Choc Lit 2017 Halloween Round Robin: The Ghosts of Maplewood Hall, Part Three by Victoria Cornwall

Halloween P3

Readers beware! It’s time for another Halloween Round Robin from Choc Lit, back by popular demand. Five talented Choc Lit authors have been working collaboratively on a wonderfully spooky short story – The Ghosts of Maplewood Hall – which we will be sharing in five parts in the run-up to Halloween (with the final part falling on the big day itself!) Come back every day to read a new extract AND enter competitions to win chocolate & book prizes.

Each author taking part has no idea where their part of the story will go, which leads to a few spooky surprises along the way. But you’ll need to read on to find out more ;)  

The third author to contribute is Victoria Cornwall. Remember to read right until the end to find details of the competition. 

A Round Robin is best enjoyed if you read each part in order. 

Read Part One by Jane Lovering HERE
Read Part Two by Christina Courtenay HERE

THE GHOSTS OF MAPLEWOOD HALL – PART THREE BY VICTORIA CORNWALL

Patrick lowered his torch beam as he approached her. ‘Martine? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.’ He touched her hand and frowned. ‘You’re shaking,’ he said, giving her hand a mild squeeze. ‘James was an idiot for suggesting you stay here alone. ‘

‘Yes, he was … and I was an idiot for doing what he told me.’ Martine withdrew her hand from Patrick’s and fumbled with the end of the tape. Patrick was right – she was shaking, although she had a sneaking suspicion it was not only Sebastian’s apparition that was the cause of it.

Patrick attempted to help her, but Martine brushed him off and set about criss-crossing the door with a web of sensory wires. To her surprise she achieved it with amazing speed. Haunted houses – and a strong desire to leave a challenging situation – often turned her into an efficient worker.

‘I should have said something,’ said Patrick as he watched her work.

Martine stood back to admire her wired door that no person could pass through without setting off an ear-splitting alarm. ‘Not bad for a ghost hunting newbie,’ she said brightly, only too aware Patrick was standing just behind her. She felt much braver than only a few minutes before. Ghosts weren’t that scary, particularly if they were handsome and flirtatious too. ‘It was sensible of James to have someone posted by the door,’ she wittered on. ‘It just happened to be me.’

‘I don’t mean that,’ said Patrick. Martine’s senses switched to high alert and she stiffened. ‘I mean why I didn’t turn up at the restaurant the other night.’

The memory brought back the familiar flush of humiliation to her cheeks. She had spent the evening waiting for him to arrive, while the diners sitting around her threw sympathetic smiles in her direction and gossiped in hushed tones behind their hands. It had been their first date. The date she had dreamt of since she was ten. And it had turned into a disaster.

‘You didn’t even text,’ she mumbled.

‘I know.’ He touched her arm, but she immediately withdrew, hating herself for showing his non-appearance still bothered her. He reluctantly let his hand fall. ‘When I heard you scream just now I was …’

It was the diversion Martine needed. How could she have forgotten about Kate? ‘I wasn’t the only one who screamed. Kate did too!’ She grabbed Patrick’s torch. ‘We’d better go to the kitchen to see if she is alright.’

Patrick raised an eyebrow in surprise. ‘Who is this new brave Martine ready to take on the spooks?’

‘I’m not sure,’ replied Martine over her shoulder. ‘I am just finding out myself.’

They headed in the direction of the kitchen. Floating dust, illuminated by the beam of their torch, swirled around them as they passed through. At the far end of the passage they found two large doors. Martine felt Sebastian’s chilled breath on her neck as he whispered into her ear. She glanced at Patrick, who seemed oblivious to the ghost’s presence.

‘Which door do you think leads to the kitchen?’ asked Patrick.

Sebastian had told her and she had no reason to not believe him.  ‘The left,’ she replied confidently as she reached for the handle.

Sebastian had been right. Beyond the old oak door was the derelict kitchen of Maplewood Hall – the alleged epicentre of all the paranormal activity reported over the past century.  Martine and Patrick stepped into the gloom. The room was disappointingly quiet and empty. The moon shone through rain-stained windows, casting a harsh bright light onto the dusty tables, mottled copper pans and something dead and furry by the far wall. The floor was scattered with debris – a strange mix of autumn leaves, twigs and long abandoned kitchenware. A sudden movement in one dark corner startled them both. Martine automatically raised her torch as a weapon, but Patrick halted her in mid-swing.

‘Steady there, Lara Croft,’ laughed Patrick. ‘It’s only James.’

James walked briskly towards them, raking a hand through his tousled hair. ‘Kate’s gone. She said she felt someone tap her on the shoulder. One minute I was teasing her for being scared and screaming like a banshee. The next minute she was gone.’

‘Gone? Gone where?’ Patrick grabbed James’s shirt, ‘Where is she, James? If you have locked my sister in a cupboard as a joke I’ll …’

‘Why would I do that? What kind of bloke do you take me for?’

Martine left the men to their posturing and turned away. They were scared for Kate, but arguing about her wouldn’t help. Besides, Sebastian was talking to her again and his soft soothing tone, laced with a quiet chuckle, was enticing her to enter the pantry. She did not have the will to disobey. Patrick and James’s voices grew muted as she left them behind in the kitchen and entered the enclosed space of the inbuilt cupboard. At the far end was a small door. It seemed as if it was waiting for her.

‘Open it,’ whispered Sebastian’s seductive tone. She reached for the handle. It felt cold, yet turned easily in her grasp and the old rusty hinge silently opened. She stepped into an opulently furnished room basking in the white, hissing gaslight of numerous bronze wall lamps. Her friend stood in the middle of the room and at her side was a man. He was handsome, with a gentle curve to his lips and in his hand was Kate’s. He wore the same clothes as Sebastian, which were more in keeping with a time long gone by, whilst the room itself was as fresh and clean as if it was still used today. This part of the house was a stark contrast to the rest of Maplewood Hall, which relied on flapping tarpaulin to cover the holes in the roof and felt constantly chilly and damp due to the absence of electricity and a warm fire.

‘Can you see him too, Martine?’ whispered Kate, hopefully. Martine nodded slowly. Kate sighed with relief. ‘Thank goodness. I thought I was going mad. He wants me to—’

‘Help him cross over to the mortal world.’ She felt Sebastian’s presence beside her and tilted her head towards him. ‘So does he,’ she replied. As if she had asked him to, Sebastian grew more visible. ‘What are we going to do, Kate? What on earth are we going to do?’

Oooh, it’s beginning to get more than a little spooky now! Just what will Kate and Martine do? Kirsty Ferry will be telling us more tomorrow in the penultimate part of our Halloween Round Robin.

If you enjoyed Victoria’s writing, you can find her books available to purchase from all good online book stockists and retailers. Click on the image below for purchasing options. 

Image of both books

COMPETITION TIME! 

To be in with a chance of winning a Victoria Cornwall paperback and some chocolate simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

Where does Sebastian lead Martine as James and Patrick are arguing?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin comp 3’ by Thursday 2nd November. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 3rd November.

Choc Lit 2017 Halloween Round Robin: The Ghosts of Maplewood Hall, Part Two by Christina Courtenay

Halloween P2

Readers beware! It’s time for another Halloween Round Robin from Choc Lit, back by popular demand. Five talented Choc Lit authors have been working collaboratively on a wonderfully spooky short story – The Ghosts of Maplewood Hall – which we will be sharing in five parts in the run-up to Halloween (with the final part falling on the big day itself!) Come back every day to read a new extract AND enter competitions to win chocolate & book prizes.

Each author taking part has no idea where their part of the story will go, which leads to a few spooky surprises along the way. But you’ll need to read on to find out more ;)  

The second author to contribute is Christina Courtenay! Remember to read right until the end to find details of the competition. 

A Round Robin is best enjoyed if you read each part in order. If you missed yesterday’s beginning by Jane Lovering, read it HERE

THE GHOSTS OF MAPLEWOOD HALL – PART TWO BY CHRISTINA COURTENAY

‘Need a hand?’

A wicked chuckle sounded right next to Martine’s ear and a white hand appeared beside her own. Sure, a bit of help would have been welcome, but not when the hand offered seemed to be floating on its own without the rest of the body it should have been attached to.

She tried to echo the kitchen scream, which had just sounded again, high-pitched and feminine, but the only thing that came out of her mouth was a small, strangled squeak. She knew she ought to make a run for it – if nothing else, to check what was the matter with Kate – but her legs were frozen to the spot and she simply couldn’t make them work.

‘Here, let me hold one end of the that and you take the other.’

The cheerful voice didn’t have the effect it obviously expected on Martine. This time she managed a proper scream to rival Kate’s, but it was cut off abruptly by the hand. Its touch on her mouth was light, but firm, and cold. So very cold.

‘Shhh, please, there’s no need for hysterics. I’ll protect you, I promise.’

As soon as the hand was removed, she swivelled her head around, glancing wildly into the more or less complete darkness that surrounded her. ‘P-protect me? Wh-what … who?’ she managed to stammer, although her voice was vibrating with fear.

‘Oh, I do beg your pardon. Did I forget to introduce myself? Lord Maplewood, at your service. Or Sebastian to my friends.’ The hand did a sort of swirl in front of her, as if it was accompanying an old-fashioned bow. ‘As I seldom have such delightful company here, I think we can safely count you as one of those.’

‘One of those what?’ Martine whispered.

‘Friends. You may call me Sebastian.’

Was she supposed to be grateful? A disembodied hand had just given her permission to call him by his – its? – Christian name. She swallowed hard. This was insane.

‘No, this isn’t happening,’ she muttered. Kate’s scream had just spooked her and now she was having hallucinations. She should never have come, no matter how much her best friend fancied James. There had to be a better way of impressing the guy.

‘I say, you weren’t expecting to walk into a haunted mansion and not encounter any of the residents, were you?’ That chuckle again, even closer now. And was that a cold breath she felt near her left ear? Martine shuddered and finally managed to take a step to one side.

‘Go away. You’re not real. You can’t be.’

‘Why not?’ He – Sebastian – sounded mildly interested.

‘There’s no such thing as gh-ghosts. I can’t even see you. All of you, I mean.’

‘Ah, apologies. There, is that better?’

Martine almost choked on her hasty intake of breath. In front of her, still holding one end of the tape, stood a man. A very good-looking man, it had to be said, but it was hard to notice that when he was mostly see-through and there was a kind of lit-up aura surrounding him. ‘I … I … Jesus!’

‘No, no, I’m not even a saint.’ Sebastian laughed and winked. ‘Not even close. Might I suggest you concentrate on my face, then the rest of me won’t be quite as disconcerting.’

She did and he was right. Sort of. It was still hard not to notice that he was transparent, but looking at his handsome features definitely had a calming effect. His smile was infectious and if he hadn’t been so see-through – or so dead – she could have fancied him, for sure.

‘So what brings you here?’ he asked, conversationally. ‘Do carry on with this taping business, by the way. It is obviously important.’

Martine wasn’t so sure, but she realised she wasn’t as scared any longer. Perhaps it was the fact that her brain told her this couldn’t be real, and if it was just a dream or hallucination she had nothing to fear. Or maybe that Sebastian wasn’t threatening in the slightest. If she’d ever imagined ghosts, they had been of the vengeful, moaning, chain-clanking type, not one whose laughing eyes she couldn’t seem to stop looking at. And look on the bright side – at least he’s not a carp! On automatic, she picked up the tape and carried on putting it on the door frame. It was actually easier now because Sebastian’s aura threw some light and she could see better.

‘Uhm, thank you.’ Martine closed her eyes for a moment, wondering if she would wake up and find she’d dozed off, or if the vision next to her would just disappear, but he was still there when she opened them again. Disturbingly close, smiling, and with his head slightly to one side.

‘I’m glad I found you first. I’m honour bound to tell you that there will be some competition for your favour tonight, but hopefully you will give me a chance to prove that I’m more worthy of your attention than any of the others.’

‘Others?’ Martine didn’t like the sound of that. ‘What do you mean, my favour?’

‘Well, tonight is Samhain, is it not? All Hallow’s Eve?’

‘Yes, and?’

‘It is the one night of the year when the spirits of the departed may return and mingle with those of you who are still alive. And for one lucky soul it means a chance to regain that which was lost. All it takes is … well, actually, I’m not allowed to tell you because it has to happen spontaneously, without prompting.’

Martine was starting feel like she’d stumbled into a movie set or something. The whole thing was definitely surreal. She snorted. ‘What is this, a fairy tale? I can give you back life with a kiss of pure love? Yeah, right.’

Sebastian raised his eyebrows and put a hand on his heart, pretending to look wounded. ‘Are you implying you could never love me? I’ll have you know, all the ladies fell over themselves vying for my attention back in my day.’

‘I bet.’ His expression brightened at her words, so she hastened to add. ‘But you probably had a real body then.’ A hot one, if the outline of his ghostly clothes was anything to go by, but she buried that thought. Not helping. ‘But how am I supposed to fall in love with someone I could probably stick my fingers right through? Let alone kiss you?’

‘Oh, ye of little faith.’ Sebastian grinned. ‘There is a little more to it than that.’

‘But―’

Martine’s words were cut off by the beam from a torch. ‘Are you okay? What happened?’ Patrick was coming down the stairs and she could just about make out his worried frown.

‘Well …’ She waved a hand towards Sebastian, but when she looked in his direction, the only thing she could see was the falling end of a piece of tape.

Well, if we have to meet a ghost, we wouldn’t mind meeting one like Sebastian 😉 But is he as charming as he seems? We might just find out tomorrow when Victoria Cornwall adds to the story!

If you enjoyed Christina’s writing, you can find her books available to purchase from all good online book stockists and retailers. Click on the image below for purchasing options. 

JL

COMPETITION TIME! 

To be in with a chance of winning a Christina Courtenay paperback and some chocolate simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

Who disturbs Sebastian and Martine by coming down the stairs?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin comp 2’ by Thursday 2nd November. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 3rd November.

Choc Lit 2017 Halloween Round Robin: The Ghosts of Maplewood Hall, Part One by Jane Lovering

Halloween P1

Readers beware! It’s time for another Halloween Round Robin from Choc Lit, back by popular demand. Five talented Choc Lit authors have been working collaboratively on a wonderfully spooky short story – The Ghosts of Maplewood Hall – which we will be sharing in five parts in the run-up to Halloween (with the final part falling on the big day itself!) Come back every day to read a new extract AND enter competitions to win chocolate & book prizes.

Each author taking part has no idea where their part of the story will go, which leads to a few spooky surprises along the way. But you’ll need to read on to find out more 😉 

First up is Jane Lovering! Remember to read right until the end to find details of the competition. 

THE GHOSTS OF MAPLEWOOD HALL – PART ONE BY JANE LOVERING

‘Well, here it is. What do you think?’

James pulled the minibus into the deserted car park and waved a hand, indicating the blocky outline of the house, dark and deserted, outlined against the trees. The sun was going down, throwing the shadow of the building across the sheep-nibbled parkland, like the gnomon of an enormous sundial, telling them night was imminent.

‘Spooky.’ Martine gathered her coat around her. ‘I’m scared.’

‘You’re a wimp is what you are.’ Kate opened the back door of the van. ‘We’re a ghost hunting group. We’re here to hunt ghosts, and Maplewood Hall is supposed to be haunted. Why on earth did you join if you’re scared of old buildings miles from anywhere, at night?’

‘To be fair,’ Martine pressed her face to the minibus window, ‘I’m also scared of deer, owls and carp. It’s not just the buildings.’

James, Ollie and Patrick were unloading the equipment onto the grass-studded gravel. ‘You’ll be fine,’ Patrick said, sympathetically. ‘Deer only attack in the mating season, owls will leave you alone if you’re bigger than a mouse, and there won’t be any carp in the house.’ A glance over his shoulder at the hunched half-ruin. ‘I shouldn’t think. They’re a fish, aren’t they, carp?’

Kate lifted a box and jumped down. Slowly and hesitantly, Martine climbed out of the van and stood beside her. ‘They aren’t just a fish,’ she said, ‘they are absolutely enormous fish.’

‘Here, carry that.’ Ollie handed her a big box. ‘We need to get it all into the house before the light goes. There’s no electricity in there, no lights, so we want to get it all set up before we’re blundering around in the dark taking pictures of each other and bumping into the furniture. This is a ghost hunting expedition, not a Laurel and Hardy film.’

Slowly, burdened by wires, battery packs, bundles of equipment and, in one case, a fear of fish, the Littleton and District Paranormal Investigation Unit advanced on Maplewood Hall. They crouched in the remnants of manicured parkland and glorious gardens and looked at the house itself; windows boarded and shuttered against squatters and vandals and the roof partly covered in tarpaulin, which fluttered and flapped in an unfelt breeze.

Martine shivered again. She’d only come because Kate fancied James. She would have been perfectly happy to spend Halloween watching themed television and eating Skittles, but Kate was her best friend and there were some things you just did for your best friend. Although Martine wasn’t sure that riding shotgun on a trip to a known haunted house on the spookiest night of the year, with rain forecast and probable owls, didn’t go far beyond what was expected from friendship. Especially if it meant having to spend time with Kate’s brother, Patrick, too. He was the last person she wanted to see at the moment, but she wouldn’t think about that now.

Ollie and James went on ahead into the house, followed by Kate, who hesitated for a moment in the huge stone doorway. Martine knew that Kate wasn’t as unafraid as she was trying to make out. They’d been at school together, both equally scarred by memorable episodes of the X-Files, but Kate was determined that James was the man for her and would push through any tendencies to scream in the face of moving shadows for him to see her as a potential mate.

Patrick held the door open for Martine. ‘Look. No deer,’ he said, although the interior of the hallway was so dark that there could have been a herd of elk in there and nobody would be able to see them. ‘You will be fine.’

The last rays of the dying sun flickered down past the fluttering tarpaulin above them and illuminated a huge staircase rising out of the hall into a veil of dust-speckled darkness. Doors led off the passageway to left and right, and the corridor stretched beyond the base of the stairs, curving around into the depths of the house to be lost to sight. The tarpaulin flick-flacked distantly but all else was silent, apart from their footsteps, and Patrick, who’d got hiccups.

‘Ol, you go and check down that way,’ James said. ‘Pat, you do the stairs. Kate and I will find the kitchen, that’s supposed to be the main site of any disturbances.’ He gave Kate a sideways look. Martine suspected that James knew very well that Kate fancied him and was going to use this opportunity for a quick grope and a snog.

‘What about me?’ Martine asked uncertainly.

‘You stay there. Secure the doorway, we don’t want anyone to come wandering in and setting equipment off.’ He handed her a box. ‘That’s the gear. We’ll come back and get you once we’ve reccied the place.’

Off everyone trooped, their footsteps sounding more and more distant against the bare floorboards. Martine was alone. Behind her, outside the door, the sun sank and the night pressed against the house. Her eyes adjusted slowly, but there was nothing to see, only the rising vastness of the stairs in front, and the echoey emptiness of the hallway running off in either direction.

Martine grabbed at her coat again. It was cold. The hair at the back of her neck was prickling and she didn’t dare move in case she fell over something. And she was missing EastEnders. With a sigh she opened the box that James had given her and started to make herself useful, stretching fine tape across the doorway to prevent anything human coming into the house. She wasn’t sure how effective it would be, James hadn’t thought to leave her a torch and she was operating mostly by touch. When a soft sound slithered into her ears from the direction of the staircase, she dropped the tape and spun around.

‘Who’s there?’

There was no answer. But Martine could just make out a shape, a pale smudge in the dark, a faint ‘something’ against the wooden panelling. Something that drifted towards her in a silent haze of dust – she drew in her breath to scream, but her yell was stopped by a sudden, louder scream that came from the direction of the haunted kitchen …

A suitably spooky start from Jane Lovering that ended with a scream and a potential ghostly happening. Just what we all want from a Halloween Round Robin!

If you enjoyed Jane’s writing, you can find her books available to purchase from all good online book stockists and retailers. Click on the image below for purchasing options. Jane will have a new Christmas novella out in December – keep your eye on our social feeds for more information, coming soon! 

JL

COMPETITION TIME! 

To be in with a chance of winning a Jane Lovering paperback and some chocolate simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

Which three things is Martine scared of?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin comp 1’ by Thursday 2nd November. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 3rd November.