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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10. Chapter Ten

It was weird to be back in school. Joe had a heavy-headed feeling, as if he hadn’t slept in weeks. In fact, he’d slept deeply the night before but he’d been troubled by a recurring dream, in which Gideon was carrying him to a cold, dark place and leaving him there.

“Wait!” shouted Joe. “Come back! Don’t leave me here!”

And each time, Gideon had turned to him with blank eyes and his mouth opening wider than jawbones could physically allow and said, in Georgia’s voice,

“You’ve done a terrible thing, young nephew, a terrible thing.”

Then Gideon would vanish like a ghost, leaving Joe spinning in the relentless grip of some invisible phantom.

He glanced at Yousef, next to him.  He didn’t look as if he was feeling much better – he had dark circles under his eyes and he kept yawning.

At the end of the history lesson – just a single, for once – Mr Forester called them over to his desk at the front. He waited until the last of the lingerers had left the room, then he looked at Yousef and Joe enquiringly.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?” he asked.

“What do you mean?” asked Yousef.

“Come on,” said Mr Forester. “You two are normally among the more alert members of the class. I can rely on you to keep your heads in a more or less upright position. But today…” he nodded at Joe, “you could barely keep your head off the desk, and you,” he nodded at Yousef, “didn’t stop yawning. Now, I don’t kid myself that I’m going to be marked down forever as the most scintillating of history teachers, but…”

“…You’re great at rugby, though, Mr F.,” interrupted Yousef enthusiastically, and Joe nudged him.

“Well… thank you for that vote of approval, Yousef,” said Mr Forester. “I’m sorry you feel I don’t make the grade as a history teacher, but at least you enjoy my rugby lessons.”

Yousef went red. “I mean… I meant…”

“Come on, then, boys,” said Mr Forester. “What’s troubling you both? Why the long faces and comatose state?”

“You wouldn’t believe us, Sir,” mumbled Yousef, and Joe nudged him again. Mr Forester looked from one to the other.

“Oh, I’ve heard some stories in my time. Try me – you never know, I might surprise you.”

There was a long pause, during which Joe imagined his teacher’s face if he attempted to tell him the truth. In the end, he murmured, “My aunt died. And Yousef’s been helping me deal with it.” It wasn’t really a lie, but he still couldn’t meet his eye.

“Oh, Joe, I am sorry. You should have told me. Do the office staff know?” He started rummaging through the papers on his desk. “You know there’s a bereavement counselling service available? I believe Miss Hameed, the English teacher, arranges it. I can speak to her for you.”

“Oh… thanks, Mr Forester, but I’m sure I’ll be all right.” He wished the teacher would stop being so sympathetic, so he didn’t have to feel so guilty. “Well… Yousef and me’d better be off, then, or we’ll be late for maths.”

“Oh, yes, better not keep Mrs Boardwell waiting.” He stood up and walked them to the door, where he put a hand on Joe’s shoulder. “Well, you know where I am. If you need to talk, you can come and see me any time.”

“Yeah, thanks.” He and Yousef pelted out of the classroom. The corridors were empty, a sure sign they were horribly late. When they reached the classroom, Yousef flung open the door, panting loudly and they rushed in.

“But…” Yousef turned round. “Where is everyone?”

“Search me,” said Joe. The room was too still, too quiet. It made him go cold.

“Hey, Joe, look…” mumbled Yousef. He was backing away from the whiteboard. Joe turned in time to see a red marker pen travel across the board, writing the words,

“YOU’RE ALL ALONE,” in huge, uneven letters.

“Let’s get out of here,” said Yousef, moving sideways towards the door. But it slammed shut before he reached it. Joe ran to the window, but he couldn’t open it. He felt as if his breath was caught in his throat. His fingers fumbled with the catch but kept slipping off. He wiped his hands on his trousers and tried again, but even brute force didn’t make a difference – the window wouldn’t budge. Then the lights started to flicker, like a scene from an old, silent film, and the room began to turn in time to a tune that was playing, the kind of plinky-plonky music Joe had heard on the old-fashioned carousels for little kids at the fair. Joe squashed himself against the wall and Yousef scampered under a desk. There was a whimpering sound, and Joe couldn’t even tell if it was coming from him or his friend. Part of him wanted to laugh at how many times that week he had thought he was going to die.

“Yous? You all right?”

Yousef didn’t answer. He sounded like he might be praying, quietly under his breath. He stood up suddenly, knocking over the desk he was hiding under and running for the door. “We have to get out of here,” he whined. “We have to get out of here…” Suddenly, the room came to a standstill, the lights went on properly and the music stopped.

Yousef and Joe held their breath as the door handle moved down and up again, with neither of them touching it. It moved again, then there was a grunt and the door was flung open.

Mr Forester was standing in the doorway. “What are you two boys doing in here? I thought you were going to maths with Mrs Boardwell? Was that one of you two playing with the lights? Surely you know that you’re banned from this room for this half-term, because of the problem with the floorboards?”

Joe couldn’t speak. He wanted to fling his arms round his teacher and kiss him, but he managed to hold back. Instead, he put an arm round Yousef’s shoulders and the two of them staggered out, their legs barely supporting them. As they got into the corridor, Joe found his voice.

“Er… Mr Forester, we can’t remember where we’re supposed to be,” he said pleadingly. “D’you think you could show us the way?”

The teacher sighed and shook his head, then strode ahead along the corridor, each of his loping paces worth two of theirs. “Come on, come on, then. The lesson’ll be over by the time you two get there.” He kept shaking his head and looking at his watch, but they didn’t care. They were grinning in relief that they’d emerged from the fairground room unscathed, and that whatever was in the room seemed to be scared of Mr Forester.

He opened the door for them when they reached the temporary classroom in the school grounds. “A pair of latecomers for you, Mrs Boardwell,” he announced. He had a booming voice, and the whole class spun round to stare at Joe and Yousef, who were still supporting each other and grinning.

When the door had shut, Mrs Boardwell turned to them with a glare. “Well? What do you have to say for yourselves? You’re…” she consulted her watch, “…twenty minutes late to a forty-minute lesson.”

“Sorry, Mrs Boardwell, mumbled Yousef.

“Yeah, we’re sorry,” said Joe. “We forgot about the change of classroom from last term, and we went to the out-of-bounds classroom by mistake and couldn’t work out where everyone was.”

“But didn’t you see the ‘Keep Out’ sign?”

They looked at each other. Had there been a sign?

“No, Mrs Boardwell. It wasn’t there.”

She sighed. “Well, we’re doing the exercise on page fifteen of your text book. You’d better try to catch up with the others. We’ll be going through it in about five minutes.”

“Out of the frying pan into the fire, mate,” whispered Yousef, and Joe couldn’t help laughing.

At break time, he cornered Yousef at the bench in the playground before the others got there. “So what was up with you before the… you know, latest scary thing that happened? You had another ghostly engraver at yours or something?”

Yousef sighed and shook his head. “My mum’s having a baby.”

“Is that it? Mum told me last night. I thought you’d be pleased.”

Yousef looked surprised. “You ever seen a baby, mate? My cousin’s got twins, and they’re a nightmare.” He looked hard at Joe, who was still unmoved. “Babies scream, Joe,” he said slowly, as if he was talking to an idiot. “All the time. Except when they’re feeding. And your parents run round after them as if they’re some little tyrant giving orders. It’s all, ‘Oh no, that might wake the baby’, and ‘Put that away before the baby swallows it!’ ’S’all right for you, Joe – you know, being an only child and all.”

There was a thump as Freddie and Simon joined them on the bench. “What’s up?” said Freddie.

“My mum’s having a baby,” said Yousef gloomily.

“Oh – bad luck, mate,” said Simon.

“Dirty nappies and sleepless nights,” said Freddie, shaking his head.

“What – you don’t think they’ll make me get up in the night with it?”

“Bound to, aren’t they, Yous?” said Freddie. “I mean, you and your sister are like ready-made baby-looker-afterers, or whatever they call them. I mean, Sal’s what, sixteen now? And they’re bound to make you help her.”

“Nooo,” wailed Yousef, with his head in his hands.

“Cheer up, mate,” said Freddie, giving him a slap on the back. “Only a few more years and you can leave home.” Yousef lifted his head from his hands and glared at him.

Joe watched them. “I don’t get it,” he said. “I mean, isn’t it meant to be a good thing, to get a baby brother or sister?”

They all looked at him and shook their heads. “Poor fool,” said Freddie, pityingly.

Joe smiled and looked on as they all started to muck around. Within moments, Simon was being forced to see if he could walk round with his hood over his face, without crashing into anything. Joe wasn’t sure how this particular game had started. Yousef had amazing powers of recovery, he noticed. His own legs still felt shaky, but Yousef was up and darting around, teasing the others and mimicking Simon as if nothing had happened. It wasn’t the first time Joe had felt he no longer quite belonged to the gang. When the bell went, he ambled over to the school building with the rest of them, wishing he could shake off his spirit sight and just be a twelve-year-old again, worrying about double history lessons and whether the fittest girl in school fancied him.

At the end of the day, as he crossed the playground to the school gates, he felt a surge of relief as Gideon’s head appeared outside the railings.

“See that tall bloke over there?” he asked Yousef.

“The beardy ginger one?”

“Yeah… That’s my dad.”

“Your dad? I thought you didn’t have a dad. I thought he died when you were little or something?”

Joe smiled and shook his head. “Turns out he’s alive and ginger and living at my gran’s with us.”

Yousef stopped and looked at Joe. “You kept that one a bit quiet, didn’t you?”

“Sorry. I just… I wasn’t even sure he’d still be around by now. Thought he might’ve changed his mind, you know, and gone back where he came from.”

“Guildford?”

“No – the Edge of Reason. Or was it the Valley of the Overlooked? Yeah – that was it.”

“You know something, mate, there’s something seriously weird about your family. I mean, you live in a haunted house with your dead aunt and now your undead dad turns up from some creepy-sounding valley…” Yousef shook his head. “Remind me why we’re friends again?”

This question was uncomfortably close to Joe’s own thoughts from lunchtime, so he didn’t answer. They reached Gideon, and Yousef held out his hand.

“Joe’s dad? I’m his best mate, Yousef, available for weddings, engagements and funerals where no ghost makes an appearance.”

Gideon smiled and shook Yousef’s hand. “Good to meet one of Joe’s friends at last, Yousef. Glad he’s had a good mate like you around.”

“Yeah,” said Yousef. “’Cos you haven’t exactly been around much yourself, have you?”

Gideon smiled again and nodded. “Plain-speaking, ’eh? You’re right, Yousef, I’ve missed a lot of my son’s life. But I’m hoping to make up for it now, when all this… dies down.”

“All the ghost stuff you mean?” whispered Yousef. “We had another thing happen today, didn’t we, Joe?”

Gideon looked at Joe with concern. “Another thing? What kind of thing? Come on, let’s get away from the hordes so we can talk properly.” He led them towards the bus stop, but stopped just before it, at a clapped-out red Volkswagen Beetle. “Here we are. Give you a lift, Yousef?”

“Cheers, Mr…” Yousef looked at Joe for help.

“Burroughs,” whispered Joe.

“Burroughs,” repeated Yousef, getting into the front passenger seat.

“Er… Gideon,” said Joe, as he strapped himself in at the back, “Where did you get this car?”

“Oh…” Gideon waved a hand. “A friend of mine lent it to me.”

“Only it’s like really… rubbish.”

“Well, thanks for that, Joseph. I’ll remember not to pick you up from school again – I wouldn’t want to embarrass you with my rubbish car.”

“But seriously, Gideon, where’d you get it?”

Gideon sighed loudly. “All right, I bought it from the scrapyard. I don’t have a lot of money, Joe. I haven’t been living in the material world a great deal, and I’m used to getting by with bare basics. This car is a bare basic. They were going to crush it because no one sane would ever want to buy it, so they let me have it for a song. But if you don’t like it, you can always get out and walk.”

“Nah. I’ll stay for the ride, thanks.”

“Right. Where to, Yousef?”

“Dunmore Place in Southfield, please, Mr B. I’ll direct you. You need to head for those lights, then do a right.”

“OK… Now, what’s this thing that happened to you both today?”

Joe sighed. “Well, we got stuck in this empty classroom, with flickering lights, a message being written on the whiteboard and the whole room turning like a merry-go-round.”

“Don’t forget the music,” said Yousef. He turned to Gideon, “There was this weird, spooky music, like old fairground music. It was well creepy.”

“Were you two all right? Did anything hurt you – come flying at you or knock you down?”

“No,” said Joe. “But that might just be because Forester got there in time to let us out.”

“Forester?” said Gideon sharply. “Is that your class teacher? What’s his first name, do you know?”

“Nice But Dull,” said Yousef. “Can you go right here, please?”

“Er… Nigel?” said Joe. “No, it begins with M…”

“…Not Martin?” said Gideon. “Martin Forester?”

“Yeah, that’s it!” said Yousef. He turned to Joe in the back. “’Cos don’t you remember that time that woman interrupted the class by opening the door? She said his name then, ‘Martin’. That was definitely it. Because don’t you remember Freddie kept calling him, ‘Martian’ afterwards when we told him?”

“Oh, yeah…” said Joe. “I forgot about that.”

“Marty Forester,” said Gideon slowly. “A teacher, ’eh? Who would’ve thought it?”

“Do you know him then, Mr B?” asked Yousef. “Oh – left at this mini roundabout.”

Gideon swung the steering wheel. “I used to know him, a long time ago. We were on the rugby team together at school. Best Second Row I ever saw. Did he see what was going on in the room when you were trapped?”

“No,” said Yousef promptly. Then he turned to Joe again. “Well, I don’t think so – what do you think, mate?”

“He certainly acted like he didn’t see,” said Joe. “But the thing in the room… well, it was scared of him.”

“How’d you mean?” asked Gideon.

“It stopped. As soon as Forester arrived outside the door, everything stopped. It was like it was scared of him.”

“Good old Spooker,” said Gideon then.

“You what?”

“Spooker,” said Gideon. “He had spirit sight. We used to hunt them down, in old buildings, and he’d tell us where they were, what they were doing, that kind of thing. We used to say he spooked the spooks – hence his nickname. They were in awe of him; he had the ability to calm them down.”

“There was nothing to see this time,” said Joe. “I mean, the pen was moving across the board, but there wasn’t a spirit you could see.”

“He has Rare Sight,” said Gideon.

“What d’you mean?”

“It means that he can see the Humours: those are the spirits that even most spirit-sighted people – including me – are unable to see. The wild, wind-filled ones, the ones that are more temper and tantrum or heartbreak than physical form.”

“Old Forester?” said Yousef.

“Old Forester,” agreed Gideon with a smile.

“So he can see even the ones I can’t see?” said Joe slowly. “So maybe he did see what was happening in the room with us. Why didn’t he let on?”

“It’s this road coming up on the left,” said Yousef. “Yeah, this one. And it’s that house with the yellow front door.”

“Righty-oh,” said Gideon, pulling up in front of the house and turning off the engine. He turned to Joe.

“If Marty Forester is a teacher, I can imagine he’s not in too much of a hurry to go around saying, ‘Hello there, I can see ghosts’. For a start, most of the teachers would probably think he was a nutcase – not fit to be around children.”

“You’ve got a point,” said Joe, and Yousef nodded,

“Yeah – Fruitcake Forester, I reckon the kids’d call him,” he said.

“He is a bit strange, though, isn’t he, Yous?” said Joe. “I mean, it’s like he actually cares about the kids. That’s not normal, is it?”

Gideon laughed. “I take it the majority of your teachers are bitter and twisted, then?” he said. No change from when we were at the school, then.”

“What, you went to the Killing Fields?” said Yousef incredulously.

Gideon smiled wryly. “Yes, I went to Collingfields Comp. Don’t look so surprised – I wasn’t born middle-aged, you know.”

Yousef blushed. “No, ’course not, I didn’t mean…”

Gideon put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s all right, Yousef, don’t tie yourself in knots. So… are you planning on getting out of this car at some point, or will you be spending the night here?”

Yousef undid his seatbelt. “Yeah, ’course, I…” He didn’t finish his sentence, because just then his front door opened and his mum came flying out, with his older sister, Sal, following close behind.

Gideon and the boys leapt out of the car.

“Mum,” said Yousef, stopping her as she came through the gate. “What’s wrong?”

“Oh, Yousef – are you all right?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Why? What’s been happening?”

She covered her face with her hands and started to sob. Yousef put his arms round her while Gideon and Joe stood awkwardly by. Sal, Yousef’s older sister, retreated to a nearby drain where she was promptly sick. His mum was too busy crying to notice.

“I’m sorry,” she sobbed. “I just…” but her words were lost in the shoulder of Yousef’s school coat.

“Mum, I can’t hear you,” he said. “Can you take a breath?”

She shook her head and pointed towards the front door, which stood slightly ajar. Gideon turned at once and went through the little wooden gate and up to the house. Joe’s curiosity was strong enough to make him follow, though he was shaking and could hardly breathe. He stood on the doorstep as Gideon pushed the front door open wider. The hall floor was covered in wet sand, to a depth of several centimetres.

“What the…?” said Gideon. He took a few steps inside, and his feet sank into the sand. Joe lingered on the doorstep, not fancying either the cold wetness of the sand round his ankles, or the thought of what he might encounter if he ventured further inside the house. Gideon vanished into the living room, then reappeared moments later.

“Let’s get out of here,” he said, closing the front door and pulling Joe by the sleeve along the short path.

“Has Meena got the key?” asked Joe, but Gideon ignored him.

“Hey, you’re hurting me,” said Joe. “What’s the matter?”

Gideon stopped on the pavement, directly behind Yousef. He made eye contact with Meena, over her son’s shoulder.

“That must have been a pretty horrible sight to come home to,” he said. “Or did it happen after you got back?” She shook her head. “Not an exhibitionist, then,” he murmured.

“What’s going on?” said Joe, wishing someone would fill him in. “Who’s not an exhibitionist?”

Gideon turned to him and Yousef. “The spirit that saw fit to layer Yousef’s mum’s hall with wet sand, and gut a pig in the living room.”

“You what?” said Yousef sharply, still holding his mum, who seemed incapable of speech. Gideon looked him full in the face.

“Your living room is full of the entrails of a pig,” he told him. “The carcass is hanging in mid-air in the middle of the room, turning slowly, as if it was on a spit.”

Joe had a sudden thought. “Georgia,” he whispered.

“What makes you say that?” asked Gideon.

“The Hosseins,” said Joe. “We know she… bullied them with racist stuff until they had to move.”

Gideon seemed to consider this a moment. Then he shook his head. “No,” he said. “Georgia is an exhibitionist. She wouldn’t see the point of a stunt like this, if she couldn’t get some glory from it. You know, bask in the limelight. No, I don’t think this was Georgia.” He turned to Meena. “Is it you who’s spirit-sighted?” She nodded. “Did you see anything at all as you arrived home?”

“No,” she said. “It was already… like that when we got here.”

“Well,” said Gideon, “before anyone gets too panicked, I’d like to point out that nobody was harmed in the making of this horror movie – unless you count the pig, which, from the smell, I’d guess was dead for some time already. This is a spirit that wants to scare rather than cause actual bodily harm.”

Meena seemed pacified by this statement. “You’re right,” she said. “I mean, Sal and I came home – it could have hung around and tried to hurt us.”

Gideon nodded. “I suggest we all sit down in my car for a few minutes and talk this over. I’m Gideon, by the way – Joe’s father.”

Meena stopped a few feet from the car. “Joe’s… But you’re…”

Gideon looked at her. “…Dead? Yes, so I’ve heard. But as Joe’s mum and grandmother could tell you, I’ve been getting through quite a lot of Weetabix for a dead person.”

Meena covered her mouth in horror at what she’d implied, but Gideon waved a hand in dismissal. “Oh, I’ve been called a lot worse, believe me. Plus, this way, I get to make a dramatic reappearance from the dead each time I’m introduced. It’s rather fun.”

Joe gave him a look. “You’re as bad as Georgia,” he told him, and Gideon raised an eyebrow in reply, while opening the back door of the car for Yousef and his sister Sal.

Sal took a step back and gestured over her shoulder. “Oh… I think I’ll just… go over to Mel’s – you know, do some homework…”

Meena nodded. “Good idea. At least there won’t be any… dead animals over there. See you later, Salihah. Be back by seven, OK?”

Sal nodded and walked away. Yousef nudged Joe. “She’s off to see her boyfriend,” he whispered, then looked all innocence as his mum glanced questioningly at him.

Yousef climbed into the back of the car and Joe followed him, while Meena and Gideon got into the front. Gideon turned to them all.

“So…” he said. “What have we got to go on?”

“A racist ghost who likes building sandcastles?” suggested Joe.

Gideon looked at Meena. “Joe’s mum, Sara, said you’d already had an unwelcome glass engraver last week?” said Gideon.

Meena nodded. “Yes, it scratched… a message into the mirror… a threat, really. And there was a lot of… turbulence – you know, things being thrown around.”

“But today there wasn’t anything like that?” asked Gideon.

“No – just the…” Meena started to cry again and Gideon patted her awkwardly on the shoulder, evidently uncomfortable with a female in tears. He cleared his throat. “Listen Meena – the boys tell me they have a teacher called Martin Forester?” Meena nodded. “Well, if it’s the same Martin Forester I knew as a lad – and I suspect it is – then he might well be able to help us.”

Meena turned to look at Yousef. “Mr Forester? But… isn’t he your history teacher?”

“He teaches rugby as well,” offered Yousef, as if that explained everything.

“Spooker Forester,” Gideon told Meena, “was an excellent ghost-hunter.”

“Mr Forester?” said Meena again.

“I know it’s hard to believe,” said Gideon. “But Marty already saved the boys from a manifestation in an empty classroom today.”

Meena started to cry again, and Yousef sighed. Gideon passed her a tissue and looked away while she wiped her eyes. “I’m sorry…” she said. “It’s just…”

“…A lot to take in,” said Gideon. “I know. Plus, you’re probably still getting over the shock of your welcome home this afternoon.” He turned to look at Joe. “In fact, you and I should do something about that. How strong’s your stomach, Joe?”

Joe pulled a face. From the description Gideon had given, the last thing he felt like doing was going into that living room. But Meena sat up straight.

“No,” she said. “I can do that.”

Gideon looked at her. “Are you sure, Meena? Only it was pretty gruesome in there.”

Yousef leaned forward. “Cleaning is Mum’s thing,” he said.

Meena shrugged. “It’s true. And if I don’t do it myself, then… it will be as if the Thing that did this has won. Does that sound mad?”

“Not at all,” said Gideon. “It makes perfect sense.”

“Come on, Yousef,” said Meena, opening her car door. “You don’t have to come into the living room, but you can pass me buckets of hot, soapy water and some bin bags. Oh – do you have homework?” Yousef nodded wearily. “Well, get that done first, please.”

“Right, Mum,” sighed Yousef, raising an eyebrow at Joe as he climbed out of the car.

Meena leaned inside to speak to Gideon. “Thank you so much,” she said. “You’ve been very kind. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t been here.” She smiled. “I’d probably be having hysterics in the street, with all the neighbours gathered around to watch the spectacle.”

“I didn’t actually do anything, Meena. Are you sure you’ll be all right?”

“We’ll be fine, won’t we, Yousef?” she said, gripping Yousef’s arm and pulling him in for a hug. He made a face at Joe, who was watching through the window. Yousef and Meena stood and waved while Gideon creaked the car into first gear and over-pumped the gas, making the engine roar.

“Nasty stuff that, wasn’t it?” he said, as he executed a jerky turn at the end of the street and started back for home. “I don’t envy Meena trying to get the blood and gore out of the sofa cushions.”

Joe shuddered and hugged himself. He suddenly felt very cold. And then Sebastian appeared, on the front passenger seat.

“Gideon…” murmured Joe, and Gideon glanced at Joe in the rearview mirror. “What’s the matter, Joe?”

“Er… ghost.” said Joe.

Gideon caught sight of Sebastian and swerved over to the kerb, pulling up sharply and yanking on the hand brake with a crunch. “Who are you?” he asked.

“Sebastian,” said Sebastian calmly, holding out a hand.

Gideon eyed the proffered hand as if it were covered in slug slime. He jerked his head towards Joe, without taking his eyes off the ghost. “Is this Georgia’s messenger boy?” Joe nodded. Gideon leaned close to Sebastian’s face, but Sebastian just grinned. “Who has the ring?” asked Gideon, in such a menacing tone that Joe was glad it had never been directed at him.

“The ring? Oh, you mean the ruby one?” drawled Sebastian. Gideon looked as if he would like to squash him. “Tanner’s got it.” He laughed. “He likes to watch Georgia jump.”

“What do you mean?” asked Joe. “Who’s Tanner?”

Sebastian was still smiling. “You know who Tanner is, don’t you, Gideon?” he said.

“Tanner…” said Gideon. “You mean Tansley? Stuart Tansley?”

Sebastian’s grin grew wider. “He said you’d remember. He sent his best…”

“…Stuart Tansley,” murmured Gideon again. Then he turned to Sebastian and said, “Get…out…of…my…car,” spitting the words out through gritted teeth.

“But, Gideon, we need to find out how we can get the ring back,” said Joe, but Gideon didn’t seem to hear him.

“See you,” sang Sebastian. “Oh, and Tanner says…” at this, his voice changed, deepening and turning hollow, and Joe could only imagine the way his face distorted with the message that came through, ‘Hello, Giddy. I can’t wait to see you again.’” The voice echoed round the car after Sebastian had vanished, and Gideon didn’t move for a moment or two afterwards. Then he sat up and started the engine. “Better get you home,” he said brightly. “Your gran’ll be wondering where we’ve got to.”

“Gideon,” said Joe, as they headed back, “Who’s Stuart Tansley?”

“Hmm?” Gideon met his eye briefly in the rear-view mirror. “Tansley? Oh… just someone I knew a long time ago.”

Joe thought for a moment. “Gideon, I dunno what all that was about, but we need to know what happened to Gran’s ring, and you sent off Sebastian before we had a chance to find out.”

“Well, we know that Tansley’s got it,” said Gideon.

“Yeah, but where is he? And what does he want Georgia to jump for?”

Gideon sighed. “I’m afraid it sounds as if this Tansley chap has got the ring – Georgia’s Receptacle. Do you remember your gran explaining that whoever had the ring would have a degree of control over Georgia?”

Joe nodded, then realised Gideon couldn’t see him. “Yeah,” he said.

“Well… that’s what our little friend meant by seeing Georgia jump – this Tanner chap is enjoying getting Georgia to do his bidding. I’m guessing she’ll be desperate to get hold of the Receptacle herself, to destroy it.”

They were moving too quickly as they approached a red light. Joe shouted out, “…Gideon, stop!” He closed his eyes and waited for the collision with the huge tanker that was approaching from the right, but the car screeched to a halt and he opened his eyes in time to see the truck swerving, its horn honking loudly.

“Sorry…” said Gideon, but he was clearly too preoccupied to concentrate on the driving. Joe gripped the handle above the door and just hoped they’d make it back without another incident. He had thought, yet again, that he was going to die. As he watched Gideon lost in his troubles, he had a sudden flash of insight.

“It’s you, isn’t it?” he said.

“What do you mean?” asked Gideon.

“It’s all about you. You knew Georgia really well, and you know Forester – and you obviously used to know Tanner, who sounds pretty nasty. You’re the link.”

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