ghosts in the nightGhosts in the Night

Andrew Townsend survived the trenches only to come home to find most of his family had died in their relative safety. When the last uncle dies and leaves him a plantation in far off Ceylon, he drops his life in London and sets out for a new life. Only he finds out the past doesn’t let him go so easily. With a lay about friend tagging along, and not to mention a case of shell shock that brings to mind the war at every turn, he’s more ghost than man. But the woman across the way, as much a ghost as he, is able to help the visions of war as everything he knows is falling apart. Digging up long dead secrets is the only option and it’s enough to get them killed.

Andrew Townsend turned back to the darkness over London. Ragtime was playing loudly in the ballroom behind him. Women in shorter dresses than only a few years past toddled and twinkled their way around, the drinks never leaving their hands. The partying was killing him inside. It might have helped him ignore the war when he was awake, but it surely didn’t rid his dreams of war. Jack clapped him on the back and handed him another glass of champagne.

“My uncle died last month, he left me a plantation in Ceylon,” Andrew murmured when Jack joined him. The letter had arrived days before, days he’d spent trying to decide how he wanted to die:  as an old, drunk, empty shell or a young, used-up, empty shell. Those seemed to be the current options.

Jack’s face lit up. “Wonderful. Could always use a bit of excitement in the Orient. I’ll go with you, help out until you’ve sold it.”

Andrew shook his head. “Sell?  No, I’m going to run it.”

“By Jove, Andrew, you ain’t worked a day in your life.”

Andrew straightened, good old Jack with his affected accent, he could say that, since Jack didn’t have it in school, only after he met a Lord if he remembered right. Jack Barlow was the wealthy one. Set to inherit a company and a fortune, Andrew had met him at boarding school. Andrew, as a diplomat’s son, had means, but no fortune. No mansion with servants. Andrew didn’t mention he’d been working for the last three years, ever since he was well enough after returning from France.

“No, I spent four years in a damned trench while you never worked a day in your life. I’m not going to spend the rest of my life drunk.” Maybe work would finally tire him enough so the dreams would leave, work more demanding than paperwork, anyway.  Drinking sure hadn’t. Three years since he returned, and every night for three years, he’d woken screaming.

“You’ll miss the clubs, Andrew, you know it?”

“I can’t breathe with all the cigarette smoke after. . .” Andrew walked off without finishing. Weaving his way through the crowd of people, he stopped at the sight of himself in the mirror next to the cloakroom. He handed over his ticket without even looking at the coat check girl. All he could see was the ghost of a man staring back at him in the mirror.

All of thirty-one, the man staring at him seemed to be fading away. He could have been a ghost, nothing more. Days doing paperwork, he couldn’t even tell of what, nights of getting drunk and not sleeping. Pale ghostly skin held brilliant blue eyes, the last bit of life he could find in his reflection. The boy he had been was gone; the man he became was lost. Was that all seven years of his life had given him?

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