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       Eloise, p.1

           Catherine Jinks
 
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Eloise


  To Susan Allaburton

  with gratitude

  First published in 2003

  This edition published in 2007

  Copyright © Catherine Jinks, 2003

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The Australian Copyright Act 1968 (the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or ten per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.

  Allen & Unwin

  83 Alexander St

  Crows Nest NSW 2065

  Australia

  Phone: (612) 8425 0100

  Fax: (612) 9906 2218

  Email: [email protected]

  Web: www.allenandunwin.com

  National Library of Australia

  Cataloguing-in-Publication entry:

  Jinks, Catherine, 1963–.

  Eloise: a ghost story.

  For ages 10–14.

  ISBN 9781741146592

  eISBN 9781743434222.

  1. Ghosts – Juvenile fiction. 2. Seances – Juvenile fiction. I. Title.

  (Series: Jinks, Catherine, 1963– Allie's ghost hunters).

  A823.3

  Cover design by Tabitha King

  Text design by Jo Hunt and Tabitha King

  Typeset by Midland Typesetters

  CONTENTS

  CHAPTER # ONE

  CHAPTER # TWO

  CHAPTER # THREE

  CHAPTER # FOUR

  CHAPTER # FIVE

  CHAPTER # SIX

  CHAPTER # SEVEN

  CHAPTER # EIGHT

  CHAPTER # NINE

  CHAPTER # TEN

  CHAPTER # ELEVEN

  CHAPTER # TWELVE

  CHAPTER # one

  It was all Michelle’s fault. I never wanted to summon up spirits of the dead. I wouldn’t have tried, if it hadn’t been for the Exorcists’ Club. And the Exorcists’ Club was Michelle’s idea.

  ‘The Exorcists’ Club?’ I said doubtfully, when she first made the suggestion. ‘What would that be for?’

  ‘What do you think?’ she replied. ‘We’d go around getting rid of ghosts. Exorcising ghosts. For money.’

  I stared at her. We were in the school library – as we generally are, at lunchtime. (We have to be, because we’re library monitors, now.) And of course we weren’t really supposed to be chatting away, though Mrs Procter doesn’t mind a bit of noise as long as we keep our voices down and do our jobs. My job is putting books away. Michelle’s job is looking after the computers. When no one’s having trouble with the internet, or doing stupid things with a mouse pad, Michelle usually helps me.

  She’s my best friend, but that doesn’t mean we always agree on everything.

  ‘What makes you think we can get rid of ghosts?’ I asked, and she clicked her tongue.

  ‘You got rid of Eglantine, didn’t you?’ she said, as she shoved a copy of The Silver Chair firmly between The Last Battle and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. ‘Your house was haunted, and you got rid of the ghost. Not to mention that business at Hill End –’

  ‘Yes, but hang on a minute.’ I needed time to think. ‘You told me once that you saw a film with an exorcist in it, and the exorcist was a priest.’

  ‘I didn’t see it. My cousin saw it.’

  ‘Whatever.’ I waved a book at her. ‘My point is, the exorcist in that film was fighting a demon, wasn’t he? It threw people out windows, and twisted their heads around, and made them speak in strange, spooky voices. That’s what you said, isn’t it?’

  ‘Yes, but –’

  ‘Eglantine didn’t do any of those things. And we didn’t exorcise her. You have to use prayers and things to exorcise something. Rituals.’

  ‘No, you don’t.’

  ‘Yes, you do. I read it in a dictionary.’

  So we went to look at The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, which no one ever uses at our school – it’s disgraceful. Sure enough, the first definition of ‘exorcise’ was ‘to drive out (an evil spirit) by the use of a holy name’.

  ‘See?’ I said. ‘A holy name. I don’t know how to do that. I wouldn’t even want to.’

  ‘Yes, but look at the second definition.’ Michelle’s forefinger stabbed at another line of print. ‘ “To clear of evil spirits; to purify”. There’s nothing about holy names or rituals.’

  ‘Eglantine wasn’t an evil spirit. She was confused. As soon as we finished the story she was trying to write, she disappeared.’

  ‘Allie.’ Michelle was getting impatient. ‘That isn’t the point.’

  ‘Shh!’ I warned, with a quick glance at Mrs Procter’s office. Obediently, Michelle lowered her voice.

  ‘The point is, you’re an expert, now,’ she hissed. ‘You know more about ghosts than practically anybody. So why not start a club?’

  ‘Because I don’t want to.’ I’m not a clubby sort of person, you see. I’m not a joiner. But then Michelle cocked her head, and fixed me with a penetrating look.

  ‘Peter wants to,’ she said.

  ‘Peter Cresciani?’

  ‘Yup.’

  ‘Oh.’

  That made me pause. Don’t get the wrong idea – it’s not as if I have a crush on Peter, or anything. It’s just that he’s a friend of mine, and very intelligent, and if he thinks that something is a good idea, then it’s worth considering.

  ‘You’ve talked to him about this?’ I inquired, and Michelle nodded. ‘What did he say?’

  ‘He said he’d be interested in joining.’

  ‘Really?’

  ‘But only if you’re in it.’

  ‘When did he say that?’

  ‘This morning. At recess.’

  I had been chasing up lost property at recess: my brother’s lost property, to be exact. Bethan never remembers to ask at the office when he’s mislaid a hat or a drink bottle, so Mum makes me do it.

  That lost-property box practically has his name on it.

  ‘Well … I don’t know,’ I said. ‘People already think I’m weird.’

  ‘No, they don’t.’

  ‘Yes, they do.’ People always think you’re weird when you read lots of books, and keep a collection of animal skulls in your bedroom. A reputation for seeing ghosts only makes things worse. ‘Is this going to be a secret club? I could handle a secret club.’

  ‘Don’t be silly. What would be the point of a secret club? We want people to contact us if they have any ghost problems.’

  ‘People like who?’

  ‘I don’t know. Anybody.’

  ‘People at school?’

  ‘Perhaps. Or other people.’

  I hesitated.

  ‘It would just be us three,’ Michelle went on. ‘You, me and Peter. Most of it would be historical research. The way you did with Eglantine. Death certificates and stuff.’

  ‘But we don’t have any equipment,’ I protested. When my family was trying to get rid of Eglantine, we used an organisation called PRISM (which stands for Paranormal Research Investigation Services and Monitoring). The PRISM people had brought to our house lots of different equipment: Geiger counters, electromagnetic field detectors, infra-red cameras. ‘You need special equipment to detect the presence of a ghost.’

  ‘Yes, but not for getting rid of a ghost. You got rid of Eglantine by working out what she wanted, and you did that by working out who she was.’

  Michelle was right. I couldn’t deny it. And I must admit that I had liked researching Eglantine’s
background. I’m one of those people who likes research projects. I can’t help it. With a research project you get to play detective, only you’re hunting down clues in libraries and on databases, instead of following footprints or getaway cars.

  ‘We-e-ell …’ I said.

  ‘Come on, Allie. Please?’ Michelle put on her fawning puppy act, panting and pressing her hands together at the wrist, like paws. It always annoys me – as she knows quite well, ‘Pretty please?’

  ‘Oh, stop.’

  ‘Please, Allie?’

  ‘All right, all right! I’ll do it!’

  Michelle beamed. It seemed a bit strange that she was so eager, but then again, she does have a tendency to get all enthusiastic about things. She’s had big crushes on certain movies, and on decoupage, and on her piano teacher, and on the ballroom dancing classes that she was attending for a while with her mother. Not that most people realised how keen she was, at the time. She can be very cool and elegant, and doesn’t jabber on about her latest fad, like some I could name. (Bethan, for instance.) On the contrary, she’ll become rather silent, and intense, and focused. But I always pick up the signals.

  It’s occurred to me more than once that her crazes usually happen around the same time that her mum gets a new boyfriend. I won’t go into that, however. It’s not really my business.

  ‘Okay,’ she said. ‘It’s settled. So when do you want to have the first meeting? They should be regular – like every week.’

  ‘Maybe we should talk to Peter, first. See what he thinks.’

  ‘I s’pose.’

  ‘If we’re going to do it properly,’ I continued, thinking hard, ‘we should draw up a proper set of rules. About what our purpose is.’

  ‘Our purpose is to get rid of ghosts.’

  ‘Right. I know. But there has to be a procedure that we follow.’

  Michelle nodded ‘You mean, like, at what point do we ask some of your PRISM friends to help us?’ she suggested.

  ‘I guess so. That sort of thing.’

  ‘And whether we charge people money?’

  ‘Yeah.’ I nodded. ‘That too.’

  ‘And whether you call spirits up, instead of just getting rid of them?’

  Michelle and I both jumped, because neither of us had asked this last question. It had come from Bettina Berich. She was standing right behind us, and we hadn’t noticed her.

  Michelle put a hand to her heart.

  ‘God, Bettina!’ she gasped. ‘You scared the life out of me!’

  ‘Sorry.’

  ‘What are you doing, anyway?’ Michelle’s tone became a bit lofty and condescending. She can be like that, sometimes. ‘This is a private conversation.’

  ‘It’s all right,’ I said quickly, because I felt sorry for Bettina. It was awful the way some of the boys would tease her about her weight. ‘You said yourself, Michelle, this isn’t going to be a secret club.’

  ‘Well, no, but –’

  ‘What’s up, Bettina? Sorry, I should be putting the rest of those books away.’ There was still a big pile of them on the floor near the non-fiction shelves. ‘My fault. Sorry.’

  Bettina was another library monitor. It was odd that she should have been, because she wasn’t all that fond of reading. I used to wonder if she had volunteered because she didn’t like the playground at lunchtime. It can be a pretty nerve-racking place, if you’re the target of a roaming pack of nasty loudmouths. And Bettina was certainly a target. Some of the really brainless kids would snatch food out of her hands, claiming that she ought to stop eating so much. They were exactly the same kids who flicked bits of sandwich or popcorn at her when she walked past.

  And poor Bettina was shy, as well as large. What I mean is, she was hard to talk to. I had tried several times, but I never seemed to get very far. She would always nod frantically, and keep agreeing – unless you asked her a question. Then all you would get out of her was a ‘ yes’ or a ‘no’. She was quite new to the school, though, so perhaps she was finding her feet. That’s what I told myself, when I saw her sitting alone at recess, picking at her Turkish bread. It helped to ease my pangs of guilt.

  I wish I was a more sociable person. If I found it easier to say friendly, jolly things to people, I wouldn’t have to go round feeling guilty about kids like Bettina.

  ‘The bell’s going to go any minute,’ I remarked, checking the clock on the wall. ‘We probably ought to straighten things up. Hey, who’s been messing around with the medieval display? Michelle, look at this.’

  ‘Wait!’ said Bettina, and I stopped in my tracks. She looked anxious; she was squeezing her hands together. ‘Wait,’ she murmured. ‘What about my question?’

  ‘Eh?’

  Bettina glanced nervously at Michelle, who was frowning. ‘Well … you know about ghosts, don’t you?’ she quavered, but she was addressing me, not Michelle. ‘Like … that’s what you were talking about? Ghosts?’

  I grunted. Michelle said, ‘Yes.’ Bettina fixed her big, brown eyes on us.

  ‘Well, instead of getting rid of ghosts – like you were saying – what about making them appear?’ she stammered. ‘Would – would you be able to do that?’

  I was lost. ‘What do you mean?’

  ‘I mean, if you wanted to talk to a ghost.’ Bettina swallowed, and leaned towards me. ‘Someone who’d died,’ she added.

  And then the bell went.

  It’s like a fire alarm or something, when the bell goes at school. Suddenly the corridors are filled with scurrying footsteps – people who are sitting, leap from their seats and there’s a surge of chattering voices.

  Over the noise, I said to Bettina: ‘You want to talk to someone who’s dead?’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘Summon them up, you mean? From the afterlife?’

  Bettina’s uneasy gaze skipped around the room, as if reluctant to meet mine.

  ‘I guess so,’ she muttered, rubbing her arm.

  ‘Who?’ asked Michelle, and Bettina replied: ‘My cousin.’

  Michelle and I exchanged looks. Then a stampede of Year Four boys pushed past, and I staggered.

  ‘We’ll talk about it later,’ I said loudly. ‘You catch the bus, don’t you? My bus?’

  Bettina nodded.

  ‘We’ll talk on the bus, then.’

  Bettina’s face brightened. It occurred to me that she probably didn’t have anyone to talk to on the bus, most days, and I felt bad. Then I told myself that she wasn’t in my class, after all. It wasn’t my fault that she didn’t seem to have any friends.

  Why didn’t some of the other kids, like Peter Cresciani, make an effort?

  CHAPTER # two

  ‘Because she’s dumb,’ said Peter.

  ‘Peter!’ I protested, looking around quickly. But I couldn’t see Bettina. She hadn’t arrived at the bus line yet. ‘Don’t say that!’

  Peter shrugged. ‘It’s true,’ he insisted. ‘I don’t talk to Bettina because she’s dumb. You should see her in class. She can never answer questions. She’s in her own little world, most of the time.’

  ‘Just because she daydreams doesn’t mean she’s dumb,’ I said severely. That’s the trouble with Peter. Most of the time he’s really nice. He’s also curious, clever, well read, and a little bit eccentric (which I like). But because he’s so clever, he doesn’t have much patience with people who aren’t as clever as he is.

  ‘Anyway, she wants to talk to her dead cousin,’ I went on, not bothering to keep my voice down, because all around us kids lining up for the bus were shouting and fighting, and flicking things at each other. ‘Michelle reckons that if we help Bettina, it would be a good job for this Exorcists’ Club she’s been talking about, but I don’t think so. It’s a whole different thing, isn’t it? Summoning up ghosts. I’ve never done it.’

  ‘A séance, you mean,’ said Peter.

  ‘What?’

  ‘You’ve never done a séance? That’s how you talk to ghosts. You hold a séance. I read about it, somewhere.’ H
e knitted his brows. ‘I can’t remember where.’

  Then Michelle appeared, with Bettina in tow. Poor Bettina kept flinching at every scream and scuffle. Michelle just scowled at the kids who jostled her, and jabbed them in the ribs with her elbow.

  ‘So,’ she asked me, ‘have you told Peter?’

  ‘Yes, but –’

  ‘It’s worth trying, don’t you think? Bettina was just explaining what the problem is. It’s her cousin, you see – his name was Michael – and he was only seventeen when he died in a car accident. That was nearly two years ago. But her aunt is still crying about it.’

  Michelle sounded a bit too eager and enthusiastic. Bettina, I saw, was standing with her eyes cast down. She let Michelle do all the talking.

  ‘So Bettina wants to see if we can contact Michael (wherever he is) and maybe even get him to say a few words to her aunt,’ Michelle continued. ‘To make her aunt feel better.’

  Suddenly Tony Karavias went careering into Bettina, knocking her sideways. (God knows what he was doing.) He didn’t say sorry, of course – they never do, boys like that – he just laughed and threw himself at somebody else. Peter shouted after him, angrily: ‘Watch what you’re doing, ya moron!’ He hates that kind of thing. Even when it happens to ‘dumb’ people.

  Bettina picked up the bag that she’d dropped, and tucked a wisp of hair behind her ear.

  ‘Okay,’ said Michelle, turning back to me. ‘What do you think? Can we do it?’

  ‘I dunno.’ The whole thing worried me. ‘The question is, do we want to do it? I mean, I sympathise, and everything – I’m really sorry about your cousin, Bettina – but calling up ghosts …’ I shook my head. ‘That could be pretty dangerous, don’t you think?’

  Although I was appealing to Peter, it was Bettina who replied.

  ‘Oh, no!’ she assured me. ‘Michael was a good person. He wouldn’t do anything bad.’

  ‘Well, maybe not, but –’

  ‘I just want to know if he’s all right. If – if he’s happy, and peaceful.’ Her eyes filled with tears. ‘Then maybe Auntie Astra … maybe things will be better …’ Her voice broke.

  I didn’t know where to look, when that happened. Peter stared at his shoes. Michelle screwed up her nose, and cleared her throat. There was nothing much else to say, really. How could I tell Bettina that we wouldn’t give it a try? The poor girl looked so unhappy. It would have been mean to turn her down.

 
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