in a Crowded Place
Heather’s Discovery
Sam felt sick.
There was no explaining this. Heather would find her standing alone on the third floor of the library. She wouldn’t be able to see the ghosts. She’d just know that Sam had snuck away, and Heather would never trust her again.
“Sam? I know you’re up there.”
At the same time relief surged through her. Heather was there when Sam didn’t even know that she needed Heather to be there, just like at the bell tower.
Some jobs were just too hard for one person to do alone.
But Sam was wrong. As soon as she stepped from the narrow doorway onto the third floor Heather saw the ghosts. She saw them in a flood of terror that drained the colour from her face and almost broke Sam’s heart.
It was all her fault.
“Oh, Heather,” she moaned. “Oh, no.”
Heather didn’t hear her. Heather didn’t seem to hear anything. She stood stock still, clutching some papers in one hand and staring.
For a long minute Heather and the ghosts just watched each other without moving or speaking. Then Miss Blanket took a slow step toward her.
“Don’t be afraid,” she said. “We won’t hurt you. We can’t hurt you.”
She looked away from Heather, smiled softly at Sam. “The dead can’t hurt the living,” she told Sam. “The living can only hurt themselves, when they dwell too deeply on the dead—when their fear gives the dead power that the dead are not meant to have. The power always lies with the living.”
Her words didn’t seem to reach Heather. Heather just stared.
Miss Blanket transferred the smile back to Heather. “What have you brought us?” she asked softly. “I perceive that you’ve come to save your friend, but I guess that you may have brought more than just your own undying friendship.”
This time, slowly, there was a response from Heather.
She looked down at the papers in her hand, up at Sam. She didn’t acknowledge Miss Blanket’s question. She focussed on Sam so intently that it was as if she could will the ghosts away—as if through the sheer strength of her will she could deny that ghosts were real and that would make them cease to be.
“I found it,” she said. Then, in a rush that teetered on the edge of hysteria she said, “I found the ‘further tragedy’ part. At first that date you said didn’t seem very important, like we didn’t need to know when he died, but then when I looked it up and there it all was. I went to show it to you and you were gone again.”
Sam couldn’t speak. She looked at Al. He watched Heather with a scared, pleading look.
Miss Blanket looked from one to the other of them, clearly reading more into this than Sam could.
“Tell her,” Miss Blanket told Heather. “Tell him. Tell him what is it you’ve learned.”
Heather finally stirred herself enough to move, took a few steps closer to Sam with a wary eye on the ghosts. She held up the papers in her hand, turned it so that Sam could see. The top page was a photocopy of another newspaper story: BOY DEAD, BROTHER MISSING.
“You see?” Heather said. Then, half reading, she said, “It says that they found a ten-year-old boy named Jimmy Jordan shot dead, and his twelve-year-old brother Alan is missing. Their dad’s gun was at the scene, and the police think that it may have been the murder weapon. Police are looking for the missing boy and looking for suspects.” She flipped through some of the other pages she carried. “See? This story says they’re looking for suspects.”
Heather let her hand fall. She braced herself, her eyes narrowed, and finally she faced Al.
Her weeks of frustration, anger, fear—watching as Sam slip away before her eyes, maybe fading the way her mother had faded after her dad died—had finally found a suitable outlet.
The fact that she stood before a ghost did not seem to soften her temper in the slightest bit.
“You were in the bell tower because you were hiding,” she said. “You killed him. You killed your brother.”

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