Authors: Lynn Emery
Tags: #paranormal, #supernatural, #female sleuth, #paranormal mystery, #gothic mystery, #gothic suspense
Copyright 2015 Margaret Emery Hubbard
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Table of Contents
Darker Shade of Midnight
Between Dusk and Dawn
Only By Moonlight
Charmaine Joliet – social worker by training and education, with
telepathic ability. Though for years she believed her abusive
mother and doctors who said she suffered from
Jessi Joliet – Charmaine’s younger sister, a former “escort” and
recovered drug user. Diagnosed as schizophrenic as a child,
Charmaine was the first and so far only one who realized Jessi sees
and hears dead people.
~Call 1-800-Spirits if you need to get rid of an annoying
(Note: Vampires, werewolves, goblins and trolls require
The Grand Intro
Charmaine moved slowly through the
nineteenth century mansion. Noise from traffic on St. Charles
Avenue a block away contrasted with the otherworldly atmosphere
inside. The muffled swish of cars and rumble of delivery trucks
sounded odd. Late afternoon sunshine slanted through windows, the
heavy drapes pulled back. Still, deep brown antique furniture made
the house seem dark.
“This is beyond creepy. Don’t know how I let
you talk me into this,” Jessi mumbled. She glanced at a window to
her left. “Real cozy, if you’re into haunted houses where people
end up dead.”
“Anything?” Charmaine said, ignoring her
“Dead men tell no tales,” Jessi replied.
Then she went into a fit of giggles. “Get it? That old saying…”
“Yeah, I get it. Will you focus please?
We’re here to do a job. Mrs. Fortsall paid a hefty fee for us to
get rid of her problem. And no smoking,” Charmaine added when she
saw Jessi fishing in the pocket of her leather Moto jacket.
“I’m cutting back. Nicotine gum.” Jessi held
up a small square then popped it into her mouth. She chewed for a
“Humph.” Charmaine cracked a brief smile.
She went back to scanning the large parlor for signs of paranormal
She dared not bring too much attention to
her younger sister’s new healthy routine. Jessi breathed rebellion.
Any sign that Charmaine was turning into an authority figure could
trigger an outbreak. Still Charmaine relished having Jessi as a
sidekick. Away from her dangerous lifestyle of drugs and
prostitution, Jessi became a funny intelligent twenty-something
taking online college courses. Her sister deserved a good life
after the childhood she’d been through; the hell they’d both been
through as kids. Maybe they could end up with normal lives after
all. When they weren’t taking gigs to track down troublesome things
that go bump in the night. Or day. Charmaine paused. Then she swung
around as if to extend her invisible psychic antennae.
“Did you hear a noise?”
“Probably a cat in the alley. Hate those
things. Relax,” Jessi drawled. “Going upstairs.”
“Sounded like something dragging across the
floor upstairs, not a cat. Be careful. Maybe Mrs. Fontaine is just
a superstitious lady with a bit of paranoia tossed in. But you
never know.” Charmaine walked to a glass cabinet. Crystal and blown
glass figurines stared back at her. A collection of animals and
tiny people seemed to question what she was doing disturbing them.
“Fortune worth of doo-dads just on one shelf.”
“Huh?” Jessi’s said over a shoulder just as
she went through an archway to the hall.
“Nothing.” Charmaine figured it best not to
give little sis ideas for bringing in extra income. She wasn’t
totally reformed yet.
“Yes, mother,” Jessi wisecracked. “Damn.
This staircase is bigger than the shotgun house we grew up in.”
“The closets are bigger than the house we
grew up in,” Charmaine joked to herself, because she was alone
Totally alone. Nothing moved except leaves
on the house plant stirred by the cool air from heating vents. The
formal living room looked like something out of Architectural
Digest. Rich dark oak tables and chairs contrasted with oak wood
floors in a lighter color. Not that much of the floors could be
seen. Beautiful cream and ruby red wool rugs covered them. Pale
green draperies were pulled back from the windows. Cream gauzy
curtains beneath the draperies let in light but kept a private
feel. Charmaine gave up resisting the urge to touch the rich
fabrics of the sofas. A few leather chairs were mixed in as
She moved across the hallway that bisected
the mansion. A long formal dining room that doubled as a ballroom
took her breath away. She marveled that people lived like this. She
glanced up at the elaborate crystal and gold chandelier. The
plaster of Paris ceiling was painted in a pattern that complimented
the enormous wool rug. A table capable of seating twenty-five
people stretched down the center. More chairs lined the walls.
Beautiful and untouched. That’s what felt weird. The place didn’t
feel lived in. She moved through the other rooms and picked up
human vibes, stronger in the kitchen.
“The cook or hired caterers for her
parties,” Charmaine said aloud to no one. Still it was spotless
with everything in place.
The sprawling library was a different
matter. Raw male energy filled the room. Two walls contained large
bookcases. A narrow yet sturdy looking staircase on one wall led up
to a balcony with another bookcase. Furniture just as rich filled
the room. The massive oak desk dominated the room. Along another
wall a set in credenza held a computer with two monitors and
another chair. An oil portrait of a stern looking man hung over the
“My husband’s domain,” a husky female voice
Charmaine started and spun around. “Shit, I
“What?” The tall auburn-haired woman
strolled in with one professionally perfect eyebrow raised.
No need to say she almost pulled a gun and
shot her crazy ass, which was on the tip of Charmaine’s tongue.
Rule number five on Charmaine’s small business tip list – don’t
shoot your client; especially one with deep pockets. Your creditors
will not be pleased.
“Sorry Mrs. Forstall. I thought you’d be
gone until at least seven tonight,” Charmaine said, recovering
quickly. Images of bills due helped her overcome being royally
pissed by the woman. Again.
Mrs. Forstall chuckled deep in her throat.
She shrugged and tossed her purse onto a nearby chair. Then she
crossed to the bar. “I got curious about how ghost hunters work.
Can you get rid of whatever is menacing this house today?”
“We’re not ‘ghost hunters’. And I’m afraid
it doesn’t work like that,” Charmaine drawled. The woman must have
majored in annoying the lower classes at her fancy private
“Well how does it work then?” Mrs. Forstall
gracefully turned to Charmaine again. She held a tumbler of brandy
in one hand.
“We assess security first off. You’d be
surprised at how many ‘ghostly’ happenings turn out to be a crime
about to take place.” Charmaine continued to circle the room,
examining objects at she went.
“Something is stalking me in my own home,”
Mrs. Forstall said.
Charmaine looked at her sharply. Loretta
Chevalier Forstall wasn’t joking, nor was she play-acting. Her hand
shook as she raised the glass to her mouth. Born into one of the
old New Orleans families, she’d married into another equally
distinguished old family. Mrs. Forstall was still on the sunny side
of forty; at thirty-seven she was eight years older than
“So far we haven’t found anything, not one
sinister whisper. No objects floating on their own. No heavy
footsteps,” Charmaine said. She turned back to gaze at the leather
“Don’t patronize me, Ms. Joliet,” Mrs.
Forstall snapped. “I’m not some elderly nincompoop with too much
time on my hands and a wild imagination.”
Charmaine took a deep breath and faced Mrs.
Forstall. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound like I was making fun
of you. I can see your fear is real. Let’s go over what’s been
Mrs. Forstall blinked back tears. She put a
hand to her forehead and then sat down on a leather sofa nearby.
“Do I have to?”
“Being here might help you think of details
you didn’t recall at my office.” Charmaine sat beside her and
assumed a sympathetic expression. “No rush, just take it slow.”
“For the past three months I haven’t felt
comfortable here. Not since my husband... went to oversee the Rome
branch of his business.”
Charmaine and Jessi figured that was code
for he left her for another woman. But they were still checking out
the family and her story. “He took your children with him.”
“No, Alyssa only. Grayson is away at school.
I told you all of this.” Mrs. Forstall glanced at Charmaine.
“You’re checking to see if I keep my story straight.”
“You’ve been shaken up. I want to make sure
I have it right. That’s all.” Charmaine said with a business-like
nod. “Go on.”
“Grayson was accepted into Williams College.
I thought he was too young to go so far from home, but my husband
disagreed.” Mrs. Forstall’s expression turned sour. She finished
off the drink and frowned at the empty glass.
“You didn’t mind your youngest going to
Italy?” Charmaine tilted her head to one side as if the angle would
afford clear insight.
“She’d never been abroad, and she adores her
father,” Mrs. Forstall said in a flat tone. “You said ‘we’. I hired
you. I don’t want strangers mixing in my personal affairs.”
“Isn’t part of our business arrangement,”
Mrs. Forstall said crisply and stood, drink in hand. She started to
say more, but a loud thump stopped her. She dropped the glass. “Oh
God. It’s starting before daylight now, that horrible sound.”
“I doubt it,” Charmaine murmured. She stood
and walked to the open door leading to hallway.