Grave Sight


Chapter 1

THE silent witnesses lie everywhere, passing from one form of matter to another, gradually becoming unrecognizable to their nearest and dearest. Their bodies are rolled into gullies, shut in the trunks of abandoned cars, harnessed to cement blocks and thrown down to the bottom of lakes. Those more hastily discarded are tossed on the side of the highway - so that life, having swerved away, can swiftly pass them by without pausing to look.

Sometimes I dream I am an eagle. I soar above them, noting their remains, bearing testimony to their disposal. I spy the man who went hunting with his enemy - there, under that tree, in that thicket. I spot the bones of the waitress who served the wrong man - there, under the collapsed roof of an old shack. I detect the final destination of the teenage boy who drank too much in the wrong company - a shallow grave in the piney woods. Often, their spirits hover, clinging to the mortal remnants that housed them. Their spirits do not become angels. They were not believers during life, why should they be angels now? Even average people, people you think of as "good," can be foolish or venal or jealous.

My sister Cameron lies somewhere among them. In some drainage pipe or under some foundation folded into the rusted trunk of an abandoned car or strewn across a forest floor, Cameron molders. Perhaps her spirit is clinging to what is left of her body, as she waits to be discovered, as she waits for her story to be told.

Perhaps that's all they desire, all of the silent witnesses.


THE sheriff didn't want me there. That made me wonder who'd initiated the process of finding me and asking me to come to Sarne. It had to be one of the civilians standing awkwardly in his office - all of them well dressed and well fed, obviously people used to shedding authority all around them. I looked from one to the other. The sheriff, Harvey Branscom, had a lined, red face with a bisecting white mustache and close-cropped white hair. He was at least in his mid fifties, maybe older. Dressed in a tight khaki uniform, Branscom was sitting in the swivel chair behind the desk. He looked disgusted. The man standing to Branscom's right was younger by at least ten years, and darker, and much thinner, and his narrow face was clean-shaven. His name was Paul Edwards, and he was a lawyer.

The woman with whom he was arguing, a woman somewhat younger with expensively dyed blonde hair, was Sybil Teague. She was a widow, and my brother's research had shown that she had inherited a great deal of the town of Sarne. Beside her was another man, Terence Vale, who had a round face scantily topped with thin no-color hair, wire-rimmed glasses, and one of those stick-on nametags. He'd come from a City Council open house, he'd said when he bustled in. His stick-on tag read, "Hi! I'm TERRY, the MAYOR."

Since Mayor Vale and Sheriff Branscom were so put out by my presence, I figured I'd been summoned by Edwards or Teague. I swiveled my gaze from one to the other. Teague, I decided. I crossed my legs and slumped down in the uncomfortable chair. I swung my free foot, watching the toe of my black leather loafer get closer and closer to the front of the sheriff's desk. They were shooting accusations back and forth, like I wasn't in the room. I wondered if Tolliver could hear them from the waiting room.

"You all want to hash this out while we go back to the hotel?" I asked, cutting through the arguments.

They all stopped and looked at me.

"I think we brought you here under the wrong impression," Branscom said. His voice sounded as though he were trying to be courteous, but his face looked like he wanted me the hell away. His hands were clenched on the top of his desk.

"And that wrong impression was... ?" I rubbed my eyes. I'd come directly from another site, and I was tired.

"Terry here misled us somewhat as to your credentials."

"Okay, you all decide, while I get me some sleep," I said, abruptly giving up. I pulled myself to my feet, feeling as old as the hills, or at least far older than my actual age of twenty-four. "There's another job waiting for me in Ashdown. I'd just as soon leave here early in the morning. You'll owe us travel money, at