For I Have Sinned - Darynda Jones Page 0,1

was missing a leg. “Who are you again?”

After setting the coffee pot to brew, she turned and offered me her full attention. “I have to warn you, it’s going to sound bad.”

Make that a three-legged, partially blind horse. “Okay.”

“My name is Charlotte Davidson, but call me Charley, and I’m the grim reaper.”

The breath in my lungs fled as I stood there, looking her up and down, trying to wrap my head around what she’d said.

She smiled knowingly. “Don’t worry. You don’t actually need to breathe. Do you like hazelnut?”

After a long moment, I asked, “What?”

“In your coffee?”

I blinked and glanced back at the pot. “I can drink coffee?”

“Oh, no. Sorry. I was just wondering if you liked hazelnut in it. You know, when you used to drink it.”

Swimming in a sea of confusion, I asked, “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Not a darned thing, sadly. Hazelnut rocks.” She reached into a cabinet for a cup. “But it might jog your memory. Do you like chocolate? Jelly beans? Crystal meth?”

I gasped and looked around for a mirror. “Oh, my god, do I look like a meth head?”

“No.” She shook her head. “Absolutely not.” After casting a furtive glance over her shoulder, she added, “Or, well, not much.”

Looking down at my arms, I realized they were a bit skinny. And my coloring was bad, but couldn’t that be chalked up to the whole death thing? If only I could remember who I was, how I died. I just remembered falling. That was it. And reaching out for something as I fell, but what?

“Is it normal for people to forget who they are after they, you know, pass?”

She shrugged while stirring her coffee. “Doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Especially if the death was particularly traumatic.”

“Maybe I was murdered.” I tried so hard to remember, to push past the fog in my head. “Wait. I can’t drink coffee. I couldn’t even when I was alive.”

“Why not?”

“I think it nauseates me.”

She grabbed the cup and walked into her tiny living room. That was when I noticed a small, painfully thin man in her corner, his back to us, his bare toes hovering several inches off the ground.

“Told you it would jog something. Coffee is multifunctional that way. Maybe you were sick.

Were you in the hospital?”

I pointed. “There’s a guy—”

“Oh, that’s Mr. Wong.” She sat at her computer and nudged the mouse to bring things out of hibernation. “Hey, Mr. Wong,” she said, offering a wave. “How’s it hanging?”

“He’s just—”

“Hovering. Yeah, you’ll get used to it. So, any idea what your name is yet?”

I refocused on her but kept tabs on Mr. Wong from the corner of my eye. “Not really. Is he dead?”

“Sure is. And he doesn’t talk much, either. Have a seat.” She gestured to the chair beside her desk, so I sat down while she logged onto a database. “I’m going to check out recent deaths, starting with the Albuquerque News Journal, see if anything local rings a bell.” As she waited for the server, she folded her legs in the chair and propped her chin on a knee, careful not to spill the coffee she held in both hands, and I realized she was wearing thick knitted socks. Her hair, which hung just past her shoulders, was still in utter disarray. She looked like a kid on Saturday morning, waiting for the cartoons to start.

“You don’t really look like the grim reaper.”

“I get that a lot,” she said, then leveled a pointed stare on me, “Mary Jane Holbrook.”

“Who?” I asked.

She looked back at the screen. “Oh, crap, never mind. She was like eighty-four when she died.”

I looked at the screen as well, but the colors pixelated and made me dizzy.

“Damn, she looked good for her age.”

“Why can’t I see right?”

“You’re on a different plane,” she said, studying the screen. “Things don’t always translate well.

How about Jennifer Sandoval?”

“Doesn’t sound familiar,” I said, shaking my head. “Do I look like her?”

“No idea. I’m on the police blotter, now. No pics.”

Another memory surfaced, one so unbelievable, so horrid I bit my lip to keep from gasping. I had to be remembering it wrong. That couldn’t have happened.

“I got nothing,” she said, refocusing on me from behind her cup. She took a long draw, eyeing me from head to toe. “Not to mention the fact that you could have died anywhere in the world and, quite honestly, anytime. I’m not really getting a read off your gown or hairstyle other than you