He sat down to read the article. It began with the basics: Brian Bradley was from a noble Yorkshire family with ties to the Royal House of Hanover. His service to the British military and the Crown started when he was barely out of his teens. He’d been promoted to the rank of general soon after the beginning of the conflict with the Americans and he’d been ordered to the city of Philadelphia to control the intelligence slipping out—and gain it for the British. Angus Tarleton’s house was considered one of the finest in the city, so it was natural that an important figure in an occupying force should take the mansion. The Tarletons professed their allegiance to the Crown and were allowed to host the general and several members of his retinue. It was likely that the family did resent the fact that the general took over the master chamber; Susannah Tarleton, Angus’s wife, had died in 1774, but Angus was asked to vacate his chamber and move into another room in the house. He was said to have done as requested graciously.
As he read Tyler realized that Allison had grown quiet. He looked over to see her staring at the door.
“What is it?” he asked her.
She didn’t hear him at first.
She glanced at him, startled.
“What do you see?”
She shook her head. “Nothing.”
“Are you okay?”
She managed a weak smile. “Fine.”
Tyler frowned, but he couldn’t drag anything else out of her. He returned to the article.
“While popular legend had it that ‘Beast’ Bradley took suspected patriot spies out to the woods and executed them,” he read, “there is no record or proof of this action. When the British fled the city and victory was at last proclaimed, twenty citizens were charged with treason and two executed, but by the patriots, not the British. While Bradley was required to interrogate prisoners, there is no known record of any of his interrogations causing the death of those questioned, nor does legend name any names. Whether Bradley did or didn’t murder Lucy Tarleton in her own home is up for debate, since the story seems to be part of family lore. Therefore, this researcher finds the popular accepted version of her death suspect. Lucy Tarleton is buried in the family cemetery on the grounds of the Tarleton-Dandridge House and, not surprisingly, has been seen ‘haunting’ the property.”
Tyler felt an unnatural stillness around him; he looked up again. Allison was frozen, staring at the entrance, where the stairs from the second floor came up to the attic.
He looked in the same direction. There was nothing there.
He set down his reading, rose and walked over to her, reaching down for her hands, urging her to rise.
She took his hands, gazing up at him blankly and then with a question in her eyes.
“Break time. How about a walk outside? I haven’t seen much of the grounds.”
She stood, her knees wobbly.
She nodded. “We can get out for a few minutes,” she said. “It’s pretty out there. At one time, of course, there were acres and acres. Now there’s just the kitchen, the stables and the cemetery. The cemetery is nice, and the family vault is beautiful. There are other burials and entombments out there, too, and if family members die, they can still be entombed in one of the above- or belowground vaults. The specs for it are held at the offices of Old Philly History.”
She seemed to need to speak; she was going on and on about the property. He set a finger against her lips, looking down into her eyes. “What is it you’re seeing?”
He thought he heard something. A man’s whisper.
“Tell him. Just tell him!”
“Allison, you see someone. I can hear him. Who is it?”
She looked beyond him, to the doorway. Her words were anguished as she spoke to the person Tyler had yet to see. “Stop it! Stop it, please stop it, Julian. You’re a figment of my imagination, not his.”
Tyler turned to the doorframe. Slowly, he began to see the figure of a young man. Julian Mitchell had been good-looking with a cocky flair to his appearance. He leaned into the room casually but in life, Tyler thought with some amusement, he’d probably practiced his stance in the mirror.
“Allison, come on. I can’t do much about who does or doesn’t see me. I tried knocking the hat off a nasty old lady who was giving a waitress grief at that restaurant tonight and it didn’t work—although I did give her a bit of a chill. But I know you see me clearly, that you hear every word I say,” the ghost told her.
“Yes, don’t you get it? I see you. I’m feeling guilty—though I have no idea why! I covered for your sorry ass a dozen times, and I always tried to show up when you had a performance. We were good friends, Julian, you know we were!” Allison said. Then she clapped a hand over her mouth and turned to face Tyler.
“I am so sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I went to a shrink this morning, and he told me I’m creating Julian in my mind. Because I think I should have saved him, or that I might have been a better friend, or…I don’t know. He’s like a plague! He won’t go away. He was at my house, then he was here, then he was at Independence Hall.... He’s everywhere! I can’t get away from him.”
She was so distressed, so fragile and, seemingly, so broken. Tyler pulled her into his arms and said, “It’s all right. It’s really all right.”
He spoke to the young man standing in the doorway. “Surely, there’s a better way to do this! Allison was a good friend to you, and now you’re doing this to her?”
Julian Mitchell’s ghost had the grace to look apologetic.
“I have to, don’t you see? I have to, because I don’t know what happened, and I’m walking in this new world—this world of death!—alone. But I didn’t kill myself, and it wasn’t an accident.”
He left the doorframe and walked toward them.
“I need help!” he said, an edge of desperation in his voice.
Allison frowned at Tyler. “You see him? You don’t have to humor me!”
Tyler smiled and stroked her cheek. “You didn’t want us here because you said we were ghost busters. You thought we were all about sensationalism and cheap thrills. That’s not it, Allison. We try to help the living—and the dead.”
“And you have to help me,” Julian said. “I was murdered.”
“Who did it?” Tyler asked.
“That’s what you have to find out!” Julian Mitchell shook his head irritably. He sank down to the floor in his period dress. “I don’t know who or how—all I know is that it has something to do with that god-awful painting of Beast Bradley in Angus Tarleton’s study.”
Allison wasn’t sure whether or not she felt reassured. According to Tyler, she wasn’t going crazy....
But now it seemed that on the day Julian Mitchell died, she’d stepped out of anything resembling a normal life—and straight into an episode of that old TV show The Twilight Zone.
In the few beats of silence following Julian’s dramatic statement, they were all startled by the loud and strident ring of Tyler’s phone.
He fumbled in his pocket and found his cell. “Montague!…Yes, yes, I’ll be right there.” He clicked off the phone.
“The Krewe members are here,” he said. “I’ve got to run down and open the gate and let them into the house.”
“Krewe members?” To Allison’s astonishment, Julian began to vanish into thin air.
“They’re like us, Julian,” Tyler said quickly. “They know. They see.”
“Are you sure?” Julian asked, his image fading in and out.
“I have to go let them in,” Tyler said again.
“I’m coming with you!” Allison told him, staring wide-eyed at the place where Julian seemed solid and then not, there and then not.
“Ally!” Julian said, using her nickname in a broken plea. “Ally, I don’t want to hurt you. I just want help.”
“We’ll all go down,” Tyler said with an exasperated sigh. “Might as well make the introductions—all of them.”
He headed for the door; Allison started to follow and then stopped for a minute. Julian was suddenly the same man he’d always been to her. A little brother, someone with whom she was often frustrated and still cared about a great deal. He was in costume, a performer as always, in death as in life. Selfish—he just was!—but not cruel or evil or even aware of the trouble or aggravation he caused others.
He’d come to her for help a thousand times in life.
It wasn’t so unusual, perhaps, that he had done so now.
“Julian, come on, let’s meet the others. From what I understand, these are the people who can help you.”
He looked at her and seemed solid again. He nodded. They might both have found courage at the same time.
Tyler had gone down the stairs. With renewed composure, Allison followed him. Julian, she felt certain, was behind her. She could feel him.
Allison waited in the grand entry while Tyler went through the mudroom, leaving the front door ajar while he hurried out to open the gate. She heard easy conversation and the sound of luggage and bags scraping on the brick walkway and then Tyler’s team started to come in. The first through the doorway was Tyler; next was a tall, striking dark-haired man of mixed Native American and European descent, then a tall blonde woman, a tiny blonde woman, a slender dark-haired woman with a stunning face and another tall man with sandy hair and light eyes. Tyler began the introductions: Logan Raintree, their team head, was accompanied by the tall blonde, Kelsey O’Brien, once a U.S. Marshal. The tiny blonde was Kat Sokolov, medical pathologist, the tall man with the light eyes was Sean Cameron, computer and camera expert, and the pretty brunette was Jane Everett, forensic artist.
Allison shook hands with all and greeted them. They seemed very normal. The introductions were so pleasant she might have been meeting them at a casual party. She thought they were a group she would have enjoyed meeting at a party.