Goodwood Duxford approached the somber burial crypt with as much anxiety as the first time he went out to wrangle a wayward Gramberly spirit. Knocking on the heavy iron gate, he wasn’t sure if the dearly departed Grace Leighton would answer his entreaty. She had earned her long, peaceful rest. What Goody was there to ask would open old wounds.
Frankie and Lilith both tried to dissuade him from waking Grace.
“There has to be more we can do, other places to search for a list of the fire fatalities,” Frankie said. “We can look harder at the news microfiche files at the library.”
“If she hasn’t wandered before this, how can you be sure you can wake her?” Lilith said. “There are times when it’s nearly impossible for me to rise. Grace has been resting for decades.”
“Grace Leighton was as intimately connected to the tragedy as Egbert, as Marcel,” Goody said when he left Lilith and Frankie in the cemetery caretaker’s cabin. “If anyone would have the answer to this mystery, she would. I have to try.”
Welcoming him into the antechamber of her crypt, Grace greeted Goody as she would if he came to her earthly home. She was the epitome of her name. Short marble benches were lined up at intervals down the center of the room. Grace sat on the last bench, gesturing for Goody to take a seat facing her.
“Tell me the story of what led up to the wraith incursion,” Goody said.
“I’m not a storyteller,” Grace said. “Your granddad, Marcel, was the raconteur. He could spin a yarn. For such a young man, he had an ancient soul. Something terrible happened to him that day, he was never the same. A kind of sadness settled over him.”
Goody was grateful his grandfather didn’t remember much from the conflict. Having to battle his own father, having to destroy him to save the township was a memory no one should endure. He leaned in, moving closer to Grace.
“I know this is a painful memory for you too, but it’s important. Pepperidge Township is in danger of being invaded again.”
Grace frowned, drawing her silence out to the point Goody thought she wouldn’t say anything more.
“My husband, Silas, had a violent temper,” Grace began. “I would get on the wrong end of that sometimes. Egbert… he roughed up your great-grandma, Margaret, too. When she died, Egbert seemed to take it personally. Like she left him on purpose.”
“How did he become so fixated on you?” Goody asked.
“I really don’t know,” she said. “It was no secret in the township that Maggie and I were married to brutal men. They worked hard, drank hard and lived hard. Egbert was ill-suited to be a wrangler. He had no empathy, no compassion. Egbert was all alone after Maggie died. It was like he had some kind of epiphany about how cruel he was to her and felt like he had to rescue me from Silas. He pursued me for years even before Silas died.”
“How did he try to do that?” Goody said. “Did he take on Silas?”
“He didn’t confront him face-to-face,” Grace said. “He did petty things, small vandalisms, starting rumors about Silas around town, spreading lies. I can’t prove it but I know Egbert killed my husband. Once Silas was gone, Egbert thought I would be grateful, that I would turn to him for solace.”
“When you didn’t?” Goody closed his eyes, trying to block out what he knew was coming.
“He went mad,” Grace said. “Whether he was already out of his mind and my rejection was the last straw, or he couldn’t accept defeat and he snapped. That I was truly grieving for my husband was beyond his understanding.”
Grace wiped a tear from her cheek and took a deep, shuddering breath.
Sometimes it was difficult for Goody to accept that the residents of Gramberly were dead, but were ghosts that felt emotions as deeply as the living residents of Pepperidge.
Grace motioned for Goody to continue while she gathered herself.
He told her about the gate opening between Gramberly and the unmapped area beyond. When he told her about the desecrated cairn that held the fire victims, she gasped, covering her face with trembling hands. When he told her the ringmaster and roustabout boss were planning another siege, Grace shook her head in disbelief.
“We are convinced Beaumont and Givens are going to try to raise those spirits again,” Goody said. “The names of the victims have been effaced from their gravestones. Unless we can name them again, give them back their identities they are vulnerable.”
Grace sat up straight and laid her hands quietly in her lap.
“How can I help?’
“We have identified all of the circus fatalities, and most of the Pepperidge victims,” Goody said, showing Grace the list of names. “There is one stone left unclaimed. Who was buried in that remaining grave?”
“If I could go back, if I could change everything about that night, I would.” Grace fretted with a white linen handkerchief. Her initials were embroidered with navy blue thread on one corner. A gift from her grandmother on her wedding day – something blue – she was buried with it. “On pain of life, I would give anything to not be telling you this.”
“Who was it?”
“Marcel’s twin sister,” Grace shudder at the memory. “Egbert sacrificed his only daughter to raise the wraiths. Her name was Mariel. Mariel Endicott, age 26. Her husband, Parker, left here even before her burial. With her having a different last name, and Marcel’s amnesia, you wouldn’t have recognized the epitaph. The whole town shielded him from the truth, and soon the memory of who Mariel was faded.”
“That’s why he can’t remember that night?”
“That’s why he doesn’t want to remember that night. That was the shroud of sadness Marcel wore until the end of his days.”