The Ghost of Ransom Creek

Halloween Invitation

Trying to get close to Georgia and Victoria wasn’t easy. Amanda knew from the beginning that Victoria would be difficult to talk to. She never said much and didn’t seem interested in anything in particular. At dinner that night, Amanda purposely sat next to her and tried to strike up a conversation.

“This pot roast is excellent, isn’t it?”

Victoria nodded.

“Pot roast is my favorite dish. My mother likes to make it with succotash.”

Victoria gave her a glance and continued eating.

“Do you have a favorite meal?”

Victoria shook her head and shrugged.

Gordon was watching Amanda’s efforts with a little smile. “Victoria never says much. I consider that a benefit. Too many people talk when they really have nothing to say.”

Amanda laughed lightly but wondered if he was grouping her among those who kept talking even when they had nothing to say.

“Conversation is certainly an art,” she said. It was the deepest thing she could think of to say to keep the conversation going.

“Yes,” Gordon said. “Most of us fall back on small talk instead of really saying what we want to say.”

That definitely sounded like bait.

“What I’d really like to say is that I love pot roast,” Amanda declared.

Gordon laughed and raised his glass to her. Victoria said nothing but smiled at her.

Lee wasn’t making any progress with Romano, either. Romano was picking at his food, brooding. Georgia sat beside him, giving him sympathetic glances and urging him to eat a little more, but it didn’t seem to be doing any good. Lee didn’t say anything to Romano, just looked him over like he was trying to get his measure.

Across the table, Francine was having better luck. As usual, Worth was paying close attention to her, and they were having an animated conversation about horoscopes.

“You know, I knew that you were a Scorpio when we first met,” Worth said.

“Really?” Francine was giving him her best I’m-So-Impressed look. Her bright blue eyes were wide, and she leaned toward him to catch his every word.

Amanda had seen Francine do this before when she was trying to get on a man’s good side. She was obviously taking Billy’s order to learn more about Worth seriously, and so far, she seemed to be enjoying her work.

“Scorpios are always intense. They have a natural magnetism . . .”

Worth seemed to have forgotten that other people could hear him. Gordon was trying not to smile, and Billy was looking distinctly unimpressed, as he always did when Francine insisted on talking about astrology and reading everyone’s horoscopes in the newspaper.

“ . . . but the most telling feature is the eyes,” Worth was saying. “Scorpios always have the most beautiful eyes.”

Billy and Lee rolled their eyes at each other, and Gordon coughed discretely.

“Aww,” Francine said, giving Worth her most charming smile.

“Scorpios also tend to be psychics,” Mrs. Nicholson said suddenly. “It is the most mystical sign in the zodiac.”

Most of the people sitting at the table gave her blank looks. Cynthia looked like she could drop dead of embarrassment.

“You must join me in the library this evening! Halloween is an ideal time for foretelling the future,” Mrs. Nicholson said.

Amanda had almost forgotten that tonight was Halloween night. Her boys would be going to the haunted house soon, if they weren’t there already.

“That sounds fascinating,” Francine said.

“I think you would enjoy it, and I’m sure your presence would add much to the evening.”

“I think that it’s time to bring dessert in,” Cynthia said, trying to distract her aunt.

“If you’d care to join me, I was planning to begin after dinner.”

“I’d love to!” Francine’s enthusiasm wasn’t feigned this time. Her interest in fortune telling was real.

“We have pumpkin pie and hot cider for dessert,” Cynthia said. She was speaking loudly, trying to get her aunt’s attention.

Amanda suspected why Cynthia was so nervous, and her suspicions were soon confirmed.

“If you join me, you might even be able to see Charlotte.”

“Charlotte?” Francine’s enthusiasm dimmed.

“Yes, she’s my spiritual guide. I can always feel her in the library.”

Cynthia was moving. She had to walk all the way around the table to reach her aunt, and it was a large table.

“They say that Scorpios are the most spiritual sign. I’m sure that, with you there, Charlotte will make her presence known.”

Now, Francine was looking distinctly uneasy. Cynthia had almost reached her aunt.

“I’ll join you, too!” Worth said brightly, not noticing Francine’s sudden discomfort. “I’m a Scorpio, too.”

Now, that was a lie. Amanda knew it was because she remembered seeing in Worth’s file that his birthday was in March, like Philip’s. Francine had seen his file, too, but she didn’t call him on it. For one thing, she was trying to keep on his good side, and for another, Cynthia interrupted.

She had reached her aunt, and she said only two words, “Dessert. Now!” The words came out as an angry hiss, but her aunt didn’t seem too concerned.

“Anyone else who wishes to join us can,” Mrs. Nicholson said brightly.

The suggestion met with little enthusiasm from the others, but Amanda said, “I’ll come.”

Cynthia gave her an irritated look, but Amanda just smiled back. She hadn’t had a chance to talk to Francine about what Mrs. Ransom had said, but if what she suspected was right, she wanted to be there for the fortune telling. Cynthia was practically boiling, but Amanda didn’t feel any sympathy for her. Senator Kahler was giving Cynthia a curious look.

Francine flashed a puzzled but grateful look at Amanda and said, “Yes, we’d love to see it.”

“Wonderful!” Mrs. Nicholson said. “I’ll just go get the dessert.”

If looks could kill, Cynthia would have added another ghost or two to Ransom Creek that night.


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