I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries, Vol. 1 of the Brianna Sullivan Mystery series by Evelyn David, contains two novella length stories - the title story, I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries and Buried But Not Dead in Lottawatah. The following is an excerpt from the first story.
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries
Just say "no," especially to ghosts.
Sometimes the voice in my head is mine, sometimes it's not. Today it's not.
There he goes again.
"Trust everybody, but cut the cards. Trust is a two-lane street and you're on a one-way path. Love all, trust a few."
"Shakespeare?" I took my eyes off the road long enough to glance around the cab of my motor home. So far my guest was just a voice. "Shakespeare. Who was the first one from? Kenny Rogers? And I think you just made up the second one."
"So that's all I get? Some quotes about trust?" That's my lesson for today from beyond? The old geezer doesn't have to tell me about trust. I try not to trust anyone who is still inhaling oxygen on a regular basis. Of course, ghosts aren't saints either. They generally don't lie outright; just stretch the truth to suit their purposes.
Who was my messenger today? And who didn't he want me to trust?
It was late and I was tired. The lights from a diner flickered in the distance. "Good EATS…World Famous Apple P…rust Me."
It took me a second to realize that some important lights in the sign had burned out. It took me another second to wonder if I was getting another message. Regardless, I needed a break.
I slowed down and pulled into the parking lot. Plenty of potholes and ruts and an old flagpole flying a tattered flag. It was Fourth of July weekend and I was happy to find anyplace open. Judging from the empty lot, it didn't look like many people shared the owner's belief in the tasty delights he was offering.
That was okay. Gave me more room to park Matilda, my 30-foot mobile home. I know. No need to name your mode of transportation, but I like to personalize things. I call my television, Burt; my cell phone, Juliet. Yeah, quirky is my middle name.
After I got sick a few years ago, I quit my job with the airlines. Let me tell you, those last few months, no one, and I mean no one, was better at finding lost luggage. My supervisor actually cried when I left. Cried. Big rolling tears and everything. Didn't matter though. I'd made up my mind to travel and use my new skills to benefit more than the roaming public. A permanent vacation. But one that involved keeping both feet on the ground, or rather pavement.
I packed my bags, sold my house, cashed in some stock I'd inherited, and bought this home on wheels. Am I rambling again? Probably just hunger.
The diner hadn't had any glory days, even in its glory days. The linoleum was butt ugly when it was first installed, maybe 30 years earlier. Flecks of brown on a tan background. Maybe the idea was to hide the dirt…it wasn't working. I slid onto the cracked red vinyl stool at the Formica counter and looked expectantly at the guy with a stained t-shirt, standing behind the counter.
I ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and a piece of their world famous pie, then surreptitiously rubbed the grease from the menu on my jeans. I briefly wondered if they sold wine, but decided that a healthy glass of Maalox would be the perfect beverage to accompany my dinner.
Scooting across a couple of stools, I grabbed some copies of the local newspaper, which were stacked next to a Lions Club recycling box for used eyeglasses. It had been a long time since I'd seen one of those. There was a Kiwanis banner hanging on the wall. I'd also noticed a March of Dimes jar near the cash register when I'd entered. Small towns were notoriously big on civic groups and charities and writing about who was doing the most good works.
I loved reading these weekly journals. Fresh, honest journalism about the things that really matter to people. Reading the local papers was the quickest way I'd found to get to know the people in the communities I was traveling through, up close and personal. I mean if I just wanted to see things from a distance I would be flying my way across country, if I didn't hate to fly, which I do. If God had wanted me to fly with the birds he would have pasted a few feathers on my ass.
Traveling in Matilda lets me stop where I want whenever anything of interest strikes my fancy. And Lottawatah, population 1,452 according to the sign I passed a half mile back, was a hotbed of…drive-by mailbox graffiti, if the lead editorial in last week's newspaper was any indication. In a strongly-worded statement, the editors decried the lack of respect being shown the postal service by defacing the mailboxes. Damn straight. There was also a full listing of the holiday activities planned for Sunday, which was actually Independence Day.
I glanced at the headlines just as the counter guy flung my dinner down in front of me. The cheeseburger actually bounced a little, not a bad way to drain off some of the grease. I patted the rest off with my napkin.
"Blood, Body, But No Booty Found." I liked this editor. He had a righteous sense of indignation about mailboxes and a good sense of the dramatic about what I gather was the town's first bank robbery. I dipped my fries into the mountain of ketchup I'd squirted on my plate. Ketchup can fix just about any dish.
The crack police department of Lottawatah had already solved the murder case, although it appeared that the bank's $200,000 was still missing. They'd arrested Dwight McIntyre, 24, son of the President of the Lottawatah Farmers Savings and Trust, Frank, and grandson of the bank's founder, the late Victor McIntyre. A photo spread of the three men at a charity golf outing was splashed across the bottom half of the front page.
Savings and Trust. Damn. The photo told me more than I wanted to know. I threw some money down on the counter and headed for Matilda. It was time to get the hell out of Dodge, or rather, Lottawatah. I didn't know Dwight or his dad, but I sure knew Victor. He of fortune cookie wisdom. I needed to get out of that town before my heartburn kicked into high gear or Victor had any more advice.
I backed Matilda out of the parking lot and headed down the highway. I fiddled with the radio until I found a classic rock station. A little sweet baby James Taylor always soothed my nerves.
"Golf is a game where the ball always lies poorly and the player always lies well."
"Get out." I knew it was stupid to tell a ghost to get out because they're pretty much out already. But I was tired of listening to Victor and his cryptic comments. And I hated golf.
"The uglier a man's legs are, the better he plays golf–it's almost a law."
"Okay, that can't have anything to do with your grandson and the murder, right? Now you're just trying to annoy me."
"He didn't do it." The voice of doom echoed off the insides of Matilda.
He was trying to intimidate me with the Charlton Heston act. He'd have done better with a telemarketer spiel. I have the hardest time hanging up on them. Just doesn't seem polite.
"Are you listening to me? HE DIDN'T DO IT!"
"Dial it down a notch, will ya? Why should I believe you?"
Good question, because I did believe him. I wondered if I would have believed him if he sounded like Daffy Duck. Yeah, it was the voice that closed the deal. Like Moses coming down from the mountain.
"Okay, but I'm going to need a little information." I figured it was time for Victor to be practical. If he wanted to help his grandson, he was going to have to give me something to work with.
"Tell the police not to trust the big cat."
"Cat? Sure, that'll go over well. Nothing like a psychic talking to the police about cats."
I could barely hear him.
A cold wind came rushing through the cab of the motor home.
"Wait! Victor! Damn. What do you expect me to do with that?"
"Okay! Just be that way. See if I care. It's your grandson."
I was at the edge of Lottawatah. A peeling sign bade me farewell. I could just keep moving down the highway and nobody would know any different. If Dwight McIntyre was innocent the police would figure it out–without any help from me. The traffic light turned red, then green, but still I didn't move. Nobody would believe me. I'd get laughed out of the police station.
I let out the clutch and started forward, then braked. The photo from the front page of the newspaper was stuck to Matilida's dash, with …. I looked closer. Some kind of…Blackberries. It was blackberries from my untouched pie–or at least untouched by me.
Lucky nobody else was on the road. Otherwise those 180-degree maneuvers get tricky. I headed back into town. I'd pass on the info about the big cat, then leave. I'd give Victor that much. He'd saved me from at least 300 calories.
I rubbed my forehead. It was late and I was tired. The chair seat was like a rock and my thirty-five-year old tailbone was protesting the abuse. I glanced at my watch. Almost two hours since I'd walked into the police station. Most of that time I'd been sitting on this torture device. It was my own fault though–I've never been able to say no to a ghost.
Okay, that's a lie. I have said no to several whose idea of a good time was scaring the you-know-what out of some of their relatives–a high-spirited sort of revenge from beyond the grave thing. I'm smiling. Yes, I know you can't see me.
By the way, I'm five ten, long blonde hair, and I have a model's figure.
Okay. Some of that's not true.
Maybe most of that's not true. But that's how I see myself and that's the important part. It's all in your attitude. And hey, I do have blonde streaks in my hair. I put them there myself.
Like I said, or maybe like I intended to say since I'm aware that I have a tendency to ramble, I've never said no to someone who needed my help, not if they stuck around long enough to hear my answer.
Are you still there? Of course you are. I've also been told I'm fascinating. Maybe not as often as I've been called irritating, but I prefer to dwell on the positive. I have certain abilities that are in great demand by people in transit–the ones who got off the outbound bus because they have unfinished business and those stubborn ones who never intend to purchase a ticket.
By the way, I'm Brianna Sullivan and I'm a psychic. And this chair is a pain in the butt.
For More - check out the Brianna Sullivan Mysteries e-book series.Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
***New - Lottawatah Twister - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake- Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books- Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords