A look of gratitude lit Cary’s eyes. “You’re very kind and understanding.”
“It’s fine, seriously,” Sarah said. “And Mr. Griffin is more than welcome to come back and see me anytime.”
“You’re beyond kind,” Cary said. “Right now, though, he—we—need to get back. He’s due for his medication, and timing is important.”
Mr. Griffin was staring intently at Sarah.
“I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he said.
“I’m not frightened, so don’t worry,” she said. And it was true. She wasn’t frightened. He was solidly real, and there was a perfectly reasonable explanation for his presence.
And even for most of his words.
“But you believe me, don’t you?” he implored suddenly. “‘It’ happening again. The evil—it’s back again.”
“Mr. Griffin, we really have to go,” Cary said.
Mr. Griffin nodded, but he was still staring at Sarah. “It’s all right. I’ll go. Sarah knows. And she’ll find out the truth.”
He turned and started down the hallway, leaning heavily on his cane. Cary Hagan flashed Sarah one last smile, then turned as well, slipping her arm through his.
They left the door open behind them, and Sarah watched them all the way down the steps and out to the sidewalk. The man was pretty remarkable. He was over a hundred years old and still getting around on his own, and he appeared to still have all his marbles. Well, most of them.
But the loss of a child had to affect a person’s reason; she didn’t have children, but she knew that after losing a child, life would be irrevocably changed.
Twilight had come, and the shadows were deepening, and his characterization of her house suddenly reverberated in her mind.
She reminded herself that she didn’t believe a building could be evil. Even so, she found herself unnerved.
Suddenly she didn’t want to be there any longer. She felt inexplicably afraid to turn around, afraid to look in the corners and see what might be lurking there.
She grabbed her purse and fled.
Caroline had hit the nail on the head harder than she could have imagined with what she had said earlier.
Sarah was certain she had never wanted—needed—a drink so badly in her life.
He’d been right on the money.
As Caleb sat at the bar and sipped a beer, Caroline Roth entered along with her coworkers, Barry Travis and Renee Otten.
Unfortunately, Sarah wasn’t with them.
The threesome took a table. As they got settled, Renee noted him. The look she gave him was slightly wary, which didn’t bother him. He was a stranger, and there were unpleasant things happening in town. But she nudged Caroline, who looked up, smiled and walked over.
“How are you doing? Enjoying the city?” she asked.
“Of course. It’s beautiful,” he said.
She smiled, but her smile quickly faded. “Isn’t it bizarre? The bones they found in Sarah’s place, I mean.”
“Bizarre and sad. How’s Sarah doing?”
“She’s a trouper, but this was a rough day for her. Even the tourists have heard about it now, so on top of the media driving her nuts, visitors were asking her about it all day. And since she just bought the place, really, what could she say to anyone?”
“Sounds like a pretty uncomfortable position.”
“She’s wanted to live in that house since we were kids. Its history always fascinated her. I think she was born to be a historian—she knew every bit of local history, ever, by the time she was about ten.” Caroline was studying him with the look of a matchmaker. He was careful to listen without smiling or showing his awareness of her purpose. “She was always the best student in school. We all thought she should be a model, but she’s a bookworm at heart. Not in a bad way, of course.”
“Of course not.” He allowed himself a smile then. “Where is she now, anyway?” he asked.
“She wanted to run by the house. But she’ll be here soon.”
Caleb felt an almost overwhelming desire to leap up and run to the house to check on her, suddenly worried that she was there…alone.
Of course, maybe she wasn’t alone.
“Why don’t you come over and join us?” Caroline asked.
“I don’t want to intrude.”
“I wouldn’t have asked you if I thought you’d be an intrusion. Come on. Will’s going to show up, too. He’s totally dependable, and Sarah swore to me that she wouldn’t bail on us.”
“If you’re sure you don’t mind…”
“I’m sure. Really.”
He placed money on the bar for the beer and followed her over to the table. Renee greeted him with a smile, and Barry Travis smiled as if he were welcoming a long lost friend.
“Any luck on finding that girl?” Barry asked as Caleb sat down.
“It’s a pretty old trail,” Caleb said.
“Yeah. Tough to find anything out, I imagine,” Barry sympathized. “Do you have a deadline or anything?”
“No. I’m here until I find out something,” Caleb said.
“Until you find…a body?” Renee asked tremulously.
“Until I have something to tell her parents.”
“So,” Barry said, “how do you handle money in your line of work? Do you get expenses and all that?”
“Barry!” Caroline said, horrified. “That’s like…asking him his age or something.”
Caleb laughed. “No, it’s all right. I do what the boss man tells me to do, and the finances are his concern.”
“Do you make a good living?” someone asked over his shoulder.
He turned. Will had shown up. Caroline jumped out of her seat to greet him with a hug.
Will was smiling. “Sorry,” he said, grinning at he sat. “Since it seems like we’re giving you the third degree, I figured that was the next logical question.”
“I make out all right,” Caleb assured him. “How’s the dive business going?”
Will made a face. “I spent my day in the muddiest piece of the St. Johns known to man.”
“Still looking for Winona Hart?” Caleb asked.
“Yep, and why anyone thinks she wound up in the St. Johns, I don’t know. Anyway, we didn’t find squat.”
“No one told you why you were looking there?” Caleb asked.
“I’m just the hired help,” Will said. He drummed his fingers on the table for a moment, then shrugged. “You could probably find out.”
They all stared at him, wondering why he had such pull with the police.
“Trust me, it’s the guy I work for, not me,” Caleb said.
“Adam Harrison, Harrison Investigations,” Barry said. “Boo. Aren’t you guys ghost busters or something?”
Caleb was careful not to hesitate too long before answering. He drew his finger through the frost on his beer glass as he spoke. “We’re an investigation agency like any other. Licensed, all that. I spent today tracking down information the police already had, just double-checking. Tedious and time-consuming. Most of our work is slow and not at all exciting, much less eerie, in any way.”
“But I read somewhere that you were called in by the government because some weird shit was going on in a couple of government buildings and people were saying it was ghosts,” Barry argued.
“We were. We get a lot of calls like that. Most of the time, the supposed whispers are coming from old pipes or the wind coming in through leaky window frames.”
“Here she is,” Caroline interrupted suddenly. With a huge smile, she stood up, waving.
Caleb looked over to the door and saw that Sarah had just arrived, looking stunning in a simple black dress and low heels.
Her hair was flowing around her shoulders like shining velvet, and she was as model-perfect as Caroline and all her friends thought, but she appeared tense. Her face was ashen, and even as she hurried between tables toward them, the look in her eyes seemed distant.
She didn’t notice him at first. She took a seat next to Caroline and swiped her beer, taking a long swallow.
“Hey, I said you needed a drink,” Caroline told her, “not an entire keg!”
“What’s wrong, cuz?” Will asked, looking concerned and leaning forward to meet her eyes.
“Terrence Griffin the Third is what’s wrong,” she said, then saw Caleb and nearly spilled the beer as she set it down. She stared at him.
“I saw Caleb sitting all by himself at the bar and asked him to join us,” Caroline said.
As if jolted into remembering her manners, Sarah quickly said, “How nice. Nice to see you again, Caleb.”
He could tell from her body language that she didn’t think it was nice at all, but that was okay. He was making points with Caroline, and maybe even the wary Renee. Will had accepted him when they’d first met, but maybe that was only professional courtesy.
“Who is Terrence Griffin the Third?” Caleb asked when no one else said anything.
“Sarah, seriously, what happened? Who is this guy?” Caroline asked.
“A very, very old man,” Will answered for Sarah.
She turned to stare at him, frowning.
“You know him?” she asked.
“Yes, and you do, too—in a way,” Will answered. “Twenty years ago, we ran through his yard and got in trouble for it. That wall in front of his place isn’t historic—he built it to keep kids out. The guy was ancient, must’ve been eighty, at least. A cranky old hermit. What brought him up now? Were his bones in your walls?” he asked.
She shook her head. “I don’t even remember whatever incident you’re talking about.”
“So you guys were the evil hellions torturing your poor old neighbors?” Renee said.
“Oh, yeah, whoopee. We trespassed,” Sarah said, shaking her head. “It couldn’t have been that bad. I don’t remember it—or him.”