Previously published as part of the paranormal anthology, "Weddings From Hell": A missing bridesmaid, some embarrassing relatives, and a "girls night out" gone bad land Nicki Styx in the middle of a murder mystery. Can she expose the killer, put a poor girl's soul to rest, and still look calm, cool and collected while wearing
the ugliest bridesmaid dress on earth?


      “How did I let myself get sucked into this?” I wailed into the phone. “I’m a replacement bridesmaid, and the dress is hideous! It makes me look like a giant fruit salad. With a hat.” I deliberately didn’t tell Evan that the bridesmaid I was replacing was dead. My best friend and business partner, Evan lived for fashion, and I knew it was easier for him to talk about that than my dubious “gift” of being able to see and talk to the dead.

      “What did you expect, Nicki?” Evan wasn’t the least bit surprised about the ugly dress. “You’re lucky Debbie didn’t stick you with a tube top and Daisy Duke shorts.”

      I sighed. “Yeah. At least there were no sequined flip-flops.”

      “Don’t be in the wedding if you don’t want to do it—come down with something contagious or something.”

      “I have to do it,” I said glumly, finding myself, once again, in the position of having to explain why I was doing something I didn’t want to do, for someone I didn’t want to do it for. Do unto others, Nicki, as you would have them do unto you. “Debbie needs four bridesmaids to balance out the groomsmen, and she’s only got three sisters.” Darlene, Diane and Donna. Or as I privately thought of them: Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest.

      It wasn’t their fault, really—the gene pool was obviously tainted. Debbie was okay in a clueless sort of way, but her sisters were another matter. Prickly as sandspurs, and just as irritating.

      “Those cousins of yours are walking advertisements for birth control,” Evan said, echoing my thoughts exactly. “Didn’t your aunt know that she was supposed to swallow the pill instead of trying to hold it between her knees?”

      “Well, since Uncle John never seemed to learn the alphabet past the letter ‘D’, I imagine birth control was a foreign concept. They probably think oral sex means talking about it instead of doing it.”

     Evan laughed, and I felt a little better. A girl deserved to be snarky when she was going through an ugly bridesmaid dress crisis.

     I stared out the window of my car at the parking lot of Bebe’s Bridal. There was only one other car, a dusty old Camry that obviously belonged to the saleslady.

     "I can’t wait to get home. Joe promised to be waiting with a bubble bath and a glass of wine.”

      Evan made a purring noise. “Ooo, I need to get your hunky boyfriend and my hunky boyfriend together to talk about how to treat a lady.”

      “Forget it, you fairy,” I said goodnaturedly. “If you got your greedy little hands on Joe I’d never get him back.”

      I heard the distant tinkle of the shop bell through the phone, and knew that a customer had just come into Handbags and Gladrags. Our store was the coolest vintage shop in Little Five Points, Georgia, and Evan was manning it while I was out in the boondocks fulfilling family obligations.

      “Push the Led Zeppelin tee-shirts,” I said, “we’re over-inventoried.”

      “Climbing the Stairway to Heaven as we speak,” Evan answered gaily. “Drive carefully.”

      He hung up, and I snapped the phone closed and dropped it on the passenger seat. Gripping the steering wheel in both hands, I let my head fall forward until it rested there, too. I closed my eyes and tried to think positively—I was doing it for Mom. Aunt Nadine was her only sister, which is how I’d ended up with such a dorky middle name.

      Nicholette Nadine Styx, sucker extraordinaire.

      “Don’t be such a drama queen,” my Mom would’ve said, if she’d lived past my twenty-second birthday. “It’s only one day. You can handle one day, can’t you?”

      “Yes, Mom,” I replied dutifully, though there was no one there to hear it. Then I buckled my seat belt (another lesson from Mom), and started the car. As I was backing out of my space, I happened to glance at the saleslady’s Camry again, and this time I noticed that someone had used their finger to write a message in the red clay dust that coated the passenger side door.

      “Help Me,” it said.

      “Wash Me” would be more appropriate.

      Making a mental note to run my Honda through the car wash when I got back to Little Five Points, I pulled out of the parking lot, already dreading my return visit to pick up the newly altered Carmen Miranda dress.

      “Don’t let her do it,” came a woman’s voice from the back seat.

      “Shit!” I jumped, swerved and nearly drove myself into a roadside ditch.

      “Don’t let her,” the voice repeated.

      I slammed on the brakes, heart pounding. Afraid to turn around, I checked the rear view mirror.


      Gathering my nerve, I swiveled my head to look, glad there was currently no traffic in Hogansville.

      The back seat was empty, but there was a dark spot on the upholstery—it looked wet.

      “What the hell?”

      Thoroughly spooked, I sat there, engine idling. You’d think I’d be used to this sort of thing by now—the girl in the bridal shop wasn’t the first spirit I’d ever seen, and somehow I knew she wouldn’t be the last.

      “Hello?” Speak now or forever hold your peace, Spirit. “Don’t let ‘who’ do ‘what’?”

      No answer.

      “Great,” I muttered. “Just great.” Hoping the spot was just water and nothing more ominous, I headed home.

     If I checked the rear view mirror a little more frequently than I needed to, nobody knew it but me.

Ghouls Night Out


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