- The Uninvited
Annette and Allison looked at each other. “I don’t know why he would—Julian had access to the attic. He could go up there whenever he wanted. But I don’t understand why anyone would trash the attic. We never keep money there. Cash receipts and credit card payments are kept in the lockbox in the little pantry where we get changed. Every couple of days, one of us took the deposit to the bank. And there’s never enough cash worth stealing. These days, reservations are mostly done online or with credit cards.”
“So what is kept in the attic?” Tyler asked.
“Paperwork, records—copies of records. Everything historically significant is in locked display cases,” Annette said.
“What kind of paperwork?”
“The usual.” Annette shrugged.
“Financial logs, schedules, events, reservations and some of the research we do,” Allison explained.
“It’s Allison’s research. She’s always writing some paper or other,” Annette said. “She’s a professor! And she’s the best guide they’ve ever had, because she knows so much about the families and their history. Julian was interested in her research, but he wouldn’t need to trash the attic. None of us would. Allison is always happy to show us her work.”
Tyler watched her intently. Allison decided she was a little uncomfortable with Annette being so much of a champion.
“I write papers, yes, articles, on select periods of American history or focusing on a certain event,” Allison said. “Eventually I hope to complete a book.”
“But right now?”
“Right now I’m working on a paper about the British occupation of Philadelphia, focusing on the Tarleton-Dandridge House and Bradley’s relationship with the family, especially Lucy. I’m also looking at Lucy’s relationship with her fiancé, Stewart Douglas. There’s a lot of mystery around her death. No one was called in to investigate and historians assume that’s because Beast Bradley killed her and it was all shoved under the carpet. The British were evacuating at about the same time.” She paused, impatient. “I’m hungry. I’m really hungry. Could we go somewhere for food?” She had groceries but wanted to bring this inquiry to an end—and wanted to escape her house for a while.
“Oh!” Annette said with dismay. “I have to get back. I told Barrie I’d only be a few minutes, but I was so worried about Allison I forgot the time.”
“You were worried about Allison? Why?” Tyler asked.
“Because it’s been so traumatic!” Allison said firmly, giving Annette a warning stare.
“Ah, yeah, right. I wanted to make sure she was doing okay. I’d be in a loony bin if it’d been me who found Julian,” Annette said. “Well.” She stood as if loath to go. Tyler rose to his feet, as well.
Allison looked at Tyler, wondering whether she was stuck with him.
“Are you hungry, too? You don’t need to come with me. You can find me here tomorrow,” she said. She didn’t know whether she dreaded having him come along, or whether she’d be disappointed if he didn’t.
“Eating, yeah, I’m into it. Works for me a few times a day. I’ll join you.”
Annette offered him her hand and Tyler shook it. “Nice to meet you,” she said. “Call me anytime.”
Allison got them both out the door, then hesitated, looking back, before closing it.
She thought she saw something move in the kitchen.
It’s just a reflection, she told herself. A reflection from the outside light on the shiny steel toaster. It was nothing....
She realized she was afraid to come home alone.
Allison Leigh did know and love her city, Tyler observed. Her home was on Chestnut, near a number of tourist destinations. When they left the house, she didn’t have a place in mind; she told him the city was filled with wonderful restaurants.
They decided to leave the cars and walk down to Walnut, where a friend of hers owned a pub called McDooley’s. His name really was McDooley and the pub was very old. Oddly enough, another McDooley—no relation—had owned the pub in the 1920s so there’d been no need for a name change when this McDooley bought the pub.
Tyler was surprised that her explanation regarding McDooley’s ownership of McDooley’s was given with such ease and charm. He hadn’t imagined she was capable of being so lighthearted, but she had him laughing, and while they walked she mentioned funny or odd tidbits of history that kept him fascinated.
Her friend McDooley—first name Evan—was behind the bar when they walked in, a jovial-looking man probably around thirty, and probably fond of a pint or two, since he was showing the beginnings of a beer belly at his young age.
Evan McDooley started off smiling when he saw Allison, then quickly became grave, telling her how sorry he’d been to hear that a friend and coworker of hers had died. She thanked him and introduced him to Tyler. Evan’s eyes widened. “I’ve heard of you!” he exclaimed. “Will this be like…a real ghost investigation?”
“Like a real investigation,” Tyler told him. “We go through everything. Any possible structural problems, history, people involved with the house—everything.”
“Wow,” Evan said, his hands frozen on the glass he’d been drying as he stared at Tyler. “That sounds really cool. Oh, wait, no, sorry—the house is closed, right, Allison? People will be out of work for a while. Hey, I could use an extra waiter or waitress for the night shift, if any of you need some income.”
“I’m fine. I’m researching a paper so I could use the time off,” Allison said. “But I’ll talk to Jason and Annette. One of them might be grateful for some work.”
“There’s a booth in the corner that’s free if you want to take a seat and I’ll have someone right with you. Can I get you a brew? We have a nice selection of beers on tap.”
Allison asked him for a Scottish ale and Tyler chose a stout. Evan pulled the drafts before they walked to the table. Tyler hadn’t expected her to drink with him, even a beer, but then he hadn’t expected her to be so charming as they walked to the restaurant, either.
“Tell me about the paper you’re writing now,” Tyler said as they sat.
She waved a hand in the air. “I already told you.”
“Tell me more.”
“Okay, well, I’m an assistant professor of history. I’m sure you know we’re expected to publish. So I write pieces that appear in magazines read by other professors who actually care about little incidents that occurred—along with the major events, of course. I’m interested in the everyday, human dimension of history—social history you might call it. Domestic life is a big part of that. That’s why I focus on something like the Tarleton-Dandridge House instead of the war.”
“How many people know what you’re doing?”
She made a face. “Everyone knows I’m working on a piece about Lucy Tarleton and Beast Bradley, and that I’m planning to write a book about everything that went on at the house the year the British were in occupancy.”
“Did you leave papers in the office?”
“Some of my research, but it’s all copies of papers, newspaper articles and letters I’ve gathered from libraries and other institutions. Also copies of documents held by the house. As Annette mentioned, the originals are under lock and key. Oh, plus some of my notes. The article’s a work in progress.” Allison frowned. “I don’t know why anyone would want copies of what I’ve got,” she said. “Honestly, I don’t understand what anyone would want in that attic.”
“Tell me more about your friend Annette,” Tyler said.
“You met her.”
“For ten minutes.”
“Ten minutes should do it. She’s a bundle of energy, loves life, loves working at the house. She enjoys working in the old taverns, too—she’s on call at one called the Bitsy Betsy House. The staff serve at the tables and break into period song with a strolling flutist now and then.”
Tyler grinned. “Sounds like fun.”
“What’s Jason Lawrence like?”
“Jason is a nice guy,” Allison said. “Responsible and a good tour guide. Very entertaining when we go out to dinner together. Acts a little silly when he drinks, but who doesn’t? He’s smart, and he’s been honest about the fact that he’s heading back to NYU in a couple of years. He wants to do his doctorate in political science.”
“You get along well with them? Both him and Annette?”
“Yes, we get along great.”
“But no one really got along with Julian Mitchell?”
She lowered her head. “You have to understand. We all liked him. He was fun, and he was a terrific performer.”
“What about the board members? How do you feel about them?”
“The board?” she asked, frowning again.
Tyler took a sip of his draft. It was good and very cold. “The board members who run the house.”
“Oh, well, they’re…fine.”
“You don’t sound like you’re all that fond of them,” he told her.
“No, you’re wrong. I just don’t work with them every day. I do like them. Not as much as my friends and colleagues, but that’s a given, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know who your friends are, do I?” He smiled at her. “If I’d walked in here alone, would I have known you were friends with the owner?”
She grinned at that and raised her draft to him. “Ah, but you’re an FBI agent. With all sorts of information in your dossiers and reports.”
“A report can’t really tell you how someone feels about others,” he said.
“But you do know a lot about all of us, right?”
“Not as much as I should.” He took another sip of his beer. “This came up quickly. I drove here an hour after Adam called me, and I didn’t get to my reading material until you ditched me today.”