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“I’ve turned this room into a media center. Being technically challenged, I’m very proud of it,” she told him.

He poked his head in. She had huge speakers and a great stereo system, a wide-screen television, a DVD player and comfortable furniture. Shelves held hundreds of books, magazines, DVDs and CDs.

“Great place,” he told her.

“What’s your place like in Jacksonville?” she asked him. “Don’t tell me. Ultramodern. Every convenience.”

“No. I think my house actually has a few years on yours. But, sadly, I’ve never taken the time to fix it up the way you have yours.”

“You bought an old house?”

“I meant to fix it up. I’m just never there enough. I probably shouldn’t have bought the place. The historic board would probably like to do me in.”

She smiled vaguely and started back down the stairs. He followed. She turned at the foot of the stairs and started along the hall, then on out to the backyard. Though not heavily planted, there were flowers here and there. It was simple and attractive.

She pointed to a raised bed that sported a riot of bougainvillea. “When I was digging to create that little stand, I dug up bones,” she told him.


She turned and looked at him. “Very old bones. I called all the right government agencies. Forensic anthropologists came out. They decided that the bones were Calusa Indian, a tribe that disappeared hundreds of years ago. No one was terribly surprised. When the Spaniards first came, there were bones everywhere.”

“Right. Cayo Hueso. Island of Bones,” he said. Her eyes seemed troubled still, and her tone, when she spoke, was strange. She didn’t seem to mind he was there. In fact, she seemed almost grateful for his presence.

Not because it was him specifically. It was as if, although she had chosen to leave the group, she didn’t really want to be alone.

“You’re getting at something,” he told her. “I’m just not sure what. Feel free to spit it out anytime,” he said, wondering if he had spoken with the right tone.

Apparently he hadn’t. Either that, or she simply didn’t intend to divulge what was really bothering her.

“Don’t be silly. Do you want some coffee?” she asked.

He laughed. “I had enough coffee standing around at the tiki bar to last until I’m old and gray.”

“Soda, beer, anything else?”

He hesitated slightly. “How about I take you to lunch?”

She cocked her head, as if thinking, then determining lunch just might fit into her plan. “I’ll take you.”

“You’re kind of touchy about that meal thing. It doesn’t have to be a date. Don’t forget, I can put in for expenses.”

She shook her head. “I just want to choose the place.”

“Choose away.”

“All right. Thanks.”

She locked the back and started toward the front again, pausing only to sift through the mail on the Victorian occasional table by the door. “Nothing dire,” she murmured. “Let’s go.”

She locked the door as they left, and started back down Duval Street.

“Where are we going?” he asked her.

She glanced at him with a trace of amusement. “The Hard Rock Cafe.”

“I thought you preferred your Conch insider places.”

“It’s a cool Hard Rock,” she told him.

He wasn’t surprised when they arrived and she knew the young people acting as hosts at the door. He wasn’t surprised, either, when she opted to sit inside—Deep South natives of any kind usually preferred air-conditioning to the charming notion of dining in the sunshine and garden atmosphere of an outdoor café.

The restaurant was located in a handsome historic home, late 1800s, with some of the old incorporated with the customary decor of the chain. After they walked up the stairs, she pointed out a guitar signed by Jimmy Buffett, and a number of pieces of Elvis Presley and Beatles memorabilia.

After they had ordered drinks—she opted for alcohol that afternoon, choosing an island concoction with an umbrella—she told him the place was supposedly haunted.

“Is anywhere not haunted here?” he asked her.

She shrugged. “Ask our waitress,” she told him.

He did. Their waitress was a pretty young college girl whose eyes widened when Genevieve encouraged her to tell Thor about the ghosts.

“The place really is haunted,” she assured him.


“One man committed suicide here, and suicides always return to haunt the place where they died.”

“I see.”

“Honestly. Another man died downstairs…but I personally think it’s only Mr. Curry doing the haunting. His father was a millionaire, but he managed to go broke in a year. And then his wife left him.”

“That’s adding insult to injury,” Thor agreed pleasantly.

“I’ve been up here alone when a black shadow kind of sweeps around…cleaning towels move. And Brett set up a table one time only to have all the forks and napkins moved to another table,” she said, eyes wide. “Trust me—I do not stay up here alone at night.”

Thor thanked her for taking the time to tell her story. After she left, he looked at Genevieve, lifting his glass, arching a brow. “So you think that the place is haunted? You’ve seen shadows, things moving around?”

She shook her head. “No, I’ve never seen a thing.”


“They tell good stories here,” she said. “But lots of people believe in ghosts.”

He reached across the table, frowning, barely aware he had set his hand over hers. “There are shadows at night. Shadows when the light changes. People might forget which table they’ve set up—or someone else might move the table settings.”

She pulled her hand away, picking up her glass. “Absolutely true,” she told him.

Once lunch was served, Genevieve determinedly changed the subject from ghosts, asking him when he first got into diving.

“I had this great book when I was a kid,” he said. “Story about a sunken ferry discovered right in the St. Johns, near where I lived. I was hooked. How about you?”

“Family vocation. My grandfather was a frogman in World War II. I think I was thrown in the ocean before I could walk.”

“So that’s how it goes, growing up as a Conch, huh?”

She shrugged. “For lots of people. I have friends who hate the water. Some of them still love Key West. They just love the streets and the atmosphere, the sunsets. A lot of people just kind of find Key West. And then stay here.” She tilted her head at an angle, smiling ruefully. “You know, we really are the Conch Republic. In 1982 there was a big stink about the number of illegal aliens and drugs that seemed to be flowing into Miami from the Keys. The Border Patrol set up a blockade on US1 in Florida City, trying to get a grip on the problem. Traffic was so backed up, people couldn’t get in or out. The mayor of Key West went to the Miami courthouse to seek an injunction, but nothing was done, so Key West seceded from the United States. After a few minutes of rebellion, the ‘prime minister’ surrendered to the admiral at the navy base and demanded a billion dollars in foreign aid and war relief.” She shrugged. “He made his point, and now it’s great for the local businesses. You can buy Conch Republic passports, T-shirts…you name it.” She smiled.

Thor grinned, glad to see that her mood had lightened.

The check came just then, and she reached for it. “Expense account,” he reminded her, taking it from her.

She stood as he laid money on the bill. “Come on, then. I’m taking you for an after-lunch drink. And I am paying for it.”

A few minutes later, he found himself in Captain Tony’s Saloon.

“Are you taking me on a tour?” he asked her.

“This is where Sloppy Joe’s was originally, although it wasn’t called that then. If I remember the story right, Joe Russell refused to pay the extra dollar a week when the rent went up in the thirties. All his patrons just picked up their drinks and the furniture and moved down the street to where Sloppy Joe’s is now.”

“I see.”

“What would you like?” she asked, indicating a table by a tree trunk. The tree grew next to the bar and disappeared at the ceiling.

“I’m sticking with beer,” he said.

He took a seat at the table by the tree while she waited at the bar for their drinks. Looking up, he saw that the rafters were covered with hundreds of bras, some signed.

A table away, two women were sitting with two children, a boy of about six and a girl who was maybe five years old. The kids had drinks that looked like Shirley Temples, while the women were nursing more exotic concoctions. One of the women noted him and flushed—he guessed she was embarrassed to be in the bar with children. “We’re trying to cover the hot tourist spots,” she said.

He smiled back and pointed to a table closer to the street. A man there had two boys with him who were about eleven or twelve. “It’s my guess it’s fine,” he said.

She looked relieved. Her companion turned to him and smiled, as well. “I told her it would be okay.” The second woman stared at him for a minute. Her eyes widened in recognition, and she leaned forward and whispered to her friend. They both stared at him and flushed, then looked at each other again and started whispering.

They both stared again and smiled. He heard the mom whisper, “…really handsome….” He had enough of an ego that he couldn’t help a moment’s bemusement—and deep appreciation.

But where the hell did they know him from? They didn’t look the type who were into diving magazines.

Then again….

He wasn’t sure why, but he felt uneasiness settling in. There had been a number of news crews down by the beach that morning. Most of their group had politely refused to be interviewed—neither he nor Marshall particularly wanted their project associated with the tragedy of the young woman’s death. But he was pretty sure he had seen Alex and Lizzie answering a few questions before managing to escape the reporters.