The Ghost Files
by Apryl Baker
Published: August 13, 2013 by Limitless Publishing
Cherry blossom lipstick: check
Smokey eyes: check
Skinny jeans: check
Dead kid in the mirror: check
For sixteen year old Mattie Hathaway, this is her normal everyday routine. She’s been able to see ghosts since her mother tried to murder her when she was five years old. No way does she want anyone to know she can talk to spooks. Being a foster kid is hard enough without being labeled a freak too.
Normally, she just ignores the ghosts and they go away. That is until she see’s the ghost of her foster sister… Sally.
Everyone thinks Sally’s just another runaway, but Mattie knows the truth—she’s dead. Murdered. Mattie feels like she has to help Sally, but she can’t do it alone. Against her better judgment, she teams up with a young policeman, Officer Dan, and together they set out to discover the real truth behind Sally’s disappearance.
Only to find out she’s dealing with a much bigger problem, a serial killer, and she may be the next victim…
Will Mattie be able to find out the truth before the killer finds her? To find out more, click the button below:
A sneak peak at Volume II of The Ghost Files:
(This is longer than what I usually post, but it is SOOO GOOOOD I couldn’t cut it!!!)
“Go away,” I hiss and try to ignore the elderly lady staring at me. Her eyes are so clouded with cataracts, it’s hard to determine their color. Iron gray hair hangs in stringy waves down her back. The ratty old nightgown she’s wearing has stains on it. Her lips thin at my whispered command.
“Mattie Hathaway, did you turn the air conditioner down again?”
I wince at the anger in Joan’s voice. She is determined to keep the power bill at or below fifty bucks a month, which means we suffocate in the Charlotte heat. The ghost opens her mouth again and I glare her into silence. Every freaking time one of them shows up and the temperature takes a nose dive, I get blamed for turning down the thermostat. Ghosts are good for nothing except causing me trouble.
It’s not like I can come out and tell her it’s not my fault, it’s the ghost. She’d ship me off to the loony bin so fast, my head would spin. I don’t go around confessing I’ve been able to see the little buggers since my mom tried to kill me when I was five.
“Why the hell is it so cold in here?” Joan demands, coming into what she calls the living room, but is more like a corner of a box.
The tiny, cramped apartment looks clean on the surface. The walls hold no decorations and the furniture is plain and utilitarian. The gray carpet has a few spots, but otherwise is clean, but that’s only because I clean it. Busted up hands or not, she makes me work.
Joan Myers, my latest foster mother, does not impress me. She’s in her mid-forties, twenty pounds overweight, and her bottle blonde hair is messy. Her face has a permanent frown on it. As bad as she looks, Joan can’t be worse than the foster mother who turned out to be a serial killer and tried to kill me.
Joan’s voice is high and nasally like she’s on the powder train. I so hope she’s not a hidden junkie. I won’t deal with that ever again. My mom was a heroin addict and I know what that does to a person. I refuse to put up with it ever again. Although most junkies are paper thin, Joan here isn’t afraid to over indulge, so maybe I’m wrong. I haven’t actually found any drugs…yet. I’ve only been here for two weeks.
“Don’t know,” I shrug and flip the page in Star Magazine. Seems Kim Kardashian is trying to use her kid for even more press coverage. North? Really? Why would she name the poor kid that? I shake my head in disgust. Celebrities.
Joan stalks over to the thermostat and lets out a string of curse words. I’m pretty sure the thermostat is still set on eighty. She starts mumbling about broken things and hauls up the phone to call the building’s super. I feel sorry for the poor man. Joan can be a pain in the rears when she wants to be.
My ghost seems to take an offense to me ignoring her and gets right up in my face. I cringe back. I hate it when they touch me. The cold they bring with them hurts, but more than that I can feel what they are feeling. This old lady is desperate for her son to know she forgives him for what he did to her. Judging by the cigarette burn scars on her arms, I’m not so sure she should be forgiving him.
“Not now,” I whisper and glance at Joan who is still arguing with the super.
“Please,” she wails. “He needs to know that I love him and I forgive him.”
Since I started talking to the spooks a few months ago, they all seem to think I’m their personal messenger. Uh, no. I tried ignoring them again, like I used to, but it’s useless. They know I can see them now. Ghosts are the worst gossips I’ve ever seen.
“If you freaking don’t leave me alone right now, I will contact your son and tell him you despise him and will never forgive him,” I tell her. Not that I will mind you, but sometimes being mean is the only way to get them to leave me alone.
She stares at me in horror and then pops out. There one minute, gone the next. The room starts to warm up the instant she’s gone. Joan stops talking, aware of the change in temperature as well. I pretend to be engrossed in my magazine, but peek at her. She’s frowning at me. I’m pretty sure she knows something is going on, and it’s my fault, but she’s just not sure what it is.
My stomach growls, but it’s not time for dinner. Joan told me my first day here, I was allowed breakfast and dinner. Anything else was off limits. Food’s expensive, she’d said. Evil, selfish woman. How much can it cost for a pack of bologna and a loaf of bread? It’s not like she’s starving herself either. She stuffs her face all day.
I abandon my magazine and head into the hole that serves as my room. Better there than here staring longingly at the fridge. My room is tiny, barely a closet and empty. There’s a bed, a nightstand, and a dresser. That’s it. My discarded sketchpad and pencils decorate the top of the dresser. I haven’t been able to draw since Mrs. Olson destroyed my hands.
My hands shake slightly as I try to stop myself from thinking of Mrs. Olson. She’d been my foster mother, one of the ones I’d truly liked. She made us all think she cared about us and in her sick way, maybe she did. Problem was she had split personalities and one of them was a serial killer. She’d killed my foster sister, Sally, and when I was close to discovering the truth, she’d taken me, held me captive, and tortured me.
Sighing I open my laptop, the one thing Joan couldn’t take from me. I secretly charged the battery up at night under my bed. Thankfully there’s an outlet behind the headboard. She warned me not to waste electricity on something I could very well go to the library and use. Selfish cow. Not that I have internet, she won’t pay for it.
Yes! Three unsecured networks are available. I love people who don’t know that they need to set up secure networks. I giggle like a blonde flirting with a jock. Rolling my eyes at the image, I piggyback one of the connections so I can at least check my email.
There’s one from my best friend, Meg. She’s got some week long super-secret event planned for my birthday. Joan was not being very cooperative about it so Meg, being Meg, had her dad, the mayor, call Joan. Not that I am looking forward to it exactly, but at this point, I’m going stir crazy. School was out for the summer and I have nowhere to go except the library and I stay as far away from there as I can. Too many ghosts. It makes my head hurt when they all bombard me.
I frown as I read her email. She’s being very cryptic which makes me nervous. What is she up to and why do I need to pack boots? She knows I don’t do outdoors. If she thinks she dragging me hiking or camping…
What does the old hag want now?
I close my laptop and trudge back into the living room where I stop dead for all of 2.5 seconds then I launch myself at the guy studying Joan with calculating eyes. I can’t believe it. It’s Officer Dan.
He catches me easily and laughs at me. His warm brown eyes are full of warmth. They always thaw out some of the ice that lives inside me. I have never understood the weird relationship Dan Richards and I share, but I value it more than anything else in the world. He’d believed me when no one else would about Sally and helped me to solve her murder. Not only that, but he’d saved my life when she’d captured me.
“Happy birthday, Squirt,” he grins at my scrunched up face at the nickname he’d given me. He knows I hate it, but then he’s not fond of his nickname either.
“It’s not my birthday until tomorrow, Officer Dan,” I tell him sassily, but refuse to let him go. I missed him so much. He’s been away at Quantico training with the FBI. After all the work he did to bring down a serial killer – Mrs. Olson – he’s gotten a lot of attention at the Charlotte PD. He’s not supposed to be back for another two weeks though. “What are you doing here?”
“Nancy called me.”
Uh oh. If Nancy called him, it’s serious. She’s been very quiet recently, urging me to be on my best behavior, but I just haven’t felt like being anything but me.
“Mattie, are you going to introduce your…friend?”
I cringed at Joan’s tone of voice. Leave it to her to jump to all wrong conclusions. “Joan, this is Officer Dan Richards from the Charlotte Police Department. Dan, this is my latest foster mother, Joan Myers.”
We both notice the alarm that crosses Joan’s face. Well, fudgepops, maybe she is on the crack train. I so don’t need that. Dan frowns at her and she quickly excuses herself.
“Okay, Mattie, what’s going on?” he asks me, his eyes troubled.
“Nothing’s going on,” I deny. What did Nancy tell him?
“Care to tell me why you screamed at a five year old little boy?” I close my eyes briefly and then sit on the stained up couch. I can’t believe she told him about that. Mark had asked me to color with him and I’d gotten frustrated when he’d laughed because I couldn’t stay inside the lines. My anger had bubbled over and I’d taken it out on him. Not my finest moment. I’d apologized to the kid, but apparently our foster parents refused to have a “violent” child in the home. It actually wasn’t a bad place. They seemed to be nice folks. That one was all on me. Since getting out of the hospital, I’ve taken my anger out on a lot people who didn’t deserve it. I know that, I just can’t seem to help it.
In all honesty, the last three homes I’d been placed in had been really, really good ones, but I just can’t seem to stem the bitterness spewing out of my mouth these days. I’d wrecked my own chances at a good foster home not once, not twice, but three times in the last two months.
Dan sits down and takes my hands into his. They surround my smaller ones and I marvel at how tiny they look compared to his. His turns them over and examines the tiny scars left over from the string of surgeries I’d had to undergo to correct the damage Mrs. Olson had inflicted. She’d smashed them both with a sledgehammer while I was tied down, unable to move. Just thinking about it gives me the willies.
NO. I am stronger than her. She will not beat me. It’s a mantra I whisper over and over every time I wake up screaming. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a tough cookie, had to be growing up in the foster care system, but being tortured is something even I can’t shake off. It haunts me.
Dan, however, brings out the vulnerable side in me. I hate him for it some days, bless him for it others. He makes me feel safe enough to be vulnerable.
“Well?” he prompts when I don’t answer.
“Look, it’s not a big deal. I apologized.”
“Yeah, Mattie, it kinda is a big deal,” he refutes softly. “Nancy said if you get kicked out of one more home the only place she has left to place you is a group home.”
“What?” A group home? My gut twists at the thought. The only group home I’d ever been in was Hartford House. They’d closed it down shortly after I arrived. It was also the place Mrs. Olson had staged her torture room. Group homes have an entirely different meaning for me now. I can’t go to a group home. I won’t. I’ll run away before that happens.
“Squirt, I know you’re angry about everything…”
“Angry?” I laugh harshly and hold my damaged hands up to him. “I can’t even hold a crayon and color inside the lines, Dan. Angry is not the right word.”
He sighs and I glare at him, daring him to say anything. He knows what I’ve gone through. Dan is the only person I told everything to.
“Look, Squirt. There’s not a lot that Nancy can do if you get kicked out of here. Will you promise me to try to behave and curb your temper?”
I know he’s worried. I see it in his eyes and can sense the frustration in him when he runs his fingers through his short cropped brown hair. He’d even tried to get his parents to take me in as a foster kid, but his mom didn’t want to deal with an “emotionally scarred, potentially violent girl.” I don’t think his mom has ever been fond of me, but I don’t really know why. I’m always on my best behavior around her and I’m polite, but she’s never really very friendly. His dad is a different story. He adores me, smart mouth and all. I think if it had been up to him, I’d be sitting in the Richards living room right now instead of this cess pool.
“I promise to try not to be too lippy,” I agree reluctantly.
He rolls his eyes and I laugh. “I think it’s the best I’m going to get from you isn’t it?”
“Sure is,” I grin. “So you came all the way from Langley to talk to me about my bad behavior?”
“And to give you your birthday present.”
Present? I perk up.
Standing up, he goes over to the door and picks up a box on the table I hadn’t noticed earlier. It’s small, but is wrapped in garish pink and silver with little happy birthday logos all over it. I raise my eyebrows. Dan knows I’m not a pink girl.
He shrugs and hands it over. The crooked paper is a sure sign he wrapped it himself. I smile. I figured he’d have had the sales girl do it for him. Not to be one to sit and admire his lopsided wrapping, I tear it open and nearly squeal like a girl. It’s a phone, not just any phone either, but the one I wanted. The Samsung Galaxy S4. OH. MY. GOD. He did not!
Then my momentary euphoria dies. I can’t afford the service on it. The hag keeps all the money for herself and won’t let me have a phone. Why spend money on a cell phone when I can use the perfectly good phone in the living room? Evil bat.
“Dan, thank you so much, but…”
“No buts, Squirt. You need a phone with as much trouble as you get yourself into. When you told me one of your foster dads “accidentally” lost yours, I figured I’d get you a good one.”
“You don’t understand,” I say, frustrated. “I can’t afford the service.”
He gives me the patented Officer Dan grin. “It’s covered, don’t worry about it, Squirt.”
“Uh, no, it’s not,” I tell him. “You can barely afford your rent let alone two cell phone bills.”
“I got a raise, Mattie. Don’t argue about your birthday gift. It’s not nice.”
“I’m not a nice person or did you forget that, Officer Dan?” I ask sarcastically.
He shook his head and I could see his own brown eyes darken with anger. “Mattie, the last time you didn’t have a phone, you got kidnapped and tortured.”
The old boy has a point there.
“And since you won’t promise me not to go running off after a ghost again—with no backup—you’re keeping the phone!”
We glare at each other, neither willing to lose the staring contest. He was such a dork sometimes.
“I hate owing people, Dan,” I finally say. “You know that.”
“It has a built in wifi connection,” he wheedles. “You can have internet for the laptop anywhere you go with wifi.”
“And I do have backup,” I tell him. I have Eric. Eric, or Mirror Boy, as I called him sometimes, had been the first of Mrs. Olson’s victims and he’d done everything he could to keep me from danger, down to accidentally hurting me. He stuck around to keep me out of trouble or so he says. I think he just likes to peek at me in the shower even if he denies it.
“A ghost does not constitute backup, Mattie,” he argues, “especially if no one can see or hear him but you.”
“Are you really gonna sit here and argue with me on my birthday?”’
“It’s not your birthday yet.”
It’s my turn to sigh. “I’ll keep the danged phone already!”
“Good,” he snaps.
“Fine,” I growl.
“I swear you are worse than two year olds arguing over a toy,” Mr. Richards laughs when he walks in. I hadn’t noticed Dan left the front door open. We’d been arguing so loudly, neither of us heard him come in. Mr. Richards doesn’t look a thing like Dan, but then neither does his mother. They’d adopted him when he was just a baby. Mr. Richards is tall, stately, and his blue eyes twinkle with laughter.
We both turn baleful eyes on him. We are NOT children, despite the fact that we are arguing like them. He laughs out loud at our murderous expressions.
“Go get your things, Mattie,” he chuckles. “We’re going out to dinner to celebrate your birthday.”
My stomach growls noisily at the very mention of food and they both give me frowns of concern. I jump up and head for my room. I am not turning down free food!
I open the door to my room and run straight for my purse lying on the bed. Before I can turn around, the room starts to freeze up. I do not have time for this. I’m hungry dang it. I turn around to yell at the ghost and stop, the words dying on my lips.
It stares at me from the barren corner across the room. The entire area around it is shrouded in black, making the pale face staring at me even more stark. Long straggly black hair flows around shoulders hunched in, like its preparing to attack. I take an involuntary step back at the rage and hate emanating from it.
When it looks at me I want to run. Its eyes are pools of liquid darkness, a black so deep it scares me. The thing’s mouth opens and black liquid begins to trickle out, running steadily to pool at its feet before starting to slowly leach towards me. I jump on the bed, my eyes never leaving the thing standing across from me.
Its head jerks in a motion that reminds me of those crazy people you see on TV that are mad and constantly twitch. The fingers are curled, like claws and they clench repeatedly. It simply stares at me and I want to scream at it, to demand it leave me alone, but my voice fails me. There are very few things in this world that can scare me and standing across from me is the thing that just made the top of the list.
With a twisted jerk of its entire body, it starts to shuffle forward. I inch back, intending to jump off the bed, but before I can so much as move, its standing in front of me, the stench coming from it making me gag.
It touches me.