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“Among other things, but it was your father they loved to gossip about the most.”

She wanted to scream in frustration at the rambling. Dory struggled with the shiny foil package. Madison took it, ripped it open, and handed her a pastry. “They were wrong about him.”

“Oh, no. The rumors were spot-on.” Dory bit a corner of the frosted Pop-Tart and closed her eyes in satisfaction. “He married your mother because he thought we were rich. Up to the day he died, he thought we were still hiding money from him and was bitter about it.”

Madison’s energy drained out of her limbs in a rush. Her father had been loving and fun, not like this person Dory was describing. Is Dory telling the truth? Some conversations with her were like this. A scattered bunch of memories tied up in knots.

A memory surfaced.

Six-year-old Madison couldn’t pull her gaze from the beautiful doll in the glass case. She, Emily, and their father had stopped at a neighbor’s garage sale. As her dad looked through the tools, she stared at the doll, ignoring the books and videos that Emily was trying to show her.

“These are only a quarter each,” Emily said. “Dad won’t have a problem with that.” She noticed Madison’s fascination. “Ohhh. She’s beautiful.” Emily walked around the table to check the back of the glass case. “Seventy-five dollars!”

Madison knew that was bad.

“That’s a collector’s item,” said the owner as he approached. “Not a toy. But you like it, don’t you?” he asked Madison.

Madison could only nod.

“Well, let’s get your dad over here.” The owner spotted her father. “Hey, Lincoln. Your little girl found something she likes.”

Her father walked over, holding a hammer and saw, his smile wide for his girls. Madison crossed her fingers. He looked at the back of the glass case, and his smile faded. He eyed the owner. “Is that a joke?”

“Nope. She’s actually worth more than that.”

“Sorry, hon,” her father said. “Find a new book, okay?”

Disappointment crushed her.

“Aw, come on, Lincoln. Everybody knows you’ve got Barton money.”

Madison stumbled backward at the instant fury in her father’s eyes as he turned to the owner. Emily saw it and grabbed Madison’s hand, yanking her toward the driveway. She’d left the books and videos. “Let’s wait out here,” Emily said in a cheery voice.

Something was wrong.

Her father came out seconds later, no tools in hand, his smile back. “Nothing today, eh?” He took Madison’s other hand, and the three of them walked to his car.

She must have imagined the anger in his eyes.

Madison stared at the coffee maker.

Had Emily been protecting her from her father’s anger?

“I think there’s enough for a cup.” Dory greedily eyed the pot.

“Only if you like your coffee super strong and bitter.”

“In that case, I’ll wait. But please hurry up.”

Is she talking to me or the pot?

“The rumors were that Dad married Mom for money?” Madison tried to steer her aunt back on track.

“That and those horrible things.”

“What horrible things?” Madison’s voice cracked.

“Those people.” Dory’s voice lowered. “Those awful people.”

“Was Chet Carlson one of those people?” Madison’s hate for her father’s killer burned anew in her gut.

“Of course not.” Dory was adamant.

“Who, then?” She forced the words out. Why would Dory defend Chet Carlson? The man sat in prison for her father’s death.

“They’re gone. Most weren’t from around here to start with.”

“That’s good.” Madison didn’t know what else to say. The conversation had completely confused her as she analyzed every word out of her great-aunt’s mouth from a dozen angles.

“It is.” She squeezed Madison’s upper arm and smiled. “One of these days, Tara will be back.”

“Why do you think Tara hasn’t returned?” Madison wondered if she should wake Dory up early more often. Yes, her conversation was a scattered stream of subjects, but Tara and her father had been mentioned more times this morning than in all of the past year.

Is it her medication? Madison wasn’t sure how many drugs her aunt took. She had put complete trust in the pharmacist to notify her if Dory had been prescribed medications she shouldn’t be taking at the same time. Dory saw dozens of doctors, but fortunately there was only one pharmacy in town. The pharmacist was well acquainted with Dory and her maladies, real and imagined. Madison made sure the pharmacist also had a list of the “natural” medications Dory used.

“Well, you know how Tara can be. More stubborn than you and Emily added together. She broke our hearts when she left.”

Madison was well aware of her sister’s disappearing act. It’d taken her years to convince herself that Tara hadn’t left because Madison was a super snoop who couldn’t stay out of Tara’s room.

“She’ll be back one of these days. When she’s ready.” Dory pointed emphatically at the pot. “I’ll take a cup now.”

Madison poured the coffee and checked the time. She would be late if she didn’t leave now.

Leo can handle the diner if I’m a little late.

This conversation was too extraordinary to walk out on.

“Dory,” she asked carefully, “do you know why Tara left so soon after Dad’s death?”

Her aunt had sat down at the table in the kitchen and was alternating bites of Pop-Tart with sips of coffee. “I don’t, dear,” she said between bites. “Probably too much pressure. It was a hard time for all of us.”

“It doesn’t seem callous to you? I mean . . . she didn’t even call when Mom died.”

“She didn’t call, did she? Tara has to live with that guilt. Your poor mother.”

Dory had referred to Madison’s mother as “poor” one too many times, and anger provoked Madison’s next words. “You know Mom was manic-depressive, but you talk about her as if she was constantly miserable. I remember her laughing, taking us for hikes, and swimming in the river. She may have had down times, but she was happy.”

Dory blinked in confusion. “I’m not saying she wasn’t. She was a wonderful mother to you girls most of the time, but she put up with a lot from your father. He was older than her, you know. She was like a child in their relationship.”

Dory checked the hallway behind her before leaning toward Madison. “He seduced her before they married,” she whispered like a conspirator.

Many images of her mother and father sharing passionate embraces flashed through Madison’s memories. She was positive it hadn’t been a one-sided attraction.

“He was very possessive of that pocket watch,” Dory told her cup of coffee.

Their conversation’s backward leap startled Madison.

Is this what it’s like to be inside Dory’s head?

“I didn’t know what that watch was until Vina explained it to me.” The white head solemnly wagged back and forth. “She was glad it vanished.”

“It was just a watch.” Right?

Dory pinned her with a schoolteacher stare that pierced deep into Madison’s brain. “It was a link to his past. His grandfather was that way, and he passed it to his grandson. We didn’t need that type around here,” she lectured.

Madison had no words.

Pity filled her aunt’s features. “The hate and anger, Brenda. He’s feeding it with those meetings and won’t listen to reason from any of us. No good can come of it.”

She thinks I’m Mom.

Dory looked at the clock again. “You’re going to be late. That’s not fair to Leo.”

Madison grabbed her purse and stooped to kiss her aunt on the cheek. She lingered, full of questions but not knowing how to put them into words. “Love you, Dory.”

She darted out the door into the cold dark, pulling her hood up against the light rain. Once in the car, she pulled the pocket watch out of her purse and opened it, seeing nothing but the initials and the foreign phrase. Flipping it over, she closely scanned the back and then the front again, seeking any bumps or cracks. Nothing. Wedging a fingernail into a groove on the side, she tried to lever the clock side apart. It didn’t budge.

It was a watch. Nothing else.

She eyed the foreign words, remembering that she had accepted her father’s translation as truth. Grabbing her phone, she typed the words into Google. Non Silba Sed Anthar.

“Not for oneself, but for others,” she read aloud.

That sounds selfless and kind.

She scrolled further, scanning the results.

This can’t be right.

Her heart in her throat, she opened web page after web page, finding multiple confirmations.

The lovely-sounding phrase was a common slogan of the KKK.


Zander had been working at the Clatsop County sheriff’s office for an hour when Ava showed up. She walked in with a glare and a coffee holder with two cups. “Why didn’t you tell me you were starting at the butt crack of dawn?”

“Didn’t see the point of waking you.” He’d woken at 4:00 a.m., unable to go back to sleep. After doing what work he could from his laptop, he’d gone to the sheriff’s office and requested the murder book on Lincoln Mills, Emily’s father. He also hadn’t called Ava because he didn’t want to explain why he was looking at an old solved case when they had three unsolved deaths.