Ashes to Ashes Page 38


My chest tightened at the memory of the doctor, the sounds that the bad thing was making in the tunnel. “Did you see anything?”

He shook his head and tucked a strand of my wayward hair behind my ears. “No, nothing. Then I came across the little woodpile in there, and it looked like you might have wormed your way through it.”

“And Rebecca is back at the school alone?”

“She should be here any minute. As soon as I found you, I said we were getting the fuck out of there.” He glanced down at the mailbag near the hole in the floor. “What’s that?”

“Something very interesting,” I informed him. I went over to it and bent over to pick it up. My ring gleamed on my finger as I did so and I did a whoop of joy inside my head.

I was engaged!

Oh man, it was going to take a long time for me to get used to that.

I brought the mailbag up for him to see. “This whole bag is filled with letters written by patients, letters that never made it to their final destination. In every one of these, a child is telling their loved ones that they are scared for their lives, and that abuse is happening in the hospital. Obviously, whoever was working here at the post office didn’t want these letters to see the light of day. But now, they’re going to have to.”

He frowned, turning an envelope over in his hand. “What are you going to do?”

“We’re going to take this down to the museum and give it to Gary Oldman and whoever else works there, and we’re going to make sure that this comes to light. I want every single letter to be read and I want everyone to know the truth of what happened at Sea Crest.”

“This is getting to be a very Scooby-Doo ending.”

I shrugged. “Call it what you want, but there was a grave injustice done here. If we can expose this place, maybe then the haunting will stop. The demons, Shawna, the doctor, they all seem to be held here like they’re bound by a grudge or revenge, eaten up by what happened. Even Shawna is keeping Elliot here, preventing him from moving on. I don’t know, but I bet once these patients are recognized for what happened to them, the ghosts will leave. And people like Brenna and Jody, everyone in the school, they will be safe.”

Dex smiled shrewdly.

I gave him an odd look. “What?”

“I think you found your calling, Mrs. Future Foray.”

I couldn’t help but grin at the way he addressed me. “What do you mean?”

“You know the story of the Warrens, don’t you? They were the couple—a married couple—who were responsible for investigating the Amityville case, the Perrons, the Smurl haunting. They founded the New England Society for Psychic Research. They didn’t just hunt ghosts; when they could, they banished them, like a mini exorcism, or something like it. Encountering a truth, figuring out the reason for the haunting, and then fixing it.”

“So you’re saying that could be us?”

Now it was his turn to shrug. “I don’t know. I’m just saying, if we aren’t going to be chasing ghosts for entertainment, maybe we can use our, um, abilities, for something good.”

“Meaningful.”

“That’s right,” he said with a nod and took the burlap bag from my hands. “And I think this is a good start.”

The sharp blast of a horn from outside startled the shit out of us. We looked out the window to see the Highlander running outside. Seconds later, Rebecca came running up to the door, pounding on it.

Dex swung the bag over his shoulder and we hurried over before Rebecca hurt herself trying to break it down. Unfortunately, the door was bolted shut.

Lucky for me, I was marrying an extremely strong man.

“Get back,” he yelled through the door before taking a step and kicking it off the hinges with one go. Fuck that was hot. Fuck, I was lucky.

Rebecca stared down at the splintered door that was lying beside her then snapped her gaze up to us, eyes wide. “Impressive, Dex.”

“Do you wanna know what else is impressive?” he asked as he grabbed my hand and led me out of the building toward her.

“I don’t want to know,” she said with a grimace.

“This!” he boasted, holding up my left hand and flashing the ring at her. “She said yes!”

It took a moment of shock before it hit her. “Bloody hell!” she exclaimed. “Congratulations!” She ran toward us with open arms, engulfing us both at once. She started jumping up and down, making us jiggle. “I’m so happy for you!” She squeezed us hard and then pulled back, her eyes moist. “I’m serious. This, this couldn’t have happened to better people than you two. You’re meant for each other.”

“Thank you, Rebecca,” Dex said warmly. “And congratulations to you and Dean.”

I raised my brows. Rebecca looked at me accusatorily even though I hadn’t said a word to Dex about it.

“Don’t worry,” he assured her. “Perry didn’t tell me anything. I don’t have to be a genius to figure it out, either. I’ve seen the way you’ve been around him lately.”

She bit her red lip. “How do you know I’m keeping it?”

He gestured to her face. “Because despite the fact that you’re scared, you’re glowing. You’re also happy. You’ve wanted this for as long as I’ve known you.”

“I don’t know what Dean’s going to say,” she mumbled, looking away.

“I don’t know either,” he said. “But knowing Dean, he’s going to be okay. You both are, no matter how this plays out for you. You’re going to be a wonderful mom, you know.” He pulled her closer to him and kissed the top of her head. Even after everything I’d learned, there was something pretty special about their relationship, and I could see now, it really was like they were brother and sister.

She looked at me and smiled shyly. “Let me see the ring again.”

I held it out for her so she could ooh and ahh over it. Then we headed for the Highlander, mailbag in tow, and drove off down the road, away from the school and sanatorium, from the demons and the death.

I went there as Perry Palomino and I was leaving as the future Mrs. Declan P. Foray.

***

Even though it was after five in the evening and the storm had covered the town in a blustery shroud of wind and rain, there were still signs of life in the local museum. You could see Oldman working at his desk in the quaint wooden building with its blue seascape mural on the outside. We got out of the car and ignored the CLOSED sign, pounding on the doors until he opened them.

He invited us in for tea and some shortbread cookies while we told him what had happened to us at the sanatorium. I told him about my encounters with Shawna and the bad thing and Elliot, and when he seemed to have absorbed all of that, Dex plunked the mailbag down on his desk.

It was like it was fucking Christmas. Oldman was in historical heaven as he poured through all the envelopes, bringing out the letters and reading them. I could see he was crushed that the allegations of murder and abuse were true, even though they didn’t seem to have happened when his grandmother was working there. Still, it was a tough truth to swallow.

The good thing was that Oldman was loyal to the truth and to the hidden events of history and promised us that he would keep us updated in the coming weeks as to whether the discovery of the letters would help to end the hauntings. He had a feeling they would, just as I felt the fear dissipate the moment I found them in the post office. He said he would make a formal announcement through the museum and the local paper, attributing the find to me and Dex. I didn’t think it was necessary but I didn’t protest either. For once, I wanted to be known publicly for something that didn’t involve me screaming my head off on camera. I wanted to be known for something more respectable.

And, if I’m being honest here, I wanted something to impress my damn parents with.

Because, as we got back in the car and headed up to Seaside where we’d be spending the night in a hotel, I knew my parents weren’t going to be very impressed with the fact that I was engaged.

They were going to be more upset than they were before.

And suddenly it all came back to the fact that after everything I’d been through so far, facing my parents was going to be the scariest thing of all.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

We woke up bright and early in Seaside, having gone to bed as soon as we checked in—Dex and I in one room and Rebecca in another. The sunshine was spilling out along the beach as the waves crashed on the shoreline. It was warm again and shaping up to be a beautiful near summer day. In some ways it felt like the sanatorium was just a distant memory, but I knew too well that it wasn’t.

Besides, the ring on my finger was a constant reminder of what had changed. Dex and I drank mugs of steaming hot coffee on the balcony before crawling back into bed for another roll in the hay. I thought I’d done a lot with him, but sex as an engaged couple was something truly special. It added bliss on top of bliss.

When it came time to check-out, we met Rebecca in the lobby and headed out on the road, taking route 26 through the lush interior toward Portland. The music in the car was blaring (Metallica) and the sunny weather was holding up, the fresh forest air flowing in through the open windows. I was with two of my most favorite people, yet I got more and more nervous with each mile that brought us closer to my parents’ house.

Unfortunately, it also was Friday, so even though I kept texting Ada to the point of getting car sick (and no, I hadn’t told her about the engagement yet), she had to be at school until three, meaning there would probably be a good hour of just the three of us along with my parents. It was amazing how much I had depended on Ada as a buffer between them. Now I had to suck it up and deal with it alone.

Of course, I wasn’t totally alone. Dex was with me, and I could tell from the way he kept glancing over at me as he drove, the way his eyes lit up when he saw the ring, that he would do what he could to stand up for me, to stand by me. I kept repeating that to myself, trying to quell my nerves.

Once we drove across the Skidmore Bridge and started heading further east, toward the airport, I was a mess, nervously chewing on my fingernails, my knee jumping.

“You’ll be alright, Perry,” Rebecca said, putting her hand on my shoulder. “It’s just one night, and Dex and I will be here. Even if you don’t get their approval, they will love the fact that they got to see you. You’ll see.”

Rebecca really didn’t know shit about my family, but she’d soon see it wasn’t going to be that easy.

Dex turned the car down our family street, and I was struck with a sharp pang of homesickness. I loved Seattle and all, but I missed the countryside, the wide, green lawns and wildflowers, the trees, and the invigorating smell of the Columbia River.

But as soon as we nosed into the driveway, I realized I did not miss living at home. At all.

“Honey, we’re not home,” Dex joked. I shot him a wide-eyed look. It wasn’t funny. I was freaking.

He leaned over and gave me a soft peck on the lips. “Come on, kiddo. Let’s go show them your ring.”

Prev Next