Excerpt for Haunted Coal Ridge: Happy Wednesday by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Copyright © 2019 Chuck Sperati

Digital Edition

All rights reserved.


Coal Ridge is based on Ohio's Finest Village. It was a great place to grow up and continues to be a remarkable community to which I enjoy returning to see friends and family. For those who live there, take a moment, look around, and be wary of the shadows.


A series of intertwined short stories that will make you wonder where the darkness ends and the light begins. All small towns keep secrets, but in Coal Ridge when the secret gets out, it begins to feed…again.

Set in a small, somewhat geographically secluded town in the Midwest, the blue-collar people of Coal Ridge are friendly and laid back, enjoying block parties, gossip, and the simple joys that come with being a close-knit community. Because everyone knows everyone else, secrets are hard to keep, but some are so well hidden that they've been forgotten.

These short stories explore a supernatural awakening that will test the bonds of family and community.

Happy Wednesday

Chief Carabelli opened the door to the interrogation room. Taking his hat off, he offered a small smile to the lone occupant, a woman named Melissa Henderson with whom he'd worked in the Coal Ridge admin building for the past couple of months. Sitting down across from her, he took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

Pushing her lips together to make a tight line, she crossed her arms over her chest and waited.

“I know this is not comfortable Melissa, but quite frankly this room isn't supposed to be comfortable.” Light reflected off the greased back midnight black hair atop his head, almost hiding the gray steaks. “I've read the statement you made, and I have some problems with it.” Her brow dipped to turn her expression into a scowl. Setting his hands on the table between them, he continued. “I need you to tell me what really happened?”

“I didn't do anything wrong.”

The Chief cocked his head to the side. “We work together, and family ties run deep in this town.” She scoffed at that; he continued. “My goal here is to keep you out of trouble, but to do that I need to know what really happened.” The only reason he was in here giving her this chance was because her cousin Steve had been his lead detective.

“God, I hate Valentine's Day,” she muttered, looking up at the ceiling with tears in her eyes. The Chief waited. “Shit.” Wiping at the line of tears now running down her cheek, she looked him in the eyes. “Fine. What do you want to know?”

“Just tell me what happened.”

It was her turn to take a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Well, with the rest of the town shut down because of the snowstorm, me and Jason made our way in…”

* * *

“It's just us in the whole building,” Jason Sanford called out as he entered the small office packed with low cubicles. He was wearing jeans and a heavy sweatshirt, his hair still mussed from the stocking cap he'd worn on his walk down to the admin building. “It could be cozy?”

“We're working,” Melissa replied.

“It's also Valentine's Day.”

“I hate Valentine's Day.”

“Oh, don't be like that Melissa,” he admonished, making his way over to her desk. “What's wrong with a day dedicated to romance, where it’s socially acceptable for someone to express how special someone else is, and how awesome it is to have them in their life.”

“I'm going to barf on my desk.”

“You're such a sappy girl, you know that?”

Her sarcastic laugh echoed across the small room. February in Coal Ridge was not very exciting. Temperatures were below freezing most of the time and for the past two days snow piled up outside. While most of the Amber River Valley had ground to a halt because of the snowstorm, someone had to make sure that the paperwork was done so streets could be plowed, heating units at the schools could be inspected, and city folks could get paid. The life of administrators could not afford to stop, and with the building empty, this would be a great opportunity for her to dig into the system. “Don't worry Jason, you're girly enough for both of us.”

“Not nice, Missy.”

Pushing her lips together to make a tight line, she turned. “You know I hate that nickname.”

Jason grinned at her. “I know.”

Hearing him get up from his from desk, she minimized the screen with the past two months of criminal activities listed and turned over a scrap of paper. A moment later, his lips pushed up against her cheek. “It's chilly over there, how about we sit closer?”

“And what, take turns typing? We both have work to do, let's just get this done and we can get out of here.” She wasn't expecting him to be in the office today and it was throwing off her timing.

Wrapping his arms around her shoulders, he muttered, “Seems a little chilly over here too, let's warm you up.” Placing a hand on her back, he shouted, “Friction!” And began rubbing at her playfully. Melissa tried to hold onto her scowl, but couldn't, grinning wide as she pretended to fight him off.

When he leaned in for a kiss, she put a hand up. “Not at work.”

“But we're the only ones here.”

“If we made it in, someone else could too. It's against the rules for us to date.”

Jason sighed. “It's a stupid rule,” he mumbled, giving up and heading back for his desk. “We're grown ass adults. Besides, your cousin is on the force.”

“He and I are in different departments. You and I are in finance; we're supposed to keep an eye on each other. It's a smart rule, it's just inconvenient for us.” Pulling the screen back up, she began to take screenshots of select case files, ignoring the spreadsheet she was supposed to be updating. “Besides,” she continued,” I'm not ready to announce this to the world yet.” Coming back to Coal Ridge, she'd made up a story about a broken engagement to stifle questions about her personal life without giving anyone a reason to look into her recent past. It was a traumatic enough excuse that anyone asking questions would drop it when she didn't want to talk about it, but not so bad that she couldn't enjoy herself without raising suspicions. It helped that there was some truth to the lie. The problem was that she actually liked Jason and that made things more complicated as she had no intention of sticking around.

“Okay, forget Valentine's Day, how about I take you out to a nice dinner to celebrate Wednesday?”

Melissa finished screenshotting the case files and shook her head, a small smile touching her lips. She wanted to say yes, and not just because of the way it would brighten his face, but because he was sweet and polite and thoughtful, and he seemed to genuinely like her. They had started in their roles at pretty much the same time, allowing them to bond as the new people, and then there was the night they went out for drinks. Making out in the car afterwards was probably a mistake, but alcohol is good at mistakes. She could tell he was falling for her and initially she only went along with it to distract him—it was a small office and way too easy to catch one another accessing things they shouldn't—the thought that she might actually start to care for him never crossed her mind. “I doubt anything is open. Can't I just make you a nice dinner?”

His smile faltered. “But it's Wednesday, I want to do something special for you. How about I cook something?”

“Now you're just substituting Wednesday for Valentine’s Day.”

“Yeah, well, you've made your feelings about Valentine's Day clear, so I'm taking a different approach.”

“It's a stupid made-up holiday—” A loud bang echoed through the building. “Shit, that was a gunshot,” she exclaimed, palming the scrap of paper and shoving it into her sweater pocket. “I thought you said we were alone here?”

“We are,” Jason replied, ducking behind his cubicle, “I checked, Margie's not even here.”

“Well someone's here,” she said, pulling the Glock 43 out of her purse. With all the weird things happening in town, Steve had insisted she carry something more than mace, and put her through a more rigorous gun training than he’d had as a cadet. She'd wanted something small that was easy to carry. The end result was a five-hundred-dollar gun that she was able to expertly take apart, put back together, and keep in her purse.

“Don't you think you should get down. It could be a workplace shooting?” Melissa turned an open-mouthed stare at him, narrowing her eyes. “Okay, that was dumb. But still, it would be safer to stay here.”

“I have this to keep me safe,” she replied, waving the gun. “Get behind me and be ready to call 9-1-1.”

Jason held up his phone with the numbers already dialed into the screen, and squat-walked over to her. “I should probably lead the way,” he said, still hunkered down.

Moving past him, she shook her head. “I'm not walking like that. Come on.”

* * *

Chief Carabelli nodded, running his fingers across the metal table in the interrogation room. “So instead of doing the smart thing and staying put, you two went down to the booking room to find out what was going on?”

“I had my Glock,” she explained, a little more defensively than she meant. “But it was nothing; a chambered bullet in the perp’s gun that went off when Greg was pulling stuff out of the guys bag.” She paused. “You probably already knew that, huh?”

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