Authors: Marley Gibson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Boston New York 2009
Copyright Â© 2009 by Marley Gibson
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Graphia,
an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book,
write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.
Graphia and the Graphia logo are registered trademarks of
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
The text of this book is set in Bembo.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
is on file
Manufactured in the United States of America
EB 10 9 8 7 6 5 43 21
For those who have provided
To Deidre Knight, the best agent evah, who is always there when I need her. I appreciate your knowledge, support, and, most of all, your friendship. You were there, it happened!
To Julia Richardson, an amazing editor, who graciously went on a ghost hunt with me and saw what it was all about. You're the best at what you do and I'm privileged to work with you. And to the entire team at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for all of their support and efforts.
To Maureen Wood ... these characters wouldn't exist if it weren't for you. 'Nuff said.
To Jessica Andersen and Charlene Glatkowski, who are just an e-mail away anytime and always pick me up no matter what. Thanks for the confetti cannon.
To Wendy Toliver and Jenn Echols for their insightful critiques and for making me feel like I was writing something
special. Read all of their books ... they're amazing!
To my special
who need no explanation as to why they're being thanked here: Kristen Painter, Melissa Francis, Gena Showalter, Maria Geraci, Louisa Edwards White, Elaine Spencer, Pamela Harty, Roxanne St. Claire, Kresley Cole, and Jill Monroe. Love you guys! Mean it!
To my awesome friends in the paranormal community who have shared so much of themselves with me: Patrick Burns, Chris Fleming, Jason Hawes, Grant Wilson, Michael and Marti Parry, Mark and Debby Constantino, Scotty Roberts, Bill Murphy, Chip Coffey, Tim Dennis, John Zaffis, Donn Shy, Kathryn Wilson, and Ron Kolek.
To my boss, Matt Raynor, for too many things to list, and to all the folks at work who support and encourage me and lend me their names for characters. To the real Rebecca Asiaf, for her amazing friendship, memorable lunch hours, and being
first fan of this series.
And, as always, to Mike Gibson, for who he is and all he's done.
To DarknessRadio.com's Dave Schrader, my own personal paranormal
cheerleader: Thanks for the support and friendship.
When can we go UFO hunting?
And to his daughter, Keila Schrader,
for being such a sweetheart.
You both rock!
For what is faith unless it is to believe what you do not see?
Only two months in to being a ghost huntress, and I do believe this current case takes the freakin' cake.
I'm sitting in the living room of one Mrs. Millicent Lockhart of 859 Crow Lane here in Radisson, Georgia. Mrs. Lockhart called my team and me in to help find her deceased husband. And I don't mean, like, to connect with him spirituallyâalthough, as a still budding psychic, I'm able to do thatâshe wants us to physically find his missing body. Literally. I'm not exactly sure how she lost him, but anyway, here we sit in the very prim and proper living room of an old carriage house on the grounds of a sprawling mansion.
Talk about it being the best of investigating times and the worst of investigating times ... No, no, no, Dickens already used that line. We'll have to figure this one out on our own.
"More lemon tea bars?" Mrs. Lockhart asks, nudging the crystal serving plate toward me. Even with a deceased and misplaced husband, she's still a Southern lady and the quintessential hostess with the mostest.
"No, thank you, ma'am," I say politely. My friend, neighbor, and fellow ghost huntress Celia Nichols rolls her eyes, but then she reaches out for another one of the tart treats. It's her third. This isn't a tea party, though. It's a ghost investigation. Or at least it's supposed to be.
"These are delicious," Taylor Tillson says. She sits daintily with her ankles crossed and her long golden tresses perfectly in place. Taylor always looks like she just walked off the pages of a magazine, even when we're in full ghost-hunt mode. She wipes her hands on the starched linen napkin and continues. "I just have to make sure I don't get any of the
on my camera when I start taking pictures."
Two years of French. What are you gonna do with her?
Rebecca "Becca" Asiaf lets out a long sigh and taps her foot impatiently. Her digital recorder is poised in her left palm, and I can tell she's ready to get this puppy going. Her silverringed thumb, with its black nail polish, waits to hit Record. Obviously, she's as eager to get on with this investigation as I am. Niceties with our hostess aside, we've got work to do.
But this feels more like a social obligation with a great-aunt or something. The four of us are seated on Mrs. Lockhart's crushed-velvet Victorian sofa like perfect little debutantes, sipping our tea and hoping to get more details of her tale of woe. It's important to get as many facts about the dearly departed as possible before we fully begin examining the case at hand, which, in this instance, is File GH-0018âDelaney Lockhart.
Yeah, we're up to eighteen cases!
See, a couple of months ago, my familyâMom, Dad, and little sis, Kaitlinâmoved here from our beloved Chicago when dear old Dad took the job of city planner for Radisson. A town that I feel is out where God lost his shoes. The closest metropolis, Atlanta, is an hour's drive. As if leaving behind everything you've ever known in your life isn't hard enough, I am also going through my "psychic awakening." That's according to Loreen Woods, my friend, mentor, and the owner of Divining Woman, a metaphysical store on the Square.
Yep, I can see, hear, and talk to spirits ... ghosts, the recently and not-so-recently deceased.
Let me tell you what: it's been a busy couple of months for me, Kendall Moorehead. Once word got out about how my team of ghost huntresses had helped a 150-year-old spirit that was trapped in city hall pass into the light, well, everyone and his brother has stopped us with a ghost story or two to tell. Being official ghost huntresses has made me and my friendsâCelia, Taylor, and Beccaâthe talk of the town, and we've garnered a ton of attention. (Not all of it is positive, especially the dirty looks and ill treatment from school beeyotch Courtney Langdon and her flock of followers. However, I think that has more to do with the fact that I'm now dating her ex-boyfriendâand Taylor's twin brotherâJason Tillson.)
It's sort of hard to have a boyfriend when all of your weekends are filled with visits to Radisson's most historicâand
often hauntedâlocations, the mustiest and dustiest of basements, and the homes of some lonely and weird townspeople. Like the one we're in right now.
I shift on the antique couch and clear my throat to ease the tension in my tight chest. I don't think that Mrs. Lockhart is one of those weirdoes we've been running into latelyâthe kind who wear tinfoil hats and sleep in their bathtubs for fear that things are watching themâbecause she was a kindergarten teacher in Radisson for years and schooled all three of my friends. However, the woman is definitely broken-hearted and forlorn. The sadness radiating from her is palpable, and I can feel it in the depths of my being like the heat from a well-stoked fire.
I nudge Celia in her ribs with my elbow, and she knows that I'm ready to get down to business.
"So, Mrs. Lockhart, can you tell us again everything that happened with your husband?" Celia says in a very grown-up, professional manner. She flips open her notepad and twirls her Bic between her long fingers.
Becca clicks on the digital recorder and places it on the marble coffee table. She's our sound expert on the team, trying to capture EVPs, electronic voice phenomena. EVPs are the coolest thing ever. I mean, I can hear the spirits' voices in my head, but the digital recorder can actually pick up disembodied voices that answer questions or make statements during our investigations. What we capture can totally back up what I've said. Taylor nods at me and then moves over to where she
has the video recorder set up. She's a whiz-bang at anything photography related. That's why she's on the team. Some of the pictures she's captured with the infrared camera and the night vision are a-freakin'-mazing!
Sitting forward, I fold my hands together and listen as Mrs. Lockhart explains why we're here. The older woman dabs her wrinkled eyes with the corner of a lace handkerchief. She sniffs hard and then takes a deep breath.
"Delaney and I went out to Scottsdale last week to visit with our younger daughter, Veronicaâour older girl, Evelyn, lives in the main houseâand her boys. They're such good boys, those grandsons of mine. Derrick is on the soccer team and Spencer has learned to ride his bikeâ"
"Yes, ma'am. Now, about Mr. Lockhart, please," I say, trying not to be rude.
"Certainly. As I was saying, we were having a ball at Veronica's. Even to the point where Delaney said he would consider moving out there. I never thought he'd want to leave Georgia. But the weather out in Arizona is simply amazing." Mrs. Lockhart moves behind her ear a stray lock of salt-and-pepper hair that has escaped the tight bun at the base of her neck. I feel a tension at the back of my own neck and wonder if it's empathy with what she's going through or if I slept wrong last night.
She continues. "Delaney loved the putting greens and courses out there and was spending most afternoons golfing and relaxing. He'd been so stressed lately, what with the economy and all and watching our retirement accounts dwindling. But on Saturday he didn't come back from his golf game, and Veronica and I got worried. Someone from the country club called and told us that he'd had a ... a ..." She trails off and then begins to cry. My heart goes out to her, knowing she lost the love of her life. I mean, literally lost him.
"It's okay, Mrs. Lockhart," I say, hoping it sounds soothing. It would probably be a good thing for me to get up and go sit with her. Taylor nods at me from across the room as if she's reading my mind. I slide off the couch and move to our client's side, taking her frail hand. Immediately at the connection of skin to skin, I'm stung with grief and pain and a deep, deep loneliness. In my mind's eye, I see Millicent and Delaney as a young couple, walking hand in hand down by the Spry River here in Radisson. So much in love, with the rest of their lives ahead of them. Children ... two girls. Years flash past me like cards shuffling until I see her weeping in her daughter's arms. "Can you finish the story you told Celia on the phone?"
Mrs. Lockhart fists her free hand against her mouth and nods. "He ... he had a h-h-heart attack on the eleventh hole and was more than likely taken straight to Jesus with no pain or suffering." She blots under her eye to catch a wayward tear. "The man he was playing with said he'd just gotten a hole in one," she adds with a slight laugh.
"Man, golf's a rough sport," Becca mutters. Taylor gives her a nasty look.
Celia jumps in to cover Becca's comment. "Tell Kendall the part with the airlines, Mrs. L." Celia looks at me. "This is the most important part."
The woman keeps going."Oh, very well. It seems that Southeastern Airlines kind ofâwell, how do I say thisâmisplaced my Delaney."
"They what?" I ask incredulously.
She tugs a piece of paper out of the pocket of her house-dress and passes it over to me. It's got a bar code with a number and is marked ATL, the airline code for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
"Is this a claim ticket?"
"For his coffin," she says.
"Just a second. You're telling meâ" I begin.
Celia finishes, "That she checked him into Baggage in Phoenix, but when Mrs. Lockhart landed in Atlanta and went to claim him, Delaney was missing."
Mrs. Lockhart sniffs into her handkerchief. "I was so distraught; I didn't know what to do. Evelyn had to drive over and talk to the supervisor. Poor child was grief-stricken herself, losing her father, and she had to go through all of the airport's bureaucratic red tape."
"What can we do, though, Celia?" I raise my eyebrows and bite my bottom lip as I consider what it is exactly that Iâthat weâcan do to help locate the body. Not really the type of investigation we're used to.
Mrs. Lockhart grips my hand tightly in hers. "You've got to use your powers to find him."
"I don't really have powers." I'm not a comic-book or movie character like Superman, Iron Man, or Wonder Woman. "I locate
of the deceased, not the deceased themselves."
"Have you talked to the local coroner?" Becca asks.
"He was no help. But y'all will be, right?"
"I-I-I don't knowâwhat exactly can I do?"
Her eyes light up. "Oh, but that's just it. I feel Delaney here in the house. Evelyn said she's sure he's around too. She's even felt him over at her house. Surely you can try to contact him. He would know where his body is, wouldn't he?"
Celia shrugs. "I suppose."
Taylor lets out a long sigh and says, "
Une telle tragÃ©die
. Such a tragedy."
So, let me get this straight. I'm to make contact here in the house with Delaney, and he's going to tell me where we can find his body so Mrs. Lockhart can get him home for the funeral he deserves to have. A final resting place. As ludicrous as it sounds, I guess we can help out with that. Honestly, I don't think the guys on
have ever had a case like this one.