Anna Dressed in Blood / Page 10

Page 10

“She’s not that kind of spook story,” Daisy insisted. “You won’t ask around town and get anything about her—unless you ask in the right places. She’s not a tourist attraction. But you walk into any teenage girls’ slumber party, and I guarantee you they’ll be telling Anna’s story at midnight.”

“Because I walk into a ton of teenage girls’ slumber parties,” I sighed. Of course, I suppose that Daisy really did, back in his day. “What’s the deal?”

“She was sixteen when she died, the daughter of Finnish immigrants. Her father was dead, he died of some disease or something, and her mom ran a boarding house downtown. Anna was on her way to a school dance when she was killed. Someone cut her throat, but that’s an understatement. Someone nearly cut her head clean off. They say she was wearing a white party dress, and when they found her, the whole thing was stained red. That’s why they call her Anna Dressed in Blood.”

“Anna Dressed in Blood,” I repeated softly.

“Some people think that it was one of the boarders that did it. That some pervert took a look at her and liked what he saw, followed her and left her bleeding in a ditch. Others say it was her date, or a jealous boyfriend.”

I took a deep breath to pull me out of my trance. It was bad, but they were all bad, and it was by no means the worst thing I’d ever heard. Howard Sowberg, a farmer in central Iowa, killed his entire family with a pair of hedge shears, alternately stabbing and snipping as the case allowed. His entire family consisted of his wife, his two young sons, a newborn, and his elderly mother. Now that was one of the worst things I’d ever heard. I was disappointed to get to central Iowa and discover that the ghost of Howard Sowberg wasn’t remorseful enough to hang around. Strangely enough, it’s usually the victims that turn bad in the afterlife. The truly evil move on, to burn or turn to dust or be reincarnated as dung beetles. They use up all their rage while they’re still breathing.

Daisy was still going on about Anna’s legend. His voice was growing lower and breathier with excitement. I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or be annoyed.

“Okay, so what does she do, now?”

He paused. “She’s killed twenty-seven teenagers … that I know of.”

Twenty-seven teenagers in the last half century. It was starting to sound like a fairy tale again, either that or the strangest cover-up in history. Nobody kills twenty-seven teenagers and escapes without being chased into a castle by a crowd holding torches and pitchforks. Not even a ghost.

“Twenty-seven local kids? You’ve got to be kidding me. Not drifters, or runaways?”


“Well, what? Someone’s pulling your chain, Bristol.” Bitterness grew in the back of my throat. I don’t know why. So what if the tip was fake? There were fifteen other ghosts waiting in the stack. One of them was from Colorado, some Grizzly Adams type who was murdering hunters on an entire mountain. Now that sounded like fun.

“They never find any bodies,” Daisy said in an effort to explain. “They must just figure that the kids ran away, or were abducted. It’s only the other kids who would say anything about Anna, and of course nobody does. You know better than that.”

Yeah. I knew better than that. And I knew something else too. There was more to Anna’s story than Daisy was telling me. I don’t know what it was, call it intuition. Maybe it was her name, scrawled out in crimson. Maybe Daisy’s cheap and masochistic trick really did work after all. But I knew. I know. I feel it in my gut, and my father always told me when your gut says something, you listen.

“I’ll look into it.”

“Are you going?” There was that excited tone again, like an overeager beagle waiting to have his rope thrown.

“I said I’ll look into it. I’ve got something to wrap up here first.”

“What is it?”

I briefly told him about the County 12 Hiker. He made some asinine suggestions on how to draw him out that were so asinine I don’t even remember them now. Then, as usual, he tried to get me to come down to New Orleans.

I wouldn’t touch New Orleans with a ten-foot pole. That town is haunted as shit, and all the better for it. Nowhere in the world loves its ghosts more than that city. Sometimes I worry for Daisy; I worry that someone will get wind of his talking to me, sending me out on hunts, and then someday I’ll have to be hunting him, some ripped-up victim version of him dragging his severed limbs around a warehouse.

I lied to him that day. I didn’t look into it any further. By the time I had gotten off the phone, I knew that I was going after Anna. My gut told me that she wasn’t just a story. And besides, I wanted to see her, dressed in blood.

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