He was becoming a philosopher, he thought.
No. Feelings were what they were. All the psychology and science in the world could never really answer the human question of why emotions raged where they did.
She lay beside him again, and slept, and he thought that again, maybe something as old as man was rising inside of him. He knew that he would die to protect her.
As the morning passed, he held her close, felt her flesh against his flesh, the rise and fall of her breathing.
What were his intentions?
He had never come home to stay. And then again, he had never felt this intimate with a woman, no matter how long they’d been together, no matter what the sexual appeal.
Not the time to think about it. There was a killer out there.
And they were no closer now than they had been ten years ago.
Or were they?
It seemed that the curtains suddenly flew, as if cool air whirled into the room. Katie sat up and looked around, and the ghost of Tanya Barnard was standing by her bed.
She reached out, and Katie took her hand.
“Please…” the ghost whispered.
She looked beyond Tanya. Danny was there, looking at her with prayerful eyes, and at his side, Stella Martin stood, watching her, waiting.
“You must help me,” she told them. “You must help me. Please, think, what do you know? Who followed you, who was with you-who killed you? Show me.”
They shook their heads, staring at her.
She looked to Danny. “The books, Danny-and the money. David saw them in your house. Who were you blackmailing-who gave you the money?”
She couldn’t hear him. His lips were moving. She tried to come closer to him, to study the movement. She wanted to scream with frustration.
I took the books from the library. And then I got the call. Stop. Stop looking for the past, or I would join it. Leave it be, and there would be money. And there was money. I found it under my pirate-skull doormat. And I didn’t know, but someone seemed to think I would find out what happened to Tanya, but I had no idea…that was the past. I kept the money. There was no way to give it back, no one to give it back to, because I really didn’t know.
Katie looked at the three ghosts. “Can’t you help me at all?”
Something, I saw something, someone thought I saw something. I saw Stella briefly. She came to the window, kept her back to the street. But then she was gone.
Stella stepped forward. Now we’re all gone, all gone, and there are impressions and things we see in our minds… Katie, help, you must help, you are the only one who can help.
She had the oddest sensation of being approached by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, all in one. Air seemed to sweep around her in massive currents. She was suddenly standing with a group in back of La Concha Hotel. She could hear the ghost-tour guide speaking, talking about the tragic suicides from the roof, and telling the story of the young man who haunted the place, a young man who had perished in the not-too-distant past when he had been distracted by a pretty young woman and plunged to his death down an elevator shaft.
Danny was with her. So was Tanya. And Stella. They were grouped around her on the tour. The others in the group seemed to be faceless. The guide was wearing a Victorian frock coat and vest, and a top hat. She couldn’t see his face. But then he turned. His face was Danny’s face.
The tour group moved from tragic event to tragic event. All the while, the tour guide talked of the ghosts that still haunted these places. Behind him, like the chorus in a Greek tragedy, Tanya and Stella sobbed softly.
“She’s still here,” Danny said clearly. “She’s still here. Go anywhere on the island, wax museum, oddities museum, history museum, you’ll see our dear Elena, Elena Milagro de Hoyos… You will see her. She is Key West. She is our most famous, and most bizarre, story.”
Tanya let out a long, wailing cry, and the wind shifted and the earth moved beneath Katie’s feet.
They were standing before the hanging tree.
By the tree, the building began to fade and disappear. Next door, where the main section of Captain Tony’s stood, bar stools evaporated, and she might have been on a whirlwind tour through a time machine. Bar…telegraph office…morgue…the visions swept by. Then, the landscape was suddenly raw and overgrown, rocky, with patches around them that were barren. She could hear the sound of the water, coming from the south, coming from the north, and the west. It was all around her…
A man was being dragged to the gallows…
Cursing a man named Beckett who looked on with fierce and furious eyes, eyes that seemed so familiar…
Again, the wind blew; it was as if she stood still while a hurricane raged. Time whipped by her. Fishermen, pirates, wreckers, smugglers and thieves…soldiers in blue, and soldiers in gray, and then sailors from a country united once again. She heard a cry on the wind. “Remember the Maine!”
And then, suddenly, the world was still. She was walking down a long hall in a building.
A strange-looking, skinny old man turned to her, arms before him, fingers flexing. “It is love, love for what is ours, love. Love-ah, yes, and family name. We are all that we create. And I have created love.”
He moved aside. There was a bed, within the confines of an airplane cabin. There was a woman in a bridal gown, laid upon the bed.
It was just an exhibit. Count von Cosel, and his Elena.
But Elena rose from the bed and looked up. It wasn’t Elena. Katie stared at her own countenance. She was there. She had taken Elena’s place in the exhibit this time.
Her own arm raised and pointed.
And once again, she was staring at the hanging tree, and the noose and the dead man who dangled and swung beneath the branches.
“Katie!” David said.
She had let out a cry; she was sitting up in bed, soaked with beads of perspiration, and yet shaking as if it had suddenly plunged to ten degrees in Key West.
He drew her to him. “Katie, I’m here, Katie, it’s all right. You had a nightmare.”
She stared at him. For a moment, her eyes were unfocused. Then she seemed to really see his face.
“It was just a nightmare, Katie. And I’m here. I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
She relaxed in his arms. Then she pulled away. She stood, and she was naked and beautiful and natural, but somehow putting a distance between them, as well.
She sighed, sat back down next to him and said, “David, even if we’d found Danny alive, he wouldn’t have been able to help us. He wasn’t blackmailing anyone, but someone did think that he’d seen something, or knew something. I think he had the books on Key West just because he wanted to make his stories better, but the killer knew that there was something in the books-in the history of Key West-that might give him away. He saw Stella the night before she died. The killer must have thought that Danny saw him then, because he’d seen Stella, and maybe the murderer. That’s why Danny died.”
“What?” David said blankly. Her words were so assured and natural. “Katie-”
“You’re going to walk out on me, David. But you have to believe me.”
“Katie, I don’t understand you. Your words about Danny are making sense, but…you had a nightmare.”
“No. It wasn’t just a nightmare. I-I see things that other people don’t, David.”
It was late; she’d been through a lot.
“Katie, we all have nightmares and dreams. And sometimes, they’re good and they help us. You have a lot on your mind. We’re pretty damned sure that the truth is in the past. Your mind was working while you were sleeping, and what you’re saying might be right.”
She took his face between her hands. “David…I’m…I care about you so much. And that’s why I have to say this. You can leave if you think I’m crazy. I see-I see the dead. When they remain. Not all the dead-some do pass on immediately. But I-I see ghosts. And I’m telling you because you have to listen to me and believe me now. I see ghosts.”
He was dismayed by the harshness in his voice, but he was worried about her. “Great. Ask them all who killed them.”
She rose, stepping away from him. “They don’t know. Sean has always warned me to keep my mouth shut. You don’t believe me.”
He couldn’t bear the distance between them. He stood, walking to her. She backed away, but he caught her and pulled her close.
“You don’t believe me.”
“Katie, that’s a lot to take in suddenly. Please, you have to realize that.”
“It’s all right. I understand. You think I’m…not right.”
“Katie, I think everything about you is right. Do I believe in ghosts? I don’t know-that’s asking a lot. But do I believe in you? My God, yes, Katie, please… Let me digest some of this, huh?”
She was tense. So tense, she was like a piano wire pulled taut.
“Let me just give it all to you then.”
“There’s a fellow named Bartholomew. He was a pirate-no, no, a privateer. He’s-he’s been hanging around a long time. He was hanged for something that he didn’t do. It was your ancestor who came back and indignantly saw to it that the real culprit, Eli Smith, was hanged, as well. That’s when Smith cursed the Becketts. David, please, the killer really means to have his revenge on you. I can’t really communicate with all ghosts, but Bartholomew has been around a very long time. He’s very good at being a ghost.”
He didn’t reply. It was crazy.
He’d seen the pages of the ledger move. He’d been drawn to it, as if a force was trying to make him understand, help him.
“Katie, I can’t just…I can’t just…”
“I understand.” She was trying to slip away.
He really didn’t understand, but he didn’t give a damn. He would try.
She must have heard something in his voice. The words he couldn’t express. Suddenly, she eased, and she fell against him.