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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19. Chapter Nineteen

Georgia was sitting on the doorstep when Joe got back, her arms folded in an attitude that said ‘sulky teenager’.

“Well, aren’t you going to say ‘Hello’ at least?” she asked Joe as he walked past her.

He sighed and unlocked the door before turning back to her. “Look, it’s been a long morning, OK, and you’re not exactly the first person I’d choose to see after… what you showed me yesterday.”

“I hear you’ve been taking on Tanner.”

“News travels fast with you lot, doesn’t it? Did you hear my granddad was there too?”

“Really? How is the old power-crazed loony?”

“Pretty angry and… vengeful. He wants to kill me.”

Georgia laughed. “Really, your family is so very touching.”

Joe rounded on her. “It’s all about your entertainment isn’t it? If we’re nice to each other you complain and if we try to kill each other you just stand there and laugh.”

“Oh come on, you’ve got to admit that it’s your family who put the d in dysfunctional.”

“It’s your family too, remember.”

“Only some of it – my mum and sister. The off-the-rails dad and grandfather are all yours, sweetie.”

“Yeah, thanks for that. At least Mum and Gran aren’t in training for Psychopath of the Year Award.”

She grinned at him. “You’ve really cheered me up, you know? Shall we go in for coffee?”

“Look, Georgia: Tanner’s going to be after me now and so’s Mr Burroughs. I really need to talk to Gran about a plan.”

“Well I’m sure your little posse will come up with something.”

“If you didn’t sound so sarcastic, I’d thank you for that. Now I’m going in, OK?”

As he walked into the house, she appeared in front of him, by the kitchen door. “I’m not a vampire you know,” she said. “I don’t have to wait for you to invite me in.” She walked into the kitchen and he glared at her back.

His gran was boiling the kettle for tea when he got in. She turned round in alarm. “Hello, lovie, what’s wrong? Why are you back from school?” She caught sight of Georgia. “Oh, Georgia. You’ve not been causing trouble again, have you?”

Georgia pulled a face. “No I haven’t. He’s managed to get into some pretty impressive trouble without any help from me.” She leaned over to ruffle his hair. “Real chip off the old block, he is.”

Joe pulled away from her. “Don’t. I don’t want to be anything like you.”

His gran looked from one of them to the other. “What’s going on?”

“You didn’t tell her, did you?” said Georgia.

Joe shook his head. “No. I don’t think she needs to know.”

She is standing right here, you know,” said his gran. “What exactly don’t I need to know?”

He shook his head. “Look, I didn’t go to school, Gran. I went looking for Tanner.”

“You did what?” She gestured for him to turn round, which he did, in bemusement. “Well, I can’t see any bullet holes. What’s your mum going to say, though?”

He grinned ruefully. “Yeah – she told me I wasn’t to go after Tanner.”

“So why did you?”

He pushed a hand through his hair. “I had to, Gran. The spirits came looking for me. They said I had to help them.”

“Why couldn’t Mr Forester do it?”

Joe looked at her. “I have no idea. Too busy teaching double history maybe.”

His gran looked thoughtful. “Perhaps it had to be someone with a strong link to Tanner. Mr Forester may have been at school with him, but it’s your father he wants to get even with.” She looked at him. “You look a bit pale and wan, love. Fancy a hot chocolate?”

He smiled. “That’d be great.”

He watched her warm the milk in a pan and pour it over the powder in a mug, stirring it briskly with a teaspoon before handing it to him.

“There you go, love.”

“Thanks, Gran.”

“I’ll get some biscuits out too should I?”

He grinned. “Maybe I should chase after dangerous criminals more often.”

She wagged a finger at him. “Oh no, you don’t.”

She got out a packet of Hobnobs, then sat down across from him. Georgia stood with her arms folded over by the window.

“Right,” said his gran. “So where are we up to?”

“Well, I went to find Tanner, because the spirits had come to tell me he had them trapped in this Grip and they needed help.” His gran nodded. “Well, the spirits said I had to get the ring, but I didn’t know which one, and Tanner showed me loads of rings inside his coat. But then I saw this big ring on his hand and I was sure that was the one, so I pretended to shake his hand but really I pulled the ring off.”

His gran nodded. “Good thinking. Then what?”

“Well then it fell on the floor and I couldn’t see it but luckily Yousef and Simon had followed me and they threw a brick or something through a window and then when Tanner’s bodyguards brought the two of them in, Simon spotted the ring and managed to pick it up.

“And then we got thrown out, but Simon managed to smash the ring with a lump of concrete and that freed the spirits and they protected us when Tanner and his men tried to come after us and when Gideon’s dad was trying to kill us.”

His gran started. “Mr Burroughs was there? You didn’t mention him.”

“Well he was there and he wants to kill me, Gran. It’s been him all this time – you know, the death threats on the wall, the butchered pig at Yousef’s, all that stuff.”

She stared at him. “Jeremy Burroughs,” she said slowly. “Of course – why didn’t we think of it before?”

“Because it was much handier to blame your daughter,” said Georgia bitterly. “Why change the habit of a lifetime ’eh, Mum?”

His gran looked at her. “I’m sorry, love. We wronged you, didn’t we?” Georgia shrugged and turned back to the window. “Listen, Georgia,” said his gran. “There’s something I want you to have.”

Georgia turned back as Joe’s gran brought out the Receptacle and held it out to her.

“You serious?” said Georgia.

“Completely,” said Joe’s gran.

“But… I can have peace with this.”

Joe’s gran sat up. “Really, lovie? But… why didn’t you say so before?”

Georgia shrugged. “Mum, you exorcised me. I didn’t get the impression my state of mind was your first priority.”

“I’m so sorry, lovie. We all want you to find peace.”

“Yeah, Georgia finding peace – that’s my main concern,” muttered Joe.

Georgia grimaced at him as she threw her arms briefly round her mum. “Well I guess I’ll be off then,” she said.

“So soon?” asked his gran, standing up, and Georgia nodded. “Well, take care of yourself, Georgia, love.”

Georgia brandished the ring. “I don’t need to – I’ve got this. This is my Peace Guarantee.”

“We’ll miss you, Georgia. I’ll miss you,” said Joe’s gran quietly.

Georgia nodded. “Yeah, I know. You’ll miss me like a fish misses the desert.”

She could have vanished, but instead she opened the kitchen door and walked out. Joe followed her out of the house. He found her standing across the street, looking back at the house. He walked over to join her.

“Why’d you do it, Georgia?”

“Do what?”

“You know…”

“Stick the knife in the old man?” He nodded. “He’d seen me kill your granddad. If I’d let him go, the police would’ve come after me.”

“But he was so scared.” He looked hard at her. “Don’t you even feel guilty about it?”

She shrugged. “Survival of the fittest and all that.”

“You didn’t survive that long yourself though, did you?”

She shrugged again, then looked back at the house. “You know, I wanted to get away from this place right through my childhood,” she said. “But now I feel a bit sad about leaving – mad isn’t it?”

Joe shrugged. “No… It’s still your home, I guess.”

Gideon’s ancient Beetle creaked round the corner and Gideon pulled up when he saw Joe and Georgia. He leant over to wind down the window.

“What’s this? You look like you’re at a funeral.”

“Death of a ghost,” said Georgia. She waved the ring at him. “I’ve got my ticket out of here.”

“Hold on – wait till I’ve parked the car, anyway.” He parked at a crazy angle outside Joe’s gran’s house, then got out and walked back over to join them. The three of them stood in a line looking at the house.

“So who was the third person?” asked Joe, suddenly remembering.

“What do you mean? What third person?” asked Gideon.

“You know.” He turned to Georgia. “The other day, you said something to Dad like, ‘Did we only kill three people?’”

“Oh, that,” said Gideon. He met Georgia’s eye and she shrugged and turned to Joe.

“It was me,” she said.

“You what?”

“The third person – I killed myself. I made Gideon stay with me while I did it because I was too scared to do it on my own. Guess I was just a coward after all.” Joe glanced at her hands and saw she was picking at her fingers as she spoke, in that restless movement he’d seen her make before.

“You mean you suffocated yourself in all that rubble at the quarry on purpose?”

She nodded and turned to face him, “You have to understand the state I was in – I hated myself. But I couldn’t stop doing… all those things. It was like I had to keep making myself feel alive.” She laughed at the irony. She reminded him of the guys at school who did the ridiculous dares. “I knew I was just going to do more and more terrible things but none of them would ever make me feel any better – I had this strange emptiness inside.”

Joe turned to Gideon. “And you let her do it?”

Gideon pulled a face. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, watching her kill herself like that. But I thought I owed her that at least – she’d murdered my father just to protect me, and she had Alisdair’s… condition on her conscience as well. Then there was…” he paused.

“Yeah, I know about the witness,” said Joe.

Gideon met Georgia’s eye and she nodded.

“She was miserable, Joe. Not just a bit unhappy, but truly miserable.”

Joe turned back to Georgia. “So you did care that you killed that other bloke…?”

She shrugged.

He thought for a moment. “So all this time you’ve been claiming you were murdered…?”

She smiled, “So I created a bit of drama for you. Don’t tell me you didn’t enjoy it.” She turned more serious. “Anyway, Tanner was out to get me,” she said quietly.

Joe stared at her. “You mean…?”

“Oh, I know I said he blamed Gideon, but he still wanted to see me dead. I kept getting in the way of his empire-building. I was the one person who wasn’t scared of him. Until the end, anyway.” She glanced at Gideon. “By then, I was so scared that death looked like a pleasant trip.”

“And was it?”

She pulled a face. “Does it look like it? Locked up in a tiny space for all that time, going over and over everything I ever did wrong.”

“You mean you’re actually admitting you care about all that stuff?”

“Nah. Not really.” She grinned. "Now I’d like a minute with your dad, if that’s OK?”

“Sure. See you.”

“See you, Nephew.” She leant over to kiss him, but he dodged her and walked back across the road to the house.

Inside, he found his gran still sitting at the kitchen table. She was staring at her hand and rubbing the empty space on her finger.

“You OK?” he asked.

She nodded. “At least Georgia will be happy now. That’s all I’ve ever wanted for her.”

“Gran… Will you be all right on your own? Only I think I might go out for a bit,” he said at last.

She nodded. “All right, lovie. Have you got that amber with you?”

He drew it out to show her.

“Good. Make sure you bring it out if there’s any trouble – from spirits, I mean. I don’t think Stuart Tansley will go after you in broad daylight – let’s hope I’m right about that.”

Joe slipped his coat on in the hall and put his hands in the pockets. He came across a small card and drew it out. It read “Rev. Peter Michaels”: the exorcist’s business card. Joe tapped the corner of it on his palm for a moment, before walking back into the kitchen.

“Gran?”

She was in exactly the same position as when he’d left her, and she looked up with a jump when he spoke. “Are you still here? I thought you were off exorcising your demons.”

“Well, that’s what I’m thinking, Gran. I thought I might make a visit to the exorcist.”

She hesitated. “Who are you exorcising this time?”

“I was thinking more about finding stuff out.”

“Ah – a visit to your informer, ’eh?”

He grinned. “Something like that.”

She nodded. “Are you all right going alone, Joe?”

“Fine, Gran,” he said gently. “But don’t spend all day sitting here moping, will you?”

She smiled up at him and he saw she had tears in her eyes. “I’ll try not to. My bag’s over there, lovie – help yourself to some money for the cab.”

He glanced across the road when he got outside, but there was no sign of either Georgia or Gideon. He just hoped they weren’t having one last spree of destruction.

He hailed a taxi easily on Queensway.

“Little Boughton, please,” he told the driver.

When they got to the village, he had the driver deposit him in the exorcist’s driveway. He walked over to the gate into the graveyard. There was a steady drizzle coming down and he turned up his collar. It was as if the exorcist inhabited his own micro-climate of continuous rain.

He saw the familiar broken black umbrella, winding its way around a grave. He walked through the gate and along the narrow path.

“Reverend Michaels,” said Joe as he drew near. The exorcist raised a hand for him to wait a moment. He was chanting something and holding up a glowing amber stone in his spare hand as he circled a grave. After a moment, the intoning stopped and he moved away from the gravestone.

“Binding ritual,” he said. “And you are?” He squinted short-sightedly through his thick glasses at Joe.

“Joseph Simmonds – remember? Georgia Simmonds’ nephew.” Joe dug in his pocket. “You gave me this.” He held up the amber.

“Oh, yes – Rare Sight and doesn’t even know it,” said the exorcist with a chuckle. He motioned for Joe to walk with him through the graveyard. “You know, Joseph, you’d make a fascinating study.”

“I know now,” said Joe. “About the Rare Sight, I mean.”

The Reverend stopped short and turned to stare at Joe through his thick lenses. “Ah,” he said. “Your sixth sense has awakened fully, ’eh? Interesting.” He started to walk again. “And may I ask – how did it… manifest itself?”

“You mean when did I first experience the Rare Sight?”

“Exactly.”

“When a load of spirits invaded my mum’s car and told me they were caught in the Grip.”

The exorcist stopped again, but he didn’t turn to look at Joe. “The Grip? Did they happen to mention… whose Grip?”

“Stuart Tansley’s,” said Joe. “Tanner.” Joe saw the man tense. He overtook him so that he could watch his face carefully as he added, “So I freed them.”

“You… freed them?” The Reverend had gone bright red.

“Well, my mate Simon did, anyway. What, aren’t you pleased?”

The Reverend turned on him, his eyes bulging through his thick lenses. “Pleased? You undo months of laborious work – all the research and tracking I had to do, not to mention the life-threatening situations I put myself in…” he was spluttering, and Joe moved away slightly. “You undo all my best efforts and then have the… the… audacity to ask if I’m pleased?” Flecks of spit lay on his bottom lip.

“Your work?” said Joe at last. “But why would you…?”

“Tanner,” hissed the exorcist, looking around as if Stuart Tansley might be crouching behind a gravestone. “Isn’t it always Tanner?”

“What?” said Joe. “Are you in his Grip, too?” He thought he might get at least a smile for that, but the exorcist just stared at him. Joe took another step back. “You are, aren’t you? I mean, you can’t be in his Grip, but he’s got some kind of hold over you, hasn’t he?”

“What do you want?” hissed the exorcist.

Joe held up the amber. “This stone – what can it do?”

The Reverend spat at him. Joe wiped the saliva off his cheek in shock.

“Why do you think I would tell you that?” said the exorcist. His eyes had a manic glint, and Joe wondered if he should run for it.

“Er… because then I’ll go away?” he suggested.

The Reverend’s eyes roamed the graveyard again. When he spoke, his voice was hoarse and hushed. “If I tell you, you will go away and never bother me again?”

Joe hesitated. “I don’t know if I can promise that. I mean, I am being haunted by the ghost of my dead granddad, so…”

The exorcist’s eyes flicked back to Joe’s. “Your…?”

“My dead granddad. He’s got it in for me.”

“When you say ‘haunted’, what do you mean exactly?”

“Well, he keeps making me see things that aren’t really there, and writing stuff on the wall and things.”

The Reverend sighed and looked away again. “The term ‘haunted’ is not one that should be used lightly. You spirit-tourists don’t really know the meaning of the word. Are you possessed?” He sounded bored.

“No,” said Joe. “At least, I don’t think so.”

“Do you find yourself saying and doing things that are beyond your control?”

“All the time,” said Joe. He caught the Reverend’s eye and quickly corrected himself. “No. My gran spoke in Georgia’s voice one day, and another time she had a man’s voice we couldn’t identify, but I think it was probably…”

The Reverend sighed again. “Why you have to mess with things that are beyond you…”

“Listen, mate, I didn’t choose to get involved in all this mess.”

“That’s what they all say.”

“Well, it’s true. All I wanted was to go to school and come home and meet my mates. Not keep wondering if some bogeyman’s going to jump out at me from round the next corner.”

The Reverend was gazing around the graveyard again. “Bogeymen don’t exist,” he said. “Boogers, yes, but Bogeymen, no.”

Joe burst out laughing. “Boogers? You mean like snot?”

The Reverend met his gaze again and raised an eyebrow. “No, I do not mean like snot. Clearly, a gift such as Rare Sight is wasted on you. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” He made to sweep off, but Joe caught his arm.

“Wait! Don’t go. At least tell me how I can use this.” He brandished the amber again and felt cold rain drip down inside his sleeve.

The Reverend rolled his eyes. “It’s a Controller.”

“Yeah – so I’ve been told. But how do I use it?”

The Reverend turned to look at him. “You Control spirits with it. And you can use it to summon them – ones whom you have befriended.”

“Yeah, but…”

“Do you need everything spelt out? Can you work nothing out on your own?”

“Well, not much,” admitted Joe.

“Joseph Simmonds, you have Rare Sight. That stone, used correctly, could make you quite powerful.”

“More powerful than Stuart Tansley?”

The man tensed again. “Perhaps.” He started to walk again.

“Then help me,” said Joe.

“Why? So that you, too, can abuse your power? So that you, too, can build little empires of puppets and pull their strings?” His eyes looked manic again.

“No, I wouldn’t…” The Reverend held up a hand.

“They all think that – they all say that. At first. But the hunger for power eats away at them.”

Joe sighed and turned away. “Forget it.” But as he started to walk to the road, where he would have to find a phone to call a cab, the Reverend called out to him.

“Rotate it, Joseph Simmonds. You have to rotate the stone.”

Joe held the stone up in the air to show he’d heard. Then he turned again and headed for the nearest phone box.

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