“In my experience,” she said evenly, “a ghost has never killed anyone.”
“Kill someone? Ghosts don’t even—” But he cut himself short.
Ass, he told himself. She was being even-keeled. He was looking like a superior fool.
“I’m sorry, Jamie, I’m not sure how we can possibly solve this thing, really. The kid was covered in blood. John Alden has arrested him.”
“So,” Jamie said, smiling, “that should get you going! It’s too easy—way too easy—to take that line of defense. You should step up to the plate quickly. Please, Sam! Come on—they’ll give him some kid fresh out of school as his public defender. Doesn’t this interest you?”
“It is quite a challenge,” Jenna said.
Sam groaned. “How about I sleep on it?”
“Evidence is growing cold,” Jamie told him.
Jenna smiled suddenly, looking at him. “You’re going to do it, and you know you’re going to do it.”
“Oh? Out of the kindness of my heart?” Sam asked.
“Maybe,” she said. “More likely, because it is such a challenge. If you pull this off, you’ll be known not just as an incredible attorney, but as a miracle worker.”
Sam stood, not sure why the meeting with Jamie O’Neill and his niece had seemed to set him so off balance.
Could he do it? Yes. He didn’t need money. Was it an intriguing challenge? Maybe—and maybe it was more likely that the kid had done it.
“I’ll let you know in the morning,” he said, and walked away from the table. Then he headed back. “Look, I don’t think you know how much is involved here. Besides the filing, the briefs…paperwork you can’t even begin to imagine. And then, yes, investigating this? When the police think that they have their man? Not to mention the fact that you don’t have a plausible alternate suspect. In fact, none of us has a clue.”
For a moment he saw something in Jenna’s eyes that agreed with him, and he wondered if Jamie hadn’t managed to challenge his niece into this, as well. But just as quickly as the glint appeared, it vanished. Now, when she stared up at him, her eyes seemed as sharp as her tone. “Two other people were murdered and no arrests were made. With no real evidence, it’s being quietly assumed that Malachi Smith murdered those other men, as well. He hasn’t been charged with those murders, and I don’t believe that they have a plan to charge him with them because they do have conflicting evidence where Peter Andres and Earnest Covington are concerned. So, in fact, you won’t be going against the police if you are to claim to primarily be looking at those two incidents. There are plenty of places to start, Mr. Hall. Who were the other victims? What enemies might they have had? And what about the church Malachi Smith was involved with? It certainly had to be out of the ordinary.”
“And you’re going to investigate all this?” he asked her.
She smiled serenely. “I do have friends, Mr. Hall.”
“Ah, yes, team members.”
“I’ll remind you that most of the cases we solve are at first thought to be almost impossible,” Jenna said.
He couldn’t decide what was really going on in her mind, her voice remained so even, and she maintained such an unruffled calm. He couldn’t help but goad her on.
“Funny—I thought the NYPD had something to do with that last one!”
“The point is, Mr. Hall, no one is asking you to do all the work. I’m not a lawyer, but I do know how to work my way around legend and superstition, and the head of my team is one of the foremost behavioral scientists in the country. We can help you.”
“And the police are just going to let you snoop around?” he asked.
“You, as the defense attorney, will demand that leeway be given in your investigation—for the benefit of your client, of course,” Jenna said impatiently.
He didn’t know why he was feeling such a hot tension, or why his muscles seemed to be bunching and his temper flaring.
Because he didn’t think that they could do it? As much as he didn’t want to think of the boy as a murderer, it seemed the most logical scenario.
He looked back at Jamie. “I’ll let you know in the morning,” he said, and strode out of the room.
Jenna looked at her uncle long and hard after Sam had left, then finally spoke. “I’m not so sure that telling Sam Hall who I am and what I do was the best move you might have made.”
“And why not?” Jamie asked indignantly.
“Some people accept that the team gets the job done. And some people think that it’s a joke. Even among the Feds,” she told him.
“You can find the truth. I know that you can find who did this—you always had the knack.”
“Oh, Jamie! Please, I’m not a miracle worker, either…. And, you have to be ready for whatever we do find. We don’t know that Malachi didn’t commit the murders yet.”
“I know,” he said quietly. “But, never mind that now—what would you like for dinner?”
She laughed. “Nice change of pace! Scrod, of course. Only in New England can you have really wonderful scrod!”
Jamie veered the conversation away from Malachi while they ate. He talked about “Haunted Happenings,” an October event that brought tourism to Salem. He was a man who had his own deep and binding beliefs, but he was also fascinated by the faiths that others believed in. There were Wiccans in the city who were really Wiccans, believing in the gods and goddesses of the earth and in doing no harm to others, lest it come back threefold. And, he advised her, there were Wiccans in the city who were Wiccans because it was a very nice commercial venture in “Witch City.” There were parades and balls, special events for children, theatrical programs on the tall ships at Derby Wharf and so much more.
“Now, you don’t mind staying awhile, really, do you? I rather threw you into that—I mean, saying that you’d investigate,” Jamie said. “And I know, too, that you’re employed by the government, that you have responsibilities—”
“It’s all right. A few team members are still in New York tying up some loose ends from our last case, and a few are in Virginia, outside of D.C., setting up our new offices.”
He let out a contented sigh. “So you can stay.”
She smiled. “Jamie, I knew from the beginning that you invited me up here for a reason. I didn’t realize I’d arrive in time for it to really…begin in earnest.”
He watched her oddly.
“You always had it, you know,” he said.
Jenna was quiet at that. Her grandmother had entertained her when she had been a child with the myths and legends of Eire. She would tell a fantastic story about banshees—and then remind her that, now and again, many a tale had started at a pub. There were spirits—and then again, there were spirits.
It was true. Her cousin, Liam, who had become a writer, had done so discovering that the fantastic tales he could tell after a night at the pub could be put down on paper—and pay.
It was equally true that a number of people in her family had seemed to have some kind of a special sense. They could often feel a place, and know that violence had been committed there. They were prone to hearing the footsteps of the ghosties as they moved about in a place, and they could sense the presence of something that remained, even after years had gone by.
But the first time she’d known she had some kind of sight was when she’d been working as an R.N., and had been down in the morgue on some business.
A corpse had spoken to her. He insisted he hadn’t died of natural causes, as would be assumed. He’d been helped into the great hereafter by a greedy family member.
Of course, that first time, she’d felt the speed of her heart escalate to dangerous levels. She wondered if, frequently, ghosts did not speak to their loved ones because they were afraid of giving them heart attacks—thus prematurely making ghosts of them, as well.
And, certainly, not every soul chose to walk the earth. Some remained because they felt they had unfinished business. Some remained because of the violence of their demise. Some had something that needed to be said, and some felt that their antecedents needed protecting.
“Uncle Jamie,” she said, moving her fish around on the plate, “you’re thinking that this is going to be a far easier thing than it is.” She spoke softly, looking around. “Perhaps I do have what you call ‘the sight.’ It doesn’t mean that I can go and see the corpse of Abraham Smith and he’ll tell me who did him in. He may not have remained behind, and if he did, he may not be able to communicate. We’ve never had an instance where it was easy and cut-and-dried—where we just walked into a morgue and said, Hey! Who’s the guilty one? Ghosts can help, but in many different ways.”
He was watching her, listening intently. At least, with Jamie, she never had to try to pretend. Jamie told her once that he believed in the “holy ghost,” and if he said so in a creed he spoke at religious services, he’d be an idiot not to believe that there was more beyond the average range of sight. Faith, he told her, was belief in what couldn’t be seen. If a man had faith, he couldn’t always doubt what he couldn’t see. Most people had faith—even if their faith was different. A lot of different roads climbed the same hill.
He folded his napkin and set it on the table. “Jenna, I know that your team deals with what is real and tangible and out there for all to see and know. I never thought that you could come here and solve all my problems with a simple chat with the dead. It’s never a simple ‘How do you do, and can you answer a question for me?’ But we are dealing with old stories and legends around here, true and enhanced.”
“These murders aren’t legends,” she said.
“No. But, but the natural ‘storytelling’ desire is to automatically say that the kid did it, neat and tidy and a juicy, repeatable story. That he freaked out because his father was a browbeating fanatic and he figured he could say that the house was filled with devils. People want to say this, for the newspapers at least. See what other stories are out there, from dead men or the living. I know that you can sort it all out.”