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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20. Playing with Fire

“Hey, hey!” Dave shouted, holding his phone up to his face. “No, they pretty much just started killing us. No, this isn’t a fucking joke!”

Tony kicked a pebble at his feet and tried not to look up as three ambulances pulled up at the end of the driveway. Now, the phone signal was working perfectly fine. Of course it was. Dave had called his sister first, but Tony had nobody to call at all. The only person he cared about was already there with him.

“Dave,” Tony muttered, tugging on Dave’s arm and watching as the ambulance door swung open. “You need to go.”

“Yeah, I know,” Dave whispered to him, holding his ruined hand up to his face. “Yeah, I know!” He shouted into his phone as a gust of wind cut through the front garden. “Yeah. Yeah. Look, I’m sorry, okay?”

“Uh, hi.” Tony said to the paramedic who’d run up the driveway to meet him.

“Hi. What’s going on? Who’s hurt?”

“We…” Tony blinked away a sob. “We… I’m sorry. We’re the only ones.”

“How many to start with?”

“Um…” Tony’s voice shook. “Ei- Eight.”

The paramedic’s face paled and she nodded. “Right.”

“Yeah. But my, uh…” He paused and brushed Dave’s arm to make him turn round. “He’s hurt. He needs to get to a hospital as soon as possible. P- Please. Dave!”

“That’s not my fault!” Dave shouted into his phone. “I know I wrecked it, but I paid for it, didn’t I?” He stopped and closed his eyes. “No, not with money! I don’t have any money. Yes. Yeah. No. I was eighteen!  I spent a week in bloody hospital! Anyway, that was years ago. Look.” Dave glanced up at Tony as his voice softened, fiercely wiping away tears with his free hand. Tony squeezed his other hand. “I really think I need you here. Please?”

“Yeah, okay.” Dave looked up at Tony and nodded. “Thank you. Love you.”

He hung up the phone. “Jesus Christ, she’s a handful!”

“Dave!” Tony said. “You need to go with them right now.”

“Right.”

“What did you say to your sister?”

“Oh,” Dave said. “I just…”

Suddenly, Dave was grabbed by a fit of coughing that made him double over and clutch his stomach with both arms. Tony watched the paramedic’s eyes widening as she caught sight of Dave’s arm; she shook her head in disbelief, then opened her mouth to speak.

“What happened to you, sir?” She asked Dave.

“I’m fine.”

“Dave, talk to her, damnit!” Tony rubbed his eyes, turning to the medic. “Please, it- it’s hard to explain. But he needs to get to the hospital.”

She nodded.

“Dave,” Tony said. “You have to go with her. Right now.”

“I know, but-”

“Call your sister. Tell her to come to the hospital.”

“I will.” Dave wiped his eyes and swayed on his feet, his expression suddenly hazy. “T-Tony…”

“Dave.” Tony took hold of Dave’s arm. “What’s wrong?”

“I just…”

Dave’s eyes rolled up and closed as his legs gave out from under him.

“Dave!” Tony yelled. He reached out to grab him, but the paramedic ran forwards and caught him before he passed out. She lowered him to the ground, yelling to her colleagues in the ambulance for a stretcher.

“Dave!” Tony said to him, leaning over and clutching Dave’s hand with both of his. “Dave. Dave. Can you hear me?”

There was no reply. Swallowing the lump in his throat, Tony blinked back the tears in his eyes and gripped his hand tighter.

“Dave…” He said again. No. No. No. Don’t let him be dead. Please.

Dave moaned slightly. Tony breathed out in semi-relief, then turned to shout down the driveway at the medics. “Please hurry up!”

“Tony.” Dave murmured, opening his eyes a fraction. “Tell… Tell her…”

“Dave, listen to me.” Tony stood up to keep holding his hand as they loaded him onto the stretcher and lifted him up. “You’re going to be fine. Do you hear me? You’re going to be okay. I-”

The paramedic behind Tony put a hand on his shoulder. “We have to take him now,” she said.

Dave’s hand was pulled out of his grasp as they started carrying him towards the ambulance.

Tony blinked and nodded. He started to follow the stretcher, but the remaining medic held him back.

“Sir, are you family?”

“Uh… Yes. No. No? Not-”

“If you’re not related to him, I’m sorry.” The paramedic squeezed his shoulder. “Only family can go in the ambulance.”

Tony felt anger bubbling back up in his mind as he watched the ambulance doors closing behind Dave.

“Fine,” he said, licking his lips as he tried to ignore the sickening thumping in his chest. “He’s not family, but he’s the closest I’ve bloody got, so you’d better not let him die.”

* * * * *

Ten minutes passed, and Tony hadn’t been left alone for even one of them. After a night of hellish loneliness, Lansfield Hall was flooded with daylight and swarming with people, and he hated it. There was a medic sitting with him, asking him questions, like whether he felt faint or sick or whether his breathing felt right in his chest, but the police had questioned him too, and their questions had been worse. He’d told them the truth, which, come to think of it, was probably why the medics were now asking him if he’d hit his head.

A couple of the paramedics had regrouped next to one of the ambulances; they’d taken a moment out of their cleanup job to huddle together and mutter to one another. They kept shooting glances at him, then to the three black bags in the back of the ambulance. Tony assumed the police, who hadn’t emerged from the garden in the last three or so minutes, would finish with the last two soon. He sighed, hot tears falling out of his eyes as he thought of Dave. He wondered… No. He had to keep hold of hope. Dave was the only scrap of hope he had left.

He only barely glanced up two medics wheeled a fourth body bag around the side of the house on a stretcher. His thoughts of Dave turned to Jean. Why the hell was Jean dead too? She’d still been blinking back black veins when she’d died, so Tony knew she’d shoved that piece of glass into her own heart. She’d given her life to save Kevin’s, and it should have worked, too. Kevin should have lived. There’d been blood all over both of them, but what if it was mostly hers?

No, Tony. They’re both dead. There’s a difference between optimism and realism.

Ghosts didn’t care about hope.

“Hey!” Someone suddenly screamed from the back of the house. Tony looked up, and the paramedics at the end of the driveway exchanged glances.

“Hey!” The shout came again, echoed by more people.

Footsteps crunched on gravel as someone ran around to the front of the house; it was a medic, red in the face, wringing his hands at his chest. He looked shell-shocked.

“We need a-” He managed to shout through the panting. “We need all you medics! Now!”

Then, he ran back. The two paramedics at the end of the driveway, and the one who’d been sitting with Tony, immediately snapped into action and ran after him. Feeling his heart leaping into his mouth, Tony jumped to his feet and started to run as well. Someone tried to shout after him, but he didn’t stop; his heart was going crazy, and so was his head. He spotted a cluster of neon yellow police jackets and green medics’ uniforms under the shadow of the trees, and the guy who’d run to fetch the rest was shouting them over. Someone behind Tony grabbed him and held him back, but he wasn’t trying to run forwards. He’d stopped dead by the corner of the house, his lungs screaming, his ribs twinging, his eyes wider than they’d ever been before.

“Oh… my god,” he murmured, covering his face with his hands. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. As he’d started to run, his thoughts had been screaming at him that Kevin wasn’t dead. That they’d found a pulse, they’d managed to save him, and Jean’s sacrifice had paid off. Well, that was yet another thing he’d been wrong about.

It was Jean. She was still lying on the ground, but she’d rolled over onto her back and was choking out sobs instead of words as the medics crushed her with questions. Her face, her hair and her clothes were covered in blood; it looked brighter, redder and ten times worse in the daylight. It was all hers, too. She was pawing at the wound on her chest with one hand, but her other arm was feeling around on the ground next to her, grasping at the blood-matted grass where Kevin had been lying. Tony bit back a sob, wiping his eyes in horror, as he watched her. She looked like death. He knew she wasn’t going to last much longer. Everyone was yelling at her to stay still, to stay calm, to not worry, and he almost managed to laugh through the bolts of shock racing through him. Stay calm? Like fuck she could stay calm.

Tony shook his head and wrenched his shoulder out of the grip of the medic who’d stayed to hold him back, but he didn’t try to run. He just watched as they covered Jean’s face with an oxygen mask, lifted her onto the stretcher and rushed her down the garden. The stupid fucks were still asking her questions. She wasn’t answering. She was just whimpering and mumbling to herself, slowly fumbling her hands through empty air as the medics fruitlessly tried to keep her still.

“Is she…” Tony said softly, aiming his words towards the medic behind him. “Is she going to be okay?”

It was a stupid question, and fair enough, there was a long pause.

As they carried Jean past him, Tony saw that her eyes were human again. Her skin was deathly pale, yellow and purple under her eyes, and the sharp bones of her face were still veined. Her gaze rolled off his, but he knew she hadn’t seen him. She’d stopped moving before she’d even reached the ambulance.

“I don’t… We…” The paramedic stuttered, but Tony already knew the answer. “We’ll do everything we can for her, okay?”

So they were clutching at straws after all.

As the doors to the second ambulance swung shut, Tony heard a burst of shouting coming from inside, and the sounds of clattering. He was pretty sure he’d seen Jean starting to convulse on the stretcher, her head and limbs jerking sideways and backwards, but he feebly hoped it’d just been his imagination.

The medic’s hand fell back onto his shoulder.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, making him jump.

Tony nodded silently, watching as the ambulance screamed to life and took off down the tiny road it wasn’t supposed to fit on. He held back another wave of stupid emotions before they swallowed him whole and walked back the way he’d come, avoiding the red matted mess under the tree, to dump himself back on the front steps.

* * * * *

Another hour passed, and Tony was asked one hideous slew of questions after another. He answered them all truthfully, unsure of what was holding his voice steady in his mouth. He felt like he ought to be crying, but he couldn’t force himself to, no matter how hard he tried, and he felt sick with guilt. How dare he survive unscathed and not even be able to dredge up a tear for his four, five, six colleagues who hadn’t been so damned lucky? Come to think of it, how dare he survive at all?

Tony ground his teeth and forced himself to stop thinking about it. None of it felt real. How could it be? Six people were dead, and he was completely fine. Sure, they’d stuck an antiseptic wipe on the burn on his cheek, and told him to call if he felt faint thanks to the lump on the back of his head, but he was going to live. It wasn’t fair. He’d deserved to die more than anyone else. If this’d been a book, he’d have called it main character insurance, but who the fuck would’ve chosen him as the main character? He’d had the least to live for, the least to die for, the least to fight for. Maybe it was some sort of cruel joke.

Tony clenched and unclenched his empty hand on the doorstep. He wanted Dave, but he was too scared to ask to leave. They didn’t suspect him of anything, somehow, but he felt it was only right to wait until the police had finished their work. By then, he reckoned it’d be too late.

Suddenly, Tony looked up from his lap as the sound of a car engine started rumbling through the fog. The two police officers on the driveway looked up too, exchanging confused glances as the noise grew louder. Then, Tony’s thoughts flickered irresistibly towards Andy. He pushed himself up from the ground, standing bolt upright on the top step as his hands curled into fists.

Then, instead of a mangled silver Mercedes, a tiny red two-seater with a dented bonnet appeared at the end of the road. As it parked on the driveway, the police officers started talking and walking towards it.

“Don’t!” He yelled, running towards the car. “It’s not him.”

The car’s door opened and a young woman got out of the driver’s seat. She was alone.  Tony instantly knew who she was, even though her only resemblances to Dave were her dirty blonde hair and dark eyes. She put one hand on the roof of the car, looking wildly around her, and Tony swallowed a new pulse of fear before running down the driveway to reach her. She was batting away the police officers with growing levels of ferocity.

“Shut up. Doesn’t matter. Where- where’s my brother?” She demanded. “Hey! You! Answer me! Where the hell’s my brother?”

“Miss, you need to stay back from the crime scene,” one of the police officers was saying to her. She glared at him with mild irritation, ignoring the retorts thrown at her from all sides and shoving away a hand as it landed on her shoulder.

“No. NO!” she yelled, fear shaking her voice. “Look, I’m just… I don’t want to mess up your f- fucking c-crime scene! I’m just here for my brother. Where the hell is he? He called me… He asked me to come… Is he gone? Where-”

“Miss, I’m afraid we-”

“No!” Tony shouted over the police officer. “She- she’s not-”

“Do you know her?” An officer turned to ask him.

“What? N- I mean, yeah.”

“Is she here for you?”

“No!” Tony said, noticing the woman was watching him through narrowed eyes, the tiniest of tired smiles on her face. She looked worn out; red patches on her face blotted out her freckles and her hair was mussed into a strawlike bale with stalks wriggling in every direction but the right one.

“Who is she?”

“I told you, my name’s Julianne, you deaf bugger.” Julianne blew up through her fringe, fumbling in her pocket for something. “Where-”

“She’s Dave’s sister,” Tony explained. “He-”

“Where is he, Tony?” Julianne asked him, her voice shaking, as the police officers nervously backed away from them. Tony didn’t blame them. There was something about the look on Dave’s twin sister’s expression, with its mixture of fear and blind fury, that was vicious. Tony forced himself to swallow nerves before he started speaking.

“Julianne, I, uh…” Tony knotted his fingers together. “Dave’s gone to the hospital.”

“What?” Julianne’s eyes widened. “Why? What happened to him? He was-”

“Right after you hung up with him. He… I’m so sorry.” Tony swallowed and looked her in the eyes. “Look, I think-”

“What happened to him? Is he okay?”

“He’s going to be okay,” Tony said firmly, to himself as much as to her.

“No. No sensitive-woman shit.” Julianne planted her hands on her hips. “Truth. Now.”

“Okay, okay.” Tony took a breath. “Look, it was his arm… Something scratched him… He, uh… got sick and-”

Julianne nodded, swallowing a sob that hitched in her throat. “Okay. Right. Okay. Right, okay. He’s- He’s still alive?”

Tony bit his lip, closed his eyes, and hoped. “Yes.”

“Which hospital?”

“I don’t know. I think-”

“Bloody hell, how could you be his best fucking friend and not ask where they took him?” Julianne raised her voice to shout to the police officers. “Hey! Oy! Yeah, you! Where have they taken my brother?”

“Best…” Tony trailed off, breathing out as he remembered the kiss. “He told you I was his best friend?”

“Yeah, and then some.” Julianne grinned tiredly, raising one eyebrow. “He never shuts the fuck up about you.”

 Tony blinked in surprise; then, the affection turned into a wave of nauseating panic as he remembered what Dave was going through right now.

“Hey!” Julianne ran down the driveway and caught up with a police officer. Tony heard her repeating her demand to know where Dave was, and cursed himself for apparently not caring enough to ask himself.

“Right.” Julianne came back. “They’ve taken him to the hospital in town. I’m going, right now. You coming or staying?”

Tony widened his eyes. “Coming.”

“Right. Need a lift?”

Tony nodded, but suddenly, the silence was broken by the sound of yet another car engine. Unable to shake the image of the silver Mercedes from his head, Tony shot his gaze up to the end of the road. The fog was clearing, and he saw that the approaching vehicle wasn’t a car, but a van. A white news van.

“Oh, my fucking shit,” Julianne said, polluting her voice with a growl. The van swerved around her car and came to a stop at the end of the driveway. The door slid open, and out jumped half a dozen cameramen along with a bearded guy holding a microphone. Tony’s heart dropped and his stomach clenched in anger. He turned to Julianne, but she’d frozen and was drumming her fingers on the roof of her car with a thoughtful expression fixed on her face.

Tony finally worked up the courage to speak. “J, uh… Julianne?”

She turned back, fumbling in her pocket before producing a box of cigarettes. She stuck one in her mouth, produced a lighter, and lit it.

“You can call me Jules,” she said.

“Jules?”

“Yeah?”

“Should we get out of here?”

“Can’t. They’re blocking the car.” She pulled the cigarette from her mouth and spat a plume of smoke into the sky. “One second. I’ll sort this.”

She ran down the driveway to meet them.

“Excuse me?” Jules raised her voice, but she was ignored. “Hey. Oy!”

At last, someone turned to acknowledge her.

“Hel-lo!” She said, giving a sarcastic wave. “Look, we were just-”

“What happened here?” the reporter asked her, waving a hand for the cameraman to start rolling. “Were you here for the night? Did you see the massacre taking place?”

“Fucking shut up, would you?” Jules curled her lip. “Look, mate, your oaf of a van’s blocking my car. We need to leave, so could you get out of our way, please?”

The reporter paused, chewing on his lip. “Yeah, sure.”

“Thanks, mate.”

“If you give me an interview first.”

Tony tried and failed to stop his hand from curling into a fist. He raised his eyebrow, noticing Jules doing the same.

Please do as she says!” Tony raised his voice. The reporter and a few cameramen turned to look at him. “Please. My- my friend… We need to get to the damned hospital.”

“Yeah you heard him, boys!” Jules said. “My brother.” She waved her hand behind her. “We need to get to the fucking hospital now, so move your arses before I move them for you.”

“Okay, okay.” Tony spotted the slight twinge of shock on the reporter’s face. “Look, yeah. We’ll get out of the way. Let you through. But first, we just want to talk to you. Just two minutes. That’s all it’ll take.”

“What?” Jules opened her mouth. “Are you serious? How-”

“Both of you.” The reporter gestured to Tony. “You’re Tony Belgrave, right? Are you getting this?” He turned to his cameraman, who nodded.

“Uh, yeah.” Tony said.

“Would you come over here and give us something for Channel five?”

Tony moved out of the shot and then flipped him off. “Get bent.”

“Right. Uh… fine. Just you, then. Ready, sweetheart?”

The reporter adjusted his hair, signalling to the cameramen to start rolling, before turning back to Jules. Jules ran her hand up through her massive mess of hair, glaring at him with a mixture of fury and interest. Then, she giggled. It reminded Tony of the way Jean used to giggle whenever Andy was around; fake and wooden and transparent. Sarcastic, though. And livid.

“Are you fucking happy with your job, mate?” Jules asked him, then muttered, “Disgusting piece of shit.”

“C-come on, you’re live on Channel five,” the reporter said. One of the cameramen stepped in Jules’ way, pushing his camera closer to her face. “You must have something you’d like to say.”

“Oh, yeah, plenty,” Julianne said. “And if you don’t get out of my way, I guess I’ll have to give you what you want.”

“Great!” The reporter said, beckoning his cameraman closer. “Go ahead, sweetheart. You’re live.”

Tony waited for Julianne to protest, but when he looked at her, he saw that she’d fixed the camera with a hardened scowl and taken the cigarette out of her mouth.

“Right,” Julianne said, pointing at the reporter. “Right off the bat, if you call me sweetheart one more time I’ll rip your fucking head off and glue it to my wall. Secondly, I’ll reiterate; what the fuck is wrong with you if you think you have the right to plaster in on four fucking deaths hours after they’ve happened?”

Tony widened his eyes in shock. So did the reporter.

Julianne took another drag of her cigarette, and the news reporter stared at her in shock.

“We-”

“A half-dozen people died here last night,” Jules interrupted him. “Do you fucking understand that? There are families this morning who’re about to have their entire worlds turned upside-down and crushed, because the person they loved is dead, but to you, it just means another couple of quid on a cheque. What if that was your brother, you son of a bitch? Your child? Your fucking wife or mother or whatever? My brother, Dave, was rushed off in an ambulance an hour ago. He’d just got off the phone with me, because he wanted to tell me he loved me, and then they… they-” Jules’ voice started jarring, but she growled through it and managed to spit out the end of the sentence. “You know what? He could be dead for all I know. And you don’t care.”

Tony’s heart sank, still pounding.

“I want whoever’s watching to know something,” Jules said through tears, pointing at the news reporter. “So I’m going to say it, whether or not this camera’s still live.”

She turned her finger on the camera. The news reporter was holding his head high, but his lip was trembling. Tony knew the feed was still live, because the red light above the lens was still blinking.

THIS fucking news crew parked right in front of my fucking car as I tried to leave to find my brother.” Jules told the camera. “And you know what they told me? THEY told me I wasn’t allowed to leave until I gave them an interview. WHAT kind of fucking justice is THAT? Holding…” She choked back a sob. “Holding my family hostage for a wage. And do you know why they do that? Because they don’t give a fuck about me, and they don’t give a fuck about Tony, and they don’t give a fuck about Dave. All they care about is their fucking programme. They don’t care about the people behind this bullshit. They don’t see shit like this as real because they’re lucky. They’re lucky enough that they don’t have to see it as real. It’s easier to view life through a TV screen, isn’t it? See it all as statistics? ISN’T it?”

Tony watched with satisfaction as the news reporter bit his lip and exchanged a glance with his cameraman.

“Hey, mate,” Jules said, turning back to the reporter. “Look at me.”

He looked at her. She had him- and the nation- in the palm of her hand, and despite the tears on her face and the hellish anger in her voice, she seemed to be enjoying it. She fixed the news reporter with a livid glare, her black-brown eyes shining.

“Count yourself lucky for now.” Jules whispered. “I don’t know if you’ve ever lost someone, but if you haven’t, maybe you will one day. On that day, when reality punches you in the face, you’ll realise how wrong it is to try to make good TV out of horrendous human tragedies. The people who made Bump in the Night learned that last night. I learned that this morning. When will you learn that?”

There were tears running down her face, and only now did she raise her hand to fiercely wipe them away. Tony, along with the news crew and a few officers in earshot, were frozen. Rapt. Probably, and rightly, petrified.

Jules got her voice back as the cameraman lowered his camera. He raised it again, seemingly aware he might actually be capturing something that mattered for once.

“I’ll tell you something for nothing,” Julianne said. “I’m more than confident what I’ve just said hasn’t made a damned bit of difference to you. Who knows? Maybe you’ll never have to pay for all the shit you’ve done to people like us. Or maybe, just maybe…” she gazed back at the house, more smoke dribbling from her lips. “You’ll pay dearly. You play with fire, you get burned, motherfucker.

As Jules blinked away tears, letting a few escape onto her cheeks, Tony was forced to do the same. He could hear Dave’s fierce determination in her voice, but there was something darker there, too. Fury, sure. Desperation. Fear. Love. And it was making the realisation about the night before trickle back to him, drip by drip. It was only a matter of time before the dam burst and drowned him. He wanted to see Dave. He opened his mouth, but Jules beat him to it.

“Now,” she said, her voice deathly calm. “I’ll ask you one… last… time.” When she took another drag of her cigarette, she held her breath, piping the smoke out bit by bit. “Move your arse before I move them for you. I gave you what you asked for. You want good TV, sure, but I don’t care. I want to see my brother.”

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