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Page 101

You kept repeating it, almost as if you were trying to convince yourself as much as us.

“It wasn’t me. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t me.”

At first, I believed you. You were my daughter, after all. I knew you better than anyone, even your mother. You were sweet and kind. You wouldn’t purposely hurt anyone.

But then I thought about how you had punched Petra’s sister in the face during the sleepover. It shocked me then and shocked me again in recollection. It was proof that anger boiled just beneath your placid demeanor.

There was also physical evidence. Petra’s shirt had been torn. There was a gap in the seam at her shoulder, exposing pale skin. Just above it were three scratch marks on her neck, as if she’d been attacked. You also had a cut—a bad one under your left eye. I could only assume it was caused by Petra, fighting you off.

Still, you kept denying it.

“It wasn’t me. It wasn’t me.”

“Then who was it, Maggie?” I asked, wishing with all my power that you’d give us a logical response.

But you only looked us in the eyes and said, “Miss Pennyface.”

I remember that moment like it just happened. It was the moment I realized that my fears were correct. Since Miss Pennyface didn’t exist, that meant it was you who had killed Petra.

Things would have turned out very differently if Petra’s mother knew she was at Baneberry Hall. We would have had no choice but to go to the authorities. But no one else knew she was there. No one but us.

So when your mother tried to call 911, I stopped her before she could dial.

I told her we needed to think long and hard before we did that. That it might not be in our best interest to get the police involved.

“A girl is dead, Ewan,” she said. “I don’t care about our best interest.”

“What about Maggie’s?” I asked. “Because whatever we do next, it’s going to affect her for the rest of her life.”

I explained that if we called 911, the police would take even less time than it took us to see that this wasn’t an accident. Petra’s torn shirt and the scratches on her neck indicated far worse.

It showed that you had pushed her down those stairs.

I didn’t know what precipitated it. I didn’t want to know. I realized that the less I knew, the better. But I knew I still loved you, in spite of what you had done. I thought there was nothing you could do that would make me love you less. But I worried that knowing the details of what happened had the potential to change that thinking. And I didn’t want to see you as a monster, which is what everyone else would have thought if word got out that you had killed Petra.

It was that argument that finally convinced your mother to go along with my plan. I told her that perception is a tricky thing. When people think of you a certain way, it’s almost impossible to put that genie back in the bottle. And when the world considers someone a monster, people treat them like one, and it isn’t long before that person starts to believe it as well.

“Is that what we want for Maggie?” I said. “For her to be locked up in some juvenile detention center until she’s eighteen? Then to spend the rest of her life being judged by people? No matter what she does, for the rest of her life, people will look at her and only see a killer. What do you think that will do to her? What kind of life will that be?”

I’m not proud of what I did that night. The shame I carry weighs on my heart and keeps me up at night. But I need you to know that we did it for you. We wanted to spare you from the brutal existence you certainly would have had if the police got involved.

So we decided to keep it a secret.

While your mother took you upstairs to dress the wound on your face, I disposed of the body. Even though writing those words just now made me nauseous, that’s exactly what I did. This wasn’t an act of burial. It was disposal, pure and simple. I put Petra’s body in a canvas knapsack left over from my days as a traveling reporter. I dropped it into the hole in the floor where we’d found the letters to Indigo Garson, replaced the boards, and unrolled the carpet over them.

Just like that, Petra was gone.

It was your mother who demanded we leave Baneberry Hall. The two of you came downstairs, you with a bandage on your cheek and she carrying the teddy bear Petra had brought with her that night.

I suspect it was the bear that caused what happened next. It jerked your mother out of her shock, making her realize it wasn’t just a random person we had buried beneath the floorboards, but a young woman. Someone smart and sweet who still slept with a teddy bear.

“I can’t be here,” your mother gasped as the full weight of our actions sunk in. “Not knowing she’s here. Not after what we’ve done to her. I just can’t.”

I understood then that we had no choice but to leave. In a daze, I hid the bear in the closet of my study. We then piled into the car without packing a thing and went back to the Two Pines motel. Thanks to a shift change, there was a new clerk at the front desk. And since we’d paid with cash, there was no record we’d ever been there earlier that night.

“I’m never going back there,” your mother said once we were in our room. “I can’t, Ewan. I’m sorry.”

I, too, felt it wise not to return. We’d gotten away with a heinous deed. Going back to Baneberry Hall would remind us daily of what we’d done. All I wanted to do was forget.

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