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Ghost of a smile, p.1
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       Ghost of a Smile, p.1

           Simon R. Green
 
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Ghost of a Smile


  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  ONE - DOGGED BY THE PAST

  TWO - OUT OF THE ORDINARY

  THREE - WE SHOULDN’T BE HERE

  FOUR - SCALPEL, SCALPEL, SHINING BRIGHT

  FIVE - SOMETHING OFFAL

  SIX - GHOSTLIGHT

  SEVEN - LET LOOSE THE BEAST

  EIGHT - HUMAN IS

  NINE - RIDER ON THE STORM

  From New York Times bestselling author

  Praise for the Novels of the Nightside

  A HARD DAY’S KNIGHT

  “Plenty of action packed in from London to Glastonbury . . . should definitely please fantasy action fans.” —Booklist

  THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UNCANNY

  “A fast, intelligently written tale that is fun to read.”

  —The Green Man Review

  JUST ANOTHER JUDGEMENT DAY

  “Another unrestrained ride through the Nightside.”

  —Monsters and Critics

  THE UNNATURAL INQUIRER

  “Sam Spade meets Sirius Black . . . in the Case of the Cosmic MacGuffin . . . crabby wit and inventively gruesome set pieces.”

  —Entertainment Weekly

  HELL TO PAY

  “If you’re looking for fast-paced, no-holds-barred dark urban fantasy, you need look no further: the Nightside is the place for you.”

  —SFRevu

  SHARPER THAN A SERPENT’S TOOTH

  “A captivating tale.”

  —Midwest Book Review

  PATHS NOT TAKEN

  “An entertaining adventure.”

  —Chronicle

  HEX AND THE CITY

  “[Green’s] style is unique, stylized, and addictive.”

  —The Green Man Review

  NIGHTINGALE’S LAMENT

  “Strong horror fantasy.”

  —The Best Reviews

  AGENTS OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS

  “If you like your noir pitch-black, then return to the Nightside.”

  —University City Review

  SOMETHING FROM THE NIGHTSIDE

  “A fast, fun little roller coaster of a story.”

  —Jim Butcher

  Novels of the Nightside

  SOMETHING FROM THE NIGHTSIDE

  AGENTS OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS

  NIGHTINGALE’S LAMENT

  HEX AND THE CITY

  PATHS NOT TAKEN

  SHARPER THAN A SERPENT’S TOOTH

  HELL TO PAY

  THE UNNATURAL INQUIRER

  JUST ANOTHER JUDGEMENT DAY

  THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UNCANNY

  A HARD DAY’S KNIGHT

  Ghost Finders Novels

  GHOST OF A CHANCE

  GHOST OF A SMILE

  Secret Histories Novels

  THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN TORC

  DAEMONS ARE FOREVER

  THE SPY WHO HAUNTED ME

  FROM HELL WITH LOVE

  FOR HEAVEN’S EYES ONLY

  Deathstalker Novels

  DEATHSTALKER

  DEATHSTALKER REBELLION

  DEATHSTALKER WAR

  DEATHSTALKER HONOR

  DEATHSTALKER DESTINY

  DEATHSTALKER LEGACY

  DEATHSTALKER RETURN

  DEATHSTALKER CODA

  Hawk and Fisher Novels

  SWORDS OF HAVEN

  GUARDS OF HAVEN

  Also by Simon R. Green

  BLUE MOON RISING

  BEYOND THE BLUE MOON

  DRINKING MIDNIGHT WINE

  Omnibus

  A WALK ON THE NIGHTSIDE

  THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada

  (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)

  Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia

  (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

  Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India

  Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand

  (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,

  South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s

  imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business

  establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over

  and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

  GHOST OF A SMILE

  An Ace Book / published by arrangement with the author

  PRINTING HISTORY

  Ace mass-market edition / September 2011

  Copyright © 2011 by Simon R. Green.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without

  permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the

  author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  ISBN : 978-1-101-54363-4

  ACE

  Ace Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  ACE and the “A” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.http://us.penguingroup.com

  Ghosts are messages. From the Past, the Present,

  and sometimes the Future.

  ONE

  DOGGED BY THE PAST

  It’s a sad fact that these days, there are more places that used to be factories than there are working factories. And many of these old deserted buildings, left to rot and ruin, have become bad places. Haunted by a past they can’t forget and men who can’t forgive.

  There are lots of ways a building can turn bad. Something terrible happens, staining the environs with enough horror and suffering to poison the psychic wells forever, or just the long years’ accumulations of all the petty evils and moral crimes that man is heir to. People make places bad, and bad places make horror shows, to haunt the living with the sins of the dead. People do more than work in factories, and they always leave something of themselves behind.

  Which is why a battered old mini-van, with rusting panels and balding tyres, came crashing to a halt in an overgrown and weed-infested car park, outside the factory building once owned and operated by Winter Industries. The van’s engine fell silent with a series of relieved coughs, and the slow, sullen quiet of evening returned. The huge old building stood open and exposed to the elements, a stark minimalist structure of steel and concrete, looking somehow lost and ill at ease now that it no longer had a function or a purpose. Broken glass in the windows, overlapping graffiti on the walls . . . most of it faded into incoherence, like disappearing voices from the past. The huge open doors at the front had been sealed off with yards of yellow police-incident ta
pes, their ragged ends whipping mournfully back and forth in the gusting wind.

  From out of the clapped-out old mini-van stepped JC Chance, Melody Chambers, and Happy Jack Palmer.

  The Ghost Finders of the Carnacki Institute.

  It was late evening, heading into night. There were bloody stains on the heavy clouds in the lowering sky, while the sun hung low above the horizon, giving up on the day. There were shadows everywhere, long and deep and dark. The evening light looked stained and damaged, bruised. The gusting wind made a few half-hearted attempts to kick some leaves around the abandoned car park but couldn’t really be bothered. The factory stood still and solid, holding darkness within.

  JC strode out across the car park, heading for the deserted factory like a general with a battle hymn in his heart. He was never happier than when he was throwing himself headlong into life-and-death action, with the world at stake and all to play for, best foot forward and damn the consequences. Which was why he’d had such a hard time finding partners who would put up with him. Most people had more sense. He stopped before the building and looked it over, his fists on his hips and a broad cocky grin on his face. JC loved a mystery, and a challenge, and a chance to kick the unearthly where it hurt.

  JC was tall and lean, loud and confident, full of energy and far too handsome for his own good. In his late twenties, he had a rock star’s mane of long dark hair, and a rich ice-cream three-piece suit of quite startling style and elegance. He also wore the heaviest, darkest sunglasses he could find, with good reason. Simply standing there in the wide-open car park, he looked like a sheriff come to clean up Tombstone.

  Melody Chambers trudged across the cracked concrete, pulling a trolley heaped high with her own very special equipment. Melody was the science geek of the team, and proud of it. She used technology as a weapon to beat the supernatural into making sense. She knew everything there was to know about fringe science and paranormal activity, and what she didn’t know she made up as she went along. She firmly believed in the iron hand in the iron glove approach, and only settled for poking ghosts with a stick when she didn’t have a better weapon to hand.

  Melody was pushing the edge of her late twenties, and pretty enough in a conventional sort of way. Short and gamine thin, she wore her auburn hair in a severe bun at the back of her head, so it wouldn’t get in the way. Melody was a very practical sort, first and always. She never bothered with make-up, and wore serious, no-nonsense glasses. Her jeans, sweater, and jacket were dark, practical, and anonymous. She kept several sets in her wardrobe, all exactly the same, so she didn’t have to waste time wondering what to wear. But even standing still beside her trolley, scowling impartially at JC and the factory, she blazed with repressed nervous energy waiting to be unleashed upon some poor unfortunate spirit.

  And, finally, there was Happy Jack Palmer, taking his time locking up the van and even more time slouching across the car park, to make it very clear to one and all that he didn’t want to be there. Happy had just turned thirty and was still bitter about it. He was the team telepath, borderline head-case, and dark cheerless pain in the arse. Because, as he was fond of saying, if you could see the world as clearly as he did, and all the weird and strange things we shared it with, you’d be clinically depressed, too. Happy could Gloom for England, and still take a Bronze in Dire Mutterings.

  He might have been good-looking if he ever stopped scowling, and he might have been tall if he ever stopped slouching, but the odds were against it. Prematurely balding and defiantly pot-bellied, he wore a faded T-shirt with the legend Go On. Ask Me About My Day. I Dare You, over a pair of distressed jeans that clearly hadn’t been threatened with a washing machine in recent memory. He wore slip-on shoes because he couldn’t be bothered with laces, and a battered leather jacket that looked like the animal who bequeathed its skin had known a really rough time even while it was still alive. Happy was a Class Eleven Telepath, and would cheerfully have lobotomised himself with a blunt ice-pick if he’d thought for one moment it would keep the voices out of his head.

  JC turned to Melody and beamed at her. “Have you got all your toys, Melody? I’m sure you could pack that trolley a little higher if you really tried.”

  “Eat shit and die, Chance,” said Melody. “You couldn’t do this job without me and my equipment, and you know it.”

  “And Happy, Happy, Happy!” said JC, ignoring Melody with the ease of long practice. “Have you locked up the Mystery Machine properly?”

  “I wish you’d stop calling it that,” said Melody. “It wasn’t that funny when we picked the bloody thing up from the rental place, and it’s grown exponentially less funny all the way here.”

  “I can think of worse things to call it,” said Happy. “It isn’t so much a mini-van as a nearly van. Only the extensive corrosion is holding the bodywork together, and the engine makes more noise than a banshee with bleeding haemorrhoids. The van’s about as much use as . . . a thing that’s no damned use at all. Oh God, I’m so tired I can’t even manage a decent metaphor. I hate long train journeys and I hate car rentals. I swear the Institute goes out of its way to choose something desperate they know will put my back out. Just once, couldn’t we have a nice stretch limo? With a chauffeur, and a built-in bar?”

  “Dream on,” JC said kindly. “Such vehicles tend to attract attention.”

  “It’s budget-review time, that’s what it is,” said Melody. “We’re not even allowed to travel first class on the train any more. I’m going to complain to the union.”

  “We’re not in a union,” said JC, staring thoughtfully at the factory.

  “I can’t believe I volunteered for this job,” said Melody.

  JC produced a local tourist guide from a jacket pocket with a grand flourish and flipped it open to a relevant page. “Hush, children, and pay attention. Here is useful knowledge, for those who have the wisdom to consult it. The strikingly ugly structure before us was once the pride and joy of Winter Industries. Very successful, from the fifties on into the eighties, at which point all the wheels came off the economy, and a great many once-solid industries hit the dirt. The factory shut its doors for the very last time in 1983, and the whole work-force was made redundant. Thousands of men and women, all laid off in an afternoon. The local economy never really recovered.”

  “What did they do here?” said Melody, practical as always. “What did the factory make?”

  “Apparently, machine parts for other factories,” said JC. “And when the orders dried up, the jobs disappeared. Lot of that about, in the eighties.”

  “Maggie bloody Thatcher,” growled Happy. “When that woman is dead, I will piss on her grave. I don’t care how long I have to queue.”

  “Get to the local legends,” Melody said to JC. “You know you’re dying to get to the local legends.”

  “Yeah,” said Happy. “All the weird shit that no-one believes but everyone talks about.”

  “Know thine enemy,” murmured JC. He flipped through the pages. “Ah yes, here we are. Ghosts, strange animal sightings, UFOs, and Men In Black, all the usual . . . Ah! This is more like it. There are local legends of Big Black Dogges, going back centuries, chasing people down deserted lanes, hunting people at night. And that’s Dogges spelled the demon way, in case you wondered.”

  “Big?” sad Happy. “How big?”

  “Says here, twice the size of a man,” JC said cheerfully. “Always black, appearing and disappearing, and some of them have no head. Definitely not your average Rottweiler.”

  Happy sniggered suddenly. “No head? How do they smell?”

  “Don’t even go there,” said Melody. “Exactly how dangerous are these Dogges, JC?”

  “Reading between the lines, very,” said JC. “A lot of local disappearances have been put down to the Dogges, down the years. Apparently it’s bad luck even to see one. There’s also mention of big cats, attacking sheep at night.”

  “Cats and dogs? Wonderful,” said Happy. “Maybe we can set them on each oth
er.”

  “Enough talk; time for action!” said JC. He tossed the guide-book carelessly over his shoulder and strode determinedly towards the open doors to the factory. “Time to stare Evil in the face and pull its nose! Give me danger and excitement, Lord, that I might smite the ungodly and send them crying home to their mothers!”

  “There’s something seriously wrong with you, JC,” said Happy, trudging sullenly after him.

  “And don’t anybody feel they have to help me shift all this equipment!” said Melody, bringing up the rear with her weighed-down trolley.

  “It’s good healthy exercise,” Happy said callously. “And you know you don’t like us touching your stuff.”

  “That’s because you always break it!” snapped Melody. “You could break an anvil just by looking at it.”

  Happy smirked. “It’s a gift.”

  “I’m glad you didn’t pay for it,” said Melody.

  “Children, children,” murmured JC. “If we could please all concentrate on the very dangerous and possibly horribly haunted deserted factory before us . . .”

  Melody snorted loudly and made a point of striding ahead of JC and Happy, hauling her trolley behind her. JC let her get a fair distance ahead, so he could talk quietly with Happy.

 
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