When Mark Waters decided to be a detective, he didn't plan to investigate ghosts.
But as he sifts through evidence of a supposed suicide by train, he learns a murder that took place eighty years ago may directly affect his case.
Six months after the strange occurrences at The Depot, there’s another murder. This time, The Library holds secrets of several murders, and the dead won’t rest until the murderer checks out too.
Edda should have known he’d deny her. Deny seeing her, deny being with her. Her friend had warned her, but she’d thought he was her chance to escape the life she’d been living. A chance to be someone. A chance at love.
Ever since she’d moved out of her momma’s home, life had been difficult. She could barely even pay her way at the boarding house where she stayed. At nineteen, the only thing she had going for her was her looks and body, even though it’d been a challenge getting her size back down to fit the few clothes she owned.
Wesley had assured her that he’d take care of her. But seeing his face tonight, she knew it had all been lies. He screamed that everything was her fault and that he couldn’t be bothered with someone of her social status. He’d continued to shout while she shielded her ears, attempting to drown out his obscenities and threats of what he planned to do to her.
She opened the door of the bar, hoping her best friend was still working and could give her a ride home. As soon as she stepped onto the polished wood floors, she noticed the mess she was making. Black mud covered her new patent leather shoes. Then she saw her new dress she’d ordered from the Sears and Roebuck Catalog. It’d taken months to save that money, and she’d spent it all on one dress. But she had wanted to look nice when Wesley took her to meet his parents. Now the dress was in shreds.
How had it happened?
Her eyes darted around the bar, trying to remember how she’d gotten back here after her fight with Wesley.
“Becky,” she called to her friend, relieved that she was still working. “Throw me a towel, will ya? I got mud all over the new floors.”
Her friend ignored her, as did everyone else crowded around the bar. The mostly-male patrons laughed and sung along with the piano man in the corner, but no one turned to look at her, even when the bells over the door had announced her arrival.
“Becky,” she said louder, but no one acknowledged her.
Instead, bodies of people rushed around her, their faces contorting and blurring as though she were in a dream or whooshing by them in an automobile. Men with mustaches and beards reshaped to smooth-skinned faces belonging to women, then back to men again. Pale-white faces turned dark, then back to white, and then every shade in between. The clothes they wore changed colors, fabrics, even styles. Dresses went from short to longer lengths and then to short again. Business suits and ties changed to dungarees and undershirts. The room lightened and darkened, over and over, as though the sun were circling the tavern within seconds. The thick-waxed floor below her dulled and then disappeared, and within seconds, a new floor had taken its place. Tables spun before her, along with the chairs, as if some invisible entity were installing them and removing them repeatedly, as though they couldn’t make up their mind what style of furniture they wanted.
Her gaze dropped to her hands, noticing thick black blood dripped from her fingertips. The droplets fell, but never landed.
She searched the room, hoping someone would help her, but then the entire room flashed in front of her, similar to when Becky and she’d gone to the matinee a few months ago and seen The Thin Man. When the movie was over, they’d sat and watched as the projector rewound, reversing the entire movie ten times faster than they’d watched it. Only, the scene in the bar seemed to be moving forward, as if the room had sped up.
When the world stopped spinning and twining, Edda raked her eyes across the room, but nothing was the same.
The bar had transformed.
It was the same, but different. A light from the corner of the room drew her attention. It resembled the screen at the show, but smaller. Colorful, bright images of moving pictures flashed on the tiny screen.
Her gaze fell on the two remaining people behind the bar.
Watching them, a fiery hatred singed her insides, causing a flaring passion to radiate through her soul as she realized what had happened to her.
Rather, what he had done to her.
Detective Mark Waters stretched his long legs in his favorite corner table of the dimly lit restaurant. Other than alarm calls as a patrol officer, he only came here for lunch, and his table had always been open because most customers didn’t want to sit in the corner where they couldn’t watch TV or view the outside patio area. From his vantage point, though, he could see the entry, the downstairs seating area, the booths surrounding the bar, the upstairs dining area, and the hanging plants that swung gently overhead. It’d been several minutes since the last train had passed within thirty feet of the old train station, and yet, the dangling green vines continued to sway, as though dancing to a song only they could hear.
Despite the ghost stories, he loved the old building that dated back to the late 1800s. It had history and character. The famous haunt had been a brothel, a boarding house, a saloon, and then finally the food and spirits eatery it is today.
He sat within inches of the small restroom where many of the supposed occurrences had taken place. Close enough that if a mouse crawled across the linoleum floor, he’d hear it. He’d had to enter the ancient structure countless times as a patrol officer when the alarm went off at four a.m. It’d happened so many times that the owner had given the police station a key.
Tonight, however, he was here for a different reason—death. Something he’d never escape, since he’d decided to follow in his father’s footsteps as a homicide detective. His father had been dead for almost twenty years, and he was still trying to earn his respect.
“Waters,” the pudgy, seasoned detective, Tim Townsend, called from behind the bar. Townsend had always taken it upon himself to throw back a couple of shots when he came here. He’d done the same thing on Mark’s first call to the restaurant when Tim was his FTO. When Tim was his field-training officer, he wouldn’t have dared to utter a word, but now Mark held rank as lieutenant.
“You better put a five in the till, Tim. And you better not have more than one.”
“Yeah, yeah, I hear ya.” Tim pulled out a bill that Mark was certain was a one and shoved it into the slit of the drawer of the outdated cash register. “But like I was sayin’…” he squeezed his large belly through the bar entrance and walked over to where Mark sat. He rested his hand on the ladies’ bathroom door, but then removed it as if it’d burnt him, and instead, leaned against the solid wood bar. “Did I tell you about the time I was searchin’ The Depot and got stuck in that little hall in the ladies’ bathroom?”
Mark rested his chin on his fist, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. “Several times.”
“Really, Dude. Look.” Townsend reached out, opened the ladies’ bathroom door, and pointed. “I can’t even fit in between those two doors. And yet, I turned and banged on every wall, and I couldn’t get out. Larry was here; he heard it.”
Mark sighed in response to Tim’s claim, several officers’ claims actually. But he’d been coming here for years, and he’d never heard a peep or seen an apparition, as had been claimed for years by officers, customers, and naturally, the owners. The proprietors loved the extra business they’d received since the TV show American Haunts had featured the restaurant, even brought in a medium who had in fact sensed several presences. “I know, I know,” Mark said. “The place is haunted. I’ve heard all the stories.”
Tim shook his head and returned to leaning against the bar. “What are we waiting for?”
“Forensics. What else?”
Townsend raised his hands in the air. “Why? Dude jumped in front of a train. End of story. Guess we’ll have another lost soul wandering around the old joint.” Tim chuckled at his attempted joke, but then his eyes darted around the eerie edifice as if the dead man might appear because of his callous comment.
Waters huffed out a breath and rubbed his head. “You sound like a teenager for God’s sake, not a forty-five-year-old man.”
The middle-aged man shrugged as a dismissal. Tim had never cared what people thought of him, a characteristic Mark admired in the burnt-out detective. “Wife and son moved back.” He adjusted his belt around his large waistline. “Guess the punk wears off on me. Kid can’t seem to call me anything but ‘dude’, but hey, at least we’re talking.”
Mark threw his chin up in acknowledgement. “Congratulations, man. That’s great.” Considering Townsend probably called his son ‘punk’ to his face, sort of accounted for the ‘dude’ instead of ‘dad’. That wouldn’t have happened in his house. Even at eight, Mark remembered his father demanding reverence. Of course, he doled out respect also. His father had always spoken to him as though he were much older and would frequently discuss the cases he was working, almost as though Mark was his sounding board.
The older detective puffed out his chest a fraction and then scraped a barstool across the floor to sit. “So…how are things? Any new lady friends you care to share some salacious details on. Since we’re just sittin’ here.”
Waters shook his head. Tim was the horniest man he knew, the reason his wife kept leaving him. If he wasn’t picking up a new woman, he was looking for juicy tidbits from the other cops at the department. Mark never shared stories. Not that he had anything interesting to reveal even if he wanted. His sex life had been practically nonexistent for the last couple of years. His job was his lover, and she kept him busy day and night. At twenty-eight, he should be thinking about a wife and kids, but his father had waited until he was forty to marry, so he had time.
“What did you say?” Mark asked the detective who had wandered behind the bar again, sniffing around the booze.
Tim tilted his head as he held up a bottle of the cheap stuff this time, requesting permission. “I asked if you had any new lady friends.”
“I mean after that.”
“You didn’t mutter something under your breath?”
“You know me, Waters. If I’ve got somethin’ to say, I’ll say it.”
Mark did know that. Still, he could have sworn he heard him whisper something.
The bells over the door sounded, and the forensic team—all two of them—stepped inside the bar. “You tending bar tonight, Tim?” Roland bellowed.
“Nah…just checking stuff.”
Roland laughed. “Sure ya are… Where’s the human hamburger?”
Crossing the room to greet Roland, Mark gestured toward the rear exit. “It’s not pretty.”
The head of forensics shook his head. “Never is, Waters. But hell, when you’ve seen it as many times as I have, you hardly even notice the smell.”
“Well, there isn’t a death-smell yet. Just that uncooked-meat odor that keeps me from cleaning raw chicken at home.”
Roland walked out the rear door, and the new woman—who’d started in the last few months—Anna, he remembered, followed Roland outside, casting a quick glance in Mark’s direction. He’d noticed her too in the last few weeks, but had been trying to ignore his attraction. It was merely the reddish-blond hair, he told himself. He’d always been a sucker for strawberry blondes. But the last time he’d dated a woman close to his job had not worked out well, so he ignored his desire. He was great at ignoring his wants, since he’d been doing it so long.
The door creaked open again. Surprised, Mark turned toward it; he hadn’t expected anyone other than the two of them. It closed after lolling open a couple of seconds. He walked to it and pulled it closed until the latch clicked. Anna obviously hadn’t realized that old buildings required extra attention, unlike new hardware that closed on its own for energy savings.
“Ready?” Tim’s booming voice rang in his ear at the same time his heavy hand clamped onto Mark’s shoulder.
“Yeah.” Mark turned, laughing. “You scared the—” He swallowed his words as he noticed Tim was still behind the bar.
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