M.J., Heath, and Gilley, are back home in Boston, where their new film is sure to be a monster hit! To promote the film, the studio is sponsoring a special exhibit of supernatural artifacts at a local museum. Unfortunately, Gilley—whose mind is engaged with wedding plans—gets talked into donating to the exhibit the very dagger that keeps the dangerous ghost Oruç and his pet demon locked down in the lower realms. Before M.J. can recover the bewitched blade, there’s a murder and a heist at the museum, and the dagger is stolen.
Now Oruç is coming for M.J. and her crew, and he's bringing with him some fiendish friends from M.J.’s haunted past. She, Gilley, and Heath are certain to be in for a devil of a time. M.J. may even need to recruit a certain skeptical Boston detective to help stop the paranormal party crashers from turning Gilley’s wedding bells to funeral knells. . . .
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
“VICTORIA LAURIE IS THE QUEEN OF PARANORMAL MYSTERIES.”
Books by Victoria Laurie
Excerpt from Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye
About the Author
It was a drizzly spring late afternoon in Boston when Heath and I walked into my office off Mass Ave, holding hands and smiling wickedly. Who’s Heath, you ask? Well . . . that’s where things get a little complicated.
In order to tell you who Heath is, I need to swear you to secrecy. Not the “Oh, I will only tell my eleventy million friends on Facebook—pinkie swear” kind of secret.
An. Actual. Secret.
See, the last time I checked in with you all, Heath was simply my boyfriend. My love. My partner in both the business and domestic sense, and yes, sometimes our domestic stuff is all about the “bidness,” but I digress. Or first, perhaps I must explain.
About eight months ago “the call” came in . . . and by that I mean that myself, Heath, Gilley, and respective members of our Ghoul Getters cast were made rich, I tell you . . . rich!
The call was from a major motion picture studio, which had agreed to distribute a movie we’d made a few years back while on location for our TV ghostbusting show, Ghoul Getters. The individual episode and all of the extra footage from one particular ghostbust we’d done in Scotland had been purchased by a production company—Prescott Productions—but the production company had needed the backing of a major motion picture studio to green-light the distribution before the movie actually got funded and any of us got paid. For several years all that extra footage just sat on the shelf, but just when we’d all given up the dream, the call had come in that the movie was a go.
In fact, The Haunting of the Grim Widow was set to release in theaters everywhere a week after Heath and I got back from our trip. I hadn’t actually seen the completed film yet, mostly because I’d barely lived through my encounter with the Widow and had no urge to relive it.
Still, we had captured some stuff on film that would make your hair curl, and luckily for us, some studio execs finally took notice. They were now all over the idea of promoting a “real” horror flick that was as creepy as The Conjuring, without all the special effects.
What that had meant for us, specifically, was a considerable signing bonus, with an additional amount due later in the form of a portion of the box office in royalties. In other words, the second we stopped taping our last Ghoul Getters episode, none of us—the talent and our small crew—ever really had to work again if we were careful and invested wisely, of course.
Anyway, it’d taken about seven months to finish that last location shoot for GG, but at the end of the week, we each received our first big check.
Now, money will motivate you in a way that you might not think. It makes you do things impulsively, the way finding out you have only a short time to live does. Most of us did things that we might not otherwise have done if not afforded the freedom that a big pile of moolah gave us.
Gilley (my BFF and our tech expert on the shoots) proposed to Michel, our cameraman and Gilley’s boyfriend, on the same day that Michel proposed to him. It was insanely cute to see the recap of the two flash mobs brought together at the same restaurant, not having any knowledge of each other, and have it dissolve into something resembling the Sharks and the Jets. In the end there were a lot of tired dancers and nearly a million hits on YouTube, and Gil and Michel were engaged, so it worked out okay.
Our director, Peter Gopher, funded a documentary he’d been trying to get off the ground and set off to Nepal to begin filming.
John and Kim, our sound guy and production assistant, booked a trip to Asia and were slowly making their way across the region, keeping us updated through Facebook posts and the like.
Meg, our adorable hair and makeup assistant, had promptly gone back to college up in Montreal, and she’d also paid off her parents’ mortgage.
And Heath and I got married. (You read that right. We got hitched.) By the way, that’s the part y’all need to keep on the down low, because if Gilley finds out that I got married before him, well, I’m likely never to hear the end of it.
Our wedding was truly impulsive. Heath surprised me at the end of March with a three-week trip to St. Thomas. Have you ever been to St. Thomas? It’s gorgeous. Gorgeous! Think aqua blue water, white sandy beaches, drinks in coconuts, genuinely lovely people, and romantic ambiance out the yin-yang.
On our second day there he left me a note asking me to be his for the day and to meet him for a romantic walk along the beach. From our cabana I traveled down a bamboo walkway and around a little bend to find my beautiful man, standing there with a rose in his hand. As I approached he got down on bended knee and said, “Em, will you be mine, not just for today, but forever?”
He then presented me with the most beautiful ring you’ve ever seen. But I’d have said yes if it was carved from a puka shell. They don’t make men like Heath in abundance. I’m lucky.
So, we spent the first week of our engagement talking about our future, and by the end of that beautiful week, we both knew we didn’t feel like waiting to call each other husband and wife.
We were married by a local justice of the peace in the waning light of the setting sun, with purple, pink, and peach streaks coating the tropical sky and the sound of the rolling surf the only music to be had. I wore a soft peach sundress I found at a shop in town, and Heath wore a light blue shirt, white shorts, and a smile as wide as Texas. It was perfect.
The next week we had ourselves a proper honeymoon, and now we were back in Boston, wading through a steady drizzle and miserably cold temps, but our spirits were in no way diminished. “What time are we meeting Gil?” my husband asked as we came through the door shaking our umbrellas.
I nearly tripped over the small pile of mail that’d been shoved through the mail slot.
“Seven,” I told him, flipping on the light before stooping to gather some of the mail and glancing at my watch. It was ten to five. Traffic had been horrible—given both the weather and the onset of rush hour, it’d taken more than an hour to get from the airport to my office, a commute that normally takes only about twenty minutes. “We’re meeting for dinner before he heads to the opening of the exhibit.” The studio was sponsoring an exhibit of items from the movie and our TV show to create some buzz for the actual premiere of the movie, which would be released the following week. The Boston premiere of the movie was going to be shown at the IMAX theater that was housed in a building adjacent to the Museum of Modern Science—and that was also the location for the Ghoul Getters exhibit.
Paranormal investigations weren’t exactly considered “modern science” by the museum’s standards, but the studio had thrown a lot of money at them, and they’d come around. (Surprise, surprise.)
“You still don’t want to go?” Heath asked.
“Gilley will be there to represent us,” I said to Heath. “And I’m way too tired to go to that thing. I’d much prefer a relaxing, low-key evening and a good meal.”
“It’s probably not gonna be very relaxing if we meet Gil for dinner,” Heath muttered, but I’d heard him. And I could sympathize.
Gil had talked of little else but his wedding for months, and we were all well and truly sick of it. He was going big—as he had a nice big pile of money to play with—and no one could seem to rein him in. I’d decided early on to withhold any and all opinions, sage advice, judgmental looks, or mutterings on the matter. If my BFF wanted to be a diva, and a ginormous wedding would make him happy, then so be it.
“What’s our plan?” Heath said, plopping into a chair in front of my desk.
“Well,” I said, extending my left hand to smile again at the wedding and engagement rings. “I have to hide the evidence for a little while. Just until I’m sure he’s not going to be upset by the news that we got married first.”
“So, until after he gets married?” Heath asked.
I ducked my chin. “Maybe,” I said, swiveling in the chair to move aside a cabinet door that hid a small safe.
“Em,” Heath said, “he’s not getting married until September.”
My shoulders sagged. This coming back to reality was a real bummer. “I know, honey, I know. But you’ve seen how he can be. He’ll perceive it as our upstaging him, and he’s in such an emotional state as it is—”
“Only because he’s turned into a groomzilla,” Heath interrupted.
I sighed, swiveling back to my husband with hands up in surrender. “Okay. How about we wait just a little while. Until we find a good moment to tell him.”
“We could always tell Michel and have him spill the beans.”
That made me laugh. “You are such a chicken,” I told him. “And no way are we doing that to poor Michel. Gilley is fully capable of shooting the messenger.”
Heath grimaced, but then he seemed to brighten. “You know, maybe it won’t be so bad. Maybe he’ll be happy for us instead of thinking we stole his spotlight.”
My jaw dropped. “Excuse me, but have you met Gilley Gillespie?”
Heath’s grimace returned. “If he’s gonna freak out about our being married, what’s he going say about the fact that we’re moving to Santa Fe?”
That’s another big change that I forgot to tell you about. Heath and I had decided to retire from Boston and move to Santa Fe to be closer to his family. It’d be a big adjustment for me, but in recent months I’d grown closer and closer to his mom and his cousins. They were such lovely, warm, and welcoming people, and now that they were also my family, I wanted to be near them.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” I told him.
“Like when Gilley and Michel are off on their honeymoon?” Heath said hopefully.
I pointed at him. “Exactly.” Then I turned away to bend over and fiddle with the dial on the safe. “Honey, could you hand over your ring?”
“I think I’m going to hold on to it, Em.”
I looked over my shoulder at him. He was tugging on his wedding ring, about to take it off. “You sure you don’t want me to put it in here where it’ll be safe?” I asked, a bit worried he’d lose it.
“Yeah,” he said, still tugging. “It’s my good luck charm.”
That made me smile, and I went back to focusing on the combination to the safe. After opening it up, I took off my rings and was about to place them on the bottom shelf when something inside the safe caught my eye.
Or rather, it was the absence of something that caught my eye. “Ohmigod!”
Heath came around the desk and over to me. “What?” he said. “What is it?”
I pointed inside. “The dagger! The dagger! It’s gone!”
Heath stared first at me, then inside the safe, and the color drained from his face.
For the past few years we’d kept an extremely rare and incredibly dangerous relic in our safe: a dagger once owned by a particularly evil and quite deadly Turkish warlord named Oruç.
Heath and I had first met at a hotel in San Francisco, where we’d been hired as the talent on another cable TV show, a special called Haunted Possessions. We were two of the four mediums hired as the talent to assess various objects that were said to have been possessed by evil spirits. Of all the objects put in front of us, only Oruç’s dagger had truly been possessed by something evil—and evil he was.
Oruç had lived several centuries earlier, and he’d developed a lust for killing young women by stabbing them with his dagger.
After he was murdered by a woman he tried to kill—with the dagger—his ghost figured out a way to use the dagger as a portal, which is a sort of gateway between our world and the lower realms, where evil things lurk.
Oruç’s ghost was a crazy powerful spook in his own right, and his ability to completely possess anyone who handled the dagger was a very scary thing. His spirit could completely overtake the person in question and force him or her to commit murder.
If that weren’t reason enough to lock the dagger away, it came with an added terrifying bonus: The dagger was also the portal for a demon that I don’t think was ever of this world.
Oruç’s demon was truly a monster. I’d never actually seen it, but I’d sure as hell felt it, and I had the scars on my back to prove it.
Its presence was big, like . . . big, and it would strike by swiping at us with its three talons. We knew they were talons because everywhere the demon struck it left that distinctive three-line gouge—in walls, in furniture, in flesh. It had been somewhat neutralized back when we’d first encountered it, meaning that it hadn’t been powerful enough to ever show its true form, but one of my biggest fears was that someday, that demon would figure out a way to escape the dagger again, and if it ever became powerful enough to do that, then there was no telling what harm it might cause.
After first encountering the dagger and its horrors, we’d had a hell of a time putting those two genies back in their bottles, so to speak, and sadly, not before more than one person had been killed. Since then, however, we’d taken every precaution with it, securing it with powerful magnets that blocked the portal’s gateway and wouldn’t allow anything from the lower realms to come through.
Essentially, we’d sent Oruç and his demon back to the lower realms where they belonged, and as long as we had possession of the dagger, I knew with some certainty that the warlord and the demon were sufficiently shut down. But now the dagger was missing, and my first thought was one of panic, because in the wrong hands that thing was—at best—deadly. “Ohmigod,” I whispered as I continued to stare at the inside of the safe. “It can’t be gone. It can’t!”
Heath moved a little closer to me and began pulling other things out of the safe. There was a wad of cash for emergencies, the lease for our office, and a few other odds and ends, but no dagger. No magnets either, but that hardly mattered with the dagger missing.
“What the hell, Em?” he said when he’d emptied the contents of the safe.
I stared wide-eyed at him. “It was there before we left for vacation,” I swore. “I know it was because I had to move it to one side to get to our passports. Sometime in the last three weeks, somebody got into the safe and took it.”
Heath stared at me; then he inspected the door to the safe, which showed no tampering. “Who the hell knew about the dagger and also knew the combination?”
A trickle of sweat slid down my back. “The only other person who knows the combination, besides you and me, is Gil, but he’d never take it. I mean, he’s afraid to even look at this safe, knowing what’s inside.”
“So this had to be a professional job,” Heath said quietly, his eyes roving around the room suspiciously. I looked about too, and I knew that both of us were worried that we’d been burglarized, but nothing else seemed to be missing. My laptop was on the desk, and my scanner/copier—an expensive one—was over to the right, both untouched. In the corner our camera equipment was piled on a table, along with two extra laptops that Gilley had as backups.
I got up and went over to my filing cabinet, where I kept the small box filled with petty cash, and the money was still there and also untouched.
“Someone came in here and took the dagger but left everything else alone,” I said, a cold chill vibrating up my back.
Heath sat down in the chair I’d just vacated. “So, somebody with knowledge of that dagger came in here and robbed us?”
A second chill radiated down my spine and along my arms. “If that’s true, then they’d only want the dagger for one purpose: to cause harm.”
Heath ran a hand through his long black hair with trademark white streak along one temple. “We could be in serious trouble if that happened, babe.”
I pulled out my phone and brought up a local news Web site. I scrolled through the stories from the past few weeks looking for any hint of unusual and violent deaths in the area, but it didn’t look like anything involving the dagger had occurred. No strange or unexplainable stabbings or deaths. No rooms destroyed by an invisible demon. No telltale talon marks left behind to photograph. Nothing.
Which only meant that the magnets binding the dagger hadn’t been removed. Yet.
“We have to find it!” I said, feeling myself starting to panic. That dagger had been our responsibility. We’d promised people that it was safe with us. That they could trust us with it. To find it missing was like discovering that a vial of anthrax was loose in the city. It could only bring about horrendously terrible things.
My phone rang as Heath and I were staring at each other, wondering how we were going to track it down before the spook Oruç and his demon had a chance to possess someone and kill someone else. Lifting the phone again I looked at the display. “Gil,” I said, not even bothering with the niceties. “I can’t talk right now. We have a situation.”
“You’re not the only one,” he drawled. “The flower shop wants more money and the caterer is refusing my calls. Why are wedding people so difficult?” He nearly shouted. And then he did shout. “Why, God, why?!”
“Gilley!” I told him firmly. I had no patience for his antics just then. “I’m serious.”
“And I’m not?”
My brow lowered and my fist clenched. “Heath and I just looked inside the safe in our office, and . . . Oruç’s dagger is missing.” On the other end of the line there was silence. I took it for shock. “Gil?” I called. “Honey, are you there?”
“What were you doing in the safe?” he replied, which was an awfully interesting question—given the circumstances.
“Putting away our passports,” I lied before focusing on him again, my suspicions raised. “You don’t sound surprised that Oruç’s dagger is missing. Why?”
There was a long pause; then Gilley suddenly said, “Oh! It’s the caterer. Thank God. Sorry, M.J.—gotta take this call.” And the little bastard hung up on me.
I pulled my phone away from my ear to stare at it in shock before I connected the dots. “Son of a bitch!”
“Talk to me,” Heath said.
I ignored him for a moment as I dialed Gilley right back. It rang three times before going to voice mail. “My left foot he was on the phone with the caterer!” I spat. Had he actually been on the phone, the call would’ve gone straight to voice mail. Three rings meant he was purposely ignoring me. I nearly threw my cell across the room I was so furious. Only the fact that the iPhone is a six-hundred-dollar piece of technology not easily replaced stopped me. But just barely. “That . . . weaselly . . . sneaky . . . manipulative . . . little . . .”
“Em,” Heath said, coming over to me to grab my shoulders and get me to focus on him. “What. Happened?”
“Gil,” I said through clenched teeth. “He took the dagger.”
Heath blinked. “Why the hell would he do that?”
I called Gilley again. “I have no idea, but when I find out, you’re going to need to stop me from stabbing him with it.” Again the phone went to voice mail, so I clicked off his number and over to Michel’s.
“M.J.!” he said when he answered the line. Michel is Scottish-born, but his mother was French. He’s a gorgeous man, about five-ten, black hair, sharp features, and beautiful big brown eyes with the most lovely brogue that becomes heavier whenever he talks of home. He’s very laid-back, patient, kind, well-spoken, and polite, and the absolutely perfect complement to Gilley, who is almost never any of those things. “How was your trip?”
“Michel,” I said, bypassing the niceties to get right to the point. “Where is Gilley?”
“Where’s . . . uh-oh, don’t tell me he’s gone off and done something stupid again.”
“He’s gone off and done something insane again,” I said. “He’s stolen an extremely dangerous relic from our safe here at the office, and, Michel, in the wrong hands, and by wrong hands I mean anyone’s hands but ours, that thing is seriously scary. Deadly scary. I need to find Gilley and get it back asap.”
There was a pause, then, “Might you be talking about that dusty dagger from the Turkish warlord, M.J.?”
I gasped. “That very one, Michel. He’s shown it to you?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so,” Michel said, a hint of worry in his voice. “And a few more people have likely seen it as well. But no one’s been hurt or upset by it as far as I’ve heard. You’re sure it’s dangerous?”
My heart rate ticked up into the red zone. “What do you mean ‘a few more people have seen it as well’?”
“Oh, has Gilley not told you about where he’s taken it, then?” Michel asked.
I moved unsteadily over to one of my office chairs and gripped it hard as I sat down. Putting Michel on speaker so that Heath could listen, I said, “He hasn’t told me squat, Michel, and as I said, that dagger is deadly, so please, if you know where it is, please tell me.”
“Oh, M.J.,” Michel said, “I’m so sorry. I made him promise me before he did anything to get your permission, but you know Gilley. He’s a wee bit willful when it comes to money.”
I put the phone on the desk and lowered my head nearly to my knees, on the verge of a panic attack. “Please, please, please tell me he hasn’t sold the dagger!” I cried. If Gilley had put innocent bystanders in jeopardy I really would kill him.
“No!” Michel was quick to say. I felt Heath’s steadying hand on my back. “He hasn’t sold it. He’s simply loaned it to the museum hosting the exhibit for the movie.”
I glanced up at Heath and shook my head. I was unable to say anything more. I simply needed to focus on breathing. Heath took the cue. “Michel, Gilley hasn’t mentioned anything about it. Please tell us what the hell is going on and start from the beginning.”
We heard the faint sound of a creaking chair and I imagined Michel leaning back in his desk chair and swiping a hand through his hair, his own anxiety probably ratcheting up now that he was stuck in the middle and playing the role of messenger. “The studio called Gilley about two weeks after you two left for your trip. A producer from Prescott Productions said he’d heard about the dagger, and he told Gilley that a haunted relic like that would be the perfect thing to really draw in the crowds. He asked Gilley if he would consider loaning it to the museum for the length of the exhibit, and at first Gilley said no, but then the producer called back and offered Gilley a sum of money that my sweet fiancé simply couldn’t refuse. So Gilley agreed to the loan, but he also demanded that he be in charge of securing the dagger for the exhibit. When I pressed him about it later, he insisted that the dagger was safe and there was no threat of its being stolen or any harm coming to it.”
“The harm wouldn’t be coming to the dagger, Michel,” I said. “It would be coming from it.”
“Yes, so you’ve said,” Michel said soberly. “Had I known that, M.J., I never would’ve allowed him to take it from your office.”
My hands were curled into fists. I’d never been more angry with Gilley in my life. “Michel?” I managed, my jaw still clenched.
“Would you please call your fiancé and tell him to meet us at the museum in half an hour, and, Michel, let him know that if he doesn’t meet us there in that time, then I will personally post to my Twitter feed and Facebook pages all his deepest secrets, including his real height, age, and weight and why his last boyfriend broke up with him.”
Gilley was very careful about controlling his online image. The mere suggestion that I’d tell the world the truth about his age would be enough to have him sprint down to the museum, where I would then murder him, but that was beside the point.
“Oh,” Michel said. “It’s that bad, then, is it?”
“All right, love, I’ll get hold of him straightaway.”
The second he clicked off the phone I got up and moved to the closet. Yanking open the door, I shrugged out of my sweater and took out a black canvas vest lined with over a dozen magnets, hanging on a hook inside the door.
“Wait,” Heath said. “You’re going to wear that?”
The vest was a spare. It was made for us by Gilley’s mom a year earlier, and while it was truly sweet of her, the bedazzled Ghoul Getters logo on the back was perhaps a bit much for either Heath or me to be seen in public with.
We had subtler clothing at home. “There’s no time to go to the condo right now,” I told him, pulling out the one that Mrs. G. had made for him. “We’ll wear these. They’re fine.” When he looked at me skeptically, I snapped, “Do you really want to waste extra minutes before retrieving the dagger because you’re embarrassed by a few rhinestones?”
Heath opened his mouth but stopped himself. I had a feeling he’d been about to say yes. Perhaps it was the no-nonsense glare I offered him that made him (wisely) hold his tongue and put on the damn vest.
“At least I’ve got my boots here,” I said, reaching back into the closet for my black leather riding boots. Shrugging out of the modest heels I’d worn on the plane, I slipped into them, feeling the carefully placed interior pockets—the boots were also lined with magnets—slip past my toes.
We’d discovered on a casual ghostbust about a month before we were able to quit the show that magnets in our shoes prevented any of us from being possessed. It had something to do with grounding our energies to the earth, I think. It didn’t really matter what the mechanics were; it worked and I was grateful to have discovered it.
Heath stared down at his running shoes. “Mine are at the condo.”
“We’ll be fine,” I said, bending to zip up the boots. “What’s important is that we’ve got enough between us to protect us, and once we get our hands on the dagger, we can use some spare magnets from the vests to pack the dagger in until we get it back here.”
“Worst-case scenario, Oruç and his demon could get blinded by the rhinestones,” Heath said as he took the vest and unzipped it to take out the hanger.
I sighed. I was in no mood for jokes. This was a scary and deadly serious situation, but sometimes my husband made jokes to help lighten his own anxiety. And I got it, but at times it was still a little annoying.
Once I was done getting dressed, I nodded to Heath, who had also just finished getting into his own gear.
Within six minutes of hanging up with Michel, we were out the door and headed to the museum, ready to wage war against the nastiest spook and demon you’d never want to meet.
We arrived at the Museum of Modern Science twenty-eight minutes after walking out the door of my office. And they were twenty-eight anxious minutes, believe me.
The museum itself is a gorgeous structure—lots of glass and sharp angles—a very modern showpiece not far from Boston Harbor and situated right on the water. If I’d been in the mood to tour a museum, this would’ve been the one I’d have chosen, but I was more in the mood to murder a certain five-foot-six, one-hundred-sixty-two-pound thirty-seven-year-old who was unceremoniously dumped by his previous boyfriend for cutting his toenails while eating a doughnut in bed. (Oh, gee golly whiz! Did I just spill Gilley’s most tightly guarded secrets? Oopsies . . .)
Anyway, we had to pay ten bucks for parking, then sprint to the museum itself. Once there (and after paying thirty bucks to get us both inside), I was sort of at a loss for where to go. I’d told Gil to meet us at the museum, but not specifically where.
“The exhibit is upstairs,” Heath said, and I turned to look at him and saw that he was pointing to a poster next to the central hallway. On the poster was an ad for the exhibition and a few shots from the movie, including a close-up of the Grim Widow herself. It was enough to make me shudder.
“Maybe he’s already here,” I said.
Heath arched a skeptical eyebrow.
I frowned. “Yeah, I know, but let’s head up and look for the dagger and someone to help us get it back.”
We walked toward the elevators, but there was a line, so we took the stairs. I was a little winded by the time we reached the top but ignored the urge to catch my breath in favor of getting to the exhibit as quickly as possible. To my absolute horror, I saw a line of people waiting to enter the exhibit where Oruç’s dagger was on display. It hit me that we’d arrived at the exhibit just a few hours after it’d officially opened to the public on its first day, and I’d been unprepared to find it so popular already. I’d figured that if any kind of crowd was going to show up, it’d be in a few hours when Gilley was set to make an appearance and talk about his time on the show and some of the ghostbusts we’d done. To see a long line of people already waiting to get in felt a bit surreal and, to be honest, highly flattering, but then I remembered our mission. I was about to tell Heath that we should look for someone in charge to speak with when a woman in line turned and pointed at me. “Oh . . . my . . . God! It’s them! It’s M.J. and Heath!”
I stiffened in shock as a whole line of heads turned, eyes bugged, and then about forty people rushed right toward us. Heath grabbed hold of my hand and pulled me close to him as we were swarmed. I resisted the urge to run, but barely. Smartphones flashed as people took pictures, and more phones were raised high as others recorded our shocked faces. My hearing was flooded with a barrage of excited chatter: “I can’t believe you two are here! Are there cameras?”
“Will you sign my program?”
“Ohmigod, Heath, you’re so hot! Will you sign my chest?”
“M.J., are you and Heath really dating?”
“Ohmigod! Is that a wedding ring?! Heath! Did you and M.J. get married?”
“Where’s Gilley? Are the others coming?”
“My house is haunted and I really want you guys to come do a show about it . . .”
Belatedly, I realized I’d not only lost hold of Heath’s hand but my sight of him, and I was now backing away from the crowd. Several months earlier I’d been mobbed by a group of possessed mental patients, and I found this situation to be no less threatening or scary. “Heath!” I yelled as several programs and pens were pushed at me, while hands gripped my arms and pressed on my back. The memory of being overrun by those possessed patients was starting to press in on me, and I found it hard to breathe. “Heath!”
My husband suddenly stepped in front of me, and in a loud, booming voice he commanded, “Everyone, back the hell up!”
To my immense relief, the shocked crowd fell silent and took several steps away from us. I pressed against his back, shaking and trying to get a grip. Heath then reached back for my hand again and pulled me to his side, where he then wrapped a protective arm around me. “We’re not here to sign autographs today, folks,” he said. The crowd groaned, but it felt only halfhearted, probably because they were still in shock at Heath’s outburst.
“Excuse me,” said a voice somewhere beyond the crowd. “What’s going on here?”
A gentleman stepped forward wearing a blue blazer and dark gray dress slacks. He wore a lanyard with a badge that looked official, and carried a walkie-talkie in his left hand. I assumed by his surprised and annoyed expression that he represented museum security.
Shaking off the fright I’d had, I said, “Do you work here?”
“Yes,” he said brusquely. “What are you two doing to incite this crowd?”
“We’re from the show,” I said, pointing to a blown-up image over the entrance of the exhibit that pictured Heath and me running across a bridge as if our lives depended on it. (Which, at the time, they definitely did.)
“Nobody told me there’d be any public appearances until later on tonight,” the man said. I saw the name Murdock on his employee badge.
“We’re not here for a public appearance!” I snapped. (The mobbing of the crowd had seriously rattled me. I think I took it out on poor Murdock.) “Sir, you have a very dangerous relic on display in there!” For emphasis I pointed to the entrance of the exhibit. “And we’ve come to collect it before it can cause anyone harm.”
All around us there were gasps, and I realized my mistake immediately. Whispered murmurs of “Which relic is she talking about?” and “I’m totally going in there!” and “Quick, let’s go see what she’s talking about before she takes it away!” filtered out to my ears as the crowd turned away from us and rushed back toward the exhibit entrance.
I watched them go and palmed my forehead. How could I have been so stupid?
“We need to get in there,” Heath said to the guard, who’d thankfully been the only one who’d remained next to us.
“I can’t let you take anything from in there!” he said, as if he were offended that Heath would even ask.
“You don’t understand,” Heath insisted, squaring his shoulders and standing up to his full height. Heath isn’t overly tall, or overly brawny, but he can put out the most powerful presence when he wants to.
Murdock took a step back and lifted his walkie-talkie. “Rob, we’ve got a situation up in the ghost movie exhibit. I need Mr. Sullivan here. Stat.”
There was a garbled reply that I couldn’t quite make out, and I could feel my impatience and anxiety mount as more and more people crammed into the exhibit room.
For his part, Murdock simply stared into space as he held the walkie-talkie about face level. It appeared he was waiting for orders.
I tapped my foot impatiently, ignored the occasional lifting of a smartphone in our direction followed by the occasional flash, and muttered a few obscenities under my breath.
“Why are we standing here?” Heath finally asked the guard when he continued to stare into space without explanation.
“I gotta wait for the boss to tell me what he wants to do with you two,” Murdock growled. It was clear he had no love for us, and vice versa.
“Well, we don’t,” I said. Squeezing Heath’s hand, I turned away from the security guard and marched with authority toward the exhibit entrance.
“Hey!” Murdock yelled. “Get back here!”
I ignored him and ducked into the crowd, weaving between people who, thankfully, made way for us, but not without excited murmuring as we passed. At last we came out into the exhibit room, and as I stepped to the middle and looked around, I was too shocked to speak.
The exhibit was impressive. It lined all four walls and unfolded the story of our show like a timeline. There were photos galore—all the haunted spaces that the show had investigated, the scary still shots of the spooks we’d busted, and profile pictures of each member of the GG crew.
Another wall had small snippets of our show playing on a loop, and on a third wall there was a poster-sized photo of some ectoplasmic fog filling the floor of a room, which was taken from one of our ghostbusts in Europe. Belatedly I realized that a dry ice machine was pumping out a similar fog along the floor of the exhibit. Glancing down, I shuddered when I realized I couldn’t see my feet; it brought back dark, nightmarish memories.
Yet another wall held memorabilia from the show. There was a whole section filled with nothing but the weapons we’d used over the past couple of years against the various nasty spooks we’d encountered. Everything from our magnetized railroad spikes to the tennis racket strung with magnetized wire we’d used against the Grim Widow, to the Ghost Enhancer, which was a contraption that looked like a radio but amped up the electromagnetic field around a given area, something that actually made the spooks stronger, and which we’d needed for two particular busts we’d done. It was a fairly dangerous contraption in the wrong hands, and I made a mental note to ask for that back as well.
Nearby I saw that one of our crew jackets had been framed, and there was even a female mannequin wearing nearly the exact same outfit I had worn on many of the Ghoul Getters episodes.
Amid all of this, playing eerily in the background was a recording of a compilation of terrifying sounds—disembodied footsteps, a series of faraway screams, muttering whispers, and what could only be described as long nails raking against wood, but I knew better. The sound was actually a set of talons, etching deep grooves slowly and terrifyingly into a wall. The sound bite had been pulled from the hotel in San Francisco where Oruç’s demon had been set loose to terrorize and kill.
Another shudder traveled through me and I focused my attention on a display case toward the back wall. There, with a light trained on it, was the dagger itself. Crowded around it were several people, reading what was likely a description of the dagger and the dangers it held. Luckily, there were enough magnets surrounding it, and the people in the room, to protect us all—at least I hoped so.
“There,” I said, pointing to it.
“I see it,” Heath replied. “And I think there’re enough magnets in here to hold Oruç and the demon inside the dagger, at least.”
“Excuse me!” we heard from behind us. We both glanced over our shoulders to see a very fit-looking man with intense eyes, a crooked nose, and thick black eyebrows approach us. “What are you two doing here?” he demanded, slightly out of breath, as if he’d rushed to the exhibit from downstairs. “I wasn’t told about any public appearances by the stars of the show until later on. We’re not staffed with enough people to accommodate this right now!”
Behind him I realized that the crowd currently attempting to enter the exhibit had grown almost exponentially. People were literally flooding in, and the scene was making me more and more anxious.
I shook my head at both the unfolding scene and what the newcomer had just said. I don’t consider myself famous—certainly not a star—and yet, everyone who came through the door seemed to have a hand raised with a phone that was either flashing or recording. It was super-disconcerting. “This was a spur-of-the-moment thing,” I heard Heath say to the man. And then he stuck out his hand, as calm as could be, and said, “Heath Whitefeather, sir.”
“Phil Sullivan,” the man replied, shaking Heath’s hand, but there was little warmth to his expression. “I’m the museum director. We should’ve been notified that you two were coming.”
“We had no idea this would happen,” Heath said, blinking in the flashing lights of several smartphones.
I was starting to lose patience with this whole thing. Pointing to the display case with Oruç’s dagger, I said, “We just came to collect that, Mr. Sullivan. As soon as you open the case and let us retrieve it, we’ll be on our way.”
Sullivan’s gaze followed my index finger to the display case across the room. He then looked back at me as if I’d asked him to hand over all his cash. “You’re kidding me, right?”
“No,” I said to him. “I’m definitely serious. That relic has no business being on display. It’s insanely dangerous. We need to remove it. Now.”
He stared at me as if he expected me to wink at him, and when I didn’t, his face flushed red with irritation and he put his hands on his hips. “Listen, I’ve got a museum to run, and I don’t need any publicity stunts today. Not when two members of my security staff are out sick with the flu!”
Heath stepped a little closer to Sullivan, projecting that glorious presence again. “Mr. Sullivan, I can assure you this isn’t a publicity stunt. That dagger houses a ghost and a demon, and both are among the most dangerous we’ve ever dealt with. That dagger needs to be locked up away from the public, not on display here where there could be exposure to its influences.”
Sullivan rolled his eyes and then glared angrily at Heath. “Listen, buddy,” he said, “I know you two gotta keep up the pretenses for the sake of the movie, but I’m telling you to drop the act and leave before this situation gets out of hand.”
Around us I could hear the excited murmurs ratchet up a notch—the crowd sensing the tension in the air. Others, though, must have overheard me talking about Oruç’s dagger, because the group around the display case where it was housed was growing and people were hovering dangerously close.
Taking Heath’s cue I drew myself up to my full stature (keep in mind, I’m not very tall) and inched closer to Sullivan. “Sir,” I said sternly. “This is not an act. That relic over there was entrusted to us to look after and we can’t do that if it’s here. I demand that you give it back.”
But Sullivan wasn’t budging. He folded his arms across his chest and said, “I have a signed contract from the movie studio paying us for this display. I’m not about to put that contract into breach just because the two stars show up and try to throw their weight around. If you want it back so bad, you’re going to need to go through the museum’s attorney, and good luck with that, Miss . . . Miss . . .”
Heath glared hard at him. “Mrs. Whitefeather,” he said angrily. “And I’ll thank you to speak respectfully to my wife.”
My breath caught. I’d had every intention of keeping our marriage under wraps until after Gilley’s wedding, but Heath and I had gotten so used to calling each other Mr. and Mrs. that of course it rolled easily off his tongue. The excited murmuring around us ratcheted up another notch. “Ohmigod! Did you hear that?! They got married! M.J. and Heath got married!”
I wanted to groan. There’d be no keeping the news from Gilley now. But speaking of Gilley, I started to wonder where that little—
“You’re married?!” came a shrieking voice.
The crowd fell silent. Then it parted to let through my oldest and dearest friend. Who looked ready to murder me. Raising both fists above his head, Gilley fell to his knees and shouted, “Why, God, why?”
“Great,” I muttered. “Could this day get any worse?”
And then the lights went out and the place was plunged into darkness.
Screams erupted all around us—the loudest of which I recognized as Gilley’s. I waited for someone to turn the light on from his or her cell phone, but among all the frightened screams, there were other shouts from people claiming that their phones were dead.
As I fumbled for my own phone, Heath grabbed my hand and pulled me to him, and together we carefully wove through the crush of rushing bodies toward Oruç’s dagger, which had to be responsible, because it was the only thing powerful enough in the room to douse the lights and drain every single phone. Well, save mine.
I slid my finger across the surface of the phone, and it lit up—the only light in the dark room. A wave of relief washed over me, until I realized that I held the only light in the room.
A mass of footsteps from all around us rushed straight for me, like moths to a flame. I shut off the phone fast, and Heath pulled me sharply to the right and off the track we’d been on, which was wise, because a lady I’d just been standing next to appeared to be suddenly swarmed by people. “Get off me! Get off me!” she cried.
“Turn on your phone again!” someone else shouted. “Dammit! Turn it on!”
Heath maneuvered through the crowd, which was working itself up into a frenzy of fear. The energy was insane, and I could feel the vibrations of intense alarm and mounting panic bouncing around us as people tried to figure out where they were in relation to the exit. “We have to get out!” many shouted. “Where’s the door? How do we get out of here?”
The fog from the dry ice machine wasn’t helping matters, because what feeble light did trickle in from the hallway was obscured by the fog that was getting kicked up by people rushing around the room.
I also found it a little odd that at least some people weren’t finding the situation humorous—the way some individuals can move through a staged Halloween haunted house and find it funny. There didn’t seem to be anyone within hearing distance of me who thought the whole thing was a publicity stunt—everyone was scared, and I do mean petrified.
“Are we close?” I called to Heath, who was still pulling on my arm.
“I think so!” he called back to me, using his shoulder to push aside someone who, in his panic, was trying to get between us. Abruptly, Heath stopped and I nearly bumped into the back of him. “It’s here,” he said, and I felt around a little with my free hand and found a velvet rope near my waist. I then heard a clicking sound and the rope fell to the floor. Heath guided me forward and then my hands were on the glass case that housed the dagger. I could feel a wave of the foulest energy waft over me, and then, all of a sudden, it was gone and all the lights came back on.
I blinked in the sudden brightness and the nearly immediate shocked silence that rippled through the crowd. People had frozen in place when the lights came on—many were clinging to each other in fear. One poor soul had soiled his pants, and he was the first to bolt out of the exit. Many of what remained of the crowd followed. Hastily.
Turning my attention back to the dagger, I tried to lift the glass housing it, but it wouldn’t budge. I then scanned the crowd for any sign of Gilley, as I was hoping he’d know how to get into the display, but he was nowhere in sight. Frustrated, I dug into my vest and pulled out a few extra magnets, placing them directly on the metal podium that held the glass case and the dagger. They stuck there nicely, and while I could tell that there were a whole lot of other magnets already placed there, my four extra certainly couldn’t hurt.
“Do you see Gilley?” I asked Heath, who was also scanning the crowd.
“No,” he said. “I think he might’ve made it to the door and out.”
I stepped away from the display and looked at the dispersing crowd anxiously. I wasn’t leaving without the dagger, and Gil was the key to getting the glass case unlocked. More scanning of the crowd failed to reveal my best friend, but Phil Sullivan and Murdock were still in attendance. They both appeared quite shaken by the ordeal. But then Phil’s petulant expression returned and he stalked over to us. “I’m going to call the studio and complain,” he told me with a snarl. “Maybe they can’t fire you for pulling a stunt like this, but I hope they fine you or withhold some of your royalty checks. And then I’m gonna call the police and see if they can issue you a citation!”
“Wait,” I said. “You think we did this?”
Excerpted from "A Ghoul's Guide to Love and Murder"
Copyright © 2016 Victoria Laurie.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Yowsa! Victoria Laurie pulled out all the stops for the final book in this series! All sorts of spectral nasties show up, aiming for the main characters. The who and why doesn't really clear up until right at the end. Quite a wild ride. The characters deserve a rest after all this!
Love this series. This is one of those books that you could finish in a night, but was so hard knowing this would be the last one.
I loved this series! Just bothered by the fact that the author doesn't seem to have acquainted herself with paranormal jargon. It doesn't really ruin the stories, but is just something that bothers me. She seems to think that all entity labels except demons are interchangeable. Also, poltergeists are not even entities, but energy. Still, she tells a riveting tale.
Another great book by Victoria Laurie. I'm sorry that this is the final book in this series. I feel that Ms Laurie did a great job of rounding out the characters lives. I don't feel like anything was left hanging. Fortunately, we still have the psychic eye books to look forward to.
He wanders in.
loved this book could not put it down, Victoria Laurie will have you on the edge of your seat I loved this series, maybe the characters will pop up here and now in the Abbey Cooper books a must read : )
Have read and enjoyed entire series!
Victoria Laurie has done quite a few things that many authors aren't able to do: 1) Keep her readers interested in a 10-book series and always want more; 2) develop the characters and stories so fully that we feel like M.J. is one of our best friends; 3) when she decides she's done with the series, she ends it on such a wonderfully high note — containing all the elements of the series that readers love best — that we feel the loss greatly and fully as we read the final page of this book. A quick sum-up: M.J., Heath, and Gilley are back for one last showdown with the Spooks. And I won't say how many or which Spooks, since I am a spoiler-free zone, but I will tell you that the story contains everything a reader loves about Laurie's supernatural mysteries: incredibly scary ghoulies, plenty of Gilley screaming bloody murder ("OH MY GOD! IS IT BEHIND ME?!?!?"), immense heart (so many feels in this last installment — get out your hankies), and Laurie's trademark wit (I swear, I want M.J. to be my best friend, it's like we were separated a birth). Longtime Ghost Hunter fans will not be disappointed, and if you're not familiar with this series, do yourself a great favor and pick up a copy of the first book, "What's a Ghoul to Do?", and get reading!
I have been with this series from the beginning. It has made me laugh, cry and at times scared the pants off me. I have loved all 10 years of this series and while I am sad to see it end I am completely satisfied with the way it has been done. Victoria Laurie is a genius! This book was soooooooooo good, I finished it in one sitting because I could not put it down! I applaud her and look forward to whatever she has in store for us next. Thank you Victoria! You are awesome!!!
This is an amazing finale to a wonderful series! I couldn't put it down! Definitely recommend this series to readers. If you enjoy a strong female character in a fast paced story that is very visual, give this series a chance.
A great final book in an awesome series.