Authors: Carol Shenold
Tags: #Mystery: Paranormal - Ghost - Texas
|Carol Shenold - Tali Cates 02 - Bloody Murder|
|Tali Cates |
|Deadly Niche Press (2008)|
|Tags:||Mystery: Paranormal - Ghost - Texas|
A Tali Cates Paranormal Mystery
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Deadly Niche Press
An imprint of AWOC.COM Publishing
P.O. Box 2819
Denton, TX 76202
© 2012, Carol Shenold
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
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Screams shrilled from the dressing room area, not the carnival.
What else could go wrong with this damned county fair contest I was in charge of?
I shivered, and it wasn’t from the cooler evening air.
I ran toward the dressing room, reaching the door in time to be trampled by Theresa, who was shrieking and carrying her daughter, Charlice.
“Oh God, oh God, oh God. My baby, my poor baby.” She finally took a breath and sat down on the ground. “It’s dead, it has to be. I don’t know what it is.” Theresa was one of the pageant contestant mothers. From the way she was reacting, you’d think her child was dead, not struggling against her mother’s tight grip.
I picked myself up from the cement stage, ignoring my scraped knee. Charlice buried her head in her mother’s neck.
I went into the empty dressing room Theresa had opened. She had been anxious her daughter wouldn’t have enough mirror space to get ready for the talent competition.
Marcia Baker lay on the floor, or at least someone in Marcia’s clothes. The body looked like a mummy, not Marcia. It was as if something had removed all moisture from her. All I could think of was poor Marcia, poor Kimmie—who was one of the Queen Contest competitors. She would be without a mother.
I couldn’t catch my breath. My heart stuttered. I staggered out of the room, touching nothing. My cell phone rang. I fumbled it out of my jeans, swallowing several times before I could talk. It was Mumsie, my mother.
“What’s going on, Tali? Chung Po is beside himself. He says he can’t see anything but darkness.”
“Tell your stupid spirit guide to go into the light. Get off the phone and call JT. I have a dead body here in the dressing room.”
“Just go call.” I hung up and threw myself behind a hay bale to be sick. It was déjà vu all over again.
* * * *
I’d been here before. Dead body, JT yelling, the essence of murder swirling around, contaminating everything. It was all too familiar. What the hell had happened?
Evil had visited. Damn, I sounded like the narrator of a cheesy movie. I couldn’t think of another explanation. Kimmie Baker now had no mother. I didn’t look for her to compete in the Queen Contest after this. In fact, I hadn’t seen her since the interviews.
Where had she gone? Who would break that news to her? It was so not fair. She was too young to deal with death, although a lot of kids did, I supposed. I guessed JT would let Don know, and he’d tell the rest of the family. I couldn’t have and didn’t need to.
Tomorrow these little girls couldn’t get ready in a crime scene. We’d have to hold the contest somewhere else.
That’s sick, Marcia was dead and all I could think about is how it will affect the stupid contest. I know that’s my job, but someone was killed, and we have no clue how. Was it on purpose? If so, how did anyone do that to another human being? Why would they? It was impossible. I could hear Mumsie now.
“Tali, nothing is impossible in this world, or other worlds for that matter.” She also believed a Ming dynasty spirit—and an Egyptian pharaoh—guided her every move. I may see an occasional ghost, have the ability to sense things when I touch an object, but I was firmly grounded in reality. I had to be, with a ten-year-old son to worry about.
Accompanied by carnival music, the police department moved all of us away from the scene and the victim. We gathered in the pavilion, which housed the 4H animals. A long brown collapsible table served as an interrogation setting. Animals, cages, award ribbons surrounded us.
The sheriff, JT Bellows, was in charge of the investigation. He was tall with sandy colored hair, brown eyes, and cowboy all the way through, and I’d been attracted to him since high school. JT went through the afternoon’s events with everyone still there who might have any knowledge of what happened, from those at the Queen contestant interviews for the older girls to the younger girls at modeling practice in the amphitheatre at the fairgrounds—and those of us who had overheard the victim arguing with her husband.
“Tali, what exactly did Marcia’s husband say?”
I went through everything I could remember, telling him about the fight I’d overheard between Marcia and her husband Don, as well as the argument Marcia had with Karin Hataway, one of the teens in the Queen Contest interviews earlier that afternoon. The idea of the interviews was to assess the poise and speaking ability of the high school girls before the Queen Contest talent and modeling competition. The grade-school girls in the Princess Contest and junior high girls in the Duchess contest didn’t have to bother with that stressful process.
JT raked his fingers through his hair. “It sounds to me like he threatened her. He has a history of making threats, and we’ve been called out to their house more than once. Plus, if she was fooling around with anyone else, it might be enough to set him off. The fight with Karin makes it sound as if she and Karin had been seeing the same person.”
“JT, are you forgetting what was done? We were all in the area and yet no one heard anything. Does Don Baker strike you as someone so skilled, he could drain a body in front of so many people and not be seen? Would he actually be ‘seeing’ an eighteen-year-old as a serious love interest? Karin and his daughter Kimmie are in the same senior class. This isn’t logical.”
He frowned. “Right now I’m more concerned with who, not how or why. You know, motive, opportunity, the usual stuff. We can worry how it was done later. I want this solved and put away before Love County acquires the reputation of being murder central. We’ve already had more murder in this county—heck, in this town—in a few months than we usually have in a couple of years. Come election time, people will elect a sheriff they think can protect them, keep them safe.”
I stood up and turned to leave, then turned back. “JT, when do you think we can use the amphitheatre again?”
“Not soon enough. Better put out the word to your moms and kids, and I’ll tell Laurel and the rest of the board. The Princess Contest, at least, will have to take place in the VA auditorium or the one in the old high school. Just think of the built-in audience. I’ll tell everyone to let you know where, ASAP.”
Great, I thought. Both are impossible, no dressing rooms, and the high school auditorium had iffy air conditioning. Both were too small for the size audience the Princess Contest would bring in. The advantage was that weather wouldn’t be as big a factor indoors. Now if the board would let me know their decision, I could get on with it.
I had a few blocks to go and I’d be home, but not for long. I might have exactly enough time to shop with Sean for his Halloween costume. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but I wasn’t going to punish Sean for what had happened.
I’d have time to get back to the house, change, and be at the country club for the vampire-themed blood drive. Not my idea. This was a Mindy and Missy Corcoran show. They were twins, had married brothers, both of whom were bank presidents. Together, they ran the country club set when it came to charitable events.
* * * *
Mumsie waited at home to waylay me.
“We need to talk, Tali.” Mumsie, all five foot four of her, stood with her hands on her hips. “All this murder has to stop. What are you going to do about it?”
“Wait. Let me get in the door, get some coffee, take a deep breath.” I went into the large kitchen to brew some espresso, make a triple latte. Mumsie preferred tea. We went back to the front room where we could see the boys when they wandered in.
I sat down on the couch, angled so I could see arrivals through the bay window. “Now, say that again and tell me what you mean.”
“I mean just what I said. Murder again, and in this tiny town. It’s ridiculous. There is no way this should be happening here.”
“Nowhere, even though we are in a prime area for unstable spirit access—thin veils, cracks for evil to seep through. It’s a wonder we haven’t seen more paranormal activity in the past.”
“Mumsie, what on earth are you talking about? You sound like a bad TV show, like
Most Scary Places in the World
“Child, you have to know Love, Texas lies right on top of a conjuncture of several of the most powerful ley lines in the Southwest. The thing that saves us from more activity is the existence of this town.”
None if this made sense to me. “What would a ‘ley line’ be and why do I care?”
In the tone of voice she might have used with a backward five-year-old, Mumsie explained. “A ley line is a vein of power, like a power grid, only the power allows the control of energies and magic. The power in this area is so strong it draws both good and bad entities. Everyone wants a piece of it. And you care because your children live here and are exposed to both sides.”
“Why don’t I know about this? Couldn’t you have told me before I moved the kids here?”
Mumsie snorted. “Well, that’s easy. You didn’t give me any warning, you showed up on my doorstep. Plus, do you believe in my spirit guides? Have you ever? Was there a good reason for me to think you’d believe in ley lines when you moved in here? You weren’t even using your powers then. The presence of Mag the Ghost made you look outside yourself and see the potential for possibilities that things exist we can’t control, that aren’t always logical.”
I’d moved back to Love, Texas the previous spring when my then husband, Brian, decided my ability to read the history of an object was witchcraft. He’d kicked us out on the street, literally. I moved in with Mumsie and began an event planning business with Renée Simmons, one of my best friends since high school.
I got up to pace, sat back down. “Who else knows about this?”
Her expression grew smug. “The believers all know.”
“And who would that be?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Let me get this straight. I’m now living in a town where out-of-the-normal things are going to continue happening around me—and to me—since these
are here, and there’s nothing I can do?”
“I didn’t say that,” Mumsie insisted. “The more you use your gifts, the stronger they will get. Same with Sean.”
By now, I was yelling. “I don’t want them to be stronger and I certainly don’t want Sean seeing more strange stuff than he has to.”
“Too late. Besides, you have an obligation to use your gifts for good.”
I took deep breaths. “Okay. Why haven’t I heard anything about this before? Not everyone in this town believes in ghosts or goblins.”
“People in this town have been looking the other way for generations. If things happen that can’t be explained logically, human beings are really good at ignoring things that don’t fit in with their current belief system.”
“Like Mag’s ghost? Like bodies drained of all fluids?”
My stomach lurched. “You mean you think something supernatural was involved in Marcia’s death?” The hostess of my first event in Love County, Mag Tannehill, had been murdered at her party. Her murderer turned out to be a man I’d been instrumental in sending to jail when I’d served on a jury. Mag’s ghost had haunted me until I helped solve the murder. I thought I was through with murders