“Full of tourists, thank God,” Tony breathed, then frowned and looked at Christina. “Christie, with everything going on…you know that Ilona and I are right next door if you need us, right?”
“I do. And thank you.”
He nodded. “I’d better leave the ghosts to you guys and get back to the kitchen. Enjoy.”
When they finished lunch, they drove back to Christina’s house. Before they even went inside, Jed started to excuse himself, but Christina slipped around in front of him, trying to manage a little privacy.
“You’re still coming tonight, right?” she asked him, annoyed that she sounded so anxious.
He nodded. “I’ll be back in time. It’s the late show, right?”
“Right. So…where are you going?” she asked him, then backpedaled. “Sorry. It’s not really my…business.”
She was surprised when he openly smiled at her. “I’m going out to see Larry Atkins again. Beau Kidd’s partner. His place is huge.”
She was startled. “You think Beau Kidd’s old partner…you think he might be the killer?”
He shrugged. “Why would he have shot his own partner? He said Beau drew a bead on him, and that was why he shot, but it seems strange to me that Beau didn’t just drop his own weapon when Atkins drew on him. Hell, why did Beau pull a weapon in the first place?”
“Beau drew his gun because he’d discovered the body when it was still warm, and he heard a noise and thought the killer was creeping around behind him,” she said, then saw that he was staring at her and realized what she’d said, what she’d revealed. She inhaled quickly. “I mean, that’s certainly one way it might have gone, right?”
“It’s a possibility,” he said, still looking at her skeptically.
“I take it you’ve developed an interest in the new killing spree,” Thor said, his tone casual as he walked over to join them.
“Yeah, well, I kind of had to,” Jed admitted.
“Do you have plans for the rest of the day?” Thor asked him.
Christina watched the way Jed studied Thor, then shrugged and looked down for a moment before meeting his old friend’s eyes again and replying, “I’m off to see someone.”
“Can you go where you need to without a badge?” Thor asked him.
“Right now, I’m glad I don’t have a badge.”
“Want some company?” Thor asked.
Jed weighed the question. “Sure,” he said after a moment.
“What are you thinking?” Genevieve asked Christine a few minutes later, as they stood on the lawn and watched the two men drive away in Jed’s car.
“I’m thinking he’s never going to believe me when I try to tell him that the ghost of Beau Kidd has taken up residence in my house,” Christina said. She looked anxiously at Genevieve and Adam. “He is in there, I swear it.”
Killer started going crazy behind the front door, so she let him out. He ran to the front of the lawn, where he sniffed the air, then started running in circles.
“What on earth is the matter with him?” Christina wondered aloud.
“He’s guarding you against a swarm of mosquitoes, obviously,” Adam said with a smile.
She smiled, the tension broken.
“Well, we might as well unpack,” Adam said. “We’re going to a park tonight?”
“Yes. All the parks make a big spooky deal out of October,” Christina said.
“October,” Adam repeated. “A big spooky deal in a great many places. And,” he added softly, “it ends with All Saints’ Day.”
A while later, their unpacking done, Christina entertained them with a few of her jingle ideas on the piano, then came to an abrupt halt.
“I was supposed to go into the studio to record that last piece on Monday.” She inhaled deeply. “My singer was the third victim.”
Adam, who had been sitting back with his eyes closed, appeared to have drifted off, but appearances were obviously deceiving, because he spoke up immediately. “Maybe there’s more to Beau Kidd showing up here than you know,” he suggested.
“What do you mean?” Christina asked.
“Maybe he’s here to protect you,” he said softly.
Chills shot down her spine.
“We will have a séance,” he told her.
“Now?” she asked doubtfully.
He shook his head. “No. We need everyone here who was here the night you used the Ouija board. Saturday night?” he suggested.
She nodded, suddenly terrified.
There was no reason for her to be frightened, she told herself. She wasn’t alone in the house any longer. Adam, Genevieve and Thor were all installed on the second floor, and that was reassuring, right?
And Jed? she asked herself.
She wasn’t afraid at all when she was with Jed.
She stared at Genevieve. Her friend seemed so relaxed, so confident, despite the fact that they were talking about ghosts. And despite the fact that a serial killer was roaming the state.
Christina realized that Adam was watching her.
“It is a gift, talking to the dead,” he said softly. “If you can just learn to accept it.”
A gift? she thought. Maybe so.
A very dangerous gift.
“I told you, Jed. You need a horse. You need to quit going over old history, quit trying to make a monster out of a good man, and buy a horse.”
Larry Atkins had been sitting in the rocker on his front porch, as if waiting for Jed. He barely seemed to notice Thor getting out of the car with him, not that it was easy to ignore Thor.
“Hello, Larry,” Jed called.
Larry Atkins stood up. “I know what you’re thinking, Jed. You’re a little ahead of the guys wearing the badges, but go ahead. Search the place. Sure, now I’m a suspect. Hell, I shot my partner.”
“Nice place you have here,” Thor commented.
“Right. Nice place. Off the beaten track. Means I must have been a sick killer, right? I even shot my partner so he’d take the blame. I might be at it again. Hell, I have room, I have privacy. I must be bringing women here, tormenting them, their screams going unheard…. Search the place if you want, Jed.”
“I don’t have a warrant, Larry,” Jed said.
“I know you don’t. Damn it, Jed, I’m not guilty of anything. Come with me, and I’ll show you.”
“Larry, no one is accusing you of anything,” Jed said.
“You’re here, aren’t you? With that Scandinavian bruiser over there.”
Jed glanced quickly at Thor, who grinned with amusement, unoffended.
“Come in,” Larry insisted.
There was little help for it, and hell, they had driven all the way out there. Larry led the way, and he did a thorough job of it. They went through all the rooms, then down to the small basement, which was really more of a glorified crawl space, and then out to the stables. He took them through the tack room and every single stall.
“Are you happy?” Larry demanded when they were finished “I have a question for you,” Jed countered.
“Yeah?” Larry said.
“Today, looking back, do you think Beau meant to draw on you? Do you think there’s any possibility he thought you might have been someone else?”
Larry stared at him blankly; then he swallowed hard. “He drew on me,” he said at last.
“But it was dark, right?”
“The killing stopped,” Larry said.
“Right. But you’re not answering my question.”
“I had to draw my gun. I was cleared,” Larry told him.
“Right. Thanks, Larry.”
They left, and Jed found himself staring at Thor when they got back in the car. “Well?”
“I think it was dark, and Beau Kidd did draw his weapon. I suspect that Larry Atkins didn’t identify himself. But other than that…”
Thor shook his head. “I don’t know. Underwater mysteries are more my thing. But I don’t think this guy is guilty of killing those women.”
“No, he’s not the killer,” Jed agreed. “The thing is…”
“What?” Thor asked him.
Jed shook his head. “There’s something I should be seeing. Something I need to see. The connection…”
“The connection to what?”
“I don’t know. And that’s it. I can’t even figure out why I’m so certain that there is a connection, but I know it’s there.” He hesitated for a moment, then stared at Thor as he finally turned the key in the ignition. “So just what the hell are you really doing here? What’s your connection to all this?”
There was mist everywhere, so much artificial mist that it was almost impossible to see.
But then, this was October in a theme park, Christina thought, and the customers were paying extra for the privilege of being scared right down to their Nikes.
“Christie?” Ana called softly.
Ana giggled. “I think they got a bit carried away with the fog. Did you see the monster in the lagoon? Incredible.”
“Did you do any of the makeup?” Christina asked her.
“I gave a workshop for most of the vampires. There—if you can see it.” She pointed. “That one is my design.”
“Good look,” Christina complimented her.
“Thank you. And the zombies over there…my design, as well,” Ana said proudly.
“Nice and gruesome,” Christina told her. And it was true. They were walking down what was referred to as the Hallway of Horror, heading toward the giant chair where the Grim Reader was about to tell a heart-stopping tale. The mist was not just ample, it swirled around them. The makeup on the “creatures” who strolled alongside them was excellent, and the effects along the way were done extremely well. It should have been delightfully spooky.