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Haunted is Always in Fashion
By Rose Pressey
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Rose Pressey
All rights reserved.
Cookie's Savvy Tips for Vintage Shopping
Adding vintage items to contemporary pieces in your wardrobe will add that special flair you're looking for.
A police car zoomed by with its sirens blaring and lights swirling. Not ten seconds later, another one sped by my red 1948 Buick convertible. Cotton ball clouds drifted like sailboats across the blue sky. The sun popped in and out from behind the clouds, warming up the morning, but the air had shifted. Fall had arrived in Sugar Creek, Georgia ... not that it would bring a big change. Nonetheless, I loved this time of year.
I had left my house bright and early so that I wouldn't be late for my meeting with Juliana McDaniel. The author had contacted me last week for an interview. She was writing a book about vintage fashion and apparently wanted my expertise. Of course I was flattered that she'd asked. My name is Cookie Chanel and I'm a vintage clothing connoisseur.
Since Juliana had never been to Sugar Creek, I'd decided to meet her at the edge of town at a little café called Sweet Southern Charm. The food was decent, but nothing compared to my friend Dixie Bryant's place, Glorious Grits. I hoped Dixie didn't find out about my trip or she'd think I was cheating on her diner.
I was wearing a pair of 1950s classic white, yellow, and gray checkered plaid knee-length shorts and a white short-sleeved Oscar de la Renta sweater. I'd finished my outfit with a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo navy blue flats. I'd found the sweater at a yard sale for the out-of-this-world price of one dollar. That steal had put me on cloud nine for the rest of the day.
The ghost sitting beside me in the passenger seat had decided to wear Louis Vuitton black slacks and a pale yellow silk Carolina Herrera blouse for our meeting. Yes, I said ghost. Although she wasn't into vintage clothing as much as me, she still had impeccable taste.
Charlotte Meadows, the late socialite and businesswoman from Sugar Creek, was now one of my best friends. She was opinioned and stubborn but could be a real doll sometimes too. My best friend Heather Sweet didn't share my opinion of Charlotte. They fought like cats and dogs most of the time. Heather owned an occult shop, Magic Marketplace, right next door to my boutique. She was a non-psychic psychic. More about that later.
"What do you think is happening?" Charlotte leaned forward in the seat for a better view down the road.
I glanced in the rearview mirror and noticed more emergency vehicles. "Whatever it is, it must be serious. I hope everyone is okay."
A little farther ahead, the road was blocked off. No traffic was being allowed through. Police cars had surrounded a black vehicle stopped at the traffic sign. An ambulance whizzed past us.
"Oh, maybe it's a fugitive on the run," Charlotte said with a little too much excitement.
"I certainly hope not."
"Isn't that the detective's car?" Charlotte pointed to a nondescript car on the side of the road.
Detective Dylan Valentine stood beside it, talking with another officer. He'd recently come to the Sugar Creek Police Department from Atlanta. That was something we had in common since I'd lived there for a number of years before deciding to come home and open up the boutique.
Charlotte described Dylan as the cat's meow. She was pretty accurate about that. His six-foot stature had the perfect muscle proportions, his clothing always fit like he'd stepped off the page of a magazine, and he kept his thick dark hair short and cropped. He was wearing tan trousers and a white shirt rolled up to his elbows.
Charlotte tapped on the dashboard to grab my attention. The breeze caused by her motion made the fuzzy dice dangling from my rearview mirror swing from side to side. "You should pull over and see what happened."
Did I mention that Charlotte was persistent and kind of bossy?
Not because she told me to, but because I was a little curious, I decided to check it out. "I suppose I can't get past. Juliana will wonder what happened to me."
"She'll learn that you're always late anyway."
"I am not always late. Just a little rushed, that's all." I steered the car to the side of the road and shoved it into park.
A few cars had lined up on the road, waiting to get through the intersection. I climbed out from behind the wheel and crossed the street.
Just as I made it to the other side, Dylan spotted me and immediately headed my way. "Cookie, what are you doing here?" Concern filled his voice.
"I was supposed to meet someone at the diner down the road." I glanced at my watch. "Looks like I need to call her and let her know I'll be late. Was there an accident?"
"We're not sure what happened yet." His answer was cryptic.
"I hope it's not serious." I craned my neck for a closer look at the black car. "Why are they covering the car with that —" Before I finished the sentence I realized what was going on. The person in the car was dead. I looked back at Dylan.
He gave me a look of understanding.
"The person's a goner. Can't you tell?" Charlotte said with a cluck of her tongue.
Leave it to Charlotte to get right to the point.
"Do you know who it is?" I asked.
Dylan ran his hand through his thick hair. "Not yet ... a young female."
"That's tragic," I said, almost under my breath.
For a moment we stared in silence. Law enforcement and other emergency workers moved around the scene like a colony of ants. A few other people looked on in curiosity. An officer waved at Dylan, grabbing our attention.
Dylan's blue eyes held a magnetism I couldn't quite put into words. "I'll be back in a minute. Wait for me, okay?"
I wrapped my arms in front of my waist. "Sure. I'll be here." Where else was I going anyway?
"He's so handsome and sweet. You really got a good one with him," Charlotte said dreamily.
"I don't know that I have him." I looked down at my shoes so it wouldn't look as if I was talking to myself. "We'll see where things go."
Dylan and I had gone out a few times and I enjoyed his company. My grandmother Pearl had always told me to be cautious, to never give my heart away too soon. She'd been full of great advice, like never leave home without your red lipstick, pearls, and mascara. Granny Pearl was a Southern woman who never left home without a full face of makeup, white gloves, and hat.
She had been the one who gave me my nickname Cookie. My real name is Cassandra Chanel. Not only did Granny Pearl and I look alike with the same brown hair and eyes, but just like me, fashion was her passion. Her favorite designer was Coco Chanel. So with my love of cookies, the name Cookie seemed like a perfect fit with the last name Chanel. Now everyone called me Cookie.
"She's right, you know. The man is handsome. Are you dating?" a woman asked, breaking into my thoughts.
I looked to my left to see a young blond woman standing next to me in the spot where Dylan had just been. I hadn't seen her approach. Upon further inspection, I noticed she was wearing a cute 1960s white vintage skirt with a little pink floral pattern. If my memory was correct, the designer was Pauline Trigere. The blonde's top was a pretty pale pink, and although not vintage, it matched perfectly with the skirt. I sensed something strange about her though and couldn't quite put my finger on it.
She caught me staring at the skirt, so I had to say something. "Your skirt, it's vintage." I pointed.
She reached down and touched the fabric. "Yes, I love vintage."
"Me too. What a coincidence. I own a vintage clothing store — It's Vintage Y'all — in Sugar Creek." I motioned toward downtown.
The blonde didn't look at me. She was fixated on the scene of the accident, studying every move everyone made. "I was supposed to meet you," she said in a soft voice.
"Oh, you're Juliana. I'm glad that you made it past the traffic." I stuck out my hand. "It's nice to finally meet you."
That explained why she was wearing vintage.
She still didn't take her eyes off the accident, so no handshake. "I'm not sure what happened to me. It happened so fast."
I lowered my hand and quirked an eyebrow. "What do you mean?" "That's my car." She pointed at the black Toyota surrounded by police.
A small gasp slipped from my lips. Oh no, not again.CHAPTER 2
Charlotte's Tips for a Fashionable Afterlife
Shopping in the afterlife is fabulous. If you see something you like, simply envision it on your body and it's yours.
Charlotte sat in the front seat of my car because she refused to give up her seniority. She always called shotgun. Juliana was too shocked about the fact that she was dead to even care if she sat in the backseat. Charlotte had been in ghost form longer and had come to grips with it. Juliana had not. Like everything Charlotte had done while living, she'd mastered the whole haunting thing. She knew all the details of navigating the spirit world and would show Juliana the ins and outs.
Dylan had said he'd be in touch since he would be on the scene for a while longer. He had no idea I had the victim in the car with me. Obviously, my meeting plans had changed, so I was headed back to my boutique in downtown Sugar Creek with one more ghost than I'd left with.
I peeked in the rearview mirror at Juliana. She stared straight ahead in shock. I was at a loss for words. Even though I'd grown accustomed to being around ghosts, it was still awkward finding just the right words to say. If someone had told me six months ago that I would be communicating with the dead, I would've never believed it. Just walking past the cemetery had creeped me out. Now I was driving around with two ghosts as passengers in my car. It was like I was the shuttle service for the afterlife. Next stop, eternity.
I exchanged a look with Charlotte.
She tossed her hands up as if to say, I don't know what to do.
She was supposed to be the expert at this whole death thing. She should know what to do.
"Can I do anything for you?" I directed my question toward Juliana.
She leaned forward and placed her elbows on the back of the leather seat. "This just doesn't make sense. One minute I'm driving along the highway enjoying my favorite Taylor Swift song, and the next minute, I'm dead."
"Did you have an accident? What happened?" I made a right turn.
She plopped back onto the seat. "I knew instantly that I was dead because I was looking at my body in the car. Can you believe it? I was literally standing outside the car, looking at myself. I mean, I've heard about these situations where people die and tell you what it's like when it happened ... but they go back into their bodies. I stayed out." She threw her hands up. "So here I am. Now what?"
Now what indeed.
"She's a dramatic one, isn't she?" Charlotte rolled her eyes.
Juliana glared at Charlotte. "Who are you?"
Charlotte turned slightly in her seat to eye Juliana up and down with her laserlike focus. "Who am I? Who am I?"
Uh-oh. Charlotte did have a bit of a quick temper.
"I'm the first ghost around here and I will always be first. So don't you forget it." She waved her finger at Juliana.
"Juliana, this is Charlotte Meadows. She's dead too. She was murdered a few months back."
"Please tell her that I was the best businesswoman this side of the Mason-Dixon line." Charlotte tilted her head up.
I smirked. "I think you just told her, Charlotte."
"She just follows you around?" Juliana asked.
"And what do you think you're doing, missy?" Charlotte huffed.
"I just got here. I don't know what I'm doing," Juliana said. "Cookie, you will let me know as soon as the detective tells you what happened to me?"
I steered the car onto Main Street. "Of course, absolutely. I will let you know right away." I had a feeling Juliana would be around to hear the whole thing. I couldn't have two ghosts again. How could I get rid of her? Deep down I knew this ghost wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.CHAPTER 3
Cookie's Savvy Vintage Clothing Shopping Tips
Much vintage clothing is considered timeless and classic. Therefore, the pieces can be considered wardrobe essentials.
We parked in front of my boutique. It was a cottage style building that I'd had painted a soft lavender shade with white trim. The big windows on each side of the door were my favorite. They stretched from roof to floor, allowing me to display my clothing to the maximum and, I always hoped, attract more customers. In the display areas, bright colored leaves and pumpkins were scattered around to welcome fall.
In one window, the mannequin wore a deep crimson colored Suzy Perette coat dress. Left unbuttoned, it could be worn as a coat, but buttoned it made a fabulous dress. The mannequin held a black leather Gucci bag in her hand with black and white Mary Jane pumps on her feet.
The mannequin in the other window featured a 1980s black Dolce and Gabbana silk cocktail dress. Embroidered lace edged the hem of the fabric. Black Dior heels finished the look.
I climbed out of the car and stepped over to the sidewalk. The IT'S VINTAGE Y'ALL sign hung above the entrance.
I'd just reached the front door when Charlotte said, "Here comes trouble."
Heather was headed toward me. She gave tarot card readings in her occult shop and sold just about anything someone would need in order to navigate the paranormal world.
Charlotte and Heather had a strained relationship, but they had made progress to get along. They tended to bicker a lot though. Of course Heather couldn't see or hear Charlotte, so I was stuck being the one in the middle, relaying the snarky messages.
"I thought you had a breakfast meeting," Heather said as she approached. Her dark blond hair was pulled back into a ponytail. She wore a white T-shirt that read IT'S AMYSTICAL THING. YOU WOULDN'T UNDERSTAND. Her designer jeans made her long legs look even more fabulous than they already were.
I shoved the key into the door and unlocked it. "You're not going to believe what happened."
Heather followed me inside. "I don't like the sound of your voice."
I'd dropped my cat Wind Song off at the shop before leaving for the meeting. She meowed and pawed at my leg in greeting. She'd been coming to work with me every day for months, ever since she showed up one day out of the blue. I had no idea how she'd found me.
Wind Song was no ordinary cat. Aside from being beautiful with her long white hair and green eyes, she communicated with me. I know that sounded crazy, but it was a fact.
After flipping the shabby chic WELCOME sign to OPEN, I switched the lights on, and Charlotte and Juliana entered the shop too. I headed across the room, placed my purse on the counter, and released a deep breath.
Charlotte made herself at home on the velvet settee to the right of the counter. Juliana stood in the middle of the room, absorbing her surroundings. She still had that dazed and confused look on her face. I couldn't blame her for that. I wouldn't handle the situation as well as she had.
"There's another one," I said matter-of-factly.
Heather quirked an eyebrow. "Another what?"
I gestured with a tilt of my head. "Another ghost."
Heather slapped her hand on the counter. "Shut up! Why does this keep happening to you? Who is it this time?"
I brushed the hair out of my eyes. "Juliana McDaniel. The woman I was supposed to meet this morning for the interview."
Juliana released a little sigh.
Heather's mouth dropped open and her green eyes bugged out. "She's a ghost?" I sat on the stool behind the counter. "I'm afraid so."
"How did this happen?" Heather asked.
"That's what I'd like to know," Juliana chimed in.
"We don't know yet. It didn't appear to be an accident. Dylan was on the scene, but he was cryptic about any answers." I picked up a black 1960s sweater with tiny pearl buttons that stretched from the collar to halfway down the front of the garment.
"Don't worry. He'll tell you everything. He can't resist your womanly wiles." Heather wiggled her perfectly sculpted eyebrows.
Charlotte chuckled as she studied her flamingo pink polished fingertips. "Cookie wouldn't know what to do with a womanly wile if it smacked her in the face."
I glared at her for a second then said, "Anyway, Juliana is here now. That's about all I know."
Heather peered around the room as if she'd see Juliana.
I pointed toward the left side of the room. "She's by that mannequin."
"Nice to meet you," Heather yelled.
"She's a ghost. She's not deaf," Charlotte snapped.
Like my Granny Pearl used to say, Charlotte could start an argument in an empty house.
A tiny grin slid across Juliana's face. The first one I'd seen since we'd met. "It's a pleasure to meet you too," she said.
I filled the cat's water and food dishes and placed them back on the floor. "Juliana said the same."
"How will you get rid of her?" Heather whispered.
"She can hear you, dear," Charlotte whispered in Heather's ear.
Heather had no idea that Charlotte was standing so close, but she brushed at her ear as if swatting away a fly.
I moved over behind the counter again and sorted through a few small items I'd left there last night. "I guess we'll find out what's keeping her here."
Juliana glanced over at us. "I didn't choose to be here."
Excerpted from Haunted is Always in Fashion by Rose Pressey. Copyright © 2016 Rose Pressey. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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