January 24, 2013

Adrienne’s Ghost

by Leah St. James

FBI Agent Jackson Yates had never believed in ghosts…until now.

Called to the deepest, darkest basement at FBI Headquarters to investigate the murder of former agent recruit Adrienne Garza, Jack is forced to look beyond the earthly to the spirit world for answers. Shaken by what he finds, he turns to psychologist Rachael Sullivan for help. But just how does Rachael know so much about Adrienne, who disappeared five years earlier? Can her revelations truly be communications from Adrienne herself? And can he get past his guilt over Adrienne’s death to find love with another?

Rachael Sullivan has spent her adult years seeking knowledge of life after death. She’s focused those years on helping those stricken with the grief, but when she receives messages from beyond the grave, messages that seem to point to the identity of Adrienne’s killer, she is compelled to follow the trail. As the slain woman’s spirit reveals more and more of her killer, and of her past with investigating agent Jackson Yates, Rachael wonders if the clues are leading her to love, or to death. Drawn together by forces beyond their control, beyond their comprehension, together they seek a killer. Together they encounter…Adrienne’s Ghost.

Excerpt

Rachael set the journals on the table and sorted through the pile until she found the one that began during Adrienne’s high school years, figuring it would be a good place to start. Before she could sit, the diary dropped from her hand and fell to the floor. Tsking at her clumsiness, she retrieved the book, resettled herself into the sofa’s cushions, and turned back to page one. Again the book landed on the floor, but this time it somersaulted through the air, as though it had been propelled by a force.

The surface of her skin beginning to prickle, Rachael stood and scanned the room, to search for the source of an energy strong enough, other-worldly enough to have caused what she’d witnessed. But the room was empty. Or maybe it only seemed empty because she couldn’t see whatever life forces might be hiding just beyond the realm of her comprehension.

Still, she felt like an idiot when she retrieved the diary from the floor, then deliberately closed it and set it on the coffee table, as if she no longer had any interest in the secrets it held. She wondered if the night of passion had scrambled her brains when she sat back to watch, her fingers crossed.

It wasn’t long before her hunch paid off. The journal on top of the pile began to tremble, then buck. Fascinated, Rachael trained her eyes on the book, and as its movements became more frenzied, her heart raced to match its pace. Within a few seconds, the book had somehow shimmied itself forward so it teetered on the edge of the pile, like it needed no more than a tiny nudge to take the plunge.

Debating if she was supposed to provide that nudge, Rachael reached forward, and in that instant a shadowy image materialized inches away from the tips of her fingers. She jolted and snatched her arm back as the shadow transformed into a shape. It was a hand, only a hand, like someone was reaching through a split in some cosmic curtain that separated two dimensions. A shriek whipped up Rachael’s throat, and she slapped both hands to her mouth to stuff it back down. Scrambling backward, she found herself pressed against the couch, ready to run, when the ghostly fingers prodded the diary.

It tumbled over the table’s edge, landing with a thunk, and Rachael dropped to her knees, inhaling one choppy breath after another until her lungs could take no more. She was paralyzed, mesmerized, watching the hand where it hovered over the open book, less than a foot away. The fingernails, ragged and torn, were dirty and stained with smears of what looked like blood. They waggled suddenly, and the pages of the book began to flutter, making the sound of a hundred birds in flight. The air Rachael had been holding expelled in a burst, and her lungs refilled on another giant breath. But before she could scream, the humming from the FBI’s basement, that heartbeat-like pulse, saturated the air.

She didn’t realize she’d scrambled to her feet and retreated until the backs of her legs hit the edge of the sofa. As her muscles gave way to fear, she sagged onto the cushions and watched as Adrienne formed in front of her eyes. Only this time, the ghost didn’t look sad, she looked angry. Angry with Rachael.

Again Rachael nearly screamed, nearly let the terror in her chest rip up her throat and out, but she held on to the thought that the ghost had to be here for help. Her help.

Forcing her legs to take her weight, she stood and took a step toward the ghost, then another, until they were within arm’s length from each other. The ghost held its ground, her eyes narrowed and blazing with an intensity of a mother protecting a child. Adrienne was guarding the book on the floor, and Rachael was obviously the enemy.

After taking a few deep breaths, Rachael said the only thing she could think of. “Jackson asked me to help.”

Apparently it wasn’t the right thing to say because the ghost began to tremble, and a growling sort of noise emitted from her space. A warning.

And then it dawned on Rachael. Here she was in Jackson’s apartment, wearing nothing but one of his shirts. Adrienne might be dead, but she wasn’t stupid. She was jealous.

“I get it, Adrienne. Jackson isn’t mine, he’s yours.” The words were an attempt to soothe the ghost, to assure her of Jackson’s priority. “He loved you, and loves you still. He needs your help. He needs to know where to look for your killer.”

In a blink the ghost’s eyes went from enraged to bitter. Her mouth began to open and close like a guppy’s, and after what seemed like enormous effort, she spoke three words that wobbled in the air as if they rode a current of turbulence. Then she disappeared.

“Adrienne, wait!” Rachael called out to the empty room. “What do you mean? What does ‘wild goose chase’ mean? Are you telling me it’s hopeless?”

Too late. Adrienne was gone. She’d probably depleted every bit of her energy to emerge here in Jackson’s apartment, so far from the site of her discovery. But she’d left behind a starting point—the book lying on the floor. The diary held the key to Adrienne’s killer.