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Authors: Daniela Sacerdoti

Really Weird Removals.com

BOOK: Really Weird Removals.com
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To my dad, Franco Sacerdoti

 

Many thanks to my clan: Ross, Sorley and Luca Walker; to Euan Duff, for Luca’s playlist and his enthusiasm; to Lindsey Fraser, my wonderful agent; to Sally Polson and Eleanor Collins, who made this story better; to everyone at Floris for all their hard work; and to Nicola Robinson, for her beautiful cover illustration.

Table of Contents

Title Page

Dedication

 

PART ONE: SPRING

 

1. WEIRD THINGS HAPPEN WHEN IT’S WINDY

2. I HAVE AN UNCLE?

3. DISAPPEARING ACTS

4. WE FIND A SISTER – A DEAD ONE

5. THE OCTOPUS IN THE LUNCH BOX

6. WE GET OUR FIRST GIG

7. SECRETS

8. THREE THINGS I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SCOTLAND

9. WHERE A BULLY GETS WHAT HE DESERVES

 

PART TWO: SUMMER

 

10. THE THING IN THE CELLAR

11. THEFT OF A MARS BAR THIEF

12. WHERE I NEARLY GET EATEN

13. SOMEONE LIKE US

14. WHERE I NEARLY DROWN 

 

PART THREE: AUTUMN

 

15. FROM THE SEA

16. TREASURE HUNTING

17. SHETLAGGED 

18. BROTHERS

19. PICTURES OF A SEA SERPENT

20. WHISPERING

21. THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING I’VE EVER SEEN 

22. DARKNESS

23. A NIGHT OF FEAR AND MIRACLES

 

PART FOUR: WINTER

 

24. WHERE MY DAD FINDS OUT AND WE’RE IN TROUBLE

25. MUSIC FROM LONG AGO

26. WHERE THINGS HAPPEN THAT ARE HARD TO BELIEVE
 

27. WE’RE A FAMILY AGAIN

EPILOGUE

Inserted Copyright

Alistair Grant's
Scottish Paranormal Database
Entry Number 411:
Vanishing lighthouse keepers
Type:
Supernatural wind
Location:
Muckle Flugga Lighthouse
Date:
December 1910
Details:
The three keepers of a lighthouse vanished suddenly, leaving no trace. Their log reported heavy storms in the few days before their disappearance; however, there was no sign of bad weather anywhere else on the coast.

My dad has hundreds of books. The walls of his study are covered in bookshelves, all the way up to the ceiling. He keeps books in unsteady towers all around his computer, under his desk, on the window sills. Big books and small ones, ancient ones and brightly coloured ones, fresh from the Eilean Bookshop down the road. If there's anything you need to know, just have a rummage in my dad's bookshelves, and sooner or later you'll find what you're looking for. I do that all the time. When it's pouring outside, when I'm bored or just because I feel like it. I go into my dad's study while he's writing, quiet as a mouse, and I read. My dad doesn't even notice I'm there.

That happens a lot. I mean, my dad not noticing I'm there.

I found a book in my dad's study once; it said that windy weather makes people go a bit crazy, that it makes strange things happen and, if it's blowing strong, you're better off staying inside.

Well, I live on Eilean, an island off the west coast of Scotland: I'm pretty used to the wind blowing all year long. But today, it's blowing us off our feet. The sun is shining, the sky is cornflower blue, but this gale is whirling and hurling around the windows, howling as if it was trying to get in. The sea looks choppy and frayed, all foamy on top.

I can't follow the book's advice and stay inside. I need to be at shinty practice by half past four, and I'm running late.

“There you are darling, don't forget your hat.” My mum hands me my kit – the changing bag and the caman. I can smell a cloud of essential oils all around her. It's a good smell. It's my mum's smell.

Her name is Isabella. She has wavy brown hair all around her face like a halo, and blue-grey eyes with little brown speckles in them. She wears flowing skirts and dangly earrings, and lives in a world of her own, occasionally stepping into ours to look after my sister and me.

Mum and Aunt Shuna have spent the whole morning burning lavender oil and meditating in my mum's room, with my little sister Valentina sitting cross-legged between them. Like my dad, my mum has a room of her own, but it's not called a study, she calls it a “sanctuary”.
The yellow sign outside says:
Little Moon, Holistic Therapies
.

Even though she's in a world of her own, helping people with her massages and healing and all those weird things she does, Mum always knows what we're doing, and what we need. She remembers all the important but small details, our classes and birthday parties and parents' nights, and, if we need her, she always seems to materialise at our shoulder.

My dad was born and grew up on the island, but my mum comes from down south. Here on Eilean, “down south” usually means England. But my mum comes from a lot more
south
than that. She used to speak Italian, but now she speaks English, though a bit differently than the rest of us.

Time to go to shinty. I
love
playing shinty. I wouldn't miss practice for the world, not even on a windy day like this.

I open the door, and it hits me. The salty wind is in my mouth, my hair, it gets inside my clothes. It feels… exciting. As if something is about to happen.

“Adiiiiiiiiiiiiil!” I wave to my friend across the road. The wind is so loud, I have to shout. I run to him and we walk down past the brightly coloured houses, a red one, a yellow one, a blue one. My hometown is amazing that way: it's like a rainbow. There are always a lot of tourists taking pictures of the houses and boats and seals.

Adil and I put our heads down and walk on against the wind, squinting, our hands in our pockets. When we finally make it to the sports centre, we run in quickly and stop for a second to catch our breath again.

“Phew!” says Adil. His black hair is standing on end, and he's trying to flatten it.

“What a day. To think the forecast said mild and sunny,” says Lorna, from the counter. “I'll be surprised if anyone else turns up for shinty practice today.”

I think she might be right. Shinty is played outside, on the grass. We'll be blown away. We are well used to windy, but this is something else.

I'm getting changed into our blue-and-yellow strip, pulling up my stripy socks, my caman leaning against the bench beside me, when Adil says just about the last words I want to hear.

“Gary must be here too. Great.” He points to a Nike sports bag under the bench just beside us. “I was hoping he'd stay home, with this wind… But no chance.”

For some reason, Gary McAllister has decided to make my life hell. I'm not sure why. He's so good at it, and he's been doing it so long that nobody besides Adil seems to notice. The thing is, Gary and I grew up together, we live in the same town, we go to school together, we play shinty together and we go to Scouts together. There's no way to escape him.

I once tried to talk about it with my dad, and it looked like he was listening, but after a long silence he just said, “Ok then,” and resumed his writing. I don't think he heard a word. He was thinking about his book, I expect. My dad's books are read all over the world. He writes about a little boy who travels in time. His name is Reilly. He's a hero. He's incredibly strong and he's got magical powers.

I'm nothing like him. I'm just Luca, the invisible son.

I don't want to worry my mum, so I try to manage the whole Gary thing on my own. Adil, my best friend, is on my side, but Gary is a lot bigger than him. He's a lot bigger than any of us.

My legs are like lead as I walk towards the door. I'm dreading it.

I open it carefully, expecting another salty blast of wind. But… nothing. The air is still. The little corner of sea I can see in the distance is as smooth as oil. The wind has gone all of a sudden. It must have been an Atlantic storm passing over us and moving on towards the mainland. But there were no grey clouds, none of the other signs that come with storms. It's strange.

Mr MacDonald waves at us from the far end of the pitch. There are only a few boys around him, but probably more will come when they work out the wind has subsided.

Gary has a smirk on his face. He's clearly delighted to see me.

“Pull up your socks, Luca,” he says, waiting for me to look down, so he can slap me under the chin.

I ignore him. He'll have to do better than that.

“Right, settle down boys. Not enough of us to play a match, so we'll just practise. Each of you, get a ball. To the hail and back. And… Go!”

The rest of the team turn up after about twenty minutes, so we play a game, five boys in each
mini-team
, and one sitting out.

The caman is heavy, which means players have to be careful with it. In spite of all precautions, though,
accidents can happen. A lot of accidents seem to happen to
me
when Gary is playing. He's so good at it, so quick, only he and I notice. I often go home bruised, and nobody has been aware of any foul play.

Half an hour later, I've been stamped on, tripped and hacked, and I'm furious. I grit my teeth. I won't give up. I love this game and I won't stop playing because of him.

“Your mum is a nutcase,” he whispers, brushing against me.

Last straw.

Before I know it I'm rolling on the ground with him, with Mr MacDonald shouting things I can't hear. It's as if the wind is roaring in my ears again, though all around me the air is still and calm. I can see nothing but Gary's face.

Ten minutes later, we're standing in the changing rooms in front of a very disappointed Mr MacDonald.

“What happened? What brought this on? You two are good friends…”

Yeah, right. Just because we grew up together, everybody assumes we're the best of friends. Nobody seems to detect Gary's cruel streak.

As we stand there I catch a glimpse of our reflections in the mirror on the wall opposite. Gary is tall, sturdy, with brown hair, a freckled face and little piggy eyes. He's about a foot taller than me. I'm slim, with fine blond hair and blue eyes. I look like a feather could knock me down.

On the other hand, I'm a very fast runner, the fastest in my school. I'm good at shinty because I slip between
people and I get to the hail before they can get a hold of me. But when it comes to strength…

“I want to speak to your parents. I'll phone Duncan…” (that's my dad) “…and Alan tonight. We need to put an end to this.”

“I don't think that's necessary,” says Gary in his oily fake-reasonable voice. “It was just a silly argument. It's all sorted now.” He offers me his hand. His eyes glint with malice.

“Is that true, Luca?” asks Mr MacDonald.

“Yes. Yes, of course.” I take Gary's hand and shake it. It feels clammy and horrible. As long as my parents don't know I've been fighting. It's too humiliating.

“Sorry, Luca,” says Gary. His voice is dripping with dishonesty. He doesn't mean it for a minute. Mr MacDonald is no fool, he's been teaching for many years and I know he's suspicious of Gary, but I don't think he can quite pinpoint why. “By the way, my mum is coming to see your mum today. She says your mum is great at what she does, even if you don't always understand what she says!” He gives me a big smile, and then turns to Mr MacDonald with a wide-eyed innocent look.

“I've never had a problem understanding her,” says Mr McDonald coldly. “Now go, Gary, we're finished here,.

As Gary goes to get ready for his shower, Mr MacDonald puts a hand on my shoulder.

“Are you ok?”

“Of course. Yes,” I lie.

“Don't mind him. He talks a lot of nonsense.” His dark eyes are full of warmth. He probably knows
what it's like for my mum, because part of his family is from Jamaica. People who don't know him still ask where he's from when they see his black skin. But Mr MacDonald was born on Eilean and is an islander through and through.

Maybe I should tell him about Gary… Would he understand?

But I hesitate, and the moment passes. He walks away, and I gather my stuff quickly. I don't want to be left alone with Gary. I'm not afraid, it's not that. I just don't want another fight.

Adil is waiting for me at the entrance of the sports centre.

“Hey…”

“Hey.”

“You in trouble?”

I shake my head.

“That… halfwit!” Adil is the only boy I know who never, ever uses bad language. This is because if his father hears he's been swearing, he'll skin him alive. Adil's parents are very strict. So he comes out with old people's expressions, like “good heavens” and “holy mackerel”. It cracks me up.

“He'll get tired of it.” I try to sound unconcerned, but the whole thing is really getting me down.

We walk along the main street, past the coffee shop, past the tiny grocery shop, past the Eilean Bookshop with my dad's books displayed in the window –
Reilly's Egyptian Adventure, Reilly in Transylvania, Reilly and the Stone Age Hunters
– with blown up cut-outs of Reilly in his various incarnations. My dad's virtual son.
Reilly would know how to tackle Gary, for sure. No, Gary would never have picked on him in the first place.

The bookshop door is open and a lanky tall man in a tweed suit is standing at the counter talking to Kim, one of the shop assistants.

“…Duncan Grant?” she's saying. That's my dad's name. I prick up my ears. “Sorry, I can't say. A lot of people come to look for him… you know, fans… He asked me not to tell folk where he lives.”

“OF COURSE, OF COURSE,” replies the man. He's incredibly loud, though his tone is friendly. “But I'm not a fan, I'm his
brother
,” he booms.

Brother? Wait a minute. My dad has no brothers. He has a sister, Aunt Shuna, who lives with us. That's it.

Remember that book I told you about? The one that says weird things happen on windy days – it looks like it could be right.

BOOK: Really Weird Removals.com
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