“No, I wasn’t trying to be evasive,” Blake protested.

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“And I wasn’t being sarcastic. Thank you. See you,” Jackson said. He ignored the elevator and headed down the stairway. Faster than waiting, he thought.

Outside, he noticed a flyer taped to a street lamp. It drew his attention. Fight for Our America! the headline read. It went on, “We work against affirmative action, and for the people of this country. Join us tonight as we rally. Aryans for America.”

He stepped closer to read the address.

“Hey, I’m over here, boss!”

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Across the street, he saw Jake lounging against his car.

He walked over to him. “Well?”

“Well, driver boy is in a car just around the corner,” Jake told him. “Want me to show you?”

“No, I’m assuming you already had a chat, and that you made it sound like you were both just gofers, waiting to do as you were told.”

Jake grinned. “You bet. Couldn’t think of a better angle.”

“Did you get anything?”

“Actually, I did,” Jake told him. “And?”

“He’s in trouble.”

“How?”

“Gambling debts,” Jake told him.

Jackson angled his head to the side, arching a brow. “And he just told you all about this?”

“We got to talking. The day Regina was killed, he was at the casino. He was sure that he was in the right poker game. He wasn’t. He had thought that he could dig himself out. The senator was a good guy, he said, and would have loaned him the money he needed—but he wasn’t going to get it.”

“And why not?”

“Regina Holloway,” Jake said. “Regina liked him fine. He swears that she really liked him. But she wanted him to grow up, work hard and pay his debts, instead of falling back on the senator.”

“So, what’s the situation now?” Jackson asked.

“He’s fine. Holloway gave him the money, and he’s supposed to work it off, hanging in extra hours, driving some other people around for the senator, that kind of thing.”

“So, Senator Holloway paid the debt for him after his wife died?”

“Yeah. Grable said that he didn’t even ask again. After Regina died, he just called him into the office, told him he’d pay the debt once and only once, and after that, God help him, because he wouldn’t do so again.”

“Good work,” Jackson said.

Jake grinned. “It’s all in knowing how to play it. Don’t you agree?”

“More or less,” Jackson said. “So, the kid had motive.”

“Yep. What did you get?”

“Well, let’s see—I think that the senator did sleep with another woman, and I think that the other woman was his secretary, Lisa Drummond. She’s not a femme fatale of any kind, but she was there, that’s what I’m thinking. And she cares about the senator.”

“Hmm. A man with a secret, and it seems that it was actually a secret. But the senator is the one who brought us all in. Even if he was sleeping with another woman, he might have loved his wife.”

“I agree.”

“So where are we?”

“With a pack of motives. Turns out that our bodyguard, Blake Conroy, has a juvenile record—killed another kid in a fight. But he’s a born-again Christian, and he admits to lots of religious debates with Regina Holloway. Oh, and let’s see. He doesn’t like Martin DuPre very much, but he thinks that the chauffeur is okay.”

“And what’s the story with DuPre?”

“Didn’t talk to him. He wasn’t there. Seems like he does a lot of running around. Errands, you know.”

“Yes, he’s got a busy life. That’s one of the things that makes Grable Haines very unhappy. He gets to chauffeur Martin DuPre around town.”

“But the chauffeur is here now, and DuPre isn’t,” Jackson said.

Jake shrugged. “I don’t know where DuPre is now. Grable has got his paper. He’s just sitting in the car. Tonight, he has to take DuPre around town. He said that he was taking some folks to a restaurant on Chartres tonight. One of the big new tourist places.”

“What people?”

“Grable didn’t say—I don’t think he knows. He says that when he’s out with DuPre, the man lords it over him. He says that Senator Holloway never acts that way—like they’re all just servants. But Martin DuPre loves to play the big man, and that he wants to be Senator Holloway.”

“Is it jealousy? Sour grapes?” Jackson asked.

“Could be. Could be that the guy is an ass, and that’s why everyone dislikes him.”

Jackson laughed. “Got it. I don’t dislike you because you’re male, female, black, pink, Christian, Jewish—I dislike you because you’re a total jerk. Hmm. Then why does the senator keep the guy?”

“Maybe he’s good at errands,” Jake suggested.

“Any errands.”

“Whatever those errands may be,” Jake agreed.

Jake’s phone rang. When he excused himself, flipped it open and answered, he frowned. He glanced quickly at Jackson, and tried to look away—a sure sign that the conversation had something to do with him. “It’s all right… We’re on our way. And I won’t say that you called.”

Jake turned. “There’s been an incident at the house. Apparently, they got some ghosts in the basement on tape. They manifested for Angela.”

Angela had felt it; against the brilliance of the light that had come into the room, there had been a ray of darkness. A ray of something that had nothing to do with light, and everything to do with an aura of darkness and evil. The light had been something with an incredible strength; something that seemed more powerful than anything else. But the light had hurt the darkness, and that which had remained shadow and issued a silent scream of rage, trying to grow, to fight against the dazzling brilliance.

She had felt it just as she had heard the others screaming.

But nothing had happened. The door at the top of the short flight of stairs had burst open, and Will had come rushing down, screaming loudly. She had run to him, and together, they’d vacated the basement, running back up to the kitchen. There, daylight streamed through the windows and French doors to the courtyard. Whitney and Jenna had come rushing in, and they had all just stared at one another.

“What happened?” Jenna demanded.

Angela, surprised, looked at her. “What do you mean, what happened? You all screamed at me to get out.”

“There was light—so much light. Something like moving shadows at first, and then a burst of light so hot the film almost seemed to burn, and then we could see you, and there was like a—a black thing coming right at you!” Whitney told her. “You were all alone down here—and there was a giant black shadow!”

“The light suddenly burned brilliantly—and then…” Angela paused. “Let’s go see what you’ve got on film.”

“Wait!” Will said, staring at Angela. “I’ve been here—I haven’t seen anything yet, either. So, first, you tell us—what did you see?”

She was shaking inwardly; she had felt the malevolence, and she remembered coming home after dinner with Jackson, looking at the house, and thinking that, somehow, evil still managed to dwell within.

She had felt it again. Just then. Down in the basement. Evil had been the darkness against the light. Something that hadn’t been able to bear the fact that—

“Oh, no, what did you two see?” Angela asked Jenna and Whitney. “What did you see that made you start screaming to tell me to get out of there?” she demanded.

The two women looked at each other before looking at her again.

“A…giant shadow, I guess,” Jenna said. “And we were all up here. All of us. Except for you, and you weren’t the one suddenly causing the light and shadow. Angela, we saw it!”

“Like there was someone there, and someone who cast some kind of massive— I don’t know—it was like black, rising against all that light,” Whitney said.

“Coming toward you,” Jenna said gravely.

Angela looked at Will, frowning.

Will said, “Hey, when they screamed, I went flying down the stairs to get you.”

“What did you see then?” she asked.

“You—all I did was reach for you,” Will said.

“Okay,” Angela said, looking at Whitney and Jenna again. “Coming toward me, and doing what?”

Once again, the two looked at each other.

“It was—bad,” Jenna said.

“Bad?” Angela asked.

“I was afraid that…it was going to try to envelop you in some kind of darkness,” Whitney said.

“At first, it seemed that everything was so beautiful!” Jenna spoke over her. “And then that darkness started rising against the light. I was just terrified for you. I didn’t see burning red eyes or a horned devil or anything…just darkness. Malignant darkness.”

“So, what did you see?” Will persisted.

Angela hesitated a minute. “All right, but then we see what’s on the film. I’m going to tell you what I saw and felt, but…you repeat this to anyone—anyone! Including Jackson and Jake—I’ll…well, I’ll just call you all liars,” Angela said. “I can easily say what I saw and felt around you because you—you all know that there are things that we can’t really explain. But with Jackson in particular, I like to say what was—the facts—and that’s it.”

“Please!” Whitney begged. “We won’t repeat what you don’t want us to repeat, but please just tell us!”

“I saw…people. I think I saw the fellow who was killed here. The man who had owned the house, and sold it to Madden C. Newton—Nathaniel Petti. I believe that we dug Nathaniel’s bones out of the ground the day I came. He was standing beneath the stairs, and he seemed—shy. Then…I felt as if there were others, and I saw a host of people. There were women in long, Victorian skirts. Men in waistcoats, vests…bleached-cotton shirts. They appeared to be milling around me, but they weren’t frightening. They seemed kind and oddly grateful and resigned, and even hopeful, if that makes sense. Then the lightbulb flared. And then, at the exact time you started screaming…”

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