“You’re pushing it.”
I looked to the board, where the planchette continued to circle YES, even though my fingers were barely touching it. It was the same with Jess. Her touch was so light it looked as if her fingers hovered over the ivory.
A chill entered the kitchen—a sudden drop of temperature I felt in my bones. I hadn’t felt cold like that since the night I first heard the music coming from the third floor. When I exhaled, I saw my breath.
Shivering, I spat out another question before the planchette could stop moving.
“Spirit, did you once reside in Baneberry Hall?”
The planchette continued to circle the word.
“Spirit, what is your name?”
The planchette jerked again. So fast that Jess audibly gasped. I stared at it, dumbfounded, as it moved seemingly on its own to a letter in the center of the board.
“Is this the spirit of Curtis Carver?” I asked.
The planchette did another lurch to the YES in the upper left corner. Across the table, Jess gave me a worried look. She was about to lift her fingers from the planchette, but I shook my head, urging her to keep them there.
“Curtis, are you also who my daughter refers to as Mister Shadow?”
The planchette kept circling.
“Our daughter said you’ve spoken to her,” I said. “Is that true?”
More swooping and circling ensued around the word.
“Do you have something to say to us?”
The planchette quickly slid back to the letter C. Six other letters followed, the planchette moving so hard I could hear it scritching across the board. Jess and I kept our fingers on top of it, our wrists jerking back and forth with each letter.
“Careful?” I read aloud.
The planchette rocketed back to the YES, touching it briefly before returning to the double rainbow of letters and spelling out the same word.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
The planchette never stopped moving, repeating the seven-letter pattern three more times.
As soon as the planchette’s narrowed tip hit the final L, it swung to the bottom of the board in a jarring swoop.
The chill left the kitchen. I felt it go—an instant warming.
“What the hell just happened?” Jess asked.
I didn’t know. Nor did I have time to consider it, for at that moment a scream pierced the silence of the house.
Making the same siren-like wail she’d let out during the sleepover.
Jess and I ran upstairs, pounding up both sets of steps until we were on the second floor and in Maggie’s room. Once again, she stood on her bed, screaming in the direction of the armoire.
Its doors were open.
“Mister Shadow!” she cried. “He was here!”
After leaving Dr. Weber’s office, I head back to Maple Street in search of Bartleby’s public library. The doctor’s mention of Baneberry Hall’s history beyond the Carver family has me curious to find out more. As an added benefit, it will take my mind off Mister Shadow. Something I desperately need. I long for the quiet camaraderie only a library can provide.
Except Bartleby’s library no longer exists—a fact I learn when I pop into a beauty salon to ask for directions.
“That closed years ago,” the hairdresser says while not so subtly eyeing my split ends. “There was a fire, which destroyed almost everything. The town voted not to rebuild.”
I thank her and move on, declining her offer of a trim. Without a library, there’s only one place else I know to go for information—the Bartleby Gazette.
The newspaper’s headquarters are located in an unassuming office building on the southern end of Maple Street. Outside, a newspaper box displays the latest edition. The headline running across the front page is in letters so bold they’re practically screaming.
BODY FOUND IN BANEBERRY HALL
If the headline of every article was this sensational, then no wonder Allie was worried. I’d be alarmed, too.
A subhead sits below the main headline, not as large but equally as intriguing.
Remains discovered in notorious house allegedly girl missing for 25 years.
Included with the article, written by none other than Brian Prince, are three photos. One is an archive image of Baneberry Hall, probably taken around the time the Book came out. The other two are my father’s old author photo and a faded yearbook shot of Petra Ditmer.
Seeing that front page makes me loathe to enter the office. But the sad truth is that I need Brian Prince more than he needs me. So enter I do, finding myself in an office that’s less like a functioning newspaper and more like a hobby. A solitary one. The newsroom, if it could even be called that, is filled with empty desks on which sit computers probably unused since the Clinton administration.
Sitting opposite the front door is a grandmotherly receptionist with the requisite bowl of hard candy. When she sees me, her mouth forms a tight O of surprise. “Mr. Prince is—”