2018’s Spanish Mission is the second volume in K. B. Spangler’s Hope Blackwell series of novels1.
Seeking to distract her cyborg friend Mary “Mare” O’Murphy from the disquieting revelation that ghosts exist and are quite visible to Enhanced Americans, Hope Blackwell takes Mare and their talking koala pal Speedy on a road trip to Vegas.
This bold gambit sets Hope and Mare up for an encounter with paranormal impresario Eli Tellerman of the reality show Spooky Solutions . Tellerman knows Hope for the psychic that she is. In short order he manages to strong-arm her into joining his latest venture.
It’s an exciting foray into the desert in search of ancient treasure, pirate ships lost in an arid wasteland, and (of course) ghosts.
This is the story:
Centuries earlier, Captain Juan de Iturbe fled rapacious pirate William Hawley during a terrible storm. What de Iturbe thought was an inlet was in fact a storm-fed temporary waterway leading to what is now the Salton Sea, but which was at the time a desert. It soon became obvious that the body of water in which de Iturbe’s ship was floating was now landlocked and shrinking rapidly. In the end, the Spaniard was forced to abandon his ship and his treasure.
Hawley was more stubborn and thus less fortunate. His determination to save his ship from a sandy, landlocked grave did not save his ship. It did convince his crew to mutiny, murder Hawley, and flee towards the coast.
Whether or not all this really happened is unclear. Certainly nobody has set eyes on either de Iturbe or Hawley’s ship in the centuries since the supposed chase took place. Add in embellishments such as a nun sacrificing her life to bind the rampaging ghost of Hawley a few decades later, and it’s an inspiring tale that will lead the greedy in search of treasure. The wary might be more concerned with the manner in which death seems not to have inhibited Hawley’s predatory ways in the least.
Bad enough that the wild story is based in fact. Worse that Hawley’s shade is still lurking, trapped by old magic under the desert. Tellerman’s expedition has provided a bored god with the chance for a diverting little game. Challenge one: orchestrate the release of a predatory, angry ghost from its prison.
This is set in an alternate continuity in which the US is administered by rational players. The story of the landlocked ships, however, has been told in our timeline, where (as far as I know) there is no proof it ever happened.
You’d think an actual psychic, particularly one who like Hope has actually found themselves face-to-face with creatures of myth and legend, would have a far greater sense of caution. I suppose one of the elements that divides adventurers from regular folk is the ability to ignore that little voice that says “This is a really bad idea.”
It’s a good thing for Tellerman that Mare and Speedy are accompanying Hope on this little mission of the damned. It gives Hope a reason not to simply leg it for Vegas at the first hint that there are active ghosts and worse in the area. Contributing to the mayhem: the Spooky Solutions crew, who blithely ignore any downside to investigation of murderous ghosts. You’d think media figures filming horror adventures would have a better sense of self-preservation. Sane media companies stick to safe stories, like features on theme parks with resurrected dinosaurs.
Short, funny, and very fast paced, this functions both as a standalone and as part of the Hope Blackwell series.
1: Hope is also featured in the A Girl and Her Fed webcomic.
2: The good names were already trademarked. < ACTUAL PLOT POINT.