Love You Forever

“How dare he date her!” A shower of dead rose petals scattered across the floor.

“You died two years ago.” Kane felt desperately out of his depth. How could he explain it to the ghost of Carlee Evans? “He can’t mourn you forever.”

“I killed myself because of him.” Carlee sobbed. “Of course he should love me forever. I left a note saying that I would love him forever. It’s not too much to ask.”

“I did some digging and looked some stuff up on the internet as well as talking to him.” Kane said. “You killed yourself because he went to his grandmother’s funeral.”

“I needed him!” Carlee wailed. “He was always talking to his precious family and his stupid friends. He should have been concentrating on me! I was devastated from work.”

“It was his grandmother’s funeral.” Kane stared at the ghost’s face for a moment, but saw nothing there. “He loved her and was heartbroken.”

“He should have been loving me!” Carlee stamped her ethereal foot. “I loved him.”

“Did you mean to kill yourself?” Kane asked.

Carlee shrugged and turned away.

“Because your internet search history was all about ‘safe overdoses’.” Kane could feel the ghost pulling away from him, but he concentrated a little. He was getting a lot better at dealing with ghosts and, to Carlee’s horror, she couldn’t leave.

“He should have been worried about me, not anyone else.” Carlee said. “And we should always be together. He doesn’t need anyone else.”

Kane took a deep breath and nodded to the ghost of Auntie Brenda who was hovering just on the edge of his vision. She slipped away. He tapped Carlee on the shoulder and almost smiled as she flinched at the unexpected contact. “You know Mick asked me to help because I can talk to ghosts.”

Carlee nodded. “And you can tell him how much I love him, and that I forgive him, and you can keep relaying messages. He won’t need the bitch now he can talk to me.”

“I can speak to all sorts of ghosts.” Kane said. “I keep it quiet, but I can often find a particular spirit or ghost, if I try and have a few clues.”

“I only care about Mick.” Carlee said. “Nothing else matters to me and nothing else matters to him. He has always been obsessed with me.”

Kane thought of the way Mick had described Carlee, the reluctance to date, the nightmare of the relationship and the relief mixed in with the guilt when she died. “I spoke to your mother.”

Carlee stared at him. “You wouldn’t!”

“Carlee Jean, how could you do this to me?” A ghost of an older woman strode towards them out of the shades, her lips pressed hard together and her eyes cold. “I can’t believe that you continue to embarrass your family, after everything I’ve said.”

Carlee spun around. “Mother!”

“Don’t you take that tone with me, young lady. Your father is so disappointed in you.”

“No, not Dad as well!”

The man following was as formally dressed as Carlee’s mother and wore a disapproving expression. “I found out about what the papers said.” He shook his head. “Even in death you were a disgrace.”

“I’m surprised that Father McKinley did the service.” Carlee’s mother said. “And to think he baptised you.”

“Mother…” Carlee tried to interrupt.

“You are coming with us.” Her father was adamant. “I am not allowing our family name to be dragged through the mud because you can’t control yourself.”

“No, Mum, Dad, you don’t understand!” Carlee cast an imploring look at Kane. “Say something.”

“Good luck.” Kane said, watching the figures fade out of sight. Now to give Mick the good news.

Not My Cup of Tea

Photo by Austin Wade on Unsplash

Kane managed a forced smile as he stood to shake Mrs Roberts hand. “Pleased to meet you.”

“I’m glad you can make it.” Mrs Roberts waved him to a seat. She set up her tablet and quickly flicked to the information. “You’re Kane, you live in Carlton Court down the road and you freelance. You are looking for a job in this shop to learn new skills and meet new people.” Mrs Roberts looked at him coldly. “This is not a dating site. This is a respectable coffee shop.”

A ghost of an elderly woman standing behind Mrs Roberts sniffed. “She may say it’s respectable, but the way they waste the cakes is shameful.”

The elderly man’s ghost next to her nodded. “You would have thought after eighteen months she would have got the cupcake order right.”

“They call them muffins.” The woman said. “It’s a disgrace.”

“What exactly is your freelance work?” Mrs Roberts asked.

Kane had practised this with the ghost of Auntie Brenda. He couldn’t say that he saw ghosts and sometimes he either talked them into ‘going home’ or passed on information such as the location of jewellery or recipes in a restaurant. “I practise a form of counselling.” He said with as much conviction as he could muster.

“I see that one of your references is that incredibly expensive restaurant in Chapel Allerton.” Mrs Roberts said, making a note. “Why are you coming to a small coffee shop after working there?”

“I didn’t work there as a restaurant worker.” Kane tried to keep calm. He really needed a steady income. He was making decent money as a ghost translator, but banks, credit cards and landlords needed something more tangible. “I was contracted as a freelance counsellor.” Mr Jervis needed something like counselling at the end of it and Kane still had to go in every month and play mediator between the old, dead chef and the new, living owner.

“That one looks like he might be worth keeping.” The elderly woman said. “He looks desperate enough to learn.”

“I’ve seen more meat on a butcher’s pencil.” The elderly man sniffed. “Perhaps he could eat up some of the surplus cake order.”

Kane tried to avoid looking at them. Mrs Roberts looked down the list. “You put that you prefer morning shifts. Is that to fit in with this freelance stuff?”

Kane nodded. “But I’m very flexible.”

“I bet he’s flexible.” The old lady smirked. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she tried to find out how flexible in the back room.”

The elderly man shook his head. “She never took her opportunity when we managed to lock her in the back room with the last lad that worked here. I would have thought it would have been perfect.”

“I even fused the lights.” The elderly lady said. “It takes a lot of effort to move electricity and she didn’t appreciate it.”

“I don’t approve of divorce.” The elderly man shook his head. “And she’s no age.” He looked Kane up and down. “He’s a bit young, but he should manage.”

“You can start tomorrow, if you like.” Mrs Roberts said. “6.30am sharp, I’ll show you how to set up.”

“I wish she would, but it would just be the café.” The elderly woman muttered.

Kane stood up. Auntie Brenda would be disappointed, but she would understand. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can work here. The ghosts are a little too much.”

Kane felt bad for Mrs Roberts as her shoulders slumped, but the appalled expressions of the ghosts would keep a smile on his face for a long time.

A Matter of Taste

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Kane sat miserably at the table. The restaurant was closed business but he could hear the clatter of the kitchens as they got ready for the evening.

The ghost of Auntie Brenda had stood over him while he laboriously pressed his only white shirt and tried to get him to smarten himself. He had done his best, and now was sitting at a table in a restaurant where a normal meal would cost the equivalent of two week’s rent money.

“I bought this restaurant fair and square.” Mr Jervis said. “And I thought I was buying the recipes.”

Kane tried to ignore the ghost sniffing at the side. “Wasn’t anything written down, sir?”

“There wasn’t a scrap of information.” Mr Jervis tapped his fingers on the immaculate damask tablecloth. “I’ve gone over old purchasing invoices, but the old…” He caught sight of Kane’s expression. “The former chef did a lot of the marketing himself. There’s no clue there.”

The ghost nodded. “And I never let the staff know all the secrets.”

“The staff don’t know the full recipes either.” Mr Jervis said.

“I can see the ghost.” Kane said. “I can ask him for the recipes, if you like, sir.”

“That’s why you’re here.” Mr Jervis snapped. “I need the recipes. The restaurant was sold for a song after he died and now I know why.”

“I’m not surprised if you look at the standard of the bread order.” The ghost sniffed. “And that last lot of cabbage was not fit for the pigs.”

“The ghost says that there were issues with the bread and the cabbages.” Kane said. “Sorry sir.”

“Dammit, Jo said that I shouldn’t scrimp when it came to the bread.” Mr Jervis stood up and started pacing. “And I’ve changed back to the suppliers already.”

“I could give him a few pointers, as he proves himself.” The ghost watched Mr Jervis with a maliciously satisfied expression.”

“Umm, I think the late chef will be willing to give some information over time.” Kane said. “But I can’t make him do anything, sir. Sorry.”

“What’s the point of hiring a ghostbuster if you can’t them to bust the ghost.” Mr Jervis grumbled, then noticed Kane’s expression. “I’m going to have to be nice to him, aren’t I.”

“At least he’s not interfering, sir.” Kane said.

“I’m not interfering yet.” The ghost drifted over to the table. “And the first thing he can do is update those menus. I updated every six months. I’ll give him some new ideas.”

Mr Jervis sank back onto a chair as Kane passed on the information. “He’s going to be running the restaurant, isn’t he?”

The ghost looked up from the menu that Kane had opened for him. “Just because I’m dead doesn’t mean that I’m going to give up. Now, you need to get rid of the duck on the menu. It’s been here for a few years. Perhaps some partridge…”

Kane started taking notes.

Water’s Not the Worst of It

Photo by Meg Barnett on Unsplash 

“Are you sure about this, Mr Easton?” Kane said, looking down the dark steps. “And he won’t listen to you?”

Mr Easton shook his head. “It’s not that he won’t listen to me, it’s just that he thinks I shouldn’t be doing what he called ‘mechanical operations’ as I am a ‘man of the cloth’. I don’t think that dying has helped him become a calmer person.”

“He wasn’t calm when he was alive.” Vic said. “He was a terror. You had to grow a thick skin around him.”

Kane looked at the old man hunched next to him. “And you knew him when you were an apprentice?”

“Yep, sixty years ago, give or take. He was a bugger then and he’s a bugger now and there’s no way I’d go down that hole.”

Kane looked down into the dark cellar. “How bad can it be?”

“If we don’t it fixed soon, there will be structural issues.” Mr Easton said.

Vic nodded. “He could hear the start of it, went down to find the leak and hit his head on the doorframe and died.”

“I think it is a classic case of a spirit unable to rest until something has been put right.” Mr Easton said.

“It would have been put right years ago if he’d let someone get to it.” Vic said. “But he would never trust another man’s work. He wasn’t that good himself, though.” A tea cup flew off the draining board and smashed into the wall next to Vic’s head. “He had rubbish aim as well.” Vic said. “And I’m waiting outside in the car.”

Kane took off shoes and socks, then picked up Vic’s heavy metal toolbox, handed Mr Easton the lamp, and made his way gingerly down the stairs.

The cellar was cramped, with paint flaking from the walls and water flowing over the stone floor. Mr Gomersal was sitting on one edge, a translucent half smoked cigarette stuck behind his ghostly ear. He looked over the tool kit.

“At least it isn’t all this new rubbish.” He said, looking at Mr Easton. “This the lad?”

“It is.” Mr Easton said, “No-one else will come down.”

“When I was a lad people took work where they could take it, and none of this complaining.” Mr Gomersal said. “Right, lad, you do as I say and we’ll be fine. I’ve worked out what the problem i. Now get a wrench, not that one you idiot, that one. That’s it, now pick it up, it won’t bite you.”

“Yessir.” Kane picked up the wrench and looked at the oozing pipe.

“Can you see where the bolt is? No, not that one, you idiot, the one behind it. Bring the light closer so you can see what’s in front of your face. Yes! Give the lad a cough drop, he’s found it!”

As Kane struggled with the rusted pipes, he decided that being ankle deep in cold, dirty water was not the worst part of it.

The Wrong Funeral

Image from Pixabay by Hans

Kane stood at the back with the rest of the foster kids. He wore a faded black sweatshirt over his darkest jeans, but it was too cold and wet to manage without a jacket and its pale grey stood out against the funereal black of the people at the front. The family looked very proper, all in black with the men in tailored suits and the women wearing hats. He shifted a little in the cold of the church as he listened to the people at the front.

It didn’t seem like the funeral of the woman he knew. They talked about her hard work taking on troubled youngsters that had been rejected by everyone else. They talked about her retiring to the flat and her membership of the local lawn bowls association. They talked about how sad it was that she had never met the right man but devoting her time to the rejected souls had filled the void when she wasn’t working as a very respectable accountant. Kane exchanged glances with the other foster kids. They were equally bewildered. This was not the woman they knew. The woman they knew had been warm and spontaneous and could out-swear as sailor, with a different girlfriend every month. She had fought for these kids, yelled at them, cried with them and celebrated every success. Not all those who came into her home were successes. Not all had survived the legacy of the care system. Some had fallen by the wayside and lost touch, but most had kept contact over the years. The older ones had done their best to contact everyone who had passed through Auntie Brenda’s welcoming door, and though some couldn’t be reached and some couldn’t make it, forty three of her foster kids were there, with ages from over forty to eighteen. They huddled together in their best clothes, silently mourning as they fumbled with unfamiliar service books and old fashioned hymns.

The priest pronounced the blessing and her elder sister followed the coffin in its stately procession out of the church, avoiding the accusing eyes of the foster children. Everyone knew Auntie Brenda wanted to be cremated. Everyone knew that she had wanted loud colours and louder music at the crematorium. She had wanted to be played out to ‘Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Fire!’ And she would have thrown a fit at seeing the kids she loved pushed to the back.

The kids followed the family, leaving a discreet gap. Kane had been one of the last ones she had taken in, before she became too sick to look after others. He glanced around him. The foster kids, the ones she had sheltered, were all pale and tense. Many were quietly crying or fighting back emotion. It had been safe to cry at Auntie Brenda’s home. It had been safe to get a kind word and a reassuring squeeze of the hand. He had known her for such a brief time and her overflowing love had wrapped around him like the best kind of blanket, warm and soft and the perfect size. When he had left, others had called in to help her out, to make sure she had food and warmth and a listening ear, just as she had done for them.

In the sadness, Kane felt anger. Auntie Brenda’s relations hadn’t been there when she was going through chemo, when the shakes hit her, when the nights got cold and dark. They didn’t sit and read to her or share the soaps with her. It had been the kids that her sister had dismissed as broken that had paid back the unstinting love that had been such a lifeline to them. Now they had taken Auntie Brenda’s funeral and made it into something alien and distant.

Kane discreetly hefted his backpack. The kids had not been invited to the small reception afterwards, but that was okay. They would not have gone anyway. Instead they had muddled together a room in a pub owned by one of Auntie Brenda’s less reputable friends and organised some food between them. They had made sure they had a loud copy of ‘Great Balls of Fire’ cued up on their iPad, along with all of the rest of Auntie Brenda’s favourite music. After some discussion, they gave Kane instructions and the contents of the backpack, and he would linger after and pay the final respects on behalf of them. They had worked it out.

After the final blessing and Auntie Brenda’s sister had thrown a small, sanitised shovel of earth onto the coffin, shielding it from the kids, the family slowly dispersed along the gravel paths of the churchyard. The kids nodded to each other. The younger ones headed towards the car park, knowing that they would be watched like hawks ‘because you never know what that sort could get up to’. One of the older ones started asking the vicar questions while another two or three started lingering around the older headstones, catching the eye of the churchwarden. Kane was unobserved.

He crouched down next to the grave. “I miss you, Auntie Brenda,” he said. He swallowed and opened the backpack. “We’re all sorry about the funeral, but we’re doing our best.” He pulled out a few bottles. “It’s okay, Ellis bought the drinks, so it’s legal. We didn’t do anything to get into trouble.” He glanced quickly around and tipped a bottle of the best supermarket rum into the grave. “We all know you like a rum and pep when it’s cold.” He tipped a bottle of peppermint cordial after the rum, quickly hiding the bottles in his backpack. “And it’s November. We remembered. Rum and pep between September and March, and gin and elderflower between March and September. And I promise to take the bottles to the recycling.” He glances around again. “We talked about this a lot,” he said quietly. “But we worked it out together in the end.” He pulled out a plastic bag and emptied the cheap selection into the grave. “We got you the chocolates you always asked us to buy you for Christmas, the ones you liked, but we didn’t want to put plastic in the grave, so we left the box at home. We even left you the coffee creams.” His voice cracked a little at the end.

The shade of Auntie Brenda patted his shoulder. “You did okay, you and the rest. I appreciate it.” She grinned her familiar, careless grin as she popped the echo of a coffee cream into her mouth. The ghost had regained her hair and it was back to her favourite bright pink, spiked defiantly high. “And did you ever hear such rubbish?” She watched Kane stand up and nod to the other kids who drifted away from their targets towards their cars. “She called me an accountant! I worked in a betting shop all my life and I was bloody good at it.” She threw back her head and laughed the throaty, rich laugh that Kane loved. “She would have looked like she had a lemon stuck in her dentures if anyone had said that. Come on, I know you lot. You’ll have got a party sorted out. Let’s get going.”

A Gentleman


Photo by Hean Prinsloo on Unsplash

Daisy shifted nervously in her seat. “Grandpapa, are you sure about this?”

Her husband held her hand. “It’s okay. We’re doing the right thing.”

“It’s okay for you, Russ, you didn’t grow up with Grandpapa.”

“He’s not exactly your grandfather, though, is he?” Russ said. “I mean, he’s your great-great-great grandfather. And he’s old enough to know his own mind.”

Daisy looked across at the ghost sitting next to the fire. It was an open fire, hissing softly with the smokeless coal they had to use in this part of the city. Grandpapa had never countenanced changing to central heating. “But it seems so final.”

“I know what I’m doing, girl.” Grandpapa puffed on his ghostly pipe. “But I’ve stayed here long enough.”

“Is it about Mrs Henderson?” Russ asked.

“Russ!” Daisy hissed.

“I’ll have you know that I was always faithful to my wife, your grandmama…”

“Great-great-great grandmother,” Russ whispered to Daisy.

“… but I do admit that when Mrs Henderson moved in next door I was struck by her character.” Grandpapa ignored Russ’s comment. “And, yes, now that she has passed over, it has made me think that perhaps I should go and join my Millie…”

“Or Mrs Henderson” Russ murmured to Daisy.

If you don’t mind.” Grandpapa snorted. “It’s time to join my Millie. I just hope you found someone suitable to take my case.”

“Are you sure you need help, Grandpapa?” Russ asked. “Can you not just, I don’t know, decide?”

Grandpapa shifted awkwardly. “I’ve not had any luck so far.” He admitted. “I may be a special case.” He puffed on his pipe again, enjoying the thought. “But hopefully you have engaged a suitable specialist, one who can manage matters with appropriate dignity.”

“He is the only one we could find,” Daisy said. The thought of the familiar, irritating figure disappearing left her unsettled. “But three separate people said he was very good. All the other people we asked were, well, fakes.”

“And he isn’t asking a fortune, like some of them out there.” Russ added. “If he can’t help us, it will have to be a priest.”

“No priests!” Grandpapa snapped. “I don’t approve of them. The old vicar ran off with his secretary and his replacement cooked the books.”

Daisy and Russ exchanged worried glances. There were plenty of stories about bad priests, but who else could get rid of ghosts? Daisy waved her hand at the table. “Are you sure we need to have this ready for him?”

Grandpapa snorted, “Anyone who can get rid of me will be a man of some courage, a man of discernment, a man of taste and refinement. It won’t be some teddy boy in a silly jacket or one of those punk mohicans. He will be a gentleman.”

Russ looked over the small table set aside for the ‘ghost whisperer’. “I hope he smokes.”

“All gentlemen smoke.” Grandpapa said. “Or they should. A man should be able to choose a good cigar. That’s how you can tell the quality of a gentleman. It may make all the difference in whether he accepts the case or walks away. And have you water for the whisky? I know we have soda, but some of the old guard take water with their whisky.”

Daisy and Russ avoided looking at each other. Grandpapa was becoming more and more out of touch, but Daisy had had the opinionated ghost in the background all her life and Russ had grown to love the old man – more or less. Neither could imagine the house without him. But now that the sprightly and scandalous Mrs Henderson had gone, a spark had gone out of the old spirit and he had become quieter and a little less visible. They jumped as the doorbell echoed through the room.

“Don’t keep him waiting!” Grandpapa said, “Or he may realise we no longer have staff! Go on – answer the door!”

Daisy and Russ raced into the hall and then paused at the door. Daisy looked at Russ. “If we open this door, we won’t be able to stop it.”

“If we don’t open the door, Grandpapa will carry on being miserable.” Russ said, “And he’ll make our lives miserable with it.” He looked at the door as if seeing it for the first time. “But I know what you mean.”

The doorbell rang again. “Open the damn door!” Grandpapa roared from the sitting room.

Daisy swallowed and, despite shaking fingers, opened the door. “Oh!” She looked at the skinny lad in the thin jacket and supermarket jeans and wondered what Grandpapa would say about this.

“Mr and Mrs Smyth? I’m Kane Thelwell. We spoke on the phone about a ghost.” Kane smiled nervously. “May I come in?”

Family Jewels


Photo by Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash

“Can you see anyone?” Justin asked. He stood at the window, tension in every line of him.

“One moment, Mr Birstall.” Kane tried to concentrate on the sobbing ghost in front of him. “Calm down and just try and…” You couldn’t tell a ghost to take a breath. “Just take it easy.”

“All my life I’ve heard the story of the family jewels.” Justin said. “I’ve waited my whole life to buy back my family home.”

Kane nodded distractedly as the ghost slowly straightened up and looked at his sister’s great grandson. “That’s better. Now, this is Justin, and he wants to know what happened to his great grandmother’s jewellery.”

Justin looked between Kane and the gap that Kane was apparently speaking to. “Dad said that the jewellery wasn’t much, but it would be great to be sort of reconciled with that, to be part of the family.”

“I never thought she would leave.” The ghost started sobbing again. “I thought if I forbade her to marry then we would be together and comfortable. But she wanted to go to London with this clerk.”

Kane nodded politely. “I’m sure you missed your sister…”

“I missed her so much. How could I know that I would drive her away.” The ghost pulled out a spectral handkerchief. “I mean, if I had realised perhaps I would have at least had letters.” The ghost looked between Kane and Justin. “I have to know – did she die in poverty? Did she die in pain? Did she have a family? I’ve worried about it for so many years, I can’t rest.”

Kane looked at Justin. “Your great-grandmother, was she happy?”

Justin smiled. “I grew up with stories about her life. She loved the theatre, was devoted to my great-grandfather – she was so proud of him. She was always well dressed, and had all the latest fashions, especially when she went to the big dinners and galas.”

“What do you mean, big dinners?” The ghost forgot to sob into his handkerchief and stared at Justin.

“The ghost is surprised your great-grandmother went to big dinners.” Kane said, a little timidly. A skinny kid just out of local authority care shouldn’t ask questions of a high flyer in the City.

Justin didn’t take offence. “My great-grandmother ran off with my great-grandfather to the horror of all their families. But they settled in London, he went back to his father’s firm and they were very happy. Once he took over, there were shareholders’ dinners and charity events with the Lord Mayor.” He smiled. “Granny used to tell us stories about how they met with royalty and all sorts.” He sighed “But she used to whisper to Granny that all the fancy necklaces she had didn’t have the same feel as the locket her brother gave her and that she left behind.” He shook his head. “That’s why I’m here. One last chance.” He sighed. “Who am I kidding? That locket was probably sold or thrown long ago.”

“How dare you, sir!” The ghost stood, indignant. “The very thought that I would do something like that! Of course, I didn’t want the maids finding it and perhaps sending it on to London, so I hid it.” He turned to Kane. “Boy, you can fetch it for me.”

“What?” Kane said, bewildered. “I mean, what do you mean? Where is it?”

“I put it in the kitchen.” The ghost said. “No-one would think to look in the kitchen for something I hid. I never went there as an adult.” He shook his head. “Everyone forgot that I grew up in this house. I know every nook and cranny. Come on, lad, smarten up.”

Kane followed the ghost out of the empty study and down the echoing, uncarpeted hall and into the kitchen. Justin trailed after him.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m following the ghost, Mr Birstall.”

“What ghost?” Justin said. “I can’t see anything. Don’t you have to have a seance and call on them or something.”

As Kane walked into the kitchen, he wondered what it would be like to have to ask a ghost to come instead of trying to get them to shut up and leave him alone. “I’m getting a message.” He said.

“Hmph, a message.” The ghost snorted. “Anyone would think you were some sort of spiritist. Come over here, lad, and put your hand up the chimney, quick as you like.”

Kane looked at the soot-encrusted mantle and took off his jacket. “Whereabouts up the chimney?” He asked doubtfully, rolling up his sleeves.

“What?” Justin asked.

Kane ignored him and, following the ghost’s instructions, slid his hand behind the mantle. “The ghost, your great-great-uncle, would like to know if his sister was happy, and how she died.” The soot felt unpleasantly damp and a little slimy.

What?” Justin asked. He stared at Kane and then shrugged. “Everyone said she had a happy heart. She died in the Blitz, direct hit on the house.”

“She wouldn’t have suffered.” The ghost said quietly. “And she was happy.” He sighed. “Try a bit further left, boy.”

Kane looked down at the soot streaking his newest jeans and trainers. “Are you sure? Hang on…” His fingers found a loose stone and he wiggled it a little before he managed to prise it out. He set the stone carefully down on the hearth and tentatively reached in. “I think this is it.”

Justin took the small tin box from Kane, regardless of the soot falling on his bespoke suit and, after a struggle, opened it up. He swallowed and tipped the contents onto the dusty windowsill. “Great-grandmother’s locket.” He pushed aside the discoloured pearls and the garnet necklace and pulled out a simple locket, still faintly gleaming under the dust.

“She didn’t die poor, she died happy.” The ghost sighed as he started to fade and pass over. “I didn’t drive her to poverty. She was happy.”

Kane watched the ghost go home and turned to Justin. “The ghost has gone, Mr Birstall. I don’t think that there’s anything else.”

“Hmm?” Justin was staring at the picture in the locket. “Sorry, I was caught up with this.” He showed the facing pictures to Kane. “My great-grandmother and her brother. I have a similar picture of her at home, look.” He pulled out his phone and scrolled through to show Kane the picture of the same laughing young woman that was in the locket.

Kane looked at the faded photographs and smiled politely as he tried to brush the soot off his jeans. “So, I’ll see myself out.”

Justin came back to the present. “I’ll give you a lift to the station.” He handed Kane an envelope. “Agreed fee.” He added a second envelope. “And the bonus for finding the locket.” The smile on his face grew. “The family jewels.”

The New Building

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_20190327_091900956.jpg
Old foundation stone in the new building of the Church of the Nazarene, Morley



Kane Thelwell looked around nervously and slid into the church hall. It should be safe enough. All he had to do was keep his head down and no-one would look at him twice. He was just so desperate to get out of his small room and at least be around living people, even if he didn’t feel comfortable speaking to them, that he risked this trip to the church coffee morning.

It was standard stuff. Three old ladies were serving tea and coffee from a huge, overcleaned urn in one corner, together with a selection of bacon butties, sausage sarnies and toast. Another table had a selection of home made cakes. Kane looked over at them. In his experience, competition between the ladies meant that the cake stall was always worth a visit. There was a sad selection of battered paperback books that had probably been trundled out every Monday for years, and a rail of ‘nearly new’ kids’ clothes.

The best thing about this was that the church hall was new. It was so new that you could hardly find it on the internet. It was a brand new, purpose built complex with a church, a church hall, a selection of meeting rooms and a large and extremely modern kitchen area. This was not a haunted building. It hadn’t had time. Besides, it had been blessed, so it had to be ghost free, right?

Kane couldn’t remember when it had started. He had always been faintly aware of ghosts, even when he was a child. There had always been the faint whisper on the edge of his hearing, the faint flicker on the edge of his field of vision and the sensation of not being alone. It was only as he got older, however, that the ghosts had started talking to him. As a young teenager in foster care, he had been glad of a sympathetic conversation and the old railwayman who had died forty years before in the bedroom now allotted to Kane had been a good listener with some sound advice. Kane had missed Eddie when his placement ended there. Then there had been Millie. She hadn’t been very helpful when it came to sorting out survival in a hostile household, and she hadn’t always listened, but she had some good stories and some great advice about how to talk to girls, which had been a real help to a fourteen year old.

The placement after that hadn’t been so much fun, and the elderly schoolteacher who had died in that room five years before was not sympathetic. He was, however, surprisingly tolerant when it came to helping Kane with his homework. Kane’s school attendance had been erratic at best even before he got into the system, but Mr Kettering had stood behind Kane as Kane scrolled through teaching sites on the council issued laptop and then patiently talked through the work Kane had missed. Kane had been almost sorry when the acerbic Mr Kettering finally passed over, comforted by the knowledge that he had got one more troubled boy through his exams.

His next placement had been a halfway house. There was no question of him going to college, despite his good grades, but the converted Victorian townhouse had been okay, and with the three ghostly parlour maids, the spirit of the old lady who had been the matriarch of a large family and the shades half a dozen kids and teenagers, there had never been a dull moment.

But that’s when it turned. One of the other, living, members of the facility had overheard Kane’s half of a long conversation with Mary, the maid from 1908, and had reported him to the resident social worker. When blood tests showed Kane to be drug free, a few further observations and careful questions led to Kane being held for psychiatric evaluation. That had been six months ago, and while Kane had illicitly stopped taking his medication, he was aware of being monitored in that same halfway house. Now he was careful.

Kane smiled nervously at the old lady as she poured him his tea, picked up his sausage sarnie and found a seat in the corner. As a defence he pulled out his battered phone and put in the headphones. There was nothing to listen to. Kane hadn’t been able to afford to pay for any phone calls for months. But if anyone saw him talking, perhaps they could assume he was having a conversation.

The sandwich was perfect – the sausages were crispy and brown sauce oozed from the soft, white roll as he bit into it. Then Kane’s heart sank. He could see ghosts. He could see their faint outlines as they wandered around the hall and inspected the latest information on the notice board. He started to bolt down his sandwich. He had to get out of here before the ghosts realised that he could see them. He drained the last of his tea, but he was too late. The ghost of an elderly lady caught his eye.

Kane’s heart sank as she grabbed her companion’s insubstantial arm and tugged the elderly gentleman towards Kane. He looked towards the door but it was too late.

“Hello, dear, I’m Margaret and this is Herbert. Herbert was the first minister on this site.”

Kane positioned his phone so he looked like he was making a call. “I thought this site was new.”

Herbert shook his head. “They rebuilt on the same site. I was completely against it, of course. I always said that there were issues with the traffic when the new supermarket was built.”

“Nobody listens to us, of course.” Margaret said sadly. “And now all we can do is listen to the endless rumble. It affected the foundations of the old building.”

Kane looked out of the window and onto the busy street. He could see the ghosts’ point. Traffic was edging along in a jam just before the turn off to the massive supermarket. “It’s progress.” He said quietly.

“We noticed the cracks in the cellar in the old building before anyone else.” Herbert sighed. “They never listened to us, and by the time the committee had spotted them, it was too late.”

“The old building had its problems, of course.” Margaret said. “They had a lot of trouble with the heating.” She looked wistfully out of the window. “Everything is working well, but there is so much traffic.”

“If there was only a way to escape this.” Herbert followed Margaret’s gaze. “Some way of leaving this endless rumble.”

“Is there a way?” Kane asked.

Margaret leaned forward, sinking slightly into the table. “You can see us. Perhaps you can find a way to get us some peace. That’s all we want.”

“If we could just find a way to silence the endless rumble.” Herbert said. He looked around the bustling church hall. “It is all so different from my day.”

Kane looked at Herbert who was wearing a frock coat and stiff collar and then glanced over to the young mums in leggings. “Time change.” He managed.

“And not for the better, young man.” Margaret said. “Surely you are willing to help us?”

Kane drew a breath to answer and then froze as a stern and elderly minister stalked over towards his table. Kane shrank back into his chair, miserably aware that a skinny youngster apparently talking to himself was never going to get a warm welcome.

The minister leaned down on the table and, to Kane’s utter shock, spoke directly to Margaret. “Are you causing trouble again?” He looked over at Herbert. “You both know better than that. This poor lad came in for a drink and a sandwich. He did not come in to be harassed by two ghosts barely better than poltergeists.”

Herbert pursed his lips. “I beg your pardon!”

“Which story were you telling? The tale where you just needed a picture of your descendants? Or the one where you needed to see pictures of the town.” The minister looked between the two ghosts. “Don’t tell me you were trying the traffic one again. You are on your last warning.”

“You are no fun.” Margaret pulled herself upright, drifting slightly above the ground. “It’s not like we meant any harm.”

“You never do.” The minister snapped. “But I’m still having to counsel those you contact.” He shook his head. “I think you need to leave this young man alone. And I am warning you, one more episode like this and I’m banishing you back to the churchyard.”

Kane watched the two affronted ghosts drift away through the nearest wall and then turned to the minister in surprise. “You can see them?”

“Most of us here can,” The minister smiled sympathetically. “But we’re an unusual bunch.” He hesitated. “I can talk you through some techniques to avoid the supernatural, if you like, or learn more about it.”

“I would really like to learn more about it.” Kane said without thinking. He paused. “I’d like to be able to ignore them as well, at least, the annoying ones.”

“I’m Charles Easton, the minister here.” Charles held out his hand. “If you’re free on Wednesday, I’m in my office all afternoon. We can have a chat.”

Kane automatically shook the minister’s hand. “I’m Kane Thelwell.” He said. “Pleased to meet you.” He took a breath. “I’ll be back on Wednesday.”

“Excellent,” Charles said briskly. “Excuse me, I need to speak to Mr Matthews.” And he was gone.

Kane took the last mouthful of his tea and stood up slowly. He couldn’t wait to tell the ghosts back home about this.

As it’s Spooky October, I’m revisiting the stories of Kane, the reluctant ghost whisperer. Throughout October I’ll be posting one of his stories every day, with some new stories during October Frights, which are on the 10th to the 15th of October. This story was first posted on 28th March 2019 and I hope you enjoy this reminder of past adventures.