“Are you sure about this?” Wellsey asked.
“Could you be any more clichéd?” Belinda said. “‘Are you sure about this?'” she added in a high-pitched mockery of Wellsey’s voice. “Gahd.”
The Handy Pavilion was spooky in the dark. No, Wellsey thought, not spooky. Terrifying. The huge shelves towered up into the darkness, dark and ghostly pale in the dim moonlight. The air hung still and hot, undisturbed by the vast ceiling fans that hung idle beneath the ghostly ceiling. The building seemed at the same time too large and too small, dwarfing Wellsey and yet leaving him all too aware of the many places some terrible thing might hide. Wellsey stood in the middle of aisle eight, his growing dread focused on the folding table, covered with black candles and surrounded by director chairs.
“Fuck you,” he said. “I don’t mean, ‘are you sure we should be doing this?’, I mean, ‘are you sure this will work?'”
Belinda laughed. “Of course I’m not. I only done this once. Talked to my Granddad.”
“What did he die of?” Fiona said. Her recently improved social skills seemed to be in remission, and Wellsey had no idea if this was a good sign.
“Oh, he’s not dead,” Belinda said.
“You reached across the veil to contact your living Granddad?” Wellsey sighed.
“Hey, he’s in a coma,” Belinda said. “It was nice to talk to the old guy, don’t be a prick about it.”
To his surprise, Belinda’s admission made Wellsey feel a little better. If Belinda wasn’t a real medium, then by implication this wasn’t a real séance. Nothing to be scared of then. Just three employees on company property after hours without authorisation. It wasn’t even a firing offense, probably.
“Are we going to get started?” Carol said. Okay, bringing an unauthorised non-employee might be more difficult to explain away. Carol was a tall, red-headed woman with crazy hair and serious glasses and a vast excess of beads. There was just enough rebellious youth left deep inside Wellsey for him to admire her style, and yet still he sometimes found himself pursing his lips at her tattoos.
Carol ran a little café where she made coffee with Walter White-ian levels of chemical precision. She’d always been kind of sweet on Zorbar, so when she’d insisted on coming to the séance, Wellsey didn’t have the heart to turn her down.
“Let’s get started,” Wellsey said, though he really wanted to say “Are you sure about this?” one more time.
They took their seats around the little card table and joined hands. God, holding hands with two younger, female employees. HR had better bloody not find out about this.
“So who are we going to contact?” Fiona asked.
“Bruce,” Belinda said.
Bruce. Wellsey rolled his eyes. Bruce was a myth, a workplace folktale. He was supposedly an electrical contractor who had been involved in building the Handy Pavilion. The story went, Bruce had an affair with the wife of another contractor, a concreter. The concreter had found out, and now Bruce’s body was buried in the foundation of the Pavilion. Bruce’s ghost was said to haunt the place, and was blamed every time there was an accident that no one wanted to own up to.
A fake séance for a fake ghost. Wellsey found the corners of his mouth turning up a little. What the hell, it was fun. He closed his eyes.
“Oh, spi-rits! We in-voice and be-seech thy!” Belinda intoned, in a singsong rhythm partway between that of a Southern Baptist minister and a Scooby Doo villain. “We need thee wisdom, here, in the material world.”
Wellsey opened his eyes again, to find that Fiona and Carol had opened their eyes too. He glanced back and forth at them, until Belinda began speaking again, then snapped his eyelids shut, guiltily.
“Bruce, ghost of the Handy Pavillion!” Belinda said. “Show thouself! Reveal thine eternal ectoplasmic… uh… thing!”
“Awright, keep it down,” said a strange voice. “I’m dead, not bloody deaf.”
At once, Wellsey felt cold, even in the sultry air. His palms began to sweat. Worse, both Belinda and Fiona’s palms had started sweating. It was pretty gross, really.
Summoning all his courage, Wellsey forced a trembling eyelid open. He swore under his breath, opened his eyes and let go hands.
“Okay, ha ha big bloody joke,” he said. The others all opened their eyes too and saw what Wellsey had – a tallish, plumpish man, hidden under a white sheet, two round holes cut out for eyes.
“Oh, seriously?” Carol said. “I almost shat myself! Who is that under there?”
“Look down, love,” came a voice from under the sheet. Carol looked down and gasped. Wellsey couldn’t see what she had until he stood. From that angle, he could see that the apparition had no legs.
“What the…” he began. He searched around for an appropriate swear, but nothing in the whole of his prison-honed vocabulary seemed adequate. “Heck,” he finished, lamely.
“So what do you want?” the sheet said. “Who dares disturb me eternal slumber, ay?”
“Uh,” Belinda said.
“Uh,” Wellsey said.
“Buh,” Fiona said.
“You, like, see everything that goes on here, right?” Carol said.
“Nah, nah,” the sheet said. “I see a fair bit, but only when I’m watching. Even then, these bloody eyeholes don’t give much peripheral, do they, love?”
“Why the sheet?” Wellsey said.
“I’m a bloody ghost,” the sheet said. “It’s sheets, or dragging chains, and I’m not into that. They don’t give you a third choice. I’m Bruce by the way. And you are… Let’s see… Does your name start with an ‘F’? No? Is there anyone here whose name begins with an ‘F’?”
“Stop that!” Carol said. “We need to know if you saw what happened to Zorbar.”
Bruce raised a shrouded hand to where his mouth would have been, had he had one. “Zorbar… Big guy? Not over fond of pants? Oh, yeah, I reckon I saw what happened. Hit by a ute, poor bastard.”
“We know that!” Fiona said. “Can you tell us anything about the ute? Did you get its license number?”
“You’re in luck there,” Bruce said. “I happen to be a ute spotter. It’s me hobby. Every time I see a ute, I jot down its plate number in me ute spotter’s journal.”
“Of course not really!”
“Come on Bruce, don’t be slack,” Wellsey said. “We’re worried about our friend, you know? So worried we broke the laws of God and nature to contact you. Be a mate and help us out.”
The ghost’s shrouded head bent forward. “All right,” he said. He waved his right hand, and it began to fill with beams of moonlight, like a carnival worker gathering fairy floss. Then the ghost spun the moonbeams into a small tube, tucked it between his beshrouded lips and began smoking it.
“Look,” he said from the corner of his mouth, “it was a plain looking ute, and I didn’t get the licence plate, but I recognised the driver. He was here last month, dressed in some strange costume. Zorbar was fighting with the driver’s mate. Wouldn’t have got a look at him, but Seamus broke his helmet. Cool fight, I reckon. Better than watching two mums play tug-of-war with a box of Christmas lights, anyway, and that’s usually the level of entertainment I can expect around here. Anyone got a light?”
No one offered the dread apparition a light. It grunted in disgust.
Belinda scratched her crazy hair. “So… Who were these people?”
“Never seen ’em before,” Bruce said. “You want to know, ask Seamus.”
The women all looked at Wellsey, who racked his brains then shrugged. “I don’t know a Seamus. There was a Sean, a few years back, worked in cleaning supplies…”
“No, not Sean,” Bruce said. “Seamus. He’s right there.”
Wellsey looked where the ghost pointed. There was nothing there but a box full of assorted garden gnomes. No, there was… something… He couldn’t see in the dim light, so he picked up one of the black candles and brought it closer. One of the gnomes wasn’t new. It had soil marks, water marks, some chipping and discolouring. What was it doing amongst the freshly minted lawn ornaments?”
A fat drop of black wax fell from the candle and landed on the gnome’s nose. Wellsey jumped back as the thing yelped in pain.
“Bloody good one,” the gnome said to the ghost as it wiped the wax away with its coat cuff. “Tell on me, why don’t you? Things have come to a fine pass when even the fecking ghosts are informers!”