Previous: "Postcard"

Next: "Eulogy"

Series 12 Episode 1

There it was.

Once again, in the corner of her eye. No matter where she looked, there it was.

It had been plaguing her for weeks. It stated as a minor irritation. A little niggle in the background of her reflection. Easily ignored.

But it got worse. It became more frequent. Unavoidable. Everywhere she went, there it was.

Even in her sleep, it was there. It haunted her dreams. Followed her around. She was its target, but what was it? What did it want?

Jodie couldn’t take it any longer. She’d packed away all her stuff, left a note to her mum and thrown her phone away, taking only herself to the talent point in Crystalshaw: the bridge. Even there, Jodie wasn’t alone. Her stalker was closer than ever, practically breathing down her neck and enclosing her in its arms. As if it needed Jodie to survive.

Tearfully, Jodie tried to compose herself. She knew she had to do it. It was the only way out. If there was another way, she’d definitely have thought of it; she’d analysed every scenario in her head. After all, she was on her own. Nobody else would believe something so ridiculous.

Every reflex in her body was fighting, but Jodie felt herself confidently stepping closer to the edge. It was as if she wasn’t in control of her legs any longer.

One more step. Jodie was terrified. She couldn’t stop crying, though she knew she couldn’t have many tears left to shed.

The final step. Jodie toppled off the edge of the bridge, free-falling towards the lake below, and still, there it was. Clung to her like a parachute that wasn’t working.

And it was smiling.

­­Their third viewing in two days, Dylan was pleasantly surprised by just how quickly the estate agent had found a couple of suitable places. He thought the process would take ages, but the wheels already being in motion provided just the distraction Dylan was after.

No matter how much Dylan wanted to start focusing on the future, Harry’s death continued to linger in both his mind and his life. There was no easy way to move on from someone who brought him happiness for four years, but Dylan knew he had an exciting future planned with Jono, and he wanted to enjoy every second.

The funeral was one day away, and property hunting wasn’t Dylan’s top priority, but he needed time to regroup. Planning a funeral was overwhelming, and he wasn’t sure what would have become of it without Caroline and Jono helping him. Dylan felt like a state, and he hated it.

“Oh wow, this is perfect,” Jono was awestruck, his adorable wide-eyed gaze trying to take everything in. The living space alone was far bigger than Dylan had grown accustomed to inside the flat, with enough room for a couple of sofas and a large TV as well as bookcases and wall space for photos. There was an open-plan kitchen and diner, three bedrooms and a bathroom with a huge bathtub already installed. That was before they even considered the garden with hot tub. It was everything they both wanted, yet Dylan hadn’t really taken much of it in. It was fair to say his mind was elsewhere.

“Dylan?” Jono prompted, “Everything alright?”

“Oh, err, yeah, I love it. This is just what we were after,” Dylan replied, snapping back into the zone.

“Are you sure? This has to suit both of us. We could come back another time. You know, after the funeral?” Jono perceptively suggested.

“I’m okay, I promise, and I’m sure. I can imagine us living here. You know, cuddle nights on the couch watching Big Brother. A couple of spare rooms for, well, the future,” Dylan couldn’t help finding a smile. Jono was keeping him going, and Dylan was clinging onto his positivity for dear life.

“Perfect,” Jono beamed, “Hey, about later…”

“I promise, you’re welcome there,” Dylan insisted. Harry’s parents were finally arriving, having had nothing to do with the planning for the funeral, “If they say anything, I’ll put them straight. Harry gave us his blessing, not that they ever really listened to what he said.”

“I just don’t want to complicate things,” Jono sheepishly shrugged.

“You won’t, not for me. Besides, they’re staying at my mom’s, so we can sneak off after a little while. Josh can deal with them,” Dylan chuckled.

“Serves him right for getting kicked out” Jono chuckled.

“Hey, we don’t know that yet,” Dylan defended. It had been a weird few days since Josh came back, and Dylan still wasn’t sure why his return appeared to be permanent. It was a good thing Caroline and Ed had kept his old room free.

“I know,” Jono assured, “He’s just been unusually quiet.”

“Exactly, that’s why I need you there, Jon. I can’t do this on my own,” Dylan persuaded.

“Hm,” Jono paused, “Alright, but I’m doing this for you. Harry’s parents sound like pains in the neck.”

“Correct. That’s why I need you,” Dylan justified, “Come on, let’s go home. I think we need to consider an offer for this place.” Dylan shared a grin with Jono. Together, they were finding a light at the end of the tunnel, and Dylan finally had a fire lit inside him again. Things were looking up.

Bolting awake, Lily quickly gathered her surroundings. Unusually, she’d fallen asleep on the sofa, but it wasn’t too surprising. She’d never felt so exhausted before. It was her first day back at work – a half-day, only on the outskirts of town taking some shots for the local paper – yet it had hit her like a train.

In her defence, it had been an emotionally draining couple of weeks. Losing and burying her father wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t over yet. The whole pack was feeling the strain of Harry’s impending funeral, and it was a lot to carry.

“Hey sleepy head,” George carried a cup of tea over as Lily sat herself properly on the sofa, “You sat up pretty fast. Everything okay?”

“Just a nightmare,” Lily replied. It was a feeling she was used to – years of anxiety came with plenty of night terrors – but that didn’t make it any more pleasant.

“They’ve become more frequent recently,” George observed. He wasn’t wrong – every night seemed to result in strange, vivid, and even horrible dreams that left Lily shaken after waking up, “Maybe you should speak to a doctor?”

“Maybe. I’m just overwhelmed,” Lily sighed.

“I know, sweetie,” George sat next to her and encased her in his arms tightly. George’s arms were the safest, most reliable place to be, and Lily could’ve stayed there all day, “See how you are after the funeral tomorrow. I can come with you to the doctors if you want.”

“No, you have enough on your plate with Jonah,” Lily reminded. Although Jonah only stayed over at the lakehouse from time-to-time, George was still partially responsible for him.

“He’s okay, Freddie said he’s been fine. Better than he’s been in ages, apparently,” George replied, “You’re my priority.”

“Well, thanks,” Lily couldn’t help feeling reassured. Nobody knew her as well as George did.

“Why don’t we get a takeaway tonight? I think you deserve a treat,” George offered.

“Oh god, I don’t think I cold stomach a takeaway,” Lily found herself saying. Her taste buds were unusually repulsed by the idea of a takeaway; it must have been the tiredness, she assumed, “Maybe at the weekend?”

“Alright,” George nodded, “Whatever works baby. I’ll think up something to cook.”

Three knocks at the door. Lily wasn’t aware they were expecting anyone, but the pack were always welcome at the lakehouse. It felt like the unofficial base of the pack, and Lily enjoyed the company, especially since Jono had been back.

“I’ll get it,” Lily offered, “I need to stretch my legs.” She heaved herself up and trundled to the front door. On the other side was Yasmin, but she didn’t look pleased to be there. In fact, she didn’t look to be feeling any particular way. She looked blankly at Lily. Vacant. Empty. As if she wasn’t even there.

Lily knew what this meant, and she was scared. A Yasmin premonition never spelt good news.

Chirpily spinning the volume dial on the radio, Freddie felt unusually thrilled to be starting his second new job in as many weeks. He didn’t enjoy job interviews at all; getting his head in gear and preparing for potential questions wasn’t something he found easy, but this was a little different.

After all, Freddie had received a glowing recommendation. Crystalshaw High’s IT systems were almost definitely older than he was, and Sammi had put both Freddie and Charlie’s names forward to overhaul the system as the school’s IT managers. Returning to school was not something Freddie had expected to do – Jonah’s parent-teacher meetings were more than enough – but this felt different. They had their own air-conditioned office and the atmosphere felt somewhat relaxed, especially with Sammi’s classroom a couple of doors down.

“No secret basement here I hope,” Charlie chuckled, making himself comfortable at the opposite desk. The office wasn’t the most spacious ever, but the two of them could easily make it work.

“I mean, there might be, but it’ll have a stack of textbooks and pens rather than mountain ash and wolfsbane,” Freddie laughed. The repair shop basement had terrified him initially, but with its contents locked away in Dylan’s bunker or taken in by Ed, it wasn’t a worry any longer.

“This environment is the complete opposite of what I’m used to. I mean, me, sat at a desk? At least in the shop there were customers. Sometimes. One or two a day, or maybe a week. The point remains, though,” Charlie thought aloud, veering off course, “I mean, what next? Charlie the secretary?”

“Dude, don’t take this the wrong way, but you’d be the worst secretary in the world,” Freddie teased, “I don’t mind this too much, I can keep an eye on Jonah. I’m hoping he’ll be on best behaviour with both Sammi and I here.”

“Poor kid,” Charlie laughed.

Two timid knocks at the door. Sammi poked her head around, a huge smile matching Freddie’s as their eyes met. He hated how little he saw of Sammi during the week. With all her planning, and Freddie’s sometimes unsociable work hours, their paths crossed rarely on some days. This was the perfect way to spend more time with the wife he truly cherished – they were guaranteed both lunchtimes and evenings together, and Freddie wasn’t going to take a second of it for granted.

“See, this is where he is. If you need to calm down, or remove yourself to stop yourself getting into trouble, come to your brother. He’ll be able to talk, I’ll probably be teaching,” Sammi ushered Jonah in, mid-conversation. Freddie adored his brother – of course he did – though he wasn’t sure being his go-to in school was a good idea. He didn’t want his family life to mix too much with his professional one.

“Nice office,” Jonah casually remarked, “Come in, Leah.” A sheepish Leah followed her confident friend inside. She looked quieter than usual and had been since the entity possessed her; typically, she and Jonah were evenly matched, bouncing off each other, but where Jonah had suddenly grown in confidence, Leah looked terrified. As if she thought Freddie would transform on the spot and rip her to shreds. Where Jonah loved being in the know, it seemed to be eating away at Leah.

“You can have a proper look at lunch, go on, get to lesson,” Freddie shooed.

“I’d better go too, got my nasty ninth graders first,” Sammi sighed.

“I’ll growl at them if they say even one bad word to you,” Freddie half-joked. If he saw anyone being disrespectful to her, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to hold back.

“Werewolf flirting, oh boy,” Charlie couldn’t hold back his laughter. Freddie smiled. He felt surprisingly settled already, though anything was an improvement on the repair shop.

There was nothing Josh wanted to do less than gave to sit and be social that day. All he wanted to do was lock himself in his room and never come out. It would allow him to swerve the constant barrage of questions that had been firing rapidly in his direction since he got back to Crystalshaw.

He was only prepared to endure the company of others for one person: Dylan. Josh valued his brother more than anything. Dylan had been there for him in his darkest hours, and returning the favour was the least he could do, not to mention how Dylan was the only one who didn’t bombard him with invasive questions upon his return. It was going to be a daunting couple of days, and Josh wasn’t going to let him down.

“Joshy, look!” Libby repeated for at least the tenth time in two minutes, rushing back and forth across the living room with the ridiculous amount of energy she had. Of course, she was the one person Josh couldn’t possibly be mad at. Libby was the best distraction possible, and Josh cherished every moment with her, particularly after living away from home. He didn’t realise how much he wanted a little sister until he had one.

“And who is this?” Josh questioned as Libby handed him a tall Barbie doll.

“Princess Dora,” Libby continued.

“A princess? She must be very important,” Josh played along.

“Has she married a handsome prince?” Ed joined in. It was obvious Libby was the apple of his eye.

“No, Princess Dora hates boys, they are smelly,” Libby quickly answered. Josh chuckled; she was so cute.

“She saw it on the TV and has been nagging me to buy it for weeks. I took the small parts out,” Caroline quietly mentioned, smiling along. She had their full attention, as if Libby were the only thing that mattered to any of them.

“Hey, sorry we’re a bit late,” Dylan rushed in, visibly flustered, flinging his tote bag onto the sofa.

“Don’t worry sweetie, they aren’t here yet,” Caroline assured. Josh could feel Dylan’s anxiety against his skin. It was higher than ever, and that was saying something.

“Come on, let’s get settled,” Jono encouraged, following Dylan inside in a much calmer manner. That was how he presented, anyway; Jono was anxious too, Josh could sense it alongside Dylan’s. None of them wanted to be there, and Josh understood why. The one time he’d met the Callahans before was more than enough. They were snobby and overbearing, and he felt so bad for Dylan having to deal with them. How they were going to react to Jono was Josh’s biggest worry, but he was prepared to defend Dylan at any cost. At least Harry was nothing like his parents. It was easy to see how they had drifted apart.

“You got this,” Josh urged as Dylan slumped onto the sofa next to him, Jono taking the space on the other side of Dylan.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Dylan smiled, “Both of you.” He linked hands with Jono, and Josh’s heart warmed. Seeing them together again just felt right.

“No,” Libby pulled their hands apart, “Harry.”

The room fell silent. Of course, Libby had only known Jono for the best part of a week, and she hadn’t grasped the reality of Harry’s absence yet. Nobody knew what to say.

The doorbell rang, and the awkward silence fell away, but Josh wasn’t sure the replacement of increased butterflies in his stomach was an improvement. Ed stood to grab the door as Josh noticed Dylan’s heartbeat racing. He needed his brother more than ever, and Josh wasn’t going to let him down.

It was some sort of miracle that Jeremy had arrived safely at the lakehouse. Driving around town had only made him feel more panicked. Yasmin had disappeared from the lab in a flash, and Jeremy knew what that meant. There was no way he was going to let her walk into something potentially dangerous on her own, but she’d vanished from view before he could see where she’d gone.

Getting a call from Lily to say Yasmin had turned up at the lakehouse was somewhat relieving, but why was she there? Yasmin usually forecasted death, so it wasn’t exactly reassuring that she’d turned up at Lily’s, but at least they knew where she was.

“Through here,” George instantly directed, skipping greetings after opening the front door and ushering Jeremy straight through the lakehouse to the dock. Yasmin was facing the lake, stood precariously close to the edge, while Lily nervously kept an eye on her from a couple of steps back.

“Has she said anything?” Jeremy immediately enquired. It obviously wasn’t the time for a catch-up with his cousin.

“Not a word, she walked straight through. She’s been stood here for ten minutes,” Lily answered, “Thanks for coming. I figured you’d have been at work together.”

“We’ve been partnered up after everything the other week, they think we did a good closing the case when we basically lied to hide the supernatural,” Jeremy sighed. He didn’t become a forensic scientist to lie, but he needed to protect his friends, “We were having a break, she’d just made a coffee, and as I was making mine, her mug smashed. I looked around and she was gone.”

“Jodie,” Yasmin suddenly said out of nowhere, her gaze not moving off the lake.

“Who’s Jodie?” Jeremy quickly asked, but no reply came. The nix was still in control.

“Had she been acting strangely before that?” Lily wondered.

“Not that I noticed,” Jeremy shrugged, “I know she went to Cody’s last night, but I’ve not heard anything from him.”

“I never thought I’d say this, but we probably need to call Cody,” Lily considered.

“Jodie,” Yasmin repeated, pointing to the lake below. As if it were on cue, the most stomach-churning sight emerged from the water. Even in Jeremy’s line of work, he didn’t expect to see something so horrible. Crime scenes were his forte, but this was simply cruel.

“Lily,” Jeremy directed Lily’s gaze, but she had already noticed it too.

“The poor girl,” Lily muttered, gobsmacked. Face up, the lifeless body of a blonde girl floated towards them.

“Jodie,” Yasmin said once more, “And something else.” Jeremy’s stomach turned. There was more to what he was seeing, and in Crystalshaw, that never meant good news.

Collapsing onto her usual seat in the staff room, Sammi was exhausted. She didn’t know what was in the water that day, but it had sent the students crazy. After two fights in her classroom and a lot of disruption to her planned teaching, every piece of enthusiasm Sammi had arrived with that morning had long since evaporated.

It raised her spirits to see an eager Freddie waiting for her, though. They were both as excited as each other to be spending lunchtimes together, and it had been the one thing getting Sammi through catastrophe after catastrophe.

“Woah, what’s happened to you?” Freddie instantly noticed Sammi’s emotional state. He wasn’t the most observant person ever, Sammi had noticed, but he could detect the tiniest change in her mood, and he knew exactly how to console her whenever she needed it.

“Teenagers,” Sammi bluntly answered, “They’ve gone mad. They’re rowdy, rude, even aggressive. I promise it’s not usually like this.”

“I mean, I remember what it was like when we came here, it had its moments,” Freddie considered.

“Not this bad. If it was, the teachers did a good job of keeping a lid on it,” Sammi replied.

“I agree with Sammi,” Mrs. Johnson joined the group. Despite having known her outside of school already for a while, Sammi could never get used to the idea of socialising with Mrs. Johnson, let alone using her first name, “I’ve never known it to be this bad. I’ve been working at this school for twenty-eight years and today has been the first time I’ve had to call for assistance.”

“Shit,” Sammi was shocked. Mrs. Johnson was terrifying to most students. Nobody ever acted up in her lessons. Not only was she having to deal with bad behaviour, but her strategies were clearly falling on deaf ears. If she was struggling, the rest of them didn’t stand a chance.

“I did think it sounded noisy,” Freddie thought.

“And you had the radio on,” Sammi added, “What the hell is happening? Monday morning is normally the quietest time.”

“Help, quickly,” Keisha yelled, slamming the staff room door open. In an instant, Sammi, Freddie and Mrs. Johnson all leapt up to run outside. In the corridor, Keisha was sandwiched between two freshman students, trying and failing to throw punches at each other, narrowly missing Keisha’s face each time.

“That’s enough,” Sammi called out as Freddie pulled one lad away, while Keisha and Mrs. Johnson formed a barrier in front of the other. That didn’t stop him trying to push past, though. Sammi could hardly believe what she was seeing. Around them, a group of spectators egged the boys on. It was like a boxing match, except it involved two fifteen-year-olds who were acting way out of character. Sammi wasn’t sure whether to be worried or scared. This wasn’t normal.

THWACK! The first lad swung his elbow into Freddie’s nose, immediately causing blood to sleep through and onto the floor. Silence fell. Ashamed faces surrounded Sammi, watching Freddie in shock. Sammi didn’t know what to do. She was out of her depth.

Every position Dylan manoeuvred into was uncomfortable. He couldn’t find a way to sit that felt natural. Hiding behind the sofa was tempting, but he needed to step up and face this. It wasn’t for him, after all, it was for Harry. He needed closure, and without seeing Harry’s family, that wasn’t going to happen.

At least he had a huge support network around him. Caroline and Ed were bound to do much of the talking on Dylan’s behalf – they’d been so helpful planning the finer details of the funeral – and Jono and Josh either side helped Dylan feel at least a little safer than he would without them there. It upset him that Harry never had a support network of his own at home.

“Welcome,” Ed ushered their guests into the living room, “Please, come and take a seat. Can I get anyone a drink?”

There they were. Making their grand entrance into Dylan’s territory. Karen Callahan was first. The matriarch of the family, and boy, did she know it. She owned a small chain of boutiques, and the name ‘Karen’ couldn’t have been more appropriate; she was as stuck up as she was glamorous.

“I’ll have a coffee please, black, no sugar. A herbal tea for my wife,” Terry Callahan answered, speaking confidently on behalf of his wife. He was a burly man, extremely sociable, though nowhere near as worldly-wise as he thought he was.

“I’ll, err, see what we’ve got,” Ed awkwardly answered, “Natasha?”

“I’m good,” Natasha Callahan assertively responded, “I’m on a detox.” Natasha was her mother’s daughter in every sense, and she couldn’t have been more different to Harry. They had virtually nothing in common; even their upbringing had no shared experience when Terry and Karen clearly had their favourite child.

“Good to see you again,” Caroline lied as she stood up to greet Karen, who initiated a French kiss. Begrudgingly, Dylan stood up too. It was going to be the fakest forty-eight hours of his life, but he knew his acting skills were up to the challenge.

“Hello Dylan,” Karen greeted, extending the French kisses to everyone in the room, “You look wrecked.” Of course, tact was irritatingly absent.

“Yeah,” Dylan was adamant that he wasn’t going to make a fuss, “It’s not the same without him.”

“And who’s this” Terry drew attention to Jono. Dylan panicked. Their approach felt interrogative, much like it always did.

“Jono,” he introduced himself with a big smile. It would be impossible not to fall in love with a smile that adorable, Dylan thought.

“Oh, the ex,” Karen looked him up and down. Obviously, the Callahans didn’t know the truth behind Dylan and Jono’s separation – Harry assured Dylan that they would never understand even if they had wanted to tell them – but that potentially made the idea of a reunion so soon after Harry’s passing look insensitive. They had to tread carefully.

“Please, take a seat,” Caroline interjected, “I’ll run you through what we’ve planned.”

“A traditional Catholic service, that’s always best,” Terry mentioned as if he were talking to the undertaker himself.

“Not quite,” Dylan quickly corrected, standing their ground, “Harry didn’t want a church service, he told me a long time ago. We’ve organised a non-religious ceremony.”

“He was raised a Christian,” Karen pointed out.

“It’s okay mother, Harry was never like us,” Natasha reasoned. Although she wasn’t wrong, she couldn’t have sounded snootier if she tried.

“If you insist,” Karen groaned. Dylan had to stop himself rolling his eyes. There was no way he was letting anyone spoil Harry’s day. He deserved better than that.

Startled, Yasmin bolted awake. She was lying horizontally, but she definitely wasn’t in her bed. Apart from feeling wholly uncomfortable, the blue sky above was a worrying indicator. Where was she? The last thing she could remember was going to bed the night before, on the biggest high after her evening with Cody, but that excitement had quickly turned to dread.

“Wh…what?” Yasmin slurred, looking around. She was in Jeremy’s arms on the lakehouse dock, but how? Why? What was going on?

“It’s okay, you’re safe,” Jeremy immediately reassured, but it was barely touching the sides. Yasmin felt distressed. She hated being out of the loop.

“Why am I here?” she quickly stood up.

“It’s alright, don’t worry,” Jeremy replied, slowly standing up to match her eyeline, “We were at work, then…”

“The nix took over,” Yasmin realised, “I don’t remember going to work. Last thing I can remember was getting into bed.” Every word she was hearing seemed to confuse her more and more. She felt sick.

“This is worse than normal, right?” Jeremy queried, “I mean, I don’t remember amnesia being a side effect.”

“I don’t know, but it can’t be good,” Yasmin thought, “It never is. If only this thing came with a handbook.”

“I’d definitely bank on it being good,” Jeremy pointed behind Yasmin. Just behind them was the alarming sight of Lily cradling the lifeless, soaked body of a young girl. Yasmin felt ashamed to say she wasn’t shocked by such a sight – Yasmin’s powers centred around death, after all – but that didn’t make it easy.

“I’ve tried resuscitating her, but nothing worked,” Lily stressed, “She’s dead. Jodie’s dead.”

“Who’s Jodie?” Yasmin was only getting more perplexed still.

“Exactly, we’ve got no idea, but you said her name more than once before her body surfaced,” Jeremy reasoned.

“The poor girl drowned,” Yasmin observed solemnly. She knew nothing about Jodie, but that didn’t stop her feeling immensely sad. An innocent girl had lost her life, and supernatural or not, nobody deserved that.

Out of nowhere, a huge gasp came from below. Jodie took in a large breath of air and immediately grabbed Lily’s wrist, Lily’s face creasing like paper in pain as Jodie spluttered horrific amounts of water out of her mouth.

“Lily? Lily Chadwick?” Jodie struggled to speak, but she was started, frightened even, “You’re next. It’s coming for you.”

“What is?” Lily’s eyes widened.

“Be strong. Just remember that. Be strong,” Jodie warned, coughing between words.

Jodie’s hand fell back to the wooden dock with a bump. Her eyes closed one final time. Water dribbled out of her open mouth, bleeding through the gaps in the wooden plinths below to re-join the lake. All that remained was silence. Yasmin met eyes with Jeremy and Lily; none of them knew what to say or do, but they almost definitely shared the same sinking feeling grounded in Yasmin’s stomach.

Something terrible wasn’t coming. It was already there.

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Next: "Eulogy"

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