This week I have decided to give you a sneak preview of A Matter of Death, a short story available by joining my mailing list here.
I kicked off my boots and stumbled to the bed, falling face down in a heap on top of the covers. My feet hurt, my head hurt, and my hair was so desperately in need of a wash, my scalp itched.
Mumbling to myself, I considered the distance from the bedroom to the bathroom and the effort required to drag myself through the house and remove my clothes to have a shower.
A slight weight joined me on the bed and a rumble sounded in my ears before Nibbler gave me an affectionate head-butt. ‘You stink of cat food,’ I said before returning the kiss.
‘You, my dear, also do not seem your fresh, cleanly self,’ Dylan said from the corner. ‘Might one suggest a shower?’
Sure, having a friendly neighbourhood ghost pop by was pleasant enough when you’re in the mood for some company and a chat, but not when you’re shattered after a hard night shift, and not when said ghost is being overly critical.
‘No one might not,’ I said, and threw a pillow in his direction. A useless act of defiance when all it did was pass through him and knock over a bottle of hand cream on my dressing table. I flopped back down on the bed and closed my eyes. ‘Besides,’ I said, ‘what do you care? Ghosts have no sense of smell.’
‘This is indeed true. However, one can see the noxious fumes coming off you and it does not require a sense of smell to know that you stink.’
Charming. The cat climbed on my back and nuzzled my hair. ‘If it doesn’t bother Nibbler,’ I said, enjoying his reassuring weight, ‘it doesn’t bother me.’
With that statement, the turncoat cat spluttered on my head, jumped onto the floor and proceeded to have a mild coughing fit.
‘Okay, okay,’ I said and pushed myself off the bed. ‘You win already. I’ll take a shower. But after that, Dylan, you can explain what the hell you’re doing in my house at five in the morning.’
The warm shower washed away the aches and pains in my body and soothed my headache. It’s a miracle how great a clean head of hair can make you feel. To make things even better, as I trundled down the stairs, the fresh scent of coffee enveloped my senses.
Opening the kitchen door, I dropped my head towel on a stool, took a seat on the neighbouring chair, and thanked my lucky stars that Dylan was an old ghost who’d mastered the art of physical manipulation. One of the reasons Nibbler got on so well with him, I was sure. Like I didn’t notice his dwindling treats and expanding girth.
Dylan handed me my hot beverage and opened the fridge. His insubstantial form flickered in the light. For once, groceries lined the shelves, as the supermarket had delivered my bi-weekly shopping the day before. ‘Would you care for some eggs?’ Dylan asked. ‘It would be a matter of moments to whip you up an omelette.’
Not that it wasn’t tempting, Dylan made the best omelettes, always light and fluffy, but I declined and asked him the reason for his visit.
‘I see you are tired. It is of no great urgency.’
Now that was a lie and we both knew it. After five years of living in this three-bed semi and being visited by Dylan, I liked to think we were buddies, even if he was dead, and it was clear something was on his mind. Plus my spidey senses were tingling and sure as hell, anything that bothers a two-hundred year old ghost was bad news for me.
I took a sip of the bitter coffee, savoured the swift injection of caffeine to my brain, and gave Dylan a look that said, ‘Oh, please!’
He closed the fridge and perched his ghostly form on the stool opposite mine. Although downcast, his pale face spoke volumes, but still he seemed reluctant to talk.
I took a long drink from my mug and then placed it on the counter. ‘That bad?’ I asked.
‘One might say, a matter of life or death, if not for the fact the dear lady is already one of the departed.’
‘Lady? So we’re talking about another ghost here.’
When he looked at me, he pushed his shoulders back, adjusted the lapels on his dress waistcoat, and straightened out an imaginary crease in his pantaloons. ‘Elizabeth,’ he said after a moment. ‘She’s in trouble. We met last night and she was most distressed. Her spirit was being drawn to the remains of her body. I stayed with her as long as I could, but, alas, fear of being bound forced me to abandon her.’
‘It wasn’t your fault,’ I said, now understanding Dylan’s reluctance. He was a man of honour and would judge himself harshly for leaving a woman in need.
‘I am a coward. I should have stayed with her to the last. No matter the personal cost.’
‘And where would that have got you? No, Dylan. If you had stayed, you could have been bound, and whatever trouble you think Elizabeth is in, you would be in too.’ I downed the remains of my coffee. Sleep would have to wait.
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