Passing on a Message

Image from Unsplash, taken by Joanna Kosinska

Kane’s story can be read from the beginning here

Louise leant back in her chair. The café was almost empty and there was no-one near, but she still kept her voice low. “So you say that my dead brother sent you.” She looked the slim, hunched figure up and down. “You don’t look like the sort of person he would know.”

Kane nodded. “If he was alive, we would probably never have even spoken,” he said. “But, well…” He tried to gather his thoughts. “I can see ghosts,” he said.

“Really?” Louise said politely.

Kane was used to this. “Your brother said not to bother with giving you details about your childhood or anything like that. He said you were very cynical and had learned to distrust people.”

“That’s a good cold read,” Louise said. “What do you want?”

“I don’t want anything,” Kane said. “Ben helped me out with something, and so I promised that I would help him out. He pointed me in the right direction and I asked the necessary questions and got some good answers. He’s worried about you,” Kane said. “Or he was. When we found what he was looking for, he passed over.”

“That’s convenient,” Louise said, her eyes boring into his.

Kane nodded. “Ben said that there were a few problems with the business, that your stepmother was making claims that were difficult to challenge,” he said.

“She feels that she is entitled to more than she had after my father died,” Louise said. “She keeps talking about being a grieving widow.” She smiled thinly. “She’s making no secret of that. It’s not hard information to find out.”

Kane nodded. “Ben and I talked to a few people that your solicitor would have trouble reaching,” he said. “But together we found some things that may help you.” He carefully placed the bag on the table and pulled out the documents. “These are letters that your father wrote to a solicitor that your stepmother intercepted. They show that he never had any intention of leaving anything to her.”

“But she claims she should have a share because she is his widow,” Louise said bitterly. “And half the family think we should pay something out because they were married, even if Dad didn’t leave anything to them.”

“This is the record of her marriage to her first husband,” Kane said. “This is the supporting evidence of the marriage. And this is the sworn statement of her first husband, or rather, her husband, showing that he is not only still alive but also that they never divorced. Your stepmother is entitled to nothing. She was never legally married to your father.”

Louise stared at the papers for a long time. “How can I repay you,” she asked as she ran light fingers over the documents.

Kane shook his head. “Ben helped me out, so I said that I would help him out.” He drained his cup of tea. “You should find all that you need in there,” he said, standing and shrugging on his jacket. “It was nice meeting you.”

Kane stepped out of the café and into the sunshine. He wasn’t usually proud of his strange gift, but today was different. Today he was glad of it.


“I don’t like Ed, that new boyfriend of yours,” my fellow lodger said.

I looked at Steph warily. “We’ve only been on a few dates,” I said. “We’re not serious.”

“He gives me the creeps,” Steph said. “He only turns up after dark.”

“It’s December,” I said. “The sun sets around 4pm. By the time I get out of work, it’s dark so of course we don’t have dates in daylight.”

“He never suggests you go out in the day at weekends,” Steph said.

“We’ve only had a few dates,” I said. “There hasn’t really been a chance for us to meet at a weekend.” I didn’t want to admit my own feeling of unease was growing.

“And two nights ago your nightmares woke me up even though I’m sleeping like the dead in the other side of the house,” Steph said. “Seriously, he’s creepy.” She looked at me closely. “Has he talked about moving in together?”

“It’s too soon for that,” I said. “Because, like I said, it’s just been a few dates.”

“But he has mentioned it,” Steph said. “I can see it in your face. And have you noticed the extra rats around.”

“What’s that got to do with it?” I asked.

Steph shuddered. “I just think that he’s creepy,” she said.

I looked at her thoughtfully. “I don’t think that he’s a serial killer,” I said.

Steph sniffed. “Everyone says that. The bodies will be being dragged out of the basement and a reporter will be interviewing a sweet old lady who will swear that the serial killer was always lovely and polite and she can’t believe it.”

“He’s picking me up tonight,” I said. “I’ll be honest, I’m not sure. I’ll see how it goes.”

“Don’t let him guess what you’re thinking,” Steph almost shrieked. “You’ll never make it home.” She checked her watch. “What time is he getting here?”

“He’s coming around 9pm,” I said. “We’re going to a club.”

“You’re going to the club in the dark,” Steph said. “He drinks coffee, doesn’t he?”

“Yes,” I said. “Why?”

“I’ll be back in about an hour,” Steph said. “Don’t leave the house until I’ve spoken to you.” She grabbed her coat and bag and raced out of the door.

Steph was back before Ed called. “Look at this,” she said, holding up a glass bottle.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Let me show you,” she said and dived into the tiny kitchen. She returned with two glasses and poured a smidgeon into each glass. She took a drink of one. “Go on, try it.”

I looked at her through narrowed eyes and then drank it down. “It’s just water,” I said.

“But I want to add it to Ed’s coffee,” she said.

“What’s the catch?” I asked.

“Well it didn’t hurt me or you, did it?” Steph said. “So how can their be a catch?”

“Do you think he’s allergic to something?” I asked. “Is it infused with peanuts or something?”

“You would have tasted it if it was,” Steph said smugly. “That’s the door!”

I answered the door and brought Ed through to the living room. “Can we have a quick coffee before we go out?” I asked. “I’m parched and you know how expensive the clubs are.”

“Sure,” Ed said, dropping gracefully on the sofa and spreading his arms along the back. He smiled up at me, his teeth gleaming white and his dark eyes burning into mine. I could feel myself drowning in his gaze, losing all sense of time or place. I jumped like a startled cat when Steph came back with coffee.

“Here’s yours,” she said, handing me my usual coffee with milk and sugar. “And here’s yours, Ed, in a nice cup.” She handed the black coffee over to him.

“I’m glad that I’m appreciated,” he said smoothly. “Perhaps you could come out with us as well, Steph? I’m sure we can all have a good time.”

I took a quick mouthful of coffee to cover my expression. There was no way I was going on any date with him after tonight. “Mmm, nice coffee,” I said to cover my reaction.

“I’ll only come out if we go now,” Steph said. “It’s now or never.”

Ed smiled wickedly. “Then let’s make it now,” he said.

I watched him stand with exquisite grace and drain the cup of coffee. He froze and stared at Steph. “What have you done?”

Steph took a step back. “What do you mean?” she said, her voice shrill and nervous.

Colour was draining from Ed. “Are you okay?” I asked.

He stared at me, shaking his head and clawing at his throat. He staggered towards me, his eyes wild, before collapsing in front of me.

“We need to call someone!” I yelled, pulling my phone from my pocket.

Steph held my arm and shook her head. In front of my horrified eyes, Ed was crumbling. First his mouth and throat collapsed into dust, then inch by inch the rest of him vanished, swirling into a sad stain on the carpet.

I turned to her. “What was in that water?” I whispered.

“I didn’t think anything would happen,” she said. “I thought I was being silly.” She looked at me, her eyes wide. “I thought I was letting stupid books get into my head. There wasn’t anything in the water. It was the water itself. It was Holy Water.”

I Need to Sleep

I’m having trouble sleeping at the moment. I have a lot going on and as soon as I shut my eyes I have all the thoughts whirling around. It’s just as bad when I’m driving. I have nearly missed so many turns because I’m trying to concentrate on a plot. I forget more than I pick up at a supermarket and I have a habit of forgetting things are running. Last night’s thoughts went something like this…

Okay, time to go to sleep. I’m warm and comfy and tired.

I didn’t put a wash in before I went to bed. I think everyone has clean shirts. Well I’m not bothering with it now. I’ll sort it out in the morning.

I should put down some notes about that idea for a vampire story. I can do that in the morning as well.

I wonder if vampires worry about having a clean shirt? I mean, the vampires in this story I’m planning wouldn’t but the ones in that story would. Do vampires sweat? I suppose underarm stains would be the least of their worries. Blood is tricky to get out. The best way to get stains out is to hang them in sunshine, but that could be a problem. And Victorian vampires would presumably send them to the laundry. Would they get questions about the stains? Would they be charged extra? I would charge a fortune if I had to deal with all that bloodstained velvet.

Never mind the laundry – go to sleep!

I wonder about the location of the next fantasy story. I suppose I could move some stuff around. I’ll need to make some notes on that tomorrow but I need to get some sleep first.

I just can’t imagine a vampire with a washing machine. And I really can’t imagine Dracula looking along the shelves for laundry bleach. Would he use laundry bleach? There must be Victorian stain removal guides. No, I am not going to look them up now. I’m going to sleep.

I bet werewolves would do laundry. They’d have to go with the unscented stuff, though. I don’t think I’ve seen a ‘lamppost’ scented laundry softener. Mind you, that’s putting werewolves with dogs. Perhaps they’d like a nice scent on their clothes and they’d be able to tell the difference between brands, like those old fashioned adverts. I really need to get to sleep. I’ve got the school run in the morning.

Okay, tomorrow I need to do the school run, pick up fruit, write up notes about the vampire arc and the ideas of the fantasy setting. I wonder if vampires get the werewolves to do the laundry? I mean, at least the werewolves could hang stuff out in the sun.

Forget about the laundry! I need to sleep. Tomorrow I need to drop off at school, pick up fruit, make notes and I need to check on the meter reading.

That’s another thing about vampiric laundry. All the crypts and tombs are short on things like washing machine points. They’d have to send the laundry out.

How about medieval vampires? They have servants and everything so they could just have their laundry done. Mind you, I bet it would have been a problem to get blood stains out then. I am not looking up medieval bloodstain recipes at this time of night. My search history is peculiar enough as it is.

Perhaps I could have a chase through a steampunk laundry. I bet that would be atmospheric. There were huge boilers and lots of racks of clothing. Mind you that might be better for something like a ghost story. I should make some notes about that tomorrow. With the vampire notes and the fantasy notes.

Now that I’ve got the sequel to King’s Silver to the editor, I should get cracking on the sequel to Under the Bright Saharan Sky. Where did I put the notes. I need to add them to the notes I’m making tomorrow. I wonder if I can get an aether-powered, steampunk, subterranean laundry into that plot. I don’t know why it should be subterranean, but it feels right.


The Sound of Dripping

“I thought that you were some sort of ghost whisperer,” Mrs Carter snapped as she flicked back her carefully styled blonde hair.

“Calm down, dear,” Mr Carter sighed. “Let the young man work.”

“I’m not really a ghost whisperer,” Kane said, looking nervously between the two. “But I can see ghosts and they usually tell me what’s going on. I can’t see any ghosts here.”

“See! You are a fraud!” Mrs Carter said, tapping her elegant fingernails on the bedside table. “I’m going to complain about you to your manager.”

“I haven’t got a manager,” Kane said helplessly.

Mrs Carter stared at him through narrowed eyes. “Liar.”

“Now, my dear,” Mr Carter said. “You know what happened in the supermarket.”

“That was a simple mistake that anyone could make,” Mrs Carter said. “But that tapping in the walls – explain that!”

“What tapping?” Kane asked, bewildered.

“If you shut up and listen, you’d know!” Mrs Carter said.

“Now, my dear,” Mr Carter said. “Give the young man a chance.”

Mrs Carter folded her arms and glared at Kane, who flinched. Mr Carter shook his head. “Why don’t we go downstairs and let the young man have some room,” he suggested.

“And let him loot the place!” Mrs Carter exclaimed. “Look what happened to your sister Beryl.”

“I’ll wait on the landing,” Mr Carter said. “I’ll hear if anything goes on. Why don’t you go downstairs and make us all a nice cup of tea. We’ll all feel better for a nice cup of tea.” He watched Mrs Carter leave, waiting until her dainty tread reached the bottom of the stairs before turning to Kane. “My wife is a little highly strung,” he said. “We don’t often come into the spare bedroom, but when she does, she swears that she hears a tapping. I suggested getting a plumber, but she won’t have it. She’s read too many vampire stories.”

Kane looked around the non-descript bedroom. “I can’t get ghosts to do anything,” he said. “But I can usually see if any are around. It’s not getting them to talk, it’s getting them to shut up. But I haven’t seen any around here.” He frowned. “There is a noise, over here.”

Mr Carter followed him over to the corner. “It sounds like a drip to me,” he said.

Kane nodded. “It sounds like a drip to me as well. Do you have any damp patches downstairs?”

“This is over the garage,” Mr Carter said. “I don’t think we’d notice as the garage is quite dark and damp.”

Kane jumped as a ghostly figure appeared next to him. “Um, hello. Are you haunting this place?”

Mr Carter shivered. “I can’t see anything but I can feel it! How do you deal with this?”

“I’m used to it, I suppose,” Kane said. He turned back to the ghost. “It sounds like a drip.”

The ghost nodded. “It is,” he said. “I’ve been here for a while, but I like to keep myself to myself. I never liked to make a fuss. And it’s not been too bad, but that drip has been driving me crazy.”

“Who is it?” Mr Carter hissed. “Is it a headless knight?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Kane said.

The ghost sniffed. “I’m Algernon Carstairs and I was a very respectable clerk at the bank. I got as high as Assistant Manager at the High Street branch. That was a few years ago, now. What year is it?”

“Are you stuck?” Kane asked.

Algernon nodded. “I’ve been here since 1937 and I just can’t seem to get over,” he said. “There was no manual or instructions. Can you help?”

“I think so,” Kane said cautiously.

“But first I’ll show you where that drip is coming from,” Algernon said. “I’ve been going out of my mind. I like my peace and quiet, you see. If you can get me over to the other side, it will the least I can do.” He beckoned Kane. “The drip is making a noise as it’s landing on a pool of water behind the skirting board in here, but the actual leak is up in the attic.”

Kane passed the information on to Mr Carter. “Is it easy to get to the attic?” he asked.

“We have those fancy stairs,” Mr Carter said, glancing around nervously. “The cold goes right to your bones.”

“I’m sorry about that,” Algernon said. “It’s one of the reasons I try and avoid people.”

Kane passed on the apology and followed Mr Carter as he let down the complicated folding ladder from the hatch into the attic space. “We should both go up and check,” he said. “But I don’t mind going first.”

“There aren’t any, well, ghost things are there?” Mr Carter asked.

“The cheek!” Algernon exclaimed. “I was very respectable and passed in my sleep, thank you so much!”

Kane passed that on. “There may be quite a bit of dust, though,” he said.

Mr Carter shook his head. “We had it all insulated and boarded out. My wife comes up regularly.”

Algernon nodded. “That woman is a demon for keeping the house clean,” he said. “I don’t know where she gets the energy.”

Kane started up the ladder. “The ghost says that your wife was very passionate about cleaning,” he said.

“The light switch is on your left,” Mr Carter said. “Yes, my wife is very passionate about a lot of things.”

Up in the attic, it was very clear where the water was coming from. As they watched, another drip formed from the dented pipe and fell on the stained boards underneath it. “Eventually it runs down a pipe and then starts dripping when it bends for the radiator,” Algernon said. “But it’s causing problems there, too. You’ll need to get it seen to straight away.”

Mr Carter stared. “It’s where they took out the old cold water tank. I thought that it had all been too easy. No house repair goes without a problem.”

Algernon cleared his ghostly throat. “I feel a little awkward about this, but Mr Carter seems a decent chap, and before I go I think I should do the right thing. It’s Mrs Carter.”

“What do you mean, about Mrs Carter?” Kane asked. Mr Carter paused at the top of the ladder and turned slowly to look at Kane.

Algernon cleared his throat again. “Well, as she didn’t know I was there, she wasn’t discreet – and I want you to know that I never stayed around. I’m not that sort of ghost. I mean, I have standards. But when Mr Carter talks about her being passionate about things, well, she’s pretty passionate about the young man two doors down. She pays him handsomely as well.”

It took all of Kane’s courage to pass the message on to Mr Carter. “I’m very sorry,” Kane said.

Mr Carter froze for a moment. Then he slowly reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. “I think that this is the amount agreed for the consultation,” he said, handing over a handful of notes. “And this is for passing on valuable information,” he added, pressing a substantially bigger wad of notes into Kane’s hand. “If you could please pass on my thanks to Algernon and then see yourself out, I would be grateful. You have to help him to the other side, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Kane said, “But it doesn’t usually take long.”

“Take as long as you need,” Mr Carter said. “I’ve got a lot to discuss with my wife.”

Kane and Algernon watched Mr Carter carefully make his way down the ladder then Algernon turned to Kane. “I feel a bit of a cad, but I can’t help but feel that I’ve done that man a favour. Now, while I would love to see that woman get her just desserts, it’s time for me to move on. Where do we start?”