As the resident deputy of the mountain community of Bear Creek and the surrounding area, I never know what each day, or night, might bring. I’m supposed to work the evening shift and have two days off a week, but if anything unusual happens, that schedule means nothing.
Being Native American and a woman, I’ve had many obstacles to overcome. My sergeant likes to say that my job is to watch out for the safety of the residents and keep the drunken cowboys off the road. Too often I’ve been drawn into an investigation because it involves the nearby Bear Creek Indian reservation and one of the detectives thinks I have greater insight because I’m an Indian. His partner thinks just the opposite.
This particular day started like many others. My husband, Hutch, who is the minister at the local church, and I spent much of the day together. In the late afternoon, I began my shift. When I came home for my dinner break, I received a call from the dispatcher. A body had been found on the second floor of an abandoned house.
The Wilkinson House had long been called haunted. I asked Hutch if he’d like to ride along. When we arrived, we found a group of people waiting on the porch and soon learned they were ghost hunters. Hutch stayed with them. I asked the organizer, a woman called Lorna Collins, to show me the body.
When I stepped inside, a horde of ethereal spirit visions surrounded me. I felt a profusion of emotions from extreme sadness to hatred. The battering nearly overpowered me. “Oh, my.”
Ms. Collins sounded pleased when she said, “You feel it too.”
“It’s rather overwhelming.” So overwhelming, it made me nauseous and lightheaded. My instinct was to turn and flee.
“Yes, isn’t it. I couldn’t help but notice, you are an Indian aren’t you?”
“I’ve heard Native Americans are often more susceptible to the spirit world than others.” Ms. Collins shined her flashlight toward the staircase. Footprints going up and down disturbed the layer of dust. “This way.”
Though I’m only a quarter Yanduchi, what Ms. Collins described as susceptibility had grown in the last few years I turned my flashlight on and shined it around the room. The ghostly beings I’d seen dissipated, but the strong emotions lingered. Instead of spirits, the beam played on a couple of pieces of old furniture and silvery cobwebs draped from the ceiling. The sooner I could escape from this place the better.
Following the woman up the stairs, I vaguely recalled rumors about at least one horrendous event that had happened in this house.
Ms. Collins led the way down a long hallway with doors on either side. She took me to the last one. Shining her flashlight inside, she said, “In there.”
Dumped unceremoniously on a threadbare Persian-type rug, the body of a young man lay sprawled. Tiny pinpoints of light danced around the room. I ignored the obvious spirit manifestations since it was clear Ms. Collins didn’t see them. I stepped closer and illuminated the pale face of a young man still in his teens.
Time to call the detectives. Hopefully, once they came, they’d take over and I could go back to my regular duties. Deep in my soul, I knew that wouldn’t be what would happen.
Spirit Shapes is #13 in the “Deputy Tempe Crabtree” mystery series (if you count the prequel) and can be purchased in many formats directly from the publisher, Mundania Press or from all the usual places.
GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by noon EST on December 31, and you will be entered for a chance to win a copy of Raging Water, the book prior to Spirit Shapes. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.
Meet the author
Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. She borrows a lot from where she lives in the Southern Sierra for the town of Bear Creek and the surrounding area, including the nearby Tule River Indian Reservation. She does like to remind everyone that she is writing fiction. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at fictionforyou.com and follow her blog at marilymeredith.blogspot.com.