Home > The Trouble with Twelfth Grave (Charley Davidson #12)

The Trouble with Twelfth Grave (Charley Davidson #12)
Author: Darynda Jones


I have a confession to make. I love writing Charley Davidson. I love her style and wit and irreverence. And I know what you may be thinking at this point, “Um, you’re the writer. Aren’t you complimenting yourself?”

The quick answer? Not so much.

See, when I write Charley, I channel her. I get to be this saucy badass with great hair and a comeback for any situation. I get to live on coffee and sarcasm. I get to catch bad guys and right the wrongs of the world.

When I’m Darynda, I’m doing good if I can string two sentences together without getting tongue-tied. My morning appearance could be better explained if I were a rock star. Or a binge drinker. And I rarely have a witty comeback in any situation, much to my chagrin.

But I have people. I have wonderful, wondrous people.

I have my very own Reyes who goes by the name of Mr. Jones. I have a couple of remarkable Beeps: Jerrdan and Casey. And even second-generation Beeps: Konner and Kodin. Combined, those five irascible males make up the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys. A.k.a., my heart and soul.

My Cookie is fondly referred to as Netter Pot Pie and I adore her more than air. I also have a Dana who humbles me with her energy and enthusiasm and the fact that she doesn’t hate me even though I slept through our last meeting. For three hours. And I have a Jowanna who makes me giggle and sends me the best memes.

One might think those are all the characters I need in my life, but wait! There’s more!

There’s Quentin and Luther and Crystal and Karen and Lacy and Ashlee and all my beautiful nieces and nephews from whom I draw endless inspiration. There’s Nanoo and Dan Dan and Andrea and Robyn and all my Ruby Sisters and SMP siblings and LERA chapter mates. And there’s my writerly friends who understand and support and commiserate.

But there are a few people to whom I owe a special gratitude. Some I blatantly stole lines from for this book and some I put through heck because of this book. Remember, according to Alexander Pope, to err is human, to forgive divine.

I’d like to thank, from the bottom of my right ventricle, Patricia Dechant, Trayce Lane, and Theresa Rogers for letting me … ahem … quote them.

I’d like to send a special shout-out to The Mercenaries: Mega, Moonie, Moji, Sketti, and Sully for not only naming my girls, but letting me pilfer our dinner conversation for the benefit of this book. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thank you to the insanely talented Lorelei King for breathing life into Charley’s world and fire into our listener’s hearts.

And thank you, dear reader, for sticking with Charley and the gang through thick and thin. I am beyond honored to be a part of your life.

But mostly I’d like to thank my incredible agent, Alexandra Machinist, my extraordinary editor, Jennifer Enderlin, and my super-savvy film agent, Josie Freedman. I would not be here without you. Thank you so very, very much.




Coffee: A warm, delicious alternative to hating everyone forever.


Few things in life were more entertaining than haunted houses. The people living in said haunted houses, perhaps. Or the time-honored tradition of watching paint dry because, sadly, most haunted houses were not actually haunted. I sat on a hardwood floor next to a Mrs. Joyce Blomme, a woman who swore her house was inhabited by the dead—her words—and waited with bated breath for a ghost to appear. Egads!

Just kidding.

My breath rarely bated. Being the only grim reaper this side of eternity, I didn’t scare easily, especially after getting an inquiry like the one I’d received from Mrs. Blomme. I got a crap ton of the things. People swearing their houses were haunted. Imploring me to cleanse the offending abode of the evil that lurked within. Assuring me I was their only hope.

What can I say? Word gets around.

Mrs. Blomme was everything one would expect a grandmother to be. She had salt-and-pepper hair in rollers, a floral housecoat, ragged slippers with threads poking out around the toes, and reading glasses dangling around her neck. Ink stained her fingers, probably from crosswords, and a pinch of white powder smudged her cheek and the tip of her nose. So, either Mrs. Blomme liked to bake or she was a cokehead. I leaned toward the former.

On any other day, I would have explained the situation more clearly to the elderly woman. Yes, I could see the departed. As the grim reaper, I ferried lost souls—those souls left behind after their initial offer of a one-way trip up—to the other side, when they were ready. Basically, that entailed me standing there while the departed stepped into my light, a light that could be seen by them from anywhere in the world, and crossed over.

So, yes, I could see them. I could also talk to them and arm-wrestle them and style their hair. But seeing the departed and convincing said departed to go into the light were two very different skill sets.

Yet there I sat—in the dark because Mrs. Blomme swore the dead were easier to see that way, and well past my bedtime because Mrs. Blomme said they mostly showed up late at night—listening to a fascinating tale of angels and demons. Of heavens and hells. Of gods and monsters!

Mostly because I was doing all the talking.

Mrs. Blomme, poor thing, was scared speechless. In her defense, and to her credit, the house was indeed haunted. But I was too busy soliloquizing the struggles of the past few days of my life to pay that fact much mind.

“And then,” I said, raising my voice in preparation for the big finale, “he shoved me against the wall and disappeared into a swirling sea of smoke and lightning.”

I moved my hands in a circular motion to demonstrate the aforementioned swirling mass, then turned to Mrs. Blomme to check her reaction. It’d been a hell of a tale.

To my delight, Mrs. Blomme’s eyes were saucers. Her mouth hung open and her breaths came in tiny, sharp pants. Unfortunately, her state of absolute terror had little to do with my harrowing tale and more to do with the twiglike boy standing in the doorway, his mouth full of crackers.

We had already met. His name was Charlie, too, only spelled differently, and he liked riding his tricycle and painting the walls with his mother’s markers. Her permanent markers, if the walls were any indication. Soap and water could only do so much.

“There!” Mrs. Blomme pointed toward him.

He was adorable, all dark hair and skinny limbs.

Mrs. Blomme didn’t agree. She clawed at my arm and shrank in to my side, peering over my shoulder to look at the boy while using my body as a shield. Clearly, if the fecal matter hit the fan, I would be sacrificed.

She whispered into my ear, ever so slowly, enunciating every word. “Do you see him?”

The moonlight shone in his mischievous eyes as he cradled a plastic dinosaur in one arm and a silver gravy boat in the other. No idea. His fists held as many crackers as each could carry, and he had to carefully maneuver his load to stuff another orange square into his mouth. Then he smiled at me with orange-dusted lips.

I smiled back a microsecond before his mother appeared out of nowhere to scoop him up and carry him down the hall, disappearing into the darkness.

Mrs. Blomme squeaked and hid her face. That didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was her reaction—or lack thereof—to the little girl named Charisma sitting cross-legged in front of us, listening as I regaled the horrors of the past week.

Charisma blinked up at me, sipped the last of her juice through a cup with a twirly straw, then asked, “So, he’s not your husband anymore?”

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