“Well, you know, Dec, I’d have to say, given the circumstances and such . . . screw ’em.”
With a laugh, Declan handed Remy the bottle. “Let’s drink to it.”
He took another slice of pizza from the box. “Let me ask you something else, about this place. I’ve researched the history, did a chunk of it way back after we came here the first time.”
“Stumbling around like drunken fools.”
“Yeah, which we may do again if we keep hitting this bourbon. Anyway, I know it was built in 1879—after theoriginal structure burned down in an unexplained fire, which was very likely set due to politics, Reconstruction and other post–Civil War messiness.”
“That’s the War of Northern Aggression, son.” Remy pointed a warning finger. “Remember which side of the Mason-Dixon Line you’re plopping your Yankee ass down on now.”
“Right. Sorry. Anyway. The Manets scooped up the land, cheap, according to the old records, and built the current structure. They farmed sugar and cotton primarily and divvied off plots to sharecroppers. Lived well for about twenty years. There were two sons, both died young. Then the old man died and the wife held on until she apparently stroked out in her sleep. No heirs. There was a granddaughter on record, but she was cut out of the will. Place went to auction and has passed from hand to hand ever since. Sitting empty more than not.”
Declan leaned forward. “Do you believe it’s haunted?”
Remy pursed his lips, copped the last piece of pizza. “That whole history lesson was your way of working around to asking that one question? Boy, you got the makings for a fine southern lawyer. Sure it’s haunted.” His eyes danced as he bit into the pizza. “House been here this long and isn’t, it’d have no self-respect whatsoever. The granddaughter you mentioned. She was a Rouse on her mama’s side. I know that, as I’m fourth or fifth cousins with the Simones, and the Simones come down from that line. Girl was raised, I believe, by her maternal grandparents after her mama took off with some man—so it’s said. Don’t know if I recollect what happened to her daddy, but others will if you want to know. I do know that Henri Manet, his wife, Josephine, and the one son—damned if I know what his name was—all died in this house. One of them doesn’t have the gumption to haunt it, that’s a crying shame.”
“Natural causes? The people who died here?”
Curious, Remy frowned. “Far as I know. Why?”
“I don’t know.” Declan had to fight off a shudder. “Vibes.”
“You want someone to come through here? Little gris-gris, little voodoo, chase off your ghost, or maybe summon the spirit for a little conversation? You can find yourself a witch or psychic every second corner in town.”
“You let me know if you decide different.” Remy winked. “I’ll put you onto somebody who’ll give you a fine show.”
H e didn’t want a show, Declan decided later. But he did want that shower, and bed. With Jim Beam buzzing pleasantly in his blood, he hauled in boxes, pawed through them to find sheets and towels. He carted what he figured he’d need for the night upstairs.
It was good old Catholic guilt rather than any need for order that had him making the bed. He treated himself to a ten-minute shower, then climbed into the fresh sheets to the sound of the incessant rain.
He was asleep in thirty seconds.
T here was a baby crying. It didn’t strike him as odd at all. Babies tended to cry in the middle of the night, or whenever they damn well pleased. It sounded fretful and annoyed more than alarmed.
Someone ought to go pick it up . . . do whatever people did with crying babies. Feed it. Change it. Rock it.
When he’d waked from nightmares as a child, his mother or his nanny, sometimes his father, had come in to stroke his head and sit with him until the fear faded away again.
The baby wasn’t frightened. The baby