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Page 94

Bullshit, I think.

I then say it aloud, hoping that uttering the word will make it true.

“Bullshit.”

But it isn’t. I know that the moment I see the page the Book is open to. It’s the chapter that takes place on the Fourth of July. The day the kitchen ceiling was patched. I scan the page, one passage in particular leaping out at me.

Now it was time to patch the formidable hole in the ceiling. For that, I enlisted Hibbs, who brought a boy from town to help because the task was too big for just him alone.

My heart beats faster as I read it again and let the full weight of the words sink in.

A boy from town.

Who was in this house the same time as Petra.

Who likely knew her.

Who could have been her boyfriend. Or something.

Who might have persuaded her to sneak out her bedroom window.

Who might have suggested they run away together and became violent when Petra got second thoughts.

Who then broke into Baneberry Hall and dumped her body under the floorboards because he knew there was a hiding place there.

A boy, I realize, who’s in one of the Polaroids my father took.

I snatch the photo off the desk. When I first saw it, I’d thought it was my father standing behind Walt Hibbets and his ladder. I should have realized my father was likely behind the camera—and that it was someone else lurking in the back of the image.

I can’t see too many details, even after I bring the picture close to my face and squint. Just a narrow slice of clothing and an even smaller sliver of face poke out beyond the ladder. The only way I can get a bigger, better view is if I had a magnifying glass.

Which I realize with a delighted jolt that I do.

There’s one in the top desk drawer. I saw it there during my first trek into the study. It’s still there now, sitting among pens and paper clips. I grab it and hold it in front of the Polaroid, the mystery man now exponentially larger. I see dark hair, half of a handsome face, a sturdy arm, and a broad chest.

And I see his T-shirt.

Black and emblazoned with an image that’s only half visible.

The Rolling Stones logo.

My mind flashes back to that dingy room at the Two Pines. Dane stepping inside, looking so good that I couldn’t help but stare. When he caught me, I complimented his shirt. I hear his voice loud in my memory.

I’ve had it since I was a teenager.

And I hear his voice now, coming from the study door, where he stands with his arms at his sides and a dour look on his face.

“I can explain,” he says.

JULY 15

Day 20—Before Dark

I woke up on the floor.

Where in the house, I didn’t know.

All I knew when I regained consciousness was that I was somewhere inside Baneberry Hall, flat-backed on the floor, my joints stiff and my head pounding. It wasn’t until I opened my eyes and saw the portrait of Indigo Garson staring down at me that everything came rushing back.

Me in the Indigo Room.

Scraping at the painting.

Seeing the snake in Indigo’s hands.

A snake that, the longer I looked at it, the more unnerved I became. I wanted to believe Indigo’s pose with the snake was one of those Victorian-era eccentricities. Like death masks and taxidermied birds on hats. But my gut told me there was something far more sinister behind it.

That the snake represented Indigo’s true nature.

A predator.

I assumed it was William Garson who’d ordered it painted over. An attempt to hide the truth about his daughter. I suspected he couldn’t bear to paint over the whole portrait. The artist—poor, besotted Callum Auguste—had done too good a job for that. So the rabbit replaced the snake, an ironic reversal not found in nature.

Now the snake was exposed again. With it came grim understanding that I’d been wrong about so much.

It wasn’t William Garson making fathers kill their daughters inside Baneberry Hall.

It was Indigo.

I understood it with icy clarity. Just like the snake in her hands, she slithered her way into the minds of men who lived here, making them obsessed with what happened to her. I didn’t know if she died by her own hand or her father’s. In the end, it didn’t matter. Indigo was dead, but her spirit remained. Now she spent her days seeking vengeance for what her father had done. She didn’t care that he, too, was long gone. To her, every father deserved punishment.

So she made them kill their daughters.

Six times that had happened.

There wasn’t going to be a seventh.

I made my way back to the kitchen slowly, too sore from my night on the floor to move quickly. After hobbling down the steps, I found myself in front of the bells once more.

“Curtis,” I whispered, fearful Indigo was also nearby. Lurking. Listening. “Are you there?”

Three familiar bells rang.

YES


“It was Indigo, wasn’t it? She made you kill Katie.”

Another three rings.

YES


“What can I do?” I said. “How can I stop her? How can I tell if she’s here?”

Five bells rang a total of six times. At the final chime—the first bell on the first row—I realized he had spelled a word new to this weird form of communication.

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