Authors: Janet McNulty
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Paranormal - Ghosts - Vermont
“What was the message?”
“The bit I heard was something about her catching something on camera. Something horrible, and she needed Tom’s help. She did mention that she was headed to the computer lab on campus. That was the last time I saw her. The next morning, I learned that she had been killed.”
“Yeah,” said Greg. “She was taking the video editing class as an elective as well. Apparently, making short movies was a hobby of hers. Anyway, her camera was never found and there was no evidence to indicate who killed her. Of course, the cops were so focused on Tom, that I don’t think they even looked at anybody else. Though there was a Detective Shorts—”
“Shorts?” I didn’t mean to interrupt, but the name sounded funny.
“Yeah, it is a funny name, but don’t tell him that. You don’t want to be on his bad side. He didn’t think Tom did it. In fact, he seemed to think that someone who worked at the college did, but again, there was no proof.”
“Why all the questions? Here we are on a date and all I’ve done is talk about a dead girl.”
I squirmed uneasily in my chair. Should I tell him that I spoke with Rachel’s spirit? It sounded so crazy that even I wasn’t sure I believed it. “Just a few strange things have happened in my apartment that’s all.”
Greg laughed. “You’re not going to tell me that you think your place is haunted!”
“I don’t know.” I wanted to end the conversation. This was only a first date and to tell Greg I was seeing a ghost wasn’t in the plan. “It’s getting late,” I said.
Greg agreed and asked for the check, which he paid. That impressed me. Afterward, he walked me home and dropped me off at my apartment. We didn’t kiss or anything. In fact, we just said good-bye.
After I let myself in, I slumped down on the couch. I had a real mystery on my hands. You know, that thing you mostly read about in novels, or watch on TV. I felt like Jessica Fletcher from
Murder She Wrote
. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. Why was Rachel afraid? What was she running from? And who killed her? Then it occurred to me that I had all the answers at my fingertips.
“Rachel,” I whispered.
“How was the date?” She appeared on the couch beside me.
“It was great,” I replied.
“Did you kiss?”
She let out an exasperated sigh. “Going to play hard to get. I don’t get you.”
I shook my head. The conversation was not going where I wanted it to. “Rachel,” I said, “who killed you? I mean, what happened that night you died?”
I thought she might be upset at my abruptness, but instead she seemed pleased that someone asked. “I don’t know,” she said.
“You don’t know?”
“I can’t remember. People think that when you die you suddenly know everything. But that didn’t happen to me. I remember bits and pieces, but nothing substantial. Mostly, I remember being scared and running for my life and then I ended up here. People went right past me. They couldn’t see me, or hear me.”
“Why is it I can see you?” I really wanted to know why I suddenly became Jessica Love-Hewitt from
“I learned much later that I can decide who sees me and who doesn’t. But I also learned that most people pretend not to see ghosts. Either that, or they are so wrapped up in their own life, that they ignore everything that doesn’t immediately affect them.
“Some of the people who lived here before you saw me, but they either passed it off as being crazy, or they just ran away scared. I wasn’t trying to scare anyone. I just wanted to be heard. I also want to know what happened to me. But I need someone living to help.”
“But you can go anywhere you want and spy on people,” I said.
“But I can’t talk to them. I’m not sure why I’m able to talk to you. It could be because you haven’t run off scared yet. Will you help me?”
I sighed. I wanted to. And I was curious. The fact that her murder has remained unsolved meant that that the real killer was still at large. I shuddered at the thought. “I don’t know.”
“Please,” she begged. “I need to know what happened.”
I sat silent for a while. I did want to know what happened to her, but I also didn’t want to do anything to ruin my new start in life. In the end, I relented. “Yes, I’ll help. But you have to promise to quit showing up unannounced.”
“Yay!” squealed Rachel, jumping up and down.
A part of me felt that I would regret this.
Three weeks passed, and before I knew it, I had buried myself under a mountain of homework. Who knew that college could be this difficult? I had spent each day since my date with Greg scurrying around on campus between classes, darting back and forth from work, and getting home late with just enough time to sleep.
Greg and I continued seeing each other. When not in class, we met for coffee or lunch. I only saw Jackie a few times, mostly when at work. Unfortunately, I hadn’t had time to really investigate Rachel’s death. Rachel’s insistence at showing up whenever she liked didn’t help. I had a feeling this was going to be a common occurrence with her.
The weather had turned a bit colder as we moved into October. I was glad that Jackie had bought me that jacket. It was quite warm.
I jogged across campus with my arms full of books. One more class to go today and I could go home. The late afternoon sun felt nice, but I hadn’t time to enjoy it.
“Mel!” Once again Rachel appeared from nowhere.
Her sudden appearance caused me to drop my books. They scattered everywhere. “Rachel, not now,” I said. I knelt down to gather my stuff.
“Have you found any leads?”
“I’m sorry, no. I’ve been busy.”
“But you said you would help me,” whined Rachel.
“Rachel, I will help, but you need to give me something to go on. Right now, I’m about as far as the cops got. Now, please, go away. I have a class to get to. We can talk later when I get home.”
A couple of people walked by. I continued picking up my books and tried to ignore them. “Please, Rachel,” I whispered. “If I stand here talking to you, people will think I’m crazy.”
“Oh, please,” replied Rachel, “you’re way past that. You agreed to help a ghost find her murderer.”
“Rachel, you can’t keep popping in when you please. You may be dead, but I have responsibilities. Now go back to the apartment and I’ll meet you there.”
More people walked by. They stared at me with a questioning look.
“Practicing for a play,” I said with a smile. Their glances told me that they didn’t buy it.
“Fine. If I go back, do you promise to spend the night with me, helping me figure out who killed me?”
With that, Rachel left. I grabbed the rest of my things and hurried off to the other end of campus for my math class.
I arrived home to find Rachel waiting for me. She sat on the couch, watching television. She snapped her fingers and the TV turned off. Luckily, Jackie had to work, so I didn’t need to worry about her walking in while I talked with a ghost.
“So, how was school?” asked Rachel.
I dropped my books and slumped in a chair, exhausted. I had a mountain of homework, but it would have to wait. Right now, it was time for Rachel and I to talk. I had promised her and guessed I ought to quit putting it off.
“The usual,” I responded to her question.
“Well,” Rachel jumped to her knees on the couch, “It’s time to put all that aside and concentrate on catching my murderer.”
I thought about her statement a moment. A part of me thought that it sounded selfish. I pushed it aside. I did promise to help her, and right now it was all about her.
“What do you remember about the night you died?” I asked.
Rachel rubbed her chin, concentrating. “Most of it is a blur. I remember I had a night class that night. It was the usual three hours of boredom, but I got through it. Afterward, I went to Zappy’s to meet with some friends.”
“Greg said you came home late in a panic. That you rummaged in your apartment for something, called Tom, and left,” I said.
“That’s right, I did! But I don’t remember what had frightened me,” said Rachel.
“What class was it?”
“You’re night class. What was it?”
“It was that video editing class with Professor Vincent,” replied Rachel.
I massaged my temples. This was going nowhere. I had a ghost that only I could speak to who wanted help finding her murderer. The only problem was she couldn’t remember the night she died.
“Are any of your friends still at the college?” I asked.
“Most of them graduated last May,” replied Rachel. Suddenly, she jumped up in excitement. “Sara! Sara is still there. She failed a couple of her classes and was forced to stay an extra semester. She and I were pretty close—like sisters!”
“It’s a start.”
“We should go see her right now.”
I stared at Rachel. “Now? It’s nine o’clock at night. I’m tired and want some sleep.”
“Which is why this is the perfect time to go. She’d be at Zappy’s. It’s a great place to hang out, for college kids.”
“But it’s in the middle of the week,” I protested. I had no desire to go anywhere. I just wanted to go to bed.
“Like that’s ever stopped any one from going to the bar. Come on, party pooper.” Rachel hauled me out of my comfortable chair. Before I knew it my purse and keys were shoved into my hands and I was out the door.
I drove across town, following Rachel’s directions to Zappy’s. I cranked my radio up so no one would wonder why I seemed to be talking to myself. When I pulled into Zappy’s parking lot, I had to drive around to find a parking space. The crowd was unbelievable! Ten minutes later, I finally found a space to park the car. The music pounded against the windows.
“Let’s find her quick,” I told Rachel.
Secretly, I hoped that she wouldn’t be there. I had no idea what I would say without coming across as an amateur sleuth; or just plain nosy. I chuckled inside. That’s exactly what I was.
A wave of tobacco smoke, booze, and pounding music wafted over me. I detested these places. Yet, I had to be here to help Rachel get her memory back.
I stared at the guy behind the counter for a moment until I realized that he was talking to me. I quickly handed him my driver’s license. He looked it over, frowned, and handed it back. Apparently, he was hoping to bust some high school student trying to sneak in.
“Five bucks,” said the guy.
“Five dollar cover charge,” he repeated.
Luckily, I had some cash with me. I forked over a five and went in. Instantly, I understood why this was a college hangout. The loud music and alcohol was an open invitation for it; but the place had a private section for those who wanted to be alone, a dance floor, and a bar with stools. I picked a menu off of a table and glanced at it in the multicolored lighting. They served food as well.
“Wheee!” shouted Rachel next to me. “This is fun isn’t it?”
“Hey,” I shouted at her, “we’re here to work. Remember?”
“Sorry,” said Rachel, “it’s been awhile since I felt alive—so to speak.”
“Do you see her?” I glanced around at the crowd. The place was packed. No way were we going to find Sara in here.
“No,” said Rachel. “Stay here while I look around.” She left me alone. I glanced around me. Without any ideas on what to do, I meandered to the bar.
“What’ll it be?” asked the bartender.
I racked my brain trying to remember the list of drinks. “Southern Tropics.” Instantly, my drink appeared and I had to hand over some money. I raised my drink to my lips.
Rachel popped out of nowhere and grabbed my shoulder. I dropped my drink. Great. Instead of drinking my beverage, I was wearing it. I snatched some paper napkins and attempted, in vain, to wipe the mess off my jacket.
“I found her,” said Rachel.
“Where is she?”
“Up there on the second floor,” replied Rachel.
I turned around and found a man ogling me. The man’s breath stank of too much liquor. I ignored him.
“Hey,” he persisted, “I said ‘hi’!”
“Kick him in the nuts,” said Rachel.
I shook my head. I didn’t want trouble and having two people talk to me at the same time was very confusing. “Go away, please,” I said to the guy next to me.
He grabbed my shoulder and whirled me around to face him. “I don’t like being ignored,” he spat.
I struggled to break free, but his grasp was too strong. Before I knew it, Rachel had appeared by his side. She yanked his stool out from under him, causing the man to bang his head on the counter.
“Hey, bitch,” said the man as he stood up.
Rachel snatched a beer bottle off the counter. The man stared in horror as it floated towards him, clonking him on his skull. He ran off, knocking tables and chairs over. I stared aghast at what just happened. A few people eyed me peculiarly. I waved at them. Instantly, Rachel grabbed my arm, pulling me from the bar.