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Due North

By Katya Kolmakov All Rights Reserved ©

Humor / Romance

Blurb

A spinster librarian, the ghost of a 1900s British naval officer, and a Canadian dreamboat come together in a story that will make a harlequin novel pale in comparison when it comes to cliches, hackneyed turns of speech, and predictable plot twists. Etta Ryan, a prude and a bluestocking, led on a journey to a mysterious place called Winnipeg, Manitoba, will encounter on her path an unnaturally attractive Canadian farmer; mysterious numbers disclosed to a long dead British officer at a medium seance; a treasure map; a secret cave; and much more. Welcome to the story where plot will make some sense, and a lot of Tim Horton's coffee is drunk!

Prologue

Etta’s flat is haunted - as in cups falling off the shelves in the kitchen, when she and Mr. Thornton are in the living room. Mr Thornton is Etta’s cat. They have very loving relationship, Mr Thornton would never throw cups and plates. The only other living being in the flat is Toby, a weeping fig, but he’s above suspicion.

Etta is a spinster, thirty four, and a librarian. She’s a proper librarian, not the porn version of the job - as in glasses and a pencil she habitually uses as a hairpin and only remembers about it when someone on the tube gives her a look. She has a black cat; she’s a ginger; and it’s Halloween. She’s feeling increasingly alarmed.

She doesn’t like rustling and clanking of invisible rusty clanky things she recently keeps on hearing in her flat. Etta digs into research. Internet is no use. Winchester brothers are way too badarse for her, although she’d probably be chuffed to have a ghost in her flat, if it meant Dean would saunter in it. But no green-eyed, fit blokes with freckles come. She convinces her only friend Terry to spend a night but it’s dead quiet all night through; and Terry leaves dischuffed and with back pain. She wanted to see a ghost, and Etta’s li-lo is horrid.

Etta spends a week trying everything possible. People in the occult shop are starting to recognise her. Salt; candles; chanting; burning all sorts of herbs - leftovers go into a stew, Etta is fond of cooking; drawing all sorts of symbols on her floor - she’s practical enough to use Crayola Washables... Nothing helps. The noises are also getting louder; and sometimes Etta can almost say she can hear a voice. She’s ashamed to admit but she thinks it’s male, velvet, and rumbly. Etta worries she’s just getting the female hysteria, so popular in the nineteenth century; and perhaps she should just consider using her ‘manipulator’ more often. And then the first true proof of the paranormal activity in her flat presents itself.

Etta comes home from work, her feet buzzing, scalp sensitive from the neat bun she tied in the morning; and all she wants is to sit with a cuppa and stretch her legs. Couple hours of BBC miniseries wouldn’t harm either. She unlocks the entrance door, pushes it with her hip, and falls into the parlour, back kicking the door to close. And then her handbag hits the floor, all three hundred of assorted bits and bobs noisily meeting the laminate.

The semi-transparent gentleman in navy uniform of the early 1910s standard is, simply put, gorgeous. But of course the pure fact of Etta seeing a spectral fit man cannot - in any way - be considered an evidence. After all, she habitually imagines similar scenarios during her sessions with her ‘manipulator.’ A large circle of ice under his feet can.

“Hello.” Somehow she decides that the situation requires a polite greeting from her.

The gentleman touches his uniform visor cap, and smiles. Etta has to concede that if the man is indeed a libido induced hallucination, her hormones this time have surpassed any previous successes. Although he’s sort of filtered like a hipster Instagram post, she can see the bright blue eyes, dark hair with a bit of silver on the temples, and a masculine firm jawline. Altogether, Etta’s feeling very much titillated.

“Evening.” He sounds funny - as if his head were in a barrel. There’s some sort of an echo, but she can still appreciate the smoky baritone. Well done, libido, well done. “John Thorne, Fifth Officer, RMS Olympic, at your service.”

Etta blushes and hastily tries to remember whether a curtsey was still appropriate in the early 1910s, when a gush of icy air makes her squint her eyes. And when she opens them, she discovers that the man is gone. Etta’s disappointed. Didn’t he mentioned some ‘service’ just now?

She inspects the quickly melting ice circle. Namely, she places Mr. Thornton on it, trying to determine whether the cat can see it too. Judging by an indignified hiss and a quick escape, the cat can see - and feel - the glaze.

With this settled, Etta goes to the kitchen, makes herself a cup of Earl Grey, and decides that either she will soon be admitted to a cozy institution with padded walls - surely, if she goes completely off her onion, her colleagues will report her - or Officer Totty will be back.
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