Read Defending the Dead (Relatively Dead Mysteries Book 3) Online

Authors: Sheila Connolly

Tags: #mystery, #genealogy, #cozy, #psychic powers, #Boston, #Salem, #witch trials, #ghosts, #history

Defending the Dead (Relatively Dead Mysteries Book 3) (10 page)

BOOK: Defending the Dead (Relatively Dead Mysteries Book 3)
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Ned handed her a mug of coffee. “Hey, you look cheerful.”

She put the mug on the table and went hunting for the cinnamon bread she’d become addicted to lately. “I am. I have a plan. And it means more genealogy.”

“You really enjoy that, don’t you?”

“Actually, I do. And there are millions of other people who do—you already know that. This is personal: I’m hunting for a Salem ancestor to connect with. And the Reeds—at least the lineal ones—don’t work. So, new ground! Hey, this weekend can we go check out Salem and Danvers? I want to see where it all happened.”

“Sure. What about wallpaper?”

“Are we ready for that? Don’t we need to scrape and paint the trim first? And what about the floors? Are we sanding them?”

Ned refilled his coffee mug and sat down at the kitchen table. “Abby, you’ve already accomplished more in a month than I have in a few years. Are you in a hurry?”

The bread she was toasting popped up, and Abby slathered on butter, then sat at the table. “Well, kind of. First of all, I hate living in mess—it bothers me. Second, the rooms are so beautiful, I want to see what they could and should look like. Kind of reviving the ghost of the past. Look, if you want to tell me that you don’t like home projects, that’s fine—I can find craftsmen who can help. I won’t pretend I know how to run a belt sander, but I can paint and probably learn to paper. And don’t forget about furnishing the rooms.”

“Your energy astounds me,” Ned said, smiling. “I can’t swear I’ve got any skills along those lines either, but I’ll be happy to fetch and carry, or move ladders around. Maybe you should talk to my mother—I think she’s done some of this stuff too.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me, and I’ll do that. You I officially appoint as keeper of the infrastructure—you can make sure the furnace and the water heater keep working, and the wiring can handle whatever we add. We can haggle over the appliances and who’s in charge of that.”

“Will we be able to actually use these nice rooms you’re planning, or will there be a velvet rope at the door?”

“Of course we’ll be living in them. Well, maybe not in the front parlor, but we have to sit somewhere and watch television or whatever, so the back parlor can be more casual. No lace and velvet. We can shut the sliding doors and hide out there—that would save heat.”

“Sounds good.” He looked up at the clock on the wall—a non-electric one. “Shoot, I’ve got to get going.”

“Ned, what is it you do every day? I mean, it’s your company, right? You’re management, aren’t you?”

“Yes, but that’s my least favorite part of things. I do have oversight responsibilities, but I spend as much time as I can in the lab. I got into this because of the science, and I don’t want to lose sight of that. I’m just lucky that I found a specialty for which there is real demand right now.”

“Can I come visit you there someday?”

“Sure. It’s not a big place—I don’t know how you picture it in your head. And we’re friendly. We don’t bite.”

“Does anyone know about me?”

“Well, I didn’t exactly send out a company-wide memo saying that I’ve met this fantastic woman and she’s moved in with me, but most people kind of figured it out by themselves. They keep telling me I seem happier than I used to.”

“Are you?”

Ned reached out for her hand. “Do you have to ask?”

“I like to hear it.”

“Let me show you . . .”

Her toast was cold by the time she had a chance to eat it, but she didn’t care.

After Ned had left, Abby went hunting for the records she had assembled when she’d first looked into her family tree. She found them in a file box in one of the unused bedrooms, and hauled the box down to the dining room, which was on the shady side of the house but which had an overhead light. If she needed more light there was a quaint round plug embedded in the center of the floor, underneath the dining table. It still worked, although Abby wasn’t going to try to test its limits. She brought her laptop (thank goodness Ned had Wi-Fi!), and as an afterthought, carried her great-grandmother Ruth’s chair into the room. She no longer felt the same impact when she touched it as she had at first, but it had been one of the catalysts that started everything, so it was a kind of good luck charm. Besides, she liked looking at it.

She knew Olivia Flagg was Ruth Pendleton’s mother. Olivia—and her father and mother—had been the first ancestors Abby had “met,” in their house in Waltham, and that meeting had brought about her encounter with Ned, when he saw she was in distress and had sat her down and made her a cup of tea. And more important, had taken her seriously, even though she had had no idea what was happening. Together they had discovered that Olivia’s mother had been born Elizabeth Reed, and that had led to their shared exploration to the whole Reed family line, back until they had found a common ancestor, many generations earlier.

But looking at her notes, she realized she had never followed up on William Flagg, Elizabeth Reed’s husband, and the one who had bought that impressive house in Waltham that she had toured. There simply hadn’t been time then: Abby had been overwhelmed trying to sort out the Reeds, and then she’d gotten the job at the museum and had no time to indulge in research, other than for the job. There were plenty of other lines as well that she hadn’t even looked at, but she might as well start with the Flaggs. Wouldn’t it be funny if the Flaggs had possessed the same “seeing” ability as the Reeds, and that had somehow brought them together? So, on to William Flagg. If she hit a brick wall there, she could look up the line at the Pendletons, who were a mystery to her.

She had to admire genealogists from decades past: they had really had to work for their results. She, on the other hand, could sit in front of her laptop, click a few buttons, and find a wealth of information about almost everyone who had ever lived in the country, and a few other countries besides. In fact, there was almost too much information: either the same bit got repeated over and over (and came up during searches each time), or there were thirty-seven people of the same name, some even born in the same year, and she had to wade through each one to make sure she wasn’t missing anything. And that was just the statistical materials—there was still plenty of information to be found in local newspapers and historical societies. It could be daunting, but she was patient.

By the end of the afternoon she had assembled a nice short profile of William Flagg, including his Civil War record, and several businesses that he had owned or managed, in more than one town. As a person, she rather liked him, especially after finding a lovely photograph of him in his obituary—he had a luxuriant mustache. But he had been born at the other end of the state, and enlisted from there as well. It was a long way from Salem, although Abby was continually surprised at how often and how far people had moved around from the beginning. And William Flagg had been born in 1846, which meant that she had a lot of generations to go back to get to the right era. She could feel her enthusiasm wilting. But at least a migration westward over time made more sense than the opposite. She dug in and started searching for William Flagg’s parents. Which only made things worse, since both his parents seemed to have been born in Vermont. What was it with these people? Abby knew that in the later twentieth century people had moved around a lot, and before that there had been the migration from farms to the cities. But why so much earlier? Goodness knows there had been plenty of wide open spaces.

She plodded through the records. William’s father had been Silas Flagg, and his mother had been Eliza Barton. There at least was a new name. Silas Flagg had been too old to fight in the Civil War, but apparently William and his three brothers had all signed up and served—from Springfield. Which was the other end of the state.
Stop whining, Abby! So you don’t know that neighborhood well—get over it. You didn’t know eastern Massachusetts when you started, and you learned fast. Suck it up and dig in.
It was a messy mash of expressions, but the last couple of expressions reminded her that she was getting hungry, and it was her turn to cook. Better to start again in the morning with fresh eyes.

She wandered down to the kitchen to see what ingredients they had for supper. She liked to cook, especially if it was more than just for herself. Ned seemed to enjoy her cooking, and that was a compliment (assuming he was being honest with her), because he was a pretty fair cook on his own. Cooking was also something of a relief: she liked the chopping and tasting and envisioning flavors, which occupied some but not all of her attention, and left her time to think.

Was she obsessing about this genealogy and Salem thing? She hoped not. She did want to find a professional job—she’d given up hoping that Leslie would take her back, but she might be able to persuade her to give her a good recommendation, if things progressed as they seemed to be doing. Surely she could find a similar job somewhere in the greater Boston area? And she could be more flexible in her salary requirements now, since Ned could support her.

So, she decided, she should set a time limit on her research—she already knew how consuming it could become if she let it, so she needed a goal. The end of summer would work, because that would allow her to spend some time with Ellie, before she had to go back to school. And she already knew she wanted to steer clear of Salem in the fall, when all the Halloween crazies came out. There, a decision: she had about three months to find whatever she was looking for. Just as soon as she figured out what that was.

10

 

Abby had managed to fill the kitchen with good smells, even with the windows open, by the time Ned came home. Good thing there was nothing cooking that demanded her immediate attention, since Ned gave all of his to greeting her, as though he hadn’t seen her in weeks instead of hours. When Abby finally pulled away, she said, “What was that all about? Not that I’m complaining.”

“I can’t just be glad to see you?” he said, in a mock-humorous tone. “It’s such a nice, welcoming scene—the house is coming together, there haven’t been any crises today—have there?—and here you are, looking right at home in front of the stove. And I’m hungry.”

“Good save, Mr. Newhall. No, no new crises. Not even any major discoveries. And I like to cook. But don’t get used to seeing me slaving over a hot stove just to keep you fed, particularly in the middle of summer when it’s going to be hot in here. Can we think about a ceiling fan, at least? By the way, I’ll do your laundry only if you ask very nicely, and you know how to run a vacuum cleaner as well as I do.”

Ned smiled. “Message received. How long until food?”

“Ready when you are.”

“Can I change clothes?”

“Sure.”

Ned disappeared up the back stairs, and Abby smiled to herself. Getting to know someone new was interesting. Her ex, Brad—her first and only real long-term relationship—had been quite different. For a start, he was a slob, dropping clothes wherever he felt like it, leaving glasses and plates all over their apartment. It was clear that he thought that because he had a Big Important Job in the City, she was supposed to run around picking up after him. Even when she had gotten the job at the museum—which he disapproved of—nothing had changed. It probably never would have, but she’d walked out before she could find out—after she had learned that he was sleeping with a colleague at work.

Ned was completely different: neat and self-sufficient. He cleaned up after himself. How had she ever gotten so lucky?

But what was more important was that they had this extraordinary link, and she meant the basic meaning of the term: something outside the ordinary. They shared a connection that defied explanation, at least so far. Sure, no doubt a lot of lovers claimed that, but in their case it was real. And they still had a lot to learn about it.

Ned came clomping down the stairs again, now clad in a ratty sweatshirt, holey jeans, and a pair of very scuffed running shoes. At least he wasn’t
too
perfect. “I’m ready—dish up!”

“You can pour the wine,” Abby said, fetching plates.

Once they were seated and had allowed five minutes to satisfy empty stomachs, Abby asked, “Have you ever explored how alcohol affects your, uh, sensitivity?”

“Do you mean, do I see more or fewer ghosts when I’m drunk? Not that I’ve noticed. For one thing, I don’t drink that much, certainly not to the point of drunkenness. For another, I spent most of my drinking days trying to ignore or shut down whatever it is. Pretend it wasn’t happening. Are you suggesting we get drunk together and see what happens? A controlled experiment?”

“I don’t know if I’m suggesting anything,” Abby told him. “I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been truly drunk in my life. And of course I didn’t know what was lurking under the surface until recently, as you well know. I do wonder if there’s some happy medium point between sober and sloshed that might open the door a little more. We could try that.”

“We could. Or one of us could stay sober and test the other who’s drinking, to observe the changes. And then we trade places, on another day, of course.”

“Maybe,” Abby agreed, and ate another forkful of her dinner. “What about drugs?”

“What about them? Have I tried them? Are there some that might be useful in this investigation? Well, if I recall correctly, there were some rather interesting mushrooms, back when I was in college, but most pharmaceuticals didn’t appeal to me, and weed made me stupid, which I didn’t enjoy. It must be more than fifteen years since I experimented with anything.”

“I understand some things have changed,” Abby said demurely. “Not that I have any firsthand knowledge, of course. I have lived a very sheltered life.”

“Well, we can table those ideas for later consideration. Will that do?”

“Fine. I just thought we should think about it. If we’re going to be systematic about this.”

“I agree. So, what were you working on today?”

“Mostly I tried pushing the Reed line back. We’ve got our shared Reeds pretty well mapped out, I think, though there were a lot of matrilineal lines I never had a chance to look at. But it’s slow work, and so far I’ve only added one generation and a new surname.”

BOOK: Defending the Dead (Relatively Dead Mysteries Book 3)
11.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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