Expected release date of November 6th, 2018!
Sarah tripped over her hurrying feet and dropped hard onto her stomach on the hard, unforgiving floor. She wrapped her arms over her head and scrunched her eyes shut in preparation for a hard pair of shoes on her head. Instead she felt a cool breeze run through her and a shiver followed. Annoyance swept through her as she opened her eyes and looked down the hall at a transparent figure. “That’s cheating and you know it, Jenny!”
Jenny turned toward Sarah and her form reverted to her solid state. She rubbed the back of her head and sheepishly grinned. “I guess I just couldn’t help myself.”
Cate peeked her head above the floor, and beside her was the face of Arty, her black cat. She stood on the lower steps of the tenement house that belonged to Ruthven and the cat sat on the second to last step. A smile brightened her young, dirty face, smudged as it was with dust. The rest of her was covered in a thin sheen of gray dirt.
"You guys aren’t very good at tag, are you?”
Sarah climbed to her feet and brushed herself off before she glanced up at the ceiling. A hidden trapdoor with a ladder hung from the attic area. “I think you know more about this place than us.”
Cate leaned her elbows on the landing and cupped her cheeks in her hand as she grinned. “It’s neat, isn’t it?”
Jenny wrinkled her nose at the mess of cobwebs that hung from the ladder. “‘Neat’ enough to be an abandoned museum. I think Dracula would be jealous of Ruth’s housekeeping abilities.”
“You should see all the hidden passages in the walls,” Cate told them as she clambered up the stairs and onto the second floor where her friends stood. She pointed at the wall to her right near a closed door. “There’s one right there. You just have to touch the knot in the wall and it opens right up.”
Sarah snorted as she shut the attic hatch. “I can see why you wanted this game to be two-against-one. We don’t stand a chance alone.”
Cate grinned as she kicked the floor with her heel. “There’s also a-”
The shut door was flung open and a wizened old woman stuck her ample nose out. The woman appeared to be about the age of Methuselah, or perhaps a little older, what with her wrinkles atop wrinkles and her narrow, shriveled face. She clutched the door knob with a shaking hand that was more skeletal than fleshy. Her attire consisted of a black shall, a thick red blouse, and an equally burgundy skirt that covered most of her pointed black shoes. She eyed the three women with suspicion mixed with intense dislike, and the cat with even more disgust. The fur-covered creature returned the sentiment with a hiss. “What are you doing out here? Trying to wake the dead?”
Cate winced and dropped her arm. “Sorry, Miss Comba. We were just having some fun.”
Miss Comba turned her sharp nose up and sniffed the air. “Fun? When I was your age I worked for a living selling dresses in a fine shop. And these two-” her eyes flickered to Jenny and Sarah, “-I was the manager of the same store when I was their age.”
“I’m older than I look,” Jenny spoke up. Sarah shot her a warning glare, but her friend ignored it as she sauntered over to the wall near the door and leaned her shoulder against it so she faced the old woman. “Maybe some time we could swap stories about the good ol’ days and laugh at our moles.” Comba sneered at her and stepped back, slamming the door shut behind her. Jenny glanced at the other two and shrugged. “Was it something I said?”
Sarah rolled her eyes. “When is it not?”
“So you guys want to see more of the house?” Cate asked them.
Sarah checked her watch and sighed. “I think I’m done for the day. It’s almost five, anyway.”
Jenny peeked down the stairs and nodded. “Yeah, the day’s almost done, too.”
The shadows of night were drawing near as the three women walked down the stairs. They walked through the dining room on the right-hand side and into the kitchen that stood at the rear of the house. Through the back windows they could see the garage and the sun as it made its way behind the buildings that dotted the city.
Jenny hopped up onto the white counter with Arty and gripped the beveled edges as the cat and she watched the other two prepare sandwiches. Sarah cut a ham into slices while Cate got to adding the sauces to the pieces of bread. For a short while there was quiet as the ghost studied the ritual in which she could no longer participate.
Cate looked up from spreading mayo on the bread and glanced at her two companions with pursed lips. “You guys aren’t getting bored with me, are you? I mean, I know it’s only been a week, but-well-”
“It’s not that bad,” Jenny spoke up as she swung her legs back and forth. She noticed that Sarah had paused in her slicing and hung her head a little. Jenny’s face fell. “I mean, at least we don’t have to go to work anymore, what with Ruthven offering free roof and grub.”
Sarah lifted her head and rolled her eyes. “That’s ‘room and board.’”
Jenny hopped down and took the knife from her friend. She spun around and brandished the blade. A wild grin slipped onto her face as she pointed the edge at Sarah. “There’ll be no long faces here, me matey! You’ll be given me a smile if Ah say so!”
Sarah spun around a little quicker than Jenny expected. The tip of the blade cut into the top of Sarah’s hand, slicing open a long, thin line. Sarah yelped and stumbled back into the front of the fridge.
Jenny’s mouth dropped open and the bloodied blade clattered to the linoleum floor. “Sar! Sar, I’m so sorry!” she whimpered as she hurried to her friend’s side. She leaned to and fro to try to get a look at the wound. “Are you okay? Sar, you okay?”
Sarah gritted her teeth and nodded as she cupped her wounded hand in her other palm. She could feel the blood dribble onto her palm lines. The young woman clasped the wound harder and hurried over to a roll of paper towels. She grabbed a healthy amount and pinned the paper to her wound.
Cate hurried over and gasped when she noticed the amount of blood. “You should get that looked at?”
Sarah took a deep breath and managed a shaky smile. “I’m fine, really. It’s just a small cut.”
Jenny snorted. “You’d say that if your limb was cut off, now let me look at it.” She grabbed Sarah’s wounded hand and turned it over. The wound was revealed to them in its long, sliced glory. Jenny winced and her eyes flickered up to Sarah’s pale face. “I’m so, so sorry, Sar. I didn’t mean to.”
“It’s okay, really,” Sarah insisted. She padded the paper towel on the wound and raised the towel so the pair could see the unblemished spot. “See? It’s already stopped bleeding.”
Cate blinked her eyes as she glanced between the paper towel and Sarah’s face. “How did you do that?”
Sarah shrugged. “I guess I clot easily.”
Cate opened her mouth, but a pair of shadows in the doorway of the kitchen caught her attention. Joy filled her face as she recognized her brother and Ruthven. “You’re awake!” she cried out as she hurried over to them.
Cate embraced him in a tight hug that caused her brother to smile. That is, before his nostrils flared. Adam whipped his head up and his narrowed eyes settled on Sarah. Sarah clutched her hand to her chest and frowned at him.
Ruthven lifted his nose in the air and furrowed his brow. “I smell blood. Has something happened?”
Jenny twiddled her fingers and shrank down into herself as she stared at the floor. “I kind of got a little carried away with my pirate impersonation and-well, the knife slipped. . .”
Adam gently set Cate aside and strode over to Sarah. She clutched her hand to her chest when she noticed the dark look in his eyes. “It’s fine, really,” she assured him.
Adam paused. He could hear the warning in her voice along with a touch of-what was it? Apprehension? Fear? He pursed his lips and dropped his arms limp to his sides. “I see.”
Ruthven, sensing the tension in the air, cleared his throat. “In that case, I believe we shall go.”
Jenny raised her head and an eyebrow. “Go? Go where?”
Ruthven dipped his fingers into his pants pocket and came out with the folded sheet of paper given to them by Avery. “Adam and I believe it is time we reopened the investigation into Simon’s death.”
“Do you know what those names mean?” Cate asked him.
Ruthven unfolded the paper and studied the lines. “Joshua, and a reference to a park.”
Jenny snapped her fingers. “That must mean-” she paused and wrinkled her nose, “-what the heck does that mean? I don’t know any park with the name Joshua in it.”
Adam half-turned so he could look over the whole group that stood in the kitchen. “But there’s an Elisha Park near the river.”
Cate looked at her brother with a furrowed brow. “But that isn’t Joshua.”
“In the Hebrew language Elisha and Joshua have the same meaning,” Ruthven explained as he tucked the paper back into his pocket.
Sarah glanced between the two men. “And what’s that?”
“God is salvation,” Adam revealed to them.
Jenny snorted. “And somebody named a park with a meaning like that? Must’ve been a modest guy.”
“The park is named after a woman by the name of Elizabeth Elisha Cummings,” Ruthven told her. “She donated the land upon which the park sits.”
Cate folded her arms and studied the floor with an intense gaze. “Isn’t that park really big?”
“That’s why we’re starting now,” Adam told her as he glanced over to his left at the window to the back yard. “It might take a few nights to find what we’re looking for.”
“What exactly are you looking for?” Sarah asked him.
He shrugged. “We’re not sure. Maybe something that doesn’t fit.” He studied Sarah with his dark, intense gaze, though his question was directed at all those present. “Did any of you want to come?”
Cate raised her hand. “I want to!”
Jenny grabbed her arm and pulled it down. “It’s that night to change the litter, remember? Arty demands a dirt sacrifice.”
Sarah glanced at her female companions. “I think we’ll all stay here. There’s some cleaning that needs to be finished and somebody needs to take care of Cate.”
Jenny crossed her arms over her chest and glared at her friend. “I can do that alone.”
Sarah sighed. “Someone who’s responsible needs to take care of Cate.”
“Why can’t I come?” Cate piped up.
“Because we don’t know what we’re going to find out there,” her brother pointed out. Her face fell and she protruded her lips into a pout, but didn’t argue. He took a step toward the back door that led out into the yard, but his eyes flickered longingly to Sarah. “I guess we’d better get going.”
“Good luck,” Sarah called to the men as they opened the back door to leave.
A sly smile slipped onto Jenny’s lips. She slipped over to Sarah and wrapped her arm around her friend’s shoulders. “You know, Sar, you’re right. We should all stay here and clean, play games, wash the cat, play games, scrub the windows-you know how you like to clean windows-then play some more games-”
Sarah’s face fell and her eyes widened in horror. She slipped out of Jenny’s slimy hold and tossed the paper towel into the garbage. “On second thought-” Adam and Ruthven paused in the doorway, “-I’ll think I’ll go, too. It’s a big park, so you guys could use the help.
Adam arched an eyebrow, but a smile teased the corners of his lips. “It’s a little dark out there for you to be helping us,” he reminded her.
“Just let me get a flashlight,” Sarah suggested as she hurried over to the island.
Jenny feigned disappointment as Sarah rummaged in a drawer for a light. “But Sar, we could have so much fun-”
“Found it!” Sarah announced as she snatched the light and slammed the drawer shut. She strode through Cate and Jenny-who winked at each other-and up to the men.
Ruthven’s eyes flickered down to her hand, though he kept one eye on Adam. “Are you sure you should not stay here with that wound?”
She shook her head. “I’m fine. I’ve always been a fast healer. Besides-” she jerked her head toward Jenny, “-I’d like to leave before her boredom gets me killed.”
Ruthven glanced at Adam who stared straight ahead at the doorway. “What are your thoughts?”
A crooked smile slipped onto Adam’s lips as he looked down at Sarah with affection. “If she wants to.”
“Then let us be off.”
The three left, leaving Cate and Jenny alone in the kitchen. They turned to each other and goofy grins appeared on both their faces. They let out yells of joy and high-fived each other.
“Now that’s the way to get Sar to do something!” Jenny laughed.
Cate nodded. “I can’t believe it worked so well!”
Jenny rubbed her curled fingers along her chest and blew on them. “I’m just that good. Now-” she clapped her hands together and rubbed them as her eyes inspected the kitchen, “-where’s Arty? She was looking like a dandruff ball the last time I saw her.”
Cate glanced around the room and furrowed her brow. “I don’t know. I don’t see her.”
Jenny’s shoulders fell along with her face. “Damn. Maybe she heard me and ran off. . .”