Shadows Stir at Seven Sisters:Seven Sisters 03

By: M.L. Bullock

Chapter 1

What would Detective Simmons think about Ashland and me digging in the garden of Seven Sisters on a moonlit night? She’d probably raise a ginger brow, lick the lead of her pencil and waste no time whipping out her notebook. Yet here we were, dressed in white like two ghosts, slinging dirt from a hole we dug in front of the Taygete statue. We’d been digging for ten minutes—the adrenaline was beginning to wear off now, and I was starting to worry that my hunch had been wrong. Dead wrong. That nagging voice in my heart that only spoke when something was going horribly wrong began whispering in my ear. I can’t believe you didn’t take the time to do some research first!

I leaned against the shovel, trying to catch my breath. The sweat that covered my face and neck was like sweet nectar for an irritating chorus of Alabama mosquitoes. They apparently couldn’t resist it. It didn’t matter that it was coming up on midnight. It was still hot out. “Ashland, maybe we should come back in the daytime, bring a metal detector or something.”

“Are you saying you were wrong? Could we be looking in the wrong place?” He leaned on the rusty handle of his shovel.

I frowned. “No, I don’t think I’m wrong, but I want to be absolutely sure before we tear up all of TD’s work.”

“That only seems fair!” Ashland and I looked up to see our contractor, Terrence Dale, standing just a few feet away. He watched us with his hands on his hips, a cross between amused and aggravated. “May I ask what the hell y’all are doing? Ashland, I know I just work for you, but this was my project. Why are you digging holes in the….” A sudden realization hit him. He knew what was happening. “What exactly are you looking for?”

Ashland gave him an apologetic smile. “Sorry, TD. We didn’t want to do this in front of you. I know this sounds ridiculous, but Carrie Jo thinks she knows where the Cottonwood treasure is located. We have good reason to believe that it’s here, under or around the Taygete statue. I promise I’ll get the garden looking like it’s supposed to again if it takes me all week.”

“Why here?”

I swatted away mosquitoes and explained to him what I knew: in some of Calpurnia’s journals she referred to herself as T, which I believed stood for Taygete. I repeated her mother’s clue, Find your True Self, and you will Find a Treasure. Taygete was Calpurnia’s “true self.” She was a character that Calpurnia identified with, a doomed young woman with a long neck and an unkind father.

“That makes sense, but I hate to tell you this—I moved the Taygete statue. It was over there,” he said as he pointed to an old hedge, “but to me it made more sense to put it here instead, more like the star alignment.”

“So you’re telling me we’re digging in the wrong place?” I panted, tossing aside another shovelful of dirt.

“That’s what I’m telling you. The original location was in there.” He pointed beyond the massive hedge, where I had seen Isla Beaumont meet Captain David Garrett. There had been a swing and maybe a statue or a fountain; I had not been paying attention—my eyes had been fixed on the ghost of Calpurnia’s cousin as she waited for her lover. She hadn’t wanted me there, that much I knew. I felt her presence again, on the edge of the garden, approaching slowly to see what the interlopers were up to. Maybe I was imagining things. I wasn’t a psychic—just a dreamer.

I shuddered and thought of that old southern saying the old-timers used when hit with a sudden case of chills, A rabbit ran over my grave!

“Come on,” TD said. “If you’re determined to look for something, don’t tear up the entire place. That hedge is pretty old, but if we go around to the other side, I can show you how to get in there.” We followed him through the thick bushes, forcing our way into the hidden clearing.

There I was again—only this time I hadn’t slipped through a supernatural door. Only a broken stump of the old tree remained; the statue was gone, and no swing hung from the branches. I had touched that swing! I heard it creak, right? There was no scent of magnolias, just the heavy odor of dead leaves and dirt. I could feel her even closer. “Ashland, we’re not alone here.” I was talking about Isla, but that was before I saw someone step into the secret garden with us—it was Henri Devecheaux.

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