A Ghostly Murder by Tonya Kappes is the 4th paranormal cozy in the Ghostly Souther Mystery series featuring Emma Lee Raines, the proprietor of a Kentucky funeral home (available September 29, 2015).
Emma Lee Raines knows there's only one cure for a bad case of murder.
I told you I was sick, reads the headstone above Mamie Sue Preston's grave. She was the richest woman in Sleepy Hollow, Kentucky, and also the biggest hypochondriac. Ironic, considering someone killed her—and covered it up perfectly. And how does Emma Lee, proprietor of the Eternal Slumber Funeral Home, know all this? Because Mamie Sue's ghost told her, that's how. And she's offering big bucks to find the perp.
The catch is, Mamie Sue was buried by the Raines family's archrival, Burns Funeral Home. Would the Burnses stoop to framing Emma Lee's granny? With an enterprising maid, a penny-pinching pastor, and a slimy Lexington lawyer all making a killing off Mamie Sue's estate, Emma Lee needs a teammate—like her dreamboat boyfriend, Sheriff Jack Henry Ross. Because with millions at stake, snooping around is definitely bad for Emma Lee's health.
Ding, ding, ding.
The ornamental bell on an old cemetery headstone rang out. No one touching it. No wind or breeze.
The string attached to the top of the bell hung down the stone and disappeared into the ground. To the naked eye it would seem as though the bell dinged from natural causes, like the wind, but my eye zeroed in on the string as it slowly moved up and down. Deliberately. I stepped back and looked at the stone. The
chiseled words I told you I was sick. Mamie Sue Preston were scrolled in fancy lettering. Her date of death was a few years before I took over as undertaker at Eternal Slumber Funeral Home.
Granted, it was a family business I had taken over from my parents and my granny. Some family business.
Ding, ding, ding.
I looked at the bell. A petite older woman, with a short gray bob neatly combed under a small pillbox hat, was doing her best to sit ladylike on the stone, with one leg crossed over the other. She wore a pale green skirt suit. Her fingernail tapped the bell, causing it to ding.
I couldn’t help but notice the large diamond on her finger, the strand of pearls around her neck and some more wrapped on her wrist. And with a gravestone like that . . . I knew she came from money.
“Honey child, you can see me, can’t you?” she asked. Her lips smacked together. She grinned, not a tooth in her head. There was a cane in her hand. She tapped the stone with it. “Can you believe they buried me without my teeth?”
I closed my eyes. Squeezed them tight. Opened them back up.
“Ta-da. Still here.” She put the cane on the ground and tap-danced around it on her own grave.
“Don’t do that. It’s bad luck.” I repeated another Southern phrase I had heard all my life.
She did another little giddy-up.
“I’m serious,” I said in a flat, inflectionless voice. “Never dance or walk over someone’s grave. It’s bad luck.”
“Honey, my luck couldn’t get any worse than it already is.” Her face was drawn. Her onyx eyes set. Her jaw tensed. “Thank Gawd you are here. There is no way I can cross over without my teeth.” She smacked her lips. “Oh, by the way, Digger Spears just sent me, and I passed Cephus Hardy on the way. He told me exactly where I could find you.”
She leaned up against the stone.
“Let me introduce myself.” She stuck the cane in the crook of her elbow and adjusted the pillbox hat on her head. “I’m the wealthiest woman in Sleepy Hollow, Mamie Sue Preston, and I can pay you whatever you’d like to get me to the other side. But first, can you find my teeth?”
I tried to swallow the lump in my throat. This couldn’t be happening. Couldn’t I have just a few days off between my In Betweener clients?
I knew exactly what she meant when she said she needed my help her cross over, and it wasn’t because she was missing her dentures. “Whatdaya say?” Mamie Sue pulled some cash out of her suit pocket.
She licked her finger and peeled each bill back one at a time.
“Emma Lee,” I heard someone call. I turned to see Granny waving a handkerchief in the air and bolting across the cemetery toward me.
Her flaming-red hair darted about like a cardinal as she weaved in and out of the gravestones.
“See,” I muttered under my breath and made sure my lips didn’t move. “Granny knows not to step on a grave.”
“That’s about the only thing Zula Fae Raines Payne knows,” Mamie said.
My head whipped around. Mamie’s words got my attention. Amusement lurked in her dark eyes.
“Everyone is wondering what you are doing clear over here when you are overseeing Cephus Hardy’s funeral way over there.” Granny took a swig of the can of Stroh’s she was holding.
Though our small town of Sleepy Hollow, Kentucky, was a dry county—which meant liquor sales were against the law—I had gotten special permission to have a beer toast at Cephus Hardy’s funeral.
I glanced back at the final resting place where everyone from Cephus’s funeral was still sitting under the burial awning, sipping on the beer.
“I was just looking at this old stone,” I lied.
Mamie’s lips pursed suspiciously when she looked at Granny. Next thing I knew, Mamie was sitting on her stone, legs crossed, tapping the bell.
Ding, ding, ding. “We have a goner who needs help!” Mamie continued to ding the bell. “A goner who is as dead as yesterday.” She twirled her cane around her finger.
I did my best to ignore her. If Granny knew I was able to see the ghosts of dead people—not just any dead people, murdered dead people—she’d have me committed for what Doc Clyde called the Funeral Trauma.
A few months ago and a couple ghosts ago, I was knocked out cold from a big plastic Santa that Artie, from Artie’s Meat and Deli, had stuck on the roof of his shop during the winter months. It just so happened I was walking on the sidewalk when the sun melted the snow away, sending the big fella off the roof right on top of me. I woke up in the hospital and saw that my visitor was one of my clients—one of my dead clients. I thought I was a goner just like him, because my Eternal Slumber clients weren’t alive, they were dead, and here was one standing next to me.
When the harsh realization came to me that I wasn’t dead and I was able to see dead people, I told Doc Clyde about it. He gave me some little pills and diagnosed me with the Funeral Trauma, a.k.a. a case of the crazies.
He was nice enough to say he thought I had been around dead bodies too long since I had grown up in the funeral home with Granny and my parents.
My parents took early retirement and moved to Florida, while my granny also retired, leaving me and my sister, Charlotte Rae, in charge.
“Well?” Granny tapped her toe and crossed her arms. “Are you coming back to finish the funeral or not?” She gave me the stink-eye, along with an once-over, before she slung back the can and finished off the beer. “Are you feeling all right?”
“I’m feeling great, Zula Fae Raines Payne.” Mamie Sue leaned her cane up against her stone. She jumped down and clasped her hands in front of her. She stretched them over her head. She jostled her head side to side. “Much better now that I can move about, thanks to Emma Lee.”
Ahem, I cleared my throat.
“Yes.” I smiled and passed Granny on the way back over to Cephus Hardy’s funeral. “I’m on my way.”
“Wait!” Mamie called out. “I was murdered! Aren’t you going to help me? Everyone said that you were the one to help me!”
Everyone? I groaned and glanced back.
Mamie Sue Preston planted her hands on her small hips. Her eyes narrowed. Her bubbly personality had dimmed. She’d been dead a long time. She wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and neither was I.
Copyright © 2015 Tonya Kappes.
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Tonya Kappes has written more than fifteen novels and four novellas, all of which have graced numerous bestseller lists, including USA Today. Best known for stories charged with emotion and humor and filled with flawed characters, her novels have garnered reader praise and glowing critical reviews. She lives with her husband, two very spoiled schnauzers, and one ex-stray cat in northern Kentucky. Now that her boys are teenagers, Tonya writes full-time but can be found at all of her guys' high-school games with a pencil and paper in hand. Come on over and FAN Tonya on Goodreads.