The Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency

The Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency

by D.L. Dugger


Publisher BookBaby

Published in Science Fiction & Fantasy/Fantasy, Teens/Science Fiction & Fantasy, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Children & Teens (Young Adult), Literature & Fiction

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Book Description


Abby, Toby and Billy, youthful detectives for ghostly clients, make an engaging return, along with the gruff but softhearted medium Mr. Monsento and UnderWorld bounty hunter Zeaflin. Their newest case begins innocently enough, as a dearly departed resident of the OtherWorld StopOver requests that the sleuths retrieve her ghost cat Fluffy, from a nearby pet cemetery. But nothing is ever as simple as it seems when dealing with the afterlife...

Sample Chapter

“Are you guys up there?” I call up to the treehouse in Billy’s backyard, the official headquarters of the Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency, our blossoming business for ghostly clients.

“Yeah, come on up. We have another case,” comes Billy’s muffled response. So I climb up the boards nailed in the side of the tree that serve as a ladder and crawl inside the small wooden room.

Billy and Toby are sitting at the table we built last summer, watching the ticker tape feed out of the spirit communication machine Zeaflin gave us after we completed our first case with him. Zeaflin is an UnderWorld realm walker, a sort of undead bounty hunter who can traverse the realms of the living and the dead. He provided this telegraph-like machine so our ghost representatives, Mary, and her husband, John, can communicate with us in the living realm.

Mary and John reside in the OtherWorld StopOver, a place much like a living town except that it has shops and restaurants designed specifically for the newly departed. They set up a branch of our detective agency there, and this is how we acquire our spiritual clients in need of living assistance. Mary and John gather the facts, then forward the details to us through the spirit communication device and we answer via crystal ball. Of course, being only thirteen years old (almost fourteen, in Billy’s case), our clientele is a bit limited to cases near home. Or to those that we can solve using our medium, Mr. Monsento.

Billy tears the ticker tape message from the machine and looks it over. “What’s it say?” I ask, crossing over to join the boys at the table.

Billy lets out a disgusted snort. “Some lady wants us to retrieve her cat from the pet cemetery in Morrisville,” he replies, handing the tape to Toby. Toby sets down his root beer bottle to accept the tape, his lips move faintly as he reads it over.

“Is the cat dead or alive?” I ask, hoping it’s alive and took up residence in the cemetery after its owner died. It should be easy to catch, if that’s the case.

“Dead,” Toby responds without further elaboration.

My heart sinks. This probably isn’t going to be an easy case then. Our last experience in a people graveyard ended up with us being chased by a bunch of shimmery ghosts who were desperate to escape the cemetery. Turns out that graveyards are a kind of limbo for ghosts. They can’t leave it if they enter it as a ghost unless they latch onto a realm walker and he carries them out. In our last visit to a cemetery, we had to hide Zeaflin in an urn, covered in the ashes of a spirit named Walter in order to sneak him past a crazed mob of ghosts. If Walter hadn’t helped, I doubt we’d have gotten out of the cemetery without a major battle. Of course, Zeaflin returned the favor by arranging for Walter to be summoned out of the cemetery and into his old house, where he now happily haunts a family of three small children and their parents.

“Guys, what if the pet cemetery is like a people cemetery and the cat can’t leave? How would we get it out? It’s not like we have a cat realm walker for it to possess,” I say.

“Easy,” Billy responds. “We summon it out with Mr. Monsento.”

“But how? We don’t have the required personal item,” I point out before I realize what their answer will be--what it always is with these two!

Billy grins. “We’ll have to dig it up and get the collar.”

Toby leans forward. “Or take one of its bones if it doesn’t have a collar,” he chirps, with a gleam in his eye.

What is it with these boys and digging up graves? Toby suggested digging up a people grave to obtain a personal item in a previous case. Fortunately, we didn’t need to do that since the person had donated his skeleton to the local college and all we had to do was sneak into the school lab and steal a toe bone for the summoning.

“But what if the animal ghosts are all milling around the cemetery, just like the people ghosts were doing in our last case with Zeaflin?” I fret. “Worse yet, what if the cat sees us digging him up and attacks us or something?”

Billy rolls his eyes. “Don’t be such a girl, Abs,” he responds with an annoyed sigh.

I give him a hard look. “I hate to be the one to break it to you, Billy, but I am a girl.”

“That doesn’t mean you have to act like one,” Billy retorts. Tired of this line of conversation, I stand up abruptly to leave.

Toby jumps up to intervene. “Hey, cool it, you guys! Let’s just visit the cemetery first, scope it out and see if there even are any animal ghosts. Maybe animals don’t haunt graveyards like people do.”

“Then why does this client say she wants us to retrieve her dead cat from there?” I respond. “I doubt she means for us to bring her a cat skeleton.” At least I hope that’s not what she means!

Toby looks thoughtful. “You’re probably right,” he concedes.

“I wish we had a spirit binding box. Then we could just suck the ghost cat up and carry it out,” Billy says.

“Well, we don’t. Besides, we don’t even know if spirit binding boxes work on animal ghosts,” I respond. Billy gives me a half-shrug in reply.

“If we retrieve the cat, does Mary give any details regarding how we would transfer it to our client in the StopOver?” I ask. Toby shakes his head.

“It just says to let them know when we have the cat and arrangements for pick up will be made at that time,” he replies, looking over the ticker tape again.

“I certainly can’t keep a ghost cat at my house and I doubt that you guys can either. Sure, maybe our parents won’t be able to see it, but maybe they will. It’s too risky,” I point out. “Mr. Monsento would have to take it in until Mary arranges the transfer, and I doubt he’d be happy about that.”

“Like Toby said, let’s just go to Morrisville and check out the pet cemetery first, before worrying about how to catch the cat or what to do with it afterward,” Billy replies. “Maybe we can get Mr. Monsento to drive us over there. It’s kind of expensive to take the train and I’m not sure how often it runs in the afternoon. Probably not that often.”

I glance at my watch. It reads 1 pm. If Monsento agrees to drive us to Morrisville, we should have plenty of time to check out the cemetery and still be back by 4 pm, if not sooner. And if there are dog and cat ghosts milling around the cemetery, I’d prefer to have Monsento around to stop the boys from doing anything rash.

“Okay, Billy. If you can convince Monsento to drive us to the pet cemetery, I’m in,” I say. We all head down the tree house ladder to climb onto our bikes and ride over to Monsento’s house.


The workmen are just finishing up installing my new front door when I see Abby, Toby, and Billy riding up the sidewalk. The young detectives are definitely a study in contrasts. Abby, with her red ponytail, green eyes, and freckles, looks like she could be cast on the Andy Griffith Show as Opie’s older sister. Billy sports blonde curls and dashing baby blues, while the other boy, Toby, is the polar opposite of Billy, with his dark brown hair and eyes. Come to think of it, I fit right in as the medium for this motley crew, with my salt and pepper hair and gray eyes. Yeah, we’re definitely a band of misfits, all right.

“Hey Mr. Monsento!” Billy calls out, propping his bike up against the side of my porch, next to the stairs. “Getting a new door?” he asks. Abby and Toby add their bikes to Billy’s and follow him up the steps.

“Had no choice, kid,” I reply, watching the workers pack up their tools. “That is, unless I want Zeaflin’s symbols scratched in my door forever. They won’t sand off and I doubt my landlord will be amused if he stops by and sees his door all marred up.” One of the workers glances up at me.

“Did you try 80-grit?” he asks.

I give him a look. “Yes, I did.”

The worker shrugs. “It should have come off easily with 80-grit.” I give him another look and he shrugs again.

The other worker rises from the toolbox, his packing up complete. “What do you want us to do with the old door?” he asks.

“Put it in the shed out back,” I reply, figuring it’s probably best not to have those symbols wind up on someone else’s doorstep. I can chop the door up for firewood in my spare time. That’s if these kids ever give me any spare time. The four of us wait on the porch while the two workers cart my old front door to the back shed. They return shortly with the work order for me to sign and then pile into their pickup truck and drive away.

“Come on, kids. I’ll get you a glass of lemonade,” I offer, grabbing hold of the doorknob of my new door to open it for the detectives.

Billy shakes his head. “No time for that, Mr. Monsento. We were hoping you could give us a ride out to Morrisville,” he responds.

“Is that so? And why do you need to go to Morrisville?” I ask.

“Mary sent us another case,” Toby says, handing me a ticker tape from their spirit communication machine. I read it over.

“A ghost cat named Fluffy, huh? Are you sure you kids are game to go back into a cemetery?”

“As long as Zeaflin doesn’t come with us,” Abby replies. “Or an animal realm walker, if they exist.” I nod in agreement. It was bad enough trying to smuggle Zeaflin past a bunch of angry people ghosts in the cemetery; I’d prefer not to repeat that with animal ghosts.

“And just how do you think you are going to catch this ghost cat? It’s a cat. Or rather, it was a cat, so it’s not likely to follow you home; cats don’t do that sort of thing. And if cat ghosts are anything like people ghosts, the cat may not be able to leave the cemetery,” I inform the kids, wondering if they are planning to dig this cat up for a “personal item” and then ask me to summon it out. Not sure I want a piece of that action.

“We just want to check it out first and see what we need to do. We aren’t even sure ghost cats haunt cemeteries,” Billy responds. I hold up the ticker tape.

“This implies they do. But I suppose the cat’s owner may not know for sure. Do you know how much she’s willing to pay?” I ask.

“Not yet, Mr. Monsento,” Billy replies.

“I thought you kids agreed you should get some money up front, at least to cover any expenses while you work a case. It’s going to cost me a few dollars in gas to run you over to Morrisville for your little exploratory expedition,” I grumble.

Abby rolls her eyes and motions to Billy, who pulls a fiver from his jeans pocket and holds it out toward me. At the price of fuel nowadays and with the gas mileage my old clunker gets, that might cover half the expense of the drive out to Morrisville. I decide to float the kids the rest of the cost. I can always get it back later, after the client pays us. That’s if we can find this ghost cat, that is. Or at least its grave. “All right, let’s hit the road then,” I say, tucking the bill into my pants pocket. I pull out my keys to lock the front door and we all hop into my car for our visit to the Morrisville pet graveyard.


I stop at a gas station on the outskirts of Morrisville to ask directions to the pet cemetery. The clerk behind the counter points at a two-buck, crudely-drawn map of the Morrisville area that looks like the product of a kindergarten art project. Well, that or a finger painting drawn by monkeys; I’m not sure which. I scowl at the clerk and dig out the two bills, pushing them forward with a disgusted shake of my head. Now the kids owe me seven bucks I may never see. I grab one of the “maps” and jump back into the car. Since Billy is riding shotgun, I hand him the map so he can guide me to the kitty cemetery.

Billy unfolds the map and looks it over, then he points to a small square on the map with tiny tombstones sketched out in the shape of dog bones and cat paws at the far left corner of the page. “If the map is drawn to scale,” Billy says, drawing a line with his finger from the tiny gas pump, representing our current location, to the tiny tombstones, “it looks like the pet cemetery is about two miles from here.” I raise my eyebrows. Small odds that map is drawn to scale, but I put the car into gear anyway and head down Plantation Road and on toward Pet Cemetery Drive, as the map outlines.


I stop just shy of Pet Cemetery Drive and gaze down the road. It’s not paved and it’s overgrown with weeds, not to mention there are some deep ruts filled with water from our recent spring rains. My car isn’t four-wheel drive so no way will it make it very far down this quaint, rustic country lane. I kill the engine. “Sorry kids, we’d better walk from here. If the car gets stuck in the mud on that road, we’ll be stranded,” I say. We all pile out of the car and begin the walk up Pet Cemetery Drive, veering off onto the grassy edge when necessary to avoid the mud puddles. After about a half-mile, our destination comes into view.

This pet cemetery obviously isn’t visited very often. The black wrought-iron fence around it is as overgrown with weeds as the road was, and it’s badly in need of a paint job. The small tombstones in this graveyard are all stained green with moss or some sort of mold and some of them have even started to crumble, peppering the ground with bits of marble rubble. A few grave markers near the front of the graveyard are tilting to one side, as if the earth had settled around them and the stone had sunk partially into the ground. Or maybe the occupants of those graves, in a final act of denial, tried to shove their tombstones away and didn’t get the job done properly. Pushing down that unsettling thought, I look around in all directions. There’s not a single building in sight, only fields of wildflowers and tall grass. We are completely alone other than maybe a few animal ghosts, not yet seen. I feel a small shiver run down my spine. Geez, I really hate graveyards!


Excerpted from "The Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency" by D.L. Dugger. Copyright © 2017 by D.L. Dugger. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

D.L. Dugger

D.L. Dugger

Debra L. Dugger has worked in the biotechnology business for over 18 years and, as a departure from penning dry science reports, decided to try her hand at weaving bizarre stories about the afterlife.

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