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It was a beautiful time of day, close to dusk, at a beautiful time of year, early fall. Philadelphia’s Tarleton-Dandridge House sat back from the street, majestic and stately, in the light that had just begun to fade, as fine and poignant as an old building could be, a proud remnant of an era long gone, yet ever remembered.

Julian Mitchell almost felt guilty. Almost. He couldn’t quite manage guilt; he was too ecstatic over his day, still pumped with enthusiasm and the beat of the music he’d been playing. He enjoyed being a guide at the Tarleton-Dandridge, but today he’d had to ditch it. The audition had been important and, much as he loved his job, he loved the idea of working full-time as a guitarist more. Sure, it was great dressing up and playing with the band in Old Town, but he had dreams of being a real rock star. Now, however, he had to slip back into the house—and suck up to Allison. She was their unofficial leader, head of the guides or docents at the Tarleton-Dandridge, and if she forgave him, the others would, too.

He saw that one group of guests had already entered the house with their guide and that another, the last group of the day, was assembling just outside the main door. He could see Allison Leigh to the side of the house near the gate, welcoming those who were gathering for the final tour. Allison was dressed in the typical fashion of the Revolutionary era—the typical high fashion of the Revolutionary era, since female guides wore clothing along the lines of that which would’ve been worn by Lucy Tarleton, the martyred heroine of the house. The male guides dressed as Lord Brian Bradley, the British general known as “Beast” Bradley, who had occupied the house.

They all looked pretty cool in their clothing, he thought. But especially Allison. She was beautiful to begin with, even if she was kind of a nerd. A real academic. But she did bear a resemblance to the heroine she played, Lucy Tarleton. They’d all remarked on her resemblance to the painting in the house and those in various museums, but there was no evidence that she was a descendent of the woman. And if anyone would know, Allison would, since she was a historian. Maybe it was the clothing that gave her the look.

Allison wasn’t even glancing his way, so he quickly jumped the old brick wall that surrounded the house.

He was still in his period clothing from the morning shift; he hadn’t sneaked out until after lunch. Luckily, his band’s audition had been to open for the new “it” group—rockers who liked to dress up like Patrick Henry and friends—which meant he hadn’t had to worry about auditioning in his work outfit.

Of course, he hadn’t asked for the time off. He’d decided that in life it was generally better to do and ask forgiveness later than it was to beg for permission and get a big fat no! What guilt he did feel was because one of his colleagues had to take the tour group he should have led.

Still, he had a plan. He’d wait until the last group had gone through, and Jason and Allison had finished for the day. He winced; he realized Annette wasn’t at work. She’d made an appointment for a root canal. But he knew his fellow docents as well as they knew him. Jason would leave before Ally. Julian just had to wait until Jason had left and Allison was alone, checking as she always did that the doors were locked and the alarm system was on. She would come down to Angus’s study—ye olde study, where that poor bastard Angus Tarleton had died, supposedly of a broken heart—to make sure no kids were hiding under the desk to spend the night in the “haunted” house. He’d wait for her there. When Ally showed up, he would beg and plead and he could honestly tell her they’d probably get the gig, and he’d do anything to compensate for the time he’d missed. And he’d promise her backstage passes to the first concert.

He tiptoed to the front door and listened. Once Jason’s tour had moved into the social rooms to the left, he hurried up the stairs. But when he reached the second-floor landing, he heard conversation and footsteps coming down from the attic. He dodged into Lucy Tarleton’s room. He’d forgotten the board was meeting at the house that day. He’d have to wait until they were gone.

At last, they were. He heard the foursome going down the main stairway. As usual, they were bickering among themselves.

“Cherry, you may be a descendent of the family, but this place is owned by Old Philly History now. We’re only the board.” She started to speak, but Ethan Oxford interrupted her. “Yes, it’s privately owned and operated, but there’s a charter. The house was donated for the preservation of history.”

Old Ethan Oxford was the senior member of the board. Cherry’s mother had been the last of the Dandridge family. Cherry would probably have eschewed her own father’s name to take on Dandridge, Julian was certain, except that her husband, George Addison, was becoming a very well-known artist, and she liked the prestige that came with being Mrs. Addison.

“No one knows this house like I do,” Cherry insisted.

“Really? You never lived in it. It was handed over to Old Philly History long before you were born.”

Julian smiled. That voice belonged to Nathan Pierson, who loved to listen sweetly to Cherry and then zing her.

“Hush!” Sarah Vining said. “There are tour groups in here!”

A moment later, even their voices faded away as they left the house.

Julian started toward the attic but paused. For some reason, he had the odd sensation of being held in the room and he turned around, curious. He saw nothing there. Nothing except the painting of Beast Bradley. The nice painting of Bradley. “They say you were a brutal bastard. Glad someone saw the good in you!” Julian said. Giving himself a mental shake, he dashed up to the attic to hide. He sat at the desk there, glancing at the piles of paper around the computer and the countless file folders. Some of the information here was pure business—schedules, events planned at the estate, programs planned, money collected. But most of the piles belonged to Ally. Professor Allison Leigh. “You would have to be a brainiac!” he said aloud. He was a year or two younger than Ally, but he’d had a crush on her since he’d taken his position here. And she wasn’t all work and no play. He knew because she’d dated another musician for a while, an acquaintance of his.

“You may have brains, Ally, but your taste in men isn’t so great.” It was one thing to have a casual friendship with a drug addict; it was another to date one. Ally’s romance had ended when she realized she couldn’t compete with his cocaine habit.

Ah, well, history seemed to be her true love. He picked up the nearest folder and began to read. “Huh!” he murmured. Apparently, she’d found a new lead on an old subject.

To his own surprise, he became interested in her notes. Ally definitely seemed to be on to something. He set down the folder and listened carefully. It was safe to go down to the second floor, he decided, since Jason’s tour group had departed.

Julian hurried back to Lucy’s bedroom. There was a beautiful rendering of a young Lucy on one wall. She was dressed in white and had a look of open excitement in her eyes, as if she loved life, and the whole world. It had been an eighteenth-birthday gift to Lucy from Levy Perry, an artist killed at Brandywine. Naturally, it was painted before either of them had learned about the horrors of war.

He turned from the image of Lucy and stared at the painting of Beast Bradley again.

“Charmer, were you?” He laughed softly. “Well, that’s not what history says.”

As soon as he could, he’d go down to Angus’s study and wait for Ally. If she gave him any grief, he could tell her he’d read her notes about Bradley and Lucy, and they were brilliant, just brilliant.

Interesting that the painting of Beast Bradley in the study was nothing like this one.

He smiled. He’d have the chance to stare at that one for a while. Because he wanted to be in Angus’s chair when Ally found him. He was dressed as Beast Bradley—why not play the part completely as he begged her to forgive him? It was the perfect way to convince her that he was serious about his job here. At least until his music career was well and truly launched…

Leaving Lucy’s bedroom, he reached the door and thought he heard a noise behind him. But that was impossible.

Unless it was good old Beast Bradley himself, roused from the dead to rummage through the research papers?

Tiptoeing down the stairs he laughed. He opened the hall closet on the first floor to pick up the reproduction muzzle-loading musket and bayonet that went with his uniform.

He heard a noise again and frowned. It couldn’t be coming from the attic. No, he told himself, the rustling was probably outside.

“‘I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!’” he muttered.

And yet, it was with great unease that he waited.

He felt he was being watched.

And followed.


“Are you Dolley Madison? Or, like, Martha Washington or something?” one of the boys edging toward the front of Allison Leigh’s tour asked. He was about nine or ten, still awkward, but obviously determined to create some havoc—no doubt to avoid embarrassing himself in front of the few other teens and preteens on the tour.

A taller, older boy, maybe twelve, who might have been his brother, nudged him. “You idiot, they’re both dead, and she’s alive. And she’s hot, buddy. She’s way too hot even in that getup to be one of those old ladies.” The second boy tried to look mature. He reminded Allison of a very young Adam Sandler. The boys were part of her tour, which included a mix of ages. Summer was just drawing to a close and families were still on vacation.

She heard someone behind her choke back laughter; it was Nathan Pierson, longtime board member for the nonprofit organization that now owned the Tarleton-Dandridge House. They’d had a meeting in the attic, where a small office was located. Cherry Addison, the remaining descendent of the Dandridge clan, had already moved on, spike heels clicking. Ethan Oxford, their eldest member, had politely made his way through the crowd. Nathan and Sarah Vining were the last of the four board members to leave the house.

Nathan grinned and winked at Allison as he approached. Sarah hurried to catch up with him. She was a wisp of a woman who had given herself frown lines worrying about the board’s every move, while Nathan was the opposite, always certain things would work out. He was a slim and stately man in his forties, not exactly a father figure, more like a cool-uncle figure. And he was amused.