A short ghost story
Corporal Jamie Logan stepped out from the barrack block into the chill of the evening. Pulling up his hood he cupped his hands over his mouth and blew. It was a lot colder than he had anticipated; the little breeze there was stung at his cheeks, so he set himself a steady jog, Jamie had already worked up a sweat in the dormitory, but there was no point in risking an injury with the fight being only three days away.
‘Go Logo, Go Logo!’ Shouts from behind made him turn into a side step. A group of squaddies returning from a night out came staggering through the guard-house barriers. He gave a brief wave, turned, and then disappeared into the semi-dark of the night, half listening to the guard trying in vain to calm the revellers down.
Jamie was almost a quarter ways round by now. He had already passed the aircraft hangers running alongside the airfield, and except for a few patrol cars, it was relatively quiet. He could feel the sweat running down his back and legs. His fingers; still cold, clenched into a fist. He stopped suddenly, then dealt a barrage of blows to an invisible opponent, ducked and weaved then again and again. Until he could feel the blood rushing through his veins, then, the numbness slowly began to fade.
Across from the parade square, the outline of the Officers mess-hall silhouetted itself against the backdrop of a full moon. Inside, people were laughing and singing loudly but woefully out of tune.
To the left of the main doors; via a smaller fire exit, a young man stumbled into the night air. The gravel beneath his shoes crunched loudly as he regained his balance.
Rummaging through his pockets, he eventually found his fags; only one left he noticed. He lit up and drew deeply, the smoke, mingled with the cold night air rose like a fog from his mouth and nostrils. He glanced back to the doorway and then headed not for the accommodation block, but towards the car-park.
Pilot Officer Jarvis smiled to himself. The keys of a Landover were still in the ignition, they glinted in the moonlight as he leant against the window.
‘It’s fine it’s fine’ he whispered. ‘Just need some fags from the NAAFI * that’s all, then bed.’ He wasn’t at all convinced. Nevertheless, the little man in his head that would have normally engaged the ‘stop being a dick’ sign was drowning in a sea of Bacardi and Coke. He pulled open the door and climbed in.
The engine fired up the first time, the sound multiplying in the quiet of the car. A slight panic stirred in is gut, then left just as quickly as it came.
‘Where’s the fucking reverse?’ He spat through clenched teeth while trying repeatedly to engage the gear but coordination had long abandoned him. Jarvis was completely unaware of his foot resting heavily on the gas pedal. When the gear was finally engaged the engine was racing. The vehicle bolted forward and then careered down a shallow embankment; skidding on the wet grass looking for traction. He threw the steering wheel hard to the right but it had little effect until the wheels finally hit the tarmac. Jarvis hit what he thought was the brake instead pressing down hard on the clutch. The heavy, long-wheel-based vehicle freewheeled across a smooth black surface before it shuddered to a standstill.
Jarvis knew instinctively he had hit something and hoped it was just a bollard. The engine ticked over quietly; knuckles white as he sat gripping the wheel; beads of sweat ran down his forehead. He turned off the engine and then, slowly climbed out.
The moon lit up the night enough for him to realise he had ended up on the parade square.
‘Shit…Shit!’ This was considered off limits, sacred ground as it were. Only the Station Warrant Officer was allowed to wander around this area, it was reserved for parades and of course drill. He edged himself round to inspect the damage, what exactly had he hit?
‘Oh God, no..no no no…’ He fell to his knees; the body of Corporal Logan lay motionless between the wheels. The head tilted back, eyes wide-open, staring at his killer. Logan’s mouth opened slightly as his last breath rose into the air.
Jarvis stood up quickly, too quickly, a wave of dizziness washed over him and he promptly emptied the contents of his stomach onto the ground behind.
‘What the fuck have you done?’
Jarvis spun around; his eyes were now filled with tears, trying to make out who was there.
‘I didn’t see him!’ He lied automatically.
‘Jesus Christ Jarvis you reek of drink.’
‘Dave? Oh, thank God, listen you’ve got to help me, He just ran in front of me. I couldn’t stop. It wasn’t my fault. Honest!’
‘Stop talking and let me think.’ Jarvis started trying to explain himself again.
‘I said stop talking. That’s an order.’
Except for a whispered, ‘yes sir.’ Jarvis remained silent.
After what seemed like an eternity, Flight-Lieutenant David Abbot; the officer who had taken charge spoke to Jarvis.
‘If it wasn’t for your father, I’d have you arrested on the spot.
Now get out of my sight and don’t ever speak of this again, you were never here, you got that?’
Jarvis was still in shock; he nodded slowly as Dave leaned closer.
‘Tell me you understand, this isn’t just your career that’s gonna be flushed down the fucking toilet if this gets out.’
‘Yes, yes I understand. But what are y..’
‘Just go, now! Before the fucking patrol turns up, I’ll figure it out.’
Jarvis still shaking turned and headed towards the officer’s accommodation. Half-way up the embankment, he gave a quick look over his shoulder; Dave was lifting the body into the back of the Landover, it was then the heaven’s opened.
The rain was torrential, there was no warning. The cloud had suddenly given up trying to hold on to its own bulk. Nevertheless, he didn’t quicken his pace; he let the rain soak him to the skin.
The next day he had no recollection of anything after the rain. He lay in his bunk; staring at the ceiling, the image of Private Logan seared into his every thought. Fortunately, it was a day off; he planned to keep the door locked and ignore everyone. To wait it out, it was his only option.
The door rattled as a fist thumped against it, His heart jumped in his chest.
‘This is it, they know, they know..’ His mind raced.
‘Hey! Jarvis! Wake up. Jarvis are you in there?’
He recognised the voice; O’Connell from down the hall, one of the only people left from his basic training. He sat on the edge of the bed, pondering his next move. His clothes, still soaked from the rain, lay in a heap on the floor.
‘What’s up?’ he called back. I’m not really up to seeing anyone right now..’
‘Yea you were pretty wasted last night.’ O’Connell cut in.
‘But seriously you need to come see this.’
Jarvis eventually joined O’Connell and the others in the hallway. During the night, someone had pinned a freshly typed A4 sheet onto the notice board. It read;
At approximately 00:30 hrs on the 23rd on the month, Corporal James Logan was hit by a vehicle while out training for his upcoming fight. This was a tragic accident, unfortunately, Corporal Logan died at the scene.
His parents have been informed.
There will be an update regarding funeral arrangements for anyone wishing to attend.
Group Captain Patrick Lawson C.O.
R.A.F. Brize Norton.
Jarvis headed back to his room and locked the door. He looked at his desk and the unopened bottle of Jack Daniels.
‘Maybe just one; to take the edge off.’
Bobby Curtis lay on his bunk, the rain hammering on the dorm window, it was relentless. Sleep wasn’t going to come easily tonight.
‘Fuck this for a laugh.’ He got up and threw on a pair of jogging pants, trainers, and a thin waterproof top. Left his room and headed down the corridor. The emergency lighting glowed dimly, casting a dull, sickly yellow hue over the walls. Besides the rain bouncing off the slates above, all was quiet. He stopped before leaving the building to look at the poster pinned to the notice board.
The Annual; James Logan
Memorial Boxing Tournament.
Open qualifiers: begin March 1st
Bobby kissed two fingers and then touched the poster, ‘wish me luck pal wish me luck.’ Pushed open the door and set off into the dark.
It was a good decision, the rain streamed down his face dripping off his crooked nose; he always felt alive when training. Fifteen minutes later and he was almost at the far side of the base. The parade square looked like a small lake, the moon reflecting on its water-logged surface. There wasn’t anyone about so he decided to risk the short-cut across.
The ropes of the flagpole clattered against the metal in the light breeze. He stopped abruptly as the outline of a figure emerged in the rain then quickly disappeared.
‘Is someone there?’ He edged forward wiping the water from his eyes. The rain parted again; the shape moved suddenly to the right then once again vanished.
‘Who’s there?’ His voice more agitated; he could feel the hairs on his neck standing up.
‘Look, stop fuckin around whoever it is, you might get hurt Ok?’
Instinctively he began to raise his guard.
The water behind him splashed, he spun round; again there was no one to be seen.
Then, a figure began to take shape, the rain running off an arm, and what could have been a shoulder.
Bobby slowly raised his hand towards the shape but it darted to the right. Suddenly, whatever it was, dealt an almighty blow to his ribs. It knocked the wind from his lungs and he crumpled to his knees gasping for air. Bobby was a fit, experienced fighter but he had never felt pain like this. The blow had carried on through his body and out the other side.
The water around him continued to splash about, first in front, then to the side, and then back again. Bobby watched the pattern as he tried to regain control of his breathing. Why was it so familiar to him? Then it clicked, a boxer in the ring, dancing around his opponent. He got back to his feet and raised his arms in defence. The outline flitted from one side to the next but there was nothing solid, just a shape, shifting in the rain.
‘What is it you want?’ He called, as the shape continued its dance, Bobby wasn’t sure but he could have sworn it was shadow boxing. This was getting too weird by far; he started to back away; as he did, the dancing stopped, so did Bobby.
The figure, now still, appeared to be watching him. The rain flowed over the entity like a waterfall as it slowly revealed the shape of a young man.
Bobby froze, ‘this isn’t happening,’ he said under his breath. Again he wiped the rain from his face, hoping the apparition would disappear. It didn’t, he decided to make a run for it but it was too late.
The figure lunged towards him. Bobby tried to turn but his legs were glued to the spot. The water engulfed him, hitting him like a tsunami, filling his mouth and lungs. He started to gag, struggled to catch his breath. Then, everything went black.
Around 06:14 am, M.Ps Stewart and Carrie, were carrying out a routine patrol of the base, they were out at 02:00 also but, agreed that.
‘No fucker is stupid enough to want to go out in this God-awful weather.’ So decided to park behind the gym and indulge in a little ‘getting to know one another’. If they’d have been a little more diligent in their duties, they may have come across the situation a lot sooner.
Carrie leaned forward wiping the mist from the screen. ‘What the fuck?’
Stew laughed. ‘Jesus Carrie, do you kiss your Mother with that mouth?’
‘I’ve not heard you complaining, stop the car; is that someone on the parade square?’
Stew pulled up to the kerb and squinted through the windscreen.
‘Yup, but whoever it is they don’t seem to be doing anything, and it’s a little early for drill practice.’
‘We better check it out, he shouldn’t be there anyways it’s off limits.’
The car pulled up on the edge of the square, Carrie lowered her window, not really keen on the idea getting wet.
‘What’s he doing, he’s just standing there?’ Stew leant across her lap.
‘Is that Bobby Curtis?’ He asked. Carrie pushed him away, at the same time removing his hand from the top of her thigh.
‘Behave, and who’s Bobby Curtis?
‘Corporal Curtis, amateur boxer, works over at the Ground Equipment Flight?’ Carrie raised an eyebrow.
‘Since when do you know about boxing?’ Stewart turned off the engine and made his way out of the car.
‘I don’t know Jack shit about boxing, I just know he, is one; you coming or not?
The rain was beginning to ease off as they crossed the black asphalt, Bobby, they noticed hadn’t moved. He just stood there, motionless, arms by his sides, hood pulled tight over his head.
‘By the looks of him I’d say he’s been here a while, you think he’s alright?’ Carrie asked.
‘Only one way to find out I guess Corporal. Let’s go ask him.’ Carrie shook her head and followed Stewarts lead. ‘Talk about stating the bloody obvious.’ She whispered, but loud enough for him to hear.
‘Hey! Corporal Curtis, is that you? Bobby remained silent.
‘Corporal Curtis? It’s Sergeant Lockhart, military police, is everything OK?’ Again, he remained silent. Stewart and Carrie slowed their approach. They could see Bobby’s’ fists were clenched tight.
‘Be careful, he looks…I don’t know, a little stressed?’ Stewart flashed a look at Carrie.
‘Stressed? I’ll show him stressed; I’ve been on shift for eighteen hours.’
‘I’ve better things to be doing.’ Stewart marched over to Bobby and took hold of his arm.
‘Right, enough’s enough, get yourself back to barracks now, or we take a ride to the guardroom, what’s it gonna be Corporal?’
Bobby slowly shifted his gaze till he was looking directly into Stewart’s eyes. ‘Take your hands off me, I won’t ask again.’ His voice was, distant, almost monotone, no hint of aggression either. Nevertheless, it sent a chill down Stewart’s spine.
‘What did he say?’ Carrie asked, not being close enough to hear. Stewart didn’t answer; he wasn’t too sure how to proceed. Then testosterone got the better of him. He tightened his grip and tried to escort Corporal Curtis from the square.
Bobby swung his right arm around and floored the MP with one punch to the stomach. Carrie instantly ran to assist while Stewart; knelt on the sodden ground gasping for air.
Bobby remained silent; he went to his knees and then placed both hands behind his back, waiting for the cuffs. Carrie immediately obliged.
‘What the fuck?’ Stewart was now back up on his feet, glaring at Bobby.
‘I said, what the fuck corporal?’ Their faces now only an inch from each other.
‘I told you to take your hands off me.’ Bobby’s voice remained calm; his eyes staring into the distance.
Stewart, after checking the cuffs were secure, grabbed his arm again.
‘Yea, well let’s see you do something about it now shall we?’ Then proceeded to pull him back to his feet; informing him that he was now under arrest. Bobby, however, didn’t respond, he remained silent, which in turn, infuriated the MP even more.
‘Not so clever now are you Corporal?’ Stewart turned and began frog marching Corporal Curtis to the car. Carrie came alongside. ‘Go easy Stew; we don’t know what the fuck is going on yet.’ Stewart pushed Bobby against the car and then turned to Carrie.
‘I’ll tell you what the fuck is going on, he, is being charged with assault on an MP, that’s what is going on.’ He paused long enough to compose himself.
‘Are you OK with that Corporal?’ It was the first time Stewart had ever ‘pulled rank’ with her and she didn’t like it one bit.
‘Oh absolutely, Sergeant. I will ride in the back with the offender, you OK with that?’
They reached the guardroom as daylight was finally breaking through. Carrie offered assistance to Bobby in helping him from the car. Stewart hadn’t said a word on the way back; Carrie assumed he was just nursing his pride. She took his arm but only to guide him to the building. Once inside Stewart went directly to the phone, however before calling gave instructions to Carrie.
‘Keep the cuffs on, I don’t want another incident.’
‘It’s illegal; he could injure himself in the cell.’ Stewart had already started dialling.
‘Just do it, Corporal, that’s an order.’
Carrie shook her head, ‘I’m sorry but you heard him.’ After placing Corporal Curtis in a cell, she returned to the main office. Stewart had just hung up the phone.
‘I want it noted I’m against your decision regarding the cuffs.’ Stewart then began writing in the incident book. Carrie however, didn’t move, she needed his acknowledgment. Stewart, despite his best attempt to pretend she wasn’t there, finally gave in.
‘Fine, duly noted, happy now?’ Carrie made her way to the canteen; it was a small victory, but an important one to her.
The tea was going down nicely when another MP arrived.
Morning Carrie; what’s up with him?’ He asked, motioning towards the office.
‘Oh I wouldn’t worry about it; just had his ego bruised is all.’
‘I take it you’re referring to the guy in the cells, what’s the story there?’
‘No clue, we found him on the parade square just after six. Looks as though he’s been there all night if you ask me.’
‘Really? I think he’s a Corporal over at engineering.’ Carrie chuckled to herself.
‘What’s so funny?’ He asked.
‘He’s also a boxer, floored our Sergeant with one punch.’
‘No shit! You’re joking right?’ Carrie smiled as she stretched out her legs on the couch.
‘One punch and he went down quicker than a cheap prostitute.’ The other MP sat down opposite. ‘Christ! So, who’s gonna be doing the interview, any idea?
‘No, most likely the duty officer; it’s a pretty serious offence. Could end up with a dishonourable discharge, if he wants to push for it.’
‘Well I’m fairly sure it’s Squadron Leader Jarvis on duty today, you know him?
Carrie shook her head.’ Name doesn’t ring a bell.
‘He arrived here a couple of months ago; apparently this place was his first posting.’ Carrie sat back up. ‘Actually I’d better go check on him, Stew insisted on keeping the cuffs on.’
‘Really, that’s a bit out of order that.’ Carrie mentioned the conversation she had with Stewart on that very issue. It couldn’t hurt to let another colleague be aware of her objection.
Bobby hadn’t moved. He sat exactly where she had left him. The dampness from his clothes had spread into the bunk creating a dark shadow.
‘Why was he still so wet? She thought it was still dripping from his face, pooling on the tiles around his feet. She opened the cell and went over to him. ‘Jesus your freezing,’ his body felt like ice. ‘Wait here.’ She returned with a blanket from the storeroom and placed it around his shoulders.
‘It looks like the duty officer is on his way.’
‘After that, well I think a doctor should take a look at you.’ Carrie watched him closely, but there was no response.
‘Right, well anyways like I said Squadron Leader Jarvis will be here any minute, so you better start thinking about..’ she paused. ‘Well, give it some thought Ok?’ Bobby raised his head.
‘I’ve been thinking about it for a long, long time.’ His voice trailed off and his head lowered again. Carrie wasn’t sure what to make of that, so returned to the rec-room.
Sergeant Lockhart she noticed was in conversation with who she could only assume was Squadron Leader Jarvis. The two men left the office and made their way passed the canteen to the interview room. Stewart popped his head round the door.
‘Corporal Shaw, can you join us please?’
‘So it’s Corporal Shaw now?’ The other MP noted.
‘Well you know how it is; Officer on duty ‘n’ all that.’ Carrie smartened herself up and put her cap on. ‘OK, let’s get on with it then.’
She knocked, waited for a reply then entered the interview room. Walked smartly to the desk and saluted. ‘Corporal Shaw. Sir.’
Jarvis ignored her to begin with, ‘So, what’s your take on all this Corporal?’ He looked up at Carrie, who also didn’t respond immediately, his face was thin and drawn, the burst blood vessels, tell-tale signs of alcohol abuse.
‘Well?’ He prompted.
‘Yes, well, I mean Corporal Curtis was on the parade square when Sergeant Lockhart approached him, he didn’t seem aggressive…’
‘Did you see Corporal Curtis strike Sergeant Lockhart?’ He cut in.
‘Yes, he’s a boxer so maybe it was reac…’ Jarvis dropped his pen.
‘A boxer, Curtis is a boxer? ‘
‘Yes sir, I just meant, it may have been an automatic reaction, that’s all.’ Carrie glanced at Stewart; he raised his eyebrows and gave the slightest shake of the head.
He looked scared; his face had drained of colour.
‘Right, well let’s get this over with, would you please bring him in Sergeant.’ He stood up then, decided to sit again. They could see something was bothering him, but couldn’t make out what.
‘Actually, you better both go, just in case he, erm..kicks off again ‘ Carrie shrugged her shoulders and followed Stewart into the corridor.
‘What the fuck?’ She whispered. Stewart peered through the window as they made their way to the cells.
‘He’s a jittery fucker I’ll give you that. Something’s making him very uncomfortable.’
When they reached Corporal Curtis he was already waiting at the cell door, the water still dripping from his face.
Stewart didn’t seem to notice. ‘Don’t bother turning around the cuffs stay on.’
Carrie went in first. ‘I’ll bring him out, it’s fine, and you’re not going to do anything, right Corporal?’
Bobby nodded and let Carrie lead him along the corridor. As they passed the window Bobby turned to look at Jarvis sitting behind the desk. The faintest of smiles crossed his lips, but only for a second.
Sergeant Lockhart stopped in front of the door. ‘OK, we don’t want any more trouble tonight, got it?’ ‘The sooner we sort this, the sooner we all go home.’ Carrie reached from behind and pushed the door open. Bobby immediately stepped into the room slipping Carries hold, the door instantly slammed shut between them. Stewart grabbed the handle but it wouldn’t move. He pulled his hand away quickly, the palm was now blue with cold.
‘What’s going on,? Carrie, what’s happening?’ Carrie started banging on the window.
‘Open the door Corporal! Open the door!’ Two more MP’s came running from the rec-room to see what was happening. One slipped on the water that was now seeping out from below the door. He fell hard, smacking his head on the tiles, the water began to turn a bright red.
‘Shit, get him up, get him up!’ Stewart called. ‘Take him back inside then call a medic.’ Carrie was at the window.’ Sergeant, you better come take a look.’ Stewart joined her at the window.
Jarvis was by now, out of his chair, he looked to be shaking.
Bobby, however; remained still. The water running down his face was becoming heavier. They watched open mouthed as it continued flowing until; it separated itself completely. Then hung in the air like an upright puddle.
‘You have got to be shitting me.’ Stewart s voice was trembling; he flinched as Carrie grabbed his arm. ‘Are you seeing what I’m seeing?’ He asked. Carrie nodded slowly as the water began to take shape, first a hood, then shoulders began to form, working its way down until the figure of a young man emerged.
It raised a watery arm and pointed at Jarvis, who now seemed to have composed himself. Jarvis nodded his head.
‘Please, just get it over with, you’ll be doing me a favour, I can’t take any more.’ From outside the room, they could see Jarvis talking but couldn’t make out what was being said.
Carrie began banging on the window again.
‘Run!’ She yelled it was all she could think of to say. Jarvis looked at Carrie; tears now streaming down his cheeks. He smiled, ‘It’s OK’ he mouthed, as he did the figure sprang towards him, it unleashed a volley of blows so quick and with such force; Jarvis was dead before he hit the floor. The figure looked over its fallen opponent then, raised its arms in triumph, punching the air with its fists.
Finally, it turned back to the window and looked directly at Stewart and Carrie. The figure snapped to attention, then gave a sharp salute before collapsing into a puddle on the floor.
The inquiry that followed learned that Squadron Leader Jarvis had died of a massive brain haemorrhage, the cause was unknown. Corporal Bobby Curtis never remembered anything of the evening’s events. He would only recall, waking up in the Medical centre, with severe pneumonia. He then went on to win his weight division in the tournament.
As for Stewart and Carrie, they were eventually posted apart. Both served twenty-one years in the R.A.F. During that time they never mentioned anything to anyone, ever.
*Naval. Army and Air Force Institute.