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Jenna kept an even smile. “And I know who you are, I believe. You’re David Yates.”

He stiffened. He looked across at the other boys. “Yeah, I am. What of it?”

“I don’t want to get anyone off—who’s guilty,” Jenna said. “I thought that you could help us understand what happened. We’re just trying to understand what has really gone on, that’s all.”

“Malachi isn’t just nuts—he’s dangerous!” the second boy said.

“Joshua Abbott, I presume?” Jenna said.

He flushed and looked uncomfortable.

The third boy, Jonathan, backed away from them all. “I’m not even here!” he said. He turned and fled.

“Asswipe!” David Yates called after him, and turned back to Jenna and Angela. He flushed suddenly, maybe due to his choice of language in front of two female strangers.

“Here’s the truth—Malachi is dangerous. And there’s something really not right about him, I mean, really evil. I think that the ghost of old man Lexington got into him—for real. He gave me the evil eye. I don’t care what the fu—what the psychiatrist tried to tell me. I know the evil eye when I see it. He made me hurt myself. I’m not kidding you. I’m lucky I didn’t run into the little prick up here—he might have made me jump off the cliff.”

“Thank God you were just in a lunchroom,” Angela said.

“Yes,” Jenna agreed. They were a good fifty feet from the cliff now; she intended to make sure that they stayed that way. Though these boys were still kids, they were also almost men.

“But now I’ve got another question for you. I talked to Mr. Sedge at the grocery store, and he absolutely swears that Malachi was in the store on the day that Earnest Covington was killed. But you and Josh swear that you saw him running out of Mr. Covington’s house.”

“We did!” Joshua said with conviction.

“You saw him? Malachi Smith. For certain?” Jenna demanded.

Joshua lowered his gaze and his eyes shot downward to the left—and toward David.

“Yeah, yeah, I saw him.”

He was lying. She needed to get to him. The boys needed to be interviewed separately, just as Sam had said.

“I saw him. You’re damned right, I saw him!” David said angrily.

“You bet, he was there. David saw him. I saw him,” Joshua said.

“And what the fu—what the hell? The cops found him covered in his old man’s blood,” David exclaimed. “Say the bastard is crazy and get him locked up that way, but, lady, do us all a favor and make sure that monster is locked away for good.”

“So Mr. Sedge is lying,” Angela said. “Why would he lie for Malachi Smith?”

“Who the hell knows? I know my mom says the grocer is a crazy old bastard, too. He might think that Malachi was there, and he probably was—the day before.”

“Did she say all that about Mr. Sedge before or after he swore he saw Malachi?” Jenna asked pleasantly.

She saw a touch of color come to David’s handsome face. “He’s old and senile, that’s what he is. He doesn’t even remember where he puts stuff or what’s on sale,” the manchild said. “And my father is councilman here, you know. Best friends with the mayor, and he knows the head of the cops and all that. I can’t help it if Mr. Sedge is going into Alzheimer’s. I don’t know.”

“So,” Jenna said, “in a court of law, facing charges of perjury and jail sentences if you were lying, you two would both swear that you saw Malachi Smith come running out of Earnest Covington’s house?”

There was the briefest hesitation before David said, “We aren’t going to court, lady. It’s not going to happen. They aren’t charging Malachi with that murder—just the murder of his family. They figure that’s all cut-and-dried because Malachi was found in the road in all that blood.”

“Naked,” Joshua added with a snicker.

“Well, they just may charge him with Earnest Covington’s murder. I know that the cops are planning to do so. And with the two of you swearing that you saw him, well, they may take a chance and add that to the existing charges. Why not? That would help get him locked away for good, which, of course, is exactly what you both want, right?” Jenna asked.

They looked at her in stony silence.

“Let’s get out of here, David,” Joshua suggested.

“Yeah. Ladies, it’s been great, but we gotta go,” David said.

“Hey, no, you two smoke your…cigarettes,” Jenna said. “We’ll go. Oh, but you should think about this. If the police do charge Malachi with Covington’s murder, you will have to go to court. And you’ll have to swear an oath that you saw Malachi. And Mr. Sedge will be there, ready to swear that he saw Malachi, too. And that could leave the defense with a chance to prove that since someone else obviously killed Covington, someone else might well have killed the Smith family, and that Malachi is telling the truth. You’ve already admitted to being near Covington’s place…as a witness, or so you say.”

She smiled. “Nice to meet you. And thank you so much for your help.”

Angela smiled as well and walked past the two.

Jenna followed.

She knew that the two boys watched them all the way down the cliff. She also got the distinct impression that they would have liked to push them over it.


“You’re back. With reinforcements!” Andy Yates said, smiling as he shook Sam’s hand and then Jackson’s.

“Jackson Crow,” Sam said, by way of introduction. He didn’t attempt to explain who he was. “We’re still beating the same path.”

“You do know,” Yates told them, “if I had thought of anything, I would have called you. I think that Malachi Smith is guilty as all hell, but if I were to find out something to the contrary, I would consider it my civic and my moral duty to tell you so.”

“Thank you, Councilman, I believe that,” Sam said easily.

“We just had a few more questions about the property issue,” Jackson said.

“Ask away. My life is public record,” Yates said. He indicated chairs in front of his desk for the two to take while he walked around to sit behind the desk himself. “I told you, I made a generous offer for the property, and I was refused.”

“You aren’t a Wiccan, are you, sir?” Jackson asked.

Yates smiled. “Me? No. I’m Anglican. Well, I try to be. Can’t say I make church every Sunday, though we try. My wife, Cindy, she thinks it’s good for the kids.”

Jackson laughed easily. “Yes, my parents wanted me in church, too. And she’s right—growing up with a belief system is good for kids. At least, I think it is. When you hit eighteen to twenty-one, you can decide where you’re going in life, but it’s good to have a start learning that life does come with a moral code.”

“Exactly,” Yates said. He frowned. “What would my being a Wiccan or not being a Wiccan have to do with the property?”

“You were going to open a bed-and-breakfast, right?” Sam asked.

“Sure. I thought it would be great. A bed-and-breakfast in a haunted house. You know, when the season is right, people love spooky old places like that with history. Well, old history. I don’t know what it would be like now. I mean, before, the murders were all in the distant past.” He looked at Sam and shrugged. “Actually, I’m undecided on that thought. It could be worth even more now—people can love the gruesome, you know.”

“Do you know the other interested party?” Jackson asked.

“Pardon?” Yates said.

“Samantha Yeager—she wanted to buy the property, too,” Sam said.

“Oh, yeah, well, sure. When she moved in, she came to some town hall meetings.” He shrugged. “Impressive woman. Have you met her?”

“Not yet,” Sam said. “But I plan to.”

Andy Yates laughed. “Well, then, I imagine you’re going for a tarot card reading. She’s awfully busy these days.”

“I guess that’s what we’ll be doing,” Sam said, smiling.

“You think that she killed the Smiths? And Earnest Covington and Peter Andres?” Yates said, his smile still animated.

“We don’t think anything, really,” Sam said. “It’s starting to look like I don’t really have anywhere to go.”

“Why is that? Oh, yeah, I think Malachi Smith did it, but we are a somewhat transient community. Some maniac could have come in and hung around and moved on,” Yates said.

“There you go—room for doubt,” Jackson said, looking at Sam.

“I don’t know if that’s really room for doubt—Malachi Smith was caught red-handed. Or red-bodied, the way I hear it. I’m just surprised that you seem to be giving up so easily, Sam Hall. I mean, you are his defense attorney,” Yates pointed out.

“I’m not giving up,” Sam said, smiling.

“But we are investigating with research into the method and manner of the killings. These were crimes of passion, the way I see it,” Jackson said. “Overkill. Yes, those who are psychotic can practice overkill, but that usually comes with some form of torture. I think these crimes were perpetuated by someone with a real grudge.”

Yates groaned. “I see, I see, I see. And I’m supposed to have a grudge because of my son. Well, I don’t. David is doing extremely well. His grades are high, and he’s being scouted for a football scholarship by a number of major colleges. I don’t bear a grudge. Why should I? Malachi was taken out of school. That was that. I knew Peter Andres, of course. He was a substitute. All that poor guy did was try to help Malachi. I knew Earnest Covington. He came to meetings, too. He supported me. I’d have no reason in the world to hurt either of them—much less want to hurt either of them in a ‘crime of passion,’ as you say. And I suggest that you do meet Samantha Yeager. You’ll feel pretty ridiculous if you are thinking that she might have swept into town, killed Peter Andres, and waited around to kill Earnest Covington and then the Smith family. I’m afraid if you’re looking for someone with a grudge, you do have nowhere to go. And, sadly—and I mean that—that just leaves Malachi Smith hitting a breaking point and going crazy and on a murder streak. Not sure I blame the kid, but it’s a tragedy that Andres and Covington had to die along with the Smith family.”