With that, Gwen pushed away from the monument and stepped down onto the pathway. Isobel turned to follow, but something on the side of Poe’s grave marker caught her eye.

“Gwen, wait,” Isobel called, forgetting for a moment to keep her voice low.

“Shh!” Gwen hissed. Isobel could hear her hurrying back up the walkway. “Come on, Isobel. You can pay your respects during normal business hours. Right now we need to hide!”

“No, look,” Isobel said. She placed a hand on the stone, her fingertips tracing the carved letters that arced in a rainbow shape.



AUGUST 15, 1822


JANUARY 30, 1847

“Poe’s wife,” Isobel whispered. “I didn’t know she was buried here too.”

“Well, say hello if you have to,” Gwen said, “but make it quick. One, it’s freezing out here, two, we’re officially breaking the law, and three, I think you’re standing on her anyway.”


“She died so young,” Isobel said. “No wonder he was always so sad.”

“Yes, it’s breaking my brittle little freeze-dried heart. Isobel, please. Can we at least get out of the spotlights?”

Isobel felt Gwen latch hold of her arm again and pull her forward. Yet her eyes lingered on the stone, unable to break away from Virginia’s name, highlighted by the warm yellow light.

How had Varen said she’d died? Tuberculosis? She thought that sounded right.

She could recall Varen telling her to write it down on one of the index cards the night before the project. Back in Poe’s era, though, the disease had been called “consumption” because of the way the sickness seemed to slowly devour its victim from the inside out, causing its sufferer to cough up blood.

Varen had told her that Virginia had been playing the piano for Poe and her mother the day the illness had revealed itself. She’d been singing when, out of nowhere, a single drop of blood landed on her bottom lip.

Red Death, Isobel thought.

“Psst!” Gwen hissed. “This way!”

Isobel stepped back from the grave. Adjusting the straps of her backpack, she turned to follow after Gwen as she moved farther down the redbrick path that skirted one side of the huge church.

Ahead, Isobel saw that the path tapered as it made its way between two rows of stone sepulchers. The low-lying tombs sat facing one another, like neighboring houses on a narrow street.

Isobel strode toward them, and the shadows around her grew thicker. Glancing down, she noticed a long white slab set into the center of the brick walkway, someone’s name chiseled into the alabaster stone. Stepping around the slab, she hurried to catch up with Gwen, who waited for her between the two rows of aboveground crypts.

Tiny flecks of snow began to light on the pointed rooftops of the squat stone chambers. Isobel glanced at the hinged doors that adorned the face of each, the iron panels large enough to allow for a single coffin to slide through. They reminded her of the kind of doors found on old-fashioned furnaces. Or morgue refrigerators. She had to wonder, though, why these doors needed hinges at all if they were never meant to be reopened.

“Watch out for the drain,” Gwen said, pointing toward Isobel’s feet.


Still clutching Gwen’s keys, the case of orthodontic instruments now tucked under one arm, Isobel pressed the on button for the flashlight. As the bulb sprang to life, she aimed the slim beam downward, illuminating a cement drain entrenched in the walkway. It ran between a pair of parallel tombs that, unlike the other face-to-face crypts, flanked the walkway lengthwise. No doubt the drain was meant to keep the tunnel-like section from flooding with rainwater.

Moving to one side of the drain, Isobel placed her hand against the tomb to her right, allowing the rough stone to guide her.

Gwen pressed onward, navigating a path Isobel could tell she had taken before. She turned left and disappeared behind one of the tombs. Isobel spurred herself forward, entering an open courtyard. To her right, next to an ancient and gnarled tree, stood the set of gates that looked out on Greene Street.

“Over here,” Gwen whispered.

A squeaking sound drew Isobel’s attention away from the street to where Gwen tugged at another gate recessed beneath a brick archway, one that seemed to lead into the lower portion of the church. Smoky glass backed the iron bars, hiding from view whatever lay within. Isobel knew right away that it must lead to the catacombs Gwen had mentioned before.

Isobel took a step in the direction of the door but paused, glancing toward the rear portion of the cemetery, where the ground arched into hilly terrain dotted with slabs and still more large and closely quartered aboveground tombs.

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