Sticky Vixen by Joe Giordano


“You might laugh, but I’ve met a ghost.” Maddox watched my reaction over the coffee I’d given him.

My eyes widened, but I took a beat before responding dryly. “I see nothing humorous in all this.”

He sipped, then placed the paper cup on the metal table between us. “I didn’t actually see her. More like felt her.”

I leaned back, careful not to cross my arms. “Okay.”

“Anyway, ghost is just the scary name for a soul existing outside the body.” He sighed. “Sandra had all the character, consciousness, memories, and perceptions of her living self.”

“Your ghost was female?”

“Must’ve been a stunner. Smart too. She seemed accustomed to getting what she wanted.”

“If she was invisible, how did you know she was there?”

Maddox smiled wistfully. “When I was a boy, on my first deer hunt with my father, I’d squint at shadows and imagine the outline of a twelve-point buck. Squirrels leaping on crackling leaves made me jump. Know what I mean?”

I just nodded, not clear where he was going, but not wanting him to stop talking.

He continued. “I asked my father how I’d be sure when I spotted a deer. He said that when I saw one, I’d be certain.” He chuckled with the memory. “It was like that with Sandra; I knew when her spirit was with me.”

I decided to play along. “That must’ve been a shock.”

“The adrenaline rush I felt slamming the butt of the 30-06 rifle to my shoulder, taking aim at a buck, was nothing compared to the cold chill I felt on the back of my neck. My heart nearly burst from my chest.”

“Where did this happen?”

“A graveyard I used as a shortcut home.” He leaned on his elbows. “Look, I’m a coward when it comes to spirits. If I imagined seeing something out of the corner of my eye, my steps quickened. Oh, sure, if Jesus showed up,” he mused, “I’d ask a few questions. Julius Caesar would be an interesting conversation.” He shook his hands to refocus. “No need to go into an entire list. I wasn’t expecting a female voice to stop me in my tracks.”

“Why didn’t you run?”

“I should have.” Maddox paused, frowning before saying, “She called out, ‘Please. Help me.’ Her tonal quality, plaintive yet sultry and enticing, created images in my brain. She probably put them there.” He leaned back. “Like I said, she knew how to get what she wanted.”

“You were standing at her grave?”

He nodded. “According to the marker, deceased a year. Thirty-two. Inscription read, ‘Too Young, Too Soon.’”

“How did you communicate?”

“Telepathically, real as a dream, like a voice in my head.”

Oh sure, I thought, but stopped myself from smirking. “What did she want?”

Maddox rubbed his chin. “You must understand. Without her body, she longed for stimulation. She missed her physical senses. Being dead depressed her.”

“I presumed souls were transported elsewhere. Maybe heaven and hell are myths, but I don’t sense that displaced spirits are roaming the earth.”

“They would‘ve made contact and you’d know.”

Although I didn’t believe a word he said, my curiosity grew. How elaborate a story would he concoct? Plus, I hoped to trip him up, so I continued to explore his fantasy. “Sandra couldn’t have had much company lingering at the grave. Why didn’t she go among the living?”

Maddox spoke slowly, as if instructing a child. “Ghosts are pure thought; they have no mass. They can’t push off the ground to walk or be carried by the wind. Everything passes through them, so they couldn’t board a bus or a car. That’s why they normally stay put…” Maddox fidgeted uncomfortably, then reached for a gulp of coffee before finishing his sentence, “unless they attach to a host.”

“Sandra latched onto you?”

His eyes dropped to the table. “Not permanently. She had a plan.”

“Tell me.”


We were getting to the nub, and I tried to not let my tension show. “That would require her assuming another body.”


His discomfort was palpable, and I feared he might clam up if I pressed forward, so I took another tack. “Sandra wanted to return as a desirable young woman.”

Maddox brightened. “Not anyone would do.”

“You needed an attractive female, quite recently deceased to minimize decomposition.”

“Otherwise, brain cells die in just minutes.”

“Death couldn’t have been caused by catastrophic damage to the body, or she wouldn’t be much use to you.”

He nodded. “Just as a baby breathes at the moment of birth, Sandra’s soul would give new life to a viable body.”

“You expected to happen upon a suitable dead female?”

He grimaced. “Not exactly.”

“Sandra sought to control her destiny.”


“She asked you to procure a body for her.”

Maddox broke eye contact.

“So, what did she promise you?”

His face looked anguished. “The images she could create in my consciousness.” He shook his head. “She pushed all my buttons. Ghosts can’t have sex, but the promise was clear. If I helped her regain physical form, she’d be there for me. Big time.”

“Quite a lure.”

“We’d pass an attractive woman and she’d start in. ‘Look at that body. You want her.’” Maddox let out a long breath. “I admit, the temptation was strong.”

“What happened?”

“I refused but she kept on me. Then, her tactics changed.”

“How so?”

“She became a raging fiend, insulting, attacking, like your worst nightmare mother-in-law, waking me up at all hours. Sleep deprivation is torture.” He grabbed his head. “I couldn’t take it.”

Although I knew the answer, I needed to hear it from him. “How might someone die, then be revived quickly?”

Maddox wrung his hands. “The plan was to hit her with 100 milliamps, sufficient to cause ventricular fibrillation, a twitching of the heart’s ventricles that leads to death. Sandra would enter the body, ensure departure of her spirit, and alert me to fire a defibrillator I’d attach to her chest, jolting the heart back to a normal rhythm.”

“Sounds tricky.”

Maddox’s head drooped. “Yeah.”

“You selected a young woman.”

“Picked her up at a club and brought her to my apartment. My hands were sweated, my breathing rapid. She thought it passion. I disentangled myself and pushed her into an armchair I’d wired and hit the switch. She stiffened with the surge of electricity, but I’d done something wrong, and all the power in the apartment building went down. My angst spiked. In the blackness, I fumbled for the defibrillator as my mind called out to Sandra, ‘are you in?’ She responded, ‘She’s a sticky vixen, but I ejected her spirit.’ The AED ran on battery. I applied the pads, but she didn’t revive. Panicking, I fired the defibrillator repeatedly. No response. She was dead. I tore at my hair in frustration. No way I could move the body without being discovered. I thought to push her out the window and claim she fell or committed suicide. A building inspector and a cop banged on my door, demanding entry, finally breaking in and discovering the scene. I was read my rights and brought here.” He was nearly in tears as he spread his palms. “I had to tell someone.”

I sat back and took a breath. “You’ll be charged with the murder of Ann Murray, the woman you electrocuted.”

“Detective Bragg, you must understand, I was compelled. I had no choice.”

I stood. “Tell it to the jury.”

After I left interrogation, I stepped into the observation room on the other side of the glass. A female assistant district attorney I’d worked with, in her forties, brunette, had watched everything.

“You got a lot out of him.”

“You heard me Mirandize him again and his refusal of an attorney?”

“Everything’s recorded. I checked.”

“You have what you need?”

“Oh, the confession will stand up in court.”

“He believes what he told me. Does that make him insane?”

She shrugged. “He’s nuts, but criminal insanity, the inability to understand his actions were wrong, is a rather high hurdle. That’s for a jury to decide. If he puts on the same performance I just saw, they might decide to institutionalize rather than incarcerate him.”

“I can imagine his brand of craziness experiencing a miracle recovery, putting him back on the street in a year.”

“That’s cynical.”

“Maybe, but it’s the justice system we have.”

She extended her hand and I took it. “Congratulations Detective. I’ve got it from here.”

Alone in the soundproof room, I appreciated the silence until it was broken.

“Hello Detective Bragg. My, you have such beautiful blue eyes.”

I stiffened and my pulse rate rose. I wondered, did I just hear that?

The answer was immediate. “You bet your life you did.”

Holy shit.

“You’ll need to try that electrical shock trick again. Maddox was a klutz. You’re a clever sweetie. I know you’ll get it right.”

Joe’s stories have appeared in more than one hundred magazines including The Saturday Evening Post, and Shenandoah. His novels, Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story (2015), and Appointment with ISIL, an Anthony Provati Thriller (2017) were published by Harvard Square Editions. Rogue Phoenix Press published Drone Strike (2019) and his short story collection, Stories and Places I Remember (2020).

Published 2/11/21

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