Warner and I walk out of his office and, lucky break for me, do not get into his patrol car. He wants to take me to lunch on the other side of the Slave Market at the Greek Goddess Cafe. This is one of the local favorite places to eat. We go in and take a booth near the back of the dining room and sit down across from each other. This puts me in the strange position of having to look directly into his eyes more than I want to but I pretend to be diverted by the murals surrounding us that depict in bright colors the history of St. Augustine.
Warner begins to ask me some questions about my personal life, and I try not to answer them. But he is deft at getting information from a person, no doubt because of all his experience at interrogating suspects. I don't feel like a suspect at all, and I know he doesn't want me to feel as though I am being interrogated, but at the same time it puts me in a position that I am hoping to avoid. I certainly don't want him to know too much about me until I make up my mind whether or not he's a serial killer. In the meantime, while all this is turning around in my head, the server comes to take our orders.
"What's good to eat here, Warner?"
"Oh, the Greek food is delicious but I recommend it for dinner, not lunch. Do you like salads?"
"I love salads, but they have to be really good."
"Then order a Greek salad. You'll love it." He more commands me to order it than recommends that I order it. I obey.
As we wait for our meal to arrive, Warner continues to gently question me. "What about your roommate, Stephen?"
"What about him?" I dodge his question as best I can.
He looks at me and smiles. He knows, from many years of being chief of police, when a suspect is dodging his question. His smile gets bigger.
"What do you know about him?"
"As much as I need to know." I dodge his question again. He almost laughs.
"Where does he work?" He is relentless when he wants to know something. I'm going to have to give in and answer his questions.
"He's the assistant manager of the Moonlight Restaurant." I feel I have scored the point on that volley.
"What's his last name?"
"Allger, Stephen Allger." Warner makes a mental note.
"What do you know about him?"
What is Warner trying to find out? Why does he keep talking about Stephen? I can't figure it out. I think I better start asking questions of my own.
"Do you think Stephen is the killer?"
Warner smiles at me. "I didn't say that. I just wondered what you know about him. He is your roommate. What kind of questions do you ask someone before you decide to share your home with them?" How like him to appear to answer me when, really, he is cleverly couching his question as an answer.
"I know his name, I know where he works, I know I like him." I see Warner's smile fade a little.
"You mean you are involved with him?"
I can't believe this guy. How in the world does he work it around to where, right away, he's finding out my personal life? He's good; he's really good.
"I bet you get all the answers you want when you're interrogating someone," I say, teasing him and trying to change the direction of the conversation.
"No." He laughs but he won't be put off. "I just wondered if you had something going with him, that's all. I saw you out to eat with him. Are you dating him?"
What else is there to do but tell this man the truth? I can't see why a serial killer asks these questions and, in fact, my theory that Warner is a murderer is steadily losing ground with me.
"No," I finally answer truthfully. "I'm not having a relationship with him. He's just my roommate, that's all. He did invite me out to eat but it was just a good will gesture, nothing more," I fib.
At that moment the server brings our meal, so I don't have a chance to observe Warner's face when I finally answer his question about Stephen. I don't know what he thought about my answer.
The food is delicious and I promise myself to eat here again. Our conversation begins to be more about St. Augustine and what a great place it is than about my roommate or the murders. For some reason, I don't want to talk about the murders and I begin to feel safe. Just then, I remember that my Praetorian Guards are with me, so I peer into the bucket to see if I can see them. I close my eyes and wait for their faces to appear. In a moment I begin to see their faces, one after the other, in the bucket that is awash with bright purple light. The Praetorian Guards are with me in the restaurant.
"Are you praying?" asks Warner.
How am I going to explain this? "Sort of."
"What do you mean? Were you really praying?"
"I wasn't exactly praying, I was just closing my eyes to see if I could see the faces of my guardian angels." I know this will probably blow his mind completely.
"And did you see them?" he asks calmly, not at all surprised by my answer.
"Yes, I did. They are here with me in the restaurant."
"Where?" He looks around.
"All around us. Inside me." Warner looks at me intently.
"Did you call them on account of me?"
What do you tell a man when he wants to know if you are afraid of him? Do you admit it? That might give him the audacity he needs to attack you later. Or do you deny it? That might motivate him to prove you are wrong in not fearing him. But in Warner's case, there is nothing but the truth to be told because he will know if I am lying.
"Yes, I called them on account of you, but that was earlier in the day."
"And now you don't need them?" He watches me closely.
"I don't know," I answer truthfully.
Warner leans back in the booth, and I see the revelation come over him that I suspect him of being the killer. For the first time today, he has no more questions for me. As his eyes look into mine, he just sits there contemplating the position he suddenly finds himself in. He is the chief of police under suspicion of being a serial killer by a woman he hardly knows who is writing a book about it and who has called in guardian angels to protect her from him. I wonder how that makes him feel but I don't have the time to give it much thought because Gladys Kurtz suddenly appears at our table, her body casting a long shadow on the wall.
"Well, well," she says. "Look who we have here. Learning anything, Grace?"
"Hi, Gladys," I reply.
Warner looks up out of his reverie and says, "Hello, Commissioner Kurtz." Neither one of us invites her to sit, but she rudely pushes in next to Warner. Now I have them both facing me. I feel uncomfortable and I can feel my heartbeat picking up a bit.
"So, Warner, giving up any police secrets today?" asks Gladys, watching me carefully.
"Ah...Gladys, you...ah...know better than that," replies Warner, uncomfortable with her beside him. I enjoy his discomfort but I don't feel good about Gladys sitting there, either.
"I'm just curious if you're telling her what she needs to know to get that book of hers going. I thought you might want to reveal some of the evidence you gathered recently so she can publish it. She's entitled to know what's going on with the investigation," says Gladys to Warner but looking at me. "We all are." Gladys enjoys any influence she has with Warner. She enjoys thinking she can push him into an investigation he would rather avoid.
I am thinking of ways to excuse myself from the booth but I don't want to appear to be afraid, even though I am feeling a little afraid. Just as I contemplate what to do next to extricate myself from this situation, I see Josh and Aaron come into the restaurant. The look of surprise must be all over my face, because Warner and Gladys both turn to look.
Josh and Aaron see me at the same time, and Josh says to Aaron, "Look, there's Grace." They come over to our table to say hello but before they do, I scoot over as far as I can in the booth and say, "Sit down. Join us. The more the merrier."
They look at each other quickly and sit down right away. I am so relieved.
"These are my friends, Josh and Aaron. This is Chief of Police Warner Thompson and City Commissioner Gladys Kurtz."
"Actually, it's Joshua," says Josh, correcting me.
"Like in the Bible," says Warner. "Joshua was the protector of the Ark of the Covenant." It surprises me that Warner knows that but it doesn't seem to faze Josh.
He replies to Warner, quoting from the Bible, "'And Joshua said, hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you.'"
"Is that right," says Warner, more of a statement than a question. He seems interested in Josh.
Aaron says, "And Aaron in the Bible is the older brother of Moses. He helped Moses lead the Jews out of Israel to the Promised Land."
"But it took them forty years to get there," Warner says.
"Better late than never," says Aaron, puffing up a little.
Josh reminds Aaron, "Aaron was a peacemaker and did not like arguments." That causes Aaron to subside a little.
"I am honored to meet you," says Josh to Warner and Gladys. "Aaron and I were talking this morning about going to visit Grace, so it is lucky that we came in here."
Not really, I think. These guys are only twenty and twenty-one, and yet I know they are guardian angels. They must be. They always appear when I call on the Praetorian Guards. We've talked about it and they acknowledge that when they get the urge to come find me, they follow that urge.
Incredibly, Warner picks up on the connection and even comments, "Tall fellows. Come to look after Grace?"
"Yeah," says Aaron, puffing up again and enjoying the small duel with the chief of police. Josh looks at Aaron and laughs.
"What is the Ark of the Covenant?" asks Gladys, a tone of disrespect in her voice.
"Spell ark with a 'c,' Josh says. "It's the arc the archangels make when they form themselves around us."
Warner seems fascinated by Josh's answer, but Gladys argues with him. "And why would they do that? I thought the ark was a golden trunk or something with treasure inside, like a treasure chest."
"A lot of people think that," says Josh. "It's like a treasure chest but it's much more than that. When God created the world He made a promise to us that He would take care of us, and He stored that promise inside the Arc as a Covenant."
"Good luck finding it," says Gladys with a slight sneer.
"Each one of us can open the Arc of the Covenant and invoke the promise. An archangel will appear as a GodSend to protect us. The Arc of the Covenant is inside us so we can find it and open it and know it's real." Josh pauses to hear what she says. "But first we have to pray." Gladys laughs. Obviously, she doesn't believe in any of it, but that doesn't bother Josh at all.
"Well, take care of Grace," says Warner. "I'm leaving and I want to make sure she's in good hands and well protected, because you never know. You just never know." He pushes against Gladys to move over because he wants to stand up, and Gladys excuses herself as well. Josh and Aaron move around to the other side of the booth and they both order lunch. I sit with them, laughing and talking. We have a wonderful time, and when I peer into the bucket the faces that look back at me are smiling as well.
Jimmy Dobb's new girls are coming along great, and the money is beginning to pour in again. Even better, The Man is giving Jimmy less trouble, now that he is buying crack again, almost as much as before. And like Jimmy told The Man, that would pick up too.
But The Man says something strange to Jimmy. He tells him that Gladys Kurtz needs to be 'removed.'
"Why," asks Jimmy. "What did she do?"
"She's bait," says The Man. "She's leading a trail right to me."
Jimmy is scared to argue with The Man but he has to know more about this. "Who's using her as bait? She's just a city commissioner trying to make a little money on the side."
"She's sticking her nose in where it doesn't belong," says The Man. "You do it, Jimmy. I'm depending on you."
Jimmy is at a loss to know what Gladys is doing that causes The Man to want her 'removed,' but he dare not ask. The Man decides to tell him a little more than he is entitled to know.
"She's encouraging a woman to write a book about the murders."
"So? What does that have to do with...us?" Jimmy hates to throw himself in the same basket with The Man, but it seems he is in there anyway. He is undoubtedly connected to the murdered girls, and through him, so is The Man.
"She has a writer pushing Thompson to look into things."
Jimmy can't help himself. "How in the world can you know that?"
"You'd be surprised at what I know," says The Man. "You just do what I tell you to do and you'll be ok. Get her outa here and do it soon."
Now, Jimmy is a pimp and he is addicted to crack but he is good to his mother, he likes animals, and he treats most people well. He never once in his life considered himself capable of murder. The Man has badly underestimated him. No way in the world is he going to kill Gladys Kurtz but no way is he going to let her stay in town, because he knows The Man will look to him for answers if Gladys is not 'removed.'
Jimmy decides to get with Gladys and let her know he has been ordered to kill her. As soon as she knows, she will leave town and that will save her life and Jimmy's life, too. But things don't always turn out the way you plan them because people sometimes have other ideas about how things will happen.
When Gladys hears what Jimmy is saying, she can hardly believe it, and she argues with him about it. But he convinces her it's the truth and that the only way to save her life, and his, is for her to leave town. But Jimmy has underestimated Gladys. She will never give up her position in the town as city commissioner. She would rather die, she tells Jimmy, than do that. In the process of their conversation, she manages to pick out of Jimmy the reason The Man wants her dead.
"Wouldn't it work out just as well for everyone concerned if I kill Grace?" she says. Jimmy hasn't thought of that, and it seems to him that might be the answer.
"What if I kill Grace? Will that satisfy him?" she asks.
"Sure it will," says Jimmy, with a sigh of relief. "Without her writing that book, everything will go back to normal and we won't have to worry about it anymore." Jimmy always likes easy answers.
"Tell him it's as good as done," says Gladys. The truth is, she always relished killing someone. Perhaps it is a genetic trait, having a relative who is a famous murderer. She finally admits to herself that she always envied him that experience. And now, it deliciously presents itself to her.
Before she returns to her office, she stops at a pay phone and gives Grace a call. She disguises her voice and says to her, "If you know what's good for you, you'll stop that book. It will kill you in the end." She hangs up the phone and enjoys the thrill of the threat coursing through her body.
But on the other end, Grace thinks she recognizes the disguised voice of Gladys Kurtz.
Page 1 - A Ghost Tour | Light of Recognition