From GHOST OF A THREAT, the first Betty Boo, Ghost Hunter novel….
THERE ARE WORSE THINGS THAN GHOSTS IN SAVANNAH.
Normal young women go on dates on Saturday nights. Paranormal investigator Betty “Boo” Boorman goes on ghost hunts in Savannah, Georgia, America’s most haunted city. She’s more comfortable around ghosts than guys, anyway.
A violent haunting forces Betty to team up with her rival ghost hunter, the arrogant Carter Lansford. When the violence is turned toward her, though, Betty knows she needs additional expertise. She enlists the help of a handsome stranger, who introduces himself simply as Maxwell, Demon.
Betty’s ghost hunting is cut short when she’s threatened and, finally, attacked. Either someone wants her to stay away from an investigation, or a demon hunter is targeting her. As Betty begins to fall for Maxwell’s mysterious charm, she starts to wonder if her life–and her soul–are worth the risk.
Betty Boo, Ghost Hunter is a complete 4-book series by
paranormal romance and mystery author Beth Dolgner.
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About the Book
Series Betty Boo, Ghost Hunter | Genre Adult Paranormal Mystery Romance
Publisher Red Glare Press | Covers Dark Mojo Designs (BookMojo)
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Shorts & Novellas
GHOST OF A THREAT
A Betty Boo, Ghost Hunter Novel
© 2011 Beth Dolgner
Sam MacIntosh’s eyes snapped open, the dark interior of his bedroom coming into sharp focus. He wasn’t sure what had awakened him as he lay there on his side, gazing at the closet door. He could hear the distant rumble of a freight train churning by on the tracks a mile from his house, and over that noise the soft, regular breathing of his wife sleeping beside him.
Sam’s heart caught in his throat. Melanie had left him two years ago, and Sam hadn’t shared his bed with anyone else since the divorce. He held his own breath, straining to hear. Still, the sound came from the other half of the bed behind his back. For a minute, he wondered wildly if he’d gotten drunk and brought someone home from the bar, but he knew he was alone in the house.
Clutching the covers in a terrified grip, Sam sat up abruptly and turned to face the other side of the bed. The newspaper was still lying on top of the quilt where he’d tossed it aside after giving up on the crossword puzzle and going to sleep, but there was no one in the bed. The sound of breathing had stopped, too.
Sam exhaled the breath he’d been holding, feeling both silly and glad that no one had witnessed his moment of panic. He’d have to lay off the beer if it was going to make him hear things. As he settled back down in bed, another noise began, but this time it was a low, ominous creaking sound. The closet door was slowly opening.
Sam couldn’t see the door, his eyes staring up at the ceiling fan, his entire body suddenly frozen in fear. He recognized the sound, though. Melanie used to complain all the time about that squeaky closet door.
Then the footsteps began. They started at the closet and approached the bed, heavy and deliberate, but agonizingly slow.
Sam MacIntosh sat up and screamed.
My phone was ringing. At first I thought it was the alarm clock, but I had just smacked the snooze button a moment ago. I rolled over and squinted at the clock. Who could possibly be calling me at 7:03?
Nobody would call me this early unless it was an emergency, I thought.
“Fine, I’m up!” I said, trying to talk my body and brain into wakefulness. I threw back the covers and swung my legs out of bed, leaping to grab the phone from the top of my dresser. I picked it up on the last ring before voicemail engaged.
“Hello?” I mumbled, willing myself to gain some sense of coherence. I put my hand to my mouth to stifle a yawn.
“Is this Betty Boorman?” said a man’s breathless voice.
“Yes, this is.”
There was a short pause. “I’m sorry if I woke you up,” the man apologized. “I know it’s early.”
Before I could respond, he started speaking again, the words tumbling out of his mouth in jittery bursts. “I found your website online. You know, the one for your, um, group. And I live in Thunderbolt, so I’m not far away at all, and I have something weird going on at my house, and I just thought that maybe your group would be able to come out here and take a look around. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ve been up since three a.m. and I’m a little shaken up. Nothing like this has ever happened to me. I don’t even really believe in this stuff but I don’t know what else could explain what happened last night.”
The words spilled out so quickly that I had to concentrate to follow along. He sounded scared, embarrassed and wound up all at the same time. At least the fear in his voice had woken me up completely.
“Okay, no problem,” I said, trying to sound reassuring. “Was last night the first time you’ve had any paranormal activity in your home?”
“Has anyone in your family died recently, or maybe a close friend?”
“No, no one. Well, my great-aunt died about three months ago, but I don’t think she’d have any reason to,” he paused, “you know.”
“Haunt you?” I supplied.
“Yes. Sorry, it feels a little silly to say it out loud.”
I smiled, and even though he couldn’t see that through the phone, I knew he could hear it in my voice. “You don’t have to worry about that with me. Just think, my idea of a fun Saturday night out is going looking for ghosts. Normal people my age are going to dance clubs on Saturday nights. Now, can you tell me what kind of activity you experienced last night?”
Again, he hesitated. I could tell it was really hurting his ego to admit all of this to me. I’ve seen it time and again. No one wants to admit they’ve been wrong all their lives; the older our clients were, the harder it became for them to change their beliefs and accept the existence of ghosts.
Not that all of our clients have to face that problem. We—The Savannah Spirit Seekers—have been investigating reported hauntings in Savannah, Georgia, for the past two years. Half of the cases we investigate turn out to be nothing but a combination of a noisy old house, rogue electromagnetic fields and very vivid imaginations. Sometimes I think it’s even harder for those clients than the ones who actually have a haunting. When we confirm that a client really is experiencing a haunting, their first words are always, “Oh, good, then I’m not crazy!” But when we debunk a haunting, well, sanity suddenly doesn’t feel so secure. One of our clients described it as being assured there’s not really a monster under the bed, but when you’re forty instead of four, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.
The man on the phone sounded so freaked out that I hoped for his sake that he was just letting his imagination get out of control. I dashed to my dining room table to grab my pen and notebook.
“I woke up in the middle of the night last night,” he began, “and I could hear breathing coming from the other half of the bed, but no one was there. As soon as I looked, the noise stopped. Then my closet door opened, and I could hear someone walking out of the closet, right over to my bed!”
“What happened next?” I prompted.
“The sound just stopped. I turned on the light, and of course I couldn’t find anything. But then the footsteps started outside my hallway. And this morning when I finally got up, all of the pictures hanging in my hall were lying on the floor.”
“Okay, this sounds like a lot of activity considering that nothing unusual has ever occurred before, but it’s certainly not out of the norm,” I assured him. “Are there any other details?”
“Let’s see,” he hesitated. “I think I fell asleep again at some point. I woke up because I felt something touch me.” He paused again. “But that’s it.”
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Sam. Sam MacIntosh.”
“Well, Sam, your case sounds like something we’d be interested in handling, but I’ll have to confirm with the rest of my team members. Can I call you back this evening once I’ve had a chance to speak with them? We can schedule an investigation then, too.”
“How soon can you be here?”
No one is ever patient when it comes to ghosts. “I’ll have to check everyone’s schedule, but it should be something we can do within a few weeks.”
“A few weeks?” Sam MacIntosh was definitely one freaked-out man.
“I’m sorry, sir, but we all work during the week and have to schedule investigations on our free weekends. We’ll do the best we can, and I’ll have a firm answer for you this evening.”
Sam couldn’t really argue, so I took down his phone number and hung up. I looked down at my cat, who had sauntered up to be petted, and she gazed back with her wide golden eyes. “It’s kind of strange, huh, Mina? This guy has lived in a house with no problems and all of a sudden he has a full-blown haunting?”
Mina let out a little meow in answer. I swear she understands me when I talk.
Just for the record, I don’t claim to understand her in return. That’s just a little too “crazy cat lady” for me.
I stood up and glanced at the microwave clock in the kitchen. “I’ve got to get moving!” I shouted. I showered in record time, towel-drying my long hair as vigorously as I could before I gave up and just swept it up in a clip. I threw on my gray pinstriped slacks and a pale blue button-down, giving myself a once-over in the mirror before heading for the kitchen. I can’t live without my morning coffee, and luckily my coffee maker is set to turn on automatically each morning. I grabbed a travel mug and poured the steaming black liquid in, slopping it all over my hand in the process.
I howled, chiding myself for getting so clumsy in my rush. I cleaned myself up, my skin pink from the heat of the coffee, and headed out of my apartment.
My apartment has got to be the coolest place to live in Savannah. Okay, maybe just the coolest for those of us who aren’t loaded. I’d love to live in one of the restored mansions that line the streets of the historic district, but until I win the lottery or marry a rich doctor, I’ll be content in my little apartment. I live on the bottom floor of an old carriage house. The building is from 1861 and it, along with the mansion it sits behind, has been turned into apartments. I have the downstairs, and my neighbor Tim has the top floor. It’s not a big place, but I’m right in the middle of downtown Savannah, surrounded by old buildings and tons of ghosts. Where better for a ghost hunter to live than in the most haunted city in the United States?
I made the drive from my place to the hospital administration building in twelve minutes, sliding through a few questionable traffic signals on the way. I’m the marketing assistant for Coastal Health Hospital: an entry-level corporate job with a paycheck that hardly covers my bills, but I’m grateful that I at least found a job right out of college. Of course, it probably didn’t hurt that Coastal Health’s HR manager goes to church with my mother. Anyone who doesn’t believe the adage, “It’s all about who you know,” has obviously never lived in Savannah.
The morning passed quickly, and during my lunch break I called the rest of my team. Everyone was available Friday night, which was rare. There are four of us on the team, and we only schedule an investigation if at least three of us can be there. It’s sometimes hard to work around everyone’s schedules, with jobs, dates and social lives. But of course, those last two things don’t really apply to me. What is it about guys that make them shy away from a girl who likes to wander around haunted buildings?
I called Sam MacIntosh back that evening, and he quickly accepted my offer for Friday night. It was already Wednesday, so he didn’t have long to wait.
The rest of the week went by quickly. I stopped by the receptionist’s desk on my way out the door Friday afternoon. “Got anything good planned this weekend, Betty?” she asked. Jeanie is only a year older than me, but she’s already engaged. She says she can still be single by living vicariously through me. Considering how much of my “social life” revolves around ghosts, Jeanie doesn’t hear the kind of wild tales she hopes for.
“We had a guy call about a haunting at his house in Thunderbolt. We’re heading out there tonight to investigate.”
Jeanie’s face fell. Her idea of “good” is a hot date, or at least an activity involving a horde of good-looking single men. I wondered vaguely if her fiancé had his hands full trying to rein her in.
Jeanie perked up again. “Did you say a guy?”
“Do you think he’s single?”
I laughed. “Oh, no, you don’t! I don’t mix ghosts and guys! He did mention that he was sleeping alone during all the activity going on in his house, though…”
I gave Jeanie a wink and turned toward the door. “I’ll give you a full report on Monday!” I was still laughing to myself as I walked to my car. Finding a date through my work with The Seekers was the last thing on my agenda. We were a paranormal investigation team, after all, not a dating service. Considering my history with men, though, maybe it was something to look into.
During the short drive home, I tried to think of clever business names for a combination ghost-hunting team and dating service for single women. “Handsome and Haunted?” I mused out loud. “Dates and Demons. Hmm, no, that makes it sound like the dates are demons. Ghosts and Guys…Ectoplasmic Escorts.”
When I got through the door at home, I dropped my purse on the dining room table and headed straight for my closet. I slipped on some old sweatpants and a tee and plopped down on the couch to finish watching a movie I’d started two days before. By the time the final scene ended, I was yawning. Getting used to the lifestyle of a ghost hunter had taken me a while, living “normal” hours during the week, then becoming nocturnal for the weekends.
I curled up in bed to sleep for an hour, then it was time to scarf down some dinner and head to Thunderbolt. I swapped my sweats for jeans and grabbed my case, which contains my tape recorder, flashlight, EMF meter, camera, and lots of extra batteries. No one really knows why, but ghosts seem to suck the life out of batteries. Some people think it’s the spirits trying to draw energy from their surroundings in order to materialize. Whatever the reason, it’s pretty annoying. I’m always joking that we need to get Duracell sponsorship for The Seekers.
I don’t know what I was expecting of Sam MacIntosh’s house, but I hadn’t anticipated the grand mansion I pulled up to after a short fifteen-minute drive. The two-story house was at the end of a dirt lane, with pine trees surrounding it. The manicured lawn was absolutely flawless, and Sam obviously had professional gardeners maintaining the flowerbeds.
Several other cars were parked in a small paved area to the side of the house. I recognized the SUV that belongs to Shaun and Daisy Tanner, two of the other investigators with The Seekers. Lou Miles is our tech guy, but I didn’t see his car there yet. He’s better with finding evidence on our audio and video footage than he is at being prompt.
I pulled up next to a sleek black Mercedes and wondered if all three of the cars I didn’t recognize belonged to Sam. How much money did this guy have?
My case was sitting on the passenger seat, but I only grabbed my pen and notebook out of it. Before we got to the investigating part, we would interview Sam about the house and everything he’d been experiencing.
I walked up onto the wide front porch and rang the doorbell. A few seconds later, a short man who looked like he was speeding toward forty opened the door. From the dark circles under his brown eyes, I assumed it was Sam.
“Mr. MacIntosh? Hi, I’m Betty Boorman,” I said, putting on my “new client” smile. I’m pretty shy, and meeting new clients is the hardest part about this job. You’d think encountering ghosts would be the worst part, but a living, breathing stranger is more awkward for me any day.
Sam’s face broke into a smile, making him look years younger. “Ms. Boorman, please come in. And just call me Sam,” he said, extending his hand to me. I shook his hand and stepped inside. “I’m so glad you all could come this quickly,” he continued as he led me down a short hallway. The interior of the house was even more impressive than the outside. Beautiful antiques were everywhere, and the gleaming hardwood floor creaked softly beneath my feet.
“You have a beautiful home,” I murmured, trying to take everything in at once.
“It’s been in my family since 1902. We’re very proud of it. The MacIntoshes came here from Scotland just after the Civil War, and they put in years of hard work before they were able to build this place.”
We had reached the parlor by then; I could hear several voices inside the room, but I wasn’t prepared for just whom I would find.
My eyes went instantly to Shaun and Daisy, who looked out of place seated on a gilt sofa. The flowered upholstery clashed horribly with the red hair that Shaun had inherited from his Irish family.
“Well, if it isn’t Betty Boo,” a man’s voice said in a Southern drawl.
I felt my jaw clench just from the sound of his voice. Across from Shaun and Daisy, sitting in a wingback chair and looking like he ought to have a mint julep in his manicured hand, was my nemesis.
“Carter Lansford.” I said it as nicely as I could, but I’m sure some of the iciness I felt slipped through. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“I didn’t know how soon you and your team could make it, so I called Carter, also. I see you two already know each other,” Sam spoke up, seeming to sense the tension. Of course he could sense it: Carter and I were practically glaring at each other.
Carter recovered his friendly demeanor before I could do the same. “Sure, Betty and I have met many times over the past few years. We’ve never gotten to work together, though, so this should be fun.”
Fun. Right. I met Carter when I first began attending paranormal investigations. He’s sort of a rock star in our strange little world. Carter’s family has tons of money, and he’s spent as much as humanly possible on all the latest ghost-hunting equipment. A lot of the small investigation teams can’t even afford an infrared video camera for filming in darkened rooms. Carter owns twenty of them.
But the publicity department is where Carter has really gone overboard. He lectures at all of the paranormal conventions, which would be fine with me if he had more of a clue what he was talking about, and he’s a bona fide media hound. Carter holds press conferences when he investigates high-profile buildings and homes, and the local media eats up every bit of it. Each Halloween, a local news crew will go on an all-night stakeout with him at a haunted house, and I’ve even seen his “fans” asking for autographs.
Carter will never be as good of an investigator as me, and that fact drives him insane. He cares more about the spotlight than the actual investigating, and his ego keeps him from learning and developing that certain something that a good investigator needs. Call it intuition, or insight, or sixth sense…whatever it is, it definitely doesn’t co-exist well with arrogance.
I had seen Carter for what he is the first moment I met him at a local meeting of investigators. I’m still working to develop my intuition when it comes to ghosts, but I’ve always been able to sense when another person isn’t being straight with me, and Carter just makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
I also sort of told Carter what I really think about him once, and that probably didn’t help our mutual dislike. The second time we met he asked me out to dinner. I politely declined, and Carter took it as a personal offense that a girl would turn him down. He’s handsome—if you like your guys kind of slimy—and that coupled with his money and charisma means women are always falling all over him. It’s really kind of disgusting. After he hounded me about a date for a month, I finally got fed up and told him I thought he was an arrogant hack. If that didn’t make him hate me, I sealed the deal when I started The Savannah Spirit Seekers, and Carter realized that I could collect more evidence with just a tape recorder and a camera than he could with his twenty infrared video cameras. It all comes down to intuition, and unfortunately for Carter, you can’t buy that.
There is definitely no love lost between me and Carter Lansford.
I realized I was still staring at Carter. I blinked and turned my attention back to Sam. “The more brains we have working on this, the better,” I said, trying my best to smile naturally. Too bad Carter doesn’t have one, I added silently.
Luckily the doorbell rang then, and Sam eagerly excused himself to answer it. He returned soon enough with Lou, plus two men and a woman I recognized as belonging to Carter’s team, East Coast Paranormal Authorities.
Authorities, humph. I moved to squeeze onto the couch with Shaun and Daisy, rolling my eyes while my back was turned to Carter. Daisy grinned and gave me a wink. She has curly blonde hair and a personality so big that I don’t know how it fits inside her petite body. Daisy has a wicked sense of humor, so I could only imagine what kind of mental torture she had in store for Carter. That thought made it a lot easier to smile naturally.
“My team’s all here. Carter?” I began.
“We’re ready. This is Jamie, Ron and Kerri,” he answered, directing the introduction of his team to Sam.
I turned to Sam. “Why don’t you start by telling us, in detail, about the paranormal activity going on here.”
Sam related the same things he had told me Wednesday morning on the phone. When he finished, Carter asked the same question that was on my lips. “Have you experienced anything over the past two nights?”
“The same things again.” Sam hesitated, then dropped his head. “I’ve gotten hurt, too,” he said quietly, staring at the floor.
“When did that happen?” I was trying to maintain my calm exterior, but reports of paranormal activity that causes injuries are never a good thing.
Sam glanced up, his cheeks flushed. “It started that first night. I said that I could hear something walking toward my bed from the closet, but I didn’t mention that before I turned on the light, something scratched me.” Sam pulled up the sleeve of his oxford shirt, revealing an angry red cut that stretched at least four inches along his forearm.
“That’s more than a scratch,” I whispered.
“I know.” Sam was still blushing, and he dropped his head. “I was afraid that if I told you I’d gotten hurt, you’d get scared and wouldn’t come investigate. I’ve got more scratches, too. And this morning I fell down the last few stairs when I came down for breakfast. I’m pretty sure I didn’t just lose my balance.”
A malicious haunting. Well, this changed things. Still, we were already there, and I could see the terror in Sam’s eyes. We were obligated to help him however we could, and I knew the others felt the same.
“We’ll be sure to stay alert,” Carter said, his voice confident. “Why don’t you show us your bedroom and the hallway where you’ve experienced activity so we can start setting up?”
I frowned at Carter. Didn’t he want to ask about the history of the house, or Sam’s family? There have even been cases of ghosts attaching themselves to furniture, so maybe he’d acquired one of his antique pieces recently, and it was the cause of all this activity. Everyone was already standing up, though, prepared to troop upstairs after Sam. I shrugged to myself. We’d have plenty of time to talk details later. I was the last to follow, and I couldn’t help imagining Carter getting some scratches of his own as I walked up the stairs.
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About the Author
BETH DOLGNER writes paranormal fiction and nonfiction. Her first book was the nonfiction Georgia Spirits and Specters, which is a collection of Georgia ghost stories, followed by Everyday Voodoo. Beth made her fiction debut with the Betty Boo, Ghost Hunter paranormal romance series, set in Savannah, Georgia. In addition to writing, Beth also gives presentations on Victorian death and mourning traditions as well as Victorian Spiritualism. She’s always up for going looking for ghosts, too, just like her characters. You can usually find her haunting the historic cemeteries around her home in Berlin, Germany.