The Night Is Alive Page 2

“Did he wake you up, Gus? Is that how you knew the tavern was in danger?”

“He woke me up. Yes. I hadn’t seen him in years and years. Hey, this is between us. Drink that tea now so you can get some sleep.”


“Abby,” he said, “don’t tell people that you see Blue. They’ll think you’re some kind of fake or crazy, one or the other. And seeing Blue is...well, it’s special. So, just know that if he’s around, he’s looking after you.”

She nodded.

“We won’t speak about it unless we’re alone, okay?”


She drank her tea and they went back to bed. She was surprised she fell asleep easily and that she wasn’t afraid.

But she wasn’t. The way her grandfather had explained it...Blue was looking after her.

The next day, although her family tried to keep the facts from her, Abby learned that the man who was trying to get in had broken into a tavern in Charleston a few nights before—and killed the owner. Thanks to her grandparents calling the police so quickly and quietly, they’d never have to find out what their fate might have been had he gotten in. And thanks to them, he’d been apprehended.

Thanks to Blue, she thought.

But she didn’t see the pirate in the tavern again, and as the years went by, she convinced herself that she’d seen him standing there because she knew so much about him, because actors portrayed Blue all the time, and because she’d been so frightened.

Once, when she was thirteen, she talked to Gus about it. “I never saw him after that night,” she said.

And Gus had smiled and put an arm around her shoulders. “He comes when we need him, Abby. He comes when we need him. He made an appearance during the American Revolution when a family member needed to escape after spying on the British. And he came during the Civil War...and he came again when an Anderson was hiding from a fed during prohibition,” Gus admitted dryly. “Blue watches, you know. And he finds the one who sees him, and...well, he’s not on call. God save us all from ghost hunters. I won’t let them in here. Blue isn’t a séance away. Like I said, he comes when he’s needed.”

She saw him the night her mother died of pneumonia, and again two years later when her father died, his heart having given out. Blue stood in the cemetery and watched solemnly as they were buried, and Abby felt his touch on her hair as she sobbed each time.

She thought she saw him at her bedside, occasionally, just watching over her.

But life was busy. Years passed, and her memory of Blue faded and settled back into history, exactly where it belonged.


“Mr. Gordon, how were you able to find Joshua Madsen when the police were completely baffled as to where Bradford Stiles was keeping the child?”

That was the first question shouted, but there were dozens of reporters in front of the Richmond police station where Malachi Gordon had just finished the interviews and paperwork that completed the Stiles case as far as he was concerned. They were like a flock of ring-billed seagulls with their microphones.

Should’ve had someone sneak me out the back, he thought.

He raised a hand. “Please. It’s been a long day and night for everyone involved.”

At his side, Detective Andrew Collins supported his efforts to escape. “Everyone who worked this case is drained. There’ll be a police spokesperson out shortly. Let Mr. Gordon pass!”

That didn’t stop the barrage of questions or change the fact that Malachi felt as if he was being attacked by a flock of birds as he and Andy Collins made their way to the street and his SUV.

“Sorry,” Andy muttered. “Should have—”

“Yeah, yeah, should’ve gotten me out through the back. Or maybe I could’ve called for a ‘Beam me up, Scotty!’” Malachi said. “Not to worry—my mistake. I guess we’re all worn out.”

They reached the car, which was behind a police fence so the reporters couldn’t follow them that far. As Malachi slid into the driver’s seat, Andy asked, “How the hell did you find that cabin in the woods?”

“Pure luck, I think. We’d all fanned out. I just got to it first. It’s my neck of the woods, so I pretty much knew where it couldn’t be,” Malachi said.

“Well, another few hours and... That boy owes you his life.”

Malachi shook his head. “Everyone worked on this.”

“But his mom came to you—and the case broke once you were on it,” Andy said. “You know, if you admitted you were a psychic, no one would think less of you. I mean, yeah, some of those guys can be jerks, and they like to tease you about your voodoo powers and all that, but—”

“I can’t admit I’m a psychic, Andy, because I’m not,” Malachi told him. “I’m going to go home and get some sleep. You need to do the same.”

“Sure thing. Thanks, Malachi.”

“Yep,” Malachi said. He hesitated. On a case like this, cops could be hard-asses. Big tough guys, they still felt fear. Not fear of a junkie or a drug dealer or even a brutal killer, but fear of what they didn’t know or didn’t understand. After he’d left the force in New Orleans, he’d preferred to work on his own for that very reason. As a P.I., he didn’t mind working with them; he just didn’t want to be one of them. That way when the ribbing got bad, he could always walk out.

Some cops, though, like Andy, were all right. They didn’t understand. Maybe they were even a little afraid. But they were willing to accept any help they could get, and they weren’t afraid to be grateful for it.

“Andy,” he said, “thanks to you and your lieutenant for letting me in on this, and for listening to me. The kid owes you his life.”

“Hell, yeah!” Andy said.

Grinning, Malachi waved to him and revved the car into gear, leaving the parking lot. He headed out of the city then, anxious to get away. He’d never expected the publicity that would come with this case. He’d taken it on because Joshua Madsen’s mother, Cindy, had come to him. She had broken his heart. Joshua had been abducted during the two-block walk from his school bus to his home yesterday afternoon. A neighbor had seen a nondescript white van pull away, and when that news came out, police had immediately suspected Stiles, the Puppy Killer, as he’d been called.

Stiles didn’t kill puppies; he used puppies to lure young people to his van. They’d rescued a litter of golden retriever pups and their mom when they’d found Stiles and Joshua Madsen.

Malachi didn’t consider himself particularly brilliant in finding Stiles. The police investigative work had been excellent. They’d narrowed down the white vans in the city, thanks to the keen eye of the neighbor who’d managed to give them a partial on the license plate. Soil found on one of the victims had placed him in a certain area.

Malachi had known the area.

And he lived not twenty miles away in a home that was over two-and-a-half centuries old and came complete with pocket doors so that it could serve as a tavern, way station, home and hideout when need be. And it also came with Zachary Albright, Revolutionary spy and resident ghost.

No need to try explaining that to Andy, even if they were friends, or any of the other cops. Because, frankly, Zachary didn’t have all the answers; being dead didn’t make him omniscient. Just like he’d been in life, Zachary was a passionate man with a strong sense of right and wrong. He wandered the grounds, and he’d been the one to note the reclusive hunting lodge near the river. He’d suggested it to Malachi, and Malachi had remembered it—yes, the perfect place to bring a victim. Cries couldn’t be heard and the sure-flowing water was always ready to wash away an abundance of evidence.

It occurred to him that he really shouldn’t be thanked; he’d been observing the comings and goings on the trail when he was spotted by Stiles. He’d been forced to kill Stiles or be killed himself. The trail had led to a run-down shack but there’d been no sign of the missing boy. Police had searched the woods. Because of the “hideaway” in his own home—floorboards that lifted to reveal a six-by-six hidden room below—he’d begun to tear apart the shack. And he’d found Joshua Madsen, bound hand and foot, dehydrated, unconscious...but still alive.

Kids were resilient, he told himself. And this time, Stiles hadn’t had a chance to abuse the boy. They got him to the hospital and he’d been returned to the loving arms of his family. He’d make it, Malachi believed, without carrying the kind of abuse that might have made him an abuser himself.

Malachi wished he could say that about all kids who were abducted.

It was late, past midnight, and once he took the ramp off I-64, the country road that would take him home was dark. He turned down the air-conditioning in his car. Summer was quickly changing into fall.

He pulled into his drive and entered the old house he’d inherited from his uncle, an academic who’d never married, thus leaving him the place in his will. Malachi had spent time with him there from when he was a kid. He’d loved it, and his parents had owned a home just minutes away in a suburb of Richmond. He usually kept the pocket doors open. While the original structure had been maintained, it was also a home. It had always been a home, even when the original inhabitants had opened it as a tavern because of the economy. Yep, things didn’t really change. Back in the 1700s, sometimes the only way to survive had been to serve up good old country fare and lots of locally brewed ale and use the home itself as income.

Malachi picked up his mail and dropped his keys on the side table as he walked in. He was immediately accosted by Zachary. Once, Malachi had been unnerved by the ghost. Now he was accustomed to Zachary, clad in the black frock coat and silk vest in which he’d been buried out back in the family cemetery.

“You found him?” Zachary asked anxiously.

“We did. Thank you. If you hadn’t mentioned that place—”

“You would’ve thought of it. Eventually.”

Prev page Next page