I am THRILLED to share a new series with you. Lost Souls Lane Mysteries is a humorous cozy mystery with a paranormal twist. I’m going to do something I’ve never done before..first, I’m going to share the first half of the first chapter! Second, I will be releasing books one and TWO within a week of each other with book three shortly following. Don’t fear, I have another Cambria book coming out soon!
Making a Medium (A Lost Souls Lane Mystery)
My name is Zoe Lane, and I see dead people.
Well, I see one dead person. Willie MacIntosh, a ninety-something-year-old multi-millionaire, who looks thirty, has a demanding personality, a strong opinion on my wardrobe and my love life, and he wants to know how he died.
The problem is, there were a lot of people who wanted Willie MacIntosh dead, and it’s my job to figure out who the killer is. At least, I think it’s my job. This whole medium gig is new to me. What I do know for sure is digging around in a dead stranger’s life, especially when there’s a three-hundred million dollar inheritance on the line, is a dangerous business.
If I’m not careful, the next dead person will be me.
I do as told. The chair is straight-backed with no arms. Not constructed for comfort or style, this chair is practical and to the point. Much like the man sitting behind the desk. I cross my ankles, pick off the few strands of cat hair stuck to my skirt, and rub my hands together.
“Are you cold?” Brian Windsor asks.
“No.” I pull my scarf tighter.
He checks the thermostat. “It’s seventy-five degrees?”
“I’m perfectly fine, thank you,” I say with a smile, even though it feels like we’re sitting in an igloo. “Here is my application.” I slide the papers across the desk and concentrate hard to keep my teeth from chattering.
Brian skims the first page. “Zoe Lane. Any relation to Mary and John Lane?”
“They’re my parents,” I say.
“I didn’t know the Lanes had children.”
“It’s just me.”
Brian’s brow is wrinkled. I’m sure he’s wondering how in a town of fewer than 2,000 people, he and I have never crossed paths. He’s not much older than I am, and my parents are real estate agents. Their faces are on everything from grocery carts to park benches. Everyone either knows John and Mary Lane or they know of them. Heck, this is Fernn Valley. Everyone either knows or knows of everyone.
I don’t get out much. I would blend in with the wall if I could. And nearly do. The floral wallpaper in the lobby looks awfully close to the pattern on my blouse.
“Why do you want to work at The Fernn ValleyGazette?” Brian leans back and adjusts his glasses.
“TheGazetteis a respectable publication,” I say, trying not to sound too eager. “I read it every week. My favorite column is “Squirrel of the Month.” I enjoy the crossword puzzle and reading about the town events. The article you wrote about our Fourth of July parade was compelling journalism.”
Brian blinks a few times then flips to the second page of my application. “You forgot to fill in your work experience.” He clicks a pen and stares at me. I think he’s waiting for me to rattle off my previous employers. There’s only one problem.
“I’ve never had a job, per se.”
He flips to the first page of my application to verify that, yes, I am in fact twenty-three years old.
“I write the MSL descriptions for my parents’ listing,” I quickly add and hike up my sock, which has managed to slip below my kneecap. “I just don’t get paid to do it. But I’m a quick learner.”
Brian puts my application down and rocks in his chair with his fingers steepled. His desk is pristine, and the room smells freshly Lysolled. His brown hair is parted on the side with wisps around his forehead. His glasses are dark-rimmed, and he smiles without showing his teeth—all this, of course, I know from his black-and-white editorial picture printed in the paper every week. What I didn’t know before now was that behind those glasses are gray eyes with specks of brown in them. I didn’t know he had freckles across his nose. I didn’t know he was tall, at least a foot taller than I am.
I didn’t know he was even more gorgeous in person.
“Unfortunately,” Brian starts to say, and my stomach plunges. “We’re looking for someone with more experience.”
“But the ad said it was an entry-level position.” I pull the paper from my briefcase. “See, right here. Entry-level position,” I read aloud. “I’m happy to do office tasks like faxing papers, answering phones, or making a fresh pot of hot chocolate in the morning. Whatever you need.”
Brian appears a bit shell-shocked, and I’m not exactly sure why. I make an excellent pot of hot chocolate. “We’re looking to bring someone on who has fresh ideas. To shake things up around here.”
“I have fresh ideas,” I say louder than I meant to. “For example, what if you did squirrel of the week instead of the month? Papers would fly off the shelf!”
“I don’t think it’s a good fit.” Brian stands and extends a professional hand. “I wish you luck.”
Guess that’s my cue to leave. “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me.” I slip my hand into his, and he flinches.
“Your hand is ice cold.”
“It’s a glandular issue,” I say with instant regret.
“Uh … I’m sorry to hear about that.” Brian avoids eye contact. “Let me get the door for you.”
I pick up my briefcase and wait until his back is turned before I smack myself on the forehead. Wow. Brian is right. My hands are cold. Like touching fresh snow. Even my fingertips are numb. I’ve had bouts of cold flashes before, but nothing like this. If I weren’t currently standing and breathing, I’d swear I was dead. I check my pulse just to be sure. Blood is pumping. Heart is pounding. Good.
Brian clears his throat to grab my attention.
Oh, right. Didn’t get the job. Need to leave. Got it.
I exit into the main working space. Desks are pushed together in groups of two. It looks very much like a busy newsroom—minus the busy. Two employees are playing solitaire on their computers, and the woman in the corner is filing her nails. Everyone is dressed casually and appears pleasant, except for the man standing beside the copier, the one wearing a fitted tan suit, dark tie, shiny black shoes, and a vintage homburg hat. He’s staring at me with such intensity that a sharp chill runs down my back and through my legs. I rush out to the lobby and push on the door several times until I realize it must be pulled open.
Outside, I take a seat on a bench and check the time. The interview took less than ten minutes. I have an hour before my ride will be here, which gives me enough time to walk down to Butter Bakery and buy two glazed donuts and a scone. I hate to eat my feelings, but I can’t help the disappointment.
Jobs are nearly impossible to come by in Fernn Valley. When I read the help wanted ad in last week’s paper, I sincerely thought this was the perfect opportunity for me to enter the workforce, gain independence, and maybe even move out—one day.
My parents and I have been reading TheGazettetogether since I was a child. What a thrill it would have been to work for a newspaper. What a thrill it would have been to receive a paycheck. What a thrill it would have been to work alongside Brian Windsor, editor-in-chief.
I’m not exactly sure where it went wrong. I was professional and polite. My handwriting on the application was pristine, and I have on my best outfit.
Brian wants fresh ideas?
I have plenty of fresh ideas … I just can’t think of what they are at this moment, but I know they’re in there. If only I’d been given the chance.
I slip off my pumps, place them in my briefcase, and pull out my walking shoes. There’s a smudge near the sole, and I scrub it off with a wet wipe. The shoes mold around my feet, just as the infomercial promised they would. I stand at the crosswalk, look both ways, and step onto the street. My body has finally warmed, and I unwrap the scarf from around my neck. My favorite scarf—a chic, pink chiffon fabric my mother bought me for Christmas—
A blaring horn grabs my attention. I look up just in time to see the car racing toward me. Next thing I know, I’m staring up at the blue sky, and dots dance around my periphery until my vision tunnels and the world goes black.