The Greatest Gift (A Darcy Sweet Mystery) (2 page)

BOOK: The Greatest Gift (A Darcy Sweet Mystery)
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She stepped back from him, putting a hand on her hip.  "Jon, can we maybe go somewhere now and talk?  I know it's going to be real hard for you to get all the way out to Misty Hollow."

Off to the side, Darcy saw Grace wince at the sarcasm underlying that comment.

Jon's smile slipped. 
"Yeah, sure.  We can go to this little restaurant I know."  He looked past her then, like he was just noticing they weren't alone.  "Hi Grace."

"Hello, yourself," she answered.  "Darcy isn't the only one who misses you being around, you know.  I don't want to break in a new partner.  Chief
Daleson has a few candidates for detective ready to promote and I can't stand any of them."

They shared a laugh at that whil
e Darcy tapped her foot.  In spite of herself and everything else, she wanted to spend time with Jon and get their relationship back on track.  She was just about to ask him if they could go already when her mother came out from behind the curtain.

She was in the gown, and it was like it had been made just for her. 
Helena the saleswoman held the train up as Darcy's mother walked slowly forward.  It fit her perfectly, the color of it complimenting her complexion and her hair.  From the look on her face it was obvious to see that this was, in fact, the right dress for her.

Then Eileen
saw Jon and her whole expression changed.  "Well.  Hello, Jon.  What a…surprise."

"Mrs. Sweet," Jon answered in carefully pleasant tones.  "I was just asking Darcy to join me for dinner."

"I'm afraid we've already eaten."

"Mom," Darcy said meaningfully
.  She found herself twisting the antique silver ring on the finger of her right hand and made herself stop.  "We'll only be gone for a little bit.  Why don't you and Grace finish up here, and Jon can bring me back?"

She didn't wait for her mother to answer.  Instead she went and gave her a quick hug, careful not to ruin the perfecti
on of the dress.  "Your husband-to-be won't be able to take his eyes off you," she said.

"Well.  That's the idea, after all."  Her mom looked her directly in the eyes.  "Are you sure you'll be okay?"

Darcy was going to say something about how she wasn't being abducted, but considering Grace's husband actually had been kidnapped here in Oak Hollow she just told her mother she'd be fine instead.

Which was when Grace's cell phone rang.

She answered it, stepping away to talk quietly.  Then to Darcy's surprise Grace handed it to her.

"It's for you," she said with a shrug.

Darcy looked at Jon apologetically.  "Give me a minute?"

As Grace handed the phone over
she whispered, "Tell me again why you don't have your own cell phone?"

"It's a long story."  Darcy took the rectangular, pink smart phone and held it up to her ear.  "Hello?  Who's this?"

"Darcy?" the voice on the line said.  "Darcy, this is Belinda Franco.  I don't know if you remember me?"

"Of course.
  It's been a while."  Darcy's Great Aunt Millie had been good friends with Belinda and her husband Dominic.  They had lived on the other side of Misty Hollow and Darcy hadn't seen much of either of them since Millie had passed away. Dominic was dead now, too, but Belinda still stopped into Darcy's bookstore every once in a great while.  "I'm sorry, Belinda, I'm kind of in the middle of something right now.  Was there something I could do for you?"

"Um, well, this is sort of embarrassing."  Belinda took a deep breath.  "I need your help.  I believe I'm being haunted.  Yes.  There, I said it.  I think I'm being haunted by a ghost."

Around her, the dress shop had fallen into an uncomfortable silence as her sister and her mother and her estranged boyfriend and even the dress shop owner listened in on her end of the conversation. 

Darcy didn't want to discuss this in front of
everyone, that was for sure.  It wasn't uncommon for people in Misty Hollow to ask for her help sometimes in all matters of the paranormal.  Contacting dead loved ones, trying to find lost objects of sentimental value, and the like.  Darcy had even been asked to exorcise a few malevolent spirits from people's homes, although those calls usually turned out to be nothing more than overactive imagination.

  Not always.

"What ma
kes you think that?" she asked Belinda, trying to keep from mentioning the words ghost or spirit or haunting.

"I don't know if I can explain it."  Belinda choked up and for a moment she couldn't speak.  Darcy might not know what
sort of things were happening to Belinda, but she could tell the woman was serious.

"Would it help if I came over to see you?" Darcy asked.

Relief flooded Belinda's voice.  "Oh, Darcy, that would be such a big help.  You know I used to ask your aunt about these things but she always said I could trust you, too."

Hearing that her aunt had said that about her made Darcy feel funny.
  Proud and happy and sad all at once.  "I'll come over later tonight, if that's all right.  I'm out of town at the moment."

"That's fi
ne," Belinda told her.

Darcy was confirming with Belinda what time she should come over when
Jon's cell phone rang.

She really hated cell phones.

As Darcy ended her call with Belinda and handed Grace's phone back to her, Jon ended his call as well.  The look on his face said it all.

"I need to go back to the station," he said.  "Something happened and they need me back.  I'm so sorry, Darcy.  I heard you say you were going back to Misty Hollow later tonight.  Can I come see you there?"

Darcy didn't try to hide her disappointment.  "Well I'm going over to help a friend tonight.  So, if it's really all that important that you talk to me then maybe you should meet me tomorrow."

He nodded, checking his watch. 
"Clara's deli?  Lunch?"

She couldn't help the sharp tone cutting through her voice.

He looked up at her, his eyes searching her face.  "I really am sorry, Darcy.  I just can't…"

"Be in two places at once?" she suggested.  "Or keep a promise?"

held her gaze for a moment longer before turning around and walking out the door.  He pulled his cell phone out again as he disappeared up the sidewalk.

"That was a little harsh," Grace said to her, "don't you think?"

Darcy shook her head.  "It is what it is, sis.  I just need to accept the fact that no matter what I do, he isn't coming back to me."

Her heart wasn't into looking at bridesmaid dresses, but she did it anyway for her mother's sake. 
By the time they were ready to go her thoughts were so scattered that she wasn't even sure what color the dresses were that her mom had chosen.  She hadn't really paid any attention to what was going on, just nodding along with whatever anyone else said.

a last look at the wedding dress she had modeled in the mirror, Darcy walked out of the shop behind her mother and sister.  She couldn't wait to leave Oak Hollow behind her.

Chapter Two



It was Eight-thirty that night when Darcy got to Belinda's house.  It was pretty much the way she remembered it, although it had been painted blue since the last time she had seen it.  Even the shutters around the narrow upstairs windows were blue.  Parts of the roof had been replaced with new architectural shingles while other spots were still an older style, like a renovation project had been started and then never finished.

The front porch was new but the boards were bare and unfini
shed.  They thudded hollowly beneath her feet.  Standing there before she knocked, she took a moment to tilt her head back, her eyes closed, her senses extended out.

She had always been sensitive to the world of the paranormal.  Ghosts.  Visions.  Feelings that turned out to be messages from beyond.  When she'd been a little girl she didn't understand what it all meant, and her abilities
hadn't been very strong at any rate.  It wasn't until she'd hit puberty that things really developed and she began to realize just how different she was from other people.

Now, at the age of thirty, she'd had fifteen years to learn how to use her gift.  Her Aunt Millie had shown her a lot of things.  Other stuff she'd learned on her own.  Reaching out to the other side was as easy as breathing now.

Standing on Belinda Franco's porch, she didn't feel the presence of a single ghost.

Sometimes the dead didn't want to be seen.  Other times they jumped up into Darcy's face like those people selling perfume at a mall.
  When she needed to have a direct conversation with someone's spirit, Darcy would perform a communication.  It was a little odd that she couldn't sense any ghostly activity here, if Belinda really was being haunted, but it didn't necessarily mean anything.

The only way to find out for sure would be to go inside.

Darcy knocked on the door after a few more minutes of listening and feeling nothing.  Belinda answered quickly.  She opened the door just a bit to peer out at Darcy before throwing it wide. 

"Oh, Darcy, thank you so much for coming over.  I hope I didn't take you away from anything?"

Darcy thought back to the sight of Jon walking out of the dress shop, all apologies and no explanations.

"No," she assured Belinda.  "You didn't interrupt anything."

Inside, in her kitchen, Belinda put a teakettle to boil on the stove.  "Some tea will make the story easier, I think," she said.  She wrapped her blue shawl tighter around the shoulders of her dress and shuffled over to the table to sit with Darcy.  Her gray hair was a frizzy cap around a round, kindly face.  She was short and stooped and Darcy imagined that if she had looked up the definition of grandmother in the dictionary, Belinda's picture would be there.

"Now," she said, folding her wrinkled hands together on the table.  "I should start at the beginning."

"You said you were being haunted," Darcy said.  "That word has a lot of different meanings to a lot of different people.  I'm assuming you've seen a ghost?"

To Darcy's surprise, Belinda shook her head.  "Well, not exactly.  I don't have the gift like you and Millie
.  I can't see him."

"See him?" she asked. 

Belinda's smile was wistful.  "Dominic. 
My Dominic."

Dominic.  Belinda's dead husband. 
Darcy began to feel certain that this was another false alarm.  She hadn't felt anything in the house, even sitting here in the kitchen, and Belinda hadn't seen anything.  She wouldn't be the first woman who wanted more time with their dearly departed family members so desperately that they imagined ghosts.  "I'm sure you miss Dominic, but if you haven't seen him, then what made you come to the conclusion you were being haunted?"

"Well.  My
Dominic is moving things around when I'm not looking.  You know, like in that movie
?"  Belinda actually shuddered.  "That movie always gave me nightmares.  The way that little girl got sucked into the television.  Spooky."

Maybe she should just do a ritual cleansing to make Belinda feel better
, Darcy thought.  At least let Belinda think she had helped Dominic pass over even if he wasn't here.  Not that there was any such thing as a ritual cleansing, but with the right Latin phrases and some salt thrown around, people tended to believe their houses were exorcised from spirits that had never been there in the first place.  The same sort of thing could work here.

The teakettle finally began to whistle and Belinda popped up to go to the stove.  She poured
the water out slowly into two yellow mugs with teabags hanging over their sides.  While she was doing that, Darcy looked around the kitchen with its little corner dining area.  There were photographs all along the walls, mostly black and white with a few color ones interspersed.  Belinda was in many of them.  A smiling, happy, younger version of herself.

In some, she was standing next to a very handsome man with hair
coiffed to the side like Darcy had seen movies stars do in old movies.  They looked happy together, smiling for the camera or waving.  In two they were sharing a kiss, captured for eternity.

"Is that your husband?" Darcy asked as Belinda came back with their tea.

The woman looked up at the wall where Darcy pointed, and a wistful smile came over her face.  "Oh, yes.  That's my Dominic.  Such a handsome man, don't you think?"

"Yes," Darcy agreed.  "He certainly was.  Millie always spoke very highly of the two of you.  I'm sorry he's not here to help you with this.  Now, let's talk about this ghost of yours."


Some people were never able to let go of their loved ones. 
Darcy had seen that time and time again.  For some it became an obsession, to a point where they imagined their friends and family were still around, guiding them and protecting them.  For those people, what they took as ghostly guidance was nothing more than chance or luck and a healthy imagination.

BOOK: The Greatest Gift (A Darcy Sweet Mystery)
2.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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