Book Excerpt-Ghost Of A Chance

Ghost Of A Chance (Ghost Protector Trilogy #1)


Prologue

“Where is she?” Officer Thomas Chang, Senior, murmurs to himself as he steps swiftly through the cemetery in the fading light. He pulls the flashlight off his belt and clicks it on to hold back the growing darkness. Moving more cautiously now as he approaches the far side of the cemetery grounds, his free hand goes to rest automatically on his gun. “There,” he thinks and turns to head towards the recently dug grave.
He kneels down and brushes the dirt off the small marker in the ground. Satisfied, he sits down; unconcerned about the dirt. Officer Chang closes his eyes and lets his mind slip out past the boundaries of his physical body. He sits and focuses on the young girl’s spirit; trying to reach her, to communicate. He sits unaware as the shadows creep up behind him.
A man steps slowly out of those shadows as they cling to him; reluctant to let go. He walks up behind Officer Chang, leans towards him and stabs him in the back. As Chang’s body falls, his spirit comes to stand next to it. Officer Chang’s spirit looks down in shock and watches as the shadows dance out of and away from his killer and float towards him. He locks arms around the shadow and struggles as they merge with the growing darkness.

Chapter One

Two weeks, four days and about fourteen hours after we bury my father, I find myself dreaming of him. It’s as real as if his spirit is standing in front of me. I’m in a room about ten feet by thirty feet. One entire wall is mirrors. There are mats on the floor and the wall opposite the mirrors has a variety of weapons on it. I don’t have time to look them over as my father is standing beside me telling me to punch faster. He is wearing his police uniform and while I feel it should be out of place in this room, some how it is exactly how I expect him to look. He stands about 5’8” with short black hair; his Chinese heritage slightly more pronounced than mine. I glance down and realize I'm crouched with my legs spread about twice shoulder width apart.
“Keep your back straight,” my father tells me as I punch forward with my left hand. “Again,” he says as I punch with my right. There is a rhythm to it that feels old as though this is something I have done a thousand times before. I see myself reflected in the mirror and shift to use myself as a target while I punch. I'm wearing loose, white pants and a black, short-sleeved t-shirt. My long black hair is gathered back in a ponytail and it swishes as I turn with the punches; occasionally my hair slaps the side of my face or neck. I lose myself in the rhythm of the punches as he walks around me to check my form.
I smile as I punch faster now. I feel the burn of my muscles starting to work. My father says something in Chinese and though I don’t consciously know the words, I immediately drop and begin to do push-ups. My father drops down next to me and begins to do them as well. Minutes pass without a word being spoken as we push up from the floor and drop down again. I find myself completely lost in the rhythm of it and for the first time in over two weeks, my heart doesn’t ache at the thought of my father. Almost as soon as I realize this, the scene changes. We are still in the room but now we are standing facing the wall of weapons. Father reaches out and takes down two long wooden sticks—more like staffs—and something inside me knows one is called a bo. He throws one towards me and I catch it out of the air without conscious thought.
We begin to warm up by twirling the bos around us; over our heads. Father begins moving his as if striking to the right and then the left, back and forth, and I follow him into the moves. Soon we add overhead strikes and stabs downward. I find myself clacking the bo against his in what is obviously a predetermined workout set. Strike low; strike high. We begin to move around the room, striking each other’s bos. I misstep and his bo catches my knuckle. It stings and I stop to shake my hand out. I look down at my hand and see a red welt already forming across the knuckle.
“Are you going to tell me to pay more attention?” I ask looking up at his face with a smile. My smile falters as I see his face flickering in and out. I stop, letting my weapon arm fall to my side.
“You died,” I say.
“I know,” he replies, “I'm sorry, Jenny. It was not my choice.”
He drops the hand holding his weapon, too, and moves as though to step towards me but he stops, hand out stretched, as though he has hit a wall. He lets his hand fall and simply looks at me.
“I thought I had more time. I allowed your mother to stop your training because I thought I had years yet.”
“You were only 45. You should have had years yet. We should have had decades more together,” I say, tears starting to fall. “You will never walk me down the aisle or hold your grandchild. You won’t get to see Tommy learn to ride a bike or go to his prom. Your son barely knows you. He is only two and a half. He will forget you. You will be nothing but photos on the computer. It’s not fair.”
“No,” he says, “it is not fair. But life is not fair, my little Tiger. That is why the world has always needed people such as us. To help make it more fair; to keep the balance.”
I shake my head at him. “People like us? You’re the policeman. I’m fresh out of high school and working at a used book store. People need cheap reading material? I know,” I say, holding up my hand, “once I finish college and get my psychiatry degree maybe I can learn to do something good but now I’m nothing.”
It is his turn to shake his head now and the effect of it as his face flickers in and out is almost nauseating. “No one is nothing. Every one has a place and a purpose. Some choose their purpose and others have it thrust upon them but no one is useless. Everyone is someone. The world has use for us all.”
I walk over to the wall and put the bo back up on its rack. Tears thicken my voice as I say, “I don’t understand this. Where are we?”
“We are in our dojo,” he replies. “This is where we used to train when you were little. Do you remember?”
“Obviously I do. Otherwise I wouldn’t be having this dream.”
“This is not a dream, my little Tiger, and if it were, it would not be your dream. It would be mine,” my father says.
I laugh a little at the thought, and hearing a buzzing noise, turn my head towards it. When I start to look back, I see a black shadow out of the corner of my eye. It reaches for my father. I whip my head back towards him yelling, “No.” My father turns towards it and raises his bo as if to block it. I dart towards the weapons on the wall but before I can reach them, my father and the shadow disappear. I find myself bolting upright in bed, my alarm clock blaring.
I throw back the covers and slide my legs over the side of the bed. I slap the display on my phone to silence it and take deep breaths to calm down. Rubbing my hand over my face, I hop down to the floor. “It was just a dream,” I tell myself as I walk towards the bedroom door and the bathroom beyond it. I keep telling myself that as I shower and wash my hair.
“But it felt so real,” I murmur to myself as I dry off. “No surprise really. I’m sure my psychiatry books would say I'm trying to create more memories of my father right now or that it is my subconscious denial of his death.” I talk to my reflection as I comb out my long black hair. But as I watch myself in the mirror, I notice the red mark on my knuckle right where the stick in my dream hit it. I must have banged it on my nightstand in my sleep and incorporated it into my dream but I continue to stare at the mark long after I should have gotten moving.

Chapter Two

I shake off the cobwebs of the dream and start putting on my makeup, and once dressed for the day in shorts and a t-shirt, head down stairs. I find my mother, Catherine Browning-Chang, standing in the kitchen at the island chopping vegetables. At little more than five feet, my mother has the petite blond look of someone who should be a cheerleader. Her short hair is always styled; her makeup always done. I have seen many people underestimate her because of her looks but I know my mother is a little scary; especially if you try to call her Cat or Cathy.
My little brother, Thomas Chang, Junior, is the spitting image of my Chinese father with black hair like mine; what there is of it. He is sitting on a chair with his booster seat pulled up to the counter eating cereal. I ruffle his short black hair as I walk by him. “Morning, Bub. Morning, Mother.” My mother looks up and gives me a small smile as I walk towards the fridge. I reach in and pull out a soda but with a sigh, my mother reaches over and takes the soda away from me. She puts it back in the fridge and turns and pulls a glass out of the cupboard; handing it to me. She glances pointedly at the still open fridge and I reach in and pull out the orange juice. I pour myself a glass, put the orange juice back and close the door. I turn around to find my mother has dished me up a bowl of oatmeal from a pot on the stove. I grimace but I sit down with the oatmeal. Mother takes pity on me and hands me the brown sugar. I smile and sprinkle a spoonful on top. I sit down next to my little brother and dig into my oatmeal. Mother goes back to chopping her vegetables.
“What’s with the veggies?” I ask as I chase the oatmeal down with the orange juice. “Are you resorting to putting vegetables on our oatmeal now?”
Mother wrinkles her nose at me. “No, these are for dinner. I thought I would make a nice stir fry but I’m working at the gallery all morning, and with you at work all day, I doubt Tommy will give me much time for chopping tonight.” She waves her hand towards him with a smile. “He hates it when you aren’t home to play with him.”
“That’s because Bub loves me. Right, Bub?” I lean over and give him a kiss on his hair. He giggles and waves his spoon at me; sending small drops of milk flying. I grab a napkin from the holder in the middle of the island and wipe them up.
“Love Sissy,” he says with his big, beautiful smile.
“I love you too, Bub,” I tell him, tapping my finger on his nose before throwing the napkin in the trash.
Mother smiles at us both and returns to her vegetable chopping. There is a small mountain of vegetables forming next to her and I fear I will be eating stir fry for days. Don’t get me wrong. Mother makes great stir fry. She makes the sauce herself from her fiercely guarded recipe—says commercial sauces have too much sodium—but sometimes you just want a pizza.
“How did you sleep?” Mother asks; looking up at me. She focuses on my face, seeming to zero in on the dark circles that makeup doesn’t quite hide.
“Not well,” I admit. “I dreamed about Father.”
“Not surprising,” Mother says as she starts to scoop vegetables into a bowl. “You loved your father very much and he hasn’t been gone long. I’m sure those psychology books you love would tell you it’s normal.” She turns towards the refrigerator; bowl in hand.
“I know,” I tell her around a mouth full of oatmeal. “It was just a strange dream. We were in some kind of a gym. Father called it a dojo.”
The bowl slips from my mother’s hands and crashes down onto the floor. My eyes shoot to her face and I see her color has drained. I jump up and take her arms in my hands. “Mother? Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” she says waving me off and sitting down on the stool I just got up from. I go to the cupboard and grab another glass; filling it with water from the filter in the fridge. I bring her the water and she sips it. I search her face but find no answers. “It is probably just exhaustion or stress,” she tells me with a careless wave. “I miss your father, too, and I’m not sleeping as well as I wish.”
I crouch down and pick up the bowl from the floor. It is plastic and seems unharmed. It landed upright; most vegetables still safe inside it. I put some plastic wrap across the top and put it in the fridge. I then bend back down and pick up the fallen vegetables to add to our compost pile. I sneak glances at my mother but her color is coming back and she seems steadier. Perhaps she is right and it’s just fatigue. And hey, less vegetables.
I pile the vegetables up into the box we use for saving compostable materials until they can be moved outside. “Do you need me to take Bub to daycare today?” I ask her. I move to a stool on the other side of my brother; bringing my glass and bowl with me. “I can drop him off so you can get some rest before work.”
“No need,” my mother says with a wave of her hand, “I’m fine. Besides you have plans to go to the mall before work with your friend, Beth. Don’t worry about us. We will be fine until you finish work tonight and we will save you some stir fry.”
She is already looking better so I scarf down my oatmeal. I rinse my dishes out in the sink and put them in the dishwasher the way Mother likes. I run upstairs to grab my bag and my phone, texting Beth as I run down the stairs to tell her that I'm on my way. My keys are on the key hook by the door next to my mother’s keys. I give my mother a kiss on the check and spare a quick hug for Tommy and I'm out the door.

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