She said no more, letting me infer the reason for that.

“I understand this is extremely difficult for you to talk about,” I said. “But I was wondering if you could tell me what happened that day.”

“My husband murdered my daughter, then killed himself.” Marta Carver looked me square in the eye as she said it, daring me to turn away.

I didn’t.

“I need to know how it happened,” I gently said.

“I really don’t see how describing the worst day of my life will help you.”

“This isn’t about helping me,” I replied. “It’s about helping my daughter.”

Marta responded with a slight nod. I had convinced her.

Before speaking, she shifted in her chair and placed her palms flat against the table. All emotion left her face. I understood what she was doing—retreating to a safe place while she recounted the destruction of her family.

“I found Curtis first.” Her voice had also changed. It was lifeless, almost cold. Another coping technique. “He was on the third floor. In that room of his. A man cave. That’s what he called it. No girls allowed. I would have considered it ridiculous if Baneberry Hall hadn’t been so big. There was enough space for each of us to have several rooms.

“That morning, I was awakened by a noise coming from Curtis’s man cave. When I saw that his side of the bed was empty, I immediately got worried. I thought he might have fallen and hurt himself. I hurried up the steps to the third floor, not realizing that the life I had known and loved was about to end. But then I saw Curtis on the floor and knew he was dead. There was a trash bag over his head and that belt around his neck, and he wasn’t moving. Not even a little. I think I screamed. I’m not sure. I do remember shouting for Katie to call 911. When she didn’t respond, I ran back down to the second floor, yelling that she needed to get out of bed, that I needed her help, that she couldn’t under any circumstances go up to the third floor.

“I really didn’t think about why she wasn’t responding until I was a few inches from her bedroom door. That’s when it hit me. That she was dead, too. I knew it right before I got to the doorway. And when I did, I saw that it was true. She was lying there, so still. And a pillow—”

Grief cut through her voice like a hatchet. The masklike expression on her face shattered. In its place was a heart-wrenching combination of pain and sorrow and regret.

“I can’t do this anymore,” she said. “I’m sorry, Mr. Holt.”

“I’m the one who’s sorry,” I said. “I shouldn’t have insisted on it.”

Yet there was one more thing I needed to know. Something I was reluctant to ask about because I knew it would only further Marta’s pain.

“I have one last question.”

“What is it?” Marta replied with understandable exasperation.

“You said you were awakened by a sound from the third floor.”

“Yes. I realized later it was the sound of Curtis’s body hitting the floor. A loud, horrible thud.”

“Do you happen to know what time this was?”

“I looked at the clock when I realized Curtis wasn’t in bed. It was four fifty-four a.m.”

I had already assumed that. Yet it still didn’t prevent the full-body shiver I felt upon hearing it.

Baneberry Hall remembers, Hibbs had said.

And so it did.

It remembered key events and repeated them. What I’d been trying to understand was why. There had to be a reason I heard that dreadful thud upstairs every morning. Just like there was a reason for the ringing of the bells and Maggie’s near-constant visits from the man she knew as Mister Shadow.

He says we’re going to die here.

Coming secondhand from my daughter, it sounded like a threat. That the unruly spirit of Curtis Carver planned to do us harm.

Then why hadn’t he done it yet? Instead, he continued to try to communicate with us. Which made me think he wasn’t threatening us at all.

He was trying to warn us.

“Other than the tapping your husband heard, was there anything else he might have experienced that was suspicious?” I asked Marta.

“I already told you that he didn’t,” she said.

“And he never talked about feeling uneasy in the house?”


“Or that he was worried in any way about your family’s safety?”

Marta crossed her arms and said, “No, and I’d appreciate it if you told me what you’re suggesting, Mr. Holt.”

“That someone else—or something else—killed your husband and daughter.”

Marta Carver couldn’t have looked more stunned if I had slapped her. Her body went still for a moment. All color drained from her face. Her appearance was so alarming that I worried she was going to pass out in the middle of the library. But then everything righted itself just before she snapped, “How dare you?”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s just that I’m starting to suspect that what happened that day isn’t what you think happened.”

“Don’t you tell me what I know and don’t know about the destruction of my family,” Marta said with pronounced disgust. “How would you know better than me about what happened?”