|Your cart is currently empty|
Gus Acardi was terrified of the ghostly sounds in the old house the WITSEC program assigned to him while he was waiting to testify against Mob Boss Alfonso. The Marshals thought Gus was crazy, but he knew that ghosts existed, and these ghosts were trying to make him repent before Alfonso's new soldiers found him and killed him! They made all sorts of noise at night, and Gus was losing his mind.
Marshal Tom Cartwright did his best to tolerate his adorable wife's fascination with all things Halloween, and he permitted her to turn their home and yard into the best decorated in town, and the children enjoyed Trick or Treating with them each year, but Tom would let nothing interfere with keeping Amelia safe and healthy, even if that meant giving her a sound bottom warming every so often.
Did she take this year's Halloween prank just a bit too far?
How far is too far when it comes to Halloween pranks? Maybe, if it's one that could land her in jail...
Gus Acardi woke with a start, positive he heard someone in the house with him.� He reached for his bedside table, opened the drawer, and took out his gun, all the while looking around the room for any sign of movement.� “Damn it, show yourself!” he growled, but no one answered.� He threw off the blanket and sheet, and then got to his bare feet and walked through the old house, wondering yet again why the United States Marshal witness protection service put him in this old house.� Every time he complained about the noise and voices keeping him awake, they told him there was a reasonable explanation.� The hell with that!� Someone was tryin’ to make him crazy, and they were succeeding.� Whoever was doing this to him was tryin’ to scare him into havin’ a heart attack!
He walked the entire house, all three floors of it, just as he’d done for the last two weeks, and again, he found nothing.� The freakin’ house was haunted, and the damned Marshals knew it and put him here on purpose because they didn’t like him.� They didn’t believe that he wasn’t the one who offed them kids.� And they put him here to torment him.
Gus returned to his bedroom, locked the door with the new deadbolts he’d installed, and then he lay down on his bed and bawled.� He’d been afraid of ghosts since he was a little kid and his brothers told him all those true stories about the house next door.� This haunting was all Giorgio and Ricco’s fault.� They were the ones who insisted he join them in working for Alfonso.� They were killed in retaliation for taking Caliston’s ugly daughters and raping them.� Gus was smarter; he was careful to work behind the scenes, especially when it involved doing things that were going to mean retaliation and revenge.� That was what made him so valuable to the cops.� When he was captured, he was the one person who knew enough of the inner workings of Alfonso’s ‘family’ to put Alfonso and thirteen others in prison for the rest of their lives.� Sadly for Gus, it meant that he was living alone in a small town with spooky haunted houses.� He had no one around him who cared about him, either.� His wife and kids went their own ways long ago, and hell, he didn’t even know how old his kids were now!� Who could think with that howling going on?
* * * * *
“Hello, babe!” Amelia sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes as Tom entered the room, trying to be quiet so he wouldn’t wake her.
“Hey, honey.� I didn’t mean to wake you.”� He walked over and leaned down to kiss her willing lips.
“I was awake,” she admitted.� “How did your shift go?”
“Boring, thank goodness.� The witness went to bed early and not a peep out of her.� Bates showed up right on time to relieve me, and I was glad to see her; I’m tired.”
“Well, come to bed and we’ll catch a couple hours of sleep before I need to get up and go to work.”
“I hate it when we work such different shifts.� What did you do all evening?” he asked.
“Oh, not much,” she said.
“Did you go out?”
“Just for a bit.� They have a new Halloween store beside the mall.”
“You and Halloween!” he said with a smile, shaking his head.� His wife absolutely loved this time of year.� She always planned a party, unless it was out of the question for some reason.� She also dressed up to give out treats to the children who came to their door.� Amelia loved to decorate the yard and the front of their house, too.� Their house was always the most spectacular in the neighborhood, and she said it was because she didn’t get to participate in Halloween when she was a child.� “I’m glad you found something fun to do while I was working, but honey, I want you to be careful out there.� I think the locals may have a serial rapist on the loose.”
“You know I can take care of myself.”
“Yes, under the usual circumstances, but I don’t want you to be so overconfident that you aren’t being cautious,” he warned.
“You should know me better than that, babe!� I’m always cautious; but I will be extra careful if it makes you feel better.”
“It will definitely make me feel better, Ame.”� He nodded earnestly.�
She loved it when he called her by his special nickname for her.� It sounded like ‘Amy’, but he meant it as a shortening of her name.� He’d told her it sounded like another word for ‘love’.� “Then consider it done, babe,” she said with a smile.� “I would do anything for you, Tommy.”
“And I would do anything for you, sweet wife.”� He crawled into bed, and she snuggled close to him.� Tom decided he wasn’t as tired as he thought he was.� But Amelia always had that affect on him.
* * * * *
Amelia smiled to herself; she was much quieter than Tom was, and she would be out of the house in a few minutes without disturbing him, and that was all well and good.� She didn’t want him to know what time she was leaving the house or he would ask questions that she wouldn’t want to answer.
She got into her car and drove across town until she reached the alley that ran along the railroad tracks.� A young man wearing a black hoodie approached the car and opened the passenger side door.� “Give me the money,” he gruffly ordered.
“Not until I examine the merchandise.”�
“Lady, you’re crazy,” he said, but he reached under his hoody and produced a box.� He stuck his head out the window and breathed deeply of the fresh air as she removed the lid.
“Oh gosh!� That’s rank!” she squealed.
“I told you so!”
“Yeah, you did.� Here’s your money, and worth every penny.”� She handed him a twenty dollar bill.
“Do you want any more?” he asked hopefully.
“No, this will do the trick,” she insisted with a wicked grin.� She waved at him as he got out of her car, but she took the time to make sure the jumbo Ziploc bag she brought with her was properly closed around the smelly box.� She did not want that telltale odor in her car.� When she finally reached the parking lot at the real estate office she worked for, she was ten minutes early for the special meeting their broker had called for that morning.
“I’m happy to see at least one person is here on time for the meeting,” Rice grumbled when she walked in.�
“I’m a punctual person by nature,” Amelia said with a smile for the man.� At seventy years of age, Rice’s hair was silver, and beautiful, and he certainly didn’t look his age.� He was an excellent agent, too, and it was a pleasure to work for him most of the time.� However, he occasionally hired a jerk, and that jerk walked into the office at nine o’clock on the dot.
“So, where is everyone?” Logan asked, and he managed to sneer and appear insulted at the same time.
“I imagine that Trish and Judy are on their way.� Their youngest children can’t be dropped off at school until ten of nine, so give them a bit of time to get here.”
“Children are just a hassle I plan to avoid!” Logan said dramatically.� “They are a drain on a person’s time and energy, and who can concentrate with the brats around?� There should be a law that people cannot go house hunting with their children in tow.”
“Of course you would say that, but I don’t imagine you need to worry about having children, Logan.� No woman in her right mind would marry you!”
“I find that offensive, Amelia.”
“Good.� I wasn’t trying to compliment you.”
“You redheads and your tempers!� I wouldn’t marry or even date a redhead!” Logan insisted.
“Don’t worry, Logan.� No redhead would agree to go out with you.� They’re too smart.”
“Will you two stop bickering!” Rice said, entering the conference room where they held office meetings and met with larger groups of buyers or investors.� “I am going to buy a paddle and hang it up in my office and start using it!”
“I would pay to see Amelia’s bare ass turned up for a spanking,” Logan promptly stated.
Amelia knew her face was red.� Redheads blushed at the least little thing, and she hated it that Logan knew she was embarrassed.
“That is inappropriate, Logan,” Rice said firmly.� “Another crack like that and I will be sending your license back to the state and you will be out of here looking for another broker.� Believe me when I tell you that I will not give you a favorable reference.� Your number of sales is terrible when compared to your list of showings.”
“And I suppose Miss Redhead’s sales are better?” Logan sneered, but this time he was angry.
“Amelia’s percentage of sales to showings is excellent.� Do you have anything else you would like to throw at me?� No?� That’s a good thing.� I am going to ask you a question; do you know what Amelia’s husband does for a living?”
“Hell no, and I don’t really care.”
“You should.� He’s a United States Marshal.� If he heard you make a comment about looking at his wife’s posterior, he would rearrange your face for you.”
“Rice, are you forgetting that I worked as a deputy sheriff for a few years?� I can defend my own honor.”
“Do you expect us to believe that?”
“It’s true, Logan.� Amelia gave up her job to move here with Tom when he was transferred to this neck of the woods.� She can take care of herself.”
They heard the front door open, and three women piled inside.� “Sorry I’m late, Uncle Rice.� My alarm didn’t go off,” Jessica called into the conference room.� “Is there anything you want me to get done right away?” she asked.�
“I put a couple of things on your desk, Jess.� I was getting a bit worried about you.� Next time, call and let me know you haven’t been in an accident.”
“Yes, sir.� I will,” the young girl promised, duly chastised.� Rice was her great-uncle, and he loved her, so she didn’t argue with him.� She was lucky to have this job and she knew it.
Trish and Judy walked into the conference room and took their seats.� “The traffic at the school was ridiculous this morning.� I think every mom in town drove their kids today.”
“I agree, Judy.� I only saw a handful of children get off the bus that pulled up in front of me.”
“Well, now that we are all here, let’s get down to business.� I want to know if anyone has prospects for the Gregory Property?� I had a call at home last night from the eldest son, and he said he was representing all four of his siblings.� They expected the house would sell by now.”
“Did you tell him that they have the house priced too high?” Judy asked with a toss of her blonde hair and a meaningful look at Logan.
“I did broach that subject with Mr. Gregory, but he said they were determined to get as much as possible for the house.”
“It would be best if we told our clients to go ahead and make offers and see what the family has to say at that point,” Trish suggested, trying to keep the peace.
“If the Gregorys lowered the price thirty thousand dollars, they would encourage a bidding war, and they might get close to what they are asking for.� As it is, people think it too high priced for all the work it needs.”
“I agree, Amelia,” Rice said softly.� “Logan, you need to call Clark Gregory today and try and convince him to lower the price in an attempt to cause a bidding war.”
“That house is fabulous inside.� It is worth every penny they are asking,” Logan argued, like he always did.
“That might work in a large city, Logan, but not here.� People are careful with their money.”
“You mean they try to steal homes for nothing!” he argued.
“You are wrong, Logan,” Judy stated her opinion.� “That same house might be worth that much where you came from, but not here.� You need to explain that to your client.”
“We all know how difficult it will be for you to admit you’re wrong, but you need to get it done and fast, while there are still a few people who might be interested.”� That was Rice’s final word on the subject, and the silence that filled the room was full of Logan’s anger.� “Now then, to the contest we are having.� As of this moment, Amelia is in the lead, and Trish is close behind.� Judy, do you have any prospects for the Turner property?”
“No!� I’ve shown it to everyone on my list that might be interested.”
“Maybe you should make a few cold calls today and try to book something?” Rice suggested.
“What about you, Logan?”
“I’m showing the Gregory property this morning, and I’m sure I’ll write an offer.� These people are very interested; they’re moving here from the city, and planning to commute.� They want a quieter place to raise their children.”
“Don’t pretend you care about those kids, Logan!” Amelia said sharply, still fuming over what he said earlier.
“I care about this sale, which is more than I can say for you!� You don’t have a showing scheduled, do you?”
“Not at this moment, but unlike you, I spend my time wisely, and I will have a showing scheduled before the day is over.”
“That is what I like to hear!” Rice said with a big smile.� “I love confidence and enthusiasm.”
“So do I!” Judy said, winking at Amelia.� Judy disliked Logan as much as Amelia did.
“If there is nothing else we need to discuss, then let’s all get to work.� I’m sure there are some calls to return.� Trish, you have office duty today.� Be sure to take concise messages so there is no confusion.”
“I will do so, Rice.� I am not as incompetent as someone we could all mention.”� She looked directly at Logan.� It was her contention that he’d stolen a client from her and sold a house and snapped up a commission that should have been hers.� She’d appealed to Rice, but Rice decided to give Logan the benefit of the doubt since he was fairly new with the firm.
“You are never going to stop blaming me for that, are you?” Logan managed to appear wounded.
“No, I’m not.� You know what you did, and believe me, you’d better not do it again or I’ll fry your ass like bacon!”
“Such a colorful expression,” he said, shaking his head in disgust.
“You’d best be on your way, Logan,” Rice told him.� “You don’t want your clients to beat you there, and don’t forget the keys,” he reminded the other man.
“This isn’t my first showing, Rice,” Logan said, insulted, but his pique with their boss caused the women in the office to giggle.� He really lost his temper then and slammed out of the office, muttering under his breath.
“I don’t know why I put up with that boy!” Rice said to himself, but Judy decided to speak her mind.� “Boss, he is not an asset to this firm.� I’ve had so many complaints from clients regarding his behavior.� Marion and Seth Conrad told me that he berated them for bringing along their son, and he told them they couldn’t possibly take in the house while dealing with a teething baby!”
“He actually said that?” Rice exclaimed in horror.
“He did.� He didn’t apologize, either, when they took offense.� Why did you hire him?”
“For the life of me, I can’t recall why!” Rice admitted.� He shook his head and when the telephone rang, he said, “Let’s get to work, ladies.”
Amelia didn’t need to be told twice.� She was very methodical, and she knew that selling homes wasn’t their only service, and she dealt with a lot of rentals.� She was more than willing to manage a few rentals for good clients, and it padded her paycheck when she didn’t have as many sales.� She went to work, and it was an hour later when Logan returned, in a foul mood, and cursing profusely.
“Logan!� You can be thankful that there are no clients in this office right now.� This is the very last time I want to hear you cursing like that, do you understand me?” Rice was furious, and his entire head was red.� “What are you so angry about?”
“The house smelled, Rice!� The clients came in and turned right around and left!� Damn!� I know they were excited about the house!� I searched and searched that place, and finally found the smelliest pile of sh** ever!� The whole house needs to be aired.”
“Did you clean up the mess?” Rice asked.
“No!� That isn’t my job, and I am not going near that house again until it is cleaned up!”
“You didn’t clean it up?� Why ever not, Logan?� Do you think you are too good to clean up a smelly mess?” Judy asked.� “Any one of the rest of us would have dealt with it.� Did you check to see how an animal got inside?”
“No!” Logan appeared horrified.� “I don’t do animals, especially ones that make a pile that big!”
“Logan, you are done here; gather your personal belongings and get out.� It was a mistake for me to hire you.”
“Rice, be serious!� You can’t fire me for something that wasn’t my fault in any way!”
“You didn’t clean up the mess; you left it for one of us to do because you think you are better than us.� The fact that you don’t like children� That in and of itself is going to give you trouble in this town.� Word gets out and it won’t be long before no one wants you to represent them.� Clean out your desk and leave, please.”
“Why in hell did I ever think I wanted to slow down and work in a small town instead of in the city?� This whole debacle has taught me a valuable lesson.� I am going to open my own office and hire nothing but men!� You women are nothing but trouble!”