Read CnC 4 A Harvest of Bones Online

Authors: Yasmine Galenorn

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths, #Mystery Fiction, #Single Mothers, #Occult Fiction, #Washington (State), #Ghost Stories, #Women Mediums, #Tearooms

CnC 4 A Harvest of Bones (5 page)

BOOK: CnC 4 A Harvest of Bones
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Anna Murray, my oldest friend, had been my room-mate at the University of Washington before she moved to Chiqetaw to accept a position on the police force. I’d married Roy and stayed in Seattle, my one huge mistake in life. Although, without Roy, I wouldn’t have Randa and Kip, so life with him hadn’t been a total loss—it had netted me the two most important people in the world. After we broke up, Murray encouraged me to move to Chiqetaw and start my own business. I never looked back.
Mur had recently been promoted to the post of head of detectives. Tall, regal, Native American, she was buxom, with long, straight black hair that she wore caught back in a braid, and she possessed a grace I could never hope to match.
Jimbo, her boyfriend, was an old biker who built a life for himself out by Miner’s Lake, where he trapped small animals for fur, raised bees for honey, and picked up odd jobs here and there working on cars. They made an unlikely pair. He was a rebel, she was dedicated to keeping order, and yet somehow, they’d found love in the midst of their differences.
In fact, they’d started out on opposite sides of the law, when Jimbo threw a brick through my front room window early in the year. He’d later decided to play the good guy. I owed him big, even though he insisted the debt had been paid in full.
Mur gave me a hug and thumbed me toward her truck. “We brought some heavy tools to yank out the rest of those vines,” she said, hauling out what looked like a giant-sized set of pruning shears.
“Well, there’s been a development in our excavation. Did you know there used to be a house on that lot?”
“What? Really? Did you find something?”
“Yep.” We told them about the basement and, their interest piqued. We all trooped over to the lot, where Joe took down the ropes we’d put up to discourage sightseers from falling in.
Murray stared into the part of the chamber that we could see and turned to me, a puzzled look on her face. “Well, isn’t that a kicker? I never would have guessed. Those brambles are more tenacious than I thought—they make the perfect cover. And Horvald said there was a house here?”
“Yep. A three-story mansion, I gather. He said it burned to the ground from a lightning strike, almost fifty years ago on Halloween night.”
Jimbo shook his head. “Leave it to you, O’Brien, to stumble over a house burnt down by lightning. On Halloween, yet. You can’t help finding hoodoo even when you aren’t looking for it, can you?”
“Hey, I was born on Halloween, so don’t go knocking my birthday!” I laughed as we spread out and started chopping away.
About an hour into our work, we came to a second edge of the basement and had to haul out the mess we’d already cut away. While Joe and Jimbo kept making inroads on the thicket, Murray and I loaded armfuls of the thorny brush into the pickup beds. I was grateful for the thick jacket I’d decided to wear; the thorns snagged at it, but never managed to break through to my skin.
After a few moments, Mur stopped and leaned against the side of her truck. “Em, can we talk for a second?”
“Sure.” Grateful for a break, I propped myself on the back bumper and stretched. “What’s up?”
She let out a big sigh. “I don’t know what to do. The guys are being an ass about Jimmy. And the Chief didn’t come right out and say so, but he hinted that I deserve whatever flack I get if I continue to see ‘that scum,’ as he put it.”
Youch. Harsh. Usually Tad Bonner fought on Murray’s side, rather than attacking her. The turnaround wasn’t good news. “Have you told Jimbo about this?”
She shook her head. “No, and I’m not going to. I don’t want him punching out my boss, and I don’t want him to feel like he’s compromising my job. I’m so frazzled. I’m afraid this is the ammunition they’ve been looking for to get me fired.”
“Surely Deacon and Greg aren’t saying anything?” I couldn’t believe the two nicest guys on the force would turn against her.
“No,” she said, sighing. “Deacon and Greg and Sandy are great about this, even if they do think I’m out of my mind. But the guys who got passed over for promotion when Bonner appointed me head of detectives are talking behind my back, trying to stir up trouble.”
I didn’t know what to say. There wasn’t much I
could
say. I put my arm around her shoulder. “They just need some time to get to know him, to see he’s not the bad news they think he is. It’ll be okay.”
I was talking out of sheer bravado, but what else was I supposed to do? Tell her I thought she might end up having to choose between her career and the one man who had ever made her happy? Nope, wasn’t even gonna go there. She needed to keep a positive outlook and, whatever she chose to do, she had to make this decision on her own.
We were about to return to work when Randa came pedaling up on her bike. Surprised that she was home so early, I asked, “Is anything wrong?”
She shook her head. “No, but I need to ask you something.” With an apologetic glance at Murray, she added, “Alone.”
I walked her over to the sidewalk. “Where’s your brother?”
“I dunno, he left before I did. Probably over at Tommy’s. He said he’d call and leave you a message.”
“Okay. Well, ask away.”
“May I go to a movie tomorrow afternoon? I need to know now.”
Randa wasn’t a big movie buff, so her request struck me as odd, but I figured that her best friend Lori had talked her into going. Lori was the one person in the world who could take Miranda’s mind off star clusters and nebulas. “What’s the movie?”

Alien Warlord.

I glanced up at her, confused.
Alien Warlord
? Not sure I’d heard right, I said, “That isn’t exactly the type of movie you usually like. You sure you want to go? What’s the rating?”
She scuffed her foot on the ground. “PG-13. And yeah, well, see, the thing is normally I wouldn’t go see it, but Gunner asked me to go with him. And I … kinda … want to.”
Stupefied, my mouth dropped open. Gunner? Her English tutor who she’d been bad-mouthing for the past two weeks? I’d barely gotten over the fact she actually had a friend her age—Lori Thomas was Randa’s only real girlfriend. Now she wanted to date?
I managed to close my mouth before a bug flew in it.
“So, you want to go?” Act nonchalant, I thought. That was the key. I didn’t want to scare her off from the idea, even though the thought of her dating simultaneously overjoyed and terrified me.
She nodded. “Yeah, I guess I do. He’s nice enough, even if he is all hung up on English and writing.”
Gunner was actually quite the nice young man. I’d met him and he was polite and respectful. And he was in the same grade, so that wasn’t a problem. “Okay then, if it’s a matinee, sure. You can go.”
She blushed, but looked pleased as she glanced around the lot. “Wow, you guys really have been working hard. I’ll kind of miss the berries, though. They were fun to pick. Do you need any help?”
I could tell she was hoping I’d say no and decided to give her a break. After all, it wasn’t every day a girl was asked out on her first date, and I knew she’d want to go and call Lori and discuss the matter thoroughly.
“Nah, you scoot and enjoy the rest of the day. Do me a favor, though. Make sure that the ground beef is thawed. If it isn’t, put the package in a Ziploc bag and close it tight, then set it in a big bowl of cold water. We’re having spaghetti for dinner. And check to make sure Kip left a message. If he didn’t, come tell me.”
She nodded, gave me a quick peck on the cheek, and pushed her bike over to the house. As I started in on another tenacious root, Mur gave me a quizzical look. She sidled over as I grinned at her.
“My daughter’s been asked out on her first date.”
“A date? Good grief, is the sky falling?” She laughed and I joined in. Mur understood Randa better than anybody except me.
“Come here! Look at this!” Joe’s excited cry startled us into silence. We hurried over to see what they’d found.
The men had ripped away a big patch of brush, exposing the full scope of the basement. It was about twenty-by-thirty feet and had probably underscored a good third of the house. As the light filtered down into the chamber, softly illuminating the dark corners, a chill of excitement raced up my back. Chances were, nobody had seen this basement for almost fifty years. I felt like an archaeologist, uncovering hidden secrets from the past.
Old timbers, charred and rotten, littered the floor, which rested a good fifteen feet below us. The entire basement was covered with thick layers of mulch. A concrete stairway led down into the room, but we couldn’t reach the steps due to the tendrils and vines that still blocked our path.
My heart quickened as I stared at the mammoth chamber. “Oh my God, this is huge. Horvald said the house was a mansion, but I had no idea.”
During the winter months, even when the leaves died down, the brambles had been so thick and woody they’d managed to cover the lot, along with all traces of the desolate remains.
Murray stepped away from the edge. “Em, I don’t like it. Something feels wrong down there.”
As I gazed down at the charred beams, a rush of wind swept past, and once again I thought I could hear a faint moan. Licking my lips, I forced myself to look away. “I know what you mean. I thought I heard someone cry out last night when we first found it. A woman, screaming.”
Jimbo shook his head and set down his pruning shears. He’d adopted a quiet respect for our abilities, and since his grandma was a hoodoo woman, he always took our warnings seriously. “What say we lay off for today and let you two figure out what needs to be done, if anything?”
Joe shrugged. “I don’t have a problem with that. We can make an early dinner.” He glanced at his watch. “Whoa, it’s almost five. The light will be gone in another hour anyway. We did a lot of work today and it won’t take long for Em and me to finish it up over the next couple days.”
As we trooped back to the house, I glanced over my shoulder. Once again, the uncanny sensation that we were being watched tickled the back of my neck. Yeah, something was there, all right, but I had no idea what. But, whatever it was, we’d need to cleanse the area. That much I was sure of. Fifty years burial under a tangle of briars was enough to produce an energy all its own, even if nothing bad had happened there.
Once we were back at the house, Murray and I took over the kitchen. As I boiled water for the noodles, Murray fried up the ground beef and added a couple of jars of pre-made spaghetti sauce. We were winging it with deli coleslaw, pre-buttered French bread that we had only to slip into the oven, and a chocolate cake from the bakery.
Randa wandered in, carrying her science book. “Oh yeah, you wanted to know. Kip left a message. He was over at Tommy’s but said he’d be home by five so he should be here any minute.”
“Thanks, hon. Set the table, please.” Grumbling, she put down her book. As she opened the cupboard for plates and glasses, I turned to Murray. “Last night, when Joe and I first found the foundation, I got the queasiest feeling. Like I was staring over the edge of a cliff and about to lose my footing.”
Murray stirred a can of diced tomatoes into the sauce. “Em, I’m not sure what happened, but there’s a lot of residue energy tucked away under those vines.” She glanced up at me. “You know if Jimmy was worried enough to stop working, then he felt something even though he’d never say so. He’s not as head-blind as he thinks.”
That was one thing we’d discovered about the burly biker over the past few months. Jimbo might not admit to having any psychic abilities but we’d seen them flare up in him. Sporadic and unbidden, the power was there.
“Yeah. I know,” I said, suddenly feeling tired. I set the coleslaw on the table, then looked around the kitchen. “Looks like we’re ready. Kip can eat when he gets in, so go ahead and call everybody to the table.”
Just then, Kip came racing through the back door. He took one look at dinner, yelled “Spaghetti!” dropped his backpack on the floor, and ran to the bathroom to wash up. Jimbo and Joe lumbered in, while Miranda helped me slice up the bread. As we settled down to eat, Kip frowned, excused himself and peeked into the pantry. He came back, a worried look on his face.
“Mom, Samantha isn’t there! Nigel, Noël, and Nebula are all eating, but Sammy’s still not home. I haven’t seen her since last night.”
That didn’t sound like Samantha. She was a little piglet, racing to the food dish every morning and evening. Missing one meal was plausible. Two set me on alert. I wiped my mouth with my napkin.
“Excuse me, folks, but I’m going to help Kip have a look around the house.”
Randa dropped her napkin on the table. “I’ll help, too.”
Samantha liked to curl up in closets so we started there, digging through every closet, including the one in the storage room. After a few minutes, Joe, Jimbo, and Murray joined us and we scoured the house, calling for Samantha, peeking under every piece of furniture and into every nook and cranny. Twenty minutes later, we gathered back in the kitchen, sans cat. By now, both Randa and Kip had tears in their eyes. I put my arms around their shoulders.
“She’s probably outside, kiddos,” I said, keeping my voice even, though inside I was worried. Samantha seldom went any farther than the front porch, with one or two exceptions. “Tell you what, let’s finish up dinner and then we’ll all go out and have a look.”
“But it’s almost dark,” Kip said, his lip quivering.
“I know that, but we can call around the yard. Maybe she got in the shed last night. I think I locked it, but maybe I didn’t. And you can go over and check Horvald’s yard. Once she ran across the street after a squirrel and ended up tearing up his spearmint. She’ll turn up, honey. She’s a smart cat.”
I could tell he didn’t believe me, but he acquiesced. We finally got back to the table, where we finished our dinner.
As I finished my dinner, I could feel the beginnings of a headache. Yesterday everything had been fine, but now I couldn’t shake the feeling that we’d just stumbled into a dark forest that had closed in around us. Even Jimbo and Murray looked strained. The rest of the meal passed in silence, with no one saying more than “Would you pass the bread” or “More water, please.”
BOOK: CnC 4 A Harvest of Bones
13.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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