As one of the #CMCon17 featured bloggers, I get to have a little fun with a few of the fabulous authors who will be hitting the beach for Coastal Magic 2017 by showcasing their many stories. We had so much fun with last year’s At the Beach feature, that we’re doing it again.
Today Stephen Osborne is taking us to the beach with the main hero from his Andrew Duncan series. The fifth book, Under a Blood Red Moon, recently came out; so if Ghost On The Beach gets your interest, make sure you check out the first book, Pale as a Ghost
Ghost on the Beach
“I told you to wear flip flops or something. The sand is hot.”
Robbie paused in his little dance in the sand long enough to glare at me. He was wearing dark blue swim trunks and an orange tight-fitting tank top with the words SURFS UP, BUNS OUT in blue. Already his mop of black hair was glistening with sweat, but his big brown eyes were lit with excitement.
“Hey, give me a break,” he said as we continued our trek across the beach. “This is my first time in Florida.” He gazed out at the water, and the waves gently rolling ashore. “First time seeing the ocean, actually.”
“To be precise, it’s the Gulf of Mexico. The ocean is on the other side of the state.”
Robbie obviously couldn’t take the heat on soles of his bare feet any longer, so even though we weren’t close to the water yet, he spread out his blanket and sat down on it. I joined him, trying to hide my smile. At least we had a good view of the rest of the beach crowd, and several of the guys were certainly worth ogling.
Robbie dusted the sand off his feet and pulled off his tank top. He searched in the large tote bag we’d brought and took out a bottle of sunblock. I watched while he slathered it over his legs. Well, they were nice legs. A bit hairy, but that was okay with me. If I had to pick my favorite part of Robbie’s body—and it was a hard choice, let me tell you—I think it would have to be his calves. He was muscular, and his calves were nicely shaped. I looked like I had chicken legs in comparison.
“Get my back, will you?” he asked.
I shifted onto his blanket and got behind him. “With pleasure.”
Touching Robbie’s skin still sent shivers through my body. I closed my eyes, reveling in the sensation. My fingers lingered on his shoulders, but eventually I rubbed the oily sunblock all over his back. I was reluctant to stop, especially when I got to his lower back and my hands were close to his buttocks. “Do you think,” I asked, my face close to his ear, “that people would object if I tore those trunks off and started fucking you right here?”
“I think the gaggle of old ladies over there might complain.”
“Don’t you believe it. They’d have their cameras out, taking pictures. We’d be trending on Google before dinnertime.” I patted his back. “There. You’re done.”
He fished some sunglasses out of the bag, put them on, and then leaned back on his elbows. “Okay.” He paused. “Am I tan yet?”
“Not quite yet.”
A couple walked by us, and the woman gave us a glance. Robbie was oblivious, concentrating on soaking up the sun’s rays, but I detected a question in her eyes. It was just a flicker, but as a private detective, I had developed a talent for reading people’s faces and I knew exactly what was going on in her mind. At least, I was pretty sure.
Hot guys. Gay, of course. The muscular one must be ten years younger than the other guy.
Okay, maybe I reading too much into that little twitch of a smile she’d given me as she passed. But it felt like she was giving me a “good for you” nod.
Or maybe I was just feeling self-conscious. Here I was, the age of thirty growing smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror of life, with a few gray hairs showing at the temples but otherwise still looking studly and handsome, thank you very much, but Robbie, if you just looked at him, appeared to be twenty at most.
See, he was dead for over a decade and had just recently been resurrected. Long story, and a complicated one. But that was my life in a nutshell. My whole life was a topsy-turvy roller coaster ride, what with dealing with vampires, demons, and your nastier variety of ghost in my professional life. That’s what you get when you’re a detective who specializes in weird. And since I’d been born with the ability to see ghosts (not everyone is, in fact it’s rare)it made sense that I preferred supernatural cases.
But I’d promised Robbie his first vacation in many, many years, and I needed to forget about creepy crawlies and things that went bump in the night. I picked up the bottle of sunblock and began to smear it on. After putting it on my arms I gazed at the label. “SPF 30,” I said. “Should work.”
“Hey, I’m pale,” Robbie said. “Being dead for so long does that to a guy.”
We people watched for a while. Robbie made a pillow out of our beach tote and was soon snoozing away. I looked at my watch, determining how long I could let him sleep. While I’m sure he wouldn’t object to a sunburn—a novel experience for him–I didn’t want to have to hear him hiss while putting on his tight shirts.
I left him for a few moments to get into the water. It was warm, soothing, and I loved the feel of the sand squishing between my toes. I walked out until the waves were hitting my chest. Around me, some teenagers were playing with a Frisbee. Farther into shore, children were playing and laughing.
“Duncan Andrews,” I said to myself, “you could get used to this.”
I was watching one particular guy, about my age, with a fantastic body (okay, looking isn’t cheating, even if you fantasize about just what he’s packing) when I spotted something out of the corner of my eye. Something was out of place. Something was off.
I quickly realized what it was. On the beach there were two young men, maybe high school age or early college. They were both thin and pretty, and I’d spotted them earlier and decided by their body language that they were a couple. One had hair as black as Robbie’s and dark skin, the other was blond and blue eyed. They had just come out of the water, and were at their little area they’d staked out, examining the area around their towels.
What struck me was the old man standing by them, laughing. He was right behind the blond kid, but neither boy seemed aware of his presence. I wasn’t surprised, as the man was obviously dead and had been for quite some time.
Like in that Bruce Willis movie, when you see dead people all the time, you get used to it. Often a ghost hanging around doesn’t even register in my mind, if they’re behaving themselves like a decent spirit. It’s only when I get a nasty vibe from them that I take notice, and this one was making goosepimples raise on my arms despite the warmth of the Gulf.
I waded to the shore. The boys were still searching the area when I approached them.
“Someone had to have taken them,” the one with the dark hair said.
“I guess,” the blond replied. “I just can’t imagine why anyone would want to steal my sunglasses. They were cheap! And my book earlier!”
“And my wallet yesterday. Granted, it didn’t have any money in it, but I had to cancel my credit card.”
The old man was grinning mischievously, enjoying the boys’ plight. He was grizzled and grubby, dressed in baggy pants and a shirt that was several sizes too big for him. One of his front teeth were missing, and he had a scar running across his forehead. I assumed in life he’d been a beach bum, and in death he’d stuck around his favorite location.
“Anything wrong, boys?” I asked.
The blond boy blushed. “Not really, sir. Thank you. Just…we keep on missing stuff!”
“It’s been like this for days, ever since we got here.” The other boy narrowed his eyes and glanced around at the other people around us, as if searching for a guilty face. “Every time we come to the beach, something goes missing.”
“I might be able to help you,” I said, offering each of them my hand, which they took. “My name is Duncan Andrews. I’m a private detective.”
“Do those really exist?” the blond kid asked. “I thought that was just books and movies.”
“Some of us are still around,” I answered.
The boys told me their names. Kevin was the blond, Jose the other. They really were a cute couple, although Mr. Beach Bum didn’t seem to think so. At the moment, though, he was glaring at me with hatred. Obviously he was afraid I’d spoil his little game. And he was right.
Kevin lowered his voice and got close to me. “I hate to even think it, because everyone has been so nice to us here,” he said, “but I’m kind of wondering if someone, you know, has a thing against…”
“Who could object to a couple as sweet as you two?” I asked, eying the spirit who was standing not three feet away from me. “Okay, let’s get your stuff back.”
“And how are we going to do that?” Jose asked.
“I’m guessing the stuff goes missing while you two are out in the water. Correct?” The boys nodded. “Then it’s not far. Jose, you go that way. Kevin, that.”
“What are we looking for?” Jose asked.
“A mound of sand. Something that looks like someone has recently buried something.”
Neither boy looked like they thought a search would yield any result, but they both trotted off in different directions, leaving me with Mr. Beach Bum.
“A word with you, Gramps,” I said.
His eyes went wide. Up until that point, I don’t think he thought I could see him clearly. Most people can’t see ghosts at all. A few can see vague mists or an outline of a human form. A very, very few (like yours truly) can see them in all their glory, which had been useful when Robbie had been dead. Some see the Gift as a curse, some a blessing. Me, I saw it as my way of life.
I walked away from the crowds. I think at first the ghost of the beach bum thought he could stay put and not have to deal with me, but I turned and crooked an eye at him, showing him I wasn’t kidding. When we were sufficiently far enough away from people, I spoke.
“Look, old timer, I’m sure you think it’s a hoot, stealing from these kids.”
“If they think that they can—” he snarled.
“Oh, can it, buster. If there’s one thing I can’t stand more than a ghost with no dress sense, it’s a homophobic ghost.”
It’s hard for a ghost’s cheeks to pale, as they’re pretty much that way to begin with, but his managed it. I guessed no one had spoken like that to him for ages. He opened his mouth, about to speak, but something in my countenance told him to clam up.
“Here’s what’s going to happen,” I told the old geezer. “You’re going to show me where you’ve stashed the stuff you’ve stolen from those boys. If you don’t, I’m going to recite a little spell a friend of mine taught me. She’s a witch, and she knows her stuff. This spell will send you to the other side so fast you won’t know what hit you. So here’s your choice. You give me the booty, or you say goodbye to your beloved beach forever.”
I was bluffing, although he didn’t know it. As my best friend back in Indianapolis, Gina, often told me, spells don’t generally work against ghosts. Luckily, he didn’t know that. I could see the fight go out of his eyes.
Grudgingly, he led me over to a rocky spot at the edge of the beach. No one was around. There was a rickety picnic table and a battered trash can and not much else. Gramps bent down by one particular rock.
“Here,” he said.
The ground here really wasn’t sand, more of a soft gray dirt. He hadn’t really buried the items, more just shoved them out of sight. The wallet was partially buried, but the other items—the sunglasses, a comb, and a paperback by someone named John Inman—were right in sight.
I smiled at Grumpy Guts. “Thanks,” I said. “Now, here’s the deal. You leave those boys alone, or you’ll have to deal with me. And I won’t be nice.”
The old man’s lip curled in a snarl, but I could tell he’d obey me. As I watched, he vanished from sight.
I picked up the missing items and returned to the boys’ towels. Jose was the first to return, and he gasped when he saw the pile I’d put by their little cooler. “How did you—”
“I’m good,” I said.
When he returned as well, Kevin agreed with me. “You’re a genius,” he gushed. I think he wanted to kiss me, and honestly I wouldn’t have objected. He had kissable lips, but they belonged to Jose, so I accepted a hug instead.
“Who was taking our stuff?” Jose asked. “I mean, I want to be able to keep an eye on them. I won’t pick a fight or anything. I just want—”
I held up a hand. “You don’t need to know.” They wouldn’t believe me if I told them. “Just trust me, you won’t have any more troubles.”
We chatted a little more, and they insisted that Robbie and I join them later for food at a place called the Old Salty Dog. I agreed, and mentioned that I should be getting back to my boyfriend before he fried to lobster hues. Jose asked me to point him out, which I did.
“He’s a fox!”
I smiled. “Yeah. He is.”
The boys gave me their number for later, and I left them, assuring them I’d see them soon. When I got back to Robbie and sat down next to him, he was just beginning to stir.
“Am I tanned yet?” he muttered.
I looked him over. “You’ve got a start,” I said. “Come on, though. I want to test that bed in our hotel room.”
“We did that before we came down.”
“Yeah, but I want to test it again.”
With a sly smile, Robbie began to put his tank top back on. “Isn’t this nice,” he said. “Out here? Away from all the supernatural stuff?”
I looked over to where Jose and Kevin were lazing in the sun. “Yep. So different from our usual day to day lives.”
Meet Stephen Osborne!
I live in Northern Illinois with Christine, a border terrier mix with a diva complex. I love Broadway musicals, board games, Doctor Who, and Dark Shadows.
Want to purchase Stephen’s novels?
Duncan Andrews Thrillers
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