Monday, March 3, 2014

The Making of a Ghost

by federal marshal Zeke Drummond from Sharon Pape's SKETCHER IN THE RYE, the fourth book in her Portrait of Crime Mysteries 
Dyin' was nothin' like I expected it to be. When I opened my eyes, I was still in the parlor of the house where I'd been tryin' to save another girl from a brutal serial killer. Far as I could tell nothin' had changed. I figured I'd just had the wind knocked out of me somehow.  The room did seem a whole lot brighter than I recalled though, like the sun had come right inside the house. But it didn't hurt my eyes, which was a mite peculiar. I saw the girl lyin' on the floor with a gash across her forehead. When I went to check on her, I could see that she was breathin' fine. But when I tried to lift her head up off the floor, my hand...well, my hand seemed to go right through her. Spooked me, I don't mind tellin' you. Must have felt strange to her too, 'cause it brought her around mighty quick. She sat up, but she didn't seem to notice me there beside her. Then she screamed so loud my ears dang near broke. I followed her line of sight across the room to a body lyin' face down with a bullet hole in the back. I figured it was the man who'd been in the midst of kidnappin' her when I'd arrived, but I didn't recall shootin' him. Besides, he'd been on the other side of the room facin' me, so I couldn't have shot him in the back. I went over to get a better look at his face. That's when I realized it wasn't him at all. It was me. I was starin' at myself.  Now that was a hard chunk of news to swallow. My mind was feelin' way too muddled to make any sense of it. And I was awful tired, like all the energy had been sucked clean out of me. I guess I fell into some sort of sleep at that point, 'cause the next time I opened my eyes I was in that same room, but the girl was gone. My body too. The furniture was all different, and the wallpaper and curtains had been changed out. There was a man sittin' on a sofa, readin' the newspaper. I moved a bit closer in order to see the date on it. If I'd been alive, I would have died of the shock right then and there. Accordin' to that newspaper, I'd been asleep, unconscious or whatever it's called where I am, for three whole decades.

            I've watched a lot of folks move in and out of that house for better than a hundred years now. Out of loneliness and a desire to be helpful, I tried interactin' with some of them, but that only seemed to send them packin' faster. I could still see that amazin', bright light from the day I died, but it was way off in the distance now. Don't know if I pushed it away or not.  Don't even know what it is for sure, but I figure it must be lightin' the way to the Pearly Gates. Most people would be trippin' over themselves to get to it. Not me though. I have my reasons. Danged good ones. But a lot changed when Rory McCain moved into the house. She refused to be scared off by my present state of bein' and she wound up makin' my existence tolerable. Tolerable and a whole lot more. So one day I laid my soul bare to her. For better or worse, she'd earned the right to know the truth about me. Well, there must have been a stray miracle floatin' around us that day, 'cause she didn't turn away from me and she didn't move out. She stayed on and made me a silent partner in her new, private investigatin' firm. Rory and I have been gettin' on fine these days, even if I'm not quite as silent as she'd  like me to be.

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