Bump in the Night

Bump in the Night is a ghost-hunting programme that’s different from all the others. That’s because none of it’s real.

Tony has always wanted to be a real paranormal investigator. His co-workers are perfectly happy to build their careers on falsehoods and cheap tricks, but Tony’s always wanted something more. Something real. Unfortunately, he’s about to get his wish.

When the crew set up in the infamous Lansfield Hall, it soon becomes clear that this won’t just be another normal day. One by one, the crew start to realise there’s more to those spooky ghost stories than they first thought. Subtly spooky antics turn into all-out carnage, bottled-up tensions rise to the surface, and a simple job turns into a fight for survival. If they want to live to see the sunrise, they’ll have to abandon the script.

They aren’t real ghost hunters, but that doesn’t matter any more, because these ghosts don’t want to be hunted.

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2. Empty Threats

When Bump in the Night had first debuted, the studios had referred to its three stars as something along the lines of an ‘intrepid team of experts’. That phrase alone, spoken on the day he’d first met his two fellow actors, had made Tony snort so hard with laughter that he almost burst a blood vessel. In fact, that sort of attitude was probably why Jean and Andy hated him so much.

In the end, it hadn’t mattered that the programme’s ‘intrepid team of experts’ actually had no scientific or technological expertise whatsoever. It didn’t matter either that in real life, they could barely spend two minutes together without a fight breaking out. They were paid to act, and apparently, that also extended to pretending to like one another until someone yelled cut. Six months had passed since they’d returned from Ledgely, the new season was ready for release, and that meant it was time for another briefing. Everyone who’d been on-location had to be there, and as always, Tony was dreading it.

He shoved open the door of the conference room just in time to see Jean spring out of her seat in shock. Her seat, as always, happened to be Andy’s lap. The more attractive two-thirds of the cast had been dating for almost as long as the show had been running, and it seemed to Tony like they’d completely forgotten how to sit still without touching one another.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said, dumping himself onto a sofa on the other side of the room. “Am I interrupting something?”

Jean glared at Tony with her ice-cold, charcoal-drenched eyes as she sat back down. In their crew of eight, Jean Valentown was the only woman, and Tony had never really been able to tell whether being surrounded by men five hours a day, three days a week energised or infuriated her. Her features were perfectly delicate but sharp, like she was made of marble; any other woman with that kind of face would have looked sallow and cold, but somehow, Jean made it work. She pulled it off in the same way she pulled off her half-shaved mouse-brown hairstyle, the dozen piercings in her ear, and the black tattoos crawling up both her arms. Jean knew she was gorgeous, too. At least, Tony assumed she did. He’d never asked, afraid as he was to go near her in case she tore his head off his shoulders.

“Morning, Jean,” Tony mumbled, ignoring her glare.

“Whatever.” Jean’s cockney accent seared through her voice.

Andy, meanwhile, was narrowing his eyes in Tony’s direction. Of the three of them, Andy was the oddest casting choice for a paranormal investigation programme. He had the body of a comic-book superhero, the blond gelled hair of a boy-band singer, an overripe complexion that could only come from a mild addiction to the tanning salon, and an Essex accent so thick he seemed like he was doing a bad impression of himself whenever he opened his mouth. He was a hundred times more self-absorbed than his girlfriend, always flipping his fringe around and flexing his muscles in a seemingly desperate attempt to make every single person he came across feel bad about themselves. Tony had always assumed that a debilitating obsession with yourself was just part of being an actor, but then again, he was still waiting for it to happen to him.

“How’s it going, Andy? You’re looking angry today,” Tony said.

“Yeah, Tony. You insulted my girl.” Andy sat up, shrugging Jean’s hand off his shoulder. “What gives you the right to talk to her like that?”

Tony sighed, glancing down to pick listlessly at one of his fingernails. “All I did was say good morning to her.”

Andy had now turned a slightly deeper shade of orange than usual. He was easier to wind up than a clockwork toy.

“You’d better, watch yourself, Tony,” added Andy, growling slightly at the back of his throat. “Or I swear I’ll beat the shit out of you to teach you some respect.”

“I think you’ve threatened to beat me up every day for the last couple of years, Andy,” Tony said. “How many times have you actually done it? Uh… one, two… oh yeah. Never.”

“Babe,” Jean said quietly, raising one eyebrow at Andy. “Really?”

“Really what, babe?”

“I don’t need protecting, you know. Especially not from Tony. He isn’t worth it.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Andy said, lowering his voice into what he probably thought was a whisper. “But I don’t want him thinking he can treat us like shit, babe.”

Tony raised an eyebrow, deciding not to bother saying anything else. He didn’t need to, anyway; the next person to arrive was Kevin, one of the new cameramen. From what little insight he could glean from barely paying any attention to anyone or anything, Tony had worked out that Kevin was Jean’s friend. Her very close friend. As a result of this, of course, Andy hated him even more than he hated Tony. 

“Hi, Kevin!” Jean said, sitting up and removing herself from Andy’s arm. It was unmissable, even to Tony and especially to Andy, how much she lit up whenever Kevin was around.

“Hi, Jean.” Kevin smiled at her, looking around the room.

“You can come sit here with us if you want,” she offered. “You don’t have to sit over there all by yourself.”

“Oh, man,” said Andy, turning to face Kevin. “Sorry, babe, but I don’t think there’s enough room for him. Shame.”

He was looking pointedly at Jean as he spoke, but she was glaring right back.

“Andy, cut it out,” she whispered.

“No, Jean, it’s okay,” Kevin said softly, pushing his glasses further up his nose. He hurriedly averted his eyes from hers, fixing them down to absorb himself in his phone screen.

Jean glanced angrily up at Andy as he put his arm back around her, but she didn’t say anything. Tony tried not to grin.

By the time Philip was fifteen minutes late, Kevin had been joined by the other two cameramen and Jean and Andy had turned their attention back to one another. Tony was still sitting by himself, even though he was only taking up a third of the biggest sofa. It was no wonder, really, that when Dave finally showed up, he ended up sitting with Tony.

Dave had managed to stick his job out for the last six months. and Tony couldn’t help admiring him for it; Philip fired his assistants for the smallest of mistakes and it was obvious the job was working the poor guy half to death. He’d lost weight since joining the crew and the freckles on his face had faded, but he still always grinned like he was having the time of his life. This morning, several strands of his hair were standing bolt-upright and his black-brown eyes were ringed with dark circles. The latest instalment in his parade of crazy shirts was electric orange, but as always, he was acting as if it was a completely normal work outfit. Tony had grown to like Dave, but still barely bothered to return the smile Dave shot in his direction.

“There he is!” Andy said, smirking at Jean. “We were just talking about you. Nice shirt, dude.”

To Tony’s surprise, the usually cheerful production worker shot a devastatingly withering look in Andy’s direction. “Yeah, whatever, Andy.”

The smile fell from Andy’s face, and Tony raised an eyebrow.

“Okay, fine,” Andy said, trying to muster a contemptuous laugh. “I was just trying to be nice.”

“Give me strength,” Dave muttered under his breath. “The only person who’s been nice-”

“What was that?” Andy said.

“I said the only person who’s been nice to me since I got here’s Tony!” Dave raised his voice, and everyone in the room glanced up to look at him. Andy spluttered with laughter.

“Well, that’s good,” he said, “’coz Tony needs a friend or two, doesn’t he? You’d better be careful, though, ‘coz Philip burns through assistant producers faster than anything. At the rate you’re going you’ll be fired before you’ve said two words to each other.”

Tony had been planning to stay out of the argument, but when Dave turned red and opened his mouth to make a retort, he changed his mind.

“Hi, Dave,” Tony said offhandedly.

Dave grinned and looked at him. “Hi.”

“There. Two words.” Tony looked down at his lap.

Three words,” Dave corrected.

Tony grinned at Andy. “You lose.”

Andy stood up, sticking out his chest like a threatened bullfrog. “You-”

“Good morning, everyone!” Philip bellowed as the door crashed open. “Andy, sit down.”

Andy sat down.

“Anyway, welcome to yet another pre-release meeting, season three, yadda yadda et cetera. Special finale, Ledgely Infirmary, genuine ghostly activity caught on camera and all that. Anyway, none of you should really care about this, because it’s done now. All you’ve got to do now is sit on your arses until the next one, so congratulations to you all.”

Philip paused for breath. Dave frowned in surprise, reminding Tony that this was the first time he’d had to listen to one of his boss’ debriefs. Then again, judging from Philip’s attitude towards whichever assistant happened to be employed that week, Tony would have wagered it wasn’t the first time Dave had been belittled and patronised.

“Moving on from last week,” said Philip. “Unless any of you’ve got any questions?”

Dave nervously stuck his hand up, which made Andy snigger. Jean elbowed him.

“Yeah,” said Dave, ignoring them both. “When’s the season airing?”

Philip narrowed his eyes. “Don’t tell me you actually watch it, David.”

“Well, yeah. Since it started, actually.”

Philip burst out laughing. “Are you serious?”

“I watch it too,” said Tony, earning a grateful glance from Dave as the ridicule shifted targets.

“Well, yeah, I guessed that much,” said Philip, “because you’ll believe any ghost bullshit you watch, won’t you, Tony?”

“Yeah, pretty much,” admitted Tony, “but I mostly just watch it now to laugh at Andy’s acting.”

“Tony, I swear!” Andy yelled. Jean tightened her grip on his arm to stop him from standing up.

“Shut up, everyone!” Philip said. “So, for the benefit of Tony and David, the first episode of the season airs on Wednesday at eleven. Now, moving on to the important stuff for those of us smarter than that. As you all know, the next episode’ll be the Season Four debut, so we’re going to do a special hour-long feature again. We-”

“Where?” Tony asked, leaning forwards in his seat. The last time they’d done a special feature, they’d been granted access to the ruins of a pagan church. Watching Andy trying to explain away the demonic voices on the EVP had been some of the most fun he’d ever had.

Philip sighed at the interruption. “What do you care? Another old ruined mansion house. Called, um… one second.”

He picked up his briefcase from the ground and dragged out a piece of paper, ripping the corner in the process. “Ah, yes... Lansfield… Hall.”

Tony froze.

Philip had said the name slowly, like he’d never heard it before. Tony had heard it before, though. He’d been hoping for Lansfield Hall as soon as he’d heard the words ‘ruined mansion house’. In fact, he’d been hoping for Lansfield Hall since being hired two years ago.

“Cool!” Dave was obviously just as excited as Tony, but less restrained when it came to expressing it. Tony glanced sideways at him in surprise.

Philip raised one eyebrow. “Cool. Thanks for that insight, David. Now, I haven’t got anything else to bring up, except from the fact that we start filming interviews next Tuesday. We do our lockdown in, um… Lansfield Hall, on Friday night. And…” He smirked. “Tony and David? Enjoy watching the season. Sorry for your terrible taste in TV. Okay, everyone. This meeting’s over.”

Tony didn’t know what it was that made him stick around in the corridor after the meeting had finished. Maybe he was just avoiding having to spend another second with Jean and Andy, or maybe he felt sorry for Dave, who’d been called back into the room moments after getting up to leave. Standing alone outside the door, Tony could vaguely make out Philip’s muffled yelling; the soundproofing on the walls blurred the sentences, but he could make out a few words. “Fuck” was present in nearly every sentence, as usual. “Shit” was also prominent, but judging by Philip’s main problem with Dave, it could just as easily have been “Shirt.”

Tony had found a blue biro in the back pocket of his jeans, and was now twiddling it between his thumb and index finger, staring determinedly at the wall in an effort to look nonchalant. He didn’t realise the pen was leaking until he glanced down at his hand, which was now liberally coated in navy smears; he wiped the sticky ink on his jeans and carried on. His grip on the pen slackened after a few more minutes and he accidentally flicked it sideways, where it skittered across the floor before hitting the wall. He sighed and went to fetch it.

Just as he’d straightened up again, the door to the conference room opened.

“-and God help you if you fuck this up, David,” Philip finished.

Dave stumbled out into the corridor, looking slightly dazed and ready to make a bolt for the staircase. Then, he spotted Tony and stopped short.

“Oh, Tony. Hey.”

Tony turned and attempted a smile. “Hey.”

There was a pause.

Dave managed a weak grin. “I don’t know what that guy’s deal is with calling me David.”

“Well, isn’t that your name?”

“Well, yeah.” Dave frowned. “I guess so, technically, yeah. But nobody’s called me it in my entire life. Everyone just calls me Dave. I’m just Dave.”

He glanced over his shoulder to check the location of his boss; luckily, the door had swung shut.

“Don’t worry about it,” Tony said after a long pause. “Philip just calls everyone the wrong name on purpose. I think it’s a status thing.”

“Oh, really?” Dave paused, looking slightly doubtful. “So, Lansfield Hall, huh?”

Tony had almost forgotten Dave cared about Lansfield too.

“Yeah.”

“Isn’t that the place that got destroyed in a fire?”

“Um, yeah.”

“The place where that little girl burned to death?”

“Well, she wasn’t that little. Um, eighteen. But yeah.”

“And then he went crazy and hacked his wife to death?”

“Yeah.”

“The…” Dave paused. “The place that’s supposed to be cursed?”

“Yeah.”

The smile started creeping back onto Dave’s face as he looked up at Tony through several stray strands of hair. “Can you say anything besides yeah?”

“You should know. You’ve been watching me on TV for the last two years, haven’t you?”

Dave grinned. “Okay, fine, but you watch it too.”

Tony couldn’t stop the smile forcing its way onto his face. He didn’t like it, but he couldn’t stop it. Neither of them said anything for a moment, but just as the air between them was starting to get painfully awkward, Dave spoke again.

“Thanks, by the way.”

“For what?”

“Well, y’know, in there.” Dave gestured over his shoulder. “Stopping me from punching Andy’s face off.”

“Oh. Okay.” Tony paused. “If I’d known that’s what you were going to do, I would’ve let you do it.”

Dave laughed, covering his mouth with his hand when he realised he’d laughed too loud. His eyes shifted briefly down to the ground before coming back to meet Tony’s.

“I’m actually kind of excited. About Lansfield, I mean. This could be pretty cool.”

Tony raised one eyebrow, then smiled back. “Yeah.”

He hated everyone he’d ever worked with before, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t quite bring himself to hate Dave. Tony sighed, and as he turned to walk down the stairs, he finally gave up his act. He was smiling for once, and it felt kind of nice.

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