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Best Cosy Books

Nothing to Ghost About (PAPERBACK)

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Title

PAPERBACK. Book 2 of this USA Today Bestselling cozy mystery series, Witch Woods Funeral Home. 

Laurel thought that inheriting the funeral home was an opportunity to die for, but it seems to be quite an undertaking.
Laurel Bay is conducting a funeral when someone is strangled in the bathroom. 
Now that there have been two deaths in the funeral home, business is as dead as a doornail. 
As Laurel works her fingers to the bone sifting through the clues, she is faced with too many suspects, a wisecracking ghost, and a woman journalist who appears to be after more than Basil’s files. 

These are grave times indeed, but will Laurel succeed in due corpse?

PAPERBACK. 

 Paperback 222 pages
 Dimensions  5 x 0.5 x 8 inches (127 x 12.9 x 203 mm)
 ISBN 9781925674057
 Publication date  November 2, 2015
 Publisher  Best Cosy Books 

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CHAPTER 1 The funeral singer had vanished. It was just after six in the evening, and it was uncharacteristically hot for this time of the year. The guests were milling about in a grumpy fashion. Everyone looked depressed, but that was not surprising, given that they were at a funeral.
The deceased, Alec Mason, was a middle-aged man, a well-known crime figure who had served time for organised crime of the jewellery theft variety. His untimely demise had been caused by a hit-and-run. At the time of the accident, he was unmarried, but had been married three times—in fact, all three of his ex-wives were in attendance. Thankfully, they were so far giving each other a wide berth.
I was standing at the doorway to the viewing room, keeping an eye on my mother. She was ‘mingling’ as she put it, despite the fact that I had told her no less than seven million times that she shouldn’t be ‘mingling’ at a funeral. It was our job to run the event and to do our best to ease one of the many hardships on those who had recently lost someone close to them. If I did my job well, the family of the deceased should not give me a second thought, at least until the bill arrived.
Yet my mother did not share my views. She said a good host should not stay on the sideline. Never mind that there was a funeral going on, and not a dinner party, and never mind that my father had left the business to me.
I watched as Mum approached ex-wife Number Two. She spoke to her for a few moments, before taking her by the arm and leading her over to ex-wife Number One. That woman was standing close to me, so I could hear my mother plainly.
“Death should bring us together,” she said, “not drive us further apart.”
I sighed and hurried forward, stepping between the two ex-wives, who looked as if they were about to come to blows. I touched my mother on the shoulder lightly to get her attention. “Mum, I need your help in the kitchen,” I said.
She turned and glared at me. “Excuse me,” she said to the two women who were still staring daggers at one another. She followed me out of the viewing room, across the entrance hall, and then through the dining room and into the kitchen.
“Every time you ask for help in the kitchen, you really want to yell at me,” my mother said.
I nodded. “Well, very astute. Stop trying to get the ex-wives to speak to each other. You do realise this is a crime family? What if they pull out knives or guns or something? This funeral home has had enough bad publicity already.”
Mum glared at me. “With Pastor Green being on vacation, I need to help his replacement, Pastor Morrison. I can never find that man anywhere! Anyway, Ian said he overheard one of the ex-wives express regrets. I wanted to help them overcome their regrets.”
I grimaced when I heard Ian’s name. Ian was my mother’s younger and equally religious best friend, or more of a pet really. He followed her around, and the whole thing creeped me out. “I didn’t even know Ian was here.”
“He’s been avoiding you,” my mother said pointedly. “He thinks you would make him leave.”
“I would make him leave!” I said, trying my best not to shout. “He doesn’t work here. Speaking of people who actually do work here, at least for the night, I need to find the singer I ordered from the internet. I saw him setting up earlier, but now he’s nowhere to be found.”
“You know, Ian has a lovely singing voice,” my mother started.
I lifted my hand and cut her off. “Don’t.” I made my escape and went to find the singer.
I didn’t see the man anywhere among the guests, and no one answered when I called out his name outside the restrooms. The only place I hadn’t looked was upstairs. No one had been upstairs for a long time. Up there was an apartment in a state of disrepair. As soon as I had some free time, I was going to renovate it so I could move in. Living with my mother was difficult, to say the least.
I went upstairs to check. “Preston? Are you here?” I called out.
A man walked around the corner. “Yes,” he said. “Preston was here.”
That was a strange thing to say, but I ignored it. “Excuse me. No one is supposed to come up here. We need you downstairs. We’re about to begin.”
“Right, right.” He nodded gravely. “I don’t think I can.”
“You don’t think you can?” I asked. I supposed the man had stage fright. I really had little sympathy. He shouldn’t advertise himself as a funeral singer if he was prone to stage fright. People were counting on him. Some days everything just worked together to raise my blood pressure—I could almost feel my blood boiling in my veins.
“I don’t think I can,” he repeated sadly. “No one would enjoy me. Well, you could, I guess. I must say, I’m a little surprised that you’re talking to me. I am new to all of this, though.”
“You’re new to this?” I asked, my eyes going wide. “The website said all you guys were professionals, with experience!”
Preston did not respond, but instead stared at his hands, turning them over and then back again.
I was worried that he was unwell, and stepped forward. “Preston, what’s going on?”
“I can’t go on. I’m sorry; I simply can’t. I would if I could—believe me!”
He continued to look at his hands, and then swept one hand through the corner of the wall.
I stared at his hand moving through the wall. “Preston?” I said softly.
“I would much rather go on,” he said. “I love to perform.” Slowly he reached down for my hands, and as I watched, his hands went right through mine.
Somewhere downstairs, a woman screamed.
“You’re a ghost?” I asked breathlessly. The fact that he was a ghost meant something was wrong. The scream meant something was wrong. It meant I needed to be rushing down the stairs, but I was frozen to the spot.
Preston nodded. “I’m afraid so.”
I gasped. “But you weren’t when you got here, were you?”
Preston shook his head.
“Oh no,” I said. There was a break in the screaming downstairs, and then it started again. I turned and hurried away from the ghost.
Downstairs was a scene of panic. People didn’t know what to do. Most people were crowded into the hall, facing the restroom. I shoved my way through the crowd, and found my mother by the bathroom door.
She clutched at me. “It’s horrible!”
I stepped into the bathroom. There stood Ian, shrieking. I had been so sure it was a woman, but he was simply hitting a note that not many men could reach. He stopped screaming when he saw me.
“There’s a body,” he said. “A dead one.”
And then he fainted. I stepped forward to catch him, letting him fall onto my arms before I bent and deposited him on the floor. I turned and looked. Preston Kerr, or at least his body, was on the floor. I crouched to get a closer look at the man. It looked as though there were deep bruises around his neck. Someone had strangled him, or at least it appeared that way.
Two men in suits appeared by my side. “We need to get everyone out of here,” one of them said.
“Get everyone out?” I parroted. I was in shock.
He nodded. “Yes. The police are on their way, and will need to speak to everyone.” He turned to address the crowd. “Leave this area, but no one is to leave the premises!” he said in a booming voice.
I said the first thing that came to mind. “The deceased man’s family will be upset.”
He somewhat pompously crossed his arms. “The fact of the matter is that he is no longer the only deceased man here.”
“Everyone, please, we’re going to have to ask you to leave,” the other man said.
It was obvious to me that they were detectives. As the deceased—the official deceased, that is, the man in the coffin—had been a crime figure, and a murdered one at that, I had expected undercover police to come to his funeral. Now they were no longer undercover, but had taken charge. I wondered where they had been when Ian started screaming, given that I’d beaten them to the funeral singer’s body.
It took a few minutes to get everyone moving in the right direction, but soon the corridor outside the restroom was empty, and everyone was gathered in the reception room. No one was trying to make a break for it, for which I was thankful.
“This place has been crazy since you came along,” a disembodied voice said.
I turned to see Ernie leaning against the wall. I always wondered how ghosts could sit or lean, given that they could pass through solid objects. I supposed I’d find out some day—I hoped not too soon. I nodded at him, careful to make sure I didn’t look like I was communicating with thin air.
Ernie liked to hang around the funeral home and hand out advice as well as bad puns. I met him soon after returning to my hometown. Ernie was old and stooped, hunched over. He looked the same as he had when he died. At least I figured he did, because I didn’t think a soul would choose to spend eternity hunched over like that.
Ernie was here because he wasn’t satisfied with his death. I had helped Tiffany, a young woman, find out who had killed her soon after I’d moved back. She had gone to the other side, whatever that might be. Ernie wasn’t ready to move on, although I wasn’t sure why. We had never spoken about it.
“I know,” I said, with my hand over my mouth. “He’s the second person to die since I’ve taken over the funeral home.”
“You’re supposed to take them after they die,” he said, “not get them killed.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “Did you see anything?”
Ernie shook his head. “I wasn’t around. The new fella’s still inside, but I don’t want to talk to him. New ghosts ask too many questions, and I’m not a people person.”
“I’ll talk to him, but I wanted to give him some time first.”
“Who are you talking to?” my mother asked as she crept up behind me.
“No one,” I said, turning around.
Mum glared at me, her lips pursed. “You know, we need to have a discussion.”
“About what?”
“The dead body. These crazy things happening to you. Perhaps it would be best if you left this all to me. I think a demon might be following you. Ian thinks you might need deliverance.”
“Huh!” I said loudly. “Tell Ian to mind his own business!” I was about to say more, but the blare of sirens put a stop to that.
Whatever it was that my mother wanted to say to me about demons would have to wait.