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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13. Chapter Thirteen

 

As soon as his mum had pulled up in front of his gran’s garage, Joe confronted her again. He turned towards her.

“If you won’t drive, I’ll take the car myself,” he told her, holding out his hand for the car key.

“Oh no, Mister,” she said. “You are not driving this car again on your own. I forbid it.”

He grabbed her hand and tried to prise it open as she reached for the door handle. She got out quickly, pushing the key deep into her trouser pocket. Joe got out, too, and rounded the car to face her, his hand outstretched. “Give me the key, Mum.”

“You don’t really think they’d still be there, do you?” she asked him. He hesitated. “Honestly, Joe – that was just an abandoned spot that suited Stuart Tansley for a shady rendezvous. After we left they won’t have hung around.”

“But… what about Gideon?” said Joe. His voice was croaky. His mum smiled,

“Your father will be fine.”

“But… I hit him.”

“Joe… did you ever hear of a passe-partout?” He shook his head. “Literally, it means a being who can go anywhere,” she said. “Gideon is a passe-partout. He has certain special benefits that are conferred by the supernatural as a favour to the living.”

“But – what’s that got to do with me knocking him over?” His fists were clenched at his sides and he was having trouble catching his breath.

His mum smiled again. “The spirits come to his aid when he’s in trouble.  They can cast a protective charm that shields him from injury. Provided his motives are benign, he will be protected from major harm.”

“I don’t believe you. Why would they do that?”

“According to your father, it’s true, Joe. He told me last night that he has spent his recent years more profitably than his earlier ones. He has helped a lot of spirits to resolve their unfinished business, and move on.”

“So you mean when I ran him over…”

“…he won’t have been hurt. What’s more, if we’re really lucky, his spirit-protectors will have led Tansley to believe him dead.”

“Would they do that?”

“I get the impression the spirits in general hold no affection for our Mr Tansley. He is a spirit-trader. Something else I hadn’t heard about until Gideon explained. Do you know?” Joe shook his head. “Well, Stuart, or Tanner, as he likes to be called, sells the dear departed’s spirits to the highest bidder. Once bought, they are generally confined to one room of a house – or even to a box or case within that room – condemned to re-enact forever their supposed crime. This means they are in an almost literal limbo, seeking resolution and never able to rest. They are also in the thrall of their purchaser, forced to do whatever he or she dictates. It’s an excruciating existence – and Gideon has apparently managed to free hundreds of these spirits.”

“Really?”

His mum nodded. “Really.”

“No wonder Tansley wanted to get hold of him. He must be bad for business.”

“Exactly. Now, shall we go indoors?”

Joe nodded. He wished he knew where Gideon was now – and if he really was all right. What if Tansley was getting his revenge for what Gideon did to him at school?

His mum let them in and they crept into the kitchen, not wanting to wake his gran. But when his mum flicked on the light, they saw that she was there, sitting at the table.

“Mum, what are you doing sitting here in the dark?” asked his mum. “Are you all right?”

But his gran’s eyes were blank and Joe knew with a sudden chill what was coming next: her mouth yawned open, until her entire face was a dark cave, and a voice came out that was deep and echoing.

“We’ve got someone’s little friend. You have twenty-four hours to work out where he is.”

His gran’s face returned to normal and she shook herself, looking dazed.

“I heard a voice,” she said. “Was it from me…?”

His mum nodded. “It came out of you all right. And it wasn’t a pretty sight. Did you recognise the voice?”

His gran thought for a moment. “I think I’ve heard it before. Someone I didn’t like very much. But I can’t place who.”

“We have to think whose little friend they were talking about, “ said his mum. But Joe had already got to his feet.

“It must be Yousef,” he said. He ran to the phone and dialled Yousef’s landline number. It rang for a while, then the answerphone message clicked in – Mrs Khalil’s voice apologising for not being able to get to the phone at the moment. Just before the beep, she picked up.

“Hello?”

“Mrs Khalil? It’s Joe. Yousef’s friend.”

“Joseph? You do realise it’s the middle of the night?”

“I know, Mrs Khalil. I’m sorry. But… look, would you do me a favour? Would you check if Yousef’s in his room?”

“…Of course he is in his room. He’s asleep. As I was until you rang.”

“I know; I’m sorry. Look, Mrs Khalil. I really need you to go and check that Yousef’s there.”

“Check?” said Meena, sounding confused. “Oh!” He heard her drop the receiver and rush off, knocking into something on the way. She was back too quickly, and he heard her shouting to her husband on the way. He closed his eyes. “Yousef’s gone, Joseph,” she said. “He’s not there. He’s not in his bed. Do you know where he is? Is he OK? Why isn’t he in his bed?”

“Mrs Khalil, please calm down. I think Yousef’s all right. We’re trying to work out where he is.”

Joe heard Yousef’s dad’s voice in the background, then his voice came on the line. “Do you know where our son is, Joseph?” he said. “If so, it’s very important that you tell us. Is he hurt in some way? Or in danger?”

“I don’t know,” said Joe. “I’m sorry, Mr Khalil – we’ve just had a sort of ghostly message that someone’s got him, but we’re not sure who. We don’t think he’s hurt…”

“…I’m coming over,” said Mr Khalil. “Can you give me your address please, Joseph?”

“Number two, Branwell Gardens. It’s just off Queensway in Tatley.”

“Right. I’m coming straight over there now.”

The line went dead and Joe sank on to a nearby chair. His mum walked across and put her hand on his shoulder.

“Yousef will be all right,” she said. “They just want to make us jump.”

Joe straightened up. “That’s what that ghost Sebastian said about Tansley. He said he liked making Georgia jump.”

His mum looked at his gran. “What do you think, Mum? Could it be Tansley’s work again?”

His gran sighed and rubbed her temples. “Remind me who Tansley is?”

“Gran missed out on most of that,” said Joe. “Gran – Mum and Dad were at school with a horrible boy called Stuart Tansley…”

“…Who’s grown into an even more horrible man,” said his mum. “He goes by the name of Tanner.”

“And Mum’s just sold Gideon to him.”

“Tanner? You were at school with the spirit-trader?” said his gran.

His mum nodded. “Don’t you remember him – a little runt with a permanently runny nose?”

His gran’s eyes widened. “He’s the infamous Tanner? My goodness – who would have suspected?”

“I think Gideon and Georgia helped to turn him into the little monster he is today,” said his mum. “But he was well on his way there even without their help. I seem to remember that he was an expert at finding people’s weak spots and bringing them down – usually publicly.”

“Er… I hate to interrupt the chinwag,” said Joe. “But… missing best friend? Possibly ghost-napped?”

“Sorry, lovie. Right, let’s think,” said his mum. “If only we could ask Georgia.”

“Of course – Georgia!” said Joe. “Gran, is there any way of contacting her?”

His gran shook her head. “Nothing guaranteed – not while someone else has her Receptacle,” she said.

Joe put his hand in his pocket and held out the ring. “You mean this Receptacle?”

His gran gasped. “Where on earth did you get that?” she asked.

He shrugged. “Mum got it from Tansley. That’s what she sold Dad for.”

His gran took the ring eagerly. “Well, that will certainly make things easier. Right, let’s see.” She knelt down in front of the sideboard and started to empty the contents on to the floor. “Somewhere in here… Ah – there it is.”

She drew out a box of candles, which she placed above her head on the sideboard before drawing out a dusty wooden board which had the alphabet and a row of numbers carved into it. Then she held out her hand to Joe, who heaved her back to standing, and she laid the board at the centre of the kitchen table. Joe saw that it also bore the words ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.

Then she placed the candles on different surfaces around the room and handed Joe’s mum a box of matches to light them with.

“Do you know what this is?” his gran asked him, gesturing to the board; he shook his head. “It’s a Ouija board. Used for summoning spirits. A bit unreliable generally – it can be hard to know who you’re calling up – but with the Receptacle, all that changes.”

She placed the ring at the centre of the board and nodded to the other two to take seats on the opposite side of the table to her. She held out her hands and Joe took the left-hand one and his mum the right. Once he and his mum were also holding hands, the three of them formed a triangle, with the board at the centre.

“Now, whatever happens, we must keep hold of each other’s hands. Do you understand?” said his gran. He and his mum nodded, then his gran closed her eyes and started to speak, “We of quick blood and breath summon Georgia Simmonds, who has gone beyond life.” That was all she said, then a draught blew through the room and all the candles went out. Joe sat up and held his breath, and his mum’s grip tightened on his left hand, but his gran, whose eyes were open now, just nodded. “She’s coming,” she whispered.

“Now what do you want?” Georgia was standing in front of the closed curtains, leaning against the windowsill. She was making a show of examining her nails.

“Is she here?” whispered his mum.

“Yeah – she’s behind Gran, over by the window,” said Joe.

Georgia started tapping her foot. “Look, I haven’t got all night,” she said. “I’ve got stuff to do – you know, places to go, people to see.”

His gran was half-turned towards her. The three of them at the table were still holding hands.

“It’s my mate, Yousef,” said Joe, and he was surprised to hear that his voice was letting him down again – it came out as a husky croak. “Someone’s got him.”

Georgia laughed. “Is that it? Big deal. Now if you don’t mind…”

Joe started to pull his hand back, ready to stand up and confront Georgia, but his gran held on to it tightly. “No, she said. If we keep the link, she can’t leave. And we need her to tell us what she knows.” Georgia laughed again; it was a short, sarcastic sound.

“What’s she saying?” asked his mum.

“Not much,” said Joe. “Look, Georgia, we really need your help. Someone’s got Yousef and we’re worried they might hurt him.”

“How’d you summon me, anyway?” asked Georgia. Her eyes scanned the table, and she stood up when she caught sight of the ring. “You’ve got…” Her eyes narrowed as she looked at Joe’s gran. “Whose soul did you have to sell this time, you old hypocrite? When I think of all the lectures you used to give me about treating people with respect and all that rubbish…”

“…It wasn’t Gran,” interrupted Joe. “It was Mum.”

“Sara?” said Georgia. “Butter-wouldn’t-melt Sara?”

He nodded and glanced at his mum. “Can I tell Georgia how we got the Receptacle?” She nodded so he turned back to his aunt. “We did a deal – with Stuart Tansley,” he said.

Georgia whistled. “You’ve been doing deals with Tanner?” she asked. “But what could you possibly have that Tanner would want?”

“My dad,” said Joe. “Gideon.”

She laughed again, but this time the laugh was real. She strode round the table and slapped him on the back – so hard that she knocked him forwards. “Well, well, well. Little Joey sold his own dad for a ruby? Now that’s my boy!”

“It wasn’t like that,” said Joe.

“It never is,” said Georgia. “Or that’s what we tell ourselves at the start, anyway. Each crime we commit always that little bit worse than the one before…”

“…No,” shouted Joe. He tried again to free his hands, but his mum and gran held on tightly.

“So… can I have it?” asked Georgia, eyeing the ring. “I mean, we all know I’m going to take it anyway, but it would be so much nicer if you gave it to me – you know, as a gesture of good-will and all that.”

“What’s she saying?” asked his mum. “Does she know anything about Yousef?”

“Tell her I know all about Yousef,” said Georgia, with a smile.

“She says she knows about him,” murmured Joe to his mum. “What can you tell us?” he asked his aunt. “Do you know who’s got him, or where they’re keeping him?”

Georgia was reaching across the table for the ring; at the last moment, it quivered and gave a little jump, just out of her grasp. His gran smiled,

“What I do know, Georgia, is that you can’t take your own Receptacle – it has to be given,” she said.

“So give it to me then,” said Georgia. “You’re loving this, aren’t you, you old trout?”

His gran pursed her lips. “If you tell us what we need to know – where Joe’s friend is – then we’ll think about it,” said his gran.

Georgia sighed and rolled her eyes. “He’s in his own house.”

“No, he’s not,” said Joe. “He can’t be – I’ve just rung there, and his mum checked his bedroom and everything.”

“Well, he isn’t in his bedroom, is he?” said Georgia. “He’s in his attic.” There was a silence while they all took this in. Then the doorbell rang.

“Mr Khalil!” said Joe. “I forgot he was coming over.” They looked at each other, reluctant to give up the hold they had over Georgia by breaking the link. The doorbell rang again.

“We can’t leave him out there,” said his mum.

“Can I have the ring now?” said Georgia.

“No,” said his gran. “You can wait here and tell us who’s holding Joe’s friend in the attic.” Georgia sighed as Joe went to open the front door. Mr Khalil was on the doorstep.

“Joseph, have you heard anything from Yousef?”

“No, Mr Khalil, but I have just been told he might be in your attic.”

“In our… But I don’t understand. Do you mean Yousef’s hiding from us?”

Joe shook his head. “No… someone’s got him – some kind of spirit, I think. Listen… can I come back with you?”

“Oh… I don’t know, Joseph. This could be dangerous. I don’t think we should involve you.”

“Mr Khalil, have you and Mrs Khalil had any messages? You know – about Yousef vanishing?” Yousef’s dad shook his head. “Well, I have – a spirit spoke through Gran. I think they’re trying to get to me. So I am involved. It’s probably my fault they’ve got Yousef. You’ve got to let me help.” Mr Khalil stood on the doorstep, looking like he didn’t know what to do. “Look, do you want to come in for a minute? Only we’ve called my Aunt Georgia over – you know, the one who died when she was thirteen – and we’re trying to find out if she’s knows anything. She’s the one who told us Yousef’s in the attic.”

They went through to the kitchen, where Georgia was now sitting on a chair with her arms folded and her legs crossed.

“She won’t tell us anything,” said Joe’s gran with a sigh.

“Give me the ring and I’ll tell you the lot,” said Georgia.

Mr Khalil nodded a hello to Joe’s mum and gran, then glanced round the room.

“She’s by the window,” said Joe’s mum.

“Er… Mum, she’s moved – she’s sitting in that chair now,” said Joe, pointing.

His gran had her eyes closed, with her fingertips pressed to her temples again as if she was nursing a bad headache. Suddenly, her eyes opened and she snatched up the ring.

“It would be so easy…” she murmured.

Georgia uncrossed her arms and legs and sat up straight. “What would?”

“Another exorcism,” said his gran. “Only this time I’d be sure to follow the instructions to the letter – I’d bury the Receptacle in a lead casket so deep in the earth, it would never be found.” There was a pause while Georgia looked from the ring to her mother.

“Do you mean that?” she asked.

“Of course,” said his gran. “Come on, Georgia – when have I ever not carried out my threats?”

There was another pause. “What do you want?” asked Georgia.

“Well, you could start by telling us who’s got Joe’s friend – and why.”

Mr Khalil was standing very still, staring at the chair he knew to contain Georgia. Joe glanced at him and saw that his fists were clenched and the knuckles white.

“I’m not sure,” said Georgia. “I mean, I’m not sure who’s got him.” She eyed the ring meaningfully. “Believe me, I’d love to help you.”

Joe turned to Yousef’s dad. “Sorry, Mr Khalil – Georgia’s not telling us anything. Looks like we’d better just head over there and see what’s going on.”

Mr Khalil frowned. “I don’t know, Joseph. I don’t like to just burst in on them up there – what if this spirit that’s holding Yousef decides to harm him?” He turned to Joe’s gran. “Mrs Simmonds? What do you think we should do?”

Joe’s gran looked at him. “I think Joe and I should both come. I don’t think they’ll harm Yousef – he’s just a bystander who’s got caught up in it all – they really want Joe or me. It’s our fault poor Yousef’s in this mess.”

“Mum…” said Joe’s mum. “You aren’t seriously suggesting taking Joe into another potentially dangerous situation are you?”

Joe caught her eye. “Look Mum, Yousef’s my best friend. It’s all my fault he’s in this mess. I have to go.” His mum and gran stared at each other for a moment, then his mum sighed and ran a hand through her dark curly hair. She pushed back her chair and stood up.

“Then I’m coming too,” she said.

His gran stood up as well. “No, Sara. You aren’t spirit-sighted, so you won’t know what’s going on. We don’t want to have to worry about you as well.”

Georgia laughed her short, sarcastic laugh again. “Really,” she said, “Your concern for one another touches me. Well, I’d love to stay and play, but…”

“…You’re coming with us,” said Joe’s gran.

“You can’t be serious.”

His gran took a handkerchief from a drawer in the sideboard, then picked up the ring and wrapped it carefully and deliberately inside it. “Oh but I am, Georgia,” she said. “Deadly serious.”

“Fine,” said Georgia. “Then I’ll meet you there.” And she was gone. The curtains swung slightly, but otherwise there was no sign she’d been there.

His mum went with them to the front door. She was running a finger across her bottom lip over and over. “I’ll drive you over there,” she said. “I won’t come up to the attic, but I’ll be on hand – in case you need me.”

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