My thanks to everyone who entered, and especially to those of you whose entries made me laugh out loud:) Our story took a few turns, but in the end, it came together. Here’s how I finished it off:
The end of the story “Not my father?” Maia tripped over the threshold, but Jackson held her up. “But he looked just like--”
“Maia, darling!” the man called after her. “Wherever are you going?”
“Darling?” She forced herself to hobble faster, ignoring the cobblestones underfoot. “Yeah, there’s no way that’s my dad.”
At the end of the alley, Jackson dragged her around the corner and into a recessed doorway. She collapsed against one side of the doorframe; he pressed his shoulders into the other and peeked around the edge. But the sidewalk was empty.
“Who--was that?” Maia asked around (unnecessary) gasps for air.
“Who else?” Jackson muttered. “The enchanting Cleveland Codswallop, the city’s favorite son.”
“Why was he pretending to be my dad?”
“He must need another Carryon--and you happened to be fresh meat.”
She blushed, or tried to. It was hard to blush without any blood. “I don’t feel very fresh. Or meaty.”
“Oh, you’re fresh, all right. Freshly dead. Which makes you just the kind of partner Codswallop needs to pass back over.”
“To the other side, you mean?”
“No. To the living.”
It’s just begging for another chapter, isn’t it? We might have to come back to that:) And now for the winner!
The winner After much sorting of comments (to identify the story ones) and lots of random die-rolling (well, two die rolls, to be exact), the winner came up as…Esther Vanderlaan! Esther, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know which book you’d like (here’s the list again), and where to send it.
Thanks again, everyone, for playing!