Ghostly Serenade: A Paranormal Women's Fiction Novel
An unsolved murder, a mob boss out for revenge, and a message from a ghost? Just another day in the life of Shelby Nichols.
Shelby's family trip to meet the New York Manettos is not turning out to be the enjoyable break she'd hoped for.
Being recruited by the NYPD to help with a murder case doesn't seem so bad, but threats from a rival mob, against Uncle Joey and the whole Manetto family, take things to a whole new level.
How can she reason with a mob boss out for revenge? Even her mind reading skills might not be enough to save the day this time.
Join Shelby in her best adventure yet!
USA TODAY and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author Colleen Helme offers a clever mix of mystery, laugh-out-loud humor, and page-turning adventure in the highly acclaimed Shelby Nichols Adventure Series.
PRAISE FOR THE SHELBY NICHOLS SERIES
"The author has such a quirky sense of humor partnered with such creative talent it that really shines on every page!" ~ Amazon Reviewer
"Every Shelby Nichols Adventure is better than the last! The characters are dynamic and the stories are full of twists and turns. Can't wait for the next one!" ~Amazon Reviewer
Perfect for fans of Elizabeth Hunter, Eve Langlais, Shannon Mayer, Jana DeLeon, and Darynda Jones.
Release date: February 28, 2020
Publisher: Manetto Books
Print pages: 347
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Ghostly Serenade: A Paranormal Women's Fiction Novel
I guess it’s true that “no good deed goes unpunished.”
Of course, killing someone isn’t considered a good deed by most people. But when faced with a kill-or-be-killed scenario, I think they’d change their minds pretty fast. Still, even shooting someone in self-defense has consequences.
Sitting in the police chief’s office the day before my big vacation was not what I had planned. But here I sat, feeling like a wayward student getting chewed out by the principal. At least it wasn’t the police chief doing the chewing out. Nope, that would be the internal affairs investigator, Leslie Gilman.
The report on the incident sat open in front of her, and she glanced between the paper and me, thinking that, for a police consultant, I’d certainly seen a lot of action. She didn’t normally investigate someone who wasn’t a bona fide police officer. But, since I’d killed someone during my time as a paid consultant, an exception had been made.
“Let’s go over this once more,” she said.
I stifled a groan. I’d already recounted the incident to her twice, and she wanted me to do it again? Talking about it was like living it all over again, and it was bad enough the first time. I even started to sweat. “Look, I know it’s your job to ferret out any inconsistencies in my story, but let me assure you it’s all true, and everything you need is in the report.”
“She’s right,” Chief Winder said, wanting to stay on my good side. “With everything we’ve given you, along with Shelby’s personal account, I see no reason why we can’t wrap it up. It was clearly self-defense, and Shelby’s lucky she survived.”
“Yes, I agree,” Leslie said. “But as you know, any time an officer is involved in a shooting that results in death, we have certain standards and procedures which must be followed.” The chief opened his mouth to reply, but she held up a hand to stop him. “That said, I believe the incident has been satisfactorily investigated, and we can move on to the next step.”
Next step? What next step? I listened real close to her thoughts and picked up that she wanted me to start seeing a counselor. That didn’t sound so bad. I had only woken up in a cold sweat a couple of times in the weeks since the shooting. If talking to someone helped me with that, I was all for it.
She hesitated, thinking that, since I wasn’t an officer, she didn’t know how to proceed. “She needs a few sessions with a therapist before she can be cleared.”
I glanced at the chief and picked up that he agreed. Counseling after shooting someone was standard procedure, and he thought it was a good idea for me. But how would they pay for it? I was a paid consultant, not an officer, and he didn’t want to get in trouble with the department.
Still, he was the police chief. My help had been instrumental in stopping a bomb. I’d helped save a lot of lives, as well as prevented considerable damage to the surrounding buildings. How could the department heads argue with that? Plus, if I didn’t get counseling, internal affairs couldn’t sign off, and I’d have to quit working for the department.
Hmm… right now, that didn’t sound so bad. I could use a break from helping them. But… since I was leaving for New York, it didn’t matter anyway.
“As you know, I’m leaving for New York tomorrow. Can we figure this out when I get back?”
“Yes,” Leslie said, perking up. “In fact, we’ll see about setting it up while you’re gone. Then you can start as soon as you get back. How long will that be?”
“About a week.”
“Great.” She glanced at Chief Winder. “If you’ll sign off on it, I’ll submit the paperwork this afternoon.”
“Of course,” he agreed.
She stood, grateful it had all worked out. She knew the chief would be in the hot seat for getting the funding, but that wasn’t her problem. She also wanted to recommend that I take some training classes at the academy, but she could wait to mention that part to both of us until after I got back.
“It was nice to meet you.” She held out her hand, watching me carefully and thinking of the stories that I had premonitions. Was it true? The chief seemed to think so. She’d like to be a fly on the wall during my first counseling session. The counselor was sure to read my file where my psychic ability was spelled out in black and white. She wondered how that would go.
“You too.” As I shook her hand, my smile faltered just a little at the realization that seeing a counselor might be tricky with the whole mind reading thing. I’d know what they wanted me to say before I said it. I’d also know their evaluation of me whether they wanted me to know it or not. What if they asked if I heard voices in my head? It was the truth, but how could I answer that without sounding crazy?
“Thank you for coming in,” she continued. “I hope it wasn’t too much of a bother.”
“Oh, sure,” I answered. “It wasn’t too bad.”
“Wonderful. Well then, have a nice trip.” She nodded at the chief and left the office. I stood to follow her out, but the chief stopped me.
“Shelby. Before you go, I need to discuss something with you.” He motioned me back into my chair, and my stomach did a little flip-flop. I picked up that he hated to ask me for a favor, especially since I was going on vacation, but he hoped I’d consider it.
Oh great. Now what?
With a smile that did nothing to reassure me, he began. “One of my close friends is the police chief of the NYPD 12th Precinct, and he could sure use your help on a case.” I opened my mouth to object, but he raised his hand. “I know it’s your vacation, but at least hear me out. Okay?”
I let out a huff. His earnest, brown, puppy-dog eyes pleaded for me to give him a chance. How could I say no? “Okay. I’ll listen.”
“Thank you.” Relief flooded over him. He’d mentioned me and my psychic skills to Martin. Now that Martin had a tough case, and I was headed to New York anyway, he’d offered to ask me if I’d help him out. It seemed like a no-brainer to him. On the plus side, Martin would owe him one.
I did my best not to roll my eyes, but it was hard.
“Three women were shot around one o’clock this morning in their apartment. Two of them died at the scene, and the third is in a coma. She’s barely hanging on. Nothing was taken, and there’s not much evidence. They’re stumped and could use some help.” He was thinking it looked like the women were targeted for a specific reason, but Martin’s detectives hadn’t found a single motive.
“The woman in a coma might know something, but she’s all they’ve got to go on. I told the police chief about your premonitions, and he’d appreciate any help you can give him. Do you think you could take a look at the case and see if you can pick up anything? That’s all you’d have to do, I promise.”
“So… just look over the case and give them my impressions?”
“Yeah. That, and maybe visit the woman in the hospital. With any luck, you might pick up something just by being near her. I don’t know exactly how your premonitions work, but it’s worth a try, and you might solve the case.”
I’d never tried to read a person’s mind while they were in a coma. I’d tried it with Chris when he was in the hospital after being poisoned. They’d kept him sedated to help him heal, and I hadn’t picked up a thing. What if there was nothing to hear and I let them down? I wasn’t sure I wanted their hopes of breaking the case pinned on me.
Since I wasn’t jumping up and down with joy, the chief kept talking. “Something terrible happened to these women, and we need to find out who did this and why. You’d be doing a real service for the department.” I kept my mouth shut, so he played his last card. “They’ll pay you for your time.”
“It’s not the money,” I blurted. “I was just hoping for a break from all this.”
He wasn’t expecting my outburst, and it surprised him since I was usually so helpful. “Oh… yeah… you’re right. I see what you mean. I just thought… well, never mind.”
He’d thought I’d want to stop a killer and get justice for these women. It wasn’t like I’d have to go after the killer. All I had to do was talk to them. He could understand that I needed a break, but he couldn’t help feeling disappointed in me. Now he’d have to tell Martin that I wouldn’t do it.
Ugh. Why did these things always happen to me? “Okay. I’ll do it. I’ll see if I can pick up something from the files and the victim. But that’s it. I have other things planned, you know? Like vacation stuff. I don’t have time for police work.”
“Of course,” he agreed. “That’s all we’re asking.” Relieved, he picked up his phone before I changed my mind. “The chief’s name is Martin Wallace. Do you mind if I call him so I can introduce you?”
I blew out a breath. He’d backed me into a corner, and I couldn’t get out of it now. “Sure, okay.”
He put the call through, and Martin picked right up. “Hey Martin, how’s it going?” A few seconds passed while Martin responded. The chief glanced my way and continued. “Yes. I just spoke with her and she’s agreed. In fact, she’s right here. I’ll let you talk to her.” He handed me the phone with an encouraging smile.
“Uh… hi. This is Shelby Nichols.”
“Hey Shelby,” Martin responded. “Thanks for agreeing to take a look at the case. I know it’s a lot to ask, but anything you can do would be appreciated. Brian speaks very highly of you.”
“Brian?” I glanced at the chief with raised brows.
Martin chuckled. “Uh… yeah… Chief Winder.”
“I see you aren’t on a first name basis, but, now that you know, don’t let that stop you from using it as often as you like.” I heard the smile in his voice and decided I might just like this guy. “When will you get here?”
“I’m flying in with my family tomorrow, and I have plans for the rest of the day. But I could probably stop by the next morning for a few minutes. Will that work?”
“Yes. Of course. I’ll take any time you can give me. Did Brian fill you in on the case?”
“Yeah. It sounds pretty bad. I’m not sure how much help I can be, but I’ll do my best.”
“That’s all I ask,” he said. “Thanks again. I’ll look for you day after tomorrow. By then, we might have more for you to go on. Just come to the precinct and give them your name. I’ll let the desk sargent know to watch for you.”
“Okay. I’ll see you then.”
“Thanks. I look forward to meeting you.”
I handed the phone back to the chief without responding, since I didn’t look forward to meeting him and I just couldn’t bring myself to lie about it. The chief briefly spoke to Martin before hanging up. “Thanks Shelby. I owe you for this.”
“Yes you do,” I agreed, taking the card he held out with Martin’s phone number and the address of the 12th Precinct. “I look forward to collecting… Brian.”
He sent me a rueful smile and shook his head, thinking that he would hate it if I started calling him by his first name. He liked things professional, and that just burned his ears. It also seemed way too intimate. People might get the wrong idea.
“Don’t worry. I like calling you Chief better.” Relief flashed over his face, and I smiled. “All right, well I’d better get going.”
“Thanks Shelby. Have a great trip.”
I smiled and nodded, even though I wanted to tell him he’d ruined it, but I was too polite for that. I left his office and glanced toward Dimples’s desk. He caught my gaze and motioned me over, curious about how the internal affairs interview had gone.
It worried him that I’d been in there so long. Did that mean my consulting days were over? He couldn’t imagine working without me. What I did was awesome, and he needed his partner.
That brought a smile to my lips, and I stopped at his desk. “I’m cleared. I just have to go to counseling when I get back.” His brows rose, so I quickly continued. “I’m okay with it. But Leslie was thinking about sending me to the academy for some training classes. I’m not sure I’d like that. What do you think?”
“Hmm, that might be a good idea. Do you know what classes she had in mind?”
I smiled at his pun, since he was the only person in the department who knew the truth about my mind reading ability. “You know I do. It was the basic firearm training course. I guess it makes sense since I used a gun to… defend myself.” I didn’t say “to kill someone,” but Dimples knew that’s what I’d meant.
“It sounds good to me. So what did the chief want?”
My lips turned down in a pout. “He’s loaning me out to the NYPD.”
“Yeah.” I explained all the details, picking up that Dimples didn’t like any of it. In fact, it made him angry that the chief had pimped me out like that… on my vacation, no less. Warmth filled my heart that he cared. “It’s okay. I won’t be in any danger.”
He shook his head, thinking that was debatable. When had things ever gone easy when I was involved? Worry tightened his brow. He didn’t like it, but, on the other hand, maybe having a few ties with the police in New York was a good thing, especially since I was so cozy with the Manettos. Oops, had I just heard that? He rubbed his forehead. “I know you’re going with them. So I can’t help worrying.”
Regret that he’d found out gnawed at me, and I hurried to reassure him. “I’ll be fine. The Manettos aren’t in the business in New York. They’re just normal people there; nothing for you to worry about.” He just nodded, and I knew I’d never convince him that anything good ever came from my association with Uncle Joey. “I’d better get going. I’ve got a lot of packing to do.”
He sucked in a breath, sorry that this was a bone of contention between us. “Yeah… okay. Have a great time, and… be careful.”
I drove home, feeling bad that I’d been roped into something I didn’t want to do. On the other hand, how could I say no? I mean… I could read minds. That was a big deal. If I didn’t have this crazy mind-reading ability, I wouldn’t be in this predicament.
Of course, if I hadn’t stopped at the grocery store for some carrots, none of this would be happening. I never would have been shot in the head during a robbery, and gained the ability to read minds. After that strange course of events, I had to divulge my secret to the local mob boss so he wouldn’t kill me or my family. Now I worked for Uncle Joey of my own free will. How had that happened?
Still, without my ability, my life would be pretty boring. So how could I complain?
Sure there were times when I wished it had never happened. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Did that mean I was a glutton for punishment or what? At least only a few people, including Dimples, Uncle Joey, Uncle Joey’s hitman, Ramos, and my husband, Chris, knew the truth. I’d managed to pass off my ability to most everyone else with the explanation that I had premonitions.
It had worked so far, but what if the truth ever came out? Just thinking about it sent shivers down my spine. Facing my kids would be the worst part. They’d hate it and would probably never trust me again.
Then there were all kinds of people who would want to use me for their own purposes. Like Director Wells from the CIA. The last time I’d seen him, we’d just discovered that he had a mole in his organization. He would probably jump at the chance to get me to help him.
But… how was he any different from Uncle Joey? I had to work for Uncle Joey because he knew the truth. Still, working for a mob boss seemed lots better than working for the government. It might have something to do with the fact that Uncle Joey actually cared for me. So did his hitman, Ramos, who’d saved my life several times.
In fact, Ramos had almost died a little over a month ago. Because of me. At least he wasn’t going to New York with us. He’d gone to Miami to spend time with his brother and finish recuperating. I had to admit that I’d miss him, but maybe he was better off away from me for a while.
I sighed. I was in too deep with Uncle Joey to ever get out. Maybe I was an idiot for letting things go so far. Uncle Joey had claimed me and my family as part of the Manetto clan. My family was headed to New York with Uncle Joey and his wife, Jackie, tomorrow in his private jet, and staying in his hotel with his extended family. My kids even called him Uncle Joey.
Holy hell! What had I done?
I pulled into the garage and turned off my car. Taking a moment to calm down, I reasoned that this was my life now, and it was a good life. Nothing bad was going to happen. Besides, Uncle Joey cared about me and the kids. My husband, Chris, was Uncle Joey’s lawyer. While it complicated things, it meant that we were all important to Uncle Joey. So everything would be fine.
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