I apologize for any weirdness. I am publishing from my iPad and from a B&B in Peru. . . Neither is guaranteed to work.
"Kitty, have you heard the rumors about the LeMoine house?" I asked my best friend the question over our weekly binge at the Have-a-Bite bakery.
"Rumors like what?" Kitty's response was not so much an inquiry as a caution. I wasn't sure just how to answer, now I'd brought the matter up. The kids hadn't known I was listening. Maybe that was all the more reason to share what I'd heard.
"I gathered from something Brian and Kat were saying that kids are daring one another to spend the night there. That something might get them if they do." Presumably the ghost of Letitia LeMoine, I didn't need to add. "In any case, they expect something scary to happen."
"As a parent," Kitty said with a dryness I would have been proud to own, "it sounds like something scary all right."
We considered teens for a moment while consuming espresso brownies a nibble at a time. I only allow myself one a month, so I wasn't going to miss any taste of this one.
The LeMoine house had stood empty since Kat's daughter and my son and their best friends had found the owner strangled where the Pismawallops PTA usually stored ice cream bars. To the best of my knowledge, the house was empty because the ownership was under dispute, not because no one would live there. Letitia's daughter had gone to the mainland to live with her mother's aunt,and she couldn't even rent it out because no one knew if it a was hers.
"You don't suppose someone is squatting there?" Kitty finally suggested. "That might lead to lights in the windows or whatever started the stories. And once they get started, you know how stories like that grow."
"And getting a story like that going might allow someone to stay a long time, if they make it convincing enough," I agreed.
"You should tell Ron." To my annoyance, Kitty winked when she said it. As if I needed reminding that I had--something--going with the Pismawallops Island chief of police. I refused to rise to the bait or satisfy her curiosity about how things were with us.
"I'm sure he already knows."
In the end, we shrugged it off. Kids like a scary story, and an empty house belonging to a murdered woman offered good material. Our job was to make sure Brian and Kat were not among those who tested the ghost story. I wasn't too worried.
A week later I was less sanguine. Not about the kids, who were behaving well, but about the LeMoine house.
"I drove by there again, and someone is definitely changing the curtains around and stuff."
"Maybe a real estate agent, trying to keep it from looking empty?"
"Nice try, Kitty. But everyone on the Island knows about it, so what's the point?" I took another bite of my low-fat blueberry scone and tried to convince myself it was as good as the brownie had been the week before.
Kitty shrugged. "Then we're back to squatters."
"Do you think we should have a look? If someone's broken in, we should do something. Chantal LeMoine may be a piece of work, but the house may be her only inheritance."
"The police, JJ. Talk to Ron."
I'm not an idiot despite some evidence to the contrary, and I was on good terms with Ron that week, so I did what Kitty suggested. I did it at the Station, though. Neither of us could be trusted in private just then, and I didn't know what I wanted from the relationship. Ron knew all too well what he wanted. At the Station he couldn't very well make a play for it.
"I've heard the rumors, JJ, but when one of us drives by, there's no sign of anything."
His department consisted of himself and a worse-than-useless deputy. Leave it to a pair of guys to miss the changes in the curtains.
"So can't I take you to dinner?"
That was the trouble with Ron. He didn't care if the world knew how he felt about me. He'd have kissed me in front of the whole Island, so long as he wasn't in uniform.
"No." Until I resolved some of my existing issues, I wasn't taking on any more.
Really, Ron left me only one option. I'd have to investigate the LeMoine ghost myself. Or rather, with Kitty, because I wasn't going there alone.
"Oh, come on, Kitty," I wheedled. "It'll be a lark."
She reminded me of a couple of other things I'd talked her into that hadn't worked so well, and I winced. "We won't go at night. We can just stop in for a minute, look in the windows, and see if it looks like anyone is living there."
Kitty was still reluctant. "Your ideas always sound good," she began.
"Because they are," I insisted. We exchanged looks, her dubious, mine stubborn. At last she gave in.
"Oh, fine. I'll go."
"After dinner tonight."
"That's not broad daylight."
"It's light until late, this time of year. It won't be later than 7:30."
"Fine." Odd. She sounded a lot like Brian at his most teenaged.
In fact it was a little later than 7:30, and a little duskier than I'd expected, when we approached the "haunted house." We hadn't told anyone--my son or her family--where we were going for fear of being laughed at. Suddenly, I wished we had. I ignored the unworthy thought.
I parked boldly in front of the house, and we stepped up on the porch with pointless caution. I peered in the front window and let slip a word I don't let Brian use.
"What?" Kitty squeaked. She seemed oddly jumpy.
"I can't see anything. Too dark." I moved to the door before she could say "I told you so," and laid a hand on the knob. The door swung open with a small squeak, just like in the horror movies.
We exchanged looks. Then I went in, before Kitty could get reasonable and drag me away.
The front room was neat, and what I could see of it looked much as I'd last seen it.
Too much so. I realized that once again someone was sitting on the couch in he dusk just as they had that day. . . I screamed. I'm not proud of it, but the memory was too strong, and I'd nearly died that day.
The figure on the couch jumped up and turned into a teenaged girl. "Oh, god,I'm sorry!"
I thought I knew who it was, and reached for the light, but of course the power was off.
"Hang on," said Chantal LeMoine, and a moment later a flashlight came on.
I glared at the dead woman's daughter. "You have some explaining to do."