her myself, of course.”

“So, d’you think it was her that took the ring this time?” asked Joe.

“It might have been,” said his gran. “Some of her essence would remain in the vessel in which she’d been trapped – until that vessel was destroyed. She may have taken the ring in order to destroy it. If she succeeds, she’ll gain strength, and it would also make it much harder for us to recapture her – we’d have to find a new vessel, and then start the whole exorcism again from scratch.”

Joe felt his stomach clench at the thought of Georgia gaining in strength. She was so sure of her own dues, so unflinching in her search for retribution…

“But hold on,” said Gideon, stroking his beard. “This doesn’t make sense. From what Joe’s told me so far, Georgia charged him with getting hold of the ring. Why would she ask him to do it, then steal it herself, rather than wait to see if he did it or not?”

“Gran,” said Joe slowly. “What would happen if another spirit stole the ring?”

“Well, if I understand the way it works, they’d gain an element of control over Georgia.”

They looked at each other.

“So perhaps Georgia’s fallen in with a bad crowd once again,” murmured Gideon.

“There is another thing,” said his gran. “She wouldn’t be able to take her own Receptacle – she would have to charge someone else to take it, just as she asked Joe. A spirit can’t touch their own Receptacle – unless it has been given to them by someone living, of their own free will.”

Joe stood up. “My head’s spinning with all this,” he said. Stolen rings, exorcisms, Receptacles… It’s a nightmare, isn’t it? Maybe if I go to bed now I’ll wake up and it won’t have happened, any of it.”

“By the way,” said Gideon, “I think you should go back to school tomorrow. We could all do with a bit of normality, and we don’t want you falling behind with your schoolwork.”

Joe stared at him. “We might all be murdered any minute by angry ghosts, but you’re saying I have to go to school?”

“It’s probably the safest place to be at the moment, anyway,” said Gideon.

“That’s true,” said his gran. “The vengeful type of spirit rarely strikes in a crowded place, for some reason.”

Joe groaned. “So you mean I’ve got to put up with double history as well as all this?”

“Yes you do,” said his mum. It was about the only thing she and Gideon had agreed on all day. Everyone but Joe pushed back their chairs.

“I have a question,” said Joe.

“What is it, love?” asked his mum.

“Well, before she died, Georgia told Mum she’d done ‘something terrible’. What do you think that was?”

“Well, stealing your gran’s ring, I imagine,” said his mum.

Joe looked at her. “But would that really seem that bad? I mean, to a girl like Georgia, who was pretty wild.”

Gideon shook his head. “No, perhaps not. You’ve got a point, Joe.”

Joe turned to him. “Well then, what was it? You were her best friend – you must have some idea?”

“Well…” Gideon paused, and then his voice went quieter and he gazed at the floor. “We did some pretty awful stuff… things I’m still ashamed to remember. Georgia even did stuff that was worthy of the Far Right, really – things even I wouldn’t go along with. You know – terrorising the only Asian family in the neighbourhood, just for the hell of it – that kind of thing.”

Joe shook his head. “I just don’t think that was it. I mean, it seems really bad to us, but Georgia doesn’t seem like she’d lose much sleep over it. She was a bit of a bully really, wasn’t she? I don’t think she’d feel that guilty about scaring her neighbours. Not enough to confess to mum how bad she felt, anyway.”

“Well,” said Gideon, and his voice was cold. “We can speculate forever but, unless Georgia chooses to tell us herself, it’s unlikely we’ll ever know what she considered to be so ‘terrible’ an act.”

Joe’s mum and gran shrugged and sighed, shaking their heads. Then they went off to the living room together.

“Joe, take this,” said Gideon, holding out a clear bag containing a greenish powder. Joe backed away.

“What is it? Some kind of drugs?”

Gideon laughed. “Hardly. It’s a mix of dried, crushed sprouts and spinach.”

Joe pulled a face. “Urgh!”

“Exactly,” said Gideon. “And you know what? Ghosts hate it nearly as much as you do. Sprinkle some of the powder around your bed at night and it will offer a small amount of protection.” He turned to go.

“You know, don’t you?” said Joe to Gideon’s back. The big man stopped in the doorway, but didn’t turn round.

“Know what, Joe?”

“The ‘terrible’ thing – you know what it is.”

Gideon still didn’t turn round. “I’d let it go if I were you, Joseph.”

“Is that some kind of threat?”

Gideon turned to look at him at last. “I’m just saying that some things are best left in the grave.”

Joe stared at him, but Gideon turned and walked towards the stairs. Joe watched him going up, then as he turned away he had a sudden, lurching realisation that he was meant to be somewhere else.

“Mum!”

“Joe, come in here if you want to talk to me, please,” she called from the living room. He pushed open the door and went in. She and his gran were watching a recording of The Antiques Roadshow. A man was telling one of the experts about a gun he’d inherited from his father. It looked pretty lethal, and the expert jerked away as the man demonstrated the catch mechanism.

“Mum,” he said again.

“Hmm?”

“Yousef’s. We were meant to go there…” he tried to work out where the time had gone. “…When I was with Gideon in that place last night, we were meant to be at Yousef’s. We said we’d go over, you know, to discuss Georgia and everything.”

His mum finally looked away from the telly. “Oh yes, I completely forgot. Thinking you’ve lost your only son is quite preoccupying.” She stood up. “I should ring Meena, tell her why we didn’t make it.”

“Didn’t she ring here?”

There was a pause. “No. She didn’t. Maybe she forgot, too.” She went to the phone in the hall, and Joe was relieved to hear her exchanging common-place civilities with the person on the other end. When she came off, he looked at her.

“What were you congratulating her about?”

She looked at him with a smile. “Meena’s pregnant. Isn’t that great news? Apparently, they spent yesterday evening clearing out the smallest bedroom for the nursery, so she forgot as well.”

“I wish I didn’t think everything at the moment was going to be bad news,” said Joe.

She put her arm round his shoulders and gave him a quick squeeze. “I know, love. I feel the same myself.”

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