A pair of apprentices—one in tignon, one in top hat—was waiting for me at the head of the path leading to the council’s gathering place with burning torches in hand. They didn’t speak, but produced some excellent expressions of contempt when they saw my clothes. I just said, “Hey, fabulous outfits! Are those new looks for you?”

They led the way down the path until I could see a clearing with the roaring bonfire the council kept lit no matter what the weather was, then stopped. Obviously I was supposed to make the rest of the trip on my own.

“Tweet me!” I said to my exiting escorts as I followed the dusty path to the gathering place. The fire should have been comforting in the chill of a fall evening, but it really wasn’t.

I stepped into the center of the clearing and waited. I knew there were people around me, but I couldn’t see them until somebody struck a match. Then I could just barely make out the features of Papa Philippe as he walked around the edges of the clearing, stopping every few feet to light a candle in the hand of a council member. There were thirteen candles—the full council was there. It wasn’t a good sign.

Then Papa Philippe came to stand beside me, which was a relief. At least he was still willing to act as my sponsor.

Tante Ju-Ju was standing in the middle of the row of council members. “I see you, Dodie Kilburn. I want you to tell me what you been doing since I talked to you before.”

I did so, ending with my walking back toward my car after Gottfried’s fall.

“And you just leave after that?”

“I thought about it, but no, I didn’t leave. I turned around and went back.”

There were murmurs from the rest of the council, but Tante Ju-Ju kept eyeing me. “What you waiting for? Keep on talking.”

* * *

I REALLY HAD intended to drive off in ignominious defeat, stopping only at the nearest Publix to pick up a gallon of fudge ripple ice cream, but just before I got to the car, I turned around and stomped back to the people clustered around Gottfried’s body.

Somebody had found a tarp to lay over him, and most of the workers had wandered away, but the key players were still there: Mrs. Hopkins, Elizabeth, C.W., Von Doesburg, and Scarpa.

“Hang on,” I said, “something stinks here, and I’m not talking about Gottfried.”

Elizabeth sputtered, but I didn’t give her a chance to go into a righteous tirade.

“I spent all of yesterday with Gottfried and he was fine. I spent half of today with him and he was fine. But the second I leave him alone, he falls. Again. Don’t you people think that’s just a little bit suspicious?”

“What are you talking about?” Elizabeth said.

“I’m talking about murder.” Well, technically it wasn’t, since you can’t murder a dead man, but it sure got their attention. “I know Gottfried’s will was strong, so he didn’t just die, and I don’t believe he had two accidents. Somebody either pushed him, or set a trap. Both times.”

“Who would have done that?” Mrs. Hopkins asked. “And why?”

“Why does anybody kill somebody else? Either the killer hated Gottfried or he—or she—benefited from his death.”

I spent a second considering the possibility that Hopkins had been the one, mainly because of the way she’d refused to let me raise him a third time, but it didn’t compute. She needed him to finish the job, and I hadn’t picked up on the first hint of her having anything against him.

“This is ridiculous,” Scarpa said, starting to inch away. “I’m not going to stand here and be accused of . . . Of whatever it is you’re accusing me of.”

“I haven’t accused anybody yet. But you—and the rest of you, too—can stand here and listen, or I’ll—”

“You’ll what?” Von Doesburg scoffed. “Call the cops? There’s been no crime committed.”

“I won’t call the cops. I’ll call the loa.” The disadvantage of being a houngan is that people think you can commit creepy acts. The advantage is that people think that you will commit them.

“What do you want from us?” Scarpa asked in a strangled tone.

“Answers. And the loa will know if you’re lying.” Of course, the loa wouldn’t have told me squat, but they didn’t know that. Having already tentatively eliminated Mrs. Hopkins from my list of suspects, I went on to Elizabeth. “Did you talk to Gottfried while I was in the bathroom?”

“How would I know when you were in the bathroom?”

“Okay, fine. Did you talk to him while I wasn’t around?”

“No. I was in the trailer most of the day unsnarling purchase orders.”

“Did anybody see you?”

“People came in and out, but nobody was with me constantly.”

“Okay.” I made as if to turn to somebody else, then jerked back to her—I’d seen the maneuver on TV. “What was that paper you tried to trick Gottfried into signing yesterday?”

“I wasn’t trying to trick him!” she said. “It was something he’d promised to do before he died, but he never got a chance.”

“What was it?”

“A recommendation letter. I’m applying to architecture schools. I figured I could get his signature and then fudge the date to make it look like he’d done it before he died.”

C.W. said, “Gottfried told me that she was applying, if that helps any.”

Actually, it did. Even if Elizabeth had wanted to kill Gottfried for some reason, she wouldn’t have done so until he signed her paper. True, she could have forged it, but she could have done that anytime.

On to C.W. He’d been awfully nice to me—maybe he’d had an ulterior motive. “What about you?” I said to him. “If Gottfried was out of the way, you could have gone on to finish the renovation your way.”

“My way? I don’t have a way. I’m a builder, not a designer. You give me a blueprint or even something sketched on a napkin, I’ll build it, but I wouldn’t know where to start on a project like this.”

I would have loved to have a loa with a lie detector standing by, but he sure sounded sincere to me. “Then tell me this. Did you see Gottfried any time today when I wasn’t with him?”

“No, you were sticking to him like glue.”

“All right then, Mr. Von Doesburg and Mr. Scarpa. Same question. Did you speak to Gottfried at any time today when I wasn’t around?”

Scarpa shook his head vigorously, but Von Doesburg said, “Yes.”

“You did?” I said, surprised that anybody had admitted it.

“I went looking for him, as a matter of fact, and found him on the second floor examining flooring. I assume it was after you left him.”

“What did you want with him?”

He gave me a condescending smile. “I wanted his advice on a project I’m working on—it’s fairly technical. I could explain it, but only another architect could understand.”

“Did he help you?”

“We talked for a few minutes, but then he said he needed to check something on the balcony. I thanked him for his time and went into an empty room to call my office. Then I heard a scream and ran outside. I suppose somebody else could have been upstairs when we were and followed Gottfried, but I didn’t see anyone.”

I was about to make a stab at Scarpa when I realized what Von Doesburg had said. “Dude, you’re so busted.”

“I beg your pardon.”

“Okay, all of you have interacted with Gottfried since I first got him back. Has he expressed any interest in anything other than finishing this house?”

There was a round of heads shaking.

“He wouldn’t even sign Elizabeth’s paper—something he’d promised to do—because it wasn’t directly connected to his task. So why would he have given Von Doesburg advice about a different project?”

“I’m no expert in zombie behavior,” Von Doesburg said, “so I can only tell you what happened.”

“Bullshit,” C.W. said. “The boss wouldn’t have given Von Doesburg the time of day when he was alive. Everybody knows he thought the man’s work was crap.”

“I assure you that Gottfried respected me as a colleague,” the developer said, but he was sweating.

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