“Friend, I don’t know,” I said. “If it doesn’t work that way, maybe we should call the Catholic priest.” One came to Bon Temps’s little church from a nearby town.

“But this isn’t a demon that needs to be exorcised,” Quiana said, outraged. “It’s not a devil. It’s just real unhappy.”

“It has to go be unhappy somewhere else,” JB said. “This is our house. These are our babies. They can’t go on crying all the time.”

As if he’d pressed a cue button, we could hear Robbie start to wail in the house. We all sighed simultaneously, which would have been funny if we’d had a clue what to do. But further conversation didn’t trigger any plan, so we figured we might as well go back to the job that had brought us there.

Sam and I picked up the painted shelves and went inside to put them up. Quiana followed, and she returned to the stove to stir the spaghetti sauce, her face tense with distress, her brain concentrating on fighting the unhappiness that flowed through the house like invisible water.

Sam brought in the paint. While I painted the doorframe, the men put up the drywall to close up where the old closet door had been. Once that was done, Sam very carefully painted the new wall on the old babies’ room side while I painted the interior of the closet from the new babies’ room side. It was odd to hear his brushstrokes just a few millimeters away from mine. We were working on the same thing, but invisible to each other.

It didn’t take long to finish my task. JB planned to put up two hanger rods for the twins’ tiny clothes, and shelving above them, but he’d left a few minutes before to run errands before going to work. JB had been moving slowly. When he’d gotten into his car he’d sat for a moment, his head resting on the steering wheel. But before he’d reached the corner he was smiling, and I felt my shoulders relax with relief.

After cleaning his brushes and drop cloths, Sam left for Merlotte’s. It was my day off and I needed to take care of some bills. I could hardly wait to get out of the house. I offered to take Tara with me while I drove around town, and to my surprise she agreed to go. She sat quietly in the car the whole time, and I couldn’t tell if she was depressed or exhausted, or maybe both. She grew more talkative the longer we were away.

“We can’t leave our house,” she said. “I can’t afford to buy another one, and we can’t live with JB’s folks. Besides, no one would buy it unless we can make it a regular home again.”

Since I hadn’t been in the house as long as Tara, I recovered my spirits more quickly. “Maybe we’re just being silly, Tara. Maybe we’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”

“Or a haunting out of a hammer,” she said, and we both managed to laugh.

We returned to eat Quiana’s spaghetti and garlic bread in a much more grounded frame of mind. I can’t tell you how cheered I was by our little excursion . . . or how bleak I felt after we’d been back in the house only ten minutes. The exhausted babies slept for a while, and lunch was at least tolerable, but always at the back of our conversation was the feeling that any moment one of us would burst into tears.

There wasn’t a mind I could read to get any information on what was happening in this house. There wasn’t an action I could take, a deed I could perform, that could help. I had a few friends who were witches, but Amelia Broadway, the only one I trusted, was in Europe for a month. I felt oddly stymied.

LATER THAT EVENING, we met back in the living room, even Sam and JB. No one had arranged it—it was like we were all drawn back to the house by whatever unhappy thing we’d disturbed.

Tara had slipcovered the love seat and couch recently, and she’d hung some pretty pictures of the Thomas Kinkade school: lots of cute cottages with flowers, or lofty trees with the sun grazing the tops. This was the kind of house Tara wanted: peaceful, bright, happy.

The house on Magnolia Street was not like that any longer.

Tara was holding Sara, and JB was holding Robbie. Both babies were fussy—again, still—which upped the tension in the room. Tara, uncharacteristically, had decided to turn away from reality. She was blaming JB for the misery in the house.

“He watches Ghost Hunters too often,” she said, for maybe the tenth time. “I’ve lived here for four years and I’ve never felt a thing wrong!”

“Tara, there’s something wrong now,” I said, as quietly as I could. “You know there is. Quiana knows there is. We all know there is.”

“Oh, for God’s sake!” Tara said impatiently, and she jiggled Sara so hard that Sara started crying. Tara looked shocked, and for a moment I read her impulse to hand Sara to someone else, anyone. Instead, she took a deep breath and rocked Sara with exaggerated gentleness. (She was terrified of turning into her mother. I think that says it all about Mama Thornton.)

Quiana stood, and there was something desperately brave about the way she went into the sunroom and approached the closet. Her thick black hair pulled back in a band, her thin shoulders squared, her golden face determined. With great courage, Quiana stepped into the space where the hammer had been stowed for so long.

I rose hastily, covering the few steps without a thought. I stood outside the closet looking in. Quiana turned a muddy white and her eyes rolled up. I sort of expected her to fall to the floor and convulse, but she stayed on her feet. Her small hands shot out in my direction. Without thinking, I grabbed them. They were freezing cold. I felt a charge of stinging electricity passing from her to me, and I made my own little shocked noise.

“Sookie?” Sam was just about to put his hand on my shoulder when I stopped him with a sharp shake of my head. I could just see us forming a chain of shaking, grunting victims of whatever had entered Quiana Wong. I could see a shape in her brain, something that wasn’t Quiana. Someone else inhabited her for a few awful seconds.

And then it was over. I had my arms around Quiana and her head on my shoulder. I was patting her a little desperately, saying, “Hey, you okay? You need to go to the hospital?”

Quiana straightened, shaking her head as if she had cobwebs caught in her hair. She said, “Step back so I can get out of this fucking closet.”

I did so very promptly.

“What happened?” Sam said. The hairs on his arms were standing on end.

Quiana was understandably freaked, but she was also excited. Her skin glowed with it. I’d never seen her look so lively.

The babies were as quiet and big-eyed as fawns when a predator is near. JB looked scared and Tara looked angry, both pretty typical reactions.

By an exchange of half-finished sentences, we agreed to adjourn to the backyard. Though it was hot, the heat was better than whatever had been in the closet.

Tara brought all of us sweating cans of soda from the refrigerator, and we sat in the darkness, the area lit only by the light coming from the house windows. I wondered what the neighbors would think of our silent, somber party if they could see over Tara’s fence.

“So, what was it?” I asked Quiana when she looked a little more collected.

“It was a ghost,” she said promptly.

“So it must have been the boy Isaiah,” I said. “Since he was the murder victim. But why would his ghost be in this house? He was killed next door, right? Andy and Halleigh haven’t had any problems, because Andy would have told me.” (On purpose or by accident—Andy was a clear broadcaster.)

“There weren’t any bones or anything,” Tara objected. “Just the hammer.” Quiana leaned over to take one of the twins from Tara, and Tara hesitated before letting Quiana take the baby. I could feel Quiana’s sadness, but she didn’t blame Tara. “Shouldn’t there be remains of a body if there’s a ghost here?”

“Ghosts don’t have to be where their physical remains are laid,” Quiana said, her voice weary. “They’re stuck where the emotion . . . grabbed them up.”

“Huh?” Tara said.

“It’s the strong emotion that imprints them on the place,” Quiana told us. “It’s the trauma.”

Now that she’d decided to tell us she was a psychic, Quiana was just full of information.

“What kind of trauma?” JB said.

“Usually the death trauma,” Quiana said, a little impatiently. “If a person dies real scared, real angry, he leaves his imprint on the space where that emotion took over. Or sometimes the person gets fixed on an object that played a part in the traumatic event. Like a bloody hammer? And after he dies, that’s where his ghost

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