“I’m sorry, but I can’t say anything about the project without permission from the landowners. You’ll have to talk with them first.”
Meghan hangs up the phone. It’s three o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, and she’s fielded calls from twelve reporters hoping for a story on the findings at Wyndham Thicket Farm.
“It won’t get you anywhere, but you can talk to them,” she mutters, returning to her Internet research on Josiah Kent.
“The story will die down at some point,” Irene Kristoff says, taking measurements of Kent’s long bones. “How was your weekend?”
“Ugh. Cleaning our house and looking at others. I can’t believe Rick and I are really doing this.”
“Come on, cleaning must take you ten minutes. Your house is always spotless.”
“Ha, fooled you. It only looks that way when company’s coming.”
“Did you see any you like?”
“A couple places, but they need a lot of work. We’ve got time. It’s not like our house will sell right away. The first showing was this morning. What can you say about Josiah Kent so far?”
“He was tall for the day, just over six foot. Looks to be in his forties. No obvious signs of disease or heavy wear and tear on the bones. Cause of death is a no-brainer.”
“Musket ball to the brain will do it every time.”
“Maybe not every, but most. This one did the deed. Finding anything on the ‘net?”
“A few genealogies. Most of them quote the county history legend about him disappearing at the hands of highwaymen. Apparently he left three teenage children and a widow and was a real Patriot.”
“And Abraham Walker wasn’t.”
“We don’t know that,” Meghan says with a groan. “Maybe it was a younger brother. Or a servant. Maybe Kent stopped at the house and committed suicide while he was there.”
Irene looks up from the skeleton and over her glasses at Meghan. “Suicide? Seriously? He found a way to shoot himself from twenty or thirty feet away and then buried himself in the cellar?”
“Fine, it was murder,” Meghan says, jabbing at another link in her browser. “But we don’t know it was Abraham Walker.”
“And now you’ve got a spy on your tail. Your projects are really getting interesting these days.”
“In all the wrong ways. This was supposed to be my dream project. A colonial plantation with great funding for real excavations and research. A great chance to compare the written history with the archaeological data. And now this,” she says, pointing at the skeleton.
“You’re always saying that archaeology contradicts history. Seems to me this is just supporting evidence.”
“I wouldn’t mind if the money was coming from someone other than a proud descendant. I’m afraid she’ll pull the funding and stop the project.”
Irene walks around the lab to stretch her back. “Talk her out of it. Once a story’s out, trying to cover it up only gets people more interested. You can make it clear that anyone in the house could have done it. I mean, unless you find a diary where the murderer confesses, we’ll never really know.”
“Worth a try I suppose.”
“People love this stuff, Meghan. Evelyn might not be happy right now, but it’s great publicity for her B&B. Appeal to her business side if you have to. Any idea who the spy is?”
“Not a clue. Maybe someone who doesn’t like Douglas Browne.”
“That must narrow it down,” Irene says, returning to her analysis.
What a job, Meghan thinks. On a good day, someone cracks nasty jokes about you. A bad day means you make an enemy who might try to kill you. No thanks.
Her Web searches are fruitless. What little she finds about Josiah Kent is all the same. One family researcher copying another, who copied from someone else, who copied the disappearance and haunting from the county history. No one has uploaded any information from original sources such as deeds or tax lists. She’ll need to go to the Library of Virginia to do the research.
Maybe Saturday, she thinks, if we don’t look at houses then. Why does everything happen at once?
Her office phone rings, and Irene laughs. “Reporter number thirteen?”
“Not this time,” Meghan says. “They can leave a message.”
I hope you’ll stay tuned for Part 13 next Tuesday.