Midlife Ghost Hunter by Shannon Mayer

1





What happens when you put a middle-aged woman wearing leather pants, a blood-stained tank top, ass-kicker boots, and three days of stink, into a communal jail cell with half a dozen other women? Well, let me tell you, nothing good can come of it. Especially for the one in the leather pants who smells like she doesn’t know how to shower.

I turned my head, leaning my face against my upper arm, took an exploratory whiff of my own B.O. and made a face. What I wouldn’t give for a shower. I mean, assuming I was getting out of jail soon. The bench I sat on was cold, hard, and not exactly what I would call comfy. Again, I was hoping it wouldn’t matter soon.

I should have had my phone call already.

Should have heard something from my friends.

Should have been formally charged.

None of that had happened.

“Hey, you got anything on you? I’m jonesing hard.” A hand pawed at my calf, and I shifted my foot so I could stare down at the woman with dark brown hair gazing up at me, somewhat vacantly, beads of sweat along her upper lip, which only highlighted that she needed a mirror and some tweezers. Desperately. Looking at her made me touch my own chin for the wayward hair that always managed to pop out without me noticing, going from nothing to four inches long overnight.

Easier to think about chin hairs than why and how I’d been stuck in this cell for more hours than I wanted to count.

“You probably don’t want to lie on the floor,” I pointed out as I adjusted my seat and slid down the bench out of reach. “Lawdy gawd only knows what’s down there with you.”

“Poop. Smeared around on the floor, like a skating rink,” another woman muttered from across the twenty-by-twenty space, bars on one side and concrete on the others. The cell had three uncomfortable metal benches screwed to the floor, one on each wall and one in the middle, which was currently un-occupied.

The speaker had her head leaned back against the wall, eyes closed. Long fake eyelashes brushed her sallow cheeks. She looked younger than me, but honestly, it was hard to tell because she was rail thin. So thin, her name-brand clothes hung off her as if she’d played dress up in her mother’s clothing.

My mind caught back up to what she’d said.

“You saying there is . . .poo on the floor?” I looked at the space between my feet and indeed there did seem to be some off-color smudges ground into the cracks that didn’t jive with what I would call a normal level of dirt.

“More than a bit,” the woman in the designer clothes said. “They took the pooper out just before you came in. She’d had some fun in it. Someone came in to clean it, but they did a minimal job. Smells better now.”

Gagging, I stumbled onto my feet as I hopped and danced to try to keep away from the smudges. Like some sort of nightmare version of Twister. The others started laughing at me, but I didn’t stop until I was standing in the middle of the room. How the hell could I not have smelled shit that close to me? Was my sense of smell going? I’d heard that was a thing when women hit menopause.

I paused for a moment next to the middle bench—should I sit and swing my legs over?—when a hand slapped my ass hard enough to make me yelp and hop right over the hurdle.

“You go in the clink dressed like that, you’ll be a favorite with those leathers on.”

I spun to see the oldest of the prisoners hobble away from me, giggling to herself as she swayed her head from side to side, reminiscent of my skeleton friend Robert. Her hair was brilliantly white and fluffy, like she’d back combed it repeatedly to give herself more height than her maybe four-foot-eleven frame. Then put twigs in it for good measure and a few more inches.

“I’m not going into the clink. I’ll be out of here in no time,” I said.

The old woman giggled. “Oh, that’s what you think!”

I drew a ragged breath through my nose and stayed where I was, afraid to sit, afraid to move for fear of what I might step in.

Literally and figuratively.

But let me backtrack for those who are just now coming into my story. A mere twelve hours before this low moment of getting my ass slapped by an old lady while dancing around poo smears, I had been arrested for the murder of my ex-husband, Alan.

Now, to be fair, I had on more than one occasion thought about killing him, but no more so than any other woman with a douche canoe manipulating liar of an ex. However, I can firmly say I didn’t so much as put a bruise on him. Not that the police here in Savannah had believed me. Nope, they’d tossed on the cuffs and dragged me here to my own personal hell.

To add insult to injury, the police have taken my magical leather hip bag, which meant they are now in possession of my gran’s old spell book, the finger bone I use to summon Robert (shoot, that might not help me in the “I’d never hurt anyone” category if they ask me who it belongs to), and the book of black magic curses I’d picked up in my travels. They also have the two knives Crash made for me what felt like a lifetime ago. I wonder if the officers would be able to find them in the bag.

I hope not. I hope that my bigger-than-it-looked bag hides my goodies from the police.

The one thing they haven’t been able to take from me was the one thing I wished to heaven they’d been able to. Of course, he was the reason I was currently stuck in this poop-covered cell.

Alan, aka Himself, aka the ex.

“Seriously, Bree?” Alan stood on the other side of the bars from me. My ex-husband, dead as a doornail, had come back as a ghost to haunt me. The jerk. “What did you expect, hanging around with that freak show crowd? Acting like you’re some sort of super sleuth, when we both know you were always terrible at guessing how a book or movie ended. The worst.”