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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17. Chapter Seventeen

“I can’t believe I have to go to school,” said Joe the next morning.

His mum put some mugs away in the sideboard. “For the last time, Joe, you are going to school. It is a school day and you have already missed far too much this term. Now eat up, or we’ll both be late.”

Joe shoved the best part of a slice of peanut-butter-caked toast in his mouth and grimaced at his mum, who pulled a face back.

“I’ll never get used to the quantities you can fit in that mouth of yours,” she said, as Joe stood up and dusted the crumbs off his trousers and jumper.

“Right,” he said, through his mouthful of toast, “let’s hit the road.”

In the car, he squinted sideways at his mother as she drove.

“So, are you going to tell me what Gideon said last night?”

His mother’s face gave nothing away. “Gideon didn’t say anything.”

Joe sighed. “OK – what did he write, then?”

“Joe, we sent you to bed for a reason. It may be hard for you to believe, but there are some things you’re still too young to hear.”

Joe felt the amber stone the Reverend had given him, small and hard in his coat pocket. He turned it between the fingers of his left hand. “Gideon killed someone else, didn’t he?” said Joe. “Apart from his dad? He and Georgia did.”

His mum jerked slightly. “What on earth makes you say that?”

“I heard Georgia say it – yesterday in the kitchen. She said something like, ‘Was it only three people we killed?’”

His mum stared at him. “Yesterday? Georgia said that? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Mum, can you watch the road?” He sighed. “Look, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before, but… I forgot. I know it sounds mad, but there’s just been so much going on and… Mum?” His mum had slumped forwards, unconscious, over the wheel. “Mum? Mum, wake up! Mum!” The car started to swerve to the right, and Joe leaned over to try to turn the wheel, but his mother’s body was blocking the way. He managed to grab a small section on the left side of the wheel and tried to yank it towards him, but his hands were slippery with sweat and kept sliding off the smooth surface. There was a lorry coming towards them – why was it always a lorry? – and he covered his head with his hands and waited for the collision.

And then, without anything seeming to change, his mum was sitting normally at the wheel again, steering the car as if nothing had happened, and there was no lorry anywhere on the road. As Joe’s breathing and heart slowed down, he became aware that the palm of his left hand was burning. He straightened his clenched fingers and saw that he was still holding the amber stone and that it was glowing, as if a small light was shining inside it. He heard a tiny whisper, more like a breath:

“See us…”

“What…” said Joe, rubbing his eyes and looking all round for the speaker.

“What is it, lovie?” asked his mum.

Joe ran a hand through his hair. “You were dead just now at the wheel. And there was… I thought I heard something.”

They were near the school, so she pulled up at the kerb and turned to him. “What did you hear, Joe?” she asked.

But before he could answer, the voice came again, much louder now, so that it shook the car,

“You hear us now, Joseph Simmonds, do you not? Do you start to see us, too?”

Joe’s heart thumped in his chest. He clutched at his seatbelt.

“Mum – do you hear that?”

“What is it, lovie?” His mum frowned at him, concerned.

“Joseph Simmonds, channel your power,” continued the voice. “You will see us yet.”

“No,” cried Joe. “No – I don’t want to see you. Go away.” He undid his seatbelt and tried to open the door, but the handle wouldn’t move. “No!” he tried again.

“Joe, what is it?” His mum sounded alarmed, but he was too panicked to respond.

“See us, Joseph, see us, we implore you,” continued the voice. Joe screwed his eyes shut and covered his ears, but the voice was too loud to block out. “We are in the Grip,” said the voice. “You must save us from the Grip.”

Joe had a flashback to the spirit in a bowler hat muttering, “Always the Grip,” as he passed by the car during the meeting with Tanner. He opened his eyes and took his hands from his ears,

“The Grip? What is the Grip?”

“The Grip holds us – the Grip keeps us prisoner,” went on the voice, but now it sounded like many voices speaking together – a kind of chorus. Joe’s heart rate slowed a little.

“Whose prisoner are you?” he asked.

“Watch, Joseph Simmonds – watch and see.”

Joe was suddenly watching scene after scene of brutality, unfolding like a newsreel in front of his eyes. It was like every violent scene from every gangster film ever made, all edited together.

“Stop! Stop!” he shouted, and abruptly the screening ended. “What… what was that?” he croaked.

“All our life-ends and all our death-starts,” said the voices in chorus. “All Stuart Tansley’s little games.”

“Tanner?” said Joe. He turned his head slowly and saw now that the back of the car was full of movement – swirling eddies of light, air and sound. The sound was made up of myriad voices, sighing, crying out and gasping over and over again. He looked across at his mum, who was still gazing at him in fear and concern. “Tansley,” said Joe then. “We have to stop him.”

The air rang with sighs of relief. “Thank you, Joseph Simmonds,” sighed the chorus. “We will be forever in your debt.” The voices got quieter and the movement and lights faded away.

“Joe,” said his mum. “What’s going on?”

“Rare Sight,” said Joe. “I think I do have it after all.”

 

 

“You want to stop who?” said Yousef after lunch, when they were on their usual bench in the playground.

“Tanner – Stuart Tansley. You know: the man who gave Mum Gran’s ring in exchange for Gideon.”

“Oh, yeah – the ruby ring that was used as a… holder-thingy.”

“Receptacle.”

“Yeah, Georgia’s Receptacle. And now, even though she’s got free, she wants to get her hands on the Receptacle and destroy it because whoever’s got it has got control over her.” He gestured to himself. “So much more than just a pretty face, aren’t I?”

Joe smiled. “I think most of that’s right,” he said. “Though it seems like the ring’s not the main attraction for Georgia after all – Gideon seems to be the real reason Georgia’s still around, so we’ve got to find a way to sort out the mess the two of them made of things when she was still alive.”

“What kind of mess?”

“Well…” Joe lowered his voice. “It looks like they killed some people.”

“Hiya!” said Freddie, as he and Simon plonked themselves down on the bench. He turned to Joe, “Seen any good ghosts lately?”

Ever since Joe had covered for himself a few days before, by saying he was just talking about a programme he’d seen on ghosts, Freddie had tormented him mercilessly about the supernatural. Joe exchanged a look of despair with Freddie’s quiet, normally loyal, companion, Simon.

“D’you know,” said Freddie. “I was going to ask if you’d all like to come over to mine on Friday, only I’m worried Joe here might decide to invite one of his new mates along.” Simon rolled his eyes at Joe and Yousef. “You know,” continued Freddie cheerfully, “like a poltergeist or something.”

“Yeah, we got it,” said Simon.

Freddie looked bewildered as the three of them glared at him.

“Bit stale now, mate, isn’t it?” said Yousef.

“Yeah, it is,” said Simon, looking at Freddie.

Freddie looked hurt – Simon rarely spoke at all, let alone to speak against him, his best mate. “Oh well, I can see when I’m not welcome,” he said, picking himself up off the bench.”

“Yeah – only poltergeists and ghouls on this bench,” muttered Joe as Freddie stomped off.

“What’s going on with you two these days anyway?” asked Simon. “You both look like you’ve got double history for the rest of your lives.”

Yousef looked at Joe. “Reckon that’s more words than Si’s ever spoken in his life before, ’eh?” He turned to Simon. “You feeling OK, mate?”

Simon shrugged and smiled. “That’s what I’m asking you, isn’t it?”

“Well…” said Yousef, looking at Joe.

“There’s nothing going on,” said Joe firmly. As he spoke, he felt a tingling in his hands and looked down. His nails were growing like one of those speeded-up films of the life cycle of a plant. They weren’t nails anymore – they were long claws, curling downwards like the talons of a bird. He breathed heavily.

“Can you two see this?”

“See what?” said Yousef.

“This – my hands. Can’t you see?”

“Well, you’ve not been using Fairy for the washing-up have you, mate? They’re bound to get a bit chapped in this weather.”

“Yousef, no. It’s my nails.” He looked at them, holding up his monster hands for them to inspect. They exchanged a glance and Si wound a finger near his forehead to suggest Joe was losing it, so Joe realised they couldn’t see a thing.

Then another whisper came, like a breath against his ear,

“You’re all alone, Joseph Simmonds.”

His fingers tingled again and the nails shrank back to normal. He sat for a moment, trying to catch his breath. He was still breathing heavily when the bell went and he had to get to his feet and walk back into school on trembling legs.

Yousef caught his eye in the classroom during register.

“What happened out there, Joe?”

“What, you mean apart from the pair of you deciding I need to be sectioned?”

Yousef pulled a face. “Well, you’ve got to admit you were going a bit weird on us, mate.”

“Yousef, things keep happening to me; things other people can’t see. I think… I think it’s to do with the spirits. I think some of them are playing games – trying to freak me out.”

Yousef studied him for a moment. “Well, it makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean, you can see all the ghostly stuff and me and Si can’t. So it would be a great way to make you think you were losing your grip, wouldn’t it?”

“And that’s another thing…”

“What?”

“Well, the reason I’ve got to stop Tansley…”

“Yeah?”

“It’s something called the Grip. It’s a way of keeping spirits trapped in this world. I think it’s like torture for ghosts.”

“Nice man this Tanner.”

“I know.”

“You sure you want to get too involved? I mean, no offence, but you’re not exactly superhero material, are you?”

“Cheers for that, Yous.”

“Well, you know what I mean, mate? You’ve seen Smallville, right? Not so much of the teenage acne going on with Superman, is there? Or even those kids where they’re doing community service, then they get struck by lightning and get super powers… What’s that one called?”

Joe rubbed a spot on his chin. “Misfits. Nice of you to point that out, Yous – thanks, mate.”

“No problem.”

“Er… Yousef and Joseph, if it’s not too much to ask you to give us a moment of your time?” said their teacher.

“Sorry, Mr Forester.”

“That’s better. Now, where was I? Oh yes, Yousef Khalil?”

“Here, Mr F.”

“Thank you.”

As he continued to read the names, Yousef and Joe exchanged a look of frustration.

“After school,” whispered Yousef, and Joe nodded.

“Er, Joseph, could you wait behind for a moment, please?” said Mr Forester.

Joe hung back as the others headed for the door. As the last one went out, his teacher closed the door and walked back to his desk at the front. He sat down and looked up at Joe.

“Joseph, I haven’t seen you since that night… with the shape-shifter. How are you bearing up?”

Joe raised an eyebrow.

“Look, I can imagine all this is tough for you. If there’s anything you need me to do, let me know. I think you know by now that I’m quite involved in all this myself. I’ll help all I can.”

“Thanks,” said Joe. He cleared his throat. “And…er… thanks for that night you were just talking about. You know… in the attic. I think you saved mine and Gran’s life.”

His teacher stood up and leaned over, to give his shoulder a squeeze. “Not at all, Joe; not at all. Now, Joe, I hope you don’t mind, but there’s something else I’ve been meaning to talk to you about. Have you ever heard of Rare Sight?”

“It’s all right – I know. I have the gift,” said Joe sarcastically.

“Well, no need to sound so cross about it. There may well come a moment in all of this when you’ll be grateful for that gift. It’s got me out of many a tricky situation.”

“Right,” said Joe wearily.

“Meanwhile, if I were you, I’d start by getting the spirits on my side,” said Mr Forester. “When it’s time to face Tanner, you’re going to need all the help you can get.”

Joe looked at him and shook his head. “Anything else you want to terrify me with?” he asked.

Mr Forester smiled. “No, I don’t think so – that’ll do for now. I’ll see you tomorrow, Joseph.”

“See you, Mr Forester.”

After school, Yousef walked Joe to the bus stop and they stood to one side, where they could talk without being overheard by the other students standing around.

“So… how d’you propose to stop this Tanner guy, then?”

“I dunno.”

“Right. Great plan. That’s bound to work.”

“Well, it’s pretty obvious there’s no point appealing to his better nature.”

“So, tell me again why you’re so determined to go after this headcase, Joe?”

Joe took a deep breath. “I didn’t tell you before – it just sounds so mad. D’you remember Gideon telling us Forester has Rare Sight?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, the exorcist guy kept telling me I’d got it. He was driving me mad, going on about it. And then today…” He hesitated.

“Go on, then.”

“Well, I saw – and heard – all these voices and lights and stuff.”

“Great; now you’re hearing voices. I’m telling you the men in white coats’ll be coming for you, mate.”

Joe rubbed his face. “I know. It sounds mad even to me. But it happened, Yous. And they showed me all this stuff…”

“What kind of stuff?”

“It was like they were showing me a film. Except it was just the violent bits, over and over again. And they said it was all Stuart Tansley doing it. They said it was what he’d done to all of them. They said he’s got them trapped in something called the Grip.”

“Blimey.”

“I know.”

They were silent for a moment. Yousef looked at Joe. “You’re having a pretty rough time, aren’t you?”

Joe nodded and turned away for a moment. “Yeah,” he said, and he was embarrassed when he heard the break in his voice. “And I’m sorry I’ve dragged you into it all,” he said. “I shouldn’t have taken you back to ours that day.”

Yousef shrugged. “It livens up the day – never knowing what’s going to be decorating the lounge: pig guts or a beautiful, naked woman.” Joe looked at him. “What? A guy can dream, can’t he?”

Joe’s bus arrived, and they said goodbye. The front was packed with a group of standing teenage girls, who giggled as he pushed past to get to the stairs.

“Oi, you!” shouted the bus driver, and Joe jumped. He turned back and had to push his way through the throng again.

“I showed my pass,” he said.

“Yeah, I know, said the driver – but you’re not allowed upstairs on my bus. Be waking up in Timbuktu for all I know.”

“Bernie?” said Joe, and the crowd of girls parted just enough for him to see Bernie’s grin.

“Yeah, it’s me. Whatcha going to do about it, lad?”

Joe grinned back. “This isn’t your normal route is it?”

Bernie shrugged. “Wherever I drive a bus, that’s my route. I go where I’m needed. Now, what are you going to do?”

“Stay downstairs, I guess.”

“Good lad.”

But as he turned back, the girls had gone and so had the seats. The floor was marshmallow, sinking under his feet, and there was nothing to grab hold of. He was dimly aware of Bernie’s voice calling to him, but it sounded far away. He stood still – or tried to – but the sensation of falling was too strong, and he gave in at last, feeling a perverse relief as his legs gave way and he sank into the cushiony surface.

“Hey, wake up.”

“Uh?”

“Come on, mate.”

He felt hands under his armpits and opened his eyes. A face he vaguely recognised was peering at him.

“Uh?” said Joe again. His legs were like cotton wool, and he wished the man would just let him lie back down and go to sleep.

“Come on, mate, let’s get you up. Can you stand at all?” Joe shook his head and tried to lie back down. “Stop that, now, you can’t lie on the bus floor, lad. Make an effort.” He opened his eyes again and recognised Bernie, who was trying to hold him up. The crowd of girls had reappeared and were clearly enjoying the show. “You been drinking, lad?” said Bernie sternly, and Joe shook his head. “Well, let’s sit you down over here,” said the bus driver, dragging him to the nearest available seat. “Will you be OK here?” Joe nodded. “Right,” said Bernie, clearly reluctant to leave him. “I’ve got a bus to drive, so you just sit there and I’ll tell you when we reach your stop, OK? Where do you need to get off?”

“Er…” he tried to focus. “…Queensway, by the subway.”

He spent the rest of the journey with his head in his hands, not really caring what the girls thought. He had no control over his life; what made him think he could stop Tanner?

“Queensway subway,” called Bernie, and Joe dragged himself to his feet. Bernie came out from behind the partition and followed Joe down from the bus.

“Listen, son, I’m worried about you. Have you been checked out – you know, by a doctor?”

Joe shook his head. “It’s nothing like that.”

“Well then, what is it?”

Joe tried to smile. “You’d think I was mad if I told you.”

“Listen, lad, I’m a bus driver – there isn’t much I haven’t seen. I’ve got passengers who talk to thin air – whole conversations with gestures and everything – and others who refuse to say a word to anyone. There’s even one lady who likes to regale us with a song while we travel. Madness is relative, me old mate.”

“Thanks, Bernie,” said Joe, “But I think your passengers are waiting.” He pointed to the row of faces peering curiously at them from the bus window.

Bernie sighed. “All right, I’m off. But I’m going to be checking up on you, all right?”

Joe nodded and watched as Bernie got back on the bus, closed the driver’s compartment and started the engine. Bernie raised a hand to his brow in salute as he drove off, and Joe mirrored the gesture. As the bus vanished into the distance, he felt very alone.

Joe walked down the steps to the subway entrance, then stopped. The tunnel was teeming with spirits. He stood watching them for a moment. He hadn’t ventured near the place since his first sighting with his gran. Now, a combination of not enough sleep and too many close shaves made him reckless. He took a deep breath and marched through the throng, head down and purposeful. As he neared the other end, he became aware of a figure standing at the exit: he lifted his head and made eye contact with Georgia. Joe stopped; he considered turning back – despite all his best intentions, he didn’t fancy being alone with her. As he hesitated, she vanished – and reappeared at his side.

“Hello, nephew,” she said. “Aren’t you pleased to see me?”

He looked round. “Georgia – are you on your own?”

She laughed and gestured to the hordes of spirits all around them. “I’m in a crowd,” she said. She moved to stand in front of him, where she looked him in the eye, “But I’m also completely alone. Do you know that feeling, Joe?”

“Yeah,” said Joe. “I’m getting to know exactly what you mean.”

“Come on,” she said, and gestured to the exit. They went outside, where they took seats side by side on a bench.

“I believe you’ve been to see my friend Peter,” said Georgia.

“Peter?”

“The exorcist.”

“Oh… yeah,” said Joe.

“I don’t appreciate that kind of betrayal.”

“Look,” said Joe. “We weren’t trying to get you exorcised again. We were asking him for help. You know, for you to find peace.”

She laughed her now familiar, humourless laugh. “And what exactly has an exorcist got to do with me finding peace?”

“Nothing, it turned out. He wouldn’t help us.”

She narrowed her eyes. “What do you think an exorcist does, Joseph?” He avoided her gaze, choosing instead to study his left hand, which held his only scar from the fall. “Well?” she said. “D’you think we all just sit round having tea together?” She clapped her hands together and put on a false, high voice, “‘Oh, he may be an exorcist, but he’s such a lovely man: all the spirits love his tea parties!’” Her voice turned hard again, “Our favourites are the ones where he traps us in tiny, windowless spaces for all eternity.”

Joe continued to examine his hand. “We – me and Mum – we just wanted to help,” he said. “We thought he might know what we could do to help you. He did give me this.” He pulled out the amber stone, which was hot and glowing again. Georgia moved away slightly, then tried to act nonchalant. He held it closer to her, to check he hadn’t imagined her reaction, and saw her flinch again.

“What is it?” he asked. “Orange not your colour?”

“The stone,” she said. “It’s a Controller.”

“A what?”

“Like a detection device for spirits. It glows when there’s a spirit nearby. And it gives off a force – in the wrong hands, it can make a spirit weak and vulnerable.”

“The wrong hands?” said Joe. “You mean, like an exorcist’s hands?”

Georgia shrugged. “Not necessarily. Just someone who knows how it works – how to harness its power.”

Joe put the stone back in his pocket and looked at her. She was quieter than usual, more still. Unlike a lot of the other spirits he saw around, who had a calmness to them, she was normally on edge and jumpy, as if she was channelling electricity.

“What’s wrong?” he asked her.

“What makes you think there’s something wrong?” Suddenly, she was all bravado again: it was as if he’d flicked a switch.

“Nothing,” he said. “It’s just… I’ve never seen you sit so still.”

“Oh…” she tugged hard on a lock of her hair and examined it, the way he’d seen girls do at school when they were checking for split ends. She let the hair go and gazed out at the scrawny patch of green that passed for a municipal garden. “I’m just tired,” she said at last.

“Who did you kill?” he asked her. She turned to meet his eye.

“The murderous soul who never sleeps,” she said, and it sounded like the title of a poem. “Do you know that one?” He shook his head and she recited,

“‘His ceaseless footsteps leave no mark

for all his heart still yearns.

His restless soul searches the dark

for all he never learned.

Too late; too late! the church bells cry,

but he ignores their warning –

he cannot let the dark past lie

for all the bright sun’s warning.’

“Shall I go on?” she asked. Joe nodded. “The rest isn’t a quote,” she said. “It’s a vision. Are you ready?”

Joe shook his head and clutched at the bench, but already his mind was travelling along a circular, eddying tunnel full of sounds, towards a pinprick of light which widened as he approached.

He was standing in the same spot he’d just left, except the bench wasn’t there and there wasn’t even a pretence at a garden. He jumped as a loud voice bellowed close by,

“Gideon Burroughs, get over here!”

Joe saw a girl and boy crouching under a large bush – the girl was Georgia. Joe recognised his father from his mum’s photograph. The owner of the loud voice strode into view. He was huge and Joe held his breath as the man glanced in his direction; but his gaze passed over the boy as if he wasn’t there, and Joe exhaled in relief.

“Ah – got one little worm anyway,” said the man. He reached behind a tree and pulled out a small boy Joe hadn’t spotted. “Alisdair Tansley, if I’m not mistaken,” said the man. “I don’t suppose you’ve seen my son Gideon anywhere, have you?”

The boy was shaking. “No, Mr Burroughs, I haven’t seen him.”

So this was the famous bully Georgia had talked about – Gideon’s father and Joe’s grandfather.

“Oh come now,” said Mr Burroughs. “Surely you can do better than that?”

The man shook the small boy by the arm, making him cry out. Georgia stepped out from her hiding place.

“Stop that,” she said. “It’s nothing to do with him – he just comes bug-hunting here. Leave him alone.”

Mr Burroughs kept hold of Alisdair, who carried on a steady whimper. “Well, well, well, if it isn’t Miss Georgia herself,” said Mr Burroughs. He looked her in the eye as he increased his grip on Alisdair.

“Stop,” said Georgia again, “You’re hurting him.” Mr Burroughs wiped away a line of dribble from his chin and Joe looked at him more closely; he saw that he had the staring gaze of a man who’d had too much alcohol.

“Stop!” said Georgia again, and she grabbed at his arm. Mr Burroughs laughed and shook his arm hard so that both she and Alisdair fell to the ground. Alisdair lay still and pale, trembling, but Georgia leaped up again and hurled herself at the man from behind, biting hard into his lower arm. He yelled in anger and pain and flailed about to dislodge her; but this time, as he threw her off, he caught his foot in a hole in the ground and lost his balance. Georgia was ready for him: as he fell, she picked up a slab of stone and threw it down on him. It missed its mark and landed with a horrifying crunch on Alisdair’s head. Blood pooled out around him. Georgia gasped and stepped back and Mr Burroughs, who had made it to his feet again, caught her from behind, under the armpits, and started to swing her off the ground. At that moment, Gideon charged out from his hiding-place.

“No!” he shouted, launching himself at his father’s legs. The man let go of Georgia, dropping her like a crumb, and looked down at his son; Joe held his breath.

“You little coward,” spat out the drunk man. “Getting your girlfriend to do your dirty work – you should fight your own battles, like a man.”

“Like a man?” challenged Georgia, who seemed determined to get beaten up. “D’you call yourself a man, picking on little kids?”

The drunkard scowled at her, then grabbed a fistful of his son’s red hair and yanked him backwards, causing Gideon to scream with pain. “Can’t you teach your girlfriend some manners, boy?” said Mr Burroughs. As he spoke, Joe caught sight of Georgia and gasped: she had pulled out a large kitchen knife from inside her jacket and was running at the man.

She plunged the blade into the bully’s side and stepped back. He let out a yell of pain and surprise and let go of Gideon. Blood was spurting out from between his ribs, like water from a hosepipe. He reeled round and Gideon and Georgia backed away.

The man staggered about like a bewildered giant, then sank to his knees, staring in amazement at the blood on his hands. Georgia walked boldly up to him and spat in his face,

“This is what happens to bullies,” she told him.

He recoiled from the spit, then held out his bloodied hands to Gideon,

“Call an ambulance, son,” he said.

Gideon looked at him, and there was no compassion in his face. “My brother died because of you,” he said.

“Your brother? But… Robin was sick, Gideon – you know that.”

“Sick from your beatings,” said Georgia.

She and Gideon stood side by side, watching the big man die, but Joe had to turn away.

“Seen enough?” came a whisper in his ear, and he nodded. He glanced once more at the scene of bloody violence, then shut his eyes.

 

 

Back on the bench, Georgia held out her wrists,

“Better take me away, Officer,” she said. “I killed a man.”

Joe rubbed his face. “Tanner’s little brother – did he die too?”

“No… Alisdair didn’t die.”

“But that rock… it hit him so hard.”

“Yeah. I hear that crunch of his skull every day, you know? Haunted by it, I am,” she said, with a twisted smile. She looked away. “Brain damage,” she said. “And Tanner blamed Gideon – couldn’t believe a little girl could’ve done that much damage – thought I was covering for him.”

“But it was an accident,” said Joe. “You tried to defend Alisdair – I saw you.”

She didn’t respond. He watched her pick at the skin around her nails; she had tiny little cuts around all her fingernails – she obviously did this a lot.

“So is that why Tanner hates Gideon so much?” he asked.

She nodded. “His little brother ended up in a home. Couldn’t feed himself or wipe his own bum. Probably would’ve been better for the kid if I’d let the big man kill him.”

“None of it was your fault,” said Joe.

She shrugged. “Didn’t see anyone else throwing that stone, did you?”

“No, but…” He couldn’t think what to say that would make things any better.

“There’s something else,” she said. “You’d better see this too.”

And then, suddenly, she was dragging his mind down another tunnel. They were back at the scene they’d just left. Mr Burroughs was a large dark-red shape on the ground, more blood now than flesh. He lay still. Alisdair, close by, was shaking all over. But there was someone else in the scene now, someone Joe hadn’t noticed before, a shape in the bushes.

“Who’s there?” Georgia called out, but the figure turned to stumble away and Georgia and Gideon ran after him. Joe went with Georgia. He had no choice: this was Georgia’s memory and she was taking him with her.

“Stop,” shouted Georgia. “Wait a minute – we won’t hurt you; we just want to talk to you.”

“No,” came the reply, but he was limping and the teenagers were gaining on him fast. They caught up with him and Georgia grabbed hold of his jacket. It was old and torn and as he turned, with one arm raised in self-defence, Joe saw that he was an elderly homeless man.

“No,” he said again. “I don’t want any trouble. I won’t say anything.”

“You won’t say anything about what?” asked Georgia slyly. There was a pause. “You saw, didn’t you? You saw what happened back there.”

“I didn’t see anything,” said the old man. “Please, leave me alone. I don’t talk to the police. Please let me go.”

Joe saw the knife before he registered its meaning. She’d plunged it in and out before he’d even breathed.

“No!” came Gideon’s shout, too late. “Georgia, no.” He turned to look at her as the old man fell. “Georgia – what have you done?”

“I had to,” she said. “He would have talked. He saw it all, Giddy.” Her big eyes were turned on him pleadingly, but Gideon was backing away in horror.

“An ambulance,” he said. “I have to call an ambulance.”

“No,” said Georgia. “You can’t. If you do, they’ll take me away, Giddy. You can’t let them take me away.”

There was a silence. Gideon stared at Georgia as if she were some creature that had just crawled out from the sewer. She started to cry and move towards him, but he stepped further away. He turned to look again at the homeless man, whose body lay in a twitching heap on the ground.

“What have you done?” he said again.

Joe felt himself brought back through the tunnel of Georgia’s memory and abandoned on the bench in the cold. He knew, without turning, that Georgia had gone. He didn’t want to see her anyway. He also didn’t want to see the knife over and over again, the way it kept replaying in his mind. Each time he saw it, it felt like something he could have stopped – and he had to keep reminding himself that he was many years too late. He sat until the dark started to come in, then got to his feet and walked the rest of the short way to his gran’s. She was in when he got there, and he sat with her in the kitchen, talking about anything he could think of that didn’t involve ghosts or visions. He didn’t want her to know about that second, unnecessary killing.

“What’s up, love?” she asked after a while. “You seem very jittery this evening.”

He hesitated. “I… saw Georgia tonight. And she took me on a vision, to see her killing Gideon’s dad and paralysing Tanner’s little brother, Alisdair. It was so real, Gran. She must be reliving it all the time.”

“How awful.” She went quiet. Then she turned to him. “But it wasn’t fair of her to make you see that, Joe. This is her ordeal, after all, not yours. I’m sorry she forced you to witness it. Are you all right, love?”

He shook his head. “This is all getting a bit too creepy for me. Oh, and it turns out I do have that Rare Sight thing after all. And the spirits that are being controlled by Tanner want me to free them.”

She put down her mug of tea and looked at him. “How exactly do they propose you go about that?”

He shrugged again. “I think they reckon that’s my problem.”

She reached for his hand across the table. “Listen, love, I’ve already lost one child – I don’t think my heart could keep going if I lost you, too.”

Joe gazed into space. “I just… I feel like everyone wants me to save them and all I want to do is sleep.”

She looked at him. “Why don’t you?”

“Huh?”

“Now, I mean. Why don’t you take yourself up to bed right now and have a nice, long sleep.”

He looked at her and stood up. “I’ve got loads of homework to do, but I can’t imagine being able to concentrate on it now. Maybe I can get up early tomorrow...” He yawned. “Night then, Gran.”

“Night, night, lovie – sleep well.”

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