A spirit has taken up residence in the store, and although Melinda Gordon usually can sort out what's keeping a spirit from crossing over, this particular one is frustratingly uncommunicative. After a week of trying, the store owner is convinced that Melinda will never succeed.
Then self-acclaimed spiritual consultant Wendy King comes to town, guaranteeing success in moving spirits to the afterlife...for a fee. But Wendy's methodology involves trapping and forcing spirits into the light. And she pays no heed when Melinda tells her that what she is doing is wrong and dangerous.
After a young couple inherits the old Ray mansion and asks for help selling the antiques that fill the house, Melinda pushes aside her concerns about Wendy. But the old house holds a terrible secret and a spirit that Melinda cannot budge. The frightened owners turn to Wendy King, who forces the spirit to cross over, despite Melinda's pleadings. But Wendy's actions release an evil, unyielding spirit, one who promises to release a flood of disease and terror on the town, starting with the people closest to the Ghost Whisperer.
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Read an Excerpt
A white dress shirt whipped through the air. Melinda Gordon ducked. The shirt missed her and wrapped itself around Jack Perry's head. He gave a muffled scream and clawed at his face, trying to pull it off. Melinda leaped forward to help him. She hooked her fingers under the collar and pulled.
"Stop this!" she shouted at empty air. Her heart pounded with fear and exertion. "You have to stop!"
The shirt blurred Jack's features, making him look like a Halloween ghost. Melinda yanked hard. The shirt came away with a soft tearing sound, a bandage coming off an old wound. Jack sucked in a deep breath. Behind him, racks of plastic-wrapped clothes rustled and sighed among themselves, filling the dry cleaning store with angry whispers. Melinda tensed, wondering if any more of them would fly out at them. Her fingers clutched at the shirt. A red dress lifted from the rack in a ghastly parody of a dance, hissing in its plastic wrapping. Melinda grabbed a pair of scissors from the counter and brandished them, but the dress staggered and collapsed in stages to the floor, the plastic billowing out like a half-dead balloon. The dry cleaning store fell silent.
Jack, his face pale, leaned panting against the service counter. He stared at Melinda for a long moment. Shreds of white cloth hung in his curly brown hair. He had a slight build that combined with pointed, boyish features and green eyes to give him an air Melinda could only think of as elfin.
"You said you can help."
"Usually I can." Melinda set the scissors down and brushed back a lock of long dark hair. Her features were smooth, and her chin came to a rounded point that her husband Jim assured her was extremely cute. She wore a flowing white blouse that set off an almost porcelain complexion. "Are you sure you don't know anything about the ghost? I can't help a spirit cross over until I know what's keeping it here. It would help if I even had a name or a gender."
"If I knew anything, I'd tell you," Jack said in exasperation. "It's been like this for a month now, and I have no freaking -- hello!"
Melinda blinked at him, then realized he was looking at someone behind her and turned around. A tall, redheaded woman was standing in the doorway. She wore a low-cut yellow blouse, and a matching embroidered skirt of raw silk clung to her thighs. No one would have called her beautiful -- her face was a little too long, her eyes a bit too small, and Melinda thought she really needed to wear her hair down instead of in that French twist. But the look Jack gave her was the same look a hungry artist reserved for a Botticelli painting or a Michelangelo sculpture. Or the one Melinda sometimes gave Jim when he wasn't looking.
"Hello, Jack," the woman said, stepping into the store. Her voice was startlingly low, a wax comb dripping with honey. "Is my party dress ready?"
"Yeah! Sure thing, Polly." Jack eagerly thumbed a switch, and the rack moved its load of clothes smoothly through the area behind the counter. Melinda held her breath, waiting to see if anything would leap free. She half hoped something would -- she might see the ghost responsible -- even though she knew it would be hard to explain to Polly.
Jack plucked a plastic-sheathed black dress from the rack and held it up. "Here it is. All set."
"I'm impressed," Polly said with a small smile. "You didn't even ask to see my ticket."
"I -- I remembered your number," Jack said. He looked oddly flustered. His face colored, and his gaze darted nervously down to his hands, then back at Polly. "Anyway, it's all set. Oh -- one of the buttons was coming loose. I sewed it back on for you. No extra charge."
Polly cocked her head. "Thanks. Service like that will keep me coming back."
"It's why we -- I -- do it," Jack said with a painfully shy smile. Melinda, standing in the corner, flicked her gaze around the shop, watching, waiting. The spirit was around here somewhere. It had to be. She could feel its cold, confused eyes staring at her. It was afraid and it was angry, and that made it dangerous. Living people did terrible things out of fear and anger. The dead were less restrained and often did much worse.
Polly took a pink leather wallet from her pocket and paid the dry cleaning check. Jack fidgeted during the transaction. He clearly wanted to say more, but felt too shy. Polly accepted her change, and Melinda saw her hand brush Jack's. His eyes widened just a little.
"Is there something else?" Polly asked. Her expression was open and guileless, inviting. Even hopeful.
Jack swallowed. He seemed to have forgotten Melinda entirely. Polly waited, holding the dress folded neatly over one arm. Melinda, for her part, found herself getting caught up in the drama unfolding before her. She watched from her corner, trying to remain the unobtrusive outsider.
"I...I..." Jack said.
Polly leaned forward. Melinda held her breath. "Yes?" Polly asked.
"I...forgot to give you your change." Jack slapped the cash register and it opened with a bang. Quickly he counted out a few coins and dropped them into Polly's hand. "Sorry."
"Oh," she said, her disappointment clear. "Thanks."
Polly turned to go. Melinda started to speak up, then caught herself. Anything she said would only embarrass both of them. But Jack looked so unhappy and Polly so disappointed. It didn't seem fair or right. Except there were times when it was best to interfere and times when it was best to bow out. The trick was telling the difference between the two.
"Hey, Polly," Jack called out suddenly.
Polly turned, holding the dress before her like a shield. "Yes?"
"I...I..." Jack seemed to lose his nerve for a moment. Then words burst out of him in a rush. "I'll bet you look great in that." He flushed deeply. Melinda could see how much the words had cost him, and she held back a little sigh of relief. They were talking again. Things could only get better from here.
"Thanks," Polly said. "I just wish I had a good place to wear it. I don't get out much." Part of the revolving clothes rack extended along the right wall of the store, outside of Polly's view. The plastic stirred, and to Melinda's horror, a leather jacket slid free.
"Really?" Jack said, apparently gathering his courage. "There's a -- a dance. At the Veteran's Hall. On Friday. Maybe you and I could -- "
The jacket glided toward Polly's back, empty arms outstretched. Jack saw it and the words died in the air before him. Melinda dashed up behind Polly and snatched at the jacket. It wriggled and struggled, the dry leather sliding through her hands.
"Stop it!" she hissed at the empty air. "Leave him alone!"
Polly spun in surprise and stared at Melinda. Melinda clutched at the jacket, trying to hold it still. It twisted and squirmed, as indignant as a child. Melinda forced a smile to her face and yanked the jacket closer to her body.
"Just bringing this in," she said. "It's all stiff and dirty. Can't do a thing with it."
Polly continued to stare. "Oh. Sure."
"Um, Friday?" Jack said hurriedly. "I was thinking before the dance, we could get a bite to -- "
The jacket leaped from Melinda's grasp and shot up to the ceiling. It slapped the tiles with the sound of dry bones, then slammed back down to the floor. Polly's mouth fell open.
"Now how did I do that?" Melinda said with a patently fake little laugh. "I swear, I can trip over a smooth floor."
The jacket's sleeves reached up, a caricature of a baby reaching for its mother. Polly clutched her dress and fled the store, trailing a scream. The customer bell jingled merrily as the door slammed behind her.
Cold breath washed over Melinda's neck and a voice whispered, "Underneath." Fear trickled over Melinda's skin, a combination of fear and longing, and neither emotion was her own. She felt them nonetheless. The fear was thin and shrill, tinged with unfairness, a cook locked out of her own kitchen while a stranger lit it on fire. The longing ran deep and familiar, like a child looking for a lost blanket. Melinda turned, hoping to get a glimpse of the spirit who felt this way. Nothing behind her but empty air.
"Dammit!" Jack hurried around the counter, intending to go after Polly. He tripped over something Melinda couldn't see, stumbled, caught his balance, and gave up. "Shit!"
Melinda picked up the jacket and laid it on the counter. It lay motionless. "I'm sorry," she said.
"You're sorry?" he snapped. "My customers are being driven away, I'm barely staying afloat, and the one time my mouth actually works around Polly Whitehall, this...thing shows up and scares her away. I thought you were supposed to help."
Anger rose, and a retort popped into Melinda's mouth. She wanted to snarl that she wasn't causing Jack's problems, that she didn't get anything out of helping spirits cross over. It wasn't as if Jack were paying her. She was doing him a favor, for heaven's sake. But she took one look at his pained, angry face and swallowed the retort.
Most living people will get angry when you try to tell them a spirit is hanging about, Grandma always said. They get angry because they don't want to believe you or because they feel guilty about something or because telling them rakes up painful memories. Just remember that they aren't angry at you, and yelling back at them never helps. It might make you feel better for a few minutes, but it won't help the spirit cross over, and it won't help the living deal with their pain.
Jack wasn't angry at her. He was angry at the ghost who was haunting his shop. He was angry at the situation. And he was angry at himself for not asking Polly out sooner. Melinda was just the closest target for all of it.
"I'm sorry," she said again. "I know it's hard."
"You bet it's hard," he said. "I have a business loan and bills to pay and a father who's just waiting for me to fail so he can say 'I told you so.' Please, I just want to be alone, okay?"
Melinda nodded and left the store.
Sunlight washed over her as she stepped onto the sidewalk. Downtown Grandview stretched out before her, drowsing beneath a blue afternoon sky. Melinda took a moment to orient herself, as she often had to do after dealing with the dead. The big square ahead of her boasted its coppery green statue of two soldiers, and cars buzzed lazily around it. Small shops and little restaurants lined the streets, and the smells of Italian cooking, coffee, and fresh bread helped ground Melinda in the world of the living. Even a small brush with a spirit left her a little unsettled. Her usual remedy was coffee, and she decided this would be the perfect excuse for a double latte. And maybe a bagel. With raisins. And strawberry cream cheese.
A few moments later, she elbowed open the door to Same As It Never Was, her own antique shop. Two lidded Styrofoam cups from Village Java made a fragrant tower under her chin, and the Au Pair box of bagels weighed down her free hand. The customer bell rang, a more friendly echo to the one in Jack's Dry Cleaning shop. Andrea Morena looked up from her position behind the counter. She was a pretty, dark-skinned woman with a ready smile and strong, wiry hands.
"Ooooo! The Au Pair special," Andrea said. "Since Jim is nowhere in sight, can I assume that you intend to spoil my diet instead of his dinner?"
"I don't allow my business partners to diet," Melinda said. "It makes them cranky. Here."
Melinda carefully deposited her loot on the countertop. Smells of coffee and creamy strawberries leaked through paper and Styrofoam to permeate the shop. Sunlight slanted through the front display windows and bounced off the pale walls, giving the place a bright, airy feel. Antiques of all kinds waited patiently on shelves, on the floor, and in display cases arranged with a unique twist that truly defined the store. Dolls, vintage clothing, musical instruments, small pieces of furniture, ceramic figurines, records, toys, a collection of presidential campaign buttons from the thirties -- all of them offered themselves for sale to any customer who cared to look. Melinda had decided long ago that her shop would never have the cramped, dusty feel that seemed to be the standard condition at other antique stores. Melinda didn't enjoy getting grit and dust on her hands, and she didn't particularly like stumbling around dimly lit shops with narrow aisles and squeaky floors. And if she didn't like it, why would her customers? Besides the eye-catching arrangements, Melinda insisted on breathing space, even if it meant keeping less merchandise on display.
The strategy seemed to work. Same As It Never Was did a thriving business. The only regret Melinda had these days was in the store's name. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but she hadn't realized how annoying it would be for customers to write it on checks or how often they would ask, "Can I just write 'SAINW'?"
Melinda unstacked the coffee cups, handed one to Andrea across the counter, and opened the packet of bagels. At the moment, the shop was empty, and Andrea seemed to be going over an inventory spreadsheet on a laptop computer.
"You just missed a major rush," Andrea said. "Nine LOLITS, and four of them doll collectors. The other five had more eclectic tastes. I'm getting it all entered into the computer just now."
"Little Old Ladies in Tennis Shoes," Melinda said, sipping coffee. "My favorite kind of customer."
"That's because you didn't have to listen to their stories," Andrea groused. She reached for one of the bagel halves. Strawberry cream cheese made a fluffy pink cloud atop it.
"I like their stories," Melinda protested. "They're antiques, too, you know, and fun to hear."
"Not when they're just thin excuses to convince me why I should lower the price," Andrea growled. She pulled her straight black hair into a fake bun and pitched her voice like a sweet old woman's. " 'My dear Gerrold and I used to vacation here together, and it was so lovely. The ice cream parlor is gone, but the statue out there hasn't changed a bit. Gerrold's passed away now, and I'm on a fixed income these days. It's so difficult.'" Andrea's voice abruptly hardened. " 'Do you think I could have this for ten dollars instead of twenty?'"
Melinda laughed, a little too long. "Thanks. I needed that."
"Glad to oblige, but what's wrong? Tough ghost?"
"Like phantom jerky."
Andrea nodded. She knew about Melinda's gift, her ability to see and talk to spirits and help them cross over. Melinda had been hesitant about telling her, but had finally taken the plunge. To Melinda's surprise, Andrea had been levelheaded and accepting of the whole thing. As a bonus, Melinda found it was a tremendous relief to have someone besides Jim to confide in. Jim Clancy was the best husband imaginable, but sometimes Melinda just wanted to talk to another woman. Besides, with Andrea in the know, Melinda didn't have to come up with fake explanations if she had to leave the store at odd moments. The dead didn't respect business hours.
"The ghost at Jack's Dry Cleaning?" Andrea gave her a sympathetic smile.
Melinda leaned on the counter and recounted the incident between bites of bagel and sips of coffee. "I've gone over there three times and I'm still stumped," she admitted. "Mostly because I have nothing to go on."
"Have you done any research?"
"Of course! Jack says no one close to him has ever died. He has no enemies, living or dead. He only moved to Grandview a few weeks ago. There seems to be no reason for a ghost to be following him around."
"What about the store?"
Melinda paused mid-munch. "The store?"
"The dry cleaning store. What if the ghost isn't connected to Jack? What if it's connected to his store?"
"I'd thought of that," Melinda said. "But I don't know anything about the building, and I didn't get a chance to look into it. Every time I talked to Jack, clothes tried to wrap us up. Do you know anything about it?"
"The place was empty when I first moved to Grandview," Andrea said, reaching for the computer. "But I'm relatively new to the area. Let's see if there's anything online about it."
The customer bell rang and both women looked up. A man entered the shop. He looked to be in his late thirties and was tall, nearly six feet, with a broad build, square face, and red hair the color of an autumn leaf. He wore a green-checked flannel shirt, jeans, and brown work boots. His blue eyes were hesitant, and he carried a file folder in large hands.
"Not buying," Melinda murmured to Andrea. "Wants to sell. I'm guessing estate sale."
"Unsure manner, file folder probably full of photos, work clothes from clearing out someone else's house," Andrea agreed quietly. "Cute, though. We in the market for more stuff ?"
"Depends." Melinda turned toward him and smiled. "Hi! Can I help you?"
The man straightened and put on a friendly smile that creased his face and made him even better-looking. Melinda was forced to admit he could give Jim a run for his money. He put out his hand and Melinda shook it. Warm, dry, and firm.
"Kevin Ray," he said. "Are you the owner?"
"That's me," she said. "Melinda Gordon. This is Andrea Morena, my partner."
Kevin greeted Andrea and set the folder on the counter. Melinda automatically scanned the area around him, looking for ghosts. She didn't see any, which was a relief. It was a lot easier to deal with living strangers when the dead weren't vying for her attention at the same time.
"My great-grandmother Florence died recently," Kevin said.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Melinda said.
"Thanks," Kevin said. "But she had a long life. She was a hundred and one years old and lived in the same house her entire life."
"A hundred and one," Andrea said. "Wow! What was her secret? Cigars? Yogurt? Yoga?"
"I'm hoping it's good genes," Kevin said, slapping his own chest. "She was an interesting woman, but she rarely left her house. It's that big one out on Ray Road."
Something clicked in Melinda's head. "Ray! I didn't make the connection. I know that house. The huge Victorian place. The one that's...that's..." She trailed off and flushed a little.
"Falling apart?" Kevin finished for her. "Yeah, I know. Grandma Florence lived in a couple rooms on the first floor by herself. She refused to sell the place and no one else in the family wanted it, but she left it to me in her will. My wife and I want to restore it and turn it into a bed-and-breakfast."
"Now, that's something Grandview could use," Melinda said with a nod. The Chamber of Commerce, whose meetings Melinda attended regularly, worked hard to discourage chain restaurants and hotels. The plus side was that Grandview kept a thriving downtown, unspoiled by strip malls, Wal-Marts, and Super 8 Motels. The minus side was a lack of places for out-of-towners to stay. A new B&B would only be a good thing.
"That's what Sally and I think." Kevin opened the folder, revealing a pile of color photographs. "But restoring a house and putting together a B&B takes capital. Sally and I were wondering..." Now Kevin trailed off and gave Melinda a hopeful look that made him look like an Irish setter puppy.
"...if any of Grandma Florence's old things might be worth selling on consignment," Andrea finished.
"Yeah. We want to keep some of the furniture, but a lot of it looks more valuable than comfortable. And she squirreled away a lot of interesting smaller stuff, some of it from the early 1900s. I brought some pictures."
Melinda turned to the photos. Pictures of furniture were on top of the stack. A pale oak blanket chest, lightly scarred but otherwise in fine condition. A lady's vanity with spindly legs and a fly-specked mirror. A squat oak dresser with brass handles on the drawers. A roll-top desk with four drawers and a matching chair upholstered with black leather. All of it looked solidly built and at least a century old. Melinda stared at them. She loved antiques. Ever since she was a little girl, old objects had seemed to call to her. They were heavy with history, filled with silent stories. These were objects that had been used by people with loves and fears and desires. The people were gone, their stories faded, but these objects remained behind, silent witnesses to entire lifetimes, and they fascinated Melinda to no end.
The businesswoman in her finally gave the rest of her a mental kick.
"These are some beautiful pieces," she said. "This desk is especially fine. I should warn you that I'm a little crowded right now. If you can store these pieces, I think you have several that a few of my customers have been looking for. I can act as a go-between. To be honest, you might be better off trying eBay. Their commission will be lower, for one thing."
"Nuh-uh!" Kevin said, putting up his hands. "Crating and shipping this stuff ? What a nightmare!"
"That's my attitude," Melinda said with a light laugh. "Andrea's been after me to get a website going, but mail order...not how I want to spend my days."
"I've told you I'll handle all that," Andrea protested. "It wouldn't be -- "
"Lay-ter," Melinda sang, then turned to Kevin. "Old argument, new audience. Anyway, I can probably sell the furniture for you, but we'd have to keep it at the house until it sold because I don't have the storage space. Would that work for you?"
"No problem," Kevin said. "What about the other stuff ? These are just samples -- there's lots more."
"Let's see." Melinda flipped through more photographs. Andrea bent her head to look, as well. A set of silver-backed hairbrushes and matching combs, tarnished but in excellent condition. Castiron hand tools were laid out beside a hand-carved toolbox. A kerosene lamp with a dusty chimney. A wooden cribbage board, also hand-carved. Melinda stared at the photos. The pieces were all in excellent condition and easily salable. She doubted they'd stay on her shelves for more than a few days. The cribbage board she wanted for herself, though she knew she should leave it in the shop. Jim would protest -- rightly -- that she didn't even play cribbage and wouldn't learn, no matter how good her intentions. That didn't stop her from wanting the board in a bad way.
"What's that thing?" Andrea asked, pointing to one photo. "It looks like some binoculars lost a fight with a slide rule."
"That's a stereoscope," Melinda said. "Remember those plastic View-Masters? You put that white cardboard disk into it, pushed the lever, and you could see different pictures?"
"Oh yeah," Andrea said. "My brother had one of those. He wouldn't let me look. He said the pictures were too scary. I looked anyway when he wasn't around, and it was just shots of Disney movies and stuff."
"This is the Victorian version," Melinda said. "You looked at postcards with it and pretended you were there. Mr. Ray, these are some wonderful pieces. Are you sure you want to part with them?"
"What am I going to do with it all?" Kevin asked. "Open a museum? I'd rather it went to people who will appreciate it. When can you come out to see the rest?"
"How about early this evening? My husband is working until eleven, so it's not as if there's anything going on for me at home. I can look around and we can talk contracts and commissions."
"Can I come?" Andrea said. "I love poking around old houses."
"Oh, good -- save me the effort of persuading you," Melinda said. "Six o'clock work, Mr. Ray? It'll still be light out."
"Kevin, please," he said. "And that'll be perfect."
As he turned to go, Andrea said, "Hey, can you tell me something?"
Kevin Ray turned back with a questioning look. "You've lived in Grandview a long time, right?" Andrea said.
"I left for a few years to get my degree," Kevin said. "But other than that, yeah. Why?"
"Can you tell me what used to be in the store that's now Jack's Dry Cleaning?"
"The Mazurek Bakery," Kevin replied promptly. "But Dina Mazurek died -- stroke, or something -- and the place died with her. Jack Perry took it over after that. I hear he's not doing too well. A shame."
"Maybe things'll pick up for him," Melinda said with a smile. "Thanks! See you this evening."
He left, and Melinda turned to Andrea. "Nicely done, Ms. Moreno."
"Thank you, Ms. Gordon." Andrea took another bite of bagel. "Do I get a promotion?"
Melinda made an arcane gesture over Andrea's head. "I now pronounce you senior partner."
"What was I before?"
"Regular partner. Let me see that computer." She tapped a few keys, brought up a search engine, and tapped a few more. Text and images flickered to life. "Aha! Mazurek isn't a very common name, and there's a Kaye Lynn Mazurek right here in Grandview."
Andrea leaned over to look. "Check for Dina's obituary. They usually list the names of surviving relatives."
"Way ahead of you." More key clicks. "Yep! Kaye Lynn's her daughter. Divorced, she went back to her maiden name...And there are some adult grandkids. The obituary doesn't mention the bakery except to say that Dina was the owner for many years. I think I'll have to stop over there again. Tomorrow, though. I've got enough going on tonight."
"Don't you mean we ?" Andrea said archly.
"Right, right. In fact, if you don't mind, I'm going to pop over to the station and let Jim know about our trip to the Ray house." She headed for the door. "I don't want him to worry if he gets home before I do."
"It'd be way easier to call him," Andrea pointed out impishly.
"But not as much fun as dropping in on him," Melinda replied.
Andrea waved her off. "Newlyweds."
"You're just jealous."
"Insanely. Now go."
Outside, Melinda strode down the sidewalk toward the fire station. Jim Clancy, her husband of barely a year, was an EMT. He and his team were stationed at the local fire station, playing cards and waiting for calls they hoped would never come. How Jim put up with that kind of stress, she never knew. On the other hand, he didn't know how she put up with not knowing when a restless spirit would pop into her life and demand her help. In some ways they were a strange pair -- he tried to stop living people from dying, and she tried to get dead people to accept that life was over. But she wouldn't have it any other way. Even now she noticed her footsteps quicken at the thought of seeing him, even if it was only to tell him her plans for the evening.
She passed Village Java, but the coffee smells were no longer enticing now that she'd had her caffeine fix. Up ahead, Jack's Dry Cleaning seemed to be closed. Through the window, she could see two people inside. Curious, Melinda drew closer. As she reached out to touch the door, the glass shattered.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love the TV show and wish there were more books to read. I get so caught up with the story and the characters.
It should be good because i love the show and most books are better than the show or movie
LOVED THE BOOK!!!
The second in the Ghost Whisperer novels, and I found myself greatly enjoying it. i usually am a slow reader, and have a million things going on keeping me from plopping down and reading striaght through a book in no time, however, i found myself flying through this book and getting so pulled into the story that I couldn't stop reading. when I finally finished it I was rather excited, i love finishing a book, and I wanted to read it again, but didn't. This was very entertaining and though some parts were just a wee bit confussing, the bulk of it was great. It was set in the first season of Ghost Whisperer, which kind of through me a bit, wasn't a huge season 1 fan, but it worked. Highly reccomend this.