The accident in 1926 happened when a car curving its way down the hillside suddenly veered off the driveway into the woods. The driver claimed a white blur had streaked in front of the car, forcing him to swerve to miss it. The car hit a tree, killing the passenger—William Garson’s fourteen-year-old granddaughter.
The man behind the wheel was her father.
In 1941, the person who drowned in the bathtub was the daughter of the Hollywood producer who had bought the place from the Garson family.
She was four, far too young to be in a bathtub on her own.
Which is why her father had been there with her.
He told police he had, for no ascertainable reason, suddenly blacked out. He woke up to the sight of his daughter’s lifeless body floating in the tub. The police had considered pressing charges, but there hadn’t been enough evidence.
Then two deaths in two years, after Baneberry Hall became a bed-and-breakfast. One guest, a fifteen-year-old, inexplicably climbed out a second-floor window and fell to her death. Another—a thirteen-year-old girl—was found dead in her bed, the victim of an unknown heart condition.
Both girls had been staying with their fathers.
The death in 1974 was another apparent accident. The victim, the only daughter of the family who bought the house after its bed-and-breakfast days had ended, tumbled down the main staircase.
She was five.
The same age as Maggie.
The only witness was her father, who couldn’t provide a good reason why his daughter, who had gone up and down those steps hundreds of times, would fall.
Adding in Indigo Garson and Katie Carver, seven people had died in or near Baneberry Hall.
All of them girls.
All of them sixteen or younger.
All of them in the presence of their fathers.
Something entered the room just then. I sensed it—an additional presence imperceptibly felt.
“Is this Curtis Carver?”
“If it is you, give me a sign.”
The record player next to me switched itself on. I watched it happen, my eyes not quite believing what they were seeing. One moment, the turntable was still. The next, it was spinning, the grooves on the album atop it blurring as it picked up speed.
Even more incredible was when the record player’s arm moved by itself, as if pushed by an unseen hand. The needle dropped on the usual spot, and the music began to play.
“You are sixteen, going on seventeen—”
I scanned the room, looking for a glimpse of Curtis Carver himself. If Maggie could see him, then it seemed reasonable I could, too.
I saw nothing.
Still, Curtis was there. The record player confirmed it.
“Did you kill your daughter?” I asked him.
The music continued to play.
“Baby, it’s time to think.”
I took it to mean his answer was no. Maybe because I had started to believe he was innocent. After all, he hadn’t been around for all those other deaths. But William Garson had been. He had been at Baneberry Hall since the very beginning, even if for most of that time it was just literally in spirit.
“Was it William Garson?”
“Better beware, be canny and careful—”
The record began to skip, a single word repeating itself.
Curtis’s message was clear. William Garson was making fathers murder their daughters, just as he had.
And if I couldn’t find a way to stop him, Maggie was going to be next.
Hannah Ditmer doesn’t appear surprised when she finds me pounding on the back door of her mother’s cottage. She seems more impatient than anything else, shooting me a look that says, What took you so long?
“Since I arrived, how many times have you been inside Baneberry Hall?” I say. “And how long have you been stealing from us?”
“It’s not stealing if no one wants it,” Hannah says.
“Just because that house sat empty didn’t mean those things were yours to take.”
Hannah gives an agree-to-disagree shrug. “I can give you back the stuff that hasn’t sold. But most of what I took from that house is long gone. And good luck trying to get it back.”
She drifts away from the open door, giving me the choice to enter or not. It’s obvious she doesn’t care. I opt to follow her, past the living room—the TV now blaring a cooking show—and into the kitchen.
“You never answered my question,” I say. “How long has it been going on?”
“A couple years.” Hannah sits at the kitchen table and reaches for her pack of Marlboro Lights. “Since my mom got sick.”
That also answers my second question—why. And I get it. Elsa Ditmer was sick, they needed money, and Baneberry Hall was just sitting empty. A house-shaped treasure trove at the top of the hill.
“And how many times did you sneak in since I’ve been there?”
I know now it was her who kept entering Baneberry Hall and not some random ghoul from town. She’s the shadowy figure I saw outside the night I arrived. And the one I saw fleeing the house the night after that. The ringing bells and the chandelier and the record player—all of it was Hannah.
She lights a cigarette. Smoke curls from her parted lips. “Enough that I’m surprised you didn’t catch me earlier.”