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 took over 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

GirlZombieAuthors

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 narrow, 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 from 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

GirlZombieAuthors

James P Nettles

EV Whyte, Author

Silver Hollow Stories

Happy Reading

Shadow in the Corner

It’s an old stone house with a tall stone tower

It’s bent and battered but it still holds power

And the priests keep blessing but the dark’s still calling

So the cattle’s brought in soon as night starts falling

We’re the edge of the kingdom so we don’t pay taxes

And the only human sounds are the woodcutter’s axes

So the lords don’t bother and we like it that way

Though few who come to work here have the heart to stay

There’s a new girl in the kitchens and we have to warn her

Of the stain that hides in the shadow in the corner.

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.

Hawk’s Happenings

Crymsyn Hart

Be Afraid of the Dark

Camilla Voiez, British Horror Author

Frighten Me

Angela Yuriko Smith: Exercising My Writes

GirlZombieAuthors

James P Nettles

EV Whyte, Author

Silver Hollow Stories

Happy Reading

Kane and the Haunted Hotel Chapter One

Kane winced as he got out of the shower and grabbed the towel. He had aches in muscles he never knew he had.

“It’s a good sign when you’re stiff,” Gina said. “It shows that it’s getting into the muscles. It will get a little easier as you get used to it.”

Kane glared at the ghost as he hastily pulled his towel around him. “What did I say about clothes?” he said.

Gina waved a dismissive hand. “I’ve seen it all before,” she said. “And it’s not like I can do anything about it.”

“No, no, this isn’t what we agreed,” Kane said. “I am your last client. You get me fit and more assertive and then you feel safe to move across. This did not include you getting a show!”

Gina waved a translucent hand. “Sorry!” she said as she disappeared through the door. “I’ll try and remember. But I was a rugby physio. It’s nothing personal.”

Kane groaned as he rubbed the towel over his hair. He’d passed his driving test after lessons with a ghost instructor, so why not a spectral personal trainer and at least he didn’t have to pay. He looked down at himself. He seemed to be filling out a bit, so it was probably working. Now all he had to do was summon up some interest in breakfast. He normally never bothered and he never had a kale smoothie by choice at any time of day. He wrapped his towel around his hips and scampered into the bedroom.

He’d scrambled into his socks and jeans before there was an urgent banging on the door. Gina floated in. “It looks like you have a visitor in a hurry,” she said.

Kane stared at her and then flinched at the banging from the door. “It’s not the police, is it?”

Gina tried to take a deep breath. “You need to be more assertive,” she said with authority. “Stand up straight, get those shoulders back and answer the door – and you can tell anyone banging on that door to go to hell!”

Caught up by her command, Kane raced through his small flat and flung open the front door. “What?” he snapped.

“Of course, you could have put a shirt on first,” Gina murmured from behind him.

Kane felt a blush starting as he glanced behind him but then turned back to stare at the visitor. “Mitch! What are you doing here? I mean…”

Mitch Harborne pushed past Kane. “Do you still do that ghost thing?” he asked.

Kane stared at him for a moment. “What?” He could feel Gina behind him.

“Now is a good time to practice being calm but assertive,” she murmured.

“I need you to do ghost things,” Mitch said. He looked Kane up and down and after a brief flash of confusion added, “You can put a shirt on before you leave.”

“You have an appointment,” Gina reminded.

Kane took a breath. Now even the living were trying to steamroller him into submission. “Hello, Mitch,” he said. “Long time no see. I’m doing great, thanks for asking.”

Mitch glared at him. “Hello, Kane. Nice abs. Hope all is peachy here. Are you still doing the ghost thing?”

“He’s right, you know,” Gina said. “You’re getting a lot more definition.”

Kane groaned mentally. He wasn’t worried about definition. He just wanted to be a little fitter and perhaps a little more assertive. “Come in,” he said, accepting the inevitable. “Take a seat if you want but I’ve got an appointment in half an hour.”

“It can wait,” Mitch said, stalking into the living room and dropping into the armchair.

Kane disappeared into the bedroom and then returned with a t-shirt. “It can’t wait,” Kane said. “It’s one of my regulars for the ‘ghost stuff’ and I’m not letting them down.”

“This is important,” Mitch said. “I need you to help me.”

Kane rolled his eyes as he pulled his t-shirt over his head. “Seriously?” he said.

“How do you know him?” Gina asked. “Do you owe him any favours?”

Kane frowned. “What is it you need?” he asked.

Mitch hesitated then stood and started pacing. “I got married,” he said.

“I heard about it,” Kane said. “Nobody got an invite.”

“You know that it’s not that simple,” Mitch said. “And if Auntie Brenda had been here then it could have been different.”

“I see,” Gina said. “He was in foster care with you.” She had made extensive ghostly notes about Kane’s troubled childhood.

“Is your wife getting haunted?” Kane asked.

Mitch briefly closed his eyes. “It’s like this. My wife, Dawn, is a secretary,” he said. “She works for an old dear called Mrs Roberts.” He paced rapidly around Kane’s sofa. “My wife has a soft spot for her, thinks of her as a grandma type.”

Kane looked at Mitch thoughtfully. “Was Dawn in the system?” he asked.

“Mrs Roberts is a nice old bird,” Mitch said, ducking the question. “And she’s taken me on as well as a manager.”

“What are you managing?” Kane asked.

Mitch paused in front of Kane. “Take a seat,” he said.

“I haven’t got long,” Kane warned as he sank into an armchair.

“I’ll be quick,” Mitch said. “It goes like this. Mrs Roberts was married to a right bastard. He made sure that she was on all sorts of committees and such, and that she dressed right, but he kept her on a short lead. You know the sort of thing. He wouldn’t let her go anywhere without him, called her useless all the time, trashed stuff that she liked, kept her away from her family.” Mitch’s lips tightened. “You know the drill.”

Kane nodded, all too familiar with that scenario. “It must have been hard for her,” he said.

“Because of all the hoops he had her jump through and all the social stuff, she had a secretary and that’s how Dawn met her,” Mitch said. “And she’s been lovely to Dawn. Himself was fine with throwing his weight around Edith, that’s Mrs Roberts, but he wanted Dawn to think he was a good guy. And Mrs Roberts never said a word, not to Dawn and not to me.” Mitch looked Kane in the eye. “But we could read between the lines. One of the last things her family was able to do for her was to make sure that she had a property in her sole name, so that she at least had an income.”

“How much of the money did he take?” Kane asked cynically.

Mitch shrugged. “He snuffed it last year. His will said it should all his property should go to Mrs Roberts but her stepson is contesting it.”

“That’s bad,” Kane said. “Is that taking a lot of her money?”

“Wily old bastard must have known that there was something like this coming,” Mitch said with reluctant respect. “He left a massive donation to a big charity as well. Any charity with that sort of clout is going to fight it in court.”

“It’s a legal obligation,” Gina murmured to Kane. “They’re legally required to fight for every penny for the charity even if they don’t want to.”

“Meanwhile, Mrs Roberts is living on what she can make from the hotel that’s in her name,” Mitch continued. “She spent the last of her money getting it refurbished. Me and Dawn are managing it with a bit of help, but it needs a gimmick, something to bring in the punters.”

Kane had a bad feeling about this. “What can I do about it?” he asked.

“That stepson won’t even let her have her jewellery,” Mitch muttered. “He wants it held until she can prove whether it was a gift to her or whether she just borrowed it from her husband.” He waved a dismissive hand. “The hotel is really old. It has to be haunted. We could make a fortune in bookings for ghost tours, ghost hunts, all that sort of stuff. It’s in a great place, on the moors near Hebden Bridge. All we need is for you to convince the spooks to help us out. Surely they wouldn’t turn their back on a little old lady?”

“You don’t need to help him out,” Gina said. “But I can see that it would appeal to you. If Mitch is telling the truth then you’d hate yourself if you didn’t help.” She looked thoughtfully at Mitch. “But you need to assert boundaries.”

“Okay,” Kane said. “I’ll help out if I can.”

“I’ll cover the fee personally,” Mitch said. He couldn’t meet Kane’s surprised gaze. “She’s been good to Dawn and she’s determined to pay our wages when she’s hardly got two pennies to rub together. She’s a proper lady and she doesn’t deserve this shit.”

Kane shook his head. “I won’t take money from family,” he said. “But I’ll work around my other stuff.” He checked his watch. “I’ve got to check in to a restaurant in around twenty minutes, but I’ve nothing else today. If you give me the address, I’ll call in afterwards.”

Mitch looked at him thoughtfully. “You’ve changed,” he said. “Here’s the card with the address in, and if you could pick up any fancy ideas from the restaurant for ghost hunter food, let me know.” He looked around Kane’s neat flat. “You’ve done okay. I’m glad.”

“Thanks,” Kane said. “I’ll see you there.” He watched Mitch leave and then turned to Gina. “I’ve never known Mitch Harborne care about another single soul,” he said. “If he cares so much about Mrs Roberts, she must be something special.”

It’s Day One 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.

Hawk’s Happenings

Crymsyn Hart

Be Afraid of the Dark

Camilla Voiez, British Horror Author

Frighten Me

Angela Yuriko Smith: Exercising My Writes

GirlZombieAuthors

James P Nettles

EV Whyte, Author

Silver Hollow Stories

Happy Reading

Invitation Accepted Chapter Twenty Four

Sir Philip limped back into the house. “That was a bit of a challenge,” he said as Mortimer opened the door to him. “I don’t suppose there’s a chance of a cup of tea.”

Mortimer stared for a moment at Sir Philip. “What happened?” he asked as he looked over Sir Philip who was covered with leaves, mud and what looked like traces of blood. He shook his head. “Never mind that, sir, but come in and I will start a bath before making tea.” Mortimer shut and locked the door once they were inside.

“There was some sort of rogue spirit in the trees,” Sir Philip said. “I wish I had the knack of a priest or a paladin, but I managed to drive it back. The playground should be safe for at least a week or two.” He sighed and leaned against the kitchen doorframe. “I’ll just get a quick shower and I’ll be straight down.” He managed his charming smile. “I’d be grateful if you could make me something to eat – anything hot would do, or even a sandwich.”

Mortimer frowned. “A bath would be better for you sir,” he grumbled. “But I’ll make sure that you have something good waiting for you when you come down.”

“Thank you,” Sir Philip said. “I won’t be long.”

Mortimer rushed into the kitchen, shaking his head. The Knight Templar looked almost ready to break. At least he could do better than a sandwich. He looked up as he heard the front door.

“It’s okay, it’s me,” Gareth called out.

Mortimer heard the door lock and smiled as Gareth came in. The smile faded as he took in the scratches down Gareth’s face. “Sir! What happened?”

“It was just one Gabble Ratchett but it got stuck under a car,” Gareth said wearily. “It was far more effort than it deserved.”

Mortimer looked confused. “What’s a Gabble Ratchett?”

“They’re nasty packets of malevolent energy,” Gareth said, easing himself out of his jacket. “If they’re summoned by someone then they usually turn up in a pack, but this just manifested as a single creature. I suppose it’s just one of the side effects of Edragor throwing all this dark magic around. They’re not strong but they can be nasty and I couldn’t leave it. Didn’t Kidder tell you? I sent him ahead.”

“Kidder isn’t home,” Mortimer said. “But Sir Philip is here. He had a problem with some trees.”

Gareth ran a weary hand over his face. “Kidder said something about calling in to see Jasmine and Darren, but I thought that was tomorrow.”

Sir Philip appeared in the doorway. “What’s happening?”

“I was just wondering if Kidder was home,” Gareth said.

“You look like you’ve been in a fight,” Bron added. “You need to sit down before you fall down.” He looked at Mortimer. “We can sit in the kitchen until food’s ready, can’t we?”

“I insist, sir!” Mortimer said. “I’ve already got a pan of soup on the stove – home made and not some of this shop bought rubbish! It’s ready to serve if you’ll just sit. And while you get that inside you, I’ll get something together for a main course.”

Sir Philip sank gratefully down into a kitchen chair and Gareth joined him after a quick wash of his hands and face. Cleaning off the dirt had brought the scratches and scrapes into clearer relief on both of them. “We can’t keep going on like this,” Sir Philip said. “I’m exhausted.”

“I’m going to book time off work,” Gareth said. “Luke won’t like it, but I’ve earned it and there’s enough set up at work to keep going for a while.”

Bron watched Mortimer set a steaming bowl of soup in front of them and a heaped plate of rolls in the centre of the table. “Thank you,” he said. “That looks just what need.”

“Are you joining us?” Sir Philip asked.

Mortimer shook his head. “I’m not that hungry. I’ll share the main course,” he said.

Sir Philip bent his head and said Grace before taking a spoonful of the soup. “This is good,” he said.

“It is indeed!” Bron said with enthusiasm. “You’re a great cook.”

Mortimer glowed with happiness as he laid some cold cooked potatoes into the frying pan. “I’m happy to be of use,” he said. He cast a worried glance over his shoulder as he took in the weariness of the men behind him. “I wish I could do more.” He laid strips of bacon onto the hot griddle and smiled at their sizzle. “I’ve just got some cake for dessert,” he said. “But I could make some custard to go with it.”

Sir Philip broke one of the fresh rolls and took a hearty bite. “Normally I’d say that we wouldn’t need it,” he said. “But I think we’re using up the calories.”

Gareth swallowed the last spoonful of warmed ginger cake with custard and sighed. “That was just what we needed,” he said.

“It absolutely was,” Sir Philip agreed, leaning back in the kitchen chair. He sagged wearily but then straightened a little as he heard the front door unlock.

“It’s just me,” Darren called out as he walked into the kitchen and sank down into a spare chair. “I’ve been sorting out a shade just outside Ilkley.” He looked over at Mortimer. “Any food left.”

“Of course,” Mortimer said, offended at the lack of faith.

“Where’s Kidder?” Bron asked. “I thought he was meeting you?”

“I haven’t seen him,” Darren said. “We’re supposed to be meeting up tomorrow for werewolf stuff with him and Jasmine, but I don’t know if we’ll be able to make time.”

“Kidder was supposed to come home ahead of me while I dealt with a Gabble Ratchet,” Gareth said as a chill settled in his stomach.

Sir Philip frowned and pulled out his mobile phone. “He’s really not much more than a pup,” he said. “But he could overestimate his ability.”

“He can stand up for himself if he has to,” Bron said. “But you’re right, he’s not a full wolf yet.”

“The phone’s going to voicemail,” Sir Philip said. “It’s switched off.”

“I’ll get on the laptop,” Gareth said. “It’s easier to track the phone from there.”

“I’ll ring Tyler,” Darren said, ignoring the bowl of soup in front of him. “With all this dark stuff going on, he could have been taken.”

Sir Philip pushed himself to his feet. “Once you’ve checked the laptop, we can retrace his likely route,” he said. He looked at Mortimer. “You need to hold the fort here. Take phone messages, keep the place warm and ready. I’ll call Rhys and see if he can spare anyone.”

“You know that they’re stretched looking for Mark,” Gareth said as he strode into the study to fire up the new laptop. “But I think that he won’t begrudge help.”

Darren followed them, phone in hand. “And I get Jasmine,” he said.

Bron looked up from the laptop. “There’s no trace of the phone after he crossed the park,” he said and then hesitated. “I’m remembering the old days. The Orache Stone wears out its owner quickly. Mark would be at the end of his usefulness by now.” He took a deep breath. “If Edragor is using a werewolf as a proxy to use the Orache Stone without getting damaged himself then he may be looking for another werewolf.” There was a long silence before Bron continued. “Kidder would be a good target on the outside. He’s young, impressionable and he’s a stray without a pack to come looking for him.”

Mortimer clutched at Bron’s arm. “But sir, we’re his pack,” he said.

“Damn right,” Bron said. “I could be wrong, but let’s get moving, and the quicker the better. If I’m right and Kidder gets caught up in the Orache Stone then he’s finished.”

*******

The cold didn’t affect Kidder so much but the dark was wearing him down. He lapped thirstily at the water dish and then took a few mouthfuls of kibble. There wasn’t much he could do in fur while he was kept in this cage. He jumped easily onto the bed and circled a few times before laying down with his head on his paws, pointedly away from the Orache Stone on the stand in the corner.

He could feel it calling to him. The insidious tug of desire. He could hear it whispering to him. Kidder tried to push his paws over his ears, but it didn’t help. Images of power seeped into his mind. He was a pack leader, gathering strays and sheltering them. He was surrounded by dozens of strong, young fighters with gleaming fur and sharp jaws. Someone soft and feminine was at his side, nuzzling up to him as the huge pack gathered for the feast, well fed and housed in warm, safe dens. He could do so much. He wouldn’t be chasing a dead woman like Mark. He could take this inexhaustible power and use it for all the right reasons. He could save so many.

Kidder whimpered and clutched his paws tighter over his head.

You can read the story from the beginning here

Kitty!

closeup photo of brown tabby cat
Image from Unsplash taken by Diana Parkhouse

“Come on, kitty, come for a cuddle,” Kane hoped he didn’t sound as helpless as he felt.

“Can you see him?” Adele called over his shoulder.

“He seems to be stuck behind the bookcase,” Kane said, “Come on, Kitler, come on.”

“I’ve never liked cats,” Adele said, trying to get a look. “But when my aunt died, well, I couldn’t let him go to a shelter. I mean, my aunt loved the evil creature.”

Kane stared helplessly at the ghost of the cat. The ghost stared back. Kane recognised the expression of bland assurance, the hint of secret wisdom and knowledge, and the pause of waiting for a thought to turn up between the furry ears. “Come on, Kitler, there’s a good kitty.”

“He was supposed to be called Sam, but after he terrorised next door’s rottweiler and dropped a live rat in front of the vicar, we thought Kitler was more appropriate.” Adele said. “He was a bit of a character.”

Kane reached out and tickled Kitler under his ghostly chin. The cat snuggled down onto the cuddle and edged forward. “He sounds a little difficult.” He could hear the phantasmal purr echoing.

“Do you know, the first week he was here, he chased a postman down the path,” Adele said with a hint of pride. “We had to collect all our post in the end, and we were blacklisted by Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

“Who’s a good kitty?” Kane said, as the spirit of the cat edged closer.

“I didn’t expect to miss him when he went, but I do,” Adele sighed. “I wonder if that held him back from crossing the Rainbow Bridge?”

“I think he was still happy here,” Kane said, watching the shade of Kitler push blissfully against his tickling fingers.

“I suppose so,” Adele said. “I mean, next door’s Alsatian still runs away from the post where Kitler used to sit. But he makes such a noise at night, racing around and knocking things over. It’s like he never left.”

Kane looked at the smug spirit in front of him. That’s why the ghost hadn’t moved on. He was having too much fun terrorising the household to want to see what happened next. “He is a strong character.” Any minute now, Kane thought. Any minute now the purr will turn to a hiss. I wonder if he can still scratch?

“But I’m not getting any sleep, and it’s unnerving having a ghost in the house.” Adele said. “So can you do something?”

“I’ve only really done people,” Kane said, pulling his hand back quickly as the cuddle turned instantly into an attack. Kitler glared at him. “I’m not sure how to get a ghost cat safely over.”

“Could you bribe him with ghost treats?” Adele asked. “He used to do anything for Dreamies.”

Kane stood up. “To be honest, I really don’t know what to do.” He looked around. “Aunt Brenda, do you have any ideas?”

The ghost of his foster mother tickled Kitler behind the ears. “What a sweetie. I wish I could take him home with me.”

“I’ll take it from here, my good woman!” A disembodied voice rang out before a spectral figure shimmered into view.

“Aunt Charlotte,” Adele whispered, holding on to the back of the chair.

“You can see her?” Kane asked.

“People always said I had a presence,” Aunt Charlotte said smugly. “And now I’ve come for my Sam before he gets exorcised or some such nonsense.” She grabbed Kitler firmly around the middle and hoisted him, unprotesting and stunned, into her arms. “He’s coming home with his mummy.” She turned to Adele. “You did your best for mummy’s little kitty. You should get that painting I left you valued, the one that you put in the spare bedroom.” She sniffed. “If you appreciated art, you would already know about it. The certificate of authenticity is tucked behind the frame at the back.”

Adele and Kane watched the ghost of Aunt Charlotte with her malevolent companion fade from view.

“Have they definitely gone?” Adele asked. “I mean, both of them?”

Kane smiled reassuringly. “I’m pretty sure that they won’t come back either.” He watched Adele sag with relief.

Auntie Brenda nodded in approval. “You’re going to find it very quiet around here now,” she said. “Perhaps you should get another cat.”

Kane decided that was one message he was not going to pass on.