The woman was hysterical, sobbing so much I couldn’t understand her. As I pressed my cell harder against my ear, the wind sprouted claws and slashed at my meager sweater until I shivered. Phone calls used to be rare, but I’d been getting more and more since Jackson and I had gone public with what had happened to us in China. Now everyone in Vermont seemed to know my name, and they all needed help.
“Hello? This is Kate, please talk to me.”
The crying increased in volume, blistering my ears. I would have hung up if not for the wind. Its power intensified, churning the dead leaves and other debris from the sidewalk around my feet. There was something strange about its sudden force, which drove me against the brick facing of Hildy’s Fine China & Sundries. (Hildy’d had an ampersand before it was trendy.)
“Hello?” The single word contained the edge of my fear. Both my voice and hands were shaking. Something did not want me to talk to this woman. Something did not want me to help her. I’d taken hundreds of similar calls over the past few years, but had never felt anything like this. “Please say something. I’m afraid we’re going to lose our connection.”
Clutching at my sweater to keep it from being blown away, I ducked my head, shielding my face as my hair whipped around in a furious tangle. I huddled against Hildy’s shop, wondering if I should go in, but the older woman wouldn’t be impressed to see me on my phone. Her establishment was a temple, a library. The loyal customers who kept her in business spoke in whispers and walked on tiptoes. By bursting in like this and continuing my shouted, one-sided conversation, I’d have become the proverbial bull. Not good.
“Miss Carlsson? Kate Carlsson?” The woman had regained her composure enough to gasp my name. The grip around my heart tightened, even though I’d known all along the call was meant for me.
“Yes, speaking. What’s wrong?” There was no point wasting time with idle chitchat. Obviously something was wrong—very wrong. Another gust of wind knocked my skull against the side of the building and pain jolted through my brain.
The caller was silent for so long I ordinarily would have assumed she’d hung up, lost her nerve. It happened. It wasn’t easy for people to admit they needed my help. It was a leap of faith, a willingness to open their minds to the possibility that something they’d spent their entire lives denying could be real after all.
But the wind told me otherwise. I waited for her to speak again, raising one arm between my face and the building to protect my head. The chill had seeped into my bones, and what I wanted more than anything was to run home and immerse myself in a steaming hot bath while I drank a cup of the pumpkin spice tea I’d just purchased. I didn’t want to talk to this woman. I didn’t want to hear about what terrible things were happening at her home, for surely terrible things were happening. But I’d learned long ago that my gift was bigger than me, and if this woman needed it, I wasn’t going to turn away from her.
Finally she spoke. I could barely hear her over the gale, which shrieked like a tortured soul. “My mother is attacking my child.” Her voice trembled with fresh tears. “I can’t believe it, haven’t wanted to believe it, but it’s true. I’ve seen it.”
“Is your mother dead, Mrs…”
“Walkins. My name is Walkins. Yes, she died last year. But she was such a good woman. She loved Lily. I can’t believe she would do these things. Why would she do these things?”
I could feel curious eyes burning into me, watching me struggle to stay on my feet. Pushing my hair away from my face, I risked a glimpse and was immediately sorry I had. The leaves around my feet had arranged themselves in the form of a girl, a girl not much shorter than me. As I stared, my pulse throbbing behind my temples, the terrifying apparition raised a rustling arm toward me before collapsing onto the sidewalk.
“Whatever is hurting Lily isn’t your mother, Mrs. Walkins. What’s your address? I’ll be right there.”
About the Books
City of Ghosts
On the day the villagers were forced to flee Hensu, not everyone got out alive.
Jackson Stone is touring the abandoned Chinese city when he slips away from the group to spend the night, determined to publish an account of his ghostly experiences there.
Then he meets Yuèhai, a strange, soft-spoken woman who can tell him the city’s secrets—secrets the Chinese government would kill to keep hidden.
As Jackson uncovers the truth about Yuèhai and the ghost city, he’s drawn into a web of conspiracy, betrayal, and murder. He must risk everything to save himself and bring honor back to Yuèhai and her family.
The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts
Would you risk everything to save a stranger?
Off the coast of Venice lurks Poveglia, the world’s most haunted isle, steeped in centuries of innocent blood. A deranged doctor who took great joy in torturing his patients in life continues to rule his abandoned asylum after death.
Few go to Poveglia willingly, but medium Kate Carlsson has no choice. It’s her job.
While struggling to retrieve a young girl’s soul, Kate uncovers some shocking truths about the evil on the island that challenges her own convictions and morals—and even her life.
Is saving Lily worth making a deal with the infamous Doctor of Death, or is the price too high to pay?
J.H. Moncrieff’s work has been described as early Gillian Flynn with a little Ray Bradbury and Stephen King thrown in for good measure.
She won Harlequin’s search for the next Gillian Flynn in 2016.
Her first published novella, The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, was featured in Samhain’s Childhood Fears collection and stayed on its horror bestsellers list for over a year.
When not writing, she loves exploring the world’s most haunted places, advocating for animal rights, and summoning her inner ninja in muay thai class.
To get free eBooks and a new spooky story every week, go to http://bit.ly/MoncrieffLibrary .