Oscar night. Jaqie Shanahan’s roommate and best friend, Jeep McBain, wins the statue for best screenplay. And disappears.
Murdered? An accident? Fear of success? Whatever the reason, her fun-loving, womanizing, self-centered Jeep McBain vanishes without a trace—without even a good-bye.
One year later, Jaqie has a successful screenplay of her own, and finds a new best friend in Madrille Keiser, Hollywood’s biggest star. But without Jeep to share in her success, Jaqie realizes it’s time to take a break. Time to come to grips with the hard truth that Jeep is forever gone. Turns out, she’s half-right.
Jaqie, her dog, and her gecko sail away for a working vacation in the Caribbean. She and her little tribe anchor offshore and decide it’s a great day to take the dinghy and do some old-fashioned beachcombing for seashells—like the pictures in the brochure.
What they find is a dead guy in a great suit bobbing just shy of high tide, and a sort-of-dead guy in baggy shorts and a Hawaiian shirt chasing seagulls off the body.
Jeep McBain may not be alive and well in Puerto Rico, but his ghost is.
And he’s engaged.
“Jaqie, her name is Clarice. She’s real. Like me, real. We’re going to spend the rest of whatever this is,” he outlined his transparent torso, “together. We like all the same things. Plus, we were both bludgeoned to death. How great is that?”
But, first … Jaqie must find out who murdered Jeep and the love of his afterlife so the happy couple can Move On.
Provided …Jaqie can convince the chief of police that she did not kill Jeep. That she can keep the killers from killing her. That she can get the job done without Madrille’s head of security, Paul Bracken, getting in her way and under her skin. Constantly. Paul with the sea-green eyes and hair that is way too long and far too unruly for former military.
None of which is listed in the brochure about seashells.
The weird thing about the ghost who stood watching the seagulls eat the corpse’s nose was that the corpse wasn’t his. The body, just shy of high tide, lay spread-eagled on its back in a finely tailored suit. The ghost, on the other hand, was dressed for the beach, slender, clean-shaven and transparent. I mean, you couldn’t see his liver, or anything unsettling like that, but you could definitely watch the sunrise through where his liver probably was—or had been.
I’d left my pocketbook back on my boat, hanging on a hook in the galley. It was stuffed with brochures promising me a Caribbean paradise. Typical turquoise waters, tropical breezes, palm fronds kind of fare. Birds brunching on a middle-aged, white male stretched out surfside had not been among the images promoted by Puerto Rico’s Board of Tourism. Guaranteed.
I pushed the outboard’s throttle and backed up ever so slowly. We puttered beyond the folds of whitecaps and ducked behind a lone, house-sized rock tossed down by an ancient glacier two or three eons before I blundered onto this beach. I shut off the engine. Doofus wanted to swim. Labradors always want to swim, but I shook my head no, so he sighed and stared off in the opposite direction. I needed to pull myself together.
I creased a mental sheet of paper and made two columns. PLAUSIBLE and CALL A THERAPIST.
Ten minutes later, the only item under PLAUSIBLE was a man in a suit dead on the beach. The suit was unusual but I’m sure business men enjoyed a stroll along the shifting sands like anybody else. He must be dead because he had made no attempt to shoo the seagulls off his face.
The ghost had assumed that responsibility.
Acknowledging I was studying the activities of a ghost, checked the first box in the Therapy column. And the ghost reminded me of Jeep McBain.
Box number two. Check.
It was the way he danced around flapping at the gulls. But considering that for the past year, everything reminded me of my best friend and roommate did not make that a startling conclusion.
Since the night he won the Oscar for best screenplay—Jeep had taken me as his Plus One—I’d not stopped searching for him at every turn. Around every glacial rock.
The last six weeks sailing to Puerto Rico had given me other things to think about—sinking, sharks, pirates—but Jeep was always at the periphery. Like a ghost.
Like this ghost.
The water pulsed off the rock and kept kicking us seaward so I set the oars and pulled long, silent strokes toward the beach until the gentle surf carried us to shore. I fanned myself with my straw hat, wiped the sweat from my eyes, grabbed the bow line and stepped off into the cool Caribbean up to my knees.
Like they say, the first step to recovery is admitting there was a problem. And Jeep McBain was a big problem. If I was hallucinating, I’d call the Hot Line in the morning. If this ghost was Jeep, who would I call about that? Jeep would say Ghostbusters and roll around on the sand laughing.
I turned to wrestle the dinghy further up on the beach. My ninety-pound dog acting as ballast wasn’t making the job any easier. “Doofus, out!” He jumped overboard and headed out to sea.
“Hey! Get back here!” Men. At least this one came back when I called.