Amanda felt her mouth drop open in horror and looked down at her hands. They looked perfectly normal – even the extra short nail on her ring finger. It had broken at the club last night, forcing her to bite off the sharp edges. Her index finger still bore the mark of Friday's paper cut, when the paperwork for the Applewhite affair got jammed in the photocopier. She looked fine, in fact. No, better than fine. She looked and felt better than usual.
Except for the being dead part.
She took a deep breath (relieved to find she could still breathe and feel the air filling her lungs) and squatted by the sofa, extending a cautious finger to the dead girl. There was no resistance against her hand and she gave a bark of nervous relief. "An illusion," she said, collapsing to her knees. "Whoever did this is going to get a piece of my mind."
She looked at her hand, the adrenaline dump freezing in mid-flow. Her hand was inside the dead girl. She wasn't an illusion at all. She was.
She could feel the prick of tears at the back of her eyes and struggled to the armchair, perching on the edge and biting at her clenched fist. This wasn't right. She could feel her teeth against her skin. Was this what being a ghost was like?
She tried to cry; to let the threatened tears spill over her cheeks but no matter how she screwed up her face and touched the raw wound of despair they wouldn't come. Couldn't ghosts cry? She thought they spent their lives wailing and crying.
"I hope you took out the payment protection plan on that settee," said a voice. "Mind you, it's under thirty days, isn't it? You can send it back for a refund."
Amanda looked up, almost surprised by the fact that she wasn't frightened by the appearance of a man in her apartment. A man with horns. And wings. And a tail.
"Of course," he continued. "That's assuming someone finds your body within the next twelve hours After that you'll begin to decompose and the shop will only give you a proportion of the cost since they'll have to sell it as 'shop soiled." He smiled and stepped forward holding his hand out. "You're dead right, by the way," he said. "You are indeed a ghost. Jasfoup de Ville, at your service."