Read Grave Surprise Online

Authors: Charlaine Harris

Grave Surprise (25 page)

twenty

“YOU
look like a cat attacked you,” Victor said.

I just stared at him.

“Okay, not funny,” he said. “I'm just really nervous.”

I started to tell him we were, too, but I decided that wouldn't be a calming statement. And Victor really needed to calm down.

I'd figured it might help Victor take his mind off his family situation and at the same time broaden his horizons a bit, so I'd asked him if he wanted to come to the cemetery to help lay Josiah Poundstone's ghost. I was regretting that idea, at the moment. Victor was a little too excited, though he seemed thrilled that I'd asked him. He'd given me a big hug, which surprised the hell out of me and caused Manfred to raise his eyebrows.

I didn't know anything about the business of laying a
ghost. So I'd called Xylda Bernardo, and Manfred had brought her. Manfred, resplendent in black leather and silver, had greeted me with a kiss. He'd shaken Victor's hand a little too long. I thought he was trying to get a reading; he wasn't making a pass. Manfred wasn't that diverse. At least, I thought so.

Xylda gazed around the cemetery. “Tell me about it,” she said.

I explained what I'd seen and felt that night to Xylda, who seemed alert and attentive.

“So, his body is here, and so is his soul. He died of blood poisoning, you think? From a knife cut, given him in a fight.”

“Yes. Really, he was murdered. I don't know who stabbed him, but I suspect it was his Beloved Brother,” I said, because that was something I knew about. “I think the headstone might indicate guilt. Of course, it could just mean his brother loved him a lot. But I guess that doesn't matter. What really matters is Josiah's ghost being restless, because he wonders why he had to die, and then why his grave was disturbed so often.”

“So, you want his spirit to pass on?”

I didn't even want to consider what other options Xylda could offer me. “Yes, that's what we want.”

“Good,” Xylda said enigmatically. “Do you sense him here now?”

It was another cold night, but at least it was clear and not raining. The old cemetery felt just as scary as it had the other time we'd come in the dark. The muted sounds of the
city, the uneven ground—but at least the open grave had been filled in. We'd checked that out in the good old daytime, with the sun shining.

I stood once again on this much-used grave and felt downward. I felt Josiah Poundstone's presence not only below me, but around me. “Yes,” I said. “He's here.” Victor shivered and looked around as though he expected a murky white figure to approach the grave.

I glanced at my watch. We needed to get a move on. We weren't exactly supposed to be here.

I'd thought about calling the college for permission, but I'd figured it was something they'd never give us. I wanted to get this over with and get off Bingham property before the security guards came by.

Following Xylda's directions, we circled the grave that had held Tabitha's body. We formed a narrow circle around it, and we joined our hands. Manfred's small hand had a strong grip, and his many silver rings pressed into my flesh. Victor had a much lighter grasp on my right hand.

Xylda began saying something in a language I didn't understand. I don't even know if Xylda understood it. But it was effective, whatever it was, because there was a mist forming in front of me, between me and Xylda, and in the mist I could see a face. It was a face I had never seen mobile, animated.

“Jesus,” whispered Manfred, and “Name of God,” said Victor.

I was not frightened.

“Thank you,” I said. “Thanks, Josiah.” He'd saved me
from falling into the grave, after all. “No one's going to bother you again. Everyone you knew here has passed on ahead of you. You need to go, too.”

I thought he smiled.

“Don't seek justice, seek peace,” Xylda said, and the face wavered. The eyes turned to Xylda in confusion. And then I saw the lids fall and remain closed. Victor made a gasping sound, and I knew he was weeping as Josiah made his final departure. The face lost its clarity, became less defined, and then the shape of it gradually dispersed. In five minutes, there was no more mist. And the air was clear.

And the cemetery felt empty of anything but us.

 

I
couldn't explain this to anyone, ever.

I'd never believed in anything like this. Souls, I knew; I'd seen them and felt them. But I'd never known one that had lingered for over a hundred years, one that had been strong enough to manifest itself physically. Josiah Poundstone must have been a remarkably vital man, maybe one of the men who charmed everyone, like Joel Morgenstern. Seeing the ghost changed me. Maybe it changed everyone there that night.

I wondered what Fred Hart would have told me if I'd asked him, “What do you see in your garden at night?”

Detective Lacey told me something interesting. Clyde Nunley's will really had requested a burial at St. Margaret's, saying he had loved the college so much he wanted to be on its grounds forever. I thought this was amazing, and I thought Bingham's agreement to this was even more
amazing. Detective Lacey didn't have any information on the kind of graveside service Clyde had settled on, and I really didn't want to ask.

Felicia thought so little of Clyde Nunley that his death seemed only incidental to her. Detective Lacey, who had actually developed some respect for me, told me Felicia confessed to killing Clyde almost casually. He was very much an afterthought, a footnote in her grand plan. “He started acting like he had a claim on me,” she'd said. I suspect he tried to blackmail her; the social-climbing Nunley may have thought of divorcing Anne and marrying Felicia. Perhaps he told her he might tell the police exactly who had suggested that he call me to “read” the cemetery. If he'd had a true understanding of her character, he would have known he was signing his death warrant.

Felicia had slept with other men only as part of her grand design. Tolliver she'd seduced so she could have a good reason to keep tabs on our whereabouts when she needed to have Clyde call me. It was only a bonus for her when Anne Nunley turned out to be interested in the accounts of me she'd heard, and Anne had also suggested my presence to Clyde when he was discussing the priest's graveyard material he'd found in the archives of the college. Felicia had hooked up with Clyde to have a conduit into the course study, so she could be sure we were brought there. She didn't consider having sex with either Clyde or Tolliver to have any bearing on her love for Joel, which was so much purer, so much finer.

The media feeding frenzy could hardly get enough of the story, right up until the time Diane delivered her son. Joel
called us to tell us, and we sent a little gift, though we weren't sure Diane would be glad to get it. We felt obliged. Somehow, their marriage held, even though Diane had to find out that it was for love of Joel that her daughter had died. Diane was evidently a big-hearted woman who could see that none of this was Joel's fault.

At the trial, Joel steadfastly denied giving Felicia any encouragement at all, despite all her attorney's badgering. We had to be there for part of it, and it was as unpleasant as you can imagine. Of course, the women on the jury loved Joel, and I was pretty sure Felicia would be convicted on all counts. The police had come up with some forensic evidence that confirmed some points in the story Felicia had told Tolliver.

Rick Goldman got a ton of business as a result of his small part in the whole thing. Goldman had a way of making a mountain out of a molehill, and his reputation as a private eye soared. He sent us a letter enclosing a brochure and business card with his website address included.

Agent Seth Koenig resigned from the FBI that year and went into private practice. He specializes in tracking down missing children. He sent us a brochure with a business card attached. He doesn't have a website, yet.

So far, Tolliver hasn't talked about Felicia. I hope he didn't love her; I don't think he did. If there's something that needs saying, some day he'll say it.

We made it to Mariella's basketball game, and her team won. She scored twice, and she was elevated to unbelievable heights by this triumph. She was even happy to be in our
company for one whole evening. Gracie sang for us, and we managed not to wince. Iona and Hank were half-way civil, which was the best we'd ever gotten.

Sometimes, Manfred calls me. He always keeps the conversation short and teasing. He tells me about his grandmother's doings, and he tells me about any tattoos and piercings he adds to his collection.

“I think he's making those up just to have a reason to talk to you,” Tolliver said one evening in Tucson.

“He's a boy who's got a crush,” I said.

“You know better. He's a guy, and he cares about you. Maybe on a superficial level. But he admires you.”

“I know,” I said with contrition. “Manfred's not high on my dance card, though.”

“Someday,” Tolliver said, and paused. A knot formed in my belly. “Someday you're going to meet someone, and you won't want to be on the road with me any more.”

“Then you'll find someone, too,” I said. “Anyone would be lucky to have you.”

He laughed.

After that, we rode a good ways in silence.

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