Saturday, September 12, 2009


Here it is!! The short story where THE SEER's Sabine Rose meets DEAD GIRL Amber Borden. Eventually I'll delete this and move the entire story over to my site. Enjoy! I wrote this just for fans!!!
(PS -- This format wouldn't let me indent properly)

For readers who want more of THE SEER & DEAD GIRL series
By Linda Joy Singleton

“Party of two: top deck,” Dominic says with a seductive tip of his pirate hat.
I lean against a rail on the Delta Diva, staring down at the silvery moon reflecting off the Sacramento River. “It’s so beautiful and peaceful. I could stay here forever.”
Dominic nods. A guy of few words, Dominic’s deep gaze says so much and promises more. We’ve been through a lot together--danger, grief and ghosts--to reach this moment. And he looks wicked sexy in the pirate costume I convinced him to wear: black buccaneer jacket over a long-sleeved silky shirt and a gleaming cutlass tucked in his wide black belt. With the bad stuff behind us, everything is perfect.
“We have to get back to the party,” I remind him.
“Sure about that?”
When he grins at me like this, teasing yet sincere, my heart goes a little crazy. I’m tempted to skip the party. But I can’t let my best friend Penny-Love and the other cheerleaders down. They spent weeks planning the Pirate Booty Bash fundraiser, and as the unofficial mascot for the squad, they count on my support.
So I stay strong and point to the exit door. My plastic sword, tucked at my side, tap-taps on the wall as I walk down the narrow stairwell. As I reach for the door, I hear shouts and screams.
Dominic and I rush into the room. Party-goers are frozen in horror, staring at a spiked-haired guy, probably in his thirties, his muscular arm pinning my friend Jill to his chest, a knife pressed to her throat.
“Jill!” I cry, starting for my sword until I remember it’s only plastic. I’m a trained fencer and wish so much my sword was real.
“Stay back!” Spiked-Hair warns the crowd, his expression dark and dangerous. “Anyone moves---she’s dead.”
No one moves, but beside me Dominic tenses.
“Tell me how to find Vance!” Spiked-Hair growls at Jill. His aura, glowing gray bleeding with dark hues, sizzles with menace.
“I don’t know! I already told you that!” Tears stream down Jill’s face and onto the lace collar of her sexy pirate maiden costume.
“You were at his house today!”
“No, I wasn’t! I’ve been working on this party all day! I don’t know anyone named Vance!” Sobbing, Jill looks around the room desperately. Do something! her gaze begs. But the crowd is too shock-still to move.
The only thing I can think to do is send a mental SOS to my spirit guide but before I can close my eyes, Dominic lunges forward. Flying through the air, he tackles Spiked Hair. He kicks at the knife which sails so high it splashes down in a punch bowl. Dominic shouts for Jill to get away.
My boyfriend holds his own, landing a gut punch. Spiked Hair groans but recovers fast, hooking back a leg and tripping Dominic. Both guys tumble around, arms flying, grunting and shouting. When they stop, Spiked Hair grips Dominic in a vicious choke hold.
Someone screams, “Help him!” and I realize it’s me.
Some of the school jocks rush forward. Only before they reach Dominic, there’s a blinding silver-white light flash and a wave of energy rocks the room like an explosion. Dizzy, I stumble back, my knees buckle. When my vision clears, others are rubbing their eyes, staggering in confusion. Penny-Love has comforting arms around Jill and other cheerleaders begin to crowd around them. But I don’t see Jill’s attacker or Dominic.
A door bangs.
Swiveling around, I glimpse Dominic disappearing through a back door. I hurry after him. I call his name but he keeps running. Finally he stops at the main deck, scowling at the spiked-hair figure running down the gang plank.
“He’s getting away!” I grasp Dominic’s arm. “Come on! We can still catch him!”
“He’s not important.” Dominic shrugs.
“How can you say that? He nearly killed Jill! Hurry!”
But Dominic doesn’t move. Instead he murmurs something about his “truck” then reaches into his pocket, pulling out car keys and his wallet. He flips through the wallet, his lips curving in an odd smile.
I stare at him, puzzled. “Are you all right?”
Dominic studies his arms with a thoughtful expression as if checking for cuts and bruises. “I’m better than all right.”
Then he starts down the gang plank.
“Wait! Dominic!” I catch up with him, grabbing his arm. “I’m going with you.”
He shakes me off. “Go party with your friends.”
“You’re the only friend I want to be with.” I point to his hands which shimmer with a bruised shade of gray. “You are hurt!”
“Back off! I told you I was okay.”
“But I want to help.”
“I don’t want your help.” He shoves me away, scowling. “Get lost.”
“Dominic!” Tears sting my eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“Shut up! I’ve got to find him and you’re wasting my time! Leave me alone!” Glaring, he stomps off to the parking lot.
Stunned, I watch him click a remote. Red lights flash on his red truck then he climbs inside and drives away.
I can’t believe it.
He’s gone.
* * *
My friend and school newspaper editor, Manny DeVries, drives me home since my boyfriend ditched me. Manny tries to get me to talk, but I’m so miserable, I know I’ll cry, which would be too embarrassing. So I smile and pretend everything is fine. Dominic will be at my grandmother’s farm, waiting for me, I assure Manny.
Only Dominic isn’t there.
And the next morning, his truck is still missing from its usual spot by the barn. He works as a handyman for my grandmother and stays in a loft room in the barn. That room is empty, too—the bed never slept in. And when I see Dominic’s falcon Dagger fluttering by an open window, making shrieking noises as if he’s trying to tell me something, I shiver with a knowing of something terribly wrong.
“Nona!” I burst into the kitchen minutes later. “Dominic never came home!”
I quickly fill my grandmother in on everything that happened last night. “Dominic was so brave but the other guy was bigger. Then there were these weird flashes like an electric surge or maybe earthquake…I don’t know. All I know is that afterwards Dominic yelled at me to leave him alone then he-” My voice cracks. “-he left me.”
Nona looks up from her tea, her forehead creasing with worry. “Don’t take it personally, Sabine. If he went after the attacker, he probably thought you’d be safer staying on the ship.”
“But it was more than that…almost like he hated me.”
“I’ve seen the way Dominic looks at you. It’s obvious he loves you.”
“Not last night.” Fighting tears, I shake my head. “I just don’t understand.”
“Understanding will come later. For now, you need to trust him.” Nona sips her herbal tea. “Doesn’t he have a test in his farrier class on Friday?”
I nod. “Yeah, he’s been studying hard, too. He’s eager to start his own horse-shoeing business.”
“He’d never miss that test. He’ll be back soon,” Nona points out. “Count on it.”
I hold on to that hope the rest of the day. But that night when Dominic is still gone and he hasn’t returned my texts, I know he’s in trouble.
What should I do? I worry as I lie in bed, abandoning any hope for sleep.
You could expand your queries to the other side and invite answers from your eloquent and insightful spirit guide, a sassy voice speaks in my head. And when I close my eyes tight, I can see my spirit guide Opal; black hair coiled high on her head like a crown and a regal lift of her chin.
“Opal, can you help?” I ask in my thoughts. “Do you know where Dominic is? I’m so worried.”
As you well should be considering the dire circumstances of his disappearance.
“Where is he?”
Lost to the whims of darkness. Violence threatens his future and he may turn on himself with disastrous consequences unless the darkness is disposed to its rightful place.
“Opal, you’re confusing and scaring me. Just tell me where he is.”
I cannot speak of the workings of worlds beyond your knowledge. But there is one who can give you answers and aid your journey. “Who?”
One who crosses both worlds and has connections above my own. She is of an age similar to your own and attends an educational facility called Halsey High. “Halsey High? I’ve heard of it. About an hour away.”
Go there in the morning, Opal tells me. And find Amber Borden.

* * *
The next morning I ask Nona to borrow her car. Squeezing keys in my palm, I pause to stare at the empty spot where Dominic usually parks his truck.
Armed with a Google map, I drive to Halsey High. It’s early and school hasn’t started yet, so I slip in like I belong. I only have to ask two people about Amber before finding her at a locker. I get the impression she’s kind of a school celebrity, which is surprising because she’s really ordinary with an average figure and too-curly reddish-brown hair. She has a really sweet smile, though, like someone you know you can trust.
But can I convince her to trust me without revealing too much? I mean, I can’t go up to a stranger and say, “Hi. My spirit guide sent me.”
Amber squints at me like she’s trying to remember if we’ve met before. I save her the trouble by admitting we’ve never met.
“I’m Sabine,” I add. “I was told you could help me.”
“Are you new?” Her aura brightens like flowers blossoming in spring. “I’m president of the Halsey Hospitality Club and will be happy to show you around.”
“Cool…but I’m not a student…at least not here. Um….does the name Opal mean anything to you?”
“No.” She shakes her head. “So how do you know me?”
“I’m…um…psychic.” I cross my arms over my chest, braving myself for laughter or scorn.
But Amber grins. “Cool! And who’s Opal? A ghost?”
“No, she’s my spirit guide.” I glance around to make sure no one else is listening. “Opal is over 300 years old and she’s always bossing me around, but she knows stuff and tries to help me out. See my boyfriend is missing and in trouble. I don’t know how to help him, but Opal says you do.”
“Wow!” Amber’s eyes widen. “I read this book once called A Guide to Spiritual Beings and there was a chapter on spirit guides. I’ve never met one but I’m sure my grandmother knows lots of them.”
“Your grandmother talks to the other side?” I ask, pleased that Amber and I both have intuitive grandmothers.
“Actually,” Amber says. “She works there.”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“Easy. My grandmother’s dead.”
Then Amber does this really strange thing. She touches a woven rainbow bracelet on her wrist, turns it back and forth and whispers something I can’t hear. She brings her wrist up to kiss the bracelet.
“What are you-” I start to ask but she shushes me.
Before I can finish I hear a bark and look up to see a chocolate-brown furry dog scampering toward us. He launches himself into Amber’s arms, licking her face.
But it’s the dog’s collar that fascinates me. It’s glowing and spinning with flickering colors, shooting off energy that sizzles the hairs on my skin.
“What’s kind of dog collar is that?” I ask.
“A Duty Director. Most people can’t see the collar or Cola.” Some kids cross the hall near us without even glancing at the dog. Amber leans close to whisper in my ear. “He’s not a normal dog.”
“Yeah, I kind of guessed that.”
“He was my best friend when I was little—until he died. He visits whenever he can to relay messages from my grandmother. I know this sounds strange but it’s true. He’s telling me that you see visions and have the mark of a seer.”
I touch the black streak in my blond hair. “What’s he saying now?”
Cola sniffs then barks.
“Don’t take this the wrong way.” Amber flushes. “But Cola says you stink.”
“Excuse me!” I snap.
“Not you personally,” Amber says in an apologetic tone. “He says you smell like you’ve been in contact with a Dark Lifer.”
“A Dark what?”
“Dark Lifer. They’re people who have--” The ringing school bell interrupts and around us kids hurry to class. But Amber doesn’t join them. Instead she puts her arm around my shoulder and says we need to talk somewhere private.
“I thought my being psychic would freak you out,” I admit. “But talking to a dead dog is way over the freak-factor.”
Amber laughs. “It’s not something I usually tell anyone, but since you see ghosts and chat with a spirit guide, I knew you’d understand.”
Cola nudges her knee and Amber translates that he has to go return to her grandmother. After he leaves, I offer to drive and Amber directs me to a nearby cemetery (after telling me two wrong turns). A locked gate bars entry to a cemetery that’s covered in weeds, broken concrete and crumbling ghostly gravestones.
We stay in the car, slipping off seat belts, and face each other.
“I don’t understand anything since my boyfriend left,” I admit, sighing. “I want to learn, though, anything you can tell me.”
So she tells me how a near-death experience took her to the other side where she reunited with a beloved grandmother and Cola. “Then I accidentally became a Temp Lifer—too complicated to explain now. Short version: a Temp Lifer is someone who goes into different bodies so troubled souls can take a rest. But some Temp Lifers go bad and steal into bodies without permission. Those disturbed souls become Dark Lifers.”
When Amber finishes, I tell her how being psychic runs in my family. “At first it scared me and I shut out ghostly visions. But now I realize it’s a gift that can help people. Unfortunately it’s not something I can control so I can’t help the people I love,” I add. Then I tell her what happened with Dominic.
Amber frowns. “When he yelled at you did you notice his hands?”
“Yeah, they were in bad shape--bruised so badly they looked gray.”
“Did they glow?”
I stare at her, my heart tightening. Then I nod. “How’d you know?”
“I’m so sorry, Sabine,” Amber reaches across the car seat to touch my arm. “But a Dark Lifer has stolen Dominic’s body.”
* * *
Some creepy dark entity is living in Dominic’s body? I want to go after that body-thief right now and make him return Dominic! But Amber says that’s the job of the DDT (Dark Disposal Team). She assures me that Dominic will be fine and return when the Dark Lifer is captured.
Here’s the problem—we can’t contact the DDT without finding Dominic’s body.
I check my phone again but no messages from Dominic. Of course not, since he’s not himself. Literally. Ohmygod! How can I help him? I lean back in the car seat, closing my eyes to summon a vision of Dominic. But I get nothing.
Facing Amber across the seat, I frown. “I have no clue where Dominic is.”
“There are always clues,” she insists. “We just have to find them. What did he say to you?”
“Dominic yelled to leave him alone then he drove off in his truck.”
“Did he say anything before he stole your boyfriend’s body?”
“Huh? Oh, you mean the guy who threatened Jill?”
“Not just any guy—a Dark Lifer,” Amber says ominously.
“He held a knife to Jill and ordered her to tell him how to find someone named Vance. But Jill didn’t know anything.”
“Are you sure? Or could she have been protecting someone?”
“Jill had a knife to her throat—she wasn’t lying.”
But I wonder--what if Jill knows more? With Dominic’s life at stake, I immediately send her a text asking her to call me. A minute later, she does. Without wasting time on explanations, I bluntly ask if she was being honest when she told the attacker she didn’t know Vance.
“That monster had the wrong girl,” Jill answers. “He said he saw me at Vance’s house yesterday, but that’s impossible.”
“You weren’t anywhere except your house and the Delta Diva?” I ask.
“Yeah—except I’m not staying at my home. I’m house-sitting for a cute couple on their honeymoon. Before you ask, they’re Jessica and Mitch Barnett—not Vance.”
“But they might know Vance,” I suggest.
“Then it’s not over.” Jill gasps. “He might come back! And I have to stay there tonight—alone.”
“No you don’t,” I glance over at Amber and she nods like maybe she’s a little psychic, too.
By the time I hang up, we have a plan for tonight.
Amber and I are house-sitting.
* * *
When I introduce Jill to Amber, I can tell they like each other. But I notice crimson fear in Jill’s aura and thumbprint bruises on her neck. After she gives us a tour of the Barnett house, I tell her to go home, that Amber and I will stay. She argues but not that much; it’s obvious she can’t wait to get out of here.
There are reminder notes everywhere: Feed the fish. Turn off lights. Water plants. There are so many potted plants that the three-bedroom house reminds me of a jungle. One wall displays a collage of photographs. There are many showing a young black-haired girl embracing a husky shaved-head guy with a shy smile. In a large family photo there are a dozen smiling faces: siblings, parents, grandparents and even a wrinkled guy who looks over a hundred.
Nothing suspicious.
When Jill’s gone, Amber whispers, “You shared your secret with me, now I’ll share one with you.” Then she shows me a small red book titled simply: GEM. When she opens it, all I see are blank pages. She explains that GEM stands for Guidance Evaluation Manual. It offers advice and can report seeing a Dark Lifer to the Dark Disposal Team.
Amber speaks to the book. “Where is the Dark Lifer?”
To my surprise, a word curls across the paper: Nearby.
Shivers creep through me.
“What is he doing?” Amber asks.
Dark squiggles worm across the page. “Watching you.”
We both jump up and spend the next ten minutes rushing around to close curtains and check that doors are locked. When we’re done, I feel safe…almost.
We return to the GEM and ask it why the Dark Lifer searching for Vance.
“Revenge,” the book spells out.
Amber asks the book where Vance is but the pages stay blank. Amber shakes the book and demands that it answer her. In reply, the GEM flips shut like a slap.
“I don’t need you, Stupid Book,” Amber says. “Dustin can find out more anyway.” She tosses the GEM aside and grabs her phone.
Amber tells me that Dustin Cole, her second best friend, is a computer genius. “He has so many computers in his bedroom, there’s no room for a bed and he uses a sleeping bag. He already knows about Dark Lifers so he’ll understand what’s going on.”
She only talks a few minutes and he promises to call back soon.
We heat up a frozen pizza and watch a movie but it’s impossible to relax. I jump when the wind whines or a branch creaks. I sense the Dark Lifer soul nearby, stalking us. Knowing he’s in Dominic body makes me want to rush to him. But I don’t because my head knows he’s not really Dominic. I only pick at my pizza, hurting too much to enjoy food.
Tired of thinking and feeling so much, I curl up with a pillow on the couch and shut my eyes. Dark-cloud thoughts drift storms through my mind but I push them away. And I tumble, down, deep into darkness….

“Look what I nicked?” A tow-headed teen brags, holding tight to a brown bag.
“What you got there, Randy?” This boy is taller, almost a man with stubble on his chin. Both wear overalls and faded cotton shirts.
“Firecrackers.” Randy grins. “They’re beauts, Vance, and I got me a doozy of an idea how to use them. It’ll serve old Jenkins for saying I wasn’t good enough for Sarah Anne and threatening to shoot me if I didn’t get off his property. Well, I’m on his property now and he ain’t gonna find out till it’s too late.”
“Don’t do nothin’ dumb,” Vance warns “Or I’ll-”
“You’ll what?” Randy says with a fierce glare. “You gotta snitch on me?”
“I’d never do that. We’re pals.”
“Swear on your life you’ll stick by me. No matter what.”
Vance hesitates then nods. “I swear.”
Randy leads his friend to a barn, creeping between shadowy old cars. Randy says he’s going to set off the fireworks by Jenkins’ prized cow. “But she won’t be such a prize after I spook her.” Randy asks Vance to stand watch outside.
“I’ll warn you if Old Jenkins come round,” Vance promises.
Then Randy goes inside the barn and lights a match. Smoke sputters as colorful flame explodes. A cow kicks a wall, mooing. Randy flicks the lighter flame again, only a spark flies and a bale of hay crackles on fire. Randy laughs, pleased in his revenge and not caring if the whole barn burns down. But when he tries to open the door, his laughter dies. It’s latched from the outside. He shouts for Vance to open the door, over and over, till his words become coughs and bloody hands fall from the door…
Rap music shrieks.

My eyes snap open and I sit up from the couch.
“Sorry! Didn’t mean to wake you.” Amber picks up her cell. “But it’s Dustin.”
I take deep breaths to clear smoky fear from my mind. Amber is talking excitedly, writing fast on a notepad. When she hangs up, she gestures to the family photos on the wall. “Dustin didn’t have much to go on so he ran a search the Barnetts. Jessica’s maiden name is Vance. Her father is James Alexander Vance the Third.”
“Vance!” I exclaim. “So the Dark Lifer did have the right house!”
“Almost. The house has been in Jessica’s family for generations. But her father moved out after his wife died, giving the house to Jessica and moving to a condo downtown.” Amber shows me a yellow Post-It with the address.
I quickly tell Amber about my dream then grab her arm. “We need to go now!” I say. “And warn Mr. Vance.”
“It’s too late tonight.” Amber shakes her curly head. “But we’ll go early tomorrow. And we’ll finally find out why the Dark Lifer is after Mr. Vance.”
“I think I already know. I just had a dream—more than a dream. A vision from the past about the Dark Lifer before he died,” I say, shivering. “I saw him burn to death.”
* * *
PART FOUR (only one part left till The End!)

Amber and I talked for hours about my dream. We still don’t know much but suspect the Dark Lifer (Randy) blames Mr. Vance for his death. Could his revenge involve fire and death? Finally we’re so tired, we head to the guest bedroom.
I’m reaching for my pajamas when I hear a rattling sound—like someone’s trying to force open a door.
I glance over at Amber and put my finger to my lips. I mouth, “Where’s your GEM?” She mouths back, “Living room.”
I groan. My phone is there, too. And I don’t see one in our room.
A thump from outside…then silence.
“We have to find out!” Amber whispers. Then she jumps up and out of the room,
When I start after her, a voice hisses in my head, “Trouble awaits! Don’t go!” I recognize Opal. But I keep running.
When I reach the living room, it’s too late.
Trouble has grabbed Amber—and he’s wearing Dominic’s body.
For a crazy moment, my heart soars and I almost fling myself into Dominic’s arms. But the strange twist of lips that I have kissed and the hands which have held me gently now glow with an eerie grayness. And I can see an unearthly gray aura that sickens my soul. There’s no doubt this is the Dark Lifer: AKA Randy.
“Let her go,” I say as calm as possible.
“Why should I?” Randy taunts in Dominic’s voice. “A scrawny thing like you can’t hurt me.”
Now I’m just getting mad. I look around for something—anything!—to use against him. I spot a letter opener on a desk and dive for it. Waving it like a sword, unfortunately a very short one, I say, “I’ll use this if I have to.”
Randy laughs, but when I parry and then thrust forward, the letter opener’s sharp blade barely misses him and he stops laughing. I’m shocked to see real fear on his face.
“Cut his…his hands!” Amber rasps. “He…He’ll be…be ejected from…body.”
I don’t understand but it sounds like a plan. If all I have to do is cut him and he’ll leave Dominic’s body, I’d use every skill I ever learned in fencing class (even some of the dirty tricks we’re told not to do).
But as I lunge forward, Randy shoves Amber’s between us. “Go ahead—but you’ll cut her. Not me. Now drop that stupid toy,” he snaps.
I hesitate. He presses his hands tightly around Amber’s neck and she cries out in pain. I drop the blade.
“Stop!” Amber moans, flailing like a rag dog. “Your hands… burning me.”
“And why is that?” He stares down at her curiously. “Earthbounders shouldn’t have such delicious energy. Have you’ve been in contact with the other side recently? Is that why your energy feels so sweet? Who are you?”
Amber pants for breath, and her aura flickers with scarlet pain. The more she struggles, the more energy flows from her and into the Dark Lifer. I’ve never seen anything like it and guess this has to do with Amber’s work as a Temp Lifer. I look around the room for the GEM—it’s lying on the coffee table.
“Stop! Let her go!” I cry, inching toward the GEM. “I’ll tell you everything!”
“What do you know?” he demands.
“Where Vance is.”
He loosens his grip on Amber. She slumps to the carpet, unconscious.
I start for Amber but he grabs my arm. His touch is rough but doesn’t burn me like it did Amber.
“Where’s Vance!” he demands.
I’m so close to him now that my heart dies; the face I love staring down on me with hatred. Not my Dominic, I remind myself. But I can’t help but wonder--where is Dominic? If I call out to him, will he hear me? Oh, Dominic, if you’re here in any form, please come back. I need you.
“TELL ME!” Randy squeezes my arm viciously. “Where is he?”
“I-I can’t talk when you’re hurting me!”
He eases his grip and I take the chance to dive for the GEM. I grasp the cover but before I can flip it open, Randy slams into me. The book flies from my fingers and I’m tossed to the floor. My knee bangs into the coffee table. Pain shoots through me.
“Damned GEM!” Randy roars as he scoops the small book in Dominic’s calloused hands. “You think I didn’t know what this was? I was a Temp Lifer, before I went rogue. Since GEMs are freaking indestructible I’ll dump it later. First you’re gonna tell me how to find Vance.”
“I’m not telling you anything!”
“Your friend is a Temp Lifer, isn’t she? That’s why her energy is so sweet. Do what I say or I’ll absorb so much of her glowing energy that she’ll grow weak until she stops breathing.”
“No! Leave her alone!” I rush to Amber’s side, terrified because she’s so lifeless.
“She’ll die if you don’t tell me where Vance is.”
I don’t know what to say, staring down at Amber’s pale, still body. She doesn’t move.
The Dark Lifer advances and I try to protect Amber but he’s pushes me aside. He reaches his glowing hands for Amber. “I’ll finish her off now,” he threatens.
“Okay…okay!” I grab the yellow Post-It note off a counter and toss it to him. “That’s Mr. Vance’s address. Get out of here! Leave us alone!”
“Now that’s more like it.” He reads the note, grinning. But instead of leaving he grabs me by the hair. I cry out as he yanks me to my feet. “You’re coming with me.”
Then he half-drags me outside, shoves me into Dominic’s truck, and we drive off.


* * *
Being in Dominic’s truck brings back so many memories: his boyish grin when he showed off his new truck, the key ring shaped like a falcon I’d given him, and the wintry night when we were trapped in a snow storm, snuggling to stay warm.
But the Dominic beside me is only a physical shell. The soul inside is dark and deadly, hell-bent on murder. Call it intuition or a psychic vision, but I know he’s planning to kill Vance. No compassion, only vengeance.
And if I die, too, well that’s not his problem.
My best hope lies in the GEM. I watched carefully when he tossed it on top of Dominic’s black leather jacket in the back seat. But there’s no way I can reach it from the front seat.
The truck slams to a stop in front of dust-brown rows of condos. Randy jumps out and is at my door, dragging me out. He finds a bungee cord in the truck and wraps it around my wrists then pushes me in front of him. I notice a glint of silver from his shirt pocket. At first I think it’s a knife but up close I can see it’s a metal lighter.
Hot with terror, I mentally cry out for Opal’s help. I’m swept along like a brittle leaf in a wildfire. Everything happens too fast. Randy attacks the door with a metal lock pick, jiggling until there’s a click. When the door falls open, he warns, “Make a sound and you’re dead.” I believe him.
Stumbling down a hall, sounds of a TV intensify. We turn into a living room and I see him—a middle-aged man at a table, piecing together a puzzle. His aura is green and yellow; a gentle soul. His dark hair is receding and he’s pudgy with the pale complexion of a couch potato. I’ve seen his face before in the Barnett’s family photo: Jessica’s father.
A puzzle piece falls from his fingers as he gasps at us. “Who are you?”
“Don’t you recognize me, Vance?” the Dark Lifer mocks.
“I’ve never seen you before!”
“Admittedly, I do look different. But I’ll make sure you remember.”
“You’re no friend of mine!” Vance argues, his voice quavering. “And why are that girl’s hands tied? Get out of my-”
The Dark Lifer cuts off Vance with a slap and I’m shoved aside. I stumble backwards, falling awkwardly to the carpet.
“The last time we were together you promised to watch out for me,” Randy says accusingly. “We were closer than brothers but you betrayed me!”
“You’re crazy! I don’t know you!” Vance pulls a wallet from his pocket. “Take my money then get out. I don’t want any trouble.”
“Why didn’t you think of that in the barn?” Randy ignores the wallet and whips out a knife from his back pocket. “You locked the door and left me to burn.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about!” the man insists.
“You killed me and now you owe me!”
I struggle to push myself off the floor, tugging at the cord tying my hands behind my back. I want to help Jessica’s father but I can’t even help myself.
“A life for a life,” the Dark Lifer says ominously to Vance, shoving a knife in his face with one hand and whipping rope around his hands with the other. “I won’t gag you because I want to hear your screams. Just like you heard mine.”
“I don’t even know you! Please…don’t do this!”
He sounds so convincing that I feel in my gut he’s telling the truth. But if he’s telling the truth, does that mean the Dark Lifer is lying? I think back to my dream; remember the old-fashioned way the boys spoke and dressed. Vance should be much older than this man—if he was still alive.
I’m overcome by an eerie chill—then I see the ghost.
At first it’s only a golden glimmer from the ceiling but then it grows and forms into a shape of a man. The face flickers from smooth to wrinkled, so I can’t tell if this ghost is young or old. Somehow he’s both—and I recognize him.
“It’s him!” I cry out. “The real Vance!”
All eyes turn toward me; both human and spectral.
“What are you staring at?” Dark Lifer Randy demands.
“Don’t you see him?” I point at the ghost who has grown young before my eyes, now looking exactly like the boy from my vision.
“What sort of con are you pulling?” Randy’s gaze sweeps the room. “There’s only you, me and Vance.”
“He’s not the right Vance!” I tell Randy. “He doesn’t know anything about the fire in the barn.”
“He knows all right! He locked the door and left me to die!”
The ghost shakes his head. “Tell him that ain’t what happened. It was Old Jenkins—he smacked me with a bat and I didn’t know nothing till I smelled smoke.”
“Jenkins locked him in?” I guess.
Randy stares at me. “What do you know about Old Man Jenkins?”
“Not me. Him.” I point. “Vance is a ghost. You have the wrong man.”
“Impossible. You’re trying to trick me. I don’t see any ghost.”
“He can’t see me while in an earthbounder body,” Vance-the-Ghost says. “He always did leap before he looked--like when he went joy-riding in my dad’s truck on a frozen pond and the ice cracked—he was lucky I was close by to pull him out.”
“You saved Randy from the ice?” I ask.
“We were pals. Ain’t nothing I wouldn’t do for him. That’s why I’m here now, trying to save him before it’s really too late. If the Dark Disposal Team catches him in that stolen body, his soul is doomed forever. But if he can’t see me, it’s hopeless.”
“I’ll tell him.” I turn to Randy. “Vance is here to help you.”
“Stop saying there’s a ghost! That’s Vance.” He points to the frightened man sitting in a chair with his hands tied.
“No!” I gesture to the ghost then repeat everything he told me. When I get to the part about the truck on ice, I can tell Randy is beginning to believe me so I keep talking. “Vance isn’t the one who left you to die—it was Sarah Ann’s father.”
“Vance promised to watch out for me. Why didn’t he open the door?”
I turn to Ghost-Vance then repeat what he tells me. “Jenkins knocked him out and when he came to the fire was burning. He tried to run in but Jenkins aimed a shotgun at him and told him to get out and never tell anyone or he’d kill him, too.”
“If Vance is a ghost, who’s this guy?” Randy points to his trembling captive.
“I think his son,” I say. “Didn’t you ever add up the years? You died decades ago. Vance passed on, too, and it took a lot of effort for him to come here now. But he did it because he’s your friend.”
“I-I don’t believe it. If he’s here, I should be able to see him.”
“You’re in a stolen body.” I speak calmly yet my words tremble when I say “body” because I’m fighting for Dominic.
“I’m not falling for your lies.”
“If I’m lying,” I say as I listen to the ghost. “Then there’s no way I could know about the time you kissed Sarah Anne in the hayloft or the poem you copied from a book and told Sarah Anne you wrote just for her.”
Randy narrows his gaze at me. “If you know so much, where was Vance’s and my secret hideout?”
“In a wood shack that used to be a chicken coop.”
His jaw drops. Then he lifts his arms and shouts, ““Show yourself, Vance. If you’re really here, let me see you!”
“You can’t when you’re blocked by that body,” I tell him. “And Vance says he has to leave soon. He wants to talk to you but he’s fading….”
I hold my breath, waiting. Then an electric current sizzles through the room. I stumble to the floor, my bound arms twisting painfully. But I ignore the pain and stare at a swirl of silvery mist rising from Dominic’s body. The mist solidifies to a gray figure with dark hair and a youthful face. “Vance!” he cries, reaching for his childhood pal.
Only before the old friends can unite, there’s a blinding light. Three figures in dark business suits appear: a woman with her hair pulled back in a bun and the two blond men with ordinary, forgettable faces. But the silver whips they all carry are far from ordinary, snapping like snakes, wrapping around Randy. The Dark Disposal Team, I realize, and I want to beg them to give us more time; that Randy wasn’t such a bad guy after all—only I hear someone call my name.
And I look into Dominic’s loving blue eyes.
He’s back.
* * *
The next evening my eyes are blindfolded and I’m being led up narrow stairs by Dominic’s strong yet gentle hands. It’s supposed to be a surprise but I can hear the soft lap of waves and feel the sway beneath my feet. A door creaks and a whoosh of sweet sultry air caresses me, and my guess is confirmed. We’re on the Delta Diva.
“Surprise,” Dominic says.
“Oooh,” I say, delighted by the covered table set for two and twinkling lights strung like Christmas. I’m so touched I can’t find the words to tell Dominic how much I appreciate this, knowing he’s done all this for me.
“Do you like it?” he asks as he very gentlemanly pulls out a chair for me. He’s cleaned up from his usual outdoor clothes, looking handsome in a sky-blue shirt and midnight-black slacks.
“It’s all so amazing,” I say in breathless joy. “I can’t believe you arranged all this for me.”
“It’s the first half of your surprise.”
“What’s the second half?”
“After our romantic deck-top dinner, we’ll go downstairs to hang out with some special friends.”
“Ah, but that’s a surprise. Just wait to find out.”
I stare into his blue eyes and instead of my own reflection, I see a flash of two faces close together: a girl slightly older than me with curly dark-auburn hair and a medium-height and friendly looking guy. Amber and Eli. And I know they’re waiting downstairs, enjoying their own romantic dinner.
But I hate to spoil my own surprise so I shake my head. “I can’t wait,” I say softly. “But you didn’t need to plan any surprise. I’m just happy being here with you.”
“You deserve much more,” he says with a catch in his throat. “You rescued me from doing horrible things. I don't remember much but I’m sorry for everything I did.”
“You didn’t do anything—it was the Dark Lifer,” I remind him for the zillionth time. “But Randy won’t bother us ever again. He’s getting a second chance on the other side. So everything’s great.”
“Better than great.” Dominic comes up and slips his arm around me, pulling me close to him.
“What about our meal?” I ask with a flirty smile.
“It can wait. But this can’t.” He whispers kisses across my cheek until they settle sweet and wonderfully on my lips.
I sigh happily, holding his body tight against mine.
Dominic and I are back where we belong.
The End.


SEER and DEAD GIRL fans -- check this blog soon for a short story uniting Sabine from THE SEER and Amber from DEAD GIRL (plus Dominic and a Dark Lifer). It'll be posted on this blog in five parts. This story was written for fans so it's free. After all five parts are concluded, the short story will move to my website.