“Why’d you do it?” I say. “I don’t care about most of the junk in that house. If you wanted it, all you needed to do was ask. You certainly didn’t need to distract me with ringing bells and a record player.”

“It wasn’t a distraction,” Hannah says. “It was more of an attempt to get you to leave. That house has been a gold mine. I didn’t want to risk losing it.”

“So all of this was just some Scooby-Doo trick to scare me away?”

“I figured I’d give it a shot.” Hannah exhales a stream of smoke, pleased with herself. “And I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids.”

“I assume that’s why you also told me what my father wrote about that sleepover was true.”

“Some of it was,” Hannah says. “You really did think someone was in that wardrobe and started freaking out. And you did punch me. Although I was being a little bitch that night and probably had it coming. So, yeah, your father made up a lot of it, but the result was the same—we left early, and my mother was so pissed that she forbade us from going to your house again.”

“You didn’t need to lie about that,” I say. “Nor did you need to do all that haunted-house shit. The record player and that stupid teddy bear.”

Hannah stubs out her cigarette. “What bear?”

“You know what bear,” I say. “Buster.”

“I haven’t seen Buster since the night Petra vanished.”

I stare at her, looking for signs she’s lying. But Hannah’s face is now like a mask, hiding all emotion.

“I think it’s best if you give me your keys,” I say. “To the gate and to the house itself.”

“If you insist,” Hannah says.

She leaves the kitchen and disappears upstairs, her footfalls heavy on the steps. Moments later, a shadow slides across the kitchen wall, darkening the Formica countertop. I spin around to see Elsa Ditmer in the doorway, wearing the same nightgown she had on the night I returned to Baneberry Hall. The crucifix around her neck glints in the kitchen light.

“You’re not Petra,” she says, shuffling toward me.

“I’m not,” I say. “I’m Maggie Holt.”

“Maggie.” Elsa’s upon me now, her hands cold on my cheeks as she stares into my eyes. “Don’t stay in that house. You’re going to die there.”

Hannah enters the kitchen, a key ring in her hand. Her face drops when she sees her mother.

“Mama, you should be resting,” she says, gently pulling Elsa away from me.

“I want to see Petra.”

“I told you, Petra’s gone.”

“Where?” Elsa’s voice is so full of heartbreak it makes me want to cover my ears. “Where has she gone?”

“We’ll talk about it tomorrow.” Hannah looks my way, concerned I’m going to judge her for not telling her mother the truth. I wouldn’t dare. I know full well how much the truth can hurt. “Now let’s get you into bed.”

The two women leave the kitchen. A few minutes later, Hannah returns and collapses into her chair. I can’t help but pity her. She’s a thief. She’s a liar. But she’s also had a much harder life than I have. I often forget that, despite all the grief it’s brought us, my family’s time at Baneberry Hall made us rich.

When Hannah slides the keys toward me, I push them back across the table.

“Listen,” I say, “I don’t plan on keeping most of the stuff inside that house. Next week, if you want, you can come over and take whatever you want to sell. There’s a shitload of antiques in there. And a lot of money that could be made.”

“All of it’s yours,” Hannah says.

“Not really. Most of it came with the house. It doesn’t belong to anyone. So consider it yours.”

“I’ll think about it.” Hannah takes the keys and, with a grateful nod, shoves them back in her pocket. “But just so you know, I haven’t used these to sneak inside since you came back.”

I cock my head. “What are you saying?”

“That there are other ways into that house.”


Hannah reaches for another cigarette but decides against it. Instead, she stares at her hands and quietly says, “I got in through the door at the back of the house.”

“There isn’t a back door to Baneberry Hall.”

“It’s hidden,” she says. “My mother showed it to me years ago.”

Once again, I look for signs that she’s lying. I don’t see any. In that moment, Hannah Ditmer looks the most sincere I’ve ever seen her.

“Please. Tell me where?”

“Back of the house,” Hannah says. “Behind the ivy.”


Day 18

That morning, I was awakened by a series of blows to my face and chest. Lost in the gray between dreams and wakefulness, I at first thought it was the ghost of William Garson, beating me with his cane. But when I opened my eyes, I saw it was Jess, pummeling me with both fists.

“What did you do?” she screamed. “What the fuck did you do?”

She sat on top of me, red-faced and furious. Although I was able to buck her off me, Jess managed to land a haymaker before falling sideways. Pain pulsed across my jaw as we reversed positions—me straddling her thrashing legs and gripping wrists that vibrated with rage.