After setting the bag at the foot of the bed, he noted the large window on one wall. He had a feeling she might come and go via that window, if she got the urge to avoid conversation.
He returned to the parlor, where the two women were already seated. Roberta was pouring tea. “I just don’t believe this,” she said to him as he entered. “Or maybe I do. What a crazy day. Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Anderson, it’s not that St. Augustine is crime free. But we’re a tourist town—have been for years. There used to be executions down in the square. The Spanish garroted their condemned in public. These days, though, we pride ourselves on being nice, on doing our best to share our remarkable past without any bloodshed.”
“Bertie,” Sarah said, sipping her tea, “it’s all right. Whatever happened in my house happened a very long time ago, and no one thinks people were murdered and then stuffed in the walls. The general consensus seems to be that the mortuary owner was hiding bodies so he could resell coffins.”
“Yes, but for Gary to have found them today, the same day…Mr. Anderson found that poor drowned man, and with one of our local girls missing…” Roberta’s words trailed off, and she shook her head sadly. “I don’t know whether to be glad or not that they didn’t find the poor woman. And did you know that Mr. Anderson is here because another woman disappeared a year ago? Silly me. You must know that, because obviously you two know one another.”
Sarah stared at him as if curious to see his reaction to that. He shrugged.
The phone rang just then, and Bertie hurried off to answer it.
“Just exactly who do you work for?” Sarah asked him suspiciously.
“An investigations firm,” he said. “Harrison Investigations.”
Her eyes widened with surprise and then she frowned. “You work for…Adam Harrison?”
“Do you know Adam?” he asked. It was his turn to be surprised.
“I’ve met him several times. I worked in Virginia for a while after I got my master’s at William and Mary. I was working on a dig when Adam was called in. It turned out that some local college students were messing around at one of the local historic cemeteries, using light and sound effects to make the place seem haunted. Then I saw him again when one of my coworkers was convinced that a ghost was moving his equipment around. I don’t know what the real situation was, but your boss arranged for a proper funeral and the reinterment of some bones we’d found, and, imagined or not, the problems stopped,” Sarah told him. “So I know the kind of case your firm handles.” She was looking at him differently now.
He had yet to meet anyone who didn’t like, or at least respect, Adam, Caleb thought. And now he had a new in. Miss Sarah McKinley was not going to be so hostile and suspicious now, because he was connected to Adam.
Sarah was frowning again. “But I thought…Adam only investigates when there’s a question of a ghost being involved? Not that I believe in ghosts,” she said firmly.
“Ghosts?” Roberta said, returning from the other room in time to catch the tail end of the conversation. “Well, this is St. Augustine. We’re supposed to be overrun with ghosts. Dozens of locals make their livings off the ghost trade. We would certainly never want to get rid of our ghosts.” She hesitated, eyes narrowing. “Have you ever seen a ghost, Mr. Anderson?”
“Call me Caleb, please,” he told her. What was he supposed to say to that? “I know several people who believe with all their hearts that they’ve seen a ghost or had some kind of paranormal experience,” he said. That was vague enough. But she was still looking at him curiously, and he found himself going on. “Sometimes, when a person has lost a loved one, they’re convinced that they’ve smelled that person’s cologne or heard their footsteps. I had a friend in college who was certain his home was haunted by his grandmother. He swore he could smell her Italian cooking. What has been proven is that some people do have what we call extrasensory perception—you know, when a mother knows that her child has been injured halfway across the world, that kind of thing.” Both Roberta and Sarah were staring at him now. He was beginning to feel as if he’d suddenly grown horns. “Hey, what do I know? We’re all in the dark, guessing about the great beyond. No need to fear, though, Roberta—I certainly wouldn’t want to drive away any of your local ghosts. I say, if they’re bringing in the tourist dollars, more power to them.”
He saw a small smile start to brighten Sarah’s features. Then she said, “Oh!” suddenly, and stood up as if she’d just remembered something. “You’ll have to excuse me, but I have plans I almost forgot all about.” She stared at Caleb again, as if carefully debating something, then apparently made a rather grudging decision to include him. “I’m meeting a few friends, and my cousin Will for drinks and dinner. You’re welcome to join us.”
“I’ll be happy to, if you’re sure you don’t mind,” Caleb told her.
“I just asked you,” Sarah said.
Which didn’t mean she didn’t mind, he thought. Too bad. She had asked, and he was going to take advantage of that to spend some time with a beautiful woman.
“Sure. I haven’t eaten yet. Sounds great,” Caleb said, and stood, too. “I can even protect you from the curiosity seekers on the way,” he said.
“I’m not really the type who needs protection,” she said.
Everyone needs protection, he told her silently. If you had seen half of what I’ve seen in this life…
“You two have a good time,” Roberta said. “I’ll see you both at breakfast.”
They thanked her for the tea and headed for the door. Outside, Caleb asked Sarah if she wanted him to drive.
“We’re only going about four blocks,” she told him. “Unless you can’t walk that far,” she added just a shade too sweetly.
“I should be fine,” he told her. “Where are we going?”
“There’s really place called Hunky Harry’s?” Caleb asked incredulously. “Is there really a Harry? And is he hunky?” he teased.
“There is a Harry, and he’s been old as long as I can remember, so he’s got to be…really old. And he likes to think he’s hunky. It’s a popular place with locals and tourists alike. So popular that he changes the name periodically, when he gets sick of the crowds.”
“So Harry is a real character.”
She shrugged, walking toward Avenida Menendez. “Maybe you’ll get to see for yourself. He may or may not be around tonight. He comes in when he feels like it. When he does, he cleans tables, washes glasses, even cooks up a few appetizers. Yes, he’s a real character.”
She was keeping a definite distance between them, he noticed. She still didn’t trust him; he wouldn’t be here at all, walking with her, planning to spend time with her friends, if it weren’t for Adam.
“So exactly why are you here in town?” she asked.
“Jennie Lawson,” he said.
She looked at him. “The woman who disappeared last year?”
“Yes. You heard about it, I take it?”
“I wasn’t living back down here then, but Caroline showed me the newspaper this afternoon. Jennie Lawson was mentioned because of Winona Hart, the local girl who just disappeared. The article said they don’t know that she ever got to St. Augustine.”
“I know, but according to her mother, she was heading here.”
“And you think you can find her—here—after all this time?”
“Her mother doesn’t think she’s still alive, but she does think I’ll find out what happened to her, whether she got this far or not.”
“You know, there’s a possibility that…that she wanted to disappear.”
“There’s always that possibility. But…” He left off speaking and shrugged. “What I was saying to Roberta before? I’ve found that to be true. Whether it’s instinct, extrasensory perception or what, I don’t know. But when a mother feels her child is dead, she’s almost always right.”
She stared at him, obviously bothered by his words. “That’s horrible.”
“Of course it is,” he agreed. “Any death is sad.”
“No, I mean your attitude. How are you going to find her if you don’t believe it’s possible that she’s alive? You need to…believe,” she told him.
“I need to do everything in my power—whether she’s alive or dead—that’s what matters,” he said.
She shook her head in disgust.
“All right,” he said, “you tell me. What about the local girl? What’s your feeling about her? Did she just run away? Is she trying to punish her parents? What do you believe?”
She kept shaking her head, pulling ahead of him a little. “No. But things…happen. Maybe she’s hurt somewhere. And that’s why it matters that people move quickly.”
“Jennie disappeared a year ago,” he reminded her.
“Maybe she has amnesia. Stranger things have happened,” she assured him.
“I will find her. Alive or dead, I will find out what happened to her,” he said flatly.
She fell silent for a few seconds, then, changing the subject, said, “You met Will Perkins this morning.”
“He’s my cousin.”
She was walking very quickly now, as if she were uncomfortable with him. “There’s the restaurant,” she said.
Avenida Menendez fronted the water. From where they stood, he could see the massive fortification of Ft. Marion, gleaming in the moonlight in all its historic glory. Horse-drawn carriages lined the opposite side of the street. Groups of tourists were walking around, some couples holding hands or arm in arm. There were several hotels nearby, and numerous restaurants. The downtown historic area was small, the streets busy with car traffic along with all the pedestrians. He saw tables in front of a café and bar. The neon sign, adorned with palm fronds and plastic alligators, advertised Hunky Harry’s.