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“Kelsey!” It was Liam.


“Oh, my God, you had me so worried. Are you all right?”

“I’m fine, thanks, Liam. I’d fallen asleep. Avery is napping, too.”

“Why are you so breathless?”

“I was downstairs, and I left the phone upstairs.”

“Oh.” He sounded relieved. However, she must have sounded strange.

“Then what’s wrong?”

“Oh, I just gave myself a scare,” she said.

“How? You weren’t outside, in the secured area, were you?”

“No, no, of course not.”

“What happened?”

She laughed. “I really have to go through Cutter’s boxes. He’s got some magic tricks in them. He has something like a magician’s gig—black sheets that shoot up out of a crate.”


“It’s all right, it’s all right, really. It’s a mechanized magician’s trick, that’s all. Where are you?” She tried to be casual. “I was just wondering if you wanted to stay and hang here and get started on something, or if you’d like dinner out.”

She thought that he hesitated a minute. “I’ll be right there,” he said. “Then we’ll decide, if that’s all right. But don’t do anything until I get there, okay? It’s locked up tight, right?”

She laughed. “Yes, sir, it’s locked up tight. Honestly. We came home, took naps and haven’t been out. I swear.”

“I’ll be right there.”

He hung up.

The house seemed too silent. Kelsey wanted to start reading the book her grandfather had been holding when he died, so she took it from the bedside table where she’d decided to keep it. She found her iPod and went downstairs. She turned on every light, brewed herself a cup of tea and walked past the crates with the magic trick toward Cutter’s office.

She felt uneasy. She had spent so much time working in the house. She didn’t remember seeing the open crate, or the magic trick. She set the tea and the book down, went back and opened the crate again.

She was perplexed. Magic tricks weren’t Cutter’s interest. The voodoo altar had been a piece of history—it had been taken from an old home just outside the French Quarter in New Orleans, and Cutter had purchased it from the new owner, who intended a redo of the entire place. He had been a businessman, uninterested in voodoo.

The mummy…Egyptian history. The coffin, a beautiful piece of Victorian funerary art. He had never, in her memory, purchased a cheap magician’s trick. Then again, she hadn’t really begun to go through his ledgers yet.

For some reason, the book seemed more important.

She went into Cutter’s library and took a seat behind his desk. Even with every light in the house on, she was surprised to still feel uncomfortable. Looking around, she found herself believing that something was just slightly out of place.

As if someone had been there.

But no one had been in the house.

Or had they?

Had someone gotten in somehow, set up the magic trick to scare her and moved things around in Cutter’s study?

She stood up uneasily. She heard the brass knocker at the door, and she jumped. She laughed nervously when she realized that Liam had arrived. She checked that it was him through the peephole and let him in.

He clutched her shoulders and looked into her eyes. “You’re all right—really all right?” he asked her.

She smiled. “Yes, of course. Liam, I have an odd request.”


“Is it possible to dust that magic box for fingerprints?”

He arched his brows. “Yes. Why? You don’t think that someone was in here, do you?”

“I don’t see how anyone could have been in here. The place was rekeyed. We’ve bolted all the windows, and the doors have been locked,” she said. “I don’t know, I guess it’s bizarre, but…”

He didn’t act as if she was getting paranoid or losing her grip on reality. She wasn’t sure that made her feel better.

“Avery is with you, right?” he asked.

She smiled. “Yes. He’s napping upstairs. I guess we should wake him, or he’ll never sleep tonight.”

“Maybe he wants to do the town tonight,” Liam suggested.

“Maybe,” she said with a shrug. “I was about to start reading the book. In Defense from Dark Magick. I thought it might give me an insight into Cutter’s state of mind.”

“It might.” He frowned. “By the way, where’s the shotgun he was holding? It was left by the fireplace when his body was taken.”

She frowned. “I believe someone must have moved it the other day, when we were cleaning. I don’t actually remember seeing it.”

“Hmm. I’m thinking we should find it. You read—I’ll start looking for it,” he said.

“Read? Doesn’t anyone ever think about eating around here?” Avery asked suddenly. They looked to the top of the stairs. He was standing there, grinning down at them. She felt a moment’s discomfort, seeing him there and remembering her mother’s fall.

“Come down here, now,” she said.

He frowned at her tone, but obliged.

“Of course we eat,” Liam assured him. “We’ll head out to Duval Street. There’s a nice little place that isn’t too touristy right off of Front Street.”

“Lovely,” Avery agreed.

Liam looked at Kelsey. “We’re meeting Jaden and Ted,” he told her.

“Oh, how nice,” she replied.

“Ten minutes? I’m going to hop in the shower,” he said.

“Very clean,” she teased.

He hesitated. “I’ve been back at the morgue,” he said.

“Oh, of course,” she said. “Oh, Liam, I feel horrible. What did you find out?”

“Gary White was murdered. Someone pricked him in the heart, and he bled out internally.”

Kelsey gasped. “How horrible!”

“When?” Avery asked.

Liam shook his head. “Days ago, maybe a week. Valaski can’t really tell. The body was too compromised.”

“But…shouldn’t bugs tell him…or…larvae or…”

“No. He was probably underwater at first. But he was murdered, and he was murdered here, on this property.”

“Kelsey, you’ve got to leave now. Come back to California!” Avery insisted.

She felt numb, uncertain. There were so many possibilities. She’d been scared. Very scared. But Avery was here now, and when Liam was working, she wouldn’t be alone.

It was possible that this man’s death had to do with drugs or a heist gone wrong; he had broken into her house. He had lived in a world where bad things happened.


There was also the possibility that someone was trying to scare her out of her grandfather’s house. That someone might have done something to hurt Cutter.

She didn’t want to be scared away.

“Avery, you’re here now, and Liam is here every night,” she said.

“Oh,” Avery said, looking at the two of them.

She looked at Liam. “I don’t want to be scared out of here. I want to know what happened. I want to have answers. I need to be here—I haven’t begun working on his collection. Let’s go to dinner. Is there a reason we’re meeting Jaden and Ted?” she asked.

“Yes,” Liam said. “Jaden thinks she’s found out something about the little gold reliquary box that Cutter was holding when he died.”

One of the nicest things about the people in Key West was that they were quickly accepting of friends of friends.

Ted and Jaden greeted Kelsey as if she’d never gone away, and greeted Avery warmly, even though they had only met him that day.

Once they were all seated, before they ordered drinks, Liam asked, “All right, come on. Give. What have you discovered?”

Jaden reached into her bag for a book. For a moment, Liam thought that she was going to produce the book that was missing from the library, but she did not. She brought out a large hardcover book on reliquaries of the fourteen hundreds.

“Wow. It’s that old?” Kelsey asked.

“Yes and no,” Jaden said.

“What do you mean?” Liam asked her.

“Well!” Jaden said, leaning closer. “I found the exact reliquary. I’ll show you!” She opened the book. There was a painting done by an obscure artist from the time period. It showed a man in a monk’s robe holding what looked to be the same reliquary.

“So it is that old?” Kelsey said, puzzled.

“The reliquary first held a fragment of a charred piece of bone obtained after Joan of Arc’s death. The little gold ball that held the saint’s relic inside the box was designed by the monk in the picture, Brother Antoine. He also designed the little casket, or box, that holds the gold ball.”

“So, it was considered an especially holy item,” Kelsey said. “If my grandfather had such an object, I honestly believe he would have wanted to return it to the Catholic Church.”

“Maybe. There’s more to the story, which perhaps Cutter Merlin knew—and then again, maybe he didn’t,” Ted said, nodding sagely.

“Was such a relic supposed to ward off evil?” Liam asked.

“Joan of Arc became an incredibly honored saint, so of course,” Jaden said. “She was a victim of betrayal after serving king and country, and it was said that the fires for her burning were set before sentence was pronounced on her. She recanted her pleas, but in the end was true to herself, her God and her voices. In the fire, she was heard to call out to Jesus many times, and those in the crowd were brought to pity. It was in the market place in Rouen, and when she was dead it was recorded that her ashes were spread in the Seine. Naturally, there were holy men and women who sought a piece of such a famous or infamous woman—there were many such beliefs. The severed fingers of dead men were believed to hold different magical properties depending on whether the deceased had been a murderer, a thief—or a saint. Any relic with an historical claim to holding so much as an ash from Joan of Arc would be highly esteemed.”