Sixteen Souls by Rosie Talbot
Charlie Frith is walking down The Shambles in his hometown of York trying to ignore the rubbing from his prostheses and avoid the dead. Heather, his companion, is a ghost, but she’s a friend, the recently dead are the ones who are most troubling. York is full of history so it’s no surprise that it’s full of ghosts. Charlie is a Seer so the dead can talk to him and touch him and some get too handsy or try to eat him, which is not ideal. As Heather keeps up her chatter, they pass a little skeleton urchin boy, a looped ghost, one who doesn’t know they are dead and relive their death over and over and over again. There are three types of ghost: free, tethered and looped.
Charlie reaches his destination, a geek shop to buy a gift for a friend, and as he’s looking, Audrey Nightingale, who looks straight out of the 1940s, tells Charlie he’s picked up a tail. She’s one of the few ghosts he interacts with and respects his rules about keeping things as unparanormal as possible. Audrey indicates a boy around the same age as Charlie with dark hair and a waxed green jacket; he's not subtle as he watches Charlie shop. He could be recently dead but he isn't acting in the typical manner of someone new to the incorporeal state. Regardless, Audrey is clearly afraid for Charlie.
Making his purchase of a three-headed puppy plush, Charlie heads for the back entrance while Heather ducks out to go another way. Quickly Charlie heads through the city, over the river to the train station and finds Heather waiting at the bus stop. They board the bus and as they pull away, they see Waxed-Jacket is standing there watching as if he wants to be seen. Charlie realizes he didn’t follow him, he knew where he was going and was waiting for him.
At home, Charlie runs the gauntlet of Mr. Broomwood and his obsession over his roses and their proper care. Since his death, Mr. Broomwood has haunted his old house and been very stressed by the tenants’ lack of care for his once beautiful garden. Charlie got meningitis at age nine and the infection took both his legs below the knee, killed him and then left him with the ability to communicate with the dead. Inside his bedroom, Dante the ghost collie comes to greet Charlie, and Ollie, a perpetual eleven year old waif is waiting on Charlie’s bed. They met when Charlie was nine and have been friends since. Charlie takes off his prosthetics, transfers to his chair, deals with the sores, and cleans the liners while Ollie and Heather are busy chatting about comics in his bedroom. Charlie pulls out the hastily-wrapped-on-the-bus gift from him and Heather to celebrate Ollie’s death-day, and Ollie adores his Cerberus plushie.
Charlie has rules for his ghostly friends as seeing them do incorporeal things makes his brain hurt. Rule One: No moving through solid objects, walls, or hedges when I'm looking. Rule Two: No floating or otherwise breaking the laws of gravity. Rule Three: No disappearing or reappearing. Charlie opens the door for Heather so she can walk Dante, pops his head into his twin sisters’ room to see them and their visiting cousins sleeping, then Charlie goes to eat his tea. When Charlie takes the rubbish out he scans the area for Waxed Jacket but Audrey confirms he isn’t there, though Charlie can’t help but feel Audrey is keeping something from him. Charlie wishes there was more he could do to help the dead, but he is wary of them. In bed, Charlie thinks about Waxed Jacket and how he looked determined, not desperate.
Monday at school Charlie is on edge and runs into Mitch and Leonie, Mitch used to be his best friend, and perhaps could have been something more, until their school trip to France. Now his two friends are a couple. They have a message for Charlie: the new kid was asking after him. Suddenly Charlie spots Waxed Jacket down the corridor but he hurries away. Charlie can’t be bothered with study period so decides to head to the sports equipment pavilion to hide. Unfortunately Charlie runs into a deathlooped ghost that shouldn’t be there as it wasn’t there before. Charlie is dragged into the man’s death and experiences all the pain and emotions of his hanging with him until the Waxed Jacket pulls Charlie out of it. The busybody deputy head of the school is doing his regular check of the pavilion since it’s the schools number one makeout and smoking spot and sees both Charlie and Waxed Jacket. As Waxed Jacket runs off, Charlie realizes the deputy saw both of them, so that confirms that Waxed Jacket is real and not a ghost.
Charlie ends up outside the headmaster's office with piss soaked pants. Great. His dad and an ambulance have been called, and while he waits for their arrival, he’s once again a spectacle for the school gossip. Leonie comes over to him but before she can speak, Charlie passes out and wakes up in the hospital with Waxed Jacket sitting next to him. He’s charmed the nurse into believing he’s Charlie’s secret boyfriend. Waxed Jacket introduces himself as Sam Harrow. He too can see the dead after dying in an accident. He’s fairly new to the area but noticed the ghosts of York are disappearing. James Reid the Piper vanished a fortnight ago and Mad Alice hasn’t been seen for over a week now. Sam wants Charlie, as a local, to help reach out to the ghosts and find out what’s been going on. Charlie flatly refuses. He doesn’t want anything to do with the dead. Sam tells Charlie he believes their gifts should be used, Charlie tells him to piss off.
After a few hours, Charlie is discharged but has to go to an appointment for his new sockets. While his dad goes for coffee, Charlie sits in the waiting room. Ollie comes in followed soon by Heather and Charlie types out what happened with the deathloop, Sam Harrow and how Audrey didn’t say he was a seer. Despite taking this precaution, Charlie still ends up talking to Ollie and Heather which his dad catches and makes him worried that Charlie is hearing voices again. Bloody hell, dad, he was only talking to his friend Sam on the phone… honestly. It seems his dad believes him. As they pull up to their house, Charlie spots a dead girl on the doorstep.
Thankfully the ragged girl disappears and Charlie can walk inside without bumping her, but they made eye contact so she knows he can see her. During the night, Charlie wakes with a headache and transfers to his chair to get some water. While in the kitchen hears something and sees shadowy movement. As Charlie turns to go back to bed he sees a slender red-nailed hand vanish behind the door frame and a half brown face with silver eyes in the shadows before disappearing. Ollie comes to check on Charlie and he insists it must have been the ragged girl. He’s kidding himself.
Charlie and Ollie head to the Ragged School where a few of the Ragged ghost children play. Charlie needs to be careful as there is a known deathloop in the area, but after the hanged man’s deathloop shifted, anything could happen. As they search, they notice a strange wax-like residue on the ground but are interrupted by the ragged children before they can investigate further. The ragged children confirm their friends are going missing, their friend Ophelia even saw it happen, and the Shadow Man is doing it. Audrey sent the Ragged girl to Charlie to pass on a message that if she didn’t return by the quarter moon “remember the capital of ruins.” It also seems whoever or whatever is taking ghosts has also taken Audrey. As Charlie and Ollie prepare to leave, Charlie is caught in another deathloop. This one is of an orphan boy who was beaten to death by shitstain George Pimm who was known for taking in orphans, keeping the money for their care, then starving, beating and killing them. Luckily Heather is able to pull Charlie out before his head is caved in, he’s got a few cuts and bruises though. Charlie ignores the latest deathloop wounds because they need to go and talk to Ophelia.
Charlie, Ollie and Heather head to The Snickleway Inn. Ophelia is haunting an upper room, pining for her lost love at the window which provides a great view of the street. Millie, who was always testing the length and strength of her tether, was encouraging Ophelia to look for her love herself and even offered to help, but then a Shadow Man rose from the earth and when the dust cleared, Millie was gone. Charlie examines the street outside and finds some strange marks though nothing that stands out too much, but this is an area trampled by tourists. He decides he needs to head home via Mad Alice Lane to see if there are any signs there. On Charlie’s phone, his search for “capital of ruins” has brought up a result now it’s able to connect to the internet. A photo of a ruined townscape with piles of rubble, burnt out houses, churned mud and standing water. It’s Saint-Lô, Normandy. It’s where Charlie was first caught in a deathloop.
At Lund Court, formerly known as Mad Alice Lane, a ghost tour guide is plying his trade to a group of enraptured tourists. Ollie is convinced the guide, dressed in all black with a top hat, could be their shadow man, especially when he seems to spot a weird mark on the wall, or perhaps he’s noticed something odd in an area he knows well. As the alley clears, Charlie isn’t alone, Sam Harrow is there scribbling in his notebook. They examine the mark, and Charlie tells him it isn’t the only one, Sam confirms there is one on Walmgate too. Sam doesn’t think another ghost is doing this, it must be a physical phenomenon. Heather agrees it’s the work of the living. Sam also points out a smell and encourages Charlie to close his eyes and breathe deep. Feeling like a tosspot, Charlie eventually smells the charcoal and something sweet which Sam says is a sign of magic which they need to cleanse. Ollie takes Sam to a local tea shop for some supplies. When they return Sam burns the tea mixture which causes a shimmer in the air and reveals more marks on the ground. It’s a ghost trap. Ollie can’t take his eyes away from it, he knows who took Alice. There is a soul catcher in York.
At a bourgeois coffee shop Charlie, Sam, Ollie and Heather take a booth. Sam orders Ollie a hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows and Charlie sees the delight on his ghost friend's face and feels guilty for never thinking to do that since Ollie is a ghost and it would be weird to buy a drink with no one there to drink it. Ollie explains a soul catcher is a human who captures ghosts and keeps them as a trophy in a sort of Cabinet of Curiosities, and because ghosts can only interact with seers, they are essentially forever trapped. This is not good. Heather suggests they speak to the Old Souls aka the Mouldy Ones, the seven powerful old ghosts in York who form a sort of council. If they call a soulmoot they can warn the ghosts of York. Meanwhile, it won’t hurt for Charlie to look into the tour guide but first he needs to get home, his dad has been calling and is pissed.
Charlie’s dad picks him up and he has to face the gauntlet of both parents' anger and worry he wasn’t where he said he was and that he’s come home more busted up. Charlie tries to dismiss it as a fall over the cobbles and a change of plans to meet a new friend, but it’s a bitter lie. As his parents leave to pick his cousins up for a sleepover, Charlie comes out to his dad. His mom already suspected and his dad is totally fine and ready to kick any homophobes arses if they’ve been giving his son a hard time. As Charlie puts his twin sisters to bed he gets a text from Sam reminding him about the tour guide research which prompts Charlie to do it. The night goes on, Ollie returns home, Heather has gone to the Mouldy Ones to ask for a moot. Charlie can’t sleep and at 4am his busybody neighbor, Mr. Broomwood, knocks at his window asking why Heather is calling a moot and tells him the Mouldy Ones rejected it because Heather hasn't even been dead for that long, the young impertinent whippersnapper. Mr. Broomwood then prattles on about vandals coming like they did at the cemetery! This sparks something in Charlie’s mind and he finds the news footage of the vandalism and can clearly see red wax on the vandalized gravestone and grass killed off in a familiar shape.
On the pretense of going for a rubbing of a gravestone, Charlie heads to the cemetery with Ollie and Heather. They walk around the chapel and find a ghost trap burned into the grass beside the vandalized grave. Interestingly, neither Ollie nor Heather can get near the chapel, it’s like there is an invisible force field blocking them. Suddenly, Charlie is attacked by a spirit with a rapier, it’s George Villiers, “First Duke of Buckinghamshire, former Lord Admiral of the king's fleet, Knight of the Royal Garter and the favourite of three kings.” He demands to know what Charlie has done with Mistress Nightingale. Villiers was instructed by Audrey to watch the chapel and he’s done so diligently between visits to see James Reid the Piper. When James missed their arranged meeting, Villiers returned to the cemetery and saw Audrey facing the Shadow Man then suddenly she was gone. He also saw the Shadow Man go inside the chapel with something he didn’t come back out with. Villiers pledges his assistance to help Charlie find the Shadow Man, he’s doubly invested with Audrey being taken and James also being a victim of the Shadow Man. As Charlie heads out the cemetery, he sends a text to Sam. The reply is quick with an address and time.
Sam’s house is in the posh end of town and swanky. Sam’s father answers the door and seems surprised there is someone there to visit Sam. Sam isn’t home at the moment but should be back soon so Charlie is invited in. Charlie snoops at the family photos and sees a strong familial resemblance. Thankfully Sam comes home as the conversation about family businesses and Mr. Harrow asking what happened to Charlie’s legs wasn’t awkward at all. When they’re alone Charlie is standoffish with Sam despite needing Sam’s help dispel the ghost trap. Charlie claims it’s because Sam isn’t being one-hundred percent honest, like telling Charlie he’s trans, but really, Charlie is being a tosser for no reason. Ollie scoots out the house to Heather and Villiers outside because awkward only to stick his head through the door a second later to relay that Heather and Villiers have gone to the Minster to see the Mouldy Ones. Villiers is older than some of them and a witness so Heather thinks they have a better chance to call a moot. Charlie, Sam and Ollie race after them.
By the time they get to the Minster, Heather and Villiers are already in the Undercroft meeting with the Mouldy Ones. Lady Alice Peckitt, Sir Gosselin Danville, Earl Henry Percy, Saint Margaret Clitherow, Inge of Jorvik, King Aelle, and Emperor Septimus Severus comprise the Old Souls, pompous asses lording over York’s ghosts. They refuse to listen to Heather and only Villiers’ flirting and peacocking ways seems to get through to them, however they still don’t take the threat seriously and say only that Henry Percy will look into it. Yeah, right. Before Charlie and Sam can eavesdrop further or hear the threats directed at Heather, they’re asked to move on from sitting on the floor by the grate overlooking the Undercroft and meet up with Heather and Villiers outside. Sam says he’ll look into the curse or spell stopping ghosts from entering the cemetery chapel and Charlie agrees to look further at their number one suspect, the tour guide, Peter Rawley. That night Charlie dreams of the Saint-Lô deathloop, except this time he sees Sam’s face in place of one of the people asking if he solved it. When he wakes, he’s frustrated by Audrey’s cryptic clue, “capital of ruins.” His phone call later with Sam is equally frustrating, he’s no closer to breaking the magic surrounding the chapel. They’ll have to do it the old fashioned way and break in at midnight.
Sam is late to meet Charlie which has made him edgy and nervous. Regardless they sneak into the cemetery and with the help of Ollie, Heather and Villiers, make their way in the pitch dark to the chapel. It takes a few minutes but Charlie is able to pick the padlock securing the chapel thanks to Villiers’ instructions and a couple of his mum's hair pins. Inside, nothing looks out of the ordinary, it's just a regular tomb. Sam breaks out his herbs to cleanse the space in case that will help but the smoke reveals an opening in the wall between two columns of tombs. Using Charlie’s crowbar, because of course he’s going to bring a crowbar to break in, they try to open the gap, but it doesn't work. As Charlie is leaning against the wall, a name pops into his head, Rachel, and when he whispers it, gears grind and a stairway down is revealed.
At the bottom of the twisty narrow stairs it looks like a musty old laboratory with equipment covered in dust, a horrible smell, and an old corpse swinging in the corner. Charlie recognises the place from the hanged man deathloop. Searching around he finds a pair of spectacles Rawley also wears, and putting them on, he's able to see patterns all over the walls. Sam looks through and recognises them as faded ghost marks. Charlie puts the glasses in his pocket, then after a bit more digging, Sam finds a bottle sealed with thick red wax. Inside is a writhing fleshy mass with lots of teeth, bloodshot eyes and clawing hands. The magic barrier wasn’t keeping ghosts out, it was meant to keep them in.
As Charlie takes a weary step back, glass crunches underfoot. There was more than one ghost bottle. Suddenly a tall nun emerges through the wall by the stairs, and she’s ugly, full of teeth and hungry. This is Agnes the nun who Ollie told him was bricked up for getting pregnant, apparently caught by an older ghost catcher. Agnes is a hungry one. She lunges toward Sam who is holding the other ghost bottle. He drops it and it smashes on the ground, freeing another hungry ghost inside. This one has a big coat, a bowler hat and is vicious, and he’s able to move objects in the room, flinging them at Charlie and Sam. They need to get out.
It’s a struggle to get to the stairs with debris flying at them, the table on fire and Agnes snapping and clawing at them. Eventually Charlie and Sam make it upstairs and out, Sam foolishly turning to close the chapel doors which gives Bowler Hat a chance to grab him and bite. Charlie struggles to free Sam from the teeth that are sharp and deep in his neck, but eyeballs are squishy and Charlie digs his thumb into Bowler Hat’s eye socket. Together Charlie and Sam limp over the ghost trap line to Heather, Ollie and Villiers. Their ghostly companions tell the hungry ones to piss off because Charlie and Sam are protected by the city ghosts. It somehow works. Heather examines Sam and determines he needs a hospital which he refuses. As they try to catch their breath and stop Sam’s bleeding, they’re caught in a flashlight beam. It’s Leonie and Mitch.
Leonie and Mitch saw Charlie and Sam break into the cemetery because Leonie lives on the same street. They’ve noticed Charlie acting weird lately, they know something strange happened at the sports pavilion and they want to make sure he’s all right. With their help, and the help of Heather, Ollie and Villiers, they make it to Leonie’s thankfully empty house before the fire department and police can arrive to deal with the chapel, which, thanks to the strange abilities of the hungry ones, looks like a tornado of debris. Charlie and Sam interacting with the ghosts is weirding Leonie and Mitch out but they’re also going with the flow. Leonie gathers medical supplies so Charlie can clean and stitch Sam’s wound with Heather’s instruction since he’s refusing to go to the hospital. Before they can get started, the police hammer at the door and Leonie goes to deal with them while Charlie begins to stitch Sam.
By the time Leonie manages to get the police to leave, Charlie has finished stitching Sam who, frankly, resembles the dead. Sam curls up in the bathtub as Leonie and Mitch demand answers and Charlie tells them everything. It’s a lot to take in but Leonie and Mitch seem to, though Mitch finds it odd that Charlie never told him, they were best friends! Charlie thinks they could have been more remembering their one kiss, but doesn’t say it out loud. While Charlie resents them calling him crazy after seeing him dragged into the deathloop at Saint-Lô, Leonie argues that they were kids who didn’t understand what was happening and were pushed aside after. Mitch storms out needing to calm down. Leonie gets bedding for Charlie so he can sleep on the bathroom floor after he declines a bed, preferring to stay with a now sleeping Sam in the bath. Villiers offers to take watch while Heather and Ollie curl up with Charlie.
Charlie dreams about Saint-Lô again and is woken from the nightmare by Sam. Heather and Ollie are at the cemetery to find out what’s going on and Villiers is on watch outside. This gives Charlie and Sam a chance to talk. Sam tells Charlie he died after falling into a lake at his family’s villa in Italy, unfortunately his friend Luci died and one day he’ll go back and see if her ghost is there. Sam’s parents know he can see ghosts, his mom is thrilled as she loves spiritualism and the paranormal and his father indulges his wife. They moved up from Surrey as things were getting difficult at school for Sam being the only trans gay boy at an all-girls school. He thinks York is much better even with the missing ghosts and soul catcher. Charlie is thrilled to hear Sam is gay and wants to desperately hold his hand, to kiss him, but after the Mitch incident, he’s wary so pulls away. Sam also reveals he can feel deathloops so knows to avoid them, and maybe if Charlie learned to open up, he could too.
As Charlie tries to fix his prostheses, Mitch makes breakfast, and Sam and Leonie postulate as to what the heck is going on. Bowler Hat ghost shouldn’t have been able to move things, though Heather and Ollie report his power is greatly diminished now. They also report that the police found the hanged man and are opening an investigation. Over some excellently cooked eggs, thank you Mitch, Charlie shows them the glasses. Leonie tries them on and can see Heather, Ollie and Villiers, as can Mitch when he tries them. This will help them follow Rawley who they need to watch to find out if he really is the Shadow Man. Time to go on a ghost tour!
Four alive and three dead friends head to The Golden Fleece pub at the bottom of The Shambles where Rawley’s ghost tours begin, no booking needed. Unfortunately it’s been canceled because he’s had to visit his sister in Harrogate. The group sit for a drink, Leonie and Mitch uses the glasses to look at all the ghosts inhabiting the pub before Leonie does a sweep for ghost traps and reports back there are none. As they talk about Rawley they’re approached by a chancer looking to score Rawley’s business but he’s chased off by a heavyset man who tells them to find someone else, very suspicious. Another suspicious thing is a man with a crew-cut clearly listening in on their conversation. Leonie subtly checks him out and recognises him as one of the police officers she lied to for twenty minutes last night. Suddenly a ghost comes through the wall. He has silver eyes, long red painted nails, looks directly at Charlie and seems to actually touch the bar. It’s the ghost who spooked him in his kitchen! He then sashays out touching crew-cut on the way. It’s time to leave. As they do, crew-cut warns Charlie to tread carefully and then flashes a tattoo on his wrist of an old style illustrated flaming torch. Outside, Charlie tells them about this encounter. Meanwhile, Sam has called Miri, his hacker friend, who insists on meeting Team Specter over video call before sending Sam Rawley’s address in a text and instructions on how to get an IP address so she can do further snooping on Rawley who, at the moment, is very virtually boring.
The plan to get inside Rawley's house is pretty weak. Leonie and Mitch will pose as volunteers collecting for the cemetery chapel rebuild, Mitch will ask to use the loo and unlock the back door for Charlie and Sam while Leonie distracts Rawley. As Charlie and Sam snoop around Rawley’s looking for ghost catcher evidence, Mitch will get the IP address. Well, there is no answer at Rawley’s house so Charlie picks the lock, they get the IP address without incident and find Rawley’s dead body with a caved in skull in the kitchen with his ghost.
Rawley is, well, was a ghost catcher until his untimely murder but he explains he doesn’t go after the good ghosts of York, just the dangerous ones. He was offered a job recently via anonymous email but turned it down. The job was to collect sixteen souls of York’s famous dead. The job was picked up by Caleb Gates, an amateur ghost catcher Rawley has known for years, who also happens to be the one who murdered him. While they’re talking to Rawley, Villiers lets out a colourful string of curses. He's been caught in a ghost trap between the living room and office.
Rawley warns Team Specter that Gates will have alarmed the trap and be on his way, and since they don’t have an appropriate ghost bottle to free Villiers, Rawley instructs them to grab one of his books, Practical Phantomatology, which Leonie dives straight into. Meanwhile Sam grabs the knife from Rawley’s coat for the blood they need to break the trap as well as Rawley’s cryptolenses at the ghost’s directive. Charlie, Sam, Leonie and Mitch cut their fingers and draw the appropriate symbols and as Villiers tries to step out, Rawley grabs him and swaps places. As they’re doing this, Gates walks past the front window and starts unlocking the front door. Rawley tells them to sneak through the back and put protection symbols at all crossings and crossroads in York to protect the dead. Team Specter are able to escape and get on the bus where they make plans to use Sam’s kitchen to make the potion to paint the protection symbols. While this has been going on, Charlie’s mum had been calling but he missed the calls. When he’s able to get in touch, he finds out his Aunt Chrissie, who is battling cancer, has taken a bad turn.
Charlie’s cousins are staying full time in his house while their mom is in the hospital and he helps out as much as he can before heading to Sam’s house to help with the research while Mitch makes the paint potion with Villiers entertaining him. Leonie and Sam pore over Practical Phantomatology. Heather and Ollie are scoping the police station and follow the investigation into the hanged man. This goes on for days until Heather and Ollie return and announce the hanged man’s investigation is being closed because they can’t identify him. Meanwhile, Leonie, being the genius she is, is sure she’s worked out why the ghost catcher is going after the ghosts: the filled ghost bottles essentially act like a battery. Charlie has done some digging and found out who the hanged man was, Simon Tussle. His deathloop keeps playing in Charlie’s mind, he knows there is something he is missing or forgetting and knows the only way he’s going to find out is if he goes back in.
Charlie, Sam, Mitch, Heather and Villiers head to the school sports pavilion. They look for Simon’s deathloop but it’s nowhere to be found. The only thing they do find is a black tourmaline stone with a mark carved in. Suddenly, Charlie remembers where he heard Simon’s name before, something that has been bugging him. Ophelia.
Ophelia is a centuries old ghost but she’s only been tethered the last seventy years. Simon Tussle died seventy years ago. They head to the pub and speak to Ophelia, and it turns out Charlie was right. Simon Tussel is her Simon, the man she’s been pining and waiting for. When Ophelia demands to know where he is, Charlie tells her the city morgue most likely. Ophelia denies this and she, now untethered, storms out of the pub with Heather in hot pursuit.
Villiers reports that Heather has been able to stop Ophelia on Kings Landing so Charlie, Sam and Mitch head over. Ophelia looks different, she is no longer confused but strong, confident and angry. Ophelia demands Charlie release Simon from his deathloop because it is what WE seers are meant to do. Hang on, Ophelia was a seer too?! She says if they are able to get the ghost to understand they are dead, the deathloop will be broken. Charlie shows her the black tourmaline stone and Ophelia is familiar with it and says it's a grounding stone, so Simon must be a prisoner of the ghost catcher.
Ophelia also tells them about Simon’s daughter Rachel who was looking for a way to give Ophelia a physical presence so that she and Simon could be together using mathemagics and phantasmic engineering. When she was recruited to the war effort, she continued her work and found a way of looping trapped souls together, which boosted their energy. She used the souls of allied soldiers and repeatedly sent them out, super-charged and effectively poltergeists with their power. Charlie remembers the Saint-Lô deathloop and Rachel’s letters to her father were filled with her research and that she was killed for them. Saunders, the man who killed her, did so trying to get the secret from her. Ophelia recognises the name as another ghost catcher and the man that came to York looking for Simon.
Suddenly Sam has something to do, but as he’s walking off, Charlie catches up with him and reassures him about the deathloops. Sam then kisses Charlie and Charlie is ecstatic and kisses Sam back. After Sam rides away on Leonie’s bike, Mouldy Oldie Earl Henry Percy appears. He sneers and mocks Charlie before telling him Heather had a hand in him being a Seer. What?!
Heather doesn’t deny it, she did try to tell him a million times but Charlie shuts down difficult conversations when he doesn’t want to talk. Heather was on call the night he was brought in, she was running on four hours’ sleep and diagnosed him with flu not meningitis. When he was brought back in by his Nan, the infection had too great a hold. Heather wasn’t allowed to treat him, instead she was sent home and was murdered in the car park on her way out and she’s been with him ever since. She made him a Seer and it’s the one decision she’s ever made she would never change. She has no regrets. It was deliberate. Though there's clearly more to the story, Charlie gets mad and kicks her out, and Ollie, too, as it’s plain he knew. For the first time in a long time Charlie is totally alone. He hates it and lets the tears come.
In the morning, Charlie wakes up alone. He has a text from Sam who tells him to let Miri know he’s going to make everything alright and promises to take Charlie on a proper date if he survives. Moments later, Miri calls wanting to speak to Sam. Charlie tells her about the text and reluctantly Miri tells Charlie she found out where the emails wanting sixteen ghosts came from, a company… S & H Systems… Saunders & Harrow. In Charlie’s dreams of the Saint-Lô deathloop he thought he was projecting Sam’s face onto one of the players. He wasn’t, it’s Sam’s grandfather who Sam looks exactly like, and Mr. Harrow is continuing his father's work. He saw Villiers in the kitchen next to Mitch when they were making the paint potion because he’s made cryptolens-contacts. And Sam is going to stop him. Charlie needs to find Sam, but first he has to escape the police.
Officer Crew-Cut aka Caleb Gates is in his house right now wanting to speak to Charlie about a dead body. Luckily Charlie has sisters and cousins to warn him and run interference so he can escape the fake policeman, slashing his tires as he flees, Mr. Broomwood cheering him on. Charlie spots another neighbour, Mrs. Ginty, alive this time, getting into her car so he climbs into the passenger seat begging her to drive. At first Mrs. Ginty is scared because Gates has stormed out of the Frith house toward them and Charlie is being weird. When the Silvereyes appears and tries to drag Charlie out of the car, scratching his face, Mr. Broomwood pulls Charlie back inside. Charlie gives Mrs. Ginty the elevator pitch of events and she peels away. In the rear view, Gates holds red-nails back from following. Gates is a Seer.
As they drive, Mitch calls. Last night the Shadow Man got Leonie, beat her up badly and she’s in the hospital. He also stole the book and got rid of the paint potion. Mitch is with Leonie, as is Villiers. Charlie tells him how Mr. Harrow is behind it all so they can’t trust Sam right now. Leonie comes on the phone and tells Charlie that the Shadow Man has Heather and Ollie.
Charlie tells Mrs. Ginty to stop the car and he throws himself out and Mr. Broomwood follows. There is only one thing for him to do now, go see the Mouldy Oldies and sell his soul to get help. At the Minster, Charlie enters the Chapter House where the Mouldy Oldies have congregated at the behest of Henry Percy. The Emperor is willing to make a deal but it isn’t for a servant, he wants to possess Charlie’s body. Nah, dog. The Mouldy Oldies start pawing and scratching at Charlie, they’re clearly hungry ones. As the Emperor tries to push himself into Charlie, it suddenly hits Charlie what Heather said about her choice to make him a Seer being deliberate. They died at the same time, but his infection was so far along he shouldn’t have survived but Heather could have lived from her stab wound. She gave her life to save him. Luci gave her life to save Sam. Henry Percy demands the other Mouldy Oldies stop and he reveals he has a friend in York just as the ghost trap closes in on them. Henry Percy’s friend is the Shadow Man who just so happens to be walking in. Except, Caleb Gates the Shadow Man isn’t Crew-Cut, it’s the heavyset man from the pub. Henry Percy boasts about a deal they have, he shall be made physical once again with Rachel’s theorem except Percy is also in the ghost trap and Gates places an empty ghost bottle under him too. As the Mouldy Oldies scream, Charlie tries to escape but the way is locked and Gates is approaching and dead of York try to help but can’t.
Gates bustles Charlie out of the Minster and into a car, his eyes closed and his hands zip-tied the whole time, but he recognises their destination: Sam’s house. For some reason Gates steals the picture of Seniors Harrow and Saunders as they pass. Clearly Mr. Harrow has been waiting for them, sitting like a Bond villain in his lab coat in a throne-like sofa chair. He’s unbothered that Charlie is being dragged along and will be sacrificed to splice the trapped souls together. Sam enters, he looks beaten, bruised and tired with bandages covering his arms. Sam agreed to do the splicing if his father agreed to leave his friends alone, but clearly Mr. Harrow is not a man of his word, he cares only about the family business and money. He’s also not long for the world of the living as Gates renegotiates his contract by pulling a gun and shooting Mr. Harrow’s jaw off and capturing his ghost. Charlie and Sam are understandably shocked. Gates then orders both boys to follow.
Together, they head into an elevator and down into a laboratory lined with ghost bottles and Simon and Rachel’s deathloops spliced together in a copper frame in the middle. It’s horrible and terrible and scary as hell. Gates refuses to let Charlie go while Sam will continue splicing, allowing Charlie to witness the greatest advancement in mathemagics in centuries. Also, he needs a backup Seer. Gates is clearly determined, he’s driven by revenge and the certain righteousness that comes with delusion. Gates tells Charlie he is a Saunders through and through, S & H Systems should be his company, the ghost research is his legacy, it was his grandfather who was the brains and he is a visionary. Gates uses his blood to activate the ghost trap and opens the bottle containing Saint Margaret’s ghost. The screaming is agony and the buzzing intense.
Sixteen souls have their deathloops tied together inside the copper trap. It’s grotesque. Gates strips his coat, shirt and bandolier off and starts to carve symbols into his chest. He starts to harness the poltergeist power generated from the horrific trap and with a twitch of his fingers breaks Sam’s zip ties and orders him to complete the work. Sam, who looks ripped, torn and bloody having lived through the sixteen deathloops, steps forward and regardless of Charlie’s protests, enters the copper trap. A Seer is needed to stabilize it or they will lose the trapped Souls forever and Sam won’t let Charlie do it.
Before Sam can step in, Silvereyes pushes him back. Villiers, Dante, Mr. Broomwood, Ophelia and a pissed off Mrs. Tulliver the ghostly pub landlady enter. Then, out of the elevator, steps Crew-Cut. Crew-Cut, who is actually Jan Liska, a member of The Hand, and Silvereyes, called Dusan, is his partner. They’ve come to stop Gates and Charlie’s ghostly friends are helping. Liska orders Charlie and Sam to leave as Dusan seemingly possesses Liska’s body and they fight as one against super-charged Gates. With the help of their ghostly friends, Charlie and Sam head to the elevator but Charlie realizes that Liska/Dusan intend to stop Gates and the trap but not save the trapped souls. Charlie needs to free them, and remembering what Ophelia said, he needs to go into their deathloops and remind them who they are and that they are dead. Telling Sam to ground him as he frees the souls, Charlie tries to enter the trap. Dusan attempts to stop them but Villiers and the other ghosts keep Dusan back as Liska fights Gates alone. As Charlie steps in, Gates cheers in triumph.
It takes a few moments and Sam’s bracing presence to calm Charlie down as he is pushed and pulled between the different deathloops. Once he is able to assert himself, Charlie looks for Rachel, or as he’s always known her, Audrey. Charlie reminds Rachel/Audrey who she is, how they met and that she is dead. Rachel/Audrey is able to pull herself from her loop and the other souls gather round and Charlie tells them they are dead, gripping each other and holding on to the Seers. Together most force their way through the multiloop trap.
Along with Mr. Harrow, most of the Mouldy Oldies stay behind. In the corner Liska’s corpse lies, his spirit clinging on to Dusan. Power surges into Gates, lifting him from the ground, the spirits inside writhing. Rachel, Simon, Ophelia and Rawley move to take on Gates, Liska and Dusan rise to the fight. It’s all too much and Gates explodes, the power wave causing the lab to start to crumble. Heather, Ollie and the other formerly trapped ghosts have poltergeist abilities and use them to protect the Seers and get them out of the basement. But Sam’s house is crumbling and nearly burying them, it’s taking too much power to keep Charlie and Sam in the air pocket and stop them from being crushed but the ghosts of York have other ideas as they come to give Heather, Ollie and the other poltergeist-powered souls the energy to keep Charlie and Sam safe.
Charlie wakes up in the hospital to see his twin sisters. Heather comes in and apologizes to Charlie and Charlie apologizes to her. Sam is in a private room down the ward, he’s pretty beaten up and dealing with losing his father twice. The official story is that a slow gas leak met a flame taking out the Harrow household and taking the lives of Mr. Harrow, Gates and John Doe. The ghosts of York have gathered at the hospital, Ollie and Dante keeping them out of Charlie’s room. It isn’t until later when Charlie stumbles his way to see Sam with Mitch and Leonie’s help that he truly understands the deference the ghosts of York give him as they line the hall, gently stroking his hands and bowing to him.
A living nurse tries to stop Charlie from seeing Sam but Sam shouts through that Charlie is his secret boyfriend so it's okay. Sam’s mom wants to take him to Florence where there is a good school and gender clinic. Charlie is willing to let Sam go if that’s what he wants and needs, but Sam isn’t going anywhere. Sam wants to help protect the ghosts of York, find The Hand and get some answers. Besides, he needs to take Charlie on a date that doesn’t involve breaking into ecclesiastical property.