Stephanie Jackson Books

Subtitle

The Reaper Within

Melissa Chaser leads what most people would think was an interesting life. Mel's job was to find wayward spirits and cross them over to the other side; she was a real life Reaper. It was a hard and dangerous job, especially when the spirits were wreaking havoc on people or property, but it was never anything that she couldn't handle.
  And then she got the fateful call from Mrs. Mabry. There was a problem with a house she'd just purchased, and she needed Mel's help. It was just standard ghost stuff; things moving around, and a few disembodied voices, but nothing Mel hadn't seen a thousand times before.
  Little did she know who, or what, she would find when she stepped into the old Memphis mansion. Nothing about the ghosts in the home made any sense to her, and time was running out. Could Mel finish the job and get off the property before something in the house reaped her?

 

Book Trailer http://youtu.be/SSaj5_xF030

 

Excerpt

 

She pulled one of the sodas she’d bought from the fridge and sat down at the island that ran through the middle of the kitchen. The guy pulled out one of the stools and sat down across from her. He was looking at her expectantly; and for the first time in herlife, she was unsure what to say to a ghost.
  “I don’t know where to start,” she admitted.
  “How about you start by telling me what you’re doing here playing with ghosts.”
  “I’m not playing with them. I was hired by the owner to come in and rid the house of all the spirits. It’s what I do for a living.”
  “Oh, you’re a con artist. Why didn’t you just say so?”
  “No, I’m not a con artist. I use my soul to cross other souls over to the other side. You’ve seen me do it.”
  “Have I?” he asked, raising an eyebrow skeptically.
  “Yes, that was what I was doing the first time you saw me. I was crossing that woman’s ghost over, or I was about to, when you grabbed me.”
  “Really? Because when that ghost jumped on you, you seemed to be in a lot of pain. That doesn’t sound like an experienced ghost
hunter to me.”
  “That was your fault…what is your name?”
  “Jack,” he said.
  “That was your fault, Jack. You see, normally, if the spirit is willing, I can just touch them and cross them over. But if I do it against their will, then it causes a lot of pain; for me and for the ghost.”
  “That sounds like a lot of bullshit to me. So how long doyou claim to have been doing this?”
  “Since I was nine years old.”
  He smiled at her. “You’ve been ghost hunting since you were nine years old?”
  She sat the soda bottle on the island and looked at him in growing frustration. If he couldn’t keep an open mind to what she did, then it was going to be impossible to get him to believe her when she told him about his own death.
  “Okay, listen. When I was nine years old I got the flu.
  That’s normally not a big deal; you feel like crap for a few days, and you go on about your life. Unfortunately, the foster home I was in at the time refused to heat my bedroom. They said if I was cold I could get under the blanket.
  “Anyway, because of the freezing temperature in my room, the flu turned into pneumonia. I laid in that room until I was damned near comatose. I remember that someone came into my room every so often but not much else.
  “After I missed a couple days of school, my social worker was called, and she stopped by the foster home to check on me. At first, my foster parents refused to let her into the house. They told her they didn’t know where I was and that I must have run away.
  “Fortunately, the social worker didn’t believe them, and  she called the police to force the foster family to let her inside to do a child welfare check. She found me in my bedroom, dehydrated, and covered in two days worth of my own urine and feces.
  “I was told that I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, but I don’t remember it. By that time I was unconscious. They gave me I.V. fluids for the dehydration and started me on some pretty potent antibiotics, but I’d been sick for too long.
  “I stopped breathing on my own, so they put me on a respirator to breathe for me. I slipped into a coma, and then my heart stopped beating. I was pronounced dead and stayed that way for over twenty minutes.”
  “Did your foster parents go to jail?”
  “What?” she asked, surprised by the question. “No. I mean I don’t think so, anyway. I’m sure someone would have told me if they had. They were probably just taken off the foster care list. Now stop interrupting.
  “As I was saying, I was dead for over twenty minutes. What happened while I was dead is the interesting part. The first thing I remember was not feeling sick anymore. As a matter of fact, I felt better than I had ever felt before in my life.
  “I felt at peace; a feeling I had never had before and haven’t experienced much since. I felt warm and loved. I opened my eyes and found myself in a long, dark tunnel, but it wasn’t scary.
  “I just floated there for awhile not thinking about much of anything except how nice it was to be there. I saw a bright light at the end of the tunnel. I wasn’t afraid of it, but I didn’t feel any particularly urgent desire to go there, either.
  “I think even then, on some level, I knew that the light wasn’t for me. Not yet. And then all of the sudden I was moving towards the light, slowly at first, and then faster and faster. I was flying so fast that the  tunnel around me started to blur, but I didn’t seem to be getting any closer to the light.
  “And then I stopped, and I don’t mean I slowed down first, and then stopped. I mean I was moving and then I wasn’t. Then a small piece of light broke away from the big light and headed toward me. I didn’t try to get out of the light’s way. I’m not sure I could’ve even if I’d wanted to.
  “The light stopped in front of me. I felt heat radiating from its soft glow, and then it spoke to me. It told me that I had to go back; that I had a lot of work to do before it was my time to come back there.
  “I asked the light what job I could do. I was only a little girl, after all. It told me that my job was to help people get to where we were then. I told the light I didn’t know how to get where we were because I was sleeping when I got there.
  “The light just laughed and told me not to worry that when the time came to help a person get to the tunnel that I’d know what to do. I said that I didn’t want to go back because nobody there liked me very much.
  “The light said it didn’t matter what people thought of me, that all the people on the other side of the light loved me, and that the next time I came back here I’d get to stay with all of them. And then it told me that when I saw a spirit that needed my help to get to the tunnels not to be afraid of them.
  “It said that it was just a person like me that had gotten lost and couldn’t find their way home. I asked what if the soul didn’t want to come here, what was I suppose to do then? The light said that it was my job to make it come here anyway.
  “I told it okay but that I didn’t like it very much. The light just laughed again, and then floated over and enveloped me. The next thing I knew, I was waking up to a nurse wiping my body down with a warm wash cloth. She ran screaming from the room when she realized I was looking at her.
  “Then I was surrounded by a virtual shit ton of doctors and nurses. They did every test imaginable, including a lot of brain scans and cognitive test to check for brain damage. I was dead for twenty minutes, but I was fine.
  “I wasn’t sick anymore, but I was kept in the hospital for another week, and then was moved to a different foster home. I saw my first ghost about a month later, and the light had been right. I’d known exactly what to do. All I had to do was touch the spirit and it would crossover.”
  “And you were never afraid?” Jack asked.
  “I tried not to be because the light told me not to be; but yeah, I was scared the first few times I crossed someone over. After that, I just got used to seeing them. I found out the light was right; they were just people that needed help getting home.”
  “And your new foster parents didn’t think you were crazy?”
  “I never told any of my foster families what I could do. I’d been a foster kid since I was two years old. I knew not to share too much about myself with them. But I couldn’t hide the pain when I crossed over a soul that didn’t want to go.  DCS had me checked out by a doctor the first few times it happened, but they could never
find anything wrong with me.
  “After awhile, my social worker just told new foster parents that I was prone to fits. Most foster parents couldn’t have given a shit less anyway. They just wanted their check every month.
  “I ran away from my last foster family when I was seventeen, got a job at McDonalds, and a small apartment in East Nashville. I don’t know if anyone in the Foster System ever looked for me, but I doubt it.
  “Three months later, my worst nightmare happened.”
  “What?” he asked, leaning forward on the stool. “A really bad ghost?”
  Mel smiled at him. “No, it was way worse than that. Betty happened. I was at the counter at work, just doing my job when out of nowhere I heard, “Damn it, Mel. I’ve been looking or you every spare minute since you ran away. You couldn’t have called to letme know you were alive?”
  “I looked up and there she was smiling that damn smile at me. I’d had three months of peace and quiet, and then it was over, and I haven’t had any since. I thought by sitting Betty down and telling her what I did with ghosts in my spare time, that she’d think I was crazy and it would scare her off but that turned out to be a big negative.
  “Instead she believed me and said, “Oh you poor thing. You’ve been dealing with this all on your own? Tell me what I can do to help.” I’m telling you, Betty’s so sweet she can give you cavities.”
  “She sounds like a good friend,” Jack said.
  Mel nodded. “She is; she’s just…pushy. I told her that there was nothing she could do to help me, but she wouldn’t listen. The day after Betty graduated from high school, she got a job at McDonalds with me and moved into my apartment.
  “She should have been going to college, and I told her as much, but like I said, Betty doesn’t listen to me. She said if I wasn’t going to college then neither was she. 
But everything was great for a few years after that.
  “We both got better jobs that allowed us to move into a bigger and better apartment. I even got my own car so that we wouldn’t have to share Betty’s anymore, and then the Wal-Mart incident happened.”
  “The Wal-Mart incident?”
  “I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say that it wasn’t pretty. I had just crossed over a little kid a few days before, just a toddler really. I was walking through Shelby Park one day and this little kid just wandered up to me. I’d crossed over children before, but never one this young.
 “She smiles at me and puts her little pudgy arms in the air, wanting me to pick her up. I do and cross her over, and then I sat down at
a picnic table and cried for half an hour. It wasn’t fair that that baby had to die, and it wasn’t fair that I had to cross her over.
  “I decided to quit helping the spirits. I hated it most of the time, and what was I doing it for anyway? Because a light told me to? No, I’d had enough of it, and I wasn’t going to do it anymore. I went ten days without helping any souls, and then I went to Wal-Mart.
  “I ran across a spirit that was drawn to me and wanted my help. I refused. I ended up in a mental hospital, was diagnosed as delusional, and got medicated. The medication didn’t work, of course, because there wasnothing wrong with me.
  “I was locked down for two weeks before they released me to Betty. By the time I got back home, Betty had set up this network that allowed people that really needed my help to find me.
  “Betty screens the people that trickle through to us and sends me to the ones that she thought had real merit. She does background checks on everyone before she even tells me about the possible job. I made upmy mind that if I was going to risk my safety and sanity to cross people over,that I was at least going to get paid for it.
  “This has been my only job since I was released from the hospital. The person that owns this property called Betty complaining about noises in the house and people getting hurt. She asked for my help. And that, Jack, is what I’m doing here.”
  “Wow, that’s one hell of a tale,” he said. “How much?”
  “How much what?” she asked in confusion.
  “How much do people pay you to do what you do?”
  “Why does it matter how much money I make?”
  “How much?” he asked again.
  “I get a thousand dollars for every soul that I cross over, plus my expenses; travel, food and whatnot.”
  Jack whistled. “How many souls would you say you cross over?”
  Mel hesitated and then decided to tell him the truth. “Anywhere from three to twelve a week depending on how many jobs I do. There were eight spirits in this house alone, and I’ve already crossed over six of them.”
  “That’s a lot of money,” he said. “How do you think the angel would feel about that?”
  “What angel?”
  “The angel that sent you back here from the afterlife.”
  Mel shook her head. “I never said it was an angel. I said it was a light.”
  “Yes, a talking light that sent you back from the beyond to reap lost souls.”
  Mel liked that he said ‘reap’. That meant that he had some concept of what it was she did. Most people had a hard time with it. And she could see that he was starting to believe her.
  “I’m not doing anything wrong.”
  “You’re charging to use the gift you were given to help people with,” he pointed out.
  Mel couldn’t help but smile. Some of her clients had tried to use the same logic on her when it came time to pay their tab.
  “I was sent back to help souls and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I still help the random souls that I come across just as I did before. This job allows me to help more souls than I would have been helping if I’d kept my old job.
  “The souls in the houses and buildings that I’ve gone to never would have gotten any help if I wasn’t doing this job, because I never would have had a reason to go to those locations. Take this job for instance. If I hadn’t been hired to come here, then the ghosts that are now in the light; James, Rosie, Anna Mai, and the others would still be here. I’m just charging the living for my services. It allows me to pay my bills and help reap more souls to cross to the other side. I don’t think the light can fault me for that.”
  He stared at her for a few seconds, and then shrugged. “I guess you’re right.”
  “Thank you. Now let me ask you a question,” she said, getting back to the issue at hand. “How long have you been able to see ghosts?”
  “I…I don’t…Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a ghost before being here.”
  “And where is here, Jack?”
  He looked around the kitchen as if searching for a clue. “I’m not sure.”
  “What are you doing here? How long have you been here?”
  She could see that he was starting to get agitated, and she felt sorry for him, but he was going to have to face the facts eventually. He was dead, and he was gonna have to come to terms with that.
  He shifted on the stool a little. “I don’t really remember.”
  “Jack, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re not alive anymore.”
  He gawked at her in shock for a second and then threw his head back and laughed. “That’s just ridiculous, of course I’m alive. I’m sitting here talking to you, ain’t I?”
  She gave him a sad smile. “That doesn’t prove anything. I talk to the dead all the time. It’s what I do.”
  “Your friend Betty talked to me.”
  “I’ll grant you that it was strange that she could hear you, but it still doesn’t mean that you’re alive. It’s probably just some kind of weird electronic voice phenomenon. You were talking to her over a digital phone. You’re the most here ghost that I’ve ever seen, Jack, but you’re still a ghost.”
  He crossed his arms over his chest and glared at her. “Prove it.”
  “Okay, you think that I keep disappearing on you; but in reality, you’re the one that keeps vanishing. You’ll disappear again, and when you reappear I won’t be in the room anymore.”
  “Okay, where will you be then?”
  “Upstairs on the second floor. I’ll be in one of the bedrooms. Come find me when it happens again. Until then, tell me what year it is.”
  “Come on, this is stupid.”
  “Just humor me.”
  He sighed. “Fine, it’s 1993.”
  “What month?”
  “It’s February.”
  “It’s awful warm to be February, isn’t it?”
  “It’s not warm outside. It’s freezing, and they’re predicting snow.”
  She got up, walked across the room, and slid open the kitchen window. The sound of crickets flooded the room, and a warm breeze waffled in.
  “Come here and have a look,” she said.
  He slid off the stool and walked over next to her. He leaned forward and looked outside.
  He jerked back from the window in shock. “That’s not right.”
  “It’s not right for February, but it’s perfect for a summer’s night in June, which is exactly what it is; June 26th 2013.”
  She pulled out her phone and showed him the screen so he could read the time and date.
  “This is all just some kind of trick. You’re messing with me.”
  “Right, so you believe I drove all the way here from Nashville, changed the settings on my phone to show the wrong date, and then magically manipulated the weather somehow, just to fuck with your mind? Bear in mind that I did all of this without knowing who you are or where you were.
  “I couldn’t have known where you were, because you don’t even seem to know where you are. Does any of that really make any sense to you?”
  “It makes more sense than you trying to convince me that I’m dead. I don’t know why you’re doing this, but…”
  The lights dimmed again and he vanished.
  “Goodnight, Jack,” she said and made her way upstairs to her bedroom.

 

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