Topper came on, and she groaned, but it was just ending. Next up was Leave it to Beaver. That would do. With the lights and television on, she closed her eyes.
She didn't know how much time passed, but she dozed. Then she woke again as June Cleaver said something to Ward. The sound of a soft laugh alerted her to the presence of someone in her room, and she opened her eyes, blinking.
A scream rose in her throat, but she was so completely terrified that sound wouldn't come.
Andy was there again.
Now she was wearing the handsome black pantsuit in which she had been buried that afternoon.
Her hair was brushed back, shimmering, as it had been… in her coffin.
But her face was pale. Horribly pale, ashen… gray.
Nighttime, prime time.
Whether he liked it or not, it was his city, and Brent knew it well.
The main problem with New Orleans was…
… the ghosts. The damn ghosts.
He hadn't been many other places where he felt such a barrage of sensation, the presence of the dead but undead, or the dead but unaccepting. The cemeteries were far more alive at night than most people could imagine, and the grievances that moved the spirits ranged from bitterness left over from Civil War days to prostitutes who had been done wrong in old Storyville. Victims of more recent murders sought ways to avenge the gang members who had put them in their graves. One old black man in St. Louis Cemetery Number I was still seeking the cruel master who had beaten him into an early grave. Years ago, Brent had tried to assure the man mat his master was long gone, as well. It hadn't stopped the old man from seeking his revenge, and Brent had to admit that neither had he done very well in convincing the haunt, who he knew only as Huey, that the times, they were a-changing.
New Orleans was simply sensory overload. Brent didn't try to explain that to many people. He never freely spoke about his peculiar "calling." When Adam brought him in on a case, he spoke honestly, if somewhat anonymously, with those involved. He had never agreed to a newspaper or magazine interview, since they without fail attempted to be either sensationalist or mocking. He usually worked under a pseudonym, since information about hauntings and exorcisms had a habit of leaking out, sometimes because the victims were relieved, and sometimes because someone wanted their fifteen minutes of fame. Adam Harrison had never been interested in press.
He always came here, to New Orleans, however, under his real name: Brent Blackhawk. Grandson of the son of an old-time war chief, but also, just as Adam had said, a mongrel. Irish with whatever else thrown in, as so often occurred in the country and this city.
Even in the graveyards.
He had a hunch he would be visiting a lot of them. Tonight he thought he would start at St. Louis Number 1. See what Huey knew, if anything.
People loved the cemeteries in New Orleans, and with good reason. They called them "Cities of the Dead," and they were just that, cities of the departed, a microcosm of New Orleans at the present and in the past. The very sight of them touched an inner human core that spoke of man's tragic knowledge of his own impending demise. Broken angels held sacred vigil over the departed. Weeds grew through cracks in masonry. Tombs stretched in haphazard array, silent, staunch. In the moonlight, stone and marble told of both immortality and decay.
The cemeteries were considered dangerous—all the tour books warned visitors to go only in daylight and never alone. They were great places for a mugging, and many an unwary traveler had been deprived of his goods over the years.
Worse had happened in the cemeteries, as well. The great tombs and mausoleums allowed for darkness and shadows, dozens of places for evil intent to lurk. The gates were locked at night, and with good reason.
Brent definitely wasn't afraid of the ghosts. He did have a tremendous respect for the living and the evil they could get up to. He hated firearms, but he respected them, as well. He didn't like carrying a gun, but he was licensed, though generally, he chose not to have a weapon when walking around the city.
But there were places where being armed wasn't just a precaution, it was a necessity, so his little snub-nosed Smith & Wesson .38 went with him whenever he went into the cemeteries.
Brent hesitated at the wall of the cemetery. As he had expected, the gate creaked open. He lowered his head and smiled, knowing that it was mischief and not evil that lured him.
He stepped in.
The gate creaked closed behind him.
For a moment he closed his eyes, steadying himself against the level of unearthly noise that filled his ears. When he opened his eyes, all was dark, caught in eerie shadow. Then a rock went flying by his ear.
"You're not going to scare me, Huey," he said softly.
The old black man came into view, though his color was now decidedly gray. He was in old work pants, a white shirt and sneakers.
He seemed a bit disappointed to see Brent, as if he had been hoping for an errant schoolboy bent on vandalism who he could frighten up the wall. Over the years, Huey had perfected his abilities to work his spectral energies upon that which was tangible. Stories were rife about "experiences" here in the graveyard. Some were nothing more than the ripe imaginations of those who told them. Some of them had a grain of truth. Huey loved to touch the long hair of the ladies who teased his fancy, and to taunt those who arrived here to do harm or carry out a fraternity prank. Despite his enduring anger against his old master, he seemed to take quite a bit of pride in the old cemetery.
Huey hadn't been buried with shoes. Brent had provided the sneakers many years ago, in hopes that the shoes would send him on to his eternal reward.
Huey hadn't gone.
"What you doing here again, half-breed Injun boy?" Huey demanded. Huey called it as he saw it—there was no thought of political correctness in any of his speech.
"I need some help."
Huey shook his head. "You want help, boy? New Orleans ain't the place to be."
Beyond Huey, the darkness seemed to have eased. Brent could then see them all… spectral images, moving about, mostly looking at him impassively. Their presence was faint, a mere line of white against the haze, casting a soft, ethereal glow. A gentleman in a high hat argued with another in a Victorian business suit, the two of them ignoring Brent. A waiflike beauty sat on one of the lower-platform tombs, staring at him curiously, as if she was glad for any break from the tedium of death.
"Huey, you like to be an old tough guy," Brent said. "But you were decent in life, and I know you're a damn decent fellow still. I need some help."
Huey lifted his hands with a shrug, his head cocked to one side.
"Ain't no burials here gonna help you, boy," he told Brent. "Not if you're looking for something specific."
"Yes, I know, but sometimes spirits wander."
"Who you lookin' for?"
"A man. He would be in his mid-thirties. Looked like a junkie when he died."
"He buried in New Orleans anywhere?"
"No, his family was all up in Kentucky. They took him home for his burial."
"So why would he be wandering around here?"
"He was killed here."
"A massive overdose of heroin."
"So you looking for a junkie?"
Brent shook his head. "He'd never taken the stuff before in his life. He was a cop, here undercover, slipping in with some of the bad boys out of Algiers, and exploring the bars and clubs in the Vieux Carré. He's been seen walking about. His name was Tom Garfield."
"I ain't seen him," Huey told him, still watching him speculatively. "You sure your boy didn't come here and go bad himself? I've seen it often enough."
"I don't believe so."
Huey shrugged. "Tom Garfield. I'll keep my eyes—and ears—open, Injun boy." Huey turned his head slightly. "Gotta go."
"You hear that?"
"What?" Brent's hearing was usually fairly acute, but he had heard nothing except the night breeze.
"Get on out of here now," Huey told him. "There's someone crawling the walls in the back. Around here, that usually means a mugging, if there's some fool white boy around to mug." Huey glared at him.
"Huey, there you go again," Brent said with a sigh.
"All right, all right, but you can't tell me that the world has really come right, not after all these years," Huey said, annoyed. "Don't matter what you are. You got money on you? We got toughs in this city who want it. You go on and get out of here. Tend to your business, and I'll tend to mine."
"All right, but keep an eye out for me, will you, Huey?" Brent asked.
"Yeah, sure, me and the others," Huey told him. To Brent's surprise, Huey paused for a minute. "You're not a bad guy," he told Brent. He wiggled his toes in his sneakers. "Maybe you could find out what happened to the old master."
Brent arched a brow.
"Give me a name," Brent told him.
"Archibald. Archibald McManus," Huey said.
"I'll do my best," Brent told him.
"Yeah, yeah, you do that," Huey said, still studying him.
By then, even Brent could hear the noise coming from across the graveyard.
The voice calling the old man was soft, barely a whisper on the air. It was coming from the pretty little waif sitting on the tomb.
"What is it, Emmy?" Huey asked.
"Can I help you tonight?" she asked eagerly.
"Sure, sure, sweet thing. Soon's I get this flesh-and-blood boy outta here, we're on it."
He glared angrily at Brent, who lowered his head, smiling. "I'm going, Huey."
In a minute, he was back on the street.
Huey was right. It wasn't a good time to be wandering around any housing projects. He started back into the Quarter, heading toward the small bed-and-breakfast where he had opted to stay.
He walked slowly, though. The living in certain areas were certainly far more dangerous than the dead, but he was hoping that the spirit he was seeking would find him.