Read The Dirt on Ninth Grave (Charley Davidson #9) - Darynda Jones

Acknowledgments

A special thanks to the following people, without whom this book would suck. Seriously. On several agonizing levels.

Thank-yous go out to:

Alexandra Machinist, whose initials actually stand for Awe-inspiring Marvel.

Jennifer Enderlin for being such an incredible editor and cheerleader.

Anna Boatman for the support and much-appreciated enthusiasm.

India Cooper for the wonderful copyedits.

Mr. Jones, the undeniable love of my life, and the beautiful creatures named Jerrdan and Casey, aka the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys.

The rest of my family. Even the ones who don’t claim me.

The fabulous people at Heroes and Heartbreakers.

Sarah Wendell for the brilliant band name, and everyone at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

Dana and Netters, who do everything for the books but write them.

Quentin Lynn for answering my 17,835 questions about the running of a restaurant.

Margie Lawson for the intervention addressing, specifically, my “as” addiction, which is a separate matter entirely from my “ass” addiction. And for Bobert. I am eternally grateful for Bobert.

Six Chicks and a Pocket Rooster. Best week ever!

Marika Gailman: Translator Extraordinaire. Merci!

Theresa Rogers for the notes. For the Jeopardy! quote. For the shoulder and the camaraderie.

Kit for your incredible insight and your willingness to answer my multiple calls to arms.

Jowanna and Rhianna for the betas.

Robyn Peterman and Donna McDonald for being awesome and letting me write with you.

Everyone in LERA, the NM chapter of RWA.

My gorgeous Ruby sisters.

The Grimlets! For being Grimlets!

And, as always, thank YOU, dear wonderful amazing reader, for loving Charley and Reyes as much as I do.

XOX! ~D~

1

Remember, it’s never too late to give LSD a shot.

—T-SHIRT

I stood beside the booth and poured coffee into a beige cup that had the words FIRELIGHT GRILL written across it, wondering if I should tell my customer, Mr. Pettigrew, about the dead stripper sitting next to him. It wasn’t every day a dead stripper accosted one of my regulars, but telling Mr. P about her might not be a good idea. He could react the way I did the first time I saw a walking corpse a little over a month ago. I screamed like a twelve-year-old girl and locked myself in the bathroom.

For seven hours.

I admired the rascally old man, a decorated war veteran and retired NYPD detective. He’d seen more action than most. And with it, more atrocity. More depravity and desperation and degradation. He was a tough-as-nails, real-life superhero, and I couldn’t picture any situation in which Mr. P would scream like a twelve-year-old girl and lock himself in a bathroom.

For seven hours.

In my own defense, the first dead guy I saw had fallen to his death at a construction site in Kalamazoo. Thanks to a hundred-foot drop and an unfortunate placement of rebar, I had another image to add to my things-I-can-never-unsee collection. Silver linings, baby.

I pulled three creamers out of my apron pocket where I stashed them, mostly because keeping creamers in my jeans pocket never ended well. I placed them on the table beside him.

“Thanks, Janey.” He gave me a saucy wink and doctored his coffee, an elixir I’d grown to love more than air. And French fries. And hygiene, but only when I woke up late and was faced with the heart-wrenching decision of either making a cup of the key to life itself or taking a shower. Strangely enough, coffee won. Every. Single. Time.

Mr. P was a regular, and I liked regulars. Whenever one walked into the café I felt a little less lost, a little less broken, as though family had come to visit. As fucked up as it sounded, they were all I had.

A little over a month ago, I woke up in an alley, soaked to the marrow of my bones with freezing rain pelting my face and no memory of who I was. Or where I was. Or when I was. I had nothing but the clothes on my back, a honking big diamond on my ring finger, and a blinding headache. The headache disappeared fairly quickly. Thankfully the clothes and the wedding ring did not. But if I were married, where was my husband? Why had he not come for me?

I’d been waiting since that first day. Day One, I’d called it. I’d been waiting for four weeks, three days, seventeen hours, and twelve minutes. Waiting for him to find me. For anyone to find me.

Surely I had family. I mean, everyone has family, right? Or, at the very least, friends. It would seem, however, that I had neither. No one in Sleepy Hollow – or the entire state of New York – knew who I