Before Sarah could collect the sodas, her phone rang again. This time it was Caleb.
“What’s going on?” she asked him.
“I’ve been to see Floby, and he’s still waiting on results. But my DNA is a match for Eleanora’s.”
“Oh, Caleb, it’s what we thought,” she said. “Are you all right? They’re your ancestors. Maybe we can arrange to have her buried with Cato. It shouldn’t be that hard to find out where he’s buried.”
“That’s a nice thought, but it’s not why I called you.”
“I just got a call back on the testing I asked for on Renee’s blood.”
“And?” she asked.
“She had yaupon holly in her bloodstream.”
“So she was an intended victim!” Sarah said. Before he could answer, she heard a noise from the front of the house, then a worrisome silence.
She didn’t want to worry Caleb, but she needed to see what was going on. “Oh, hell, it’s getting busy around here,” she said. “I’d better go.”
She set her phone down and raced to the front of the house.
“In here—ladies parlor!” Renee called.
Sarah started to head in that direction, then heard the front doorknob turning. A moment later, Caroline, in costume, walked in, looking very excited. She had a big bag over her shoulder, and a large cup of takeout coffee in each hand. “I’ve brought the stuff—let’s go look at it.”
“Great. Renee and Gary are in the parlor, so—”
“Good, they can look, too. Only I don’t have coffee for them.”
“Someone can have mine,” Sarah offered.
“No, I know how you love your coffee, and I got extra sugar in it—it’s marked on the cup—just the way you like it. I’ll give mine to Gary, if you don’t mind making some tea. Renee prefers tea, anyway,” Caroline said.
Sarah shrugged. “No prob. I’ll put the kettle on and be right there.”
Caleb walked into a bar on a side street just off Castillo. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he realized that Cary Hagan was sitting at the bar.
And she was wiping tears from her cheeks.
“Cary?” he said cautiously, approaching her. “Can I…do anything?”
She flashed him an angry glare. “Don’t you think you’ve done enough?”
“You should be. I’ve just been fired.”
He sat down on the stool next to her and asked, genuinely puzzled,
“How is it my fault that you were fired?”
“Tim broke up with me, and then Mr. Griffin fired me, all because of you.”
“I’ve never even spoken with Mr. Griffin,” he told her, noticing the empty glasses in front of her and deciding to cut her some slack.
“But you’ve made Tim’s life hell, making him look incompetent because you, Mr. Hotshot, are always the one to make the breakthrough. He called and told me all about it this morning. And then he said how you practically accused him of being the killer just because he had mud on his shoes. And then…Then he broke up with me, because he said being with me so much was getting in the way of his career, plus people were starting to talk about us and his wife was starting to suspect. So I left and went to find him and try to get him to change his mind, but he wouldn’t listen, and when I got back to the house, an ambulance was there, because Mr. Griffin had fallen out of his chair—and he fired me!”
“Cary, I’m sorry, but I don’t see how I’m responsible because you decided to date a married man, not to mention you’re the one who left your patient alone so you could try to get your lover back,” Caleb pointed out calmly.
“Well, I’m ready to blow this town anyway,” she said, shaking her head. “Everyone pretends to be nice, and then they turn around and talk about you behind your back. And to think I was sorry about that Renee Otten the other night. Well, I’m not sorry now. She got what she deserved.”
“How do you see that?” Caleb asked.
“She talked about Tim and me, just like the rest of them,” Cary said. “I saw the way they all looked at us in Hunky Harry’s. Well, I’ve seen a few things, too, let me tell you.”
“Like what?” Caleb asked.
“For one thing, I can tell you that Miss Goody Two-shoes is nothing but a lying, slutty little bitch.”
“Who are you talking about?” Caleb asked her.
“Oh, my God! Do you think this was really written by her—by Martha Tyler?” Sarah demanded.
Caroline had brought a book she’d found in the archives. It wasn’t a spell book but a grim record of the mortuary’s activities. It listed the dead and which room they were in, and, often, how they had died. Caroline had found a picture of the housekeeper, as well. The woman had been stunning, with proud, strong features and large dark eyes that would have been able to seduce any man whose heart was beating. She had worn the plain clothing of a servant as if she were a queen and they were robes of the finest satin.
“Of course it was written by her,” Caroline said, excited. “And isn’t the picture amazing?”
Absently, Sarah took another swallow of her coffee and stared at the picture. All of a sudden, it seemed to move.
“Look at her dancing,” Caroline said.
She was dancing, Sarah thought, and beckoning to her.
“Sarah? Sarah, are you all right?” Renee asked, as if from a great distance.
No, she wasn’t all right, Sarah thought, but she couldn’t seem to get the words out. Everything in the room was moving, and her limbs were growing heavy, her vision narrowing, as she slid to the floor.
All she could see was Caroline, smiling.
“Sarah?” Renee was leaning over her, looking worried. Sarah tried to answer Renee, and then she tried—and failed—to warn her when, to her absolute disbelief, she saw Gary pick up the fireplace poker and slam it against Renee’s head.
Renee fell to the ground with a startled expression and her lips forming a silent O.
Gary? Gary was the killer?
And not just Gary.
Caroline. Her best friend, now completely insane. Standing there and smiling benignly as she said, “I found all this history, Sarah. No one ever thought I was as good a historian as you are, but I am, and I proved it when I found all these documents—documents you missed—in this house. It should have been my house, you know. And one day, it will be. I found Martha Tyler’s book—not this book, her spell book—and she said if we drink the blood of the young and healthy, we can live forever. Oh, Sarah, I really am sorry. I didn’t want to hurt you, and we tried to scare you off, but you wouldn’t go away. And you and Caleb are so ridiculously good at finding bodies and figuring out the truth.” She sighed sadly and went on. “Now, when he comes looking for you—and we both know he will, especially because sooner or later he’ll check your phone and see the text message I left you saying I found a reference to the old Rebel cemetery when I was going through the archives—he’ll die, too. But we’ll make sure he looks guilty of killing you and Renee first, and if we’re lucky, maybe he’ll take the fall for Winona, too.”
“It’s still daylight, what do we do now?” Gary asked.
“We take them out to your truck in burlap bags, and then we dump them. We’ll have to use another cemetery, though, which sucks. I really liked using Martha’s final resting place, but we can use that old one out by the highway. Now get moving,” Caroline snapped. “We have to move quickly. And we’ve got to be on our game tonight. It has to look as if I barely escaped Caleb before I managed to kill him. You have the knife—and a gun, right?”
Gary nodded, and then they left the room, presumably in search of burlap bags and God only knew what else.
Paralyzed as she lay on the floor, Sarah tried desperately to think of a way out, a way to at least leave a clue for anyone who came looking for her. A way to warn Caleb and save his life, even if it were at the expense of her own.
She couldn’t move or speak, but she could still see.
And what she saw was a man in nineteenth-century clothes.
It was Cato, and when he hunkered down next to her and swept his plumed hat from his head, he looked at her with deep sorrow in his eyes.
Help me, Sarah thought.
The floor was still coated in plaster dust. If she could just move a finger, she could write a message, but though she tried, her muscles remained stubbornly paralyzed.
Help me, she pleaded to the apparition again.
Somehow he understood, and though it seemed to be difficult for him, he reached for her hand and started to write. She tried to think, but the world was beginning to fade. She heard Gary and Caroline come back in, saw them reenter the room carrying huge burlap bags that had once held cement. She could still see the ghost as he followed while she was dragged across the floor.
No, stay here, she ordered him silently. You have to lead Caleb to me.
But she knew he was still with her, even as she was tied into the bag and tossed into the back of Gary’s work truck.
“There’s only one word for that woman, no matter how sweet as pie she acts!” Cary exploded. “She was at the bar that night, too, sneaking around and watching her friend.”
“Cary…are you saying that Caroline Roth was at the bar the night Renee Otten was attacked?”
“She was lurking in the back, but yeah, I saw her. Just like I’ve seen her with that guy who’s fixing up Sarah’s house,” Cary said.
He was off his bar stool before she’d even finished speaking.
He called the museum as he ran, but the college kid who answered told him that the only docent there was Barry Travis.
He tried Sarah’s home phone and got the machine, then her cell, which only rang and rang before going to voice mail.
He forgot all about his car and ran all the way to her house. The door was open when he tried the knob, sending a chill coursing through him. “Sarah!”