Overhome Trilogy, Book 3
With a successful writing career and blissful marriage, Ashby Overton is fulfilled and content at historic Overhome Estate in Southern Virginia until a stranger walks into her life. The arrival of Professor Ellis O. Grady coincides with a violent and bizarre turbulence emanating from the dark world of Overhome's ancient spirits.
As paranormal events build into chaos, Ashby must use her sixth sense to sort out the real from the imagined in both the visible and the invisible worlds as, stirred into fury, the souls of Civil War slaves engage in a dangerous battle destined to reveal long-held secrets of the past.
What is the connection between the enigmatic professor, a slave-built chapel and a restored overseer's cottage on Overhome Estate? Ashby struggles to find the answers before the spirits destroy her family's heritage, and the lives of those she loves.
Ellis stood at my side. “Jared Chapel,” he murmured. “You know, “My slave ancestors at Overhome Estate may have helped to build this house of worship.” He appeared to be talking to himself. “I’ve done some research. Jared Chapel is the oldest Negro church in this county and one of the few slave-built churches left standing anywhere in America.” He touched the sign, rubbing off a few flakes of white background paint. “You know the slaves did not always have enough to eat. They could be whipped for no reason. There was, in most cases, absolutely no freedom of any sort. Here they could band together and pray for a fix to their often unendurable situation.” He pressed his fingers to his forehead. “Could I possibly find any answers here?” He indicated the graveyard. “Do my forebears lie buried in this cemetery?”
We took our time examining the exterior of Jared Chapel. Though the shuttered windows had been nailed tight, through the cracks we could catch glimpses of wooden pews arranged in two rows over the plank floor. What must have been an altar stood at the back of the single room. Though Ellis pulled hard on the door, it was firmly locked, perhaps driven, by weathered years, tightly and inextricably into the warped frame. At length we turned to the grounds almost entirely taken up by the ancient graveyard, some of which was cordoned off with a weather-worn wrought iron fence.
Walking over the weedy ground, I felt the desolate abandonment of those long-dead. A few tilting gravestones, so blurred with time that their epitaphs were illegible, listed toward the ground as if sheltering from a punishing wind. Scattered among the patchwork grasses were small, thin stone markers set in the dirt, little more than raw rocks, though several bore the faint outline of initials which had been chiseled into them so long ago. Ellis and I surveyed the bleak cemetery, each harboring our own thoughts. I don’t know how long we stood there breathing in the silence. Then, I heard the voice—so clear, so distinct, that I startled and almost fell back. Did my companion hear it, too? I darted a look at him. He stood with eyes closed, evidently completely lost in his own reverie. I held my breath and listened with all my senses on alert. The voice wavered this time, as though trailing away, but its repeated message was identical to the one I had first heard at the overseer’s cottage when the candlestick went missing. I had thought, then, that I heard “red apple,” which made no sense. Now I understood. “Jared Chapel,” the voice warned. Yes, its tone was severe. Demanding. “Jared Chapel.”
I touched Ellis’s arm. “It’s here, Ellis. I know it is.” And when he blinked uncomprehendingly, I added, “You wondered if Jared Chapel offers anything in your search for your ancestry. It’s here—there’s something here. I feel it and I…I know it.”
He blinked again, several times, a serious expression on his face. “You know because….”
“Sometimes the past speaks to me. I can’t explain it, but I have to trust the voice that tells me things.”
He rubbed his chin. “You know…this is odd. Really odd.”
I raised my eyebrows in a silent question and he continued. “Because I thought I heard something. I definitely felt…felt a presence I can’t explain. Someone trying to get my attention. Someone very, very seriously trying to make me understand.” He shook his head. “Understand what? I confess, I’m baffled.”
“It’s a sign,” I said. “Something I’ve learned over my years at Overhome. We ignore the signs at our own peril.”