Ghost Times Two (Bailey Ruth Raeburn Series #7)

Ghost Times Two (Bailey Ruth Raeburn Series #7)

by Carolyn G. Hart

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425283738
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/04/2016
Series: Bailey Ruth Raeburn Series , #7
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

An accomplished master of mystery, Carolyn Hart is the New York Times bestselling author of more than fifty-five novels of mystery and suspense including the Bailey Ruth Ghost novels and the Death on Demand Mysteries. Her books have won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She has also been honored with the Amelia Award for significant contributions to the traditional mystery from Malice Domestic and was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. One of the founders of Sisters in Crime, Hart lives in Oklahoma City, where she enjoys mysteries, walking in the park, and cats. She and her husband, Phil, serve as staff—cat owners will understand—to brother and sister brown tabbies.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Abright yellow sheet, eight inches wide, six and one-half inches deep, sprouted in my right hand. Excitement propelled me from a hammock strung between two thirty-foot-tall palms. I luxuriated in the warmth of soft white sand beneath my bare feet. Out in tranquil translucent water Bobby Mac completed a cast from the deck of the Serendipity, our cabin cruiser. Perfect beauty on a perfect day.

If that sounds idyllic, Heaven provides every pleasure. Whatever vista we most enjoy, there we are. Steep slopes with fresh snow, a bustling visit to a Heavenly Harrods (oh my, that royal blue body-sculpted sleeveless knit dress), reverie in dappled shade beneath live oak trees. Or perhaps it is conversation you enjoy; Dorothy Parker's wit is always pointed and poignant, Abigail Adams's pithy comments intrigue, Socrates provides gentle queries.

Eagerly I scanned the telegram: Come soonest. Spectral scandal brewing. Wiggins

I waggled the telegram to catch my husband's attention. Braced against the pull of a fish, Bobby Mac shouted, "Wiggins? Good for you. Have fun."

A summons from Wiggins. What could be more Heavenly?

Telegram in the age of digital connections? Heavenly? Dorothy Parker? Abigail Adams? Socrates? Wiggins? Perhaps I should explain. If we haven't met before, I am Bailey Ruth Raeburn, late of Adelaide, Oklahoma. Late as in deceased. Late as in dearly departed. Late ever since Bobby Mac and I went down to the depths when a storm struck the Gulf and sank the Serendipity. If contemplating spirits and Heaven makes you uneasy, it isn't my intention to distress you. Unequivocally real are a pump jack's rhythmic chug as it pulls oil to the surface, a moose on a hillside, bacteria in a petri dish. Equally real are gossamer thoughts, the caress of a breeze, the memory of a kiss. From there, the imaginative understand there are dimensions beyond the material world.

That's where I come in. Or from. I am pleased to inform you that I have the honor to serve as an emissary from Heaven's Department of Good Intentions, returning to earth to help someone in trouble.

Do I sense amusement? A dismissal of the possibility of Heaven? Pause, please. Recall an instant when joy suffused you. Perhaps you heard a haunting melody or someone you loved stepped into the room or dawn splashed the sky with red and orange. You've experienced moments of transcendent glory that can never be described or explained. For a quivering, unforgettable instant, you knew beauty in your soul. Well, my dears, that is Heaven.

As for the Department of Good Intentions, come with me.

Travel in Heaven is as quick as the thought. I wished to be at the Department of Good Intentions. I was there. I walked up a wide path toward a small redbrick country train station, circa 1910. Wiggins, who runs the department, was a stationmaster in life and chose a train station to dispatch Heavenly emissaries to earth.

A gentle breeze stirred my red curls. I knew my freckle-spattered face was alight with happiness. I looked my best in a brightly patterned sarong blouse and white Bermuda shorts. My pace slowed. Wiggins is a fine man, but rather formal. I learned his first name in my most recent visit to earth, but I would never presume to address him as Paul. Wiggins he is and Wiggins he remains, a man of his time in a high-collared white shirt, heavy gray flannel trousers supported by both suspenders and a wide black belt, sturdy black leather shoes. Arm garters puff his shirtsleeves between shoulder and elbow. He wears a stiff dark cap unless seated at his desk, where he dons a green eyeshade. Wiggins is always warm and welcoming, but he has a somewhat unrealistic view-at least to me-of the qualities he expects from the agents he dispatches. He envisions emissaries who excel in decorum and restraint and, of course, modesty in dress.

I do not excel in decorum, restraint, or modesty in dress. Oh fudge. To be absolutely honest-a Heavenly requisite-I have been known to belt out "Come On-a My House" in a loud soprano while tap-dancing in a décolleté spangle-spattered midthigh red chiffon cocktail dress. Heaven encourages us to be the best we ever were, and I am partial to a rollicking twenty-seven, which was a very good year for me. I'm a flaming redhead, narrow face with curious green eyes, freckles, and a willingness to smile.

I looked at my reflection in a crystal column. Were the cerise and crimson in my sarong blouse too much? Wiggins doesn't understand how the right outfit makes a woman feel on top of the world, which can be quite an aid in a tough situation on earth. I like dramatic colors. I adore short skirts. (Who doesn't have good legs at twenty-seven?) Shoes can be a glorious adventure. I looked down at red leather sandals adorned with delicate white shells.

. . . decorum, modesty, restraint . . .

With a sigh, I watched my image transform in the crystal. As with traveling from one point to another, a change in appearance occurs immediately. Instead of the brightly patterned sarong blouse and Annapolis white shorts (who's cuter than a sailor in bell-bottom whites?), a long, bilious green dress drooped over dull green moccasins. I shuddered. There was a limit. Modest white sandals replaced the moccasins.

I clutched the long skirt, held it aloft, couldn't resist a ruffled white petticoat, and rushed up the path and the steps to the station. I hurried through the waiting room. Travelers of all descriptions occupied the wooden benches: a bearded monk with a staff; a young woman in a WWI Red Cross nurse uniform; a Roman matron; a cowboy in a Stetson, white shirt, black vest, stiff denim trousers, and boots; a flapper in a beaded dress; a farmer in a heavy flannel shirt, coveralls, and earth-stained work boots; a broad-faced, heavyset financier in a Savile Row suit and homburg, hands folded atop a malacca cane.

I passed through the door marked Station Agent. Wiggins sat at a sturdy golden oak desk that faced the platform. Through a broad window, he could see shining tracks that wound into the sky. A telegraph sounder rested to the left of a heavy manila folder.

At the sound of my steps, Wiggins swung around in his swivel chair, came to his feet. "Bailey Ruth." He removed his green eyeshade. He strode toward me, reddish hair thick and unruly, walrus mustache magnificent, broad face smiling, hands outstretched. "You came at once."

"Of course." I resisted the impulse to stand stiffly and salute. There is something about Wiggins . . .

He stopped and looked down at me.

I saw the usual register of emotions he displayed upon my arrival, whether responding to a summons or volunteering my assistance, affection mixed with apprehension, admiration diluted by wariness.

He cleared his throat. "Harrumph."

Honestly, that's what Wiggins often says, harrumph.

I resisted the impulse to serenade him with "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky." Wiggins takes great pride in the Rescue Express and abhors the term ghost. Wiggins insists that those he dispatches are Heavenly emissaries. That's all very well and good, but I know a cabbage when I see a cabbage, a love song when the violins play, and cashmere when I touch it. A spirit returning to earth, even if well intentioned, is a ghost.

"Ghost," he blurted.

Startled, I blurted in return, "Ghost?" Was he reading my mind? That simply isn't done in Heaven. Private thoughts, though hopefully sacred and not profane, are private thoughts.

He began to pace, broad face furrowed in frustration. "Not acceptable. Irresponsible." A rueful smile tugged at his generous mouth. "I can't say I don't understand." He swung toward me. "That's why I sent for you."

This did not sound promising.

"True love," he said, his voice gentle, "never ends." A huge sigh. "You know how I feel about Precept Two."

I didn't see a connection between true love and Precept Two, but I certainly was well aware of his feelings about Precept Two. I hastened to reassure him, my voice earnest, one hand squarely above my heart. "Far be it from me to ever willingly"-strong emphasis on willingly-"consort with another departed spirit." I saw the modifier as my escape hatch. Of course, I wouldn't willingly collaborate with a departed spirit, but circumstances had been known to alter cases. In effect, a ghost will do what a ghost has to do. To underscore my total dedication to the Precepts, the rules for emissaries on a mission to earth, I stood straight and tall, recited the Precepts in my husky, carrying voice:

Precepts for Earthly Visitation

1. Avoid public notice.

2. Do not consort with other departed spirits.

3. Work behind the scenes without making your presence known.

4. Become visible only when absolutely necessary.

5. Do not succumb to the temptation to confound those who appear to oppose you.

6. Make every effort not to alarm earthly creatures.

7. Information about Heaven is not yours to impart. Simply smile and say, "Time will tell."

8. Remember always that you are on the earth, not of the earth.

I hoped my dramatic rendition and stalwart posture evoked an image of that hardy horseman galloping from Ghent to Aix. In the spirit of things, I swirled from the dull green dress to a cream turtleneck, tan jodhpurs, and glistening leather riding boots. What a relief.

Wiggins's mustache drooped. "I'm afraid"-his voice sounded as though it emanated from a deep well-"the Precepts-"

I could scarcely hear him.

His eyes stared as if into a gray distance. "-do not apply here. It grieves me to realize that my Precepts, so thoughtfully fashioned, so attuned to every temptation, are to no avail in this instance." Another heavy sigh. "That's why I summoned you."

I feared his admission was not a compliment. I decided to look on the bright side. Wiggins needed me. Yee-hah! "Wiggins"-I tried to keep the eagerness out of my voice-"I will do whatever the department commands."

He jammed a fist into the opposite palm. "That's the spirit."

For an instant, I was almost sure there was a twinkle in his spaniel brown eyes.

He strode decisively to the slotted rack on the wall near the ticket window, snatched a red ticket, gave it a stamp, and hurried toward me.

A clang of wheels against steel and a throaty whistle of a proud coal-puffing engine announced the imminent arrival of the Rescue Express, thundering down the line.

"Quick." He thrust the ticket at me. "Do what you can. He's an irrepressible young scamp. He simply must face up to Heaven. No matter how much-"

The scent of coal smoke. Whoo-whoo. I turned and dashed for the platform, thronged now with travelers.

Wiggins's voice carried over the rumbles and roars.

"-he loves her."

Once I'd asked Wiggins why he didn't send me to Paris. He'd inquired, How's your French? I haven't given up hope that someday he may dispatch me to Greenwich Village (I've read about it and I can quote Dorothy Parker) or Vancouver (Bobby Mac and I holidayed there once) or even Tumbulgum (Wiggins left me blessedly unsupervised while dealing with a crisis in that tiny remote outpost in Australia). Until then, between us, I adore returning to Adelaide, where I grew up, fell in love, married, raised a family (daughter, Dil, and son, Rob), worked (English teacher until I flunked a football player and became secretary to the Chamber and oh, what I knew about everyone in town), and lived happily until our last voyage in the Serendipity. Adelaide is more prosperous than during my time, but it is still Adelaide, a beautiful small town in the rolling hills of south central Oklahoma. I know Adelaide inside and out and upside and down. I blinked against a glare from lake water as I swung off the caboose. A late-afternoon sun was bright as new copper in the western sky. I know the hot heavy heat of Oklahoma summers. The wise hunker down in air-conditioned offices, homes, or cars. They do not choose to stand in boiling heat on the old wooden pier in Adelaide's White Deer Park.

I shaded my eyes and saw the exception to the rule. At the end of the pier, a tall young man, his posture forlorn, stared toward shore. His droopy seersucker suit clung to him, damp with sweat. He held up his right arm, looked down at a wristwatch, the age-old gesture of someone waiting. Why would anyone arrange a meeting on the pier with the temperature nudging a hundred?

A red Dodge squealed into the graveled lot near the pier, slid to a stop next to a very old yellow Thunderbird. The driver's door slammed. A small young woman bolted forward. Her high heels clattered on the steps to the pier. She hurried toward him on the wooden deck, almost running. I liked her rose linen suit, a three-button front jacket, and a short straight skirt with tiny bows embroidered above the side slits. Very high pink heels.

The Civilian Conservation Corps dammed a stream to form a lake in the '30s. (1930s.) The young men built a pier into the lake, used local stone to create an amphitheater on a natural slope. The outdoor venue provided a site for plays and concerts and on sunny days a fun place for children to clamber. Last one up is a monkey's tail. A carousel offered sweet tinny music. On the carousel, a majestic dark brown wooden buffalo, Oklahoma proud, was the prized perch. A muscular catfish, of course with whiskers, was next most popular.

I felt a catch at my heart as the young woman ran toward the end of the pier. How many times had Bobby Mac and I come to the park and walked hand in hand in the moonlight to the end of the pier? I remembered a spring evening in 1942. Bobby Mac was in uniform and I held tight to him. I was a high school senior, wildly in love. I wanted us to marry before he left, but Bobby Mac, cocky as always, said he'd come marching home as long as I was there waiting for him. He shipped out with the 45th Division to North Africa and on to Italy and Germany. He came home from the war as he'd promised. I was waiting as I'd promised. In June of '46 in a sunset ceremony at the amphitheater, I became Mrs. Robert MacNeil Raeburn. We've been hand in hand ever since.

I brought my attention back to the young couple at the end of the pier in the blazing summer heat.

She skidded to a stop, dropped her cotton handbag to the surface of the pier. She moved closer to him, trying to catch her breath. She spoke unevenly, "I'm sorry I'm late."

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Ghost Times Two 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This one was good but more serious to me. Even Sam was more serious(at times) . I cried at the end , from the dove bars to the stairs. I couldn't get past a young love lost. What can I say? I'm a sap for true love ; / Yes id read it again. XO rhonni 17
LisaKsBooksReviews More than 1 year ago
Not many people can make a ghost come to life, but that’s exactly what author Carolyn Hart does in every installment of the Bailey Ruth Ghost Mysteries. GHOST TIMES TWO finds ghost Bailey Ruth trying to help the spirit of a young man move on to the afterlife. But much in the way of the show, The Ghost Whisperer, his reluctant spirit is refusing to go. What follows is an exciting tale of the two ghosties trying to track down a murderer. A fast, and fascinating story, GHOST TIMES TWO is another amazing ghostly adventure written only the way author Hart can. Page after page my anticipation grew as the twists and turns just kept coming right up until the satisfying conclusion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KrisAnderson_TAR More than 1 year ago
Ghost Times Two by Carolyn Hart is the seventh book in A Bailey Ruth Ghost series. Bailey Ruth Raeburn receives a telegram from Wiggins to report for duty. Bailey Ruth is excited to have a new assignment. There is a ghost on Earth who refuses to ascend to Heaven in Adelaide, Oklahoma (Bailey Ruth’s hometown). Bailey Ruth is being sent to Earth as an emissary (Wiggins word) to convince the spirit to enter Heaven. James “Jimmy” Taylor has not moved on because of Megan Wynn. Megan is the love of Jimmy’s life, and Jimmy does not wish to leave her. Megan, though, is ready to move on with her life, but she cannot as long as she keeps hearing Jimmy (she can hear him but cannot see him). Bailey Ruth has to convince him to leave Megan and move on. Unfortunately, Megan has gotten herself into a little bit of a pickle. Her boss is murdered and Megan is found at the scene with blood on her hands (someone set her up). Now Bailey Ruth needs to solve to murder and get Jimmy to Heaven. Join Bailey Ruth on her latest adventure in Ghost Times Two. I found Ghosts Times Two to be highly entertaining. I love the antics of Bailey Ruth. This mystery is harder to solve. It is one that plays out (though you can take a stab at solving it, and then wait to see if you are right). Ghost Times Two can be read as a stand-alone novel. The author brings the reader up-to-date on Bailey Ruth (how she died and became an emissary as well as information about her family and some past antics). I give Ghost Times Two 4.25 out of 5 stars. I do think we get to hear a little too much about Bailey Ruth’s various fashions. She changes clothes quite often (she does have a good fashion sense though). I enjoyed Ghost Times Two, and I eagerly look forward to reading about Bailey Ruth's next adventure. I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. The comments and opinions expressed are strictly my own.