I have spoken again with the reverend who has agreed to marry us in secret. He would like to perform the ceremony within the next two weeks. While I’m aware that doesn’t provide you with ample time to prepare for such a life-changing event, it’s better to do this sooner than later. To delay our nuptials any longer would be to risk your father discovering what we are planning. I have already made arrangements to have a carriage waiting outside Baneberry Hall’s gate at the stroke of midnight in nine days’ time. At the reins will be a trusted friend of mine who has already agreed to take you to the place where we will exchange vows. A place that I am reluctant to disclose in this letter, for fear it will somehow get into the wrong hands. Prepare as much as you are able as discreetly as possible. When the clock strikes midnight, make your escape, hoping that someday your father’s opinion of our marriage will have changed and you will be allowed to return to the home you so love, this time as my wife.
July 10, 1889
My beloved Indigo,
Your most recent letter has me concerned, more than I care to admit. Do you suspect your father has somehow received word of our plan? If so, what reason do you have to believe he knows? I pray this suspicion is merely the result of nervousness about what we are about to do, for no good can result from your father’s knowledge. I urge you once again to go about this with the utmost secrecy.
Yours in devotion,
July 15, 1889
Fear grips me as I write these words—a deep, bone-rattling fear that your father plans to stop our impending marriage by any means necessary. I gather from your last letter than he does indeed know what we have planned, even though he has yet to admit as much. Do not trust him, my dearest. The only thing preventing me from storming the doors of Baneberry Hall and stealing you away is the knowledge that mere hours stand between now and the stroke of midnight. Remain strong and safe until then, my love.
Yours for eternity,
I lowered the last letter in a state of sadness, knowing that Indigo never did join poor, besotted Callum at the altar. Petra, sensing my grief, said, “She never married him, did she?”
“No,” I said. “The story I heard is that her father found out, stopped her from eloping, and forbade her from ever seeing Callum again.”
Petra let out a low whistle. “Damn. What did Indigo do?”
“She killed herself.”
“Damn.” Her expression grew pensive. “Indigo was how old when she died?”
“Sixteen,” I said.
“So am I. And trust me, if I was in love with someone, nothing would stop me from seeing him. Not even my mother. And I definitely wouldn’t kill myself.”
She sorted through the letters, ignoring their delicate state. When she stabbed at one with an index finger, tiny chips fell from the page.
“Right here,” she said, reading aloud. “‘Your father plans to stop our impending marriage by any means necessary.’”
She passed the letter to me, and I read it again, paying close attention to Callum’s warning about William Garson.
Do not trust him, my dearest.
“What if—” Petra stopped herself, her cheeks flushing again, as if she knew what she was about to say was stupid. “What if Indigo Garson didn’t commit suicide? What if she was murdered by her father?”
I was thinking the same thing. I’d always thought the official story I got from Hibbs was missing a key element that tied it all together. This, I realized, could be it.
“I think you might be onto something,” I said. “The question is, what can we do about it?”
Petra arched a brow, as if the answer was obvious.
“We do some research,” she said. “And see if we can prove that William Garson was a killer.”
In the morning, I spend an hour blow-drying my still-damp clothes before checking out of the motel. It says a lot about the accommodations in Bartleby that I’d rather return to an allegedly haunted house that had a skeleton in the ceiling than spend another night at the Two Pines.
But it’s more than just the sad state of the motel that brings me back to Baneberry Hall. I return because I need to. The truth—about why we left, about why my father kept coming back, about what happened to poor Petra—is getting closer. Now it’s just a matter of finding it.
I even get a police escort, courtesy of Chief Alcott, who stops by the motel as I’m checking out to give me the all-clear to return home. She insists on steering her battered Dodge Charger ahead of me the whole way home. When we reach Baneberry Hall, I understand why.
The front gate is blocked by reporters from both print and television. Several news vans have set up camp on the side of the road, their back doors open and beefy cameramen waiting inside like bored children. They leap from their vans when we pull up to the gate, cameras swinging my way. The reporters crush around my truck, including Brian Prince, his bow tie giving his I-told-you-so expression an extra veneer of smugness.
“Maggie!” he shouts. “Do you think your father murdered Petra Ditmer?”
I keep driving, inching the truck forward until I’m at the gate. Chief Alcott climbs out of her cruiser, armed with the keys I handed to her before we left the Two Pines. She ambles through the crowd and unlocks the gate.