Halfway to the Grave

Page 13

I just shook my head as Bones gave me the pen, a small spiral notepad, and the bottle of illegal liquor. A vampire was having me go out and wake the dead. Guess it proved I wasn't psychic, because if someone had told me four weeks ago that I'd be doing this, I would never have believed it.

Simms Cemetery at midnight wasn't a soothing place. It had been hidden from the road by thick bushes, trees, and that rocky cliff. True to Bones's description, a tree still protruded over the precipice, and there was also a large evergreen in the midst of the dilapidated headstones. Seeing some of the dates clarified his earlier comment about Winston being a railway worker in the sixties. He'd meant the 1860s. Not this past century.

A figure behind me made me whirl with a little scream, my hand whipping out a knife.

"Are you all right?" Bones immediately called out. He was waiting out of sight beyond the cemetery, with the explanation that this way none of the dead dead would see him. The thought of vampires and ghosts not getting along was just too weird. Even in the afterlife, different species still couldn't play nice?

"Yeah..." I said after a beat. "It was nothing."

It wasn't, in fact, but it didn't require help. A hooded, shadowy form swept past me, literally floating over the cold earth. It went to the edge of the cliff and then disappeared with a faint sound, like a whispered scream. I watched in fascination as moments later it returned out of nowhere and walked the same path, culminating with another ghostly wail.

To my left, the indistinct outline of a woman was bent over another headstone, sobbing. Her clothing wasn't of this era, from the hazy glimpses I could catch of it, and then she, too, faded into nothingness. For a few minutes I waited, and then her outline blurred into view again. Soft, almost inaudible cries came from her until they, and she too, vanished once more.

A record stuck on a turntable, I thought with dark appreciation. Yeah, Bones had given a pretty accurate description of it.

In the corner of the cemetery, there was a headstone with barely visible etched letters, but I saw a w and a t in the first name, while the last one started with a g.

"Winston Gallagher!" I called loudly, rapping on the frigid stone for emphasis. "Come on out!"

Nothing. A breeze made me tighten my jacket while I shuffled my feet and waited.

"Knock, knock, who's there?" I said next, driven to absurdity by what I was doing.

Something moved at the edge of the trees behind me. Not the cloaked phantom, who was still traveling the same unaltered path, but almost a fuzzy shadow. Maybe it was just the bushes rustling in the wind. I returned my attention to the grave at my feet.

"Oh, Winsssttonnnnn..." I cooed, fingering the bottle inside my jacket. "I've got something for youuuu!"

"Cursed, insolent warm baggage," a voice slithered on the air. "Let's see how fast she can run."

I stiffened. That didn't sound like any person I'd heard before! The air in my vicinity got colder all at once even as I turned toward that voice. The shadow I'd previously observed stretched and changed, taking form, revealing a male in his fifties with a barrellike belly, squinting eyes, brown hair overrun with gray, and untrimmed whiskers.

"Hear that, do you?" Another odd keening came out of him, eerily echoing. He shimmered for a second, and then the leaves near where he hovered scattered in a burst of concentrated air.

"Winston Gallagher?" I asked.

The ghost actually looked over his shoulder, as if expecting to see someone behind him.

I put more stress into it. "Well?"

"She can't see me..." he said, presumably to himself.

"The hell I can't!" I marched over in relief, anxious to get out of this creepy place. "Is that your headstone? If the answer's yes, then tonight's your lucky night."

Those squinty eyes narrowed further. "You can see me?"

Was he this thick when he was alive? I wondered irreverently. "Yeah, I see dead people. Who knew? Now let's talk. I'm looking for some newly deceaseds, and I heard you could help."

It was almost funny to watch those transparent features change from incredulity to belligerence. He didn't have facial muscles anymore, needless to say. Was it just the memory of them that made his scowl form?

"Get out of here or else the grave will swallow you and you'll never leave!"

Boy, did he make it sound intimidating. If he had anything to threaten me with, I'd have been concerned.

"I'm not afraid of the grave; I was born half in it. But if you want me to get out of here"-I turned as if to go-"fine, but that means I'll just have to throw this in the nearest trash can."

Out of my jacket came the clear bottle with the lightning bolt. I almost laughed when his eyes fastened on it as though they were magically welded. This had to be Winston, all right.

"Whattt'ssss that you've got there, mistress?"

He drew the first word out in a lustful hiss. I popped the cork, waving it under where his nose appeared to be.

"Moonshine, my friend."

I was still uncertain how Bones thought I was supposed to bribe him with this. Pour some on his grave? Hold the bottle inside his disembodied form? Or splash him with it?

Winston made another keening noise that would have chilled anyone near enough to hear it.

"Please, mistress!" Gone was his hostile tone, replaced instead with one of desperation. "Please, drink it. Drink it!"

"Me?" I gaped. "I don't want any!"

"Oh, let me taste it through you, please!" he begged.

Taste it through me. Now I knew why Bones hadn't mentioned how to entice Winston before. That's what I got for trusting a vampire even in the littlest thing! I gave the ghost an irritable look while promising myself revenge on a certain pale-skinned, room-temperature creature of the night.

"Fine. I'll drink some, but then you're going to give me names of young girls who've died around here. No car accidents or diseases, either. Murders only."

"Read the paper, mistress, why do you need me for that?" he barked. "Now drink the 'shine!"

I was so not in the mood to be pushed around by another dead person. "Guess I've caught you on a bad night," I said pleasantly. "I'll just leave you alone and be on my way..."

"Samantha King, seventeen years old, passed last night after being bled to death!" he trumpeted. "Please!"

I didn't even have to ask for him to specify a cause of death. He must want that liquor real bad. I wrote the specifics down on my notepad and then tipped the bottle to my mouth.

"Mother of God!" I choked moments later, hardly noticing Winston's entire form diving through my throat like he'd been shot from a gun. "Arghh! That tastes like kerosene!"

Copyright © novelfull thefreeonlinenovel.com All Rights Reserved.