“It’s tied to the hammer,” Quiana said.

“So, okay, if we want to know what happened so we can fix it,” I said, “and since I can read minds, and since the ghost can get into Quiana’s mind . . . I’m wondering if maybe Quiana and I can do something with the bones and find out who the spirit—the ghost—is.”

Quiana nodded. “Let’s do it,” she said. “Let’s get this bitch settled.” She reached over to the old patio table and took the hammer.

We stood, full of purpose.

JB and Sam shot out of their chairs. Sam said, “You don’t need to do this, Sookie.”

Wild horses couldn’t have held me back from this experience. I stepped away from Sam and took Quiana’s left hand, bony and strong and cold. We went over to the excavated skeleton. Its skull gaped up at us from its grave. Quiana was holding the hammer in her free hand. Then she gasped and jerked, and suddenly I was holding the hand of someone completely different.

And I was seeing what Quiana saw, but not through Quiana’s eyes. I was seeing . . . faces. A round-faced woman working over a kitchen table. I recognized what she was doing; she was making piecrust. She was looking up, bewildered and sad. Mama. A burly man bending over something on a tool bench, with the same air of worry about him. Father. And looking at a boy—older than me, but still a boy with an open, honest, freckled face, a face that was serious and full of doubt. Albert. I would have done anything to remove the anxiety from their faces, anything to silence the cruel words that had caused that unhappiness.

Words spoken by that devil, Isaiah Wechsler.

Part of me could still be only Sookie, and that part felt the growing resolution, the horrible resolve, as the entity in Quiana played out his plan.

The night, the darkness, only streetlights in the distance where town lay. (That almost threw me out of Quiana’s mind. Since when had Magnolia Street been out of town?) Running silently across the short distance between the windows, from my window to his, and his was open in the warm night . . . through it quietly enough not to wake him Father’s hammer in my hand and . . . then he raised his hand, oh . . . oh, no. In the moonlight the blood looked black.

Back out the window, breathing hard, and over to the one in my house, safe now, back home hide the hammer under the bed but Albert woke up, Albert beloved brother, and Albert said what did you do? And I said I shut his foul mouth.

And there was more, but it was too much for me, Sookie. I had to pull Quiana out of this, but that was impossible until we saw the end.

Then we did. We saw the end.

I gasped and choked, and Quiana folded silently to the dirt as if her strings had been cut.

Sam caught me, braced me, as JB supported Quiana.

JB said, “What happened? Why were you all holding hands, Sookie?” Tara said, “They’ll tell us, honey. Wait a minute.” The twins were silent, and when I could see I realized they were back in their infant seats, at the base of the tree. The evening was closing in. The shadows had gotten so long they almost covered the yard. I could hear a car door closing next door. Andy had gotten home. Should I call out, get him to come look?

“Do you know who it is?” Sam asked, keeping his voice low, pointing at the open grave.

I went over to it. “This boy killed Isaiah Wechsler. This boy is Carter Summerlin.”

“But you said his folks sent him away,” Sam said.

“In a way, they did,” Quiana said weakly. Tara had propped her up against the fence and was giving her a bottle of water. Quiana looked as if she’d survived a death march. “This boy killed himself because he couldn’t stand what he did. He climbed through the window at night—the window of the house next door—with the hammer he took from his dad’s toolbox. Came back in his own bedroom window, blood all over.”

I shuddered. The others stared at us, their mouths open.

“But his big brother saw? Is that right, Sookie?” Quiana asked.

I nodded. “Albert took Carter’s nightshirt and burned it in the backyard in the middle of the night, and hid the hammer in the closet wall. Later on, he closed it in. The fight he’d had with the Wechsler boy, it was because— well, Isaiah had made fun of the, what he thought was the effeminate ways of Albert’s little brother. And to Carter it was so terrible, so unthinkable a slur, that he had to wipe out the one who’d voiced it. Albert believed he should have protected Carter better; he thought he should have shown Carter how to behave in a more manly way.”

“But I felt terrible about killing Isaiah. And about how people thought Albert was to blame. The next week, I killed myself,” Quiana said. She was unaware she was saying anything odd. “I hanged myself in that same closet, from a hook. I figured that would make things better for Albert. When they found me, Albert started crying. He told them what the fight had been about and how he’d helped cover up for me. They had one son dead, so to protect Albert and the family’s good name, my folks buried me in the yard in the dead of night and told everyone they’d sent me off to live with relatives.”

“And Carter haunted them?” I said, not liking how shaky my voice was.

“He haunted his parents, because they were ashamed of him.” Quiana said, and I welcomed her return to perspective with huge relief. “But not Albert. Albert had tried to keep faith with Carter, but he must have felt terribly guilty himself every time he saw the Wechslers.”

“So Carter started making his presence known again now because . . .”

“Of the hammer. When you found the hammer, that was the trigger for his . . . activation.” Quiana shrugged. “I don’t know much about ghosts, but I got that from him. He was full of anger—well, we all got that. He was confused, and agitated.”

“What can we do? To get rid of him? He can’t stay here,” JB said, his mouth set in an uncharacteristically hard line.

“We can call the police,” I said. “They’d come get the bones and take them away for evaluation and burial. They’ll take the hammer, too. The closet has been reconfigured, so it’s no longer the place where Carter died.” I wondered, if we sent the bones and the hammer to the police, would the ghost manifest at the police station? I tried to imagine Detective Andy Bellefleur’s face.

“Will that do it? End his presence?” Tara asked.

“Ought to.” Quiana looked at me.

I shrugged. “Maybe.”

There was a doubtful silence.

I cleared my throat. “Or we could just take everything, bones and hammer, and bury the whole kit ’n’ kaboodle in the cemetery. By ourselves. And no one would ever need to know, which was what the whole Summerlin family wanted.”

They all thought about my proposition for a few seconds.

“I’m for that,” JB said. “I don’t want people coming around to see where the body was buried. The babies wouldn’t like that. People might not let their kids come over to play with Robbie and Sara.”

Tara looked at her husband in surprise. “I didn’t think about that, JB. Sookie, since your house is right by the cemetery . . . can you and Sam . . . ?”

“This isn’t a usual best-friends job,” I said, maybe a little tartly. “But okay, I’ll do it. You got an old sheet?”

She vanished into the house and came back with a white percale double fitted. Quiana laid it out by the grave, and Sam and JB disinterred the bones. Wearing rubber dishwashing gloves, they transferred the remains of poor Carter Summerlin to the sheet. The ground was so shadowed by the side of the house, I needed the help of a flashlight to sift the earth, searching for anything they might have missed. I came up with two teeth and a few little finger bones. After a while, we were reasonably sure the entire skeleton had been harvested from the soil. Tara put the hammer on top of the bones, gathered up the sheet corners, and tied them in knots.

There was a pause when Sam picked up the grotesque bundle.

“Oh, all right, we’ll go, too,” Tara said angrily, as though I’d accused her of being callous.

There was a little car caravan out to my house: me, Sam in his pickup, JB and Tara and the twins in their car, and Quiana in her old Ford.

We tromped through my woods to the cemetery. The dark was closing in around us when we came to my family plot. I was going to be late for work—but somehow I didn’t think Sam would dock my pay for it. The space

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