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.
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 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.
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.
“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.
“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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
“What exactly is your freelance work?” Mrs
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,
“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
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
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
“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.
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
“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
“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
“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…”
“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
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
“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.
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.”
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
“… 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.
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
“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
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
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?”