Authors: Curtis Jobling
First published in Great Britain in 2015 by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd
A CBS COMPANY
Copyright © 2015 Curtis Jobling
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.
The right of Curtis Jobling to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
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London WC1X 8HB
Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney
Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
PB ISBN: 978-1-47111-579-0
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-47111-580-6
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
To Pastor Matthew Norris, the funniest, most mischievous minister to ever come out of Warrington
School’s out for summer, as a mad-man in make-up once sang. It was the first day of the holidays and six weeks of sunstroke, mindless mayhem and misadventure lay ahead.
It truly felt like anything could happen, the world our playground. Who knew what scrapes and hi-jinks awaited us? As it happened, it wasn’t Enid Blyton who penned what was to come. It felt
more like Stephen King had seized our world and turned it upside down.
I should probably help you get up to speed. My name is Will Underwood, and I’m a ghost. Not some freaky-deaky, spooky-ooky, malevolent spirit-type thingie, I should add. I’m the same
nice guy I was before I died, only now I’m hopeless at ping pong, pottery and playing pattycake. Being an ethereal free-roaming vapour really does put a dampener on the everyday shenanigans
one takes for granted. The only person who can see me is my best friend, Dougie Hancock. Poor lad. The night I died, he lost a friend and gained a phantom. You see, I haunt Dougie; wherever my pal
goes, I follow. We’re mates through thick and thin, through life
That first day of the summer break saw Andy Vaughn, Dougie and I hit the town and our local haunts (pardon the expression). The comic shop got hammered, the lads picking up their latest issues
of essential superhero reading:
The Walking Dead
and whatever the latest incarnation of
was. We loitered around Waterstones for nearly half an hour before
outstaying our welcome. Apparently, the staff weren’t fans of Dougie knocking books off the shelves. Admittedly, that was my doing, channelling my power to send them tumbling whenever my pal
Have I not mentioned the power? Oh yeah, it isn’t all bad.
There were a few little tricks I was learning, such as ‘the push’, where I could focus my ghostly energies into an act of force, causing effect in the living world. This had at first
been triggered by emotions – fear, hate, love, all the rich stuff – but lately I’d been learning to channel it at will. It helped having a mentor – and we’ll come to
him later. Having been kicked out of the bookshop, we enjoyed the parkour boys pulling tricks in the Town Hall gardens before the police moved them on. We went gloom-spotting, watching the
pocket-punks and mini-goths mope outside the alternative lifestyle boutique. With the leather, metal and tattoo paraphernalia on show in the window, ‘boutique’ was the last word
I’d have used to describe that particular shop.
We even managed to bang on the window of Games Workshop before the manager gave chase. I know, what hell-raisers! That’s right, even roleplaying gamers have their nemeses, and for us it
was the thirty-something guy who ran that place. The world of fantasy gaming was as diverse and feudal as any other; tabletop-troopers and dungeon-dwellers just don’t mix. Even we could be
bigoted and close-minded. The tabletoppers no doubt also suffered bullying because their hobby was deemed nerdy or whatever label the brainless wanted to stick it with. We should have been
brothers-in-arms, standing shoulder to shoulder in the name of geek liberation, not bickering with each other like dingbats.
We had taken the bus into town, the bus stop not being haunted like the train station. The Lamplighter’s ghost cast a long shadow over those platforms, and Dougie was in no hurry to return
there. Having enjoyed our morning’s mischief and merriment, my mates had retired to the local burger joint to fill their faces. This consisted of nugget-shaped bites and buns packed with
hosed-off cow-lips and bum-holes. I’d never been a fan of fast-food joints in life, and watching that pair scoff it down made it no more appealing in death. Food devoured and milkshakes in
hand, the three of us exited the restaurant, in search of our final port of call for the day: the computer game store.
‘Listen to this, too good to miss,’ said Andy, heralding the arrival of a belch that made his teeth rattle. This would ordinarily have been resident clown Stu Singer’s job, but
in his absence, Andy had manfully stepped into the breach. A trio of girls walked past the other way, disgusted.
‘It’s a wonder you haven’t found a girlfriend yet,’ said Dougie. ‘Truly it is.’
‘I’m waiting for the right one to come along. It’s not easy being this desirable.’
‘Yeah, you’re beating them off with a stick.’
Andy had never really had a girlfriend before. He snogged a girl at his thirteenth birthday party, but rumour had it that was his cousin (second removed as he’d once remarked in his
defence). It would take quite the lady to distract him from his true love: roleplaying. Andy was married to his hobby. He had a clutch of new rulebooks and modules in his carrier bag, and was
itching to rip into them.
All three of us turned, our stomachs churning when we discovered Vinnie Savage and his henchmen were following us. Vinnie once dated Lucy Carpenter, Dougie’s girlfriend, and he and my
friend had come to blows not long after I’d died. It had been during Danger Night when the fair came to town, and Savage had received a punch to his guts – possibly his undercarriage.
We were hazy about where the blow had landed. Dougie and he had disliked one another long before Lucy had entered the equation, Vinnie being a stone-cold bully of the lowest order. This was the
first time Dougie had encountered him for a great many months.
‘Vinnie,’ said Dougie, his voice a strangled croak. It was worth remembering that, when the fabled fairground fight had taken place, it had actually been
who had punched
Savage. It was my ghostly fist that had propelled him off his feet and into the mud, one of the first times I’d truly used the push to any effect. Dougie had taken the plaudits from everyone
at school, but the punch hadn’t been his.
‘Scrote,’ said Vinnie, ushering my friends back into the boarded doorway of a closed-down shop.
‘Touché,’ said I, before turning to Dougie. ‘Any time you want to leg it, I’d suggest you start running.’
‘I know,’ said Dougie under his breath.
‘What’s that, Hancock?’ said Savage, taking a step closer. ‘Talking to yourself? I’d heard you were tapped in the head. Seems the rumour’s true.’
Andy shifted anxiously beside Dougie, face drained of colour, eyes flitting for an escape route. Savage looked Andy up and down.
‘This your girlfriend then, Hancock?’
Chuckles from the thugs at his back.
‘No, she’s at home.’ The words were out of Dougie’s mouth before he could help it.
‘Way to wave the red flag at the bull,’ I said as Savage’s face contorted into an ugly snarl.
‘You’re still seeing my girlfriend, then?’
Dougie swallowed hard. Now he was up to his neck in it. ‘She stopped being your girlfriend ages ago, Vinnie, before she started seeing me.’
Andy slurped nervously on his milkshake, drawing Vinnie’s attention. The bully reached forward and took hold of the cup.
‘That’s mine,’ said Andy, nervously, the straw pinging from his lips.
‘And now it’s mine,’ said Vinnie, his voice a menacing whisper as he pulled the straw out and flicked a glob of milkshake at Andy. It hit him square on the forehead. ‘See
how that works?’ He towered over Andy, making sudden aggressive movements with his head like some demented cockerel. He was intimidating our friend, who looked Dougie’s way
‘Tell him not to fret,’ I said. ‘It’s not like he’s going to do anything here.’
Dougie echoed my comment. ‘Don’t worry, Andy. He won’t do anything. Not in broad daylight.’
‘No?’ said Savage. ‘You and me have unfinished business, Hancock. I don’t know what you did on Danger Night, but it wasn’t a fair fight. A sucker-punch to the guts
‘I thought it were your knackers, Vin,’ said one of his sidekicks.
Savage glared, silencing him, before continuing. ‘Hitting me unawares. That was a coward’s trick. How’s about we go for round two, now?’
Dougie was looking for a way out, past the three idiots, but my eyes were locked on Savage. The stolen milkshake juddered in his hand, white knuckles threatening to crush the cup in his grip,
his face alive with twitches and tics. I’d seen him do it before, beating up kids in the schoolyard, building himself up to throw the first punch. The adrenaline was coursing through him now,
sub-normal brain sending messages to his free hand:
. Dougie was still busy seeking an escape route. I found one for him.
I shoved Savage hard in the chest, a powerful push that propelled him into his two cohorts. The gap was there and Dougie and Andy bolted for it. They were off up the road, fear adding fire to
their stride as they weaved through the high street crowd. As I was pulled along after him, I could feel the sick nausea washing over Dougie and into me, the terror that they would catch him and
what they might do. Andy peeled away, ducking into a coffee shop, while Dougie ran on, glancing back all the while. Savage was closing, charging through the sea of shoppers like a bloodhound.
Dougie was so busy looking back that he didn’t see the curly-haired man step in front of him, exiting the bank.