But even with the heft of her conscience weighing on her, Violet practically skipped away from the converted shed and waited impatiently in the house for Grady to arrive.
VIOLET SAT IN THE PASSENGER SEAT OF GRADY’S souped-up, five-year-old Nissan Sentra. It was a strange car to have “pimped out,” although she kept that thought to herself since Grady was so obviously proud of it, puffing up as he pointed out the new spinners and the iridescent-purple paint job he’d put over the stock champagne silver it had worn from the factory. The engine was ridiculously loud, another thing Grady was enormously pleased by.
But for Violet, the noisy ride couldn’t ease the tension she felt now that she was actually following through with her plan. She couldn’t believe she’d pulled it off. But it came with a price.
She could feel the muscles in the back of her neck bunching up the closer they got to the small downtown cemetery where Brooke Johnson had been buried. Grady must have mistaken her anxiety for grief—over the loss of her invented friendship with Brooke—because he’d stopped bothering her with his constant stream of small talk once they rounded the bend on the winding riverside road.
But for once, Violet had the opportunity to do something useful with her ability, and she refused to shirk that obligation.
The heavy, black, wrought-iron fencing came into view as Grady made the final left-hand turn toward the cemetery.
Violet was surprised when they reached the entrance and she hadn’t yet felt, or rather sensed, anything from within the gated walls. She worried that maybe she’d been wrong about all of this. That maybe this was similar to what happened with the animals she’d discovered in the woods, when their individual echoes seemed to vanish into a nearly imperceptible static noise once she’d reburied them in her own personal graveyard.
And if it was just static, maybe she wouldn’t be able to distinguish Brooke Johnson’s echo from the rest.
Grady pulled the car into a small lot and turned off the deafening engine.
When she stepped out of the car, Violet was immediately immersed in an electric crackling. It was all around her, only slightly different from the staticky hum she’d become accustomed to in her own improvised graveyard…but definitely there nonetheless. The tension in her neck was back, and she braced herself for a sensory onslaught.
Grady couldn’t hear a thing.
He rounded the car and walked quietly beside her as they began to wander, little by little, through the rows of headstones and grave markers. Small American flags sprang up from the ground in several spots, and Violet was careful not to disturb any of the homemade memorials that filled the cemetery with vibrance and color, taking on a life of their own.
“Do you know where she’s buried?” he asked, his voice acquiring a somber quality, echoing the solemn atmosphere of the cemetery that stretched out before them.
She didn’t know. For some reason, Violet hadn’t even considered that it might be a problem finding the girl’s grave; she’d just assumed that she would know where it was…that she would somehow sense Brooke’s location among the others buried here. She shook her head in answer to his question.
“That’s okay,” Grady said, taking it in stride, and suddenly Violet felt like she was with her old friend again. She’d missed him. “We’ll just walk around until we find it,” he reassured her.
Violet supposed he was right; it shouldn’t be too hard. It was a small cemetery, taking up less than a few square blocks. But when she looked out at the sea of headstones, many covered with flowers and balloons, she was amazed by how many grave sites seemed to fit into the relatively small space.
Violet soon realized that the white noise wasn’t just static after all. As she concentrated, trying to find her way toward Brooke Johnson, she could feel fluctuations in the energy of it. She took a deep breath, trying to relax herself enough so that she could work on separating one energy from another.
There were definitely echoes of the murdered here.
She heard a shrill explosion of fireworks somewhere very nearby, and she flinched, turning nearly full circle to see where it had come from. The crisp crackling sounds were familiar, reminding her of hot July days and summertime picnics.
“What’s wrong?” Grady asked, eyeing her curiously.
Violet realized that she’d just separated her first echo from the others.
“Nothing,” she answered honestly as she moved in the direction of the sound. She needed to find where it had come from, hoping she’d gotten lucky and found Brooke already.
She stopped at a stone marker, with a bronze engraved faceplate that read:
June 19, 1932—May 2, 1998
Adored Wife and Mother
The banging and popping sounds were so clear here, as Violet stood in front of the simple headstone, that she could almost smell the sulfurous smoke of fireworks that was conspicuously missing. She wondered about Edith Bernhard, dead at age sixty-five. She wondered who she was and how she’d died…and who she’d left behind. It wasn’t a natural death, not for Edith…not with her echo. But what then? Murder? Euthanasia for a woman sick and suffering? Suicide? Could suicide even leave an echo? Did Edith carry the imprint of her own murder?
“Did you know her?”
For a moment Violet had forgotten that Grady was still there, but he was standing right behind her now, reading the woman’s headstone over her shoulder. Somehow, Violet felt as if he was intruding on the dead woman’s privacy simply by being there.