“I’m so happy to hear we’re a business expense,” Sarah said.

He let out a sigh of aggravation, staring at her. “What the hell is it with you? You’re the one who invited me here.”

She was quiet for a moment, then shook her head. “I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. Anyway, don’t worry about paying. Al—the bartender—told me that Harry was here earlier, saw us and told our waitress not to give us a check. So we were all Harry’s guests tonight. And I have to show up to work tomorrow morning, too, so I need to get going.”

“Let’s go, then.”

She waved to several people as they left, and a few called out to her in return, but at least no one was asking her about the grisly find in her house.

Even so, he was certain that the whispering would start as soon as they were gone.

They walked in silence for a few minutes. “So what will you be doing tomorrow?” she eventually asked him.

“Heading to Jacksonville,” he said.

She looked over at him. “You think your missing girl is in Jacksonville?”

“No. I think she’s here. And I think Winona Hart is going to be found here, too—eventually. But I want to go to the agency where Jennie rented her car. I would have done that today, but I had the opportunity to go on the dive, and I didn’t want to miss it.”

“There is the possibility that she just drove off into the sunset,” Sarah said.

“No. She didn’t get insurance on the car because her parents had insurance that already covered her. If she’d been planning on just taking off with the car, she’d have bought insurance so that her parents wouldn’t be liable,” he said.

“You overestimate people,” Sarah said. “If she was depressed or upset about something, she wouldn’t have been thinking about insurance.”

“But she wasn’t depressed, and she wasn’t upset.”

“How can you be so certain?”

“I talked to her parents.”

“The parents are often the last to know,” she reminded him.

“Not these parents.”

She was still skeptical, he could see, but he didn’t argue with her.

“Do you really think you can read people that well?” she asked at last.

“Not always, but sometimes? Yes.”

“Some people wear very convincing masks,” Sarah pointed out.

“Very true.”

“So how do you deal with that?” she asked.

“All masks crack with time, or under the right heat,” he said. “So what about you? What will you be doing tomorrow?”

“Oh, I’ll be going to work. I need the money more than ever now,” she said, her tone slightly resentful.

“You’re not going to hang at home, hovering over your property?”

“I’ll let them tramp around a while on their own. Then I’ll get involved,” she said.

They had reached the B&B. Caleb used his key to open the front door instead of going around the side to his private entrance. “Thanks for inviting me tonight,” he said.

“I’m glad you could come,” she answered, but there wasn’t a lot of warmth in her words. They were courteous, spoken by rote.

“Well, have a good day at work tomorrow. And…hey.”

“Hey what?”

“Be careful. Something does seem to be going on around here,” he said.

She smiled. “I’m not a blonde. And I’m sure not about to run out and buy a big bottle of bleach right now.”

“Two blondes have gone missing, true. But that fact might be coincidence. If the two disappearances are connected, the real link might be something else entirely,” Caleb said. “Everyone needs to be careful right now. No one knows yet what links the missing girls.”

She smiled. “I’ll be careful. And I’ll see you at breakfast, anyway.”


She hadn’t headed toward her room yet. The light coming from the parlor was dim, but he could see that she was staring at him closely. “Caroline is convinced that she’s seen you before.”

“Yeah, I know. But I don’t see how. But anything is possible, I guess. Maybe we crossed paths in an airport somewhere.”

She was still staring at him.

“Yes?” he said at last.

“I was just curious,” she said.


“When does your mask crack? When do we get to know the real you?”

Without even waiting for an answer, she turned then and headed into her room. He heard the click as she locked her door.


I t was perfectly natural that Sarah had a bizarre dream that night.

She was at Hunky Harry’s, but no one was what they seemed.

She was with her friends, but then she blinked and turned away, and saw that though a band was playing, the musicians were skeletons. They were dressed casually, in T-shirts and jeans, but a few wore top hats, as if they were planning to join an orchestra. They held their instruments with bony fingers, grinned wicked, lipless grins, and stared at her with empty eye sockets.

When she turned back to her table, everything about her friends had changed.

They were skeletons, as well. Will was drinking a beer, and she watched the amber liquid pass through his rib cage and disappear below the table.

Renee had a bandana tied around her head, just as if she were holding her hair in place, but there was no hair there. She was dressed in the homespun cotton outfit she often wore when giving lectures at the museum.

Barry was wearing a stovepipe hat.

A bone forefinger touched her shoulder. She looked up and saw that it belonged to Al, the bartender.

“You having a beer, or would you rather a glass of wine?” he asked her.

She opened her mouth to answer him, but nothing came out. She wanted to scream, to ask them all whether they realized something was wrong—that they had all turned to bones.

Then she looked across the room and saw someone who wasn’t a skeleton.

Caleb Anderson.

He was standing in the doorway, solid, living flesh.

His eyes met hers, and he shook his head, as if trying to make her understand…something.

“We all have masks on, all the time,” he said. She couldn’t really hear him because the music—an old Stones tune—was so loud, but she still knew exactly what he’d said.

“Look carefully at everyone,” he added.

Then he started walking across the room to her, but the air was suddenly filled with flying bones. They were everywhere, like a gauntlet of flying ribs and femurs.

She leapt up and tried to reach him, but all she could see were the bones…

It was a dream, of course—nothing but a dream—and she wanted out.

She woke up, her eyes flying open while the rest of her felt almost paralyzed for a moment, and realized it was daytime. Despite the drapes in her windows, sunlight was filtering through.

She groaned, then rose and looked at her watch. Eight o’clock. Breakfast would be on the table in thirty minutes, and it would be large and elegant. Bertie served fruit, juice, a selection of main dishes, and a wide selection rolls and breads, along with butter and homemade jams. Most of the B&Bs in town prided themselves on their breakfasts, and the Tropic Breeze was no different. She used good china, silverware, and eclectic but elegant serving pieces. Somehow she managed to pull it all together seven days a week, though it helped that she paid her employees so well that every college student in the area was happy to help her. They began work at six, getting coffee out for six-thirty, and they had breakfast all cleaned up by ten, so they could head to class.

Sarah knew all that because, years ago, she had been one of those college students, having gotten the jobs thanks to her parents’ friendship with Bertie.

But now she was a guest, so after a quick shower to wash away the uneasiness the dream had left in its wake, she neatly repacked, having decided that, as much as she loved Bertie, she was moving back home.

Bertie had refused to let her pay for her room, which made her feel guilty, and she had the carriage house, after all. She could live there while the academics and the authorities tramped through the mansion. She could keep an eye on everything going on, but she wouldn’t have to deal with the mess—or the creepiness. She should have thought of it the night before. No, she’d been too upset last night; it was good that she’d spent the night elsewhere.

She thought about the dream from which she’d forced herself to waken. Strange. Though no stranger than yesterday’s real-world events. She had been able to escape from the dream, but she wasn’t going to be so lucky when it came to reality. Her house was going to be filled with strangers for the foreseeable future. Her carefully thought-out plan to get her own B&B started was going straight to hell.

It was, she reflected as she left the room, strange that all her friends had turned into skeletons in the dream, while Caleb Anderson had remained flesh and blood—and ready to come to her rescue.

“Morning!” Bertie called to her cheerfully as she walked into the dining room. The older woman was in the process of refilling the old Russian samovar she used for regular coffee. “How did you sleep, dear?” Bertie asked.

“Like a baby,” Sarah lied. “Can I help?”

“No, but thank you for offering. Help yourself to breakfast, and let me know if there’s something special you want to see on tomorrow’s menu. You are staying tonight, too, right?”

“You know what? Thank you so much, Bertie, but no, I’m going to go home tonight.”

“What?” Bertie demanded, aghast. “But, Sarah—”

“It’s okay, honestly. It’s not like I’ll be sleeping with the skeletons, so don’t worry. Anyway, I have the carriage house. It’s all set up and ready to roll. I’m so grateful to you for making room for me last night, but I’d rather stick close to home in my carriage house until all those people clear out of my house.”