Authors: Jana DeLeon
The Helena Diaries –
Trouble in Mudbug
by Jana DeLeon
Warning: This book is a companion novella to TROUBLE IN MUDBUG. You should not read this novella prior to completing TROUBLE IN MUDBUG. This novella contains major spoilers for the novel and would not make sense if read beforehand.
The Helena Diaries—Trouble in Mudbug
Copyright 2013 by Jana DeLeon
Published by Jana DeLeon
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Trouble in Mudbug—Chapter One
Wherein Helena thinks she’s being used in a cult ritual by rogue Baptists
I’m calling my lawyer and CNN. Those Southern Baptist cultists drugged me, dressed me in a hideous, pink polyester suit, did my makeup like a streetwalker, and stuffed me in a casket. They were having some sort of ceremony—probably a sacrifice to ask permission to drink wine or play bingo—when I woke up.
Apparently, whoever administered the drugs did not take into account my staying power.
Immediately, I crawled out of the casket and yelled at that idiot, Pastor Bob, who stood at the pulpit droning on and putting everyone to sleep. As one of the last conversations I recall was a completely mundane and useless conversation about the benefits of owning a goat—with said Pastor Bob—I suspect he was, in fact, the drug used to knock me out.
Pastor Bob completely ignored me and kept talking, but that’s not unusual, so I turned my wrath on everyone else. It was the weirdest thing—not a single person said anything to me. I mean, it’s Mudbug, so it’s not like I was expecting witty retorts or anything, but at least one of those small-minded fools should have been able to find a word or two in their limited vocabulary.
Then I saw that lying, cheating, worthless idiot of a husband of mine, and I knew straightaway that he was at the root of all of this. Everything bad in my life starts with Harold Henry or Wild Turkey. In fact, it was a combination of both that produced that useless son of mine. But I digress.
I walked straight up to Harold, fully intending to strangle him where he sat. After all, there was a coffin and a preacher available, so it seemed like the perfect time to correct an old wrong. But my hands passed right through him. That’s when I realized they were all holograms. I’ve seen that freak show Criss Angel on cable so I know how it works. The only thing that so-called magician ever made disappear for real is good taste.
The hologram thing was a smart move, though. It limits victims.
So I moved on from Harold and headed down the center aisle. After all, they couldn’t hologram the whole town, right? But no matter how loud I yelled or how many faces I waved my hands in, not a single one of them flinched. Since most of them cross the road in front of traffic when they see me coming down the sidewalk, I had to assume they weren’t real.
Then I realized one person was looking at me—Maryse, that unfortunate daughter-in-law of mine. Whatever possessed her to marry Hank, I can’t even imagine. You’d think if your life was at that low a point, suicide would have been a more pleasant option than the slow, lingering pain of marrying my son. She’s supposed to be smart, but I have my doubts.
Anyway, she stared at me with an utter look of morbid fascination and horror, and I figured it was the suit or the makeup, but as I started toward her, she bleated like a frightened sheep, then dropped to the floor, out like a light. That tea-leaf-reading friend of hers squatted beside her, shaking her arm and tapping her face with her fingers, but Maryse was out cold.
She’s probably on one of those newfangled diets where she’s been living for a week on gin and two blueberries.
Wherein Helena realizes she’s dead
While everyone was distracted with Maryse, I made my escape out of the church. I have yet to miss a golden opportunity to prove my superiority, and this was just one more time that Helena Henry proved to be too much for Mudbug, Louisiana, to handle.
I headed straight to downtown Mudbug, determined to get to the bottom of this, but everyone was behaving strangely. No one crossed the street to avoid me. No one averted their eyes. No one reached for a concealed weapon. It was as if I’d suddenly lost my mojo.
Or as if I were invisible.
And that’s the thought that stopped me cold. I stepped in front of the plate-glass window for the café. It has this mirrored surface so you can always see your reflection in it.
I wasn’t there!
I saw cars passing on the street and people passing on the sidewalk—only inches from me—but I wasn’t reflected anywhere in the window. I got so dizzy, I thought I’d pass out. What if it hadn’t been a joke? What if I’d been stuffed in that casket because I was dead? That was the only explanation, right?
Hey, it just now occurred to me—maybe Maryse saw me.
That would explain why she passed out. Because dead people weren’t supposed to climb out of their caskets and yell at funeral attendees. My daughter-in-law wasn’t happy to see me when I was alive, and she sure as hell won’t be happy to see me dead, but I need answers.
A visit is in order.
Of course, in the grand tradition of making things more difficult, Maryse lives on an island in the middle of the bayou. A good two-hour walk and then a swim. I am hardly built for a biathlon, but I’ll have to make do.
Wherein Helena figures out she was murdered
I am fairly certain I will have a coronary before I get to Maryse’s cabin. Can ghosts die again? Hmmmm. Maybe I’m not dead. I thought you were supposed to get a whole new body. But then that would assume I’m in heaven, and I’m definitely not in heaven. I’m not sure what God had in mind when he created Mudbug, but it probably wasn’t anything good.
When I first set out for Maryse’s place, I tried jogging, but those awful heels kept sliding on the gravel. I have no idea where the funeral director got them. They’re at least a size too big and hideous besides. Unless you’re a prostitute. Then they’re perfect, as they attract normally unwanted attention, and pros don’t spend a lot of time upright. I pulled them off, thinking it would be better just to go barefoot and schedule a pedicure, but every time I yanked them off my feet, they appeared right back in place as if I’d never touched them.
If the shoes were the cruelest of practical jokes, the suit was medieval torture. You’re not supposed to wear polyester in the summer. Hell, I’m not sure you’re supposed to wear polyester after the seventies. And pink? Seriously? Who wears pink beyond their tenth birthday? This entire ensemble was so far removed from the unrelieved black I’d worn since I married Harold that it made my butt itch.
The walk gave me time to put my thoughts in order, and the repetitive striking of cheap heels on loose gravel seemed to joggle my memory. I am willing to go along with the theory that I’m dead, but what I don’t know is how I got that way in the first place. I’m not going to head to Mexico and don a bikini or anything, but despite the extra pounds and horrible attitude, I’m healthy as a horse. This fact never ceased to dismay my doctor, who was always looking for a solid reason to force me on some rabbit-food diet.
The last thing I remember is having a shot of brandy.
Holy crap! Someone poisoned me!
That has to be it. The poison was in the snifter, but as I can’t recall the last time I had a shot of brandy, Lord only knows how long it’s been in there. That gives practically anyone in Mudbug opportunity, which means I’ll have to figure out who killed me based on motive. Maryse can help with that part. She’s all scientific and logical—which I normally find completely and utterly boring—but in this particular case, it will come in handy.
The logical suspect is my idiot husband Harold, whose single biggest claim to fame is producing a son who’s even more useless than he is. But that seems too easy, and besides, if Harold did it, he would have left a trail a mile long. And since he was sitting in the church without handcuffs, everyone must think my death was due to natural causes. That says smart to me.
Which totally leaves out Harold.
Bummer, even though prison is too good for him.
Ah, well, less thinking, more walking. Maryse can figure it all out.
Wherein Helena pays a visit to her unsuspecting daughter-in-law
I tried to steal a boat at the dock, but my hands passed right through the rope. Despite the fact that I was already drenched from sweating in the polyester, I was in no mood to swim. I was almost ready to throw in the towel when I decided “what the hell” and stepped off the pier. And what do you know—I can walk on water!
I have to admit, that’s kinda cool.
Lucky for me, Maryse is either an idiot or heavily armed, because her front door was standing wide open when I arrived. Maryse was snoring like a log, but a ragtag tomcat sleeping next to her woke up as soon as I stepped in the doorway and ran straight across her forehead and out the window, halfway rousing her from her slumber. She achieved a conscious state right quick-like when she saw me standing in the doorway, and verified that I am indeed dead and said respiratory failure was the cause.
I call horseshit on that.
When presented with my brandy snifter theory and my idea that she could use her logical mind to provide a list of potential killers, Maryse looked less than thrilled and said it might be difficult to narrow down suspects as I wasn’t overly popular. That was her polite way of saying I was a stone bitch but I’ll let it slide, as she probably wasn’t haunted by dead relatives every day.
She tried to bow out of helping me investigate, but I insisted that I couldn’t do it without her as I couldn’t touch and move things. She thought I was lying about that part as I’d gotten onto her island and would have needed a boat. I told her about walking on water, but instead of looking excited, she turned pale and mumbled something about going to church this Sunday.
I’ll never figure that girl out.
Trouble in Mudbug—Chapter Two
Wherein Helena spends more time in her house than she wanted to
I decided to give Maryse a little space to work things out. She’s smart, but I’m guessing even smart people might need to process a visitation by a dead person before they can concentrate on an investigation. Still, it’s somewhat rude that she pointed out that all the residents of Mudbug are likely suspects. I knew this, of course, but I didn’t think she’d be brave enough to suggest it, even indirectly.
Since the last thing I remember is drinking brandy at my house, I suppose it makes sense to go there and see if I can find some clues. It seems only fair that I help Maryse out with this. After all, I am the dead one in the equation.
I got lucky and hitched a ride back to Mudbug with some fishermen who were docked at Maryse’s pier. I had to sit in the bed of the truck along with two ice chests of smelly fish, but they had the back cab window open, and the trip was fairly enlightening. I’d bet any amount of money their wives have zero idea what those men say about them, but as I think all their wives are useless sows, I gained a certain level of satisfaction from the quite lively discussion of the women’s many flaws.