A while back I asked if anyone wanted a sneak peek at Ghost Town, my new work in progress. Y’all said, “Yes,” so I of course did nothing for ages. Until now.
TL;DR version of context: She’s new on the job. He’s been dead over a century. Together they solve crimes.
The longer spiel: Deena Davis fled her wee Illinois hometown as soon as she was old enough to enlist in the Army. Now she’s back in Gridley as the newly-appointed police chief, just in time to catch Gridley’s first murder case in decades.
Her great-great-grandfather Fletcher was Gridley’s mayor during his lifetime. Since his death he’s been the mayor of the town’s ghostly population. He was a big fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and he has the ability to make himself seen by his descendants.
He is keen to help Deena solve this murder whether she wants it or not.
Also, Deena owns a retired military working dog named Bazel. (Because I wanted to write a dog, that’s why.) That’s why there’s a pic of a Malinois at the top of this post.
Fletcher caught up to Deena while she was on her way to talk with the county clerk’s digital specialists. One minute she was checking the road behind her before changing lanes, the next, her rear view was blocked by the ghost’s smiling, whiskery face.
Deena’s startled flinch nearly put them in the ditch before trained reflexes kicked in. The car rocked on its wheels, and gravel crunched under the right front tire, but she settled the swerve.
“Not funny!” she snapped as she regained control. “Don’t ever pop up like that when I’m driving, not ever.”
“When you’re—oh.” Fletcher took note of the scenery flashing by, and his face fell. “I didn’t think to check the physical plane ‘afore visiting. I’m right sorry, Deena. ”
His contrite expression looked sincere, but the man had been a politician. Deena wouldn’t trust him as far as she could throw him. “You’d better be sorry. This partnership will come to an abrupt and nasty end if I slam head-on into a semi.”
Bazel nosed irritably at the mayor, who was occupying much of the same space in the back seat as he was. Fletcher ignored the dog’s intrusion, his expression thoughtful in a dangerously familiar way. Deena had seen that look on her father’s face more than once when he got to yearning for grandkids.
She shouldn’t have mentioned dying. At least the ghost couldn’t set her up on blind dates. He could nag, though. Better cut that off before it starts. “And don’t even think about telling me I should settle down and start popping out kids.”
The ghost stroked his mustache and slid to the other seat to get away from the dog. “No idea what you’re on about,” he said cheerfully. “Ain’tcha going to ask why I’m here? Lemme tell you. I made inquiries last night, and I have news.”
“That’s grand,” Deena said with maximum insincerity. Just as she’d suspected, the mayor was going to hover over her and get in the way. The tires squeaked as she turned hard into the office parking lot. She found the building number and pulled into a spot nearby. “I have to interview a digitizing specialist. Learn anything relevant to that?”
“I don’t reckon so. Not even sure what that is.”
“Then wait here—or if you won’t do that, at least stay out of my sight and keep your mouth shut so I don’t look like a lunatic.”
“Hold on one goldarned second.” Fletcher did his instant-move thing to appear at Deena’s shoulder as she opened the rear door to retrieve Bazel. “Is that any way to talk to your partner? Listen here—”
“No, you listen.” Deena unlatched Bazel and looked down at the dog to avoid the talking to thin air issue. “I can’t drop everything any time you decide to show up. Maybe you have all the time in the world, but I don’t, and there is no box for ‘ghost evidence’ on the reports I have to file. This comes first.”
She looked up at the end. Fletcher met her angry gaze for long seconds. “You don’t have to be so hurtful,” he finally said.
She had been harsh. Much too harsh. She let out tension in a heavy sigh and rubbed her aching neck. Sun beat down on the pavement, and reflected heat rose up through her boots. Her ancestor looked cool and collected. Must be nice to not melt in the heat. “I’m sorry, Fletcher. You scared the daylights out of me. That gets my temper up. No disrespect. I do want to hear you out. Just—not now. Please.”
“Well, all righty. That’s a pretty explanation, and I might have a temper myself.” The ghost mayor regarded her Ford Interceptor with a thoughtful frown. “These carriages keep getting bigger and more complicated. How’s about you take me for a drive around town in it? I can give you all the news and show you the sights, and you can show me how fast it goes.”
“That’s—not a bad idea.” Nobody looked twice at drivers talking to themselves. Deena gave Bazel a quick ear scratch and straightened to see a figure at the office window duck out of view. Looked like her witness was getting nervous. “We’ll do that soon. Now go poof or whatever it is you do and let me get to work.”
“Poof?” Fletcher said. “Poof?”
She gestured extravagantly with both hands like a magician. “Poof!”
He was still sputtering when he disappeared, but he was smiling too.