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Authors: Maryjanice Davidson

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Undead and Unreturnable

BOOK: Undead and Unreturnable
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Undead and
Unreturnable

MaryJanice
Davidson

 

 

 

 

In honor of my grandfather,

John
Opitz
,

who taught me to do the best I could without complaint.

Which, like all important life lessons,

is lost on me.

 

 

 

Acknowledgments

 

First and forever I must, must, must thank my children, who are brilliant, charming, and deft at entertaining themselves when Mom's locked in the office on deadline. They'd probably prefer my company to a few lines in a book, but as always, their expectations are too high; I'm just not that good a parent.

 

Another thousand thank-
yous
(to go with the kisses!) to my husband, Anthony, who came up with "sinister
metrosexuality
" and likes Betsy almost as much as he likes me. He puts up with the mood swings, speechifying, and ear-cutting that is part and parcel of living with a mass-market paperback author, and I adore him for it.

 

Thanks also to my PR person/best friend/evil sidekick Jessica
Growette
, who I swear lies awake at night thinking about how to get my name out there. Which is cool, if creepy.

 

The Magic Widows, of course, must also be thanked. I learn something every Tuesday. Even better, sometimes I retain it!

 

Special thanks to Carl Hiaasen, John
Sandford
, and
Laurell
K. Hamilton for continually showing me how it's done.

 

Finally, thank you to the readers who enjoy reading about Betsy's comings and goings and who wanted to know where she went next. Thanks for hopping in and coming for the ride.

 

 

 

Author's Note

 

After seeing all the books, movies, magazines, and
National Enquirer
articles out there about serial killers, I got a little curious. After some research, I found that the actual number of estimated psycho killer
nutjobs
running around is anywhere between ten and five hundred. (For obvious reasons, it's tough to come up with an exact number.)

 

Let's say the experts are way off, and triple the guesstimate: one thousand, five hundred. There are about three hundred million people in the
United States. So roughly .0000005 percent of the population is made up of serial killers. Needless to say, chances are you're not going to trip over one in your driveway.

 

Betsy, of course, has problems most of us will never, ever have to deal with. She and Detective Nick Berry win the serial killer lottery in this tale, but, like drinking blood and endless police paperwork, it's not something most of the rest of the population has to worry about.

 

Also, colic is bad. But it doesn't last forever.

 

 

 

 

 

From the Book of the Dead:

 
"And the
Queene
shall
noe
the dead, all the dead, and neither shall they hide from her nor keep secrets from her."

 

And:

 

"And she will
noe
Evil in many forms, and defeat it should that be her will, and be the Protector and Avenger of all the dead, for as long as
shalt
be the will of the
Queene
."

 

"Just like a spider with a line of silk! Did you ever see them throw themselves out into space to weave? They're taking a chance, every single time. They got to do it or else they'd never create anything. But I bet it don't feel good, even to a spider."

—Olivia Goldsmith,
Fashionably Late

 

"It's not a bad little tree, really. It just needs a little love."


Linus
,
A Charlie Brown Christmas

 

"There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"

—Charles Dickens,
A Christmas Carol

 

 

Prologue

 

 

From the
St. Paul Pioneer Press

December 15, 2005

 

THIRD WOMAN FOUND SLAIN.
Minneapolis,
Minnesota
.

 

The body of an
Edina resident was found this morning at approximately six-thirty A.M. Cathie Robinson, 26, was found in the parking lot of the Lake Street Wal-Mart. Forensics show that she had been strangled. She had been reported missing on December 13. She is believed to be the third victim of the so-called Driveway Killer, who has so far claimed at least three local victims.

 

Detective Nick Berry, who has been working with the FBI since the second victim, Martha Lundquist, was found on November 23, said the investigation is pursuing several leads. "This is our top priority,"
Berry
said. "Nothing else even comes close."

 

Ms. Lundquist was reported missing on November 8, and her body was found in the parking lot of a White Bear Lake Target store on November 10.

 

The FBI has profiled the killer, who appears to be choosing tall blond women with light-colored eyes and short hair. Although an arrest is "imminent,"
Berry
warns
Minneapolis women to use caution when leaving their places of business.

 

It is believed that the Driveway Killer has also struck in
Iowa
,
Missouri
, and
Arkansas
.

 

The FBI and local police believe that the first local victim was Katie Johnson, 27, who was reported missing on October 28 and whose body was found on November 4 in the parking lot of the Lakeville
McStop
.

 

 

 

From the
Star Tribune
December 17, 2005

 

BORN, to Antonia Taylor and John Peter Taylor of
Edina,
Minnesota
, a boy, Jonathon Peter Taylor II, at 12:05 A.M. on December 15 at Fairview Ridges Edina.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

This is how my tombstone read:

 

Elizabeth Anne Taylor

April 25, 1974-April 25, 2004

Our sweetheart, only resting

 

 

"That's just so depressing," my best friend, Jessica Watkins, observed.

 

"It's weird." My sister, Laura Goodman, was staring. "That is very, very weird."

 

"Our sweetheart, only resting?" I asked. "What the hell's that supposed to mean?"

 

"I think it's nice," my sister said, a little hesitantly.

 

She looked like a dirty old man's dream with her long, butterscotch-blond hair, big blue eyes, and red
peacoat
. You know how ministers' kids will sometimes go wild when they finally get away from their parents? Laura was the devil's daughter (no, really), so her way of rebelling was to be as nice and sweet as possible. A dastardly plan. "It's a little different. Most of the people I know would have gone with a Bible verse, but your mama certainly didn't have to."

 

"Given how things turned out," Jess replied, running a hand over her skinned-back black hair, "it's a little prophetic, don't you think?" As usual, when she put her hair up, she pulled it back so tightly, the arch of her eyebrows made her look constantly amazed. Though it's possible, given where we were standing, that she really
was
amazed.

 

"I think standing in front of my own grave is the last place I want to be on the seventeenth day of December, is what I think." Depressing
and
creepy. Must be the holidays.

 

Jessica sighed again and rested her forehead on my shoulder. "Poor Betsy. I can't get over it. You were so young!"

 

Laura smirked a little. "Like turning thirty wasn't enough of a trauma. Poor Betsy."

 

"So young!"

 

"Will you pull yourself together, please? I'm right here." I stuck my hands into my coat pockets and sulked. "What is it, like ten below out? I'm freezing."

 

"You're always freezing. Don't bitch if you're going to go outside without your gloves. And it's thirty-five degrees, you big baby."

 

"Would you like my coat?" Laura said. "I don't really feel the cold."

 

"Another one of your sinister powers," Jessica said. "We'll add it to the list with weapons made of hellfire and always being able to calculate a 22 percent tip. Now Bets, run this by me again… how'd your tombstone finally show up here?"

 

I explained, hopefully for the last time. I had, of course, died in the spring. Rose in the early dawn hours the day of my funeral and gone on undead walkabout. Because my body was MIA, the funeral was cancelled.

 

But my mother, who had been in a huge fight with my dad and
stepmom
about what to spend on my marble tombstone, had rushed to order the thing. By the time it was finished, no funeral, no service, no burial. (My family knew the truth about what I was now, and so did Jessica. My other coworkers and friends had been told the funeral had been a joke, one in very poor taste.)

 

So anyway, my tombstone had been in storage the last six months. (My stepmother had been pushing for plain, cheap granite, with my initials and my dates of death and birth; a penny saved is a penny earned, apparently. My dad, as he always did when my mom and Antonia were involved, stayed out of it.)

 

After a few months, the funeral home had politely contacted my mother and asked what she'd like to do with my tombstone. Mom had the plot and the stone paid for, so she had them stick it in the dirt the day before yesterday, and mentioned it at lunch yesterday. You know how it goes: "Waiter, I'll have the tomato soup with Parmesan croutons, and by the way, honey, I had your tombstone set up in the cemetery yesterday."

 

Jessica and Laura had been morbidly curious to see it, and I'd tagged along. What the hell, it made for a break from wedding arrangements and Christmas cards.

 

"Your mom," Jessica commented, "is a model of scary efficiency."

 

Laura brightened. "Oh, Dr. Taylor is so nice."

 

"And just when I think your stepmother can't get any lamer… no offense, Laura." The Ant was technically Laura's birth mother. It was a long story.

 

"I'm not offended," she replied cheerfully.

 

"Have you two
weirdos
seen enough?"

 

"Wait, wait." Jessica plopped the bouquet of cream-colored calla lilies on my grave. I nearly shrieked. I'd sort of assumed she'd picked those up for one of the eighty thousand tables in our house. Not for my
grave
. Ugh! "There we go."

 

"Let's bow our heads," Laura suggested.

 

"No
way
. You're both fucking ill."

 

"Language," my sister replied mildly.

 

"We're not praying over my grave. I'm massively
creeped
out just being here. That would be the final, ultimately too-weird step,
ya
weirdo."

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