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“And someone should read the book and find out more about its history,” Bartholomew said. “Cutter Merlin probably paid a very high price for it because of all that happened after the book was salvaged, and what happened during the Civil War.”

“What happened during the Civil War?” Liam asked.

“Something with the fight in Key West between the Northern and Southern states,” Bartholomew said.

“It was a strange time. Florida was the third state to secede from the Union, but the forts stayed in Union hands, both Fort Zachary Taylor and Fort Jefferson,” Liam said.

“Look,” Bartholomew said, “I was dead during the war. I’ve gone this far. You’re a cop, Liam. Investigate. My new spectral friend, old Pete Edwards, says that there was a book written about himself, a fellow named Abel Crowley and all sorts of stuff going on in Key West. We should find that, too.”

“Thanks,” Liam said. “What’s the name of the book?”

“He didn’t say.”

“Great. Does it even exist still?”

“I don’t know. Hey. What do you want out of a ghost?” Bartholomew asked. “It’s not as if I can walk into the library and ask to get on one of the computers.”

“You’re getting very good with computer keys,” Liam told him.

“Excuse me—do you want my help or not?” Bartholomew demanded.

Liam smiled. “Yes, of course, and thank you.”

“Your Miss Donovan is returning, Liam,” Bartholomew noted.

Liam turned. Katie was announcing their return as they walked toward the table from the shop. “I don’t know—you have so many things already! I perfectly understand you wanting to sort through what you have before buying so much as a magnet!” she added with a laugh. Katie looked at Bartholomew. He grinned. He wasn’t leaving. He was going to torment the three of them through breakfast.

And he did. He might pretend he couldn’t push the keys of a computer yet, but he did well at knocking over the salt, making Liam’s cup rattle and shaking the table now and then. If Kelsey noticed, she didn’t comment.

David and Katie helped Liam trying to rescue various items on the table. Maybe it didn’t matter; Kelsey seemed distracted throughout the meal. When they had idled over a second cup of coffee, she said, “I think I’m going to head home. I have no idea what will happen at the viewing tonight, whether there will be a dozen people there or a hundred.”

“It might be a huge turnout,” Katie commented. “People were fascinated by Cutter Merlin.”

Until we all forgot him at the end of his life, Liam thought ruefully.

“Anyway, I’m going to head home and get ready,” Kelsey said.

Liam started to rise, too.

She placed a hand on his chest and smiled. “I’m all right. Honestly. I think I need a little time. I’ll see you there. Early.” She smiled. She did want him with her at the funeral home.

She also needed time alone.

He nodded, wishing he didn’t feel as if his stomach knotted each time she was going to head to the house alone.

She left them, and he sat back down.

“I think you should do some studying on the occult,” Bartholomew told him.

“Because of the book Cutter Merlin was holding when he died?” Katie asked.

“A ghost is telling me to go study the occult,” Liam said dryly.

“Has Jaden found a description of the reliquary yet?” David asked.

Liam shook his head. “I have to give Jaden time.” He stood himself. “She just took the reliquary last night. I’m going to head out to do some research into the occult—as our friendly neighborhood ghost suggests.”

Bartholomew rolled his eyes. “And I try to help you people.”

“Deeply appreciated,” Liam said. “I’ll see you at the funeral home this evening.”

They both nodded, and Liam left them. Bartholomew followed behind him.

Kelsey enjoyed the walk back to her house. It was about a mile through the heart of Old Town, and she gazed into windows as she walked along, noting new businesses that had sprung up and those that had been there as long as she could remember.

She walked by the beautiful Episcopal church that had burned and been rebuilt, added to, changed through its many decades. She smiled, thinking about the ghost story that involved the sea captain who was still buried in back—and who didn’t enjoy backpackers sneaking in to sleep on his tomb.

She passed the funeral home, and felt a little shiver of sadness sweep through her—Cutter’s body would be there by now.

Eventually she reached Front Street, passed by the Pirate Soul Museum and walked down around the wharf.

Jonas’s house was clean and whitewashed, welcoming as a bed-and-breakfast inn now. She saw couples out on the side patio enjoying afternoon drinks from the little tiki bar.

Finally she started out at the stretch to the Merlin house. She wondered how long she would think of it in that fashion. It was actually her house now.

She smiled.

It would always remain the Merlin house.

She walked up to the porch. At first, she smelled nothing but the sea breeze. She slipped her key into the lock and hesitated.

An odd moment of fear swept over her. And once again, she thought that she smelled death.

She gave herself a shake. She was letting Liam’s fears get to her. She had grown up in this house. She had loved its oddities and curiosities.

She walked in determinedly and closed and locked the door. She leaned against it and inhaled deeply. It was gone. She wasn’t smelling death. She inhaled pine cleaners and every other substance they had used for their scrub down of the house.

She started into the kitchen, but again felt a creeping sensation along her spine.

Something had moved.

Someone had been in the house.

Someone was in the house, watching her.

She looked around. Nothing was out of place. They had carefully locked up when they had left. She walked through the house and assured herself that the back door was still locked, that the windows were closed and the locks were secured on the windows, as well.

That took some time.

But it was good to feel that the house was entirely safe and all bolted down.

She started up the stairs, then paused again, thinking that she had heard a sound from Cutter’s office.

She walked back down the stairs and into his office. She turned on the light and looked around. No one was there.

She walked to his desk and saw that a little figurine had fallen to the floor. Laughing at herself, she picked it up and put it on his desk.

The house was safe and sound.

She hurried up the stairs, wanting to shower, wash her hair and dress for the evening.

When she reached her own door, she was surprised to note that she still had goose bumps on the flesh of her arms.

Giving herself a mental shake, she stepped into her room.

Wondering what she was locking herself in against, she firmly slid the bolt on her bedroom door.

She felt safe. Alone.

None of it made any sense.

And yet, when she walked into her bath and turned on the shower spray, she knew that she still trying to wash away a certain scent.

That awful scent of death.


As they headed for the library, Bartholomew said to Liam, “It’s all quite strange. I mean, Key West is famous for the unusual person here and there, for some great ghost stories and history. Anything that hints of devil worship and the like, though—that’s unusual. But then again, I think it might all have had to do with the fact that Key West went into the spiritualism craze along with the rest of the world when the Fox sisters started their whole craze.”

“The Fox sisters?” Liam asked. He frowned. He seemed to remember something about a movie that had featured the Fox sisters. They had begun an entire movement into spiritualism—but then they’d been proven to be faking their “manifestations.”

“I wasn’t alive when it all came about, so once again, I say you might want to do some research,” Bartholomew advised.

“But you were here. You were just dead.”

“Yes. But I wasn’t running around tapping three times for yes and twice for no or participating in any such ridiculousness!” Bartholomew said.

The library was quiet. Liam might have gone on the computer at home, but if the book that Bartholomew was referring to did still exist, he might be able to get it at the library. And with no one there, it seemed a comfortable place for his strange investigation.

It was extremely slow that afternoon. He had his pick of computers.

Bartholomew sat by him, talking as they went from site to site, starting with the Fox sisters and spiritualism.

The ghost pointed to an old picture on a page of three children—quite innocent and grim in appearance. Liam read, “‘When the Fox girls were children, they lived in a house with a reputation for being haunted. They soon found the attention they wanted when they spoke about the situation, and convinced the world that the house was indeed haunted, that there were taps and lights and all manner of manifestations within their home. The girls became mediums, and had the world fooled. When they were older, one of them recanted and proved how she could make a tapping sound with her toes. The girls’ words meant nothing—spiritualism had taken hold across the known world, and with it, man’s belief in the occult and paranormal in all varieties.’” Liam looked at Bartholomew, frowning. “All right. This all became a ‘movement.’ All kinds of people began to believe that mediums could allow them to talk to dead relatives. The Fox sisters were more or less proven to have invented the entire thing. But it didn’t stop people from believing—or pushing it all further?”

Bartholomew looked at Liam and shrugged. “The point is, the whole spiritualism thing went wild. And with that, ‘witchcraft’ came to the fore again—and Satanism.”

“I can’t believe that Cutter Merlin was a Satanist,” he murmured. “Or even that he was afraid of Satanists.” But he thought about the afternoon when he had found Cutter Merlin. Cutter had been holding the book, a reliquary—and a sawed-off shotgun. Cutter had wanted to be prepared.