The second story in the Multi-century ghost anthology GHOSTS OF NEW ENGLAND: LAST LIGHT POINT is SMOKE AND MIRRORS by author ( and friend!) KATHRYN HILLS
Sometimes when you knock on heaven’s door . . .the dead answer back.
Willow Pinch lives life on a razor’s edge. A world of deception and disguise is all she knows. By day she hides in plain sight as Will, a servant boy. Nights are spent as a table knocker, aiding so-called spiritualists in duping townsfolk into believing their loved ones speak from beyond the grave. That is until the ghosts of Last Light Point unmask her before the only man she’s ever loved. Dare she trust Morgan Blackwell with her secrets?
Morgan invests every hard-earned penny in The Crowe’s Nest. Solid as a mountain and pure of heart, he doesn’t trust the strangers. Still, he needs money and agrees to rent them his tavern for their spiritual meetings. The last thing he expects are charlatans hell-bent on destroying his reputation with so-called séances. He can’t afford run-ins with the law or the fine, church-going people of town. Yet can he avoid a collision course when he learns Willow’s terrible truth? Not to mention there are ghosts in his tavern now! Be damned, but he can’t turn his back on the infuriating woman when the urge to protect her—to love her—proves irresistible.
Will the dead of Last Light Point guide Willow and Morgan to lasting love? Or will the dark forces they’ve unleashed lead to ruin?
You’re a foxy one,” Morgan Blackwell said to his best friend, Peter Clark. “I’m not the gaming sort, but I’ll pour another whiskey for you if you’ll leave me be. I’ve little time to dawdle tonight.” He smiled in his typical good-natured way and poured two fingers for each of them.
Peter slipped his dog-eared playing cards back into the pocket of his coat. Taking a sip, he winced at the strong drink. “I thought you’d at least want to see my latest trick.”
“Augh, tricks again. Christ, man. I know you fancy yourself the world’s greatest magician, but why not try your hand at helping me in some useful manner?” Morgan dried the last of the tankards, and he hung them on pegs behind the bar. Then he worked to make the old pewter-topped bar shine as best he could. Well over a century, and yet this tavern was still a popular watering hole in Last Light Point.
“You sound like my parents, always wanting me to make something of myself. Of course I’ll help you,” Peter said. “Just tell me what to do. Except swing a hammer. Or dig. I’ve delicate hands, you know.” He glanced around the empty taproom. “What’ve you got going on here tonight, anyway? It’s not like you to close early. Sending poor Old Bill out into the streets like a common drunkard when you know he’s yours to keep.”
“I’ve rented the place to make some extra money. I’m hoping to fix her up. Make this old girl more respectable.”
“I’ve always admired how you refer to this tavern as a lady. Kind of like a sea captain with his ship. What have you got in mind for ‘her?’”
“I’m still thinking about it…but renovating the upstairs rooms to be a proper inn, serving more food down here in the taproom. Those are a couple of my ideas.” He thought for a moment before adding, “Perhaps I’ll offer afternoon tea with fancy sandwiches for ladies.”
Peter scrunched up his nose. “Balls. That is a change. Who did you rent to?” he asked, switching subjects.
“A small party wanting a private place to hold their special meeting. Traveling spiritualists or some such nonsense.”
“Spiritualists?” Peter jeered. He blew out a long breath. “You mean table knockers? You should have told me you wanted carnival performers in this new and improved establishment of yours. I’d be happy to put on daily shows.”
“I don’t know about such things, but they paid me handsomely up front. A husband-and-wife team. The man called himself a doctor of something, and she’s Madam So-and-So. Apparently, they’ve established quite a name for themselves. Sold tickets to townsfolk already. I’m cleaning up and then leaving to talk to some men about making the repairs and improvements for me.”
“You’re leaving your beloved Crowe’s Nest in the hands of traveling performers? Are you daft, man?” his friend exclaimed in a skeptical tone.
“Reverend Tuffin and his daughter will be here. As will Mr. Cummings, the banker who holds the mortgage on this place. They’ll keep an eye on her for me.”
“Well, now I know you’re crazy. Missing out on dear, sweet Prudence, batting those long, lovely lashes at you. When are you going to court the girl outright, as in publicly, and stop sneaking around?” Peter laughed when Morgan shot him a dark scowl. “All right, relax, my friend. How about I stay and help look after your livelihood for you? I’m curious, I must admit.”
“Suit yourself. But don’t go drinking the good whiskey.” Morgan spared a quick glance over his shoulder for the antique bottle, sitting in a place of honor, front and center, before the mottled mirror behind his bar. Both the mirror and the bottle were old and ugly. Still, legend said they must remain in place, or else trouble would befall all who entered this establishment. He shook his head, hating the blasted things and the folklore associated with them. Last Light Point was steeped in such superstitious rubbish.
“No one touches that particular bottle,” Peter said, looking uneasy. “Do you think I want the bad luck said to befall anyone who does? No, thank you. You might not believe in pirate curses, but I do.”
“Stay if you want,” Morgan said, giving his beloved tavern one last appraising look. He dried his hands and hung the bar towel in its proper place. “The couple is upstairs getting ready for their meeting. They’ve a servant boy with them. Scrawny lad I’m letting sleep in the storeroom. He doesn’t speak—has a rather feral look about him—so steer clear.”
Peter rubbed his hands together and grinned. “Oh, this is getting good. I’ve a feeling tonight is going to be quite a memorable experience.”
About Kathryn Hills
Hauntingly romantic… Unless she’s writing sweet!
The rich history and many mysteries of New England are the perfect backdrop for many of KATHRYN’s books. Winding roads lined by old stone walls, forgotten cemeteries, grand homes with shadowy pasts…all sparks for her imagination. Whether it’s a quaint seaside town or the vibrant city of Boston, it’s easy for this “hauntingly romantic” author to envision the past mingling with the present. No surprise, some of Kathryn’s favorite stories include ghosts! Sprinkle in some magic, and you’re off on a great adventure.
When not writing, this best-selling author is reading, researching, gardening, or cooking up something special in her chaotic kitchen. She shares her colonial home in the north woods with those she loves most – her wonderful husband, daughter, and three crazy dogs.
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