Free Story – Reported Lost

This was originally written for the Dreamspinner Press Blog for Halloween. It is also sort of an easter egg for Family and Reflection. Rupert will also be a character in Double Exposure.

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“Got you!” Rupert Milne muttered under his breath.

Ghosts could be pesky things and next to impossible to spot, unless they wanted to draw attention to themselves.

This one appeared to be a man in his thirties, his dark hair cut in a style popular several decades ago. While age could be deceptive—Rupert appeared to be in his fifties but was closer to four thousand and fifty—the ghost’s clothing confirmed it.

Rupert slid into the seat next to the spirit. He’d always admired the way they could appear to be sitting on furniture although they were incorporeal. But Halloween was fast approaching; a night that often changed the rules.

“Good evening,” he said pleasantly. “Nice trick you have there, turning pages without touching them.”

The ghost looked up in surprise. “You can see me?” His eyes narrowed. “You’re not human,” he said flatly. “Who sent you?”

Rupert sighed. Better to get the formalities out the way first. He lowered his voice to make it harder for a human to overhear his side of the conversation. “Would you mind telling me why you’re haunting this library? It’s creating attention that is better avoided. My name is Rupert Milne, and I have some experience in this kind of thing. I’d like to help if I can.”

“How can you see me?” The ghost wasn’t going to let go of that one. “You’re not human. You feel…different. You’re not one of those with powers either. They can see me, but most of the time they don’t say anything.”

That’s because they don’t realise they’re talking to a ghost.

“Yes, yes, of course they can see you.” Rupert didn’t have time to go into Paranormal 101, and doubted the ghost would appreciate it. “I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to help you work through whatever or whoever is keeping you here.”

“You haven’t answered my question.”

One of the librarians walked past pushing a book trolley. She frowned in Rupert’s direction, probably wondering who the crazy guy was talking to himself. He waved cheerily and turned his attention back to the ghost.

“I’m a vampire. That’s why I can see you. I overheard one of my students talking about you, which is why I’m here.”

“Someone noticed me!” The ghost glanced around, panicked. At least he was more worried about that than the fact Rupert had just outed himself as a vampire.

“You pulled books off shelves. People talk.”

“It was an accident!” The ghost sighed. “I’ve been here so long and I’m tired. I just want to move on.”

“I know how you feel.” Rupert had been teaching at Victoria University for over twenty years. It was almost time for him to move on too, before someone realised he wasn’t getting any older. “Why don’t you introduce yourself and tell me your story, hmm? Then I’ll see what I can do to help.”

The ghost smiled, a glimmer of hope in his eyes. “My name is Bernard Pollard and I was on the Wahine when it went down in Wellington Harbour in 1968.”

***

“I shouldn’t be here.”

Joseph Tomley gripped the top of his walking stick. His breath came in gasps. Rupert hoped it was nerves, and not a sign that Joseph was about to expire on the spot. While breaking into the library after hours hadn’t been that difficult, Rupert didn’t want to have to explain a dead body to whoever was in charge of security.

“Yes, you should.” Rupert guided him to the corner, and sat him down under the large windows. Although the building was dark there was enough light coming through them so Joseph could see.

Rupert had figured with it being Halloween, it was easier for the two men to meet close to midnight. At least this way they’d be able to talk to each other directly. Rupert had acted as a go between for this kind of thing before and it wasn’t something he enjoyed.

Joseph paled when Bernard stepped out of the shadows. “Bernard. Oh my God. It is you.”

“Joseph?” Bernard said, his voice cracking. “You… I waited but you never came.” He bit his lip, brushed one finger across Joseph’s wrinkled cheek, and sat down next to him. “I… can touch you…”

“Halloween,” Rupert told him. “You only have a short time. Make the most of it. I’ll be close by if you need me.” He headed toward the fiction collection, his attention taken by a familiar name on one of the books in the romance section.

He’d read at least one chapter of a book he wished he’d never opened before he caught a glimpse of someone behind him.

“Thank you.” Joseph and Bernard stood together, in appearance a young man with his arms around the waist of someone old enough to be his grandfather. Both had tears running down their cheeks.

“It’s almost time,” he reminded them. “I’m sorry.”

Bernard smiled. “Don’t be. I know now he didn’t forget me, that he never stopped loving me. I’ll wait for him.”

“I feel so foolish.” Joseph kissed Bernard softly. “This library was always our place, so I avoided it because I couldn’t bear the memories. I’d lost you, and I couldn’t tell anyone about our relationship. Then it was too late.”

“And I waited for you here because it was our special place. We were both idiots.” Bernard took a step back. “Good bye, my love. I’ll see you again soon.” He turned and walked toward the back wall, before disappearing from sight.

“I love you too.” Joseph watched that section of wall for a few moments but Bernard was gone, at least for tonight. “Thank you,” he said again. “From both of us.”

Rupert nodded. It was never easy losing the person you loved, and these men had done it twice. “I’ll take you home now.”

Joseph smiled, although his eyes were sad. “You already have.”