Stretching the Writing Muscles

I’ve been thinking about writing prompts again. I’ve done them before and had a lot of fun with them, but I felt that they were getting in the way so I stopped. They’ve always had a place in my heart, though, and I feel that it’s good for me. I look at a situation and a have a think and I have to be careful, disciplined and controlled in my writing. This is a good thing and I have always likened it to going to the gym. It’s a way of pushing ideas around and building up the writing muscles.

Unfortunately I’m the sort of person who, if I decide to go left, promise myself that I’ll go left and plan to go left, will inevitably turn right. I’m not being awkward. I’m just being me. So while I’m making a plan, who knows how it will turn out. I don’t stress about it any more.

The plan (and please let me stick to it) is that I will post a prompt every Tuesday and then post my response to that post on the Monday. Anyone who wants to join in with the fun is incredibly welcome. The rules are here, but the chances of me checking that you stick to the rules are very low indeed. In general, write something that is inspired loosely by the picture, the quotation or a combination, in more than twenty words but less than five hundred words and have fun. And write something that you wouldn’t be ashamed to be caught reading on the bus. When you consider the sort of things people read on the bus, you’ve got some latitude.

Writing and journalling can be incredibly good for your mental health. They are certainly good for mine. If I get two thousand words written then I have enough of a boost to spring clean the kitchen. Over the next few months I’m going to be exploring ways to write more and more and the writing gym is part of that.

I hope that you will feel able to use the prompts in a way that benefits you. You may not want to share, or you may want to write a novel instead of the 500 words, or you may want to play with the ideas for a while in private before sharing and that’s okay. If you do feel able to share, I would really love to see what the wonderful things that you create.

And I hope that, whatever else happens, you can have fun.

Writing Prompt Number 1


The human heart is a strange vessel. Love and hatred can exist side by sideScott Westerfeld

Welcome to the Writing Gym, a place to have a little writing exercise away from other cares. It’s a fairly casual place, but there are always a few rules.

Rule Number One – the purpose of the Writing Gym is to encourage you to play around, have fun and perhaps develop ideas. The most important part of that is to have fun. Have lots of fun. Write weird stuff and crazy stuff and stuff that you would never, ever consider outside of this. It’s a gym (of sorts) so use it to stretch.

Rule Number Two – keep it more or less, sort of, kind of, in general clean. This isn’t a good place for erotica or out-there sexy stuff. If you want to write saucy, spicy, red hot stories then I think you should go for it with gusto, but not here. I’d pitch it as the sort of level that you would admit to your mother, or possibly a straitlaced teacher even if you wouldn’t read it in front of them. Mind you, a little passion isn’t a bad thing.

Rule Number Three – and not too much of the nasty stuff. Gratuitous gore, crazy violence and cruelty, especially to children and animals, aren’t welcome here. Go for a subtler scare instead.

Rule Number Four – ditch the hate and keep it kind. Would the nicest, kindest, loveliest person you know think less of you if they read that piece? Then don’t write it.

Rule Number Five – encourage others. If you see other stuff posted that’s linked from here, please be kind. There is a human being on the other side of that screen who bared a little of their soul writing this, so be gentle with them. And if you could have a look and leave a positive comment, that would be an awesome thing to do.

Rule Number Six – this is the boring stuff. The story should be something that is sparked by the picture and/or the quotation but doesn’t need to be a literal reference. Look at the picture, read the quotation and let yourself drift a little into ideas. The story should be between 20 and 500 words, but I’m not going to check and I’m certainly not going to shame, especially if it’s the good stuff. Post your story on a blog (you can find places to blog for free) or perhaps Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr or wherever you feel comfortable. Once you’ve done that, comment below the prompt with a link to your story. The prompt will be up on a Tuesday and really you should aim to have the story written by the following Monday. If you are late, that’s okay. I’m not going to check up or chase.

General Notes – This gym can be a gentle warm up for other stuff, an intense training ground, somewhere to hone a specific skill, or a place where you can practice without pressure. Please enjoy it in ways that work for you.

And if you have any questions or suggestions then let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Invitation Accepted Chapter Twenty Seven

The Orache Stone whispered softly to Kidder. “You would dominate all around you,” it said. “They would kneel at your feet, obey your every whim.”

“I don’t want that,” Kidder said, reacting before he could stop himself. The thought of his friends kneeling in front of him made him feel queasy. A sisterly hug from Carli or a fatherly clasp of his shoulder from Bron would mean far more.

“You wouldn’t?” The seductive tones of the Orache Stone were suddenly more surprised than seductive.

“You got it right the first time,” Kidder said. “I should be helping. But I don’t want to tell people what to do. What if I get it wrong?”

“How could you get it wrong with me leading you?” The Orache Stone whispered.

Kidder regretted letting his guard down. “Well, what do you know about looking after people?” he asked.

“I give them power,” the Orache Stone said. “I can give glory.”

“But that’s not really looking after people,” Kidder said. “It means cheering people up and making them happy as well as protecting them.”

“But isn’t being powerful the same as being happy?” the Orache Stone whispered. “Think about when you were last truly happy.”

Kidder fought to keep his face blank and his posture still, but a brief wave of longing ran through him at a memory. Gareth and Bron had been arguing about how to play cards after Darren had beaten them in a game of Old Maid. Mortimer had brought in a tray with all the good things on it and Carli had started pouring the tea. Sir Philip and Jasmine laughed at the argument as a fire flickered in the hearth. There had been a sense of deep friendship around the warm room and even Mortimer had been relaxed as they had tucked into miniature bacon and egg pies with crumpets and warm apple cake and custard to follow.

“That does not look familiar,” the Orache Stone said.

Kidder felt the echo of the stone’s emotion. He’d known it too much as a young stray. It was lonely and hurting and rejected and yearning for that feeling of belonging. “Are you a person?” he asked.

“I’m a stone,” it replied condescendingly.

“Not really,” Kidder said. “I mean, I suppose your in a stone or part of a stone or from a stone, but you’re not just a stone, are you? You have feelings.”

“No!” the Orache Stone snapped.

“I think I’ll call you Yvonne,” Kidder said. “So, Yvonne, what do you want?”

“No!” Yvonne said. “You can’t ask questions like that.”

“Why not?” Kidder asked. “I’m being reasonable. You’re trying to take me over. If you do that, then I’ll go mad and die. Why? And what do you get out of it?”

“Shut up!” Yvonne snapped back. “Stop it!”

“You’re like a stalker, aren’t you? Kidder said. “You need to control your owner. You need to be needed. You give all that power just to try and take a person over.”

“No!” Yvonne said. There was a long, strained silence broken only by the pattering of rain on the tiny cellar window. “What is the choice?”

“What do you want?” Kidder asked. The conversation was a mistake, but it was also fascinating.

“You should want me,” Yvonne said slowly.

“But you saw my happiest memory,” Kidder said. “Do you want that? That friendship?”

“It is a sort of desire,” Yvonne said. “The desire to be kind with each other.” There was confusion in its voice. “But where is the power? How can I belong without power?”

“So you trade power in return for being needed,” Kidder said. “But you kill those who have you. Mark’s dead, isn’t he?”

“He didn’t really want me,” Yvonne said bitterly. “He wanted little power, just for his wife.”

“I don’t want you,” Kidder said. “I don’t want to go mad and die.”

“And you don’t want power,” Yvonne said, her tone overflowing with confusion.

“Not like that,” Kidder said. “I want family.”

“I can’t have a family,” Yvonne whispered. “But I can have obsession.” Kidder flinched as the full force of the stone’s power hit him. “You should be obsessed with me.”

“No,” Kidder gasped. “I won’t. I want friends.”

The silence was louder now, the tapping of the raindrops on the small pane of glass echoed around the cellar like a soldier’s drum. “There is no such thing as friends,” Yvonne said, its voice thick with emotion. “There are allies and enemies.”

Kidder went to fur to get a clearer sense of the sounds. “Are you crying?” he asked incredulously.

“That room,” Yvonne said. “Those people. That kindness. I want it. How do I make that happen for me?”

“You can’t force it,” Kidder said. “You can’t force people to like you or love you. And it’s not always like that.” He frowned. “You can read my mind?”

“At least the surface of it,” Yvonne said. “I can manage to see images.” There was a slight pause. “I can look deeper if I have to but…”

“It wouldn’t feel good, would it?” Kidder said. “If you forced deeper then we couldn’t talk like this.” Again he flinched at the pang of emotion surging from the stone. “Does anyone talk to you?” He waited for Yvonne’s answer, but after a long, uncomfortable silence, shrugged. “I’ll show you the harder bits.”

Kidder could sense the unease as he tried to remember the awkward parts of living with a paladin and a brownie. He remembered Mortimer having a screaming fit because the chimney in the living room had become blocked and then dislodged with soot all over the newly cleaned carpet. He remembered the fear as Sir Philip had been carried in after a bad fight and how he and Jasmine had spent most of the night checking on him. He remembered the worry as Darren had been swaying with exhaustion as he drove out another dark spirit. He remembered the argument with Rhys, the nerves of trying to fit in with the people at the mill and the terror of being rejected and thrown out like he had been before.

“You could force them to like you,” Yvonne said softly.

“No,” Kidder said. “I could perhaps make them respect me. I could certainly make them fear me. I couldn’t get friends by power.”

“Why did you call me Yvonne?” it asked.

Kidder grinned. “I’ve always liked the name,” he said. “But I don’t know anyone called that.”

“It’s the name of a female,” Yvonne said. “Do you desire a female?”

Kidder blushed to the roots of his hair. “Well, yes, but you can’t force it,” he said. “I mean, if it’s going to be worth it. You need to be something more. Do you know how Mark felt about Claire?”

Yvonne sighed. “I could see quite a lot of his love for Claire,” it said. “It was desperation. He felt that she made him safe and kept him on the right path. He feared that without her, he would be nothing. He was not wrong.”

“I don’t want that,” Kidder said. “But sometimes when I see Carli and Gareth together, and they seem so relaxed and working it all out. Or I see Darren and Jasmine and she just glows with happiness when Darren walks in. I’d like that.” He looked directly at the stone on its plinth. “You can’t force that.”

“I’m sure that there are ways,” Yvonne said. “So you like the name Yvonne?”

“Yes, I’ve always liked the name,” Kidder said. “And you can’t force me to like you.” He flinched back as pain spiked from the stone. “But you could be a friend.”

“Is this manipulation?” Yvonne asked.

“Probably,” Kidder said. “I don’t know. Do you like Edragor? He’s the one who really wants your power. Perhaps you should link to him.”

“He’s too scared of me,” Yvonne said scornfully. “He would use others like a tool.” It paused for a moment. “My owners have done bad things,” it whispered.

“Yes,” Kidder said. “You were with Fang when he left me for dead.” There was another long silence.

“I’m sorry,” Yvonne said.

“It’s okay,” Kidder said. “It wasn’t really you. To be fair, it wasn’t really Fang either. It was the whole mess of how you were together.”

“I remember,” Yvonne said, its voice barely above a breath. “It must have hurt.”

“Yeah,” Kidder said with a grimace. “But that’s when I ended up with the paladin and my friends.”

“But you were friends with Fang,” Yvonne said slowly. “And he knew that you should be protected. Fang knew that you wanted to do the right thing.” It paused. “And the fear of being attacked, the fear of being weak drove him to attack you.”

“I don’t want that,” Kidder said.

“Edragor wants bad things,” Yvonne said, its voice still a soft whisper. “He wants power and is indifferent to others. He doesn’t crave friendship.”

“He seems half mad already,” Kidder said.

“It’s a different type of madness,” Yvonne said. “They have all been mad, in their ways,” she added softly. “Right from the start. There was a madness craving power. That’s what I remember at the start. The hunger for power was a desperation.” Its voice rang with sorrow. “Fang was mad. His mind was wandering through drink and other things. He was desperate and feared being challenged.”

“I remember,” Kidder said.

“Mark was already deep in his madness,” Yvonne continued. “His madness was his obsession with Claire and his fear of failing and being a monster. He was far gone before I even touched him.”

“He had good friends and a loyal pack,” Kidder said. “He should have trusted them.”

“He feared them,” Yvonne said sadly. Her tone changed. “But your fear is different.”

Kidder shook his head. The conversation was spiralling in directions he couldn’t expect. “Are you manipulating me?” he asked.

“I don’t know how,” Yvonne said. “Please…”

Kidder could feel the ache of loneliness in its voice. “If you promise something, will you stick to it?” he asked.

“I was made by the elfen,” Yvonne said. “I have to keep my word.”

“Are you as tricky as the elfen?” Kidder asked. “If you give your word, will you keep to the spirit of it, the intention of the words? Or will you twist it?”

Yvonne hesitated. “If you promise me something, will you keep your word?” it asked. “You’re a werewolf. You could lie.”

“Trust is hard,” Kidder said. “You can’t force it. But why don’t we try. Let’s make a deal.”

You can read the story from the beginning here

Invitation Accepted Chapter Twenty Six

“It could be worse,” Carli said, patting her uncle’s arm.

Luke stared at her and then looked back to the smoke filled building. “I suppose so,” he said.

“No-one got hurt,” Carli said. “The fire alarm worked, everyone shut down and got out and it was all quickly contained.” She glanced across to Gareth who was sweating and smoke stained.

Gareth coughed as he came over. “Everyone got out fine,” he said. “And it’s only the stuff in the stores that got burned.”

“This could ruin us,” Luke said quietly.

“No!” Carli cried. “It’s just a little fire. The building is still here.”

Luke shook his head. “We’re going to have to get rid of almost all the stock,” he said. “We’ll have to dump it all. The stuff that isn’t burned or soaked from the sprinklers and fire fighters will stink of smoke. We’re talking a loss of thousands. The stores will have to be completely refitted.” He sighed. “And if it’s to go again then the whole place will need to be rewired.”

“At least it was only the stock areas that got soaked,” Gareth said. “That and the knitwear looms. And what about insurance? You must have that.”

“That’s something,” Luke said. “It’ll cover the lost stock. But I only got the basics. It won’t cover lost time and it won’t cover the rewiring.”

Gareth slowly walked over to Carli and hugged her. She sagged a little and leaned against him. “It’s okay,” he said. He took a deep breath and looked around. “This is salvageable. We just need to be methodical about it.” He looked around and started giving orders. “Jed, Syed, Jasmine, I want you to start getting all the electronics out of there. It’s going to be damp and smoky so the quicker that they’re out of there, the better for them. Label each computer, printer, scanner, whatever, tape the wires to the item and get them over to the old drying shed. Keith!” Gareth looked around for the boggart normally found in on the weaving floor. “Keith, find some trollies for the office stuff, then we’ll need your help checking over the machines. Most of the sewing room should be fine but we need to check.”

“Gotcha,” Keith said before loping off towards the sheds, closely followed by Jasmine, Syed and Jed.

Gareth looked down at Carli. “Go to the warehouse, pick up a load of boxes and start packing up your office. Take photos as you go for the insurance, just in case,” he said. “Pat from the canteen should be able to help you.” He gave her shoulders a quick squeeze and then gave her a little push towards Pat. “Load up your car and mine and you can start working from the cottage,” he added. “The work isn’t going to stop.” Gareth moved Luke a little away from the rest of the workers who were milling around. “The electrics are toast,” he said. “All the wiring is fried. We’ve got a few working electric outlets in the old sheds and that’s it. We’ll need to check and see what’s survived. The computers had surge protectors, but I’m not sure about the new looms. Their computer parts are probably fried as well.” He watched Luke go pale. “It’s okay. That will be covered by the insurance and we can take the opportunity to upgrade,” Gareth said. “And we still have the old looms that we were using for the blankets for the special orders. They can run on generators and I know for a fact that you’ve got a couple of those stashed away in the sheds.”

Luke nodded. “That’s right,” he said. “And we’ll get the night shift working if nothing else,” he said.

“We need to get a price for washing, drying and folding all the smoke damaged stock,” Gareth said. “If we sell it off at a bit over cost, we’ll at least keep the cash flow.”

“You’ve been paying attention in those classes,” Luke said. Colour was returning to his face as he started to pace. “The dyes were in the storerooms along with most of the yarn.”

“It won’t take long to order replacement stock in,” Gareth said. “Besides, we need to be methodical.” He looked around. “Get in touch with the insurers. You need to know what we can do and when. If we take pictures as we go, we can get the building empty.” Gareth waved a hand. “There’s plenty of people here right now who need to keep busy until they’ve had a chance for the adrenalin to wear off. We need to get as much cleared out, dried off and into the sheds as we can.” Gareth took Luke’s arm and lowered his voice. “The night shift, those workers on that particular loom? They’re brownies. If you want the best cleaning job you’ve ever had, they’ll get you the best contacts and the best price. It won’t be cheap, but it will be worth every penny. Trust me.”

Luke looked at Gareth for a long time. “Since you came with your new ideas, business has soared,” he said. “And with Carli’s designs, the money is rolling in. On the other hand we’ve got werewolves, brownies, goblins, boggarts and the fair folk all over the place and some strange stuff happening.” He shook his head. “I know that the electrical short was overdue, and it could have been a lot worse, and that the deal with these other types could save our bacon, but it’s not canny.” Luke shuddered. “And still no sign of Kidder?”

Gareth shook his head. “We’ve got people out looking but there’s been no sign,” he said. “The main hope that we have now is a magic ritual, believe it or not.”

Luke stared at him. “I’ve heard everything now,” he said. He looked at the people milling around. “I suppose I do believe it because with everything else…” He pursed his lips and nodded to himself. “You get everyone moving. You’ve got a way with you. We’ll need the room with the old looms sorted, the other old looms brought out of storage and put roughly in the right places. Vince can sort out the generators and Carli can sort out some extra patterns for the blankets. They’ll keep the lights on for a week or two.” He nodded. “We can do a fire sale on the internet and keep people busy there.”

“Your office and the archives need to be packed up,” Gareth said. “You should supervise that, with all the confidential stuff.”

“We need to get everything out,” Luke said. His gaze roamed over the old mill building. “Like I said, you and Carli have changed everything…” He turned suddenly to Gareth. “Are you two getting on okay?”

Gareth was thrown by the change of subject. “Yes, we’re fine,” he said. “I mean, we’re doing okay.”

“And you’re looking after her?” Luke said. “After she got stalked by that werewolf, well, we were all worried. It’s better that she’s safe up here.”

“I’ll always look after,” Gareth said. He looked over towards Carli as she and Pam discussed their plans and his heart warmed a little. “I’ll always be there for her.” He shook his head. “But what were you saying about getting everything out?”

“That mill hasn’t had a proper clear out since 1902,” Luke said. “There may not be attics, but there are cellars that have been locked up since I was a lad and there are all sorts of junk stuffed into the corners. It’s like the dyes, remember, those months ago? Everything has been just stacked and dumped and shoved to one side. We’re going to empty the mill, give it a good fettling and get everything set out. Besides, I don’t want to wait until there’s another accident.”

Gareth stared at Luke and turned back to the mill. “That’s big job,” he said quietly. The mill was massive and less than a quarter was in use.

Luke nodded. “But it’s overdue, lad, and now’s the chance.” He nodded to the rest of the staff. “Keep them busy today and they can have tomorrow off. You, Carli and me are going to sit down at my house tomorrow and work out what happens next. I’ll call Syed in as well, and Keith.” He nodded to himself. “I’m getting too old for this game, but you and Carli can make the difference. It’s not winding down anymore.”

It was Bron that replied. “It sounds like you have a lot of plans in mind,” he said. “Plans which could use an assistant manager.”

Luke frowned. “Yes, an assistant manager would be very welcome but it’s not going to be you, lad, not with your second job,” he said. “Just get everyone moving and send some boxes up to my office.”

“I’ll get on it,” Bron said.

“Hang on a minute,” Luke said. “This magical ritual thing – will you need space for it?”

Bron nodded. “I’m no expert,” he said. “But there’ll be a lot of people standing around and doing what they do. Why?”

“Kidder’s one of ours,” Luke said. He nodded at the mill. “And there is a lot of empty floor space in there, in an empty building, and it will all be nice and clean. Don’t make too much mess, just get Kidder back to us. I’ll make sure that you have the keys and the alarm codes.”

Bron swallowed a lump in his throat. “Thank you, sir, it’s a help.”

Luke grunted. “Glad to hear it. Now let’s get moving.”


Dan jumped as Edragor shut the door to his office. “I didn’t hear you come in, my lord,” he said.

“I know,” Edragor said smoothly. “You were deep in thought.”

“I’ve been researching a suitable subject for your… experiments,” Dan said. “But I’m struggling a little. Any subject will have some damage. I’m not sure how to prioritise.” He looked briefly up at Edragor. “If we could consider the sort of damage that would be unimportant to a resurrected subject then I could refine my search.” Dan felt his gut heave at the thought of it.

“That’s a valid point,” Edragor said. “For the Halloween project, I think we should use Claire. That will give us a baseline. Mark is unlikely to last the night, so we don’t need to worry about him.”

Dan tried to stifle his sigh of relief. “And you asked me to look for a suitable place to perform the rituals,” he said.

“Yes, of course,” Edragor said, pacing around Dan’s small, paper-strewn office. “The space here is a little limited, especially as there will be two rituals with different requirements to run in sequence. Besides, I know that they will be on the watch for magical influences so I don’t want to lead any hostile onlooker to our home. Have you found somewhere useful?”

Dan grinned. “I’ve found the perfect place,” he said. “Kidder was working at a place called Ossett Mills, not far from here. Yesterday there was a small electrical fire and the mill was evacuated and closed until all the electrics can be checked. The place will empty.”

“How bad was the fire?” Edragor asked.

“Not too bad,” Dan said. “But they’ve cleared the entire building. We would be undisturbed. And it’s not even in the main buildings,” he added. “There are some cellars that haven’t been disturbed in years. They’re empty, they’re not part of the alarm system, and because the building was in use, the cellars are in pretty good shape.” He risked a glance at Edragor’s face before looking quickly back to his computer. “And Kidder may appreciate it.”

Edragor reached out and caught Dan’s chin in his thin fingers. “Look at me, Dan,” he said. “You should be comfortable when you look me in the eye.”

Dan stared helplessly into Edragor’s hypnotic gaze. “I’m sorry, sir,” he said.

Edragor smiled a thin smile. “You are still too tender hearted,” he said. “You can’t bear the thought of pain to our… subjects.” He wagged an indulgent finger at Dan. “We’ll practice on Claire straight after we link Kidder to the Orache Stone. We can collect data then.” He frowned. “And perhaps we can do some small tests on cats or dogs, to see how they react after being killed by drugs and then revived.” He patted Dan’s cheek. “That makes a lot of sense. Start making the preparations for the ritual. I’ll go and inform Kidder of the good news.”

Dan watched him go. He’d found out about the fire and the cellars from a delivery guy who was hanging around Dan’s favourite coffee shop. According to the delivery guy, though, the mill was far from empty. There were electricians around all day and patrols at night. All the alarms and cameras were functional. Dan may not be able to stop Edragor, but he may be able to catch the attention of those who could.

You can read the story from the beginning here

Choosing the Battles

rain dropping from roof
Photo by Anna King on Unsplash

Tim put another log on the fire and then leant back. He hadn’t bothered to switch any lamps on as the light faded, and the flickering glow danced around the room, throwing shadows against the wall. It was that time of year again, when he wondered whether he had done the right thing, whether he had chosen the right path. A scatter of rain hit the window and he could hear the wind rising in the trees. There was a knock on the door.

Tim walked down the hallway, switching the lights on as he went, and checked the peephole. You didn’t get many surprise visitors this far out in the country, and he didn’t think it would be Estelle. She was visiting friends over in Rochdale and was staying the night. He did not expect to see a thin, hunched young lad, damp and bedraggled in the porch light. It could be a trick. Tim slid the chain on and cracked open the door. “Yes?”

“Mr Timothy Arndale McGuigan?” the young lad asked, shivering a little.

“Who are you?” Tim answered, peering around him for any possible accomplices.

“I’m Kane Thelwell, and I’m here on behalf of Major General Alistair Arndale McGuigan.” Water dripped from his plain brown hair. “He’s asked me to pass on some messages.”

“Alistair McGuigan is dead.” Tim said flatly. “He can send no messages.”

Kane turned, as if listening to someone. “No, I can’t say that! Or that! Okay…” Kane squinted through the rain back at Tim. “The Major General says that you wanted to call your first cat Cowshed, because a friend had a cat called Cola as…”

“Alright, alright.” Tim unhooked the chain and ushered the lad in. “You’re soaked!”

Kane managed a smile. “It’s a bit wet out there, sir.”

“Stay there!” Tim ordered. “My wife would kill me if I let you drip on the sofa.”

After a brief whirlwind of activity, Kane was perched on a bundle of towels on the sofa, his hair roughly dried and a large mug of hot chocolate thrust into his hand. Tim put another log on the fire and sat back in his chair. For a moment he watched the stiff winds whipping the flames up into the chimney and turned to Kane. “How did you know about my cat Kimble?”

Kane glanced uneasily at a space at his side. “I can see ghosts.” He said. “Sometimes I get paid to help people out with hauntings and stuff.” He glanced again and nodded. “But this time I’m doing a favour for Major General McGuigan, as a way of saying thank you for his help.”

“What do you mean?” Tim said.

Kane shook his head. “The Major General wants to pass on a message to you. He says he knows that he always told you to be a soldier like him. And that you became a solicitor instead. He says that he talked about you going after money instead of glory.”

Tim pressed his lips together and turned back to the fire. After all these years, the words still stung. “I am a damn good solicitor, you know. I’ve been invited to apply for a position as a District Judge.”

Kane paused and listened to the unseen presence at his side. “But you’ll take a pay cut if you do that.” He said.

Tim shrugged. “I’m not exactly on the breadline, and judges get a respectable salary. Besides, I’ll still get a share of the profits from my firm.”

Kane sipped his hot chocolate and listened again. “The Major General says that you were handling a divorce recently, the Atkins. He said that you encouraged them to reconcile.”

“They were just going through a bad patch.” Tim said. “It would have been wrong to force the divorce.”

“But you could have made a lot of money out of it.” Kane said. “The Major General says that the other solicitor was itching for a fight.”

“They didn’t want to divorce.” Tim said. “They just needed to have a long talk. And they’re happy now.”

“The Major General said you walked away from that fight.” Kane said.

“It was the moral thing to do.” Tim said coldly.

Kane cocked his head to one side. “But you went in hard for that financial settlement.” He said. “The Cawlstone one. The Major General said you fought that like a tiger. He said you spent hours on the books over that.”

“It was the right thing to do. I was merely pursuing a fair settlement against unfair tactics by the respondent.” Tim said. “It was a challenge.”

Kane listened for a moment, then nodded. “The Major General said that you did the right thing both times. That you showed excellent judgement and good leadership.” He paused and nodded. “He says to tell you that you made the right choice, in those and the other cases he saw. That you choose your battles with skill, use well considered tactics and strategy and that he is proud of you. He says you would have made a good officer, but you’re doing pretty good where you are.” Kane listened again. “He says to tell you properly, that Major General Alistair Arndale McGuigan is proud of you, his son, and that he always will be.”

Tim swallowed. “Thank you.” He said. “And I’m proud of him.” He hesitated. “I love you, Dad.”

Kane looked at the space next to him and smiled a little. “I think he loves you too.” He said. “He says, goodbye.”

“Wait, Dad, hang on!” Tim leapt to his feet, but Kane was shaking his head.

“He’s gone home now, passed over. He’s not here anymore.”

Tim lowered himself slowly back into the armchair. He found himself breathing a little harder, as if he had been running. He let the conversation sink in slowly. He turned to Kane. “Thank you.”

“No problem.” Kane said awkwardly, sipping his hot chocolate.

“Seriously, thank you.” Tim said. “It means a lot.” He managed a smile. “And that is just the way Dad would have said it.”

“He seemed a bit hard work, but he was a good man.” Kane said. “He helped me out with a problem last week, and I don’t think I could have managed without him.”

Tim smiled a little sadly. “He was a great man to have on your side.” He hesitated. “You say you are employed to sort out hauntings?”

Kane nodded. “Well, sort of sort out. I can see and hear ghosts, but I can’t make them do what I want.” He thought for a moment. “I could never have got the Major General to do anything he didn’t want to.”

Tim laughed. “That sounds like Dad. But what is your fee?”

Kane shook his head. “No fee tonight. It’s my way of saying thank you to the Major General. I don’t mind.”

Tim looked at the hunched young lad, with his battered trainers and worn, cheap jeans. “I feel like I owe you a great deal.” He said. “Are you sure there is nothing I can do for you?” He watched the emotions cross Kane’s face, as he struggled to resist temptation, before he gave in.

“Could you give me a lift to the station?” Kane asked.  

Invitation Accepted Chapter Twenty Five

“I need to get all the permissions from you,” Steve said. “I can do a magical trace on him and, with all the stuff you’ve given me, I’ve got a decent chance of finding him.” He glanced at the men surrounding him in the living room in Gareth’s cottage. “But I won’t do it if there’s any doubt from you.”

“Why should there be doubt?” Gareth asked. “Kidder is missing. Everything is going crazy and the dark creatures are starting to creep out. He could be hurt or worse. What if Edragor has taken him to replace Mark?”

“Because we’ve no guarantees that Kidder wants to be found,” Bron answered softly. “And how many of us here will be giving Steve access to Kidder’s very soul without being able to check what he’s doing? No offence,” he added, turning to Steve. “But none of us here are really up on magic.”

“None taken,” Steve said. “You can’t check what I’m doing and that’s why I need you all to agree to this. Though, at the risk of sounding like I’m hustling, we don’t have much time. There’s been an outbreak of rogue ghouls at St James Hospital which Lord Marius and Phil the boggart are still sorting out while Darren has practically forgotten what sleep is. I’ve been working with the ifrits on the edge of Bradford as well as the princes of Wakefield and Hebden Bridge. We’re all struggling while Edragor controls the Orache Stone.” He looked away from the others. “And there’s a good chance that Kidder hasbeen taken by Edragor. It makes sense. So apart from wanting to rescue a half grown werewolf cub that doesn’t deserve half of what’s hit him, it may be the key to finally stopping this.”

“And you’re asking us,” Gareth said. “What about Kidder’s family – his pack?”

“That’s who we are,” Bron said softly. “We’re his family at the cottage with Mortimer and whoever else stays, like Darren and Sir Philip. Tyler is the chief of the werewolves in Otley and he’s been looking out for Kidder, and he also has the final say on the welfare of werewolves in that domain. Rhys is the chief of the Leeds werewolves and for a while he worked with Kidder. We’re his family and that’s that.”

Steve stared briefly at Gareth and Bron speaking from the same mouth, then dismissed it. “I need to start soon if it’s going to happen,” he said. “Things are coming to a crisis.”

Tyler looked at Steve thoughtfully. “I know your reputation,” he said. “But I don’t know you. None of us here do. And you’ve brought Ian Tait along to vouch for you. That makes things complicated.”

Rhys shook his head. “You should be glad to see him,” he told Tyler, his face hard. “Ian got things wrong, was a stray, took in strays, made things right and he’s a werewolf that can do magic. You should spend time with him.”

“I was never a stray like that,” Tyler snapped. He stopped and held up his hands. “No offence, Ian, but we need to be careful.”

“None taken,” Ian said. “You look after your own. That’s what a pack means. Kidder isn’t really in a proper pack, that’s why you’re asking questions. But we can’t sit around going over and over the same concerns. Halloween is approaching. We should do any ritual then.”

There was a long, tense silence. “Are you sure?” Bron asked. “That’s Samhain, the Day of the Dead, the turn of the year. That’s a tricky time to do a ceremony.”

Steve grimaced. “It’s not ideal, but it could mean that we get the power to break through the defences. Edragor is good, really good at this sort of thing. I’ve been unpicking layer after layer of misdirection looking for the Orache Stone and I’ve pushed through a few wards with just brute force, but I haven’t got enough to work with to really break through all the barriers. The scraps that we found at Bron’s grave site weren’t any help. Using Kidder’s clothing and the hair on his comb would give me a real advantage.”

“Edragor is delusional,” Ian said. “I mean, he doesn’t think that the world is flat or that Atlantis used to be at Milton Keynes, but he has some strange ideas about the old festivals.” He looked around the quiet group. “He thinks that he can control the power running through the old channels. You can maybe guide a little of it if you prepare well and keep focused, but you can’t take on the whole thing. Edragor is going to try and use the Orache Stone to channel more power than makes sense. He’s going to be too busy on Halloween to keep his wards up. It’s going to be our best chance.”

“That’s three days away,” Bron said. “Three more days for Kidder to wait for rescue. But is it enough time to prepare?”

Steve nodded. “I’ve been trying a few different things,” he said. “And I’ve eliminated a lot of angles. Ian and I can get something together and I have all the supplies.”

“I’ll need to speak to Lady Mary,” Tyler said. “Princes are always against this sort of thing at a festival.” He frowned. “But you’re making sense. She’ll almost certainly agree.”

“I’ll have to speak to Lord Marius,” Rhys said. “Although I guess that he’s already given you permission.”

Steve nodded. “You’ve got my number. Let me know by midday tomorrow if there are any problems. Otherwise we’ll go ahead with the ritual.”

“I know this is a bad night to ask,” Ian said. “But we’ll need you all there. We’ll need to have people to watch our backs. The ritual can’t be interrupted. And Steve and I may not be in any state to go after Kidder and Edragor. To be honest, we’ll probably be wrecks. We’ll need to have someone else take part in any rescue.”

“And if Edragor hasn’t got Kidder?” Bron asked

“We should be able to manage a second ritual before dawn,” Ian said. He glanced over at Steve. “For Kidder’s sake, I hope that he’s just out of it somewhere, though no-one can give a good explanation about why he’s missing. I wish my instincts weren’t telling me that we’ll only need one ritual.”


Dan carefully straightened the mouse mat to align perfectly with the edge of the desk and the laptop. “If the next subject doesn’t agree to take the Orache Stone then we will have problems,” he said. “The current subject is failing.”

“He’s dying,” Edragor said. “He’ll probably last until Halloween.” He frowned. “I can’t take the risk of the Orache Stone being without an owner. I can hear it calling as it is.” He whirled around suddenly and pointed a bony finger at Dan. “And you are far too knowledgeable for me to risk with that stone. If the new subject doesn’t take the stone willingly then I’ll force it. Once the power is running through the mutt then we should have no problem directing things in the way we want.” He whirled around. “Follow me,” he snapped.

Dan stood slowly and trudged after him. He had to get out of here. He couldn’t carry on. How long would it be before Edragor turned on him? And the experiments were beyond anything he had ever imagined. It had been bad enough with the rats, so bad that he had created computer algorithms to simulate the experiments. But watching Mark dwindle and Kidder confined and coerced was stripping Dan of his soul. He wanted to learn magic, he wanted to get power but not like this. He didn’t want to be Edragor. “Are you sure that you can make the subject take the stone?” he asked.

Edragor waved a dismissive hand. “If we force it into his hands then he’ll have no choice,” he said. He strode confidently into the confinement room. It took Dan all of his courage to follow him. On a cot to one side was Claire, her remains perfectly preserved and highlighted by a glow of magic. In the centre of the room was Mark who was hooked up to a bank of tubes and wires as the husk of a strong and vibrant man slid towards death. Dan had loathed him when they first met and had thought Mark’s obsession with Claire dangerously unbalanced. He still wouldn’t have wished this living death on the werewolf.

“How is he still alive?” Dan asked.

“With a help of a little magic and a lot of science,” Edragor said, ignoring Mark and striding over to Claire. “But it’s magic alone that keeps Claire perfectly preserved. I wonder if she is the best candidate for our first trial. The cancer severely weakened her and I think I need something a little more robust.” He glanced over at Mark. “Of course, I’ll have to keep her here until Mark dies. I don’t quite trust him, even in this condition.” Edragor frowned. “Perhaps I could find someone experimenting with drugs and arrange an overdose.”

Dan felt sick. “Murder could bring unwanted attention,” he said carefully.

“I suppose a little grave robbing can’t be helped,” Edragor said. He tapped a finger on his chin thoughtfully. “It will be easier if I can make the first attempt at reanimation early in the Orache Stone’s possession of the new subject, when he still has all his vital energy. On the other hand, finding a good subject for reanimation requires thought. No matter. Let’s see if our test subject has succumbed to temptation.”

Edragor walked briskly down the hall and unlocked a door. “Perhaps I should let him transform back to human shape,” he said. “What is it they call it? Coming out of fur?” He opened the door and switched on the light before striding down the concrete steps. “He may be susceptible to alcohol in a different shape.”

“It’s very hard to get werewolves drunk,” Dan reminded him. “It doesn’t seem to matter what shape they are. Remember, we’ve seen werewolves who are in their wolf shape happily drinking beer out of dog bowls.”

“I daren’t risk drugs,” Edragor said. “Although perhaps some valerian.” He paused in thought at the door at the foot of the stairs and then dismissed the idea. “Let’s see if our subject has succumbed to temptation. I haven’t felt a shift in the magical currents, but I may yet be surprised.” He opened the door into the cellar.

Kidder was still locked in wolf form, huge and muscled with gleaming fur. Here and there was a hint of youth but it was still an overlarge, adult, male wolf sitting on the floor of the cage. He was up on his haunches, his eyes gleaming like gold as he stared at the Orache Stone on its stand. He didn’t stand as Edragor approached the cage. Instead he tracked Edragor and Dan with his eyes as the men approached.

“You can hear it calling,” Edragor said. “You can hear it whispering to you. Should I pass it to you in the cage?”

The great wolf barely glanced at Edragor but kept his focus on the stone.

“There is no escaping this fate,” Edragor said. “You will take the Orache Stone, one way or another.”

The wolf remained impassive.

Edragor gestured to Dan who scampered to bring clothes over to Kidder. “After tonight you’ll find yourself able to switch back to human,” he said. “Perhaps when your more rational mind is in control we can come to a civilised arrangement.” He whirled around and stalked off.

Dan stared deep into Kidder’s luminous eyes. They were as rational as anything Dan had ever seen. For a moment he was caught in their amber glow, transfixed by the concentration and intent behind them. Then he dumped the clothes next to the cage bars and fled.

You can read the story from the beginning here

The Coffee Shop

empty chairs and tables
Image from Unsplash taken by Van Thanh

“Please, could you just consider it?” Jane looked around into thin air. “It would make such a difference.”

Kane looked at the ghost of Bob Jones who was twisting the shade of his flat cap around in his hands. “Times are hard at the moment,” he said.

“They always are, son, they always are,” Bob said. “But that’s no reason to lose my dignity. I’m not one to put myself forward and I’ve always been respectable.”

“Can you see him?” Jane asked.

Kane nodded. “He’s not very comfortable with this, and I can see his point of view.”

“All I’m asking is a little help,” Jane said. “I’m not asking for clanking chains and moaning. All I want is a little presence.”

“Presence?” Kane asked.

“Yeah, a bit of a chill sometimes, or perhaps unexpected draughts. Something lowkey.” Jane looked around, trying to guess where Bob was standing. “What can Mr Jones do anyway?”

“That’s a very personal question,” Bob said, affronted.

Kane turned to Bob. “You must have seen the amount of work Jane has put in to re-open this café. She just needs a little help.”

“It’s not the same since she bought it,” Bob said. “I was coming here for years before I died here, and I always came in for Ellen’s smile. She had a lovely smile and she always made sure I had an extra bit of bacon.” Bob smiled reminiscently. “So when I passed here, well, I just hung around. I still got to see Ellen’s smile, though she found it a strain at the end, as she got older.” His tone changed. “Then this young lass waltzes in and changes everything. It’s not the same. I miss Ellen.”

Kane turned to Jane. “Bob is talking about Ellen, the former owner. I think he’s worried that she’s being forgotten now someone new has bought the shop. Do you know her or any of her family that may be able to speak up for you.”

The colour drained from Jane’s face. “Ellen Carson? She ran this place for years, with the best bacon butties and meat and potato pies for miles.”

“They were absolutely the best,” Bob said, “And she always had a cheerful word for anyone coming in.”

“But it was losing money in the end. People weren’t coming in. They wanted fancy coffee and my poor grandmother couldn’t keep up. She took a holiday away to think about it but she just faded when she was away from it. She passed in her sleep.” Jane looked down at her hands and a tear slid down her face. “I miss her. I promised her I’d make a go of this place, and I inherited it fair and square, but the costs of renovation have taken all my savings. I have to make this work.”

Kane stepped back as Bob peered forward then looked at Kane. “Is she Ellen’s granddaughter?”

Kane looked helplessly at Jane. “Can you show anything to link you with Ellen?”

Jane stared for a moment and then dug into her pocket. “How about this?” She pulled out her phone and flicked through the pictures. “Here.” She held it in the air.

Bob walked around Kane to look at the picture. “That’s Ellen sitting with you! I mean, she isn’t as young as she was when I met her, but she always had the sweetest smile.” He frowned and looked at Jane, tilting his head and frowning. “Do you know, I think you do have a look of her about you.”

“I think he believes you,” Kane said.

“I think I do,” Bob said. “I tell you what, I’ll make a deal. I’ll haunt this place – respectfully, with no hanky panky, as long as there’s a picture of Ellen on the wall.” The spirit’s face softened. “She made a great cup of tea as well. She knew what I liked – strong enough for a mouse to run across it.”

Kane tried to hide his grimace at the thought of the tea and passed the message on to Jane.

“It feels strange, knowing that he knew Gran,” Jane said. “But nice, like having a fairy godfather.”

Bob snorted, but there was a smile in his eyes. “And the reason that infernal new coffee machine keeps messing up is that the workman put one of the switches in upside down. I watched him as he was trying to sweet talk some lady on the phone. The foreman was far too forgiving. It would never have happened in my day.”

Kane passed the message on, keeping any comments to himself about his own experience of past workmen. He turned to Bob. “You won’t get carried away, will you?”

“As I said, I’ve always been respectable.” Bob was firm. “A few unexpected chills won’t hurt anyone, just a little decent spookiness.” He grinned, a gleam in his spectral eye. “And if Jane takes down the picture of her grandmother once or twice a year, I’ll do something special for it. Not at Halloween,” he added hastily. “That would be cheap. I won’t do cheap. But it will be good just to keep a story going. So it’s still fun to come here for one of those strange coffees, but there’s a little extra.” He puffed up his ghostly chest. “Ellen would have liked that.”

Kane and the Haunted House Chapter Four

Kane sat in his car in the carpark outside the retirement home and leaned his head on the steering wheel. He had spent a lot of his life listening to ghosts. Some of them had been extremely helpful, some had been awkward or difficult, but all of them were human. Kane pushed himself upright. Well, there had been a cat or two and the Labrador that had been too devoted to go over the rainbow bridge, but on the whole Kane had been able to speak to the spirits. Well, he’d mainly listened, but it was something he could understand.

These days he took a fee for listening to ghosts and passing on messages about wills and missing jewellery and even the gossip of what happened at Great Aunt Edna’s wedding, and he was making a steady income. One of his small but steady sources of income was his monthly appointment at a restaurant to pass messages and orders from the spirit of the dead chef to the living and frustrated owner. He didn’t network with other mediums. He didn’t do the readings and shows that seemed to be so popular. Instead he kept his head down, picked up jobs from word of mouth and quietly got on with listening. That didn’t mean that he didn’t hear snatches of gossip and rumours, though, and he knew enough of those genuine mediums and spiritualists to have an idea of the other spirits that were out there. The shade in the hotel lobby had scared him. It had been so broken and filled with suffering that it broke his heart, but he had felt helpless to know what to do. Now, with that and the information from Mr Smedworth, he couldn’t put it off anymore. He needed to get some training. There was only one person he really trusted to tell the truth, and at least he was still alive.

Reverend Charles Easton looked frailer than ever when he opened his door to Kane. “Come in, Kane. It’s good to see you,” he said as he shuffled back into his room. The complex had been designed for retired ministers and priests and it showed. The room was bright with a large window overlooking the gardens and a multitude of bird feeders. A desk was next to the window covered with purposeful stacks of papers and notebooks next to an elderly laptop. Two comfortable chairs were placed either side of a small electric heater with a convenient coffee table between them. A door next to the window was slightly ajar and there was a glimpse of an unkempt bed and nightstand stacked with books. Apart from a small kitchenette in the far corner, the rest of the room was filled to the brim with books. Bookcases were built in from floor to ceiling and lined every available inch of wall. Some shelves groaned under old fashioned encyclopaedias and dictionaries. A small case in the corner held what looked to be antique books with faded and worn spines and a tower of Bible commentaries was stacked against it. From experience, Kane knew that there was a wealth of information about all matters of theology and philosophy on the bookcases, sometimes stacked two deep on the shelves and liberally interspersed with well read copies of Asimov, Stephen King, Dick Francis and Terry Pratchett.

“I’m sorry to interrupt you,” Kane said. He managed a small smile. “I know that you’re supposed to be retired, but I’m sure that you’re busy.”

“I’d rather wear out than rust out,” Mr Easton said briskly. “Take a seat, my son. Would you like tea? The staff encourage us to make our own tea and coffee to keep us active.” He caught Kane’s eye. “And it’s absolutely no trouble.”

Kane took a seat and watched Mr Easton bustle around. “I found something that wasn’t quite a ghost,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do.”

Mr Easton glanced over at him. “What happened?”

“I think I helped whatever it was over,” Kane said. He took the mug of tea from Mr Easton and leaned back in the seat. “I’ll start from the beginning.”

Mr Easton listened carefully to Kane’s account, stopping him now and then to ask a question when Kane became muddled, but keeping his attention fixed. “I’ve seen this coming,” he said as Kane finally finished his account. “You have an extraordinary talent, but you have no direction. What you saw was a shade.” Mr Easton shook his head. “I’ve been working for years trying to classify and categorise all the different types of spirit that you can find, but I’m sure that I’ve only scratched the surface. A shade is a remnant, a ragged piece of soul left at the scene of a tragedy. From my experience, it’s something left behind when the rest of the spirit passed over. Pushing the shade through the veil was one of the better ways of dealing with it.” Mr Easton hesitated. “Although you should perhaps consider faith.”

Kane shifted uncomfortably. His past experience with religion hadn’t been brilliant. “You mean, pray?”

“The thing to remember is that faith isn’t a vending machine,” Mr Easton said. “It’s not a case of ‘insert prayer and wish falls out’. It’s much more complex.” He waved a hand towards the bookshelves. “There are dozens and dozens of books in here that could go into the matter, and that’s just in my little study.” He took a sip of his tea and looked thoughtful. “Over the years I’ve seen some very odd things, and all sorts of faiths have used prayer, not just the Church of England.” He shrugged. “I can’t make you into a priest, Kane, but I can perhaps give you a little guidance.”

“I’d be grateful,” Kane said.

Mr Easton tapped his fingers thoughtfully against his mug. “I’ve been working on a definitive guide to spirits, and I’ve made quite a few notes over the years. I’ll email you with what I have. I have to warn you that it’s in a rough state and needs a lot more organisation.” He looked closely at Kane. “But why don’t you tell me what the current problem is?”

Kane carefully set down his mug on the coaster on the table. “I’ve been talking with the ghost of Mr Smedworth, the former manager there. He seems a little formal and he isn’t keen on the idea of ghost weekends and stuff, but he’s willing to help out if it will save Mrs Roberts. According to Mr Smedworth, there are a few of them that are willing to help out, and a few more ghosts that aren’t comfortable taking part but won’t interfere. But there’s a problem.”

“I’m sure that your personal trainer would tell you that there’s no such thing as problems. She’d say that there were only opportunities,” Mr Easton said with a twinkle in his eye. “But you and I both know that there are always problems. What is it? A ghost that won’t co-operate?”

Kane shook his head. “Not quite,” he said. “I’d have a chance of talking with an ordinary ghost, but Mr Smedworth thinks that this is something beyond that. He says that she’s the White Lady of Tipstone Manor and she’s not very friendly.”

Mr Easton looked at Kane thoughtfully. “Is that exactly how he described her?” he asked.

Kane grimaced. “He didn’t like to use bad language, otherwise I think I would have heard a lot more, but he said that she was more like a curse than a ghost.”

Mr Easton nodded. “If it’s a true White Lady then, yes, it’s generally more like a curse,” he said. He frowned. “And they are not open to reason. Perhaps I should come with you.”

“No!” Kane said quickly. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to shout, but I can think of at least three ghosts and two living people who would skin me if I put you in any sort of risky situation. And it’s quite a drive from here. I know that two hours’ drive isn’t really far but the roads are awful and it’ll be dark when we get back there. The kitchens are only running a skeleton staff and you wouldn’t be looked after.”

Mr Easton frowned and then shrugged. “I suppose you’re right,” he said. “But I get so frustrated when I’m stuck in here.”

“I’ll call you as often as I can,” Kane promised. “And I’ll let you know when I talk to the White Lady.”

“Perhaps you could just ignore her,” Mr Easton said. “After all, if she just gives a fright then the ratings of the hotel should go up. Or you could be careful about booking people in near where she walks.”

Kane hunched miserably in his chair. “The castle has had a lot of work done, and the last stage is getting the plumbing upgraded to allow the oldest rooms to be fitted with ensuite bathrooms. The plumbers are supposed to be coming next week. The trouble is, they’ll be working where she haunts and Mr Smedworth says that she drove out at least a dozen staff that he can remember. Do you know how hard it is to get decent plumbers? Mrs Roberts can’t risk it. Mitch can’t see the problem as he thinks that he’d just ignore her but…” Kane looked helplessly at Mr Easton. “Mitch doesn’t understand ghosts. And they can’t ignore getting the rooms fitted as it’ll make a big difference to what they can charge and the money that the hotel can make.”

“That is a problem,” Mr Easton said. “I never had to deal directly with a White Lady myself, but I heard a lot of stories. The nearest I came to something like that was almost a disaster.” He frowned. “You’ve got a long journey to get back. I suggest that I charm the canteen into making you a substantial sandwich while I try and find some useful ideas in my notes and books. Once you’ve gone, I’ll send all my research so far and I’ll highlight all the things that may be relevant and paste them into a separate document. That’s the least I can do.” He stood carefully, wincing at the pain in his joints. “Take someone with you and get them to call me when you encounter this White Lady. I’ll stay on the line and send what advice I can.” He shivered. “And if nothing else, I’ll pray for you.”

Kane and the Haunted House Chapter Three

Dawn stared at Kane. “What do you mean, you’re here to see Mitch about a ghost?”

Kane leaned against the wall. “I knew Mitch when he was a kid,” he said. “And I’m sort of a ghost whisperer. He thought that this could be a haunted hotel.”

Dawn winced. “Well, you seem to have just encountered the cold spot in the lobby,” she said. “Our cleaners swear that the vacuums won’t work properly there and Mitch is always complaining about random interference on his phone. And a few of the guests have shared stories.” Her shoulders slumped. “But I think that it would have to be a bit more than a spooky feeling to get the people in.”

“That cold spot has gone,” Kane said. “It wasn’t a good thing.”

Dawn looked at him hard. “I thought the idea was to promote the ghosts in the hotel, not get rid of them.”

Kane paused, searching for words, then stopped as voices carried from the Manager’s office.

“This hotel should be mine, Edith,” a male voice snapped. “The will must be invalid. I’m his son.”

“Deacon, the will was clear,” an elderly female voice replied. “And your challenge will get you nowhere. You’ll have all the costs to pay as well.”

“Whatever! This hotel is part of it, though,” Deacon snarled. “It should be held in a trust until afterwards. You’ve got no right here.”

“The hotel was always mine,” Edith said. She sighed softly. “My father bought it for me and put it into my name. It was never your father’s property.”

“It would have been split in a divorce,” Deacon replied.

“But we didn’t divorce,” Edith said. “Your father died. And I’m sorry for your grief, but your father did a lot for you when he was alive.”

“He should have divorced you and married my mother,” Deacon said. “Everyone knew that.”

Kane blinked and caught Dawn’s wide eyed stare. His respect for Edith grew as her voice didn’t tremble.

“I’m sorry, Deacon, but your father had an affair with your mother. He stayed married to me. And that’s all that there is,” Edith said, her voice calm but full of sorrow. “You have no right to this hotel, and you have no right to the rest of your father’s property. Now please leave.”

“I’m not leaving until I get you out of here, one way or another,” Deacon said. “You’ll pack up and go if you know what’s good for you.”

Kane didn’t wait to hear any more but knocked sharply on the door and stepped in. “I’m looking for the manager,” he said, trying to diffuse the situation.

“That’s me,” Deacon said. He was about the same height as Kane but a lot wider and his eyes shone with malevolence.

“No you’re not!” Dawn exclaimed, following Kane in.

Deacon pointed at her. “You’re sacked,” he said before turning back to Kane. “I’m sorry about that. Now, how can I help you?”

Kane paused. An older lady was sitting behind the desk, upright and determined but pale with stress. Deacon was looming in front of him. Dawn was fuming behind him and he didn’t want to let things escalate. This was where he was supposed to be assertive and Gina was nowhere to be found. What was he supposed to do? “I’m sorry, I’m not sure what’s going on,” he said, stalling and looking at the lady behind the desk. “You must be Mrs Edith Roberts. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Mrs Roberts was just leaving,” Deacon said firmly. “Now, what is this about?”

Edith turned to Kane. “I’m sorry, there’s something of a discussion going on at the moment. Perhaps you can wait in the lobby and Dawn will make you a tea or coffee.”

Deacon turned. “You can leave by yourself or I’ll throw you out. That fake old lady thing that you have going on doesn’t fool me.”

Kane breathed a sigh of relief as Mitch flung open the door behind him and marched in. He pointed at Deacon. “You – out!”

Deacon hesitated for a moment. “It’s my hotel,” he said.

Kane stepped forward to stand next to Mitch. “No it isn’t,” Kane said firmly.

Deacon glanced between the two of them and Kane could see him calculating the odds as Kane adjusted his stance to look confident as Gina had taught him. “I’ll be back,” Deacon snapped.

Mitch watched Deacon leave and then turned to Kane, running a tired hand over his face. “Thanks, mate,” he said. He looked at Kane thoughtfully. “I appreciate you standing with me. You never had it in you before, but now…” He shook his head tiredly and glanced at Edith. The elderly lady’s composure was starting to break down. “I’ve got a room set aside for you,” he said. “I’ll give you the key so you can dump your bag while I make sure everything’s okay here.”

Kane nodded. “I’ll wait for you to call me down,” he said. “You’ve got a lot on.”

Mitch waved a hand. “Look around,” he said. “We’ve no guests at the moment so have a poke around find some spooks for us.” He turned back to Edith. “Why don’t I make you a cup of tea and walk you to your room?” he said softly.

Kane looked around the room he’d been given. Mitch was obviously feeling desperate for ghosts and had put him in the older part of the house where they were more likely to be found. Kane crossed over to the window and looked out at the fading sunlight. The autumn sun was setting over the fading gardens and he pulled the curtains over to keep out the chill. He turned back and looked around the room. It was nice. The walls were a neutral soft beige colour and bedcovers, the curtains, the carpets and the upholstery on the small armchair all echoed the same colours of bronze and old gold. The ensuite bathroom was equally elegant and the atmosphere was warm and cosy with a nod towards the old fashioned. It was clean, comfortable and beautifully set out.

Kane looked thoughtfully at the neat tea and coffee tray set on the desk. It looked very welcome after the tense drive and there were also small courtesy packets of biscuits. As he opened his case to unpack he looked back at the biscuits. He’d worked hard under Gina’s guidance and he was definitely feeling the benefit, but it was weeks since he had last tasted a custard cream. He filled the small kettle and turned it on, trying to ignore the biscuits. As he spooned out the instant coffee, he became aware of a presence in the corner and turned, relieved to find it wasn’t Gina checking on him. Instead it was the ghost of a tall, thin man in late middle age who seemed to be inspecting the room.

“Can I help you?” Kane asked.

The ghost started and then turned to Kane. “You can see me?” he asked.

Kane nodded. “I was brought in to speak to the resident ghosts,” he said. He hesitated. Normally ghosts couldn’t wait to tell him everything about themselves whether he wanted to hear it or not. However Gina had been clear and he had to start taking the initiative. He groped for a safe way to start the conversation. “Were you a guest here?” he asked.

The ghost drew himself to his full height. “Not at all! I was the manager here for some time – including when Mrs Roberts first bought the hotel,” he said. “My name is Charles Smedworth. Mrs Roberts may remember me.”

“I’m pleased to meet you,” Kane said. He wondered how much the ghost knew. “Are you following what’s happening with the hotel? Mrs Roberts needs it to keep going.”

“I don’t like to speak ill of the dead,” Mr Smedworth said. “But Mr Roberts was not a very nice man. It seems that his illegitimate son has inherited Mr Roberts’ temperament if nothing else.” He frowned. “But the idea of ghost weekends is, quite frankly, vulgar.”

“The hotel is losing money,” Kane said. “From what Mitch said, it’s quite desperate. And Mrs Roberts will need money for the court case.” He watched the ghost wring its hands. “How many ghosts are there, anyway? And it’s not like Mitch wants a full manifestation like something from a film. Just a few weird cold spots and perhaps unexplained draughts and stuff moved around.” Kane shrugged. “I’ve seen it before. There’s a café in Leeds where there’s just a hint of supernatural to keep the numbers up and it’s all done in good taste.”

Mr Smedworth paced around the room, automatically straightening a crooked brochure on the nightstand with the tiniest gesture and smallest crumb of energy. “There’s a few of us, I admit, and we’re all quite fond of Mrs Roberts.” His face softened. “In fact most of us are quite devoted.” He stopped in front of Kane. “I saw that you banished that poor creature in the lobby. That was a blessing for her and, to be honest, for all of us.” He wrung his hands again. “The poor thing was dreadful to see and it was so upsetting for the rest of us. I have to ask, though, can you banish ghosts? I mean, could you banish me?”

Kane grimaced. “I managed to coax the shade through the veil,” he said. “But that’s the first time I’ve managed anything like that and I’m not even sure that it will stick. Usually I just listen to what the ghosts need. I’ve never banished a proper ghost.”

Mr Smedworth started pacing again. “Then you need to find someone who can absolutely and convincingly banish ghosts,” he said. “As you know, there have been a lot of renovations and workmen are currently working on the corner of what was the stables.” He waved an impatient hand. “It’s something to do with adding an en suite bathroom.” He paced faster. “But there’s a spirit there, and if something isn’t done, it’s going to go terribly wrong.”

It’s the last day of the October Frights and that means the start of loads of goodies! Check out the October Frights Giveaway 2023 for some great reads and there are more books at the October Frights Mini Book Fair if you’re looking for more. And that’s not all – on all of these blogs you can find more stories and spooky goings on so feel free to drop in. And while we’re talking about goodies, my ebook collection of short stores, Whisper in the Shadows, is free until 15th October, so now is a good time to snap up a bargain.

Hawk’s Happenings

Crymsyn Hart

Be Afraid of the Dark

Camilla Voiez, British Horror Author

Frighten Me

Angela Yuriko Smith: Exercising My Writes


James P Nettles

EV Whyte, Author

Silver Hollow Stories

Happy Reading

Kane and the Haunted House Chapter Two

Kane took a deep breath as he finally pulled into the car park at Tipstone Manor Hotel. Once he got off the motorway, the roads had been narrowing, winding and ridiculously hilly.

“You need to be more confident about driving on these roads,” Gina said thoughtfully. “You get called to all sorts of places so you should be prepared. I can hook you up with someone who can give you some pointers.”

“Are they alive or dead?” Kane asked.

“The dead ones don’t charge,” Gina said.

“I don’t want to run into the same sort of spirit I met last week,” Kane said. “That was scary.”

“You talk to dead people all the time,” Gina said. “I mean, you’re talking to me.”

“It’s not the same,” Kane said. He stared up at the grey stone building. “I mean, you’re a person who isn’t currently alive. Last week was different.” The building in front of him was a tribute to Victorian Gothic, with spiked windows and gables over the broad face of the hotel. “That was the bad stuff, the stuff that’s in horror films.”

“Before we go any further,” Gina said, “I need to check something. You’ve never been trained in the ghost stuff, have you?”

Kane swallowed and shook his head. “I talk to dead people,” he said. “Well, mainly I listen. Most of the time they’re like you, needing to make one last push before they go home.” He turned off ignition. “But I have a bad feeling about this.”

“Do you know anyone who could give you training?” Gina asked.

Kane looked at the ghost sitting next to him. “There aren’t many like me,” he said. “Some can hear echoes or sense emotions, some can feel impressions, but very few can actually see the ghosts. That’s why I’m so busy.” For a moment his hands clenched on the steering wheel in the silent car. “Let’s say that there’s some sort of haunting, like the light bulbs breaking all the time. Some poor woman, and it’s usually women, tries to find a ‘ghost whisperer’ to help her. She looks on the internet, perhaps, and has to wade through hundreds of people who say that they speak to ghosts. Some are well meaning but can’t tell much. Some are better but they get confused. Some are con artists. Some are just mentally ill. Then there are the ones like me.”

“You could fill up your diary three times over,” Gina said softly.

“I’m making good money,” Kane said. “But last week…” He trailed off as he remembered the chaos.

“You dealt with it well,” Gina said softly. “I was too terrified to even move.”

Kane pulled himself out of the memory. “We had better go and speak to Mrs Roberts,” he said. “There may not be any ghosts at all.”

Gina looked sceptically at the building. “I’m sure that you’ll find something.”

Kane had a quick look around the outside of the building before he went in. The magnificent façade hid a jumble of wings and buildings that looked a mix of considerably older and modern. Anything could be waiting. He walked quietly into the main lobby and looked around. The carpet was clean and soft, the lights were muted and the décor was elegantly and quietly neutral. Mitch obviously meant this to be a safe haven that was free from spirits. He’d got it wrong, though, and as the receptionist was busy on the phone, Kane made his way over to a spirit in a corner next to the door marked ‘Manager’.

“Hello,” he said quietly. “Are you alright?” He looked closer and winced. It wasn’t a ghost as such. He could feel echoes of utter pain and misery but there was no person inside it, no-one who could speak or listen. Instead it was a bundle of phantom emotions trapped in this corner.”

“Can you do anything?” Gina whispered behind him. “It’s awful, so awful, like agony that can’t die.”

Kane glanced back at her and the horror on her face shocked him. “I don’t know,” he said quietly.

“You can’t see what I can see,” Gina said. “It’s awful. Please, do something, please!”

Kane crouched down and carefully extended his hand. “Hello?” he repeated. “Let me help you.” He could feel waves of pain and sorrow rolling out from the shade. “It’s okay now,” he said. “You can rest. You can go home.” He looked over his shoulder at Gina. “You may want to stand back. I’m not sure how this is going to work.” He waited until Gina had scampered across the wide lobby and was clinging on to a luggage rack before turning back to the shade. “Hush, it’s okay,” he said again. He had seen enough ghosts fade into the next part of their journey and he held the image in his mind of that misty veil hanging next to the sobbing shade. “It’s time to go,” he said, and gently pushed with his mind.

As his imagination pushed at the shade, it seemed to make a contact and agony swept over him. Pain raked through him with every nerve on fire as it felt like his skin was peeling under the utter rejection of everyone who had ever loved him. Forcing himself to keep the contact, Kane pushed again. “Come on,” he whispered, his voice breaking. “It’s time to rest.” Then he found himself lurching forward as the shade slipped forward and was gone.

Exhausted, Kane slumped to the floor, sweat running down his face. Every muscle ached and his head was ringing with the overload from the shade’s emotions. He forced his eyes open as Gina came rushing over.

“You need to get liquid now!” she said. “You need cola with all the sugar. Come on, get up.” Kane forced himself to his feet as the receptionist raced over.

“Sir, can I help you?” she asked. “Are you okay?”

Kane nodded and checked the name tag. “You must be Dawn, Mitch’s wife,” he said. “I’ve come to see Mitch about a ghost.”

You can find Chapter One here

It’s Day Two of the October Frights and that means the start of loads of goodies! Check out the October Frights Giveaway 2023 for some great reads and there are more books at the October Frights Mini Book Fair if you’re looking for more. And that’s not all – on all of these blogs you can find more stories and spooky goings on so feel free to drop in. And while we’re talking about goodies, my ebook collection of short stores, Whisper in the Shadows, is free until 15th October, so now is a good time to snap up a bargain.

Hawk’s Happenings

Crymsyn Hart

Be Afraid of the Dark

Camilla Voiez, British Horror Author

Frighten Me

Angela Yuriko Smith: Exercising My Writes


James P Nettles

EV Whyte, Author

Silver Hollow Stories

Happy Reading