Authors: Jana DeLeon
Certain her current line of thought had gone way too far, she left the chapel and made her way to her truck, anxious to get away from the overwhelming feeling of death. It was barely noon, but it was definitely time for a beer. Maybe she’d pick up something from the café on the way home—like a bag of boiled crawfish—then take a shower and a nap. Just a bit of a refresher.
After that, she needed to contact her attorney and make sure he was prepared for a Hank appearance and was ready to serve him the divorce papers. She pulled into Mudbug, all eight buildings of it, and parked in front of the café. Turning off the truck, she stared out the windshield at her reflection in the café window. She didn’t even want to think about having to face Hank. She wasn’t even sure it was possible without trying to throttle him.
Maybe she’d have fries, too—fries and two beers and forget she’d ever known Hank and Helena Henry.
Maryse awakened mid-afternoon, surprised she’d slept so long. But napping any longer was a luxury she couldn’t afford. She’d already lost almost an entire day of work. If she hurried out to the bayou, there might be enough daylight to take some pictures and satisfy the state’s latest request for images of bayou foliage.
Just as she was about to crawl out of bed, she felt the hair on her arms prickle as if she were being watched. Her cat, Jasper, stiffened and let out a low growl. Before she could figure out what had upset him, he leaped from the bed and shot out the cat door built into the window beside the bed.
Shaking her head in amusement at his antics, Maryse caught a flash of bright pink out of the corner of her eye and looked up to find Helena Henry standing in the doorway of her bedroom, studying her like she would the fabric on designer sheets.
Maryse felt her back tighten from the tip of her neck all the way to the base of her spine. This couldn’t be happening—not after only two beers.
Well, hell,” Helena said finally. “That solves it.” She took a few steps closer to the bed and looked Maryse straight in the eyes. “You can see me, can’t you?”
Maryse nodded, unable to speak, unable to blink.
I thought for a moment at the chapel that you’d finally lost your mind, but I should have known better. You’re far too practical to let something like a funeral take you down. Especially my funeral.” She blew out a breath and plopped down on the end of the bed. “This is certainly unexpected but will probably come in handy.”
Handy?” Maryse managed to croak out, her mind whirling with confusion. There was a dead woman sitting on her bed. Weren’t they supposed to float or something? “But you’re…I mean, you are…”
Dead?” Helena finished. “Of course I’m dead. Do you think I’d wear polyester in the summer if I were alive? And don’t get me started about the color, or the low-cut top and the skirt that is way too short.” She stared down at the offensive garment. “Makes me want to puke.”
But how…why…” Maryse trailed off, not sure where to go with the conversation, not entirely convinced she was actually having the conversation. Finally, she pinched herself, just to make absolutely sure she was awake.
Helena gave her a grim smile. “Oh, you’re awake, honey. And I’m really dead, and you’re really sitting in your bedroom talking to me.” She scrunched her brow in concentration. “Although, I suppose it’s not really me but the ghost of me. Hmmm.”
But at the funeral, you looked confused, surprised…”
Helena nodded. “It was a bit of a shocker, I have to admit. Waking up in a coffin in the middle of my own funeral service. Took me a couple of hours to sort it all out, but once the memories came together, it all made sense.”
But why me? Why in the world would you be visible to me?”
Helena shrugged. “Just lucky, I guess.”
Lucky? Lucky! Good God Almighty! Maryse could think of plenty of words to describe being haunted by her dead Antichrist mother-in-law, but lucky sure as hell wasn’t one of them. “Please tell me you’re going to go away and haunt a house or a cemetery or something.”
Helena shook her head. “Can’t do that just yet. I have a bit of unfinished business here. And much as you may hate it, it involves you. Plus, there’s that nagging problem of letting my killer get away, and as long as I’m hanging around, I figure I might as well do something about that, too.”
Maryse jumped up from the bed. “Your killer? The newspaper said it was respiratory failure from your asthma.”
Respiratory failure, my ass. My lungs may have given out, but it was only after I drank whatever the hell was put in my brandy snifter. I collapsed right afterward.”
Maryse absorbed this information for a moment. Certainly what Helena implied was possible, but if she was right, that still left a huge question unanswered. “Who did it?”
I don’t know, but they were clever. I haven’t had a drink of brandy in a long time. Could have been there for a day or a month for all I know.” Helena shrugged. “Guess I’ll just have to figure out who wanted me dead.”
Maryse stared at her. Was she kidding? A shorter list would be people who didn’t want her dead.
I think that might be a bit difficult,” Maryse said finally, trying to be diplomatic. After all, she didn’t know anything about ghosts. Maybe they could do curses or something. This was Louisiana.
You weren’t exactly the most popular person in town,” Maryse continued and braced herself for the blow up.
Helena surprised her by pursing her lips and considering her words. “You’re right,” she said finally. “There are probably plenty of people who weren’t sad to see me go. The question is which one was desperate enough to take action?”
Maryse thought about this for a moment and began to see Helena’s point. When one really boiled down to the nitty-gritty of the situation, there was an enormous difference between preferring someone was dead, or even wishing them dead, and actually killing them. Still, the word “desperate” brought her missing husband to mind.
You’re thinking of Hank,” Helena said, and gave her a shrewd look. “Of course I thought of him, but I don’t think that’s the answer.”
Maryse started to open her mouth in protest, but Helena held up one finger to silence her. “I’m certain he won’t be sad to hear I’m dead. But quite frankly, Hank lacks the brains to carry out something like this. If he ever tried to poison someone, he’d never think to use something the coroner wouldn’t detect. He’d probably go straight for rat poison or whatever was closest.”
Maryse studied Helena’s face carefully, trying to discern whether she was being sincere or sarcastic. She couldn’t find any evidence of sarcasm. Well, that hung it all. If Helena was talking trash about Hank, the woman was most certainly dead.
Oh, how a little murder changed everything.
Okay,” Maryse said, chasing away the great visual of Hank Henry rotting away in a prison cell. “What about Harold?”
Hmm.” Helena scrunched her brow in concentration. “It usually is the spouse, especially when there’s money involved. But as far as Harold’s concerned, I was worth more alive than dead. With the bequests I left to various people and organizations, he actually comes out on the short end of the stick, and he’s probably known that for a long time.”
Maryse threw her hands in the air. “Well, if you’ve got a logical reason for why Hank or Harold aren’t guilty, then I don’t know why you bothered to come here. I obviously don’t have the mentality to think like a killer.” She took a deep breath and rushed on before she could change her mind. “I don’t think I can help you, Helena.”
There. It was out in the open. She bit her lower lip and looked at Helena, hoping she would politely agree and go away.
Helena gave her a withering look and shook her head. “Sorry. You have something I need.”
Maryse felt her breath catch in her throat. Helena already had something in mind, and Maryse knew with complete certainty she didn’t want to hear a word of it. “What in the world could I possibly have that you need?” She waved one hand around the one-bedroom cabin. “This is all I have in the world besides my truck. A camp in the middle of the bayou.”
Helena looked at her with sad eyes that seemed to go straight to her soul. “That’s not true. You’re alive. You can touch things, move things. I can’t. And you’re the only one who can see me.”
Maryse narrowed her eyes at Helena. “What do you mean you can’t touch or move things? You got here, and the only way to get to my place is by boat.”
Helena’s eyes lit up. “I know. That’s been the only interesting part about death so far. I stood at the bank thinking about how to get over here. Finally, I decided to borrow one of the small aluminum boats parked at the dock, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get a grip on anything. My hands just passed right through everything like it wasn’t even there.”
So how exactly did you get here?”
Helena beamed. “I walked on water. I finally figured what the hell, if Jesus did it, I would give it whirl. So I stepped off the pier onto the bayou and voilà—I could walk on water.”
Maryse stared at her in dismay. This was the start of the Revelation…she was positive. If Helena Henry could walk on water, Maryse was absolutely sure He was on His way back to claim His own.
Well, that sealed it. Church this Sunday was no longer an option. She had some serious praying to do.
Purchase Trouble in Mudbug and the other books in the Ghost-in-Law series at amazon.com or bn.com
The Ghost-in-Law books are available individually or in a boxset.
Other books by Jana DeLeon:
RUMBLE ON THE BAYOU
The Ghost-in-Law Series:
TROUBLE IN MUDBUG
MISCHIEF IN MUDBUG
SHOWDOWN IN MUDBUG
Jana DeLeon grew up among the bayous and ‘gators of southwest Louisiana. She’s never stumbled across a mystery like one of her heroines but is still hopeful. She lives in Dallas, Texas with a menagerie of animals and not a single ghost.
Visit Jana at her website: