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Authors: Anna J McIntyre

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BOOK: The Ghost of Valentine Past
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“But they did put it into probate,” Adam reminded.

“When Will and I discussed a motive for killing Isabella, we agreed that Earthbound Spirits probably felt confident claiming Stoddard forged the current will, because of what he'd done with Lily. Not to mention, Stoddard was dead and not there to defend his claim on Isabella's estate.”

“I see where you're going,” Adam said. “At the time Isabella died, Morris had no idea Stoddard would hide the body, or end up getting murdered.”

“If Earthbound Spirits was responsible for Isabella's death, the motive certainly wasn't to get their hands on her estate. If Stoddard had called the police the moment he found Isabella's body, the chances of the courts favoring Earthbound Spirit's claims over Stoddard's would have been a long shot.”

“So I wonder who the caller was, and why pick on poor Will,” Chris said.

“Obviously it wasn't anyone who knew anything about Earthbound Spirits,” Adam said.

“Why do you say that?” Danielle asked.

“Well, you said they accused Morris of killing her. Morris never did the dirty work. It would have been Cleve.”

“Actually, the woman mentioned Cleve,” Danielle said. “According to the caller, Cleve refused to kill Isabella; so, Morris got someone else to do it.”

Frowning, Adam looked from Danielle to Chris. “I'd find that hard to believe.”

“Why is that?” Chris asked.

“Cleve would never refuse Morris anything.”

“According to the caller he did,” Danielle insisted.

“Caller…did you say it was a woman?” Adam asked.

“Yeah, why?”

Adam shook his head. “Nothing…just thinking.”

Chapter Twelve

A
fter leaving the diner
, Chris and Danielle headed for Ian's. It was still too early to get into Marlow House. When they arrived, Lily was asleep in Ian's bedroom, while he worked in the dining room on his newest project. Chris and Danielle lounged on the sofa, watching an old movie, with Sadie napping by their feet.

They had been watching the movie for about thirty minutes when Danielle glanced over to Chris, silently studying his profile.
He really could be a model
, she thought. His sandy colored hair was slightly longer than it had been when he had first arrived at Marlow House before Christmas. While it could benefit from a comb—as could hers at this point—she had to admit there was something sexy about the tumbled and casual look. The dark circles below his blue eyes reminded Danielle of their stressful morning.

“You've been awful quiet, are you okay?” Danielle asked.

His eyes still on the television, he asked, “Do you think we'll see Morris?”

“Walt saw him before he woke you up, so it's possible. But, I really hope he's moved on.”

They were quiet for a few minutes, watching the old black and white movie, when Chris asked, “Danielle, you know back at the diner when you told Adam we were friends?”

She smiled. “Yeah. We are friends.”

“Actually, you said,
just
friends.”

“Well…you know what I mean.” Danielle scooted down on the sofa, propping her feet up on the coffee table.

“Before all this happened…I was going to ask you today if you wanted to go out with me tomorrow night…for Valentine's Day dinner.”

With her arms crossed over her chest as she remained slumped down in the sofa, her feet on the table, Danielle looked over at Chris. “You always ask women out at the last minute? And Valentine's Day? Sheesh. I always heard Valentine's Day dates were made at least a week in advance.”

“You're the one who said we were just friends.” Chris smiled.

Danielle shrugged. “True. But it is Valentine's Day. Maybe I already have a date.”

“With who, Walt?”

Danielle arched her brows and smiled. “Maybe. After all, he did take me to Hawaii last night. Although, our trip was cut short due to Morris' untimely demise.”

Chris looked from the television to Danielle. “I know about the dream hop—or at least I figured it was something like that. Walt said you told him you were cold, but you were asleep.”

“If it had been a little warmer, it would have felt just like a beach in Hawaii.”

“It wasn't real, Danielle.”

“It felt real.”

“You know what I mean.”

“There's no harm in a dream hop,” Danielle said defensively.

“It is if it becomes a substitute for…” Chris let out a sigh and leaned back in the sofa.

“Substitute for what?” Danielle asked.

He studied her for a moment before answering. “Substitute for a real relationship.”

“I'm not ready for that kind of relationship, anyway,” Danielle said in a whisper.

“Why, because of Joe? And how he didn't turn out to be what you thought?”

Danielle shook her head. “I know now, I wasn't ready to get into a relationship when I first went out with Joe. So much was going on back then. I'd lost my husband just six months earlier, had just moved to Oregon, was trying to get a new business off the ground. And then everything spun out of control with Cheryl being murdered. Even if all that hadn't happened, I wasn't ready for anything but casual friendship. It was probably for the best that things didn't work out between Joe and me.”

“Just as long as you don't allow the—unique relationship you have with Walt to interfere with your—your real life.”

“What Walt and I have is real.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I'm just not in a hurry to get into a serious relationship. There is so much I need to do first.”

“Then agree to go out with me tomorrow. You know, I'm anything but serious.”

Danielle laughed. “You have a point there. Most of the time I think of you as that unemployed guy who prefers to live on some friend's boat and enjoy life, rather than a secretive philanthropist.”

“Not sure if I should be insulted or flattered.”

“I suppose a little of both. About tomorrow night; why don't we see how things are going by then? Who knows if the cops will descend on us again, or what might come up. And it probably will be difficult to get a table at a restaurant anyway.”

“Fair enough.”

Sadie leapt up, knocking Danielle's feet from the coffee table. The golden retriever started to bark and then ran to the front door.

Leaning toward the coffee table, Danielle picked up the remote and turned off the television. “It sounds like someone's at the door.”

They both started to stand up when Ian entered the room with Adam Nichols. “I found this guy on my front porch.” Ian flashed Adam a smile and then returned to the dining room to work, leaving the new arrival with Chris and Danielle.

“Are you stalking us?” Danielle teased.

“Be nice,” Chris scolded.

“Sometimes I wonder why my grandmother thinks you're sweet,” Adam told Danielle.

“What's up Adam?” Chris asked.

“Figured you two would still be here. I've got sort of a good news, bad news thing going on. Couldn't really deliver the good news by phone, so I thought I'd bring it in person.”

“What good news?” Danielle asked.

Adam held up a set of keys. “Thought I'd bring you the keys to your new house. Technically speaking, you really shouldn't go in until it records, which should be by four this afternoon.” He tossed the keychain to Chris.

“So what's the bad news?” Chris asked. He and Danielle sat back down on the sofa.

Adam took a seat in the recliner. “I just got a call from my grandmother. She was telling me all about the nice young man I'd just sold a house to—and how his last name is really Glandon, and he's loaded.”

“How did she find out?” Danielle asked.

“She already knew I'd sold Chris a house and that it was closing any day now. As for the rest—she heard it on the radio. I guess the story of Peter Morris' murder—and how Chris Glandon found the body—is out there. I believed they referred to you as the illusive philanthropist who'd been held up in the quaint bed and breakfast—site of today's grizzly murder. They didn't mention anything about Chris Johnson, but Grandma figured it out.”

“I'm surprised she still referred to me as a nice young man considering I was found with a dead body—one that had been brutally murdered.”

“Well, Grandmother loathed Morris, and if she thought you were the one who killed him—which I don't believe she does—she would probably want to give you a medal.”

Chris looked at the set of keys in his hand, giving it a brief toss. Clutching them, he looked from Danielle to Adam. “I guess this changes everything. I suppose I was being overly optimistic thinking I could live here as Chris Johnson.”

“What are you going to do now?” Danielle asked.

“Considering Chris put the house under one of his companies, I don't think it'll be all that easy for people to just come into town and find where he lives. At least not by looking in the property records. Hell, half of the houses in my property management program are held in some company set up by the owners for tax purposes,” Adam said.

“I'm not really surprised this came out,” Chris said with a sigh.

“If you decide not to stay in Frederickport, I could list it for you or put it in my property management program,” Adam suggested.

“While I'm not thrilled, I have no intention of leaving. I'd hoped I could fly under the wire for a bit longer, but I always knew this was a possibility. And it's not like I've droves of paparazzi chasing me. I can handle the letters and inquiries from people asking for a donation, I just hate when they show up at my door.”

“What if you purchased another property in the area, under your real name, while you live in the house you just purchased?” Adam suggested.

“Chris could afford that, but wouldn't it be pretty obvious no one was living at the house?” Danielle asked.

“I was thinking more of a house he could use as his headquarters. He did tell me he was looking for something.”

“Headquarters?” Danielle looked from Adam to Chris.

“Since my parents' death, I've been doing most of my charity work through my attorneys. And while I trust them, I know I need to get more hands on—there's too much money involved, too much temptation, and possibility for fraud.”

“I told Chris I'd be more than willing to take over the responsibility for him. I already have an office.” Adam grinned.

“Oh my…” Danielle closed her eyes briefly and fought the urge to laugh. “That thought is rather frightening.”

“You have no trust in me, Danielle,” Adam scoffed.

“Do you blame me?”

He shrugged. “Not really…but I do have an ideal property for Chris, one that will solve all his problems.”

“Hmm…and a nice commission for you?” Danielle asked.

Adam smiled, reminding Danielle a bit like Alice in Wonderland's Cheshire Cat. “
Oh, yeah.

“So, what is this great—and undoubtedly expensive—property?” Chris asked.

“The Gusarov Estate,” Adam told him.

“That monstrosity?” Danielle gasped.

“That
monstrosity
, as you call it, is on prime ocean front real estate and would make an excellent headquarters, with plenty of rooms to use as offices, a state of the art security system and the kind of home people would expect someone like Chris Glandon to live in.”

“I prefer a sailboat cabin,” Chris reminded him.

“No. Chris Johnson likes living on a borrowed sailboat—or in a room at a bed and breakfast—but Chris Glandon has more expensive tastes,” Adam told him.

“You know, he has a point. While I personally wouldn't want to live at the Gusarov Estate, I could so see it as the Glandon Headquarters.”

“Now we're calling it the Glandon Headquarters?” Chris asked.

Ignoring Chris, Danielle asked Adam, “Is the property for sale?”

“Yes. It has been for a while.”

Danielle looked at Chris. “It does have a good security system.”

“Isn't that the house you broke into?” Chris asked her.

“One of them,” Adam answered with a laugh.

Chapter Thirteen

L
ily had just woken
up when Danielle received the phone call that they could return to Marlow House. Curious to see the condition of the property after the police search—and Morris' murder—Ian followed them across the street. Sadie tagged along.

“Have you talked to Heather, or David and Arlene?” Lily asked as they made their way up the walk to Marlow House's front door.

“I sent Heather a text message. As for David and Arlene, I tried calling them on their cellphones, but they didn't pick up. I have no idea where they went. But I left a message, told them they could come back.”

“You think they'll check out early?” Ian asked.

Danielle unlocked the front door. “I wouldn't be surprised.”

Danielle and Chris found Walt anxiously waiting for them in the entry hall. While Lily couldn't see Walt, she knew he was there, especially considering the way Sadie greeted him. As for Ian, he was unaware of Walt's existence, yet once again wondered why his dog always acted so peculiar in Marlow House.

“I didn't think the police would ever leave!” Walt told Danielle as he followed her and the rest of the group into the parlor.

“So this is where it happened…” Ian murmured. He walked to the sofa and looked down at where the throw rug had been. Blood stained the wood floor.

“Oh my,” Lily gasped, her eyes riveted on the red stain. “Just seeing that blood brings it all back.”

Ian took Lily's hand in his and squeezed. He looked over at Danielle and Chris, who silently stared at the red stain. “Do you think it's safe for you all to stay here?”

“I don't believe anyone from Marlow House is responsible for Morris' death,” Danielle said. “From now on, I'm going to make sure the doors stay locked. We know the door was unlocked when Morris was waiting for Chris in the entry—anyone could have come in.”

“How do you know that?” Ian asked.

“When I answered the door for Morris around midnight, I don't remember relocking it. I might have, but I don't remember,” Chris told him.

“Even if you had locked it then, we know both you and Heather went to bed without checking the front door. You assumed Morris had left. The lights were all turned off. The only thing that makes sense, someone came into the house after Heather left Morris alone in the entry. Either Morris let him in—if Chris locked the door—or whoever the killer was, let himself in.” Danielle said.

Lily shuddered. “I wonder if it was someone out to get Morris, or had a grudge against Earthbound Spirits?”

“Either way, not a short list, from what I've discovered,” Ian said. “I prefer to think Morris was the intended target. I'd hate to consider the possibility that some homicidal maniac is running around knifing people in our neighborhood.”

Danielle knelt down by the bloodstain. Reaching out with one hand, she lightly touched the spot. “I wonder if I'll ever be able to get this out of the wood.” She stood up.

“The police must have taken the rug,” Lily noted.

“I feel a little guilty worrying about a blood stain—considering a man was murdered in this spot just hours ago,” Danielle confessed.

“It's hard for me to muster a great deal of sympathy for the man,” Ian said. “Especially considering everything Kelly told me about him.”

“Kelly?” Danielle asked.

“Kelly's working with Ian on the Earthbound Spirits exposé,” Lily said. “She was here yesterday, working with him on the project, but went home last night.”

“Your sister was here?” Danielle asked.

“She wanted to come over and say hi, but we had so much work to do, and by the time we wrapped it up it was awful late.”

“What time did she leave?” Chris asked.

“It was after midnight,” Ian told him.

“I'm surprised the police don't want to interview her. You did tell them she was here, didn't you? That was about the time Morris was murdered,” Danielle said.

Ian shuffled his feet, glancing down at the bloodstain. “Well, actually, I sort of forgot to tell Joe that bit of information when he questioned me this morning.”

“Why wouldn't you tell him?” Danielle asked.

“To begin with, he never asked me if I was with anyone. I simply answered his questions. Had he asked me if someone was at my house last night, I would've told him.”

“Come on Ian,” Chris chided. “Why didn't you really tell him?”

Ian looked up at Chris. “I wanted to talk to my sister first. We
are
working on an exposé about Earthbound Spirits—and Morris' murder totally changes the direction of the piece. I thought if Kelly saw something last night, it might give us something to use. I didn't really want to just hand it over to the cops without first checking it out.”

“It could also help the police find the killer!” Danielle reminded him, sounding somewhat annoyed.

“Well, she didn't see anything. I talked to her after Lily and I came back to my house.”

“Where was I?” Lily asked.

“You were already sound asleep on my bed.”

“Brian may still want to talk to her,” Danielle said.

“I know. I already told Kelly she needs to call Henderson and let him know she was here last night.”

“You mentioned Kelly knew some stuff about Morris—something she found when researching him?” Danielle asked.

Ian shook his head. “Not exactly. It's about her college roommate. But hey, you can read about it when I finish the article.” Ian flashed Danielle a grin.

C
hris knelt
by the fireplace in the library, arranging the logs and strategically positioning the kindling. Lily and Ian had just gone out to get something to eat, and the other guests had not yet returned to Marlow House. Danielle sat on the sofa, Sadie by her feet, watching Chris prepare the fire, while Walt paced the room.

“So Morris said nothing?” Danielle asked Walt.

“He was outside when I saw him again. I was leery to call him inside. I doubt he would have listened to me anyway. He seemed pretty intent on following his body.”

“I suppose I could go down to the morgue—see if he's still hanging around his body. Maybe he'll tell me who murdered him,” Danielle suggested.

“That does not seem like a good idea.” Chris said, still kneeling in front of the fireplace. The flame began to flicker and expand. He closed the screen and stood up, wiping his palms off on the side of his pants.

“For once, I agree with Chris. Stay away from the morgue,” Walt told her.

“It's not that I want to go down there. But knowing he was murdered under this roof is a little more than disturbing,” Danielle said.

“I'll make sure no one sneaks into the house—and I'll keep an eye on your guests,” Walt promised.

“I suppose that means no more dream hopping,” Chris said as he sat down next to Danielle on the sofa. Walt flashed him a cool look.

“Perhaps I should consider putting an alarm system in,” Danielle suggested. “I really don't expect Walt to stand guard at night.”

“Oh no, we wouldn't want to interrupt your little trips to Hawaii.”

Danielle frowned at Chris. “That was rather snarky.”

“Maybe Chris is jealous,” Walt smirked. “Perhaps I should do a little hop with him, maybe a little sky diving over a live volcano?”

“You just stay out of my dreams,” Chris snapped.

“Or a snake pit?” Walt suggested.

“Oh please,” Danielle shuddered. “Don't mention snake pits, even in jest. That was the worst.”

Chris glared at Walt. “Don't tell me you took Danielle to a snake pit during a dream hop?”

“Of course not.” Walt sounded insulted.

“Please. I don't want to talk about it. But no, it wasn't Walt.” Danielle cringed.

After a few moments of silence, Walt said, “Something we do need to talk about—the second ghost.”

“You mentioned you saw him again.” Danielle said.

“Yes. I'm certain he has something to do with Morris' death. Maybe he's the one who killed Morris, and something happened when he tried to get away,” Walt suggested.

“Like after Chuck Christiansen murdered Bart Haston?” Danielle asked.

Walt nodded. “Exactly.”

Chris turned to Danielle. “That's the one who drove off the cliff?”

“Yes. At the same place Darlene Gusarov was murdered,” Danielle explained.

Chris frowned. “You know, there sure have been a lot of people killed here since you moved to town.”

“Yeah, so Brian Henderson keeps telling me,” Danielle said with a sigh.

“Now, is this Darlene Gusarov the same one from the house I'm buying? The Gusarov Estate?” Chris asked.

“You're buying the Gusarov Estate?” Walt asked. “Why would you do that? I thought you just bought a house.”

Danielle told Walt about Adam's idea and why it was necessary for Chris to buy a second piece of property.

“Wouldn't it be easier for you to just move?” Walt suggested. “Like you mentioned, the mortality rate is high around here. You'd probably be happier somewhere else.”

“Admit it, Walt, you'd be sad to see me go.” Chris smiled.

“I'd get over it,” Walt mumbled.

“I want to hear more about this second ghost,” Danielle said.

“Since he showed up around the same time as Morris, I have to assume they are in some way connected. I asked him if he killed Morris,” Walt explained.

“What did he say?” Danielle asked.

“He just gave me some double talk. But what concerned me, he seemed overly interested in you.”

“In Danielle? Why?” Chris turned to Danielle again. “Is it possible you know this spirit—or knew him, when he was alive?”

“I can't think of any man I've ever met with a close connection to Morris, except for Cleve, and he's dead—and Walt knows what he looks like. Plus, I've already encountered his spirit, and I'm certain he's moved on.”

“What did he say about Danielle?” Chris asked.

“When I asked him some questions, trying to figure out how he was involved in all this—if he knew anything about Morris' death. He kept asking me about Danielle. And then I…well…I told him to stay away from her.”

“What did he say to that?” Chris asked.

“He…made it clear he didn't intend to leave her alone.”

The three sat in silence for a few moments, considering Walt's words. Finally, Danielle asked, “Walt, can you explain what this spirit looks like?”

Walt considered the question a moment before answering. “He appeared to be about Chris' age. He's tall, a few inches taller than Chris, but slender.”

“Skinny?” Chris asked.

Walt shook his head. “No, just slender. He looked fit—well, that is, had he actually been alive instead of a reflection of his former self. Dark hair, dark eyes. His manner of dress—not casual like yours—more like Adam—yet a better cut of clothes. Tailored. Yes, I'd say his clothing was tailored.”

Danielle frowned. “Well dressed? Dark hair and eyes?”

“Yes.” Walt nodded.

“It's possible whoever it is—assuming he is connected—was connected—to Earthbound Spirits, simply knows who I am and doesn't know me personally. After all, Morris was intent on recruiting me into the organization. Maybe this was some guy Morris recruited to get close to me, like with Richard.”

“That was before he decided to blackmail me,” Chris added.

“I don't know.” Danielle shook her head.

“Hello Danielle,” a male voice said from the far corner of the library. They all heard it. Their heads turned to the direction of the voice. Shadows concealed the person or spirit attached to it.

Slowly, Danielle stood, staring into the shadowy corner.

He stepped out, revealing himself. Danielle let out a startled gasp. “Lucas!”

BOOK: The Ghost of Valentine Past
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