The Greatest Gift (A Darcy Sweet Mystery) (3 page)

BOOK: The Greatest Gift (A Darcy Sweet Mystery)
10.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Of course there were those cases where it wasn’t their imagination and there really was a ghost of a loved one guiding and protecting them.
Or in some cases just hanging around and causing mischief.

Darcy could hope that Dominic really was watching over Belinda
.  But, more likely, Dominic's ghost had never been here at all.

asked Belinda lots of questions, some that were important, and some that she made up on the spot.  She wanted it to at least look like she believed Belinda.  For now.  After, they took a tour around the house, Belinda showing her through the downstairs pantry and the storage room and the immaculate living room with its white high-backed sofa set perfectly squared to the two matching easy chairs on either side.  The small television in the living room was dark and silent standing on a low cabinet where more pictures sat neatly framed in a row.  Other pictures hung silently on their frames around the walls.  Memories were obviously very important to Belinda.

Maybe too important to let go of.

It took Belinda some time to get up the staircase to the second floor.  Her joints were swollen, she explained with a laugh.  Must mean rain was coming.  Up here were three bedrooms and a full bathroom, all of them just as neat and tidy as the living room and kitchen and other rooms downstairs had been.

"I sweep and clean up the house every night before I go to bed," Belinda explained.  "I have to.  Every day, Dominic leaves such a mess for me."

"Was your husband a messy man in life?" Darcy asked.

"Oh, my, no," Belinda said with a little laugh.  She closed the door on the last room she had shown Darcy, a spare bedroom with a bare mattress on the bed and threadbare curtains on the window.  "He was more of a neat freak than I ever was.  No.  It's just his ghost that's making a mess of things."

Darcy didn't say what she was thinking.  None of this was adding up.  Belinda had already told her how Dominic had died peacefully in his sleep.  There were no unresolved issues that Belinda could think of.  Her ghost—Dominic—hadn't left her any messages and didn't really seem to be trying to get in touch with her.  As hauntings went, this one seemed to have no reason and no substance. 

Add in the fact that Darcy hadn't sensed any kind of presence
in the house, and it became more and more obvious that Belinda was simply seeing things that weren't there—

Darcy stopped.  Belinda had led them
down the stairs again, slowly and with some difficulty, and now they stood at the bottom where the steps led into the living room.  She stared around them.  It wasn't possible.

The living room was completely
rearranged.  The furniture had all been pushed around, the photos that had sat so neatly along the television stand now lay on the floor turned upside down, a few of them taken apart so that the pictures were out of their frames.  Books that had been set in place on shelves behind the one couch had been taken down and stacked up in three tall spires on the floor that leaned and threatened to spill over at any second.  The pictures on one whole wall had been taken down and piled carelessly in a corner.

A whirlwind couldn't have done all this.  Not in the length of time they'd been upstairs.

"How…?" Darcy started to ask.

"I told you," Belinda said, looking around with a happy smile.  "My Dominic is haunting me."


"Well, I'm sure I don't know," Belinda said as they sat at the kitchen table again.  "He needs help.  He wouldn't be here otherwise, so many years after he passed on.  I've tried to ask him what he needs but he just won't answer me.  You know how husbands can be."

Darcy had actually helped the ghost of her own late ex-husband pass over to the other side only just recently.  That had been after he led her through a murder investigation that he had been a central part of.  Yes.  She knew what dead husbands could be like.

"So, of course
I had to call you."  Belinda looked around her kitchen as though she could see Dominic everywhere she turned.  "I tried to talk to him myself at first, but he's been doing this for more than a week now and he simply won't say anything to me.  I was hoping that since we were married I could reach him, you know?  Like in the movies."  She sighed.  "No such luck, I'm afraid."

Darcy let her talk, listening to every word, but trying to piece things together in her mind at the same time.  Now that she'd seen how Belinda's living
room had been rearranged in just a few minutes, she understood why Belinda thought she was being haunted.  It certainly looked like she was.

were what most people thought of when they thought of hauntings.  Like in that movie Belinda kept mentioning.  The reality of the spiritual world was very different.  For the most part, ghosts could only interact with people like Darcy who could see and hear them.  A few stronger spirits could move small objects or make people feel cold or even scream across the barrier between the living and the dead.  Darcy's Great Aunt Millie was one of those. 

That kind of ghost was very rare
.  Plus, even if Belinda's dead husband could do that, Darcy had trouble believing he had suddenly started rearranging her furniture for no reason.

But i
f this ghost wasn't Dominic, then who was it?

"So," Belinda asked her, "what do you think?"

Darcy had completely lost track of the conversation.  She pursed her lips and decided to just be honest.  "Belinda, I don't know what to think.  There's definitely something going on in your house.  I'll do everything I can for you."

Belinda smiled and clapped her hands together.  "Oh, thank
you Darcy.  Where do we start?"

"I can try to reach
Dominic," Darcy told her.  "I can do a communication."

Chapter Three



It was very dark when Darcy made it home.  She kicked her shoes off as soon as she got through the door and went to get herself a drink of water from the pitcher in the refrigerator.  Under a magnet next to the fridge handle was a note in her mother's straight, severe handwriting telling Darcy that she had gone to bed already.  It ended with a comment about how Darcy needed her sleep, too.

Darcy smiled.  That was her mother's way of saying goodnight.

Glass of water in hand, she went to flop down on her comfy overstuffed couch.  Having been in Belinda's house with its old photographs of Dominic and other friends and family made Darcy think about how her Aunt Millie had left this house to her.  On the walls here in the living room were plenty of pictures of her own family.  Millie, Darcy's mother, Grace and Aaron, a few others.  There were two right in the center of the wall behind the couch, next to the stairway, that showed Darcy's mother and father together.

Happier time
s, she mused.  Kind of like what the photos in Belinda's house showed.

A heavy weight pounced down on Darcy's lap and she
startled, slopping a little water out of the glass onto her wrist.  A big black and white tomcat settled himself on her legs.  Purring, he looked up at her with his sharp cat eyes, and meowed.

"Smudge!  You made me spill."  She shifted her glass to her other hand and held her wet wrist up for him to see.  Sniffing at it, he began licking
the water away like it was what he had wanted all along.

Darcy laughed.  "You have your own water dish, you know."  She propped her feet up on the edge of the coffee table
, extending her lap, and Smudge gratefully stretched out along her legs.  "I love you, too," she told him, interpreting his happy cat noises.

Before leaving Belinda's house Darcy had explained
everything that what went into doing a communication.  From a spectator's viewpoint there wasn't much to it.  All the preparation and effort was on Darcy.  Belinda had happily given Darcy a man's wristwatch, a gold colored heavy thing with one of those expanding metal bands, explaining it had been Dominic's pride and joy.  A personal item to help ease the connection the deceased.  He'd kept it for years, even when it started to run slow.  Apparently, Dominic had been quite the penny pincher.

For Darcy, a
communication was a lot more complicated than it appeared.  She would have to put a great effort of her own will into the calling, an act almost as physically exhausting as running a marathon.  She would need to call on the specific spirit she needed to talk to—in this case, Dominic Franco—and wait for the ghost to answer.  Sometimes that took minutes, sometimes hours.  And making a call to the other side wasn't as simple as picking up a telephone. 

A few years back she'd gotten rid of her cell phone and had
never gotten a new one.  Somehow spirits were able to connect to the land of the living through wireless cell signals.  Darcy hadn't been able to block incoming calls quick enough as ghosts in need of help, tortured and frantic, had begun calling her at all hours.  If she could ever figure out how they did it, maybe she could reverse the process.  Maybe then calling to the other side really would be as easy as picking up the phone.

Until then, she would have to depend on a

Just not tonight.
  Tonight, she was just too tired.  It was warm and cozy here on the couch with Smudge in her lap.  He was a good cat.  She reached out and stroked his fur and closed her eyes for just a moment.


"Darcy.  Wake up, honey."

She blinked away the sle
ep that had sealed her eyes shut.  She was curled up on the couch.  At some point during the night someone had put a blanket down over her.  Was it morning already?  It couldn't be.  Could it?  She stretched and yawned and tried to read the clock on the DVR.  It felt like she hadn't slept at all.

Smudge was sitting on the arm of the couch, blinking at her.  There was no one else in the room.

"Mom?" she called out.  The house was silent.  She was sure she'd heard someone speaking to her.  Someone had told her it was time to get up.  "Smudge, did you wake me up?"

He blinked and turned his head away, as if to remind her that he was not her personal alarm clock.

"Okay, okay," she said to him.  "No need to be testy." 

She threw the blanket off and looked down to find she wasn't wearing the clothes that she'd had on last night.  Instead of her jeans and tank top, she was wearing a peach colored bridesmaid dress.  It had a full length gown, and a white sash at the waist with a huge bow that sat at her left hip.  It left her arms and shoulders bare.  It was kind of cute, and it took her a moment to remember this was the dress design her mother had picked out for her and Grace to wear at the wedding.

Why was she in it now?

"You look beautiful," a man said to her.

She turned her head to see Jon standing there, in a tuxedo of all things, all black except for the white shirt and the white cummerbund that matched her sash.  His gorgeous face was smiling, and his deep blue eyes held her gaze in a magical way.  She felt herself being drawn to him, pulled toward him, and she was suddenly standing up and he was welcoming her into his arms.

"I like this," she said, the flow of everything sweeping her
along and making her forget questions of why Jon was here, why she was with him, why they were dressed for a wedding and dancing across an open floor where lights sparkled and music played and the whole room sparkled.

"I love you," she suddenly heard herself say

"I love you, too," he answered,
in that warm voice she missed so much.  "I need you to do something for me, though."

Her heart fluttered.  "Hmm?  What?"

He stopped in the middle of their dance, twirled her, and then caught her so that they were very close, their lips almost touching, his breath caressing her cheeks.

"I need you to wake up," he told her.

The world around her began to dissolve and she didn't understand what was happening.  "Wake up, honey," Jon said, in a voice that wasn't his.  "Wake up."

Darcy sat bolt upright on the couch
.  She felt Smudge jump away from her, hissing in protest.  Her legs were cramped from being up on the coffee table all night.  She stretched them, stretched her arms out, blinked her eyes, and couldn't help but feel disappointed.  Wasn't there a blanket?  No.  It had been a dream.  The whole thing, even the dance with Jon, had been a dream.

Sighing, she stood up from the couch.  Her mother stood in the doorway from the kitchen, calling to her.  "Darcy?  Are you awake?"

"Yes, Mom."  Now that she was awake she smelled breakfast.  "You don't have to cook for us every morning, you know.  You're my guest."

"I'm your mother," Eileen countered.  "This is what mothers do."

Over plates of eggs and bacon and home fries they chatted about the wedding plans and where James might take her for their honeymoon.  He was being pretty tight-lipped about it, apparently, and her mother seemed honestly excited to find out where they were going.  Darcy marveled again at the change in her mother.

The conversatio
n eventually came around to why Belinda Franco had called Darcy.  Mental walls went up immediately in Darcy's mind.  Her mother had never reacted well to Darcy using her gifts.  That had been the root cause of the rift that had existed between them for years, until only recently. 

BOOK: The Greatest Gift (A Darcy Sweet Mystery)
10.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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