Cover image for The legend of Sleepy Harlow
Title:
The legend of Sleepy Harlow
Author:
Logan, Kylie, author.
Personal Author:
Edition:
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Berkley Prime Crime, 2014.
Physical Description:
viii, 294 pages ; 18 cm.
Summary:
"For Halloween, the Literary Ladies have chosen to read Washington Irving's spooky classic, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, with its infamous headless horseman. But South Bass Island has its own headless legend--of a Prohibition bootlegger named Charlie "Sleepy" Harlow. Decapitated by rival rumrunners, Harlow appears once a year in spectral form to search for his noggin. This October, the Elkhart Ghost Getters (EGG) have returned to the island. The group claims that they have film footage of Harlow's ghost, and are determined to get more. They're staying at Bea Cartwright's B and B, but it's Kate Wilder who isn't happy to see them after they trashed her winery last year. When the EGG leader turns up dead, Kate becomes the prime suspect, and the other League members need to scramble to crack the case."--Page 4 of cover.
General Note:
"Berkley Prime Crime mystery"--Spine.

Includes excerpt from "Chili con carnage" by Kylie Logan (pages [281]-294).
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780425257777
Format :
Book

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Clarence Library FICTION Adult Mass Market Paperback Mystery/Suspense
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Eden Library FICTION Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
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Lackawanna Library FICTION Adult Mass Market Paperback Mystery/Suspense
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Orchard Park Library FICTION Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
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On Order

Summary

Summary

It takes more than a lurid legend to scare off the League of Literary Ladies in the third novel in this charming cozy mystery series...

For Halloween, the Literary Ladies have chosen to read Washington Irving's spooky classic, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow , with its infamous headless horseman. But South Bass Island has its own headless legend--of a Prohibition bootlegger named Charlie "Sleepy" Harlow. Decapitated by rival rumrunners, Harlow appears once a year in spectral form to search for his noggin.

This October, the Elkhart Ghost Getters (EGG) have returned to the island. The group claims that they have film footage of Harlow's ghost, and are determined to get more. They're staying at Bea Cartwright's B & B, but it's Kate Wilder who isn't happy to see them after they trashed her winery last year. When the EGG leader turns up dead, Kate becomes the prime suspect, and the other League members need to scramble to crack the case.


Author Notes

Kylie Logan is the national bestselling author of The League of Literary Ladies Mysteries, the Button Box Mysteries, the Chili Cook-Off Mysteries, and the Ethnic Eats Mysteries.


Excerpts

Excerpts

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS   1   I wish I could say that the worst thing that happened that fall was Jerry Garcia peeing on Marianne Littlejohn's manuscript. Jerry Garcia? He's the cat next door, the one whose bathroom habits have always been questionable and whose attention is perpetually trained on the potted flowers on my front porch. Until that afternoon, that is. That day, Jerry bypassed the flowers and went straight for the wicker couch on the porch, the one where, until the phone rang inside the B and B, I'd been reading Marianne's manuscript because she wanted one more set of eyes to take a look before she sent it off to a small academic press that specializes in local history. Yeah, that was the couch where I'd left the pages neatly stacked and--this is vital to the telling of the story--completely dry and odor-free. Jerry, see, had motive, means, and opportunity. Jerry had mayhem in his kitty cat heart, and at the risk of sounding just the teeniest bit paranoid, I was pretty sure Jerry had it out for me, too. It was the perfect storm of circumstance and timing, and the results were so predictable, I shouldn't have walked back out onto the porch, taken one look at the puddle quickly soaking through Marianne's tidy manuscript pages, and stood, pikestaffed, with my mouth hanging open. Jerry, it should be pointed out, could not have cared less. In fact, I think he enjoyed watching my jaw flap in the breeze that blew from Lake Erie across the street. But then, Jerry's that kind of cat. He leapt onto the porch railing, paused to give one paw a lick, and looked over his shoulder at me with what I would call disdain if I weren't convinced it was more devious than that. A second later, he bounded into the yard and disappeared, leaving me to watch in horror as the liquid disaster spread. From the manuscript to the purple and turquoise floral print cushions. From the cushions to the wicker couch. From the couch to the porch floor. Oh yes, at the time, it did seem like the worst of all possible disasters. But then, that was my first October on South Bass Island and I had yet to hear about the legend. Or the ghost. And there was no way I could have imagined the murder. *   *   * "Visit from Jerry?" I didn't realize Luella Zak had walked up the steps and onto the porch until I heard her behind me. I shrieked and spun around just in time to see her eye the smelly disaster. "I was only gone two minutes," I wailed. "I swear. It was only two minutes." "And Jerry managed to stop by." Luella is captain of a fishing charter service that works out of Put-in-Bay, the one and only town on South Bass Island. She's short, wiry, and as crusty an old thing (don't tell her I said that about the old) as any sailor who plied any of the Great Lakes, but when she stepped nearer to have a look at the mess, she wrinkled her nose. "I hope those papers were nothing you planned on keeping," Luella said. The reality of the situation dawned with all the subtlety of a dump truck bumpety-bumping over railroad tracks, and I shook out of my daze and darted to the couch. Before I even thought about what it would do to my green sweatshirt and my jeans, I scooped up the pile of yellow-stained pages and shook them out. "It's Marianne's manuscript," I groaned. "Marianne asked me to look for typos and--" Luella didn't say a word. In fact, she ducked into the house, and a minute later, she was back with a garbage bag in hand. "We can't." Cat pee dripped off my hands and rained onto my sneakers, but still, I refused to relinquish the soggy manuscript. "We can't throw it away. I promised Marianne--" Careful to keep it from dripping on her Carhartt bib overalls, Luella snatched the bundle away from me and deposited it in the bag. "Marianne can reprint it." "But if I tell her to do that, I'll have to explain--" "So what, you're going to take this back to her?" Luella hefted the garbage bag. "And you think she won't notice the stains? Or the smell?" My shoulders drooped. "I think I need to find a way to tell her I'm really, really sorry." "I think . . ." Luella thought about clapping a hand to my shoulder and I could tell when she changed her mind because she made a face and backed away. But then, I was standing downwind. "I hate to tell you this, Bea, but I think that you smell really bad." I didn't doubt it for a minute, but really, there were more important things to consider. "Poor Marianne. All that work and all that paper and now she'll need do it all over again. Printing out an entire book takes a lot of time." "Marianne wrote a book?" The instant I looked her way, Luella was contrite. "Oh, it's not like I'm doubting how smart she is or anything. She's a good librarian. But Marianne doesn't exactly strike me as the type who'd have enough imagination to write a book." "It's history. Island history. I didn't get more than a couple pages into it, but I know it's about some old-timer, Charles Harlow." "Sleepy!" Luella laughed. "Well, that explains it. Word is that Marianne's family is distantly related. I'd bet a dime to a donut she devotes at least one chapter to trying to disprove that. Sleepy has quite a reputation around here, and it's not exactly politically correct for the wife of the town magistrate to be related to an old-time gangster and bootlegger." "I dunno." My shoulders rose and fell. "I mean about the gangster part. I never got that far. I'd just started reading and then the phone rang and then--" "Jerry." Luella shook her head. "Chandra really needs to do something about that cat." "I've been saying that for nearly a year." "We'll talk to Chandra," Luella promised. "Next Monday at book discussion group. And as far as Marianne, maybe if you just explain what Jerry did--" I dreaded the thought. "She's so proud of her book. You should have seen her when she brought the manuscript over here. She was just about bursting at the seams." My stomach swooped. "She asked for one little favor and I messed up." "Not the end of the world. She'll reprint, you'll reread--" "Inside the house." "Inside the house. And then--" And then three black SUVs slowed in front of the house and, one by one, turned into my driveway. "You've got guests coming in today?" Luella asked. I did, a full house, and what with the manuscript disaster and fantasizing about the ingenious (and completely untraceable) demise of a certain feline neighbor, I'd forgotten all about them. "Go!" Luella shooed me into the house. "You go change. And a quick shower wouldn't hurt, either. I'll let your guests in and get them settled and tell them you'll be with them pronto." OK, so it wasn't exactly pronto, but I did manage what I hoped was a less smelly transformation in record time. When I was done, curly, dark hair damp and in a clean pair of jeans and a yellow long-sleeved top (dang, I didn't even make the Jerry Garcia and yellow connection until it was too late!), I lifted my chin, pasted a smile on my face, and strode into my parlor. Straight into what looked like the staging for D-day. Two women, two guys. Another . . . I glanced out the window and counted the men on my front porch. Another four out there. Each one of them carried at least two duffel bags or a suitcase or a camera of some sort, and each one of those was plastered with bumper sticker-variety labels. Black, emblazoned with icy blue letters: EGG . "Welcome!" I tried for my best innkeeper smile and thanked whatever lucky stars had made it possible for Luella to take a few moments and swab down the front porch; through the window, I saw that the floral cushions were missing from the couch, and the water she'd splashed on the porch floor gleamed in the autumn afternoon sunshine. "I'm Bea, your hostess. You must be--" "EGG." The woman closest to where I stood in the doorway was at least a half dozen years older than my thirty-five, and taller than me by six inches. She was square-jawed, dark-haired, pear-shaped, and more than equipped for whatever situation might present itself. The pockets of her camouflage pants bulged, and the vest she wore over a black EGG T-shirt was one of those that fishermen sometimes sport. It had a dozen little pockets, and I saw batteries, flash drives, and other assorted gear peeking out of each one. "Noreen Turner. I'm lead investigator for EGG, the Elkhart Ghost Getters." When Noreen pumped my hand, it felt as if my fingers had been gripped by a vise. Her dark gaze stayed steady on mine in a firm--and sort of disquieting--way. "I'm the leader of this jolly little band, and--" She must have had first-class peripheral vision, because though I hadn't even noticed the activity going on over in the direction of the fireplace, Noreen didn't miss a thing. She whirled toward a young, redheaded woman, and a muscle jumped at the base of her jaw. "Thermal camera, full spectrum camera, Mel meter, IR light." Noreen's laser gaze flashed from the redhead to the cases of equipment she was busy stacking. "Really, Fiona? Really?" Fiona's cheeks shot through with color. She chewed her lower lip. "I thought--" "Exactly your problem." Noreen marched over, unstacked the equipment, and, fists on hips, gave it all a careful look. "Thermal camera on the bottom," she said, setting that case down on the floor first. "Then the Mel meter on top of that." The case with the thermal camera in it was larger than the one that contained the Mel meter, and she set the second case on top of the first, adjusting and readjusting so that the second case was exactly in the center. "Then full spectrum, then IR light." She positioned those cases until they were just right, too, and, finished, she turned her full attention on Fiona, who held her breath and looked as if she was about to burst into tears. "You see what I'm getting at here, don't you?" Fiona didn't answer fast enough, and Noreen lifted her chin and took a step toward her. "Don't you? Top to bottom, kid. Top to bottom. IR on top, then full spectrum, then Mel, then--" The oldest of the men in the room (I'd learn later that his name was Rick) was maybe fifty, a reed-thin guy with a receding hairline and a gold stud in his right earlobe. He stood closest to Fiona and he leaned in like he wanted to share a confidence, but since he didn't lower his voice, whatever he had to say wasn't much of a secret. "She wants it alphabetical," he rasped. "She always has to have equipment stacked alphabetically." "So it's easy to find what we need," Noreen snapped. "Whatever." The man waved a hand and turned his back on us to look out the window. "Well, it makes sense. And it's the right way to do things. You can see that, can't you?" She swiveled her gaze to me. "You're a businesswoman. You can see the sense of it." Fortunately, I didn't have a chance to answer. One of the men who'd been on the front porch came into the house pushing a two-wheeler with a big rectangular box on it. He parked the two-wheeler in the hallway before he joined us in the parlor. The man was about my age, with black, wavy hair and the kind of face generally reserved for statues of Greek gods. Dimpled chin, straight nose, high cheekbones. A picture flashed through my mind: Mediterranean island, whitewashed cottage, aquamarine water. A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and-- "I didn't ask you to bring that in." Noreen's growl yanked me back to reality, and I found her glaring at Mr. Greek God. "We're not ready for it," she said, and pointed toward the box, which was maybe three feet high and another couple feet wide. Like the rest of the gear, it was plastered with EGG stickers. "I told you to leave it in the truck, Dimitri. That means . . . well, duh, I dunno. I guess it means you should have left it in the truck." "You said you wanted it in your room with you," the man sucked in a breath and shot back. "And that means--" "What it means is that you're not listening. When I'm ready for it, that's when I'll tell you to bring it in." "In like, what, ten minutes?" Dimitri ran a hand through his mane of glorious hair. "I'll tell you what, Noreen, you want it back in the truck, you take it back to the truck. I'm not moving it another inch. Not now, not ten minutes from now. I'm not stacking anything alphabetically, either, or measuring stuff to make sure it's precisely two inches apart. You want to waste your time with your crazy organizing--" "It's not a waste of time, it's a system." Noreen held her arms close to her sides, her fingers curled into fists. "And so far, it's worked pretty well, hasn't it? If it wasn't for me--" Was that a collective groan I heard? From everyone but Fiona, who was so ashen I had no doubt she wanted to fade into the woodwork. And Noreen, of course. With a look, Noreen dared them all to say another word. We'd been introduced like three minutes earlier and already I knew Noreen wasn't the type of person who backed down from anyone. Or anything. Fine by me. I wasn't, either. And it was about time I proved it. "I've got all your rooms set and your room keys ready," I said, deftly sidestepping their bickering. I darted into the hallway and grabbed the keys I'd left on a table at the bottom of the stairs. "Each one's marked," I said, handing them around. "All the rooms are on the second floor." I'd received room instructions along with the group's reservations and I knew that the only two guys bunking together were Ben and Eddie. Since I had six guest rooms, that meant Noreen and Dimitri each had their own room as well as the other three men, who, according to their reservations forms, were Liam McCarthy, David Ashton, and Rick Hopkins. "I know. That leaves me with no room." Fiona Blake watched as the others stacked their equipment cases (alphabetically, I presumed) and headed upstairs. She scraped her palms against her jeans. "Noreen"--her gaze darted across the room to where Noreen was doing another once-over of the equipment and checking off a list on a clipboard--"Noreen told me I wouldn't be staying here. That there aren't enough rooms. You don't have to apologize." "I wasn't going to." I softened the statement with a smile and would have gotten one back if Fiona's gaze didn't shoot Noreen's way again. "It's not like I didn't know you were coming," I told the kid. "Ms. Turner told me you'd need a room. I've got everything arranged." Fiona squinched up her nose in a way that told me that whatever I was going to say, she had heard it all before. "I know, some little no-tell motel on the other side of the island. That's fine, really. I'm used to it. It's not always possible for me to stay with the rest of the crew. I get it." Her gaze landed on Noreen, who was so busy restacking the equipment the others had just stacked, she didn't notice. "I just joined the group and I'm only the intern and I don't rate the same perks the rest of the crew gets." "Which doesn't mean you shouldn't be comfortable." I waved a hand, directing Fiona to look out the window. "That's why I was able to arrange a room for you next door, at my friend Chandra's house." "Right next door?" Some of the stiffness went out of Fiona's shoulders. "And you'll be joining us here every morning," I told Fiona, loud enough to make sure Noreen heard. After all, Noreen had made the original reservations and agreed (begrudgingly, as I remember) to pay an extra small charge for Fiona's breakfasts. "Breakfast is every morning at nine, and we've got coffee and tea available all day, too, and cookies in the afternoon. Anything you want, just stop in." Fiona would never be described as pretty, but when she smiled, she was cute. She was taller than me (most people are) and in her early twenties, a gangly kid with wide blue eyes that were set a little too close together and a sprinkling of freckles on her nose that made her look as if she'd been dusted with cinnamon sugar. Her hair was a wonderful dark mahogany color that I suspected wasn't natural, and she wore it pulled back in a ponytail. Like the rest of the crew, she was dressed casually in jeans and an EGG T-shirt, but she'd added a filmy pea green scarf that gave a pop of color to her outfit and perfectly framed the unusual necklace she wore: a white stone about the size of a walnut that was crisscrossed with black veins. The stone was wrapped with a spider web mesh of silver wire, and the whole thing dangled from a black leather loop that hung around Fiona's neck. "Is that howlite?" I asked her. Automatically, Fiona's hand went to the stone. "You recognize it? Most people have never heard of howlite." Again, she slid a look to Noreen, who was now counting the equipment and acted like we didn't exist. Fiona's hand fluttered back down to her side. "It's just something I like to wear." "Well, it's very nice. I've seen similar stones used in Native American jewelry. Is it from the Southwest?" I don't think I imagined it; Fiona really did look Noreen's way again. And I couldn't help but think that like my ol' buddy Jerry Garcia, Noreen really couldn't care less. Fiona's smile withered around the edges. "The necklace is from New Mexico. Can we stop at the truck on our way next door?" she asked, effectively changing the subject. "I'll get my suitcase." Together, we walked out to the front porch. I was quickly finding out that October on South Bass is a feast for the senses--and I was enjoying every minute of it. The wineries were in full production, and farmers sold cider and pumpkins from roadside stands. Goldenrod danced in the lake breeze, and the lake itself, as smooth as glass that afternoon, reflected the kaleidoscope mood swings of the sky: gray one day, sapphire the next, and when the clouds were low and the winds calm, ghostly white. In wonderful counterpoint to it all, the trees between my house and Chandra's were a riot of rich color: golden elms, rusty oaks, and fiery red maples, all of their glory like an exclamation mark to Chandra's purple house with its yellow windows, orange doors, and teal garage. Though I hardly knew her at all, something told me Fiona appreciated all of that as much as I did. Once I ushered her down the steps and she retrieved her suitcase from the truck, we closed in on Chandra's and she caught sight of the windchimes and the sun catchers, the gnomes that filled Chandra's garden, and the gigantic pumpkin near the front door carved with wide, round eyes and a huge grin. Her smile came back full force. "Cool!" Pink shot through Fiona's cheeks. "Not that I don't like your place. It's a great house, but . . ." she stammered, looking back at my B and B. Believe me, I did not take offense. I know hulking Victorians aren't everyone's cup of tea, but this one was my pride and joy, from the teal color accented with rose, terra cotta, and purple to the distinctive chimney that caressed the outside of the house all the way from the first floor to the slate roof. I'd lived there less than a year and my business had been up and running for just one season, but already the house and the island felt like home. After a hectic life in New York and a past I was anxious to put behind me, a home was exactly what I was looking for. I laughed. "No worries. There's a lot to like about Chandra's, and I figured being close by was better than you staying all the way downtown at the hotel." I didn't bother to explain that, technically, all the way downtown was less than a mile. "Chandra's so excited to have a guest. She's . . ." I wondered how to explain and decided it was best just to lay things on the line. Fiona would know all about Chandra soon enough--Chandra would make sure of that--so she might as well get the truth from me. "Chandra's our resident island-crystal-and-tarot-card reader," I warned Fiona. "If you have any problem--" The kid actually skipped across the next few feet of lawn. "This is going to be so much fun! I read tarot, too. And I meditate every evening. I have for years. It sounds like Chandra and I will have a lot in common." I didn't doubt it, especially when Chandra's front door flew open and a plume of patchouli incense streamed outside. It was quickly followed by Chandra, resplendent (as always) that day in an orange turban that hid her bobbed blond hair and showed her earrings--witch hats studded with purple beads--to best advantage. The earrings looked just right with her diaphanous purple top, which was painted with orange jack-o'-lanterns and cute black cats. Chandra took one look at Fiona--and that T-shirt she wore with the icy EGG logo--and her welcoming smile vanished in a flash. "EGG? Bea, you didn't tell me EGG was here again." I wasn't sure who was suddenly more pale, Chandra or Fiona. The kid backstepped away from the house. "I . . . I can stay s-somewhere else. I don't want to . . . want to inconvenience you . . . or . . . or anything . . . or . . ." Feeling a bit as if the sidewalk had been pulled out from under me, I put a hand on the kid's shoulder to keep her from bolting. "EGG's been to South Bass before?" I asked Chandra. Chandra is nothing if not the friendliest and the most accepting of all the people I'd met on the island. With a start, she realized she'd made Fiona uncomfortable, and she smiled. Or at least she tried. "I don't remember you from last year." Chandra stuck out a hand and, as if she wasn't sure what was going to happen when she took it, Fiona stepped forward for a quick shake. "Sorry! I was just surprised to see your shirt. That's all. Bea, you didn't tell me EGG was back." I hoped my laugh didn't sound as phony as it felt. "I didn't know this was a return visit. Besides, EGG might have been here, but Fiona never has. She's new with EGG." Did the look I gave Chandra send the right message? That we had to make sure Fiona felt welcome and at home? "Sorry." Chandra's weak little laugh was an echo of my own. "I just . . . oh, never mind!" She backed up a step to allow Fiona to walk into the house. "Come on in and we'll make a pot of white tea. How does that sound? It's nice and mild and fruity and--" "I love white tea!" Fiona turned misty eyes toward me. "Thank you, Bea. I think I'm going to like it here. And sorry . . ." She turned that puppy dog look on Chandra. "I'm sorry I surprised you." Peace. I was grateful for it, even if I was a little confused by Chandra's reaction to her guest. I promised myself I'd have a talk with Chandra, told them both I'd see them later, and headed back home, only to find Noreen rearranging the equipment. Again. I poked my head into the parlor. "Need anything?" "No, we're all set. At least for now." Noreen set down her clipboard, picked it up, swiped a hand over the top of the case where she'd just deposited it, and set it down again. "We're anxious to get started, of course." "You never told me"--I looked around at the equipment cases and cameras--"you've been here before. What exactly are you doing back here on the island?" I asked Noreen. She barked out a laugh. "Elkhart Ghost Getters?" She looked at me hard. "You've never heard of us? Well, it doesn't matter," she decided even before I could tell her she was right. "We're paranormal investigators." It all made sense now, the thermal cameras and the Mel meters and such. Though I was not a fan of reality TV shows of any kind, I didn't live under a rock. I knew cable television was fat with shows that followed the adventures of crews who were out to prove--or disprove--the existence of things that go bump in the night. "You're filming a TV show." It never hurts to state the obvious. Noreen nodded. "Not just a show. The first episode of our new series." "And you're doing it here on South Bass?" I realized my mistake immediately and, with a quick smile, apologized for the skepticism in my voice. "It's not that I don't think it's great, but South Bass? I never associated South Bass with--" "Never saw our pilot episode we filmed here last fall, did you?" Noreen wasn't just happy to show how completely out of it I was; she was downright smug. She crossed the room, flipped open one of the equipment cases, and pulled out an iPad. A few taps of the keys and she flipped the screen around so I could see it. Except for the glow of what looked like a gigantic camping lantern on the floor in the center of the scene, the video was dark and grainy, a mishmash of gray and black shadows, and I bent nearer, the better to focus. "You?" I asked, looking up briefly from the shot of the woman standing just outside the eerie beam of light. "You're standing behind what looks like--" "Wine barrels." "And this was taken here on South Bass?" It wasn't really a surprise; there are any number of wineries on the island. "What am I supposed to be watching for?" "You'll know it when you see it," Noreen assured me. She was right. Fifteen seconds in, there was a movement to Noreen's left that reminded me of the wave of heat that comes off a candle. It rippled and shifted, and the shadows darkened for a moment. That giant lanternlike object in front of Noreen flashed, and a second later-- "You're kidding me, right?" I stared at the screen for a couple seconds, then stood up straight and fastened the same sort of sucker-punched look on Noreen. "You're kidding me, right?" "Want to see it again?" Before I could tell her I did, she restarted the video, and this time, just like last time, I saw what I thought it was impossible to see. In those couple seconds after the light flashed, a figure materialized out of nowhere. It was a man. I could tell that much from the cut of his clothes. He was tall and completely transparent and he was missing-- I swallowed hard. "Where's his head?" Noreen clicked out of the video. "No head." "And he's a--" "He is the best video evidence of a full-body apparition anybody anywhere has ever recorded." "And you--" "Filmed it last fall. Right here on South Bass. This is the video we showed at a paranormal investigation conference last fall, and let me tell you"--Noreen's eyes took on a dreamy look that told me she savored every moment of the memory--"that made the other investigators in our field stand up and take notice. Got the cable networks to finally come to their senses, too. I'd been sending them film of our investigations for years, and it showed some good evidence, too. But TV producers, they aren't interested in what's good. They only want what's fantastic. This." She tapped the iPad. "This is fantastic. This is what got us our show." "Because it's--" "Like I said, the best video evidence of a full-body apparition anybody anywhere has ever recorded." In an effort to clear it, I shook my head. "A ghost here on South Bass?" Noreen tossed her head. "Not into island legends, are you? It's why we came out to the middle of nowhere last year in the first place. You know, because of the legend." "Of the headless ghost." She slapped my back so hard, I nearly toppled. "You got that right, girlfriend. And that's exactly why we came back this year. You know, to get more evidence. We're headed out to find the ghost of Sleepy Harlow."   2   "I'm not sure how many other ways I can say it. No means no. It means absolutely, positively not. No, no, no!" I'd been going over utility bills, tax statements, and the accounting ledger for Bea & Bees in my private suite, and the sound of the voice in the hallway just outside my door snapped me out of the foggy, groggy daze I'd fallen into. (It was, after all, boring paperwork.) My head snapped up and I bent an ear to try and hear more, but the only thing I got for my effort was the sound of another voice, lower-pitched than the first, quieter and so undecipherable. "You're kidding, right?" That was the first voice again. Blame it on the haze of numbers that clogged my brain, but it took me a couple seconds to realize it sounded familiar and another couple seconds after that to place it. "Kate?" I popped out of my chair and went out into the hallway, where I found one of my fellow members of the League of Literary Ladies, Kate Wilder, at the bottom of the stairs, fists propped on either side of the stylish brown and gold tweed pencil skirt she wore with a matching jacket. Kate's cheeks were the same color as her flaming hair, and her eyes shot green fire across the hallway toward the spot where none other than Noreen Turner looked just as miffed. Chin out, jaw stiff, eyes narrowed, Noreen barely spared me a glance. But then, the full force of her fury was trained on Kate. "You don't mean it," Noreen growled. "You can't possibly mean it. We made you famous." "You made me angry. Then, and now." In one movement as graceful as a dancer's, Kate turned on her stylish pumps and yanked open the door. "I'll talk to you later, Bea," she called back to me, right before she stepped outside and slammed the door closed. "She can't . . . She wouldn't . . . You can't let her . . ." I turned away from Kate's dramatic exit just in time to see Noreen's jaw pump like a piston. The vibration of the banging door still echoed from the high ceiling when she looked my way. "You have to help me," she said. "Help you . . . ?" "Talk some sense into that crazy lady, for one thing!" Noreen scraped a hand through her short-cropped hair. "She's a hothead! A prima donna! She's--" "She's my friend." A smarter person would have taken the warning for what it was worth and been very careful about what she said next. Oh, it wasn't like Noreen was wrong. Kate was high maintenance, all right. But it was one thing for her friends to point that out (and believe me, we did, frequently--and just as frequently, Kate ignored us). It was another altogether to hear that kind of criticism from a stranger to the island who was also a guest in my home. Noreen, her eyes lit with a fervor that was even more disconcerting than her anger, closed in on me. "She's a friend of yours? Then it's perfect," she said, and even though she stood three feet away, I couldn't help but notice that she vibrated with excitement. "You can talk to Ms. Wilder. You can convince her. You can talk some sense into her." It wasn't fair to laugh, but then, it was the most ridiculous thing I'd heard in as long as I could remember. "You don't know Kate well, do you?" "I do know her. We met last year when EGG was here. Wilder Winery, that's where we shot the video." "Of the ghost?" I just about kicked myself the moment the words were out of my mouth. Sure, that video Noreen had shown me earlier in the day was startling, but it was also . . . I searched for the right word and came up with more than just one. Peculiar. Suspicious. Unbelievable. Improbable. Unlikely. I may have seen the transparent shape without a head, but there was no way this girl was ready to believe it was what it looked like it was. Not without a huge helping of proof that amounted to more than a quick glimpse obscured by a swirl of shadows and the flash of that bright pulsing lantern on the floor in front of Noreen. I shook my head, the better to send the message that I'd misspoken. "The video you showed me earlier," I said, firmly refusing to use the G-word again. "That was taken at Wilder Winery?" "If you watched our pilot . . . !" Noreen swallowed the rest of what I was sure was going to be a scathing criticism of my TV-watching habits. Good thing. She was already walking on thin ice, what with taking over my parlor with her alphabetically arranged equipment, then with insulting my friend. Maybe she knew it, because she clutched her hands at her waist and bit her lower lip. Contrite? Maybe. Or maybe Noreen was just cagey enough to see an opportunity and didn't want to let it pass. "If Ms. Wilder's your friend, you could talk to her on my behalf," she said. "Talk to her about . . . ?" Noreen's sigh was so deep, all those flash drives in all those pockets of her fishing vest rattled. "We're here to gather more evidence. To see if we can capture another video of the apparition. You know, Sleepy Harlow." I refused to groan, but let's face it, had I been so inclined, no one could have blamed me. First I find out the island is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a Prohibition-era bootlegger, then I discover it's the same Prohibition-era bootlegger that Marianne Littlejohn's book is about? It was only natural that from there, my thoughts would scamper to the phone call I'd been putting off, the one I had to make to Marianne to deliver the news about the manuscript that was spoiled, soiled, and soggy. This time, I did groan. "You shot that video at Wilder Winery." I didn't ask Noreen the question because I had no doubt it was true. "And you came back to the island to film there again." The smile I got from Noreen told me that maybe I wasn't as completely dense as she'd thought. "Exactly. We're here. We're all set to film. And now she says--" "Why?" As if I'd slapped her rather than just asked a question, Noreen flinched. I pressed my advantage. "Why?" I asked again. "I heard what she said. Why did Kate tell you not to come back to the winery?" Her shrug wasn't exactly convincing. "Like I said, she's crazy. You'd think after we put that tacky little winery on the map--" "Their really good wine already did that. Long before you showed up here last year." "Sure. Yeah. Of course." When she flashed me a quick smile, Noreen's teeth showed. "Good wine. I get that. But when a place is a hotbed of paranormal activity, the people who own that place owe it to the public in general and to the scientific community in particular to--" "You think?" I stepped back and cocked my head, as if I really had to think about it. "You don't suppose that private property is private property and the person who owns that private property has the right to say who comes and goes and what they do there?" "I would. I do. But we gave the winery plenty of publicity in our pilot, and we've talked it up in the promo spots for the new show, too. We said we'd be filming there. The network's already airing the commercial for our first show. And in it, we talk about returning to the winery." "But you never actually asked Kate's permission." "We did." Noreen nodded. "I wrote to her and--" "She said no." "I figured there was no way she actually meant it. Not with all the publicity she's going to get. Our show is going to be huge. You'd think she'd understand that. That's what I was going to tell her. That's why I asked her to stop by. You know, so I could explain all that to her and try to get it through that thick skull of hers that there are only a very few spots, really, where the paranormal activity is that powerful. I figured she'd understand." I glanced at the door Kate had so recently slammed behind her. "She didn't." "But if you'd just talk to her." Noreen looked out one of the long, narrow windows that flanked the door on either side. "She's just crossing the street. If you hurry, you can still catch her. You can talk to her. If you're her friend, you can convince her, right?" I was pretty sure I couldn't, but there is something about a woman in camo and a fishing vest that gives a whole new and pitiful meaning to needy and pathetic. I gave in and walked out the door. "Hey, Kate!" When I called out to her, Kate stopped and turned my way. She'd just crossed the street and was on her way over to her house, which was catty-corner from mine. Kate's backyard is a bluff that overlooks the lake and her front yard is pretty much nonexistent: a streamer of grass that undulates between the road and the single-story cedar-sided house with its deep front porch and low-maintenance and very minimal landscaping. When I caught up to her, Kate was breathing hard. I knew it had nothing to do with the stroll toward her house and everything to do with the pushy EGG-head who was my guest. "Sorry," I said, even though she had no idea what I was about to say. "Noreen Turner asked me to talk to you and--" The rest of my sentence was lost beneath Kate's aggravated screech. "That woman . . ." She pointed one perfectly manicured finger back toward my house. "The woman is a nutcase. You know that, don't you?" "I know she's a guest, and I told her I'd try to smooth things over. Except I don't really understand what went wrong. They filmed at the winery last year?" When Kate nodded, her fiery hair glistened in the late afternoon light. "They showed up here. You know, because of the ghost." Kate studied my blank expression. "You don't know." "Not about a ghost. Come on, Kate. You don't really believe--" She waved away my concern. "Of course I don't. But hey, what's a little legend going to hurt? There really was a gangster named Charlie Harlow around here back during Prohibition. And everyone really did call him Sleepy. If you don't believe me, stop at the cemetery and check out his grave. He died on October third, nineteen thirty." She barked out a laugh. "Don't look at me like that. I'm not some sort of Sleepy groupie. Anybody who grew up on the island knows Sleepy's history. He's our local celebrity. You know--Al Capone, South Bass-style." "But you believe his headless ghost haunts the island?" "When I was a kid and I'd go to sleepovers at friends' houses, we'd sit up all night and see who could tell the spookiest Sleepy story. Then when we were teenagers . . ." Kate shivered. "Well, you don't have to believe in ghosts to get scared when your friends drag you out to a cemetery in the middle of the night to try and see if they can raise Sleepy from the dead. Looking back on it, it was crazy and fun. But at the time, I'll tell you, it's like the book we're reading for the discussion group, right? The Legend of Sleepy Hollow . This story's got Washington Irving beat. Ichabod Crane only had to deal with the headless horseman scaring him as he walked through the woods at night. But our ghost . . . They say a rival gang killed ol' Sleepy and cut off his head." Kate slid a finger across her throat and made a face. "Every year in October, his ghost comes back to the island in search of his head." "And last October, Noreen says she got a video of the ghost. At your winery." Kate's lips twisted. "If you believe that sort of hogwash!" "Last fall, you let them film at the winery." "I figured it would be good for business. And it's not like I thought they'd find anything. There's no such thing as ghosts. Except . . ." A cloud scuttled across the sun and, for a moment, we were plunged into cold shadow. A second later, the sun was back, but Kate's mind was still a million miles away. "Except?" I asked. She twitched away her misgivings. "It was nothing. Really. It's just that last night I worked late and when I was leaving the winery . . . well, like I said, it was nothing. Maybe a stray cat got in. Or a car went by and threw some crazy light against the wall and that caused the shadows to look weird for a second. I thought I saw . . . something." Of all the Ladies in the League, Kate is the most practical and the most hardheaded. She is not prone to flights of fancy, and not inclined to believe what she doesn't see, hear, taste, and feel. If asked, I'd have to admit it was one of the reasons Kate was having such a hard time falling as much in love with ferryboat captain Jayce Martin as he was with her. But I hadn't been asked. I stuck to the matter at hand. "It wasn't a headless ghost, was it?" I asked her. "It wasn't anything." To put an end to the thought, she turned and headed toward her house, and I walked along at her side. "I just heard a noise and I got spooked, that's all." "So you've never actually seen this ghost that Noreen says she has video of." Kate glanced at me out of the corner of her eye. "There are people who say they have. But I'm not one of them." "So you let EGG come in last year and film. But not this year." "You got that right, sister. You know, because of what they did." Kate grumbled under her breath. "But of course, you don't know what they did. I keep forgetting you weren't here last fall. It feels like you've lived here forever." I took it as a compliment. Like in most isolated communities, the folks of South Bass are a close-knit bunch, and though I'd lived there less than a year, I was honored to be considered one of the old-timers. Unlike my front porch--a riot of wicker furniture, floral cushions, and those flower pots Jerry Garcia found oh-so-irresistible--Kate's porch was as clean and as sparse as an operating room. There was a white Adirondack chair on either side of the front door, and though she motioned me into one, Kate didn't sit down. Her arms crossed over her chest, she paced the length of the porch and back again. "Last fall when those ghost idiots were here, they filmed at the winery, all right," she said when she got back to where I sat. "And while they were at it, they trampled my entire crop of Lambrusco grapes." Pretty much the extent of my knowledge about wine is that I enjoy drinking it. Still, even I knew . . . "Lambrusco grapes are only grown in Italy," I said, looking up at Kate. "In Lombardy. I've been there. I've seen the vineyards. Are you telling me you're growing them here in Ohio?" "It's just an experiment," she said. Kate hugged her arms around herself and started pacing again, the fingers of her right hand beating out a frantic rhythm against her left arm. "Lombardy is in the north of Italy; our climates are similar. I know other winery owners who thought I was nuts when I mentioned giving it a go, but hey, I figured we'd never know if we didn't try. So I planted a crop." "And EGG destroyed them." She froze and stared out at the lake, her rusty brows low over her eyes. "They claim they were so overcome by the excitement of the ghost hunt, they didn't notice the newly planted vines. They cost me a lot of money." "You've replanted?" Kate nodded. "And the money I used to buy a new crop of Lambrusco vines was money I'd earmarked for a faster bottling system. So technically, those idiots affected my production capabilities, too. And that means they've messed with my bottom line. They're rude, they're inconsiderate, and that Noreen is the worst of the bunch." Excerpted from The Legend of Sleepy Harlow by Kylie Logan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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