manifests. In this case, the hammer and the closet are the objects.”

“Huh,” Sam said. He didn’t sound like he was automatically signing up for the Ghost Hunters Club, but he didn’t sound skeptical, either. More like he was chewing these new ideas over. That was kind of the way I felt. My world had not included this before now. “So you’re saying he—is it a guy?—could be buried anywhere.”

“In the movies, when you find the bones, the ghost is laid,” JB said unexpectedly.

“The murder victim was Isaiah Wechsler, and his headstone is out in the cemetery by my house,” I said.

“But someone’s not resting easy,” JB said, sounding just as reasonable. “You know that, Sookie.”

Suddenly I felt tired and depressed, more depressed than I’d ever been in my life. And that just wasn’t me. I’m not saying I’m Pollyanna, but this sudden misery simply wasn’t my normal style.

“Sam,” I said, “do you think you could change to your bloodhound form? And maybe go over the yard? If there was a burial that had to do with the murder, it would be really old, and hard to scent.” I shrugged. “But it’s worth a try.”

“This is real life,” Tara said, not exactly as if she were angry, but simply protesting that none of this should be happening.

Real life? I almost laughed. Experiencing a ghost secondhand and looking for a corpse weren’t what I wanted from my real life. On the other hand, worse things had happened to me.

“All right,” Sam said grudgingly. “But not tonight. It’s nowhere near the full moon, so it won’t be as easy to change. I need a full night’s sleep first.” I wouldn’t do this for anyone but her, Sam thought, feeling ashamed that he was dragging his feet.

I could only be grateful I had such a friend.

THE NEXT DAY I was at Tara’s house by midafternoon. Sam pulled up just as I got out of my car.

I was startled to see JB and Tara on their way out, in workout clothes. “I got called in to substitute for another trainer,” JB explained.

I looked at Tara, my eyebrows raised. She said, “I have to get the hell out of this house. Quiana just got here. She’s in charge of the twins.” In truth, Tara looked awful, and JB not much better. I nodded. “We’ll keep on with the plan, then,” I said, and they were out the door before I could say good-bye.

When Sam and I went in the kitchen, Quiana was bathing Robbie, while Sara sat in her infant seat. The babysitter looked determined to do her job. Robbie was whimpering, and I picked up Sara from her infant seat and patted her back, hoping she’d stay quiet. But she didn’t. She began to cry. It looked as if Quiana needed some help for a while.

Since there wasn’t a third baby for Sam to hold, he went to work on the hardware for the new closet doors. I walked Sara around the house, trying to make her happier, and when I went through the sunroom I helped by handing Sam whatever he needed. Sometimes being a telepath can be handy.

“Do you feel as lousy as I do?” he asked, as both babies escalated to full Defcon Five. I chickened out and put Sara in her infant seat in the kitchen while Quiana dressed Robbie.

“At least that lousy,” I said.

“I wonder if hauntings are all like this.”

“I hope I never experience another one to find out,” I said. “I wonder . . .” I dropped my voice to a whisper. “I wonder if any of this would have happened if Quiana hadn’t been here. If a psychic hadn’t been around, would we have had the same experience? Would the hammer have been a haunted hammer, or just a bloody hammer?”

Sam shrugged and laid down his tools. “Who knows?” He took a deep breath. “Come on. If I’m going to turn, I want to get it over with. Kennedy is watching the bar, but I want to get back sooner rather than later.” The atmosphere of the house was having its way with Sam.

I followed him through the house. Quiana watched us pass through the kitchen, her face dark with unhappiness, her eyes shadowed. The babies had finally gotten quiet in their infant seats, watching their nanny clean up from the bathing ordeal. I looked into her brain to be sure that Quiana was herself and that she was alert; Robbie and Sara were safe.

Though I’d seen Sam change before, I could never get jaded about watching a human turn into an animal. I’d overheard some college kids in the bar talking about the physics of shapeshifting, and they’d seemed to think that the transformation was impossible. So much for their impossibilities. It was happening before me: a full-sized man changed into a bloodhound. Sam liked to turn into dogs, because humans weren’t as likely to shoot him by mistake. As a true shapeshifter, he had an advantage over wereanimals, who had to transform to one thing—werewolf, of course, or weretiger, werewombat—whatever their genetic makeup was. Sam enjoyed the variety. Sam, who normally had a smooth and swift transition, was panting on the ground when I got a scare.

“Smooth move,” Quiana said from right behind me. I jumped about a mile. “I wish I could do that,” she added.

“Hell in a handbasket, Quiana! Why didn’t you say something?”

“I was making plenty of noise,” she said casually. “You were just too interested in watching.”

I opened the back door and threw Sam’s clothes on one of the dinette chairs. “Aren’t you supposed to be with the twins?”

She unclipped a device from the waistband of her shorts. “I got the monitor right here. They’re both asleep in their cribs. Finally.”

Sam rolled to his feet and ambled over to me. I never knew exactly how much he understood human speech while he was in animal form, but he was looking at the house and his chest was rumbling. “I’m going to check on them,” I said. If that sounded distrustful, I didn’t care.

The atmosphere in the house seemed somewhat easier, more peaceful. I wondered if the bad influence was wearing away—or was it because we three were out in the yard? That was a disturbing idea. I made myself put it aside, and I looked at the sleeping Robbie, hardly daring to breathe loud. The baby seemed perfectly all right. So did Sara, in her own crib. I put my hand gently on Sara’s back. The inchoate dreams of an infant flowed into my head. I thought of putting both of them in the stroller and taking them with me into the backyard, but the house was so pleasant and cool, and it was so hot outside. We had the monitor.

I went back to the yard. Sam was scouting around, examining the space with his nose. His floppy ears were hanging forward. I’d read that this pushed the scent up to a bloodhound’s nose. Amazing. I personally thought he was very cute as a bloodhound, but that got into kind of queasy territory, so it was a thought I had to banish.

“He’s working hard,” Quiana remarked. She’d perched on the edge of one of the yard chairs, her hands tucked between her bare knees. Her thick dark hair was twisted and secured on top of her head with a clip or two, because it was too hot for long hair. My own was piled up in much the same way.

“You two have been friends a long time,” she said, when I didn’t respond to her last comment.

“Yes,” I said. “A few years, now.”

“You have a lot of friends.”

“I have a lot of friendly acquaintances. It’s hard to have close friends, when you have a mental thing like mine.”

“Tell me about it.” Quiana shuddered delicately.

Frankly, I didn’t know if I wanted to be Quiana’s friend or not. There was something in her that put me off. I realized this was pretty damn ironic, since that was the way people often felt about me, but I didn’t think Quiana made me uneasy simply because she had an unusual ability. She made me anxious because for a few minutes the day before she hadn’t been alone in her skin. Someone else had been there with her.

I turned my eyes away from the girl. I didn’t want her wondering what I was thinking about. I watched Sam instead. He was sniffing the ground with the efficiency of a vacuum cleaner.

The lot was long and narrow, with the house leaving very little room on either side. On the north side of the house, there were maybe five feet between the air conditioner sticking out of the kitchen window and the fence that surrounded the yard from the front wall of the house to the rear property line. Naturally, it was in that narrow strip that Sam found a promising scent. He went over it anxiously, and then he raised his head and bayed.

I hoped all the neighbors really were at work. At least the fence blocked the view.

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