The Accused and the Damned: Book Three, the Eddie McCloskey Series (The Unearthed 3)

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Thriller writer Evan Ronan, author of 
The Unearthed
, brings you the next edge-of-your-seat adventure in his paranormal series…

 

When the police arrest Anson Ketcher and charge him with murdering his wife, all he keeps saying is: "The ghost killed her."

Nobody believes him. And nobody should, given Anson's violent past and rocky relationship with his dead wife. Everyone wants to see Anson convicted.

Except Eddie McCloskey, paranormal investigator turned expert witness. Only Eddie can prove the man's innocence, but in doing so, can he find the real killer?

The Accused and the Damned
 is the first of its kind, a paranormal legal thriller. It is approximately 80,000 words and is specifically formatted for Kindle, with an active table of contents.

THE ACCUSED AND

THE DAMNED

by evan ronan

TABLE OF CONTENTS

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

Twenty-One

Twenty-Two

Twenty-Three

Twenty-Four

Twenty-Five

Twenty-Six

Twenty-Seven

Twenty-Eight

Twenty-Nine

Thirty

Thirty-One

Thirty-Two

Thirty-Three

Thirty-Four

Thirty-Five

Thirty-Six

Thirty-Seven

Thirty-Eight

Thirty-Nine

Forty

Forty-One

“…that the soul acquires new characteristics and enhanced abilities after separation from the physical embodiment. But what if it did not? What if those abilities were
always
ingrained in the fundamental essence? Then logic dictates that
we the living
have the same abilities. And you can begin to see how reverse possession is not only possible, but
likely
.”

(QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE: Have you seen it happen?)

“I’ve done it myself.”

-Mirlind Krizi,

presenting at the EU Paranormal Society Symposium

Prague, Czech Republic in March, 1995

One

 

The woman looked like she was going to hit him.

Eddie’s clients, married couple last name of Chin, sat across from him in their cramped living room. The place smelled of fried food and incense. The Chins would have a tough time meeting the height requirements at Disney World.

But short as she was, Mrs. Chin cut an imposing figure. Upon hearing that all the paranormal activity in their home was most likely perpetrated by number one son, she shot off the sofa like a firecracker and thrust a finger in Eddie’s face.

“My boy no liar. My boy is good boy. He do well in school! He have girlfriend!”

Eddie put on his poker face.

“You call my boy liar! Why would he have beautiful girlfriend if he liar? You get out of here!”

Mr. Chin got off the couch and put his tiny hands on his wife’s tiny shoulders and spoke in a tiny voice full of the kind of patience and wisdom that comes from suffering, hard work and perseverance.

“Let me handle this. I will discuss with Mr. Closkey.”

They tried to get his name right but they kept leaving the Mick out of it. He didn’t take it too hard. Their English was infinitely better than his Cantonese.

Mrs. Chin cursed in her native tongue but her husband stared her down and she stormed out of the living room and proceeded to make loud noises in the kitchen about the no-good swindler Irishman who was probably a drunk sitting in her living room.

Mr. Chin started to apologize but Eddie cut him off.

“I know how hard this can be.”

The two men sat in relative calm for a moment, but then Mrs. Chin burst through the door. “Ask the
guh-why-low
about the feet! What about the feet in snow? You can’t unprove that!”

The woman held a frying pan. Deja vu. It wouldn’t be the first time someone had brained him with cookery if she hit him.

“Ma’am, your son said the footprints in the snow were at the end of November last year. I checked the weather reports. No snowfall was reported.”

She called Eddie a
wangbadan
. He figured it wasn’t a compliment.

Mr. Chin intervened again. “I will handle this.”

Tiger Mom looked ready to pounce but she retreated once more, loudly, into the kitchen. Several bangs and crashes followed like a poltergeist had set up shop.

Eddie smiled at the man. “I’m sorry, Mr. Chin.”

“Children’s job is to make their parents worry, right?”

Eddie’s parents had passed when he was only ten, but if they’d lived they would have done a lot of worrying over Eddie.

He took in the living room again. The TV had been state of the art, back when color was a luxury. Ratty old sofa that had been through at least two yard sales. Five children still in the house, three of them over seventeen. Two more adults in residence, one of them pushing ninety. And ninety was pushing back harder.

Mr. Chin looking older than his fifty years, which was saying something because he was Asian. Usually they aged better than tortoises. Eddie knew the man worked in a drycleaners that he didn’t own and drove a thirty-year-old American charity case he’d saved from the junkyard.

Mr. Chin was the proud sort, though. Already he was reaching for his wallet. “You said your fee was negotiable and there could be payment plan.”

Eddie could use the money. He could always use the money. The going rate for a paranormal job was better than minimum wage. But not much better. The bills were piling up. He’d have to take a part-time gig to make ends meet if this trend continued.

But he felt for these people. Maybe not Mrs. Chin so much, but he felt for dear old dad. They’d come over from the Motherland a few years back and they were hard-working and trying to chase down the American dream while supporting an extended family.

Before Eddie could say anything, Mrs. Chin’s voice boomed upstairs.

“We pay for school and you do bad and you liar about the ghosts! You no work and you no go to school and you spend all money on this stupid girl…” And then Mrs. Chin switched to Cantonese and Eddie knew the kid was really in for it.

Mr. Chin acted like he didn’t hear his wife’s tirade. His lips formed a thin polite smile.

Eddie could really use the money. And yet he found himself saying, “There is no fee, Mr. Chin.”

Already Mr. Chin was out of his seat. “Oh, no, no you must take something. You insult us—”

“You can pay me back by giving me a client testimonial for my website.”

“Yes, yes. I will do that! I will do that right away!” The grateful man shook Eddie’s hand and Eddie felt good but wondered if he’d been swindled.

The Chins’ son Eric came racing down the stairs, Tiger Mom in hot pursuit. She had a hair dryer in her hand and looked ready to bludgeon her son. Eric zipped past Eddie and burst out the front door. Mrs. Chin stuck her head out and yelled after him but if he had half a brain he wasn’t coming back till the Chinese New Year.

Mrs. Chin came back inside. “I’m sorry, Eddie. My boy is good boy. He just act up sometimes. I’m sorry.”

“It’s no problem.”

Mrs. Chin approached him. “I get you drink? You like beer? You ‘Rish like beer, right? We have best Chinese beer, Tsingtao—”

“No, thanks,” Eddie said. “I’ll be leaving now.”

The Chins thanked him profusely, their gratitude genuine.

Eddie walked back to his car. It was a neighborhood of row homes in South Philly.

Small, concrete yards fronted small units. Cars double-parked on both sides of the street. A deli and catty-corner to it an Asian place offering Japanese and Chinese. Two pubs nearby. Everything you needed only two blocks away. He could smell the nail salons.

This area was changing from Italian to Asian. He could tell by the flags in the windows. The Itals proudly displayed
il Tricolore
. The Asians proudly displayed their American flags. They’d been here less time but their decorations were more patriotic.

Halfway down the block, he spotted Eric watching him from the doorway of another row home. The kid gave him the middle finger. Eddie was surprised—he thought that gesture had gone out of style ten years ago.

Now that Eddie was no longer Mr. McCloskey, Paranormal Investigator, sitting in the clients’ living room, he didn’t have to be professional anymore.

So he flipped Eric the bird right back.

The kid was not expecting this. It took a moment for the full import to register. Yes, that thirty-something white man who got me in trouble with my parents just signed Fuck You. Eric came out of the row home and four wannabe-Triads swimming in oversized basketball jerseys and sagging gym shorts followed him.

It was about to turn into a bad kung-fu movie.

Eric approached with hands and arms flailing away while cursing Eddie in a mix of Chinese and English, desperately trying to channel an R-rated Bruce Lee. Eddie met the kid halfway. You had to keep moving. If you stopped, the other guy owned you. Eric’s friends crowded behind him to watch the big show.

When they were a yard apart, Eric said, “Do that again, bitch.”

Eddie smirked, gave him the finger again.

Eric’s friends laughed. Eric did not. He gave them all a sharp look that was about as effective as a wet match. Eddie knew immediately that Eric lined up dead last in the group’s pecking order.

The kid had lost face and his boys were laughing at him. He had no choice but to get loud. Eddie wasn’t scared of the kid. A stiff breeze could knock Eric over.

After Sean McKenna had tried to kill him last year, Eddie had taken up krav maga. The ultimate self-defense system in the world, designed by the Israelis. It’s unique among the martial arts because there are no katas, no forms, no bullshit traditions. It’s all about the practical and ruthless application of necessary, sometimes deadly, force.

One of Eddie’s instructors liked to quip that it was sometimes harder to roll with an untrained fighter. When you sparred in class you got used to mixing it up with trained men who moved in patterns and used only techniques you expected. Whereas the fella off the street was unpredictable and did idiotic things you weren’t defending against because they were stupid.

That was why beginners were so often lucky.

Eric screwed up his face into a grimace. It didn’t work. He looked like he was in pain. “Bitch, I’m gonna fuck you up.”

“Okay, sure. Now I’m gonna do you a favor and give you a pass because you’re just a kid and you’ve got your friends to impress and your parents are my clients. And you aren’t going to take any advice from me because you think at the tender age of seventeen you’ve got it all figured out, but I’ll give it to you anyway: never pick a fight with a man who doesn’t give a shit.”

Eddie might as well have been speaking Greek for all the effect his words had on the kid.

Eddie saw the punch coming before Eric had even made up his mind to throw it.

He slipped the jab and switched from defense to offense in one motion, striking the kid in the gut as painlessly as possible and putting him down. Eric was more surprised than hurt, so Eddie put his foot on the kid’s back to hold him in place and looked up at the not-so-fantastic four.

Eric’s friends were in stitches. One was taking pictures with his cell phone.

No wonder the kid was trouble at home. Among his friends, he was the runt of the litter. Eddie almost felt bad for him.

But not quite enough to take his foot off the kid’s back. “I’m leaving now. Remember I could have done a lot worse to you.”

* * * *

Eddie walked into his apartment a couple hours later. He turned the TV on and made a salad for dinner and poured a glass of water. He sat on the couch and faced the TV.

Gracie Barbitok, ex-psychic and current fraud-buster, was on speaking to a live studio audience about an investigation. Eddie recognized the segment immediately because he’d seen it live several months ago and then had watched it on DVR many times. So this was a rerun, which meant one of the major channels had syndicated her program.

She was fifty but the plastic surgery made her look forty. She had long blond hair and wore a well-tailored suit that showed off her endowments but was still modest, and she pranced around on heels on stage, microphone in hand.

“They are out there,” she was saying. “They are out there.”

The audience cheered and clapped and whooped and Gracie let them, basking in the adulation. She smiled and luxuriated in their praise.

“Here we go,” Eddie said.             

He wanted to change the channel but some perverse part of him wouldn’t. Gracie got off the stage and started walking the aisles, touching shoulders and shaking hands as she walked, looking like a politician.

“The world is full of charlatans and quacks and ne’er-do-wells. I know, because I was one of them, earning all my money through fraud and deceit and emotional manipulation. But I changed. Mended my ways. And today I’m here to expose these people so they can never prey on the unwitting again.”

Eddie mouthed the words as she spoke them. He’d watched her show a few too many times.

Gracie ran down the last aisle and hopped onto the stage and with great ceremony did a big sweep with her arms and pointed at the screen backing the stage.

“Today’s fraud is exposed. Giles Tyson!”

Eddie knew what was coming but he still cringed.

Giles Tyson used to work with Eddie and his older brother, Tim, years ago from time to time. Giles had big ideas and a bigger personality, and he and Tim had clashed on investigational protocol. Giles always tried to push the envelope and eventually Tim had told him he couldn’t work on the team anymore. Eddie had last seen the guy six or seven years ago.

A blown-up, unflattering photo of Giles filled the screen behind Gracie. In the picture, his usually coiffed hair was disheveled, he wore two days of stubble, and he was coming out of a nudie bar. Gracie’s team of vultures must have paid top dollar to get such a wonderfully damaging snapshot.

The audience booed and hissed. The regular chant began, “Fraud! Fraud! Fraud!”

Giles had already been proven guilty in their eyes.

Gracie Barbitok took her seat on the far right of the stage and turned to watch the broadcast of her own sting operation. She had the hard-charging style and good looks of Nancy Grace with none of the mainstream criticisms because she went after soft targets: psychics, mediums, paranormal hunters, makers of homeopathic wonder drugs, life coaches, soothsayers …

The footage cut to a long, angled shot of Giles meeting with the young homeowner in her living room about her complaints and fears of the paranormal activity in her house. She was a good actress, sounded just like the dozens of people Eddie had interviewed over the years. She even scared up some misty eyes and tears, prompting Giles to break the first rule of professional conduct:

Never touch the client.

He invaded her personal space and put a hand on her shoulder and in his affected, overblown voice said, “We’re going to get you answers tonight. You can rest assured.”

The live studio audience hissed and booed again. More chants of fraud.

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