There was no answer. He checked out the downstairs, and when he reached the kitchen, he saw her purse and phone lying in the counter. He ran down into the basement, but it was empty, then raced up the stairs and through the bedrooms.
He tried the attic.
He hurtled down the stairs again, then stopped short, staring, sure he was dreaming.
But he wasn’t.
A host of people were standing in the foyer as if they’d been waiting for him forever, their clothing elegant and their eyes sad.
One woman stepped forward. She was extremely beautiful, with translucent blue eyes, and she looked at him sympathetically as she reached for him. And even though he could see through her, he felt her gentle touch on his face as she directed his attention to the ladies’ parlor.
He walked closer and saw drag marks through the plaster dust.
He leaned down…and examined a series of smudges, realizing that they spelled out words.
rebel cemetery gun kill you
He stood and raced for his car, his phone already to his ear.
Sarah slowly came to. She was lying in a cemetery, and as soon as she looked around, she knew which one. It was a very old one and had served the outlying farms. Rebel soldiers were buried here, along with Spanish homesteaders and British immigrants. There was even a mound marking the final resting place of some of the Yankees who had died at the battle of Olustee.
She was lying on an old stone sarcophagus, and she was vaguely aware of voices droning in the background. She tested her muscles and realized that she could move—just a little bit, but at least she was no longer totally paralyzed.
She managed to turn her head toward the voices and blinked, sure she must be hallucinating, then realizing that this was all too real. She saw two figures in hooded capes, one holding a massive bowl, the other a huge curved knife with elaborate engraving along the blade.
The words…they were chanting were a mixture of English, French and something else she didn’t recognize. Maybe Spanish. Maybe Creole.
“For blood is life!” one of them cried as they lifted the bowl and knife toward the sky.
Where was Renee? she wondered. Had they already killed her?
Suddenly one of the figures moved closer and loomed over her. From the size, she realized it was Gary.
“Let’s do it,” Caroline said impatiently.
“No. Not yet. I want to play with her,” Gary said, tossing back his hood as he leaned down, staring at Sarah in fascination. He smiled cruelly. “Her eyes are open. She sees me. Or maybe a dragon. Or a monster. Maybe a giant wolf.”
“Gary, get away from her.”
Gary flashed Caroline an angry look. “I get to play with the girls first, because I am the god. That’s what it says in the book.”
“Not her,” Caroline insisted.
“Especially her,” Gary said. “I love her. I’ve always loved her. But she never loved me. Never.”
“Get away from her, Gary. We have to hurry. What’s the matter with you? She has to die, and we have to be ready when Caleb gets here—we have to kill him and then mess me up so it looks like he tried to kill me, too. Get smart, Gary, come on,” Caroline urged.
“Shut up! Give me a minute.”
He touched Sarah’s face, and she tried not to twitch. She couldn’t let him know that she was starting to be able to move, because she needed the element of surprise.
She might have only one chance of saving herself.
Caleb drew his car up in the shelter of the trees outside the cemetery wall and killed the motor. He got out and scaled the wall, dropping silently to the ground and moving carefully between the old headstones until he could see them.
Gary was bending down over a weathered sarcophagus, with a knife in his hand as he stared intently at Sarah.
Or Sarah’s body.
Caroline was standing beneath a tree.
Where was Renee?
He looked around and he saw a burlap bag bulging with…
Renee’s body. Dead or alive.
He held still for a long moment, watching, judging his distance. Wondering how far behind him the police cars were.
Then, to his amazement, he saw…himself. No, not himself. Cato. Running toward Gary and Caroline.
“It’s him!” Caroline shrieked. “Shoot him, Gary! Shoot him!”
Gary straightened, dropping the knife as he pulled a gun from under his robe and started to fire. His aim was good.
But there was no way to shoot a ghost.
Caleb counted the shots, then leapt to his feet when he reached six and made a beeline toward the action. Gary took aim again. At him.
He drew his own weapon as Caroline let out a shriek of pure fury and went racing toward Sarah, grabbing the knife off the ground as she ran.
Caleb’s shot took Gary down. He had aimed to kill.
And he did.
But now Caroline was on top of Sarah, knife raised. Suddenly Sarah lashed out with her legs, catching Caroline in the chest.
Caroline flew backward, slammed into a tall headstone, then fell forward again.
Right on the knife she had meant to use on Sarah.
A blood sacrifice.
It was days before everything began to untangle and the full truth came out. The police reached the cemetery moments after Caroline’s death, leading to hours of interrogation for Sarah and Caleb, while Renee, who this time didn’t regain consciousness for hours, made her second trip to the hospital in twenty-four hours.
At the station, Jamison had the grace to apologize and then fell silent. Then there was the process of trying to understand what had triggered Caroline’s insanity, even as Sarah, stunned, grieved for the loss of her best friend, a friend she now realized she had never really known.
As they put the pieces together, Caroline’s MO began to emerge. She had lived with her parents, so every night, after Will saw her home, she had turned around and gone back out to meet Gary. It would always be impossible to know for sure, but apparently they’d started dabbling in black magic years earlier. At first it had been a lark, a fun way to scare themselves, but somewhere along the way they’d started to take it seriously, and their murderous rampage had begun.
And while there was no way to prove it—and in fact, Sarah would never even consider trying, since she had no desire to be branded insane—Sarah suspected that maybe the insanity that drove them had been a result of the original Martha Tyler’s curse. How else to explain not only their actions but those of the forever unidentified killer who had murdered Mr. Griffin’s daughter and the other missing girls back in the 1920s?
The house was gone over with a fine-tooth comb, and Jennie Lawson’s body was found buried beneath the stack of crates in the basement. And because Caroline had been so determined to emulate Martha Tyler, she had left behind a book of her own, which her parents found in her bedroom.
She and Gary had killed Frederick Russell when he had found them trying to stuff a drugged Jennie Lawson into Greg’s truck, then come up with the idea of sending both him and his car to the bottom of the bay.
Given the DNA match, Caleb was able to claim the body of Eleanora Stewart.
Will was stunned. He had never suspected that Caroline had a secret life, and he seemed ready to wallow in his misery for the foreseeable future. But then Cary offered her shoulder, and Sarah didn’t think it would take long for them to do more than commiserate together.
Ten days after the events in the cemetery, Sarah and Caleb headed to Virginia, where they traced the grave of Cato MacTavish and saw Eleanora laid to rest next to him.
Sarah was never entirely sure that she wasn’t dreaming, but she could have sworn she saw the two of them together.
Not at the cemetery.
But when she woke in the middle of the night.
They were standing at the foot of the bed, arm in arm, looking down at her and Caleb with approving smiles.
Caleb moved slightly, reaching to take her into his arms.
Then they faded gently away, and Sarah had the feeling that she would never see them again but that there would be others like them in her future.
Caleb edged closer to her, his body like a sleek spoon against her.
“My love,” he murmured.
She closed her eyes, filled with the sense that so long as she was in his arms, she was exactly where she was supposed to be. She didn’t know what the future would hold, if they would set up housekeeping in Virginia or move back to St. Augustine, or go somewhere else entirely, and she realized with complete serenity that it didn’t matter.
Whatever they did now, they would do together, and that was all that mattered.