The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5)

The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5)

Jonathan Stroud

About the Book

After their recent escapades, Lockwood & Co. deserve a well-earned rest … so naturally they decide to break into the country’s most heavily guarded tomb.

What they discover there changes everything.

So begins a desperate battle to uncover the truth behind the country’s epidemic of ghosts. It’s a battle that will force the team to journey to the Other Side, bring them face to face with hideous phantoms – and pit them against the most terrifying enemy they have ever known.

Will everyone make it out alive?

For my family –

Gina, Isabelle, Arthur and Louis –

who tell the best ghost stories of all


Want to hear a ghost story? That’s good. I know a few.

How about the one of the sightless blue face pressed against the cellar window? Or the apparition of the blind man holding a cane made of children’s bones? What about the evil swan that followed me home through the lonely, rain-washed park, or the giant disembodied mouth seen opening in the centre of a concrete floor? What of the milk jug that poured blood; or the empty bath from which choking gurgles sounded after dark? What of the orphan’s spinning bed, or the skeleton in the chimney; or the vile spectral pig, all bristles and yellow tusks, glimpsed snuffling through the dirty glass of a shower-room door?

Take your pick. I experienced them all. They represent a typical month’s work for Lockwood & Co. during that long and desperate summer. Most of them were written up in our casebook by George on the mornings after the events concerned, in between sips of scalding tea. He did this in his boxer shorts, incidentally, sitting cross-legged on the floor of our living room. It was a sight that was frankly more disturbing than all the hauntings combined.

Our Black Casebook has since been copied and filed away in the National Archives in the new Anthony Lockwood Gallery. The good news about that is you don’t have to negotiate the crushed crisps in the pages of the original if you want to know the details of each job. The bad news? Not every case is in there. There’s one that was simply too terrible to be written down at all.

You know how it ended. Everyone does. The city was already full of it on that last cruel morning, with the rubble of Fittes House still steaming around the bodies of the lost. But the beginning? No. That’s not yet public knowledge. For the hidden story of murder, conspiracy, betrayal – yes, and ghosts – you need the account of one who survived it. For that, you have to come to me.

My name is Lucy Joan Carlyle. I talk with the living and the dead, and it sometimes gets so’s I can’t tell the difference any more.

Here it is, then: the beginning of the end. Here’s me, two months ago. I’m dressed in a black jacket, skirt and leggings, with heavy-duty boots suitable for staving in coffin lids and scrambling out of graves. My rapier’s at my belt, a holster of flares and salt bombs is slung across my chest. There’s a spectral handprint on my jacket. My bob’s cropped shorter than before, though this doesn’t disguise where a few strands of hair have recently turned white. Otherwise I look the same as ever. Kitted out for psychic investigation. Doing what I do.

In the outside world, the stars were out. The day’s warmth was folded up and done. It was shortly after midnight – the time when spirits wandered and all sensible folk were tucked up safe in bed.

Me? Not so much. I was shuffling around a mausoleum with my bottom in the air.

In my defence it has to be said that I wasn’t the only one doing this. Elsewhere in the small stone-clad chamber my colleagues Lockwood, George and Holly were also on hands and knees. We had our heads low, our noses near the flagstones. We swept our candles close to walls and floor. Occasionally we stopped to press fingertips into suspicious nooks and crannies; otherwise we worked in silence. We were looking for the entrance to a grave.

‘Do you lot have to bend over like that?’ a voice asked. ‘It’s making my eyes water.’

A thin, red-haired young man was sitting above us on a granite block in the centre of the room. Like the rest of our raiding party he was all in black – in his case, whopping big boots, skinny jeans and a roll-neck top. Unlike the rest of us, he had an enormous pair of bulbous goggles clamped across his face, giving him the look of a startled grasshopper. His name was Quill Kipps. He was readying our tomb-cracking equipment, laying out crowbars and coils of rope on the surface of the stone. He was also keeping watch, blinking at the shadows. His goggles allowed him to spot ghosts, if any were around.

‘See anything, Quill?’ That was Lockwood, dark hair hanging over his face. He picked with his penknife at a gap between the flagstones.

Kipps lit an oil lamp, tilting the shutters so that the light stayed low. ‘With you in that position, I’ve seen plenty. Particularly when Cubbins hoves into view. It’s like watching a beluga swimming by.’

‘I meant ghosts.’

‘No ghosts yet. Apart from our tame one.’ He tapped a large glass jar perched alongside him on the block. Green light flared evilly within, and a spectral face of unusual hideousness materialized, moving closer through a vortex of ectoplasm.

‘Tame?’ A disembodied voice that only I could hear spoke in indignation. ‘Tame?! Let me out of here and I’ll show that scrawny idiot how tame I am!’

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