Murder of a Ghost by J. W. Becker by J. W. Becker - Read Online

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Murder of a Ghost - J. W. Becker

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Chapter 1

Cash knew he could see ghosts. It shocked him the first time it happened. They scared him when he was little, but now six years later he could ignore most of them and deal with the ones he couldn’t...most of the time. Sometimes they would try to talk to him, which felt creepy. They would also stare at him and he found that unnerving. He hated when they pointed at him. It was like they wanted the rest of their ghostly friends to know he could see them. He often got the impression the ghosts were laughing at him, pointing and shouting, Look over there at the live one. A long time ago he decided that he no longer hated them; after all, they probably didn’t want to be dead, but they still managed to bug him. They were downright annoying. Yeah...and they still scare me.

Cash was horrified when the ghosts walked through him, which was definitely the very worst thing of all. When they moved through he could see part or all of their former lives and usually how they died. Some of them had died violently. That made him shudder. After an encounter he felt unconnected to his own world because he’d been thrown into theirs. It was starting to be a real problem, especially if they stopped inside of him for a while. It freaked him out. It would take him a long time to get over the things he saw while they were drifting inside of him. It was starting to invade his sleep. He often had nightmares connected to the ghosts. He wished he could get rid of them, but he doubted anyone else would want them or believe that they were real.

Joseph Donald McKay’s best friend was dead and he had no doubt that he would be a ghost. Tomorrow was his funeral. He wasn’t looking forward to going because he feared the other ghosts from the spirit world might show up. All he needed was to be surrounded by a bunch of spooks to freak him out. It wasn’t something he wanted to happen in public.

Joseph Donald McKay was also known as Cash. In fact, he rarely answered to anything else. Cash was the name his father had given him when he was just a little kid. He found a penny when he was about four years old. His father explained the concept of money and from that day forward Cash looked for coins. He had a jar full of pennies hidden under the porch at his house. The nickname stuck.

Cash thought about his dead friend, Billy. He didn’t want to see him as a ghost, but knew that somehow that was exactly what was about to happen. He was positive Billy was already a ghost because it always seemed to happen fast.

Cash had seen Tommy Ransom get hit by a car and before that boy ever hit the ground his ghost-self popped out. This wasn’t one of Cash’s more pleasant memories. I have to admit I miss you, Billy, but somehow I don’t guess it will be for too long.

He wondered if Billy’s ghost-self would be like his real self. He gave the ghosts some thought. They confused him most of the time, especially when they got touchy feely. It messed him up and more than once the result was that he would black out from the encounter. He was always careful not to accidentally walk through them. He also tried not to talk to them. The few that had tried to start a conversation scared the hell out of him. Sometimes they sounded like they were speaking underwater and he didn’t really understand them at all, but there were the others and he understood them perfectly. It was definitely better when they just didn’t speak.

Cash put on his only good pair of pants and a slightly tattered white shirt. He had no suit coat, but went into his uncle’s room and took his tie. Uncle Phil was a real bastard to him and would be pissed if he found out about the tie. If he did, Cash knew he’d likely pay for it with Phil’s belt across his back. His back still hadn’t healed from his last beating. Funny, I don’t really remember when that happened. Cash shrugged and looked at the tie in his hand. You’re my best friend, Billy Thomas, and if I’m going to your funeral, I need a tie.

Cash stood in front of the mirror and attempted to comb his unruly hair. He thought back to his parents’ funeral. It seemed so long ago. He was only five when they were killed. He wondered why he never saw them as ghosts. Splashing water on his hair, he attempted again to comb it down. The blond cowlick didn’t comb well, so he finally gave up and left it. He fixed the tie as best he could and then tucked the oversized tattered shirt into his pants before climbing down from the stool he’d been standing on.

* * *

Cash left the house and walked the two miles over to Stanton’s Funeral Home. It was a low, one-story building at the west end of town. It stood apart from the other buildings, as if the others wouldn’t want to be built next to it. When he got there, he stood outside for a long time before going in. Well, Billy, here goes nothing. Please don’t haunt me right away."

Cash went up the stone walkway and opened the door just enough to peek inside. The lobby was done in a red-violet color that to his way of thinking was disgusting. Almost looks like blood! The four viewing rooms were just off the large round lobby. Billy was in the first room. Cash walked over and looked at the sign announcing the service for William Allen Thomas, age ten. Cash stared at it for a long time.

Shit, Cash mumbled. How could you go and get yourself dead, Billy?

Cash entered as quietly as he could. He spotted Billy’s momma and approached her. Mrs. Thomas took one look at him before hugging him against to her very ample breast. He didn’t exactly know what to do, so he did nothing except stand there and let her cry on him, silently hoping she wouldn’t smother him and get Uncle Phil’s tie wrinkled.

Cash was saved by Reverend Blackman who came over to console Mrs. Thomas. Cash briefly wondered where Billy’s daddy was. The man loved his liquor and hit the bottle regularly when there was a crisis, so he was probably down at Mr. Tyler’s tavern.

Cash used the Reverend’s diversion to escape Mrs. Thomas and slowly walked up the aisle to the casket. He hesitated before looking at Billy. He thought about how Billy looked gross and waxy—not at all like the real Billy. He couldn’t understand how Dead Billy would come back and be Ghost Billy, but he knew it was going to happen as sure as he was standing there. He leaned down and whispered, Hey, Billy. I’m sure we’re going to see each other again real soon. Please be careful and don’t walk through me, okay?

Cash looked around at the mourners sitting in rows of chairs set in sections of six. There were several of Billy’s relatives he knew and he acknowledged them with a slight nod. He got nervous when he spotted several ghosts hanging around the back of the room and decided it was time to leave. As he passed the section where the ghosts were sitting, one of them, Mrs. Burnham, reached out to touch his shoulder. Cash moved so quickly that he almost fell down. I’m sorry, she whispered.

Cash hurried out the parlor door grateful that she hadn’t actually touched him. His head started to pound as it often did when ghosts were involved. He couldn’t stay there anymore. He didn’t do funerals well and knew that Billy would understand. At least he’d shown up.

It was raining when he left the funeral home. He looked up and heaved a big sigh, then took Uncle Phil’s tie off and put it under his shirt, hoping to keep it dry. He wanted to put it back before Phil came home and discovered it was gone. He never knew when Phil would show up because he worked construction and the hours were always different. Sometimes he came home at weird hours. Phil also drank heavily, which is why he didn’t always make it to work or back home. Sometimes he was gone for days at a time. Cash tried to stay out of his way when he was drunk because he got mean and would get after him for the slightest infraction.

It was raining harder and make matters worse, it was accompanied by thunder and lightning. Somehow it seemed right—Billy being dead and the rain pouring down. A block from his house, Billy decided to join him. Hey Cash, how was my funeral?

Cash nearly jumped out of his skin. Lord Almighty, Billy Thomas! Why aren’t you over at the funeral home where you’re supposed to be?

Thought I’d come hang out with you, Billy laughed. BOO!

Don’t do that! You about gave me a heart attack.

Sorry. Hey Cash, you’re going to have to help me.

Cash stopped abruptly and turned to stare at his ghost friend. Help you? How can I help you? You’re dead.

You got a problem with that?

Cash was angry...angry that he was standing in the rain talking to Billy’s ghost, but even madder that he was a ghost. Yeah, especially when I have to look at rain dripping inside of you. Cash squinted into the rain. I’m a ten year-old kid and so are you, or you were anyway. Whatever! How do you expect me to help you? And what kind of help does a ghost need? You’re dead. Accept it and go away. Go do ghost stuff.

I’d help you if you were dead.

But you’re the one who’s dead. You’re a frickin’ ghost!

I’m still lovable and I didn’t ask to be a ghost. I was murdered and you sort of have to murder me again so I can leave here. Billy said in a matter-of-fact tone. You’re my best friend and I need you to help me find out who killed me. I need to enter your body.

Are you crazy? How am I... Cash stopped. What do you mean I have to murder you? You’re already dead.

Well, if you help me find out who killed me the first time, it will be like dying again—being killed a second time.

Cash stared at Billy through the pouring rain. You’re crazy. Great! I’m arguing with a ghost for Christ’s sake!

Cash’s anger seethed until it finally hit him what Billy had said. Murdered? What do you mean you were mur...murdered?

You’re just not used to me being a ghost. Y’all need to listen to me, Cash McKay. I can’t rest until I find out why I got killed. I’m like caught in nowhere and I sure don’t like it. You’re the only one who can help me. You’re also the only one who I can talk to ‘cause no one else can see me.

Damn it, Billy! Wait just one minute. Are you saying all those ghosts floating around are stuck?

Most of them.

Cash sighed deeply and hung his head. Billy, you make my stomach hurt.

Sorry about that.

Cash tried to ignore Billy the rest of the way home, but he found that wasn’t easy to do because Billy never stopped talking. Cash walked across the railroad tracks and slipped, soaking his pants in a puddle of dirty water. He got up and resumed walking, ignoring the fact that he was dripping wet.

Clayton was a small town with a right and a wrong side. The street Cash lived on was definitely on the wrong side, consisting of mostly dilapidated homes. Most of the houses hadn’t been taken care of in a very long time. They all looked tired with their faded, peeling paint. Crime was an everyday occurrence in this part of town.

He looked up at his house. It was a sickly green with dirty white trim and a front door that stuck. It was always hard to open and squeaked in protest at any intrusion. There were three rooms on the first floor—a kitchen, a dining room, and a small front room. Upstairs there were also three rooms—two bedrooms and the small bathroom he’d used earlier.

Cash’s bedroom was at the end of the hall. He had a mattress on the floor and one blanket. His clothes were kept in an old secondhand dresser with only three drawers. The bottom one was missing. Sitting on the dresser was a lamp that worked part of the time if you jiggled the bottom and to the left of the lamp was a chair with a broken rung. Much of the house was in a similar condition. Uncle Phil didn’t believe in spending money except for necessities and in Phil’s opinion, furniture was not a necessity.

Cash picked up his school books from the mattress and set them on the chair. He put Phil’s tie back, smoothing it down. It was damp and he hoped it would dry straight. He went back to his room and changed into his other shirt and jeans.

Billy looked at the two pairs of pants hanging in the closet and Cash’s other clean shirt. This is pathetic. Your uncle needs to get you some clothes.

Cash jumped at the sound of Billy’s voice. Billy, let me know when you’re here. Stop scaring the shit out of me. You know how it is around here. Phil doesn’t even want me here, so what makes you think he’d buy me anything. I’m lucky he feeds me, Cash added, before dropping to the mattress. He only keeps me for the welfare checks.

I didn’t know it was that bad. Damn, it’s gotten worst since I’ve been dead. How come you didn’t tell me?

Get out of the closet. Are you going to haunt that now?

Touchy. Touchy. You need to relax. Hey, do you want to go down by Stricker’s pond...maybe fish some?

It’s raining and besides you can’t go fishing, you’re dead. Cash glanced at Billy. How do you know you were murdered?

You told me.

ME? Cash yelled, jumping up. How could I tell you? You’re not only dead, YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY NUTS!

I don’t think I’m crazy and quit telling me I’m dead. I know that and it kind of creeps me out because I’m not feeling very dead right now.

Too bad! How come you can talk to me? I can hear you really good. I don’t hear most of the other ghosts this good.

You’re supposed to help me. That’s why you can hear me.

I don’t get it.

It’s a long story.

Cash gave Billy a hard look. You don’t even make sense.

Billy laughed. I don’t have to, I’m a ghost!

Go away, Billy. You’re making my head hurt worse.

I can’t go away. You know who killed me and I need you to help me expose them so I can be at peace.

How could I know? Cash reasoned. I didn’t even see you that night.

You were there, Billy whispered and then disappeared.

Cash turned quickly to face Billy, but saw that he was gone. Where are you, Billy?

There was no answer. Only silence greeted him. He screamed in anger at the spot where Billy had been standing. Billy, you can’t say something like that and just disappear on me. Where the hell are you?

Cash picked up a book and threw it across the room. Damn you, Billy!

Chapter 2

Even by rural standards the town Cash lived in was very small.

Clayton, Georgia was a southern town that sat inside a valley surrounded by tobacco and cotton fields. If the wind blew in the right direction during harvest time you could smell the sweet aroma of tobacco. Most of the people in Clayton worked the harvest.

People in Clayton moved slowly in the summer heat and truth be told they didn’t move any faster in the mild winters. Like most towns there were good people and bad. There was a very small element of the bad kind. There was the usual amount of domestic violence, petty crime, and teenage pranks. Clayton didn’t have a big drug problem, mostly people gravitated to alcohol.

There was a combination Police and Fire Depart-ment that was sandwiched back-to-back between a yellow professional building and the pharmacy. The Police Department had a total of four cops and the Fire Department was made up of volunteers. Chances were whatever was burning would go right down to the ground before the six volunteers would get to it.

The yellow professional building housed the town’s one lawyer, Mr. Lincoln Worhman. He hated his name and would only answer to Link. Next to his office was the real estate office of Ella Caroline Lewis. Ms. Lewis could always be reached at her home because she hated the office and didn’t go there unless it was necessary. She went there on Thursday afternoons, but there wasn’t much call for real estate in Clayton so everyone knew to call her at home. Downstairs was the only beauty shop in town. It was open two days a week. Call for appointments. The appointments went through the central telephone company. Miss Millie Seeworth was the sole operator and also the town beautician. Her claim to fame was her bright orange hair.

The last office to be occupied in the building belonged to Doctor Able Stamford. It was on the main floor since most of his patients were old and couldn’t climb stairs. Dr Stamford was also old, eighty-two when he died three weeks ago. He was the only physician in the county, which meant a forty mile trip to the next town for medical help.

The rest of Main Street consisted of a restaurant, which served only breakfast and lunch. There was an antique store which always looked closed even when it was open. Meyer’s Market was on the Northwest corner. The other buildings were a Feed and Tack store on the southeast corner and across the street Owens hardware store. There was one very ugly green gas station, a bank, and several empty store fronts. The Five-and-Dime store was on the east corner. Most people shopped there for essentials.

Two blocks down from Main Street, on Pickford Drive was the town’s largest building. The former Castillo home had been turned into the library. The three-story mansion boasted a spiral staircase that ran from the main floor to the very top of the house. It was on a small hill overlooking the Methodist church. There were three churches in Clayton—Methodist, Catholic, and the Baptist group on Hayward Street.

The Castillo house had been built back in the 1840s and was a curious rounded building. The entire second and third floors formed into a circle that had shelves filled with books from floor to ceiling. The books had been donated by Mr. Sullivan Ranston, who had owned and lived in the house until his death in 1950. He was found hanging in the third floor foyer on a rope that went down to the first floor. Mr. Ranston was eighty years old when he took his own life. Cash still saw him because he often floated around the book stacks on the third floor.

Cash spent many days hiding in the library because it was the one place he was sure his uncle wouldn’t come to look for him. Phil considered education a waste of time and reading of books a bigger waste. He wanted Cash out there working every day to bring home money for him.

Cash also found it a great place to go when he couldn’t go home. Old Mr. Lane would let him sleep on the big couch in the back room. Funny thing about Mr. Lane, he never asked any questions about why he needed a place to stay for the night. He left the rear door open for him and Cash always found a sandwich or an apple on the table waiting for him.

Across from the library was the grade school Cash attended. It wasn’t a big school, but held classes for grades one through eight. The building was a one story red brick with exactly ten rooms in it. An addition was added two years ago to house the main offices. Cash knew the office well having spent a lot of time in its detention section. There was also an added office where Dr. Lawsman, the school shrink was housed. Cash was also acquainted with him. They had sent him and Billy for psychological testing just four weeks ago. Cash thought the guy was weird and kept his distance from him. There was an out-building in the back of the school for the combination gymnasium and lunchroom. The lunchroom was for the kids who lived far enough out of town that going home was a problem. Most of the kids were either bused in, or rode their horses. The field adjacent to the school was used for the horses to graze while their owners attended classes. Cash didn’t have a horse, so he walked.

Cash was walking past the yellow building and ran into Dr Stamford. The doctor smiled at him and Cash managed to smile back. He was grateful the doctor hadn’t walk through him.

Morning, Dr. Stamford, sir, Cash said politely to the dead man.

Morning, young man, have you seen Charles Callas?

No, sir.

Well, I’ll just keep looking. Y’all get on to school now.

Yes, sir.

Cash shook his head and continued over to Meyer’s Market. Mr. Meyer had given him a job packing and delivering groceries after school. Mr. Meyers provided a bike to deliver the groceries. He had agreed to hire Cash because he knew his home situation and that the kid needed money. He also knew Phil. They had gone to school together. He suspected the boy was being mistreated by Phil, so he gave him a job and a meal. He would see to it the kid ate when he was with him. It was a damn shame someone like Phil McKay was in charge of a child. He was a drunk with a mean temper. He’d been a bully in school and now he was sure Phil was bullying the kid.

When Mr. Meyer employed Cash one of the conditions