Recap: Last time, Bea and the ghost searched a graveyard but found no trace of the ghost’s husband’s soul. Then they followed a trail of sinister magic to the cellar of an old house.
The cellar must have been put to normal use throughout most of the year. Shelves on one side held canned food and bottles, and the other had old gardening tools and stacked boxes. Everything in the center of the room had been cleared away, however, to make way for an altar covered in black cloth. A woman lay upon it, bound by coarse rope, the light from dozens of candles reflecting off her tear-stained face.
Symbols on the cement floor looked ominously like they’d been painted in blood, and at the head of the altar on a small pedestal squatted a grotesque statue. It was a hideous, goat-like creature carved from gleaming black stone. A group of six men stood around the altar in a circle, all dressed in black robes like warlocks from an old story. They chanted in low tones until the one directly across from the stairs broke off with a shout, seeing Bea.
All the men turned. “You!” one of them cried, and it was the brute from the library. I barely paid him any mind, though, because of the man who’d first seen Bea. His hood had fallen, and I recognized his face.
Recap: Last time, Bea and the ghost found the name of the cemetery where the ghost’s husband was buried. Then two mysterious men attacked Bea but were scared off by the ghost.
When Bea parked her van in front of the graveyard, I felt colder than ever. I had no body to produce heat, no clothing to shield me. My soul was naked and exposed to the chill, and I dreaded going any closer.
Bea climbed slowly down from vehicle, wincing from her injuries. She raised her keys to lock the door but paused when she realized I wasn’t following.
“Hey,” she said. “It’s gonna be okay.”
“What if we don’t find him?” I whispered.
“Then we’ll try something else. I’m not giving up anytime soon.”
Recap: Last time, the ghost began to remember more of her past, and she and Bea went to the library to research what happened to the ghost’s husband. Though they were interrupted by a creepy guy who seemed way too interested in Bea’s research, they eventually found an obituary…
I couldn’t turn my gaze from those small words wedged between two other obituaries. We’d found him. The pride of accomplishment should have surged through me, but I felt vaguely sick. Was this all that remained of Nate? He deserved so much more than a snippet of text in an old newspaper.
He’d been merely twenty-eight years old according to this. Grief scraped my soul like gravel against skin, an old and familiar pain. I’d wanted to grow old with him, to raise a family. Our life together had been just beginning. It wasn’t fair. We should’ve had more time.
And had his death truly been an accident? It didn’t seem right, but I couldn’t remember…
Bea’s gaze was gentle and full of concern. I couldn’t bear it.
Recap: Last time, our ghostly protagonist’s monotonous afterlife was interrupted when the old woman she’s haunting calls an exorcist. But instead of moving on, the ghost talks the exorcist into helping her track down the soul of her lost husband.
“Here we go. Nathaniel Breen, 1847 to 1902. Banker from California. Died of tuberculosis.”
Bea was lying in a bunk in the back of her van, staring at a small device with a rectangular face that lit up and showed pictures and text. (I remembered the old woman in my house using something similar.) We’d spent the night at a campground, and the new scenery had both mesmerized and invigorated me. The only one more excited was the cat, who darted among the trees all night in exploration.
“Nate wasn’t a banker,” I said. “And he certainly wasn’t from California.”
“What was he, then?”
“A factory worker. And I don’t think he ever left Ohio.”
“Hm.” She stretched. “Well, I don’t see any other Nathaniel Breens on here.”
“You should try a library.” I sniffed. “There are still libraries around these days, aren’t there?”
It’s October! Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year, so to celebrate, I want to share a free urban fantasy short story. I’ll be serializing The Memory of Ghosts all through October, so expect updates every Thursday this month. Check it out if you like:
Grumpy paranormal investigators
I hope it helps you get into the Halloween spirit. Happy reading!
*To be on the safe side, I’m adding a content warning for a brief instance of animal cruelty in this chapter.
I hated the woman who lived in my house.
She’d made it as slovenly as a pigeon coop. Unwashed dishes were always piled high in the sink, attracting a swarm of flies and other crawly things. Crumbs and crumpled paper bags covered the couch, and half-empty cups grew moldy on the end tables. Soiled clothes littered the floor in the master bedroom, and the less said about the washroom, the better.
I could forgive her untidiness if she were a pleasant person, but she wasn’t. When her husband cooked dinner, she’d spend the whole meal talking about how it tasted like garbage. If her kids spoke more loudly than a whisper, she shrieked at them to shut up and do their homework. Her favorite words were “stupid,” “worthless,” and “don’t know why I put up with you.” Continue reading The Memory of Ghosts: A Halloween Urban Fantasy Serial (Part 1)
There’s an angel and a devil on my shoulders. The angel is telling me to wait until October 1st to start Halloween season like a rational person. The devil wants all the pumpkins, spookiness, and candy NOW.
So I’m starting a little early. Just a smidge. No big deal, right?
Fight Crime! (A Love Story) is over. Looking back, the first post is dated June 28, 2016, which feels like forever ago. Now that it’s finished, I find myself with a gap in my blog schedule and no idea what to fill it with. So help me out, super readers, especially those of you who signed up to get these posts by email. What do you want to read on this blog? I’ve thrown out some ideas I’ve been considering below, but if you have another request, feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear what you think.
A week passed before Val got the chance to speak with her father. With Blueblood dead and Leo arrested, the Black Valentine was only supervillain from the DSA break-in who was still at large. She’d risen to the top of the DSA’s Most Wanted List, an achievement she’d commemorated by framing a copy of her wanted poster. (It wasn’t the most flattering picture, but you couldn’t have everything.)
Her father’s trial had gone badly. The prosecution’s primary witness had been eloquent and sympathetic, swaying the jury so completely that further evidence had been a mere formality. Things really would have been different if Joey and Madame Morphine had succeeded in taking him out. Val had snuck into the courthouse using a wig and a liberal use of telepathy, and she caught her father in a hallway as prison guards were escorting him to the van that would return him to his holding cell.
Val entered the guards’ mind to convince them to pause, but she shouldn’t have bothered. Her father saw her and lifted his hand. “A moment, please,” he said, and the guard pushing his wheelchair stopped and retreated a respectful distance away. Typical. Her father’s four-year prison sentence was going to be a simple change of scenery for him. The law couldn’t snap the web of influence that stretched out from him; the strands would lengthen and shift no matter where the old spider moved.
Tidal Wave was slumped in the back of a police car, his cheek pressed against the smooth glass window. The sedative hadn’t completely knocked him out yet, but it was close. His eyelids felt like they weighed five pounds each, and the movements of the car seemed to rock him to sleep. He was taken off guard, then, when another car crashed into them.
The next thing he knew, he was lying across the back seat. Muffled shouts and gunshots came from outside, but he was only vaguely interested in their cause. Certainly not interested enough to lift his head and see what was going on. No, that would be way too much effort. He rested against the seat cushion and drifted off.
The car door opened, and Tidal Wave was just coherent enough to recognize the person who opened it as a junior member of the Tsubaki Syndicate. Hey, I know that guy, he thought happily. Then he passed out. Continue reading “Everybody Fights” – Part 13
JB wondered if everyone had forgotten about him. For what must have been the tenth time, he flipped up the protective glass covering of his watch and felt the clock hand and embossments. Not even two full minutes had passed since the last time he checked. He snapped the covering closed and resisted the urge to groan.
Cleto was impatient, too. The two of them sat in the apartment’s living room, both left behind by the rest of the gang to wait with their least favorite person. Cleto had the news on TV, trying to glean information about how things were going, but nobody seemed to have figured out what was happening yet. Every few seconds, Cleto would flip to a different channel to see if they had better updates.
“—earlier today when the festivities were attacked—”