Authors: Teresa Watson
Who Killed the Ghost in the Library?
A novel by
Teresa Lee Watson
Who Killed the Ghost in the Library?
A Ghost Writer Mystery
By Teresa Watson
Copyright 2014 Teresa L. Watson
This is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.
First of all, Waxahachie, Texas is a real city (I should know, I live here!). Leon’s BBQ (mentioned in the story) was a wonderful, little hole-in-the-wall place that had the best BBQ around. Unfortunately, they closed about a month ago, but I’ve kept the place alive in the story. The people and places in the story are pure fiction, although three or four are based on people I know, and have been given their permission, blessing and full creative license to use them in the story. If I didn’t do them justice, then I deeply apologize to them, and I shall endeavor to do better in the future!
Now to the thank
yous: Bente Gallagher, who months ago graciously shared the idea of a ghost writer with me. I just used it in a different way than anyone expected. Thank you so much for sharing the simple phrase “ghost writer” with me.
Jeziorowski: Good grief, woman, what can I say? For the last few months, you have virtually drop kicked my behind from here to Timbuktu and back, pushing me to get this story done. I had so much fun brainstorming with you, and your reactions when I threw a new twist into the story were priceless! I don’t think there is any way this story would have gotten finished without you. Love you like a little sister!
Kristi Spinks: since the first day I started writing the Lizzie Crenshaw mysteries, you have been by my side. You’ve read and edited everything I have written, and brainstormed deep into the night even though you were tired. I appreciate it more than you will ever know.
Jamie Lee Scott: Thanks for cheering me on as I wrote this book. I never expected it to be a full-length novel, but between you and Stacy (the Nag Sisters), here we are! Thank you for designing another awesome cover, and for all the formatting work you do for me.
Mike Barnett: Thank you so much for answering my questions about weapons, for chatting with me during some late night writing sessions, and for being a good friend.
James, my car expert: Even though you’ve moved off to college, you still nag me about my writing. Thank you so much for patiently answering all my questions about Olds 442s, engines, mufflers, wheels, rims, etc. I know I drove you nuts asking the same questions over and over, but you came through anyway. Hope there are enough explosions and fires in this story for you!
Never give up your dreams, no matter how hard the road is. The bumps in the road make the final destination worth it in the end. Love you more than words can ever say!
My parents, Jim & Charlotte Massey: thank you for letting me use you in the story. I hope I made you proud. Thanks for being my cheering section, my sounding board, and for taking care of our young man (even though he is driving us nuts, we still love him!). All my love always!
Hubby: poor hubby. With James gone, he is now stuck listening to the ramblings and rantings of a crazy writer. Thank you for all the meals you brought home when I was so wrapped up in the story, or just too dadgum tired to even move; for all the backrubs you’ve given me when my back hurt from sitting at my desk too long, and for not eating all my M&Ms. I love you very, very, very much!
To everyone who was cheering me on as I wrote this story: I hope you all enjoy it! You’ve been asking me for a full-length novel for years, so here you go! I hope it was worth the wait!
Books by Teresa Watson:
The Lizzie Crenshaw Mysteries:
Death of a Cantankerous Old Coot
Death Makes the Front Page
Death Stalks the Law
Death Goes to the Dogs
Death Catches a Killer
The Lizzie Crenshaw Mysteries Box Set: Books 1-3
The Charlie Bannerman Mysteries:
Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don’t let the Stalkers Bite
The Ghost Writer Mysteries:
Who Killed the Ghost in the Library?
Who Killed the Ghost Writer? (coming soon)
List of Characters
Cam Shaw – our heroine
Randy Cross – her best friend; owner of The
Chief Mike Penhall
Jim & Charlotte Shaw – Cam’s parents; owners of Jim’s Heavenly Roasted Java (but Charlotte runs it) coffeehouse
Stanley Ashton III – our ghost
Aggie Foley – elderly housekeeper/companion for Stanley
Amelia Underwood Ashton – Stanley’s widow
Alma Dreyer – Cam’s feisty grandma
Walt Penhall – former police chief; Mike’s grandfather; Alma’s boyfriend
Cliff Scott – retired police officer
Shatton – owner of Artie’s Garage
Williams – psychic, computer guru, flower child
Oliver Malloy – fireman
Kim Thurston – paramedic
Ray Foley – Aggie’s husband
Jake Yarborough – one bad dude
Prufrock Jr. – Amelia’s lawyer
Various other townspeople
Chapter 1 - Monday
Ghost writer/editor looking for work. Reasonable rates.
Please contact Camille Shaw at 932-555-1624.
“Do you think the ad is okay?” I asked my best friend
, Randy Cross one day in early May.
“You mean does it sound desperate?”
“I wasn’t trying for desperate. I was aiming for professional.”
“Keep trying,” he said as he took a sip of his latte.
“You’re no help,” I replied, leaning back in my chair with my arms crossed.
“Quit pouting. Maybe I’m wrong. They’ll be beating down your door, begging to work with you.”
I knew he meant well, but I could also hear the sarcasm in his voice. It had been five months since my last job – ghost writing a star’s autobiography – and money was starting to get a bit tight. I had decided to put an ad in the local newspaper, as well as some big market ones, hoping I could find some work. My agent, Joe Wilder, hadn’t returned any of my calls for the past week. Randy was right: I was getting desperate.
“If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you didn’t want to work at the bookstore with me
anymore.” Randy owned The Crack’d Spine, a used bookstore located across the street from Jim’s Heavenly Roasted Java (but Charlotte runs it), the coffeehouse we were sitting in. We lived in Waxahachie, Texas, which is the county seat. Located just south of Dallas, Waxahachie is a city of just under thirty thousand people. You’ve probably seen parts of our city in some well-known movies:
, with Robert Duvall, and
Places in the Heart
with Sally Field.
“Not a chance,” I said. “But I’m dying to write something. I’m just feeling a bit restless.”
“Restless? Hasn’t that hunky boyfriend of yours been keeping you company at night?”
Sighing, I took a drink of my Dr Pepper to avoid answering him. I hadn’t seen much of David Vaughn lately. Business kept taking him out of town.
Truth be told, I don’t think we’ve really had much of a relationship in over a year, but neither one of us wanted to admit it. Sometimes I felt like I was just arm candy for all of his business functions. He wasn’t an affectionate person, although he was when we first met. We hadn’t been out on a real date in nine months. But I didn’t like spending all of my evenings with old westerns and Ben & Jerry’s Peach Cobbler ice cream. It was definitely time to break things off.
“Don’t tell me there’s trouble in paradise?”
“No. He’s out of town on business again.”
“I’ll bet he took that sexy assistant, Kassandra, with him.” I glared at him. “I’m sure it’s all perfectly innocent! Maybe we need to plan a night out. It’s been a while since we’ve gone wild.”
Regina, one of the coffeehouse baristas, stopped by our table. “Cam, someone left this for you at the front counter,” she said, handing me a cream-colored envelope.
“Ooh, a secret admirer?” Randy said.
“Thanks, Regina,” I said, taking the envelope from her. She smiled and walked away. My name was written on the front in calligraphy. “Wow, fancy.”
“It’s probably some rich old geezer who wants to tell how he made his billions on the backs of the little people.”
“Cynical much, Randy?” I said, opening the envelope. Quickly scanning the note, I got the impression that maybe he wasn’t that far off base.
I would like to hire you to write a story. Please come to 3985 Ash Grove Lane at seven o’clock this evening.
I showed it to Randy. His eyes widened as he read it. “You’re kidding.”
“How can I be kidding? I just got it!”
“Oh, come on, Cam! You’ve lived here almost all your life and you’ve forgotten the stories about that house already?” I just gave him a blank look. Sighing, he leaned closer. “3985 Ash Grove Lane belonged to Stanley Ashton III, the grandson of Stanley Ashton Sr., one of the founding fathers and the first president of the oldest bank in our fair city. He was married to Amelia Underwood, daughter of Crawford Underwood, the logging king. Stanley and Amelia had two children, Stanley IV and Celeste. They put on the ‘we’re a happy family’ routine to the public, but reality was a whole different story. Stanley was promiscuous, and his wife knew about his indiscretions. She and Celeste went on a cruise, and while they were gone, Stanley III was found dead in the downstairs library. The police determined it was suicide. Amelia and the children inherited everything, and they lived in the house for a while. But one night, they mysteriously disappeared. No one knows where they went, or what happened to them. The bank accounts were closed two days before they vanished.”
“Maybe a family member has showed up to stake a claim on the house.”
Randy shook his head. “I doubt it. Stanley III’s siblings were scattered all over the country, and none of them ever made a claim on the house, or tried to find Amelia and the kids. But the best part is that people claim the house is haunted.”
“Oh, get serious, Randy.”
“I am serious! There have been reports of lights coming on, smoke from the chimney, things like that. No one goes near that place.”
I looked at the note again. “Well, someone must have moved in. Maybe it’s Stanley IV, coming back to tell everyone where he’s been all these years.”
“Or maybe it’s the ghost of Stanley III, and he wants to tell you what really happened to his family.”
“You need to stop watching reruns of ‘Ghost Whisperer’,” I said as I put the note back in the envelope. I
put it in my bag, grabbed my coat and stood up. “I’ve got to run. I’ve got a few things to do before tonight.”
Randy grabbed my arm. “Don’t go, Cam. I’ve got a bad feeling about this. If you need money that bad, I can float you a loan.”
“I’ll be fine,” I said. “What’s the worst that can happen? I get stood up? Wouldn’t be the first time.”
“You could end up dead.”
Nothing like a best friend to give you that reassuring pat on the back.
I pulled up to the Ashton house a little before seven. I felt like I had just arrived on a movie set about the old South. It was a two-story, red brick house, with four Roman columns evenly spaced out in the front of the house. The sidewalk leading to the front door was lined with lampposts, which were shining bright in the evening dusk. There were lights on in the downstairs rooms. For a place that people claimed had been deserted for decades, it sure looked like someone was home.
I checked the downstairs windows for any movement as I got out of my car, but didn’t see anything. The yard looked
like it had been recently mowed. Before I could knock on the front door, it gently swung open. I stood there, hand hanging in mid-air, ready to make a run for it.
Dropping my arm, I cautiously moved forward, stepping across the threshold into the foyer. The door closed behind me, and I spun around, but there was no one there.
“Randy, is that you? You are so not funny right now! Come out here this minute so I can smack you silly!” But there was no answer.
I cautiously took a few more steps forward. The hardwood floors looked like they had just been waxed that morning. I walked to my left, where a small cherrywood end table sat by the cream-colored wall. I ran my hand across the top of it; not a speck of dust. The urge to run again overwhelmed me, and I turned toward the door.
“Miss Camille! My goodness! I didn’t realize it was seven already!” a woman’s voice said behind me. I turned around to see an older woman, probably in her 70s, wearing black slacks and a white blouse.
“I…I just got here.”
“I didn’t even hear you knock,” she said, coming closer to me.
“The door was sort of…open.”
“Open?” she said, puzzled. “I could have sworn I closed it. Well, no matter, come on in! Let me have your coat. I’ll hang it up in the hall closet.” I slipped off my jacket, handed it to her, and she hung it up in a small closet located to the right of the front door. “Let’s go into the library; I’ve got a fire going in the fireplace. Would you like some coffee?”
“Um, no ma’am, thank you,” I said as I looked around the beautiful room.
If I lived here, I think I would spend most of my time in here. It was an enormous room; I can’t give you the exact measurements because math is not my favorite thing in the world. (Just think of a ballroom, and you’ll be close.) Looking into the room from the doorway, there was a desk, across the room and slightly to the left, made of French mahogany. A maroon desk chair on casters sat behind the desk, the edges of the arms faded from years of use. A hole in the middle of the left side of the chair marred the old leather; I wondered what the story was about that. A tall window behind the desk gave you a view of the side yard. I could see a gazebo out there, outlined with rose bushes of various colors on both sides, shaded by a large old oak tree.
Two large bookcases made of stained dark oak sat on either side of the window, and across the room from the desk were four more matching bookcases, and all were filled with old books. I wished I had time to scan the shelves to see what titles were there; I guessed there were probably some very rare first editions in here. There were two tall, wide windows that looked out over the front yard; in front of the windows were two maroon leather chairs
, a round end table between them, a beautiful Tiffany lamp sitting on top. Across the room from these chairs was a fireplace, with two more maroon leather chairs, a maroon leather couch, and a coffee table sitting in front of the couch. The floor was a hardwood floor with a herringbone pattern. For someone who loved books, this room was paradise.
I turned my attention back to the small woman standing in front of me.
“May I ask you a question?”
“Of course, Miss Camille. Ask away.”
“Who are you?”
She laughed. “Oh my goodness, where are my manners? I’m Agatha Foley.”
It’s Mrs. Foley, but please, call me Aggie. That’s what everyone calls me.”
Alright, Aggie, how long have you lived here?”
“I don’t actually live in the main house. There’s a guest house out back. I’ve been here
since I was twenty.” She saw the expression on my face. “I’m eighty now, although my husband tells me I don’t look a day over sixty-three.”
I wasn’t sure I agreed with her husband, but I wisely kept my mouth shut. “I’m a bit confused here. I thought this house had been deserted since the late f
“Oh no, Mr. Stanley has lived here all his life.”
“Mr. Stanley? You mean Stanley Ashton IV?”
Miss Camille, I mean Stanley III.”
I decided right then and there that this woman was a kook.
“Aggie,” she corrected me.
“Aggie, didn’t Stanley III commit suicide in the mid-fifties?”
“Certainly not,” she replied indignantly. “He is a God-fearing man. He would never risk his soul by committing suicide.”
I slowly reached for my phone before realizing that it was in my jacket, which was hanging in the hall closet. “So you’re saying that for the past sixty years or so, Stanley Ashton III has been alive and well, living in this house?”
“That’s not what I said.”
“But you just said he didn’t commit suicide. So if he didn’t kill himself, then he’s still alive.”
I stood up and headed for the library door. “Mrs. Foley, I came out here under the impression that someone wanted to hire me. I didn’t come out here to listen to some crazy story about a man living in this house who may or may not be alive.”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Foley, but I’m not staying. I have other things to do.”
“I do wish you would stay, Miss Shaw,” a deep male voice said. “I am in need of your services.”