EXCERPT: From Chapter 1: Blasing didn't respond. He recognized when simply saying anything could provoke a confrontation. Blasing saw something out of the corner of his eye. "LOOK OUT!
Angela looked back to the road and slammed on the brakes. An old man and his mule
were in the road! Angela cringed, awaiting the bone-crushing thump and the sight of bodies flying.
Instead, the pack animal and its master passed through the hood, then the windshield. The ethereal prospector smiled a toothless grin and doffed his dusty cap as he sliced through the interior of the 4-Runner. The ghostly mule was less accepting, its eyes wide with panic. Suddenly, the rank smells of old sweat, dust and unwashed mule overwhelmed them.
After the 4-Runner squealed to a stop, Blasing whirled around, eyes popping wide. "What the hell was that? He pointed at the grayed and somewhat translucent miner dressed in worn clothing. As if desert mirages, distorted background shapes could be seen through the spirit. The ghost was obviously angry, cursing and tugging on his mule's bit, trying to convince it to move. The pale beast was amazingly overloaded with transparent boxes and bags bound together as if caught in a large spider's web.
"Is that a ghost? Blasing whispered incredulously. "Ms. Starborne, I . . . . His lips worked silently.
Angela watched Blasing struggle with the concept of wandering spirits, his handsome face a mast of stunned confusion and his eyes unsettled. He ran a hand through his hair, then his dark gaze met her unwavering stare; he seemed to have composed himself quickly. "I don't believe in ghosts. He didn't sound convinced.
"You will, Angela said cryptically, no longer looking at Blasing but feeling the weight of his stare. "Maybe he's . . . wandered away. According to Peter, this wasn't supposed to happen.
"Wandered away? From where?
"I'll ask, Angela said, trying to sound casual as she began rolling down her window. Her heart was pounding, her palms were damp, and the urge for a cigarette was strong.
"Isn't that dangerous? Blasing asked. The near accident was not a big deal, but she was acting as if this were an ordinary, everyday experience.
"It might be.
The ghost spat, wiped his mouth "Lillybell! Dang it ya floppy-eared varmint. If I had my stick ya wouldn't be actin' like this! The mule appeared offended, setting its ears back in preparation for the forthcoming struggle.
Angela cleared her throat, starting to speak, but was stopped by the ghostly prospector. "This is your fault, purdy lady. Why I oughtta . . . . He began stalking toward the car.
The mule snorted, then nosed its master, almost knocking him off his feet. The miner staggered, then whirled quickly, yanking off his hat and slapping his unruly companion. "Think you're cute, do ya? Lillybell bared her teeth, then began hee-hawing and rocking back and forth. Madder than a hornet, the prospector threw down his hat and began hopping back and forth.
"You know, I've never heard of a ghost being this far away from the resort, Angela said tightly. Then she realized she'd let important information slip.
"You mean the Ghostal Shores Resort really is haunted? Blasing asked. "Not just a gimmick like Disneyland?
"This makes no sense at all Angela continued uneasily, trying to ignore Blasing's hot stare. "Spirits are supposed to be tied to a person or a place, not wandering around looking for food and lodging.
"Ghostly hitchhikers. Right.
"Believe it, Angela replied.
"I wish I'd stayed in Tahoe instead of letting you drag me here. All I have to deal with there are drunks, jealous boyfriends and confused teenagers in hormonal overdrive.
Angela's eyes flashed, then narrowed; she bit back a retort, along with a childish urge to stick out here tongue.
It was probably wise to drive away, but Angela found herself morbidly fascinated. The old miner had moved behind his mule and was leaning against its rear, grunting loudly and pushing as hard as he could. The mule took two quick steps forward, then another sideways. The prospector fell on his face, partly disappearing into the ground.
Angela almost laughed but didn't, sensing the miner might turn his wrath on her. "Are you going to Ghostal Shores? Angela didn't recognize him, so he certainly wasn't from the resort.
The miner didn't reply, instead he hauled himself to his feet and began digging into a pack. "Ya win, ya ornery beast. He gave Lillybell a sugar cube. "Lady, will ya kindly get your newfangled whatchamacallit out of the way? The first carriage that went by really shook up Lillybell, but you scared the hell outta her!