Chapter Two

Tina yelped quietly and snatched her hand back.

For once, it wasn't due to a psychic memory, but due to Lizzy's reflexes when Tina had tried to switch a brussel sprout for a baked potato off Lizzy's plate. Lizzy didn't even look up from her conversation with a few of the local boys as she filched one of Tina's carrots and used it to flick both sprout and potato back onto Tina's plate. Both girls loathed sprouts, and they were the only exception to the sharing food routine, where Lizzy had developed a sixth sense to beat Tina's psychically assisted one.

The Common Room/Dining Hall of the Inn looked as though it hadn't been changed since the place was built, much like the rest of the village, with wooden floor and furniture and stone walls. There was even a stable on the other side of the yard, though no one had said if any actual horses were in there.

Tina might have been a bit worried about if there was any modern conveniences, but a local patron had made a joke that even if the ghosts had wanted the Inn unchanged, at least they agreed that mattresses and indoor plumbing had improved since the 18th Century.

Cutting off a piece of the potato and gently blowing on it, Tina watched with amusement as two of the youths talking over each other as they tried to explain some of the local history and how it tied into the ghost legend, occasionally pausing to argue over a point.

That was the funny thing. Apart from pretty brown eyes and long black hair that most people would kill for, Lizzy was more frequently described as 'homely', if Upper-Working Class homely, especially when contrasted with blonde, busty and conventionally attractive Tina.

Yet, against all expectation, while Tina's looks were usually what brought the opposite gender over in the first place, Lizzy was almost always the one who had them hanging off her for half the night.

Tina had never been able to decide if it was the fact that her own good looks tended to hide a pessimistic, often-sarcastic and sometimes bitchy personality, or if it was because Lizzy actually was only interested in talking over a few drinks. Either way, at least Lizzy could enjoy a conversation more-or-less certain that the guy she was talking to wasn't trying to picture her naked, and probably actually paid attention to what she was saying.

But if the boys Lizzy was talking to were discovering that it was possible to be just friend, the third member of the group, who was apparently the Innkeepers' grandson, was just sitting there quietly, looking almost entranced as he watched. Finally, Tina leaned over slightly. "You can stop staring at any time, you know."

The young man started, and Tina caught what might have been the barest hint of a psychic flicker. After almost a week of being surrounded by ghosts nearly every waking moment – and more than a few sleeping moments – Tina was thoroughly fed up with all and everything supernatural. 'Turning off' her psychic sense gave her a mild headache, but it couldn't possibly be worse than the stress-induced near-migraine she had been suffering. Making up her mind, she forced her psychic sense away as the young man apologized. "Sorry, Bess. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

He had directed the words to Lizzy, rather than Tina, who looked up at him as the two she was speaking to argued if the Highwayman was a James Hind or a Dick Turpin, and agreed that it depended on who you asked. "Don't worry about it. I'm used to getting strange looks."

Usually because of Tina, but that was beside the point. Tina usually didn't mind Lizzy getting all the attention, since it stopped people staring at her when a psychic episode cropped up, but this was starting to get a little depressing. Well, there were anti-jetlag pills in her handbag, and she would prefer a long-overdue good night's sleep over sitting around listening to ghost stories.

Nudging Lizzy, she gestured to the stairs, receiving a nod in return. Most of their luggage was still with the broken-down bus, but things always accumulated in handbags, such as the comb, tooth-brush and toothpaste for occasions when Tina slept through her alarm clock and had to duck into a bathroom at work to fix her hair and teeth after eating breakfast on the way to work.

After checking three rooms and discovering that they were all as old-fashioned as the rest of the building, Tina picked a room at random, turning her psychic sense back on just enough to make sure that it wasn't haunted. She stayed awake to fold her clothes on a chair and brush her teeth (thankfully the ewer was already full) before falling into a sleep mercifully devoid of dreams.

But if Tina didn't dream that night, Lizzy did.

Lizzy – no, she was Bess, and Lizzy was a name left behind with her childhood.

Bess stood at the fishmonger's stall as his apprentice wrapped up her purchase, paying less attention to the fish and more to the boys lined up in the village square. The merchant's wife would have scolded her, but since half the girls in town were doing the same thing, the fishwife had given it up as a lost cause.

King George's men had come recruiting, full of tales of glory and adventure and how girls could never resist a man in uniform and the local boys had signed up in droves. Bess hoped that the bit about the uniform held true while they were on campaign, because the village girls had known most of them since birth, and no uniform would change the fact that the Surgeon's son was a scrawny brat, and Young Harry was only given the time of day because he was the mayor's oldest boy.

Now the new recruits were doing drills, and Bess inwardly cringed at the clear proof that only one or two of them had the first clue of what they were supposed to be doing.

A few of the Merchants' sons, having accompanied their fathers on journeys to and from the larger towns, knew at least a few moves, picked up from the men hired to guard the wagons from any thieves or brigands. The Sherriff's boy had some idea, having been taught the basics by his father.

But the best of them was John, the Blacksmith's bastard, currently showing the Miller's son that the pointy end of a bayonet was supposed to face away from the person holding it, and it was to him Bess looked.

The Blacksmith's wife didn't like seeing the proof of her husband's betrayal – not that any could blame her – so the Innkeeper, Bess's father, had taken him in as a helper in exchange for food, board and a small wage. Soldiers passed through the Inn all the time, and many either had sired their own bastards, or sometimes were the family embarrassment, and therefore had a little sympathy for a fellow mis-begot.

Over the years, some had been sympathetic enough to take him behind the stable and teach him the use of a soldier's tools, so he could make his fortune if none in the town took pity on him.

The Innkeeper, James Dawson, had taken pity, but he was in fine health, and with Tim already there as a stable boy, John had little hope for any advancement. Certainly no chance of advancing far enough to earn the money to begin his own livelihood, much less support a wife and family, so to the army John would go, until he had made his fortune and could return to marry her.

John felt her eyes on him, giving Bess a wink and a roguish smile, and…

The sun in her eyes woke Lizzy from a strange dream.

It wasn't the weirdest dream she had ever had – that dubious honour belonged to the dream where she was being chased by boots with fangs – but it certainly numbered in the top ten.

Glancing out of the window, she decided that it was late enough that she wouldn't be disturbing anyone else, and climbed out of bed. It was a nuisance to put yesterday's clothes back on, but at least they were dry now, and it would have to do until the found out what was happening with the tour bus.

Tina was already awake, feeling well-rested for the first time since they started the tour, and slowly getting ready to face the world with the help of a very large mug of coffee.

She briefly looked up when Lizzy sat down, nodding at her friend and glancing at the large clock over the fireplace. There was just no living with some people in the morning, and Tina was perfectly well aware that she was of the sub-set of people who shouldn't be engaged in meaningful conversation until an hour and two coffees after waking up.

That meant that Lizzy had another ten minutes and a third-of-a-mug of grouchy silence before even asking how Tina had slept, by which time several more of the tour group had shown up. This included the driver, who looked more than a bit haggard, but had proven to be a morning person, which meant that Lizzy could talk to him instead. "Any news on the bus?"

The driver, a bright-eyed man in his fifties, slumped in his seat. "Yes, but it isn't good. The part that broke needs to be completely replaced, and nowhere in the village has a replacement, so I'll need to have it delivered special-like, and find someone who knows how to fix an engine. We're here until at least the day after tomorrow."

Tina tried not to over-react, and only managed because Lizzy had anticipated such a response and given her a small kick under the table. She settled for a snarky comment, instead. "Well, that messes up our itinerary."

It was unfair of her, since the break-down was hardly the driver's fault, but the early morning and the effort of keeping her psychic radar turned off was making her short-tempered. Lizzy was used to dealing with it, even if others weren't, and tended to automatically mitigate, though it sometimes came off as condescending. "Be nice. We had two days scheduled for random stuff before we left, anyway, and the airline doesn't charge much to switch flights as long as you give them longer than 24 hours advance warning. We can send an email to them easily enough."

Tina subsided under the mildly-reproachful glance, and the driver sighed in relief, grateful that at least two of his passengers weren't going to kick up a stir. "We will be happy to cover the cost of staying here as an apology, of course." With such a small group, it wouldn't cost much, and certainly a lot less than if they had broken down somewhere else. "If you'll excuse me, I have to figure out how to get the bus and everyone's luggage back here over roads that are probably in a horrible condition."

One of the Gap-Year students, who Tina thought was named Marissa, leaned over from the next table. A pretty red-head, she had a tendency to fall in love every few days, usually after all of five minutes after being introduced. "You could always ask the Innkeepers if they know anyone who might be willing to help out."

Another of the students, Sean, who had more maturity than was usually found in the average teenage male, and an even bigger crush on the oblivious Marissa, frowned. "Why? The bags aren't that heavy."

A married couple on holiday, who owned and operated a mechanic shop in Canada, had arrived downstairs just in time to hear the tail end of the conversation. "No, but if we end up having to push the bus, it'll be good to have help."

At least the bus was small, seating only about a dozen people, and if worst came to worst, they could detach the luggage trailer and drag that back by itself. Lizzy spotted her two friends from last night, who were apparently helping out as a holiday job while visiting their friend from university, the Innkeeper's grandson, the one who had called her Bess.

The driver explained the situation, and one of the boys left to round up a few more hands, while the Innkeeper's grandson gave Lizzy an almost roguish smile.

If Tina had been paying attention, rather than shutting things out, she would have noticed the soft psychic glow that briefly surrounded the two.