Low Midnight Page 9

Judi had still more story to tell: “As you might imagine, many stories about this house have grown up over the years. Screams on certain nights, pools of blood appearing at midnight. Many people are convinced that poor Lydia’s ghost haunts the place where she was killed. Some people say that Amelia Parker’s ghost also lingers here, still stalking her victim after death.…”

Well, we know that’s wrong, Amelia thought with a huff.

I don’t know—you’re here, aren’t you? Maybe we should knock over a chair, just for fun.

She was indignant. I don’t think so.

Finally, they left the house.

You all right? Cormac asked that corner of his mind.

I—yes. I think I am. It’s better, now that I’ve seen it. I needed to see it. You were right.

I’m sorry, he thought stiffly, unaccustomed to the sentiment. It was stupid luck that they caught you.

I’m not one to say that all things happen for a reason. But, well, here I am. I’m not inclined to argue. Let’s move on.

The guide led them down the street, the circular tour curving back to the park where they’d started, and she shared a couple more stories of lurid suicides and Native American magic. Cormac started to think about how he was going to approach Judi. The tour she led was full of supernatural weirdness, but how much of it was just stories for her? How much did she really believe? Amy Scanlon had listed her as a mentor—how much did the woman really know about magic?

The tour ended back at the park. The tourists drifted off, but Judi lingered, like he thought she might, regarding Cormac with curiosity. He waited for her to ask the questions she so obviously had.

“Did you enjoy the tour?” she asked.

He smirked, amused at the roundabout lead-in. “I did. Thanks.” Another beat of waiting.

“You’re very interested in the Harcourt murder, I take it,” she said finally, leading to the real question. “Why?”

He nodded, acknowledging. “I’m interested in Amelia Parker. She didn’t kill the girl. She was innocent.”

“Then who did kill her?”

There wasn’t a subtle way to say it. “The demon Amelia was hunting.”

The tour guide’s eyes narrowed. “You know what? I’ve always thought it was something like that. What makes you think so?”

“I’ve talked to Amelia,” Cormac said, just to see the reaction.

Her eyes widened in wonder. Not skepticism, which would have prompted a shutting down of expression, not an opening up, like this. He kept his expression still.

After a moment she said, “Would you like to come back to my shop for some tea?”

He said yes.

Chapter 4

TURNED OUT, Judi and her partner owned a gift shop on Canon Avenue, just off the highway, partof a row of restored nineteenth-century storefronts. The MANITOU WISHING WELL, according to the sign. The tour guiding was a sideline; Judi was interested in the history and liked to tell stories.

“Frida really knows more about things like talking to ghosts,” she said. “When it comes to the more esoteric topics like that, I’m really only a dabbler.”

The way her niece talked about her, Cormac doubted that. Thoughts? he asked Amelia.

I’m reserving judgment.

A soft bell rang when she opened the door, and Judi led him inside. The shop was exactly what he expected: racks of T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, knickknacks; shelves full of ceramic hummingbirds, so-called collectibles; bags of Rocky Mountain–themed candy, neo-antiques, and the like. The place had a vibe to it, though. The further back they went into the shop, the deeper into that world, the less fake and commercial it seemed, until they reached the shelves of crystals, books on ley lines, and weird tarot cards.

There’s magic here, Amelia said. I can see some of the signs, charms on the wall there and there. Protection. But also encouraging generosity. Interesting.

“Frida, I’ve brought company,” Judi called.

A woman appeared through a doorway behind the counter running along the side of the store. She had Native American heritage: long, straight black hair streaked with some gray hanging loose down her back, sandstone-brown skin, dark eyes. Shorter than Judi, she was round, matronly, and wore a blue tunic shirt with jeans. Like Judi, she wasn’t in her prime—maybe midsixties—but still gave off an air of energy and determination.

“Who is it?”

Judi presented him, and he resisted an urge to shove his hands in his pockets and duck his head sheepishly. “My name’s Cormac Bennett.”

“He took the tour, and he says he’s spoken to Amelia Parker, the Lydia Harcourt murderer,” Judi said. “I thought it might be nicer if we could all sit together over tea. Or coffee, Mr. Bennett?”

Tea, Amelia proposed, predictably. “Tea’s fine.”

Frida didn’t bother being at all circumspect when she said to Judi, “Do you know he has two auras?”

“No, but I can’t say I’m surprised,” Judi said. “Let me go plug the kettle in.” She skirted around the counter to the back room while Frida studied him. Cormac ignored her, absently looking at stained glass butterfly ornaments hanging from a rack without really seeing them. Eventually, she followed Judi to the back, and they had a hushed conversation.

They’re suspicious.

Of course they are, he thought. He didn’t even blame them. He was a surly-looking guy who’d spent his whole life working on being intimidating. Hadn’t been a handicap until now.

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