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“What about Peter Andres?” Sam asked.

“What about him?” she asked nervously.

“He substituted here?”

She nodded. “And at other schools!” she said defensively.

“You know that Malachi is suspected of his murder?”

She waved a hand in the air. “Rumor, of course.”

“Rumor—of course. But rumor goes a long way. Did he ever teach Malachi Smith?”

“Well, yes, of course…he was a substitute and we often called him in.”

“Did they get along?”

She hesitated, and then apparently appeared to be truthful. “As a matter of fact, they got along quite well. Peter was strict, and Malachi didn’t mind strict. Peter liked the boy. He said that he was ‘special.’ He didn’t mean that in the mean way the other children did.”

“Did you ever tell that to the police?”

“The police never asked me.” She sighed impatiently. “Peter was killed over in Andover, what, about six months ago? Malachi was not one of our student body then.”

Sam stood up. “The boy with whom the altercation took place—David Yates? Is he still in school here? He’d be…a senior, so ready to graduate next June, right?”

“Yes,” she said almost inaudibly.

“Well, thank you, Mrs. Newbury. You’ve been a tremendous help.”

She looked up at him, and her face appeared stricken. She hadn’t wanted to help him at all. She managed a jerky nod.

He left her office, very afraid for the youth of the day.

Jenna had thought that there might be a For Sale sign on the farmhouse where Peter Andres had been murdered.

There was. And it was already showing signs of wear and tear. No matter how great a deal the property might be, many people would be loath to live at a place where a heinous murder had taken place. While they loved to stay at “haunted” hotels and bed-and-breakfast inns, they didn’t particularly want to spend their lives in places with actual “evil” reputations.

Jenna put through a call to the Realtor. The woman who took her call seemed surprised by her interest in the property.

“You want me to show it to you?” she asked.

“Yes, please,” Jenna said.

“I…uh…of course. I can meet you in, say, half an hour.”

“Thank you. May I look over the grounds until you arrive?”

“Um, yes. If you wish. Look, I feel obliged to tell you that the previous owner was murdered in his barn,” she said.

“I know. Thank you.”

Jenna hung up quickly, glad that the woman didn’t press to make sure she had a serious interest in the property.

She left her car on the curb and walked toward the house itself. It was a typical New England farmhouse. There was an empty paddock to the right of the house, and overgrown fields beyond. The barn was to the left rear of the house.

She felt the breeze stir as she walked toward the barn. The day couldn’t have been more beautiful. The air was crisp and cool, and autumn colors seemed to hover around the property in shades of red and gold.

The doors to the barn were wide-open; she assumed a cleanup crew had been in, and that there would be no evidence of the crime remaining. Again she was proved right. The barn was clean swept. It had a lingering odor of hay and horses, but the place was spotless. She doubted that there were even spiderwebs in the eaves.

She walked into the barn. She’d had Jake Mallory perform his computer magic and get his hands on the crime-scene photos and send them through to her email, so she could close her eyes and imagine the scene. Peter Andres had died with his eyes open, a look of astonishment still on his face. His killer had used the scythe first against his throat; the victim had gripped his neck, stunned, trying to fight the flow of blood. He had gone down, and the killer had finished it all off with a few swipes to his chest. The murder hadn’t taken more than a few seconds, the first strike had been so swift.

Jenna stood in the dead center of the barn and closed her eyes.

She could see Peter Andres. He had been a big man, white haired and white bearded. He had been raking autumn leaves the wind had swept into the barn.

She frowned, opening her eyes. She’d had a sense of someone so strong that she had to see if it was real or not.

She was alone in the barn.

And yet…

She’d felt as if there was someone there. Someone, or a something. There had been a figure in a cape and cowl—and some kind of a demon mask.

Halloween. It was Halloween season.

But it hadn’t been Halloween when Peter Andres had been killed. And still, she was certain that she’d had a sense of such a person, looking around the barn door first, seeing Peter…

And rushing in.

The mask had been…a demon face. The figure had been dressed like a caped and cowled version of the horned demon. Satan? Malachi’s father had suggested that despite the fact that the Wiccan religion had no demons, they actually did have a devil, one of their earth gods in disguise. She didn’t know that much about the religion, but she knew that it was far different than the kind of imagined “witchcraft” that people had been persecuted for in the past.

She closed her eyes again. There was a rush in the air around her, a rush of movement. Peter Andres had been taken entirely by surprise. A big man, he could have defended himself.

He’d never had the chance.

He’d looked up from his work to see the figure racing toward him. He’d been confused, frowning over the evil vestige of the whirlwind hurtling into his body. He probably hadn’t even noticed that the demon-thing was carrying a scythe.

She felt movement in the air. Someone was there.

She opened her eyes, backing away, instinct warning her of danger.

And ran into a little blonde woman.

“Miss Duffy? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. I’m Alison Chart, the Realtor.”

Councilman Andy Yates didn’t give Sam any kind of a runaround.

Sam stopped in at his office on Pickering Wharf, where, when not being a councilman, Andy Yates bought and sold period furniture and collectibles.

The young secretary in the front vestibule was a man, and he apparently recognized Sam. Sam had to be more than a decade older than the fresh-faced twenty-something sitting there, so he knew he wasn’t an old acquaintance.

“Sorry for staring, Mr. Hall. I know you from the magazines.” He stood to shake Sam’s hand. “I’ll tell Mr. Yates that you’re here. Oh, sorry, I’m Greg Mason. Glad to meet you.” He walked straight to the door of the inner office and tapped on it. Opening it, he announced Sam’s arrival.

Andy Yates was standing when Sam entered. He was a man in his early forties, trim and in shape, with a pleasant face and a headful of sandy-brown hair. He shook Sam’s hand. “I’ve heard you’re defending Malachi Smith. I’m glad to hear it. I’m sorry for that young man. He needs to be locked up, of course, but I’m sorry for him. He didn’t have much of a chance, living at Lexington House with that strange family of his.”

“That’s generous of you, Mr. Yates,” Sam said.

“Andy, please. I’m a man of the people—or I try to be,” Yates said, offering Sam a grin and a shrug. Sam could see how he made a good politician. He was self-effacing, and had slightly aging boy-next-door charm that surely stood him well. “Sit down, please. How can I help you here in our small town?” Grinning, he returned to his swivel chair behind the desk; Sam sat in the comfortably upholstered chair in front of the desk.

Sam grinned, as well. “I’m from here, actually.”

“That’s right. I’d forgotten. I’m actually from Marblehead.”

“Beautiful place, and around the corner,” Sam said.

Yates nodded. “Listen, I’m more than happy to help you—I’m just not sure how.”

“Well, I’d appreciate it if you could explain to me what happened between your son, David, and Malachi Smith.”

Yates sighed, looking down at his folded hands. “Well, I bet you know the basic story of the staring and the lunch tray and whatnot. But it’s something I never understood—and wanted to forget. And, of course, I was worried sick about my own boy, but furious with the whole group of his friends for teasing that poor Smith kid so mercilessly.”

“How badly was your son hurt?” Sam asked.

“He spent a night in the hospital, mostly precautionary. There was no major damage done, and he did it himself. He told me that Malachi gave him the evil eye, and every one of his friends agreed, of course. But I never really knew what to think…. I love my son, of course, Mr. Hall.”

“Sam, since you’re Andy.”

“Sam,” Yates said. He shook his head, as if still in bewilderment three years later. “I took David to a doctor, of course. A psychiatrist.”

“Not Jamie O’Neill?” Sam asked.

“Jamie O’Neill is the best in the area, in my opinion. But my wife didn’t want any kind of a conflict of interest. We took him to a Dr. Hawkins at UMass. Hawkins told us that suggestion could make people do all kinds of things. If David believed that Malachi Smith was giving him the evil eye, it was real in his own mind.”

“You didn’t harbor any ill will toward Malachi?”

Yates sniffed. “The kid? No. I blamed it on the parents. Strict—and maybe they bought into those house legends or something. You know, I tried to buy the house. Old Abraham wouldn’t sell. And then I tried to forget the whole lunchroom thing. I mean, there was really nothing to be done. On the council here, we’re always trying to keep a good balance going between our population of traditionalists, Wiccans, atheists—hell, you name it. The world moves on, you know? I thought that social services should have moved in, but apparently the Smiths didn’t beat the kid, they didn’t do anything illegal. They were just ridiculously strict, from what I hear. No one could help Malachi. Frankly, I’m not surprised that the boy finally freaked out and lashed out on his folks.”