As they were pulling up, they spotted an older man wrapping a chain around the fence and securing it with a padlock.
“Shit,” Sky swore. “We’ll have to leave and come back. I was sure no one would be here.”
“Do you need to touch the dead? Or cast a spell?”
Nolan nodded and parked his car next to the truck. “Let me see if I can talk my way into the graveyard.”
“What?” Sky choked out. That was not what he’d expected Nolan to say.
The crazy man beside him smirked and turned off the engine. He was getting out when it dawned on Sky that he could follow him. Really, his brain was still too sluggish after a terrible night of sleep.
“Sorry, but the cemetery is closed to all visitors until we can get the cops out here,” the man called out as they approached. He appeared to be an old groundskeeper, judging by his worn, dark-green overalls. His faded red ball cap sat low on salt-and-pepper hair that framed a sun-beaten and wrinkled face.
“Yeah, I’m sorry to bother you. Would it be possible for you to give me a hand with something?” Nolan reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. From within it, he drew out what appeared to be a business card that he handed over to the groundskeeper. “You see, I’m an author with a focus on thrillers and horror. I was wondering if you would allow me to walk around the graveyard with my assistant. Take some photos. Not to use in my book, but as inspiration for my next horror novel.”
The groundskeeper frowned at the business card. He held it out in front of him and then drew it close, almost as if he were playing a trombone as he worked to get his eyes to focus on the letters. “I don’t know. It’s wrong to be disturbing the dead. Disrespectful.”
“I promise we won’t disturb the dead,” Nolan replied. “I was hoping to walk the grounds for ten or fifteen minutes. Just enough time to get a feel for what has happened. I think it would help me capture a great spooky atmosphere for my book.” The stunning man shrugged and smiled his most winning smile. “I was going to stop at a graveyard closer to home, but it’s so packed with police and news reporters, I couldn’t risk being caught on camera. Plus, all that buzz ruins the creepy atmosphere I’m aiming for.”
“Huh,” the older man grunted. “So, you’re like one of those popular authors. Like that Stephen King fellow.”
“Well, I don’t think I’m as popular as Stephen King. I wouldn’t mind making Stephen-King money, though.”
“Yeah, yeah. Wouldn’t we all?” The groundskeeper chuckled and nodded. “All right, I can give you like ten, fifteen minutes. You’re just trying to do your job. But don’t go telling anyone I let you inside. The company that runs this place will have my head, and this is a nice, easy job.”
“Thanks. I appreciate it. I promise we’ll be as quick as possible, and we won’t tell a soul,” Nolan stated as they followed the old man to the gate. With a clank and rattle of the chain, the gates were unlocked. Sky followed Nolan inside while the groundskeeper returned to his truck to drink his coffee and smoke a cigarette.
“I thought you said you wrote romance,” Sky hissed in a sharp whisper as they strolled into the graveyard. Huge maple and oak trees dotted the rolling hills, offering a picturesque backdrop among the old granite and marble gravestones. Warm sunlight poked through here and there, dancing across the green grass as the leaves moved in the breeze.
Nolan grinned. “I do. Am I allowed to write only one genre?”
“Well…no, I guess not.”
“I write under three pen names. It helps readers keep my different types of books separated. One writes romance. Another handles horror and thrillers. And the last one does fantasy.”
Huh.That was pretty cool.
Sky wanted to ask more about Nolan’s work, but the thought was torn from his head as they turned a bend in the winding gravel road. Stretched out in front of them was the first hill filled with graves. Out of close to one hundred graves, more than half appeared to be open. The corpses were partly out of the grave or fully out of the ground and lying on their stomachs in the grass.
“Whoa…” Nolan exhaled next to him. “I thought it was creepy when you raised the army that night with Owen, but this…this seems scarier.”
“Because you know it happened all around the city in over twenty graveyards?” Sky asked.
Normally, Sky could brush off most things related to corpses and death, but this was chilling even to him. How could anyone do something on this scale? To be this strong, it was mind-boggling and terrifying. Even on his best day, Sky was sure he could raise what he saw out of their graves, but that was it. He couldn’t raise multiple cemeteries across town simultaneously.
Sky walked over to the edge of the hill where it met the gravel road, then squatted and ran his fingers through the cool grass. The morning dew had already burned away, but there was a lingering residue hanging on the green blades and hovering in the air inches above the ground. It was the same feel of heavy magic he encountered when he was in the underworld.
That was to be expected, but something was missing.
The necromancer’s signature.
Every magic user, whether that person was an earth witch, blood witch, or a necromancer, had their own personal signature. Almost like a magical fingerprint. Even if two witches cast the same damn spell, that magical signature could identify them.
But there was no fingerprint of the spell cast.