After recognizing her great-grandmother’s picture on the wall of a restored bordello-turned-visitor center, Tessa Steele sets out to track down exactly how Hallie became one of Miss Fanny’s ‘ladies’. Threatening phone calls and letters warning her that Nosy little girls get into trouble become the least of her worries when she meets Sgt. Dale McCord, a state police officer investigating a series of so-called ‘hauntings’ at Miss Fanny’s.
Caught between her own curiosity about Miss Fanny’s and Dale’s disapproval, she goes ahead with her research. Each time she uncovers a new piece of information, she faces an even more sinister threat as well as Dale’s unexplained anger. She’s as determined to learn the truth as someone is to stop her. And Dale is determined to keep her alive—if he can.
On Monday afternoon after school, I dumped Lynn on our doorstep and raced back to the courthouse before it closed at five. Within half an hour, I had a copy of Miss Fanny’s death certificate and her eight-page will, and scuttled out just ahead of closing time. In my excitement, I ran up against a broad chest in a tan uniform.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “I…”
“Well, well, Miss Sally Sleuth.”
I looked up into Dale McCord’s dark eyes, and my heart turned over.
“Oh,” I said, tightening my guilty grip on the papers, “it’s you.”
“What have you got there?”
“None of your business.”
He laughed. “I could arrest you.”
“On what grounds?”
“Interfering with an investigation.”
“You wouldn’t do that… would you?”
“If you keep on like you have been, you’ll be safer locked up in jail than on the streets.”
“What do you mean?”
“I know about your little sortie with Sandra Broome last weekend, and I’m guessing those papers you’re clutching to your heaving bosom have something to do with Miss Fanny.”
My temper rose. “You don’t have time to call me, but you’re spying on me?”
“I was out of town.”
“So you say.”
He shrugged. “And I needed some time to cool off after what you
“I hope giving me the silent treatment for two weeks helped.”
He took my arm with more force than necessary. “You’re playing with fire, Tessa. I don’t want to see you get burned.”
“Trite, trite, trite,” I taunted him.
He shook me a little. “I’ve asked you nicely. Now I’m telling you. Stay the hell away from that place.”
“Don’t talk to me like that. You have no right…”
He tightened his grip and pulled me down the steps. “Where are you parked?”
“In the back.”
Once he’d practically thrown me in my car, he said, “I need a woman, Tessa, not a little girl who plays games. If you ever really grow up, let me know.”
“Don’t hold your breath,” I shot back.
As he whirled and strode away, I wanted to run after him, tell him I was sorry, that I could be everything he wanted and needed. I had my hand on the door when my wounded pride kicked in and kept me frozen behind the wheel until he’d disappeared around the side of the courthouse.