Beck – Chapter 4

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Kole

Kole rolled his eyes and shook his head. “I’ll be back again before you know it.”

Ethan pouted, something he’d only started doing when he figured out Joey had caved almost every time. “But that’s still too long. I need my best friend.”

Kole chuckled and dragged Ethan into a hug. “And I need you, but we’ll still be best friends like we have since you moved here.” He clapped his shoulder and opened his car door, the sounds of Monday morning traffic ringing in his ears. London traffic was awful at the quiet times, but during busy times, it was a nightmare. Unfortunately, Kole had to get back, so he had to brave the miserable and inevitable traffic jams.

“Think about it, though, yeah?” Ethan said, his forehead creasing as he crossed his arms over his chest.

Kole smiled at him, even though his stomach swirled at the idea. “I will. I promise.”

And he would. He just wasn’t sure what his answer would be. It was a big thing, moving clear across the country. He’d been thinking about it for weeks. Ever since Ethan had moved down there with Joey.

He climbed into the car, waved and pulled out of the parking space. Heading down the alley beside the shop had been a hyperventilating experience the first time he’d done it because it was so narrow, but he was getting used to it. He paused at the entrance, looked both ways and pulled out onto the road. It took him less than five minutes to hit traffic, and while he paused, he fiddled with the radio. He hadn’t bothered upgrading his system when new ones came out because he was happy flicking between radio stations, depending on what or who was on. It sometimes got tedious when they all had adverts on at the same time, but he managed.

As the miles between London and Whitby went by, he thought about that weekend. Designing those tattoos and then seeing them come to life on someone’s body was an amazing experience. But then thinking about that led him to what happened on Saturday night.

He couldn’t believe he’d lost it, but he was both grateful and annoyed that Beck had been the one to see it. Losing it because he’d thought someone was following him was not right. He wasn’t right, and the man Kole could admit only to himself he had a crush on was one of the last people he’d wanted to see it. Despite that, Beck had been a rock. Kole wanted to do something for him, but he didn’t know what. He’d have to think about it and maybe speak to Ethan to get some insights into the man. Obviously, that would only be for repaying him, not for anything else. He didn’t want to gather intel about him so he could slyly get to know him better. Of course he didn’t.

He couldn’t stop the grin from spreading across his face as he drove into Whitby. The scent of the ocean, the distinctive squawk of the seagulls and the view from the top of the cliffs sank right into his soul, and the tension he hadn’t realised he’d been holding leached away. Winding through the well-known streets, he headed for his parents’ house. However much he wanted to sleep after the long journey, he needed to get the visit over and done with; otherwise, his mother would start banging his door down when he didn’t want her to. It was because she cared, especially after what happened, but he was done being a victim that everyone had to be careful around.

As he parked in their driveway, he wondered whether he could stop people from seeing him like that if he couldn’t see it in himself. Maybe he had to change his own thoughts before other people did.

He sighed as he climbed out of the car. More therapy was in his future. He knocked but unlocked the front door with his key. “I’m back!” he called, locking the door again behind him.

“Kole! I wasn’t expecting you back until a little later,” his mother said, hugging him.

“I have a tour tonight, remember? I wanted to get back in time to rest before then.”

His mother’s mouth pursed. She didn’t want him doing the job anymore, and he could understand why, but what happened to him could’ve happened to him even if he’d been working in a supermarket or an office. The location was unlikely to have changed the outcome.

“Are you able to stay for dinner?” she asked, heading into the living room. “Your dad is cooking chicken curry.”

Kole shook his head. “I don’t have time. I just wanted to pop in so you could see that I survived my foray into London and back.”

“How did it go?” his dad said, entering the room and clapping his hand on Kole’s shoulder.

“Jordan! The least you can do is say hello first,” his mum chastised.

His dad looked at him, smiled and said, “Hello, Kole,” all while rolling his eyes behind his wife’s back. Kole’s mouth twitched, but he held back his laughter, knowing how his mother would react if she saw.

“It went well, thanks. I designed a few tattoos for people. It was amazing watching it go from that design to an actual colourful piece of art on someone’s skin.”

“It’s a waste of money, if you ask me.”

“Emmeline,” Jordan said. “Just because you don’t like tattoos doesn’t mean other people don’t. And someone now has Kole’s artwork on their body. How fantastic is that?”

Kole’s chest expanded after deflating a bit with his mother’s words. No, not everyone liked tattoos, but that was a personal choice, the same as anything. His mother huffed and headed out of the kitchen. She was a worrier, but she also had opinions and she wasn’t scared of telling anyone who asked what they were. His dad, on the other hand, was more easygoing and laidback, finding the humour in most situations. He couldn’t help but want to be like his father rather than his mother. Although saying that, he wanted to be more like Auntie Ava. She was even more easygoing than his dad, and she meant the world to Kole. He hoped he’d be able to visit with her that week.

Kole and Jordan spoke about the weekend for a while longer before Kole said he had to go. He went to find his mother and hugged her.

“Look after yourself, okay?” she said.

“I will. Always.”

It took him several more minutes to extricate himself from her clutches, but then he was on his way home. When he finally closed his front door behind him, he sighed, barely keeping his knees from dropping him to the floor. He needed a shower to wake him up; otherwise, he wouldn’t make it through the tour that night.

He pulled on his black jeans, black shirt and black jumper—why not go the whole way into looking dark and mysterious—and shook out his cape. Checking the time, he grabbed a sandwich to eat before sitting at his table and laying out the face paint he used. It was usually a toss-up between a skeleton or vampire, or half of each, but he wanted to change it up a bit. Maybe a werewolf? Or actually go the whole ghostly way and become the ghost he often depicted. In the end, he chose his usual skeleton, and quickly applied the face paint he’d done hundreds of times before.

Once he was ready, he locked up and headed down the street. His house was on the opposite side of the harbour from where he started his tour, but the walk was never horrible, even in wet and windy weather. He never drove, no matter what, because, if the weather was that bad, they would cancel the tours.

Waving to his neighbour, he crossed the bridge, shivering a little at the biting breeze coming from the water, and began the winding incline up to the Whalebone Arch. It was one of the tourist attractions, and even though Kole had grown up with it being part of the landscape, it was an impressive sight. Once he stood beneath it, he took a photo and sent it to Ethan.

KOLE: Do I look like the whale ate me before he died?

Not waiting for a reply, he brought up the bookings for the tour, glad to see it was full once again. He would’ve loved to make this his business, working all hours of the night with his gift of storytelling, but it was a harsh business to get started in, and he wasn’t sure how his employers would react if he started an opposing business venture, which might take money away from them. It shouldn’t be something he considered, but he couldn’t help but want a peaceful life.

“Good evening!” he said to a couple who stopped beside him. “Are you here for the ghost tour?”

“We are,” one said.

“Fantastic. Can I take your name, please?”

He marked them off and asked where they were visiting from, and continued to do the same for those who joined. Checking his watch, he said, “We’re just waiting for two more people, and then we’ll start.” He chatted with some of them, and then the stragglers arrived.

Kole froze, staring at the one person he didn’t want to see. Ever again. He held up his hand. “No, Andrew.”

“Please, Kole. Let me explain.”

Kole swallowed, his knees trembling. “No. If you’ve booked onto the tour, go back and request a transfer or a refund. You will not be on this one.”

Andrew’s face fell, but he stepped away. Kole smiled at the rest of the visitors. “I apologise for that. So, welcome to the Ravenwood Whitby Ghost Tour. I’m your host, Kole, and I promise you stories, scares and sass for the next hour and a half. Before we set off, do you have any questions?” No one said anything—which was the usual response—so he set off on his first pirate story as they made their way down the path. He tried to ignore that Andrew had been there, but he kept checking over his shoulder in case he followed them. He was more reluctant to go into the shadowy alleys and nooks of the town, knowing he was nearby, but he wouldn’t let down his visitors. Plus, he had an alarm in his pocket, one he had taken to carrying since the incident.

Bracing himself, Kole said the words to get the pirate to jump out at them, and screams rent through the air, followed by laughter. He grinned. “I thought you might like that one. We’ll walk a little further, and then I’ll regale you with the second of my stories.”

Gavin, the ghost pirate actor, dropped into place beside him. “Are you okay? I saw who turned up.”

Kole exhaled. “Shaky, but he seems to have stayed away. I don’t know why he booked onto the tour when he knows he’s not supposed to be near me.”

“He probably knows you won’t call the police on him.” Gavin gave him the same side-eye he would’ve got from Ethan had he been there.

Kole sighed. “It’s a waste of time. Mine, the police, everything. They won’t do anything about it other than note down that he was here.”

“But what if you don’t report all these minor incidents, and something happens, Kole? The police will think it was a one-and-done rather than a build-up.”

“You’ve been watching too many crime shows.” Kole elbowed him.

“Maybe. But I’m also not wrong.”

“Fine. But I’m not calling them tonight. I’ll tell them tomorrow.”

Gavin blew out a breath and shook his head. “I don’t agree, but it’s your choice. I’m sticking around tonight, though.”

Kole wouldn’t admit how much he’d hoped Gavin would say that. There wasn’t much anyone could do if something happened, but knowing there was someone on his side helped settle his nerves.

He continued through the streets, scaring them with his stories of headless horses and ghostly apparitions, and sending their blood pressure through the roof when people jumped out at them, and by the end of the night, finishing at his favourite spot­—the top of the 199 steps—he grinned.

“Thank you so much for your company this evening. I hope you join me again soon. And please remember to leave a review!”

He turned to face the view, the lights from buildings flickering on and off throughout the town, up the cliffs and down to the harbour. The sounds from the arcades and pubs spilt into the night and rose to him on the breeze. It was chillier up there, but he didn’t care. It helped clear his head.

“Kole.”

Kole screeched and stepped back, holding out his hand. “Andrew, you can’t be here. You know this.”

“I just want to explain.”

He glanced around, trying to see where everyone had gone. “The police will be upset if you’re here, Andrew. You don’t want that.”

“The police are idiots!” Andrew yelled, throwing his hands in the air.

Kole’s heart raced, but his shoulders loosened when Gavin came running towards them. His colleague stepped between them.

“Leave now. The police are on their way.”

Andrew cradled his head and growled. “I just want to explain!”

“Then explain to the police, and they will let Kole know,” Gavin said.

Andrew took a step forward, and Gavin stepped back into Kole, who gripped the back of his costume. He wasn’t sure what Andrew was going to do, but thankfully, after sending a frenzied look at Kole, Andrew turned around and raced down the steps. Kole’s knees stopped holding him up, and he sank to the floor.

“Holy shit,” he muttered. “I’m not sure I can take this any longer.”

Gavin crouched beside him. “What do you mean?”

His eyes darted around as the decision settled inside him. “I’m moving to London,” he said, meeting Gavin’s gaze.

“I didn’t know you were moving.”

“Split-second decision. I can’t stay here, Gavin. Not after this. He’ll just haunt my footsteps as well as my dreams. I can’t do it.”

He had never been close friends with Gavin, but they all knew what had happened to him, and they had been asked to keep their eyes open. It was great for people to have his back, but his nerves couldn’t take any longer. There was no guarantee Andrew wouldn’t follow him to London, but he had to take the chance.

Now he just had to break the news to his mother.

While they waited for the police to arrive, Kole checked his phone, having forgotten he’d messaged Ethan until he saw his reply.

ETHAN: Yes, actually. That’s pretty scary. Let me know when you’re done.

KOLE: I’m done, but Andrew was here. He didn’t do anything, and Gavin stayed with me. We’re waiting to file a police report, and then I’ll be going home. Don’t worry. I’m fine. I promise. But you’re getting your wish.

ETHAN: What? That asshole! I’m going to come up there and show him what I could fit into a place where the sun doesn’t shine! I’m going to call you later, so tell me when you get home. Don’t walk home by yourself. Please. And what wish are you on about?

KOLE: You better start looking for a place I can afford down there. It’ll take me a while to pack up and convince Mum I’m not making a rash decision.

ETHAN: SERIOUSLY? Fuck yeah! I’ll get Joey on it right away. We’ll find you some place in no time.

Kole didn’t reply straight away because the police arrived, and as he thought, they couldn’t do anything about it, but they would add it to the folder about the case. Gavin walked him home, and Peter, the owner of the tour company, called to check on him.

As he stood in his living room, he looked around. It wouldn’t take that long to pack up if he was being truthful. But was he making the right choice? Images of Ethan and Joey swam into his mind, followed by the Life in Ink crew, followed by the memories of how Beck held him when he’d lost control. Kole’s heart skipped a beat. Although he doubted Beck wanted any kind of relationship with him, that Kole liked the idea of trying was a step in the right direction.

After calling Ethan to reassure him, Kole went to bed. Despite knowing that he’d get embarrassed when he next saw him, he couldn’t stop thinking about Beck and how he’d looked at him as they’d hugged at the event. He’d been sure Beck was going to kiss him, and his stomach had swooped and swirled, readying for it, but then he’d pulled back.

Did Kole have the confidence to make a move on Beck when he moved closer?

Continue to chapter 5