Authors: J A Whiting
opyright 2016 J.A
Cover copyright 2016 Signifer Book Design
Formatting by Signifer Book Design
Proofreading by Donna Rich
his book is
a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, or incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to locales, actual events, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from J. A. Whiting.
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For the loved ones who watch over us
arolin Coffin leaned back
against her front door and yawned. Her little mixed breed dog sat beside her on the front landing of the house pressing his body against her arm. She grinned at him. “You can lie down on the step, you know. I’d do the same thing, but people driving by might think something was wrong with me if I fell asleep in front of my own house.”
Although Lin and the dog had been up since 6am, she was pretty sure he’d slept at least half of the day while she had been out with her boyfriend, Jeff. Her leg muscles felt sore from their thirty-mile bike ride around the island of Nantucket. They’d stopped for lunch at Surfside beach and spent two hours bobbing in the ocean swells and body-surfing in the waves. When they returned to Lin’s house, they took the friendly dog on a two-hour walk on some trails in a wooded section of the island.
Lin absent-mindedly fiddled with the gold pendant around her neck as she pictured her handsome boyfriend. The necklace was once owned by her ancestor, Emily Witchard Coffin and it was found in her cousin Viv’s storage shed hidden there hundreds of years ago by Emily’s husband, Sebastian, an early settler of Nantucket.
In the center of the pendant was a white-gold horseshoe which tilted slightly to one side. The design of the horseshoe could be seen in the chimney bricks of several old houses on the island and was intended to ward off witches and evil spells. Sebastian and Emily Coffin used the symbol on their own chimney to draw people who had been accused of witchcraft to their home in order to give them a safe place to stay as they settled on the island.
Viv gave Emily Coffin’s horseshoe necklace to Lin because she and Emily shared the same skill, Lin and her ancestor could both see ghosts.
The dog yawned and Lin chuckled. “I guess those little legs of yours have to work a lot harder than mine when we go on walks.”
The heat of the August day was starting to fade and a refreshing breeze coming off the sea cooled Lin’s skin. She shifted on the cement step and her lower back gave a twinge. “I’m going to be sore tomorrow.” Lin shook her head thinking about the heavy work that was planned for the next day with Leonard, her landscaping partner.
She heard his truck approaching and she turned her head and waved. When the man pulled up to the curb, the dog’s little stump of a tail jiggled back and forth and he let out a soft woof of welcome.
Lin opened the passenger side door of the truck and Nicky leaped inside.
“You bringin’ that cur with you again?” Leonard tried to be gruff, but he couldn’t stifle a grin as the small, lovable creature wiggled and attempted to lick the man’s face. “Okay, okay.” He reached down and scratched the dog’s ears. Leonard was tall, slim, and fit and although he had plenty of gray mixed in with his brown hair, Lin couldn’t believe it when she found out that he was in his early sixties.
“You look beat, Coffin.” Leonard started the truck and pulled away from the house.
“That’s because I am.” Lin smiled as they sped along. She looked out the window at the pretty gray-shingled cottages lining the road, the people riding bikes on the bike paths that wound around the island, and families, friends, and couples strolling along the sidewalks heading into town. A contented sigh slipped from her throat.
Lin and Leonard had recently joined forces and started a new landscaping business together. Although the two got along well and had become friends, things hadn’t started out that way. When Lin first met the man, he was in a bad way, and she suspected him as the killer in a murder that had occurred early in the summer.
Leonard had been stabbed by the real perpetrator when he went to Lin’s house to warn her. Guilty and ashamed for dismissing him as a creep, Lin visited him in the hospital and got to know him. Leonard had lost his wife many years ago in a tragic accident and every summer around the anniversary of her death, he fell into depression, drinking, not eating right, and letting personal hygiene fall by the wayside. Each year, with a mighty struggle, he’d managed to pull himself out of the funk.
From the corner of her eye, Lin peeked at Leonard, clean-shaven and neatly dressed in a collared shirt and chinos, and she smiled. He’d made it out of his grief for another year.
Nicky sat on Lin’s lap with his nose reaching up to the two-inch opening in the window. She turned to her business partner. “So what’s this place like?”
Leonard turned the truck onto the road that would take them to the mid-island property that they’d been contracted to landscape. “It’s a pretty place, old. The new owners wanted a family room off the back of the house. The construction just finished last week so now they want the yard cleaned up and taken care of. It’s the usual post-construction mess. Mounds of soil, grass ripped up. We’ll need one of those small front loaders to move the dirt around. I ordered one. It was supposed to be dropped off this afternoon.”
Lin’s eyes twinkled. “Ohhh. A mini front loader?” She rubbed her hands together. “I’ve always wanted to operate one of those.”
“Well, you’re about to get your wish.” Leonard turned the truck onto a dirt lane and the vehicle bumped over the uneven surface jostling its occupants. Rounding a bend in the long driveway and emerging from the grove of woods, the sprawling farmhouse-style home came into view.
“Wow, it’s beautiful.” Lin leaned forward in the passenger seat and stared through the windshield. “When was it built?”
“Eighteen hundreds. It’s been well-taken care of.” Leonard eased the truck to a stop in front of a garage to the right of the house. The garage had been built in the style of an old barn.
Lin, Leonard, and Nicky stepped out of the truck and headed for the front door.
“I love this place.” Lin looked all around. “It’s such a great house.”
The two climbed the steps to the front porch and rang the bell. No one answered. “I told the owners we’d be coming by. They said they probably wouldn’t be here. They’re not around much.” Leonard left the porch. “Let’s go out back.”
The rear of the house was exactly as Leonard had described it. A mess.
“Ugh.” Lin groaned as she stood behind the new family room addition and turned in a small circle looking over the yard. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.” Mounds of soil stood like a small mountain range on one side of the yard. The main section of the space looked like a tractor, or two, had scraped up every blade of grass and dumped dirt and mud in its place. “I think we better bring in some help.”
“I’m on it. I talked to Dave and Remy about working with us. They’re onboard.”
“Thank heavens.” Lin exhaled in relief. Dave and Remy were a husband-wife team in their forties who had been contracting with Lin and Leonard to help out on new projects. The couple were easy to get along with and weren’t afraid of hard work.
Lin had seen the plans for the yard and she and Leonard walked around discussing what had to be done and what should be tackled first as Nicky ran from side to side, his nose to the ground sniffing at all the new scents.
A rumbling sound could be heard in front of the house. “Must be the front loader.”
“Tomorrow’s my lucky day.” Lin grinned at Leonard. “You might not get to drive it at all, you know.”
Leonard walked around to the front of the house to meet the delivery driver while Lin remained in the yard. She took a notebook out of her bag and wrote down some notes about which landscaping tasks should be completed first and what they’d need to bring to work tomorrow. Nicky continued his running and sniffing.
Lin moved towards the side property line and startled.
Between the branches and foliage she could make out a man standing in his yard staring over at Lin. She was about to lift her hand in a greeting when the person did an abrupt about-face and walked away. Lin frowned and gave a slight shrug wondering about the man’s unfriendly manner. She thought maybe he was embarrassed to have been caught watching her and pretended not to see her.
The sun was low in the sky and the yard was darkening. A chilly breeze touched Lin’s skin and made her shiver. “Nick?” The dog had run behind one of the dirt mounds. Lin glanced towards the front of the house wondering what was taking Leonard so long. Feeling uneasy and not understanding why, she forced herself to complete her inspection of the yard.
Acres of woods enclosed the garden area at the back of the property. Lin usually liked the feeling of quiet and privacy when a yard was ringed by trees. The woods provided a nice backdrop to a space that was landscaped with natural plants and flowers which was what the new owners of the farmhouse had requested. Lin had looked forward to working on the project, but something was pricking at her. She let out a long breath, annoyed with her feelings of uneasiness, and moved her gaze along the periphery of the yard, not really knowing what she expected to see. Shrugging a shoulder, she turned abruptly and walked back towards the house.
Lin noticed she hadn’t seen the dog for a while. “Nick?”
She heard a whine from behind one of the dirt piles and headed in that direction. “What are you doing, Nicky?” A sudden rush of coldness flooded her core and she stopped in her tracks.
The dog whined again from behind the mounds of soil.
Lin flicked her eyes to the side of the house hoping to see Leonard returning, but he was still out front. She called to her dog and when he didn’t appear, a flash of unease ran down her back.
What’s wrong with me?
She straightened and moved to the other side of the dirt hills.
Lin let out a sigh of relief when she spotted the dog busily digging in the dirt. “Come on, Nick. It’s time to go.”
The dog lifted his head, holding something in his mouth.
“What have you got there?” She stepped closer. “Did you find a bone?” She chuckled. “Well, some dog is not going to be happy with you for stealing his bone.”
Nicky dropped the object and whined. He stared at Lin.
A whoosh of cold air engulfed her. She inched closer to the dog and bent down, reaching for the thing that the little animal had found. Lin lifted the good-sized, whitish-gray bone and turned it over in her hands. At first, her fingers felt like they were touching ice, and then it seemed like tiny sparks were biting into her hand. Her heart sank.
Lin flicked her eyes to the edge of the yard.
The ghost of Emily Witchard Coffin stood staring at her … and the bone.