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Mark Renfrew is a researcher for a paranormal reality TV show, but no one involved with the show knows he is the real deal—a genuine psychic. When a cameraman encounters a ghost and needs his help, he has to come out of that particular closet. Along with his archaeologist lover, Jack Faulkner, Mark must find a way to break the ghostly cycle of injury and death on a haunted road, but things don't go according to plan. Mark discovers a new aspect to his psychic talent, and with another ghost to contend with, he is entering dangerous and uncharted waters.
"I want the girl in the road," Dominic Waldron insisted, slapping the relevant file in the centre of the table. "Fuck it, who's running this bloody show anyway?"
Mark pushed up his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. He wanted to say Goldstream Media, but since Dominic owned at least half of the production company and was the executive producer for his own show, it wouldn't carry much weight. Besides, Mark preferred to keep a low profile around the man. Next to him, his fellow researcher, Heather, swore under her breath.
"The headless woman has more impact," Jerry Kent said persuasively. Head of Research—and Mark's immediate boss—he also had a good eye for visuals and what the TV-viewing public liked. At least, the preferences of those who avidly watched The Dominic Waldron Experience. "It'd be perfect for the opening show—mysterious inn, hidden cellar, reconstructions with Royalists and Roundheads, the woman in a tight bodice…"
Across the table, Trevor Johnson, the special effects expert, nodded with enthusiasm. "We could have cannons, muskets, and pikes, plus the torture chamber in the cellar. The road girl would only have screams and mists and a crashed car."
"There's more in-depth material on the headless woman," Jerry added quickly. Dominic's scowl darkened and Jerry indicated a thick file pushed to one side. "We've put together that much from online research alone. Once Heather gets going on the libraries and Mark chats with locals, there'll be a lot more to play with. And there's a five-star hotel only six miles away. The road girl is out in the back of beyond."
Mark doodled on his notepad, wrote his name, then Jack's, and framed the Mark Renfrew and Jack Faulkner in a circle of vine leaves—until he realised the circle looked more like a heart. He scribbled over it, flushing, and tuned back in on the arguments. Being openly gay was one thing, being a soppy romantic was another thing entirely.
The planning conference for the TV show's new season was not going well. As usual. Every year the same things happened, only the details changed. The sole reason Dominic wanted to build a show around the road girl was it would require the poor bitch to run, half-naked in a flimsy nightgown, from the trees by the side of the road and into the path of an oncoming car, her clothing torn by branches and hanging off her heaving breasts. And knowing Dominic, he'd demand take after take until cast and crew were ready to drop from exhaustion, while he sat in his director's chair with a hard-on.
It was a mystery to Mark why no one had punched the man. Or sued him.
"Road girl." Dominic folded his arms over his broad chest and glared around the pre-production crew.
The pose was impressive. Mark had to give him that. Dominic, his chiselled jaw set in determination, brilliant blue eyes glittering with the fire of his resolve, and artfully styled leonine mane of white hair carefully tousled for maximum effect, was the ultimate Silver Fox with a more than slight resemblance to one George Clooney. His string of conquests was legendary, and few men could turn on the charm with such success. Unfortunately, the Waldron Dazzle Effect soon wore away, as his five failed marriages and rapidly replaced mistresses testified. Mark knew the man was in his early sixties. Thanks to good genes and judicious use of Botox, he looked nearer forty despite the colour of his hair.
"Okay," Jason Armitage said. "Here's what I've decided." As producer, he usually endorsed Dominic's choices and this was no exception. "Our six shows for this season will be the road girl, the gibbet at the crossroads, the hand in the wall, the black dog, the haunted bridge, and we'll close on a dramatic high with the headless woman. We'll hold over the phantom bells until next season, along with the shipwreck. I'd like at least two more water-themed shows then. Jerry, get your team working. I want the first breakdown on the road girl two weeks from now so Paula and her writers can start on it, and the rest in the usual stages after that. Joanna, start looking to cast our girl, the villain of the piece, and at least two car drivers, maybe passengers. Harry, we'll also need a couple of cars we can crash, and a coach and horses. But keep an eye on the budget. The headless woman is going to be more expensive. Don't forget, folks. Shooting will start on the first of May as usual."
Mark and Heather scurried to escape with the first exodus from the conference room, and dived into their cramped office before their department head could grab them.
"Kev is going to kill me," Heather exclaimed, collapsing into her chair. "I wish I'd never mentioned the bloody ghost to Jerry! It was only a rough premise and I didn't think he'd put it forward in a million years!"
"He knows Dominic," Mark pointed out, "and other than the headless woman, there isn't much in the way of boobs in any of the other stories. At least, not before the scriptwriters get hold of them."
"I know." She heaved a sigh. "Thing is, Kev half-believes she's for real. After all, he virtually grew up in the Neston area, and his gran was full of the old tales."
"But why would Kevin be angry with you? I mean, if the story's in a book somewhere, then it's in the public domain."
"Well, because he sort of saw something," Heather answered, her expression guilty. "Oh, he was only a kid at the time, but it scared him rigid. He and his parents nearly died, and he had nightmares for ages he said. That's all I know. He doesn't like talking about it."
"Ours is the wrong kind of TV show for him to be working on then," Mark said wryly. "The Dominic Waldron Experience—the Paranormal Brought to Life!" he intoned in a passable imitation of the show's opening voiceover.
Heather giggled. "I think he'd be more worried if any of the fancy gizmos the show uses actually worked."
"Some do," Mark reminded her. "The EMF meters, the thermometers. And orbs have been seen on photos and vids."
"Dust motes and Photoshopping. No one saw them with the naked eye."
Mark didn't tell her it wasn't all dust and computer skills. He'd seen orbs and far more. He was firmly in the closet as far as his psychic abilities were concerned. "Don't tell me you're not a believer!" he gasped, mock-horrified. "Blasphemy, woman!"
"You bet I'm not. I've only been with the show for a year, but don't try to kid me Domiprick believes a word of it either. He just saw a niche and grabbed it by the throat with both hands. He's about as psychic as a box of rocks!"
Mark smiled and didn't mention how rocks, bricks, and mortar—simple everyday possessions—could hold impressions, echoes of distant memories some could read.
The Cameraman's Tale
Another title from Kouros Books