Confirmed skeptic, Natasha Bolde, unwittingly walks into the middle of a paranormal mystery. She's solved mysteries before, but nothing like this.
“Once you’ve settled in,” said my hostess, as she showed me upstairs to my room, “have a walk around the grounds. You might even see our resident ghost in the Monk’s Grove.”
It took an effort not to roll my eyes. I didn’t believe in ghosts. If it was possible for the dead to communicate with the living, I was damn sure my best friend, Clover, would’ve found a way. But it seemed that even a PI couldn’t bridge the gap between life and death.
My hostess and I reached the top of the stairs. Gwenifer—smiling, plump, and friendly as a pack of Labs—led me down a short hall to my room. She and her husband, Jory, ran The Round Table Bed-and-Breakfast, where I was staying while I enjoyed the sights of Cornwall. Britain was a long way from my home in Philadelphia, but I’d taken this vacation in memory of Clover, who had planned it before her fatal accident.
Gwenifer handed me an old-fashioned key. “Breakfast is served in the dining room from seven till nine. If you need more blankets or anything, just let me know. Jory can help you if I’m not around. You’ll usually find him in the garden.” She gave me another warm smile. “Enjoy your stay.”
I had planned to unpack before heading to the village pub for a few drinks before dinner, but the view of the garden from my window was so pretty, I decided to take a look around.
After making my way past the herbaceous border, I pushed open the rusted gate in an old stone wall and made my way into the less cultivated part of the garden. To my left, a swath of undulating land was dominated by several beautiful oaks. To my right, a path led to the Monk’s Grove. I turned right. Not because I expected to see the ghostly monk, but because the grove looked interesting and mysterious. I’d helped Clover with a couple of cases, and found that I enjoyed solving mysteries even if I wasn’t very good at it. I had expected to improve under Clover’s mentorship, but that wouldn’t happen now.
Swallowing my tears, I entered the Monk’s Grove. It was cooler beneath the trees. Gray shadows mingled with the scent of recent rain. I followed the path, which wound between neatly trimmed shrubs, until I reached a little clearing with two stone benches. The birdcalls seemed muted here and the leaves in the trees were unnaturally still. A faint scent of decay hung in the air. There was a feeling of nature holding its breath, waiting.
I heard a rustle in the bushes and turned toward the sound. Near the far side of the clearing, a figure was moving through the shrubs. I couldn’t see much below his shoulders, but his head was covered by a dark hood like a monk’s cowl. Was someone dressed up pretending to be the ghost? Did all the guests get this haunted-grove experience? Was it part of the package? Too bad I wasn’t in the mood to play nice.
“Hey! You!” I called. “I don’t believe in ghosts, so you might as well go have a tea break or something.”
When the figure didn’t respond, I marched across the clearing determined to identify him. Shrubs and undergrowth separated us, but I could see that his head was bowed, and the hood was pulled down to conceal his face. He seemed to be searching for something on the ground. His sleeves had been rolled up to the elbows and the exposed skin was covered in dirt. One hand clutched a trowel.
“Hey,” I called again. This time he turned toward me. The hood fell back revealing the face of a woman.
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Janni Nell has traveled extensively, living and working in Britain, before settling in Sydney, Australia. She has worked as a personal assistant, receptionist, sales clerk, and even cleaned a very spooky old building in London. When she isn’t writing, you can find her at dance class or walking the dog.