Sample Pages

The Journalist: A Paranormal Thriller

Chapter 1 Excerpt

SCORPIO Oct. 23 – Nov. 21

Your ancestors are the raw material of your being, but who you become is your responsibility alone. Learn to turn your troubles into opportunities. Today is a good day to defrag your hard drive.

       He hovers in the doorway at the far end of the newsroom, his feet not touching the floor. When he spots me, he glides forward, trailing diaphanous versions of himself that become smaller and smaller until they disappear. He wears leather chaps, an oversized black cowboy hat and high-heeled boots that almost bring him up to five feet. He has leathery skin and a drooping gray mustache.

It’s my great-great-grandfather Hiram Beekle, back for another ghostly visit.

He first showed up when I was six years old, right after I shot and killed my stepfather.

I’m the only one who can see him, hear him, talk to him.

As a kid, I would wet my pants and run away whenever Hiram showed up. Now he’s just a pain in the ass.

I turn back to my keyboard, hoping he’ll go away. I’m not in the mood for advice, taunts, prods, complaints, boasts.

       He showed up last week to tell me to quit my job and find something better. Same thing the week before and the week before that. Probably why he’s back today.

       I have to admit he’s right, but I’m sure as hell not going to tell him that.

       Just four months ago I was a hot-shot investigative reporter for the Boston Globe. Now I write for a tacky supermarket tabloid, the Boston Tattler. Its newsroom is an open bay on the second floor of a ratty building that once served as a cheese warehouse that on humid days still smells of camembert. Out front are the marketing and distribution people, along with the office of the publisher, my Uncle Sid. Only he would hire a disgraced journalist like me.

       I churn out fanciful tales about creatures from outer space, Elvis sightings and remedies for double chins. Some readers believe my stuff and some don’t. Those in between ride the wave of the fun and nonsensical and don’t care whether the stuff they’re reading is true or not.

       Our larger rivals concentrate on noisy Hollywood breakups and soap-opera stars with gambling addictions. The worst of our competitors traffic in fake political conspiracies. But Uncle Sid stays with alien visitors, kitten pictures and herbal cures for chin wattles. He likes to point out that kittens and spacemen don’t sue. He’s been sued too often.

I type:

Although local sportswriters puzzle over the inconsistencies of Red Sox hurlers, the shocking truth is that—

“That’s crap, Jeff.”

Hiram has drifted around behind me to peer over my shoulder.

“Try ‘terrifying,’” he adds. “‘Shocking’ is overused.”

Hiram pretends he’d been a cowpoke, but in fact made a living writing pulp westerns.

I look around to see if anyone is watching, then turn back to Hiram and whisper, “Is that why you’re here, to dispense advice on adjectives?”

“That and to let you know you’re in a heap of trouble.”