Episode 4: The Spectre

Verb paused near the vehicle as Proverb handed him the Spectre Spirit Level, which he pushed quickly into his plum jacket pocket.

“A man’s spirit will endure sickness but a crushed spirit… who can bear?”
“Yes, quite, Proverb… wait across the road, will you,” said Verb, and in seconds, the cab had disappeared into the murk.

Simile led the way through the frothy fog and turned the key in the front door of his shop. Verb peered up at the sign, hanging above the shop window. It was imaginatively entitled – Smilers.
The weird little man was grinning back at him through the gills of the guard, pausing at the shop window, but still Verb followed this most intriguing of clients across the threshold.

Simile closed the door behind them and in the dark they pressed forward.
“Should I turn on a light? It’s as dark as coal in here…” asked Simile.
“Not necessary, we don’t want to alert the spirit… In fact I think I see it already…”
Verb moved through the gloom and rows of creepy masks stared back at him from the shelves as he edged closer to the feint glow of the spectre.

In his hand, the luminous bubble in the centre of the spirit level began to settle.
The spectre was close.
As Verb rounded another shelf the bubble became fixed, dead centre, and the spectre was revealed.

The spirit was a young boy, no more than twelve years old. He was dressed in a what looked like a night shirt and a scarf, and like most spectre’s he had encountered, it seemed to hover, shrouded in an electric haze, as if forever captured in an X-ray image.

Spirits could be particularly misleading by their appearance and so Verb approached the boy with care – sometimes the most innocent looking were the most vengeful, but at first glance it was hard to think that of this child.
“Simile, I have your ghost,” he called. “Tell me, do you recognise this boy?” he asked, but Simile was nowhere to be seen. It appeared as though he had left the room, judging by the merest crack of light that glimmered beneath the adjoining door that led down into his basement living quarters beneath the shop.

Verb stared into the damaged eyes of the child, but the spectre wasn’t moving. It seemed terrified of Verb. Most creatures of a supernatural origin were of course, but this one wasn’t in retreat or contemplating attack. The apparition instead forced open its mouth to reveal a wide smile that had been sliced into its ghostly skin. The wound stretched across the boy’s face from ear to ear and Verb stumbled back into the shelves, putting his hand down onto a rubber knife with a luminous handle.

The image of the knife and the boy’s wound resonated with him – newspaper headlines, kidnappings, abductions, endless young bodies piling up in the shadows of this fog-bound city.

The flurry of memories were all from the case they’d never taken…
‘A serial killer of children is not supernatural enough for this agency,’ …he’d agreed with Maleficent.
The decision was amicable between the two, but the visits from the parents of the missing kids begging and pleading them to reconsider had kept them up for months, as they contemplated the merits of their agency losing its identity over saving innocent lives whilst consuming endless bottles of red dessert wine from the Gulf of Patras.
Then everything had gone quiet…until now.
“The Grinner…” Verb mumbled to himself and then suddenly, glancing down at the floor beneath the spectre, he noticed the markings.

“Laqueum! – Trap!” he muttered, translating the Latin. Recognising the significance immediately, he turned to the ceiling, using the light from the spirit level to reveal the second marker. His blood ran cold. “Spiritus! It’s a spirit trap!”
Too late, Verb realised his mistake. He turned to see the smiling face of the weird little man just before he took the blow full on the head.
Simile was now unmasked.
Verb’s world went dark and The Grinner began to laugh.

Follow the link for the next installment – Episode 5: The Invitation