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He disappeared into Angus Tarleton’s study and quickly reappeared, holding the painting gingerly. He set it against the sofa and hunkered down to look at it.

“Good piece,” he said.

“But there’s nothing unusual about the painting, is there?” Tyler asked. He stood beside Sean, studying the work. He knew he was the best shot in their crowd, that he could bail them out in a melee and that, thanks to his college years, he also comprehended a fair amount of science and the preservation of evidence.

But Sean was their expert on visual tricks, film and computers.

Sean shook his head. “It’s excellently done. The artist was a master at capturing expression and especially at painting eyes. But…it’s a painting.”

“I’m telling you, it moved—and it talked,” Julian said. “Or Beast Bradley did.” He turned to Allison. “I’m irresponsible and I’ve been an idiot lots of times, but you know I don’t lie or make things up. The man in this painting moved.”

“Could the painting have been switched?” Tyler mused.

“I don’t know how,” Allison said. “The board was here most of the day. They left when I was doing the last tour.”

“Yes, I was back in the house when they were leaving,” Julian said. He laughed dryly. “I didn’t even have my musket and bayonet when I listened to them leave. I went to the closet to get it. I wanted to be in full character when I tried to cajole you into forgiving me,” he told Allison. “I thought you’d find that charming,” he said sheepishly. “Or proof of my sincerity. Or…something.”

“All right, so the board was here—the four of them—in the attic office. They left. You were on the second level?” Logan asked.

“I was on the second level, yes, dodging between the two tours. I followed Jason’s tour into the house and went upstairs while he was in the grand salon. I was in Lucy Tarleton’s bedroom while I waited for the board members to go downstairs. After that I was up in the attic for a while. By the way, that’s great stuff you’re doing on Lucy and her movements during the war, Allison. Anyhow, when the last tour went out and Jason and Allison were over in the pantry area behind the dining room, I snuck into Angus Tarleton’s study.” He paused, eyes widening. “Weird! I felt like someone had gone up to the attic after me, kind of like I was being followed.”

Allison shook her head. “There aren’t any secret panels, hidden rooms or anything like that here,” she said.

“Yes, but I was running around the house with a couple of dozen people in it, and you didn’t find me,” Julian reminded her.

“That’s true,” Allison murmured. Then she looked up at them and said, “There is one other way to get from the ground floor to the second—through a servants’ stairway beyond a door in the pantry. I don’t know if anyone’s ever taken it or not. We never used it. You can only access it through the pantry, which is our employee area, and guests aren’t allowed in there. The door on the second floor opens just beside the master bedroom.”

“Shall we take a look?” Tyler suggested.

“We can do that now,” Logan said, glancing at his watch. “Then we should finish unloading and setting up, have something to eat and let Allison go home and get some rest.”

They rose, but Julian sat stubbornly.

“You’re not going to let this slide, are you? Decide that I was stoned or something and tell everyone it was an accident? I was murdered. I’m not lying. My head was pushed down on that bayonet. It happened while I was staring at the painting. I was murdered.”

“We have a long way to go here,” Logan said.

“Were you stoned?” Kat asked him. “I’m sorry, but I’m a medical examiner, and I’ll be checking out your autopsy report tomorrow. And your remains.”

Julian stood, looking at Kat. “I had a few tokes of pot. Hey, I was at an audition! I wasn’t drinking or anything.” He frowned. “You’re an M.E.?”

She nodded.

Julian shrugged. “Well, I guess if someone’s going to be playing around with my body, I won’t mind so much if it’s you.”

“Julian!” Allison chastised. She turned back to the others. “I’ll show you the back stairway.”

She told them that once a week a cleaning crew came in—a carefully selected cleaning crew—to dust the fragile historic pieces.

But when they followed her through the pantry, which was a tight squeeze with the seven of them and the spiritual remains of Julian Mitchell, they discovered that the servants’ stairway was extremely dusty.

“They haven’t been in here for a while,” Allison said. “We’ll have to go one at a time. It’s narrow and has a sharp angle.”

Tyler brought up the rear as they climbed up. The servants’ stairway led to a very small landing by a door, which opened into the hallway next to the master bedroom.

“This hasn’t been disturbed,” Logan said. “Well, we’re on the second floor. We might as well decide on bedrooms.”

“I’ve been in the master,” Tyler said. “But I’ll get my stuff out. There’s more room in there for you and Kelsey. In fact, if no one has a problem with it, I’ll move into Lucy’s room.”

Allison seemed tense as she watched them choose their rooms. Sean said he thought maybe he’d just take his sleeping bag up to the attic. Jane and Kat opted to stay together in Sophia Tarleton-Dandridge’s bedroom.

“How are you?” Tyler asked.


“She’s scared.” Julian was standing behind Allison as if protecting her in a brotherly fashion.

“I was scared of you!”

“I don’t think you should be alone,” Julian said.

“Why? I just told you—you were the one scaring me. Now that I know you’re real—well, not real, but real in terms of being a ghost—I’m not scared anymore.”

Julian placed his hands on her shoulders. Tyler saw her jump slightly, feeling the strange physical sensation of being “touched” by a ghost. “They’ll let you stay here. There are two bedrooms left on this floor. Allison, whoever killed me might be after you.”

“Why would anyone be after me?”

“Why would anyone have killed me?” Julian demanded. “Well, sure, you probably all said at one time or another that you wanted to kill me, but you didn’t mean it. Think about it, Ally—why would anyone kill me? It wasn’t my voice or my guitar playing, I swear!”

Tyler was glad to see her smile at that.

“This is a historic property, Julian. In two of the bedrooms, the mattresses can’t even be used. They’re kept so visitors can see what the rope beds were like and how people had to tighten the ropes now and then. The mattresses on them are made of straw.”

“We carry bedrolls wherever we go,” Tyler said. “Are the ropes on the beds original?”

Allison shook her head. “No, they’ve been replaced dozens of times through the decades—centuries. The rooms themselves went through a number of changes over the years, but when the house became the property of Old Philly History, the decor was brought back to what it had been during the Colonial era. The bed frames are original, but nothing else. Except that some of the quilts are from the eighteenth century.”

“We’ll carefully fold up the quilts,” Kat promised her.

“There’s one dingy little shower down in the pantry,” Allison said. “I can’t stay here. I don’t want to take room away from all of you.”

“Your life—or a shower?” Julian muttered.

“Hey, may I remind you that you were killed here?” Allison said to him.

“You shouldn’t be alone,” Julian repeated stubbornly.

“And,” Tyler added, “here’s what we know so far. Julian was up in the attic reading research papers. He felt that someone was watching him. He came downstairs. The attic—where he’d just been—was trashed. And when he went into the study, he was killed.”

“Ms. Leigh,” Logan said, joining the group, “or Allison if I may call you that. I don’t have the authority to tell you what to do. But if Julian was killed because of something he knew about this house, or something another person believed he knew, you might be in danger, as well. It would be smart to stay in a house with six trained agents.”

Allison looked helplessly from one to the other.

“You don’t have anywhere else you have to be,” Julian said. “You could sit right here and work on your paper with all your precious Tarleton-Dandridge pieces surrounding you. And be safe.”

“You’re the one who’s going to be helping us, Allison,” Kat pointed out. “It would be wonderful to have you here.”

For a moment, Tyler didn’t think she’d be persuaded.

“Better safe than dead, and trust me, I know,” Julian said. “Please, Ally. I was a jerk to you, and you were my friend. Let me be your friend now. Please, do what I say?”

She threw up her hands. “All right.”

“I’ll walk Allison over to her place so she can pack a bag,” Tyler said. “We’ll be back soon.”

* * *

It was easier to accept the strange invitation from the Krewe than Allison had expected.

That was because she was scared.

She didn’t want to be scared; she wanted to be a rational and independent adult. She liked her home. It had been her home all her life. She’d been excited to leave for college, but when her parents had talked about selling their house, she knew she wanted it. And they hadn’t really wanted to sell, so her slowly buying the house from them had made sense. She loved living there.

She told herself that she was going to be staying just down the street…and just for a little while.