Sam’s doleful bloodhound face swung toward me, and he pawed at the ground at his feet. “Awwwrrrrhr,” he said.

I got the shovel from the tool shed. This was not going to be pretty. I was trickling with sweat after the first few shovelfuls, and I was maybe a little peeved that Quiana didn’t ask to take a turn digging. She looked down into the gradually increasing hole with an unnerving and unswerving fascination.

I looked at Sam, who was licking one of his paws. “You better go inside and change back,” I said. “Thanks, Sam.” He started ambling toward the steps and paused, stymied. I pitched a shovelful of dirt at Quiana’s feet. “Quiana,” I said sharply, “You need to open the back door for him.”

It was like I’d stuck a pin in her, she looked so startled. “Sure,” she said. “Sure, I’ll do it.”

I watched her go over to the door, and it seemed to me she stumbled a little, was a bit shaky on her feet. Her mind was blurry, foggy, with strong impressions coming from God knows where. After Sam was in the house, I resumed digging. The faster I went, the sooner we’d know if Sam had found an old turkey carcass or human remains.

After another five minutes I had to pause. Quiana had returned to her place at the edge of the hole. Her stance was rigid and her eyes were fixed on the upturned earth.

I heard a couple of slamming car doors. JB and Tara had returned. I felt a surprising amount of relief.

I was leaning on my shovel when they all came into the backyard—all the adults, that is. The twins were still sleeping. Sam had resumed his human form, and he was in his cutoff jeans again. His Hawaiian shirt looked cool with its loose drape around his torso. I envied him. My tank top felt wet and clingy.

JB and Tara were still wearing their workout clothes, so they were as sweaty as I was, but they both looked more relaxed.

“So, there something in there?” Tara asked, peering down at the hole I’d made.

“Sam thinks so,” I replied. “JB, you want to shovel for a while?”

“Sure, Sook,” he said amiably, and he grabbed the shovel. I sank to my haunches and watched him work.

Sam squatted by me. He never wavered in his expectant posture.

And with a terrible predictability, the shovel hit something that scraped instead of crunched. Without being told, JB started to scratch at the dirt with the shovel blade instead of sinking it in.

We didn’t need the monitor to hear the babies begin to wail.

Quiana tore herself away to go in to them. Tara seemed relieved to leave it to her.

JB uncovered a femur.

We regarded the bone in silence.

“Well, we got us a body,” Sam said. “Now we need to know who it belonged to.”

“How are we gonna explain what we were doing?” Tara asked.

“We could say you were going to plant some beans,” I said. “I know it’s late for beans, but a cop would believe that.” I left unspoken the fact that Andy would believe that if we said it was JB’s idea. “We can say we were digging the holes for the runner poles.”

“So they’ll come get the bones out, and then what? Will things get better in our house?” Tara’s eyes were bright with anger. “Will we stop being miserable? What about the babies? I think we have to find out who this guy was.”

“It’s not Isaiah Wechsler, and we know Albert lived, and we know Carter was sent away after the murder. So who could this be?” I looked around, hoping someone would look as though he had had a revelation, but everyone looked blank.

JB, shovel in hand, was standing by the crouching Sam. They were silently regarding the hole that was a grave. Sam was scowling.

“Tara, we can’t ignore this,” I said, as gently as I could. I was fighting a rising wave of irritation.

“I know that,” she snapped. “I never said we could, Sookie. But I got to figure out what’s best for me and my family.”

Quiana had been gone a handful of minutes by now. I could still hear the babies crying. Why hadn’t she found out what was wrong and fixed it?

The normally placid JB nudged Sam to make him move away from the grave. Sam’s jaw set in a way I knew meant he was barely holding on to his temper.

I didn’t trust any emotion I felt.

Tara was angry with me, which wasn’t normal. Sam and JB were glaring at each other. The anger in the air was affecting all of us. I made myself run into the house to find out why the babies were weeping. Tara should be doing this! I followed the sobs to their little room.

Quiana was sitting in the rocking chair crammed in beside the cribs, and she was crying, too.

“Oh, for God’s sake,” I said. “Snap out of it.”

Her tear-stained face looked at me with resentment written all over it. “I have a right to grieve for what I’ve lost. Only my brother knows the real me,” she said bitterly.


“Quiana,” I said, suddenly feeling a lot calmer and a lot more nervous, “you don’t have a brother.”

“Of course I do.” But she looked confused.

“You’re being haunted,” I said, trying to sound matter-of-fact. I didn’t want to say the word possessed, but it was definitely hovering in the air.

“Sure, that’s right, blame me because I’m the one who’s different,” she snarled in a complete emotional about-face.

I flinched, but I had to pass her to get to the babies, whose cries had redoubled. I decided to take a chance. “You want to go outside?” I said. Then I made a guess. “You can see your bones.” I watched her carefully, since I had no idea what she’d do next.

There was someone else behind Quiana’s face, someone both anguished and angry. All I could think about was getting her out of the room.

And then Quiana got up and left the room, her face blank. She wasn’t even walking like herself.

I scooped up Sara, who was shrieking like a banshee.

“Sara,” I said. “Please stop crying.” To my amazement, she did. The baby looked up at me, her face red and tearful, panting with exhaustion. “Let’s get your brother,” I said, since Robbie’s wails continued unabated. “We’ll make him happy, too.” Robbie also responded to my touch, and in a moment I was walking slowly holding the two babies. It was awkward and terrifying.

What would have happened if Quiana had been utterly overrun by the ghost while she was here alone with the twins?

Now that the bones had been uncovered, the emotional miasma in the house was intensifying, without any doubt. It was a struggle to get out of the house, aside from the difficulty of carrying two children. Though I wanted to leave more than anything, I stopped in the kitchen to put them in their child seats. I opened the back door and passed Sara to JB. I went down the back steps with Robbie, moving very carefully. Sam, Tara, and Quiana were in the corner of the yard farthest from the bones, and JB and I joined them there.

In sharp contrast to the lighthearted meeting we’d had when we were planning the renovation, our conference in the backyard was grim. The late-afternoon sun slanted across the bricks of the patio, and the heat of them radiated upward. Even the heat was preferable to the haunted house.

We waited. Nothing happened. Finally, Tara sat in a lawn chair and started feeding Sara after JB fetched her nursing shawl. Robbie made squeaky noises until it was his turn. They, at least, were content.

Sam said, “I dug some more, and I think it’s a complete skeleton. We don’t know whose bones, whose ghost, or why it’s angry.”

An accurate and depressing summary.

“The only neat stories are the ones made up,” Tara said.

Quiana, who seemed to be herself at the moment, sat slumped forward, her elbows on her knees. She said, “There’s a reason all this is happening. There’s a reason the haunting started when the hammer came out of the wall. There’s a reason there’s a body buried in the backyard. We just have to figure it out. And I’m the psychic. And it’s trying to live through me. So I got to try to take care of this.”

I looked at Quiana with some respect. What she was saying made sense.

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