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“Will she see Julian?”


Their meals were put before them and Tyler thanked their server. Allison picked up her fork, pushing her food around.

“You really should eat,” he told her.

“Yes, I’m eating, I’m eating!” she said, spearing a piece of broccoli as if to prove it. She was beginning to sound fine again.

When she’d finished—consuming everything on her plate—he offered her a few ibuprofen caplets to minimize the headache that seemed to be coming on.

She took them with a second glass of water and then sipped her third cup of coffee.

Again, he set a hand on hers. This time, she didn’t pull away. “I can help you,” he said.

She nodded. “You’re a decent person, and I appreciate it. But I have to help myself.” She sat straighter, appearing more controlled than she had been, her tone suggesting it was business as usual.

“Well, if you want any of us to help you in any way, just say the word.”

She smiled—a real smile. A sincere smile. “Thank you. I do feel much better. You’ve helped me already.”

“So, what would you be doing if we weren’t investigating the house? If it was your day off?”

“Since I’m not teaching right now, you mean? Research and writing.”

“About the house?”

“Academics need to publish.”

“I know. You’re working on the history of the house?” he asked.

“Not the house itself. Well, in a way. I’m doing a study of the British occupation, and the social and political ramifications. The situation between Lucy Tarleton and Beast Bradley and his relationship with the Tarleton-Dandridge family are an excellent example of the complex political climate at the time. That we won the Revolution was pretty much a miracle, you know. The British had the finest fighting forces, on land and sea. Taking nothing away from George Washington’s abilities—he had no money, deserting troops and he was facing horrendous firepower—we were losing more battles than we were winning. That’s why I admire the founding fathers. Signing that declaration made you a dead man if you were apprehended, but so many signed it, knowing they were up against unbelievable odds. I wonder if I could have done it,” she admitted.

“So the work you’re doing is on Beast Bradley.”

She picked up her coffee cup. “I started researching him more or less by accident. The story that we know has been handed down, more oral history and even legend than anything. Oh, the foundations are fact—Beast Bradley did take over the house, the Tarleton family did pretend to be Loyalist during that period and Lucy Tarleton was murdered there. But I couldn’t find anything written about the event that wasn’t secondhand. I realize Lucy couldn’t have told the story herself, but Angus never wrote about it. The first person to put anything on paper was the first Dandridge to own the house—Sophia’s husband, Tobias.”

“There have to be more records somewhere, letters, something,” Tyler said.

“I’m sure there are. They just have to be hunted down. I had figured I’d try to get to a few places where they’ve preserved letters and journals from the period. I’d thought about taking a trip to Valley Forge and maybe one to Saratoga. I was hoping I could find more information, particularly at Valley Forge. I’ve been in touch with an amateur historian there who’s really interested in this period. We know Lucy went from the house to Valley Forge several times during the occupation. She must have been acquainted with a number of the men there. She was being a patriotic angel of mercy and brought through anything she could—shoes, bandages, blankets—things that were desperately needed. Of course, her main mission was to provide information, so what she could sneak through the barricades was limited. She must have been a truly heroic and sympathetic woman.”

“I’m very curious about the two paintings,” he said.

“The paintings in Lucy’s bedroom and in Angus’s study?” Allison asked. “They are very different. The one in Lucy’s bedroom is rather surprising, but that’s where the Dandridge family had it, and supposedly, it’d been there since the British occupation.”

“Don’t you think that’s odd?”

“Yes, but we never really know why people do what they do,” Allison said. “Unless they tell us, and even then…” She started to lift her cup; it clattered as it fell back into the saucer.

“What’s wrong?” Tyler asked. She’d seen something behind him. He turned to look.

There were other diners, nothing more.

She stared down at the table.


She shook her head, then picked up her cup again. Her fingers were long and elegant with silvery polish on the nails. She held her cup firmly, almost tightly enough to snap off the handle. “Can we go now?”

“Of course.” He gestured at the waiter, then quickly paid the check when it came. He escorted her from the restaurant with his hand on her back. She seemed to want to be touched; again, he wasn’t lacking in self-confidence, but he didn’t think she was dying to be in his arms.

As they walked, he began to smile. He’d seen it before—he’d been there before, right where she was now.

Seeing those he should not see.

Allison was seeing a ghost.

If he suggested it, she’d deny it. She’d give him psychological explanations.

But she was afraid.

“I went to the hospital today,” he said.

“Oh!” She flashed him a guilty look. “I should have gone by. How is Mr. Dixon? How’s Haley—and the boys?”

“The boys weren’t there. Mr. Dixon’s condition is unchanged. Haley seems to be holding up fairly well.”

“I do need to see those kids.”

“Tomorrow, maybe. I know they’d appreciate it. But I believe Todd in particular will appreciate that you’re going through the house. He’s convinced you’re the key to making his father better.”

“But I’m not!” She looked at him earnestly. “Tyler, honestly, how could I help? Even if I were one of those crazy dial-a-psychic people and thought I could have a conversation with every soul who ever spent time in the house, how could that help Mr. Dixon?”

“Coma is a complex condition, and it can be brought on by so many things. Kat is our medical specialist, but she’s the first to remind us all that, so far, science has shown that the human brain’s capacity is far greater than we use. There may be scientific answers that coincide with a great deal of what we consider to be paranormal. Maybe just talking to Mr. Dixon will bring him back. I’ve heard of cases where someone’s been in a coma for an unknown reason for years—and then come back. No matter how far we think we’ve gotten in our technological age, there are many things we have yet to understand.”

“I just don’t want to encourage Todd to believe I can create some kind of miracle for him.”

“Just assure him that you’ll try.”

They reached the Tarleton-Dandridge House and Tyler opened the gate and the door, keying in the alarm. Allison followed closely behind him.

“So, shall we go up to the attic?” he asked.

“I guess we should.”

She didn’t want to look toward Angus Tarleton’s study, and he didn’t blame her. The police would be sending a crime scene cleanup crew in the next few days, but at this point her friend’s blood still stained the floor.

They climbed the stairs to the second story. Tyler had been repeatedly drawn to the painting in Lucy’s room; he saw that Allison lingered just outside in the hallway, studying it.

“He doesn’t look so evil here,” she said. “He looks…contemplative, or thoughtful, almost as if he’s carrying a heavy burden and is sorry for what must be.”

“A far kinder artist,” Tyler agreed.

“Which image do you think is the real one?”

“I imagine a little of both. We all know that good people can do bad things, and people we consider to be bad can do good things. And every human being is a mixture of virtues and faults.”

He was surprised when she grinned at him. “You’re all right, you know.”

He grinned back. “So you’ve said.”

“No, really, you’ve been exceptionally kind when I was pretty argumentative or…or strange.”

“Ma’am, my pleasure.”

“Were you a cowboy?”

“My family might have owned cows at one time,” he said, “but I never had any. I can ride like a demon, though, and I love horses.”

“Straight shooter?” she teased.

“My aim is damned good, if I do say so myself.”

They continued to the attic. For a moment, they paused in the doorway, examining the wreckage. Then Tyler stepped in, first lifting up the printer and computer and moving papers so they’d have a place to start.

Allison went down on her knees, trying to gather up the slew of papers that covered the floor. He knelt beside her, collecting other ones and giving them to her to sort. “I think these are some kind of reservation sheets,” he said.

“They are. If you can look for those, I’ll try to gather the research papers. Oh, and that journal can go back on the desk. It’s petty-cash payouts. Lord! The tiny scraps all over are receipts for cleaning supplies, coffee… Things the employees pick up but that the corporation pays for.”

“I’ll get all of that stuff. The research is mostly yours?”

“Mostly. But everyone who works here—or worked here,” she added, “loved the history and was interested in it. If my coworkers came across an article or theory regarding the family or the house or even the British in Philly, they made a point of sending me the link or getting me a copy.”

Tyler found sheets ripped from an educational magazine. The headline read Lord Brian Bradley. True Beast or Passionate Loyalist?