“They’re all grown up,” Sally says in her matter-of-fact voice.
“Yeah, right,” Gillian sputters. The girls are chasing the granddaddy squirrel around in a circle. They shriek and throw their arms around each other when he suddenly jumps onto the garden gate and glares down at them. “They look real mature.”
In the beginning of October, Gillian finally received word from the attorney general’s office in Tucson. For more than two months the sisters had been waiting to see what Gary would do with the information Sally had given him; they’d been moody and distant from everyone except each other. Then, at last, a letter came, registered mail, from someone named Arno Williams. James Hawkins, he wrote, was dead. The body had been found out in the desert, where he must have been holed up for months, and in some kind of drunken stupor he’d rolled into his campfire and been burned beyond recognition. The only way they’d been able to identify him after he’d been brought down to the morgue was through his silver ring, which had melted somewhat and which was now being sent to Gillian, along with a certified check for eight hundred dollars from the sale of the Oldsmobile they’d impounded, since Jimmy had listed her as his only next of kin down at the Department of Motor Vehicles, which, in a way, was more or less the truth.
“Gary Hallet,” Gillian said right away. “He slipped that ring to some dead guy who couldn’t be identified. You know what this means, don’t you?”
“He just wanted to see that justice was done, and it has been.”
“He’s completely hooked.” Gillian couldn’t seem to let this go. “And so are you.”
“Will you please shut up?” Sally had said.
She refused to think about Gary. She really did. She rubbed at the center of her chest with two fingers, then grabbed her left wrist between the thumb and forefinger of her right hand to check her pulse rate. She didn’t care what Gillian said; something was definitely wrong with her. Her heart did actual flip-flops; it beat too fast and then too slow, and if that didn’t mean she had some sort of condition, she didn’t know what did.
Gillian shook her head and groaned; that’s how pathetic Sally had looked. “You really don’t know. That heart-attack thing you’ve been having? It’s love,” she crowed. “That’s what it feels like.”
“You’re nuts,” Sally had said. “Don’t think you know everything, because let me tell you, you don’t.”
But there was one thing Gillian did know for sure, and that was why, the very next Saturday, she and Ben Frye got married. It was a small ceremony at the town hall, and they didn’t exchange wedding rings, but they kissed for so long at the counter in the hall of records that they were asked to leave. Being married feels different this time to Gillian.
“Fourth time’s the charm,” she says to people who ask her what the secret of a happy marriage is, but that’s not the way she feels about it. She knows now that when you don’t lose yourself in the bargain, you find you have double the love you started with, and that’s one recipe that can’t be tampered with.
Sally goes to the refrigerator for some milk to add to the mashed potatoes, although she’s sure Gillian will tell her to add water instead, since she’s such a know-it-all lately. Sally has to push several covered dishes around and as she does a lid falls off a shallow pot.
“Look here,” she calls to Gillian. “They’re still at it.”
In the pot is the heart of a dove, pierced by seven pins.
Gillian comes to stand beside her sister. “Somebody’s getting spelled, that’s for sure.”
Sally carefully puts the lid back in place. “I wonder what ever happened to her.”
Gillian knows she’s talking about the drugstore girl. “I used to think about her whenever things went wrong,” Gillian admits. “I wanted to write to her, to let her know I was sorry I said all those things to her that day.”
“She probably jumped out a window,” Sally guesses. “Or she drowned herself in the bathtub.”
“Let’s go find out,” Gillian says. She puts the turkey on top of the refrigerator, where Magpie can’t reach it, and quickly shoves the mashed potatoes in the oven to keep them warm, along with a pan of chestnut stuffing.
“No,” Sally says, “we’re too old to snoop.” But she lets herself be pulled along, first to the coat closet, where they each grab an old parka, and then out the front door.
They hurry down Magnolia Street and turn onto Peabody. They pass the park, and the town green, where lightning always strikes, and head straight for the drugstore. They pass several closed shops—the butcher, and the baker, and the dry cleaner’s.