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Page 63

A more accurate depiction.

My actions, though cathartic, have left the desk littered with glass shards. I try to sweep them together with the nearest piece of paper I can find, which turns out to be the folded note bearing that single, quizzical word.

WHERE??

I’d forgotten about it in the turmoil of the last few days. At the time, I had no idea what it meant. Seeing it again brings a flash of understanding.

Petra.

Someone had been looking for her, even if the police weren’t. And they came right to the source—my father.

I search the desk, looking for similar messages. I find them in a lower drawer. Stuffed inside, in no discernible order, are dozens of sheets of paper. Some are folded. Others lie flat. Some bear edges made crisp by time. Others are as white as down.

I pick one up, its message written in a wide, messy script.

WHY?

I grab another page. A yellow-edged one. The handwriting is the same, albeit slightly neater. The lines aren’t as wobbly. The script less frenzied.

TELL ME WHERE SHE IS

I scoop up every page that’s been shoved into the desk, arranging them in a flat pile. I then shuffle through them, reading each one. They all bear similar messages.

WHAT DID YOU DO TO HER????

I sort through the stack again, slapping the pages on top of one another like a bank teller counting out cash.

There are twenty-four of them.

One for every year since Petra Ditmer disappeared.

And the last one I see tells me exactly who wrote them.

WHERE IS MY SISTER?

JULY 6

Day 11

The interior of Bartleby’s library bore an uncanny resemblance to Baneberry Hall. Large and charmingly Gothic, it was a riot of arched windows and carved cornices. Stepping inside literally felt like coming home. I wasn’t surprised when I saw the bronze plaque just inside the door announcing that the library had been paid for by William Garson.

A portrait of him hung on the other side of the hallway. I recognized his face from the one in the great room, although this portrait’s painter had been far more kind. Mr. Garson’s features were softer, his eyes not as dark. With his top hat and white beard, he looked more like a kindly old man than someone capable of killing his daughter.

The library’s main reading room was a wood-trimmed octagon in the middle of the building. The circulation desk sat in the center of the room—the library’s beating heart. Fanning outward from the desk like spokes on a wheel were wooden bookshelves that stretched from floor to ceiling on two separate levels. Staircases flanking the door swept upward to the second floor.

That’s where I found Petra.

She had commandeered an entire table, which was covered with books about Bartleby history and several bulky file folders. “You’re here,” she said when she saw me. “I didn’t think you were going to show.”

I almost didn’t, for Jess’s sake. Although she had apologized for what she said yesterday—an exhausted “I’m sorry about the Petra stuff. I was just being jealous and ridiculous”—I knew she wouldn’t like the idea of my meeting alone with Petra. Especially when our intention was to dig into Baneberry Hall’s history, something I promised my wife I wouldn’t do. But my curiosity about Indigo Garson’s fate overrode any apprehension I had about our meeting. It always won out over common sense.

“Looks like you’ve been busy,” I said as I took a seat next to Petra.

“I had help.” Petra patted the stack of folders. “The reference librarian gave me this. Said they get a lot of people coming in wanting to know more about your house. Does it feel weird living in a place that’s famous?”

“I haven’t been there long enough,” I said, leaving out how Baneberry Hall feels weird for a bunch of other reasons. “Does it feel weird living almost literally in its shadow?”

Petra snagged a lock of blond hair and absently twirled it. “Not really. I haven’t lived anywhere else to know the difference, but my mom gets weird sometimes.”

“How so?”

“She always prays before she goes up there. Kisses her crucifix. Stuff like that. She told me once that it was haunted.”

“She really thinks that?”

“She’s just superstitious,” Petra said as she grabbed one folder and handed another to me. “It’s the German in her. Very strict. Very Christian. Like, if she knew I was doing this, she’d tell me no good could come of it. That it will only lead to me being haunted by William Garson’s evil spirit or something.”

The folder she’d given me was filled with newspaper clippings. Most of them came from the local paper, the Bartleby Gazette, which looked to be almost as old as Baneberry Hall. The first clipping was a photocopy of a ragged front page dated September 3, 1876. The top story—bearing the headline OPEN HOUSE AT GARSON MANSE—was about the evening William Garson invited the entire town to visit his grand estate.

Many other articles in the folder had a similarly fluffy bent. Headlines about balls and birthdays and famous visitors to Baneberry Hall. I especially got a kick out of one from 1940. HOLLYWOOD ROYALTY SUMMERS IN BARTLEBY. The article included a blotchy photo of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard having cocktails in the Indigo Room.

But tales of death also lurked among the stories of glamour and frivolity. Far more than I had been led to believe. A string of tragedies that began with the death of Indigo Garson. A car accident in 1926 that killed another member of the Garson clan. A drowning in the bathtub in 1941. Two bed-and-breakfast guests dying mysteriously, one in 1955 and the other a year later. A fatal fall down the steps in 1974.

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