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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3. Chapter Three

He didn’t ask his mum any more about Georgia and she didn’t raise the subject herself. He did his maths homework after dinner, but couldn’t concentrate on the French essay he was meant to write. He gave up and sat in front of Eastenders, which he hated normally, glad for once of the easy distraction.

His mum looked up from her book when he got to his feet at nine o’clock. “Are you off to bed already?”

He nodded. “Yeah – I’m knackered.” He bent to give her a kiss and she hugged him.

“About Georgia…” she said.

He shrugged. “Yeah?”

“Well, it’s a bit complicated.”

“Yeah?” he said again.

She looked away. “Yes… Well, she and Gideon … I told you they were close? Well, they got into trouble – they were always getting into trouble. Daring each other to do things – and the dares got more and more dangerous.”

“Like what?”

“Oh… they’d stand on the railway tracks when the train was coming and wait until the last possible moment to jump out of the way; or they’d hold their breath underwater in the pond – you know, the one over at the old quarry – and they’d time each other to see who could do it the longest. She used to come home covered in blood.”

“Blood?”

“Yes – you can get nose bleeds if you stay underwater for too long; the pressure isn’t good for you.”

“Is that how she died? Doing a dare?”

His mum went quiet. “It looks like it. Although I think she’d got involved with some bad people.”

“What kind of bad people? D’you mean drug dealers or something?”

“I don’t really know… But she came home really late one night. We shared a room and she’d gone out through the window after bedtime – she was always doing that – but when she got back, she insisted on getting into bed with me. She was frozen and shivering.”

“Where’d she been?”

“I don’t know – she wouldn’t say. She just said she and Gideon had been to see someone. Then she said she’d done something terrible, and could I forgive her. I asked what, but she wouldn’t say. She seemed really scared. Two days later, she was dead.”

“You mean this person killed her?”

There was a long pause, then his mum shook her head. “No – I don’t think so. I mean, there have been times I’ve wondered, but… there was nothing to suggest that. And Gideon said her death was an accident.”

“How did she die?”

“She was… buried in dirt at the old quarry – she and Gideon had been daring each other to climb the sides of one of the pits and the soil had given way and fallen in on her; she was buried alive. By the time Gideon had dug her out with his hands, she’d suffocated.”

There was silence.

“That’s horrible,” said Joe at last.

“I know.”

He went over to hug her and she started to sob really loudly. He kept an arm round her until she’d stopped. She wiped her eyes on a tissue from her pocket, then smiled at him. “Sorry, love – silly of me, after all this time.”

“That’s all right. I shouldn’t have made you talk about it.”

She shook her head. “You have a right to know about your family. I should have told you sooner really.”

That night, Joe fell asleep in spite of the mess of thoughts in his brain. But he woke with a jolt some time around dawn, convinced Georgia had been in his room and had whispered in his ear,

“Remember, Joe, it wasn’t an accident. It was murder, my boy: your Auntie Georgia was killed.”

Over breakfast, his mother seemed preoccupied. At last, she said,

“Joe, can I talk to you about something?”

He nodded, his mouth full of Coco Pops.

“Well, it’s just… I wish I hadn’t told you about Georgia and Gideon’s games. You wouldn’t ever do something like that yourself, would you – play chicken with the trains or let your friends dare you to try dangerous things?”

Joe swallowed a mouthful of cereal. “No – it’s daft. Ben and Michael and that lot do that kind of thing, and Ben’s already broken his leg falling off this high wall just ’cos they dared him to walk on it.”

“Really? Hasn’t that put them off?” Joe shook his head. “Goodness. Well, I was worried I might have put ideas in your head. Remember, it takes…”

“…a strong person to say no to peer pressure,” recited Joe.

“Oh dear – do I say it that often?”

“Pretty much.”

“What a boring old mum I must be.”

“Oh, you’re not so bad really.”

“High praise indeed,” she said with a smile.

Joe managed three pieces of toast and a banana after his cereal, so they were running late by the time they left the house. He stopped on the doorstep when he caught sight of their car.

“Come on, slowcoach,” said his mum. “Out of the way so I can lock the door.”

“But Mum, look…”

She followed his gaze.

“Oh, no,” she said. “What on earth…” Their little blue Fiesta was parked in its usual place on the road by the gate, but scrawled across it was the word, “Murder”, written in big letters that were an ominous dark red. They looked at each other.

“Do you know anything about this?” asked his mother. “I mean, have you any idea who or why…?”

Joe shook his head. He ran a hand through his hair. “Not unless…”

“Yes?”

“Not unless it’s Georgia.”

“Georgia? What on earth are you talking about, Joe? How can it be Georgia? I mean, she’s…”

“…dead. Yeah, I know. But… well, she’s been to see me a couple of times.”

“Georgia has? Are you sure? What makes you think it’s her? I mean, it’s not like you ever knew her.”

“Mum, it’s the girl in the photograph.”

His mum sank down on the doorstep. “But why…?”

He took a deep breath. “She reckons she was killed. That’s why I was thinking it might be her that did this,” he pointed to the car.

“Georgia says she was murdered? But why didn’t you say something before?”

He sat down next to her. “I just… you were so upset when I asked you about her. I didn’t want to make it worse.”

She looked him in the eye. “Oh, Joe, love – it’s not your job to protect me. I’m the grown-up: I should be looking after you. You mustn’t feel you have to keep your worries to yourself.”

He shrugged and she put an arm round him and gave his shoulders a squeeze.

“Come on,” she said, getting up. “We’d better take this piece of graffiti on wheels and get moving.”

He followed her to the car. The paint – or whatever it was – was glistening in a way that suggested it might still be wet. He waited for his mum to get in and open the door for him from the other side, so that he didn’t have to touch it.

She stayed silent for most of the journey to school. Then she said,

“So, what did Georgia say exactly?”

“Only what I told you already – that she was murdered. Oh – and that she needed my help.”

“Your help?” Without warning, she steered the car to the side of the road and turned off the engine. The driver of a white estate car hooted at her and made rude gestures as he passed.

She seized his arm. “What sort of help did she mean, Joe? Tell me you’re not letting her drag you into one of her mad schemes?”

“She didn’t say. Anyway, I don’t see what I can do…”

“Just don’t do anything, OK? Steer clear of Georgia from now on, Joe.”

“Mum – you’re hurting me.”

She loosened her grip. “Sorry, Joe, love. I just… I couldn’t stand it if I lost you.”

“Hey, Mum, chill, OK? You’re not going to lose me, all right?”

“You just don’t know Georgia like I do. I loved her, I really did, but she could get a bit… over-excited. She didn’t always make good choices. Plus, she’s dead now, and I’m not sure I like you spending time with her.”

He laughed. “Have you any idea how daft that last sentence sounds? It’s like you’re…” He stopped.

“I’m what?” She looked at him, then followed his gaze. “Oh no – I don’t believe it.”

Next to the car, on a wooden fence that bordered a small recreation ground, were dark-red letters, wet and shiny as though they’d only just been painted. Joe watched his mother’s expression change from curious to hostile as she took in their message.

“Is she here?” she asked.

He nodded again.

“Tell her I want to talk to her. This has gone far enough.” She swung out of the car and stood with her hands on her hips, in an aggressive stance that reminded Joe of the cowboys he’d seen in old Westerns waiting to draw their guns.

He sighed and climbed out of the car. “Hi, Georgia,” he said.

“Hi, nephew. I see she’s finally taking notice.”

“Well, it’s hard not to with you around, isn’t it? What’s all this graffiti been done in, anyway? Someone’s blood?”

She winked at him. “Best not to ask.”

His mum cleared her throat. “So is she there?” She inclined her head towards the spot Joe had been addressing.

“Yep, she’s there.”

“Who’s she? The cat’s mother?” said Georgia.

Joe sighed. “She… Georgia wants us to use her name.”

“Well, tell Georgia that we want her to go away and stop…”

Joe didn’t hear the rest, because Georgia whispered, “Tell her I can’t stop. Tell her this is hell. Tell her I can’t go on like this, because it’s killing me all over again. Tell her…” she was crying now, so Joe couldn’t make out the words. Her nose was running – he hadn’t realised ghosts’ noses could run – and she was making a horrible, wailing noise that sounded more like a cat than a spirit.

“Georgia says she’s having a terrible time and to tell you it’s killing her all over again.”

His mum, who’d been ranting the whole time, stopped short. “What is? What’s killing you, Georgia?”

Georgia took a deep breath and blew her nose on the hem of her tee-shirt with a loud honk. “Tell her I can’t say now, not here.” She looked round, as if she was expecting someone. She reminded Joe of the lads at school who smoked in the passageway between the toilet blocks and were always expecting to get caught. “Tell her I’ll come tonight, at ten.”

Whatever Joe thought of Georgia, he had to admire her exits. She could vanish like a magician’s trick, and she did it now: from there to gone in a breath.

“Well?” said his mum. “What’s she saying?”

“She’s gone.”

“Gone? She graffitis all over our car and now this fence, and makes a great big, Georgia-size fuss, and then waltzes off the minute I try to find out why?”

“She says she’ll come back tonight – ten o’clock.”

His mum rolled her eyes. “Great.” She checked her watch. “Well, we’d better get out of here before we get the blame for this,” she nodded to the letters on the fence, which read,

“Who killed Georgia?”

“D’you think she really was killed?” Joe asked his mum when they were back in the car.

She shrugged. “This is Georgia we’re talking about. Who knows?” She steered out into the traffic and headed towards the school.

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