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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2. Chapter Two

That night, Joe kept having dreams in which he hugged his gran and bits of her fell off – an arm, her teeth, and even, one time, her head. There was a horrible, crunching feeling under his hands, as if he was crushing all the bones in her spine. He woke up with a shout and flicked on his bedside light.

There was someone in his bedroom, standing at the end of his bed. The figure turned towards him as the light went on, and he saw it was the girl who’d been on his gran’s driveway earlier. Joe pulled his duvet up to his chin and kept his arms under the covers. Though, when he thought about it, he wasn’t sure what protection a duvet was meant to be against someone who could walk through walls.

The girl sat on the end of his bed and stared at him. He looked away and wondered if he should call his mum or make a run for the door.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” said the girl. She leaned closer, “Are you shaking under there?”

Joe shook his head, even though he could feel his teeth chattering. He was still tempted to try to reach the door.

“I’m Georgia,” said the girl, holding out a filthy hand for him to shake. She grinned. “It’s all right, the dirt’s engrained – it won’t come off. And my hand’s as solid as yours.”

Joe poked a hand out from the bedclothes. Her palm was cold, but definitely fleshy.

“I thought you were a ghost,” he told her.

She shrugged. “I am. But we’re blood relatives – that’s why you can feel me. I can walk through your babysitter.”

“She’s not my babysitter. She just keeps me company…”

“…when your mum goes out. Yeah, I get it.” She grinned again and Joe clenched his fist under the duvet.

“I can’t believe you can see me,” said Georgia. “I thought you were going to be spirit-blind all your life. I’ve been coming to visit you for ages, you know.”

“What – you mean you’ve been coming in my room without me knowing?”

“Ahhh – look at his ears go red. Don’t worry, I never stayed when you were... busy.” She grinned again. Then, just as his fist was tightening again, she turned serious. “Look, by the way – d’you remember that time last month when you spilled Coke all over the cream rug in your mum’s room?”

“Yeah, I remember. Mum went mad. Why, what do you know about it?”

“It was my fault. I jogged your elbow. Sorry.”

“You what? I got into so much trouble for that.”

“Yes, I know. But you shouldn’t have been in my room in the first place,” said Georgia. But she said it in his mum’s voice.

“How do you do that?”

“What?”

“That – talk like my mum.”

“Well, she is my sister, you know.” She looked at his expression. “Oh – you didn’t know that, did you? Hasn’t anyone told you about me?”

“No… What, you’re my mum’s sister? Seriously?”

“Seriously, young nephew.”

“How old are you anyway? I mean, how long ago did you…”

“What? Pop my clogs? Start pushing up daisies? Snuff it? Or – my personal favourite – die. Why use a euphemism when a simple word will do, ’eh?”

“What’re you talking about? And what’s a you-fer-wotsit?”

She sighed and got up from the bed. “Oh, you learn some good words when you’ve been around as long as I have, Joe.” She walked over to the window, then turned back to look at him with another sigh. “Look, I need your help, young Joe.”

“What kind of help? Only I’m not doing anything dangerous. How old did you say you are?”

“Depends how you count it. I was thirteen when I was killed.”

“Killed? You were killed? Who killed you?”

She turned back to face him. “Oh yes, I was killed all right, Joe. Murder, plain and simple. Anyway, where was I? So I would be twenty-eight in a week’s time if I’d lived. Just eighteen months between me and your mum. Strange she never mentioned me.” She ran her fingers over her bottom lip, just like his mum did, and he saw the family resemblance: the fat bottom lip and a cleft in the chin. She walked back to perch on the bed.

“So… are you going to help me, then?” she asked.

Joe shrugged. “You’re dead – I don’t see how I can do anything.”

“My body may be dead and buried, Joe but, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m sitting right here.”

Joe heard his mother’s door opening and her footsteps coming towards his room. She opened his door a crack.

“Joe, love, is that you I can hear?”

Georgia had put her finger to her lips and was shaking her head.

“Sorry, Mum – I just had a bad dream.”

His mum helped him to wriggle back down under the duvet. “We’ll get used to your new ability together, lovie – you’re not on your own in this.”

“Thanks. Goodnight.”

She bent to kiss him. “Goodnight, lovie. Sweet dreams.” She shut the door and he heard her go into the toilet and then the sound of water flushing before she went back to her room.

He looked at Georgia. “I’ve never lied to her before.”

She tossed her matted hair. “Oh, well, first time for everything,” she whispered. And then she disappeared.

Joe leapt out of bed and searched all the corners of his room, including beneath the bed, but Georgia had definitely gone. He couldn’t sleep at all after that and finally gave up trying. He got out a Philip Pullman book he’d read three times already and tried to make sense of the words on the pages until his alarm clock went off at seven-thirty.

“You look shattered,” said his mum, as he came downstairs for breakfast. “Didn’t you get back to sleep?”

He shook his head and sank on to a kitchen chair, slumping forwards so that his forehead was in his bowl.

“That bad, huh? What would make His Lordship feel better this fine morning? Coco Pops, perhaps?”

He sat up. “Coco Pops? I thought they were way too expensive.”

“Ah – but you happen to be talking to the new head of marketing now, you know.”

“You got the promotion? Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Well, let me think… was there anything else going on yesterday? Oh yes, now I remember: you started seeing dead people. Hmm. Seeing ghosts versus getting a pay-rise: which one do you think’s more important?”

“All right – good point.” He reached for the yellow cereal box and poured himself a bowlful. “Mum?” He avoided looking at her.

“Yes, love?”

“Have you got any brothers and sisters?”

“No.”

He looked up and saw that she was gazing out of the window, with a weird expression on her face.

“But… did you ever have?”

She turned back to him. “What’s brought this on, Joe? Has your gran said something?”

He met her eye and blushed. “About what?”

“About Georgia. Has your gran been talking to you about Georgia?”

He took another big mouthful of cereal. “Who’s Georgia?”

“Will you please wait ’til you’ve swallowed before talking?” She paused, as if it was difficult to find the words. “Georgia was my younger sister. Just a year and a half between us.”

Joe was holding his breath again. He had a mouth full of cereal but couldn’t swallow; it got stuck and he started choking. For once, his mum didn’t fuss over him: she looked as if her mind was somewhere else altogether.

“I’ve got a photograph somewhere…” She got up and went upstairs. When she came back down, she was carrying a small picture in a dark wood frame. She handed it to him.

“That’s Georgia, in the middle, with me next to her. We used to take those bikes out every weekend and all through the school holidays. Your gran could never get us to come home for lunch.”

The girl in the photo was definitely the one who’d been in his room the night before.

 “Who’s the boy on the other side of Georgia?” he asked.

“Oh, that’s Gideon; he lived a few streets away and was always hanging around with Georgia. The pair of them were thick as thieves.”

“What happened to her?”

His mum’s face changed then. It was as if someone had pulled down a blind – all sealed-off and shut-down.

“She died. It was horrible. We all stopped talking about her. It was easier than thinking about her dying like that.”

“Like what?”

His mum looked at her watch. “Come on, Mr Detective, or you’ll be late for school.”

“But…” he looked at her and realised she was crying. “OK… I’ll just clean my teeth and grab my stuff.”

In the car, they were silent. He felt bad for asking about Georgia, but he was desperate to find out more. Was it his mum’s fault she’d died? Had she really been murdered?

 

He spent the day avoiding his friends and getting into trouble with the teachers.

“Joe Simmonds, are you with us?” asked Miss Hameed at one point, and he felt like saying,

“No, I’m really not, Miss – it’s kind of hard to concentrate when you’ve just met the ghost of your murdered aunt.” But instead he said, “Yes, Miss, sorry – just a bit tired is all,” and she said,

“Well, let’s wake you up, shall we? Take over from Harry, please. We’re reading Hamlet’s speech at the top of page twenty-eight, where Hamlet sees the ghost of his murdered father.”

At another point, in the ICT suite, he looked up from the computer and was sure he saw Georgia’s face for a second, pressed to the window.

By the time the bell rang at the end of the day, he was ready to jump at the slightest thing. He caught the number fifty-three bus from the stop near the school and went upstairs, to sit in peace at the back.

He was shaken awake later by the driver, who kept saying,

“Where were you meant to get off, lad?” until Joe’s brain and tongue caught up and he was able to say,

“Madison Road, by the Red Lion.”

The driver shook his head. “Well, we’re at the terminus now, mate. You’ll have to go over there – bay six – and catch the next bus back.” He pointed out of the window, to the other side of the bus station. “I’m going home for my tea.”

Joe looked at his watch as he followed the driver downstairs. It was five-thirty. The driver stood waiting for him by the doors.

“You all right, lad?” Joe nodded. “You got anyone worrying about you at home?”

“My mum, maybe – she’ll get back before me now.”

The driver reached into his pocket and drew out his phone. “Here, give her a ring, let her know you’re all right.”

Joe nodded and took the phone. “Thanks.”

The man watched as he rang home and left a message for his mum.
“I dunno,” he said then. “I’m not happy about leaving you to find your own way home – you don’t seem very with it, if you ask me. Come on, I’ll take you over to Fred; he’ll see you get back all right.”

As they crossed the terminus, he had to grab Joe’s arm to stop him from stepping out in front of a double-decker bus.

“Hey! Take it easy, will you? Blimey, you gave me a scare. I don’t want to be sending you back to your mum in pieces.” He looked at Joe. “What are you crying for? You’re still alive, aren’t you?”

Joe nodded and wiped his nose on his coat-sleeve. “Sorry – just had a bad couple of days.” He felt like an idiot, crying in a public place; good thing his mates couldn’t see him – they’d have a field day.

They made it to bay six in one piece, where his driver pulled over another man in a driver’s uniform who was just about to board a bus. They muttered together for a moment, and Joe’s escort kept gesturing towards Joe, no doubt telling him what a nutter he was. His driver came over to him.

“You take care of yourself now, OK? Get a good night’s sleep – it’ll all seem better in the morning.” He patted Joe on the shoulder which, for some reason, made him nearly start crying again. “I’m Bernie. Come and see me again, will you? I’d like to know you’re still alive.”

Joe smiled and nodded, raising his hand in a wave as Bernie left.

Fred put the cash box in place in the driver’s compartment and the passengers started to board. As Joe showed his bus pass, Fred beckoned him closer,

“Bernie’s been filling me in on your little episode back there. What’s going on, lad? You been seeing ghosts?”

The breath caught in Joe’s throat until he saw the grin on Fred’s face. Fred winked.

“Something like that,” Joe muttered, then took a seat downstairs and stayed determinedly awake until he got home.

 

 


 

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