The first kids arrived, carrying a big cooler. Nigel had one side of the cooler, Winona the other. They were laughing as they kept dropping one side or the other. Winona accused Nigel of being a weakling; he said even if she was a girl, she had to manage her half of the weight.

Mindy Marshall was right behind them; he recognized her from her picture in the file. She was a tall girl with long dark hair, carrying bags of chips and a box of garbage bags. They knew they had to clean up. If a single beer can was found, they would be busted.

Nigel told the girls to start finding wood for the fire, while he dug in the sand to create a pit.

In his mind’s eye, Caleb imagined the birth of the fire, the way it smoked at first, then took hold. He saw Winona dancing around the rising flames, chanting something she had learned from a book, teasing Nigel and Mindy and the others, perhaps telling them that she was ready to meet with the forces of darkness….

Then the woman walked out of the woods. Large, dark glasses covered not just her eyes but most of her face, hiding her features. She wore a scarf around her neck, and she smiled at Winona, who had stopped and gone silent at the sight of her. She spoke in a pleasant tone, assuring the kids she wasn’t going to report them and asking Winona about the words she’d been chanting.

The woman saw something in Winona, and Winona saw something in her, as well. The stranger stepped closer to Winona, who was separated from the others by the leaping bonfire. The woman said something to Winona in a hushed tone, and the other two were totally unaware of the conversation. Seconds later, the woman left them, laughing, waving, telling them to be careful.

Moments later, more partygoers began to arrive, bringing food, booze and pot. A boom box played in the background, and he could hear the laughter, the teasing, see kids pairing off and heading into the shadows….

He concentrated, and he saw Winona Hart, looking around, then starting along the trail back toward the road. She was seen by dozens of witnesses, yet not seen at all.

He opened his eyes, rose and dusted off his jeans.

The sun was beginning to set. The view was spectacular as the sun crouched low on the horizon, painting the sky with bands of gold and orange, and creeping purple.

It was a beautiful place, giving the impression of being wild and even a little forlorn in its beauty, despite its relative proximity to the road.

Caleb walked down to the water.

And found the corpse.


S arah had expected to hear from Caleb Anderson. After all, she had barged into his room that morning and trashed his belongings.

And he had told her not to do it again unless she was looking for sex.

Despite everything else she’d had to deal with that day, the idea of having sex with Caleb crept in unbidden time after time.

And why not?

She was an adult. The rest of the world had sex all the time. She had just put the very possibility on a mental back burner somewhere after Clay’s death. She wasn’t against the idea of having sex again someday. She didn’t even think that it needed to be with the one and only love of her life, someone with whom she was hoping for a future. Which was a good thing, since she hadn’t met anyone else…she thought she might be able to fall in love with. She hadn’t even met anyone who intrigued her for more than a cup of coffee or dinner out.

But Caleb Anderson…

Frankly, he was just gorgeous, the kind of man any woman would want to have sex with….

When Vicky came into the room—clearing her throat politely and saying that it was time for her to lock up—Sarah was forced to realize that it was long after five, and Caleb had made no effort to contact her.

Then again, why would any man—especially an exceptionally handsome and charismatic one—want to spend any more time with a woman who had not only been convinced that he dressed up in costume to play a practical joke on her, but had also come crashing into his room at the crack of dawn to accuse him? She was anxious to see him, though, because she was dying to explain about the picture—and what she had discovered about his ancestry. Once he had all the facts, her seemingly crazy behavior would make sense.

Meanwhile, her afternoon had been a productive one. She’d printed out the records she’d discovered online, and she’d begun reading the journal from Mrs. Abrams’s trunk.

It had been kept by Nellie Brennan, daughter of the nasty undertaker Leo Brennan, and it had been every bit as intriguing as the memoir she’d been reading earlier. Nellie’s mother had died young, and her father’s housekeeper, who had come to live at the Grant mansion with them, was, in Nellie’s words, “a witch.” And not just figuratively, either. The woman scared her; she served her father faithfully, but she treated Nellie badly. Nellie thought that was because she herself wasn’t a pretty girl. The housekeeper, Martha Tyler, though an octoroon of mixed blood, was extremely beautiful and seemed to be ageless. Nellie believed she kept a book of spells hidden in her room, and knew she kept jars containing all sorts of loathsome things, dried and preserved animal parts, herbs and potions, and other similarly repulsive bits. But she ran the house—and the mortuary—faultlessly, so Leo wasn’t about to fire her.

Sarah would have loved to take that journal home, but it was both fragile and a brand-new acquisition. She knew she was lucky to be reading it. When Vicky stretched out a hand, still smiling, to take it back, there was nothing to do but hand it over and thank Vicky for her help.

“Oh, I enjoy helping someone who’s as fascinated as I am by the personal details of history. People love stories about real people.” She waved a hand dismissively. “Do children remember dates and figures? No. But give them exciting events and real people, and they’ll love learning history.”

Sarah agreed, and said, “Vicky, that journal is a true find. I barely got started reading, but I can already tell it’s full of insight into the era. I’ll be back tomorrow. I want to know more about the housekeeper. Nellie said she was a witch.”

“A witch?” Vicky said. “I’ll see if I can find anything about her in the morning.”

“Thanks, I’ll see you bright and early.”

“Oh? Are you off tomorrow, too?”

Sarah hesitated. “Yes, I’m taking tomorrow off, too.”

Vicky looked at her sympathetically. “People still driving you crazy about those bones, huh?”


“Just go on one of the big talk shows—get it over with,” Vicky suggested.

Of all the people who had called, Sarah thought wryly, unfortunately Oprah hadn’t been one of them.

“I’ll see you in the morning,” Sarah told Vicky, then left the library and headed home. She stood on the sidewalk staring up at her house, so many things racing through her mind. The things she’d just been reading. The bones in her walls. Mr. Griffin’s words.

She didn’t care what he said. Houses weren’t evil.

There were no cars parked in front of her house. Still, she didn’t go inside, but headed for the carriage house instead.

It felt…lonely.

She turned on the television, opting for music videos over anything requiring her to pay attention.

She curled up on the bed, intending to read more of the memoir, but her mind was too full. She finally admitted to herself that she hadn’t just expected Caleb to call her, she’d hoped he would. She couldn’t wait to show him the proof of his heritage that she had printed out at the library, not to mention the picture. She was eager to prove her sanity to him.

She turned back to the memoir, and as she read, she wondered about the words the man in her dream had spoken. I didn’t do it.

Clearly she didn’t want to make Caleb look guilty, even in her dreams, though she had no idea what he could actually be guilty of. After all, she was attracted to him. He had been the one to mention sex, but it wasn’t as if she hadn’t already been thinking of it.

As for Cato MacTavish, nothing she had read proved that he had been guilty of the disappearance or the murders. In fact, the crimes had continued after he’d left town, which seemed to indicate the opposite: that despite the rumors swirling around him, he’d been entirely innocent. But there had been rumors—purposely circulated—that Cato remained in hiding. So, through the years he remained a suspect.

She was restless, and though she was enjoying the memoir, she found her mind wandering every few pages.

Finally she put the book down and tried calling Tim Jamison. He was theoretically a nine-to-fiver, but often a case made him run late, sometimes even keeping him on the job well into the night. But not tonight.

She tried Floby, but he wasn’t available, either.

She looked out the window at her house. Twilight was just beginning to arrive. The heat of the day was waning, and everything seemed a bit softer without the glare of the sun.

She left the carriage house, marched up the steps of her home and let herself in.

Someone had been sweeping.

And, she discovered in the kitchen, someone had been using her coffeepot—and her coffee. There was even a half-full cup still sitting out on the counter. All of which was fine, of course. She just felt a bit like one of the three bears, trying to figure out who Goldilocks might be, and whether Goldilocks was still in the house somewhere.

No. She could feel the emptiness.

She walked into the back, where the library was—or would be. The walls were still knocked out, but someone had tried to sweep up in here, too, though despite their best efforts the plaster dust was still ubiquitous.

Floby hadn’t left her a note that day. She wondered idly whether the medical examiner had been the one making coffee.

It suddenly occurred to her that she might have made the same mistake she’d made the other day: forgetting to lock the front door behind her. She raced back to the front door and was relieved to discover that she had locked it. But as she stood there, awash in relief, the emptiness suddenly seemed to be overwhelming.

She turned and found herself studying the beautiful entryway, the double doors leading to the two parlors, and the hallway that led deeper into the house. If she closed her eyes, she could picture herself in the house as it must have been before the Civil War. It would have been beautiful then. Cato MacTavish would have been handsome, dashing and young, with an affectionately teasing light in his eyes as he flirted with his beautiful Eleanora. He wouldn’t have been scarred yet by the horror of the war, by seeing his fellow soldiers and friends fall. Eleanora wouldn’t yet have disappeared. His father would have been alive, and Eleanora might have come over to play and sing for both the elder MacTavish and the younger, the man she loved. The swish of taffeta would have accompanied the sound of laughter. Sarah could almost see them….