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


20. Chapter Twenty

In fact, he hailed a cab easily on the main road – he hadn’t even realised black cabs came through the small villages.

“Where to, mate?” said the driver.

“Tatley, please. D’you know Branwell Gardens, off Queensway?”

He could have sworn the driver shrugged as he put the taxi into gear. Joe stared at the back of the man’s head, but it was just the back of his head – it didn’t tell him anything. “Er… did you say you know it?” he asked.

“You can tell me when we get there.”


The driver switched on his CD player and turned up the volume so that it blared out The Prodigy. Joe could feel the thumping of the bass in the pit of his stomach. The driver kept playing the same tune over and over again. After the fifth time, the sensation in his stomach was more churning than thumping.

“Can you pull over?” Joe shouted. “I think I’m going to be sick.” The man didn’t react. “I said, can you pull over?” He retched violently, but managed not to be sick. He concentrated on taking deep breaths, and on thinking about other things. After a little while, the taxi driver turned on to Queensway and Joe relaxed as they approached the turn-off to his gran’s. The driver turned down the music at last and Joe was able to direct him.

“It’s the next left,” he said, “and then the last road on the right.” The driver turned as directed, taking them along Sheraton Road and into Branwell Gardens. His gran’s house was the first on the right and the driver pulled up outside it and turned off the engine.

There was something odd about the house. It took Joe a moment to work out that it looked newer. There was no sign of the climbing plant that his gran had growing over the door and the red bricks were more…red. He paid the driver and stumbled out of the taxi, noting the evenness of the driveway and the lack of moss between the flagstones. The front door was painted a fresh dark blue, instead of the familiar peeling grey, though the bubble-effect window in it looked the same.

He pressed his eye to the glass, trying to spot something familiar to anchor him in normality. He jumped back in alarm as a face came into view, leering at him. It was his grandfather. He turned to run, but he didn’t get far, as the driver of the taxi had come up behind him and was blocking his escape.

Joe looked the man in the face and gasped – it was one of Tanner’s bodyguards.

“What’re you doing here?” asked Joe.

“Oh…” said the man with an unpleasant grin, “Just making sure you get where you’re going.” Joe tried to get past him, but the bodyguard grabbed him by the arm and pushed him back towards the front door. As he reached it, it flew open and the guard gave him another shove that sent him flying into the hallway.

As the door was slammed behind him, Joe stood up slowly, looking all round for the ghost. The hall had changed, so that he barely recognised it. His legs were wobbling, as they seemed to so often these days.

He tried the front door and was amazed when it opened, until he discovered that there were bricks where the doorway should have been.

And then the daylight turned into night without warning. He stood in the dark, hardly daring to breathe, while he tried to make out the shape of things around him. The sudden darkness brought with it a creeping coldness that slipped inside his clothes and made him shiver. He stayed by the door, to give himself a reassuring – if false – sense that escape might be possible.

Then, through the cold around him, he became aware that a warmth was coming from his leg and he remembered the amber. He reached in his pocket and pulled it out, feeling its heat in his palm. He held it up and saw the familiar glow emanating from it. It made him feel slightly braver.

He moved tentatively across the floor, holding the stone out like a torch. He knocked into something and jumped, his heart beating madly. Whatever it was didn’t react. He reached out a hand and managed to feel his way along it – it was a solid piece of furniture of some kind, such as a bench or a trunk.

“What’s happened?” he murmured to himself. “Why’s it all so different?”

“Don’t you know?” came his grandfather’s voice.

“Where is everyone?” said Joe, reeling round. “What’ve you done with my family?”

“Haven’t you guessed what this is yet, Joseph? This is your grandmother’s house as it was when it was first built.”

“But why? What’s going on?”

“Oh, a spirit is always stronger back in the time when he was alive. This was when I was just starting out, Joseph. And in any case, I thought you’d enjoy a trip back to see your grandmother’s house when it was new, before Eunice moved in and had the chance to let it fall into rack and ruin.”

There were voices coming from a room nearby.

“Who’s that?” said Joe.

“The voices, you mean? Oh, that’s just the people who used to live here. They won’t notice us, of course. We exist in the future to them.”

Joe found he was back by the front door, without having been aware that he was retreating. He leant on the wood and tried to concentrate. “What do you want?” he asked.

“Oh, I’ve not been working alone, you know. I was commissioned to dispose of you – which fits pretty neatly into my own plans. Some living beings aren’t too keen on being caught holding the knife; that’s where we spirits come in. I was so disappointed when you left in such a hurry the last time we met.”

“You were trying to kill me – and my mates.”

“Oh well, if you will fret over such small matters...”

The amber felt hot and slippery in Joe’s palm, but he held it out in front of him, like a shield, and walked out into the middle of the hallway, turning in a slow circle as he tried to locate his grandfather.

“What’re you going to do to me?” His voice shook.

“I’m going to give you a really good send-off. But first we’re waiting for my special guest.”


There was a knock at the door and the room was plunged back into such bright daylight that Joe was momentarily blinded. He forced himself to focus as the door was opened, making a run for the rectangle of daylight that represented his only escape route but, instead, he collided with the person coming through the door. It was Tanner, holding his spirit-detector in both hands.

Still with his hands on the device, he continued to walk forwards, pushing Joe ahead of him. “You have him then,” he said to the air. “My man dropped him off as planned?”

“I have him,” came Mr Burroughs’ reply. Joe was astonished to see that, as he spoke, the words formed as writing in the air. Even in the bright light, he couldn’t work out where the spirit was lurking. He kept scanning the hallway, but couldn’t see him anywhere.

And then, without warning, his grandfather was standing between Tanner and Joe, so close that Joe could smell a rankness on him like the must from rotting wood. Joe stepped back just as Tanner looked at his watch,

“When does it happen?”

“Oh… any minute now,” said the spirit with a nasty smile, the words so vivid in the air they looked like they’d been written with a red whiteboard marker.

Joe had a sudden realisation, “That was you, too, wasn’t it? In the classroom, when we were trapped with the fairground music and everything and there was that pen writing on the whiteboard?”

The spirit smiled again. “You and your friend Yousef. How I enjoyed making him squeal like a pig.”

“You were scared of Forester.”

Mr Burroughs lost his smile, “That nosy fool, always interfering.”

“Why are you scared of him?”

Tanner laughed. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Joseph, but you’re not really in a position to be asking the questions.”

“What do you want of me?”

But nobody answered him. Instead, there was a ringing in his ears and the room began to shrink.

“No!” he shouted, but he was thrown to the floor by an unseen force. As he tried to get up, the room tilted sharply and he found himself sliding along the floor, towards a precipice which had just appeared where the front wall of the house should have been. “No!” he said again, scrabbling for a hold and only managing to grab a rug which promptly wrapped itself around him like a blanket round a baby.

He could hear laughter and his ears were still ringing. His left arm was clamped by his side inside the rug, but his right was outside the carpet and its palm was burning painfully. However, his passage towards the precipice had slowed and he tried to focus.

“What?” he shouted to the air. “What do you want?”

Tanner’s feet appeared near his head. “Gideon – dead on a plate – would be nice,” he said. “But I’ll settle for you instead – for now, at any rate. Once I’ve got you in the Grip, Gideon won’t be long for this life himself.”

“No!” said Joe. “I won’t do it.”

“I don’t think you understand how all this works, Joseph. Once you’re in my Grip, you won’t have any choice.”

“It’s time to start,” came his grandfather’s voice.

“Right,” said Tanner. He pulled out a small book and, opening it, began to read:

“‘He that was borne of the blood of traitors is a traitor by his birth. He that is quickened by the traitors’ blood commits also of their sins. He that was borne of betrayal will know nothing but betrayal.’” Tanner stepped back and Joe saw that a hole had opened up right through to the sky. The man held up something that shone like a silver chalice and it gave off a light that was so bright, Joe had to look away.

He tried to wriggle out of the rug, but it bound him like rope.

Tanner’s voice became louder, more exultant,

“‘So, as he sheds his blood, let the retribution commence,’” he shouted.

Joe felt a blinding pain in his right hand and opened it to see that the amber had embedded itself in his palm. It was burning like a hot coal. He cried out just as Tanner said,

“Why isn’t anything happening? What’s that orange thing he’s holding?”

“It’s a Controller.”

“Why didn’t you say, you idiot? It’s blocking the ritual. You’ll have to get it off him.”

“I can’t,” came his grandfather’s voice. But Joe was only dimly aware of their interchange; the amber was so hot in his skin that he was nearly passing out from the pain. He tried to free his left arm, and managed to get the hand just above the top of the roll of carpet. He brought his right hand to meet it, and tried to prise the stone out of his palm, but it wouldn’t budge.

“The Receptacle,” said Tanner. “Where’s his Receptacle?”

“We can’t trap him until he’s dead,” said the spirit. “You know it won’t work otherwise.”

“So kill him then.”

“Not so long as he’s got the Amber. I can’t go near him.”

Joe heard this and stopped trying to get the stone out of his palm. The heat had grown slightly less intense, and he was able to bear it. The stone still glowed as if a hundred spirits were in the room, but he couldn’t see or hear any of them.

Tanner crouched down beside Joe and forced his hand open. He tried to grab the stone, but it must have burnt him because he swore and put his fingers in his mouth. “It’s scorching.”

“Then it’s acting. The boy must know how to operate it.”

Tanner swore again. “So what do we do?”

“We wait. He’ll tire.”

“How long will that take?”

“Hours? Days? How should I know?”

Tanner sat down on the floor in Joe’s eye line. “How’re you doing that?”

“Doing what?” asked Joe.

“Working the stone.”

“I don’t know.”

Tanner got up, “Don’t give me that. You think I’m an idiot or something? You’re just as arrogant as your mum, aren’t you? Look at you – wrapped up like a sausage in a roll and you still act like you’ve got the upper hand.”

“I’ve got the Controller,” said Joe, hoping his attempt to look competent would be enough to carry him through.

He watched Tanner’s face and saw the expression change from angry contempt to cunning. “If you give me the stone and show me how to work it, I’ll let you go,” he said, in a quiet, coaxing tone.

“Really?” said Joe.

“Really.” He leaned in closer to Joe, ready for the confidence.

“You ready?” said Joe. “You have to put it up your…” He didn’t bother to finish the sentence – he just met Tanner’s eye and smiled.

“…You little…”

As Tanner got up and moved threateningly towards Joe’s face with his big black boots, Joe felt the stone slip from his palm and into his fingers. He rolled swiftly away from Tanner, at the same time hearing the Reverend’s words playing back so clearly it was as if he were standing next to Joe,

“Rotate the stone.”

Breathing heavily, he kept the amber in his closed hand and used his fingers to roll it over and over. He was aware of Tanner clumping closer, but he forced himself to concentrate on the small finger movement he needed.

And then the stone grew so hot that he had to let it go, watching his last hope spin away from him across the sloping floor, towards the precipice. He almost cried as it headed for the edge. As it slid off the end, the air filled with a strange fog, and there were sounds and lights all around him. So this was what it felt like to die. The rug unrolled from around him, so that he lay flat and exposed like a sacrificial victim. Tanner’s face came back into view and Joe felt his hot breath on his face, then saw the bright glint he’d seen earlier: it was a knife blade. He cried out – first in fear and then in pain – as he felt a sharp stab in his neck, and gave in at last to the pull of gravity along the tilting floor and into the abyss. 


“Joseph! Joseph!”

He groaned. “Whaaat?”

“Joseph Simmonds, you must wake up.”

“No – I wanta sleep.”

“No, Joseph, you must wake up. Feel the heat, Joseph.”

“Whaat?” He tried to settle, but the surface beneath him felt hard. There was a heat in the air that was blowing towards him. He opened his eyes, then shut them again because the light was too bright. It was too bright and too hot. He opened them again. Fire. The world was on fire.

“Where am I?”

“Joseph Simmonds, you must leave this place. The building is on fire. We can help you home. Do you want to go home?”

“Yes… Yes... Please take me home.”

He had no idea where he was and he hardly cared, so when he felt himself travelling along at tremendous speed, he simply lay back and shut his eyes. When the movement stopped, he opened them and found himself on his gran’s doorstep. There was the sound of a doorbell ringing, then the voices spoke again, swirling visibly in the air like the wind in a vortex.

“You will be safe now, Joseph Simmonds. Our debt to you is repaid.” 

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