“I think the woman Caleb found on the beach might have been buried there, then dug up and thrown in the ocean later.”
“All right.” He sighed. “Actually, it’s already been a theory of mine that she was buried—then dug up and dumped. It’s past quitting time anyway, and I won’t have the results I want until tomorrow, at least. You shouldn’t go wandering around by yourself, though, seeing as it’s almost dark. I’ll come get you, so just stay put, you hear?”
“Thank you, Floby. I’m right on the plaza, so I’ll wait for you in the café near the Casa Monica Hotel, okay?”
“I’ll find you.”
Frederick Russell’s widow, Ginger, was a perfectly named slim redhead. She had pretty features, though looking drawn now, from the sadness that seemed to weigh her down.
She’d suggested they meet in the parlor of an Old Town hotel, now charmingly set for evening tea.
“I’m very sorry for your loss,” Caleb said as he took a seat across from her. “But I’m not sure how I can help you. I found your husband’s body, but I don’t know anything about him or how he came to be there. You said he was murdered, but…”
“First you should know that Ricky—sorry, that’s what I called him—didn’t speed, and he knew these roads like the back of his hand. He was one of the most responsible people I’ve ever met. He didn’t drink, and he didn’t do drugs. There’s no way his death was an accident.”
“Perhaps there was something wrong with his car,” Caleb suggested.
She shook her head, smiling sadly. “No way. He kept it in perfect repair.” She took a deep breath, visibly steeling herself. “I’ve asked around, and I know who you are and why you’re here. I’m just curious if you’re aware that my husband and the girl you came down here looking for disappeared at pretty much the same time?”
“I knew it had to be around the same time, yes, given when you’d reported him missing. But with the amount of time your husband was in the water, they couldn’t establish an exact time of death,” Caleb said.
“The night he disappeared, I was talking to Frederick on the phone when he suddenly said something like, ‘What the hell…?’ And he wasn’t in his car then, he was walking in Old Town. He was meeting a client for dinner. I think he saw something, something that bothered him, and went to see what was going on. You had to have known my husband—he would never have passed up a chance to help someone. And that’s the last that was seen or heard of him,” she said. “But I think—no, I’m sure—that when he went to help, something happened, that he got involved in something he couldn’t handle and was killed for it. The police didn’t believe me then, and I doubt they’d believe me now, but I’m sure of it.”
Caleb glanced at his phone, which he’d set on the table, and realized he’d missed a call.
He rose. “Mrs. Russell, thank you for calling me. I swear to you, I’ll do my absolute best to find out what happened to your husband, and whether his death is related to the disappearances of these girls.”
She offered him her sad smile again. “I know you will. Martha Tyler told me there’s something special about you. That you would help me.”
“That was very kind of her. I’ll keep in touch,” he promised.
He walked out onto Charlotte Street and pulled out his phone, trying to reach Sarah. He felt his heart slamming as the phone rang.
But then she answered. “Caleb?”
“I was just trying to reach you. I need you to meet me as soon as you can.”
A long moment of silence followed, and his eyes narrowed in suspicion as he waited for her answer, and then he cursed silently when she finally replied.
“No. The cemetery.”
Old Town was usually one of the safest areas of St. Augustine. There were always people about: a dozen different tours going on, locals and tourists filling the bars and restaurants, even people just out walking their dogs.
But that night, when they turned off the main street and headed toward the cemetery, there seemed to be no one around. No one but her—and Floby.
A slight breeze had risen, drifting through the moss that hung from the oaks and cypresses along the way. In the dark, the old cemetery felt lonely and forlorn.
Even Floby seemed creepy in the darkness.
Sarah glanced over at him. His hair was disheveled, and he was bent over staring avidly at the ground.
Like a mad scientist.
Like a man who believed that the blood of virgins would restore his vigor and his youth.
She mocked herself for her fear; she doubted that any of the recent victims had been virgins, and she herself certainly wasn’t. Apparently it wasn’t virgin blood that was needed, just the blood of the young.
“Where exactly are we going?” he asked, his glasses slipping down on his nose so he had to look over the top of the wire frames at her.
“The copse—where Martha Tyler was lynched,” Sarah said. “But we can wait, if you want. Caleb is on his way.” She had stopped as she spoke, but he had kept on walking. Now he turned around, and for a moment the glare of his flashlight blinded her. She felt a sudden and terrible fear that he was suddenly going to grab her and start laughing maniacally.
It was Caleb’s voice, and she spun around, shaking. He was striding down the street toward them, his steps brisk. “What the hell are you doing out here alone?” he demanded.
“I’m not alone—I’m with Floby,” Sarah said. She realized she was shaking—which was absurd, of course. She’d known Floby forever. He wasn’t a sadistic killer.
“I’m over here,” Floby said, waving his light.
Caleb stared at Sarah. “What are we doing here?”
“Caleb, you said that the Jane Doe found on the beach had been moved—that she hadn’t been in the water all that time, that she’d been buried somewhere first. When I came out here today—”
“You came to the cemetery alone?” he interrupted.
“No. I came with a tour group,” she said impatiently. “There’s a patch of land in the back—it’s where the so-called sinners were buried, back in the day. And it’s where Martha Tyler was lynched. Someone has been digging back there recently. I wanted to see if someone was…buried there now. Or if someone had been buried there. Can you tell?”
Floby sighed. “We can take soil samples and find out if any organic material decomposed in the soil, but it’s not going to be easy to discover if a body was there, and if so, how recently.” He turned to Caleb.
“You have a gun, right?”
“And you know how to use it, right?”
“Good, because it’s dark back there and you never know who might be around,” Floby said.
With Floby’s light leading the way, they started along the wall.
When they reached the area of disturbed earth, Floby said, “Maybe we should call Jamison.”
Caleb stared at the ground, then hunkered down and felt the dirt. “No,” he said. “Let’s see what we can find first.”
He stood up and turned around, looking for something with which to dig. Floby reached into his lab coat and produced a small trowel and several glass bottles. He began to take samples from random spots and depths. “Come help,” he told Sarah, and she hurried over to take the sample bottles from him after he filled them.
Caleb came back over with a thick oak branch and started digging. After a while, sweaty and muddy, he leaned on the branch and said, “We could use a real shovel.” Then he shoved the branch into the dirt one more time, shaking his head. “We’ll have to bring in the cops, but it does look like a good place to dig.”
Sarah stared at the point where the branch was sticking into the dirt, and her words caught in her throat.
Fingers—delicate, long fingers—were protruding from the earth, as if a hand were raised in supplication, begging for pity, pleading for help.
She pointed, unable to speak.
“Oh, lordy,” Floby said.
Caleb took out his phone and called the police.
Caleb found it difficult standing there next to Jamison while the floodlights lit the small field behind the cemetery. Jamison was quiet, his jaw locked, as they watched the girl being unearthed, and everyone went quiet when Floby carefully dusted the dirt from her face.
It was Winona Hart.
Jamison got on the phone immediately, as a van came to take Winona Hart’s corpse back to the morgue in a body bag. Once she was gone, the digging continued, going on all through the night as they kept coming across bones.
It had been decades—at least a hundred years—since the so-called undesirables had been interred on the “unholy” side of the wall, and now they were digging up nothing but the sad and lonely remnants of lives long gone and never appreciated.
“I’m still trying to figure out how you knew to look here,” Jamison told Caleb, his tone suspicious, his eyes narrowed.
“It wasn’t Caleb, it was me,” Sarah informed him. “I heard how this is where the housekeeper from the Grant place was lynched, and when I came out here on a tour today, I started looking around, and I saw how the dirt looked disturbed. Then I remembered that the Jane Doe had been buried before being thrown in the water. I didn’t know we’d find Winona Hart, but I thought we might find proof that Jane Doe had been buried here and then dug up.”
“I find it more than interesting that you keep finding dead people,” Jamison said to Caleb.
Caleb tried to think about everything Adam had ever tried to teach him about keeping his cool. “You know, the night Winona Hart disappeared—”
“You had just gotten to town,” Jamison said. “You were with us on the dive the next day. So you were here when she disappeared.”