Two extracts from Cinnamon Stevens - Ghost Light by Pauline Hosking


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Two extracts from Cinnamon Stevens - Ghost Light by Pauline Hosking

Cinnamon’s diary begins

March 18th

I am sitting in the brand-new Ambassador Theatre, observing.

That’s what detectives do.

My bum is the first bum to ever touch this prickly, cloth-covered seat. How awesome is that?

Around me heaps of nervous kids are waiting with their parents/teachers/friends. They’re here to try-out for a part in Macbeth, the play by William Shakespeare. The one about murder. And witches.

My best friend Cossie hurries up the aisle. ‘Cinnamon, Cinnamon!’ Behind her glasses, her eyes are wide with excitement. ‘Cinnamon, do you believe in ghosts?’

‘Do I believe in goats?’

‘No, GHOSTS!’ Cossie bounces into the seat next to me. ‘I think I just saw one!’

‘Wow! True?’

‘It was white and shimmery. It gave me a wave and disappeared.’

Wow to the max! ‘Where did it go?’

‘No idea. Back to the astral plane?’ Cossie grins. ‘Course I might be mistaken. I’d taken my glasses off to give them a polish. You know I’m short- sighted. Maybe it was a cleaner or someone.’

‘Yeah. Maybe.’ Or maybe not! This sounded like something I should investigate.

I check the time on my phone. ‘Cossie, we’ve ten minutes before your audition starts. Let’s go find this ghost!’

She gives a thumbs-up. ‘Wicked!’

That’s why Cossie’s such a good friend. She’s always up for adventures.

‘Follow me, Cin. A ghost hunt might settle my nerves!’

We hurry down the centre aisle. Cossie leads, I limp along behind. During my last case I’d sustained a life-threatening injury (okay, a broken toe) which was healing. Slowly.

The auditorium is built like an amphitheatre, with tiered seats leading down to the stage. The whole place reeks of fresh paint.

When we reach the stage with its massive scarlet and gold curtain, Cossie whispers, ‘Quick, in here!’

We slip through a narrow gap at the side of the curtain into the backstage area. An almost invisible door is tucked against a far wall.

My friend says, in a Dracula-type voice, ‘I voz searching for a place to practise my lines ven I discovered zat door and ze secret stairs beyond. Come, Cinnamon, ve must go down ze stairs into ze darkness!’

She opens the door. Beyond is a space like a lift shaft. But there’s no lift. Instead, a metal staircase spirals above our heads and beneath our feet, lit by dim electric lights. We’re near the bottom of the stairs, only a few steps away from a shadowy, cavern-like basement.

I’m starting to feel less enthusiastic. Not that I’m scared of the dark exactly. I just prefer places that are brightly lit.

Cossie skips down the stairs, which clink and shake, not at all worried by the spookiness.

The basement is as quiet and dark as the auditorium had been full of light and noise. The place smells of dust and plumbing.

A bank of sensor lights flash on. Weirdly they make the murky places seem even darker.

Now that my eyes are used to the gloom I can see boxes and piles of material jumbled about. Strange huge shapes lie shrouded under tarpaulins. There will definitely be rats (and other yucky things) hiding here, ready to pounce.

Cossie points towards a corridor leading off the basement. It’s signposted Toilets and Wardrobe. ‘That’s where I saw the ghost.’

The long corridor yawns at us, completely empty.


A LATER ENTRY IN HER DIARY, from pp. 61-63.

March 26th. At Walhalla.

There is no one about. The road beside the creek is empty. A couple of antique street lights spaced far apart, glow into the distance. The hills crowding Walhalla are dark. The hotel’s dark too.

It’s exciting to be up when everyone’s asleep.

With a quiet purr, a car drives slowly up the street. Its headlights glare like the eyes of a prowling beast. Showy waves to the driver to show we’re okay. The car passes, turns a corner and disappears.

I’d forgotten how far it is to the graveyard. Jesse powers along, leading from the front. He is slightly hunched over, probably cold. Alison and Darren are definitely hooking up. Showy lingers behind and almost manages to walk with Emma and me. Meera might be right. Maybe he does LIKE me.

We reach the Public Cemetery sign (“There are 1300 known graves…Strictly No admittance after dark” etcetera etcetera).

Darren starts singing, quietly at first then louder and louder, ‘“Ghost busters! Who you gonna call? Ghost busters”!’

Puffing our way up the steep track, the rest of us join in. “‘We ain’t afraid of no ghosts!’”

It’s surprisingly fun breaking rules! I should do it more often.

We stop at the entrance gate (which is shut) and sweep our torches over the ancient, tumbled-down graves. The cemetery looks a whole lot bigger at night. Upright tombstones lean against each other like jagged teeth. Wispy clouds float across a thin, curved moon. Because the valley is enclosed, with no city lights nearby, the stars are amazingly bright. It is completely silent. I can hear myself breathe and the blood-thud in my ears.

Emma jumps. ‘What’s that?’

Something moved in the shadows.

‘Probably a fox or a stray dog,’ says Alison loudly.

‘Or a Ghooossssttt!’ Darren cackles.

‘There are no such things as ghosts,’ I whisper to myself.

A wind gust hits the trees. Their branches move, sending eerie shadows racing across the hillside.

‘Come on!’ Showy kicks the Danger – No Admittance After Dark sign and pushes open the gate. He climbs up the hill, through rows of broken graves, swearing when he trips over a tree-root. Jesse follows. Their torches criss-cross in the dark. Darren and Alison set off in the opposite direction, going downhill -holding hands!

Emma stays with me near the gate. I’m trying hard to stay calm but my mouth’s dry and my heart’s beating double time. We’re six kids. Alone. In a graveyard. At night. And it’s dark!

Oh no! The boys’ torches have gone out! Emma, who’s been staring into the gloom, starts to shake. I nervously check behind us. Anything could be out there. Anything at all. Watching. Waiting to jump on us with vampire teeth and claws.

AAAgggh! A pale shape glowing with unearthly light rises from a grave. It floats several feet in the air.

I panic and swing around. Another phantom streams towards us, arms outstretched like a zombie. It makes a noise like a baby choking.

Emma and I scream and keep on screaming.

A third ghastly being manifests behind a tombstone. It moans, ‘Who dares disturb my rest? I am the ghost of Adalee Whatshername…’

Oh. Reason returns. Adelaide Glendenning’s ghost wouldn’t sound like a thirteen-year-old guy.

I say, ‘Showy, is that you?’

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