Another One Bites The Dust: Jensen Murphy, Ghost For Hire by Chris Marie GreenAnother One Bites The Dust: Jensen Murphy, Ghost For Hire by Chris Marie Green

Another One Bites The Dust: Jensen Murphy, Ghost For Hire

byChris Marie Green

Mass Market Paperback | November 4, 2014

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Jensen Murphy is back in the spooky sequel to Only the Good Die Young.

Some people think that ghosts are spirits that refuse to go to the other side because they have unfinished business. Take my word—that’s true. I should know. I’m a ghost.

I was an ordinary eighties California girl, dead before my time, until psychic Amanda Lee Minter pulled me out of the time loop where I was reliving my death over and over. Now I’m Jensen Murphy, Ghost for Hire. I decided to put my spooky talents to use in helping Amanda Lee track down bad guys and killers (including my own).

It’s taken time to figure out exactly how that will work (our first case was definitely a learning experience for all involved), so when a young woman asks Amanda Lee for help convincing her best friend to leave a dangerously hot-tempered boyfriend, I’m ready and willing to use our collective powers on her behalf. But some people are dangerous not only to the living—especially when there are darker forces involved....
Chris Marie Green is a full-time writer who has published under her own name and the pseudonyms Crystal Green and Christine Cody. This is the second book in her Jensen Murphy, Ghost for Hire series, following Only the Good Die Young. She is also the author of the Vampire Babylon series, including In Bad Spirits, Raising the Darkness, a...
Title:Another One Bites The Dust: Jensen Murphy, Ghost For HireFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:416 pages, 6.75 × 4.25 × 1.05 inPublished:November 4, 2014Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0451417003

ISBN - 13:9780451417008

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Read from the Book

In the Beginning . . .“I know you have no idea who I am,” said the college-aged girl standing on Amanda Lee Minter’s porch, “but I really need your help.”The psychic and medium was looking through the peephole at her visitor as the morning sun burnished the girl’s straight, dark brown hair. Her eyes were a cherub’s blue, and she had on a long-sleeved, baggy gray shirt that covered the top half of her jeans, the light jersey material swallowing her hands. She had a solid form and didn’t appear to be a materialized version of one of the invisible spirits who had been knocking on the doors and windows lately.Spirits who were terribly curious about the woman who had worked with a ghost to bring down a murderer nearly a month ago.Since Amanda Lee was clearly dealing with a human, she opened the door. The girl hitched in a breath, then launched into an introduction.“My name’s Heidi Schmidt. I’m here because I know Wendy Edgett from some forum boards online—”“Wendy Edgett?”Heidi bit her lip, then nodded.Amanda Lee’s hand slid down the door. Fifteen-year-old Wendy Edgett. The last time Amanda Lee had seen her was . . .Shame breathed over her. It had been the night of the séance in the Edgett mansion—an event that had flushed out a dark spirit that had disappeared and never returned. Not yet, at least.A chill covered Amanda Lee’s shame like a shadow crawling over a patch of heat. She searched her yard—the late spring–leaved trees, the pathway to her house. But everything was as seemingly safe and as perfect as ever, no darkness looming.“You are Ms. Minter, right?” Heidi asked, no doubt wondering why Amanda Lee was acting so strangely. “Because this is really embarrassing if I’ve got the wrong house. I used a reverse phone number lookup on your address because you haven’t been answering my calls, so . . .”“You have the right one. Did Wendy . . . send you here?” Why would she do that? She had been avoiding Amanda Lee like the pox, in spite of the apologetic phone calls she’d been making, revealing her real identity to Wendy, telling her that she had only wanted to make the world right again by catching a killer during the séance.Heidi was shaking her head. “Wendy didn’t actually send me, Ms. Minter.”“Is she all right?”“Yes. It’s just that she didn’t want to come with me.” Heidi shuffled her sneakers. “She’s still not up to seeing anyone socially. She said she and her brother moved to one of his other properties, and she’s doing schoolwork from home. She doesn’t even go on the chat board anymore, but she sends e-mails to me. I think I’m the only one she really talks to. It’s the grief, you know? Seeing her sister Farah kill her brother because he knew too much about the murder she committed, then dealing with the knowledge that Farah was evil . . .”Amanda Lee gripped the edge of the door, her knuckles whitening. “If she didn’t send you, then why are you here?”Heidi pulled at her sleeves. “Over a month ago, Wendy started posting on a social San Diego paranormal chat board I hang out on, too—you know, the kind for fans of reality ghost shows and stuff? Well, back then, she said she couldn’t believe it, but she thought there was a spirit in her house. The last time she checked in with us as a group, just before the crap hit the fan with Farah, Wendy said there was a psychic coming over to help make contact and see what the entity wanted. It was all so cool to her.”“You want me to make contact with a spirit, then.” Amanda Lee itched to close the door, shut herself in among the antiques and the dusky rooms where the shades were drawn. It was only intuition that had told her to respond to the doorbell, and she always listened to her inner guide, even if it occasionally steered her in odd directions.Heidi rushed on. “Wendy said that you hang with the ghost who was haunting her old house, and during one of your phone messages, you told her that the ghost is the one who uncovered Wendy’s sister as a murderer. This Jensen ghost girl went inside all the suspects’ heads and figured them out, then flushed out the true killer. It’s true, right? This ghost drove Farah to a confession?”“Yes,” Amanda Lee said, her heartbeat quickening for some reason she couldn’t pinpoint yet.“Wendy . . .” Heidi’s face was red. “She said that you would help me because the two of you owe her.”Oh.Amanda Lee took that in, realizing just how true it was. Obviously, this girl had seen Wendy’s ghost adventures on the chat boards, asked for her help, then come here because something was scaring her and she needed Amanda Lee and “her ghost” to intercede.Was this fate’s way of granting absolution for everything Amanda Lee had done wrong with the Edgetts?All she had wanted was a reckoning for the woman Farah Edgett had killed—Elizabeth Dalton.God. Her Elizabeth . . .But there were also many other spirits in need of justice. Jensen, the ghost Heidi had been talking about, was one. Was Heidi leading her to another?Fear of ruining more lives during an investigation made Amanda Lee’s heart beat even faster. Fear in general had been keeping her inside the house, full of doubt, frozen. But at this girl’s anxious expression, Amanda Lee stepped outside, feeling the sun on her skin for the first time in weeks. Now that she was closer to Heidi, she could sense the girl’s nerves screeching.“Why is it that you’re on edge?” she asked.Heidi seemed relieved that Amanda Lee wasn’t shooing her off. “I’m really worried about someone I care about, and I can’t go to the cops about it. And I definitely can’t go to my best friend Nichelle because she’s the one in trouble, and she won’t accept that reality.”Yes. A chance for absolution had arrived on Amanda Lee’s doorstep.Heidi took a deep breath, exhaling harshly. “After I heard what you and your ghost did, I realized that I could use at least one of you to go inside the head of Nichelle’s boyfriend to see if he’s capable of killing her.” She swallowed. “Because I’m pretty sure that’s what’s going to happen if nobody does anything about it.”To any other person, it would have been a nearly insane request, but Amanda Lee understood perfectly.She closed the door behind her, then placed her hand on Heidi’s shoulder, leading her to the little casita at the side of the bigger house.When she opened the door and guided Heidi into the antique-rich room, the girl peered around, as if intuiting that something was off about it. As if feeling a coldness that wasn’t coming from any air conditioner.She obviously couldn’t see the ghost who’d looked up from her spot near the car battery on a table, getting a charge from it, her normally grayish color high, her energy strong.“Heidi,” Amanda Lee said, her voice more animated than it had been for a while. “Meet Jensen Murphy.”1When I’d encountered Amanda Lee for the first time a month and a half ago, I’d already been dead meat for about thirty years. Supposedly, I’d only gone missing but . . . nope. It was more like I’d been murdered in the early eighties after a party up in Elfin Forest in North County, my killer unknown, my body never found.But now, as Amanda Lee stood next to this Heidi girl, giving me the basics about why an unexpected visitor was in my casita, Amanda Lee was the one who came off like the dearly departed, garbed in a dark ruffled skirt and boots, with a matching blouse hanging limply from her tall frame. Her usually perfect red hair with the white streaks framing her face was even as drab as a black-and-white B-horror movie.And why not, when the woman was as haunted as anyone I’d ever met?I could tell Heidi wasn’t sensitive enough to see me, because she kept peering around the room, her eyes wide. The only humans I knew who could get a lock on me were Amanda Lee and Wendy Edgett. It’s not like I would’ve made any kind of awesome impression on Heidi, anyway—I’d died in tennis shoes, jeans, and a pale blue button-down rolled up to my elbows with a white tank underneath. Just your average twenty-three-year-old American girl with my strawberry blond hair, green eyes, and freckles. A Tom Petty song in the flesh . . . or not.By this point, I had a few questions for Amanda Lee. And, by the way, it’s pronounced “A MANdaley” with a Southern flair she’d brought with her from Virginia when she was young. Quirky as hell.“So Wendy’s been talking to this chick?” I asked her. I’d mostly been concentrating on the Wendy parts of the story I’d just been told.“Yes,” Amanda Lee said. “They’ve exchanged e-mails.”“I noticed that Wendy does spend a lot of time on her computer.” I’d been watching over her and her older brother Gavin, who I’d nearly driven insane while trying to decide whether he was guilty of killing Elizabeth Dalton. That’s mainly why Wendy was pissed off at me, and I didn’t know if she was ever going to forgive me. Even so, it was my duty to see that the two of them were okay, that the dark spirit Amanda Lee had summoned during that asinine fake séance was leaving them alone.I wasn’t all that sure it would stay away from them since I had a bad feeling that Amanda Lee had accidentally released their very deceased craphead father from wherever naughty people went after they died. Being a ghost, you’d think I’d know exactly where that was, but no. No matter who I asked, no one ever had a good explanation.Boo World wasn’t exactly a place where every question you’d had as a mortal was answered.Speaking of sketchy things Amanda Lee had done, I should mention that she’d also lied about why she’d recently resurrected me from the residual haunting phase I’d been in for nearly three decades—a time loop where I’d been living my death over and over again because I’d been so traumatized by it. She’d wanted me to haunt the truth out of the man she’d suspected of murdering her lover, Elizabeth Dalton. See, Amanda Lee had told me she didn’t know Elizabeth, that she was only seeking justice for a friend. None of that turned out to be true, because Amanda Lee had been very close to the victim, indeed; she’d been manipulating me—the dumb new ghost—the entire time only to make me do her bidding.Needless to say, trust wasn’t exactly high on my Amanda Lee To-Do list.I float-walked closer to Heidi, and she crossed her arms over her chest, warming herself.“I meant to ask before,” she said to Amanda Lee. “Exactly how much do you charge to help people?”“Charge?” Amanda Lee and I asked at the same time.“Yes, I want to hire you.”I didn’t need money, and Amanda Lee’s spine straightened at the very mention of it because she was what was known as “affluent.”“There’ll be no charge,” she said.“Oh. Okay. I only thought . . .”“No charge,” Amanda Lee repeated, and she said it with such dignity that I knew the topic was as dead as disco.While Amanda Lee was bristling, something caught my attention at the window. Movement, outside. And when I saw an old man’s grayish, bearded, ghostly face peering in, I flew over and waved bye-bye.Dammit, there’d been ghosts swirling around here a lot lately, drawn by all the rumors of what me and Amanda Lee had done with the Edgetts. Apparently, we were high entertainment for the bored denizens of Boo World.The old man stuck out his tongue and zoomed away. In the meantime, the curtains were stirring with the wind I’d caused. Heidi looked ready to do a Major Tom and shoot into space, fueled by fear.I have to say that her fear did charge me up a tad.Amanda Lee strode toward the window. She probably hadn’t seen the old man—I was the only ghost she’d ever fully connected with—but she’d noticed my reaction to him, so she could make an educated guess.She shut those curtains. “That was only Jensen brushing by the window, dear. Don’t mind her.”Heidi’s voice shook as she continued, but the kid was brave to stay. I’d give her that.“It’s all good, Ms. Minter.”Excellent. Then the girl wouldn’t mind a little of this.I turned on the computer by manipulating the electricity in the atmosphere. Ghosts were pure energy, after all.Heidi made a surprised sound.With a lowered glance at me, Amanda Lee took the hint, sitting down in front of the computer. “Getting a little pranky, are we, Jensen?”“Me?” Hmph. I wasn’t the pranky type—that was for the ghosts who’d already gotten bored with their existence, looking for stimulation from the responses pranks got from humans.I wasn’t bored. Or maybe I was. After the Edgett situation, I’d been, well, dying to move out of the casita, just to put some space between me and Amanda Lee. But all the annoying ghosts and the threat of the dark spirit had kept me here to watch over her as much as I could.I’d leave soon, though, I kept telling myself. Someday I’d find an abandoned house that was just right for me.“What is your friend’s name?” Amanda Lee asked Heidi, her fingers poised over the keyboard.“Nichelle Shaw.”“And her boyfriend?”“Tim. Tim Knudson.”“Address, please?”Heidi rattled off a place in Pacific Beach, and Amanda Lee typed it all in. The search engine came up with several links, and she clicked on one of them.My energy was humming, mostly because I was feeling the growing apprehension in Heidi. “Why does she think he’s going to kill Nichelle?” I asked Amanda Lee.After she translated for Heidi, the girl answered, “It’s just . . . a hunch. I read a book once, and they called this kind of intuition the gift of fear. And that’s why I can’t go to anyone else, because all I have are creepy suspicions about this guy. He and Nichelle have been with each other for a couple months now. They live together. At first, he was fascinating for Nichelle. She hasn’t had a lot of boyfriends, and Tim rides a beat-up motorcycle and has a blue-collar thing going on, so he’s edgy and kind of wow for her. And he had a steady new job in a department store warehouse, working the swing shift. I found out a week after they were dating that he has a spotty work history, though. When I told her, she asked him about it, and he said that the past didn’t matter—he was going to make himself better for her.”Amanda Lee had brought up a profile on that Facebook thingie. Frankly, I couldn’t stand the site. It was the type of distraction I would’ve hated when I was alive, too. I had true, close, dear friends that I used to go out and toke with and drink with every once in a while, face-to-freaking-face. That, and my waitressing gig at Roundtable Pizza, had been enough of a social life for me.Anyway, Tim’s picture showed a handsome guy in his twenties with buzzed sandy hair and a Tom Cruise smile. He was a smaller man. I could tell because he was posing near a bar, and it provided some scale as he toasted the camera with a draft beer.Amanda Lee said, “He looks harmless enough, but that’s always the problem. We know better than anyone that bad people are good at hiding who they really are.”“Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt right now,” I said. We didn’t know Heidi very well, and I was eager to get an empathy reading off her to see if she was on the up-and-up with us. Besides, I didn’t need to remind Amanda Lee about Gavin Edgett and how we’d rushed to judgment with him when she’d suspected him of killing Elizabeth.Just at the thought of Gavin my ghost-heart sank, beating with a longing that was invisible, but real just the same. Regret, attraction, fascination . . . I hadn’t expected to feel any of it, being a dead girl and all.Maybe I was a little obsessed because of my guilt. I’d trespassed into his mind, as well as the heads of other suspects. Sure, I’d been inside of them for good reason—I hadn’t taken it lightly because messing with them was hard on their bodies and psyches—but the major fact was that me and Amanda Lee had gone rogue, taking the law into our own hands.It was just that, when you died a victim like I had, you refuse to live your eternal afterlife as one, too, or to see it happen to others. So I’d become a justice-seeker, just like Amanda Lee. I was even going to solve my own murder someday, as soon as I figured out how to get around the whole lack of witnesses, suspects, and evidence dilemma. There wasn’t even blood at my death spot to tip off the authorities to where I’d died, for God’s sake. Still, I’d spent the last month collecting data, looking up all my old friends on the computer, hoping to locate them so I could get readings off them and see if they had any clues about what’d happened to me that night.Heidi was peering over Amanda Lee’s shoulder now, hugging herself as she stared at Tim’s computerized profile.“He’s very well behaved on this Facebook page,” she murmured. “But he’s got a temper in real life. Gets in fights at bars and with his so-called friends. One of them even told me that he stole a credit card from a former girlfriend. Nichelle didn’t want to believe that, and he told her it was a lie.”Amanda Lee asked, “What is Nichelle like?”“Strong-willed. Won’t take any guff. But she’s got a naive side that Tim sensed or something. She thinks she’s not very attractive—which isn’t true—so she was wide-open to his limited charms.”“Is he outright cruel to her?”“Well, let’s just say that they fight like cats and dogs sometimes. And Nichelle tells me things that he does in private that disturb me.” Heidi went back to rubbing her arms. “I thought that maybe a ghost could watch him in those private moments, when he thinks no one is looking. Or a psychic could read him, even if it’s just for my own peace of mind.”I got closer to the computer, wanting a better look at Timmy Boy’s profile. It fizzed with some screen-snow, but I could still make out that he had been born in Montana and he liked to play guitar. I backed away when Amanda Lee shot me a you’re-causing-interference glance.She asked, “So you think he’s violent enough to hurt her badly one day?”“Yes, and if I’m wrong about that, then I’ll lay off him.” Heidi shook her head. “It all sounds so melodramatic, but I swear, it’s not. I’m taking general ed classes at SDSU, and one of them is abnormal psych. He’s got qualities that point to antisocial behavior.”Okay. Time to see if she was overreacting.“Amanda Lee,” I said. “Ask her if it’d be all right if I did an empathy reading.”“Heidi, would it be fine with you if Jensen read your thoughts?”“Oh. Sure. Is that safe?”“Yes. And you’ll be cold only for a short time. Jensen won’t push it.”If I did, then I’d go farther into her psyche than I needed to, draining her and me more than necessary.Heidi breathed out, holding her hand up so I could touch it. I took that as an all systems go.As I made contact with her skin, a shiver zinged through her. It was as if I’d connected with a power outlet while her thoughts slammed into me . . .Nichelle’s voice on the phone. “I can’t go to the movies tonight, Heidi, okay? Tim wants to stay in. I know this is the third time I’ve canceled this week, but maybe tomorrow?”Walking by Nichelle’s bedroom on the way to the bathroom, overhearing Tim’s quiet, private-time voice. “This is what you’re gonna wear tonight. I’m throwing away that trashy blue dress. It makes you look like a slut.”At lunch with Nichelle. A ringing phone. Tim’s voice on the speaker. “Who’re you with? Get home, Nich, no ifs, ands, or buts, got it? I want you here, with me.”I unlinked from Heidi, then went to the car battery. Empathizing always took a little juice out of me. Meanwhile, she held a hand over her chest, shivering.“Da-mn.”Amanda Lee tapped away on the computer, bringing up more information about Tim on that Twitter thing now. “I told you, Heidi. Only a slight chill.”“More than slight. That was . . .” Heidi huddled into herself. “I think I’ll sit down.”She walked across the room, pointedly away from my coldness, to a rose-upholstered love seat. She pulled her sleeves all the way over her hands like they were two turtle heads disappearing into shells.I hoped Heidi would never have to experience a ghost making her hallucinate or going dream-digging if she was asleep. That would be intense.I spoke to Amanda Lee. “I got definite hints about a controlling relationship. Heidi’s been around when Tim does things like keeping Nichelle from seeing her friends. It also looks like he checks up on her, chooses her clothes, and seems to get jealous that she wants to spend time with other people.”Amanda Lee turned from the computer to survey Heidi, who still didn’t seem comfortable with knowing that a ghost had been inside her.“She’s got a good aura,” Amanda Lee said quietly.“I do?” Heidi asked.“And good hearing,” Amanda Lee said, standing, going to Heidi. She gestured toward the girl’s hand. “May I?”Heidi seemed skeptical, and after the chill of my touch, I couldn’t blame her. Then she pulled the sleeve away from her hand, and Amanda Lee clasped it in her own, closing her eyes, psychically riding the girl’s skin while her thoughts were still on Nichelle.It was over in under a minute.“So Nichelle really doesn’t tolerate Tim’s behavior,” Amanda Lee said. “She stands up for herself, and that seems to frustrate him.”“Right. When they fight, she’ll come over to my apartment and sometimes stay while I’m at my classes. But by the time I get home, she’s usually gone back to him. I told you—her self-confidence could improve.”“What’s that girl even thinking?” I asked Amanda Lee.“That she has Tim in hand,” she said. “And that his good qualities outweigh everything else. It seems like a chemical attraction. You know what love is like.”I didn’t want to think about love.Heidi seemed more desperate to sway us now. “Please, I know all this doesn’t sound that dangerous. But I’ve heard him on the phone with Nichelle when he’ll go deathly silent during a fight. I can’t help thinking he’s going to explode one of these days.”I traded glances with Amanda Lee, seeing that, like me, she would never be able to forgive herself if we ignored this. We had the power to prevent something bad from happening. We also had a responsibility.We also had a hell of a lot to make up for because of how we’d almost ruined Gavin. Not that he was a pristine guy. No way. He had blood on his hands for sure, but in a righteous way since he’d secretly killed his and Wendy’s father, an abusive bastard . . . and, quite possibly, the dark spirit Amanda Lee had unleashed during that séance.To tell the truth, I was yearning to do some right with my abilities. I’d never done much of anything as a human, and now . . . ?I could finally be someone who mattered.Amanda Lee seemed to feel those vibes from me, and she smiled at Heidi. “We’ll tell you what we find out soon. Rest easy until then.”Heidi returned Amanda Lee’s smile; then, by some miracle, she seemed to find me and give me the same sunny thank-you.It charged me up better than any battery ever could.• • •After our business was done with Heidi, I stuck with her until she was safely in her Honda, then watched her drive down the treelined street. The sun was climbing in the sky, bringing a few more curious ghosts along with it since our kind didn’t mind the light.I told them to scram, and they must’ve seen that I meant it since they gave me no lip. Weird, but I’d never been a tough girl when I was alive. I guess it took a murder or two to sharpen a ghost up.Back in the casita, Amanda Lee was on the computer again, doing more research on Tim Knudson.“I guess we’ve got our work cut out for us,” I said, hovering above her, close enough to the computer that the screen danced with interference.Amanda Lee blinked her eyes, coming out of her myopic online search. Then she said, “You’re not angry with me about committing to Heidi before I even asked you, are you?”“No, but . . .”She fixed her gray gaze on me. “You don’t have to say it. I’ve felt it for a while. You’re not going to be around here much longer for me to bother you.”Having a psychic in your life could be such a bitch. “I’ve been planning to look for a comfortable, abandoned place. Part of it has to do with all the attention we’ve been getting from Boo World, with those nosy ghosts hanging around. It shouldn’t last much longer because they’ll get tired of us soon, but I hate being such a freak show to them.”“You’re not the freak show, Jensen. From what you’ve told me, ghosts are more fascinated with humans who do things such as accidentally opening portals and letting in malevolent entities.”A pall hung over the room, weighed down by Amanda Lee’s obvious guilt about what’d happened during the Edgett situation.“Do you think,” I asked, “Wendy was reaching out to us in a way? By sending Heidi here?”“I wouldn’t set my hopes on that.”“You know what I should do? Talk to her. See what she thinks about Heidi since she knows her from online. . . .”“And how will you manage that? Rap on her window, ask for her forgiveness, then dive right into a relatively normal conversation? We nearly sent her brother into a mental spiral, Jensen.”“But she’s thankful for what we did, deep down, don’t you think? We couldn’t save Noah from Farah, but Gavin came out all right in the end. So did Wendy herself.”“You can’t know what she’s thinking by watching her through a window.”True. I didn’t want to get too close to Wendy, wanting to respect her by keeping my distance. But I wondered if she’d ever seen me lingering outside her new home, watching over her and Gavin, longing for them to just open a window and let me in.Amanda Lee had turned to me, her hands folded in her lap. “You realize, of course, that devoting time to this Tim Knudson situation will postpone our investigation into your own killing.”“Oh, you’re ready to go forward with that now?” I wasn’t being sarcastic. I’d known that Amanda Lee was in no shape to do much but stay in her house, mourning Elizabeth all over again, as well as everything else that had gone wrong during the investigation.Amanda Lee nodded. “If you’re ready.”Hell, yeah, I was. And after I solved my murder, I was also hoping to look up any relatives I had who might be cruising around Boo World. But it wasn’t like there was a spook directory that would speed that up or anything. “As far as Tim Knudson goes, it sounds like a pretty easy thing—go to Nichelle’s place, observe him, check out what he’s all about, then . . .”“We should talk about the ‘then’ portion.”“You mean, what will we do if it looks like he’s going to beat Nichelle to within an inch of her life someday, after he loses his cool?” I sighed, the sound like a soft cry that skimmed over the walls. “I’ll just have to find a way to talk him out of it. I can be pretty persuasive.”Amanda Lee sat back in the chair. “You’re rather confident about succeeding in that.”Was I? And why did it sound like Amanda Lee wasn’t thrilled about that?It occurred to me that she might be a little bit bruised by the fact that I was my own ghost now. Without all her lies and manipulations, I was free to make my own decisions. Of course, she was going to help me with my own murder, so she had me by the balls there.But maybe there were more mediums besides Amanda Lee who could see me and hear me. And, believe me, I needed psychic help, because I was hoping to get some clues from my old friends once I got around to interviewing them. Once I had some suspects, I could go into their heads and hearts. But I needed suspects in the first place. A psychic could speed up the process, intuiting details about the night I’d died, giving me a list of people who might’ve had it out for me, and a medium could communicate all these details to me. Otherwise, it’d be like trying to find a needle in a haystack, sifting through every person in San Diego County, and maybe beyond, to find someone who knew something about my demise.Amanda Lee was the only person I knew right now who had the power to do all that.“Anyway,” I said, “there’ll be enough time for Tim Knudson and everything else.” I paused. “I’ve been planning on visiting Suze soon, too.”“Why haven’t you already?”Because she was my best friend from when I was alive, and every time I dropped by the pub where she worked, I got a little more depressed at seeing how she’d turned out. Lonely, wistful . . . I didn’t know if her bright personality had been killed along with me or if life had just been that nasty for her afterward.“I was only thinking about it,” I added, not committing myself.Amanda Lee stood, straightening her clothes. It was the first sign I’d seen since the Edgett situation that she cared about what she looked like.“You’ll be checking up on Wendy then? Soon?”“Yeah. I figured I’d see how she’s doing before going over to this Tim’s house. Heidi said he works the swing shift, so he might be there for me to observe and do an empathy reading.”“I can do one, too. Subtly. Perhaps on any possessions he has outside his home. I’d like to see where he lives, as well, just to get more of a feel for him. We could meet there, say, at three?”“Let’s go for it.”“When you see Wendy,” she said, “if you do happen to talk to her, would you tell her I’m sorry?”Amanda Lee didn’t give up. “If she hasn’t gotten your flood of apology calls, yes, I will.”She cracked a window, and I floated through the gap, then heard it close behind me.I avoided the gaggle of ghosts who’d flocked by the sidewalk while I conjured a travel tunnel. As it popped into existence, looking like the inside of an artery, I saluted my comrades.“Show’s over for now, buds.”I shot through the air on a current of electric speed, then heaved out of the tunnel in front of my intended destination.Wendy and Gavin Edgett’s new condo.2I whisked to the back of the luxury condo until I came to a small hydrangea-filled courtyard with a running fountain and Italian stone tile. There, as sunlight glistened off Wendy’s second-story window above, I found three ghosts hanging out.Thank God they weren’t the lookiloo kind, either.After I said hey to them, two of them perked up.“Jen!”Scott, a fifties teen who wore rolled-up jeans, a flannel shirt over a T-shirt, and slicked dark hair, was sitting with Louis, a black man who eternally wore the World War II–era aircraft factory uniform he’d died in. They were both on an air-conditioning unit and, as the machine worked, the vibrations shuddered their grayish shapes.There was one more ghost here, too, lounging on the stucco wall that divided the courtyard from beds of flowers, a walking lane, and a statue garden.Twyla rolled her eyes to greet me, and I ignored her right back. Except it was pretty hard, what, with the way she looked and all. What a total freak, and I mean it: half Robert Smith from The Cure with creepy dark lipstick and teased, inky hair, half Cyndi Lauper with lighter wild hair on the other side. She was all corset, petticoats, fishnet stockings, and Madonna bracelets everywhere else, though.Basically, she was everything that I’d made fun of while living in the eighties as a SoCal beach girl. Twyla had perished while experimenting with her look, comparing her Goth dye and makeup to her Lauper side when the cord of the hairdryer she’d been using had gone into a full sink of water. So she was doomed to a split fashion personality as long as she roamed the earthly plane. Bummer.But she was lucky in one way. All of us were, because for some reason no ghost had figured out, we’d been spared having to deal with our death marks, so Twyla hadn’t come out of her demise all fried up. I was especially grateful for my circumstances. I mean, it’s bad enough having to traipse around for the rest of my existence in some clothes I’d just thrown on that night to hang out with my friends. But according to the little I remembered about my murder, I’d had an ax taken to me by a maniac in the woods wearing a shriveled granny mask.I know. I might’ve been in Jensen pieces right now if we existed in our death states. Thank God I had erected what Amanda Lee thought was a “fright wall” to spare myself the horrific memories of my murder, too—even the flashes I occasionally had of it were so awful that I wasn’t surprised I’d gone into a numbing time loop.But as more weeks passed, the more I realized I could handle knowing how I’d died if I could only recall who’d done it.You wouldn’t ever get justice on someone you couldn’t remember, right?“How’s Wendy?” I asked Scott, who was here because he’d volunteered to look after her while I concentrated on Amanda Lee. Most of my ghost friends were on the same shifts, just to help me out.“She’s copacetic.” Scott drew his leg up on the air conditioner, bending it and leaning an elbow on his knee. “I know she can see me peeking in her window every so often, but she still refuses to give me a high sign.”Wendy was even more sensitive than Amanda Lee when it came to seeing ghosts. I wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing.Glancing up at the second floor, Louis said, “That’s because she’s still put out with you for being a part of the worst night of her life.”“Gawd,” Twyla said. “I don’t know what little precious expected us to do. Wave a magic wand and make her sister innocent?”As always, Twyla was the height of compassion. Ignore, ignore, ignore.“And Gavin?” I asked, trying not to let my energy go bzzzt. Sometimes that happened when I said his name, just like in life, when you’d see or think of any hunky guy. But Gavin was more complex than that. I guess being harassed by a ghost will make anyone complicated and more brooding than usual.Louis traded a glance with Scott, then said, “He’s still working from home, designing those video games, drawing on his draft board . . .”Scott cleared his throat, bringing Louis to a stop. From somewhere down the path over the wall, a dog barked at the sounds of us chatting.Twyla gagged. “Listen to you lame-os. So sweet, beating around the bush and not telling Jen-Jen that Gavin added more pictures of her on his walls. Not very flattering ones, either.” She turned to me. “You look like a hellbitch now.”“Oh.”It was true that Gavin had gotten a look at me, not only in some vague pictures Wendy had taken while I was haunting their house, but in his dreams, when I had gone into his sleeping body and straight to his opened psyche. I’d kind of liked how he used to draw me as an angelic image. Now I was a hellbitch though?“Aw,” Twyla said. “Jen is sad.”Scott held back a grin but Louis’ tone got stern. “Knock it off, Twyla. There’s no need for you to be here, anyway.”“And you? Why’re you here?”I spoke up. “He’s taking over for Scott soon.”How else would interactive, intelligent ghosts like us fill the time except for activities like this? We still had personalities and the ability to reason, unlike the sad sacks we knew as noninteractives—the kind who were in time loops or residual hauntings like I’d been. Even anonymous ghosts, who were intelligent but still too afraid to engage with their surroundings, needed stimulation to keep from going back into time loop/imprint mode.The sound of a barking dog grew louder, and I floated up so I could see over the wall Twyla was sitting on.A poodle had gotten loose from its owner, who was running after it on the flowered path. By now, the dog was at the foot of the wall, yapping its head off at Twyla.“See,” Scott said. “Dogs are even annoyed by you.”“They’re, like, generally annoyed by all of us.” With a tight grin, Twyla made a gesture, manipulating the energy in the air so that the leash lifted seemingly on its own, then guided the dog away from the wall.It yelped while its owner froze on the path, her mouth agape as she watched her pet being pulled toward her with the leash raised.Twyla flicked her wrist, and the leash dropped just before the dog got to its person.Told you—bored ghosts like to prank, and it could be anytime, anywhere, thanks to the fact that we weren’t stuck in the places we’d died. If that was the case, then Scott would still be at the site of the old diner where he’d choked on a chicken bone while on a date with his high school girlfriend. Louis would be wandering the stretch of road where he’d driven into a ditch one dark night, tired from his shift at the factory. I’d still be in Elfin Forest at my own death spot.But here’s the thing: The farther away we travel from our location of death, the weaker we get. We can always charge up with an electrical source, though, or feed on the fear from someone who’s scared. It’s just that some of us don’t like to stay in one place because we’ve got things to do, people to see. We can also relocate for a change of scenery, getting our jollies that way, because one of the worst things that can happen to a ghost is boredom.Twyla let out a dramatic sigh, standing on the wall. Or seeming to stand on it, since her ankle boots hovered about an inch above the stucco. She stretched her arms, like she’d finished a tough job and was proud of herself for terrorizing a poodle.Whatever. I addressed the guys. “Today was interesting.”I could feel the sparks of intrigue from them. Scott and Louis even buzzed.“Do tell,” Twyla said.“A student from SDSU,” I said, “came to Amanda Lee about helping a friend.”“So?”“Well, her name’s Heidi, and she thinks this friend is going to get hurt or killed someday by a guy she’s living with. Heidi wants Amanda Lee to psychically see if she’s wrong about him. And she wants me to go into him to find the truth, too.”Louis stood from the air conditioner. “How did she know about you?”I pointed toward the second-story window. Wendy.I told them the rest: how Wendy and Heidi had met online and become friends, how Wendy had told her that Amanda Lee and I owed her.Twyla arced down from the wall in a bell of petticoats. “What fun! When do we start?”“We don’t start,” I said. “I’m going to look into this soon enough. It might not amount to anything that’d keep your attention.”Twyla tapped a finger against her darkened lips, then said, “True. Besides, it’s Saturday, and there’ll be parties all over the place, and you know I never miss a chance to, like, mess with drunk-asses. I love the looks they get on their faces when their cups just happen to flip out of their hands and spill beer all over their tight, hard-body man chests.”Simple tastes for simple minds, I guess.“If you need any help,” Louis said to me, “you remember to give a holler.”Scott was idly making the courtyard light flick on and off. When he saw that it was irritating Louis, he stopped and sent his elder a sheepish grin. “Yeah, man. I’ll help, too, Jen.”“You could start by going to Amanda Lee’s place and hanging out there until she leaves the house.” They’d also been dropping by there, on the lookout for that dark spirit. “I’m meeting her soon to get rolling on Heidi’s request.”“Done,” Scott said.Twyla stroll-floated to me. “Aren’t you just all over the place, being a helper? Busiest ghost ever.”“I suppose it’s the Mello Yello in me.” I’d died with a few cans of it my system since I’d been the designated driver at that forest party where everyone else had been wasted before I’d wandered off to pee and never come back. Who knew why the caffeine had carried over into the afterlife, yet there were no ax cuts on me and no blood marks on my death spot?But maybe the Mello Yello was the reason I didn’t sink into boredom as easily as most older ghosts. More important, that time loop in Elfin Forest had been enough of an anesthetic limbo for me, and I wasn’t about to slide back into one if I got no stimulation.“So this boyfriend you’re ‘investigating’ . . .” Twyla said, using finger quotes.“Don’t mock what she’s doing,” Louis said. “She’s accomplishing some good, which is more than I can say for you most times.”“Yes, Daddy.” More eye rolling from Twyla. “But I’m only making a point, remembering life and how I had a boyfriend once who liked to fight.”“Did he get violent?” I asked.“Not in that way.” She waggled her eyebrows. “But what if Heidi Ho is totally misinterpreting what’s between her friend and her boyfriend? What if they like it rough, and Heidi just doesn’t get that? Know what I mean?”“I’m not sure I do, Twyla.”“You’ve had boyfriends, Jen. Didn’t you ever—”I cut her off with a raised hand. I’d had one serious boyfriend before I’d died, and he’d never raised his voice to me. That doesn’t mean he hadn’t broken me in other ways, after he’d left me to go to school across the U.S. Hard times had followed; Dean hadn’t been there when my parents had died in a boating accident, hadn’t been there when I’d dropped out of college and, really, life itself while I toked and partied too much instead.The only time Dean had come back was recently, when an entity pretending to be him had tried to fool me into staying in this weird star place that’d turned out to be another limbo of sorts. I called him fake Dean, and I hoped to hell I’d never have to see him again. Since he hadn’t shown up for a while, I was pretty sure he’d lost interest in me, anyway.“Oh,” said Twyla, batting her eyelashes at me. “I’ve insulted Jen. Like, gross me out! Barf-o-rama! Rough sex sucks! It should never, ever be mentioned in mixed company.”Louis lifted his chin, above all this.“We’ll see what’s what with Heidi’s friend soon enough,” I said to Twyla. “Meanwhile, once again, you’re ragingly out of line.”“And you’re such a mega prude.” She waved her hand and a travel tunnel appeared above the stucco wall, its innards pink and electric, beating with energy. “Bored now. Later, puritans.”She took a floating run toward the mouth of the tunnel, diving into it. The opening closed behind her with a swishing sound, leaving air.Louis clicked his tongue. “Why does she always have to be contrary?”“Because she was a brat when she died and she never grew out of it.” Sometimes I couldn’t believe that she was only four years younger than I was in human time. I wasn’t exactly a paragon of maturity myself, but Twyla was something else.I rose toward Wendy’s window, leaving Louis and Scott below.Scott called, “She’s not going to give you the time of day.”Not even after she’d sent Heidi our way?I wanted to find out for myself, but I wouldn’t bother Wendy if she wasn’t ready to face me. Facing me meant she was prepared to deal with the bloodcurdling anguish of the night her sister had gone off the deep end, and that wasn’t something that could be forced.As I peered inside the condo, I was glad to see Wendy had left the curtains all the way open, even though the window itself was shut. Most days and nights, she blocked out us ghosts altogether. She’d never chased us off, though, so that told me she was just as wary of that dark spirit that’d come through her old mansion’s portal as I was.Melancholy music seeped through the windowpanes as I saw Wendy lying on her canopied bed, staring at the ceiling, her hands clasped over her chest. Her long black hair still had that artistic pink streak running down one side, and she was wearing a long black shirt as a minidress with black-and-white-striped knee socks. She didn’t look a thing like Gavin, because she’d been adopted from China years ago.I tried not to think about where he was in the condo as I gazed at frail Wendy, unable to feel the windowpane as I rested my hand there.I thought I saw her head turn slightly before she closed her eyes, totally shutting me out.Ghosts aren’t supposed to have hearts, so maybe what I felt was a phantom pain in my chest at being rejected. Didn’t she understand that I’d only been trying to bring a killer to justice? It’d turned out to be her adopted sister, yeah, but come on—I wasn’t the one who’d chosen who Elizabeth Dalton’s murderer would be.Behind me, I heard a travel tunnel pop open, then close. Probably Scott going to Amanda Lee. The clock tower chimes from a nearby shopping center rang out twelve o’clock. Still, I remained at that window.Wendy must’ve fallen asleep during that time. I suspected that she was in a battle of wills with me, refusing to look at me or move from the bed, forcing herself to succumb to a nap instead. Stubborn girl.But I could be just as bullheaded, and if it wasn’t for my promise to be at Tim Knudson’s house by three to meet Amanda Lee, I would’ve stayed all damned day.My persistence did pay off slightly, though, because just as I was getting terribly restless, Wendy’s bedroom door eased open.If I had breath to hold, it’d have been held right then and there as Gavin walked into the room. He wasn’t sensitive like Wendy, so he wouldn’t be able to see me watching him, my hand against the glass again, as if that was the closest I’d ever get to him.He was the type of handsome that had a million rough edges to it, with pale blue eyes that looked like they had a tough story for every splinter in his irises. His hair was light brown, cut close to his scalp, because he had other things to worry about than his appearance. His shoulders were broad, a little hunched these days, like a boxer in a ring who didn’t have a way out. But his lips . . . They were the softest part of him, shaped like a bow. I’d seen them up close when I’d haunted him.There was something about Gavin Edgett, a life force that made me quiver. A quality that no other human seemed to have but him.I didn’t realize that Louis was still here until he breezed up to my side. His body buzzed as he watched, too.“Good thing they still have each other,” he said.“At least there’s that, right?”“You did your best for them both.” Louis put a hand on my shoulder, but it passed through with a cold fzzzt. “And you’ll do your best when you help Heidi with her problem.”“I’m just happy there’s not a murder to solve this time.”“Not yet, anyway, according to her.”I smiled slightly at Louis, then, compelled, turned back to look at Gavin.Soon, he left the room, and shortly after, I heard the electronic drag of a garage door opening below, at the front of the condo.I started to fly away, but Louis stopped me.“Where’re you off to, Miss . . . Jensen?”I hated when he tried to address me with the Miss.” I knew things had been different for black people back in the forties when he’d been alive, but I’d grown up long after that, and it seemed all kinds of wrong, especially since Louis had been educated. The whole Miss thing was demeaning for him.“I thought I’d . . .”“Tell me you won’t be following Gavin around.”What to say? That’s exactly what I’d been aching to do. And I’d gone through with the temptation during this past month a few times, even though Gavin had rarely left the condo for anything but grocery shopping and necessities.“He’s on his way to recovery now,” Louis said. “And as soon as we can take care of that dark spirit, we’re going to leave these people alone.”“That time hasn’t come yet. What if the spirit—?”“Goes after Gavin when he’s outside? I know that Mr. Edgett carries a crucifix and holy water on him, thanks to that cleaner who chased some of the bad energy out of their old mansion. He’s a believer now.”Louis’ voice had gone soft when he mentioned the haunted house cleaner, a pretty woman who’d caught his eye. Not exactly a romance meant to happen, though.“Then why’re we watching over Wendy, if the Edgetts are armed?” I asked.But I knew the answer. It was because a few of us felt protective of the young girl who’d been caught in the middle of everything.The sound of a sports car taking off made me shiver, but I let Gavin go.Yet, after Louis and I lingered around Wendy’s window a bit longer and it was time for me to leave for Tim Knudson’s house, I did give in to one last temptation.I whooshed by Gavin’s bedroom window at the front, where the curtains were open, letting in the sun. I looked at his walls: the sketches of angelic me, my arms spread, my hair waving around me as if I was suspended in watery air.But the newest pictures were in stark contrast to the others. It was the same me, except for the wicked expression I was wearing—devious, nasty, fire-eyed . . . The hellbitch Twyla had mentioned.I backed away from his window and conjured a travel tunnel before I could start believing I was that ghost.3When I busted out of my travel tunnel and onto a Pacific Beach street full of exhausted pastel-painted houses, Amanda Lee’s Bentley was nowhere in sight. But that didn’t mean she wouldn’t arrive soon.So I brushed along the tops of the palm trees in a neighborhood a few miles from the college bars and the shoreline itself, then lower, looking for the exact address of the house Tim Knudson shared with Nichelle Shaw.The first hint I had about their lifestyle was that they probably rented their place—I’d noticed on one of Amanda Lee’s computer pages that these modest houses near the beach cost a breathtaking amount of money, and unless Nichelle was naturally well-off or Tim was king of all warehouses, I doubted they owned their digs.The faint scent of brine from the ocean, which I could see in the near distance, was making the air thicker to travel, but I trouped through the atmosphere, finding the address. And what do you know? The first thing I came upon was Mr. Timothy Knudson in his backyard.He was dressed in long Hawaiian shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt that advertised a bar called Moose McGillycuddy’s on the back. Popping what looked to be a breath mint into his mouth, he shoved the roll into his pocket, casually strolling by a peeling white fence and peering between the slats.As I hovered, I didn’t fail to note the brunette on the other side, sunning herself on a lounger, dressed in a bikini. I think most people would call a woman like her a cougar these days—clearly older, but very well maintained, and impressively in shape.So Tim enjoyed spying on the hard-body neighbor. But guys were guys and they had testosterone, so what were you going to do about nature’s call?When I eased down to about five feet away from him, goose bumps rose on his skin. But just as I was going to reach out and touch him for a thought-reading, a female voice sang out from the screen door.“Hey, baby? What’re you doing back there?”Tim jerked away from the fence—and my invisible hand. He rubbed at his sheared hair and started toward the covered patio, which was strewn with unraveling outdoor furniture and a barbecue.“Just taking in the sun, Nich,” he answered. “It’s a beautiful day.”He had a good-natured tone and was as compact as his computer profile had indicated he’d be. Small but fit. But you could tell by the cock-of-the-walk way he moved that he might be compensating for stature.A dark-haired girl, Heidi’s age, with a deep beachcomber’s tan had opened the screen door and was facing Tim as he walked toward her. She wore a purple cover-up dress with her bathing suit straps visible, and the skinny thing looked like she’d never hit a 7-Eleven—she sure could’ve used a burrito or two. She had a face that was pleasant but at the same time a little stern, with a square chin that gave her a harder edge than you’d first expect.I joined them on the patio, careful to keep my presence on the hush. The trick here was to be very subtle about reading their thoughts, because I didn’t exactly want haunting to be advertised to them. If a haunted human got spooked, there was always the chance he might call in cleaners or even a bad entity like a demon for help, depending on how savvy or scared they were.True, no ghost I knew had ever seen a demon since those things generally didn’t interact much with us. They preferred to slink around humans they could possess, both willingly and unwillingly. Still, careful was the word.Nichelle had wandered onto the patio, closer to the fence. “Were you frolicking in the sun?”It looked like Tim wasn’t comfortable with where she was heading. “Baby . . .”She sent a betrayed look over her shoulder at him while she moved to the fence to take a gander. After she peeked at the cougar, she shook her head, then headed back to the house, sliding the door behind her, leaving Tim outside.I seized my opportunity, slipping over Tim’s head before the screen could close all the way. I could’ve just made my essence skinnier, but it’d take a hellishly long time for me to dribble through one of the tiny openings. And as far as making myself into Jen-suey by trying to move through the screen all at one time?Ugh, and no, thank you.“Nich, come on,” Tim said from the patio as she headed for the kitchen, with its yellow tiles and a lineup of dried herbs sticking out of jars. I was right on her tail.Nichelle opened the fridge door, her teeth grinding. I think her pride was wounded but she wasn’t about to let him see it.I took advantage of the refrigerator’s chill, touching her upper arm, hopefully going unnoticed, finding a way inside her to get an empathy reading.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Only the Good Die Young“Urban fantasy’s newest heroine, Jensen Murphy, is dead, solves crimes, and packs a powerful paranormal punch!”—Faith Hunter, national bestselling author of the Jane Yellowrock series“A wonder....Talk about a book worth reading. The characters are sad, lonely, fun, happy, interesting, unique...and that’s just an overview. The real upside is that this is the first in a new series that has proved it will be a true treasure trove of imagination to come.”—Suspense Magazine“Only the Good Die Young is one fantastic series starter....[Jensen Murphy] may be a ghost, but she is also a spirited (pun intended) character who shows a lot of courage and spunk in the face of her predicament. The mystery is complex enough to keep the pages turning faster and faster.”—RT Book Reviews (Top Pick)