Page 50

“And you’d have done anything for Samantha Yeager!” Sam said.

“Wait—what? No! No!” Andy protested. “We were in business, yes, and if Abraham Smith had agreed to sell the place, we would have opened it together. Yes, yes! That’s true. But I—I wasn’t sleeping with her. I swear it.”

“You hired a hit man to kill Jenna Duffy just last night!” Sam said.

“No, no! That wasn’t me—it wasn’t me—” Andy Yates’s protest broke off in a moment of pained silence.

“Dad—” David Yates began.

“Shut up! Shut up!” Yates said. “I want a lawyer. We won’t say another word until we get a lawyer.”

Sam looked at Yates, the way he pulled back, and suddenly he knew. They’d been wrong. They’d been close, but they’d been wrong.

He jerked out of his chair and headed into the hallway. He hadn’t wanted Jenna here today; somehow, he’d just felt she was in danger. He’d been worried sick last night.

But she should be at Jamie’s house—safe. Unless someone called on her.

He dialed quickly. The phone rang and rang, and her voice mail came on. He tried calling Angela, but got her voice mail, too.

Jackson came out to the hallway.

By the time he tried Jamie’s house phone, Sam was already running out of the school. He reached his car, and he didn’t know where he was going. Jackson slid in beside him. He started to jerk the car into gear, and stopped.

There was an old woman standing in front of him. An old woman in costume. Hell, it was Halloween.

“Get out of the way, get out of the way, get out of the way—”

“Who are you talking to? Where are you going?” Jackson demanded.

“The woman! That old hag in the road. Jackson, get her out of the way before I run her down!”

“There’s no one—” Jackson said. “What does she look like?”

“Old. Dressed to the throat. In a cap—what are you talking about? She’s right there!”

“No. She’s just there for you. Start the car. She’ll move.”


“Tell me again, who does she look like?”

“An old Puritan woman!” Sam exploded. “Damn you, Jackson, no one is answering a phone. I can’t reach either Angela or Jenna. And it’s not Andy Yates who’s a killer—it’s his wife!”

“Drive!” Jackson said. “And follow her—she’s here to lead you.”

“To what?”

“Life for the innocent.”

Jenna came to slowly and saw a horned god hovering over her. She tried to move, but couldn’t. She realized that she’d been tied to the sofa downstairs, that she was lying in the chalk outline that denoted the place Abraham Smith had been killed.

“Why couldn’t you have let well enough be?” the horned god asked her. “I never wanted to hurt you…I didn’t want more dead.”

“Shut up, Cindy!” someone behind her said. Jenna knew the voice.

It was that of Samantha Yeager.

“Why? We both came in from the back,” Cindy Yates said, impatient. She pulled off the mask of the horned god and looked at Jenna, serious anxiety in her eyes. “He really is evil, you know. Malachi Smith is evil. His father was evil. This house makes everyone in it evil, you have to understand that.”

“Cindy, come on!” Samantha said. She was wearing the horned god’s cape, like Cindy, but she hadn’t bothered with a mask. “Get a grip! We need to get this over with. I have to get back to the shop or I won’t have an alibi.”

“Well, we’re not going to chop her up,” Cindy said. “It has to be an accident.”

“It won’t be an accident. My partner’s on the cliff right now, watching the house,” Jenna said. Her head hurt. Her mouth seemed to be working only with great effort.

Samantha Yeager chuckled and leaned over her. “No, honey, she’s not watching anything right now.”

“You better pray that you didn’t kill Angela,” Jenna said, trying to keep calm. Except that she had panicked at first and jerked against her binding.

It was loose. And they hadn’t bothered to tie her legs.

“If you hurt her, you’ll have to watch out for Jackson Crow. He’s part Native American, you know. He learned all sorts of unique tortures from his father’s family,” she said.

“She’s bluffing, the wicked little bitch!” Samantha said, hunkering down beside her. She lifted a strand of Jenna’s hair. “But your ol’ Indian pal won’t have to be upset—your friend will be okay. I got her with a slingshot from the woods—I was ready from the minute Cindy saw you on the move and called me. Slingshot! I’m good at it, by the way. Like I am with so many things…”

“Like making men think that you want them?” Jenna suggested, carefully inching around in the ties that bound her.

She’d hit pay dirt. She eased back.

“It’s only fair,” Cindy said.

“What’s only fair?” Jenna asked.

“Oh, my husband! My fine, upstanding husband!” she said. “Our son is attacked, and what does he do? He sends him for psychiatric care! A real man would have gone to battle for his child! He would have done something about Abraham and Malachi Smith existing in the same world as our David. He should have done something. But, no! He looked at my boy, my beautiful, strong, handsome boy, and said that he needed help! What kind of a father does that?” she demanded. “And then, oh, he’s such a smarmy bastard! He meets Samantha, and what the hell does he do? He comes on to her! He brought her into our house, introduced her to me and my children, and then came on to her. He’s such a fool.”

“A fool with money,” Samantha murmured.

“If he weren’t,” Cindy said, her eyes narrowing, “I’d have been out of that house by now. And then you come into town and start sleeping with that sleazy lawyer! Bringing your hotshot FBI friends. And when I challenge you, what does my smarmy bastard of a husband do? He yells at me! He yells at me for slapping you, you bitch!”

As if suddenly realizing that her husband wasn’t around to yell at her now, she slapped Jenna. Hard. And then again and again. The blows were stinging, but Jenna used the time to work harder at the ropes binding her.

“Stop it!” Samantha warned her. “We have to figure out exactly how to make this look like an accident.”

“Like you did with Milton Sedge?” Jenna asked, running her tongue over her lips and tasting blood.

“That was me,” Cindy said proudly. “Samantha did in Mr. Andres—with my compliments, of course—and I took care of the rest. They deserved to die! The Smiths deserved to die! They were horrible people. Don’t you understand? They were evil!”

“Cindy!” Samantha pleaded.

“Does it matter what we tell her now?” Cindy asked softly.

“What about Earnest Covington? How the hell could you butcher him like that?”

“I had to! Don’t you understand? I had to. They had to lock up Malachi!”

“Cindy! Stop it, please. Come on, and move! I’ve got to get her head cracked in and then leave her at the foot of the stairs. You wanted to talk to her—to explain. You’ve done it. We’ve got to get rid of her now, Cindy. Come away!”

Cindy started to rise. It might be Jenna’s last chance.

Jenna knew that she couldn’t tear free from the bonds holding her, but she might be able to use her legs to help her get free. She jerked up with all her might, chair still strapped to her back and arms, desperately finding her balance in split seconds. She had no choice of weapon or flexibility: she head-bashed Cindy, causing her to cry out and fall back.

“Oh, screw this!” Samantha cried, and she reached for the old lamp on the table and started to bring it down on Jenna’s head.

Jenna threw herself down and managed to avoid the first crash by tumbling awkwardly away. Her head was still ringing; it felt like it was a thousand pounds itself, and the wood chair slats and rope hurt her skin.

“Cindy, help!” Samantha raged.

Cindy staggered to her feet.

Samantha picked up one of the heavy candlesticks from the mantel.

She raced toward Jenna; Jenna ducked the blow.

Cindy came up behind her with the remnants of the lamp, striking her hard. She willed herself not to feel the pain. She still had no weapon but the force of her own body.

She threw herself on Cindy, taking her down.

Samantha reached for Jenna, grasping a handful of her hair and viciously pulling her up. She rammed Samantha, but Cindy rose.

And Jenna realized that her strength was failing. She fell to her knees, hunched over, the chair covering her somewhat.

But she didn’t want to die….

“He’s here!” she exclaimed suddenly. “Abraham Smith is here…and all those who have died at the hands of others. They’re all here, watching you!”

Jenna had wanted the exclamation to spook the women, but she found that she wasn’t actually lying—the ghosts of the deceased had gathered in the room to watch them.

As if sensing something herself, Cindy stood still in fear, shaking. “Where, where?”

“Nowhere!” Samantha cried. “Help me, Cindy.”

She had retrieved the candlestick and went at Jenna again.

“Abraham, no!” Jenna called, seeing that the ghost was going to do his best to trip Samantha. “Let the law punish them, and it will be years and years…”

“Stop it!” Samantha shrieked. But coming forward, she tripped and landed inches from Jenna, who pivoted on her knees to hit the woman with the legs of her chair. “Cindy, help, she’ll kill me!”

Cindy cried out herself, lifting the coffee table, ready to hurl it at Jenna.

But, before she could, a whirlwind rushed into the room.