My Plain Jane (The Lady Janies #2)(7)

“Took who?” The agent consulted his notebook. “Your husband? He was thrown into debtors’ prison, if I’m not mistaken. A gambling problem.”

The ghost swayed from left to right, but said nothing.

The agent glanced down at his notebook again. “His name was Frances Doolittle.”

“Frank,” the ghost sneered. “He was a hornswoggler.”

“Frank,” said the agent, jotting that down. “Hornswoggler.” He reached into his pocket again and drew out a silver pocket watch. “All right,” he said to the second agent, “now observe this closely. When capturing a spirit—”

The ghost let out a wail so loud and so mournful that Jane’s stomach twisted with a new wave of pity. Then the Shrieking Lady snatched the watch from the agent’s grasp. At least that’s what she tried to do, but failed, as the watch passed through her insubstantial hand and clattered onto the floor.

The next events happened in quick succession:

The agent in charge reached for the pocket watch on the floor.

The ghost sensed an escape window and darted downward from the ceiling.

“She flees!” cried the redhead.

The agent in charge leapt nimbly through the air and landed beside the ghost. “Get the watch! It’s—” But he couldn’t finish the order because the redhead clumsily lunged forward and dove to tackle the ghost, but instead of tackling her, he—naturally—flew right through her and landed in a pile next to Jane’s hiding place behind the bar.

At which point Jane shot to her feet.

All eyes fell on Jane, including the ghost’s.

“Uh, good evening.” Jane waved. “I was, um . . . sleeping . . . sweeping . . . then sleeping.”

A moment of complete silence passed. Nobody moved, except the redheaded one, who groaned and rubbed his temple. But the ghost began to drift purposefully toward Jane.

“Sleeping,” the first agent said skeptically.

“I . . . I . . .” Jane stammered. “I was drunk. From the drinking of . . . the brandy.”


By now, the Shrieking Lady was uncomfortably close to Jane, who tried with all her might to pretend she couldn’t see the wayward spirit.

“Hello,” the ghost said.

Jane could feel the masked man’s eyes on hers. She quickly glanced at the ceiling. A table. The painting on the wall. Anywhere but at the ghost.

“You are so beautiful,” the ghost breathed.

Jane’s cheeks went red. She never knew how to answer to this, mostly because living persons had been telling her all her life how very plain she was.

What a commonplace girl.

And . . .

Oh dear. I do hope she can secure a position . . . somewhere.

And . . .

Oh goodness. How unexceptional. (She always wondered why, if she was so unexceptional, did people feel the need to comment on it?)

To ghosts, however, she was the epitome of beauty.

This left Jane to believe that something was seriously askew in the afterlife.

“You’re so like my Jamie,” the Shrieking Lady continued. “With the sun setting behind him.” Jane didn’t know who this Jamie person was, but the dead woman obviously felt entirely different about him than she had about her husband. “A soft breeze ruffling his red hair,” she cooed.

Jane’s hand, almost of its own accord, reached up and brushed away a few strands of her unexceptional hair from her unexceptional eyes, as she tried desperately, tenaciously, to ignore the ghost.

The agent in charge glanced from Jane to the ghost and back again, his head tilted to one side.

“Oh my, would you look at the time.” Jane gestured to where, until a few moments ago, the clock had been hanging on the wall. “I must go.”

The dratted ghost breezed even closer. Jane had seen this type before. This could turn into a fly-on-flypaper situation. Which she could not let happen now.

She took another two steps back. The ghost floated two steps forward. “I’ve never seen anything so lovely,” she said in a sigh. “You’re truly radiant.” She wrapped her arms about Jane.

Jane smiled nervously at the men. “I wouldn’t want to interrupt your important work. So I will just stand here. Not moving.”

The agent in charge frowned at Jane in a puzzled way. Then he bent and picked up the pocket watch from the floor. He walked cautiously toward Jane and the ghost. When he reached the apparition he whispered, “Spirit, you are hereby relocated.”

“What are you doing?” Jane asked.

He didn’t answer. Instead he raised the pocket watch high into the air and bopped the ghost on the head with it.

(We understand, reader, this is an extremely pedestrian way to describe something, this “bopping on the head.” But after numerous revisions and several visits with a thesaurus, that really is the most adequate description. He bopped it on the head.)

A frigid blast of air blew Jane’s hair from her face. The silver pocket watch glowed, and then, to Jane’s horror, sucked the ghost in. Poof—Claire Doolittle was gone. Gone. But where?

Jane stared at the pocket watch, hoping the ghost was all right, but the watch vibrated and shook and jerked away like the ghost was trying to escape. The agent dangled the watch by its chain until it stilled. Then he made a move to toss it to the redhead, but at the last moment seemed to think better of it, and wrapped the watch in a scrap of fabric before returning it to his pocket.

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