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.He could stay here and eat a piece of cake.Maybe feel the mayor out tomorrow, hint that he’d seen activity in the building and wonder aloud what was going on.Or he could be a cop and follow them.He thought of the cake.He thought of the cash.He thought of the bruises.He thought of the bones.Finally he said, “Tell you what, honey, why don’t you wrap up a piece for me to take along.I just remembered, I have somewhere to be.”And, he thought, someone to be.Granville’s chief of police.Chapter 11Saturday, 7:15 p.m.It was full dark by the time they found the house.Aidan had driven Lexie up and down Old Terrytown Road, pulling into a few overgrown, nearly forgotten driveways, checking out ruins that appeared to have been untouched by human hands for decades.There had been no recent tire tracks, no footprints, no signs of life.When they’d shone flashlights through the hanging doors or broken window frames, they’d seen rotting wood, half-fallen walls, nests left by wintering animals long since gone.The insides of the structures appeared far too flimsy and decayed to house any secret meetings.They had been about to give up, ready to go back and pick up the others, who were still searching for human remains in the reeds and woods, when his phone had signaled he had a text message.It had been Julia, with some advice from Morgan: Head back this way, go another quarter mile from where you are now.The driveway is intentionally concealed by a downed tree.And they’d found it.Right where Julia’s ghostly friend had said they would.“I would never have even realized this place was back here,” Lexie whispered, visibly shaken.He had the feeling she hadn’t quite accepted Morgan’s existence.Now she was beginning to understand.The dead guy wasn’t always reliable, sometimes disappearing when Julia seemed to need him most.But whenever he came back, he always had excellent information.He was already two-for-two today.“The way that driveway is hidden, we never would have found it,” she added.“Which is exactly what they intended when they put that huge tree down.”It had been hollow.And easily moved, once he’d known to look for it.There were no “Private Property” or “No Trespassing” signs.Nor did any kind of fence or chain try to keep people out.The men who used this place didn’t want anyone thinking there was any property worth trespassing on deep in these woods, so they’d simply made all evidence of its existence disappear.“Who would ever have imagined this was back here?”This was an elegant old plantation house.The exterior almost fully intact, it stood about three hundred feet off the main road, behind a thick stand of thorny, dense trees, all decorated with tangles of Spanish moss as twisted and gray as an old terrorist’s beard.The two-storied structure, graced with columns and also with wide verandahs on both the bottom and top floors, had once been white.And it had once been beautiful.Time and neglect had dulled the house to a mottled gray—the color most resembling a corpse’s skin on this moonlit night.Moss and vines had encircled it in a thick, woodsy embrace.Runners clambered in all directions, climbing toward the sky, looking like veins pulsing with green blood.Though no longer conventionally beautiful, the place remained darkly stunning.Mesmerizing, in fact.Unnatural and mysterious, the old plantation had seemed to become one with the woods at some point over the past century, as if the Georgia earth had reclaimed the land on which it stood, and the old house along with it.Lexie said something else, but Aidan didn’t answer; he couldn’t.Because he had a hard time hearing her.His mind had opened up as soon as they’d rounded a curve and spied the house.The tension had grown exponentially when they’d driven past several small, decrepit buildings that he suspected had once served as slave quarters.Something in him had known, intuitively, that they’d found what they’d been seeking.The pounding in his head and the pressure in his chest couldn’t be denied.He wasn’t sure why yet, but already he felt this haunting place was tainted, so ripe with evil and ugliness, it might as well have come equipped with a poison sign.Poisoned earth.Knowing there was much to discover, he’d let the connection happen, anxious to learn any secrets hidden in this strange, desolate hideaway.Now, parked right outside the front door, he heard a cacophony of whispers that lingered here, hanging in the air like the remnants of a woman’s perfume after she had passed through a room.There were so many voices.Dozens.Hundreds.Each sharing thoughts, moments, memories, emotions.None sounded like they were from today and he would bet anything not a single soul was currently inside that house.These thoughts and memories didn’t feel immediate; they were weeks, months, years, and centuries old.But they were still vivid.They hit him hard.Jerking back in the seat, he didn’t fight it.He kept his body relaxed and flowed with the sensations, knowing they weren’t his, weren’t personal, and couldn’t harm him physically.This wasn’t his version of reality; it belonged to countless other people who’d come to this place before him.His eyes dropping closed, his breathing became shallow and open- mouthed.He pushed back against the pressure, finally breaking free of it.Getting that flying sensation as his consciousness spewed up and over the entire area like a geyser, he began to search, seeking answers, or at least entrances into the past.Beside him, Lexie’s worry grew to something almost tangible, and he knew she was watching, fearful, wondering if she should do something.But he couldn’t tell her he was all right, couldn’t let her know this was his version of normal.He just had to ride it out.Feeling like he was being pummeled by tiny pebbles, he tried to evade the impressions that wouldn’t help him.He began to pick and choose the remnants, discarding the wispy, self-indulgent thoughts of Southern belles in their ball gowns, and the heartbreaking ones of the slaves who’d once worked the place.He ignored the smells of the fields and unwashed bodies, evaded the painful lash of the whip.Aidan didn’t let himself think about it or acknowledge just how doomed to darkness and suffering this genteel, lovely estate had been from the moment it had been conceived.He moved forward, swirling through time, pushing on into decay and silence, when the grand old dwelling had been abandoned and the trees had thickened and closed in around it.A little further—memories of curious children, vandals, thieves.Breaking glass and falling beams.And every so often, rough male voices, as if despite the abandonment, over the decades the place had often been used by men looking to abuse women.Finally, he entered a recent time.Modern.He heard ugly, cruel laughter and loud, twangy music.Smelled sweat and sex.And he burned.For an infinitesimal second, he felt like his feet were being held over an open flame, his skin melting off his bones, though he had noticed no burned remnants or other evidence of fire.A man’s voice, raucous and deafening, confirmed he had arrived in the present day.Aidan’s instinctive reaction was to lift his hands to his ears.Of course, that wouldn’t block out something that existed only as a memory inside his mind.Besides, he had to listen.He needed to.Woo-ee, boys, would you look at that one? Look at those titties.Nothin’ store-bought about ’em.No plastic surgeon ever made anything so fine.Girl, come on over here and show my son here what you got between your pretty little legs.Other voices joined in, talking about their delight in their oh-so-special club.Laughter and brutal lust made animals of men the world probably saw as decent [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]