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He was impatient now. “No, it’s not.”

“Do normal people see ghosts?” she demanded.

“Define normal,” he said.

She let out a sound of irritation. He wasn’t there. She was creating him in her mind, just as she had undoubtedly created that vision of her grandfather in her mind, all those years ago.

She turned her back on him and walked down the hallway to the kitchen, where she poured herself some coffee. When she turned around again, she started.

He was in the kitchen with her, leaning against the counter.

“You say you’re here because you’re innocent and you want me to help you somehow,” she said. “Well, you’re in the wrong place. I can’t help you. I write advertising jingles for a living. I’m not a cop, and I don’t speak to the dead. We’re not all that far from Cassadaga. It’s a charming little town founded by spiritualists. If you pop on over there, I’m sure there are plenty of people who would just love to talk to you.”

He shook his head. “I can’t.”


He shook his head again. “I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with the flower. You did see and talk with your grandfather, you know. He was a great guy.”

“You knew my grandfather?” she asked, skeptical.

He grinned. “We’d have coffee now and then at a doughnut shop down on International Drive.”

“Why didn’t I know that?” she asked.

He shook his head. “Why should you have known it? We weren’t best friends or anything. We just used to chat some mornings over doughnuts and coffee.”

She studied him closely. He looked real. Flesh-and-blood real.

He couldn’t be. But then again, the alternative was just as ridiculous. Why would someone pretending to be Beau Kidd break into her house? Not just pretending to be him, a dead ringer for him.

Admittedly, this was Orlando in October. Costumes and makeup were plentiful. But how could anyone make his face resemble a newspaper photo to a T?

She smiled. “I’m going out now. When I come back, you’re going to be gone.”

“But I won’t be.”

“If my cousins put you up to this—if this is some kind of a joke, or worse—you’d better be gone when I get back.”

Brave words. If he was a killer, she had certainly provoked him.

“Don’t you understand?” he asked her sadly. “I can’t go. And I need your help.”

“Don’t you understand? I can’t help you.”

“But you can.”

“I’m going to burn that Ouija board.”

He smiled. Sadly. “Won’t do you any good,” he told her. Then his grin suddenly turned deep and real. “Which is it? I’m a very strange kind of home invader—made up to look like Beau Kidd and put up to these wicked deeds by one of your cousins. Or I’m a ghost, tied to this house because you live here, and I can’t just go away.”

“Neither. I just have an overactive imagination,” she insisted.

“You know that’s not true.”

“I can’t help you. I’m not a cop.”

He was quiet, staring at her. Then he said, “But you were sleeping with one. An ex-cop, anyway. Actually, the ex-cop who maligned me so badly.”

“I’m going now,” she said.

“You can try to run away,” he said. “But you can’t really go anywhere. We all learn that at some point.”

“Enjoy your philosophizing,” she told him. “Now…goodbye.”

“Goodbye,” he echoed, then gave her a thumbs-up sign. “You’ve stopped blacking out on me, at least. We’re moving in the right direction. I knew this would work out, because whether you want to or not, you already know that ghosts are real. When you were a child, you weren’t afraid. Remember? You need to reopen the door on those memories.”

“Goodbye,” Christina said firmly, then turned to her new pet, who was sitting just inside the kitchen doorway. “Killer, come on. We’re going.”

Instead of obeying, the dog walked over and stood next to Beau Kidd, whining mournfully.

“Now!” she snapped to the dog.

When he didn’t budge, she picked him up and, without looking back, headed down the hallway, Killer in her arms. She slammed the front door behind her and made a point of locking it.

She got in the car and headed straight for a café, where her first order of business was to pull out her cell and call a locksmith, who agreed to meet her at the house in an hour. Her cousins were in the clear, she decided, but it still made sense to get new locks for the place.

The dignified gray-haired man stood stiff and unyielding in the doorway.

Jed wasn’t sure just what he had expected. Of course Beau Kidd’s father was going to be anything but glad to see him.

“I know who you are. I know exactly who you are,” Forest Kidd said bitterly.

“I’m sorry if I offended you, sir—”

“Offended me? That trash you wrote did more than offend me.”

“It was a work of fiction,” Jed said.

“As if that’s any excuse.”

“The thing is—”

“The thing is,” Forest Kidd said angrily, “my son has now been proved to be innocent!”

Jed let out a soft sigh. “Sir, many people think this is a copycat killer.”

The older man swore, then turned and strode down the hallway of his single-story ranch house, but he left the door open, so Jed shrugged and followed him.

He went on back to a pleasant family room. Glass doors led out to a pool area, and an open counter separated them from the kitchen.

“Sir,” Jed said, taking a seat across from Forest Kidd, “you said you were with your son when at least one of the killings took place. Whoever did kill those women—and whoever is killing now—isn’t being quick about it. He rapes his victims repeatedly before finally murdering them.”

“You think I don’t know every aspect of this case?” Kidd demanded.

“On the contrary, I’m sure you know as much as I do,” Jed said.

The older man shrugged, blue eyes sweeping across his backyard. “I come from one of the real old-time families around here. My great-grandparents were up in Jacksonville during the Civil War.” His gaze fell sharply on Jed. “That’s why I’ve never left,” he said. “Thankfully, it’s a transient area now. People coming and going, working at the parks for a while, then moving on. Otherwise, we’d have had to leave. Even though no one ever proved that Beau was guilty of a damn thing. My son was shot and killed, and as far as everyone was concerned, that was it. His partner—Atkins—he was pretty broken up. He came to see us, and at least there was an inquiry, but none of it mattered. Beau was dead—and branded. The killing stopped, and no matter what I said or did…”

“You said your son was with you when one of the women was killed,” Jed said, hoping Forest might be willing to discuss the subject now.

Forest Kidd leaned forward and folded his hands before him and stared hard at Jed. “I said it because it was the truth. My wife said it, and my daughter said it. No one called us liars right to our faces. They just gave us those pitying looks that said they thought we were liars. And that was it.” He leaned back again. “So what are you going to do? Write another book?”

“I’m trying to find out the truth,” Jed said.

“Is that supposed to make me care?” Forest asked bitterly.

Jed stood up. “I think you already care, Mr. Kidd. You have a daughter. A beautiful daughter with red hair. I think you have to care, and that’s why you let me in.”

Forest Kidd stood, a tall man, almost eye level with Jed, who rose along with him.

“I care. But I’ve just told you everything I can, everything I told the police before. My son didn’t do it. The police were desperate. They were grasping at straws. The community was terrified, and there was Beau, a perfect suspect. He’d been seeing two of the girls, and he was leaning over the corpse of the last victim. I don’t believe he ever drew his weapon on his partner. I don’t care how sincere and wounded and agonized that bastard likes to look. There was never any reason for him to pull a gun.” Forest Kidd stared at Jed belligerently.

Jed frowned. “So you’re saying that even if he had been the killer, discovered there with the body, he could have just pretended he had discovered the corpse?”

“Bingo. You’re a lot brighter than those louts down at the precinct.”

“You suggested that to the cops?” Jed asked. He’d never seen it in any of the notes. He hadn’t interviewed Forest Kidd or the family when he’d written his book. He had been writing fiction, for one thing, and he’d been convinced that the family of a serial killer would hardly want to talk to him about their beloved son. Not when they were still denying what everyone else was taking to be the God’s honest truth.

“Is there anything else you can tell me?” Jed asked quietly.

Forest Kidd stared at him for a long moment. “Ask my daughter, Kitty, about the truth,” he said softly. “Katherine. I hear you met her in the cemetery. She said you were there at Beau’s grave.”

“I saw your daughter there, yes.”

“She seemed to think that you…well, hell. She seems to believe you’re a decent guy.”

“I’m trying to discover the truth, Mr. Kidd.”

“Here’s the truth. You ask any member of my family. Beau couldn’t have been guilty. He lived in a small apartment. And trust me, they searched it. They looked and looked and looked for a hotel or motel where he might have stayed, where he might have held a woman and abused her until he killed her. They didn’t find anything. And you know why? Because there was nothing to find. Beau wasn’t guilty.”

“Thank you,” Jed said.