Ginger and her fellow Domino Girls pool their funds to buy an old Colonial-style home on the outskirts of town and convert it into a bed and breakfast. The house is rumored to be haunted—which enables them to get the place at a bargain. They name it “Ginger Bread House,” banking on Ginger’s notoriety as a famous cake baker to bring in the guests. She will provide a daily supply of her freshly-baked cakes to sweeten their stay.
But on the very first night, guests begin to see and hear strange things. Ginger manages to settle them down—until one of the guests is found dead. News quickly spreads, and gossipers rename the new bed & breakfast, “Ginger DEAD House.” Now every phone call is another cancellation.
The Domino Girls see their life savings about to go down the drain. So Ginger proposes that the four of them work together to solve the mystery of the ghosts and the murder. “Domino Sleuth Club” is born.
But their task may prove more difficult and dangerous than anyone could have imagined.
Read the four-chapter excerpt…
The small East Texas town of Coreyville slept under a soft blanket of December snow. Ginger Lightley and her three fellow Domino Girls could not have imagined such perfect weather for the opening of Ginger Bread House, a beautiful old three-story Georgian-style home they had converted into a bed and breakfast.
Their eighteen guests had enjoyed a lovely afternoon of coffee and assorted mini-cakes, followed by a traditional home-style dinner. For the remainder of the evening, the four proud owners sat around the fireplace with their guests, sipping hot tea and nibbling on Ginger’s famous little cakes.
Because of those cakes, Ginger Bread House was booked up—three months in advance. Ginger’s Coreyville Coffee Cakes bakery was the Number One tourist attraction in the area, and the new bed and breakfast promised to be just as deliciously enchanting—an expectation that Ginger and the gang were determined to meet. Ginger, along with Jane Appletree, Barb Omatta, and Ethel Eggly, owned equal pieces of the pie. Or, perhaps cake was the better word.
By midnight all the guests had retired to their rooms on the second floor and in the split-level basement. The Domino Girls settled into their two queen size beds in the master suite on the main floor. Outside, feathery snowflakes drifted down ever so gently, in deference to the toasty-warm, slumbering bedfellows inside.
At around 2:00 a.m., Ginger awoke to a noise. Five rapid-fire taps—like a woodpecker.
Five more, louder. But it wasn’t a woodpecker. Someone was knocking on the door.
Ginger clicked on the lamp.
Her bed partner, Jane, rolled over. “What’s going on?”
Five more raps—harder and faster.
Barb and Ethel began to stir in the other bed.
Ginger got up and went to the door.
Jane followed her.
It was the twins, Helen and Holly Heevy, looking frantic. Their enormous breasts—mostly exposed—caused Ginger to gasp. The matching Winnie-the-Pooh nightgowns were much too small—especially in the chest area. Women in their fifties should dress more conservatively, thought Ginger, and more age-appropriately. But in fairness—it was sleepwear.
“They were right,” said Helen. “We should have listened.”
“We want a refund,” said Holly.
“Okay, now, just settle down,” said Ginger, “and tell me what’s bothering you.”
“This place is haunted,” said Helen. “That’s what’s bothering us. You promised it wasn’t true.”
“It’s not true,” said Ginger.
“All we wanted was a nice relaxing getaway. This is extremely upsetting.”
“Well, I’m sorry you’re not enjoying your stay with us. But, I can assure you that Ginger Bread House is not haunted.”
“Then how do you explain it?” said Holly. “We saw them—on the wall. It was definitely them.”
“Our husbands,” they said in unison.
Ginger looked at one, then the other.
“We saw them both—so clearly,” said Helen.
“And we heard music,” said Holly.
“It was our song,” said Helen.
“You and your husband’s?” said Ginger.
“Yes,” said Helen.
“Ours too,” said Holly. “Both of us and our husbands.”
“We had the same song,” said Helen. “We like exactly the same kind of music.”
Barb and Ethel joined Ginger and Jane at the door.
Barb glared at the twins. “You’re waking us up at two in the morning to tell us you saw a ghost?”
“Two ghosts,” said Holly.
“Did your husbands look exactly the same too?” said Ethel. “I mean, were they twins too?”
Barb frowned at her.
“Well,” said Ethel, “I was just wondering.”
“Actually, yes,” said Helen, “they were identical too.”
“So how do you know you saw ghosts of both of your husbands?” said Ethel. “Maybe you just saw the same one twice.”
Helen and Holly looked at each other as though they hadn’t considered that.
“I’m sorry, Ladies,” said Ginger, “but there is no such thing as a ghost.”
“What about the music?” said Holly. “You can’t tell me we didn’t hear it. We both heard it very clearly.”
Before Ginger could speak, Ethel blurted, “What was the name of the song?”
They both appeared to reminisce for a brief moment before Helen said, “Dream Lover, by Bobby Darin.”
“Love it,” said Holly, looking at her sister.
Helen turned to her, and in unison they recited, “Love it forever. Forever we will. Will we forever? Yes, love it we will.”
This was more scary than seeing a ghost, thought Ginger.
Maggie Jickles, another guest, walked up from behind the twins. “What’s going on? Why is everybody up?” She dropped something on the floor and bent over to pick it up.
“Why are you up, Maggie?” said Ginger.
Maggie grinned sheepishly. “I always get the munchies around this time of night. So I thought I’d snack on another one of your delicious little cakes.”
“Help yourself,” said Ginger.
Maggie walked off to the kitchen.
Ginger looked at the twins. “So…anything else?”
“Yes,” said Helen. “We’re leaving right now.”
“In the middle of the night?” said Jane. “It’s snowing out there.”
“And we’ll expect a full refund in the mail by next week,” said Holly. She turned to her sister. “Now let’s go pack our things and get out of this horrid place.”
The twins walked away.
Ginger closed the door.
“Not a great opening night,” said Barb.
“I really liked their nighties,” said Ethel.
Barb snapped at her. “I couldn’t care less about their stupid nighties. They’re gonna go out and tell everybody that Ginger Bread House is haunted.”
“Well, it might not be such a bad thing,” said Ethel.
“Are you losing it, Woman?” said Barb.
“No. Stop and think about it. Those women got to see their husbands.”
“Their dead husbands,” said Barb.
“Right,” said Ethel. “And I for one would pay good money for a chance to see my Earl.”
Everyone got quiet.
Finally, Ginger said, “Well, there’s nothing we can do about it tonight. Why don’t y’all go back to sleep. I’ll stay up until the twins are gone.”
“I’m not sleepy anymore,” said Jane.
“Me either,” said Barb, sitting down on the side of her bed. “I used my life savings to invest in this place. I can’t afford for it to fail.”
“I sold my house,” said Ethel.
“You’re not the only one,” said Barb. “If we can’t make this thing work, I’m gonna be out on the street.”
“I’ve still got a house,” said Jane, “but I sold my restaurant. I wouldn’t have a way to earn a living. And I’ve got no money to retire.”
“It’s going to be okay,” said Ginger. “The twins are strange. Hopefully people won’t believe them when they start talking about ghosts. I mean—would you?”
“I wouldn’t,” said Barb, “but some people would.”
“You’re talking about me, aren’t you, Barb?” said Ethel. “You’re talking about people like me.”
“Well, if the dress fits…” said Barb.
“Those were nice dresses the twins were wearing today,” said Ethel.
“Yeah, if it was 1960,” said Jane.
They all laughed.
“Good,” said Ginger. ” Laughter is what we need. Let’s do more laughing and less bickering.”
“Fine with me,” said Barb. “As long as Ethel doesn’t say anything idiotic.”
Ethel stuck out her tongue at Barb.
“And as long as she doesn’t do that,” said Barb.
They heard a bloodcurdling scream and froze.
“I think it was from upstairs,” said Jane, opening their bedroom door.
Two more screams.
“Yeah,” said Jane. “Definitely upstairs.”
The other three followed Jane through the living room, into the foyer and up the winding staircase.
A woman yelled, “Help! Please, somebody help me.”
“That’s Maggie Jickles,” said Ginger.
“Bedroom three,” said Barb.
When they got to the room, the door was open. All of the upstairs guests were in Maggie’s room—just standing there watching her.
Maggie crouched over her husband, who lay motionless in bed.
“What happened?” said Ginger.
Maggie turned. Her eyes were red, filled with tears. “I think he’s…dead. When I got back up here he had stopped breathing.”
Ginger walked over to him and felt the side of his neck. “I can’t find a pulse.”
“Has anyone called 9-1-1?” said Jane.
“I did,” said Bob Rendford.
“He’s had three heart attacks,” said Maggie, “but he’s been doing fine lately.”
“I’ll bet he saw a ghost,” said Helen Heevy. “That’s probably what killed him.”
“A ghost?” said Maggie.
“Yeah,” said Holly. “There were ghosts in our room.”
“Then it’s true,” said Clare Rendford.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said her husband, Bob.
“I see one right now,” said another guest, pointing. “Right there in the corner.”
“That’s just a shadow,” said Bob.
“No. It’s a ghost.”
“Okay,” said Barb, “we need for all of you to go back to your rooms.”
“If you know what’s good for you,” said Helen, “you’ll check out of this ghost hotel right now.”
“That’s what we’re doing,” said Holly.
Everyone began to scurry out of the room.
“Don’t leave tonight,” said Ginger. “It’s snowing.”
Ethel walked over to the bed. “Shouldn’t you…turn off his machine?”
“Ethel,” said Barb, snarling.
“I guess so,” said Maggie, in a daze. She reached over and turned off Jack’s CPAP machine. “I just can’t believe…” She took the CPAP mask off his nose.
Ginger was familiar with CPAPs. For several years, her deceased husband, Lester, had used a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine for his Sleep Apnea. The medical device pumps air through a hose to a mask that is worn over the nose or the nose and mouth to keep the air passages open while sleeping.
“We’ll leave you alone with him,” said Ginger.
The four women stepped out to the hallway.
“I’m gonna go down and wait for the paramedics,” said Ginger.
“Do you honestly think there’s anything they can do?” said Jane.
“Probably not,” said Ginger.
They headed down the staircase. Ginger stumbled and Barb caught her.
“Whoa,” said Barb. “You okay, Ginge?” Barb was the only person in the world who called Ginger ‘Ginge.’
“I just got dizzy for a second,” said Ginger. “I’m okay now.” She had no intention of telling them what she’d just seen at the bottom of the stairs.