Jenna started to move forward again. Sam stood to block her.
“No, John, please. Meeting the kid was a good lesson for both of us. We know what a lot of the local people are feeling. Let’s not say anything until we know about the costume. I don’t want to make it so no one in Salem will speak to us by having a kid arrested for a prank.”
“If by a bizarre chance something is found…”
“Of course. It would be remiss if you were not to become involved all way through Martin Keller, his parents and the school. Thanks, John.”
He herded Jenna out, and then remembered he didn’t have his car. “Um, John, a ride to my car, if possible?”
The same officer who had come upon them at the cemetery drove them to Sam’s car.
It wasn’t there.
“Tow zone, Mr. Hall, I’m afraid,” the officer pointed out. “You won’t be able to pick it up until tomorrow. I’m afraid you’ll have to pay that fine, too.”
Sam was ready to explode. He didn’t give a damn about the fine, but he did love his car. It made coming and going the distance so much easier.
It was a material object, he reminded himself.
Yeah, but it was his material object. He’d always loved cars. He’d mowed lawns for his car, painted, hauled trash, worked hard. He couldn’t help it; he just really loved cars. He spent a lot of time in his car; it was a place he often spent a lot of time just thinking and calculating his arguments.
“I can drop you somewhere else,” the officer told him.
“You can drop me at the foot of Essex,” Jenna told the officer. “I think that Sam is just going to stand here and stare at the spot where his car used to be.”
She got back into the police car. Sam shook his head. “Right. I’m going to stand here.” He tapped on the hood. “Go.”
He watched as the car drove away, and then he kicked the ground. Damn it. He’d been frantic over her, and now, because of it, his car had been towed.
She lost her phone in the cemetery while accosting the kid who had tried to scare her. What the hell was she doing in the cemetery again—communing with her ghosts? And she was flipping pissed off at him because he’d stopped her from speaking so that he could get a rational argument through to John Alden.
But she was safe. That was worth a car being towed. Well, of course. Logical and ethical. Human life was always the most precious commodity. When life was gone, it could not be returned.
It was more than that.
Tense and angry, he walked back toward his own house. He didn’t find the streets all that charming at the moment; partygoers were out, dispersed among families, just trying to find a place for dinner before settling back into their bed-and-breakfast inns or hotel rooms for the night. There were endless balls in Salem as Halloween approached. Some private, some sponsored by the Wiccans, some sponsored by frat houses and sororities. It was true that every manner of costume known to man could be seen in the city.
As he walked, he turned back to look at a rowdy crowd of fraternity boys. They were all dressed up as Greek heroes.
A Warrior Princess Xena was following in their wake; she must have been freezing her…assets off. The night had definitely grown chill.
He frowned suddenly, stopping dead in his tracks. Just behind Xena Warrior Princess was someone else who didn’t belong in the crowd of Greeks.
Someone in a Celtic costume—that of the horned god, or the goat god. He started walking toward the group. The warrior princess cried out as she was pushed by the horned god, falling over and only just being saved from a hard meeting with the pavement because Sam was there in time to catch her.
“Rude asshole!” one of the Greeks called out. “Thanks—” he began to say to Sam, but Sam was already moving through the crowd.
He saw the horned god, and he took flight after it once again. The horned god turned and saw him, and slipped back into a crowd of princes, princesses, a frog and one Freddy Krueger. Bert and Ernie and the Count from Sesame Street took up most of the sidewalk.
By the time he made his way through the cartoon menagerie, the horned god was gone.
He stood, puzzled. It was a common costume, especially in Salem. At one time, surely, the Christian church had mistaken the Celtic goat god or horned god for the devil, and thus the creature of decadence had become something like evil incarnate.
Pictures of the horned god adorned many of the museums dedicated to explaining what might have happened to cause the Salem Witch Trials.
So why run? Why run away in the costume because Sam had seen him?
Because Jenna was right?
Feeling uneasy, still angry, angrier with himself because he’d allowed himself to get caught up in it all and angrier still because…
She did something to him. It wasn’t like the simple burst of hormones, wanting a beautiful woman. That would be too easy. True, he thought. Men could be ruled far more easily from below the belt. But that was easy, simple. I want you; do you want me, too? His life had been gifted, too many appetites easily achieved.
This…this was a different kind of hunger. Not the kind that was easily appeased, and not the kind that he could walk away from and…
He didn’t like it.
Sam Hall. Oh, yeah, the clever one. Sometimes you’d need to intimidate—investigate. Become a P.I. Size mattered, psychologically, face-to-face with someone in a courtroom. Remember to go to the gym. Join the defense—remember to win.
Fall for a red-haired Irish lass and…
“Ah, yes,” he said softly aloud. “Burn in hell!”
He reached his house. Inside he shed his trench coat and stripped haphazardly as he headed into the shower. Cold first, cold as ice, and then hot, the kind of water to knead the tension out of his muscles.
It worked on his muscles, not on his mind.
Death. Death was what you couldn’t take back. You could argue, you could rail. You couldn’t win against death.
He’d learned that.
And then, tonight, when she hadn’t answered her phone…
FBI agent. Competent. Trained.
Competent, trained people, veteran cops and marshals and soldiers all fell when they were ambushed, unadvised, unwary.
He heard his doorbell ring as he turned off the water. Frowning, he slipped into his terry robe and padded barefoot to his bedroom. He kept his Smith & Wesson in the drawer next to his bed. With all that was going on, if someone was ringing his bell at night, he was going to the door armed.
He looked through the peephole and felt all the tension he had just tried to ease from his body slam right back into it with a searing sensation of heat.
As she stood on her toes to see if she could actually look in the peephole, Jenna saw that it darkened. Sam had come to the door.
It swung open. He stood there, still damp from the shower, wrapped in his robe, feet bare, a rigid and wary look on his face and a gun in his hand.
“Hey, I come in peace!” she told him.
“I doubt that,” he said drily, turning from her. “If you’re coming in, lock the door behind you.”
He’d headed off toward one of the rooms to the right side of the stairway. Jenna walked into the foyer and stood uncomfortably, then turned and locked the front door.
Had she come in peace?
Why had she come?
She didn’t have to answer her inner turmoil; he reappeared, the gun now gone. Her heart was fluttering and she couldn’t seem to breathe correctly, and worst of all, it felt as if there were a burning sensation that stirred in the center of her core and shot down her thighs.
Disgraceful, good God! Sex, desire, they were all human instincts, and all kept under control in a civilized society, and…
“So, what do you want?” he asked flatly.
What do I want?
The dead blunt question took her by surprise. She was disappointed that she couldn’t quite lay it on the line.
“You’re a jerk,” she said.
“This couldn’t have waited until tomorrow?”
She walked over to him and shoved him on the chest. “No, it can’t. You almost put your arm down my throat to make sure that I didn’t speak this afternoon. What? You were afraid that I would just sit there and blurt out to the repressed New England cop that I see and speak to ghosts and that I can also relive certain experiences sometimes by being somewhere?”
“Were you?” he asked.
She laid her hand against her own breast. “I am a Federal officer, Sam Hall, with all the rights that go with that title, and I did all the running, jumping, history, science and arms training that went along with becoming official. I worked hard, and I’m real.”
“You just see ghosts,” he said.
“Hasn’t anything in your life been anything other than a Jaguar? Oh, probably a tailored suit!” she mocked. “Guess what? You can’t take them with you. You, me, everyone dies, Sam. And sometimes there’s a pain, a loss, something that can’t quite let you go. And you know what? Those left behind are here because of their hearts and their souls, things you can’t see in the living. Good God, I’d never expect you to see them in the dead! You see nothing that isn’t completely tangible, nothing that makes the rest of us human! And, for your information, Mr. High-and-Mighty bring-in-the-big-money Hall, I’ve done a hell of a lot more toward finding out the truth in this case than you have. And—” she came toward him again, poking a single finger at his chest “—you mark my words, the killer was wearing a horned god costume!”
He caught her by the shoulders then, his hands not rough, but something of force about him as he backed her against the wall. “You listen! You came to me to defend a kid covered in a blood—the kind of evidence that leaves the prosecution dancing in the streets. You can’t begin to imagine all the motions that had to be filed, and you still can’t imagine what it’s going to be like to find the right jury, and most of all, how dare you? I don’t speak to the dead—dead is dead and gone, and therefore, no! They don’t answer questions for me, not in a court of law. I believe the last time that was tried innocent people were killed for ‘witchcraft.’ And if you’re so brilliant and precious and understand the psyche of everyone living and dead, why the hell haven’t you just asked Abraham Smith who the hell it was who murdered him?”