Page 49

“By David Beckett’s ancestor. But what about Smith?” she asked.

“Do you know a Smith?” he asked.

“No,” she said with a sigh. “But decades-almost two centuries-have gone by.”

“You don’t think that the ghost of Eli Smith has come back, do you? I’m telling you, I’m a dammed good ghost, and I couldn’t sneak up behind someone, smother them and then strangle them.”

“There’s no ghost. There’s a human being out there doing all this,” Katie said.

Sean came quickly back down the stairs. His hair had been brushed. “Ready?” he asked his sister.

She nodded.

Bartholomew followed as they left the house, waiting patiently as Sean made sure that he locked the door. Katie picked up the newspaper and read the headline.

“Anything?” Bartholomew asked.

“No. Just the facts we already know.”

“No what?” Sean asked.

“No, there’s nothing new on Danny,” Katie said.

“Bartholomew asked first, right?” Sean asked with a groan.

“Sean, he’s real,” she said softly.

Sean squeezed her arm. “I believe you. Well, I believe something, anyway. Let’s get this straight then. You’re there, Bartholomew? Quit being a horse’s ass! Flipping my hair around is really beneath your dignity.”

Bartholomew puffed himself up. Katie thought that he was going to explode with anger.

He didn’t. He laughed. “Tell Sean that he’s all right.”

Katie did so.

Sean lowered his head, hiding a smile. “Let’s go.”

They walked the few blocks to David’s house.

Sean knocked on the door, stepped back, frowned and rang the bell.

Katie did the same.

“He’s not here,” she said with dismay. “Or, he’s not opening the door if he is!”

“Katie, there’s this modern invention. It’s called a cell phone,” Sean reminded her.

“Funny,” she told her brother. She pulled her phone out and dialed David’s number. He answered before it seemed to ring.

“Katie,” he said, sounding as if he were aggravated with himself.

“Hey. Where are you?” she asked him.

“With Liam,” he said briefly. He groaned. “I should have gotten those books out and given them to you.”

“I can go back to the library. They might have more copies,” she said.

Sean nudged her, glaring at her. “Well? Where is he?” he asked.

“Indeed, where the hell is he?” Bartholomew asked.

She covered the phone. “With Liam.”

“Great,” Sean said.

“Katie, Danny had the books-and you found them for me at the library. I’m not sure how many more the library will have. They’re research books. Look, I probably won’t be more than a few hours.”

“I want to start reading now. It’s worth a try. I’ll go to the library.”

“Wait. You don’t need to do that. You still have keys to the family museum, right?”


“You know the desk where you buy tickets and go through the stiles?” he asked her.


“Third drawer down, under guidebooks with old prices. You’ll find house keys there. I’m really sorry, Katie. And don’t go anywhere alone.”

“It’s all right. Sean is with me,” she said.

“Sure. Sean loves walking around town when the sun is beating down like a mother!” Sean said.

She nudged him with an elbow. “Stop!”

“All right,” Sean told her. “Let’s go get the keys. And walk around some more.”

“We could have taken the car,” Katie said.

“Wonderful. Take the car to drive three blocks here and there-and spend an hour looking for parking.”

Katie laughed. “Bitch, bitch, bitch! David’s house has a driveway. We wouldn’t have had any trouble parking, but we’re not going far! Anyway, walking is good. Let’s go get the keys.”

“Katie? Katie?” David’s voice called to her from the other end of the line.

“I’m here, and as I said, I’m with Sean, and we’re going to go and get the keys to your house. What are you doing-exactly?” she asked.

There was silence for a minute.

Katie waited, but then she thought that she had lost him.

Then he answered.

“Autopsy,” he said briefly. “Be careful, Katie.”

“I’m with my brother. Everything will be fine,” she assured him.

David knew that sometimes people thought of the Keys as being backwoods. Laid-back meant slow.

But the facilities in the Keys were state-of-the-art. The department was small, and like most other agencies in the world, when faced with an anthropological question, human remains might be sent out across the country. But the autopsy facilities were sterling.

David was offered a mask by an assistant.

“Take it,” Liam advised him.

He wasn’t a cop, and so David kept his place in the background and remained silent.

The mask didn’t help much.

Danny’s body had been washed and cooled, but he still barely resembled a human. Gases had exploded through bloated skin and crevices, and his flesh was horribly mottled and discolored.

The medical examiner had a good, clear voice, and he offered facts and figures of the body’s appearance to Liam and two other officers who attended, and to the microphone above his head. He stated that due to lividity, the body was certainly left at an unknown location for some time; blood had pooled to the buttocks, shoulders, back, thighs and calves.

The room was cold, sterile. He could remember similar occasions, but in far less pristine conditions, when he had served in the military.

Land mine, a man’s body all but blown to bits, picking up the pieces.

Unchecked syphilis.

Gunfire straight in the face.

Danny Zigler, more bloated, distorted and discolored than any horror he had seen before.

It wasn’t right.

No, it wasn’t right. And why Danny? He had been a suspect himself, a perfect patsy, just about.

“All right, he died somewhere else,” Liam said, suddenly impatient. “How did he die?”

There was silence. The medical examiner looked at him. “Liam, that’s what I’m trying to determine.”

Still, something about Liam’s words made him change his intended direction. He turned to one of his assistants. “Let’s slide him into X-ray.”

Rearrangements were made. They stared at a computer screen.

“X-ray of the body shows a broken cervix. The neck was broken when he was strangled.”

Sean stared up at the Beckett museum.

Katie looked at her brother, and then the old Victorian mansion.

There was something forlorn about it today. Craig had loved the place. He had believed that he had found a way to preserve a history he loved. He’d been such a good and decent man, and she had really loved him. What was the future for the museum? The oddities museum down the street was already back up and running.

“Hate the place. Hate it,” Sean said, looking at her.

“It’s a beautiful old house,” Katie said.

“You don’t remember everything that happened as clearly as I do,” Sean said. “David had been my friend. Tanya and Sam…they’d been friends. Everything fell apart. Craig Beckett was never the same. David left, the Barnards left.”

“People move on, no matter what,” Katie said.

“Maybe I hate it most because David had been my friend. Did I back away from him?” Sean said.

“We were kids,” she reminded him. She smiled, touching her brother’s shoulder. “Maybe you actually learned from it, and became a stronger person?”

He laughed. “All righty, Katie-oke. Let’s do this thing.”

Katie tried the door, remembering how it had been unopened the night she had come to find David here. What a fool she had been, walking right in. Bartholomew had warned her. But she hadn’t believed at the time that such a heinous crime could come back to haunt Key West again, in the way that it had. She had been worried about a commercial venture, which seemed silly and so long ago already!

Today, the door was securely locked; both bolts were secured. But her keys worked, and within seconds, they stepped into the entry.

Sunlight gleamed in. From the stairway, Hemingway looked down at them both, as if they were intruders on a secret party that raged when the doors were closed.

“Where are the keys?” Sean asked.

“Desk. Third drawer.”

He leapt over the turnstile and pulled open the third drawer. Katie leapt the stile and stood behind him, looking around. Sunlight couldn’t penetrate the whole house. She was pretty sure that David still kept auxiliary lights in the floor, but they were on a timer.

Now, with the sun falling but not quite down, the place was cast in a strange shadow. It was somehow disturbing. Through the door to her left, she could see a number of the displays.

She had never been afraid or uneasy in the museum. Even knowing its history.

The figures were frozen in place.

And yet, in the ghost shadow of the house, it seemed that they might move at any minute.

And, if she were to move into the hallway, she knew what exhibit she would come to. That of the Otto family, Artist House and Robert the Doll.

She didn’t want to look through the doorway that led to the exhibit. Danny had been found in an effigy of Robert the Doll.

She had to look. She had to make sure that the little robotic was standing right where he should have been.

He was.

Sean was oblivious to her.

“What’s the matter with David? Sending us on a wild-goose chase. They’re not here,” Sean said.

“Of course they are. He wouldn’t have told us to come if the keys weren’t here,” Katie said. “Oh, hell. It’s already heading toward sunset. I’m not going to have any time to read anything if we don’t hurry. I’m supposed to be at work soon.”