Chapter Twenty-Two: The Ghost of Christmas Past

In the centre of the room, an ethereal figure stood next to the startled Director. He was
wearing simple clothes, a dark grey waistcoat over a white shirt and black trousers. The
only notable feature about the man aside from his insubstantiality was a great incision in
his neck, which was framed by the shadow of blood, giving him a nightmarish
appearance.
‘Who has disturbed my rest?’ The man demanded. His voice was as hollow as the wind
and it echoed throughout the room, filling Jason’s heart with a terrible chill.
‘You!’ The man rounded on the Director, who took a step back. He was not openly
cowering, but was clearly using all his courage to stand upright.
‘The face has changed… but you can never hide your soul.’
The Director paled and stepped back further.
‘Security!’
Several guards ran in, yelled incantations and the spectre roared furiously, his ghostly
form beginning to fade.
‘You’re not going to be rid of me that easi…’ He stopped mid-sentence, noticing Jason in
the corner, still as a statue.
‘Jason…’ The man’s voice dropped to a whisper, and all the menace left it. He tenderly
reached out to touch the boy, then, as if reminded of his own ethereality, withdrew. ‘Run
for your life!’
There was a blinding flash and the Director dropped to the floor. When he got up again, both the boy and the phantom were gone.

Many, many miles away over the sea there lay a small beach on the Spanish coast. It was
almost deserted, except for one man who lay on the sand, singing softly to himself in
Italian, letting the waves wash over him.
‘Come inside, you, you’ll be frozen solid!’ came a voice from further in land.
‘Alright, alright.’
The man who stood up, shaking his long black hair free of sand. He was wearing a
ruffled white shirt and a pair of black trousers. There was also a black mourning band on
his left arm that was looking extremely worn. He walked briskly up the beach to the
nearby café, scooped up the waitress and carried her out.
‘Hey, hey, what are you doing?’ she asked with mock protest, hammering on his back.
‘Well, the children are with Mia, the café’s closed, how about a little well earned quality
time?’
The woman giggled as she was placed onto the beach, removing her apron and using it
like a beach towel. She lay down next to the man and gazed up at the sky.
‘It’s a beautiful sunset.’
‘Not nearly as beautiful as you my dear.’
‘Oh you say such things…’ They embraced each other and locked lips, hardly noticing
the gentle crashing of the waves around their feet.
Suddenly, a blinding white flash filled the sky, causing the two lovers to pull apart.
‘What on Earth…’
‘Miguel…’ A thin whispery voice seemed to emanate from nowhere. Seconds later, there
was another flash, and the spectral form of Alexander Fortuno hovered over the waves.
‘Alex? How…?’
‘There’s no time for that my friend. I need you to find my son…’
‘Alex…he’s lost… it’s been nineteen years…’
‘No… you must believe me, I’ve seen him…’ Fortuno’s image shimmered and his voice
crackled, like a television broadcast that was being disrupted. ‘There’s a facility…’ By
now, he had almost completely disappeared. ‘Italy…south…S…’
The spectre vanished into the night. Miguel leapt up, startling his partner.
‘Sorry Rosie, but I’ve got to make a call.’
Miguel ran to the café, put on his black jacket and dialled a number he had never
expected to call.
‘Sir?’
‘Miguel? I assume this is not a social call.’
‘No Mr. Liberthine, I need you to help me find Miranda Fortuno.’

Back at the Facility, Dr. Alan Mutor cautiously entered the Director’s room, his head
bowed. He knew exactly why he had been summoned.
‘So… Jason Fortuno, here, in our very own educational Facility. What a coincidence.’ He
turned to face the doctor, who did not look up. ‘Especially since you told me he died a
day after we found him.’
The Director looked at him with the air of a teacher disappointed with a promising but troublesome student.
‘And then, following this, when he attempts to escape, not only do you make no attempt
to stop him, but you prevent Nurse Ellis from doing anything as well.’
Mutor raised his eyebrows.
‘Oh, you can rest assured she has already been punished for her failure.’ He looked up
from the desk. ‘There’s just one thing I want to know.’
Mutor looked back at him, unemotional, despite the danger he was in.
‘Why?’
The doctor did not reply, and the Director sighed, before fixing him with a stern glare.
‘I can’t just let you get away with this.’
The Doctor spoke for the first time, without a trace of fear in his voice.
‘Do whatever you have to do.’ He looked up, returning the Director’s gaze.
‘Very well.’
Miguel took the final few steps to the edge of the cliff and waited. Rosemary joined him,
having hastily put on a rather masculine tank top, denim jacket and jeans. Miguel stood
absolutely silent and unmoving from his vantage point, and stared intensely out to sea.
Rosemary was worried; it was not like her husband to be so serious.
‘When will he be here?’
‘Soon. He doesn’t like to stand on ceremony.’
At that moment, a new star seemed to sparkle into life. It rushed towards the cliff top,
leaving behind a trail of brightly coloured light before exploding in front of Miguel and
Rosemary. When the dust from the explosion cleared, the ambassador of the Conclavestood before Miguel and Rosemary, dressed, as ever, in his black suit and clutching the umbrella that constituted his staff.
‘Arbiter.’
‘Miguel Carrera. Mrs. Carrera.’
They briefly, awkwardly shook hands.
‘Would you now like to explain what you called me here for?’ The Arbiter spoke softly,
his accent and inflection untraceable.
‘I’ve just spoken to Alexander.’ The Arbiter raised a sceptical eyebrow.
‘Impossible.’
‘I did, I saw him and so did Rosemary, I swear it. He told us…that Jason was alive and in
the south of Italy.’
‘Oh?’ The Arbiter’s usually emotionless face registered intrigue. ‘Did this spirit of the
night happen to pass on exactly where his son was located?’ There was a trace of sarcasm
in his voice that Miguel was notorious for evoking.
‘No. But I think it’s at least worth a try to look for him…I’ve nothing else to do.’ He
added, seeming almost afraid that he would lose his trademark nonchalance. ‘I owe it to
Alexander and Miranda.’
The Arbiter sighed heavily. He wanted to dismiss Miguel’s suspicions, but he too felt a
burden of debt to the Fortunos following his role in their exile. And what was more,
Jason Fortuno had not been an isolated case; many sorcerers had lost their children in
mysterious circumstances around the same, perhaps if they found him, they might found
the others as well.
‘Are you certain you saw this spectre?’
‘I am. From what I recall, the old tales tell of such things happening at the times of great
turmoil.’
The Arbiter scoffed.
‘Legends and hearsay. I thought you were a realist Mr. Carrera.’ Miguel held his gaze,
until the messenger of the Conclave had to look away. ‘Very well. I will speak to the
Conclave directly as soon as possible.’ He turned to leave.
‘Wait…’ The Arbiter turned back. ‘Do you know where we can find Miranda?’
The Arbiter sighed heavily.
‘I do…but I think it would be wise for you to leave her undisturbed… she has not been
herself since her husband died… I doubt you could get through to her.’
‘It is worth a try…Simon.’
The Arbiter smirked.
‘Always one for a lost cause… Miguel.’ He smiled. ‘I know I shouldn’t like you, but I
do.’
Miguel smirked. Then the moment of humour had passed, and it was all business again.
‘I will speak with you once I reach an agreement with the Conclave. Farewell.’
He bowed, waved his umbrella in the air and disappeared in another stream of coloured
light.

Bianca White sat in the dormitory waiting, while her roommates sat and read the dog-eared, custom made sorcery books provided by the Facility. Lewis and Patricia both sat in
silent surprise, relieved that they had not been punished, their eyes fixed on the text as
though hoping they would sucked into their literature.
‘Aren’t either of you worried about Jason?’
The two looked up at her, momentarily startled by the sudden breaking of the quiet mood.
‘We are, Bianca, we are.’ Patricia replied after a few seconds. ‘But right now, we’re just
lucky to be alive.’
‘That’s a bit melodramatic, they never actually ki…’
The other two students had fallen silent, because at that moment, Nurse Ellis appeared in
the doorway, with two guards. Unusually, and despite the fact that she had clearly tried to
cover them, the Nurse was sporting a nasty looking black eye and thick lip.
‘Miss White, come with me please.’ Bianca stood up, trance-like, and followed the Nurse
out. Nurse Ellis regarded the two remaining occupants of the room with great contempt
before firmly slamming the door.

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