A Haunted Murder
A Lin Coffin Cozy Mystery
Copyright 2015 J.A. Whiting
Cover copyright 2015 Signifer Book Design
Formatting by Signifer Book Design
Proofreading by Donna Rich
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, or incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to locales, actual events, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from J. A. Whiting.
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For the loved ones who watch over us
Chapter 1 – Twenty Years Ago
Carolin Coffin was never afraid of the dark. Not the way other kids were. Before she could even talk she was able to see things that “normal” kids couldn’t. The spirits of people who had passed never scared her. Whenever a spirit appeared, she always felt a sense of benevolence and calm.
She didn’t like calling them ghosts, but that was the easiest way to think of them. Sometimes the ghosts would speak to her mind, but mostly they were quiet.
Lin figured out pretty early that other people couldn’t see what she could, so she stopped allowing the spirits to reveal themselves. When they were coming, she could feel the hairs on her arms stand up or a coolness brush past her.
She didn’t want to be different or made fun of, so she turned away from what she could see and hear. When she felt a ghost approaching, she would push down inside herself and think of cotton balls all around her, or a cloud or some magic fog surrounding her that nothing could get through. After a while, the spirits stopped coming and she was more like the other kids her age. The last time she saw a spirit was at a neighborhood summer party when she was nine years old.
All the kids had a get-together in one of the neighborhood girl’s backyards. There was a cookout and games and when the sun went down, the girl’s parents made a campfire for toasting marshmallows and everyone sat around it in the dark swatting at mosquitoes.
Some kids started telling ghost stories and murder stories and a few of the younger kids started to cry and ran inside to tell on the ones who were making up the scary tales. The kids who were telling the tales ran inside to defend themselves.
Lin stayed by the fire. She liked looking up at the stars and watching the flames dancing and making shadows against the trees. It was quiet and peaceful without all the fussing and crying and she hoped the others would stay inside for a while.
One other kid stayed outside, too. His name was Pete and he was about twelve years old. Pete had come up from New York City to stay with a family in the neighborhood for a few weeks. He was sponsored by a group called something like the Country Air Experience. Lin liked Pete. He had a self assurance and self acceptance that many kids lacked, that most adults lacked for that matter. He never got flustered and didn’t seem to like drama and foolishness.
Pete looked across the fire at Lin. “Why aren’t you scared of the stories?”
She shrugged. “What’s to be scared of?”
“The other kids are scared.”
Lin made eye contact with Pete. “You’re not.”
He shook his head.
“Why not?” Lin asked.
“Real life stuff is the stuff to be afraid of. Not made up stories.”
“What are you afraid of?” Lin cocked her head.
“People. Some people. And the stuff they do.” Pete paused. “What are you afraid of?”
Lin didn’t give him an answer, she just poked the toe of her sneaker around in the dirt.
They were both quiet for a minute, and then Pete asked, “Being different?”
Lin’s head jerked up and she could feel her cheeks warm. She was glad that it was dark so he couldn’t see the fluster on her face. “What?”
“Being different, being alone. You want to fit in,” Pete said. “But it’s better to be yourself.”
Before Lin could think of a reply, the hairs on her arms stood at attention and a cool shiver rolled over her skin. Atoms began to swirl and sparkle, and then a small woman with a pleasant smile materialized standing two feet away from Pete. The woman’s essence shimmered and her body was translucent. The spirit gazed at Pete with a gentle look on her face, and then she turned to Lin.
Lin smiled. Pete looked just like the woman.
Pete turned his head. “What are you staring at?”
Lin’s eyes met his. She wasn’t going to say anything, but then the kind ghost woman spoke to her mind and Lin had to reveal the words.
She took a deep breath. “You mom wants you to know that she’s okay. She’s proud of you, Pete. She said ‘let go of it and be the man you are meant to become.’”
Pete’s eyes grew wide and his mouth dropped open. His head turned to his right and then back to Lin. “What did you say?” His voice was high and squeaky.
“You look just like her,” Lin said softly. “Your mom.”
A figure stepped from the wooded property line. The ghost woman disappeared into the night air like wisps of smoke from the fire. Pete and Lin both turned to the girl who had emerged from behind a tree.
“I heard you, Lin. You’re a freak,” she spat.
It was Lin’s nine-year-old neighbor, Charlene Sheldon. They used to be good friends until Lin made the mistake of telling her about the things she could see.
“You tell lies just to seem special.” Charlene had her hands on her hips. “I’m going to tell.” Her voice was haughty.
Anger boiled inside of Lin mostly because Charlene had spoiled the moment and made the ghost go away, but also because she was sick of Charlene putting her down and telling the other kids she was a freak. A resolve hardened in Lin’s chest.
Mrs. Sheldon came out of the back door of the house and called across the darkness. “You other kids. Come on in here now. The party’s over. Everybody’s going home. Come on.”
Charlene yelled to her mother. “Lin’s telling lies again.”
“Come in here. No more stories,” Mrs. Sheldon said. “It’s time to go.”
Charlene didn’t budge, but Lin stood up, dusted off her butt, and strode across the lawn to the house like she didn’t care about Charlene or anybody else. She did though, she cared a lot. Lin hurried to the back door, blinking hard to keep her tears from falling.
“Lin,” Pete called. He trotted up beside her. “Lin.”
Lin looked at him out of the corner of her eye, expecting some rude comment. She kept walking.
Pete touched her arm. “Thanks,” he whispered.
Lin turned slightly. She gave Pete a little nod.
Mrs. Sheldon eyed the young girl as if she was frightened by her, but the woman didn’t say a word as Lin went into the house to wait for her grandpa to come and pick her up.
The nine-year-old sat down heavily in one of the kitchen chairs. She was so tired of people giving her weird looks and saying mean things to her.
A few months later, Grandpa and Lin left the suburbs for good. They moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where she made a new start as a ‘normal’ kid.
That night at the Sheldon’s party was the last time Carolin Coffin allowed herself to see what other people couldn’t.