If Onions Could Spring Leeks (6 page)

BOOK: If Onions Could Spring Leeks
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“You sound good. You must be feeling okay?”

“The sunglasses helped.”

“Keep them.”

“Thanks.”

“Right down there?” He nodded toward the field as we pulled onto my street.

“Yep, that's where I saw them.”

“Makes sense,” he said as he parked next to the curb in front of my house. “Come on.”

“I'm fine, Jake.” It suddenly registered that he was wearing his costume. As the fake sheriff in town, he dressed up and performed a new piece of his original cowboy poetry each year. He was one of our bigger draws. “Oh, no, you're missing a reading, or more than one. Go. I'll be fine.”

“Betts, please.” He looked at me. “Priorities, my dear.”

“I'm just going to sleep. You don't need to be there to watch me do that. I don't have a concussion. Get back to work, and then look for stuff that will help us. Seriously.”

Jake walked me in, but didn't stay. It might not have mattered who'd been there, ghostly or alive. I was going to sleep until my body didn't want me to sleep anymore. Trains could have whistled right in my ears and it wouldn't have fazed me in the least.

I didn't rest without dreams, though they were mild, not violent like Gram's. They weren't about any of the ghosts, unless of course Derek could now be considered a ghost. In my dreams, I saw him as I'd seen him over the years—quiet, withdrawn, not friendly. But I also saw something else. In life Derek had been haunted by . . . something. I'd never noticed it when he was alive, and unfortunately, it never became clear in my dreams. I was curious enough, though, to tell myself as I slept that when I woke I should look at Derek's life a little closer; whoever or whatever haunted him might have also killed him. It wouldn't hurt to dig a little.

Chapter 6

It turned out that I lost the entire rest of the day and then the night, too. I slept, apparently, pretty hard. I was surprised not to find Cliff in bed next to me when I woke up, but my bag was on my dresser with a note that said he didn't need it any longer, that he'd call later, and that I should sleep as much as I could. I didn't like the sense that I'd lost so many hours. I had to check calendars and clocks to understand where and when I'd landed. When I realized the amount of time that had passed, I mostly wondered what I'd missed. I thought I'd better begin to find out by asking the person who signed my paychecks.

“Betts, are you okay?” Gram said as she answered her phone.

“I'm fine,” I said. “I slept through the night and I'm trying to get my bearings. I'm sorry if I missed something I'd committed to do, but at the moment I can't think of what it would be. How was your night? Bad dreams?”

“You didn't miss anything important from me. My dreams are still there, but Jake's got a sketch artist coming over this morning so I can get on paper what these people looked like. My goodness, young lady, thanks for talking to him even in the midst of being hurt. How are you? You need more rest.”

I remembered talking to Jake but not about a sketch artist. He must have had the idea himself or Gram had mentioned it. I appreciated the attention to the matter.

“I'm too antsy to rest. Have you seen Jerome?”

“No.”

“Have you met Grace or Robert yet?”

“No, not yet.”

I wasn't sure what to do next, but I'd think of something. “I'll call you later, Gram.”

“Okay, sweetheart, but I really hope you're all right. Try to get more rest.”

At the moment, that was the last thing I wanted to do. “I will if I need it.”

“Good girl. And call your parents. They're wondering about you. I told them you found Derek's body, but I didn't tell anyone you were hurt. They'll have my hide, of course, when they find out I knew. It's okay, I can take it.”

“Thanks for that, Gram.” I was sure I would have had the whole family in Dr. Callahan's office and hovering over me at home if they'd heard I was hit on the head. It was better for everyone that they hadn't known.

When I disconnected from Gram, I noticed that Mom, Dad, and Teddy had all called and texted me a number of times. I hadn't turned the volume on my phone down—boy, I really had slept hard.

I brewed a full pot of coffee, drank lots of it, filled a travel
mug with the rest, left a message for Cliff, and then revved up the Nova. It knew the route to my parents' house almost on its own. I thought it would be good to show them in person that they didn't need to be worried about me, and I hadn't seen them in a couple weeks anyway. Good parent-bonding time was in order. And just by looking at me they'd never know I was hurt.

As I pulled into the driveway, however, I regretted not calling before stopping by. Teddy's big red truck was there, which meant that not only was he there (which wouldn't be a bad thing), but Opie might be with him, and I didn't want to talk to Opie. But if I pulled back out of the driveway, someone might see me and I'd have to explain. I didn't want to come up with a good lie even more than I didn't want to see Opie.

“Isabelle Winston, as I live and breathe,” my dad said as he came out of the house carrying a large mirror and wearing two pairs of glasses on the top of his head. “Is it really you? I was beginning to think my daughter had moved far away. Two weeks, I think it's been, and we reside in the same small town.” His face became serious over the top of the mirror frame. “Hey, I heard you found Derek, poor guy. I'm sorry for him and I'm sorry you had to see that.”

“I'm fine. Sorry I've been busy, Dad,” I said as I kissed his cheek and pulled off one of the pairs of glasses. I folded them and put them in the pocket on his shirt. He always wore a shirt with a pocket. High school math teacher habits were hard to break even if he had been promoted to principal almost two decades earlier. “What are you doing?”

“Your mother wants me to re-glaze this mirror. Do you even know what that means? I don't know what it means, and I have no idea how I'm going to do it, but she thinks
that Google can tell me all I need to know. I'm moving it out to the garage because I think that anything called ‘re-glazing' will be a decidedly messy process.”

“I don't know what it means either, but Google
can
find anything, I'm sure of it.”

“Hope so.”

“Teddy inside?”

“Yes, he and Opie stopped by for brunch. Your mother invited you and Cliff, too. It's our annual school's-out-so-we-can-get-together-during-the-week event.”

“I got some texts but I didn't take the time to read all of them. I woke up late. Cliff's swamped, though, I know that.” At least I thought that was why I hadn't seen him since Dr. Callahan's office.

“You okay, Red?”

Dad had called me Red when I was a little girl and only in times of crisis as I'd gotten older. My hair was more auburn than red. It was good to hear the nickname, but only when he said it.

“I'm fine. I wish Derek hadn't been killed, of course, but I'm fine.” I reached up to the tender spot on the back of my head and realized it was still sore, but I pulled my hand away before Dad noticed what I was doing.

“Cliff and the other police have any leads?” Since Cliff and I had become a couple again, Dad had decided the police force was made up of Cliff and “the others.” Dad and the police chief, Jim, were very good friends, but family was number one in Dad's mind, and Cliff was family. Even Opie had become family.

“I don't think he has anything yet.”

“He'll figure it out.”

“I hope so.”

Despite the fact that my mom was the auto mechanic teacher at the high school, my parents' attached garage wasn't filled with tools and doo-dads. They frequently used the two bikes that were against one wall, and one old toolbox sat on a bottom shelf of a rack of four. The other three shelves were filled with things like WD-40, paint, cat litter for ice storms, etc. There was also one large table in the back corner. Oddly, even though the garage didn't look like much happened inside it other than parking cars and bikes, Dad seemed to always have a small project going on the table. I followed him into the garage as he set the mirror on top of it.

“Re-glaze. Why in the world can't I just buy a new mirror?” he said.

“I don't know, but the frame is pretty on this one,” I said, running my finger over the thick and ornate silver frame that curved in and out as it bordered the glass.

“Yeah, Miss Winny gave it to us when we got married,” Dad said. Miss Winny was what he sometimes called his mom, Miz, aka Gram, and Missouri. She and I both had our fair share of nicknames.

“Really? Why don't I remember seeing it around the house?”

“Well, that's my fault, I suppose,” Dad said as he rubbed a finger under his nose. “I got spooked by it and I hid it.”

“You? You don't get spooked by anything. What happened?”

“You can't tell your mother. I hid it all those years ago and she found it just recently. I'll tell you the story, but don't tell anyone else, especially your mother. Promise?” he said.

“Of course.” The last time Dad told me not to tell Mom something was when we'd made a secret trip to St. Louis to
replace a bowl from her best china that I'd broken with a poorly aimed basketball, something I wasn't supposed to have in the house in the first place. To this day I didn't think she knew how many times she'd served mashed potatoes in the replacement bowl. Dad and I had years of shared conspiratorial glances over holiday dinner tables.

“Well, I thought I saw something in it. No, someone. Someone over my shoulder.”

Goose bumps sprung up on my arms. “Really? That's creepy.”

“It was, but the figure wasn't a creepy figure. He was just a cowboy. You know, from the olden days. Old hat, old-fashioned mustache. Know what I mean?”

“I think I do.”

“I saw him in the mirror. He tipped his hat to me. When I turned around, he was gone. Not there. I never saw him again and I hid the damn mirror. I blamed it on the mirror, not any sort of mental condition I might have. My diagnosis has thus far been proven correct, because I haven't seen any surprise visitors in any other mirrors.”

“Huh. What if you see him again while you're re-glazing?” I asked.

“I'll break it. Surely, accidents happen during re-glazing.” Dad smiled. He was all dad when he wasn't all high school principal. The gray patches at his temples had gotten a little grayer but mostly he had a full head of thick, dark auburn hair. His green eyes were friendly, intelligent, and constantly somewhat suspicious. This probably happened to all high school principals. Whenever he smiled, he looked somewhat baby-faced. I thought he was an adorable man. He was also a great dad, even if terribly mechanically uninclined, unlike my
mother. Mom could mop a floor with precision, turn around and fix a carburetor without breaking a sweat or a nail, and look amazing doing it all.

“I'll help you break it if you want,” I said.

“Oh, good. That sounds like fun. We'll have to do it when we're in bad moods about something. Take out our aggressions on an innocent mirror. To hell with superstitions. I suppose, though, if I see that cowboy again, it won't be so innocent.”

At this point in his life, it would be, at best, confusing, at worst completely discombobulating to tell Dad that he probably had inherited some of his mother's skills of seeing and communicating with ghosts. Besides, since the ghost rules kept changing anyway, I didn't want him thrown into the mix just when we weren't sure what might happen next.

If I ever saw him in person again, I'd try to remember to ask Jerome to stay out of Dad's mirror if he could help it.

“It was probably just a trick of light or something,” I said.

“Maybe,” Dad said doubtfully.

I put my arm around his shoulders and hugged him. He put his hand over mine.

“You really okay, sweetheart?”

“I'm okay,” I said.

“Well, let me know if you need anything from me. I suggest running inside for some of your mother's breakfast casserole. I'm sure it is delicious enough to help ease all ills and worries, but, fair warning, as I said, Opie is in there.”

“I'm trying to be nicer to her. I think she and Teddy actually like each other. It baffles me.”

Dad shrugged. “Love is weird and blind, and sometimes plain old stupid. She's trying—well, she's doing the best she can do with the personality quirks she's been dealt. Oh, that
sounded a little mean. I don't want to be mean. Don't tell your mother about that either.”

I laughed. Dad was far from mean. He was just trying to be supportive. I appreciated the effort and kissed his cheek again.

“I'll go say hi and have some casserole,” I said.

“Good girl.”

As I made my way into the house, I thought briefly about how much fun it would be to have Dad in on the ghostly encounters. But there was no need to bother him with it at this point. If his ability hadn't been strong enough to see and communicate clearly with Jerome outside a mirror back then, then maybe his abilities just weren't all that important. I hadn't had much choice but to talk to the ghost who seemed so real to me from the first moment I'd met him. I wondered if Dad had—or has since—smelled the woodsmoke, but there was no way to ask that question without causing him to have a million more.

“Betts!” Mom said as I came through the front door. The kitchen was a straight shot to the back of the house. She could see me when I came in as she stood at the sink washing something. “You're here—I'm so glad. Come join us and have something to eat. There's still some left.”

I heard laughter, but I couldn't see Teddy and Opie until I reached the kitchen.

“Smells great in here,” I said, my stomach waking up voraciously.

“Have a seat,” Mom said as she nodded at the table at the far end of the room. Mom was tall, thin, blond, and very pretty. She was one of those women whose features got better as she got older. Even though she'd always been thin, her face had been pleasantly round when she was younger. As she'd hit her
mid-fifties, her facial features had sharpened, giving her a regal look. She'd gone from cute to beautiful. I looked nothing like her so I didn't plan on such an outcome for my middle age. I looked like Gram, but though she wasn't beautiful in the ways my mom was, I liked the way she'd aged, too. I got some lucky genes.

And so had Teddy. He looked more like Mom than Dad, but his male version had caused more heartbreak and heartache than one small town and a big sister in Missouri should have to suffer.

He'd never had a serious girlfriend. Until Opie—Ophelia Buford. Opie was older than Teddy. She was my age. The relationship between she and Teddy had caught everyone off guard. There had never been any indication that the two of them were attracted to each other, but one day they were together. Happily. Sappily. Awfully. Together.

BOOK: If Onions Could Spring Leeks
10.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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