“But David Yates and his friend claim they saw you coming out of Mr. Covington’s house,” Sam reminded him. “Are they still angry with you? Is that why? David believed, you know, that you had mind control over him and made him hurt himself.”
Malachi had been tenderly cradling the acoustic guitar Jamie had just bought for him. The guitar was a modest piece of equipment, to be sure, but Jamie had been certain that it would make the time pass for the boy. He had strummed a few strings and listened in awe. And then, of course, he wanted to play with it.
But now he paused, frowning and concerned. “I don’t understand. I don’t understand what happened at all. I had just gotten my tray. I saw David Yates and I knew he would try to knock it out of my hand or walk over and spit in my food. I was only looking at him to try and figure out the best way to back away from him. He stared back at me and started screaming—and then he started beating himself in the head. And he begged me to stop! A bunch of his friends stared at him, and then at me, and then they came after me—and I ran. I almost flew like a bird, I was so afraid. The school was in an uproar, and the cops came, but the kids had to admit that I hadn’t touched him.”
“You were never anywhere near him,” Sam mused.
“Had you ever threatened David Yates?” Jamie asked gently.
Malachi looked at Jamie with such confusion that Jamie might have been the one considered to be mad. “Me? Threaten him? Never. Dr. Jamie, sir, look at me. And look at David Yates. He could rip me to shreds in a minute. And it’s not like I don’t know how to take a beating, and I know, God help me, that you turn the other cheek, but…no. No. I never threatened David Yates.”
“Was he acting?” Sam asked. The boys would have all been young teenagers at the time, all about fourteen. Still very impressionable. If they heard talk around town about Malachi’s family, they might believe what they heard.
“No, sir. I don’t believe he was acting. He almost broke his own nose. And he was bawling. Tough guys like David aren’t supposed to cry, I don’t think,” Malachi said. He paused, looking at the guitar again, forgetting Sam and Jamie for a minute. “I cried. I cried so hard it hurt. But crying doesn’t ease the pain when you lose somebody. It’s just something that happens, and you can’t really stop it.”
“It’s okay, Malachi,” Jamie said. “President Lincoln was known to cry. He couldn’t show tears to the country, but he cried when he lost his children, and he cried when he knew how many men were dying in the war. Men do cry.”
Malachi nodded. “Yes, sir,” he said softly.
Sam knew that he had to find out more about David Yates, but he had been threatened, and though he wasn’t afraid of threats, he wasn’t going to lose a case over his own mistakes.
He thought grimly that he was really going to have to depend on her.
He looked at Jamie. It was time that they headed back.
They rose. Jamie gave Malachi a warm hug, promising him that they’d return.
Malachi shook Sam’s hand.
They could hear him playing the guitar even as the door closed behind them.
“Well?” Jamie asked.
“Let’s get back to Salem,” Sam told him. “Have you talked to Jenna?”
“No. Do you want me to call her?”
Sam hesitated, surprised that he was afraid of sounding eager. “We’re headed back. We can see if she wants to meet us somewhere for dinner.”
Jamie pulled out his cell and dialed. Sam waited.
“She’s not answering,” he said.
“Oh, well, we can call again on the way,” Sam said. He didn’t know why, but the missed call made him anxious.
And he didn’t know that he was driving far too fast until Jamie said, “Salem has been there hundreds of years—I think it will wait for us. And Massachusetts, as you should know, can be fierce on speeding tickets.”
“Try Jenna again,” Sam said, easing off on the gas pedal.
He thought that, when she didn’t answer a second time, even Jamie looked concerned.
He decided to screw the thought of a speeding ticket.
Hitting the pedestrian area again, Jenna met insanity.
A group was coming from the wine bar, having imbibed quite a bit, and they were in a good mood as they tried to entice her to join them. Since one was in a clown outfit, she tried to escape by being equally jocular while assuring them she had to meet someone.
Escaping, she hurried around and up the hill toward the cemetery.
She looked at her phone and realized she had missed a call. Jamie. He’d call back; they were probably heading home.
Dusk was starting to fall. Tourists were leaving and the gate was due to be locked. She passed the graves, and tried not to note the air of history that hung there, that whisper of darkness that seemed to carry the shadows of the deceased. It wouldn’t be long before they came to close the gates, but she wandered into the cemetery and walked along the graves, aware of those around her, and respecting them with her silence. She noted the graves of little children, and she felt the pain of long-gone parents, laying their tiny babes to rest.
She walked along the stone wall to the rear of the cemetery and was startled to see a man in Puritan apparel in front of her, his features grim.
“The devil! The horned devil—he is real, and he is coming for you!” he warned her.
She blinked, not sure if she was seeing the past or the present, the image had become so very real and solid.
And then she turned.
In the place where a huge oak had grown right through the stones of the deceased, she saw something. Shadow.
Not shadow. It was far darker than the hazy figures of the dead.
It was real.
A lithe figure in a cape and cowl, wearing the mask of the horned god, stood in the cemetery.
It saw her as she saw it.
Like the grim reaper, it wielded a scythe.
And it started striding swiftly across the graves and the dead to reach her.
Jenna looked around—it was just dusk, for God’s sake! There were still people about.
They just weren’t in the graveyard.
She could hear laughter from the street below. There were still plenty of people around; she didn’t think that they had closed the doors to the wax museum, or the museum or shops across from it—there would be people leaving those businesses, people casually walking the streets.
This was insane. The creature coming toward her with a scythe couldn’t be serious. It had to be someone she knew, trying to give her a scare, or a college kid….
But it wasn’t. And she knew it. This was the same figure she had seen walking in the pedestrian mall, the same figure that in her visions brutally murdered Peter Andres and then Earnest Covington.
As it came toward her, it suddenly began to swing the scythe, backward and forward, low along the ground, just as if it were mowing down long grass or stalks of corn.
The scythe made a whipping sound through the air, louder and louder the closer it came.
When they neared Jamie’s house, Sam had Jamie put a call through to Jenna again. Still no answer.
Jamie swore, an unusual and colorful event. “By all the damnable banshees of the night! Why isn’t that girl answering her phone?”
“I’ll let you out. I’ll keep looking,” Sam said. “Call me if she’s in the house.”
Jamie got out of the car. “Aye, and if she’s not, I’ll start around the common and the blocks around the Hawthorne.”
Sam let Jamie out and tried cruising around on Church Street. There was no sign of her, but Essex Street was blocked off to everything but pedestrian traffic. As he tried to maneuver the streets, the going got difficult. Horrific murders might have recently taken place in Salem, but to the tourists flocking the area, the situation was in hand. The killer had been caught.
And, of course, they were tourists. They wouldn’t be likely targets of a maniac who’d only killed locals in his own realm thus far. Just as the mob had never really threatened the average Joe on the streets of Chicago or New York, visitors could allow themselves to feel safe.
Indians, pirates, crones, vampires and princesses walked into the streets against the lights, and he had to drive slowly and carefully.
His phone rang: Jamie.
“She’s not at the house.”
“All right. I’m parking. I can crawl faster than I can move in the car.”
“She wouldn’t have left the historic area.”
“Is she armed?” Sam asked Jamie.
“I…don’t know,” Jamie said.
“All right. We’ll keep up.”
He swore to himself—far less colorfully than Jamie. He parked at the next opening. A tow-away zone. Screw the car.
He exited and headed for Essex Street, wishing he’d made her give him an agenda, his heart pumping harder with every passing second.
Jenna figured she couldn’t jump over the wall—at the rear of the cemetery it was a huge drop down to the street below.
It occurred to her that she could confront her attacker. But the light from the streets flashing off the honed blade convinced her that she didn’t have what was needed for such a thing.
She should have carried her gun. After the team had been made official—proving themselves in New Orleans and learning that they could be a viable force together—they’d gone through the regular route of Federal training. She was good with a gun. She’d been careful here, not carrying it, because she didn’t want the police complaining to her superiors. Plus she wasn’t entirely used to having it on her yet.
Not such a good plan, despite the finest of intentions….
The creature kept coming.
Keeping her eye on it, Jenna began a snakelike movement toward her right and the back of the museum that bordered the graveyard, using the cemetery’s overgrown trees as a protection against the creature.
True panic gripped her when she heard the scythe being swung through the air, high this time. She felt it whizz by her, and then she heard a strange, hollow sound as it smacked against a headstone.