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“You still must have heard the name,” Dan said. He was sitting on the floor, back against the wall, arms folded over his knees.

“I’m sure I did, but a lot has happened since then, in my life and in the world,” she informed him, her tone irritated. “I didn’t move the planchette.”

“Right. Beau Kidd did it himself, because there is no copycat killer and he wants us to know he’s innocent,” Mike murmured dryly.

“Maybe he didn’t do it,” Ana said. “And maybe his spirit did move the planchette.”

“Now you’re scaring me,” Jed teased his cousin.

She frowned, staring at him with a stubborn set to her jaw. “Oh, right, Mr. He-man. There’s no possibility that anything you haven’t seen for yourself could possibly be real.”

“What’s the phrase? A ghost in the machine?” Tony said, his tone light, as if he were hoping to lift the tension that had suddenly filled the room.

“If there were a ghost here, it would be Gran, yelling at us,” Dan said, grinning, and evoking smiles from the others at last.

“Was she mean?” Ilona asked.

“Heavens, no,” Christina said. “But she had a very clear vision of right and wrong.” She flashed a smile. “I don’t think she’d be yelling. We haven’t messed anything up.”

“Well, she wasn’t all that fond of the way I’m running my life,” Dan said, shrugging. “I tried to explain to her that I intend to be more than Raccoon Ralph.”

“And you will be,” Christina said. “You’re going to be Zeus.”

“Right. And Halloween is around the corner. I’ll get to play some pretty scary stuff,” Dan said.

“The three-year-olds are trembling in their boots,” Ana teased, then suggested, “Why don’t we ask the Ouija board when you’ll get your big break?”

Mike groaned. “I’m getting another beer.” He started down the hall, almost crashing into Jed, who was still standing in the doorway. “Beer?” he suggested.

“Yeah, sure, one more,” Jed said, heading to the kitchen with him.

A few seconds later, they heard a loud and startled clamor from the parlor.

They frowned at each other and rushed back to the other room. Jed was in the lead, and when he reached the arched doorway, he was almost hit in the head with the planchette.

“Hey, who threw that?” he demanded. Ducking had saved him from a good shot right in the face.

“She did,” Ana said, pointing to Christina.

“I did not!” Christina protested.

Ana met his eyes, looking more than a little scared. “It…it was like it got mad and flew cross the room,” she said.

“Ana, get a life,” Jed snapped.

“What’s going on?” Mike demanded from just behind Jed.

“We asked it if Dan was going to get the part he wants,” Christina said.

“And it spelled out ‘help’ again,” Ilona said, eyes wide.

“They’re pulling your leg, Ilona,” Mike told her.

Ana let out a long, aggrieved sigh.

“Whatever. Let’s put the stupid thing away,” Christina said. Without waiting for anyone to agree, she reached for the box.

“Throw the stupid thing away,” Dan suggested.

“Christina, throw an old treasure away?” Tony teased. “Never.”

“It’s a good thing I don’t throw anything away. You might recall a box I packed up when a few people forgot about it after one Christmas dinner,” Christina said, looking from Mike to Dan and smiling complacently.

“Yes, and we appreciate it,” Dan said, then explained to the others. “We got bonds for Christmas one year when we were kids. We forgot all about them, but Christina stuck them in a box and held on to it. Our bonds matured and ended up being worth a bundle.”

“And we thank her for it,” Mike said, then turned to Christina. “Want me to help you pack anything up?” he asked as he turned up the dimmer switch.

“No, but thank you for the appreciation.” She rose from the floor as gracefully as ever.

Dan yawned, then apologized. “Sorry, but I’ve got to go. I’m on first shift tomorrow. Costuming at seven in the morning for the eight o’clock breakfast. This was fun. Thanks, Ana. Christina.”

“I should take off, too,” Jed said, anxious to get away. He still couldn’t get the autopsy off his mind, and the last thing he needed was to spend the evening at a party where the conversation kept turning to Beau Kidd.

“Christina, Ana, thanks for dinner, and, Christie, welcome to the neighborhood.”

“Thanks for coming,” she said, and walked over to him for a brief hug. There was still something reserved between them.

His fault, she decided as he waved to the others and started toward the door.

“This is your home, too, just like always,” he heard Christina tell her cousins as they followed a few steps behind.

“Thanks, kid,” Dan told her. “But one day you might have a sex life, and you wouldn’t want us walking in on you.”

“Let’s go,” Mike said. “I don’t want to hear about my little cousin’s sex life, okay?”

“Would you rather walk in on it?” Dan asked.

“Outta here,” Mike said firmly.

Jed was almost at the door, but he still overheard the last remarks from the group in the parlor.

“What the hell was with Jed tonight?” Tony asked.

“The Beau Kidd thing,” Ana said. “When he wrote his book, he was sure Kidd was guilty, but now he doesn’t know.”

Jed headed out the door to his Jeep and gunned the engine.

Ana was right.

Ana left a few minutes later with Tony and Ilona. Dan and Mike had offered to drive her home, but Tony had assured them that he and Ilona would see her safely inside. Ana had bought her parents’ house when they had retired down to their place in the Keys, so she’d never moved once in her life. And at the price of real estate, she was lucky—as Christina was herself.

Christina locked the front door as the stragglers left. One thing she didn’t have was an alarm system. Something she should probably consider in the future, she decided.

There wasn’t much to do as far as cleaning up; paper plates for food that had arrived in cardboard cartons didn’t create much of a mess. She was done in five minutes.

When the water stopped running, the house seemed almost painfully silent.

She walked back into the parlor and immediately noticed the Ouija board. “You suck,” she muttered. Her eyes moved over the many boxes littering the room.

For some reason, all those boxes made her feel uneasy. The fact that the house didn’t have an alarm—which had never bothered her before—now made her even more uneasy. The silence weighed on her.

And she wished to God they had never played with the stupid Ouija board.

She found herself walking around, turning on every light in the house. She even turned on the plasma television in the living room, thinking the noise would be good.

The news came on instantly.

“As is common in such cases,” an attractive young anchorwoman was saying, “there was evidence that the police didn’t share with the public when the Interstate Killer was at work twelve years ago. The police have not yet commented on whether or not the murder of Sherri Mason shares any of those confidential similarities or not. As you may be aware, the Interstate Killer’s spree ended with the death of the man who had become the prime suspect, Detective Beau Kidd. Kidd was familiar with two of the victims, who—”

Christina was tempted to throw the remote control across the room; she hit the power-off switch instead.

Groaning, she rechecked the front door, turned off the lights and started up the stairs.

She hadn’t taken over her grandmother’s room, and she wouldn’t. It was going to be her guest room, she had decided.

“Beau Kidd, indeed,” she murmured aloud in annoyance when she reached her own room. “If this house is haunted, it’s haunted by Granda and Gran. Good people who loved me.”

She had never felt afraid in this house, and she was angry that the night’s events had left her feeling so unnerved.

So she was a redhead. There were lots of redheads out there, natural and otherwise. It was a popular color.

She locked her doors. She didn’t go off with strangers. She was careful.

She looked around her room, the same room she’d always stayed in as a child. It had changed a great deal over the years. She had a new bed, for one thing—a Christmas present from a few years ago. It was a queen, with a handsome cherry-wood sleigh-style frame. Her dresser and wardrobe matched, as did the artfully concealed entertainment center.

She headed straight to it, turning on the television and finding a channel with nothing but sitcom repeats.

“So there. I will have no news tonight,” she said.

Her voice rang strangely loud in the empty house. She was glad when the sound of the television filled the space.

She was even more pleased when a commercial with a jingle she had written popped up on the screen. “Ever soft, ever silky, ever gentle to the touch, oh, dear Biel’s Tissue, we thank you very much.”

Not poetry or even her most brilliant lyric, but it was a good, catchy tune.

She smiled, walked into the bathroom and slipped into the cotton sleep shirt that hung on the back of the door, then washed her face and brushed her teeth. A few minutes later she drew back her covers and settled beneath the clean, cool comfort of her sheets.

And she stared at the television, not seeing a thing.

She rose again and turned on the lights she had turned off earlier. She was certain that from the street, her house was lit up like a Christmas tree. She turned the television down, plumped her pillow and closed her eyes, hoping that the soft drone of the sitcom would help her sleep. It wasn’t as if she had anything imperative going on early in the morning; she was just going to finish setting up the house and emptying boxes.