A Muse Bouche Review: October 2021


Welcome to our October issue!

In this issue, we write about paranormal. We wish everyone a happy and safe Hallowe’en.

We’d also love to hear from you. Tell us how we can improve our content and style. Any topic/theme suggestions? Let us know. You can DM us on Twitter at @MuseReview.

DM @MuseReview with your favorite line in this edition and receive a free ebook from that author. Each author will provide one book only for the contest. First come, first served.

Warmest regards,
The A Muse Bouche Review Team

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Feature: Fine Dining (D.W. Hitz)  Fiction 
The Last Sandwich (Louise Sorensen)   Fiction
Wolf Ice (Melissa Yuan-InnesFiction
Signs You Might Be Possessed (Crystal L. KirkhamFiction 
Spectre Investigations (Renée Gendron)   Writing Advice 
Binding the Spectre (Aedyn Brooks   Fiction 
October Team Showcase

Feature: Fine Dining

by D. W. Hitz (@dustinhitz)

“It’s your fucking fault,” was the last thing Derek Myers had said. That was twenty minutes ago. The car was silent after that, apart from the engine noise, the pat of rain against the roof, and the wiper blades sloshing back and forth.

His mind raged. At dinner, at a public restaurant? How could she do that? It was bad enough that she was screwing Don Ecklestein—that hurt like a son of a bitch, but telling him about it there? What the hell was she thinking?

Rebbecca Stone sat in the passenger seat. Her gaze was frozen forward. She knew the whole thing was her fault, but refused to let Derek know she agreed. She hadn’t been meaning to come clean at dinner, but something just spurred her into it. It had been like someone had slipped truth serum into her ice cream topped brownie. Then the words flew: the admission, the disgust in her voice. She remembered now that she had been flushed with a sense of righteousness. Something—whatever it was that pushed her on—made her want to hurt him, and she did it. And it felt good.

It’s better this way, repeated in her mind. He hurt me, I hurt him. Now it’s out there, and we can both move on with our lives. If only Don had been good enough to justify the trouble.

Lightning flashed and almost immediately, a boom shook the car. It lit the canopy of trees that surrounded the road, and Derek jumped in his seat and the wheel jerked with him.

Another flash, another boom. Something tumbled down from the right side of the two-lane road, and Dereck slammed on his brakes. A tree collapsed into the pavement just in time for the car to swerve, its rear circling around to the front and crashing into the trunk of a monstrous pine. A three-inch thick bough burst through the rear window, reaching all the way to the front of the car and resting directly between Derek and Rebecca.

The couple trembled in their seats. Water poured in the rear. Glass and pine needles lay over the back seat. It occurred to Derek that that branch could have plunged right through his head.

Derek took in a breath and steadied himself. “Are you okay?”

Rebecca swallowed. “I—I think so.”

He opened his door. Rain immediately soaked his hair as he stood. He followed the side of the car to its rear and saw the back tire was flat. A dozen branches were crunched behind the trunk and folded up under the car. There was no way this thing was going to move without a tow.

A door slammed. Rebecca. She stood on the opposite side of the vehicle, gazing at the tree. “Whoa.”

“Yeah.” Derek took out his phone, intending to call for a tow. Strangely, the top right corner showed no bars. But, there should have been bars. There was always a signal here. The street may have looked like a forest access road, but they were only a mile or so outside of town, and he traversed this section of road almost daily. “We need to call for a tow. I don’t have any signal. Do you?”

Rebecca was already staring at her screen. Derek imagined she was trying to call Don for a ride.

“No. No signal. Do you think—could lightning have hit a cell tower?”

Derek shook his head. Rain had penetrated his jacket and his shirt, now wetting his shoulders beneath. He thought of the mile-long walk back toward town, where the closest gas station would be. “Damn.”

“Maybe their phone works?” Rebecca said.

“Huh?” Derek looked at her. She was pointing back at the way they had come, at a small neon-lit building. It was odd, Derek had never seen it there before. Not tonight when they passed it, not any other time he had come down this road. It was a long, thin, trailer-looking thing, like one of those roadside diners whose clones seemed to be scattered across the country, all with the same 50s looking exterior and the same interior layout: dining area, counter, kitchen, even a white t-shirted short-order cook that seemed to have twins in every location.

“Come one,” Rebecca said. “At least we can get out of the rain. And maybe they let us use their phone.”

Derek didn’t respond. He glanced back at his phone.

“Whatever,” Rebecca huffed and headed toward the diner. It was the last time Derek would see her alive.

* * *

There were no cars in the diner’s lot, but through the glass, Rebecca could see there were people inside. A few sat at a table, far on the left, a man and a woman. An elderly man sat at the counter, two stools away from the register. A woman sat on the far right.

As she stepped inside, a smell washed over Rebecca that she hadn’t encountered in years. It wasn’t the usual crappy diner smell of grease and fried things. It was a homier smell like she used to experience at her grandmother’s house. It was warm berries and lilac, and baking. They must be making pies in the back, she thought.
There was a soft murmur from the customers as she stepped to the counter. A tink from the left, someone’s coffee cup and spoon. She looked around and saw no one’s eyes. No one looked at her. Despite the pleasing smell and the warm, dry air, something in the restaurant was off. Something was turning a screw in her gut and telling her she should get out of there.

Rebecca took a seat on the farthest barstool. She looked down the counter for a menu and saw none. That was fine. She’d be happy with a warm cup of coffee and a slice of whatever she smelled baking in the back.

It was only a few seconds—not enough time for Rebecca to accept that the pull in her gut was now biting and burning—when a waitress came from the kitchen.
The woman was elderly, with an expression that almost made her seem dead. Her hair was white; her eyes sunken; her skin hung from her face as thin as tissue. She opened her mouth to speak, and the words sounded as loud in Rebecca’s mind as in her ears. “What can I get you, sweetie?”

“Oh, what do you have baking? I smell something good.”

The woman nodded. “That’s our specialty, a mixed berry crumble. And I think you’re in luck. It’s just coming out of the oven now.” She glanced back toward the kitchen, and someone placed a plate in her hand.

Rebecca tried to look around the old woman to see who was there, but the waitress stepped sideways, blocking her view, and put the plate on the counter in front of her.
Rebecca had to lean back. She was astonished. Her mouth dropped open and she couldn’t help herself from leaning over the plate and inhaling the glorious aroma of berries and sweetness. The slice was identical to what her great-grandmother would have handed her. It was gorgeous. Golden crust. Shining berries. Powdered sugar sprinkled over its top. It couldn’t be, but she was sure. This was the exact recipe her Ma-ma would bake and feed the dozen cousins that would all come for visits to the farm on holidays. But how could that be?

A shiver rode over her spine, down her limbs. She ignored it. She wanted a taste.

A fork seemed to appear directly beside the plate. She snatched it and scooped up a bite. She raised it to her lips, the sweetness making her tongue quiver in expectation.

* * *

Derek watched Rebecca go inside the restaurant and gritted his teeth as the door closed behind her. Like it or not, she was right. With the rain and lack of signal, this place was the best idea.

He walked across the road and the hundred feet to the front door. He reached for the handle, and it swung open on its own. Out stepped a woman, and Derek moved to the side to let her pass. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Her wavy brown hair seemed to curl perfectly around her face, highlighting her cheekbones and swooshing past her mouth and back as she strode. Her clothes were older, striking him as something from black and white movies, the classic noir films he used to enjoy with his father when he was a kid. But she was young, mid-twenties at the oldest. She kept on her way, out into the rain, and Derek realized he had been holding his breath and released it.

He shook his head and went inside.

Derek looked for Rebecca. She sat on the right side of the restaurant. She was in a booth, staring out the window, paying him no mind at all.

“That’s fine,” he muttered. He took a seat at the empty counter and noticed a smell that reminded him of home. It took a second to pinpoint what it was: his mother’s recipe for chicken pot pie. How he used to love that as a kid. He’d eat the top first, then the veggies, saving the chicken for last, and slurping up the gravy like soup.
A man stepped in front of Derek. He was old, looking nearly like the dead. He said, “What can I get you?”

The Last Sandwich

by Louise Sorensen (@louise3anne)

There is a cold spot in the kitchen where I am standing.

Ingredients for lunch are laid out on the counter. Bun, butter, cheese, meat. I saw open the bun with the breadknife, and place it in the toaster oven to heat up. The counter surface shimmers momentarily, then firms up. It does this sometimes.

My husband comes up behind me, gives me a hug and a kiss goodbye. I lean into him and smile. He’s off to work.

I hear him outside, scraping ice off the car windshield. The scraping ends, the car door slams, the engine starts. Gravel crunches on the road as he drives off.

It is cold. It is always cold, a seemingly endless winter. The sky is overcast and my kitchen is dark, lit only by the weak winter sun coming through the window. The counter top, stove and refrigerator are all the same uniform gray, as if they are made up of one misty, insubstantial piece.

I am all alone now, in this big old house. The room feels hollow, as if the air coats only the edges of the walls. A high pitched emptiness magnifies every snap, creak, and groan of the centuries old brick and mortar.

While the bun toasts, I watch the black and white television on the wall. It shows a cartoon. The sound is muted, but I hear the theme song to a program I barely remember. I think of another theme song, and the music changes to that. I think of listening to a third tune, and the music changes again. I realize that the music I hear must be playing in my head. It is very loud and sounds exactly like it would if it were coming from the television.

The bun is finished toasting, and too hot to touch. I open the toaster door, spear it with the knife, and slide it out onto a plate. I can’t smell the fresh toasted bread, the meat, the cheese, or anything else. My nose is numb, my sense of smell gone. I have a little trouble catching my breath.

Although I heard no one enter, I sense someone in the room, standing behind me. It feels like my husband. He must have come back for something. As he has already kissed me goodbye, I do not look around. I feel him staring at me for quite a while. I almost turn around, but he moves away soundlessly and goes back out. I hear no footsteps or scrape of door opening or closing. He is very quiet.

I butter the hot bun halves and open the package of meat. Placing slices of meat on the bottom bun, I close the package and put it back in the fridge beside me.

The cartoon plays on, something about a wolf driving a car down a long highway. As the car bounces up and down the undulating surface of the slick, black road, the two white center lines roll like waves. Every now and then, the wolf’s smiling face leers out at me in an extreme close-up. He has big white teeth.

With the sound muted, the cartoon is very soothing, almost like a dream. I look down at my hands and realize I am buttering the top half of the bun again. I stop, and reach for the plastic wrapped block of cheese.

I sense someone enter the room again and stand behind me. Whether I can tell this by the sound of footsteps, body heat, or the way the air in the room is compressed by the presence of another, I do not know. But there is someone there again. He, somehow I know it is a he, stands behind me motionless, staring at me. I feel his gaze as strongly as if we were face to face.

But this time, instead of turning around and leaving, he zooms in soundlessly behind me. I feel his hot approach, like a furnace door opening. In a split second he slaps his heated form to mine, and breathes into the back of my neck.

My body jerks, and I look up from the sandwich ingredients, paralyzed. Able to see only straight ahead. A fireworks of sparkling orange fills my sight. I feel this being disperse himself into my back, his atoms blasting into the cells of my body in an explosion of heat from my head to my toes.

For an eternity, I am unable to move.

Finally, I summon the courage to put down the breadknife and turn around.

There is no one there.

The heat dissolves. My heart is pounding, my back covered with an ice of sweat. There is a muffled creak in the next room, and my heart races faster. A boom echoes from a room farther away. I begin to seriously consider the existence of ghosts.

I look into the next room, the kitchen nook. Eyes wide open, I scan every square inch of the wall. Is there a shadow in the corner of the ceiling that is larger than before? Is that where the being that tried to possess me, for that is what it felt like, is hiding? I struggle for breath and decide that I cannot live in this house a moment longer. I must escape.

Instead, I lean against the kitchen counter and try to catch my breath. Finally I realize I must have had a waking dream. My first. It was completely realistic. Totally believable. I get a grip and my heart finally goes quiet.

No one and nothing assaulted me. There is no black and white television on the wall in front of me, no cartoon playing with the sound on mute. No smiling wolf. No ghost wandering the house.

Then I think that next I will be imagining that I am a ghost, caught in a never ending loop, reliving the last moments of my life over and over. I smile at the impossibility.


There is a cold spot in the kitchen where I am standing. Ingredients for lunch are laid out on the counter…

Wolf Ice

by Melissa Yuan-Innes (@dr_sassy)

This is the opening for my paranormal thriller, Wolf Ice. Contains four-letter words and sex, drugs, and werewolves. Read at your own risk.

I hopped into Elena’s red Honda Odyssey, which vibrated so hard from the White Stripes’ bass line that I felt, more than heard, my door thump shut. Elena tossed her blond hair and bared her teeth. “Ready to rumble?”

I threw back my head and howled my answer. It kicked ass to desert Montreal once a month and go wild. If my biological clock didn’t demand it, I’d have to do it anyway.
Elena threw the van into reverse. “Good. You’re gonna need it, Leila.”

At first I thought she meant she was going to spar with me when we got to the campground I’m negotiating to buy, but her glance flicked to the rear view mirror. She grinned.

I checked out our compatriots in the van’s rearmost seat. We always carpool. It’s more environmentally sound, plus, worst case scenario, if one of us ‘shifts too much on the way, someone else can drive. Usually, Elena drives, and I ride shotgun. Mac and Laurent fill the back seats, plus one to three other pack members join us.

I said hi to Mac, our resident redhead. “Big Mac” is a few years older than us, which means he broke through the big 3-0, but he still looked like a taller, broader Richie Cunningham. Like me and Elena, he doesn’t ‘shift until almost the last second the sun disappears and the full moon rises, so he drives occasionally.

Laurent’s the opposite: small and lean, bad five o’clock shadow two days before the full moon. We practically have to smuggle him out as our wolf dog if we leave too close to evening. Today he hung out by himself in the van’s rearmost seat, like a French Canadian version of Slash. What makes it more hilarious is that in the Real World, Laurent is a clean-shaven lawyer.

I twisted to look directly behind me and hissed involuntarily, baring my teeth.

“Nice to see you, too,” said Jack. Also known as Jack Meng, paramedic, or as I prefer to call him, scum-sucking motherfucker.

I turned back to Elena. “His lips are moving, but all I hear is, ‘Hey! I’m an asshole!'”

“Yeah, I’ll bet that’s what you’re hearing.” She merged on to the Décarie Expressway, gunning ahead of a police cruiser.

Was I that transparent? I sure hoped not. Of course, I also hoped I was impervious to Jack’s Chinese-Canadian werewolf charms, but my triple-digit heart rate testified otherwise. My parents had always hoped I’d marry a guy who a) was Chinese like me, b) scored a good job, c) had sprung from a decent family, so we could d) make nice yellow babies. Until Jack, I’d never met an Asian guy who rang my bell. Before I could bring him home, though, Jack showed off his true player colours. Finito. RIP, Jack and Leila, forever and ever, amen.

I changed the radio station and the first, familiar chords of “Werewolves of London” came on. I stiffened.

“Aroo,” said Elena.

“I’ll change it.” I reached for the button. The song was pure cheese. The only one that bugged me more was “Layla,” by Eric Clapton, because kids used to tease me that the song was about me.

Laisse-le,” growled Laurent. Leave it.

“Yeah, don’t you have any team spirit?” said Mac.

Elena laughed. I snorted.

Only Jack didn’t say anything. Maybe he remembered how we used to laugh and kiss and do the wild thing to this song.

The chorus kicked in, and we all howled along with it. Jack’s tenor rose in the air. The hair on my neck prickled, and my nipples stood at attention. I crossed my arms, but there was no way to get around it. Scummy motherfucker still sounded—and smelled—like heaven.

Eventually, I relaxed to Sheryl Crow while Elena munched beef jerky and gunned it along Highway 20, weaving through April’s early tourists and bad-tempered commuters. An hour later, we crossed the provincial border into Ontario. First exit, Curry Hill, toward the fifty acres of land our pack’s going to buy.
I love nature. I love mosquitoes, sweat, and mud that sucks off your sneakers. I love to run and scream out of pure joy, and it doesn’t matter because no one can hear you, or if they can, they’re running and screaming too.

In four short weeks, this would be our new stomping ground.

Elena still drove like she was in Montreal, passing a tractor even though a black GMC truck was already pulled over on the shoulder. She took a left at the faded sign for KOA CAMPGROUNDS. Maples, ash, and pine trees unfurled their new leaves and needles in welcome. We bumped over the frost heave potholes in the dirt road.
“We’ll have to fix the road,” grumbled Laurent.

“The water and sewage hookups still work,” I countered. “And wait ’til you see the river.”

“The mighty Beaudette River,” Laurent said.

“You can fish in it,” I said. “Maybe not now, but next month.”

“Awesome,” said Elena. I grinned at her until she rolled down her window to toss a beef jerky wrapper on to our new homeland.

At my look, she stuffed the wrapper back in the cup holder.

“Thanks,” I said. I sniffed the fresh air. I loved the smell of damp earth, that gentle hint of warmth and spring. I inhaled deeply, closing my eyes, and smelled Jack. Even for a werewolf, I’ve got quite the nose.

I blushed, which made me mad. I tried to concentrate on Elena instead. She smelled like herself, calendula, and beef jerky. She gets hungry before she ‘shifts. Like PMS times a thousand.

“Great place,” said Jack. “What’s the closest city?”

I laughed. “Two towns, about 20 minutes north and west. This land’ll be all ours. The Ottawa wers have been calling me, though. They want in on it, too.”

Elena couldn’t pull right up on the campground because the ground was too boggy. We carried our tents about 20 feet from the dirt road.

I set up my tent, trying to ignore Jack working on his to my right. My tent is a two-person job from Mountain Equipment Co-op, kind of like a little white nylon igloo held up by retractable metal poles. A tall five-year-old could set it up.

So I had plenty of time to watch Jack’s forearm muscles and biceps as he set up his blue four-man wonder, the kind with an awning that’s practically a porch. He probably held orgies in there. Somehow, this did not detract from his arm muscles. I love well-used muscles in a guy. Not steroid-induced, tanning bed, poser muscles, but the kind you get from hauling wood, running, and generally being a man.

Or a wolf.

“You have good taste,” he said.

“What?” My eyes snapped back up to his face. Conceited bastard, saying I have good taste for gawking—

“This land. I like it.”

Oh. Right. Only the entire focus of my work life. “Yeah, thanks. I wanted a green space not too far from Montreal.”

When I tore my eyes away from Jack’s intense brown irises, Elena’s little red tent caught my eye. It was still sitting in the open trunk of her van. I started toward it, still feeling Jack watching me.

“Leila!” Mac flagged me to the south side of the campground.

I glanced at Elena’s tent again before I jogged toward Mac. Jack matched me stride for stride.

“What’s up?” I asked Mac.

His face looked paler than usual under his growing ginger beard. “Elena’s missing.”

Signs You Might Be Possessed

by Crystal L. Kirkham (@canucklick)

With the spooky season upon us, I feel it prudent to warn our fine readers about something not many of us think about. The signs that you might be possessed. It can always be hard to see these things when it affects you, but this article is here to help. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, I hope that it brings you insight into this common issue.

If you do conclude that you might be possessed, I am sorry to say that I don’t have answers on how to cure you.
Without further ado, here are a few of the signs you should watch out for:

A Strange Connection to Graveyards

You are drawn to the places of the dead. There is something about the atmosphere that draws you in and makes something deep inside of you sing. You can spend countless hours wandering between stone markers, reading the names of people you have never known and, perhaps, even feeling some connection with those who have passed on.
There is a kind of peace to be found in these places for you and, when you drive by one, a part of you wishes to be there, among those souls.
Extra warning: you sometimes talk to those who have passed whether or not you expect any sort of answer back.

Hearing Voices

These voices may come to seem to be internal or external, though hearing voices as if someone is talking from outside of you is very uncommon. Usually, these are whispers that are at the back of your mind. Other people that talk to you, or perhaps to each other as you listen in on their conversations. Whether or not you can communicate with these voices will vary on the type or degree of possession.
Extra warning: if the voices are talking about a lot of dark and disturbing things, this means you are more likely possessed.

A Fascination of things Relating to Murder and Death

Poison, weapons, serial killers. If you find yourself need to know more about those who kill, ways to kill, and how to hide a body, this is a sign that you might be possessed. Also, whatever is possessing you might be planning to use you as a vehicle to kill others. This is something to be very conscious of as you consume information on these topics.
Extra warning: you find yourself collecting the murderous items you are studying as an uncontrollable compulsion.

Losing Time

Perhaps you think to yourself that you’re going to check your social media for a second and the next thing you know, you’ve lost a few hours of your time. Or perhaps it’s wandering into something like a bookstore.
Loss of time is a large warning sign that you must be aware of. You may think that it was simply a matter of being absorbed and distracted by what you are doing, but if you find yourself often wondering where your time went or how you could have possibly spent so long on what should have been a short task, then you should be concerned.
Extra warning: if the lost time comes with flashes of vivid hallucinations or imagery—especially disturbing imagery.

Knowledge of Unknown Languages/Words

Many people speak more than one language, which isn’t unusual. Here, we are talking about knowing words or languages that are either not human in origin or ones that you have no right to know as you haven’t studied that language before.
Of particular concern would be knowing languages that don’t exist. Sometimes, it is easy to dismiss such things as joking around. Some have even been known to go so far as creating dictionaries of these imaginary languages.
Extra warning: you find yourself speaking in this language often and/or teaching others to speak it as well.

If you have three or more of these signs occurring regularly, you might be possessed, and it is recommended that you talk to a professional. Or, perhaps, you’re a writer.

Spectre Investigations

by Renée Gendron (@reneegendron)

Rue Murphy stared at an executive board meeting through the inter-dimensional viewing screen. She was watching a woman in a matching navy-blue silk jacket and trousers standing at the head of the table giving a presentation. Hair pinned back in a neat twist, the gestured at the colourful graphs in her PowerPoint and explained the productivity gains from using her UpProdo’s software. She clicked for the next slide, but her laptop’s screen flashed yellow, then green, before it went dark.Samvel Murphy, husband of Rue Murphy in flesh and blood for forty-two years and husband in ethereal form for an additional hundred and two, tapped the screen. “That’s classic sabotage. See how the screen flickered before the computer crashed? That’s a haunting.”“I wasn’t convinced until I saw this.” Rue spread her fingers through the air, and conjured images of spoiled lunches, clogged toilettes, and broken-down cars. “That’s what’s happened to her in the last month.”“No one has that kind of bad luck without interference from beyond. How was her relationship with her family?”Rue created a ten-generation family tree midair, each branch of the family a different neon colour. “The usual ups and downs. Not one of them has filed for a permit to haunt.”“They don’t always.”

“They do if they have just cause.”

Samvel sucked on his cheek. Here in the After, he was his striking thirty-year-old self with rich dark eyes and chocolate milk coloured curls that tickled his collar. Still youthful in gait and strong in the shoulder, his eyes contained the wisdom of three lifetimes.

Damn, if she didn’t love him more today than the day they married.

“Apartment or work?” he asked.

“Let’s start with the apartment.” She glided from their plane of existence to that of the living and stepped into Paulina Hoang’s bedroom. Dark silk sheets spread across a king-sized bed with a folded white wool blanket at its foot. The room was sleek, sparse, and spoke of power.

“No pictures.” Samvel made his way around the room, his feet never touching the floor. “Nothing personal on the shelves. Nothing in her bedside tables except lube and condoms.”

Rue tilted her head to the open closest. “Silk suits and skirts are her uniforms. Dark colours for work, bright colours for going out. Nothing shorter than three inch heels.”
“The heels mean anything?”

“She’s got better balance than I ever had.”

“You never needed heels to show off your legs.” Samvel winked.

A tingling sensation washed over her. A thousand bursts of heat carrying every memory of every time his breath warmed her neck rolled over her.

“The cruise in the Caribbean or our second honeymoon?” he asked.


“You’re glowing bright pink.”

“Second honeymoon.”

His cheeks curved in a handsome smile, one that reached his eyes and spanned eternity. “Threw my back out after the third night.”

“I recall it was worth it.”

“Very well worth it.” He stepped through the wall and returned a moment later. “There’s nothing in the kitchen. The fridge has olives and butter. She keeps two knives, forks, and spoons. One can of spinach.”

“Canned spinach?”

He shrugged. “Good thing I can’t eat anymore, or I’d throw up.”

“She lives alone. She doesn’t have many people over, if ever, or she’d have more in the fridge. She has no pictures, not even of family. She’s got two masters’ degrees but doesn’t display them. Who would haunt her?”

“Someone from high school, elementary school, childcare?”

“Three-year-olds don’t carry grudges for thirty years.”

“Tell that to Fen Liu.”

Rue ran her tongue against her lower lip, not that she tasted her lunch or anything more than air. “One time.”

“I can go through our files and pull out hundreds of cases where not sharing toys in early life led to disastrous consequences later on.”

“Point made.”

“Good. Point to me.” He wafted across the floor and melded his shape to hers—their forms overlapped, and her form filled with the scorching heat of the passionate nights of young couples without bills, mortgages, children, and responsibilities crashing through their doors.

He pulled away from her, a satisfied boyish grin on his face. “Someone from early childhood then, but who?”

“Haven’t determined early childhood. It could very well be from middle or high school, even young adulthood. The file says she’s got a terrific sense of humour, loves jokes, and played epic pranks on her classmates throughout all of her education.”

“Any pranks go wrong?” Samvel asked.

She waved her hand and a series of holo-images from Paulina’s life appeared. Smiles and laughs from when Paulina put trick candles on a friend’s birthday cake. Surprised laughter when she filled her mother’s kitchen with helium balloons on April First. A few you-got-me-there head shakes from friends in university when she stole all their university hoodies and replaced them with the opposition’s during the second intermission.

“Not according to this,” Rue said.

The front door of the apartment unlocked. Heels clicked against the marble floor, followed by naked feet striding with purpose to the bedroom. Paulina strode into the bedroom, straight through Rue and shrugged off her navy-blue jacket. She hung it on a hanger to let it air, then slipped out of her cream coloured blouse and tossed it into the hamper. She slid open her wall-to-wall closet, sorted through a series of short, shorter, and shorter-still little black dresses, and selected the longest of the lot.
She stripped, strode to her en suite, showered, dressed in her black dress and exited her two-million-dollar condo wearing four-inch red pumps.

“Should we follow her?” Samvel asked.

“No point. She’s out for vodka drinks with customers to glean secrets.”

“Where does that leave us?”

“Back to basics. Start at the beginning and work our way out.” Rue floated through the ceiling, and then they were back at Spectre Investigations Head Quarters.
“Friends from childhood,” Samvel said, “all turned out reasonably well. A few divorces, one lost his fortune on the stock exchange, a few early deaths of their parents, but nothing catastrophic.”

“What about middle school?”

Samvel swirled the air, and files with pictures appeared. “Same thing. No one’s life seriously derailed. A friend from grade eight married three times before she was thirty, but the third marriage seems to have stuck, and she’s happy.”

“Where does that leave?”

“Combing through traffic footage to see if there was a case of road rage.”

Rue groaned. “I won’t last that long.”

He laughed, rich and warm, the kind of laugh she wanted to hear for a millennium. “I’ll be right here with you.”

“That doesn’t make it easier.”

“Tired of me already? It’s only been four hundred years.” Samvel laughed harder, a laugh that brought both his hands to his sides and tilted his head back. A laugh that stretched aeons until the only thing in the universe was his glorious, all-consuming, and oh-so-very-Samvel laugh.

“Never.” Rue stretched her form out to his, and their edges touched in a symphony of sensation.

His form shimmered in delight like a million polished diamonds. “Traffic jams. Weirdos on the metro. Buskers, she didn’t tip.”

“Need something more direct. Buskers don’t tend to track people down to haunt them.”

“How about people she’s out-worked and received a promotion over them? Money and power are always cause for jealousy.”

“That would do it.” She wafted next to him, his scent of evergreen and lemon and mechanic’s grease still fresh in her memory. “Who’s on the list?”


“That’s not helpful.”

“Who says I was trying to be helpful?” He reached out towards her and poked her in her sides.

Damn her for laughing. “Need to narrow that down a bit.” She swirled the air, and the case file appeared. “Two main candidates. Dirk Keiser graduated top of his glass, and his mother had all the connections. Died in a yachting accident two years ago.”

“Tragic. And the other?”

“The other climbed her way to the top. Lisa Hovland started in Administration, working full time and then working part-time in the evenings on the sales desk to prove her worth. Five years of eighty-hour weeks before she was promoted out of Admin into sales, then onto Marketing and Accounts.”

“How’d she die?” Rue asked.

“At her desk. Heart attack at thirty-one.”

“That’s horrible.”

Samvel made a circular motion, and the space between them transformed to track the two suspects. Both ghosts lingered in a common area in a park with different areas for shared experiences. To the side was a lush, sea-green grass where ghosts could experience profound contentment as they became enveloped in the sensation of grass between their toes. At the far end of the park was a waterfall, where ghosts could experience warmth cascading around and through them.

Dirk was chatting with a few other ghosts, laughing about something. Lisa was sitting in a quiet area, knitting.

“How do you want to approach the interrogation?” Rue asked.

“We should watch them for a bit. See how they interact. Introduce an item that reminds them of Paulina and see how they respond.”

“Which item?”

“Paystub?” Samvel asked. “That gets them every time.”

Rue waved her hand, and a paystub appeared on the coffee table next to Dirk. Dirk finished an animated story, laughed, and flopped onto the chair. He reached for his tumbler of whiskey and raised it to his lips—the paystub was stuck to the bottom. He peeled it off, read it, and placed it on the table.

One of Dirk’s friends called out to him from the pool table, and Dirk joined him, grabbing a cue from the rack.

Disappointed, Rue waved her hand, and a piece of paper appeared near Lisa’s feet. Lisa looked over the points of her needles to the paper on the floor. She picked it up, skimmed it, and stared at it for a minute. Her expression remained unchanged, her blue eyes fixed on the paper, her thin lips remained in a thin line, her jawline remained relaxed.

Lisa flicked her fingers, and a flame appeared. She held the flame to the paystub, watched it burn, then returned to her knitting.

“So much for that,” Rue said.

“Crossing guard, cafeteria lady, a boss who’s jealous of Paulina’s abilities?”

Rue shook her head. “Could be anyone.”

“Let’s re-examine the evidence. The sabotage is work-related—presentations, late meetings, that sort of thing.”

“No one at the office is dead and wants to take her down.”

“What about a pact?”

“Those are myths,” she said.

“Are they? We’ve communicated with the living, used their help to solve cases. The living have their secrets.”

“Who then? She hasn’t taken lovers at work, and her work makes the boss look smart.”

Samvel drifted left and right and back to the left again. “Someone with a deep emotional bond to the victim and knows someone in the After to call upon.”

“Someone with Sight?”

He shook his head. “There are so few with Sight. More like Sensitivity. Someone whose hunches are always right because a voice from Beyond whispered this way or that.”

“Where does Paulina eat her lunch?”

“Depends on the day.”

“Did she offend any server?”

Samvel shook his head. “Not that I can see.”

“Did she walk past a homeless person every day without giving him change?”

Another shake of the head from Samvel. “She gave often enough to several people. Sometimes forty dollars.”

“Hmm,” Rue said. “What a pickle. Who would haunt this woman?”

“I’ve got it.” Samvel laughed so hard that his form shifted from blue to bright red. The youth in his expression returned and his features transformed into a ball of pure, joyous light.

“What do you mean?”

“It’s a prank.”

“What?” Rue asked.

Samvel swept his arm over the area, leaving a wake of university memories. “It’s what Paulina and her friends did to one another in university. Each time they had a test, a presentation, or some other major event, they pranked each other. They said they had to throw in as many hitches as possible to keep their skills sharp.”

“You think someone’s doing this to help Paulina from the After?”

Samvel nodded. “Every time there’s been a major incident, Paulina’s risen to the challenge, backed up her presentations, worked harder, and expanded her network.”
“The pieces fit. The thing is, what do we do about it?”

“Paulina doesn’t seem perturbed by the presence.”

Rue shook her head. “Hasn’t altered her routine or changed her life. She works, goes out with friends, climbs and reaches for new heights.”

“Then we shouldn’t interfere. Whoever’s needling her is doing it with good intentions and getting good results.”

“Want to write it up that way?” Rue asked.

“It’s the truth.”

Rue nodded. “So it is.”

“What do you want to tonight, after the reports?”

“Haven’t blended in the water at the park.”

A strangling noise came from his form, the one he made when he couldn’t think of the appropriate words. “I can spend an eternity with you and never be bored.”

“Good.” She reached out for him, their forms intertwined, and they drifted off to new experiences and new depths of love.

Binding the Specter (Excerpt)

by Aedyn Brooks (@aedynbrooks)

Excerpt from Time to Rise by Aedyn Brooks

Happy Halloween, Musers! My next series, The Witches of Whitman, kicks off next spring. Same small town. Same shenanigans of supernatural and horrific villains. Now with a witchy twist. This is the epilogue from Time to Rise – hope you enjoy!

The thirteen clans hadn’t been together in decades. It had been too high a risk to gather, but now, witches weren’t persecuted as they once were.

Back in 1899 serial killer Katerina Ivanov Peterson performed a spell so terrifying to witch and mundane alike that her clan had no choice but to confine her to magical prison. You see, Katerina had found a way to make herself immortal by being neither dead nor alive. She’d become a specter. And an immortal couldn’t rot in prison for consecutive life sentences. No, the clan had made a wise decision and locked her in an airtight tomb made of glass with a cement base.

They’d drawn straws as to whose home would hold the specter and the Pike family had come up short. The clan labored for months before they performed a spell of their own—trapping Katerina in her personal globe for the rest of eternity. They provided a bed, blankets, desk, chair, and plenty of blank journals to capture her thoughts—along with books.

Here they were, a hundred and twenty years later, one ancestor from the original thirteen clans gathered in Ian Sarcone’s living room. Thirteen individuals who hoped to correct or reseal Katerina to her tomb. He stared at the portrait of his great-grandmother Bethany Pike that hung over the fireplace’s mantle. The group sipped peppermint and orange tea while they gathered their thoughts and their nerve. They had no idea what they’d be facing in the moments ahead.

One thing they did know is that Katerina Ivanov Peterson had figured out a way to escape her tomb in her spectral form and had somehow stolen one of her original journals that may contain powerful spells that could counter anything they were about to do.

To say tensions were running high was an understatement.

Carrington “Carrie” Paige was the Whitman Coven’s high priestess and even she was nervous. Ian didn’t know of a more knowledgeable witch and if she was scared, then he was too.

Carrie cleared her throat. “We don’t know what we’re about to see. We could go down there and Katerina could be gone.”

Ian had seen Katerina’s spectral presence twice in the last few days. And he couldn’t help but feel it was all his fault that she’d escaped. He’d wanted to impress Aspen Elliott—a woman who happened to be an FBI profiler and a serial killer fan girl. Her doctorate had been on female serial killers. He thought sharing Katerina’s diaries with Aspen would help her take notice of him. She’d noticed alright. And it’d backfired big time.

His poor decision was the reason the clans were gathered together to see if they could bind Katerina to her earthly crypt once again.

“If Katerina is still in her tomb,” Carrie continued, “we’ll join our ancient besoms, handle to bristles.”

Each family had the original broom that was created by each clan, decorated with their family’s colors, charms, and enchanted with protection spells.

“Ian.” Carrie pointed to him. “You’ll lead the way, lighting the wall sconces.” She turned to the only other male present. “Avarice, you’ll bring up the rear, locking us in the room.”

Avarice Reid nodded. His long gray/blond hair gave him a dangerous vibe, yet he was one of the nicest men Ian had ever met. Then again, he’d never crossed him. He’d heard Avarice could be rather ruthless in a boardroom.

Ian took one final swig. Binding a specter wasn’t for the weak at heart.

Brooms in hand, they made their way down the ancient stone steps into the deep dungeon below the basement of Ian’s house. Great-Grandma Pike had told her daughter, who told Ian’s mom, who told him about this monumental spell-casting feat. Years ago, Ian thought it’d be so cool to have that kind of collective power. Now, as an adult, he knew full well what they embarked on was dangerous because no one knew if Katerina had got free, just how dangerous she’d be in a world that had no idea she loved killing and yet couldn’t be killed.

Today Ian couldn’t feel fear. He had to table that part of his mind and heart. Today he could only have determination. Katerina would never get free of her glass prison again.

Leading the way, he lit the torches along the walls. He handed his torch and besom to Carrie as he recited the incantation to open the hidden wall. He pulled his golden athame from his robe and unsheathed the knife. Making an open pentagram with his blade, he said aloud, “Aperta, nunc aperta.” Open, now open.
The brick wall groaned and screeched, opening enough that Ian could push the heavy door aside. He reclaimed his besom and torch and lit the sconces along the wall, sliding his into the last empty wall bracket.

Once everyone had entered the room and Avarice had secured the door, they linked their brooms handle to bristle.

It was only then that Ian dared to raise his eyes and look at the glass dome. He’d imagined it’d be covered in dust and cobwebs, but it wasn’t. It was clear from top to bottom, inside and out. If it were airtight, there should be condensation there—yet it was like looking through a piece of stemware.

Katerina sat at her desk, apparently reading the journal she’d obtained. The quaint room was illuminated by never-ending candles. Bookcases lined one portion of the room, filled to the brim—and if he wasn’t mistaken, new scrolls were tucked in there too. Where had she gotten those? A medium-sized sleigh bed occupied one side of the sphere, a desk on the other.

What surprised Ian most was how youthful and pretty Katerina looked in her prison. Her glamour spell was working overtime. She certainly didn’t look like the skeletal specter he’d met days before.

Carrie poured a thick layer of salt around the dome, sealing it once again. Then in coven tradition, they walked around the enclosure three times, reciting their coven’s invocation, calling in the totems and guardians of the watchtowers from the East, South, West, and North, keeping their brooms interlocked for protection.

“As above,” they recited in unison. “So below.” They each knocked three times on the floor.

“The circle is sealed.” Carrie then began calling in our ancestors, Hecate, and Odin, asking for their assistance in invoking our plea.

Wind whipped around the circle.

Katerina appeared unphased, as though she couldn’t see nor hear them.

Carrie’s voice rose with fervor, “Hark ye witches, Lady and Lord. Sky above and Earth below. In this right and ready hour, hear our words and grant them power. May no unworthy spirit see, the secrets which bindeth thee. To those who have walked the hidden road, we bind our sister Katerina to this abode. Guardians on high, guardians low, guardians in all directions; hear us once, hear us now, grant us your eternal protection. May these truths of earth and skies forever blind the prying eye. Through the coming ages, grant us our prayer, we plea upon our sacred sages. Bind her once. Bind her twice. Bind her forever on this night. So mote it be.”

“So mote it be,” the witches echoed.

Carrie waited, staring at Katerina. “What say you, witch?”

Finally, Katerina smiled and lifted her eyes to look at Carrie.

She pushed back from the desk and opened her robe, exposing her nude plump belly.

Ian gasped.

How in the world did Katerina get pregnant? Ian knew Katerina wouldn’t have an ounce of guilt sacrificing her newborn babe. And a newborn babe spell, along with a placenta, could wreak catastrophic repercussions for everyone—living or dead.

“She looks pregnant,” Avarice said. “How is that possible?”

Good. Ian was glad he wasn’t the only one shocked at Katerina’s revelation. Maybe it was an illusion.

The red, thick blanket on the bed shifted. An arm flung back the cloth, a naked man rolled and sat on the side of the bed. He stood, flinging his long locks away so everyone could see his face.

Carrie gasped. “Debevick.”

Ian had read about him in Katerina’s journals. He was her lover and accomplice in her murders. According to the journals, he tricked or drugged the men so Katerina could kill them. This wasn’t good. Not good at all.

Their binding spell didn’t bind Debevick nor the unborn babe. Was their incantation useless? Did it weaken or confine Katerina or dampen her magic?

Katerina stood, caressing her enlarged stomach. “Maiden. Mother. Crone. It’s only a matter of time and I’ll be free.” She laughed, pointing at each and every one of them. “Your words have no power here. I will be free!”

“Not as long as I draw breath.” Carrie stomped her foot three times.

Each witch firmed their lips. “So mote it be.”


AMBR Team Showcase: October 2021

Dead Reckoning, Grave Intentions, Book 1 by Aedyn Brooks

Ready or Not, Grave Intentions, Book 2 by Aedyn Brooks

Devil’s Due, Grave Intentions, Book 3 by Aedyn Brooks – August 2021

Book 1 of the Outdoorsman Series, by Renée Gendron to be released October 14, 2021

Seven Points of Contact, by Renée Gendron to be released fall/winter 2021-2022

Heads and Tales A supernatural / mythological anthology. Renée Gendron contributed a historical, supernatural, romance. Amazon.

A Law of Constants by A.P. Miller is available on Amazon
Beneath The Twin Suns An Anthology, edited by https://reneegendron.com/james-and-mirabelleRenée Gendron, available now. Find the link to your Amazon here.

Days of the Phoenix by A.P. Miller is available on Amazon

Dead Reckoning: Grave Intentions, Book 1 by Aedyn Brooks is available on Amazon

Duel Visions by Misha Burnett and Louise Sorensen is available on Amazon

Heartened by Crime from Renée Gendron is available now.

In The Red Room : A crime anthology with heart Edited by Renée Gendron is available now.

Judith’s Prophecy, a Supernatural Thriller by D.W. Hitz is available from Evolved Publishing
– Also book 2 and 3 are available + check for it now on audiobook

They Stole the Earth! A Middle Grade Sci-Fi Adventure by D.W. Hitz is available from Fedowar Press
– Now available on audiobook!