Читать онлайн "A Haunted Murder" автора Whiting J. A. - RuLit - Страница 8

 
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She heard Viv call for her to come inside.

Nicky trotted in, put his nose against the wood floor, and sniffed around trying to find Queenie.  The cat, sitting upright on the back of the sofa, watched the dog rush past oblivious to the feline’s presence.  The cat lay down and studied the furry animal hurrying to and fro about the room.  As she waited for the dog to discover her, Queenie made eye contact with Lin.

Lin glanced at the silly dog rushing about, grinned at the cat, shrugged a shoulder, and shook her head.

Viv greeted her cousin with a warm smile.  Standing at the kitchen counter, she rubbed garlic over sliced Italian bread and then drizzled it with olive oil.

Lin placed a platter on the table and gave Viv a hug.  “I brought a green salad with pecans, strawberries, and goat’s cheese.  It smells delicious in here.”  She inhaled deeply.  “Wow, you had time to make lasagna?”

“Cooking always seems to calm me.”

“Well, I’m glad it does because then I get a tasty meal.”  Lin grinned as she removed two wine glasses from the cabinet.

Viv placed the cookie sheet with the bread into the oven.  “I left the bookstore early.  I was a bundle of nerves and good for nothing, so I came home.  Anyway, I had to meet a workman who is going to repair some wall boards near the fireplace.”

An uncomfortable sense of cold flashed through Lin’s body when Viv mentioned the fireplace.  She shook herself.  “What’s wrong with the wall?”

“The boards are bulging out for some reason.  A bit of the wall has to be opened up and new boards put in.  It’s an old house, things always need to be fixed or replaced.”

“That’s the beauty of antique homes.”  Lin smiled as she put the wine glasses on a tray.  The girls often complained about all the things that needed attention when living in an older home.

“John can’t make it for dinner.  He has to meet clients this evening which is just as well because now we can talk freely about things.”  Viv raised an eyebrow and gave her cousin a pointed look.

“Did you tell him about the police officer’s visit to see you today?”  Lin poured wine into the glasses.

Viv gave a nod.  “I tried to downplay it, but John’s worried.  I assured him that the killer would be caught soon and everything will be fine.”  She looked up from her task, her eyes heavy with concern.  “I wish I could convince myself.”

When the meal was ready, the girls carried their plates and glasses out to the deck and sat down at the wooden table.  One side of the deck was attached to an ell that jutted off the back of Viv’s house.  The ell, original to the house, was a one story structure that once housed a kitchen, but now was used for storage.  Two sides of the deck were open to the yard and gardens.  The sun had fallen behind the trees at the back of Viv’s small property and the air carried a refreshing coolness that caused Lin to put on her sweater.

“Have you come up with any ideas about why ghosts are suddenly appearing out of the blue?”  Viv took a sip of her wine.

Lin shook her head.  She told her cousin about the latest ghosts to materialize in her house.  “I nearly had a stroke when the ghost-woman floated into the kitchen and anchored herself right next to the carpenter.  I couldn’t focus on anything he was saying.”  She made a sad face.  “He probably thinks I’m a nut.”

“More likely, he didn’t even notice your distress.”  Viv rubbed her forehead.  “Why don’t you talk to these ghosts?  Ask them what’s going on around here.  Can’t they be helpful and not just stand around staring at you?”

Lin sighed.  “It doesn’t work that way.  They say what they want, when they want.”

“Have you ever tried asking them a question?”

Lin narrowed her eyes.  She couldn’t remember ever asking a spirit a question when she was little.  It had been so long ago when spirits revealed themselves to her on a regular basis, but no, she was pretty sure she had never asked any of them a question.  “Not when I was little.  I don’t think I ever did.  Today I asked the ghosts some questions, but I was angry and they disappeared.”

“Maybe you should try asking things in a tactful way.  Be polite, respectful.” Viv lifted a forkful of lasagna to her mouth.

Lin had a feeling that wouldn’t work.

Viv looked out at the back of her garden and let out a long sigh.  “Why on earth would Greg Hammond be so determined to own this place?  It’s cute and well-tended, but so are all the other houses around here.  The house is old, but again, so are the other places in the neighborhood.  The house and property are small.  There isn’t room to expand.  Why was his interest so intense?”

Lin swallowed a bite of garlic bread and glanced about the backyard.  “Have you seen any ghosts around here?”

Viv’s eyes bugged out.  “Me?”  Her eyes flicked nervously around the lawn area and her shoulders hunched together.  “I can’t see ghosts.”  Her voice held a slight tone of panic.  “You see ghosts.”  Hesitating for a second, she asked, “Can you see any?”

“No, but I wonder...”

Viv leaned forward.  “What?  What do you wonder?”

“I feel like these things have to be related.  Greg Hammond was so desperate to get his hands on your house, me seeing ghosts again, the murder.  It can’t be coincidence.”

“Then what is it?”  Viv gave Lin a worried look.

“It seems that it all centers on this house.  I know that it’s been in the family for generations, but what is it about this particular house?  We don’t know much about it really.  Do you know more about its history than I do?”

Viv’s shoulders relaxed and her tension seemed to ease.  “It was built in the early 1700’s and was owned by several members of Grandma’s family before she inherited it.  When she got sick, my mom bought it from Grandma and she and dad moved in to take care of her.  Your mom and dad were living on the mainland at the time.  My mom had a great desire to own the house of her ancestors so she convinced dad they should buy it.  Then my parents left it to me.  That’s about all I know.”

“So,” Lin tapped her chin, thinking.  “Is it something from the past that Hammond was after?  Or is it something more recent?  Did Grandma or your parents leave something valuable in the house?”

Viv’s eyes went wide.  “Like what?”

“Hidden money, jewelry?”

“No.”  Viv rolled her eyes.  “You know there isn’t anything valuable in here.”

“In the attic?”  Lin tilted her head.

Viv scowled.  “The attic?  It’s not very big.  You can’t even stand up in there.  You have to hunch over.  I don’t know what’s up there.  Probably nothing.”

“Maybe we should go look.”

Viv wrinkled her nose and groaned.  “I hate attics.”  She shook her head.  “Not tonight.  I’m too wound up from the day.”  She gave her cousin a look.  “We’ll do it another time.”

Darkness had fallen around them.  A sudden cool wind blew across the yard.  The candle on the table flickered, sputtered, and burned out.  Viv took a quick look to the sky, alarmed.  She reached for her plate and glass, ready to hurry back inside the house.

“Wait,” Lin whispered.  She felt something on the air and looked to the fence that ran along the property line between Viv’s garden and the yard of the old mansion on the other side of the fence.  It almost seemed like words were floating on the breeze, but Lin couldn’t make them out.

Viv peered over her shoulders into the dark yard.  She kept her voice low.  “I want to go in.”  She leaned forward.  “Lin.  Now.”

“Hold on.”  Lin thought that she could sense something trying to materialize.  She sighed when the feeling passed.  “It’s only the wind.  Don’t be so jumpy.”

     

 

2011 - 2018