Chapter Three - A Dark Past

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My Mini Cooper is cute, but too recognizable for sneaking around. Teag’s old Volvo, on the other hand, is both reliable and non-descript. By the time Teag came to pick me up, I had fed my dog, Baxter, and changed into an old pair of jeans, low hiking boots and a thin, long-sleeved shirt. Though it was early evening, it was still very warm since Charleston didn’t really cool off at night until October. South Carolina’s woods were home to all kinds of snakes and bugs, including ticks. Long pants and sleeves weren’t cool, but they were practical.

I threw a first-aid kit into the back of Teag’s car along with several bottles of water. The pockets of my hoodie were full of other things we might need. I had Theodora’s ivory disk in the pocket of my jeans, and I hoped that taking the disk back to the old manor might help me get another vision; something that would help put the pieces together and figure out how she died. There was a packet of salt, good for protection against a lot of supernatural nasties. I wore a necklace of agate, a stone known for its protective qualities, and a bracelet of woven hemp with a wooden amulet made of teak and birch intertwined in a complicated carved knot. Sorren had given the bracelet to me when I first took over the store. He had told me that it wasn’t a bullet-proof vest, but that it could protect me from a lot of bad stuff. I wasn’t taking any chances.

We picked up burgers at a drive-through. In the short time since we left the store, Teag had managed to download and print out a topographical map of the area that included the old Wellright place, as well as a very old map that showed the boundaries of the first plantation. I finished my burger and studied the maps while Teag drove.

“So the developer is going to take the back third of the old plantation land,” I said, squinting at the lines Teag had drawn on the copy of the old survey map.

“Yeah, that’s the plan,” he replied. “The historic preservation folks fought them to keep them from getting any closer to the old foundation. In theory, all they’re going to take is old farmland.”

“In theory,” I echoed. “You have doubts?” Teag was All But Dissertation (ABD) for his Ph.D. in History before he started working at Trifles and Folly, and he knew his stuff.

He shrugged, keeping his eyes on the road. “There are a lot of things that don’t always make it onto official maps,” Teag said. “Slave quarters, for example. Outbuildings like summer kitchens and granaries, since they were so much smaller than the main house. Cemeteries, sometimes.”

“That’s what you think is back there?” I asked. “An unmarked cemetery?”

“When you’ve got restless ghosts, seems logical to me to go looking for their graves and figure out why they aren’t content to stay in them,” he replied. It occurred to me that what passed for normal conversation for us was way off the radar for most folks.

“Other than Theodora, there don’t seem to be a lot of reports of ghost activity in that area, at least, not that anyone has admitted.”

“True,” he said. “But the first issue you just touched on. Just because there’s no record or report, doesn’t mean there aren’t any ghosts. There are a lot of reasons—pride being one of them—that people might not want to report or admit to having ghosts wandering around.”

And among the Charleston blue-bloods, pride meant a lot. Especially for a family like the Wellrights who had seen their fortunes wax and wane over the years. Sometimes, pride was all a once-notable family had left. Reporting ghost sightings was an invitation to ridicule.

“Okay,” I replied. “We know there are ghosts now, but how long has it been a problem? Just since the developers came, or longer?”

“My money is on ‘longer’,” Teag answered. “And I’d be willing to bet that regardless of what was said in public, ghosts were at least part of the reason the Wellrights didn’t rebuild on the old land and moved the mansion closer to town.”

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