The park in the middle of the city had always been creepy. In this city, that was hardly surprising, especially for the thousands of people who had no power of their own but enough of the blood to sense what was going on. The park had power, power by the boatload, and it had danger and ghosts twice on top of twice the power it had. For a small thing, a city block crossed by stone, it was fraught with history and with meaning, and it was so overgrown as to be more of a tangle than a park.
It would take careful handling, but Whitney had found that many things did. She started in the library, reading every article the Local History librarians could find her, down to the smallest clippings, single lines in the crime blotter, short paragraphs in obituaries, mentions in the Floral Column when she went back far enough.
She got permission by submitting a form that was ignored — that being the way of city bureaucracy — and she started slow, taking the earlier bus so she could have an hour in the mornings to work, carrying tools and plants in her gym bag.
“On this spot,” she told the dandelions and the thistles, “Emory MacDonald proposed to Dahlia Stonemason. He knelt here, in the alyssum, and her tears fell on the sidewalk.” She pulled weeds and smoothed down dirt, finding, under all the overgrowth, the marble border some long-ago gardener had placed with care. Into the fresh dirt, she planted some alyssum and watered them with bottled water.
“On this spot,” she told a particularly nasty weed a few days later, “Sally Hennings vanished. They say she’d collapsed, been hit so badly she had had lost consciousness, but when the police arrived, she was gone, never to resurface.” There she planted lilies, setting the bulbs in little circles so she could dig them up for the winter if she needed.
That was a Friday; in one week she had cleared an area 2 feet deep by five feet wide. But when she returned on Monday, she found she was not working alone.
“Here,” the translucent man told her, “a woman kissed her lover for the last time before the war.” He knelt down and dug, translucent or not, and daffodils — bright and flowering and out of season — replaced the matted weeds.
“Here,” a slim creature who had never been human sang, “They buried a diary. The book is gone, but the story remains.” Ivy twined from its feet, filling the shaded area with brilliant greenery.
Whitney did not turn, but she knew the voice that had come behind her. “This place has many a story, woman of the city, and you have no debt to it nor to its denizens. You will be a long time at unearthing them all, even with the help.”
“It needs to be done,” Whitney replied, although she could not have said why. “So I shall do it.”
“Very well, then. You will have the time and the space to do it in.” His voice had the finality of fairy gifts, but still, he sounded kind.
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