“I think there’s some kind of connection between what went on back then and what’s going on now, and I can’t wait for the historians and the anthropologists to do whatever it is they do. I need to know now.” He hesitated. “And I also want you to do a test for me—on the side, without telling anyone.”



“A DNA test.”

“I’ll need someone to compare her DNA to.”

“You have someone. Me.”

-- Advertisement --

Will sat in the kitchen, shaking his head over a cup of coffee, not looking at Sarah. She had brought him up-to-date on all the reading she had done, and the details of Caleb’s investigation.

“The man’s a corpse magnet,” he said.

“Stop it! He’s an investigator, Will—corpses are a part of his work,” Sarah said and stood up, suddenly impatient. She was glad that her cousin was with her. Not that she was afraid to be alone, she told herself, but things had been so strange lately that she was glad of the company. With nothing to worry about on the safety front, she was free to focus on the one thing that seemed impossible to believe and yet had to be true.

She’d thought about it a lot, and as crazy as it seemed, as much as it went against the grain of everything she’d always believed, she’d come to the conclusion that Cato MacTavish was a ghost. He might have been buried in Virginia, but he was here now, because girls were disappearing again, and he wanted it to stop. He didn’t want to see a repeat of what had happened before.

“This place is creepy, Sarah,” Will was saying now. “I mean, sure, it could be a beautiful bed-and-breakfast. For ghouls,” he said. “And I don’t like just how much you seem to be getting involved in everything that’s going on. Okay, the bones in your house weren’t your fault. But since Mr. Corpse Magnet is trying to find whoever killed that woman on the beach—and maybe those other two girls, as well—I don’t think you should be hanging around with him so much. I mean, I like him, I honestly do. But I’m worried sick about you. What if he finds out something…and people decide you know it, too? You could be in danger, Sarah.”

“Stop it,” she warned him. “You’re with me now, right? So I’m safe.”

He groaned and leaned his head on the table. “It’s barely eight in the morning, and I don’t have to work until this afternoon.”

“Quit whining.”

“I’m tired.”

“I’m sorry.” Then she brightened and said, “Let’s go pay a social call.”

He stared at her as if she had lost her mind.

“I want to see Mr. Griffin.”


“His daughter disappeared—in or around this house.”

“Do you think she’s the corpse in the attic? And why the hell haven’t you called the cops yet?”

“No, she isn’t the corpse in the attic.”

“How do you know?”

“The clothing is Victorian, certainly not from the 1920s. And we haven’t called anyone in yet because we want to hold off—just a bit—on causing another frenzy. Please, Will, you have to pay attention to me and help me out with this. Do it my way. Caleb is going to bring Floby here to see the body, and I want to talk to Mr. Griffin.”

“What about Caleb? Shouldn’t you wait ’til he gets here?”

“I’ll just send him a text message, in case he gets back before we do. We’re just going around the corner.”

“All right,” Will said with a sigh. “Let’s go.”

Floby sat in the car, staring straight ahead. “You certainly do have a knack for finding bodies.”

Caleb groaned aloud. “We were diving—hoping to find a body—when I found the guy in his car. Wrong body, but a mystery solved.” He fell silent for a moment. They had assumed that his first discovery had nothing to do with the missing girls. Had they been wrong?

Frederick J. Russell, banker. That was who he’d turned out to be.

“Floby, you finished the autopsy on Frederick Russell, right?” he asked.

“Of course.”

“And what did you find?”

“He drowned.”

“Had he been drinking?”


“So how did he wind up in the water?”

“I assume he was speeding.”

“Did he have a lot of speeding tickets?”

“How should I know? I’m the M.E., not a traffic cop,” Floby said. “I give the police my findings, and they take it from there.” Floby looked at him. “You can’t think Russell was involved with the missing girls, do you? At the very least, the man was in the water before Winona Hart disappeared.”

“It’s just the timing of his death that intrigues me,” Caleb said. “And the fact that we found him while we were looking for Winona. I’m not saying there was a connection, I’m just curious. For the moment.”

“Interesting. All right, you’ve got Frederick Russell and the unidentified woman from the beach. Then there are two missing girls, and a houseful of bones. And we need to discover what—if anything—some or all of them, have in common. We know the unidentified woman had an opiate mixed with a hallucinogenic in her system. Russell was clean. Jennie Lawson? She’s a total mystery, other than that she and Winona look like twins. Then we have rumors about murders and disappearances from the Civil War era, bodies in the walls, and now a body in a trunk. Are we actually trying to connect everything?”

“We? You just said you were an M.E., not a cop,” Caleb reminded him.

“An intrigued M.E.,” Floby admitted. “Does Jamison know you’re trying to put all these pieces together?” he asked.

“Not yet, but he will. I just haven’t had a chance to talk to him about it yet.”

Cary Hagan opened the door to their knock, looking gorgeous even in workout clothing, the kind of fancy sweats you saw on models in pricey catalogues. The kind of clothes most people would never actually wear to work out in. But Cary was wearing them—to spend her time with a man who was a hundred years old.

“Hi, how are you guys?” Cary asked, as if it were the most natural thing in the world that the two of them had come by first thing in the morning. “Mr. Griffin will be thrilled to have company.”

Will was staring at Cary the way a dog stared at a juicy bone. Sarah didn’t doubt that her cousin really cared about Caroline, and she was sure it would be hard for any male not to be entirely charmed by Cary Hagan, but she had the sudden fear that he might actually start drooling. He looked positively hypnotized.

Sarah nudged him in the ribs. “Um, sorry. We’re fine. How are you—and Mr. Griffin?”

Cary just laughed. “We’re both fine, too. Come on in. He’s in the parlor, reading.”

Mr. Griffin’s house was built along the same lines as Sarah’s, and Cary led them into the parlor on the left.

Mr. Griffin, resting in an armchair, an afghan over his knees, looked up when they entered. He barely glanced at Will before fixing his gaze on Sarah.

“You’ve come to see me. Thank you. Have you learned any more about what I told you?” he asked her anxiously.

Cary, who probably heard him talk about the past all the time and was glad they were there to listen, said, “I don’t know about you all, but I need some coffee, and I’m getting Mr. Griffin’s favorite tea all set up. I’ll be right back.” With a smile, she was out the door.

As soon as she was gone, Mr. Griffin looked at Will suspiciously and spoke to Sarah as if Will couldn’t hear. “Who is he?” he asked her.

“This is my cousin, Will Perkins. He’s one of my best friends.”

Mr. Griffin smiled, seemingly satisfied.

“Mr. Griffin,” Sarah said, “we’ve discovered that a number of women disappeared here in town during the Civil War, and at least some of them seem to have been linked to my house. You said your daughter disappeared in 1928, and that she was on her way to my house when it happened. I was hoping you could tell me a little more about what was going on then, if maybe other girls went missing then, too, if maybe what’s happening now is repeating a pattern that’s played out at least twice before.”

He looked at her thoughtfully. “When I heard about the skeletons in the wall, I was hoping you would find Clara,” he said softly. “Then I was hoping you wouldn’t.” He looked away for a minute. “They said that the housekeeper kept a book, the witch Martha Tyler.”

“I was asking about your daughter, Mr. Griffin,” she said gently. “Not the Civil War.”

“I know exactly what you asked me, young lady, and I’m trying to answer!” he snapped.

“I’m sorry,” she said quickly.

Mr. Griffin rolled his eyes impatiently. “Here’s what I’m trying to explain,” he said. “Soon after Cato MacTavish left St. Augustine, there was a tragedy at the house. Brennan’s daughter, Nellie, fell from her bedroom window and died on the stone walkway in front of the house. And soon after that, the townspeople marched on the place. You won’t find this written in any book—it’s a story my father told me. They dragged the housekeeper out of the house, and they took her out to the unhallowed ground behind the cemetery wall, where they hanged her. Before she died, she cursed the house. She said that others would find her ‘book.’ And when they did, she would come back, and all the beautiful young girls would die. I didn’t believe any of it. I thought it was nothing but fodder for the tourists. But there was a different Brennan—old man Brennan’s grandson, the son of the son who’d been fighting up north during the war—who was running the old mortuary then. He had a daughter, and she had friends, including my Clara. Two of them supposedly ran off with boys their folks wouldn’t approve of, while my Clara just went out to visit her one day and never came home.” He looked toward the door, as if assuring himself that no one else was there—including Cary—then leaned closer and whispered heatedly, “The housekeeper’s book exists, and someone has it, and that’s why girls are disappearing again. Find whoever has the book, and you’ll solve the murders.”

-- Advertisement --