by Hy Conrad
“We already have a suspect in this murder.” Harry was trying to keep a straight face.
Amy stared out the car window at the Victorian monstrosity, with its broken shutters and bramble-choked garden. “Don’t tell me. It’s a ghost.”
“A ghost,” Harry confirmed with a grin. “Very appropriate, given the Halloween season. But we’re looking for a human accomplice.”
As they stood on the crumbling front porch, he explained. The deceased, Jacob Farley, had suffered a massive coronary, that much was clear. What also seemed clear was that the elderly man had a heart condition and had been systematically scared into the fatal attack.
“Does this supposed ghost have a name?”
“Yes. Anne Farley, Jacob’s deceased daughter. She lived with him here. According to all accounts, he made Anne’s life so miserable that she committed suicide. That was last week. This week, odd things started happening. Jacob saw a ghostly woman, like his daughter, walking the halls. Spooky moans came up through the vents at night. There’s been threatening writing on the walls in blood. And just yesterday, Jacob suffered heart palpitations and had to take a nitroglycerin pill.”
“Sounds like a deadly combination of guilt and superstition.”
“Very deadly. Jacob was so frightened that he called in a medium to contact his daughter. They held a séance this afternoon. The medium, a Mr. Hal Paisley, put on a good show, speaking in spirit voices and raising the table. When the séance ended and they opened the parlor door, that’s when they found it, a note from Anne pinned to the outside of the door with a knife.
“Jacob grabbed the note, read it and had a heart attack. The housekeeper tried to find his pills, but they were missing. He died before the paramedics could arrive.”
Harry had barely finished his explanation when Millie, the faithful housekeeper, opened the front door. She recognized Harry from his previous visit and ushered them inside. “Thanks, Millie. Were you at the séance table?”
“Everyone was,” Millie said in her lilting Southern drawl. “No one could have left the note, no one but Anne.”
Amy met the other séance sitters in the hall, just outside the parlor door. There was Jacob’s new wife, Fran Farley, an Australian model whom the deceased had met on a trip down under, and Hal Paisley, the Scottish medium who was already famous in Glasgow and was now trying his luck in the States.
And then there was Rachel Farley, Anne’s younger sister. When Jacob and the first Mrs. Farley divorced 27 years ago, Anne stayed with her father in the U.S., while the baby Rachel moved to London with her mother. Rachel lost contact with her American relatives until Anne’s death brought her back this week.
Amy turned to the somber-looking woman. “Your father was scared to death by a person, not a ghost.”