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A Ghostly Suspect

Book 8 in the Ghostly Southern Mystery Series

A funeral, a ghost, a murder . . . It’s all in a day’s work for Emma Lee Raines . . .
especially when the ghost turns out to be someone very dear to her heart. Debbie Dually, psychic and friend who has guided Emma Lee since the she was bopped on the head from a falling plastic Santa, local undertaker Emma Lee Raines is told she’s suffering from “funeral trauma.”

Debbie Dually is the one who informed Emma Lee that she wasn’t crazy, she was a Betweener, someone who can communicate with ghosts with the not-so-dearly departed. In fact, she told Emma Lee how she was the only one that could help solve their murder to help them rest in eternal peace.

This time Debbie Dually finds herself needing Emma’s help. This means solving her own murder.
Emma goes deep undercover as a fake psychic in order to see into the past and help Debbie cross over. Emma Lee doesn’t realize this opens up a whole can of new Betweener clients that refuse to leave her alone.

When Emma Lee is tagged as the number one suspect in Debbie Dually’s death, her handsome state trooper boyfriend, Jack Henry, has no choice but to come back to Sleepy Hollow and get to the bottom of what is going on before it’s too late and Emma Lee goes to the state pen for a very long time.

A Ghostly Suspect

Book 8 in the Ghostly Southern Mystery Series

A Ghostly Suspect

Excerpt

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Chapter One

 

“As I’m living and breathing.” Debbie Dually was the last person I thought would be waiting to see me in the vestibule of Eternal Slumber. “Debbie Dually, what on earth are you doing in Sleepy Hollow?”

Debbie glanced over at the elderly couple sitting on the couch. She pulled a feather and incense from her hobo bag.

“I need to see you for just a second,” she whispered as she leaned in and looked at me from underneath her blunt bangs. She tucked a strand of her chin-length bobbed brown hair behind her ear before she lit the incense.

“You probably shouldn’t.” I tried to stop her from lighting the smelly stick.

“It’s fine.” Debbie bounced on the balls of her feet, making the bell ankle bracelet come to life with happy jingling sounds.

“Mr. and Mrs. Clark, do you mind waiting one more minute?” I asked the couple, who were there to see me about preneed funeral arrangements.

Sounded creepy, but I’d found people took comfort in making their final resting place decisions and not leaving it up to their families to do. As the undertaker and owner of Eternal Slumber, I’d been able to provide these options a few years ago before any other funeral home was offering them to their clients. Now every funeral home out there offered different services, and sometimes I felt like I was behind the eight ball.

The Clarks huddled together. Mrs. Clark fanned her hand in front of her face to push away the earthy smell coming from Debbie’s smoke. Mr. Clark gave her the stink eye, but Debbie didn’t care. She fanned a little extra their way.

“Well, Roger does have an appointment with Doc Clyde about his gout.” Mrs. Clark glanced up at her husband. Her hand was gripped in the crook of his elbow.

“Don’t worry, Cissie.” His wrinkled hand patted his wife’s. “We’ve got plenty of time,” he assured her.

“Do not miss that appointment.” Debbie used the feather to brush more smoke over the top of the Clarks’ heads and concentrated on what she saw in the smoke.  “I’m not sure they have that much time,” Debbie whispered.

“My friend has come all the way from Lexington, and she just needs one minute.” I grabbed Debbie by the arm. “If that’s okay?” I asked them through gritted teeth in hopes Debbie would get the hint to cool it.

She didn’t. Though she did disappear into one of the viewing rooms, probably to rid the place of any sort of spirits lingering in there.

Still, I had to make sure it was okay with the Clarks to wait a couple of more minutes, seeing how the last year I’d spent a lot of time and effort building the client list back and bringing the finances into the black for Eternal Slumber. Not that a funeral home should ever go out of business. There was plenty of business. Someone was always dying, but when they figured the undertaker was what you’d call a smidgen cuckoo, they didn’t feel comfortable leaving their loved ones in my hands.

After a couple of years of being ghost-free, I felt great and back in business. Not the ghosting business. The funeral home business.

“Hello,” Hettie Bell trilled when she walked into the front door of the funeral home, carrying a tray with a glass pitcher of the sweetest tea this side of the Mississippi. She set it down on the antique credenza.

Hettie stood a few inches taller than me. Her black hair was pulled into a low ponytail and her bangs were styled to the side across her right brow line. She had on a pair of yoga pants and a zip-up hoodie, no doubt ready to teach one of her classes at Post and Relax, her yoga studio.

“What is that awful smell?” Hettie fanned her hand in front of her face.

“And look here,” I said to the Clarks and waved Hettie over, hoping to avoid any more conversation about Debbie. “You’re here in time to enjoy a glass of Granny’s sweet iced tea.” I smiled at the elderly couple. “Do you think you could pour them a glass?” I winked at Hettie.

“I sure can.” She pinched a smile, her nose crinkling in an “eeww” kind of way. On her way over to pour them some iced tea, she whispered under her breath, “But you really need to get that smell checked out.”

I smiled and sucked in a deep breath.

Offering a glass of Granny’s tea was a new feature I thought would be nice for the clients. I had coffee and water already, but tea made people feel comfortable around here, making it a little easier to talk about why they were here. Let’s face it, they were here about death. Either a loved one had died, or they were anticipating the end of one’s life. Who didn’t need comforting when thinking about that?

“I have to be back to the Inn,” Hettie said after she gave the Clarks their tea.

“Tell Granny hello,” I told Hettie. Hettie helped out my granny, Zula Fae Raines Payne, at the Sleepy Hollow Inn when Granny needed her. “Thanks, Hettie,” I called before she shut the door behind her.

“Mr. and Mrs. Clark, enjoy that tea, and I’ll be with you shortly,” I said to them before I motioned for Debbie to come with me to my office.

The long, flowing ankle-length chiffon material waved around Debbie as she walked.

“I’ll take that,” I said and grabbed the incense out of her hand, snuffing it in the potted plant on the credenza next to the tray with the tea.

Debbie nodded and slipped the feather in her bag.

“Would you like a coffee?” I asked Debbie.

“I’ll take one of those teas.” She looked over at the Clarks.

“Sure.” I should’ve known. Granny’s tea was well-known all over these parts of Kentucky. She always boiled her tea in the same pot, every single time. She claimed it was “seasoned.” And I wasn’t one to argue with her. She was the master.

“Emma Lee, your obits are late.” Fluggie Callahan walked into the door of the funeral home. She was the editor in chief of the Sleepy Hollow News and here to get the list of obituaries and service times to put in this week’s paper. Her dirty blond hair was pulled up in a top knot, held in place by a scrunchie. “Mr. and Mrs. Clark.” Fluggie and the couple gave each other the Baptist nod.

Something I should’ve had done a few days ago but never got around to it.

“Good afternoon to you, too, Fluggie,” I greeted her. “I’ll get those to you after I finish up my meetings here.”

“What’s that stink?” Her white lashes were magnified under the big black-rimmed glasses she had on. She tried to find the source of the odor, her head twisting left and then right with her nose jumping up and down like a bunny rabbit. She slowly walked toward Debbie. “Hey, it’s you.” Fluggie made it sound as though she knew Debbie.

“Oh.” Debbie turned to Fluggie. She was holding the glass pitcher of tea over the mason jar. “Have you had any luck in the…”

I shook my head, giving Debbie a hard look. The thing with Debbie, she just started to blurt out things to people she didn’t know. This wouldn’t go well in the very southern Baptist town of Sleepy Hollow, so I knew I had to put a stop to any further conversations and get Debbie out of here as fast as I could.

“Never mind.” Debbie tipped the pitcher slightly. The orange-tinted tea poured out into the glass.

“I expect those obits later this afternoon.” Fluggie gave me a hard look before she turned to leave.

“Mr. and Mrs. Clark, it’ll just be a second,” I assured them and ushered Debbie down the halls to my office.

Along the way, we passed an employee-gathering space along with a kitchenette where I had a refrigerator, sink, microwave, coffeepot, and a small table that was used for the four employees that worked for me. Myself included. They didn’t work full-time and had other jobs.

It was also available to the families of Eternal Slumber clients during their loved ones’ service.

“Let me grab a coffee, and we can go into my office.” I really wasn’t sure why Debbie was there, but if it’d not been for her, I’m sure I’d be in a completely different place right now.

A place with a dress code. I’m talking a white coat. Not just any white coat. The kind that wraps completely around and buckles in the back. They are very popular in places such as padded rooms.

Mmmhhhhmmmm.

A few years ago, I’d had an unfortunate accident. A run-in really. With a plastic Santa. It was Christmastime, and the entire town was all decked out for the arrival of Santa. Artie’s Meat and Deli was no different. Artie had one of those big plastic Santa figures he’d put on the roof of the deli. It’d snowed for a week straight.

On that particular day, it was unseasonably warm, and the sun was shining. Since I’d been cooped up in the funeral home all day, prepping for the funeral of Ruthie Sue Payne, I’d decided to enjoy a little sunlight on my face and walk down the street to Artie’s Meats and Deli to grab one of their bowls of delicious chili.

Like Granny made the best sweet tea, Artie made the best chili. My mouth was watering all the way down the street. The sun warmed my face, and there was a giddy-up in my step. Business was on a roll, and life was good.

Too good.

Before I could walk under the Artie’s Meat and Deli awning, the sun had melted the snow on the roof, and next thing I knew, I heard something. I looked up, and down came that big Santa, landing right on my head, knocking me flat out.

I woke up in the hospital with more than just a knot. Literally, I thought I was a goner like the clients I’d put six feet under, because Chicken Teater, a resident of Sleepy Hollow who I’d put in the ground a few years prior, and Ruthie Sue Payne, who had been a current Eternal Slumber client, were standing right next to my hospital bed.

They were there to take me to the Big Guy in the Sky. The Maker.

Or so I thought.

When I started to talk to them, it was then that I realized I was alive, and Granny, along with Charlotte, my sister, were by my side, trying to get Doc Clyde to figure out what’d happened to my brain because I told them about Chicken and Ruthie.

It was the turning point in my life and when I realized Santa had knocked me into a world where I could see the dearly departed. Dead people.

Doc Clyde was quick to diagnose me with the Funeral Trauma. He said I’d been around the dead too long and forced Granny’s hand on giving me a vacation. I’d yet to be the owner of the funeral home, so I had to do what she said because once it got around our gossipy town, clients didn’t want the crazy undertaker dealing with their loved ones, and they started to cancel their preneed funeral arrangements.

Ruthie.

Ruthie was my first ghost client. Her ghost told me she was murdered. She wasn’t crossing over until I helped her find her killer and bring them to justice.

Sounded easy. Not so much. Trying to sneak around and not be seen talking to a ghost had proven to be a bit harder than I’d anticipated. I thought I’d been fooling everyone and keeping the Funeral Trauma in check. Little did I know that Sheriff Jack Henry Ross was watching my every move and knew there was more than the Funeral Trauma.

He had an internal instinct that I was communicating with the dead. That’s where Debbie Dually, a psychic, had come into my life.

Jack Henry took me to see her, and that’s when she told me about my gift. Or a curse.

A Betweener.

“Sit down.” I gestured for Debbie to sit down in front of my desk.

The sun was filtering into the old office. The wood paneling had long since needed to be replaced, but I rarely spent time in here. If I needed to see a client, I generally took them into one of the viewing rooms so they could picture what they wanted, or we went into my sister Charlotte Rae’s office.

Charlotte was no longer among the living, and I missed her every day. When she came to me as a Betweener client, I didn’t want to help her because I knew once I found her killer, she’d leave me… forever.

“I’ll stand.” Debbie’s hand shook as she brought the glass of tea up to her lips. She walked over to the window and glanced out.

“How’s David?” I asked about her only son. There was some tension, and she loved talking about him. Asking her about him would definitely break the ice.

“He’s in his first year of college.” She looked back at me and put her hand up to her mouth. “David,” she gasped. Her eyes clouded with tears.

“Debbie,” I got up from the chair and hurried over to her. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“Tell me you see dead people. Murdered dead people.” A tear dripped out of her eye and down her face. “I need to hear you say it.”

“Huh?” I was taken back by her unusual request. “You know I do. You’ve been my advisor these past few years, though I’ve not seen a ghost in over a year.” I watched her intently. “It’s been a much-needed break,” I sighed.

“I need you to tell me that you see murdered people,” she insisted, her voice more demanding. She turned back to the window.

“Debbie.” Her serious tone made me search her face for some sort of answer. “Do you know something? Are you trying to tell me I need to know something?” I asked her.

It wouldn’t be unusual to seek guidance from her and for her to tell me something about me or a Betweener client. But she’s never come to Sleepy Hollow to see me or acted in this way.

“Debbie?” I put my hand on her arm.

She continued to stare outside.

“I need you to tell me you see dead people. Murdered people,” she clarified, standing as still as a statue. “It’s that simple. Why can’t you do this for me?”

“You’re scaring me.” I gulped. My grip on her arm tighter.

“Don’t!” She screamed and jerked away, dropping her glass and shattering it on the floor.

“Emma Lee, is everything all right in here?” Trevor O’Neil, Sleepy Hollow’s new sheriff and thorn in my behind, stood at the door of my office.

He took off his cowboy hat, showing off his curly blond hair. His dimples deepened, and he moved his bright-green-eyed gaze between me and Debbie. His eyes moved down to the broken glass.

“It’s fine.” I hurried into my bathroom and grabbed a towel.

What on earth was he doing here? My thoughts made my stomach gurgle. Ever since Trevor had been named Sheriff, replacing Jack Henry when he left to take a position at the Kentucky State Police, he’d made my life a living hell.

Literally.

“Miss?” I heard Trevor refer to Debbie.

“I’m fine,” I heard her whisper, followed up by fast footsteps.

I came back with a towel to clean up the mess when I noticed Trevor and I were all alone.

“Where did she go?” I asked him, narrowing my eyes. “What did you say to her?” I bent down and picked up the larger pieces of glass, piling them up before I used the towel to start sopping up the tea.

“Maybe I should be asking what you said to her to make her yell at you and why you had a hand on her.” He took slow steps toward me and stopped as he towered over my hunched body.

“What do you want?” I asked him and stood up. “You sick and need some arrangements? If you do, I hear Burns Funeral has plenty of openings.”

I might’ve been a little cruel saying such a thing to him, since I didn’t wish harm or death on anyone, but he didn’t make my life any easier around here. Plus, I did take some pleasure in the low client rate Burns Funeral, the other funeral home in Sleepy Hollow, was having at the moment.

Trust me, Bea Allen Burns swooped up in here when her brother, O’Dell Burns, was elected mayor, leaving Burns Funeral in need of another director. It just so happened to be the time everyone was looking for a new funeral home due to the Funeral Trauma diagnosis. Bea Allen did everything she could to steal my clients, and she did.

Now it was my turn.

“I’m not going to give you another warning. This is it.” Trevor took a fistful of papers out of his brown sheriff-pants pockets. “Here are copies of the parking tickets you owe. I just gave you another one today. You can’t park your hearse anywhere you feel like when you’re not picking up a body. I don’t understand why you think you can park in a yellow zone, Emma Lee.”

He extended the pile of yellow citations at me.

“What makes you think you are above the law? You’ve given me fits since my first day on the job, and it’s going to stop.” He jabbed his hand toward me again.

I was reluctant to take them.

“This is your last warning.” When I didn’t take the tickets, he walked over to my desk and threw them in the air like confetti. “You have until the end of the week to pay all of them, or I’m going to arrest you. I’m not joking.” He shoved the hat back on his head. His brows wiggled, and he smiled, his dimples deepening. “Have a good day.” He stuck the cowboy hat back on top of his head.

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

Sleepy Hollow was a cave-and-cavern town in Kentucky that was deep in a hollow. Eternal Slumber was downtown along with most of the other businesses. Residents lived around the town, but the town square was where all the action took place.

The town square was exactly that. A square. There was a grassy park in the middle of downtown where everyone gathered. There was a big gazebo that was perfect for all the events we did as a community. Four roads ran alongside the town square with Main Street being the facing road.

Eternal Slumber was located on the right side of the square along with Pose and Relax, a yoga studio that was owned by Hettie Bell. It was Hettie’s real job, and she only worked for Granny at the Inn part-time when she didn’t have classes scheduled at the studio.

Girl’s Best Friend Spa, Artie’s Meats and Deli, the courthouse, Higher Ground Café, and Doc Clyde’s office were all located on Main Street, which was directly in front of the square. A little further down on Main was where the Normal Baptist Church was located and where you could find the entire town on Sunday mornings.

Directly across from the square opposite from Eternal Slumber was the Sleepy Hollow Inn and Antiques. That was Granny’s place. More an inn than an antiques store, since she’d converted the actual shop into another dining room once she’d taken over the Inn fully after Ruthie Sue Payne had died. Long story. Granny did use some of the antiques as decorations and had price tags dangling off them, but since her renovation to bring the Inn up to date, she’d gotten away from adding any more antiques.

Antiques were not the reason tourists came to town. It was the caves and caverns.

On the opposite of Main Street and the road behind the square, there was a cemetery and a trailer park. It was nice having the cemetery close to the funeral home. This week I was going to be very thankful for the closeness because for the funeral I had scheduled for tomorrow, the family wanted to walk the casket to the cemetery for a graveside funeral. And a little further away from the square was where Burns Funeral Home was located.

You wouldn’t believe the strange requests I’d get as an undertaker. Not from the Clarks. During our meeting, they wanted the typical day-before layout and visitation with a next day follow-up funeral. I was so happy Debbie hadn’t scared them off.

Not that Debbie wasn’t an amazing person, but around these parts, people didn’t like to think of psychics or possible spirits running around. That’s why I was happy I’d been ghost-free for a while.

“I see dead people,” I harrumphed and opened the door to the Higher Ground Café to get my late afternoon cup of coffee before I walked over to the Inn to check on Granny today.

After visiting with Granny, I’d give Debbie a call and see if she’d settled down from earlier in the afternoon when she’d stopped by and abruptly ran out.

“Shhh. There she is.” I heard the murmur of my arrival from the table on the left. When I looked, it was no surprise to see members of the Auxiliary group with their heads together. Beulah Paige Bellefry, Mable Claire, Marla Marie Teater, Mazie Watkins, and Cheryl Lynn Doyle all looked up, as innocent as could be. All eyes were on me, with fake grins planted on all of their faces.

“Let’s get it out into the open,” I told the group of women who had more gossip between them than all the people employed by one of those national gossip magazines. “Here I am. What’s going on?”

“It’s nothing.” Cheryl Lynn, owner of Higher Ground Café, jumped up and scooted me through her café to the counter. “It’s just that we heard about that weirdo moving into Sleepy Hollow. Some of the gals,” she started to say, leaning her head to the side, her eyes sweeping past my shoulder. I turned to look and saw the other ladies encouraging her to say something. “Well, the other gals don’t think the psychic kind needs to be here in Sleepy Hollow. They’ve done gone to Pastor Brown about it, Emma,” she whined with concern. “I even think the Baptist church is going to hold a meeting about that kind moving in here.”

“Debbie Dually?” I snorted. “They think Debbie is moving to Sleepy Hollow?” I asked and laughed louder. “Woooooo, wooooooo.” My voice shook with fright along with my hands shaking in the air as I tried to be all spooky. “Don’t worry, y’all,” I turned around to inform them. “Not that it matters, but Debbie Dually isn’t moving here. No way. No how.”

“Then why was she here, and why did she do that voodoo stuff in the funeral home?” Beulah Paige asked, tossing her long salt-and-pepper hair behind her shoulder. Her blue eyes focused on me.

Beulah Paige was the leader of the pack and the Auxiliary women’s club president. She had spent a lot of time trying to stay young with her fake lashes and her fake tan, all of which she denied, though she did stay in great shape for forty-five.

“Not that I need to explain anything to you,” I directed my comment at her when I walked back over to the counter to wait for my iced coffee. “Debbie is a friend of mine, and I didn’t realize it was against the law for a friend to come visit.”

“Something was against the law because Fluggie said Sheriff O’Neil also stopped by on some business he had directly with you.” Beulah Paige was also the CEO of gossip in Sleepy Hollow.

“Did she?” I asked and remembered I needed to get the obits over to her. Fluggie must’ve passed Sheriff O’Neil on her way out of the funeral home. “And it’s your business why?”

“How’s Zula?” Mable Claire spoke up. She dug into her pocket and took out a couple of coins, handing them to the two little kids who passed by us. It was something she’d done ever since I knew her. She loved giving money to kids. “I’ve been meaning to stop by and see her. I know she’s still having a hard time with Charlotte Rae and the wedding. Every time I ring her to do something, she’s always got an excuse.”

Mable Claire and Granny were best friends, and I didn’t want to see Granny become a recluse, so I wanted to make sure I stopped by the Inn to check on her.

Granny was having a hard time? We’d never get over Charlotte Rae’s death, but we dealt with it. The wedding, well, it was a whole different story.

Granny and Doc Clyde had been engaged, and she’d even tried on several dresses. White ones. After they’d gotten engaged, they’d started spending a lot of time together. More than their casual get-togethers. Doc Clyde loved Granny and everything about her, almost becoming too needy of her. Granny, on the other hand, came to the realization that she didn’t want a traditional husband. She only wanted a companion when she wanted one, not when he wanted one, which was all the time, all day long. So much so, he wanted to retire and wanted her to retire.

Granny wasn’t about to give up her Inn or her freedom, leaving Doc Clyde’s ring on the patient table in his office. It wasn’t without a note from her. She wrote a Dear John letter on the white paper that Ina Nell, Doc’s receptionist, put on the patient tables for protection.

Needless to say, Doc Clyde and Granny haven’t spoken in a year.

“She’s doing fine. In fact, I’ve got to get going because I’m heading over there right now to get more of her delicious sweet tea for the clients at Eternal Slumber.” I gave each one of the women eye contact before letting my stare linger on Beulah. “I’ll make sure to tell her that you asked about her.”

She shifted in her seat and looked away from me.

“Whoever heard the likes,” I overheard Beulah whisper to the ladies since she always wanted to get in the last word in edgewise. “Offering iced tea when people are grieving. The last place they want to sit and chat is a funeral home. The repast, yes, but not while making arrangements.”

I stopped, swiveled around on the soles of my shoes.

“What was that?” I looked into the air like I could hear someone they couldn’t see. You know… stir the Funeral Trauma pot a little, just to keep Beulah on her toes. “Beulah? Really?” I laughed and slide my gaze to her.

All the Auxiliary women drew back, lightly gasping.

“Do you think she’s got the trauma again?” Beulah planted the seed in their heads on my way out the door.

“Noooo.” I didn’t have to look back when I heard Mazie respond.

I’d be getting a visit from her soon now that Beulah had planted that little seed of doubt in her mind.

 

 

Chapter Three

 

It was a beautiful sunny day, and sitting in one of the rocking chairs on the covered front porch of the Inn while visiting Granny was exactly what I needed to calm my nerves from Beulah Paige and the gossip she’d already started to spread about me.

“Don’t you pay her any attention.” Granny tsked. “That woman talks enough for four sets of teeth.”

Granny used the toe of her shoe to push the rocking chair back and forth.

“You doing okay?” I glanced over at her.

For nearly eighty years old, Granny was still very spry. She kept her hair short and dyed to a bright red. She dressed to the nines and always was a southern lady. Even when she blessed your heart through gritted teeth. Granny knew exactly how to make someone feel at home but stab them in the back if she needed to, and they’d never see it coming.

“I’m good.” She nodded, her stare straight across the town square. “I’ve got a meat loaf in for the repast tomorrow. I even made an extra one for you and Jack Henry.” There was a glimmer of hope in her eye that told me she’d wished I was married, because to her, I was considered an old maid. “It’s date night, ain’t it?”

“It is. And he’s going to love the meat loaf.” My mouth watered at the thought of her recipe.

I wasn’t about to turn away Granny’s specialty. Heck, everything she made was special.

Her meat loaf was made with two different types of meat, and it was always moist as well as tasty.

“You tell him you made it. That’ll get him back here.” She winked, still trying to get me to the altar.

“When you get married, I’ll get married.” It was all I had to say to shut her up. “By the way, the clients love your tea.”

“Hettie Bell told me.” Granny gave me the side-eye. “Emma Lee, you feeling all right? Hettie told me some woman was at the funeral home waving a feather around like it was some sort of voodoo spirit stuff. And we aren’t going to Doc Clyde this time. I’m getting you a real doctor.”

Until Granny and Doc Clyde had split up, Doc Clyde, in Granny’s eyes, was as close to a Godly man on earth as you could get, outside of Pastor Brown. She’d obviously changed her mind when she decided not to marry him.

“Everything is good. I’m not ill.” I assured her and looked at my new fancy watch when a text chirped from it.

“I dee-clare.” Granny pushed herself up to stand. “It was cell phones that took all our attention. Now you have that watch. Can’t you just sit a spell and not be disturbed?”

“It’s Jack Henry.” I read his text, telling me what time he was coming tonight.

“As long as it’s him.” Granny had a twinkle of hope in her eye. “In my day if you were near thirty…” she reminded me as she got up.

“It’s not your day.” I raised my brows and in a nonchalant way told her it was none of her business. “We are fine. Happy and good.”

“When’s he coming back to Sleepy Hollow to take over as sheriff again? I’m tired of Trevor.” She walked down the porch and picked the dead leaves out of the potted ferns, tossing them over the railing of the porch.

“You’re tired of Trevor? I’m sick to death of him.” I’d forgotten about his little visit this morning and knew I needed to take care of my little citations. “He had the nerve to bring me all the parking tickets he’s given my hearse over the past couple of years and told me that he was going to arrest me if I didn’t pay them.”

The sounds of sirens bounced off the mountains behind the Inn and echoed through the town square.

Granny and I met at the top step of the porch and looked around to see what was going on. There were a few people gathered near the gazebo. The sirens got louder and louder.

“Maybe Trevor is coming to get you now,” Granny joked when the sheriff’s car skidded into the parking lot across from the Inn.

The Auxiliary women rushed out of Higher Ground Café and darted across the street, Frogger style, with Beulah Paige leading the pack.

“Something must be wrong at the gazebo,” I said to Granny and kept an eye out while everyone rushed over there.

“Come on!” Granny trotted down the steps and waved for me to follow.

No one was going to get the gossip faster than Zula Fae Raines Payne.

I shook my head, rolled my eyes, and followed behind her. I watched as the spectators reacted to whatever it was Trevor had bent over. Some of them held their hands over their mouths while others looked and then quickly looked away.

“What’s going on?” Granny had sidled up to Cissie Clark and her husband.

“Dead body.” Cissie gulped. Her eyes swept past Granny’s shoulder and focused on me. “Emma Lee, Roger and I’ll be taking our deposit back and moving our preneed arrangements to Burns.”

“Why on God’s green earth would you do something so silly?” Granny was quick to come to my defense.

“By the looks of it…” Cissie slid her gaze back to Trevor. “Emma Lee is gonna be gone for a long time with no one to run Eternal Slumber.”

“What?” My brows furrowed. A nervous laugh escaped me.

“Oh no, Emma.” I turned away from Cissie and looked at Debbie Dually, who was standing right next to me.

“Where did you go earlier?” I asked Debbie and noticed she looked a little pale after some of the smoke cleared from around her. I fanned my hand in front of my face, “You’ve got to put that incense out,” I whispered.

“Here.” Debbie pointed to the gazebo. “I came here.”

“Clark and I picked up a lunch at Artie’s and then came here to eat it.” Cissie, for some reason, was answering my questions I had for Debbie.

I didn’t want to know where they’d gone. I wanted to know where Debbie had disappeared to after she dropped the tea glass in my office.

Cissie Clark nodded to the gazebo. Trevor O’Neil stood up, and the crowd parted as they followed his eyes and what he was fixated on.

Me.

For a split second, I stared back before my focus dropped to his feet and Debbie Dually lying on the ground. Her eyes were open. Smoke was coming from the incense still burning in her hand. There was an empty mason jar with a little bit of tea in the bottom. It sure did look like one of the mason jars I served Granny’s sweet tea in at Eternal Slumber.

I jerked around and looked at Debbie Dually, who was standing next to me.

“But…” I stammered when the ghost of Debbie was clearly by my side. “Is this why you came to see me?” I tried to blink back all the confusion.

“Emma Lee.” Granny tugged on my arm. “What are you doing? Hide that crazy. Tuck it up inside of you right now.”

“I need your help.” Debbie Dually’s ghost looked frightened. “I saw my own death before I was killed.”

“Killed?” I gulped.

 

end of excerpt

A Ghostly Suspect

is available in the following formats:

HarperCollins

Jun 28, 2019

ISBN-13: 978-1096036012

Digital:

Audio:

Print: