Charlie Ben Studdard did not think of himself as the world’s greatest private detective. He wasn’t the best in America, nor the county. And if he was honest with himself (and he tried to be, sober), he was far from the city’s most diligent. He had wandered into the profession after failing at quite a few jobs. Discipline was usually cited as the reason. The DA’s office certainly seemed to think so. So was he surprised that his case had suddenly gone up in smoke? Not really.

However, the address of the purported jewel thief, the man who’d stolen his coy young client’s mother’s sole heirloom, had been wiped off the map. The building was a desiccated wreck.

It was as if a fireball had been flung down from the clouds to consume that house and that house only. And it looked to have been done decades ago. Which was odd, since the house had been doing just fine the last time Charlie saw it. An hour ago.

Charlie sighed and leaned against his steering wheel. This had the obvious, melodramatic and annoying stink of the supernatural about it. He punched his horn. He’d stumbled from a mystery into yet another ghost story. “Fantastic,” he mumbled to his dashboard. He reached into his coat for his tobacco. He’d have to give Leonard Ephraim a call. He’d just lost a bet.

For more Charlie Ben Studdard & the Amulet Caper:

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