Blood Baths and Dirty Laundry

That night I had a dream, although sadly it wasn’t of the Martin Luther King variety. I had decided to investigate the wood at the rear of the garden and was trying to plot the course of least resistance through the trees. The sound of my breath was loud in my ears and I could see it curling and dispersing in plumes on the night air. The trees grew steadily more impenetrable and the only light was provided by a sickly moon gilding the twisted tops of the trees. A branch grazed my face, bringing hot, wet blood which I tried to wipe away but couldn’t. It fell in a steady drip down onto my coat and I felt progressively weaker as though it was symbolic of something altogether more corrosive at work.

Then the dream shifted and I was being chased; my only hope was to reach the top of the hill. With implacable dream logic, although I didn’t know what awaited me at the summit I knew with a panicked surge of adrenalin that it was the only chance I had. The cold sucked on my bones and the ground became boggy and possessive of my shoes which I quickly lost. I didn’t have time to reclaim them, this place was redolent with the taint of something that had been waiting here for a long time.

Waiting for me.

I could feel its obscene excitement as it gained on me and ran faster, the trees inflicting hundreds of cuts on my face and body as more of my clothes got ripped away. The terrain abruptly cleared of trees and I toiled upwards eventually reaching a rocky outcrop where I knew I had to rest before I made the final push for the top.

But as I heaved myself wearily up the last few steps, I saw that what I had thought was rock was in fact the figure of an old woman. An queasy greenish glow surrounded her and she was slapping something repeatedly. My dream pursuer forgotten, I knew I had to find out what she was doing. An overwhelming feeling of dread paralysed my legs but something was driving me onwards whatever the cost and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

The old woman was tiny. Her deformed, arthritic fingers plunged rhythmically in and out of what appeared to be a pool of water. It looked rank and foul wafts of steam rose from it to escape into the clean air. She was washing something repeatedly in the fetid water and her head was held down so I couldn’t see her face.

“What are you doing?” my dream self asked despite every instinct I had screaming at me not to attract this creature’s attention. I wanted to run as fast as I could back the way I’d come, but it was as though I was trapped in a set script and that demanded to be played out and my traitorous limbs remained rooted to the spot.

The crone, for that was what she was, finally looked up and I tried to look away but was held in thrall to the power that pulsated around her. Her eyelids had been sewn together over empty sockets and it looked as though someone had hacked her lips from her face. She was filthy and the surface of her skin was crawling with hordes of tiny mites that made it seem as though her features ebbed and flowed as they went about their business.

“Come here child,” she said, without any movement of the raw skin where her lips should have been.

Compelled, I obeyed and walked closer to her. I stared down at what she was washing and saw that it was the red top I’d been wearing that evening, along with coat and hat. She held them between her fingers and trailed them in and out of the stinking pool with an almost voluptuous caressing motion. Then I saw a severed hand float to the surface of the pool and suddenly wasn’t green anymore; it was red and my clothes were covered in blood and other things and still the old woman swirled them around in the blood bath as though wrapping chocolate around some delicious confection.

“You know me child, don’t you?” she whispered in my mind.

And I did. She was the Bean Nighe, the Washerwoman: a premonition of violent death to whoever saw her. The unsuspecting victim always stumbled across her in a wild, lonely place while she washed their bloody clothes.

The scene shifted to me flying up the same hill. My dream self swooped up ravines and up and up and up into the heavens as though on invisible wings. It was an exhilarating ride until all too soon I was at the summit and walking towards the huge cairn that had been built there. Where I had flown, now I could barely walk and each step took all the strength I had. After an age I reached the cairn and saw that it wasn’t any such thing. It was a collection of skulls, some huge and vaguely canine and others human. Sitting on top of the skulls with wings folded was Luke, teeth bared, hair streaming out behind him in the wind. I heard a distressing gurgling sound and I realised he was laughing.

I turned and started to run back down the hill but he swooped after me talons reaching for my eyes. And then I fell; faster and faster down what was now a Mount Everest of skulls, my body bashing on jagged fragments of bone, losing little bits of me as I went. I screamed and cursed until I hit the ground with a bone-crunching thud at the bottom of the mountain where I died reviling the sorry, misbegotten fates that had led me there.

Hell On Earth

And then they appeared.

Perhaps not all of them, but more than enough to be going on with. Whatever ward had been holding them back from their old haunts, so to speak, it had broken like an expectant mother’s waters. A pale female ghost, Victorian maid’s outfit emphasising a pregnant belly ascended to the ceiling in front of me as though climbing stairs, which perhaps is where they had been originally before the character and heart had been ripped out of the place. She was crying soundlessly and carrying a knitting needle raised in front of her as though about to use it as a weapon echoing some fraught drama that had taken place in this abominable old house.

A young man with a sad-eyed terrier under his arm prepared to tie a noose round neck as he stepped up on a chair that was no longer there and jumped off, neck lolling at an impossible angle. In the corner, a little girl in t-shirt that she had pulled down around her knees rocked back and forth, arm extended as though warding off blows from someone or something unseen. A middle aged woman raised a walking cane high into the air again and again, bringing it down on the supine body of old man in a wheelchair who was laughing, toothless maw wide open, shoulders heaving.

There were too many of them to count and they were all silent as the grave. A milling, mindless, soundless throng unable to utter so much as a word or scream, or connect in any way with this world. The truly disturbing thing about these ghosts was that they had either met violent ends or had dealt them out. Most ghosts did something random, like walking a particular path over and over again; or performing the same innocuous actions. Not these little vignettes of hell on earth. The spell, if it was such, had been broken and I needed to get out of there. Hopefully they were attached to the house and couldn’t come after me.

Only one way to find out.

When She Was Bad

He was as good as his word and within an hour a were called Keira turned up at my door. She lived in Edinburgh and was some distant relation or other to Jack. She was thin, with shaggy brown her that tumbled down her back, so long she could sit on it. Her eyes were a hot, angry brown and despite her age she radiated a power and unpredictability that you really wouldn’t want to cross. That’s probably what being named Keira would do for a girl.

The three of us stood in the room with the dead thing and it was really beginning to stink. Jack had taken off the ludicrous bandages and had managed to have a shower and change into clean clothes. He exuded a warm, tactile energy that crawled across my skin with leaden little boots but I was glad to see he could still could use the arm that had nearly been ripped off, He was clearly having problems with his mangled hand, but his body was most definitely on the mend, even if his temper hadn’t improved. The initial euphoria of the morning and metamorphosed into low level rage.

Keira crouched down beside the hand so that it was at her eye level, her movements cat-like, fluid. She delicately sniffed the thing, though in truth it stank to high heaven. She was clearly sifting through the scents to the one which would tell her who the maker of the gruesome object was. I began to say something, but she held up an elegant long-fingered hand and I meekly did as I was bid.

“A few different people handled this,” she said, voice high, sullen. I began to wonder if this was such a good idea.

“What do you want me to do when I find them?” she asked Jack.

“Do nothing. Just let us know where they are. Do I make myself clear Keira?”

She looked balefully up at him, for all the world just like your normal, surly teenager. But seething under the surface was an intensity, a swirling were energy that spoke of apure blind rage and a tremendous power only just under control. The word nut-job also came to mind, but to my eternal credit I didn’t let it exit my mouth and work its magic.

“And why are we doing this for her? She’s the cause of all this,” she hissed.

“Keira, just do it,” he said quietly, “without question and if you can’t control yourself, I’ll punish you myself. It’s up to you.” The burst of power from Jack combined with hers was giving me a headache. He was recovering fast.

She looked like she was going to disagree staring angrily up at him, brown eyes almost black with an alien, frenzied rage that wasn’t personal, it was just part of who she was. Then, she abruptly bowed her head in a gesture more eloquent than mere words.

“Hurry,” he told her hustling her out, massive compared to her slender form, “we don’t have much time.”

She looked back at me, enunciating every work with venom and force, “I hope you die for what you’ve done. Slowly, in agony and alone.”

“Sounds like a plan,” I said smiling at her, “but you can forget the alone part. If I’m going down, you’re coming with me to break my fall.” Uncertainty fleetingly tainted her young face before Jack shoved her out the door. We stared at each other for a moment.

“Frightening youngsters something that gets you off, does it?” he asked harshly.

“I don’t know why you’re making such a fuss,” I said, making for the door “ a girl’s got to have a hobby”.

In Medias Res

As my old mother might have said, if I’d ever met her, “It’ll end in tears” and of course it usually did, along with a rain of other less disposable bodily fluids.

My high spirits may have had something to do with the fact that Ruby and Rory were giving me a lift to a job in Gracemount, a small but perfectly formed carbuncle on Edinburgh’s backside. Scratch it and you’d find it was only just within the city limits, but from what I’d heard, no other type applied.

“Hey Rose,” said Rory from the back of the car, “Must be great being such a Hell-spawn magnet. You must feel like the only booze at a Jakey street party every single day of your life.”

Glad of the distraction, I looked round at him sprawled over the back seat: eyes wide, mouth a cavernous o of horrified delight as though he had miraculously birthed a priceless pearl and wasn’t sure whether to get out the champagne or pay an urgent visit to the nearest Arse Emergency Department. My snappy come-back was a swine-like snort, triggering a vicious left hook somewhere behind the eyeballs – courtesy of the demon drink that had exorcised me good and proper last night. But that was okay, I was more than ready for a return bout tonight and then we’d see who was boss.

“Well at least that means someone loves her,” said Ruby wearily, having been dumped yet again the night before. She sighed and got back to concentrating on driving us out to the back of beyond and brooding over her latest rejection by a man almost twice as old as her, but with half her IQ: the most recent in a long, faecal string of serial shits.

Collectively, Ruby, Rory and I were the Fox-Garnet Agency, providing psychic services for the supernaturally challenged. What that really meant was we were mostly the clear up crew; psychic bin men for all manner of paranormal rubbish that no one else in their right minds would touch with top-of-the-line Haz Mat suits and a toxic waste facility the size of Brazil. Ruby and Rory were twins and the Fox part of the equation, I was the Garnet and business was out of this world.

Unbelievable as it was, there were people who touted Edinburgh’s toxic cess pit of a supernatural freak-fest to those foolish enough to dangle their nethers into it. And dangle they did, as though it was just another item on your ‘Scottish Holiday To Do List’, up alongside eating the contents of a live sheep’s stomach while being forced at gun point to listen to “Now That’s What I Call Bagpipes!” on a loop.

Given the unprecedented demand, the three of us had little choice but to go into business together because separately we just had too varied a work load and at least this way we could mostly pick the jobs best suited to our individual talents. The city was such a psychic hot spot, that if vengeful spirits and ancient grudges from beyond the grave were Olympic events, it would be prime contender for pure, spun gold. But make no mistake, the Fox-Garnet Agency got more than its share of the medals.

I had always thought that the secret to the city’s spirit-ridden success was because it had been built on seven hills; a volcanic plug spewed up as a dyspeptic offering from the belly of a bilious god, providing a vantage point more lofty than impregnable so the inhabitants got to see death coming. Instead of finding somewhere more amenable to sustaining their miserable lives, they focussed instead on the problem of how to make things worse. And they succeeded spectacularly. Edinburgh gave birth to the first slum high rises in the world ringed around by city walls just to make sure they built up instead of out. After all, no one loves a fat baby. Sheol was piled upon Gehenna as one hovel was built upon the next with the spaces in between serving as open sewers. These triumphs of human ingenuity were built so close to their neighbours, a flea couldn’t have passed in between them, but clearly some managed because the human population caught every plague and disease that fancied its chances. Whole streets were bricked up to try to contain the amorous attentions of whatever microbe that came courting. In this particular final solution, those who were about to die couldn’t even get a last hearty meal, never mind the space to salute.

And still they built up and up and up as though trying to clear the stench of the sewers from their nostrils or perhaps to get closer to a god that didn’t believe in them any more. When they had gone as high as they could go, banishing the light from the sky, they gouged at the soft sandstone ridge the godforsaken city sat precariously atop and burrowed downwards. Lo and behold, Hell on earth, above and below. The crush of the souls who had lived and died in what became a multi layered underground necropolis was like an albatross around the neck of anyone with the slightest sensitivity to such things. The weight of the world indeed.

But hey, why sweat the details of how we had come to this, because the proud proprietors of the Fox-Garnet Agency had never had it so good. So good in fact we were able to specialise. Ruby tended to do the clairvoyant work; Rory’s talents lay in exorcism and mine, well mine was communicating with the dead, but in truth all three overlapped. I was just glad that we were able to do something approaching constructive with the so-called ‘gift’. In ye olden days the church wouldn’t have rested until they had hunted us all down. And not just because they wanted to give us the usual full body massage, French-kiss and lingering pat on the backside.

But communicating with the dead was only one strand of what I did, what I was very, very good at and was yet another euphemism concealing something far worse. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t train to do it and at times I wondered whether I was going to survive it. I often thought that any other profession would have been better than this purgatory; you name it, it would have been a step up: traffic warden; sewer rat; maybe even social worker. I must confess here and now that the sad fact of the matter was that my speciality wasn’t. While it was true I could communicate with the dead, what made me unusual was that I had the sorry ability to kill them.

Ouija Wonder

Slipping into the spare room I lit some candles and slid the ouija board out of its dark blue and black silk cover, placing it gently on the ground. It was a thing of rare beauty if I said so myself. It was very old, probably over a hundred years and the exquisitely wrought gold writing on the dark brown board had been hand painted. In addition to the letters of the alphabet, the words ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, ‘Hello’ and Goodbye’, were etched, one in each corner. The pointer, or planchette, was made from amber and glowed golden in the flickering light. The bed my visitor had bled in was a dark ominous rumple of sheets in the background and I did my best to ignore it. I had, shall we say, bartered for it in an occult market that had taken place in the infarcted heart of this demon ridden city, the Cowgate. It had cost something dearer than money and I hoped it was going to prove its worth for me at this ungodly hour. The more prosaic paper and lined A4 pad wasn’t as pretty but was equally important to write down any messages from the fetid darkness that was only too happy to infect our world with its insane whisperings.

I cleared my mind, going over some relaxation techniques that helped me focus on nothing. My body unclenched but there was a little voice screaming something incomprehensible at the back of my mind. I ignored it and tried again, thinking of a warm, cerulean ocean to clear my head and let me get into the dead zone. But there was nothing. No spirit wanted to come play with, or even terrorise me. The delicate tendrils of my thoughts were echoing around in a void where nothing was.

I don’t know how long I sat like that, but just as I was about to give up, I got a bite. It was big, powerful and I was going to need all my strength to reel it in. What I was doing was about as clever as going fishing in a coracle with line and tackle in a great-white infested sea, but in this line of work, intelligence was a distinct draw-back.

The room’s temperature dropped to below freezing and I shivered even wrapped in my bulky dressing gown. I could see the frozen vapour trail of my breath as it escaped. Sadly things weren’t going to be so simple for the rest of me.

The heart-shaped planchette began to move sluggishly as though it was wakening from a long sleep. I decided to oblige by starting with the easy ones.

“Is someone there?”

Trembling, the planchette agonisingly slowly crept toward the ‘Yes’ in the top right corner.

“Who are you?”

Rediscovering some latent vitality, the planchette sped up slightly spelling out:


Hmm. Not the best start to the conversation I was hoping to extract vital information from.

“Then why are you here?” I asked the void.

The amber planchette glowed in the candlelight, immobile for a few seconds and then whipped round the board with vicious jabs that left marks on the lacquered surface.


was the message. Another spirit that couldn’t spell, for some crazy, irrational reason that irritated me more. Could it be the same one that had left the hand or was education for the dead an underfunded project. I didn’t think it was the same, the power needed to smash into my home through the wards was considerable. This thing, though powerful in its own right, was just a tiddling bottom feeder in comparison.

“That sounds like it might be fun,” I conceded in a conversational tone, “Any particular reason?”


“Ah. You mean you don’t know. That’s okay, you-”


The planchette went crazy, digging deep trenches into the board. The dead didn’t like to be patronised any more than the living, clearly. The pointer was going almost faster than I could note the letters down. I eventually gave up when I realised that it was vitriol and not usable information that was being spewed across worlds. I needed to keep my questions simple and to the point. It could be the spirit knew something I didn’t, or, equally likely it was just one of the many vindictive presences that said this to all the girls.

“You’ll be eating the sole of my boot you little-” I made an effort to calm down, this was going nowhere fast. I tried again: “Who left the hand-of-glory in my living-room.”

The planchette ceased all movement raising the hairs on the back of my neck and I waited for what I knew was coming. But as it turned out I didn’t.


“Of yours?”


“You don’t know, do you?” I sighed, rubbing my eyes with my fingers.


“Then who is it?”


“Not tell, because you no know,” I snapped.


I left the room with the planchette still whizzing around the board. The spirit would either get bored with its game and leave or stay and haunt the house. It was a stupid thing to do and all the books told you never to do it, but I no longer cared because if it did, I’d be only too happy to personally hurl into the void from which there really was no coming back, without pity, without mercy, without a second thought.

Hide and Bleed

It’s so traditional to wait on disaster befalling you, so why not ring in the changes and seek it out yourself? At least that’s what I told myself when I took out my scrying glass and signed my own death warrant.

The gleaming reflections of my scrying glass soon revealed my murderer-to-be perched on the top of Salisbury Crags. His tall, powerful frame and wings, the pinions of which rested on the ground on either side of him as he balanced on the Crags edge, were limned in red as the winter sun set over Edinburgh. It could have been classic fallen angel stuff as he contemplated his new kingdom with all the grace and terrible beauty of a Gustav Doré illustration. Except this kingdom was no more than a holding pen and the beast so delicately poised above it would gladly annihilate everyone and everything in it.

He turned quickly as though aware of being spyed upon and the last rays of the dying sun made a halo around his head the colour of old blood. The hair was long, a burnished blue black, stray strands of which were being blown across his face as though he was a wild animal staring out from behind bars. His skin was dark and the high cheekbones and tip-tilted eyes gave his face an easy glamour not often found in this forgotten, frozen corner of the world.

He wore old, battered leathers and a pair of boots that had metallic sigils of unknown origin worked into them. The nose was straight, the mouth full above the cleft chin. It was a terrible beauty, the last face you looked upon as you died screaming, giving him the gift of your intestines and gladly.

For the old ones like Luke, there was no need to fear the last faltering rays of a dying star because nothing interfered with their games of hide and bleed. The red ruin that day in and night out swelled and blocked city gutters up and down the length and breadth of the country was more than testament to that.

But he was on my trail and I was going to have to face up to that and try to find a way to kill him before he killed me. The slightly tricky part was how could you kill the unkillable before it killed you…

That Old Black Magic

Out of nowhere came a revolting, appalling, absolutely bloody brilliant idea. “Do you know a witch called Lucille Harper-Hodge?” He shrugged huffily not prepared to let me know one way or the other.

“If you do, you’ll know she’s a powerful witch. She killed her husband in a place called Midnight Falls,” I went on noting his reaction to the name and guessing that whether he knew her or not, he did know about the place.

“Well anyway, I can’t go to the police with what I know because it would be laughed out of court, so Mrs Harper-Hodge has literally gotten away with murder. But here’s the thing. I have something of hers. The doll she made of her husband so she could kill him, to be exact. I wondered if having it might be something you’d be interested in.”

He gaped at me, not quite believing his ears. What I was proposing was worse than murder. Lucille had worked a very powerful spell with the doll and because of its nature, she had left a trace of herself trapped within it. This was the thing about black magic, death and destruction could wrought by the witch or warlock, but there was a price. A price that in my opinion only a raving lunatic would have been prepared to pay. When you used a doll to kill someone you had to invest it not just with a sense of the person you wanted dead, but also yourself, because it was your will that set off the spark; the start of a chain reaction ending with the killing blow. That meant that when the deed was done, your essence remained behind, like a bad smell in her case.

And when you carelessly left an artefact like that lie around, it was only a matter of time and bad karma that an unscrupulous bitch like me would then sell it to a warlock who was known to trap and imprison the souls of the living and who could distil them from much poorer sources than the one I had in my pocket…

The Company Of Wulvers

We walked into an enormous room with high vaulted ceilings bathed in enough candlelight to make it look like it had been sprayed with old gold. The mellow wash flattered the hectic crowd as it drank, talked and clinked glasses; some of its members were even dancing to the inevitable ceilidh band who I could just see crammed onto a little podium. The band, a collection of shaggy haired young men, were howling, stamping and playing their fiddles as though their lives depended upon it. Maybe they did. There was enough dark energy here to power the coming of the Antichrist – if you believed in such things.

And then, as though someone had flicked on a switch, it all changed. A raw, roiling energy beat in waves over my head, as though I had just been pitched to the bottom of the ocean, where I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. No one else in the gathering seemed to feel it although the chatter, dancing and drinking became fevered, compulsive even, as though this was the last night on earth and there was nothing left to lose. I began to make out vague shapes flickering above their heads: formless at first, gradually assuming a bestial cast as though something was trying to escape the human clay but couldn’t quite break free.

The band played louder, the dancers whirled faster as though I was standing in the midst of an immensely powerful battery that everyone in the room was simultaneously feeding and draining, feeding and draining. Each time the power peaked it was at a higher level and the party got wilder and uglier in the no time at all I’d been here. A couple of scuffles broke out in the corner of the room, in one a one big burly guy threw a smaller one into a table which promptly collapsed covering him with food and drink which he was made to eat. The strange thing was that the smaller mand didn’t seem too upset about it.

There was still no let up in the power surges and the pain in my head became a vice. Time to leave. Then something else caught my eye and that dark sense of mine began to vibrate in time with the power: a young blond girl, blouse in tatters, head flung back in a weird, grunting ecstasy, with a grizzled head of indeterminate sex nursing at her breasts and rivulets of blood running down her bony ribs. The twisted energy in the room rose in a shimmering multicoloured arc above the heads of the crowd and the force of it was a singing, living thing so intense it had its own gravitational pull.

I’d only felt this much squeezing power once before and I knew it for what it was: shape-shifter. The room had become the pulsing chamber of a gigantic, infarcted, heart, each beat a countdown to detonation that would beggar Hiroshima. And here I was at the epicentre without so much as a table to cower under. Well if cowering was out, there was only one thing for it…

Devilution For Beginners

“You don’t understand Rose.”

“If it wasn’t Kylie Minogue then that’s surely a good thing isn’t it?”

“Something had hijacked Colin’s spirit, using it as an additional power source, like a battery if you want to see it that way. All to cause mayhem in this world. The couple had been playing around with the ouija board and that was enough to let this thing through. I’m told they couldn’t see anything, just thought it was a poltergeist. And then of course it got really nasty”

“So what? I still don’t see that this anything other than a cautionary tale for those idiots that want to play around with the spirit world.”

I was just about to suggest another drink but she hadn’t finished.

“But don’t you see Rose? The worst is that not only did Colin’s spirit not pass on, but along with the parasite that had absorbed it, both were beginning to evolve. What I saw in the mirror shouldn’t have been possible. But there it was. And then I got called to another case where the spirit hadn’t passed but had begun to evolve into something predatory. On its own this time but it was still driven by rage and the desire to destroy. And then another and then another.”

“So instead of evolution of man we have devilution of spirit? I still don’t see the problem. All it means is that some ouija-board nut-jobs get their come-uppance. So what-”

“So something is happening that is shaping spirit into its own image and giving it unimaginable power in the process. Something is co-ordinating this and warping pure spirit to its own ends. That means they’re remaining here and evolving into beings that are much darker. You’ve just seen it yourself. That doppelganger was much more powerful than it had any right to be.”

“Let me get this straight-” I said, just as a tall, muscular man with long black hair and dressed in nothing but jeans, denim waistcoat and biker boots strode over to the table and plonked himself down, grinning expectantly at us.

A Price Beyond Ruby’s

“I can explain, if you’ll let me, but it’s a long story I’m afraid,” said Ruby

I shrugged my shoulders, calculating where my next drink was coming from and more importantly, when.

“I was contacted by the police about a case where a two year old boy had gone missing. The parents said he had been abducted the police thought the parents had murdered him. Because there was no body, they couldn’t prove anything and were desperate to solve the case because the media had been getting on theirs. An order came from the top that they had to do something to crack it to stop the bad publicity – you’ve probably read about it yourself. Colin Anderson was the boys name. No? Anyway, as a last resort, they contacted me to see if I could find the body. You know how it is.”

I did indeed. Psychics like Ruby and I were grudgingly contacted by the pigs when they were desperate and had nowhere else to go. Bearing in mind these were often the toughest cases, even if you got results, they would be explained away as coincidence and you were shunted to the side in their frenzy to ditch you as though you had an infectious disease.

“So anyway, they gave me a teddy of Colin’s to get a sense of him and see if I could track him. I always hope I can’t because that means the child’s still alive. Holding the teddy I got the usual stuff, you know what toddlers are like, images of puppies, footballs, that sort of thing. A happy, normal, little boy like any other.”

I had no idea what either toddlers or normality were like and no inclination to change that any time soon.

“They also gave me a picture of him which I didn’t need but took anyway. I suddenly received a signal that was so strong I just about blacked out from the force of it. That’s how it is with me. Once I tune into the spirit of the person that owned the object, if that spirit is no longer encumbered by its physical body, the sense of them is very strong. Like they are an unadulterated version of the thing they used to be when they were alive. Once the spirit has cast off its flesh overcoat there is a period of time just after, when for a short while anyway, it’s very powerful. Like a match that flares into life and then goes out.

“Except usually the going out part is where the spirit moves on. But the period of power is when the spirit can manifest itself to those with any sensitivity and there’s lots of reports of folk talking to their nearest and dearest just after they’ve died. Sorry, of course you know all that. I just wanted to explain how my ability works because as you also know, its different for everyone.

I was beginning to drift off here. If she didn’t get to the point soon, all the whisky in the world wouldn’t keep me awake and focussed.

“Well Colin was dead alright but that was just the beginning of the bad news. Once I get the signal, it’s like I tune into the station, just like a radio. Because the spirit still has a strong connection with its physical body, that means I can always pinpoint where it is. The physical location I mean. That can be tricky to actually find though, because it’s often in the countryside, or in a lake or canal and one tree or body of water looks pretty much like every other, I can tell you.

“But not in this case. The signal I got took me to a house. A little boy’s bedroom to be exact with Thomas the Tank Engine posters and a bed shaped like a racing car. Then I was propelled into the living room and then kitchen as though someone was carrying me. When I was in the kitchen, I saw two people, a man and a woman, eating at the table. This couple weren’t Colin’s parent’s and I had no idea why I been brought here: after all it didn’t seem likely Colin’s corpse was here.

Suddenly I was seeing inside the fridge and something was pulling out the contents and throwing them around the room. The couple started screaming and tried to run out of the room, but whatever was carrying me slammed the door shut and continued smashing the place up. A feeling of what I can only describe as the purest pleasure, so acute it was almost sexual came over me.

“I don’t need to tell you the feeling wasn’t coming from me. The thing was though that it seemed to be fuelled by the fear and hysteria of the couple. The more upset they became, the better whatever it was I was inside liked it. The more violent things got, the higher the buzz. There was one point when a plate was smashed on top of the woman’s head and the pieces gashed her face, blood everywhere. The man at this point was scrabbling at the window, trying to get it open. My host shot across the room to stop him and something caught its attention on the wall. A mirror to be exact. My host looked at itself in the mirror, with great satisfaction I can tell you, and I got a fleeting impression of a dwarf floating in mid air with red eyes and a mouthful of black, razor-sharp teeth looked back. But when I looked again it wasn’t a dwarf. It was-

“Kylie Minogue?” I said.