Author: Jennifer B. Fields
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 1
Buy at: Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble
For Connie Boyle, a job at the Hayfork, Kansas library was just an excuse to get away from her abusive husband. But when she learns that she’s the only one who can hear the not-so-dead specter haunting her workplace, she vows to find out what happened to the ghostly teenage Wallflower.
Working in secret, Connie and Wallflower find strength in their unorthodox friendship as they track down leads to Wallflower’s identity. But the answer is closer than they realize when Connie inadvertently uncovers the bloody wake of a serial killer. Allies become suspects and suspects become allies as everyone in sleepy Hayfork has murderous potential.
Connie sat and pulled out a neighboring chair for her friend. "Have a seat. This is the most private place I could find. I hope it's alright."
"It's fine, Connie. Thank you."
The chair groaned with the girl's weight and Connie stared at the seemingly empty seat. "I'm sorry," she said with a nervous swallow. "I'm still not used to an actual person being there when I can't see them."
"I understand," the girl said. The sound of fabric shifting against the chair spelled out her apparent uneasiness as well.
Straightening her posture, Connie forced a smile to her face. "Well now, let's not be sad. It's going to take some getting used to for both of us. That's all. Keep your spirits up." Immediately she winced at the poor choice of words, but the girl didn't comment. Connie poised the pen to the pad of paper like an eager reporter. "Okay, tell me what you know about yourself."
"Well, there's more I don't know. Like, I don't know my name, or where I live. I don't know what happened to me, or how old I am. Although, by looking at myself, I'd say I'm between sixteen and twenty." Connie nodded deeply as she scribbled on her notebook. "Okay. Okay. That's a start. What makes you think that?"
"Well, I can't see myself in a mirror, but the look of my hands and arms says I'm really young. Plus, I've compared myself to other people that have come to the library, and I've caught myself saying things only a kid would say, like 'dude' and I called someone a dork the other day. I didn't think I knew what that word meant until it came out of my mouth. If that even means anything." There was an empty hopelessness in the girl's tone.
Connie dropped the pad in her lap and looked at the empty chair beside her, guessing where the girl's face would be. "It does mean something. Every little bit will help. Listen, don't give up hope. I'm going to do everything I can to help you, okay? I promise."
She was frightened, but only for a moment, when the girl placed an invisible hand on her knee.
"Thank you, Connie. That makes me feel a lot better."
Connie smiled and raised the pad again. "Alright then. What else can you tell me?"
With the help of Connie's leading questions, the girl relayed as much as she could, but the hour ticked away quickly. When their time was up, they hadn't even touched the microfiche machine.
No one had come anywhere near them in the entire hour they spent in their little corner. As Connie prepared to get back to work, she thought back on how quiet and withdrawn the ghostly girl had been since they had met. She was nothing like the brazen spook that had nearly shut down the library.
"I thought you were a much more outspoken girl when we met, maybe even dangerous," Connie said. "But now I've got to ask: Are you always this shy?"
"I guess," the girl replied after a moment. "Of course, I don't know what I was like when I was alive or whatever, but sometimes I feel like everyone can see me, like they're staring at me as if I was naked or something. That's why I like hiding in the basement. Plus, I get to read the books down there. Whoever I was in my life, I liked books and libraries."
Connie leaned her elbows on her knees, almost able to picture the distraught girl before her. "When I was a little girl, my mother used to call me her little wallflower because I would always try to blend into the wallpaper when we had guests or parties. I was very quiet and shy. I didn't like to talk much. My sister was the blabbermouth extrovert, not me." She raised up and leaned on her hands, tilting her head a slightly. "You remind me a lot of myself at your age. As a matter of fact, I think that's a good name for you. Would you mind if I called you Wallflower? Just until we find out who you really are, of course." She heard a single laugh coming from the empty chair.
"Wallflower. I'd like that."
Connie grinned and held out her hand to shake. "It's nice to meet you, Wallflower. My name is Connie."
A warm form gently closed around her hand and slowly shook up and down in greeting. "It's nice to meet you, Connie. Very nice indeed."
Not afraid anymore, Connie placed her other hand over top of Wallflower's and gave it a gentle squeeze. "I'm glad we're friends," Connie said.
"Me too," Wallflower replied, placing her other hand over Connie's, forming a seen and unseen sandwich.
Connie grinned, finding comfort where there had been fear. "Friends in truth?" she asked.
"Friends in truth," Wallflower agreed. Reminiscent of a childhood oath or clubhouse pact, they shook all four of their hands in an unlikely bond of sisterhood.