Am I doing the right thing by keeping my secret?

His phone rang through the speakers of the Tahoe. He hit a button on his steering wheel. “Daly.”

“Chief Daly?”

“Yes. You’re on speaker and I have Special Agent Mercy Kilpatrick with me. Who is this?”

“This is Sharon Cox. I’m Toby’s mom.”

Mercy came to attention at the name of the witness she’d interviewed days ago.

“Yes, Sharon. Is everything okay with Toby?” Truman asked with concern.

“Well, not really. He’s been up all night and is extremely upset. I’ve never seen him like this.” She paused. “He insisted I phone you. He’s been pacing and crying and I can’t get him to relax. I’m only calling because I need him to settle down and—”

“What’s he want you to tell me?” Truman said sharply.

The woman’s deep breath sounded over the speakers. “This is going to sound ridiculous, but he says he saw a ghost at Ned Fahey’s home yesterday.”

Mercy smiled, remembering Toby’s fear of ghosts. But Truman scowled and abruptly pulled the Tahoe over onto the red gravel lining the highway. Mercy grabbed her door handle to keep her balance.

Truman stared intently at his dashboard as if he could see Sharon Cox. “Can Toby describe this ghost? Can I talk to Toby?”

“Well,” Sharon said reluctantly. “I guess so. If you don’t mind. I really didn’t want him to bother you, but he’s really getting on my—”

“Put him on the phone,” Truman ordered.

They heard Sharon holler for Toby.

“You think someone’s been in Ned’s house,” Mercy whispered. Would Craig take Rose there?

“I think Toby saw something. He wouldn’t be so upset if he hadn’t. Could be nothing, but it’s worth taking a look.” He checked both directions on the two-lane highway and pulled a U-turn.

“Chief Daly?” Toby’s voice boomed through the speakers, and Truman turned down the volume.

“Yes, Toby. Mercy from the FBI can hear you too. What’s going on?”

“I heard Ned’s ghost! You were wrong that his ghost left!”

“Where did you hear it, Toby?”

“I went in his house,” Toby said slowly. “I know I’m not supposed to, but I wanted to see if his body was really gone.”

“It’s gone. Mercy and I told you that. What did you see in there?”

“I didn’t make it to his bedroom. I heard his voice—he sounded like he was hurt!”

“Did you look for him?” Truman asked. He pushed the Tahoe up to seventy-five, heading in Ned Fahey’s direction.

“No! I got out of there as fast as I could!”

“Could you make out any words?” Mercy spoke up.

“I think he asked me to help him.” Toby’s voice dissolved into hiccups. “Should I have helped him? I was so scared. I just had to get out of there.”

“You did the right thing,” Truman reassured him. “Toby, wasn’t the house locked up? Do you have a key?”

“I don’t have a key. Ned would never give out his keys to anyone.” His voice wavered. “He’s going to be so mad at me.”

“Toby,” Mercy said firmly. “How’d you get in the house?”

“I used the tunnel,” he whispered.

Mercy and Truman exchanged a look. “The tunnel?” she asked. “Where is that?”

“It starts in the woodshed. You have to move a small stack of wood near the back, but I left it open,” he wailed. “Ned always told me to be certain that it was covered back up with cut wood so no one could find it.”

A tunnel. Mercy was impressed.

“Why’d he have a tunnel?” Truman asked.

“So he could escape when the feds came for him,” Toby answered.

Mercy wondered what the old prepper would have thought of her, a fed, trying to solve his murder.

“I ran out the front door,” Toby moaned. “I left that open too. I don’t want to go back and close it. But Ned’s going to be so mad that I left it open.”

“Ned’s dead,” Mercy said gently. “He’s not angry with you.”

“He’s in there,” Toby insisted. “He said he’d haunt me and now he’s doing it. What if the ghost got out and followed me home? What if it’s in my house right now?” he wailed.

“Toby, Mercy and I are on our way. Do you trust us to take care of the ghost?”

Wet hiccups sounded from the speakers.

“We’ll go to Ned’s and then we’ll stop by your house and tell you what we found. I don’t believe Ned’s ghost would be interested in haunting you. He’d be more interested in playing pranks on Leighton Underwood, right? Why would he want to upset you when you helped him out around his place for so long?”

“True . . .”

“We’ll be there soon. Let me talk to your mom again.”

Sharon came on the phone.

“I’m going to stop by the Fahey house,” Truman told her. “Have you noticed any activity going on there?”

“I haven’t seen any ghosts,” she snapped. “Toby gets a thought in his head and he won’t let go of it and upsets the peace of everyone around him.”

“We’ll talk to him after we check out the house. We’re ten minutes away,” Truman said. He ended the call.

***

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