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Copyright©STACEYKENNEDY,2012ChapterOneTheoldfarmhousehadseenbetterdays.Notonlycouldituseacoatofpaint,butitalsoneededadoseoflove.Dry,browngrasssurroundedthehome,andtheonlyflowerstoppedfour-foothighweeds.IglancednexttomeatZach—acopwiththeMemphisP.D.—andcrinkledmynose.“Someoneactuallyliveshere?”Hisblueeyesmetmineandheranahandthroughhisblond,stylishhairandshrugged.“Maxsaidthevictim’ssisterstillresidesinthehomewherethedeathhappened.”Asheloweredhisarm,hecringed,andIwincedatthememory.Heck,onlyweeksagohe’dbeenstabbedandshotintheshoulder.ThemanwhocausedZach’sinjurygotitworse—bymyveryhand,noless—butIwasgladHannahReid’smurdererhadn’treturnedtohauntme.Imighthavesufferedsomeseriousremorse.Thatis,ifIdidn’tbelieveGodwouldn’tpunishmebecauseIkilledamurderer.Brodywould’vedonethesametomeifIhadn’tgottentohimfirst.Itriedmybesttostickwiththattheory.ItsavedmefromthelingeringguiltImight—andwouldneveradmitto—havefortakingalife.Sure,therewasaninternalinvestigationthroughthepolicedepartment,andIhadbeenquestioneduntilmyvoicewentscratchy.Butintheend,theshootinghadbeendeclaredself-defense,andIwasperfectlyhappywiththat.OrsoItoldmyselfeverydayuntilIfinallybelievedit.Besides,thecopsthatInowworkedalongsidehadmybackthroughouttheinvestigation,andnothingwouldchangethat.We’dgrownclosethroughthetimespentduringtheReidcase,andevencloserintheweeksthatfollowed.“I’mgoingtoseeifLizbethisoutheresomewhere,”Kipp—aghost,andmylover—said,draggingmefrommythoughts.Yes,ourrelationshipwascomplicatedandit’sinsanelysickthatI’minlovewithaghost,butIwasn’tabouttofightmyheart’sdesire.“Ifyoufindher,thencometellus,immediately.ThelesstimeIhavetospendinthathouse,thebetter.”Scummyhousesandmedidn’tmeshwell.Ilikecleanlinessandhatespiders.“He’sgoingoffonhisownthen?”Zachasked.Asoflate,Zachhadcaughtontoourconversationsbetter.SeeingthatIwastheonlyluckyone—ornotsoluckyasIviewedit—whocouldhearghosts’communicationwasannoying,atbest.MaybeIgavemoredescriptionsinmyanswersthanInormallydid,ormaybehe’dgottenusedtohavingtofillintheblanks.Whateveritwas,Iappreciatedtheeaseofourconversationsnow.Thebackandforthgotonmylastnerve.AsKippstrodeaway,Istaredathisscrumptiousassfillinghisdarkbluejeans.Themanmightbeaghost,buthewassexpackagedintomusculargoodness.Oneofhiseyeswaschocolatebrown,whiletheotherwascrystalblue,andhehaduntidybrownhairthatnomatterhowmessyonlymadehimlookmoreattractive.Andhewasallmine.Iblinked,pullingmyselfawayfrommyogling,andfrownedatZach.“Ready?”Hisgazedancedwithlaughter,yetasmileneverappeared.“Forsomeonewhoacceptedajobwiththedepartment,youwouldthinkyou’dholdmoreexcitement.”“JustbecauseIcanofficiallycallmyselfpartofthepolicedepartment—whichisabsurd,bytheway—doesn’tmeanIstilldon’thavehesitations.”MygifttookawhiletoadjusttobutIknewwhentoseereason.Helpingghoststhathadmetahorriblefatewasn’tabadjob.Thatis,aslongasIdidn’trunintoanymorecrazy-asskillerswhowantedtomakemeaghost,too.Zachapproachedthehouse,andItrailedafterhim,notshowinghalftheconfidencehecarriedinhisgait.Iclimbedtheoldsteps,slightlyworriedthewoodwouldbreakundermyweight,butseeingZachwentfirstandthemanwasallpower,thewoodenplankscouldsupportmyslenderframe.Heknockedonthedoor.Andamomentlater,itopenedtoawomanwhomatchedthehouse.Sheappearedtobeinherfifties,butthedarkcirclesunderhereyesandthehunchtohershouldersmadeherlookwellworn.
 
“Ms.Knapp?”Zachasked.“Yes.”Hervoicedrippedwithdespair.“Areyouthedetectives?”Zachnodded.“Isitstillallrightifwecomein?”Shewidenedthedoor,andmovedaside.“PleasecallmeAnna.”“Thankyou,Anna.”Zachenteredthehome.“WeappreciateyoutakingthetimetodiscussLizbethwithus.”Ihesitantlyfollowedandtriedmydamndestnottoletmyrepulsioninthehouseshow.Notaneasyfeat.“Please,willyouhaveaseat?”ShewavedouttoacouchthatIwouldn’tsitonevenifithadalayerofplasticovertopofit.Iheldbackmydesiretogag,andtwirledmyfingerinmybrown,shag-cuthair.“I’mokayhere,thanks.”ZachgrimacedatmebeforehetookaseatandshedallemotionasheturnedtoAnna.“We’reawarethatthiswillbedifficultforyoutodiscuss,butweneedyoutorememberanythingyoucanfromwhenLizbethdied.”“I’mnotsureIcantellyouanythingthat…”Shepeekedupattheceiling.Ifollowedhergazeseeingdarkbrownstains,andrestrainedmyshudder.“…Max,wasthatwhoIspokewith?”“That’sright.He’sthesergeant.”Zachsmiledsoftly.“Hetoldusthenecessaryinformation,butI’velearnedit’salwaysbesttohearitdirectlyformyself.”Inallactuality,Ihadn’theardallthedetailsexceptthatIwasofficiallyonmyfirstcold-case.“Well,”Annapaused,glancingdownatherfingersasshefiddledthem.“ItstartedayearbeforeLizbeth’sdeath.Shebegantoactdifferently.”Zachpulledhispadofpaperandpenfromhispocket,andflippedthenotebookopen.“Canyouexplainthatinmoredetail?”Iclaspedmyhandsinfrontofme.JustbecauseIwasnowpartofteamdidn’tmeanIwouldstartactinglikeacopinanyofficialcapacity.Let’sbeseriousnow.Iwasn’treallyadetective.Annacontinued,“She’dtalktomeaboutanevilpresencearoundher.”“Evil?”Igasped.“Iknowhowfunnyitsounds.Atthetime,itdidtome,too.Butlookingback,Lizbethjustdidn’tseemlikeherself,andmaybeIshould’velistenedtoher.”Annacrossedherarmsandshiftedinherseat.“Sheusedtobeaveryhappyyoungwoman.Fulloflifeandspirit,butallofasuddensheseemedsodark.”Igavemyheadashake,tryingtomakesenseoutofhernonsense.“Darkhow?”“Depressed.”Annaexhaled.“Shenevercameoutofherroom,andtotallywithdrewfromlife.”“Shewassuicidal,then?”Zackaskedwithagentletone.“Isupposeyou’ddrawthatconclusionfromwhatI’mtellingyounow,butthetruthisInevertookhertobethetype.”Shegaveaknowinglook.“LikeIsaid,shewaswelladjustedandquitehappy.”“Butyoujustsaidshewasdepressed,”Icountered.“Yes,Idid,butstill,Lizbethwasafighter.Sheusedtotellmethatthisevilpresencewasovertakinghersoul,andshetriedsohardtofightagainstit.”Zachmadeaface.Imadeoneofmyown.WewerespeakingEnglish,yetgibberishwouldhavemademoresense.Seeingthatweweregettingnowhere,andIsuspectedAnnahadlosthermindalongtimeago,Imovedalong.“Didherconditiongetworse?”“Itgotsobad,myparentshadnoideawhattodo.Youhavetorememberitwasadifferenttime.Themedicationsfordepressionthatexisttodaydidn’tbackthen.”Tearswelledinhereyes,buttheyclearedjustasquick.“Myparentstookhertoadoctor,evenadmittedherintoahospital,butmymothercouldn’tmanagetoleaveherthere.ShethoughtlovewouldbringLizbethoutofhertrouble.”“Clearly,itdidn’t.”“That’sright,itonlygotworse.Lizbethstartedtohurtherself.”Zach’seyebrowsrose.“Youmean,causedinjuriestoherself?”“Nooneeverknew—andLizbethneversaid—howshedidit.Butshehadlacerationsalloverherback.”Zachscribblednotes,andthenpeeredatAnna.“DidLizbetheversayanythingtoy
 
ouaboutthewounds?”Thosetearsnowweren’tsoeasilypushedaway.“Shewasadamantshehadnevercausedthem.”Oneconclusioncametomymind.“Noonebelievedher,didthey?”“Whoelsewouldhavedoneit?”Annaretorted.“Atthatpoint,Lizbethhadn’tleftthehouseinoversixmonths.”ZachstaredatAnna,hisgazeprobing.Iinhaleddeeply,understandingthefrustration.Thedustintheroomsettledintomynostrils.Irubbedattheticklinginmynose,andconsideredwhatshehadtoldus.ItseemedtomeLizbethhadclearlybeensuicidal.I’dwatchedtelevisionshowswerepeoplecutthemselves.Maybethiswasallthatwasgoingonhere.Caseclosed.ZachscribbledafewmorelinesofnotesthenscrutinizedAnna.“HowdidLizbethactinthedaysbeforeshedied?”“Strange.”Annawipedthetearsfromherface.“Shealwayshadthisdarkcloudoverher,butintheweekbeforeherdeathitbecamemuchworse.She’dstoppedeatingandwehadtoforceliquidsdownherthroat.”Herchinquivered,moretearsspilling.“ButitwasinhereyeswhereIsawherdemise.”“Whatdidyousee?”Iwhispered,nottotallysureIwantedtohearheranswer.“Shewasalreadydead.”Zachcoughed.“Pardon?”“Lizbethwasnolongerinherbody.”Annashookherhead,sendingmoretearsrushingdownhercheeks.“Iknowthatsoundscrazy,butthat’stheonlywayIcandescribeit.Shehadalreadyleft.”“Wheredidshego?”Iurged.“Ihavenoidea.AllIknowisshewasgone.”MyassumptionsthatAnnawasoffherrockerdeepened.OnequestionwouldsolidifyifIbelievedsheheldanysanityatall.“Whydoyoustayhere…inthishouse?”Anna’seyesswaminsadness.“I’mafraidthatLizbethisstillhere,andifIleaveshe’llbeallalone.Idon’thavethemoneytofixthehouse.Sinceherdeath—timeshavebeenhard.”Wasn’tIashit?Heranswerwasclearandconcise,and,well…Icouldunderstandherreasons.Ifshewereinsane,Iassumedherpurposeforstayingherewouldbe,too.Zachclosedhisnotebook,andplaceditintothepocketofhisblackslacks.“Wouldyoutakeusoutsidetothewateranddiscusswhathappenedthenightshedied?”“Ofcourse.”Annastoodfromthecouchandapproachedthefrontdoor.Zachgesturedtowardthehall.Itookthehint.SinceKipphadn’treturnedyet,itconfirmedhehadn’tfoundLizbeth’sghost.BeforeweleftIneededtocheckoutthehousetoseeifsheremained.“DoyoumindifIuseyourwashroom?”“Notatall.”Annadabbedhertearswithatissue,andthenraisedherchin.“It’sdownthehall—thirddoorontheright.”“Thankyou.”IheadedtowardthehallwaywhileZachcontinuedtoaskAnnaanotherquestionastheyexitedthefrontdoor.Thehallwaywasinasimilarconditiontotherestofthehouse,completelyinshambles.Thefloweredwallpaperwaspeelingoffthewallsandthecolorofitresembledsomethingnotworthdiscussing.Iwrinkledmynose,catchingawhiffofmold,andcontinuedwalking.Tomyleftwasanopendoortoabedroom.Ipeekedinandclotheswerethrownoverthelightbluebedspread.Furniturewasscarce,buttheroomseemedlivedin.Itdidappearslightlymoretakencareofthantherestofthehome,whichdrewtheconclusionthatthishadtobeAnna’sbedroom.Iscannedtheroomandcouldn’tseeLizbeth’sghost,butthatdidn’tmeanshewasn’tthere.Shecouldbehiding.“Lizbeth,”Iwhispered.Nooneresponded.Leavingtheroom,Icarriedondownthehalltoanotherbedroomontheright,butasIcalledouthernameagain,Ireceivedthesameresponse.Thebathroomwastomyleftandanotherroomlayontheright.ThedoorwasclosedandIdidmybesttokeepquietasIopenedit.Icouldn’thearZachorAnnainthehouseanymore,butIdidn’twanttochanceit.Ipushedthedooropenandit

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