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by Connie Bailey
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
Description: Expecting another run-of-the-mill salvage job, Bo Andressen and his crew arrive at a crumbling castle in Wales and walk into a mystery of murder, hidden treasure, and greed with roots in the far past. In cooperating with the local law enforcement, Bo agrees to bring in a psychic, hoping to debunk rumors that the castle is haunted. However, paranormal liaison Tristan Lambert discovers that ghosts are only one suspected danger. Bo doesn't believe in ghosts, but Tristan is convinced they're dealing with a revenant--a hostile spirit that feeds on sexual energy and will stop at nothing, including possession and coercion, to get it. The arrival of the castle's owner, Sir Rhys Turcotte, with his secretary--who happens to be Bo's ex-lover--complicates an already dangerous situation. Unwittingly bound together by an evil spell, Bo and Tristan seek to unmask the revenant's earthly allies... before more people become victims to an ancient evil seeking rebirth.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, 2010 2010
eBookwise Release Date: May 2010
10 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [267 KB]
Reading time: 164-230 min.
This is a rich novel, much richer than the average ghost story, brimming with excitement, sexual energy, and spirituality. Its spirit realm is described in vivid detail. The ending is hard-won, with several sad losses along the way. One in particular drew a tear from my eye ... but it all builds to a stunning conclusion. by ErinSchmidt @ Rainbow Reviews
Cillian stepped out of the small rowboat into the cold nighttime waters around the islet of Ynys Gwarchodwr. Pulling the light craft up onto the rocky shore, the young Welshman staggered up the steep incline, cursing under his breath. At least it wasn't far to Castle Guard; the medieval pile of stone took up most of the small island it crouched on. Across the sound, the young man could see the paltry lights of the village of Drws Cefnforoedd on the mainland. Deliberately, Cillian hawked phlegm and spat in the direction of the home he couldn't wait to leave. This clandestine meeting with his lover was the most exciting thing that had happened to him in his eighteen years on Earth, and he went eagerly through the dark fortress gate.
He moved swiftly across the bailey and into the main building until his foot caught on a piece of loose masonry in the great hall and he went sprawling. Calling on the saints to witness the malicious intent of the obstacle that had tripped him, Cillian made sure that the bottle Morgan had procured for him wasn't broken. He rose to his knees, dug a disposable lighter from the pocket of his worn jeans, and flicked it. The tiny flame and the scant moonlight that found its way through gaps in the ceiling did little to dispel the oppressive gloom of nine centuries and thousands of tons of ancient stone. Opening the bottle, Cillian tried drowning his nervousness over the trysting place in a few inches of whiskey, but his anxiety refused to die--for a few good reasons.
Chief among them was the indisputable fact that Cillian was trespassing. The island and fortress of Caer Gwarchod belonged to Lord Turcotte, and though the peer lived in London, Cillian knew the man wouldn't take kindly to prowlers on his property, whatever their purpose. Cillian didn't know the lord personally--not the likes of him--but Turcotte's reputation for being a hard and unforgiving man was well-known in the village. If Cillian were caught here, he didn't think that even his lover's high position in the community would afford him any mercy.
"Sod Lord Turcotte and all his ancestors," Cillian shouted with drunken bravado as the lighter grew too hot to hold. "Sod the whole lot of bleedin' toffee-nosed gits thinkin' they're better than me."
Giggling at his daring, the young man took another drink. Cillian's lover, Sean, didn't like it when he drank, but damned if he would wait in this haunted place without a drop of something to stiffen his spine. He didn't believe in ghosts as a general rule, but here in the old castle after dark, it was hard not to imagine bloodthirsty ghoulies and goblins in every corner. Cillian took another pull at the bottle and willed his man to hurry. Thinking of Sean and what they'd be doing in a little while made Cillian's half-a-hard-on pulse eagerly.
Setting the whiskey aside, he slipped a hand down his flat belly and under his waistband. Eyes half-closed, he fondled himself idly, lulled by the rhythmic crash of the surf against the rocks. He was starting to get serious about having a wank when an odd noise stopped him in mid-stroke. The high-pitched ringing sound, like a fingertip rubbed lightly along the rim of a crystal wine glass, came from the direction of the sweeping double staircase, but Cillian could see nothing in the welter of deep shadows.
It occurred to the young man that his lover might have arrived before him and was watching him toss off. "Sean?" he called softly. "Is that you, love?"
Behind Cillian, the grainy moonlight began to thicken. Minute motes of argent radiance charged by some arcane force flew together like iron filings in a magnetic field, forming a column of shimmering silver. Cillian felt a sudden chill on the back of his neck and turned to look behind him. Leaping to his feet, he stared, wide-eyed, as the swarming sparks of light coalesced into the shape of a man. The ghost--for what else could it be--fixed its pale gaze on the young man. The strong, aquiline features of the softly glowing face looked tantalizingly familiar to Cillian, but he was too stunned to try to identify the phantom. His astonishment quickly metastasized to rank fear as the spectral stranger reached out a hand to curse him... or worse. The nameless dread of being touched by the thing was instantaneous and overwhelming.
"G-get away from me!" Cillian stammered as he spun away from the ghost and started to run.
The apparition swooped forward, snaking its arm around the young man's neck before Cillian had taken two steps. Cillian was yanked back and then up, his feet dangling several inches above the ground as his breath was choked off. He struggled, but his flailing limbs met nothing but air. Only the arm that held him aloft and the cold lips pressed to his throat seemed to have any substance, but he felt the ghost behind him gain solidity with each passing moment until he was held fast against a broad chest by two muscular arms. Cillian ceased thrashing and went limp as he struggled to drag breath into his burning lungs. Instantly, the pressure on his windpipe eased, and he was lowered until he could stand. As he was turned to face his captor, Cillian closed his eyes, shivering from terror and the wintry chill that the spirit exuded.
"Whuh-what do yuh-you wuh-wuh-want?" he said through chattering teeth.
The ghost made no answer, reveling in the rising spiral of its victim's horror, relishing the mortal's blind fear of an unknown fate. Yes, the fear was good, sharp and intoxicating as a shot of whiskey. However, there were sweeter delights to be sampled when the victim's terror had provided enough sustenance to make the phantom whole. The fuel provided by strong emotions was adequate sustenance, but it was plain bread and water compared to the feast of energy produced by human sexual activity. Licking at the tears that flowed down Cillian's smooth cheeks, the specter savored them like an exotic liqueur. The young man cried out and fought back as his pants were shoved down his hips, but the ghost held him as tightly as a starfish on a mollusk until all struggling ceased.
When Cillian went still, the apparition grasped the young man's wilted shaft and stroked it firmly. Cillian's cock remained stubbornly limp, and a dark smile twisted the ghost's translucent features. When he was stronger, he would be able to control humans without much more than a thought, but for now he would have to do it the slow way.
Cillian squirmed as a clammy finger crept along his crack, but froze again as the icy digit pushed into him. Without subtlety or finesse, the phantom penetrated the hot sheath of flesh and found the bump in the front wall. Cillian whined in protest as the stimulation took effect. Diaphanous fingers tightened around his rising cock and pumped insistently. As the apparition skillfully manipulated him to release, Cillian prayed he had fallen asleep and into a nightmare. He promised the God that he'd only last month decided didn't exist that he would never sin again if he could just wake up with naught worse than a hangover. Unfortunately for Cillian, the only supernatural power in the room had no love for him--only for the essences that his body produced, essences that would give the ghost life... of a sort.
Like a cow being milked, Cillian spurted a healthy amount of cum into the phantom's fist. The pale stream evaporated in mid-air, disappearing completely even as it broke into fat droplets. The ghost sighed and Cillian felt the puff of a weak breath against his cheek. The faint exhalation, redolent of carrion and seawater, frightened Cillian more than anything that had happened thus far. Shaking off his lassitude, he struggled against the phantom that grew stronger with each passing moment. He might as well have tried to move one of the thick columns that held up what was left of the roof. The energy that flowed into the specter surged as the creature absorbed the endorphins the young man secreted. Spiked with adrenaline, the essence of the chemicals spread quickly through the apparition, vitalizing and thickening the wispy stuff of which it was composed until all parts of it were as solid as the arms.
With a hiss, the phantom turned its victim again, pressing close to Cillian's back. The young man cringed away from an unmistakably male organ, aroused and of impressive proportions. The shaft was as cold as the rest of the ghost and Cillian's mind finally fled, refusing to accept what was happening. He was immediately jarred back to harsh reality as he was breached. Without warning or mercy, his attacker drove into him to the hilt, tearing delicate tissues. Blood steamed in the frigid air as it trickled down Cillian's thigh only to vanish before it could drip to the floor.
"Ahhhhh, virgin blood," the ghost whispered.
"I told you he was untried. I've not led him that far down the path of corruption."
Cillian's eyes snapped open as someone walked from the shadows by the stairs, and relief rinsed through the young man at the sound of his man's voice. "Sean," the young man choked out. "Help me."
"Shhh, Cillie," the man said, stopping in front of his suffering lover. "You're being given a great honor. Your life force will allow the great lord who built this castle to rule it once again."
"Help me, Sean," Cillian pleaded, ignoring the words that made no sense to him.
"Of course," the man said, coming closer. Cillian sobbed harder when his lover knelt and kissed his cock. "Hush now, lad. You'll be coming many, many times tonight, and each time his lordship will grow stronger. You'll be drained, of course, but that can't be helped, and there are a lot more strong young men out there. When I've brought enough of them to this castle, the real Lord of Gwarchodwr will return, as potent as he was before he went to the Holy Land."
Cillian screamed as the ghost entered him again. Warm lips closed around Cillian's resurrected erection as the ghost basked in the mortal's horror of the ravishing. The young man's exhilarating fear was laced with the pain of his lover's betrayal, like a mouthful of dark and bitter Arabian coffee. The phantom drank it all in, his power swelling exponentially. "You may go," he told his minion.
"But I can help you, my lord," the man said in surprise.
"You have served me well, but I need no help in this. Go, I tell you, until I bid you return."
Sean obeyed resentfully even as he rejoiced to hear his master's voice so strong and commanding. He had been looking forward to watching cocky young Cillian broken and humbled by the phantom's lust, but even more, he longed to see the expressions on the sheep-like faces of the townsfolk when Sir Alun came into his own again. Sean was respected; people considered him an upstanding, decent man and essential to the community, but he was a fixture they took for granted. That would change when his role as the instrument of Sir Alun's return was revealed. Then they would see what lay beneath his everyday mask, and they would bow before him.
It was only a matter of days before the ancient ritual would be complete and the conjury could be worked. Then the villagers would know what power had slept unsuspected in their midst for all these years. Until then, he must keep his eyes on the goal and ignore small disappointments until the time of his triumph arrived. He never doubted that the scheme would succeed. All that the spell required was suitable donors, and Sean would supply them. He never thought that he was betraying his own kind; he was not one of the sheep. He was a wolf, and a wolf does not pity the prey.
* * * *
"Have we reached an agreement, Sir Rhys?"
Lord Turcotte yawned. "It would seem so, Mr. Red Dog. Once Mr. Andressen signs the contract you're holding, Red Recovery can begin work on the castle."
"My partner will be glad to hear that," Sean "Ardie" Red Dog said, eager to leave his host's condescending presence. With a nod that could be interpreted as a gesture of respect, he rose from the leather wing chair and showed himself out. Once he was in the hall, he flipped open his cell phone and stabbed the top number.
"Bo? Hey, pard--stop your grinnin' and drop your linen. We're in." He paused to listen to his partner's reply. "Hey, have I ever let you down? You sure got that right. Now get your fine ass to Wales and bring the boys. We've got a treasure to dig up."
* * * *
"Well, this is just dandy," Bo Andressen said, crushing his paper coffee cup and tossing it accurately at a bin with the legend cadw Drws Cefnforoedd cryno. "I can't get onto my own job site. I can't get a decent cup of coffee. I can't even read the trash cans to be sure that's what they are. Gryf?"
"It can't be helped, boss," Hywel Gryffudd answered. "And that is indeed a rubbish bin. The sign says, 'Keep Oceandoor Tidy'. That's a translation of the town's name. You see, the people that settled here in...."
"Can't be helped?" Bo interrupted in exasperation. "Ardie wouldn't say that."
"As big a waste of my breath as it is, I'll point out the very obvious fact that Gryf is not Ardie," James Weir said. "You sent Ardie on a mission, remember?"
With your usual lack of forethought, said the little interior voice that had plagued Bo Andressen all his life. The leader of the salvage team known informally as Red Recovery and formally as the Andressen-Red Dog Recovery Company cocked an eyebrow at his colleague. He'd been taking a lot of heat for sending his partner off before the unpacking had been finished, but Ardie was their scout and knew this place better than any of them.
"I think you should stick to ancient languages, James," Bo said. "You're irritating in all the modern ones."
"You're not annoyed with me," James said, pointing with his chin. "It's himself that's under your skin."
All three Red Recovery employees turned to look at the big man talking to a few representatives of the Welsh news media. The ancient castle on its rocky isle across the narrow strait made a dramatic backdrop for the tiny press conference--not that Gavin Gilroy needed set dressing to look impressive. Tall, well-built, with red-gold hair and the wolfish features of a Saxon raider, Gilroy drew notice. Bo eyed the movie-star handsome policeman sourly. The salvage team had a contract and all their equipment had arrived, but they'd been cooling their heels in this sparsely populated corner of Wales for almost the entire day.
"Shit!" Bo muttered. "Where the hell is the owner? You're a native, Gryf. Can't you do something? Did you try calling Lord Turcotte again?"
The engineer shook his head. "His secretary said he would call us."
"And you believed her?" Bo was incredulous.
"Him," Gryf corrected. "And yes, I believed him. I think we should go to the pub. Hanging around here is going to give you an aneurysm."
Bo's fists clenched. "It just pisses me off. The body was removed yesterday. The police have been all over the damned place like ants. Why can't we get started?"
The flicker of James's eyes behind his rimless glasses warned Bo just before Gavin Gilroy spoke behind him.
"I explained it to your man Red Dog yesterday," Gavin said. "But if you want to have a chat with me, you can come along to the pub."
Bo blinked, turned around, and then held out his hand. "Robert Andressen," he introduced himself. "Folks call me Bo, and I'd appreciate a chance to make my pitch."
"Constable Gavin Gilroy." The policeman introduced himself as he returned the pressure of Bo's hand. "And you don't have to thank me. I'm doing interviews, and I'll want to talk with you."
Bo started to protest that he hadn't even been in Wales when the murder had occurred, but then he changed his mind. Instead, he issued a few orders.
"Gryf, go over the equipment one more time. I want to be sure everything's in optimum working order. James...." Bo racked his brain and ended with, "Help Gryf."
Without waiting to see if Bo was following, the policeman walked up the steep main street of the village of Drws Cefnforoedd. He strode into the Briny Rose public house and slammed a hand on the bar as though it weren't several hours until opening. After a moment, a stout man appeared in the kitchen doorway.
"And what can I be doin' for the local constabulary at this hour?" the publican asked.
"I left you 'til last, Sean Dymock," Gavin said mock-sternly. "Out of respect for the high position you hold in this community."
A white smile split the pub owner's dark beard as he laughed merrily. "Aye, there's no one more essential to a Welsh township than the purveyor of strong spirits. Sit, Gavin Gilroy, and introduce me to your new friend."
"I'll have a half-pint of whatever you have tapped," Gavin said. "One for Mr. Andressen here, and treat yourself as well."
"That's a capital idea, boyo," Sean said, but he didn't move.
"Sorry," Gavin said. "Sean Dymock, meet Robert Andressen. Mr. Andressen's the Yank you've been hearing so much about."
The publican nodded. "Goin' t' find the treasure of Castle Guard, are you?" he grinned.
Bo pursed his lips, not happy to hear that his business was local gossip. "I'm going to give it my best shot," he answered.
Sean laughed. "Can't say fairer than that. I'll be right back with our drinks."
Not until they had all sampled their mugs and declared the dark-brown brew delicious would Sean agree to answer questions. Even then, he wasn't happy about it.
"I have to ask you," Gavin said. "Where were you the night before last?"
"You know where I was. Right here at the Rose."
"I closed up. Sent the girls home and had a drop, all on me own. Then I dragged me wee ass off t' bed, all on me own."
"You didn't go anywhere near the castle?"
"Gavin, man, why would I do that? Get in a boat and cross the channel at night? For what?"
"I swear I don't know," Gavin said. "But I have to ask."
"No, you don't," Sean disagreed. "Not me you don't. You've known me since you came here, boyo, and you know what sort o' man I am. I'm bein' as courteous as I may, but I have t' tell you, I don't much like bein' questioned like this. Particularly in front of guests."
"I'm sorry you feel that way," Gavin said equably. "But I do have to ask, whether it suits you or not, Sean Dymock. It's my job and all."
"And a damn fine mess you've made of it, haven't you?" the publican said, his face deepening in color at a rapid rate.
"Calm yourself," Gavin said as Bo stared into his mug.
"Don't be tellin' me to calm myself in me own bar, ya Northern bastard!" Sean said as he rose from his chair.
"You're making far too much of this," Gavin said. "Pretend it's a business meeting and just try to be professional."
"Heartless git," Sean said. "I was the one that stood by you when you got sent here and no one else would so much as spit in your direction. Who was it introduced you 'round the pub to the lads with influence in Drws? And this is my thanks? I'm a suspect?"
"I never said you were a suspect," Gavin said.
"You might as well have," Sean said. "Comin' in here with your questions. 'Where were you, Sean? And what time might that have been, Sean? Oh, by the way, Sean, did you rape and murder young Cillian Pryce and leave his body hangin' from the castle wall?' How dare you, Gavin? How dare you!"
"Ahhh, ye gods and little fishes. What's all the bloody racket?"
The three men looked in the direction of the groan. Bo glanced quickly at his companions and saw weary disgust on Gavin's face, but the publican's expression was more complicated. Bo saw recognition, relief, and fondness as a pile of clothing in a corner shifted and reconfigured itself into a young man in shabby garments. Though obviously hungover and in need of a wash and a shave, he was strikingly handsome underneath the layer of grime. Feeling a stirring south of his navel, Bo reflected that it had been some time since he'd slept with anyone. The salvager's thoughts veered sharply away from the glowing afterimage of his last lover. Chris--beautiful, golden Chris--so hard and yet so brittle. Chris was one of the things Bo had traveled so far to forget. Resolutely, the salvager banished the luminous image.
"I forgot Morgan was sleepin' there," Sean said. "I'd best get him a drink before he shouts for it and gives himself a worse headache."
Gavin shook his head. "You cater to him too much, Sean. It doesn't help him."
"That would be my business and none of yours," Sean said as he moved away.
"It'll be my business when I have to lock him up or scrape him off the bonnet of someone's nice new auto."
The publican didn't stop walking, but Bo could tell by the man's posture that he'd heard the policeman's warning. As Sean was filling a mug, Morgan rose to his feet in stages. With a tomcat's ramshackle grace that allowed him to narrowly avoid the obstacles in his path, he meandered toward Bo and Gavin.
"Gigi," Morgan said, putting his palms on the table and leaning toward Gavin.
Gavin pulled back slightly from Morgan's boozy breath, which only made the amiable drunk lean closer. Morgan caught sight of Bo and turned to smile warmly at him. Bo returned the smile, feeling as though he were making a mistake.
"Who's your friend, Gigi?" Morgan swayed slightly as he waited for an answer.
Gavin ignored him and addressed Bo. "One of the charming local folk," the policeman said. "Morgan Idris, town drunk, meet Bo Andressen, visiting Yank."
"I prefer to be known as a disgrace to my family," Morgan said. "What're you doin' here, Bo?"
"I'm excavating Castle Guard," Bo said. "I got permission from Lord Turcotte to search the entire island for artifacts."
"You're the one lookin' for the treasure o' Caer Gwarchod!"
"That's the rumor," Bo said. "Any tips on where I might look?"
Morgan grinned and lit up the room like a gigawatt bulb. "Oh, I like this one, Gigi," he said. "Let me buy you a drink, Bo."
"Do you have any money, Morgan?" Gavin asked.
Sean arrived with a mug of beer and set it in front of Morgan. With a look at Gavin that said things were far from settled between them, the publican went back into the kitchen. Gavin let him go in favor of interviewing Morgan while the Irishman was awake.
"And why would I be needin' money when I've friends like Sean?" Morgan said.
Bo smiled, but the policeman looked far from amused. "You think Sean's your mate because he doesn't cut you off though you've a tab as long as my willie," Gavin said and then sighed heavily. "Ah, why am I wasting my breath on you?"
"I haven't a clue, Gigi," Morgan said. "Now, Bo, as I was sayin', if you were to come to this pub on any night o' the week, you'd find me here, and I would be glad to stand you a drink."
Bo nodded. "I appreciate that," he said.
"If you're through flirting, I've a few questions for you, Morgan," Gavin said. "Do you remember where you were the night before last?"
"I'm sure I was here, but maybe you'd better ask Sean."
"That's what I thought you'd say," Gavin said. "All right then, you can go back to what you were doing."
"You're an unsociable bastard, Gigi," Morgan said.
Gavin Gilroy was out of his chair and had Morgan by the throat before the drunk knew what was happening. Bo was impressed by the cop's speed, strength, and knowledge of pressure points. Bringing his face close to Morgan's, Gavin spoke softly. "I wasn't sure if I liked you calling me Gigi or not, but now I've decided and wanted you to be the first to know," he said. "I don't."
Morgan's eyes said he got the message and Gavin let him go. Morgan reeled back when released and caught himself on the chair behind him. Looking down at his spilled drink, Morgan shook his head sorrowfully.
"That's a sad sight, to be sure," the Irishman said.
"You're a sadder one." A new voice joined the conversation.
Morgan looked up at the doorway and grinned sheepishly. "Mornin', Vicar," he said. "We don't see you in here often enough."
"Mock me all you like, but your days of laughter will end, and soon, if you don't take better care, Morgan Madocs Idris."
Gavin turned in his chair and half-rose to greet the man who approached the table. Bo was surprised to see that the black-clothed minister looked like a college student. The rich mahogany hair pulled back in a long ponytail added to the youthful appearance, but the clergyman's demeanor had all the gravity of Jupiter.
"Constable," the young man greeted Gavin.
Gavin nodded respectfully and gestured toward Bo. "Father Sean Carnes, this is Bo Andressen, the man that...."
"The treasure hunter," the minister interrupted. "I've heard about the excavation. How interesting your work must be, Mr. Andressen. I'm pleased to meet you."
Bo took the young man's warm, dry hand, looking into green eyes as wide and guileless as a child's.
"What does that rather sly smile portend, Mr. Andressen?" the vicar asked solemnly.
"Sorry," Bo said. "I wasn't aware that I was smiling slyly. Just doing my best to be cordial."
Cordial? said the dry voice in Bo's head. Since when do roughnecks use words like cordial? And by the way, is every other person in Britain named Sean? Ignoring the voice, which was usually right but seldom agreeable, Bo continued to smile at the clergyman.
"Very cordial indeed," the vicar said. "One hears such terrible stories about Americans, but you're quite charming. Do you suppose I could have my hand back?"
Bo didn't quite blush, but he did drop his eyes for a moment. "Sorry again. Still think I'm charming?"
"Of course I do, and I'm quite used to touching others. Minister is also a verb, you know, the laying on of hands and all that. It's part of my calling to provide comfort. Now, if you'll pardon my rudeness, it was Constable Gilroy I was actually looking for. I need to have a word, if you've time, Gavin."
The policeman's eyes flicked to Bo as Carnes hurried to speak again.
"I don't mind if Mr. Andressen hears what I have to say."
When Gavin nodded, the vicar folded his pale hands on the table. "My work is concerned with spiritual matters," he said. "And in my research, I have had occasion to look into certain books that the Church would probably prefer I didn't. In fact, I'm sure the Church would prefer these books didn't exist at all. Be that as it may, when I saw the lad's body displayed on the wall, I...."
"Displayed?" Gavin said. "Why did you choose that word, Vicar?"
"Because the poor soul's body was left as a sign, an announcement of sorts... and a warning, or so I believe."
"And how do you interpret this sign?" Gavin asked, keeping most of the sarcasm out of his voice.
"It lets us know that a particular type of predator is prowling our area," Carnes said. "And it serves notice that an unholy hunt is in progress. I don't wish to be right about this, but I think you'll see more bodies like young Pryce's."
Gavin paused, clearly coming to a decision before he spoke. "It's about to become public knowledge anyway," he said at last. "So I'll tell you that Cillian Pryce was not the first victim to be found like this."
"I've heard nothing," the vicar said.
"The bodies weren't discovered anywhere near here," Gavin said. "And thus far, I seem to be the only one who has noticed the pattern."
"Then we shouldn't dally," the minister said. "I've a suggestion, and I'd like for you to hear me out before you laugh in my face."
"You want to perform an exorcism, Vicar?" Gavin asked with a half-smile.
"No, indeed, not even if I were trained for such a thing. I urge you to contact the people at this number." The vicar passed a piece of notepaper to Gavin. "I think they can help you."
"What is it?"
"The Ceridwen Institute," Carnes said. "One of the world's foremost paranormal research facilities."
"Paranormal?" Bo put in. "Isn't that supernatural stuff a bunch of horseshit?"
"The people at the institute don't think so," the vicar said. "Listen to me, Constable Gilroy. You think you're looking for a serial killer, a man who can be hunted down and brought to justice, but you're wrong. There is no flesh-and-blood monster out there living a routine existence while he waits for the right phase of the moon to take the life of another young man."
"What is it then?" the policeman asked.
"A revenant," Carnes said.
Gavin and Bo looked at one another with raised brows. It was clear that neither was familiar with the word.
"A revenant is a kind of ghost," the vicar said. "Sometimes a person dies under such circumstances that the spirit is tied to the place where they passed over. Sometimes the manifestation is no more than the semblance of the departed, which might appear at certain times with no untoward effects. However, there are restless spirits who feel they have been taken untimely and unfairly. These ghosts are the souls of those who were strong-willed in life, and they can sometimes reach into our world."
"And kill people?" Gavin asked incredulously.
"Please," the vicar said. "I've not quite finished, and you did promise to hold your scorn until then. Even if you don't believe me, it would be a good idea to call the institute and get someone here who can deal with this phenomenon. If not, you'll have more bodies on the wall and a panicked village."
"I'm surprised you would make this suggestion, Vicar," Gavin said.
"I know my flock," the young man said. "Father Brendan, bless his soul, taught me well before he passed on. If they see a medium walking around, they'll feel a lot better about all of this."
"Superstitious buggers," Gavin muttered.
"Aye, to be sure," the vicar said. "They're mostly fishermen, as you know, Gavin Gilroy. They live close to and at the mercy of the elements. Forgive them their little good luck charms and hexes. I do. The talismans are harmless, and they give the folk peace of mind."
"You're the most reasonable religious person I've ever met," Bo said. "I can't get over the fact that you believe in ghosts."
Carnes smiled. "A Holy Ghost is one third of the tripod that holds up the Church, Mr. Andressen."
Bo did blush this time. "You must think I'm a complete idiot," he said.
"No, indeed. I think that you're probably just a little jet-lagged."
"Thanks for the excuse. I'd like to invite you out to the dig for a tour." Bo glanced at Gavin. "When Constable Gilroy says it's okay."
Gavin looked at the telephone number the vicar had given him. "I'll make a deal with you," he said to Bo. "You call the institute, and I'll let you onto the island."
"What? Why?" Bo asked.
"So I won't be the laughingstock of the shire," Gavin said. "And so you can pay for it, if there's a fee involved. My psychic resources budget is rather small."
Bo narrowed his eyes, but it seemed a small concession, and he reached for the business card. "I'll take care of it," he said.
"Thank you, gentleman," the vicar said as he rose. "I hope I shall see you both on Sunday."
"Hope is a wonderful thing," Gavin said. "Thank you, Vicar."
"Nice to meet you," Bo said. "Don't forget. You have an open invitation for a tour."
"I won't forget," Carnes said as he walked away.
Bo watched the clergyman until he was out the door. When Bo turned, Gavin was watching him with interest.
"A darling man, our vicar," Gavin said archly.
"Very nice." Bo refused to be baited.
"Let's talk about something else, then. How did you hear about the treasure?"
"One of my team members, Hywel Gryffudd, spent part of his childhood here with his grandparents. They told him the story of the Crusader's Trove."
"Gryffudd," Gavin said. "I know the name. Guess I'll be having a word with him as well then."
"Whenever you like," Bo said. "Anything else you want to know?"
"Not at the moment. Go ahead and take your equipment to the castle, but stay away from the entry hall."
"You got it," Bo said. "We'll be in the dungeons for the most part. Of course, we'll be camping on the ground floor, but we'll stay out of the crime scene area. Scout's honor."
"You have a reputation as an honest man," Gavin said. "Don't look surprised. I made a few calls when you arrived. At any rate, I'm going to trust you. Don't make me regret it."
Bo stood. "Thanks. I sense you could've been hard-assed about this and kept us off the island until we couldn't afford to hang around, so I appreciate your fairness."
"I see. I'm not doing you an enormous favor, only what's fair. You must be the world's worst arse-kisser, Andressen."
Bo grinned. "My friends call me Bo," he said.
Gavin nodded. "Okay, Bo. If I had any friends, I assume they'd call me Gavin."
"Good-bye for now, Gavin," Bo said as he left. As he walked outside, Bo took out his cell phone and flipped it open. Punching a number on speed dial, he continued walking.
"Hey, pard, what's up?"
"Listen up," Bo said and read out the institute's number.
"Hang on just a... got it. Ceridwen Institute for Paranormal Studies. Interesting. Thinking of holding a seance?"
"Damn, you're good!" Bo said. "Maybe we don't need this institute after all."
"I don't get it, pard. What's the punch line?"
Bo smiled, picturing Sean Red Dog's slim fingers hovering over the keys of his laptop. "No joke, Ardie," he said. "Where is this place?"
"Great. On the other side of the country," Bo groused.
"It's not that big a country, Buckwheat."
Bo could hear the smile in the other man's voice. "Right. If you're finished with your current project, take the chopper over to this psychic place and get me one."
"Look, Ardie, I don't want any crap about this, at least not on the phone. The local cops won't let us dig until we get a psychic out here. Oh, and we're supposed to let everyone think that this was our idea. Comprende?"
"No, not really, but if you want a fortune teller, I'll get you one."
"Never doubted it. See ya later."
"Not if I see you first." Bo's partner completed their good-bye litany and hung up.
Bo flipped his phone closed, happier than he'd been in forty-eight hours. Things could finally get under way, and, if they were lucky, it would go a lot smoother from now on.
I wouldn't bet on it, the voice in Bo's head remarked.