The next few files are all text—pages from psychology books, psychiatric journals, a master’s thesis that makes a cursory mention of Peaceful Valley in a section about the history of asylums and progressive treatments. I assume they all served as sources for one another, because the information is almost identical.

The final file Marc sent holds an assortment of images scanned from various archives. The first picture is the now-familiar one of Charles Cutler outside his domain, although the caption accompanying the photo identifies it only as Peaceful Valley, as if it had been a spa and not an asylum. The second photo is a shot of just the asylum itself—that Gothic main building with turret and weathervane, the utilitarian wing jutting out from its side.

But it’s the third picture that makes my heart thrum like I’ve just chugged a pot of black coffee. Identified merely as the entrance to Peaceful Valley, it shows a low stone wall broken by a wrought-iron gate and ornate archway.

They’re the same gate and arch I passed through the other day in Theo’s truck.

The very same ones that now grace Camp Nightingale.

The blood freezes in my veins.

Peaceful Valley Asylum was here. Right on this very piece of land. Which explains why Helmut Schmidt couldn’t find it. By the time he came looking for his sister, Buchanan Harris had already turned the area into Lake Midnight.

That, I realize, is the information Vivian was looking for. It’s why she snuck into the Lodge and went to the library. It’s why she was so worried about her diary getting into the wrong hands that she rowed across the lake to hide it.

And it’s why she was so scared.

Because she learned that there’s a ring of truth to the stories surrounding Lake Midnight. Only it wasn’t a deaf village or a leper colony that got buried beneath the water.

It was an insane asylum.


Despite the late hour, Camp Nightingale still crawls with cops. They linger in the arts and crafts building, visible through the lit windows. More stand outside, chatting as they sip coffee, smoke cigarettes, wait for bad news to arrive. One trooper has a sleepy bloodhound at his feet. Both man and dog lift their heads as I hurry to the Lodge.

“You need something, sweetheart?” the trooper asks.

“Not from you,” I say, tacking on a sarcastic “sweetheart.”

At the Lodge, I pound on the red front door, not even trying to be discreet about my arrival. I want the whole fucking place to know I’m here. The pounding continues for a full minute before the door swings away from my fist, revealing Chet. A lock of hair droops over his bloodshot eyes. He pushes it away and says, “You shouldn’t be out of your cabin, Emma.”

“I don’t care.”

“Where’s Mindy?”

“Asleep. Where’s your mother?”

Franny’s voice drifts to the door. “In here, dear. Do you need something?”

I push past Chet into the entrance hall and then the living room. Franny is there, cocooned in her Navajo blanket. The antique weapons on the wall behind her take on new, sinister meaning. The rifles, the knives, the lone spear.

“This is certainly a pleasant surprise,” Franny says with faked hospitality. “I suppose you can’t sleep, either. Not with all this unpleasantness.”

“We need to talk,” I say.

Chet joins us in the living room. He touches my shoulder, trying to steer me back to the door. Franny gestures for him to stop.

“About what?” she says.

“Peaceful Valley Asylum. I know it was on this land. Vivian knew it, too.”

It’s easy to see why she went looking for it. She’d heard the story about Lake Midnight, possibly from Casey. Like me, she probably considered it nothing more than a campfire tale. But then she found that old box by the water’s edge, filled with scissors that rattled like glass. She did some digging. Searching the Lodge. Sneaking off to the library. Eventually she realized the campfire tale was partially true.

And she needed to expose it. I suspect she felt a kinship with those women from the asylum, all of them likely drowned, just like her sister.

Keeping that secret must have made Vivian so lonely and scared. She hinted at it in her diary when referring to Natalie and Allison.

The less they know the better.

Vivian wasn’t able to save them. Just like her, they had learned too much after finding her diary. But she had managed to keep me safe. I understand that now. Her mistreatment of me wasn’t an act of cruelty but one of mercy. It was her way of trying to protect me from any danger her discovery created. To save me, she forced me to hate her.

It worked.

“The only people she told were Natalie and Allison,” I say. “Then all three of them disappeared. I doubt that was a coincidence.”

A dainty china cup and saucer sit in front of Franny, the tea inside steaming. When she reaches for them, the cup rattles against the saucer so violently that she sets it down without taking a sip. “I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“You can tell me what happened to that asylum. Something bad, right? And all those poor girls there, they suffered, too.”

Franny tries to pull the blanket tighter around her, the noticeable tremor still in her hands. Veins pulse under her paper-white skin. She loses her grip, and the blanket drifts to her sides. Chet rushes in and pulls it back over her shoulders.