Page 45

"Right," Julian called after him. He grimaced, looking at Nikki. "Want another drink? Wait, you didn't actually have a first one. That was iced tea, right?"

Nikki slid off her stool. "I have to get home, Julian."

"I'm coming with you," he said firmly.

"Julian, you don't have to come with me. Brent will be there."

"I'm not letting you walk back alone."

She sighed, growing nervous. She didn't want Julian with her tonight. Brent would probably be unhappy to see him. She was sure Brent didn't want to explain what they were up to.

"I'm fine, Julian, honestly. You've been the best friend in the world. I appreciate everything you've done."

"And that's why you have to be a friend back tonight," he told her. "Nikki, I can't go back to my place. Please don't make me go back there."

"You're not a kid, Julian. Tell her how you feel. It's your place. You've got to get her out of it."

"All right, but I'm still going to walk you home first."

When they reached her place, she opened the gate, and he followed her in. "Hey… I can go hole up in the guest room. I'm sure Brent isn't sleeping there."

"Julian, go home. Explain nicely that you're just not ready for the kind of commitment she seems to need."

He nodded, but he still stood there at her front door. "Julian? What's wrong?"

"I just… I'm not leaving until Brent shows up."

She groaned and opened the door wide. "Fine. Come on in."

Nikki had a strange look when she opened her door again a few minutes later. Brent arched a brow, hoping that Andy Ciello, or her spirit, had stopped in once again.

But Andy wasn't there.

Instead, he found someone very much alive.


"Julian didn't want me to be alone," Nikki said.

"Thanks, Julian. But I'm back," Brent said pointedly.

Julian stood up and looked at them both, suddenly serious as he stared at Brent. "I don't know what you two are doing," he said flatly, "but you're not doing it without me."

Nikki laughed softly, and though she tried to speak teasingly, her nerves were apparent in her voice. "Julian, I'm sorry your love life is more than you could take, but mine is going great. I don't need a chaperone."

"You two aren't headed out on a hot date," Julian said flatly, staring at Brent.

Brent crossed his arms over his chest, intrigued. Why the hell would Julian suddenly be so suspicious of their movements?

"Nikki was behaving strangely at the cemetery this morning," Julian said. "I don't know what she thinks she saw, but I watched her during the afternoon."

"You were sleeping all afternoon," Nikki said.

"That's what you think. Nikki, I know you. I know you better than this guy," Julian argued.

Brent clenched his teeth. Time was ticking away. This was his chance to discover the truth about Julian.

But at what cost?

Massey and Joulette would be there. Maybe he should take this opportunity to test the man.

He lifted his hands. "Let's go."

"What?" Nikki demanded.

"Let's go. But get out of that shirt, Julian, into something black. When you're trying to meld with the dark, you need to wear dark clothing."

Julian seemed startled to have won so easily. He jumped up, stared at Brent, then headed for the stairs. He paused halfway up. "Listen, you're not going to run out while I'm changing… ?"

"No," Brent said.

When Julian had disappeared, Nikki stared at Brent, baffled. "You're letting him come?"

"I think he's going to be at the cemetery whether we let him come with us or not."

"But you don't trust him," Nikki reminded him. "You don't trust anyone."

"Like I said, I think he intends to go, with us or without us. If he's with us, we'll know where he is."

"For our own safety, right?" Nikki said a little tightly.

"And his," Brent assured her.

Julian raced back down the stairs then, anxiously looking at them as if he was afraid they'd been lying to him.

"Let's go," Brent said.

They saw to it that Nikki's door was locked, then started down the street. As they walked, Julian said, "Shouldn't we be slinking along or something like that?"

Brent stared at him, trying not to laugh; it had sounded like a serious question.

"I don't think we need to slink around on this part of Canal—there are a lot of people out."

"Uh, right."

But when they moved away from the center of activity in the Quarter, Brent did start to walk in the shadows, and when they neared the cemetery, he had them walk single file by the wall.

"There's a good place to hop over," Julian whispered.

"The gate will be opened," Brent said.

"How do you know?"

"Just a feeling."

It was open. Either someone had come before them, or Huey had managed to get the gate open. They slipped in. The graveyard was heavy with the sound of silence.

Brent inhaled.

Closed his eyes.

Opened them.

And Huey was there. "Not yet. Maybe not at all, but not yet," the old haunt said softly.

Brent nodded, indicating that they needed to find hiding places. He knew a few, but he wasn't surprised when Nikki lifted a hand, pointing. They hurried past a society tomb and on to one with classic Greek columns and a wrought-iron gate.

The gate was open, and they slipped inside.

Coffins lined the walls. Dust lay heavy on the concrete flooring. Broken stained-glass windows looked out onto the rest of the site. A slender thread of moonlight dusted the angels, cherubs, tombs and mausoleums beyond.

"What now?" Julian mouthed.

"We wait," Brent said.

Julian nodded. He sat against one of the inner sarcophagi in the small space.

Outside, the heated earth met the cooler air of the night. A soft ground fog was swirling.

As Brent stared through a ragged break in the once-beautiful glass, he saw forms of thicker mist moving within the fog.

An eerie light drifted toward the mausoleum where they waited.

He held his breath, praying that it would not disappear.

It came closer, closer…

He felt Nikki at his shoulder. He could hear the pounding of her heart. It was a drumbeat, loud and staccato.

"Oh, God," she whispered.

And he knew. She didn't want to be afraid. She didn't want to fear the fog.

But it was growing…

And a sense of cold was forming all around them.

"Man, what the hell are we doing out here?" Joulette demanded.

He was in the passenger seat. Massey had driven.

"Staring at a cemetery," Massey said.

Joulette looked at his watch. He shook his head, then sipped at the coffee in his hand. "What the hell is wrong with us?" he asked. "Why don't we work normal hours?"

"We're cops," Massey said.

"Shit!" Joulette said, straightening.

"What? Where?"

Joulette pointed with the hand that held his cup. And Massey saw that a figure, dark as the night, was moving along the fence.

"Shit," Massey repeated.

He started to get out of the car. As he opened the door, it slammed back at him. Stunned, he looked up.

There was another figure in the night.

And that one was right at his window.

The form began to materialize in front of the mausoleum. Julian, still seated against the tomb, suddenly seemed frozen there.

"What… what… ?" he whispered.

Nikki ignored him. She touched Brent's shoulder.

"It's him?" Brent asked quietly.

"I think," Nikki said.

The terrible sense of cold was filling the tomb. Nikki felt it seeping down her spine. She closed her eyes for a moment, then turned.

Andy was with them.

"Andy, we need you," she said, her voice light as the air.

Brent turned, too, looking at Andy. "We need his help, too," Brent said. "For justice. For him and for you."

Andy nodded, frowning. "It's difficult… difficult to be here. I don't know why. But I'll try… I'll try."

"His name is Tom Garfield," Brent reminded her. "Tom Garfield. I need him. I need his help."

"I'll do what I can," Andy murmured.

Julian spoke up from his place against the tomb. Shivering, lips chattering, he said, "You're both… you're both crazy. Talking to the air. Oh my God, it's cold in here. Cold, in New Orleans, at this time of year. It's the stone, of course… all the stone." There was no conviction in his voice.

Andy looked at Julian and shrugged. "He's still a good guy," she murmured.

Then she walked out of the tomb, a moving trail of light, mist and cold. The somber spirit of Tom Garfield stood dead still, wary as ever as he watched Andy approach. But she reached him. And as her astral hand touched his shoulder, she spoke softly, men turned to face the mausoleum.

"You go first. You're the one he's trying to reach," Brent said.

"Crazy, both crazy," Julian said, shivering still.

"Julian, you've got to be quiet," Nikki said.

"Maybe spending the night with that sexual barracuda would have been better," Julian said, arms clenched over his chest.

"Julian," Brent said in a low voice, but sharply. Julian looked up at him. "You've got to shut up. The ghosts in this cemetery are not the danger."

Julian stared at him, nodded, and seemed to find some resolve. "Right." He only mouthed the word.

Nikki looked out. Tom Garfield was standing next to Andy, not moving, looking from her to the mausoleum. He seemed faint and pale at first, made of narrow light and nothing more. Then his form became more solid. At first his feet weren't there, and then, slowly, they were, and he appeared as much alive to Nikki as he had in the street, as he had every time she had seen him.