I’m delighted to have Margo Bond Collins return to my blog here. Margo and I have previously worked together on Come Love a Cowboy. She is addicted to coffee and SF/F television, especially Supernatural. She writes paranormal and contemporary romance, urban fantasy, and paranormal mystery. She lives in Texas with her daughter and several spoiled pets. Although she teaches college-level English courses online, writing fiction is her first love. She enjoys reading urban fantasy and paranormal fiction of any genre and spends most of her free time daydreaming about heroes, vampires, ghosts, werewolves, and the women who love (and sometimes fight) them. With this sort of background, you’ll understand she knows quite a lot about mediums and seances in the Old West.
Her story, Wild, Wild Ghost opens our anthology, The Good, The Bad and The Ghostly.
In my novella Wild, Wild Ghost, Ruby Silver, a new agent with the Tremayne PSI Agency, is a spiritualist and a medium who specializes in the exorcism of ghosts and other unwanted creatures of the underworld. Although the Agency, with its specialization in the paranormal, is fictional, Ruby’s classification of herself as a medium was not entirely unusual for the 1860s.
In fact, for all that the era is often cast as a time of scientific advancement, it was also perhaps one of the most superstitious eras the world has seen, and much of that superstition focused on the possibility of the living finding ways to speak to the dead. In fact, the term “psychic” can be traced to this era (beginning its existence as “psychical”).
Of course, the idea that the living and dead might communicate was certainly not new, as Odysseus’s trip to the underworld, Hamlet’s ghost, and Jacob Marley all show us. Nor were all examples of published accounts of ghostly interactions entirely literary—in 1727, for example, Daniel Defoe published his Essay on the History and Reality of Apparitions, in which he gives at least partial credence to the idea of ghosts appearing to the living.
What was new was the idea of a structured reaching-out to spirits on “the other side,” generally through the use of a medium. Séances became increasingly popular in the second half of the nineteenth century, and by the 1860s, when Ruby shows up in Rittersburg, Texas, they would have been fairly commonplace. Thus the séance that Ruby and Trip hold in the novella might have been slightly scandalous among the church-going townspeople, but it would not have been so strange as to have caused much commentary among the people who had requested the Agency’s help with their troublesome ghost.
Wild, Wild Ghost
With everyone she loves in the grave, Ruby specializes in the dead.
When Ruby Silver traded in her demon-hunting rifle for a Tremayne Agency badge, she didn’t want another partner—losing the last one was too traumatic. But when a new case in the Texas Hill Country pairs her up with the slow-talking, fast-drawing Trip Austin, it will take all their combined skills to combat a plague of poltergeists in this German-settled town.
Realizing that all the broken glass flying past him had been swept up into the whirlwind of glass around the woman, he dropped Demonio’s reigns. “Stay here,” he instructed. The stallion rolled its eyes at him, but nickered. Trip didn’t bother to tether the animal; his horse wasn’t going anywhere without him.
If exploding glass didn’t startle him, nothing would.
For that matter, neither did various ilk of ghosts and beasts. Demonio was steady, even if he had a tendency to bite strangers.
Was this woman really supposed to be his new partner?
When he’d gotten the telegram from the Tremayne headquarters back in St. Louis, he had laughed aloud. Trip knew there were lady agents—he’d even worked with one a time or two—but they had all been stationed back east. No lone woman in her right mind would want to come out here to work.
Not when there were plenty of ghosts to be exorcised in civilized places.
I guess maybe this one’s not in her right mind, then.
Might not be a bad idea to remember that.
He watched the glass-cyclone sweep up the dust around her, the cloud of dirt thickening until he couldn’t see the woman at all, and reconsidered.
If she can cause something like that to happen, maybe she’s plenty safe out here, after all.
As Trip made his way toward her, the glass-and-dirt devil rose into the air. He stopped to watch it ascend. Then, with a noise like a crack of thunder, it was gone. Trip had the vague impression that it had sped away toward the wilds rather than merely disappearing into nothingness, but he couldn’t have pointed to any particular evidence that made him think that.
Smoothing her hands down the sides of the painted horse’s face, the woman murmured something soothing in a tone that made Trip realize he had been hearing her voice all along, a soft alto hum rising and falling under the whipping and tinkling sound of the glass tornado, somehow more noticeable now in its absence than it had been during the strange events on the street.
The horse huffed out a breath, and the woman laughed. The sound of it sent an odd shiver up Trip’s back—not of anxiety, but of interest.
Don’t be stupid, man. You haven’t even seen her face yet.
And he couldn’t tell anything about her body under that horror of a dress.
Reaching up, she untied the bonnet from under her chin and removed it to shake off the dirt. A silken fall of blond hair cascaded out of it and down her back, and Trip stopped to stare, frozen by the glint of midday Texas sun off its golden sheen.
By the time he moved again, she had begun brushing off her skirt in sharp, efficient motions.
“Ruby Silver?” he asked when he was close enough to speak without shouting.
As she spun around, it occurred to him belatedly that it might not be a good idea to sneak up on a woman who could turn flying glass into a tornado and make it disappear.
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