Spirit Stealer: Ghosts in the Library by Sue Perkins by Sue Perkins - Read Online

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Summary

The library is a different world when the doors close for the night. Playful phantoms emerge to tease Fader, the street urchin who sleeps in the warm building. The atmosphere becomes more sinister when the green phantom appears. To stay strong, he steals the spirits of children who enter, or are locked in, the library at night. The bodies of his victims disappear. The spirit stealer's attack on Fader leaves the boy with half a spirit, trapping him in the library forever. Half a century later Amelia joins Fader when she is locked in by mistake. Fader tries to protect her from the spirit stealer but he fails with disastrous consequences. Time moves on and a century after the library opened Tyler tries to rescue those trapped by the spirit stealer. Will his attempt succeed?

Published: Caishel Books on
ISBN: 9781540108203
List price: $2.99
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Spirit Stealer - Sue Perkins

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AUTHOR

Other Middle Grade Books By Sue Perkins

Microland Series

Book One: Lost on Disc

Book Two: Disc Chase

Reva's Quest

Ghost Bus

DEDICATION

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For Christopher and Kerry, who are the reason I began to write children's books.

They are now adults so this is also for my grandson Clinton.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

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Thank you to Colin for his patience when I disappear to write.

Also to Joan, Barbara and Marie for their support and help..

PART ONE—FADER

1.  GRAND OPENING

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Red eyes glared down at Fader. He shivered as a cloud crossed the sun, throwing a menacing shadow over the face.

The cloud moved on, and the true identity of the new library building shone through. The eyes became two large windows high above the porch hovering over the closed wooden door. The nose resumed its place as a plaque waiting to be uncovered. Fader shivered then grinned.

Too much imagination, that’s my problem.

He sat on the wall looking down at the crowded marketplace. The people made an effort to look their best for the opening of the library. Long dresses swished around the women’s ankles, while the men wore dark suits and brilliant white shirts.

I’m wearing my best clothes. He looked at his tattered trousers and grinned. His jacket and shirt weren’t much better. They barely covered his body. My best clothes; my only clothes.

Fader glanced around the stalls at the edge of the square. The tables groaned with goods, but the crowd showed no interest in buying. People from the big houses on the edge of town had donated money to pay for the single storey library building. Now books filled the shelves, and the excited crowd discussed what they would find inside as they waited for the doors to open.

They won’t let me in there. Fader knew the way rich people looked down on the rest of the community. The orphan school taught him basic reading, but those in charge didn’t think it necessary to give children too much of an education. I wish they’d hurry up and get on with the opening. When things get back to normal I might earn a few pennies.

Fader ran errands, helped the market people set up their stalls, and take them down at the end of the day. He stayed honest, knowing if people considered him reliable, he would get more jobs.

The crowd stirred and swayed toward the library. Fader got to his feet to stand on top of the wall so he could see over the heads of those in front of him. He leaned against a pillar and watched as the library door swung open, and several town dignitaries approached the podium on the top step.

The crowd clapped so loud Fader couldn’t hear the Lord Mayor’s words. The man stopped talking, raised his hand, and pulled a rope attached to the velvet cloth over the plaque. A great cheer rose as the cover fell away, revealing the engraved plate hidden beneath it. A uniformed doorman flung the library doors wide, allowing the well-dressed people to move forward and enter the building.

Temptation took over, and Fader hurried round the square, pretending to check and see if anyone needed his services. He reached the area on one side of the library and waited for a chance to cross the alleyway. The plaque caught his attention, and he spelled out the engraved words:

Opened by his Worship the Mayor on this 7th day of November 1908.

A wagon appeared from the alley; and he darted behind it, raced up the steps, and hid behind one of the huge pillars supporting the porch above the main door. When a family mounted the steps, Fader used the group as a shield between him and the doorman. Once inside, he faded to the left, into the shadows between the bookcases. His name had been well earned.

He took a deep breath. The lofty ceiling captivated him. The smell of leather and newly printed books tickled his nose making him smile with pleasure as he reached up to touch the gold lettering on the bindings. He stroked the spine of the book and a feeling of awe passed over him. Eagerness overcame caution. He grasped the book to lift it from the shelf.

You boy! What do you think you’re doing?

Fader let go of the book and spun round. A furious, stout man, so angry his white moustache bristled above his thin lips, advanced on Fader like an out of control steamroller. Survival instinct took over. Fader turned and ran for the entrance as fast as he could.

Stop! Someone stop that boy!

People turned to stare as Fader darted through the crowd. The doorman reached out for him, but Fader dodged the grasping hands. He wove left and right, avoiding his would be captor.

Out through the open doorway he went and scooted to the right where he jumped from the top step. Still running, he left the marketplace by a side road and changed direction many times as he passed through roads and alleyways. Fader didn’t stop until he knew no one followed. He leaned against an empty cart and gasped for air. As his breathing returned to normal, anger rose inside him.

They shouldn’t have shouted at me like that, he thought. The library’s for everyone, not just rich people. The books had such a lovely smell, and they felt nice. Why should they keep it all to themselves?

The angry man reminded him of the beadle at the orphanage. Fader couldn’t forget the strict rules they’d drummed into the orphans: don’t steal, don’t answer back, and do as you’re told. As his twelfth birthday loomed, he knew he could take no more. He needed to find his own way in the world before the beadle apprenticed him to an awful job. Fader’s idea of a good job and the beadle’s were miles apart, so he ran away.

Hunger pangs forced Fader to return to the market square. The stalls were back in the centre, and a stallholder hired him to help him set up his wares. As he worked, he kept looking at the library. One day he’d wear the long coat and high starched collars worn by rich gentlemen. The ladies’ and children’s clothes were expensive looking as well. His irritation rose again when he saw the women pull aside their long skirts as they neared some scruffy children sitting on the steps. A fussy assistant librarian came and shooed the ragged group away.

At the end of the afternoon, Fader earned several pennies helping the stallholders pack up for the day. The setting sun glinted off the upper windows of the library, and he remembered his earlier thoughts of the face superimposed on the building. The shadows at this time of day made it seem more real, more evil. The red eyes and shaded lower levels of the face now looked angry and sinister.

2  IN AND OUT

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Fader sat on the steps of the town hall, dreaming of the home he’d like to own when he grew up: soft beds, roaring fires, comfortable seats, and best of all, a kitchen stuffed with every food imaginable. Today two stallholders satisfied his hunger when they’d given him stale bread and overripe fruit. Too often he went to sleep hungry.

Fader knew his aim would be impossible. To get his dream home he needed a good job, which meant having an education. He cooled off as the sun moved down the sky, and the shadows grew. Fader stood and stretched and looked at the new library.

Wonder if I could get in there before they close? It would be better than sleeping out here in the cold, and I’d be able to read some of the books.

He strolled to the side of the library. At the corner of the building, he stopped and watched people come and go through the wide-open wooden doors. The doorman stood outside tipping his hat as people entered or left.

Down the alley, a side door swung open. Fader watched as an assistant librarian came out then turned and went back into the building when a voice called from inside.

This might offer a better opportunity than trying to get in by the front doors. He walked along the alley, trying to look as if he had every right to be there. His luck was in! The door remained partly open, and he pushed it wider.

After a quick look to make sure nobody would see him, Fader slid through the gap and along the wall to his right. Now he needed somewhere to hide where the librarians didn’t go very often. He crept along the stacks, heading away from the librarians’ desks at the front of the library. The loud clang of a bell interrupted his search. In the distance, he heard the murmur of voices. One of them came closer until he could distinguish the words.

I’m sorry madam. The closing bell has rung. If you’ve made your choice of books, perhaps you’d be good enough to go to the issues desk and get them stamped. Thank you.

Fader scuttled between two rows of books and found his way blocked by a stack of tea chests. They still held books without room for him to hide inside. He slipped behind them and crouched down against the wall. Footsteps approached and stopped in front of his hiding place.

That’s it then. They’re all out. The man laughed. We can go home now.

His companion grunted in reply, and their footsteps faded into the distance. The light dimmed as the men turned off the gas lamps.

A loud bang signalled the closing of the big front doors, leaving the library quiet and dark. Fader decided to stay hidden for an hour and settled down to wait behind the chests.

****

He woke with a start and peeped out from his hiding place. Moonlight now crept between the shelves of books. He’d slept for several hours. Fader, still not quite believing he had the library to himself, slipped from his hiding place.

The nearer he got to the front of the building, the brighter it grew. Moonlight streamed in through the high windows above the doors, covering everything in sight with a silvery sheen.

Fader spun round with sheer joy at being alone