~ First Grave On The Right ~
by Darynda Jones
Book 1 in the Charley Davidson Series
I was doing my darnedest to keep my own eyes off the body—dead people I could handle, dead bodies not so much—but a movement in my periphery had me zeroing in on that very thing.
“So, are you getting anything?” Uncle Bob asked—he still thinks I’m psychic—but I was too busy staring at the dead guy in the dead body to answer.
I inched over and nudged the body with my foot. “Dude, what are you still doing in there?”
The dead guy looked at me with wide eyes. “I can’t move my legs.”
I snorted. “You can’t move your arms either, or your feet or your freaking eyelids. You’re dead.”
“Jesus H.,” Garrett said through clenched teeth.
“Look.” I turned to face him head-on. “You play on your side of the sandbox, and I’ll play on mine. Comprende?”
“I’m not dead.”
I turned back. “Hon, you’re as dead as my great-aunt Lillian, and trust me, that woman is now in a perpetual state of decomposition.”
“No, I’m not. I’m not dead. Why isn’t anyone trying to revive me?”
“Um, because you’re dead?”
I heard Garrett mutter something under his breath, then stalk off. Nonbelievers were such drama queens.
Okay, fine, if I’m dead, how am I talking to you? And why are you so sparkly?”
“It’s a long story. Just trust me, mister, you’re dead.”
Just then, Sergeant Dwight walked up, all crisp and formal looking in his APD uniform and military buzz. “Ms. Davidson, did you just kick that dead body?”
“For heaven’s sake, I’m not dead!”
Sergeant Dwight tried his hand at a death stare. I tried not to giggle.
“I got this, Sergeant,” Uncle Bob said.
The sarge turned to him, and they eyed each other a full minute before he spoke. “Would you mind not contaminating my crime scene with your relatives?”
“Your crime scene?” Uncle Bob asked. A vein in his temple started pulsing.
I considered popping the rubber band at his wrist, but I still had doubts as to its efficacy. “Hey, Uncle Bob,” I said, patting his arm, “let’s go over here and talk, shall we?”
I turned and left without waiting, hoping Uncle Bob would follow. He did. We strolled past the spotlights to a tree and assumed innocuous conversational positions. I tossed a smile to Sergeant Dwight Yokel that leaned heavily toward smart-ass. I think he growled. Good thing I wasn’t into people-pleasing.
“Well?” Uncle Bob asked as Garrett reluctantly rejoined us.
“I don’t know. He won’t get out of his body.”
“He what?” Garrett raked a hand through his hair. “This is classic.”
I ignored him and watched as Sussman walked over to a third dead person on the scene, a striking woman with blond hair and a fire engine red skirt suit. She screamed femininity and power. I liked her instantly. Sussman shook her hand. Then they both turned to look at the only dead person present lying in a pool of his own blood.
“I think they know each other,” I said.
"Who?” Uncle Bob asked, glancing around as if he could see them.
“You got an ID on this guy?”
“Yeah.” He fished out his notebook, reminding me I needed to dash into Staples. All my little notebooks were filled to maximum capacity. As a result, I kept writing pertinent information on my hand, then accidentally washing it off. “Jason Barber. A lawyer at—”
“Sussman, Ellery, and Barber,” Sussman said in unison with Uncle Bob.
"You’re a lawyer?” I asked him.
“Sure am. And this is my partner, Elizabeth Ellery.”
"Hey, Elizabeth,” I said, reaching out to shake her hand. Garrett pinched the rim of his nose.
“Ms. Davidson, Patrick told me you can see us.”
“Long story. But first,” I said, heading off the barrage of questions, “let me get this straight: You are all three partners at the same law firm, and you all three died last night?”
“Who else died last night?” Uncle Bob asked, tearing through his notebook.
“We were all three murdered last night,” Sussman corrected. “All nine-millimeter double taps to the head.”
Elizabeth raised her perfectly arched brows at him. “Double taps?”
He smiled sheepishly and tried to kick the dirt at his feet. “I heard the cops talking.”
“I only got two homicides.”
I looked up at Uncle Bob. “You have only two homicides from last night? There were three.”
Garrett went still, probably wondering what I was up to, how I could know any such thing since I couldn’t possibly see dead people, so dead people couldn’t possibly tell me they were dead. It just wasn’t possible.
Uncle Bob studied his notebook. “We got a Patrick Sussman found outside his home in the Mountain Run area, and this guy, a Jason Barber.”
Okay, here with us now is Patrick Sussman … the Third,” I said, tossing Sussman a grin, “and Jason Barber. But he’s in denial right now.” I looked over as the coroner zipped the body bag.
“Help!” Barber yelled, squirming like a worm in a frying pan, “I can’t breathe!”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” I whispered loudly. “Would you just get up?”
“And?” Uncle Bob asked.
“Elizabeth Ellery was killed, too,” I said, hating to do it with her standing right there. It just felt awkward.
Garrett was now eyeing me with open hostility. Anger was a common emotion when faced with something impossible to believe. But quite honestly, fuck him.
"Elizabeth Ellery? We don’t have an Elizabeth Ellery.”
Elizabeth was studying Garrett. “This guy seems a little upset.”
I nodded my head. “He doesn’t believe I can see you guys. It’s upsetting him that I’m talking to you.”
“That’s too bad. He’s—” She inclined her head to study his backside. “—nice looking.”
I chuckled, and we did a discreet high five, making Garrett even more uncomfortable. “Do you know where your body is?” I asked her.
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Visit Darynda Jones for more information!