Real Haunted Locations - Jerome Arizona Guest Blog by Patricia Friedrich

One of my favorite towns in Arizona, where I live, is Jerome, a former mining community, now mostly made of artisans, artists, and hospitality staff. In Jerome, you will find the Grand Hotel, a massive construction at the top of a hill, which started as a general hospital in 1926 and closed in the 1950s. It was considered state of the art when it first opened, and the original Otis elevator, a modern contraption for the time of the launch, still works today. At the height of activity, the town was home to 15,000 miners and their families, so the hospital was very important and quite busy, socially since mining accidents were common. After the hospital closed, the building was vacant for decades until it was purchased and reopened as a hotel and restaurant in 1996. 

Almost as soon as the hotel opened, reports of strange happenings started surfacing. There were hospital-like sounds, like those of gurneys riding down corridors, as well as voices from empty rooms. The third floor of the hotel is considered to be the one with the most supernatural activity. Children crying and an apparition of a young child are among the most common manifestations. A bearded man who is heard coughing is also amongst the ghosts of the hotel. People also claim to see spectral nurses roaming the halls of the building. 

I have eaten at the hotel’s restaurant numerous times (their roasted butternut squash soup is famous!) and stayed in one of the guest rooms overnight once. Apart from the eerie atmosphere that makes you jumpy—after all, there are even old hospital instruments in curio cabinets decorating the halls—I have never had a close encounter with a ghost there. 

Yet, Jerome is a wonderful day trip from Phoenix. Wondering the streets, learning about the history, eating a massive sandwich at the Haunted Burger (they have vegetarian options), and going to one of the many art stores make for a wonderful time.

View from the hill where the Grand Hotel stands

The Art of Always
Patricia Friedrich

Genre:  Women’s Fiction/Historical
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Date of Publication: Jan 19, 2022
ISBN: 978-1509237791
Number of pages: 372
Word Count: ~ 90K
Cover Artist: Diana Carlile

Tagline: The biggest mystery is why we lie to ourselves

Book Description:

Art history student Darcey Mendes needs a new topic for her thesis in order to graduate, but time is against her. Family debts are pressing. She fears she must give up all hopes of an academic career. Yet, without her degree, would she earn enough to provide for her secret daughter's future? 

Archie Northwood, rich and from a privileged family, suddenly reappears in her life to offer the chance that could save her--the story of his Brazilian great-grandmother. His ancestor was Modernist painter Ana Eça, who, on the verge of stardom in the 1920s, mysteriously vanished from public view forever. 

Choosing to unveil Ana's story is a complicated proposition for them both. How will they be able to work together to resolve the decades-old mystery when Darcey cannot allow Archie to guess her secret?

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A thin mist had covered the city. Inside the fog, cobblestone pavers and streetlamps gave the streets a dreamlike feel, which Ana experienced from the other side of her window. Watching the movement of neighbors hurrying to catch a train or walk to work, she knifed a small wedge of butter and slathered it on a piece of toast. The flavors of the morning, fresh coffee and jam, delighted her. It was a moment of perfection, a fleeting one, full of ideas about art and success, so she took full notice of it. But soon the pleasure of warm French bread and sweet coffee was replaced with worry. Her morning with Joaquim and the strange intuition she had about it kept her heart prisoner and made her attention falter. The strange prophecy and the knot in her stomach alerted her to be careful. As she fell asleep the night before, she had made up her mind that the recent encounter would be their last time together. She reminded herself that no matter the powerful hold Joaquim had on her, she could do whatever she wanted.

About the Author:

Patricia Friedrich is a Professor at Arizona State University, having received her Ph.D. from Purdue University. She teaches courses in composition, linguistics, peace, and culture. She writes non-fiction about the intersection of those areas. Her non-fiction work has appeared in eight books and in over 40 book chapters and journal articles. Her fiction has been published in several literary magazines including Eclectic Flash, The Linnet's Wings, and Birkensnake, as well as in the anthology Flash in the Attic. Her novel The Art of Always was awarded first place at a regional RWA competition, was the winner of a National Indie Excellence Award, and was published in 2022 by The Wild Rose Press. She is also an author of historical romance under the pseudonym Eliza Emmett. All the Parts of Your Soul, her next novel (with Jen Jensen), is forthcoming. She lives in Arizona.

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Intimate Escape by DC Stone

Intimate Escape
Empire Blue Series
Book Four
DC Stone

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Date of Publication: 11/29/22
Number of pages: 250
Word Count: 76,000

Cover Artist: Evernight Publishing

Book Description:

Juliette Scaglione doesn't think her world can get any worse. Recently dumped by her longtime boyfriend while on a vacation she paid for, she returned home only to find the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on her heels.

DEA Agent Matt Gonzalez is sent on a task to uncover a mule at the airport, one he discovers is a feisty and beautiful woman whom he can't take his eyes off of.

Problem is, things get out of control for both fairly quickly as they are kidnapped by the cartel and taken to a prison in Mexico. The two have to learn how to rely on one another to escape the clutches of this violent operation. Through their journey across a country far from home, both of them recognize fighting their attraction may not be the only challenge they have to face.

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“What do you expect to find in my bags?” she asked.

Agent Gonzalez stared at her, and rather than answer what she thought was a pretty logical question, he threw another softball. “I’ll ask you one more time. Do you give your consent to allow us to search your bags? I’m warning you now that I have a federal judge on standby in the event you say no, so one way or another, I will search these bags today. It’s just a matter of whether this will go quickly or take a few hours. Up to you.”

Her heart pounded against the inside of her chest, wanting to run away. She felt much the same way. Not that she thought he’d find anything. It was the absolute certainty she saw on his face that said he knew he’d find something.

“What’s going on?” she asked, hating the meek sound in her voice.


“Yes! Yes, you can search my bags, my—my body, but you won’t find anything in, or rather, on them.”

 Agent Gonzalez unzipped her suitcase.

“After you find nothing, I expect an explanation for what’s going on.” There, that sounded firm. Not shaky, like what her insides were doing.

Agent Watson relieved her of her backpack and purse but placed them on the table and didn’t go through them. Instead, he kept his attention on what Agent Gonzalez was doing, though she knew without a doubt she had his full attention too.

Gonzalez removed her clothing in a systematic fashion, placing items one at a time on the table next to the suitcase. Out came her dirty clothes, which lay on top, jeans, dresses, and her underwear. Her cheeks heated as he continued, his movements slow and thorough.

He got to the bottom, having removed everything from within. Her things were scattered across the table like some bizarre game of Clue.

“See?” she said. “Nothing.”

Agent Watson didn’t move, but Gonzalez sure did. He reached inside her suitcase and felt around the corners, then yanked. The sound of fabric tore.

“Hey! What are you doing?” He tossed the fabric aside, and black plastic square packages were stacked inside in a neat and orderly fashion. Had to be about a dozen of them, at least five to six inches in width.

Shock rooted her to the spot for a few moments. “Wait. What is that?” she asked and took a step forward.

Watson held up a hand in front of her. “Ma’am, please stay back.”

“What is that?” she asked him again, hearing the rising hysteria in her voice.

Gonzalez pulled out one package and produced a pocketknife from somewhere, then cut into the wrapping. Everything around her moved in slow motion until she swore the world had ceased to spin. Her attention stayed riveted to the white powder that came out on the shiny blade.

“Gonna need a test kit,” he said to Watson. The other agent immediately set the bags beside the table, at the farthest reach from her, and left the room.

“Agent Gonzalez,” she said, sounding like she pleaded, because she did. She’d never seen that stuff before in her life. “That’s not mine. What’s going on?”

He pulled out twelve packages, and yes, she counted every single one, before grabbing another black trash bag that someone had taped to the inside of her luggage frame. Once he opened that, several brown baggies came tumbling out. She gasped.

No wonder her bag had been so heavy.

Only then, after the whole horrid nightmare was laid out on the table, all the ugliness next to her things, her clothes, and her bag of toiletries, did he look up at her. “Ms. Scaglione,” he said, reverting to formalities, “the intel we received was there would be someone on your plane, matching your description and carrying a suitcase with over ten kilos of cocaine and about a hundred baggies of heroin. Although I haven’t tested it yet, I can tell you I’d bet my next paycheck that’s what is right here.”

“But it’s not mine.” Dryness coated the inside of her mouth, as if cotton balls had been shoved inside and sucked up all the moisture.

“Are those your clothes?” he asked.

She nodded.

“This your bag?” She nodded, getting where he headed. “Yes, but those drugs are not mine!”

“Of course, they aren’t.” But he said the words as if he didn’t believe her.

“They aren’t!” she yelled.

He slammed his hands on the table and leaned toward her.

About the Author:

D.C. “Desi” Stone is a best-selling romance author and full-time fraud investigator. She lives in the northeast with her incredibly supporting husband, two kids, a cat, and the ever-growing family of dogs. 

After serving eight years of service with the United States Air Force, she went on to transition into the world of financial crimes and became a lead investigator for many years.

Reading has always been a passion of hers, getting lost in a good, steamy romance is one of her favorite past times. She soon after discovered her own love for writing and recreating stories and characters in her head. Her writing concentrates on romantic with specifics in paranormal, suspense, and erotica.

Now, when she isn’t trying to solve a new puzzle in the world of fraud, she is engulfed with coffee, her laptop, and all those crazy characters in her head. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Hudson Valley Romance Writers, New Jersey Romance Writers, RomVets, RWA Kiss of Death, and the Liberty State Fiction Writers. She served as the 2014 NJRW Vice President and Conference Chair. Come stop by on Facebook, Twitter, or her website and say hello!

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Halloween Flash Fiction by E.M. Munsch- Author of A Haunting at Marianwood

One step too many

The wind ripped at my sweater coat as I trod through the cemetery, a short cut to my cozy cottage where a hot toddy and a good book awaited me. The usually familiar graveyard suddenly seemed ominous and forbidding. It was Halloween night, a perfect time for ghosts and goblins to join me.

Overhead, heavy rain clouds obscured the moon and any stars that might shed light upon my chosen path. I hip-bumped into several old tombstones as I stumbled over the uneven ground. I pulled at my sweater hoping to wrap it tightly around me and hold out the damp.

There was a flutter of wings as black birds ascended into the sky and swirled around looking for another perch. An uneasy feeling churned in my stomach as I could feel the birds watching me, tracking me.

A smallish critter ran in front of me. I stopped, wondering which animal chose a darkened night to prowl around. It seemed too big to be a chipmunk.Maybe it was a large squirrel or ground hog. Whatever.Startled and shaking,never in all the times I traversed this property had I heard or seen so much wildlife. Were they upset with me disturbing their private time? 
Foolish, that’s what I felt after that thought. These animals, furry or feathered, had no stake in my trip home. In another ten minutes or so, I would be gone and they would have the place to themselves if that’s what they wanted.

Head down, I put one foot in front of the other, mumbling to myself about the inanity of all this spooky nonsense. My sweater coat no longer afforded any comfort from the damp and now hung heavily from my shoulders. The drizzly mist surrounded me. I was chilled to the bone and longing for that comforting cup of tea. 

Then, for just a second, I lost my concentration and tumbled into a freshly dug grave. I fell headfirst but landed on my side, cursing my stupidity. It took me a minute to realize my predicament. I was alone in the dark and it was unlikely that another earthbound soul would come my way.

The space wasn’t very wide but it did feel like the six feet under was correct. Of course it would be. Who would dig a shallow grave? Not the professionals at Edgemere Cemetery.

I stood up and brushed at whatever mud and leaves I accumulated on my downward journey. I’m five foot two so I calculated that I had a good ten inches to climb if I wanted out of this hole. And I did. One of many problems with the grave was it had no toe holds or ropes or a ladder to use. Definitely inconvenient of the diggers. And, I thought angrily, why was the hole uncovered!

I fumbled around for my cell phone, pretty sure that I would encounter that awful ‘no signal’ even though I was well within the boundaries of civilization. No, instead I discovered that I hadn’t charged the phone. I sat down in one of the corners to use that brain I had, the one thought to be better than a chipmunk’s who I’m sure would have no problem scaling the sides. 
Surely my husband Bob would miss me. Eventually. When he got his nose out of the latest Robert Crais and realized I hadn’t made it home. Surely he would come looking for me. And in all likelihood he’d fall into the grave just like I did. Two klutzes are we.

Well, I did try to climb out. But as I suspected, I climber I am not. I even tried digging toe holds. I could get my foot into it but there was nothing above to use to pull myself up (and hopefully out).

I sat there contemplating a long cold night when I heard rustling coming from above. I looked up to see several sets of eyes looking down at me. Even without the moonlight I could see the yellow glow emanating from them. Furry little rabbits did not have yellow eyes. Hungry coyotes did. 

This can’t be good.

A Haunting at Marianwood
Dash Hammond 
Book Six
E.M. Munsch

Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Mystery and Horror, LLC
Date of Publication: October 18, 2022
ISBN-10: ‎1949281213
ISBN-13: ‎978-1949281217
Print length: ‎217 pages

Book Description: 

Life is good for Dash Hammond. He's recently remarried his childhood sweetheart, Dr. Maevis Summers, and together they're raising his four-year-old son, T.J. in the Hammond family homestead in Clover Pointe, Ohio. A retired Army colonel, Dash now keeps himself busy fixing everything from a leaky faucet to an unsolved murder.

It is no wonder that his cousin Billy McCafferty calls on Dash for a road trip to Kentucky when  his oldest sister is in trouble. The president of a religious order, Sister Miriam Patrice, Miri Pat to those who knew her before she took the veil, has been hearing things, seeing things and misplacing things. A very competent woman, she refuses to accept an unearthly reason for all this.

Marianwood, the motherhouse of the Sisters of the Blessed Mother of God, is located on an old plantation thought to be haunted by its original inhabitant, Miss Victoria Harris, who is rumored to prowl the grounds and cemetery in search of her murdered beau. 

When the Ohio contingent arrives, they discover that things are not as simple as your ordinary haunting. 

In a battle of wits, will the victor be supernatural or a very corporal retired Army colonel?



Sister Miriam Patrice slid back from the kneeler. The quiet of the church soothed her as it wrapped its velvet cloak of serenity around her. She sat, hands folded, once in prayer but now to stop the trembling. Glancing at the sunlight streaming through the stained-glass windows casting a rainbow on the empty pews, she drew in deep slow breaths. She looked at the watch pinned to her tunic. Time to get back to work. She rose to leave the church, her place of refuge, a place free from the distractions of the running the community and the new retirement home the sisters established to help make ends meet.

The members of the Sisters of the Blessed Mother of God found their numbers dwindling. New recruits, as Sister Miriam Patrice called them mimicking her cousin Dash Hammond’s military jargon, were very rare. The teaching congregation once had more than a hundred sisters. Vocations, callings to either the religious or the educational side of the community, had fallen to less than a handful each year.

As she walked down the aisle to the back of the church, she heard it again. Tap, tap, tap. She stopped to listen, making sure she wasn’t mistaken. That sound sent shivers down her spine. Squaring her shoulders she walked to the doors next to the church exit. One led up to the choir loft, the other down to the cellar. In days past she had gone up the stairs; today she would go down.

Pulling the doorknob, Miriam Patrice met the resistance of a locked door. She pulled out her keys and unlocked it. She struggled with the door, suggesting to her that no one had gone to the cellar in a while.

The stone steps were worn but sturdy. She moved cautiously into the darkness, one hand on the wall to steady her nervous knees, the other searching for the handrail. Her hope was that the security guard forgot to close the door one day and some critter, not two legged, was trapped down here and making the tap, tap, tap sound. Logically she knew this was wrong, but the alternative could be worse.

Decades ago they discovered one of the newer buildings constructed during a period of rapid expansion had been built on an underground spring. It wasn’t long before the building tilted, as did their finances. What a waste of time and money. Fearful that what she would find was a tell-tale pooling or bubbling of water, she moved forward slowly. She said a silent prayer that she would not stumble into a puddle, a precursor of the inevitable unwelcome news.

Her trek seemed unnecessarily slow though reason told Miriam Patrice she should alert one of her sisters where she was just in case she lost her footing. But her reasoning had not been the sharpest of late. She blamed her sleepless nights, not because of an uneasy conscience but an overabundance of concern for her congregation and its uncertain future, both financially and individually.

After spending a half an hour poking into the corners, searching for the origin of the sound, Miriam Patrice gave up. She needed a flashlight if she wanted to do a proper search. Next time she would be prepared. Next time, she told herself, she would be less skittish, more confident that she could deal with whatever sprung up from the tap, tap, tap. After deciding this, she nodded to herself. At least she didn’t hear a drip, drip, drip.

The sound had stopped so she returned to the church. As she locked the door behind her, the tap, tap, tap began again, louder this time. If she permitted herself, she would have said damn.

About the Author:

Elaine Munsch is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, but has spent her adult life in Louisville, Kentucky.  She graduated from Nazareth College of Kentucky located outside of Bardstown and attended The Ohio State University for her graduate work. She has been a bookseller for fifty years working in both large and small, chain and independent bookstores. She opened the first Barnes & Noble in Kentucky where she set up a mystery reading group which is still active today. She also taught classes in the mystery genre for the Veritas Society and joined the local chapter of Sisters in Crime.
With Susan Bell, she co-edited MYSTERY WITH A SPLASH OF BOURBON, an anthology of bourbon related stories.

As E.M. Munsch, she writes the Dash Hammond series set on the shores of Lake Erie. The latest title, A HAUNTING AT MARIANWOOD, is set to be released at the end of October.

The Witch, The Wolfman and Me by C.S. Edwards #FlashFiction #ShortStory #HalloweenStory

The old Victorian home on the corner of 5th and River Road in Covington was bathed in fall decorations. Two large clusters of dried corn stalks flanked the extra wide front door, while hay bales and pots of colorful mums filled in the empty spaces, making the old white house the most festive one on the block. On the broad covered porch, that went all the way around each side of the stately place, a giant black iron pot full of dry ice sat bubbling, with a big broom leaning up against the handle. The front steps that ambled from the home to the street, donned glowing pumpkins of all shapes, sizes, and colors each carved, in its own unique way. If you didn’t know better, any old passerby might think the police tape strapped from column to column on the porch, was the picture-perfect Halloween touch to such an elegant array of fall décor. The tape was not décor. It was real. And what happened on the corner of 5th and River Road that Halloween would go down in history as one of the scariest nights in Covington. I should know, I was there. 

As with most creepy stories, it was cold, and dark. Even though a full moon hung in the sky, its only purpose was to cast shadows in all the right places. Despite the ominous ambiance, River Road was bustling with tricker-treaters. Rightly so, it was Halloween. The old Victorian welcomed many ghosts and goblins, superheroes and villains. There were cats and dogs, dinosaurs and storm troopers. For two hours an endless stream of tiny to tall treaters came up the walk, past the bubbling pot and rang the doorbell – all in the name of candy; which is exactly who answered the door. Miss Candace Milford Palmer – Candy to her friends, family, and neighbors. The elegant old widow was dressed in her best witches’ garb, from the wide-brimmed back hat to her long black dress and pointy boots. She’d let her grey and white hair down, and it hung around her shoulders like a curly scarf. Candy had done her very best to paint her oddly smooth porcelain skin with wrinkles and even a wart. She was a goodwitch. 

When I got to the corner of 5th and River Road, I marched up the brick path, climbed the front steps, strode past the bubbling pot and put my finger on the golden circle to ring the bell. At thirteen, it would be my last year dressing up and parading around the neighborhood for candy. That fact made me a bit sad, but I had a pillow case full of treats, a sheet over my head, and I was determined to make the most of my final Halloween as a kid. The doorbell chimed three notes. I readied my white sack by curling back the edge of the case and holding it wide open. But the door did not budge. Instinctively, I looked back over my shoulder. The street had cleared. It was close to nine, and all the small children were safely back in their homes. I’d passed a group of unrecognizable teens on my way from the Blakes’ house, just two doors down. They’d buzzed by me running down the street, whooping and laughing. But I didn’t hear them now. They’d vanished into the darkness of the night. And River Road stood still and silent, except for me. I swallowed, and turned back to the bell, pushing it again. The bells three notes rang out. “Hello. Misses Palmer?” Letting the pillow case slide to my feet, I put my knuckles up to knock, and let them hoover over the wooden surface of the black door. I thought better of it, and leaned to the side of the door to peer through the window and into the house. That’s when I saw it. The eyes were glowing a golden hue, and its head was covered in matted and disheveled fur.

I thought I took a step backward. In my mind I did. But before I could run, the door swung open and I was pulled inside the old Victorian. My ghostly cover got caught in the door, as it slammed shut, and slipped away from me. There I stood, no sheet, just me in the middle of Candy Palmer’s foyer with a monster. He stood at least eight feet tall, on legs like a wolf. His whole body was furry, but a mix of human and animal parts. His arms were manly and his hands gigantic. I tried not to breathe, as he towered over me panting. A few drips of saliva slid from his fangs, exposed by what appeared to be a broad smile on his lips. I needed help and thought, “where is Candy Palmer?” 

Out of the side of my eye, I peered to the left. The dining room was undisturbed. Then I looked right. The library was dark, except for the light of the full moon streaming in, which hit the oriental rug, and what lay on it. Candy Palmer, I presumed. The wolfman lowered himself to just above the top of my head. He sniffed and let out a low growl. Somehow, I knew what was coming next. It wasn’t a huge leap to assume once a wolfman has sniffed you, he’s going to kill you. I really don’t know what possessed me to duck when I did, but that’s what happened. I bent my knees, just as the wolfman went to wrap his gigantic hands around my shoulders, and scurried through is legs. Falling face first to the floor, I heard a scuffling and turned over on my back to see the most magical and magnificent sight. Candy Palmer had risen from the dead, and with a wand in hand was blasting the wolfman with a stream of what looked like electricity. It only lasted for a few seconds, and the monster fell to the ground. She rushed over to me. 

“My dear child. Are you okay?” Candy Palmer said. 

“I think so.” I gave myself a once over with my eyes and hands. “Yep. I’m fine. But I don’t think he is.” 

Scrambling to my feet, I walked with Candy to the heap that lay dying on her foyer floor. What was a wolfman, was now just a bloody naked man. 

“Poor thing.” Candy said. “I’m sorry it happened this way Earl.” She bent down and patted the man on his head. “But you can’t expect me to let you eat the children.” 

The man blinked, and took in a labored breath. 

“Earl? You mean that’s your son, Earl Palmer?” I looked between Candy and the body that had stopped moving. 

“In a manner of speaking, yes. But not anymore. Come now, let me get you some tea.” Candy wrapped her arm around my shoulder and led me away to the kitchen. 

“Shouldn’t we call the police?” I said.

“Well, yes. About that, we’ll need to get our story straight. You see. I can’t have you telling everyone what you saw here tonight. You understand?” Candy reached into her pocket and pulled out her wand. Before I could say a word, she’d zapped me with a bolt of light. 

I’d like to tell you it was one of those bolts that just erased my memory, but alas, here I am telling you this story. She was trying to do to me what she’d done to Earl, but failed. You see, I saw the sparking silver knife on the table the moment we walked into the kitchen. And I’m pretty quick. So, while Candy Palmer thought she was zapping me, I grabbed the knife and… before that bolt hit me, she was dead on the kitchen floor, with a knife in her heart. That’s the only way to kill a witch, you know. 

Crazy Witch
The Witch Doctors 
Book Three
C.S. Edwards

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: C.S. Edwards
Date of Publication: October 31, 2022
ISBN: 9798215161517
Number of pages: 142
Word Count: 36,382
Cover Artist: C.S. Edwards

Book Description:

What does Bart Babington’s love life, a legendary key, and the Goddess of Death, have in common? Well, Bart is about to find out.

The not-so-famous witch doctor cosmetic surgeon is sick and tired of his two meddling sisters trying to mate him up at every annual Samhain celebration for the last ten years. So, Bart enlists his two best wingmen to help him find a fake date to take to Rabbit Hash for the party.

In his grand plan to get his sisters off his back, what he didn’t count on is falling for a pigeon raising, southern witch on a moped. Nor did he expect to lose her during the couple’s championships for the Loving Cup. But he’s on a ghostly trip to sort out his past and make room for true love in his life.

Will Bart find his witch, or will he never unlock his heart?


The Townhouse in Mt. Adams

“Bart, this is your mother.” Blanche’s disembodied voice seeped through the speaker system embedded in every room of the three-story townhouse. Echoing throughout the sparsely decorated spaces, her tone was calm and rational with a tinge of caution—which sounded pretty normal for Blanche Babington. “Your sisters and I are planning on seeing you this weekend for the Samhain festivities in Rabbit Hash. Let me know when you expect to transport. Seems Betsy and Betty have some big plans for you again. You better call me back.”

Bart stepped out of the shower, wrapped a bath towel around his waist, and strode to the sink. Tussling his auburn hair with his hand, he spoke to his reflection in the mirror. “I know what my sisters are up to. They do this shit every year. No more.”

Bart tapped the left corner of the mirror and a ripple of waves moved from the corner of the mercury backed glass across the once still and solid surface, “Amelia, call Reggie and Sparky.”

The mirror answered in her distinctive AI rhythm, “calling Reggie and Sparky,” and emanated an old-fashioned ring of a corded phone. With a plop, Reggie appeared in one corner of the mirror and Sparky in another. Amelia displayed the trio of friends in a single line across the elegant mercury backed glass, which hung above a sleek marble double vanity in Bart’s master bathroom and doubled as a smart screen. “I have your BFFs, Bart. What else would you like me to do?”

“That’s all. Thanks Amelia.” Bart dismissed his smart assistant and smiled. “If only all women were like Amelia.”

“Yo, brother, why you got to be showing up on my Copy Reveal screen half naked?” Reggie grimaced.

“He’ll say it was unintentional, but we all know the truth. He didn’t get enough attention as a child.” Sparky chimed in.

“Shut up. It’s go time. Are you boys ready for The Lemon?” Bart stretched on his shirt.

“I’m not sure The Lemon is ready for your look, bub.” Reggie grimaced and looked away.

“What?” Bart looked down to see his emerald green towel still tightly wrapped around his waist, topped off with a navy-blue pima cotton, boutique brand, polo. “Oh hell. I’m going to grab some jeans.”

“Don’t forget your tightie-whities, Marky-Mark.” Sparky yelled.

“Rightfully so. Who wears tightie-whities, ever? Even back in the day, when he dropped his drawers to impress Miss Mona Lisa Giorgio—who was not feeling the vibrations—the tighties were not a good look.” Sparky grinned and straightened his ball cap.

Reggie nodded. “True. No matter how good the package, sometimes it’s all about the wrapping.” The two friends gave each other a virtual high five that spawned an undulation of swells in the mirror.

Bart returned clad in jeans and his polo. “Fuck off, both of you. I looked good. It wasn’t my choice of underwear she didn’t like. Miss Mona Lisa was into rich Italian guys. She wasn’t into young, just starting out, witch doctors.”

“Whatever makes you feel better, man.” Sparky waved him off.

“I’ll feel better when I pull this weekend off. I’m ready to get this plan started. I’ve got to find a witch worthy of hanging out with for the next three days, and that’s willing to play along like we’re a real couple. I’m determined to put an end to the ‘set-up Bart’ bullshit my sisters pull every Samhain. It ruins the whole weekend. Besides, it's gone on long enough. Time to move on. I've moved on. Everyone else needs to, too.”

“No shit. Last year was ridiculous. I thought Betsy was never going to quit introducing you to all those models.” Sparky shook his head, and his silver and black hair dangled over one eye. “It was like a line of Wictoria Angels walking the catwalk just for you.”

“You poor asshole.” Reggie scoffed. “You could help a brother out and throw some of your misfortune my way, you know. I am a single warlock now, too.”

“Trust me, none of those witches were your type. They weren’t my type either. Besides, you and I are not the settling down kind. Not anymore. That’s why your three-year shit-show with Brigette didn’t work out Regg. I mean, how the hell did you expect to settle down with a hippie witch? You’re mister conservative?”

“She wasn’t a hippie witch.” Reggie rubbed his chin. “She was crazy.”

“Crazy witch. Definitely.” Sparky agreed.

“Well, whatever. Good riddance. You’re better than that, man. We don’t do crazy because crazy witches just up and disappear for no reason what-so-ever.” Bart leaned on the counter and eyed both of his best friends. “We do this. Us. Brothers.”

“Yeah. But don’t forget Misty.” Sparky’s eyes lit up at the mention of his wife.

“Of course, I always include Misty in our crew. Hell, she’s a better wingman than you are Sparky. Just something about a female fox Shifter that witches love.” Reggie waggled his bushy eyebrows, licked his thumb and forefinger, and slide them across both unruly strips.

“Is she coming out on this little manly adventure to get Bart a weekend play date? Or are we rolling with the homies only?” Reggie asked.

“She’s sitting this one out. Something about getting all our crap together for the Samhain festivities. I think she’s been plotting and planning with your sister’s, Bart. So, frankly, we need to keep your plan to trip up their matchmaking on the down low Or, Misty might blow your cover.” Sparky looked over his shoulder toward a shadowy door in the distance. “Hence, why I’m hiding out in the basement? I didn’t want her to sniff us out.”

“Good luck with that. Misty’s got a better sniffer than you do, man. And I’m bummed she’s not coming out with us. Like Reggie said, she’s the best wingman we got.” Bart thrust his hands in his pockets to straighten his jeans

“You lookin’ to find the next Mrs. Darington, Regg?” Sparky asked.

“Could be? You know, the third times a charm.” Reggie mussed his dark hair and smoothed his pale green button down.

“Charm my ass. I never believed in that crap. The two previous witches should have taught you a lesson. Love and Reginold Darington don’t mix. You’re free and clear, bro. Enjoy that freedom.” Bart bobbed his head and stuck out his chest.

“Don’t do that. Whatever that ‘trying to look badass’ thing you’ve got going on there. You look real silly.” Sparky laughed.

“Shut the fuck up, Sparky, before I ask Amelia to vape you out of this conversation.” Bart blew out a long breath. He was already worried enough about this whole fiasco he'd cooked up. But he was so tired of everyone trying to make him forget Samhain was associated with the worst day of his life.

“Go ahead, buddy. I’ve got my woman. I don’t need to help you one bit.” Sparky crossed his arms and leaned back in his desk chair.

“Alright you two, just cool it with the machismo shit. Time’s a wasting, and I don’t even know what that plan is for this hairbrained scheme Bart’s got us doing. But we better get to doing it before the evening gets away from us.” Reggie looked at a glowing watch-like contraption on his wrist.

“You’re right, Regg. We need to get a move on. My plan is to start out at The Blind Lemon here in Mt. Adams. I’m thinking there’ll be a healthy crowd of witches there on the eve of the two biggest nights in the witch world. Samhain always brings the ladies out. So, all I have to do is find the one that will be cool with playing a little game of pretend with me.” Bart shrugged. “Easy peasy.”

“The Blind Lemon. Don’t you go there all the time, man?” Reggie asked.

“Sure. But never around the holidays. It gets stupid crazy with crowds.” Bart said.

“I’m not so sure The Lemon is the best place, either. But what the hell? Let’s give it a whirl. If that’s a bust, we’ll trot back on over here to my neck of the woods. The Rhine is always hopping.” Sparky got up from his chair and put his face close to the screen. “We transporting now?”

“Give me twenty minutes,” said Reggie.

“Twenty minutes. What the hell, dude?” Bart barked.

“I gotta do some stuff. Lock up the place, settle Max in for the night. You know. Just stuff. Besides, I’m coming all the way from Indian Hills. You know, it takes me a bit longer to transport from way out here. You and Sparky can light it up in a few minutes and be at The Lemon’s passageway. Hell, Bart, you can walk quicker than you take to transport.” Reggie puffed.

“Max will be fine. He’s the coolest Shepard familiar ever. I’m sure Barty needs to tuck little baby Pricilla piggy in, too.” Sparky said in a mocking baby voice.

“Don’t you worry about Cilla. She’s with Blanche and my sisters. They’re doing all the girly things for the party, and she couldn’t miss that. Besides, Cilla is the baddest bitch flying pig familiar around.” Bart loved his little pink flying pig and doted on her. She'd come into his life at a very dark moment, and he'd never forget the joy and love she showed him. Priscilla was the reason Bart stayed the course to become a witch doctor.

“Exactly, dude. She’s a flying fucking pig. Seriously, I was just teasing you. Literally, you couldn’t ask for a cooler familiar.” Sparky threw a cap on his head.

“I know. Okay, enough. I’m giving you guys thirty minutes. Under the garden sign on Hatch Street.” Bart pointed first at Reggie, then to Sparky. “Thirty minutes.”

“Cool.” Sparky nodded.

“Should I wear a hat? A ball cap like Sparky. Is that a thing now?” Reggie pulled a faded maroon and off-white hat, accented with a beer label patch on the front panel, from a hook on the wall next to him and slipped it on his head.

“Dude. It doesn’t matter. Just get your ass moving.” Bart rolled his eyes and tapped the mirror, which rippled again like water washing away the images of his two friends.

About the Author:

C.S. Edwards is a southern author of small town adventures sprinkled with romance, mystery, and occasionally some paranormal and fantasy. Her newest release, Crazy Witch, The Witch Doctors Book 3, is a saucy, fun, romantic romp. In her catalog, you’ll also find the darker small town mystery Welcome to Lovely, that shows a spicier side of crime and romance.

C.S. Edwards lives with her family on the Kentucky side of Cincinnati, where they are all just doing their part to make the world a little more interesting and entertaining.

“My kids, all five of them, swear I talk to myself way too much. What they don’t know is, I’m not talking to myself, I’m talking to my characters. Sure, that makes me a little crazy, but come on, it also makes me super interesting—right?! Probably not, but a girl can dream.” — C.S. Edwards

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