Home > The Whispering Dead (Gravekeeper #1)(4)

The Whispering Dead (Gravekeeper #1)(4)
Author: Darcy Coates

“This way.” Adage had to bellow to be heard through the rain.

Keira followed in his shadow, careful not to let the distance between them grow too great for fear of losing him. The spongy ground sucked at her boots, and the wind made them both stagger as they trudged across the field to reenter the graveyard she’d passed through less than an hour before. The gravestones, dark from rain, loomed out of thin mist. It seemed disorganized, an assortment of traditional headstones battling for space around elaborate sculptures of angels and tall, cowled figures. Keira couldn’t stop herself from staring at each passing face, searching for awareness in their eyes or a twitch of motion in their hands. The fog twisted and swirled about the grave markers, dancing in the rain. Chills ran over Keira as fingerlike tendrils brushed her cheeks.

“Just up ahead,” the pastor called, and Keira saw a small building near the edge of the forest. She thought she must have passed close to it when dashing to the parsonage.

The cottage didn’t seem large enough to hold more than two or three rooms. Dark, uneven slats covered a sharply peaked roof, and vines grew up one wall. The windows were cold and empty, and an atmosphere of neglect surrounded the hut. It struck Keira as a lonely building, hidden as far from civilization as possible, with a forest on one side and a garden of graves on the other.

Adage huddled close to the door as he fit the key into the lock and struggled to twist it. The door ground on its hinges as it opened, and they both shuffled into the relative comfort of a dry room.

“Like I said, an exciting night.” Adage closed the door and shed his coat. Keira couldn’t help but feel impressed that he’d maintained the note of warm optimism. “Let’s see…it should still have power… Ah.”

He’d found the switch, and golden light filled the space. Keira shrugged out of her coat as she stared around the cottage. Instead of dividing the tiny building into even tinier rooms, the bedroom, kitchen, dining, and lounge areas had all been combined. A door at the back led to what she guessed was a bathroom, but otherwise, the entire house was just one room.

She could have crossed the space in ten paces, but it had a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere. The single bed wedged against the left wall was covered in a colorful patchwork quilt, and a small kitchen offered the comfort of a kettle and stovetop.

“We’ll get a fire going so that you don’t freeze to death,” Adage said, weaving around the overstuffed lounge chair to reach the dark hearth. “There’s no heater, I’m afraid, but there should still be some spare blankets in the cupboard over there if you need them.”

“I’ll be okay from here.” Keira followed the pastor to the fire and eased the kindling bucket out of his hands. She was dripping on the large rug that took up the center of the room, so she shuffled back onto the wooden boards. “Thank you so much. For everything.”

“I’ll help you settle in,” he said happily. “I don’t mind, really.”

Keira managed a tight laugh. “Actually, I was really hoping to get out of these wet clothes…”

It was a half-truth. She was shivering, but her more urgent worry was making sure the strange men didn’t discover the pastor’s deception. If Adage left quickly, the storm would still be strong enough to wash away his footprints, but she didn’t know how much longer the deluge would last.

“Oh! Oh, of course. I’ll leave you to it, then.” Adage picked his coat off the hook beside the door and shook off some of the excess water. “You know where to find me if you need anything. And tomorrow, I’ll see if I can uncover any leads in town. Have a good sleep, Keira.”

“Thank you, Father.”

“Wrong religion,” he said cheerfully, then let himself out. A torrent of rain poured through the doorway, seeming to embrace the pastor as he closed the door behind himself.

Keira crossed to the window and pressed against the chilled glass as she watched her new, unexpected friend march into the graveyard. Clumps of fog clung to his hunched form, looking almost like wraiths grasping at his coat. He disappeared into the night within five paces.

At least he’ll be safe now… I hope.

Alone, Keira couldn’t ignore how quiet the cottage was. Rain still beat against the roof, and the wooden supports groaned under the strain, but inside felt strangely isolated from the storm.

Keira stepped back from the window and looked at her hands. Just like in the forest, they seemed both very familiar and completely unrecognizable. She took a deep breath and clenched them into fists. “Okay. Time to figure out who the hell you are, Keira.”

 

 

Chapter Three

 

 

Keira was freezing and soaked, but she ignored the fireplace in favor of searching for a mirror. She figured she had at least an hour before hypothermia set in, and her missing identity was digging at her like an itch she couldn’t reach.

As she’d guessed, the door at the back of the room led into a bathroom-slash-laundry. She turned on the light and found a bedraggled, wide-eyed stranger staring back at her through the sink’s mirror.

So, this is what I look like. She stepped closer to the reflection and pulled the limp crown of bandages out of her hair. It’s not what I expected.

After running through the forest so swiftly and efficiently, she’d imagined having a toned, fit body, the sort of figure that comes from drinking wheatgrass smoothies for breakfast and having memberships for three separate gyms. Instead of a twelve-pack and a Marine Corps tattoo on her bicep, the person looking back at her was bone-thin, with a pale face and too-large eyes.

Keira lifted her T-shirt’s hem. There were no abs underneath and not a hint of fat either. Her ribs jutted out under anemic skin. She looked as though she’d either been starved or…

She pointed a warning finger at her reflection. “So help me, Keira, you’d better not be addicted to anything illegal. Because I know exactly zero drug dealers, and I’d really prefer not to go through withdrawal on top of everything else.”

Her face, which she’d initially thought was meek and mousy, took on some personality as she spoke. That was good; she might have a chance of being taken seriously after all.

“No wonder Adage was so willing to help you,” she grumbled as she began peeling off the wet clothes. “You look like an orphan waif straight out of a Hollywood movie. Please, sir, can I have some more porridge?”

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