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Authors: Elizabeth Eagan-Cox

Tags: #Mystery, #Fantasy

A Ghost to Die For

BOOK: A Ghost to Die For
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A Ghost to Die For

Shannan Delaney Paranormal Mystery Series, Vol, 5


by Elizabeth Eagan-Cox



2012 Elizabeth Eagan-Cox. All Rights Reserved  


First  Print Edition, February 2013


Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.


All rights reserved. No part of the book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Author or Publisher, excepting brief quotes to be used in reviews.


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Chapter 1

Alex was exactly where he said he would be. Not that I doubted him, but wandering through a cemetery on Halloween evening, looking for a giant Celtic cross monument, I began to wonder if I would find him. Frustrated and feeling lost, I stopped in my tracks and surveyed the grounds, looking out and over a fence hedge of ivy, I spotted the giant cross about sixty feet away. I quickened my pace and arrived slightly out of breath and very relieved to see Alex standing underneath the cross.

“You are late, that’s not like you,” Alex commented. His tone of concern was obvious, he was not complaining.

“I had trouble finding the right path. As I entered the front gates one of the staff greeted me, and then he lent me a flashlight and pointed me in the opposite direction from where I should have started. Of course I did not know that, consequently I headed out in the wrong direction. I’ve been wandering about following one path, then another, until I saw a signpost that pointed this way to the Celtic Cross Monument. I’ve had a thorough walking tour of Mount Esperanza Memorial Park. I’ve been hoofing it for the better part of the hour. Oh, and I wasn’t able to get cell phone reception here.” If Alex read into my explanation a dreary sense of whining, he was correct. I was complaining.

He hugged me. “Here, have a seat. This concrete bench is not very comfortable, but we won’t be here long, I promise.”

I sat down and pulled my trench coat in close around me. “It is chilly tonight. Tell me again, why am I your emergency date for this evening’s event.” I tried to smile.

“Ah, yes. My colleague Jenna Hayes was supposed to be here, but she called this afternoon with an excuse, saying she had her little nephew to baby-sit and take him out for trick-or-treating, something about his mom having come down ill, and so on. Anyway, I sincerely appreciate you taking me up on my unusual, albeit, very appropriate Halloween adventure. I think you’ll like the presentation of Haunted Lit.”

I gave Alex a side-glance look, conveying my doubts. “So, as you briefly explained in your phone call, this Haunted Lit is some sort of entertainment? And a fund-raiser?”

“Yes. The evening’s event is a fund-raiser for ongoing restoration here at Mount Esperanza. The concept is that a traveling troupe of actors with audience members in tow, has scheduled stops throughout the cemetery and at each stop they perform a skit from a well-known play, poem or such. Here at the Celtic Cross Monument, they will perform Edgar Allen Poe’s poem,
The Raven
. We’re here to politely cheer them on and keep guard over the dead.”

I looked at Alex and it dawned on me he was dressed in costume. He looked the part of an actor in Haunted Lit as if he would be the actor reciting Poe’s famous poem. Dressed all in black, as the magician he actually is, but he wasn’t in his modern stage apparel. Alex was the epitome of a Victorian era magician, dressed in formal black attire, black cape and top hat, with a sleek silver-domed walking stick at his side. “You are a handsome devil, decked out like that. Had I known, I could have scared up some kind of costume.” I smiled and then realized that flirting with Alex put me into a much better mood.

“Let’s not be too trivial, we are serving a greater good, keeping watch over the graves in our immediate circle.” Alex was serious and his comment brought me back to the reason we were here.

We sat on a small bench directly underneath the huge Celtic cross. I looked up and estimated the cross must be at least fifteen feet high. The bench was situated on a circle of flat concrete stones that stretched out in a diameter that seemed to equal the height of the cross. I let my gaze wander out to the edge of the pavement. Small headstones marked the diameter, much like numerals mark the face of a clock. I looked all the way around and counted twelve gravesites. Until that very moment, I had not realized we were encircled by graves. Wide-eyed, I looked to Alex and asked, “You mean to say, we are guarding these twelve graves?”

“Yes. And for good reason, the grave directly in front of us, it is the grave of Andalyn Dixon, a young woman who passed on Halloween night in 1892, on her twenty-first birthday. She is rumored to have died with a secret on her lips regarding a treasure in stolen bank funds. Reportedly, she was scared to death by the presence of a ghost. Her time of death is at 9:32. And that is exactly the time that the troupe will be here to perform
The Raven

“Her grave needs guarding because people try to...what? Communicate with her? Vandalize the site? Dig her up? Alex, stop being so cryptic, I want the details.”

Alex glanced at his watch and then said, “We have only a few minutes before the actors and their audience shows up, listen carefully. I’ll explain in full later. According to legend, Andalyn will try to communicate with a person she feels she can trust, and she’ll do this on Halloween night at the exact minute of her death in order to let her story be told. She was vilified, as the accomplice to one of San Diego’s most famous bank scams.

The two men responsible got away clean and Andalyn was held responsible, though legally, nothing ever came of it. However, social circles of her time ostracized her. Her death was a complete mystery, I mean, scared to death by a ghost? How factual can that be? Anyway, many people, too many in fact, would love to be the person that Andalyn communicates with. Most of these so-called well-meaning people, who seek to clear Andalyn’s reputation, are just scam artists out to make a name for themselves as mediums, psychics, soothsayers, and such. So on the eve of Haunted Lit, we, the members of Mount Esperanza’s Restoration Committee have a person on site, who can, shall we say, intervene and debunk any attempt to claim that Andalyn Dixon is present.”

I nodded in agreement. I heard voices and footsteps behind me. I turned to see that the crowd of actors and audience members were approaching. I leaned into Alex and whispered in his ear, “And who better to have on guard to debunk a scam than a professional magician who knows all the tricks of the trade.”

Alex gave me an intimate hug, a sly wink and then shushed me. “Quiet now, the performance is about to begin.”




Chapter 2

“What did you think of Haunted Lit?” Alex asked.

I cradled my cup of coffee in both hands. The ambiance of the cafe near the boardwalk at Seaport Village was perfect. We sat at a candlelit table next to a window where the view of the harbor was appropriately spooky for Halloween night. Tendrils of fog rolled in over the harbor and caressed the cafe’s windows. “I liked it. Though, where I’m from, originally, not Chicago, I doubt that Mississippians would take kindly to the concept of the immersive theater experience, at least not on the hallowed ground of a cemetery and certainly not on All Hallows Eve. Is this type of entertainment a California thing?”

Alex hesitated, obviously he was weighing his response. “I know of other cemetery associations who have had great success with immersive theater at cemeteries and memorial parks. One that is very successful is in Altadena, at the Mountain View Cemetery. Their annual Halloween presentation is called Wicked Lit. We, the Mount Esperanza Restoration Committee, consulted with them before deciding to do our
Haunted Lit.
Honestly, while it may appear avant-garde, the concept is not new, nor unique to the California performance art scene. In fact, Shannon, Victorians of the late 1800s held similar types of performance theater events, it was referred to as promenade theater in that century. And they purposely chose venues such as mausoleums, morgues and cemeteries.”

“Hmm, I see.” I gazed out the window for just a moment in an attempt to hide my thoughts. Too often Alex could read my thoughts without the slightest hint on my face. I’m sure he suspects that I will check up on his facts the moment I have the opportunity to ask an eyewitness to the Victorian entertainment culture, my very own ghost guide, the other magician in my life, Eric Blackthorne, Alex’s ancestor from the 1800s. I turned from the view of the foggy harbor to face Alex, and said, “I give lots of credit to the actor who portrayed Poe and his recital of
The Raven
. He was superb, just the right touch of madness and melancholy. And thankfully, no person attempted to contact the dead. That reminds me, Alex, what’s the background on this young woman, uh, Andalyn Dixon?”

Alex reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a creased piece of paper, he unfolded it, “If I may, I’ll read this to you. It’s a brief story about the crime she is associated with. The article comes from a California history magazine that is now defunct, it was written a few years ago.”

I leaned across the table toward Alex. “I’d love to hear it.”

“October Hoax Evokes Financial Fright, that’s the title.” Alex looked at me and I nodded for him to continue. “On an early October morning in 1891, California National Bank president J.W. Collins quietly posted a sign on the bank’s front door that stated that the bank is closed temporarily. This was Collins’ final act in a scheme to swindle bank customers of their holdings, a plan that had been in the works since 1888.

“Collins and fellow scam artist D. D. Dare arrived on the San Diego scene at the height of the city’s boom era. The smell of money was in the air and Collins and Dare quickly wormed their way into the parlors of San Diego’s wealthy society. Historian Elizabeth MacPhail described them as two suave newcomers who were accepted into the community as respected citizens without any investigation into their past. Too bad for San Diegans. Had someone investigated they would have discovered that Collins was linked to a bank failure in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and that Dare, a former photographer, had no investment expertise, whatsoever.

“The famous Hotel Del Coronado opened its doors February 19, 1888, and San Diego quickly became the hot spot for vacationers, speculators and entrepreneurs. The influx of capital was phenomenal and the need for banks was immediate. Collins drew upon his wealthy contacts and organized the California National Bank. And for contributing the tidy sum of seven thousand dollars, Dare became the bank’s vice-president. Business was a routine operation for three years, during which time the California National bank honorably served its public, or so it seemed. In actuality, Collins and Dare were methodically embezzling funds.

“By 1891 San Diego’s boom had fizzled. As vice-president, Dare had taken numerous trips to Europe, on the ruse of investing in secure opportunities for bank clients. Meanwhile, Collins was finalizing the last plundering of bank assets. On the fateful morning that Collins closed the bank, a financial examiner discovered that all of the bank’s holdings had been purloined. Consequently, D. D. Dare, who was in Europe at that time, escaped conviction, however Collins was taken into legal custody and charged with embezzlement.

“Collins, still considered a respected citizen, was allowed the luxury of being incarcerated at a downtown hotel, on room arrest, while he waited for trial. While laid up in the hotel suite, Collins requested privacy with only a few friends allowed to visit him. One morning after a visit with a handful of friends, they all left at once and upon Collins closing his hotel room door the report of a single gunshot was heard. His friends, who were only steps away in the hall, immediately crowded into his room and rendered forth a casket to remove Collins’ body in. Within months, rumors circulated that Collins had rooked the public, as sightings of Dare and Collins were reported from Europe.” Alex folded the paper and handed it to me.

“What am I to do with this?” I asked.

“I’m not sure, but I had an inkling you would want a copy, so that is yours.”

“Well, okay.” I put the paper in my purse and looked at Alex. “What I do not understand is that nowhere in that article is the mentioning of Andalyn Dixon. How is she connected?”

“I wondered that too. I asked the secretary at Mount Esperanza and she said that according to general knowledge, Andalyn was one of the friends who ushered Collins’ body out in a casket. Rumor was she was dating one of the men, Collins or Dare, no person could say for sure. She was the only female in Collins’ room on that day. I believe the legal officials either knew she was dating one of them or assumed she was. Near as I can tell, Andalyn Dixon was a popular millinery model for a very fashionable hat salon in San Diego. The secretary over at Mount Esperanza said that a local historian did a write up on Andalyn in 1992, for the century anniversary of her death.”

“A lovely young woman dies from a horrible scare, ghost or not, and the only aspect people are interested in is the so-called link to the bank funds? Seems an injustice if you ask me. I would think that if Collins and Dare were spotted in Europe in the months following the scam, obviously they took all the money with them. And if Andalyn Dixon remained here, which seems obvious, because she died here and was working here as a hat model, then she cannot have had any knowledge of the stolen money. Why else would she continue to work at a millinery shop if she had some wealth to draw on? I think she would have hightailed it off to Europe in the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid style, the way Etta Place did.”

Alex smiled and then he chuckled. “I knew I could bait you. One little article and an outing to a graveyard and you are hooked. Shannon, face it, you cannot resist a cold-case mystery, not even if your life depended on it.”

I made a face at him. “Oh you. Just because I am interested does not mean I will investigate. Tonight’s outing, Haunted Lit, and your story are perfect for Halloween night. But, tomorrow is another day and in fact it is a workday for me, I need to get home and get some sleep. Enough of your tricks, Alex.”

BOOK: A Ghost to Die For
9.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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