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Authors: Anna J McIntyre

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BOOK: The Ghost of Valentine Past
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Chapter Four

F
astening his robe's belt
, Chris studied Walt. “I thought you said she was asleep.”

Walt shrugged. “She was. Is.”

Muttering something under his breath, Chris started for the bedroom door. He then asked, “Tell me about these ghosts.”

“One was in her room.”

“And you just left him there, with Danielle sleeping?” Chris threw open his bedroom door and stepped out into the hallway.

“He's not there now. That's why I came looking for you. I hoped we could figure this out together, without having to wake up Danielle.”

Chris paused and turned to face Walt. “You have no idea who he was?”

“No. He was about your age, I suppose. The other one was much older.”

“Where was he?”

“I saw the older one when I came downstairs. It looked as if he had just come from the parlor. He told me he had to get out of here—and then he just vanished.”

“What did that one look like?” Chris asked.

Walt considered the question a moment. “There was something familiar about him, but I can't place it. Older gentleman, gray hair, in a hurry to leave.”

“And you're sure they were ghosts? Maybe someone broke into the house?”

“Both men vanished before my eyes—and the fact they both could see and hear me—so my guess would be that they're other spirits. What concerns me is, the first one knew Danielle's name, and he was watching her.”

Chris tightened the belt on his robe and turned around. Instead of moving toward the staircase, he faced the parlor door.

“Maybe you should wake Danielle. You can get to her faster than I can,” Chris suggested. “I'll check the parlor and see if anything's been disturbed. Random ghosts wandering through Marlow House can't be a good thing.”

When Walt returned to Danielle's room a few seconds later, he found her still sleeping soundly, with Max curled up at her side.

“Any sign of a ghost?” Walt asked Max.

In response, Max closed his eyes and began to purr.

“I found another one downstairs.”

Max stopped purring and opened his eyes.

“Yes, there were two of them. I have to wake Danielle.”

D
anielle stretched
out in the beach chair, enjoying the warmth of the sun—or possibly the blankets back at Marlow House. She assumed Walt had covered her up, but wondered what was taking him so long to return.

“You look comfortable,” Walt said when he appeared a few seconds later. Instead of sitting in the empty beach chair, he stood by her side.

“I was beginning to wonder if you were coming back. Aren't you going to sit down?”

“I'm afraid there's a little situation back at Marlow House, and Chris thinks it might be a good idea if you wake up. I think he may be right.” Walt sat down in the chair.

“Situation?”

“There appears to be two spirits wandering around Marlow House.”

“Spirits? You mean ghosts?”

Walt nodded.

“Did Chris see them?”

“No. I did. I thought it might be a good idea to wake Chris and elicit his help in discovering who they might be.”

“Why do you think they're ghosts—oh no, maybe someone broke into the house!”

“No. It was two male spirits. They both could see me—and both vanished before my eyes.”

“Any idea who they are?”

“No. Chris went to check the parlor while I came to get you.”

“Parlor? Why the parlor?”

“I saw the second man rush out from there—I think that's where he was coming from. He seemed in a hurry. When he saw me, he said he had to get out of there, and then he just disappeared.”

“What about the first man?”

“When I went to cover you up, I found him in your bedroom—watching you sleep.”

“My bedroom?” Danielle squeaked.

“He seemed to know who you are. He said your name.”

“What did he look like?”

“Tall—I suppose good looking. Dark hair, dark eyes. Serious looking.”

“And the other man?”

“Older, maybe in his late sixties. Gray hair. I didn't recognize the younger man at all—but there was something familiar about the older one. I just can't place him.”

“Well, crap.” Danielle stood. “I suppose you should wake me up. Do you have any idea what time it is?”

“When I heard the downstairs clock chime, it was three. I don't imagine it's now much later than that.”

“Then you better wake me up. The only way I can do it is to make myself scream—and I really don't think that would be a terrific idea with a houseful of guests.”

“Waking up Heather like that might be particularly annoying. The last thing we need is for her to start burning her voodoo incense to cleanse the house of spirits.”

“It's not incense; it's essential oils. And I doubt it works anyway.”

“I should think not. I'm still here.” In the next moment, he wasn't there.

Instead of contemplating the irony of Walt's declaration, just a moment before he disappeared, Danielle felt someone repeatedly tugging at her arm.

The beach faded away, and Danielle opened her eyes. A loud meow greeted her. Sitting up in her bed, she looked over to Walt, who stood nearby. Another meow caught her attention, and she looked down in time to see Max press his head against her arm as he wove around her body, loudly purring.

The light hadn't been turned on, yet it wasn't needed, thanks to the moonlight streaming through the window. In the next moment, a shrill scream pierced the silence. It came from downstairs.

Bolting from bed, Danielle raced to the bedroom door and threw it open. She found Lily and her new guests, David and Arlene, standing at their bedroom doors, looking nervously into the dimly lit hallway. They too had apparently heard the screaming. Heather's door was also open; but she was nowhere to be seen.

Lily glanced from Heather's open door to Danielle. “Was that Heather who screamed?”

David pushed Arlene back into the safety of their bedroom and stepped out into the hallway. He attempted to close the door, but Arlene refused to be shut up in the room alone.

“Maybe we should call the police?” Arlene suggested. She grabbed hold of David's arm and pulled him back into the room with her.

Danielle glanced at Walt and then looked back at Arlene and David. “It's probably nothing. I'll go downstairs and check. Chris is down there; I'm sure everything is fine.”

“I'll go with you,” Lily said, walking first to Heather's room and peeking inside. “She's not in there. That must have been her who screamed.”

Hastily, Lily and Danielle raced down the stairs. “Please tell me Walt is with us,” Lily asked in a whisper.

“He was. I suspect he's already downstairs,” Danielle explained under her breath.

Reluctantly, Arlene and David followed Lily and Danielle, yet not before Arlene retrieved her cellphone from their bedroom.


I
s that Peter Morris
?” Walt asked as he looked down at the lifeless body sprawled on the floor in front of the small parlor sofa.

Instead of answering Walt's question, Chris looked up at Heather, who remained standing at the open doorway. No longer screaming and now mesmerized by the grisly scene, she clutched the edge of the parlor door. Someone had sliced Morris' throat, and considering the beige throw rug in front of the sofa was now red from blood, it was doubtful he was still alive.

In spite of the hopelessness of the scene, Chris had managed to check the man's vitals, only to verify what he already assumed—Peter Morris, founder of the infamous cult, Earthbound Spirits, was dead. Still kneeling by the body, Chris was just about to stand up when Danielle and Lily came rushing into the room.

“I know now why he looked familiar,” Walt told Danielle. Yet, she wasn't listening to what he had to say. Instead, she stared horrified at the dead body on her parlor floor.

“Oh my god, is that Peter Morris?” Danielle gasped. “What happened?”

“Is he dead?” Lily knew it was a ridiculous question the moment she asked it.

“I'm calling the police!” Arlene shouted from where she stood in the hallway, peeking over Heather's shoulder.

“I know now why the man looked familiar,” Walt repeated his assertion. In response, both Chris and Danielle looked in his direction. “The older man,” Walt explained. “The second spirit I saw, it was Peter Morris. I didn't recognize him at the time, because his hair was gray, practically white.”

Danielle looked back down at the dead man on her floor—his hair was jet black, as it was the last time she had seen him.

Finding her voice, Heather stepped backwards, out of the parlor and into the hallway. She bumped into David and froze. Pointing at Chris she shouted, “He killed him!” With shaking hands, she gestured from the dead man to Chris.

Now standing, Chris looked down at his hands. Both were covered with blood. “I found him like this,” Chris explained. “I was just checking his vitals when Heather walked into the room.”

“I need to call the police,” Danielle said dully. Still staring down at the body, she asked—speaking more to herself than to anyone within hearing distance—“What was he doing here?”

“I already called the police! They're on their way!” Arlene called out.

“I have to wash my hands,” Chris announced, pushing past Heather and Arlene, making his way to the bathroom.

“You're destroying evidence,” David called out.

Chris paused a moment and looked back at David and the rest. They all watched him.

“I didn't kill Morris,” Chris reiterated. Glancing down at his hands, he felt ill. “I got blood on me when I was checking to see if there was anything I could do for him. I'll tell the police I washed my hands—that I got his blood on me. But I'm not going to stand here like this.” Without another word, he went to the bathroom.

“What in the world was Peter Morris doing in this house?” Lily asked.

Silently, Danielle glanced around the room. Her three guests—Heather, David, and Arlene, huddled by the doorway, looking in, while Lily stood next to her, and Walt stood just a few feet from the dead man.

“I never saw him arrive,” Walt told Danielle. “But I did see him leave.”

“You need to ask Chris,” Heather said, looking nervously over her shoulder, expecting Chris to return in the next moment.

“I don't believe Chris had anything to do with this—he had no reason to kill Morris. And he explained, he found Morris here—he was checking his vitals. That's why he had blood on his hands,” Danielle insisted.

“No, Morris came to see Chris. I saw them together,” Heather told her.

“What are you talking about?” Danielle stepped from the parlor into the hallway, Lily trailing behind her.

“Tonight—around midnight—I was in the living room watching TV when I heard Chris go to the front door and let someone in. It was Morris. I got the impression Chris was expecting him. There was no knock at the door; the doorbell didn't ring. The two men went into the parlor. Chris is the reason Peter Morris was here—he obviously was the one who killed him.”

As if on cue, Chris returned from the bathroom, his hands now clean. Nervous, Heather stepped back from Chris, while David and Arlene followed suit, keeping a safe distance from the man who just moments before had been wearing Morris' blood.

“You're wrong, Heather,” Chris said calmly.

“I saw you with him!” Heather spat.

“True, he came to see me—we were in the parlor together earlier—but I didn't kill him. You saw him after I did.”

The next moment the front door opened—it was the police.

Chapter Five

G
lancing down at his wristwatch
, Brian Henderson cursed himself for trading shifts with another officer. Frederickport tended to be a quiet beach community—that was, of course, until Danielle Boatman inherited Marlow House and turned it into a Bed and Breakfast. Since that time, he seemed to be constantly tripping over dead bodies.

Brian had assumed things had finally settled down, and the new year meant Frederickport had returned to the sleepy beach community it had once been. Apparently, he was wrong. Any thoughts of getting off work in a couple hours and having Friday to himself were killed—as dead as Peter Morris.

They had brought the residents of Marlow House to the police station for questioning, while processing the crime scene. They had allowed each person to get dressed before bringing them to the station, but not until the house was searched, in case the perp was hiding in a dark corner. Then, each person was escorted to his or her room to make sure no evidence was compromised, while each witness changed into street clothes.

Brian decided to talk first with the woman who had called the police to the crime scene, Arlene Horton. He was already in the interrogation room, sitting at the table, when Arlene was shown into the room.

Before asking his first question, he studied her for a moment. She was around Danielle's age—early thirties, or perhaps a few years younger. He found her attractive, with almond shaped hazel eyes and a pixie-like face. She wore her chestnut colored hair in short curls, a look he felt only a woman with delicate features—as she had—could carry off.

While rounding up the group after he arrived at Marlow House, he had learned the man she was with was not her husband. Apparently, the two had come to Marlow House for a romantic Valentine's Day weekend. That bit of information seemed to contradict the woman's choice of nightwear, which she still had on when he had first arrived at the house: a prim, floor length, flannel nightgown with long sleeves and a button up collar. But, considering the recent turn of events, he doubted there would be much romance in their weekend, even if she had a secret stash of Victoria Secret nightgowns up in their room.

“You're the one who called the police?” Brian asked.

Arlene nodded. “Yes, when that horrible scream woke us, I knew something awful had happened. I just never imagined it would be this.”

“Why don't you start at the beginning, and tell me what happened.” Brian leaned back in the chair, his gaze focused on Arlene. “Start at when you first arrived at Marlow House.”

“David and I checked in…” With her hands nervously fidgeting on her lap, she glanced briefly at the wall clock. It was almost 5 a.m. “I guess it was yesterday, late in the afternoon, before five p.m. We checked into our room, then went out to dinner, that was about six. When we returned it was a little past eight. We were both exhausted, so, we went right to our room. I was asleep when I heard it. Jolted me right out of bed.”

“Heard what?” Brian asked.

“The scream. I know now, it was Heather. But at the time, we had no idea what was going on. It woke up David too. When we opened our bedroom door, Danielle and Lily were standing at their doorways. They had heard it too.”

“Then what happened?” Brian asked.

“Danielle insisted it was nothing. Reminded us Chris was downstairs.” Under her breath, she muttered, “With blood all over him.”

“Did you see Chris attack Peter Morris?”

Arlene shook her head. “No, but Heather said he did.”

“Back up, and tell me what you saw, exactly.”

“Danielle said she was going downstairs to see what was going on. Lily and David insisted on going too. I certainly didn't want to be left upstairs all alone, so I grabbed my cellphone and headed downstairs with them. I was already searching for your number when I reached the first floor and saw Heather standing by the parlor door. When I saw the man on the floor, I immediately called you.”

“What was Heather doing?”

“She was standing by the parlor door, looking in, when we all got downstairs.”

“What was Chris doing?”

“He was kneeling by the body. There was blood all over his hands.”

“He didn't have any blood on him when we arrived,” Brian reminded her.

“No. He washed his hands. David told him he shouldn't, that he was washing off evidence. But he did it anyway.”

“Then what happened?”

“You arrived.”

“Had you seen Peter Morris—the man who was killed—at Marlow House earlier?”

Arlene didn't answer immediately. Finally, she shook her head. “No.”

“Is there anything you want to add?”

“Just that you should talk to Heather next.”

“Why is that?” Brian asked.

“Because, according to Heather, Chris killed that man.”


W
hy does
this feel like déjà vu?” Danielle asked Brian a few minutes later when she sat down across from him in the interrogation room. The two were alone.

“This isn't how I expected to spend my Friday,” he told her.

“Friday…that's right, it's Friday the 13
th
,” Danielle murmured.

“Tell me, what was Morris doing at Marlow House? I didn't think you two were that chummy.”

“You know I couldn't stand the man,” Danielle admitted.

“Not the best thing to confess, with him found in your house and his throat slit.”

“You couldn't stand him either,” Danielle reminded.

“True, but he wasn't lying on my parlor floor, dead.”

“I suspect you don't have a parlor,” Danielle quipped.

“You're rather sassy considering your house is a crime scene—again.”

“You know I do this when I'm nervous. I thought you'd know that by now.”

“I was rather hoping I wouldn't be interviewing you about
another
homicide. At least, not so soon.”

“Okay,” Danielle took a deep breath. “I'll focus and try not be a smart-aleck. What do you want to know?”

“To begin with, why was Morris there?”

Danielle shook her head. “I have no idea. I didn't know he was in the house—not until I saw him on the parlor floor, just minutes before you arrived.”

“Start from the beginning.” Brian studied Danielle. Instead of the pajama bottoms and T-shirt she had been wearing earlier that morning, she now wore blue sweat pants and an oversized sweatshirt. He was used to seeing her hair in a tidy fishtail braid, but this morning it was a bit of a tangled mess, pulled back into a haphazard bun, with stray tendrils framing her face. He had to admit she looked rather cute, and for a moment, he understood what Joe Morelli saw in the woman.

“I was asleep when I heard a scream—it woke me. When I got to the doorway, Lily, David, and Arlene were also up. I guess the scream woke them too. We all went downstairs to see what was going on, and we found Heather standing at the door to the parlor and Chris in the parlor kneeling by Morris, checking his vitals.”

“Wasn't that a little risky, just charging downstairs?”

With a frown Danielle asked, “Risky, why?”

“You hear a woman scream bloody murder—and in this case, there was an actual murder—and you just charge downstairs, without considering your safety?”

Danielle shrugged. “I just assumed Heather went downstairs for some reason, and something frightened her…maybe a mouse. She can be a little dramatic sometimes. Anyway, I knew Chris was downstairs.”

“It's almost like you already knew the danger passed—or maybe you knew the only person in danger was Morris, and he was already dead.”

Danielle let out a weary sigh. “Brian, please don't read more into this than there is. I really had absolutely no idea Morris was in my house. Trust me; no one was more surprised than I was to find him downstairs—dead.”

“Do you have any idea why he was there?”

Folding her hands on her lap, Danielle closed her eyes briefly and let out another sigh. She opened her eyes again and looked directly at Brian. “I've an idea of why he was there. Please listen to what Chris has to say first. Don't jump to conclusions. You tend to do that, and they're often wrong.”

“Chris? According to Ms. Horton, Heather seems to believe Chris killed Morris.”

“That's only because he was found with the body. But I believe what he said—that he was just checking Morris' vitals and that's why he got blood on his hands, which I'm sure Arlene already mentioned.”

“You said you have an idea of why Morris was there. Explain.”

“According to Heather, she was watching television in the living room, when she heard Chris answer the door. She saw him let Morris in, and the two went into the parlor together. But that was around midnight. And we found Morris in the parlor after three.”

“When was the last time you saw Peter Morris?” Brian asked.

“Me?” Danielle frowned and considered the question. “Back in December, I think. When Richard Winston was taken to the hospital. I don't think I've seen him since then.”

“Has he tried to contact you?”

“Morris? No. Why would he?”

“I seem to remember Morris was rather interested in recruiting you.”

“Yeah, well, that was never going to happen. I would assume he finally realized that.”

Brian's cellphone began to ring. Picking up his phone from the table, he looked at who was calling.

“I have to take this,” he told her. On the other end of the phone was one of the officers still at Marlow House, processing the scene.

“I think we found the murder weapon,” the officer told Brian on the phone. “I'm sending a picture now.” In the next moment, an image popped up on Brian's phone. It was of a fishing knife, resting on a bloody hand towel.

“Where did you find it?” Brian asked.

“It was shoved under the dresser in the entry hall bathroom, wrapped in that hand towel,” the officer told him.

After Brian got off the phone, he showed Danielle the image. “Do you recognize the knife, or the towel?”

“It looks like one of the hand towels from the downstairs bathroom,” Danielle murmured, her attention on the knife in the photograph.

“What about the knife? Do you recognize it?” Brian asked.

Danielle swallowed nervously and said with a hoarse voice, “It looks like a fishing knife.”

“It is, a very sharp knife. Have you seen it before?”

“Maybe…” Danielle squeaked.

“Maybe? Where have you seen it before?”

“I suppose…looks a little like the fishing knife I gave Chris…but I'm sure there are others like it in town. I bought it at the local sporting goods store.”

“Do you know where Chris keeps his fishing knife?”

“I would assume in his tackle box. The last time I saw it—the tackle box—it was on the back porch. That was a couple days ago; I remember because I moved it out of the rain. But I didn't look inside.”

“Do you have anything you want to add—something you believe is relevant to the case?”

“No. But…well…I was wondering, do you know when the chief is going to be in?”

“He normally comes in around eight. Why?”

“I...I just would like to talk to him.”

“Danielle, I'm taking the lead on this case; if you know something, you need to tell me.”

“I was just wondering when the chief was coming in, that's all.” Danielle shrugged.

Narrowing his eyes, Brian studied Danielle for a moment. “I think I'll talk with Chris next. I suppose he should get used to being called by Chris Glandon, from now on. With Morris' murder—especially considering who he was and the press this case is bound to catch, I doubt Glandon can continue using the name “Johnson,” regardless of how much money he has. I seriously doubt your friendship with the chief will fix this one, Danielle.”

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