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The Haunted Salon Series Book 3
Jolene Claiborne, owner of Dixieland Salon loves Halloween, but this year her fondness of the holiday is marred when bestselling author Vanessa Van Allen disappears. Vanessa, called the Queen of the Vampires, has a few secrets she wants to share, but some secrets are better left buried.
When Detective Sam Bradford, Jolene's former beau, asks for her help in getting rid of a spirit that seems to be clinging to his aura, Jolene is shocked. Not only is there a ghost riding on Sam's broad shoulder, it seems to be Vanessa, and she refuses to leave until her murderer is found.
Is the woman truly dead or is there magic as well as mischief afoot? With help from Heaven's sassy bounty hunter, Scarlett, Jolene and Sam set out to find the truth of what has truly happened to the Queen of the Vampires, but sometimes the truth can get you killed.
Page Count: 346
Word Count: 83225
Staring down at the mangled, half-eaten body lying face up behind an old headstone gave me the sense of an outer body experience. The Snow White costume had been ripped and torn away by the scavenging forest creatures. The cracked headstone with splatters of blood, the bloated corpse with part of the mouth ripped away, and the white teeth exposed in a taunting smile with Mini Pearl clasped in the victim’s hand. The wind whistled through the tall grass and trees spreading the stench of death. God, how I hated that smell.
Twice I swept the flashlight beam across the grisly scene, imprinting the ugliness into my memory to be recounted I’m sure hundreds of times in the days ahead. Bradford’s hand was strong, firm, protective, but still I shivered.
“Can you identify the gun?”
“It’s mine.” My breathless voice faltered as my gaze roamed over the pink gun with pearl grips. “Not another like it in the States. Custom made. I had Mini Pearl engraved on the barrel. I thought I’d never see it again.”
My mind flashed back to the day I’d discovered my .32 caliber snub-nosed revolver stolen from my car. I’d arrived out at Pineridge Plantation to conduct tours of the antebellum mansion for the annual fall Whiskey Creek Pecan Festival. Increased activity from the re-enactors arriving could be heard, so I followed the sounds around past the back terrace and into the rose garden. During my absence, my wallet had been emptied and Mini Pearl taken.
And used in the commission of a crime. Just as I’d feared.
“I hate to break up a tearful scene, but I have to get back to work.” Scarlett jangled the handcuffs for emphasis. “As soon as I deliver Miss van Allen, I’ll be headed to England to bag a knight.”
Bradford addressed his question to a tearful Snow White. “Can you tell me who did this to you?”
“I did this to myself,” she whispered.
“Suicide? I doubt it.”
“The gun is in my hand. I must’ve done it.” A mournful sigh echoed on the night wind.
“Things aren’t always what they appear to be,” Bradford assured her. “I suspect the other woman is responsible.”
“That makes the most sense,” I agreed. “Now if we can link them together. I still believe the other woman is Snow White’s twin sister.”
“Please stop calling me Snow White, my name is Vanessa van Allen.”
“That is yet to be proven,” I replied to the tearful spirit.
Bradford pulled his phone from his front pocket. “Time to call the authorities.”
“Are you nuts?” I snatched the phone from his hands. “We need to get our asses out of here. We can’t call the cops!”
“I am the cops, Jolene. Now give me the phone.” Bradford held out his hand.
“Snellgrove will bury us under the jail.” I pitched his phone into the undergrowth as far as I could. “Let’s go before someone catches us here.”
Bradford directed his flashlight beam into my face, blinding me. “You shouldn’t have done that, Jolene. Now hand over your phone.”
“It’s in the truck.”
“Then I’ll make the call from there.”
“What if Snellgrove is in cahoots with the other woman? Snow White did say she saw them together here in the cemetery. What if he killed Snow White to keep some secret?”
A voice broke in. “If you’re finished with speculation, then let me add that you’re way off course. Sheriff Snellgrove is above mere murder.”
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