Excerpt: Murder at the Ocean Forest by Digger Cartwright

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When Faye Underwood, a distraught young woman, disappears from the elegant Ocean Forest Hotel, Feltus Boone LaMont, the quintessential Southern hotel detective, is drawn into the emotional drama surrounding the guests. As Feltus conducts his investigation into Fayes apparent murder, her husband, Terence, is found murdered in their suitewith the door locked from the inside. This draws Feltus further into the intriguing web surrounding the Underwoods and their acquaintancesLord and Lady Ashburn (a British couple on holiday), Ms. Elizabeth Bascomb (a blind clairvoyant), and Preacher Cooper (a devout man of the cloth). The intricate plot that stretches from Myrtle Beach to the battlefields of World War II unfolds as a very persistent Feltus eventually uncovers the skeletons in the closets of all his guests.

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The chandelier shook roughly and gave the impression that it would surely be yanked from the ceiling by the incessant rattling, which threatened to crack and shatter the crystals that somehow managed to survive the onslaught by the supernatural. The tension among the participants in the room had reached the pinnacle of their endurance, suggesting that any further dramatics could push one of them over the edge of psychological endurance. Feltus perceptively noticed this in the generally apprehensive, uncertain expressions on their faces from the position in his chair in which he leaned back so that his face was still concealed in the darkness even though his hands lay motionless on the tabletop where the others could plainly see them. His thoughts and observations were abruptly interrupted by the dull sound of heavy breathing that seemed to be at quite a distance even though it was evidently coming from the room in which they had gathered along with the spirits.

Elizabeth turned her head from side to side almost frantically as she searched for the direction from which the sound originated. “Terence!” she cried out as though relieved by the indication. “Is that you, Terence?” The breathing became heavier though still remained at a distance and echoed slightly, obviously due to the interference at traveling from the next realm to this mortal world. The chandelier stopped suddenly but swung back and forth with the crystals still clinking a dissonant tune, and the candles burned perfectly motionless, the flames smaller but unwavering. There was a distinct rasp to the breathing that had become more forced as if gasping for air that apparently was not there. There could be no doubt about what the gesture signified—Terence Underwood’s grueling, slow suffocation and those final moments when Death approached the unwilling soul that hysterically attempted to escape the end.

There was a faint, incomprehensible mumbling from a deep voice that came from the beyond after the struggled breathing ceased, signifying the conclusion of the spirit’s mortal demise. After several more quiet repetitions, the voice said clearly and loudly, with a sternness that suggested an accusation directed towards one of the occupants of the room, “Murderer!”

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