Exclusive Excerpt: Ghostly Investigations by Edward Kendrick

Excerpt:

“This is crazy,” Jon said. “How the hell many bars are there in the city?”

Brody laughed. “Too many, from a cop’s perspective. Let’s try this one and a couple more and call it a night.”

They took advantage of two men leaving Far Horizon to enter without having to go through the wall.

“I think… Yeah, I’ve been here before.”

“Last night?”

“You know I don’t remember yesterday. But…” Jon looked around. “This is the club I came to with Grant. Then a couple of times after, looking for him.” He smiled sourly. “I guess I was hoping to reconnect, since he hadn’t called me after the first time. Hope springs eternal and all that shit.”

Brody patted his back. “It happens. Is he here tonight?”

“Hard to tell from where we’re standing. Let’s wander.”

* * * *

Mike was halfway to the door when Sage grabbed his arm. “I saw the man in the picture,” he said excitedly. “But…”

“Not possible,” Mike replied shortly. “He’s dead. He was murdered last night.”

“You lied to me?” Sage said in dismay. “Not that it matters. I knew he was dead the second I saw him and his friend—who’s also dead. They’re here, and they’re ghosts.”

Mike rolled his eyes. “Look. I don’t know what you’re trying to pull…”

“I’m not lying,” Sage protested. “I can see—”

“Dead people? That worked in the movie, but not with me.” Mike looked pointedly at the drink Sage was holding. “Maybe it’s time to ease up on those.”

“Damn it! It’s the truth. I can see ghosts, and that’s what the guy is. A ghost.”

Figuring he’d play along to see what Sage would do next to try to convince him, Mike asked, “What’s he wearing?”

“Jeans, a blue work shirt, over a dark red T-shirt.”

Okay. He was here last night and saw Watts. But why the games?

“Am I right?” Sage asked.

“Yeah. Lucky guess. Half the guys here are in jeans and blue shirts.”

“Not work shirts.” Sage looked around, then pointed. “They’re right over there. Honest.”

* * * *

“The detective’s here,” Jon said, nodding toward him.

“Harris?” Brody looked. “Well, damn. I told you he was good.”

“Who’s he talking to?”

“You’re asking me?” Brody replied. “I never… What the hell?”

“What’s wrong?”

“Whoever the other guy is, he sees us. He’s looking right at us. I mean at us.”

“He can’t be.”

“Oh, yeah? Move away a bit, and watch his eyes.”

Jon did. The man’s gaze followed his movement. “Now what do we do? What if he tells Harris he sees us?”

“I think he already has, from the look of disbelief on Harris’ face.” Brody chortled. “I bet Harris is about to call the guys in the white coats. Come on.” He walked toward Harris and the other man.

“By all that’s holy, he’s here,” the man who’d seen them said to Harris. “In fact, he, they’re, coming over.”

“Sage…” Harris sighed. “I know you believe what you’re saying but it’s impossible. Dead people don’t come back, except in bad movies. If I were you, I’d go home and sleep it off. That’s what I’m going to do.” He smiled. “Well, not the sleeping off part. I haven’t been drinking.” He started toward the door, stopped, and asked Sage, “Were you here last night?”

Sage looked as if he wasn’t going to answer, then nodded. “I was. So was he. The guy in the picture. I was going to tell you that when you took off for the bar.”

“Alone?”

“He was when I saw him. Over there.” Sage pointed to a table in a dark corner of the room. “I didn’t stick around for very long so…” Sage shrugged.

“Okay. Thanks. That helps. Is there anyone else here now who was around last night?”

Sage looked around. “Him, I think, and that couple over there,” he replied, pointing out the men.

Harris thanked him before heading it their direction. As soon as he was gone, Sage looked directly at Jon. “He doesn’t believe me, but I do see you.”

“I know,” Jon replied. “What are you? I mean…”

“I think he’s a medium,” Brody said. “Right?”

“Yes,” Sage replied. “That’s the term for it.” He grimaced. “Unfortunately, when people hear it, they think of some woman dressed like a gypsy, working out of a tent in a carnival, or a sleazy storefront shop. I’d rather die than do something like that.”

“Dying’s not all it’s cracked up to be, so I’d pass if I were you. By the way, I’m Brody and you know he’s Jon.”

Sage started to hold out his hand, stopping with an embarrassed wince. “Can we go somewhere less public? People are beginning to look at me funny.”

Brody laughed. “Sure. Where?”

“My office isn’t far from here.”

“Lead the way.”

“Why are we going with him?” Jon whispered as they followed Sage out of the club.

“Because you can talk to him and he can tell Harris what you know that might be relevant to why you were killed.”

“I don’t think Harris would believe him.”

“Then we’ll have Sage set up a meeting.”

“Riiiiight.” Jon looked at Brody as if he was crazy.

“I could,” Sage said, obviously having overheard them, now that they were out on the street. “He lives in the same townhouse complex I do, so I see him on and off.”

“We’ll see,” Jon replied doubtfully.

They stopped talking as they walked the few blocks to Sage’s office. The sign on the door said ‘Sage Crewe – Landscape Architect’.

When they were inside, Jon immediately went over to one wall which was covered with sketches and photos of what he presumed were yards and parks Sage had created. “I could happily live next door to this,” he said, tapping one of the park pictures. “But then,” he sighed, “I would happily live anywhere, just to be alive again.”

* * * *

Sage smiled slightly when Brody put his arm around Jon’s shoulders and said, “It could be worse. At least you’ve got me hanging around to keep you company.”

“I’d be crazy by now if you weren’t,” Jon murmured. “How you managed to survive on your own…”

“I have a mission. Not that it’s done me much good. Five years and all I have to show for it is zilch.”

“How did you die?” Sage asked.

“Shot by someone who didn’t like that I was an undercover cop. They never found out who did it, so I’m stuck here. Once in a while I meet someone like Jon, but they’ve all moved on.”

Sage sat in one of the chairs along the wall under the sketches and photos, gesturing for the ghosts to take the other ones, “If you can.”

Brody snorted. “Of course we can. You think we’ll sink through a chair?”

“You probably wouldn’t,” Sage retorted. “But I met a ghost a while back who was newly dead. He had trouble staying materialized, to say the least of in one place if he wasn’t standing on the ground. I learned then that it takes a lot of willpower to stay visible and interact with the real world.”

“Not for me,” Jon protested. “I was there, watching, sitting on a retaining wall when the…when my body was found and the cops showed up.” He shivered. “I think I’d have passed on that, given the choice.”

“I take it you don’t know who killed you,” Sage replied in sympathy mixed with, he realized, a bit of ghoulish interest.

“I wouldn’t be here if I did,” Jon said scathingly.

“Not true, from what I understand,” Sage retorted. “Even if you did, you won’t be free until he’s caught.” He glanced at Brody. “Right?”

“Sometimes,” Brody replied. “I think it’s… Well, honestly I don’t know what makes the difference between getting closure when you find out who killed you and not being able to move on until the killer’s caught.”

Sage tapped his lip. “Maybe, it depends on whether the killer’s dead?”

Brody nodded. “Possibly. It would be hard to bring them to justice in that case.”

“Well, my killer’s still around,” Jon said. “I mean, it’s only been a day. I’m betting no one’s offed him in the last twenty-four hours.”

“Probably not,” Sage agreed. “I take it you don’t know who it was. All right. Stupid question. You wouldn’t be here if you did.”

Brody held up a finger. “Not logical. He could know, but with no way to tell anyone, there’s no resolution.”

“Which is where I come in,” Sage replied. “If you can figure it out, I can tell Mike Harris.”

“Uh-huh.” Brody snorted. “I got the feeling from listening to the two of you that he thinks you’re a few cards short of a full deck.”

Sage’s shoulders slumped. “Yeah. I’m afraid so.” His expression brightened. “But if we had proof, then he’d have to listen.”

“How are we going to get it?” Jon asked. “I don’t remember anything from yesterday. Zilch, to quote Brody.”

‘Shared pain is lessened,shared joy is increased, thus do we refute entropy.’ Spider Robinson

 

Exclusive Excerpt: Fever in the Dark: A Jane Lawless Mystery by Ellen Hart

In FEVER IN THE DARK by MWA Edgars Grand Master Ellen Hart, Fiona and Annie return home from their one year anniversary trip to discover that their poignant proposal video has been posted on YouTube and has garnered hundreds of thousands of hits. The video is on the verge of going viral, and there’s enormous media interest in Fiona and Annie, as their fame comes just on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage across the country. As some of the attention starts to turn vicious, Fiona pulls in an old friend, private investigator Jane Lawless, to help separate the harmless threats from the potentially harmful.

As the media storm continues to grow, Fiona revels in the attention, but Annie is furious. Fiona has always known that Annie has secrets, but her newfound notoriety threatens to bring Annie’s past straight to their door. And then, when a murder occurs and Annie and Fiona are both suspects, it’s up to Jane to prove their innocence…although the more she learns, the more she starts to wonder whether they actually are innocent.

Blurb:

Annie’s Notebook

Letter #2

Dearest Dirtbag:

A new year.  A new letter.  Lots to celebrate, right?  I’m sure Bridget and Noah are still the golden couple, and you still think I’m a despicable home-wrecker.  You’re glad I had to good sense to disappear.  Which means the new year changes nothing.

Wanna know a secret?  Bridget flew to Boston right after New Years.  I wondered when one of you would figure out where I was and come calling.  She came to Sharif’s apartment yesterday while I was here at the coffeeshop, demanded to know where I was.  Like a good soldier, he lied for me, said he had no idea what she was talking about.  But Bridget spotted my leather jacket tossed over one of the chairs in the living room, so he was busted and had to come clean.

You’re probably not interested, but I’ll give you the blow by blow.

Bridget found me sitting at “my” table in the coffeehouse.  At first, I couldn’t believe she was right there in front of me.  I was so excited I burst out of my chair and hugged her.  We held each other for a long time.  But then, she didn’t know I’m a home-wrecker.  She sat down, took off her gloves.  It was beastly cold and her clothes were way too Pasadena to keep her warm.  I offered to get her something hot to drink.  She seemed kind of nervous, so she got right to the point, like she always does.  (I’ll do this like I’m writing a novel.  Just so you know, it’s the complete truth.)

“Why did you leave school?” Bridget asked.  “Leave home?  Why did you run away and not tell anyone where you’d gone?  You never even said goodbye the night of the wedding.  I didn’t know you’d left until Noah and I got back from our honeymoon.”

I sidestepped the question.  “Did you have a wonderful time?  Santorini, right?  Are the sunsets as spectacular as they say?  Did you stay in one of those pristine, white-washed villas?”

Reluctantly, for it wasn’t what she’d come to discuss, she did give me a few details.  I could see she still glowed when she talked about her husband, her new life.  Eventually, she came back to her questions.

“I kind of got into it with Mom and Dad,” I said as an explanation.

“I figured as much.  But they wouldn’t tell me what it was about.”

“No?”

“And anyway, what’s that got to do with me?  I didn’t do anything to upset you, did I?  Why wouldn’t you let me know where you were?”

I gave her that tried-and-true cliche:  “It’s complicated.”

She took my hand.  “Please, Annie.  Tell me what’s wrong.”

It was such a broad question I almost laughed.  “I’m gay,” I said.  Her reaction was about what I had expected–like watching a rock hit a windshield in slow motion.

“Are you…sure?” she asked.

“Yup,” I said.  “I like to have sex with women, not men.  That’s pretty much the definition.”

Her lips formed an “O,” as if she might say something more, but she remained silent.  She began to fidget, releasing my hand and taking my napkin, wiping a coffee spill off the table.

“Are you surprised?” I asked.

“Well, yeah,” she said.  “You’d think I’d know if my sister was gay.”

“Not necessarily.  You have no idea how blind straight people can be.”

That caused a frown, a moment of deep indignation.  “You don’t look like a lesbian.”

“What’s a lesbian look like?”

“You know.  I don’t have to spell it out.”

“Ugly?  Mannish?  Sad?  Hostile?  I can think of a lot of straight people who fit that definition.”

“Don’t be obnoxious.”

We were off on a tangent which had nothing to do with why I’d actually left.  I felt sorry for her because she was so completely in the dark.  That’s when I wondered if I should tell her the truth.  But no, you’ll be relieved to hear that I didn’t.  I couldn’t.

At some point in the conversation, Bridget covered her stomach with her hand.

Realizing what the gesture might mean, I asked, “Are you pregnant?”

“Three months.  I’m not showing yet.”

“Are you…happy about it?  Is Noah?”

Her eyes shimmered.  “Over the moon.  Both of us.”

That was the end of the conversation, as far as I was concerned.  But she wasn’t done.

“Do you have…a girlfriend?”  Saying the last word seemed to cause her actual pain.

“Several.”  I wasn’t seeing anyone.  I sure wasn’t going to tell her that it had taken me a year to work up the nerve to leave the apartment and walk to a coffeehouse a block away.

“Nobody special?”

“I like to keep my options open.”  Such a load of bull.

“You know, Annie, there are people who can help you…change…who you think you are.”

“I’m perfectly happy with who I am.”

“Then why leave home?  Why change your life so radically?”

“Because nobody in my family shares that opinion.  I choose to be around people who support me.  Think about it.  Would you want to spend your life with people who hate your husband, who say he’s the scum of the earth and you were a fool for marrying him?”

“Now you’re being ridiculous,” she said.   She asked about school.

I told her I was rethinking my decision to become a doctor.  That’s true.  I’ve got another profession in mind.  And no, I’m not planning on taking up stripping.

Oddly, after a few more minutes, we didn’t seem to have much to say to each other.

I told her to go home.  To have a safe journey.  She asked if she could tell you where I was living.  I told her no.  If I wanted to get in touch, I would.  By the end of the conversation, I was shivering inside.  I don’t think she saw it, or if she did, she didn’t say anything.  There was no way she could understand and no way for me to explain it.  Certainly not that day.  Probably never.

And so she left.

Are you happy?  Do you consider me a grownup now?  Did I pass your test?

Fuck you.

 

Exclusive Excerpt: The Mysteries of the Curiosities (Snow & Winter Book 2) by C.S. Poe

Excerpt:

I’m the first person to understand that murder isn’t great for business.

So the fact that, before I knew it, museum security had ushered patrons out, suspicious old me had been forbidden to leave, and the director had escorted Calvin and Quinn across the massive room, more or less imploring the NYPD to make it quick and get the hell out, was not any surprise to me.

No one wants a dead exotic dancer to outshine the newest dinosaur exhibit.

Bad for donations, I imagine.

Calvin stopped several feet away from me, put a hand on his hip, and ushered me over with one snap of his wrist.

I stepped away from the nearby display I had been planted at while waiting. “I only found her,” I said, reaching his side.

Calvin set both hands on his hips. “What did I tell you?” he whispered. “I told you to go to your father’s. This is not there. What the hell are you doing here?”

“I got another note after leaving the precinct,” I whispered back, rather loudly. “It had this address, so I decided to come. It’s a public place—what was going to happen to me?”

“The same thing that happened to this woman,” Calvin said.

“Well, it didn’t,” I answered stupidly, crossing my arms. “I’m fine.”

Calvin pinched the bridge of his nose. “Sebastian, how did you not learn the first time? How many different ways to do I have to tell you how suspicious you look in these situations?”

“Oh, please,” I hissed. “She’s been dead at least twelve hours. I’ve got alibis for days.”

“And if you keep popping up every time a dead person does, sooner or later you will be seen as a convenient suspect.”

“I don’t even know these people. I have no motive,” I argued.

Calvin raised a finger to silence me. “Motive isn’t important. One person’s reason to kill may not be understood, but it was sound enough for them in the moment.”

I groaned and dropped my head down. “For fuck’s sake, Calvin. Fine. My bad, okay?”

“My bad?” he echoed, voice deep and very much not amused.

“Not the time or the place, gentlemen,” Quinn finally said. “Calvin caught me up on all this shit,” she continued, looking up at me. “What was this new note?”

I reached into my pocket and removed the paper. “I stopped on my street to see—everything. Someone threw a brick at me. And no, I didn’t see who.”

Quinn took the paper, and Calvin read it over her shoulder.

“With this address and the mention of the whale, I thought it must have been talking about that guy.” I motioned above us. “But obviously I got here and there was nothing. I almost left until I remembered this display here. It’s a sperm whale.”

“Yes, fascinating,” Quinn remarked.

“Sort of. Squids and sperm whales are—”

“Focus, Seb,” Calvin muttered.

I huffed and turned to point at the display. “So I came over here and found a newspaper clipping.” I held it up next. “It’s an original, I think. It’s one of P.T. Barnum’s ads for his Feejee Mermaid.”

“That’s the second time you’ve mentioned Barnum,” Quinn said.

“Uh, I guess that’s true,” I said when I recalled my mention of the bricks and the story of Barnum’s unique advertising. “There’s another note on the back.” I turned it around for both detectives to see. “That’s when I saw Meredith.”

Calvin glanced up from the note, narrowing his eyes. “Meredith?”

“She goes by Crystal. A dancer, I think. I called the number on the business card in her purse.”

Calvin took a breath and raised his hands, sort of like he wanted to strangle me, but Quinn took his jacket sleeve and tugged him away to look at the body.

I pulled my phone out once I was alone again. I was supposed to solve the murder. Not that I wanted to win a prize, but anything learned could bring us one step closer to catching a mistake this maniac made and taking them down before another person could be hurt. I pulled up the web browser and briefly checked out Ricky’s online presence. Lots of scantily clad ladies and dubious use of Photoshop. It didn’t look like anything particularly special—one gentlemen’s club is like all the others.

I tried searching for any news related to the club. Maybe there was some dirt on the owner, or bad blood between rival businesses. If I lived anywhere else, I’d say that was ridiculous, that this poor woman just got jumped and the tragedy was that there was no reason for her death, but I live in New York City and last Christmas I was stalked by a guy who planted a heart under the floorboards of my store.

Anything is possible.

Nothing of any particular interest was showing up in Google’s news feed for Ricky’s, other than some sizzling winter ball they’d had in January.

I looked over at the group of police and a few museum personnel. Calvin had climbed into the display and was looking down at Meredith. I squinted—it was hard to see his expression from where I was. But Calvin had certain ticks I had begun picking up on in his posture that helped me understand his mood when it was difficult to read his face. And I think he was surprised just then, because he had a hand over his mouth, rubbing his jaw.

That was interesting to me.

Did Calvin know her?

Not personally, of course. He may have been in the closet until recently, but I knew Calvin wasn’t one for lap dances from ladies either. Now I would certainly sit on his lap and show him a good time, but I drew the line at putting on glitter.

“Fuck,” I murmured to myself, because now I had the image in my head of me naked, riding Calvin’s cock, and having the greatest of times, and that was so not what I should be thinking about at a murder scene. “Get it together,” I muttered.

I caught a uniformed officer glancing at me in confusion.

I squared my shoulders and took an extra second to look at Calvin as a professional, and not my unbelievably gorgeous boyfriend, which was admittedly a little hard to do. He was saying something to Quinn, who appeared to agree with him. Maybe Meredith had been on the wrong side of the law before. But if Calvin knew her, it had definitely been serious. A suspect in a murder case?

I looked down at my phone again and tried a few keywords that included Meredith, Ricky’s, and murder. I found exactly what I was hoping for, third link down on the list. NYC Exotic Dancer Suspect in Daughter’s Death. That didn’t paint Meredith in a particularly good light. I clicked the link and expanded the page to better read the text. It was a case from two years ago, led by the recently promoted Detective Calvin Winter. DNA evidence had been incorrectly handled at the scene and was unusable in laboratory testing. Meredith’s alibis had apparently been suspicious, but her boss had backed her statement, and Calvin had ultimately ended up with no legal way to prove she had bludgeoned her teen daughter to death.

“Calvin!” I called out, and when a few officers looked at me, I followed up with, “I mean, Detective Winter. Could you come here?”

Calvin got out of the display and walked toward me. “What?” he asked in a low tone.

I held out my phone. “This is the same lady, isn’t it?”

He looked at the article. “Yes. How did you find this?”

I shrugged. “Seemed like she was familiar to you.”

Calvin’s mouth formed a tight line and he gave my phone back. “It’s a cold case. Not enough evidence to convict her, but everyone knew she did it.”

“The note said I had to prove the murder.”

Calvin raised a hand to stop me. “No.”

“But—”

“No. Stop right now, Seb.”

“But what if it leads us one step closer to who did this? You’re going to ignore that chance to stop this person?”

“I’m not, no. But you are.”

“Like hell.”

Calvin took a long breath. “We’re not having this argument again. Plant your ass on your father’s couch and stay out of trouble.”

“It seems pretty suspicious to me that one of your cold case suspects was murdered,” I said without regard to Calvin’s statement. “What about someone seeking revenge? The daughter’s father, maybe? A friend? Did the daughter have a boyfriend? Someone who would want to bring closure. Someone who clearly knew the mother was guilty.”

“I know how to do my job,” Calvin retorted.

“I didn’t say you couldn’t. I’m just trying to work this out.”

“Sebastian, what’s your degree in?” Calvin interrupted.

“My what?”

“Degree.”

“Uh… fine art.”

“Not criminal justice?”

“I get it,” I stated, crossing my arms.

“No, you don’t,” he said before taking another breath. “Baby, I know you’re smart. I know you’ve got a knack for figuring this shit out. You don’t have to prove it to me.”

“I’m not trying to—”

“This is dangerous. Do you not remember what happened last time?”

All too well, actually. And the guilt hit me like a truck out of control on a freeway. If Calvin ever got hurt again because of my own stupidity, I don’t know what I’d do with myself.

It was painful to swallow. I stared at my shoes. “Sorry,” I whispered.

“I only want you to be safe,” Calvin said after a beat. “If—If your expertise were ever required for me to solve a case, I’d call on them.”

That made me look up. “You would?”

“Yeah.”

“Not that you expect to ever need someone skilled in trinkets from Victorian America to solve a murder.”

“You helped with Tamerlane,” Calvin pointed out.

“I guess.”

“Seb, I don’t want anyone questioning your involvement in this. You understand that, right?”

I nodded. I was done arguing. I hated fighting with him. I really did. I loved Calvin too much to bicker, especially when he was right and I was wrong and I knew that from the start.

But the urge to put the mystery to bed myself was still overwhelming. Maybe I did subconsciously crave some sort of way to prove I was smart. That I was clever. Useful, even. That what I did with my life made a difference, like Calvin’s.

Jesus. I needed a hug or something.

“Can I wait at your place tonight?” I asked.

“I’m going to be working—”

“Come home,” I insisted. “Please?”

Someone from behind called my name, and we both turned.

“N-Neil?” I heard myself stutter.

Neil stood a few feet away, holding a forensic kit in one hand. “Why are you here?” he asked me.

“Uh… getting into trouble. Per usual.”

Neil looked at Calvin. “Detective Winter,” he said coolly.

“Millett,” Calvin said with a nod.

This wasn’t awkward at all.

What were the chances my ex would be the CSU detective assigned to collect evidence?

Someone roll the week back to Monday. I demand a do-over.

I cleared my throat. “Has it gotten sufficiently uncomfortable?”

“Yes,” Neil answered.

“Okay, good. I’m leaving now,” I answered.

“I’ll have an officer drive you,” Calvin said. “To my place.”

I caught the sour look that took over Neil’s face. “Thanks,” I answered.

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