Blog Tour: Must Love Ghosts
Sept 7th - Sept 14th
Seducing the Rational Skeptic...
Abby Reed believes in folk songs, faery tales, and ghosts, but she doesn't believe in love. Things change, however, when her pen-pal-slash-best-friend, Mike Stone arrives in Banshee Creek after his last tour of duty in Afghanistan. When their Halloween Party encounter turns out-of-this-world steamy Abby starts having doubts about friendship, ghosts...and love.
“Well, I want you in my zombie apocalypse survival team.”
Mike Stone turned towards the throaty female voice. A tall girl with long magenta hair glanced at his military fatigues appreciatively. Her eyes were yellow, with slit pupils, like a cat’s.
He was standing on a cobblestone street surrounded by colonial buildings with brick façades and old-fashioned moldings. Baskets with chrysanthemum blooms hung from wrought iron lampposts and vintage signs adorned the quaint, if slightly run-down, shops. Banshee Creek, Virginia was the kind of town where the shop signs announced “Ye Olde Bake-Shoppe,” and “Merrie Colonial Pubbe.”
The magenta-haired girl in the black catsuit and sky-high heels looked decidedly incongruous. She blinked as the afternoon sun hit her on the face, and realization dawned. Contacts. She must be wearing contacts.
“That’s a very realistic costume,” she purred, her smile displaying plastic fangs. “Warm, too. I didn’t realize it got so cold here in October. Next year, I’ll put on a nice thick fur and come as a Siberian were-cat.”
“Um, thanks,” he replied. He didn’t know how to tell her that it wasn’t a costume. That he wasn’t an aspiring zombie survivalist, just an ordinary soldier on leave.
“Here.” She handed him an orange flyer. “You’re officially invited to the Banshee Creek Costume Party.”
He grabbed the flyer. It screeched “Party Tonight!” in an exaggerated Gothic font.
“The Guinness Book of World Records people will be there,” the cat girl explained, her feline eyes sparkling with excitement. “We’re trying to make it the biggest Halloween costume party in history so make sure you register.”
She winked at him, and turned to a spindly young man on stilts. He was wearing large grey wings and red-tinged goggles.
“Hey, Mothman,” she shouted. “Great costume. We’re really excited about the latest sighting.” She waved an orange flyer. “Do you know where to register for the party?”
They walked off, leaving Mike behind. He looked at the throngs of people lining Main Street. He counted three Elves, eleven princesses, and a platoon of naughty nurses.
He’d forgotten it was Halloween.
More to the point, he’d forgotten it was Halloween in Banshee Creek, Virginia. The Fall Equinox was no laughing matter in the Most Haunted Town in the U.S.A.
Well, that accolade wasn’t official yet. But his Army buddy, Cole Hunt, had been certain that his hometown would win the coveted title. Cole and his friends had been diligently documenting the local hauntings so as to convince the powers-that-be that their town could be the premier paranormal destination in the United States.
And Mike had heard all about their plans. Cole had stayed in touch with his Banshee Creek buddies all through their two-year deployment to Afghanistan. He’d supervised the investigations from afar and edited the documentaries in his free time. As a result, Mike had sat through endless hours of night-vision footage and had spent many days listening to static trying to discern what Cole described as “electronic voice phenomena.”
Oh, yes. His friend had a plan. Cole intended to come back to Banshee Creek, marry his fiancée and turn the town into the ghost capital of the United States.
But Cole didn’t get to come back.
He died in Afghanistan, and Mike, who had no plans, no family, and no home, survived.
The irony was inescapable. The guy with no future made it out alive, but the one with the plan, the one with the loving family, the one with the devoted girlfriend.
That guy didn’t make it back home.
Mike hoisted his duffle bag, avoided a laughing foursome dressed in Star Trek uniforms, and walked up the cobblestone street. He didn’t have a life plan like Cole, but right now he was a man on a mission, a mission to find 12 Hooded Owl Road, Banshee Creek, Virginia.
He looked down Main Street, assessing the town he’d heard so much about. Banshee Creek was laid out like a typical small Virginia village, with one main road lined with shops and Colonial row houses. An auto repair shop with a neon 1950’s sign that read “Virginia Vintage Motors” sat on a corner. The shop’s small parking lot was full of restored cars and a couple of kids in ghost costumes were taking pictures around a black 1967 Impala. The car was nice, but Mike’s eyes kept drifting towards a late-model Jeep Wrangler with an elegant black paint job. Sure, it didn’t qualify as “antique” or even “vintage,” but it looked cool and the price was very affordable.
Which was probably due to the stagnant local economy. Most of the stores had “for sale” or “for rent” signs. Sheets of plywood covered the windows of the local bookstore. A small movie theater held pride of place in the center of town, but its marquee was broken and the last movie featured seemed to be Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Yet there were a few signs of life. A real estate sign in front of a dilapidated mansion with the sloping roof of a stereotypical haunted house had a sold sticker. The row houses had small gardens in front, many of them covered with weeds, but an enterprising soul had put out planters with purple and orange flowers in an attempt to spruce up the sidewalk.
And the town still attracted visitors, in spite of its ramshackle state. The streets were full of costumed partygoers and a couple of businesses, including a pizzeria and a bakery, were busy with customers. The crisp fall air carried the scent of apples and cinnamon and he experienced a sudden craving for cider. The hardware store had a table in front filled with Halloween paraphernalia and the glowing red goggles worn by the—what was the name, again?—Mothman, that’s it. The Mothman goggles seemed to be quite popular. A bunch of kids in black capes were trying them on and taking pictures.
Back in Afghanistan, Cole’s plan to paranormalize his hometown sounded silly and far-fetched. But here in Banshee Creek it was starting to make sense.
“Looking for a house?”
He turned and a teenage boy in jeans and a yellow t-shirt with a large letter X handed him a piece of paper. Curiosity piqued, Mike took it, carefully avoiding the kid’s metal claws.
It was a homemade map, made by someone with a talent for drawing and an excessive fondness for horror movie fonts. The title was “Banshee Creek’s Haunted Houses” and there was something very familiar about the style of the illustrations.
He identified Main Street and the Second Empire house, but what was that strange dark line that crisscrossed the town? A river? Railroad tracks? He squinted at the complicated script, making out the words “geomagnetic fault.” Upon closer inspection he realized that several of the buildings were marked with cartoon ghost symbols. He turned the paper to read the map legend, which described the various ghosts and other critters that supposedly infested the town. One of them identified as a brownie, but wasn’t