Summary: The antics and adventures of a television crew who investigate apparently haunted locations for their programme, and what can happen when two people work closely together for some time in unusual circumstances. It's a four-person love story with a mysterious twist; don't ask me how it's going to end because I haven't figured it out that far yet.
(Dis)claimer: It's not a completely original idea; this is based on Living TV's Most Haunted, using its presenters and crew as a basis for my characters, using some of their mannerisms and idiosyncrasies, though exaggerated. This does not reflect how I believe or wish their situation to be. No, they do not know about it; if they ever find out about it, I'll crawl into a hole and deny all knowledge. Please don't sue me; I have no money. Aside from that, the concept behind the story itself is of my own creation.
Rating: PG to PG-13, for language if nothing else. (They swear a lot under pressure. :D)
Author's Notes: What do we do when our Inner Shipper latches onto non-fictional people? Why, we turn those people into characters in a different story so we can ship them without guilt. That's what this is. It's easier on my brain than attempting real-person fanfiction, and I need to flex my original-writing muscle a bit: I've been writing fanfiction far too long. That being said, enjoy.
Dedication: For Yvette, Karl, and Derek, and all the others. Though God forbid they ever find this…
This chapter: Something of an introduction to the majority of the characters and their interactions. You'll probably be confused, but hopefully things will become more apparent as the story progresses.
Stand tall. Chin up. Eyes forward. Remember the dramatic pauses. God, I need a haircut…
"Good evening, and welcome to tonight's edition of Great Britain Beyond. Behind me is an innocent-seeming pub named The Hanged Man Coaching Inn, where, over the years, there have been several strange and unexplained sightings. A tall man in a hat and cloak is said to walk the cobbles outside, and a woman's scream has been heard on many occasions. Our team will spend twenty-four hours here, hopefully uncovering the dark secrets the building holds. "
"And… cut! Let's take a short break and get set up for the next shot."
Yvelyn Meadows heaved a sigh of relief, and shook herself out of her presenter-pose as her husband barked random orders to the various members of their technical team. She was really beginning to dislike being the first thing the viewers saw; if she messed anything up, it boded extremely badly for the rest of the programme. After three years, it should have gotten easier; it didn't. Once the overhead boom microphone had moved out of the way, she stepped forwards. "Was that okay?" she asked.
Mark Rackham nodded in a directorial fashion, his brain focussing on what needed to be done, before remembering who he was talking to. "As if you need to ask," he said, cracking a cheeky smile. "You were born to stand in front of old buildings and look gorgeous. It's your calling."
She wasn't feeling particularly gorgeous, having been up since six-thirty and with far too many hours still to go until she could go to bed, whilst spending time in countless dusty rooms in the process. With naturally red hair – which she hated with a passion and had been bleaching as long as she could remember – and high cheekbones, Yvelyn failed to understand what he saw in her. She smacked him affectionately on the arm. "I meant the link, Mark."
"Oh, that. Yeah. Not perfect, but we're strapped for time as it is. We can maybe go over it again tomorrow morning before we leave."
"Right," she said, making a mental note, though she'd probably be half-asleep by then and not particularly photogenic. "What's next?"
Mark reached for a clipboard that he'd placed nearby and examined it, flipping through a few sheets. "Tom's got to do his history bit and we need to interview the landlord. Stewart wants to get some establishing shots, too, I think."
She groaned. Establishing shots meant dressing up in silly period costume and shuffling her feet across a bit of lawn; she distinctly remembered 'pretending to be a ghost' as not being part of her job description. Ignoring that for the time being and hoping it would go away, she asked, "What about Fred?"
"He's in there now doing his baselines."
"Right," she said again. Was everyone accounted for? Their historian doubtless had his nose in a book, reading up as much as he could find out about the location. It was inevitable that his quest for somewhere quiet to sit would be instantly disrupted by the mutterings and measurings of Fred Adman, the team's paranormal investigator. Yvelyn mentally ticked off their colleagues. "Oh, when's Alec getting here?"
Mark looked at his watch. "Eightish, he told me."
"So that means I can go and have a coffee, doesn't it?"
"I don't see why not."
She didn't need telling twice. Yvelyn set her internal radar to 'caffeine' – she wasn't addicted, just a tad dependent – and headed purposefully into the pub. It was being investigated that night , but that didn't mean its facilities were completely off-limits. Mark watched her disappear into the Tudor-style building, the tail of her obligatory-but-entirely-impractical long coat flowing behind her, and smiled to himself. God forbid Yvelyn attempt to do an overnight vigil without a healthy does of caffeine in her system.
The musty, murky pub certainly seemed the type of place that should be haunted, but Yvelyn knew that didn't prove a thing. They'd had more terrifying experiences in modern settings than ancient, creaking buildings, and she wasn't, for one minute, going to raise her expectations. Three years on the job had taught her that much: expect nothing, and something might happen.
That being said, however, the place definitely had an atmosphere about it. The main bar area was lit only by dim side lamps, making visibility in the darkened, panelled interior decidedly tricky, not helped at all by the haze of cigarette smoke emanating from a table in the far corner. The four local men at the table turned when she entered and nodded their greeting, before returning to their game of dominoes. The non-smoking dining area further into the belly of the building was better-lit, but the sound of screaming toddlers immediately deterred Yvelyn from venturing in there.
She positioned herself at the bar and waited. There was no sign of the landlord or any staff, presumably because it was early-afternoon and a weekday. The coffee-machine burbled invitingly several feet away, just beyond her reach.
"Honestly, Fred. Do you have to do that now?"
The irritated voice of Thomas Fortune sounded sharply from a darkened corner of the room, and Yvelyn turned, noticing him for the first time. He'd taken up an entire table with his various history books, some borrowed from the local library, with a notepad and pen situated amongst the debris. A pair of wire-rimmed, old-fashioned spectacles adorned the end of his nose, which he was presently peering down.
The cause of his annoyance was Fred, doing what he did best: taking important baseline readings of every nook and cranny of the area while it was relatively inactive. Dressed entirely in black, as usual, Fred practically disappeared into the darkness of the pub. He pointed his EMF-meter into Thomas' personal space, and regarded the device's read-out with interest, raising one dark eyebrow.
"Careful, Tom," he said. "You're throwing my readings right off with your negative energy. Alec'd have words with you if he was here."
Thomas gently shoved the meter away from himself. "Well, he's not. I'm sure the readings in this corner are exactly the same as the readings in that corner, so-" here, he gestured 'shoo' with both hands "-go on. I've got a lot to do, and you're in my light."
Yvelyn watched the exchange with amused familiarity, thankful that she had such a close-knit team to work beside. They'd been making the show for nearly three years, and there'd been only a few minor fall-outs. It paid to get along with everyone, and she couldn't envisage working alongside anyone else.
"All right there, luv?"
She turned back to the bar to be met by the expectant face of the landlord. "Yes, thanks. Can I just get a coffee?"
The landlord nodded and flipped the switch to heat the coffee-machine up again. While he waited, he put away clean glasses from the washer, whistling tunelessly to himself. The argument continued in the far corner.
"Shouldn't you have done that already?" asked Fred, scribbling a few notes of his own before taking a seat next to the frazzled historian.
He gave him a pointed stare. "That's the interesting thing about local history," he said. "It is, rather annoyingly, local."
The coffee-machine beeped; the landlord poured a cup, and Yvelyn finally got her caffeine fix. She reached for her purse after taking a sip, but he was having none of it.
"Since you lot came all the way out here just to film our little pub, the least I can do is give you a free coffee."
"Are you sure?"
He shrugged. "Course I am, luv. Go on, have a coffee on me. It won't do you no harm." Of course, they both knew he was only offering because of the custom he would inevitably get after the show had aired…
"Thanks," she said, and took another sip. "Mark said they'll be needing to interview you soon, if you want to prepare."
He gave her a thumbs-up. "No problem, luv. What's he going to need to know, exactly?"
She had a think. "Just the usuals. When you bought the property, what you know about it, if you've seen or heard anything strange. We'll chop it up in the edit later anyway, so ramble all you like."
"Righty-ho." That being said, he wandered to the other end of the bar, where one of the domino-players was waiting to order another round. Yvelyn took her coffee, and made her way to her other two team members, who were still bickering about nothing in particular.
"Remind me again," she said, "why I keep working with you two?"
The two men exchanged a glance. Thomas waggled his eyebrows, and Fred struck a pose. "Our dashing good looks?" asked the former.
"Oh." She smirked into her coffee. "Of course…" She placed the cup down and reached for one of the pages Thomas had already finished writing, skimming it with interest. Frowning, she asked, "Do we still not know why it's called The Hanged Man?"
Thomas shook his head. "Absolutely no idea. There's no history whatsoever about this being a site for hangings, or there being one anywhere nearby. It was definitely a coaching inn, but I'm afraid it's otherwise a complete mystery. I hope Alec can shed some light on the subject."
"The only problem then is corroborating it," she said. "If there's no record, we don't know if he's telling the truth."
"You mean to tell me that you don't believe everything he says?" asked Fred, feigning horror. "I'm surprised at you, Yvelyn."
She shot him a glare. "You know I don't have that liberty. It's my job to be objective and level-headed and-"
"A complete girl?" he interjected, referring to her tendency to panic whenever anything happened. She'd gotten braver over the years; watching old episodes of the show made her cringe at herself for being such a coward.
"As if you're so brave. You screamed like a woman the last time."
"In all fairness," he said, "Stewart screamed louder, and you were the one hiding behind me."
Yvelyn's reply to that was cut off by Thomas interrupting. "I wish you'd both go away," he said. "Much as I'd love to continue the debate, I still have research to do."
"Sorry, Tom." Yvelyn downed the remainder of her coffee. "I should go and check on things, anyway. Fred, are you nearly done?"
He got to his feet. "Just got to do a bit more upstairs. The trigger object needs setting up." Yvelyn nodded and Fred took his clipboard and EMF-meter in the direction of the staircase. Thomas stared pointedly at her until she got out of the way.
"All right, all right…" She made to leave, heading for the door. Just before she opened it and was assaulted by sunlight, she added, "Try not to burn out. There's a long night ahead of us." He waved off her concern with his hand, repositioned his glasses, and went back to his reading. Yvelyn shook her head fondly, and stepped out into the cobbled yard once more.
The pub was pleasantly located on the main street of a small village, which had maintained its historic charms over the years. The building itself was recognisably Tudor, with its white walls and black beams, while the other houses and cottages in the vicinity were ramshackle, stone creations, some with thatched roofs, some slate. It was nearly summer, which meant night-time filming was limited to the shorter period of darkness; it also meant the day-time waiting-around was a far more pleasant experience.
Before Yvelyn could enjoy the weather, however, Stewart ambled up with a camera hoisted onto one shoulder. Oh, God… was her first thought, but she greeted him with a smile. "All right, Stewart?"
"Yeah, um…" he began. "We need to do a ghost shot. Shouldn't take long; just need to film it on the cobbles." Stewart hating asking her to help for establishing shots, and it showed in his apologetic tone of voice. Unfortunately, she knew how much he liked filming them and 'prettying up' the production of the programme. It wasn't often he got to be artistic, working on what was essentially reality television, and if she was completely honest, the cheesy semi-transparent 'ghosts' they created did add something.
Yvelyn sighed. "Can't someone else do the dressing up for a change? I hate doing bloody ghost shots."
"I know, I know, but… look, it'll only take five minutes. Please?" When she didn't answer, he pushed further. "You do it so well, y'know. If you do it, I'll… I'll go into a room on my own tonight, and I won't freak out and scare everyone…"
She doubted that very much. Stewart was so highly-strung that even the night-time wildlife was freaking him out lately. "No need for the heroics, Stu," she told him. "I'll do it. Just this once. Next time, it's Cathi's turn."
Even so, she knew that in a couple of weeks' time, she would once more be donning the Victorian-style dress and dragging her feet across another bit of lawn…
The evening came fast with everyone bustling around. Yvelyn barely had time to change out of her stupid period outfit and into more practical clothing, before she was rushing around with the rest of the team, setting up their locked-off cameras and checking all of the other equipment. While Mark shouted orders in one direction, she shouted them in the other. Cathi, their energetic make-up girl, was following her around and trying to apply foundation at the same time, not that it would matter once they were filming on night-vision anyway.
Fred was waving his meter around once more, checking for any flux in the electro-magnetic field before they started, and making sure its batteries were fully functional. Stewart was similarly checking all of the cameras, as was Mark, while the rest of the assorted team members psyched themselves up for another unpredictable night. A nearby table held the most important aspect of all: several large flasks of steaming coffee. David, the landlord, periodically poured it out for the assembled troops, having invited himself along for the ride.
It was into this apparent chaos that a large, white car pulled up. The passenger door opened, and a smartly-dressed man of fifty stepped out, thanked the driver, and waved the car off again. After surveying the frenetic crew and looking at the building he'd been dropped off at, he put his hands in the pockets of his coat, and headed towards the group.
Yvelyn spotted him before everyone else did, and met him halfway. "Alec," she said, warmly. Then she checked her watch. "You do realise you're late."
He smiled apologetically and took her hand in both of his, shaking it by way of greeting and to show his remorse. His voice, accented by his native Liverpool, was gentle and friendly. "I know. I'm sorry." He looked over her shoulder – which wasn't that difficult, considering he towered at least a foot taller than her – and asked, "It doesn't seem as though I've missed very much."
"Well, no," she admitted, "but Mark and I are trying to run a tight ship, here. Any more of this tardiness and we'll have to reconsider your career options. There are plenty of other mediums out there, you know." She was joking, of course. Nobody on the team would ever think of letting him go. Gesturing with her head, she added, "Come on. I think we're about ready."
Turning back, she then ran on ahead of him when Mark waved her over, and he made his way over to the rest of the team to dispense with the usual greetings.
Alec Jesuda was a household name on the show, and was becoming quite the celebrity. He was fairly well-known and popular as a spiritualist medium in his own right, but it was his connections with Great Britain Beyond which had pushed him into the limelight. He and Yvelyn were equally popular with the show's viewers, and were as much a part of it as the ghosts they continually failed to catch on camera.
Satisfied that everything was ready, Mark indicated for everyone to enter the building, the crew going first so they could get into position. He and Yvelyn paused for a moment and watched Alec as he examined the façade of the building, a pensive expression on his face.
"Are you okay?" asked Mark. It wasn't uncommon for Alec to start without them, and make contact with some kind of presence before the cameras even started rolling. It was part of the unpredictable nature of the work.
"Yes, yes," he assured him. "I'm fine. I just have a very good feeling about tonight. A very good feeling." With that decidedly cryptic remark, he pushed open the door for both of them, followed them through, and was the last to enter the building.
Yvelyn was quite excited about the rest of the night, but also gripped by a familiar anxiety. It would be great if they got plenty of evidence on film of paranormal activity, but she knew for a fact she'd make a complete idiot of herself if anything really happened. The last time any of them had seen anything concrete – a ghostly torso with no head or lower body, floating independently on a set of stairs – they'd all beat a hasty retreat. If Alec had such confidence, did that mean that, finally, they might catch something on film?
She suppressed a shudder; the atmosphere of the place had been spooky enough in the daylight, and now that it was darker, the interior was even more foreboding than before. Mark sensed her discomfort straight away and touched her arm, comforting and questioning. She nodded to dispel his concerned expression, and they ventured forth into another night of the unknown.