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BOOK: The Grey Tier
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Chapter Ten

I SAT IN ONE of the lounge chairs by the pool and stared down at Hollywood and Los Angeles spread out below. I had my second beer in hand and a half-empty box of tissues on the table next to me. I hadn’t stopped crying since I left the bar. The police had likely located Becky by now, but Mumbles and Candace . . . probably not. They would be devastated.

Nick’s murder had brought my sister’s disappearance sixteen years ago to the forefront of my mind. I recalled it clearly as if it had happened yesterday. I remembered Hannah had been begging my parents for days to go to a concert up in Jacksonville, nearly two hours away. Of course Daddy said, “No way.” And my mama had to back him up. Hannah was so upset.

She was almost sixteen and her best friend Karen could drive. There was a group of them going and I didn’t see the harm in it. I encouraged her to go. Told her I’d cover for her. And that is what I did. After dinner, which in our house was promptly at 5:30 p.m. every night, my sister headed upstairs. I did the dishes and then told my folks Hannah and I were going to play a game of chess. I was banking on it that they would leave us alone. My parents tend to spend the evenings reading scripture unless it is a designated family night, which it wasn’t. I went to bed, padded down the stairs to find my daddy asleep in his chair and my mother knitting a new sweater for him. I kissed her good night and told her Hannah had gone to bed already. She believed me.

When I woke at three in the morning to go to the bathroom, I went to the side of Hannah’s bed to ask her how the concert was. She wasn’t there. I panicked and woke my mother, who woke my father. The police were called. They found her bike only half a mile away up the road from the house. Her friends said she never made it to Riley’s Diner where they’d agreed to meet. I never have copped to the fact I knew she had snuck out. The guilt eats at me daily.

I stood and poured the rest of the beer on the lawn next to the pool. Cass and Mac remained indoors, curled up tightly next to each other. Against all odds, they had become fast friends. I was kind of jealous, because it meant I only had a beer to provide comfort while they had each other.

As the sun slowly dipped towards the ocean and the sky turned a myriad of oranges, pinks, and reds, I decided to make myself a BLT. Suddenly, I had two loyal fans next to me in the kitchen. Behold, the magic of bacon! Mac walked a figure eight between my legs, and Cass twirled in circles as if she were dancing.

“Fine! I give in.” I pointed the knife down towards Mac. “Don’t think this means I’ve forgotten about your diet, mister.” I then shifted my gaze to Cass, “I see you’re teaching Mac all your bad habits.”

“Trust me. I don’t think he needs her help,” a male voice responded.

I jumped, nearly slicing off my thumb. I immediately changed my grip on the knife, holding it more like a weapon and less like something I’d just been using to slice tomatoes.

“Who’s there?” My voice quivered, not nearly as threatening as I would have liked.

No one answered, but Cass started to growl and Mac stopped brushing against my legs.

“Hello?” I could hear the tremor in my voice. I did a quick search around the kitchen and nearby family room. Nothing. I went back to prepping my sandwich.

“I’m losing my mind. Maybe I
should
go home, back to Texas.”

I turned on the stove and buttered the bread. And then I thought I heard sounds in the family room. I cautiously walked out of the kitchen, my animal entourage following closely behind. Again, nothing. The hair on my arms stood straight up but I reluctantly turned my back on the empty room and returned to the kitchen. A small billow of smoke curled up from the frying pan . . . the bread! I shut off the stove, leaned my back against the counter with my head down, and started crying again.

And that’s when it happened.

“No woman, no cry. Nooooo woman, nooo cry.”

What in the hell?

“Little sister, don’t shed no tears. . . .”

Either I was dreaming, or Nick’s murder had finally pushed me over the edge. Because when I looked up, Bob Marley stood in the middle of my kitchen, guitar in hand, singing.

Cass stared and Mac, the fat little traitor, moved between Bob’s legs and started doing the figure eight thing there. Bob-frigging-Marley! In my kitchen!! Bob was smiling, the smell of pot drifting in the air, and I was, quite frankly, shocked speechless.

And then (I know, right? As if Bob Marley in my kitchen weren’t enough) . . .

. . . a gorgeous specimen of a man wandered in and leaned back on the counter next to the dishwasher, just a few feet from where I stood with my mouth hanging open. The knife, which I’d been clasping for dear life, clattered to the floor with a sharp bang.

The guy was in soft, muted colors . . . like he’d been digitally altered. Between dead-Bob Marley and Sexy Kitchen Guy, my brain was spinning, and all I could think was how much better Bob sounded live (no pun intended). As for Cass, well, she was completely mesmerized by the scene. We all stood there for a moment . . . all of us, that is, except Mac, who continued to wind his way through Bob’s legs. Suddenly, the sexy guy sort of floated over to my side. His edges sharpened and he got a lot brighter (think Technicolor). He reached out and gently wiped the damp tear trail off my cheek. I could feel the brush of his fingers on my skin . . . but his touch was not like anything I’d ever felt before. Imagine soft, combed silk—feathery and sweet. It was both cold and warm at the same time and left a lingering imprint even after he removed his fingers from my face. He spoke in a hushed tone. “Bob is right, no more crying.”

This man, ghost, being . . . whatever he was, shimmered. He was steeped in a golden glow surrounded by the deepest indigo, and his eyes were the deep, purple color of a mountain at sunset. Yeah, I know. Hokey as hell, right? But seriously, his eyes were incredible looking. He had dark hair that framed his face in thick waves. All I could think was—
beautiful
.

I tentatively reached out to touch him and then retracted my hand quickly. I could feel . . . something. But it was simply a sensation—cool and then, slowly, growing warmer. I felt tingly—literally—all over my body. And I received no visuals at all.

Meanwhile, Bob was crooning “Positive Vibration” in the background, but his singing grew softer and started to fade out. I didn’t want him to go. I mean, yes . . . this was all incredibly insane, but it sure was beating the heck out of the pity party I’d been throwing myself only moments ago.

And then someone pounded on the French doors just off the kitchen and my two mystery guests vanished into thin air.

“Edie! Evie! Open the fucking door!”

Simone! I ran to the door, throwing it open. Cass started barking and Simone sidled in, scowling at Cass who growled and slunk away.

“Simone, what are you doing here?”

She ignored me and made a beeline for the fridge. “Are these the only beers you have?

No Champagne? Wine? What the fuck?”

“Uh, yes.”

She sighed, popped the top off a cold Heineken, took a deep swig, and turned to face me. “Okay Edie. What the fuck is going on?”

And that is when I saw
him
again. He was behind her, making a face, holding up two fingers over her head. I started to giggle nervously. She turned to see what I was looking at. He was gone.

Simone smoothed her hair down. “Seriously, are you okay?!”

I shook my head and muttered, “I wish I knew.”

Chapter Eleven

“SO THIS IS REALLY what
normal
people do?” Simone asked.

We were sitting inside a Denny’s on Sunset. She was in disguise wearing a short black wig, torn jeans, and a yellow T-shirt with pink writing that read,
Fuck You . . . and the horse you rode in on.
On the back was a cartoon woman on a horse flipping the bird. Classy.

After showing up at my place and drinking four beers, Simone insisted on doing something
normal
.

“Come on, Evie, let’s go where the real people go. Let’s do something real people do. Something normal. Where do you eat when you go out?”

I was still feeling off-balance (go figure) with lingering tingling sensations running through my body.

“Uh, Denny’s, I guess.” Yeah, okay . . . I realize Denny’s isn’t exactly gourmet cuisine, but where I come from, there aren’t a lot of upscale family dining options. And it was the first thing that came to mind.

“Okay. Denny’s it is.” Then, right there in my kitchen, she stripped and yanked her disguise out of a big Michael Kors bag. She dropped the black, bobbed wig onto her head. “Call me Jill tonight. We can hang out . . . you know, just like BFFs!”

“Right.”

Now, at Denny’s, Simone was stuffing her face with some fine diner cuisine, and I was still in shock from the day.

“This shit is good, Edie.” She paused for a moment and then winked at me. “I just do that for fun, you know.”

“What’s that?”

“Call you Edie. I know your name. I just like messing with you.”

I nodded. “Oh.” At this point, nothing she said surprised me.

“Hey.” She reached over and touched my shoulder; thankfully, I had on a light sweater, so no need to worry about uninvited visuals. “I know I threw a mini-tantrum earlier and I shouldn’t have. I was a little surprised you took off this morning and then when the cops showed up and started asking questions about you, I was like, what?!” She took another bite out of her meal, peering at me closely. “You know the paparazzi will likely have a field day with this.”

“I’m sorry.” And I was. I knew she hated unwanted attention.

She shrugged. “I can handle those jack-asses.”

For a moment she actually seemed . . . normal.

“So someone killed that guy? Nick?”

I closed my eyes, wishing I could forget the entire first half of the day. “Yes.”

“That is super crazy. And you found him?”

“I did.”

“God! What did he look like?”

I took a deep breath. “I don’t know. Lots of blood and he was . . . he was dead.”

She paused for a minute, staring down at her partially finished meal. “You know the house you live in? And my sister talking about how it’s haunted and all . . .”

“Yes?” I asked, suddenly feeling very interested in where the conversation was going.

“Oh, you know . . . Brenda is such a wuss. She says the place is haunted because of what happened there. That’s all. It’s not haunted, but some shit did go down there.” She shrugged.

Great. The hair on my arms stood to attention for the umpteenth time today. “What do you mean ‘what happened there?’”

“I will only tell you on one condition . . .” She leaned across her plate, lowering her voice.

“What’s that?”

“You gotta stay there. I promised Blake I had a responsible chick keeping an eye on the place.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Simone.”

“Jill!” She hissed, darting her eyes to the surrounding booths. “I am fucking Jill tonight!” That got a laugh out of me. “Oh, you know what I mean, Evie. Get your mind out of the gutter!”

I smiled. “Anyway, about the house. What happened?”

She sighed. “Back in the 90s, like ‘94 or something, someone was murdered there.”

“What?!”

She nodded. “Yeah, this dude who played in a grunge band. Blake was their producer. They were supposed to be the next Nirvana or Pearl Jam, you know. The guy was a huge talent. I was like, only eight, so I don’t know much, but anyway, he was the shit, I guess. And unlike Kurt Cobain, this guy was sexy hot. Then Blake had a party one night and a chick this singer-dude hooked up with went ballistic because he was hitting on some groupies. So she shot him right there, in front of everyone. Shot him dead!”

“Oh, my God!”

“Yeah. Anyway, sorry I didn’t tell you, but like I said before, I don’t believe in ghosts and all that shit.” She took another big bite of her food, “God, this is really good. I’m getting this again next week when we come back.”

“What?”

“Yeah, girlfriend. Standing date.”

I shook my head. “Okay. Hey, what was the guy’s name? The one who was shot?”

“Lucas Minx. Cool name, huh? Anyway, my sister thinks he haunts the place, but she’s got issues.” She brought her pointer finger to the side of her head and circled her fingers around her ear, making the crazy sign.

“Right.” Apparently, so did I—have issues, that is.

“Anyway, I am sorry about your friend. I know you liked that guy. We all need friends.” She looked down at her food.

“Yes, we do.” Simone obviously needed a friend, and it appeared I was the chosen one.

BOOK: The Grey Tier
13.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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