Riddled with relief, she paused.
Plastic. The damned thing was plastic!
She turned and stood her ground, staring at the horned god for a minute. The figure was close, and she could now see that she was taller than the creature by a good two or three inches.
It looked at her, and turned to run.
Jenna wasn’t about to let this fool go. She sprinted after it, glad for the training she’d been compelled to complete, it having taught her how to run well over uneven surfaces like the jagged line of standing and broken gravestones within the cemetery.
The masked figure turned back once and saw that she was almost upon it.
Jenna heard a yelp of panic.
They were nearly back to the middle of the cemetery when she made a dive and tackled the creature.
“Ouch! Stop it! You’re hurting me!”
Jenna eased off and pulled the horned god mask off over his head. She looked down in the hazy light, and saw the least likely of assailants.
It was a kid. She estimated the boy to be thirteen or fourteen, a young teenager. He had a freckled face, and sandy red hair, a spattering of acne and a look of sheer terror in his brown eyes.
“What did you think you were doing?” Jenna demanded.
“Aw, come on, I was playing with you. A little scare for Halloween!”
Jenna stood and reached down a hand. The kid stood, and looked quickly to the side as if he was ready to bolt again.
“Oh, no, no, no! Who are you, what are you doing and who set you up to do this?” she demanded.
He made the slightest turn; she gripped his wrist in an iron vise.
“Ow!” the kid wailed.
“You’re not going anywhere. I’m getting the police.”
A look of petrified alarm came to his face. “No, please! Please—please, please don’t do that.”
“Then you’d better start talking.”
She fumbled in her pocket for her phone. It wasn’t there. Cursing, she tried not to let on that it was going to be difficult to carry out her threat.
The graveyard was empty now except for the two of them—and the hazy shadows that gathered around, anxious for excitement in their endless days and nights. Jenna kept her attention focused on the boy.
“You know who I am, don’t you?” she asked.
He looked away.
“Don’t you?” she demanded, her fingers tightening again around his wrist.
“Yeah,” he said dully. “You’re that whacked-out FBI lady who talks to ghosts—and who wants to let a crazy killer out on the streets!”
She gritted her teeth. “No one is going to let a crazy killer out on the streets. But you, young man, are an idiot. You’re right. I am FBI. What if I’d been armed? I might have taken a shot at you!”
“It’s plastic!” he protested.
“You meant to scare me. If you’d scared me enough, plastic or no, I wouldn’t have known, and I might have shot you. It’s a damned good imitation of the real thing.”
He was silent, his cheeks red. “Look, I’m sorry!” he pleaded.
“Who are you?” She’d thought at first that it might be the bitter David Yates, or his comrade in accusation, Joshua Abbott. But this kid was too young to be either. Those two had to be seventeen now.
“My mom will probably kill me,” he murmured.
“Your name and your mom’s name, or I call the police. And I want to know why you’re doing this.”
“Marty—Martin Keller. And…I just did it because I hear them talking. All the adults in town are talking about you and that Mr. Hall. They’re all angry. They say the cops have a killer and Mr. Hall is such a hotshot attorney he wants to prove that a crazy kid is innocent just because he can. He doesn’t care if they let Malachi out on the streets, because he lives in Boston. And the rest of us will all be hacked up in our beds.”
Jenna took a deep breath. “What made you choose this costume?” she asked, somewhat calmer.
He lowered his head. “We had it at the school for years. Every year, they do a play—about the witchcraft trials, you know? And about the city now, and how we all have to learn to like each other, whether we’re Jewish or witches or whatever. Nobody uses it after the first of the year. Nobody cares about it. I was going to put it back, honest, just as soon as Halloween is over.”
“And that’s it? The costume was convenient?”
“It is a scary costume. Please—scary, huh?”
“What else?” Jenna asked.
He looked away again.
She shook his arm. “I can and will call the police!” she warned. Well, she would—when she found her phone.
He let out a long sigh of surrender and aggravation. “Okay, I wanted to be a big shot. I wanted to tell the kids at school that I’d made you pass out or something.”
“How long have you been chasing me?”
He looked puzzled. “What do you mean—how long?”
“How many days?”
His frown of confusion deepened. “Just…just now. I saw when you left that shop—I followed you after that, and barely no one was in the cemetery, and…I just meant to scare you and disappear, that’s it, I swear it!”
“How long have you had the costume?”
He shook his head. “I just slipped it out of the drama room today, honest. I told the kids what I was going to do. You can ask—they just finished their like once-a-year cleanup thing yesterday. I wouldn’t have taken it before then. I’da been caught.”
She stared at him long and hard. He was starting to shake.
She was glad that he was afraid of her. He might be a couple of inches shorter, but she wondered how she’d make out in a brawl with him. He was an adolescent starting to gain broad shoulders and a frame.
“Are you on the football team?” she asked him.
“Uh, yeah—junior varsity.”
“So you were trying to impress the seniors, huh?” He squirmed.
“Like David Yates and Joshua Abbott.”
“Hey, that kid hurt David Yates. He really hurt him!” Marty protested.
“And you’d be big man on the field if you scared the FBI agent, huh?”
He lowered his head. “Please don’t get me in trouble. Please.”
“You are in trouble. Give me the costume. Get out of it.”
“Here? In the cemetery?”
“You bet. Now. It’s not getting out of my sight. It’s a cape and cowl, kid. You’ve got to have something on beneath it.”
“Boxers and a T-shirt.”
“Then you’re going home in boxers and a T-shirt.”
“What are you going to do?” he asked, his voice almost a whisper.
“Find out if what you’re telling me is the truth. And I’m going to have this costume inspected.”
“For blood, Marty, for blood,” she said.
“If it’s clean, I’ll see that it gets back where it’s supposed to be without anyone knowing. And if I find out that you’ve told me the truth, then this whole event will be our little secret.
“But, Marty, if this was ever used to hurt anyone, there won’t be anything I can do about telling the truth.”
“I didn’t hurt anyone!” he protested, sliding out of the cape and handing it to her. At least, he was wearing decent boxers. On a beach, he might have looked ready for a swim.
She whirled around at the sound of her name. Sam’s voice. And there was a hint of panic in it, of relief—and of anger.
Marty was going to use it as a chance to bolt. With her free hand, she caught his wrist again.
Sam leaped the little fence from the street side of the cemetery and came striding in.
“What the hell…?”
He looked as if he wanted to pull her into his arms.
And shake her.
He eyed her hold on Marty, the costume in her hands.
“Marty wanted to scare me,” she said.
Sam seemed to tower over the boy. His shoulders were far broader, and he just had that look of Sam—authoritative and something like a well-tailored and groomed bulldozer. “I’m sorry!”
She thought that Marty would cry any minute.
“We’ll call the police,” Sam said, reaching for his phone.
“No,” Jenna said softly. “We’ve already been through this. Marty and I have an agreement. I’m going to get this costume to our lab, and find out if there is anything on it. Marty has apologized to me. He just borrowed the costume from the drama department today because he’s heard how much we’re loathed for what we’re doing, Sam. Seems that most people believe that Malachi is guilty, and they want us to stop doing what we’re doing.”
Sam stared at Marty. “Why this costume?”
“Because,” Marty said, his voice filled with exasperation and fear. “It was there. Every kid in town knows it. It’s just a creepy costume and mask from our school events!” he said.
Marty was shaking. Jenna was certain that he was repeating what he had heard the adults around him say over and over.
She almost felt sorry for him. And she was surprised when Sam spoke sternly but evenly.
“Marty, think about it. What if Malachi is just different? If he’s just a skinny kid who is super religious because that’s the way he was raised. What if he didn’t do it?”
“But—but he did do it,” Marty said.
“How do you know? How do you know that for a fact?”
“I’ve seen the TV. Hey, I know they all thought that he killed old man Andres—and that Covington guy, too,” Marty said. “And then his crazy dad—hey, we don’t even blame him for killing his crazy dad, but he could kill us!”
“We know that he didn’t kill Mr. Covington,” Sam said flatly.
Marty shook his head. “No, no—David and Josh, they said that he killed Covington.”