Shadows in Scarlet Shadows in Scarlet Shadows in Scarlet Shadows in Scarlet

Shadows in Scarlet

Wildside Press, January 2006
Trade Paperback
ISBN 0-809-55661-8

Sombras Escarlata
Nablas Ediciones Barcelona, May 2008
ISBN 9-788492-461042
(Spanish translation, Trade Paperback)

Find the Book| Reviews | Excerpt |

 

Amanda Witham sees her new job at an eighteenth-century house as a career move, just part of the history business, nothing personal. Then archaeologists find a man’s skeleton buried in the garden behind the house.

That night James Grant’s ghost introduces himself to her. And a handsome and charming ghost he is, in the tartan kilt and scarlet coat of King George’s Highland Regiment. Suddenly Amanda finds history to be up close and very personal indeed.

Like many handsome and charming men, James puts Amanda in a difficult position. She can hardly tell her friends and co-workers of her hands-on original source. And yet she promises James she’ll reveal the truth about his death — just as soon as she figures out what the truth is.

So why was he buried in the garden when eighteenth-century records say he died in battle?

Amanda’s quest begins in Colonial Williamsburg and ends at James’s ancestral castle in Scotland, which, she discovers, is still very much in the family. But nothing, not time and space, not illusion and reality, not love and death, turns out to be what she anticipated. And when James’s past finally catches up with her present, Amanda finds her future held at sword’s point.


 
Castle of MeyThe Castle of Mey, playing the role of Dundreggan Castle in Shadows in Scarlet:

It looked like Dundreggan had been accumulated rather than built. A central keep was flanked with wings,  towers, and ells, by the size and shape of their windows dating from several different eras. The only common  element was the slate roof, gleaming the deep gray-black of a thundercloud behind its crow-stepped gables.  A white and blue Scottish flag fluttered from the topmost tower. The castle perched comfortably atop its hill,  its irregularly spaced windows like bright eyes gazing over the countryside. Amanda thought of a dowager  duchess, left behind by time and fashion but regretting nothing, and was enchanted.

 

Reviews

"There’s more than one glint of scarlet in the shadows of the past — and in the shadows of the heart as well. Shadows in Scarlet is stunning. Lillian has an uncanny ability to charm her readers with a hypnotic plot and a delightful romp through otherworldly events, cast with an intrepid heroine, a cunning ghost, a strong and seductive hero, and many more memorable characters. The story is smashing, the ending exciting! Pure magic!"
-- Robyn Carr, Deep in the Valley

"Presenting a delicious mix of romance and supernatural suspense, Carl (Ashes to Ashes) delivers yet another immensely readable tale. She has created an engaging cast and a very entertaining plot, spicing the mix with some interesting twists on the ghostly romantic suspense novel."
--Publishers Weekly

"Shadows in Scarlet successfully combines time-travel elements with classic romantic suspense. There is a little something for everyone here, making for a pleasing read."
--Toby Bromberg, Romantic Times

"SHADOWS IN SCARLET is a lovely book; part mystery, part ghost story all woven about a lovely romantic middle. As you peel away at the many layers, you find a thoroughly enjoyable read that moves you from Virginia to Scotland, with some good red herrings that lead to a rather entertaining solution to the mystery, with an ending you could NOT have imagined at the beginning of the book. It never bogged down, but bounced along, giving you an enjoyable time from cover to cover."
--A Staszalek, Romance Reviews Today

"This engaging paranormal romance contains time travel and suspense elements intertwined seamlessly to create a dynamite plot. The story line is fun and captivating especially seeing the world through the idealistic eyes of the audacious, adorable Amanda. Lillian Stewart Carl furnishes an engaging tale that entertains readers while enticing the audience to elicit more novels like SHADOWS IN SCARLET and a previous work, MEMORY AND DESIRE, from this talented author." --Harriet Klausner, The Best Reviews, Mysterious Readers, and many others

"SHADOWS IN SCARLET is a love story with a twist. The ending is totally unexpected. It is a book that will stay with you for a long time to come."
--Jo Rogers, MyShelf.com

"Shadows in Scarlet is indeed classic romantic suspense. If you have an unsatisfied appetite for that kind of story, try it, and anything else of Lillian Stewart Carl's that you can find. If you're new to the category, be assured that she knows what she's doing. You will quickly find yourself enjoying her historical sensibility, her lovely wit, her skilled blending of the magical and the mundane, and her expert affection for Scotland."
--Roland Green, sf/fantasy reviewer for Booklist and Publisher's Weekly

"Carl manages to pull off a tricorn hat trick by combining a mystery, ghost story and engaging romance into a coherent and completely engrossing whole. From the living Amanda to the very much dead but still kicking James, Carl's characters bring Shadows in Scarlet to delightful life. If you like ghosts, mysterious happenings and a satisfying romance to round the whole thing out, then you'll love Shadows in Scarlet. Carl even managed to surprise me with her ending. That doesn't happen often. Brava, Lillian!"
--Teri Smith, Crescent Blues Book Reviews

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Excerpt

By late afternoon the Virginia landscape was drenched with heat. Amanda wanted to rip off her stays, hoops, petticoats, and gown and run naked across the lawns to the river. But the tourists' ticket of admission to Melrose Hall didn't include a strip show.

She opened the front door of the house and curtsied. "My thanks, sirs and mesdames, for your kind attentions. Please do us the honor of visiting the gift shop upon your departure."

Her flock of visitors, smelling of sunscreen and sweat, piled into the glare. Still smiling, Amanda turned the sign reading "Hall Open" around to "Hall Closed. Please Come Again." She slammed the door, locked it, scooped the cap from her head and said, "Hey! Twenty-first century! I'm back!" to the paneled walls of the entrance hall.

Her voice echoed and died. A tread of the staircase creaked. A stack of leaflets slumped over the edge of the Chippendale sideboard and pattered to the floor. The sweaty roots of her hair made her scalp feel cold. Shrugging away her chill, she thought, they knew how to build houses in the eighteenth century. Thick brick walls and wooden doors kept out not only heat but noise.

Amanda stuffed her cap and her fan into her pockets and stooped painfully to pick up the fallen leaflets. On their covers the words "Melrose Hall, Gateway to the Past" topped a trio of period portraits: Page Armstrong, the planter-patriot who built the house in 1751. Sally, his daughter, the belle of Tidewater Virginia. James Grant, a British officer, dazzling in scarlet coat and tartan kilt.

Inside the leaflet were early prints of Melrose and a sketch of the battle of Greensprings Farm, fought on a similar July day at a nearby river crossing. Amanda felt sorry for the British soldiers in their high collars and stiff coats, trying to conduct a proper battle in spite of the heat and opponents who hid in the underbrush like homicidal squirrels.

"Whew," said a voice behind her. "I feel like a steamed dumpling."

Amanda spun around. One of her fellow interpreters was walking down the staircase. "Carrie! It was so quiet I thought everyone was gone!"

"Not quite," Carrie replied. "I found two strays. Young sir and miss?"

A teenaged couple emerged from the shadows of the upper hall and shyly descended the stairs. Amanda had to look twice to figure out which of the scrawny, long-haired, T-shirted figures was the boy and which the girl. Inspiring, she thought, what maturity did for the male body. Not that she'd encountered any inspiring men recently. She stacked the leaflets back on the sideboard. Carrie unlocked and opened the door.

"Sorry," said the girl. "I wanted to hang out in Sally's room for a minute. I mean, she was cool, so pretty and everything."

"Not necessarily," Amanda explained, abandoning her role as character in favor of teacher. "Portrait painters in Sally's day spent the winters painting generic bodies and the summers going around from plantation to plantation adding faces. She may have had smallpox scars, or Page a lumpy red nose, or Grant knobbly knees and jug ears."

The boy looked out from beneath his hair like a small animal from the underbrush, warily. He urged the girl toward the bright light of the outside world. But she hung back, her lipsticked mouth a stubborn line. "It says in that leaflet Sally and Captain Grant fell in love, but he was killed at Greensprings Farm, like, a tragedy, you know."

"So they were automatically drop-dead gorgeous?" returned Amanda.

"I'm afraid," Carrie, mother-of-teens, said gently, "the story about Grant is probably just that, a story. Like the one about Sally turning down Thomas Jefferson's proposal. We know from Jefferson's diaries he hardly knew her. The 71st Highlanders were billeted at Melrose for ten days or so, yes. But Sally might not have been here then. We know from the regimental rolls Grant was here, but that doesn't mean he had the time of day for Sally. He probably spent his off hours polishing his shoe buckles or powdering his wig."

"But Grant ran up this staircase," the girl countered, "yelling at his troops, 'The Yankees are coming! The Yankees are coming!', and slicing the bannister with his sword."

"If he liked Sally so much, why the vandalism?" Amanda asked. "And there might have been some other officers upstairs, but the troops would have been outside. Probably downwind." She ran her hand along the silky wood of the bannister. Her fingertips detected several grooves, rounded by years of varnish. "Dr. Hewitt, the archaeologist, thinks these scars date from the Civil War."

The girl shrugged away the lecture in historical method. Taking the boy's arm, she paraded him out the door as though imagining them in long gown and knee breeches respectively.

"Thank you for coming!" Amanda shook her head. She liked a good romantic tragedy just fine. She liked a good they-lived-happily-ever-after romance even better. But at the end of the day a story was just a story.

Carrie locked the door. "You know, I'm really rather glad she didn't believe us. So few young people have any sense of romance these days."

"All my romantic illusions have been thoroughly trashed," Amanda told her.

"That's a shame. By the time you get to be my age you could use a few." Carried turned toward the kitchen wing of the house. "See you tomorrow."

"Stay cool." Laughing, Amanda started up the staircase.

Carrie had taken Amanda her wing last May, right after her ascent into graduate school, when she'd interviewed for the internship at the newly-restored mansion. Of course, getting the internship meant she was now not only a character interpreter but official caretaker, and had better go close the lined drapes in Sally's bedroom before the fabric of the bed hangings faded.

The original of Sally's portrait hung at the head of the stairs, picked out from the shadows by a ray of sunlight. In the glare Amanda could see the ridges of paint swirling one into the other. This painting was a custom job-- Sally really had been attractive. She'd had large blue eyes, blond curls, a soft, rounded chin that could have been either demure or stubborn, and an minuscule waist that implied frequent sinking spells. After marrying one of the Mason boys, whose father had signed the Declaration of Independence, she'd produced a pack of children and lived to a ripe old age. Maybe she got her jollies remembering an affair with an enemy officer, maybe not. Whatever, Amanda had a hard time seeing a tragic heroine in that banal face.

She didn't see herself in that face, either. Her eyes were brown, not blue. Her wavy brown hair was cut so short she had to conceal its ends beneath the period cap. Her chin, far from being soft, was cut as distinctly as her cheekbones. At five-nine she was probably taller than Sally, and, if the portrait was accurate, not as buxom. Although the cone-shaped bodice of an eighteenth-century dress acted like a primitive Wonder Bra, which is why Sally--and Amanda--wore a scarf called a fichu tucked into its low neckline.

Chin forward, Amanda turned into Sally's bedroom and creaked across the floorboards to the window. Beside it stood a small table holding the original of Captain Grant's portrait, a miniature of his face and red-coated torso. According to the picture, at least, he'd definitely had the chiseled features of a romantic hero. A white wig set off ironic dark eyes which seemed to know what people were saying about him behind his back. Amanda wondered where the picture had come from. It certainly could've inspired a few fantasies.

She squinted out of the window into the sun. At the end of the garden an archaeological team plugged away at the remains of the summer house, or gazebo, or pavilion, depending on what period of history you were considering. Just below the window strolled several plainly-dressed men and women, playing only a few of the slaves who'd watered Virginia's prosperity with their blood, sweat, and tears.

Behind them came Carrie, Wayne Chancellor at her side. He'd already taken off his coat and waistcoat and was making hangman's noose gestures with his knotted neckcloth. Wayne was as hearty and as heavy as his character Page Armstrong--like a Keebler elf on steroids--although at twenty-four he was only a year older than his "daughter" Amanda. For somebody who'd never made it out of adolescence socially, she thought, he played pompous middle-age to a tee. But then, his family had once owned Melrose. Blue blood will tell.

She knocked on the window. The departing figures looked up, smiled and waved. Wayne sketched a low bow. His gray wig slipped over his forehead. He peered upward from beneath its rim like a nearsighted sheep and blew kisses toward the window.

In your dreams. Amanda pulled the curtains shut and turned around. Her eyes still adjusted to the light, she tripped, lurched forward, caught her foot in the hem of her dress, and fell to her hands and knees. The table thunked to the carpet beside her. "Way to go, Grace!" she exclaimed.

She sensed a vibration in the floorboards, an echo of her fall, or of the tourist buses revving up and pulling out the main gate, or maybe even distant thunder.

Using the bedpost as support, Amanda hauled herself to her feet. She set the table upright and checked it for damage. Nothing, thank goodness. The miniature had landed safely on the rug. She set it on the table top, then turned to smooth down the edge of the carpet. It was already flat, its fringes lined up like little soldiers. She must have tripped over her own feet.

That was it. Time to change back into civilian clothes.

Her apartment at the end of the service wing of the house was a module of real time, complete with television, microwave, CD changer, computer, and Melrose's resident pet. The electronics were silent when Amanda opened the door, but the pet leaped down from the seat of the most comfortable chair and meowed. Like his namesake, the Marquis de Lafayette, he expected to be obeyed.

"Yes, Master, yes, Master," Amanda told him, and went into the kitchen. The whir of the can opener sent the gray and black tabby into ecstasies of affection. Entangled in both skirts and cat, Amanda got a reeking mound of meat by-products into a bowl and on the floor. Dumping her now that she'd served her purpose, Lafayette went to work on the food.

In the bedroom Amanda shed her costume, struggling with persnickety laces and hooks. If she'd learned nothing else from this job, she'd learned why eighteenth-century aristocrats had body servants. And yet in her own clothes, a loose T-shirt, shorts, and sandals, she felt oddly awkward, her gestures broader, her stride longer, her voice louder. She seemed to occupy more space. Weird, when the period dress contained so much more fabric.

Leaving Lafayette grooming his already sleek fur, Amanda picked up her clipboard and walked outside to begin her evening tour of inspection.

The sun hung just at the tops of the trees, casting stripes of shadow across the grass. At the foot of the lawn shimmered the James river, its far bank lost in a moist haze. Clouds massed on the horizon. Crows called from the parking lot, probably fighting over some pizza crusts.

Behind the house the formal gardens were still under reconstruction. The brick-walled terraces close to the house had been replanted with roses and other flowers, but the ones beyond the boxwood allee were still overgrown, waiting for the touch of the landscape archaeologist and the banker both.

Amanda craned her neck over the boxwood. The archaeologists were standing around like onlookers at an accident. Maybe somebody'd been bitten by a snake. She crunched off down the path toward them.

The summerhouse had once been surrounded by an artifical wilderness, trees and shrubberies carefully planted to look "natural". Now it was natural with an attitude. The archaeologists had waded into the tangle of blackberry bushes with machetes, and only reached for their shovels a week ago. Underbrush and a few small trees hemmed in the site. Leaves of everything up to and including poison ivy tossed in fitful gusts of wind. Insects hummed.

Bill Hewitt looked like a praying mantis kneeling by the trench cut into the pale dirt. The hairs of his moustache trembled as he scraped delicately away with a spoon. A couple of his gofers stood by, holding trowels, brushes, and plastic artifact bags. The rest of the crew, volunteer students, were so quiet Amanda could hear them breathing.

She edged her way through the dirty and sunburned backs, for once failing to appreciate those that were male. "What is it?"

Hewitt glanced up. "Ah, Miss Witham. You're just in time. Take a look. Very interesting."

He drew back. From the mottled dirt at the bottom of trench emerged a regular series of brown ridges. Roots, Amanda thought, and then, No. Bones. Human bones.

Another chill trickled down her spine as she leaned forward over the grave.

Amanda realized she was looking at a rib cage, an upthrust shoulder at one end and a similarly upward-curved pelvic bone at the other. The rest of the skeleton was still buried. It looked like the body had been rolled into an unevenly-dug hole, head, hands, and feet flopping into the deeper ends. Someone sure hadn't had any respect for the dead....

Well, at least that someone had buried him. Her. If not, the bones would've been disturbed by scavenging animals. What a way to go. Amanda straightened and waved away a gnat that was trying to fly up her nose.

"...drainage here," Hewitt was saying. "Dry soil. Preserved the bones. And hopefully clothing or personal effects to date them by."

"Would you like me to call the police?" Amanda asked. "Or are the bones old enough to be out of their jurisdiction?"

"We'll notify them, of course. But these bones are very old. It's an archaeological matter, not a judicial one. Other than the usual legalities of digging up human remains."

One of Hewitt's assistants said, "I bet this body dates from after 1751, when Melrose was built."

"This type of landscape gardening," Amanda offered, "the formal terraces and little recreational buildings, was really trendy in the 1770's."

Hewitt stood up, rubbing particles of mud from his hands. "We'll cover this up with a sheet of plastic tonight. Get back out here bright and early tomorrow. Get the entire body uncovered. It'll have to be moved, with the reconstruction of the summerhouse and everything. Identification, that's the tricky part, legally and otherwise. Might have to call in the Smithsonian."

"What if," one of the students asked, "the rest of the body isn't in there? What if it was dismembered or something?"

"We're scientists. Leave the sensationalism for the tabloids." Hewitt's black eyes shot the girl a withering glance. She withered. "Let's get the plastic spread out and staked down. Move."

Amanda wondered how she should enter this on her daily summary--under "associated features"? But it was Hewitt's responsibility to make a formal report, she only had to note the body's existence. As an artifact, not as a person. With a grimace of sympathy for the unknown deceased she worked her way back through the group of students and headed toward the house.

The sun set, leaving a thin, greenish twilight. Clouds rose halfway up the western sky. A glowing quarter moon, half a disc, hung high overhead. Each of Melrose's windows gleamed faintly, as though interested in the scene in the garden.

The poor guy, if it was a guy, had probably been stuffed into his makeshift grave late at night. Amanda thought of Scarlett O'Hara shooting the Yankee soldier and burying him in her back yard. No telling how many real-life bodies were lying in odd corners of the Virginia countryside. There'd been enough battles over the years to produce an army of skeletons.

Amanda locked the outer door behind her and turned on the exterior floodlights. She thought of Robert Frost's poem, where the skeleton of the murdered man stands outside the door, chalky fingers scratching chalky skull.... "That's what I get for cramming English," she said to Lafayette, who was waiting by the cat flap in the apartment door. He tilted his head to the side. If he'd had eyebrows, he would've arched them.

She really was hearing thunder now, a mutter rising and falling beneath the thump of her own feet. She shut the door to her apartment and set the alarm system. As she turned toward the kitchen the phone rang. "Melrose Hall, Amanda Witham."

"Amanda!" exclaimed Wayne's deep voice. "I just heard about the body!"

"That was fast."

"Bill Hewitt's having dinner with Mother and me tonight--you know, about the grant for the landscaping--but he called to say they'd found a body behind the summerhouse and he'd be late. Did you see it? Is it really gross?"

"No way," Amanda replied, and added to herself, thanks, the literary references were enough. "It's nothing but bones."

"Are you scared? You want me to come out there and keep you company?"

Like she didn't know what he meant by that? "You're living a couple of blocks from Bruton Parish Church and its cemetery," she told him. "Are you scared?"

"Those are legitimate bodies. Buried will full rites and all that."

"So?"

"So the ones that aren't buried properly get kind of restless...."

"Thanks for thinking of me, Wayne. But everything's okay."

"Well, if you're sure... Coming, Mother! I'll see my little girl tomorrow, then, okay, Sally?"

"Good night, Wayne." Making a face, Amanda hung up the phone.

The body in the back yard would be a great excuse to ask a guy over, if she knew any guys more appealing than Wayne. Not that Wayne was repulsive. He was a big, lovable, clumsy puppy who could use a semester at obedience school. His family's wealth made him one of Virginia's most eligible bachelors, but it wasn't his immaturity that was going to keep him one. It was his mother.

A shame the summerhouse was gone long before Cynthia parked her broom at Melrose. The thought of her sipping tea, pinkie extended, a few paces from a positively indecent dead body would've made Amanda grin with glee if she wasn't also thinking of that body as a living, feeling human being who'd probably met a gruesome end.

She opened the windows in her kitchen, living room, and bedroom, and switched on the ceiling fans. The approaching storm sent a cool if damp and musty breeze before it, stirring the turgid air. Lafayette arranged himself on the sill of the living room window, his tail draped artistically over the computer on the desk below.

Amanda popped a frozen lasagna dinner into the microwave and threw together a salad. Tonight she'd definitely get some work done. That was the reason for this job, after all, over and beyond its basic appeal. She was getting an apartment, spending money, and good experience for her resume while she wrote her thesis. She liked these long, quiet, solitary evenings. She enjoyed being on her own. Really.

Thunder grumbled closer. A few raindrops plopped onto the roof. The breeze fluttered Lafayette's fur. Amanda was cleaning up when Lafayette woke suddenly from his doze and looked out the window, nose twitching, ears pricked.

A rabbit? Amanda asked herself. A deer? The kitchen garden attracted all sorts of wildlife....

Every hair on Lafayette's body shot upright. He leaped from the windowsill, scattered the papers on the desk, and dived beneath the couch leavning only his bottle brush of a tail exposed.

The nape of Amanda's neck prickled. She turned off the lights and looked out each window in turn. Beyond the floodlit halo surrounding the house the night was pitch black. She might as well have been standing on a stage trying to check out the audience.

Maybe someone was out there. One of Hewitt's students, playing a prank on her. Or someone with more sinister motives. The furnishings of the house included some choice artifacts. If anyone tried to get inside, though, the alarms would raise the dead....

The alarms would call the police, Amanda corrected. She closed the thick wooden slats of the venetian blinds and turned the lights back on. Then she punched the number of the other two caretakers, an elderly couple who lived in a small house where the driveway met the main road, a good quarter of a mile from the Hall itself.

"No," Mrs. Benedetto answered Amanda's question. "We haven't opened the gates for a living soul. Someone could have climbed the fence, though."

"You think?" Amanda could hear every word of the sitcom on the Benedetto's television. A brass band could have marched up the drive and they wouldn't have noticed.

"Would you like us to call the security service, dear?"

"No--no problem. Sorry to have bothered you."

Rain pattered down outside, sounding like gravel slipping and sliding beneath stumbling feet. Lightning flashed. Amanda peered around the edge of the window blind, waiting for the next bolt. There! In the sudden brilliance she could see every tree, every brick, starkly defined all the way to the eaves of the forest. Nothing and no one was outside.

Amanda blinked away the after-image of garden terraces and boxwood allee. Wearing stays, the eighteenth-century corset, all day had cut off the blood flow to her brain. Was she ever out of it. With an aggravated snort, she put on a classical CD and sat down at the desk. No computer tonight, not with the approaching storm. She'd work on her outline....

The door that led into the rest of the house rattled in its frame and the cat flap shivered. Amanda stared at it. Air pressure from the storm. No one could have opened an outside door into the Hall. Even someone with a key would have set off the alarms. And she could see the alarm panel from where she sat, green lights steady, all systems go.

The room disappeared in a blast of white light that was gone as quickly as it had appeared. The music stopped in mid-phrase. Amanda sat goggling blindly into total darkness as thunder exploded in her head. Shit! Lightning had taken out a nearby transformer. A good thing she hadn't turned on the computer. A good thing she had a flashlight. Swallowing her heart, she rose from her chair and groped across the room.

The flashlight was in the kitchen cabinet. She flicked it on and waved the circle of light around the room. Lafayette had subtracted his tail and was completely hidden. Raindrops poured over the roof, slowed, and stopped. A cold wind sent the blinds knocking against the window frames.

If someone was snooping around the house, they now had an engraved invitation to come inside. The doors were locked, yes, but it would be easy enough to break a window. Her presence wouldn't stop a thief from taking the silver tea service in the dining room, or a vandal from trashing the crystal wineglasses in the library, but she was supposed to be keeping an eye on the place even so.

Amanda opened the door of her apartment and listened. A few stray plunks were raindrops outside. The wind was a sigh in the distance. The house was so utterly silent hear ears rang, like she was listening to a seashell, compartment after compartment filled with dank air....

No. Wait. From somewhere in the house came a faint clatter. Something had fallen over. Something had been knocked over. Great.

She glanced back at the sofa. A pair of disgruntled golden eyes caught the light. "Thank you for your support," she whispered. The cat's eyes vanished.

No way she was going to call for backup until she'd scoped out the situation. Tucking the telephone into the pocket of her shorts, she tiptoed into the hallway. She took a step, stopped, and listened. Nothing. No silver clashing, no glass breaking. She took a few more steps and arrived at the door leading from the service wing into the rest of the house. Several of the doors in the Hall squeaked. She couldn't remember if this was one of them.

Turning off the flashlight and holding her breath, she eased the door open. It went quietly. On the other side was the passage that led between the library and the parlor. The darkness was so thick Amanda felt as though she could have scooped it up in handfuls. Feeling her way, she inched toward the entrance hall. Was that a scraping sound? She couldn't tell whether it came from above her head or in front of her.

The doors into the parlor and library were shut, just as she'd left them. She listened at each one. Nothing.

With a tiny bump that sounded loud as an explosion she walked into the door leading into the entrance hall. She laid her ear against the wood. Silence. No wind, no rain, no falling objects, just the all-encompassing silence of the grave.

Get a grip! Amanda ordered herself, and set her hand on the doorknob.

Then she heard the breathing. Slow, slightly uneven breaths, like those of somebody old or sick. Or somebody trying to be very, very quiet.

Amanda waited a moment, willing herself to breathe. Most of her friends had jobs in nice bright office buildings. But no, she had to shut herself up in a dark old house with someone--something....

So look already, and then go for 911. Slowly, carefully, she turned the knob and opened the door a fraction of an inch. Cold air flooded through the opening, raising gooseflesh on her body. From her vantage point she could see almost the entire entrance hall. If anyone was there he was standing in the dark.

But no, it wasn't dark. The windows on either side of the front door were rectangles of very pale, very faint luminescence. The clouds must be lifting outside. And yet that wasn't the light that gleamed on the paneling and picked out the reds and golds of the Turkey carpet. A fragile glow radiated from the foot of the staircase, the one spot Amanda couldn't see. What the...?

She lifted the flashlight--it was the size of a policeman's nightstick, and almost as heavy--but didn't turn it on. Pushing the door open, she stepped into the cold. She picked up one foot and put it down. She picked up the other and put it down. The balusters made vertical lines against the cloud of silvery light. Not a flashlight, not a candle....

Amanda balanced on the balls of her feet, ready to run, ready to swing her makeshift weapon. She closed her eyes a moment, then opened them again.

The glow darkened and solidified. It was the size of a human being. It was shaped like a human being, head, body, legs. And yet Amanda could still see the edges of the steps indistinctly through its--through his--form. A warm sigh dissipated the chill in the room, and she smelled whiskey.

Good God. She stepped back, flat-footed, and lowered the flashlight.

He sat on the fourth step from the bottom, his legs with their checkered stockings splayed, his green and blue kilt draped over his knees. His coat shone scarlet and his waistcoat white, as though lit from within. Across his lap he held an empty scabbard.

It had to be a trick. A projection, special effects--Stephen Spielberg had dropped by to test out some equipment.... The electricity's off, Amanda reminded herself.

The soldier looked up from the scabbard, and his eyes met hers.

This guy has had a bad day.

His eyes were a smoky blue-grey, his knotted brows dark, his expression that of a kid facing an algebra test. Reddish-brown hair fell over his forehead. His face was translucent, carved by light against darkness. Amanda recognized that face. She'd seen it over and over again, in paint and print. Captain James Grant, late--very late--of His Majesty's 71st Highlanders.

This guy has had a bad couple of centuries.

Maybe if she turned the flashlight on him he'd vanish. But she could see him just fine, more than fine.... Again she closed her eyes. She counted to five, watching the pixels of static behind her lids. When she opened them he was still there. And he was still looking at her.

His lips moved. He croaked. Frowning, he grimaced and tried again. His voice was a wisp of velvet. "Have you seen my sword, then, lass?"

Her voice sounded like a crow's. "Ah--no, I haven't. Sorry."

"Taken by the enemy, I'll be bound. Scoundrels. Not fit to deal with a gentleman."

Like she was going to argue with him?

Slowly his brows smoothed. His eyes started at the top of Amanda's head, worked their way down to her toes, and moved up again. One corner of his mouth turned upward. "I do beg your pardon, madam. I seem to have interrupted you at your toilet. If you would care to complete your dress...."

"No problem. Er...." Her interpreter's training kicked in. "I don't believe we've been introduced."

He tried to stand and sank back again. "I find myself begging your indulgence again, madam. I am James Grant of Dundreggan, at your service."

"Amanda Witham of Chicago. At yours, I guess." This isn't happening. I am not standing here making conversation with a ghost.

"And this is Melrose Hall, is it not, in His Majesty's colony of Virginia?"

"It's Melrose, yeah. Yes."

"In faith, the battle must have been particularly fierce, I am--fatigued."

No kidding.

His lashes fell over his eyes. With a groan he slumped back over the empty scabbard. The pale glow around him faded, draining the colors in his uniform.

Amanda took a step toward him. Light flooded in the front windows and the alarm system began to whoop. Her entire body convulsed.

No one was there. The hall was lit only by the shine of the floodlights outside. The staircase rose blankly toward the second floor. Amanda galloped back down the corridors to her apartment, slamming doors behind her.

All the lights were on in her living room and kitchen. She threw herself at the control panel and killed the deafening screech of the alarm. The sudden silence made her ears ring.

No, that was the phone ringing. First the Benedettos, then the police. No, no, Amanda explained, lightning struck a transformer, and when the power came back on it started the alarm, no, everything's all right, thank you anyway.

She hung up the telephone. Her legs wobbled and her head spun. She staggered to the couch and plopped down.

She hadn't seen him. She'd imagined him. He'd been a trick of the light--of the darkness.... It hadn't happened. It couldn't have happened.

Lafayette oozed out from beneath the couch and looked accusingly up at her. She looked right back at him. "He's the body in the garden, isn't he? You heard him coming, from the summerhouse back to the staircase he remembered."

The cat didn't blink.

"But what the hell is James Grant, of all people, doing in a hole in the ground in Melrose's garden?"

The cat stretched and yawned.

"I did see him, didn't I? I haven't lost it. I'm not nuts. I saw him." Amanda lay back against the throw pillow, staring upward at the ceiling. She saw a scarlet coat, an empty scabbard, and a fall of reddish-brown hair above a puzzled face. She heard a cultured baritone saying, I do beg your pardon....

He'd been there. She'd seen him. And no way did he have knobbly knees and jug ears.

Amanda looked down at Lafayette. "Like you'd make a believable witness? Yeah, right."

He sat down and started to wash his face, committing himself to nothing.

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