As she looked out over the crowded landscape, it struck Isobel as odd that there didn’t appear to be any angels or other decorative figures guarding any of the stone burial chambers. There were no seraphs or weeping women bearing laurels. There were no lyres or even crosses. Only stone and mortar, marble and granite. Even though they were in a graveyard, the scene struck her as very lonely.

“Isobel,” Gwen hissed.

She turned to see Gwen hanging out the catacomb door. “Would you get in here? You can take the tour later!”

Isobel glanced behind her to the gates that faced Greene Street. A car whooshed by, and somewhere in the distance, she thought she could hear a faint chattering growing nearer. She turned and jogged to meet Gwen, who stood back from the door, allowing Isobel to slide into the musty chamber.

Underneath the church, it smelled like chalk and earth.

Taking the miniature flashlight from Isobel, Gwen shone it through the darkened space. More vaults lay scattered around a cavernous room. Gravestones, too, poked up through a floor of dust and dirt.

“That door,” Gwen said, pointing across the room to yet another iron gate backed by the same opaque glass as the one they’d entered through. It seemed to glow, lit from behind by nearby city lamps and building lights. “It lets out to the rear of the cemetery. Right behind another row of mausoleums. From there, you’ve got a straight-shot view of Poe’s old grave. But I thought we’d hang out in here till midnight,” she said, and aimed the beam of her flashlight upward, illuminating the underbelly of the church. Stone archways filled with pockets of spiderwebs stretched across the ceiling. “If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to hear the Poe Patrol whenever they get back from dinner.”

Isobel stared at the door that led to the back of the graveyard as she strode forward through the gloom, moving toward its dim glow. She stopped at the place where the light from the small flashlight reached its limit.

While she could discern the tops of tombstones and the general perimeters of the room, she could barely make out the dirt floor itself. The darkness created a thick blanket that hid the outline of steps and short brick barriers and squat grave markers.

“What time is it now?” Isobel asked, her voice echoing.

“Almost nine, I’m guessing,” Gwen said. “I’m not sure. I turned off my phone so it wouldn’t give a signal. You did too, right?”


“Left it with Dad,” Isobel murmured.

“Even better,” Gwen said.

Isobel turned to face Gwen again, watching as she swept her skirts up from the dusty ground to tie them in a knot over the pair of thermal stretch pants she wore. Gwen lowered herself with a grunt to sit on the ground, her back pressed to the front of one of the long tombs. After that, she twisted to aim her flashlight up at the name engraved above the rusted iron door.

“Well, hello . . . J . . . Meredith,” she said. “Hope you don’t mind the intrusion. No, no. No need to get up. We’re not the fancy type. I’m Gwen and this is Isobel. Isobel, J. Meredith; J. Meredith, Isobel.”

Isobel took the black case out from beneath her arm and offered the tomb a pinched smile and a slight wave with her free hand. She drew up to the mausoleum and let her backpack slip to the ground, then lowered herself to sit next to Gwen on the other side of the metal door.

Gwen let out a long sigh as she tilted her head back to rest against the tomb, while Isobel reached for her backpack.

“I’m going to put your dad’s tools in my bag,” she said.

Gwen rolled her head in Isobel’s direction. “Not tools,” she muttered. “Hammer and wrench are tools. Orthodontists use instruments.”

“You hungry?” Isobel asked. Digging deeper into the bag, she pulled out two of the granola bars she’d packed.

“Always,” Gwen replied, and snatched one up. She tore open the package. “Dunno if it’s really kosher to dine in catacombs, though,” she said, taking half the bar in one bite.

Isobel fumbled to open her own bar. Even though she didn’t feel hungry, she knew she needed to eat. She chewed her first bite without tasting.

The sound of their munching seemed to fill the otherwise silent space. After a moment, Gwen released her hold on the tiny flashlight button, allowing the darkness to turn both of them into shadows too.

“Where do you suppose your dad is right now?” Gwen asked.

“No telling,” Isobel said, and even though she had half the granola bar left, she nudged Gwen, offering her the rest. “Police station, maybe.”

“Thanks,” Gwen said. She took the bar, and Isobel could hear her chew and swallow loudly.

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