Back from the dead, and back on the case!
Dan Chambeaux was a human private investigator in the Unnatural Quarter, where all the monsters have gathered in hopes of finding normal lives. Even though he was killed in a back alley when a case went sour, Dan "Shamble" is still on the case. Even death won't keep a good detective down.
Now, teamed up with his partner Robin Deyer, a bleeding-heart human lawyer who wants justice for all monsters, his ghost girlfriend Sheyenne, and his BHF (Best Human Friend) Officer Toby McGoohan, Shamble solves a host of bizarre mysteries involving Mayan sacrificial Christmas turkeys, a headless man who is sure his head has been kidnapped, a book collector who finds deadly curses instead of valuable autographs, a medusa who battles stringent beauty contest rules, a vengeful poltergeist who won't obey a restraining order, an infernal monster cooking contest, and more!
In these nine cases—two original to this collection!—Dan Shamble puts the P.I. back into R.I.P.
It would have been a relatively quiet afternoon in the offices of Chambeaux & Deyer Investigations, if not for the pissed-off poltergeist. The vengeful, rambunctious spirit released its malicious fury in the most heinous way possible—by attacking our filing cabinets.
As a zombie private detective, I do like a little action. I've been known to go running after mange-encrusted werewolves with my .38 drawn, holding my fedora to my head. Frankly, I just enjoy solving mysteries, whether they are actual crimes or just crossword puzzles.
We don't get a lot of business, even in the mayhem of the Unnatural Quarter, but whenever a case does come in, I really sink my teeth into it. (Not like that! I'm not one of those ill-mannered brain-eating zombies.) I follow the leads, interview the suspects, and use my imagination. I may have a hole in my head from the bullet that killed me, but I still have all of my P.I. smarts.
Some of the Chambeaux & Deyer clients don't involve mysteries to be solved. I'm the Dan Chambeaux half of the partnership (and don't call me "Shamble"; it sounds less professional). Robin Deyer, the passionate human lawyer who shares my offices, wants justice for all Unnaturals, and she gets cases just as bizarre as mine.
That's why the poltergeist was so pissed off. I didn't have anything to do with it. Honest.
Marisol Shanker was a human client, a quiet and modest woman who worked in the post office in the unclaimed relics section. The shipping of cursed items and unidentified body parts posed challenges to the normally sedate and inefficient postal service. Marisol had been contentedly, if not quite happily, married to her husband Randy for twelve years in a bland middle-class life, until Randy died of a heart attack while yelling at the TV, disputing an answer on his favorite game show.
Even more unfortunate than Randy's death was his return as a poltergeist who wouldn't leave his poor widow alone. His glowing spectral form still appeared every evening to lounge in his old recliner and watch his favorite TV shows. After their twelve years of marriage, however, Marisol realized that Randy's favorite TV shows weren't necessarily her favorite TV shows. Since it was now her own home, she kept changing the channel to the programs she preferred to watch. As a poltergeist, Randy kept changing the channel back.
The breaking point came after two years when Marisol decided she wanted to move on with her life and start dating again. Randy's poltergeist didn't appreciate that, and manifested himself to wreak havoc, overturning restaurant tables, spilling wine bottles, emitting sounds like loud cell-phone ringtones in quiet movie theaters. He ruined every single first date she had, and Marisol never received any offers for second dates.
Distraught, she had come to Chambeaux & Deyer, begging Robin for help. "I need a restraining order," Marisol said, wringing her hands.
Robin has soulful dark brown eyes and a very understanding expression, which can turn into legal steel once she becomes a client's advocate. "Tell me about it, Ms. Shanker."
"I didn't ask to become a widow, but it is what it is. I want to find a nice man to keep me company for the rest of my life," she said. "And Randy has to move on, too. I don't mind if he finds another nice ghost of his own." Marisol glanced over at Sheyenne's beautiful spectral form at the reception desk.
Sheyenne, my ghost girlfriend and office manager, is all business and offers invaluable advice, but she never misses a chance to flirt with me. That's how you keep a relationship strong, even after death did us part.
"I'm taken," she said, beaming at me. "And so is Dan."
Disconcerted, Marisol said, "I'm sure there must be some kind of spiritual singles service in the Quarter?"
"In fact there is. We worked a case with them once, the Monster Match dating service." I smiled as I recalled that case, which had involved a beauty pageant, a Medusa, and—
Robin interrupted. "First we have to keep you safe, Ms. Shanker. I'll file a restraining order right away, and your husband will have to leave you alone. He might not like it, but the court system is more powerful than poltergeist powers."
Relieved, Marisol dabbed at her eyes with a wadded tissue. "As soon as you possibly can. I have another date next Tuesday with a really nice man."
"Once the paperwork is filed, Randy can't come anywhere near you. You'll be safe and protected." Robin patted her wrist reassuringly. Sheyenne gave the client a soulful smile that made my undead heart want to beat again.
"You can trust Chambeaux and Deyer, ma'am," I told her.
The case was simple and straightforward, barely worth writing down. Within a day, Robin had served the restraining order, which prevented the disturbingly tangible spirit of Randy Shanker from bothering his widow, and she was free to go on her blind date. Happily ever after.
Alas, Robin had forgotten to include our offices in the restraining order, and so the vengeful spirit came after us instead, as if hell had frozen over and he had forgotten his ice skates.
Our office door was closed for the lunch hour, but ghosts don't have to knock. Randy the poltergeist made a point of solidifying himself enough to shatter the marbled glass window and he flung himself into the offices, spitting curses that made my ears burn, swear words that he must have heard in the fifth pit of hell. Randy rampaged through the office, spinning the chairs around, making the fluorescent lights flicker more than usual, overturning the plastic potted plant.
Robin and I both ran out of our offices, wondering what the tumult was all about. Sheyenne shouted at the poltergeist, "You can't be in here! We're closed for lunch." He responded by calling her names that even demons wouldn't use in polite company.
Out of spite, he flung himself upon our file cabinets. Metal drawers flew open with a loud clang. Manila folders sprayed in the air like playing cards from a shuffling machine. All our carefully organized cases, the detailed notes, the depositions, the coffee receipts, became a blizzard of documents.
Sheyenne was a big girl and she had a thick skin, metaphorically speaking, and she could put aside the insults that made me so furious. What she couldn't abide, however, was someone messing with her filing system. "You stop that this instant!"
The poltergeist swelled up and I could imagine his last moments when he had burst out of his recliner to yell at the TV strenuously enough to initiate a heart attack. He inflated himself in an attempt to look fearsome.
Sheyenne was not impressed—and her well-practiced poltergeist powers were far superior to his.
As Robin and I watched helplessly, the two ghosts reeled in the air in a knock-down, drag-out fight for the soul of the office. Their glowing forms ricocheted against the walls, banged into the file cabinets, and rattled more paperwork loose. Sheyenne's perfect blond hair didn't even get messed up as she clawed and kicked. She manifested herself solidly enough to rip into Randy and frighten the intangible crap out of him.
"You want something worse than a restraining order?" Sheyenne said. "Come back and face me!" She shoved him hard with the hands that had so delicately caressed my chest back in the good old days, when we were both alive.
Randy tumbled in the air, hurtled straight for our open second-story window. I cringed, expecting to hear glass break, but instead the poltergeist passed right though the wall to the left of the window and spilled out into the air, dropping slowly to the streets like a puff of vengeful dandelion fluff.
Sheyenne flitted to the window and shouted, "Don't you ever come back! Leave your wife alone and stay out of trouble." She wrenched down the window with her insubstantial hands, slamming it shut. "Case closed."
Sheyenne drifted over to me, and her glowing presence softened. "Oh, Beaux. That was scary."
I pretended to wrap my arms around her, even though she remained intangible to me. "Yes, you were."
"Excellent work, Sheyenne," Robin said. "I'll amend the restraining order to include our offices as well."
"Probably not necessary," I replied. "That poltergeist will never show his ectoplasm around here again."
With a quiet groan, Sheyenne looked around the disheveled mess of the office, the file folders strewn about as if a hyperactive blind man had been in a race to alphabetize them.
With perfect bad timing, Officer Toby McGoohan appeared at the door and looked through the shattered pane. He reached through the jagged opening and turned the inner door handle to let himself in. "Hey, Shamble. Did you know your glass is broken?"
"Thanks, McGoo," I said. "We hadn't noticed."
McGoo, my Best Human Friend, will likely never be promoted above beat cop because he doesn't know how to keep his foot out of his mouth. He crossed his arms over his blue policeman's uniform and looked at the explosion of files. "Whoa, I thought I hated paperwork."
"We're glad you came to help, Officer McGoohan," Robin said. "You were involved in almost all of these cases. You can help us sort through them."
He scratched his freckled cheek, "I could…" He let his voice trail off as he looked at me. "Do I at least get a beer out of it, Shamble?"
"A beer? Lunch hour isn't even over," I said. "We'll get you one of those sissy cinnamon lattes you like so much."
McGoo blushed. "Don't tell people that's what I drink! It's not manly."
"Damn right it's not," I said. Sheyenne snickered.
He huffed, "It better be a venti, then." He bent down to pick up a manila folder at his feet. "Hey, I remember this one, the case with the book collector and the cursed paperbacks."
I scooped an armful of manila folders and dropped them on Sheyenne's desk. I sorted through them, skimming the cases. "And here's the one-eyed newt and the cooking competition."
Robin chuckled, "That was a good one. I've got the Mayan sacrificial Christmas turkey right here."
Sheyenne used her poltergeist powers to rearrange the papers, straightening an entire stack and pulling out a sheet that didn't belong with the others. "This one's about Headless Guy. I hope he's still all right."
Robin neatly put together another folder and handed it to Sheyenne for proper filing. "This is the case of the genies and the missing werewolf boy."
"Don't forget the toolbox and the dimensional doorway," I said.
Robin sniffed. "Of course not. That goes without saying."
With her blue eyes sparkling, Sheyenne said, "This is a thick file, the wild west outlaw ghosts and your duel at high midnight."
McGoo patted his chest as if looking for bullet holes there. "I'll never forget that one."
Although we started out with determination and a great deal of energy, as we sorted through the cases, we found ourselves spending more and more time reading and reminiscing. It was as much fun reliving those old adventures as it was to have new ones. As I said, it was a slow afternoon.
These records were a testament to our hard work, imagination, and, more often than not, blind luck. As I always say, the cases don't solve themselves. Sometimes you need a zombie private investigator.
And all of his sidekicks.