“I did. It’s kind of a big to-do up there. Or didn’t the article say?”

Isobel shook her head. “N-no.”

“Oh, people come from all over to stand outside the gates and watch,” he said. Turning his back to her, he picked up one of the chalkboard erasers and began to sweep away that night’s homework assignment. “It’s even gotten to the point where they’ve had to have special security lined up for the event.”

“Security?” Swallowing, Isobel felt her heart drop into her stomach. “But . . . doesn’t the Poe Toaster come super late or something? Like, after midnight?”

“Well, so does the Great Pumpkin,” Mr. Swanson said with a chuckle. “But that doesn’t stop Linus from staying up every year, now, does it?”

Isobel frowned.

“If I’m correct,” Swanson went on, “the Poe Toaster appears at the grave sometime between midnight and six a.m. And still, droves of people go every year just to stand outside in the freezing cold for a mere chance at sighting him. Maniacs, I’m telling you. There’s even a committee of people who watch from inside the church just to make sure no one attempts to get in the Toaster’s way or, heaven forbid, unmask the poor fellow.”

“Hold on,” Isobel said, blinking hard. “You mean people have tried?”

“Of course they have,” he said. “With anything like this, you’re always going to have the occasional nutcase who wants to ruin the mystery for everyone. Don’t worry, though. So far, no one’s ever been successful. Somehow the Poe Toaster always manages to give everyone the slip. From what I understand, the whole thing is over very quickly.”

“But . . . ,” Isobel said. Hugging her notebook close, she took a step toward his desk. “If everyone goes to watch for him every year, why aren’t there more pictures of him circulating on the web? How come there’s only the one?”

“Ah.” Dropping the eraser into the chalk tray, he turned to face her again, dusting his hands off. By the coy smile on his face, Isobel could tell that he was enjoying the barrage of questions. “That’s because no one ever actually sees him. Unless of course you’re inside the graveyard itself, like the group that watches from the church. You see, what many people fail to realize is that there are two gravestones in that cemetery bearing Poe’s name.”


“Two?” Isobel said. “How can anyone be buried in two places at once?”

“Oh, while I’m sure that’s quite possible if you use your imagination,” he said with a wry laugh, “the reason Poe has two gravestones is because one stands as the marker of his original burial place. That’s the stone that you see in that grainy photo where the Poe Toaster is kneeling. Sometime in the late 1800s, Poe was exhumed and moved to a more prominent location at the front of the cemetery. This was so those wanting to pay their respects to the famous author of ‘The Raven’ wouldn’t have to go traipsing through the back end, searching for a grave that happened to be unmarked anyway. The monument that stands at the front gate of the cemetery is where Poe now rests. A very visible spot, but sadly, not the one the Toaster chooses to pay tribute to. I’m surprised you two didn’t come across any of this in your research.”

“You said Poe was buried in an unmarked grave?”

Mr. Swanson nodded. “For a long time, that’s where he remained. He never really had a proper funeral. The original ceremony was very quick and cheap. There were only a few people in attendance, somewhere around eight or nine. Quite sad if you think about it.”

“Yeah,” Isobel said. “Sad.”

“Perhaps when Mr. Nethers, our resident Poe expert, returns we can ask him what he knows about it.”

At his mention of Varen, Isobel glanced up at him and their eyes met.

Yet another well-devised trap she realized too late, because now she couldn’t seem to break away, caught yet again in the unflinching beam of that pleading look she found so impossible to evade.

“You do think we’ll see him again in the near future, don’t you?” he asked.

Isobel started to respond, but no words would come. How could she offer him an answer to that question when she didn’t even have one for herself?

It was going to be like this every day from here on out, she thought. Even if he didn’t hold her behind to question her outright like he had today, as long as Mr. Swanson thought she knew something, as long as he thought she cared, then Isobel knew he would stop at nothing to extract the truth from her.

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