When PI Mac McClellan's girlfriend convinces him to join the Palmetto Paranormal Society, he becomes embroiled in a case of whooodunnit. The society president, while investigating an old hotel, is found dead at the foot of the stairwell, his neck broken. The man's secretary and current squeeze stands horrified beside his body. Authorities rule the death an accident. Mac has doubts--no one heard the man tumbling down the stairs. Then the secretary dies in an apparent suicide. Two deaths in two paranormal investigations, and not a peep out of either victim. Mac suspects there's more going on than a vengeful spirit. Book 4 in the Mac McClellan Mystery series, which began with Deadly Catch.
I felt like a complete idiot following my girlfriend, Kate Bell, up the narrow dusty stairs to the attic above the third floor. I wiped another cobweb out of my face and beard as Kate turned the antique glass knob. The door creaked open. She shined the small flashlight around the room before stepping inside. At five-eight, plus her new jogging shoes, she barely cleared the top of the doorway.
“Well, are you coming?” she asked as I hesitated by the open door.
“I don’t know, there might be a ghooost in there!”
She fought back a smile. “Very funny, Mac. Get your butt in here, you big, bad, hunky Marine.”
What a man won’t do for love. Not needing a crack on the forehead, I ducked and followed Kate inside the cluttered old room. Dust rose and floorboards groaned with every step. “Sure as hell aren’t going to sneak up on any spooks in this place,” I said.
Kate huffed. “They are not spooks; they’re ghosts, or spirits. How about showing a little respect for the dead?”
“Pardon me. My apologies to the dearly departed.”
For the last month Kate had been driving me nuts bugging me to join the Palmetto Paranormal Society. To keep the peace I’d finally relented. The old Navarro Hotel on the northern outskirts of Parkersville was my first paranormal investigation, although I’ve been a licensed private investigator for about a year now. I was living comfortably on my monthly military retirement check until a long-dead boyfriend from Kate’s past showed up alive. You could say I was “drafted” into working for Hightower Investigations, a PI business owned and operated by Frank Hightower. Headquarters is in Destin, Florida, Kate’s hometown. Frank’s on the backside of sixty, and a lifelong friend of the Bell family. He’s “Uncle Frank” to Kate.
When I retired from the Marine Corps two-plus years ago after a twenty-four year career, I put down roots in St. George, a coastal village in the eastern Florida Panhandle. Meeting Kate, who worked at Gillman’s Marina, played a big part in my decision to stay. Her good looks, knockout figure, and feistiness grabbed me from the beginning. I had no clue then that I’d soon be working as a private eye. But that’s another story.
There was a light turnout for tonight’s investigation. Maybe the rest of the members were out drinking Margaritas in celebration of Cinco de Mayo. That beat chasing after ghosts in this ramshackle building. Kate and I were covering the third floor and attic of the dilapidated hotel which dated back to the early twentieth century. Len and Marsha Cavanaugh, a retired couple in their late sixties, were snooping around the second floor. The first floor was the responsibility of Dr. Ernest Bagwell, our fearless leader and professor of psychology at Parkersville University. The Prof was accompanied by his secretary and current squeeze, Stella Crawford, a pixieish redhead with a figure like Hollywood legend, Elizabeth Taylor.
“Check the room for cold spots,” Kate said as she placed some sort of ghost meter thing in the middle of the floor.
“Aye, aye, ma’am.” I aimed the pistol-shaped infrared thermometer around the room, watching the red dot dancing on the walls.
“Well?” Kate said after a minute.
“Negative on the cold spots, but I wish there was. It’s hot as hell up here.”
Kate huffed and said, “All you’ve done is complain since we got here.”
“Well, the Braves are playing the Nationals tonight. They’re tied for first.”
Kate ignored my remark. “Let’s try an EVP session. You sit on the chest over by that wall,” she said, pointing the way across the room with her flashlight. “I’ll sit here. And make sure your recorder is turned on.”
“Ma’am, yes ma’am.” I creaked across the attic floor to the old chest and used my salty Braves cap to knock off layers of dust. “What’s that mean, again?”
Kate sighed. “Electronic voice phenomena. I see you’ve really been studying the book I gave you.”
“Oh yeah, this is where we get to talk to the spooks hanging out up here.”
Kate huffed again. “Why don’t you just go home and watch your stupid game?”
Oops. She was getting pissed. “I’m sorry. I know this stuff’s important to you. I’ll behave.”
“Thank you. Now, is your recorder turned on?”
“Okay. Remember to talk as if you’re having a normal conversation,” Kate said. “I’ll go first.”
“Is there anybody with us here?”
“We mean you no harm. We’d just like to communicate with you.”
I struggled to keep from laughing.
“Did you die in this hotel? Are you trapped here?”
Silence for a moment, and then Kate pressed a finger to her lips. “Shh . . . did you hear that?”
“It sounded like a thump. Didn’t you hear it?”
Kate looked disappointed. “You ask something. Maybe they’ll respond to a man’s voice.”
Some people never learn, but I couldn’t resist. I mustered up the most serious voice I could manage. “Whoooo’s winning the Braves’ game?”
Kate bounced up from the old chair. “Dang it, Mac, can’t you—”
A blood-curdling scream from below cut her off.