Page 22 of Daisy Darker

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When the time came, no one knew who to blame when he was found poisoned by his drink.

It was hard to feel sad for an absent dad. His grieving girls didn’t know what to think.


October 31, 1:05 a.m.

less than five hours until low tide

Rose switches off the piano and I’m glad. The sight of it playing all by itself with my father lying dead beneath it is an image I wish I could wipe from my memory forever. I notice that one of the piano keys has gone, like a missing tooth in a musical smile, almost as though the piano itself is laughing at us. The rain outside lashing against the glass windows serves as white noise while we stand and stare in silence.

“He must have done it,” Lily says quietly, as if scared he might hear her accusing him. “He must have killed Nana because he was so upset about her will. Then he drank himself to death because of the guilt. Didn’t he even joke last night that his preferred form of murder would be a sharp blow to the head? That’s exactly how she died!”

My dad is many things, but I’m certain that a murderer isn’t one of them.

“Why would he move Nana’s body?” I say. “And where is she now? And what do the note and the VHS tape in the kitchen mean?”

Conor steps forward. “This doesn’t look like suicide if you ask me.”

“Nobody did,” Lily replies. “Are you sure he’s…”

“Dead? Yes,” says Rose, closing my father’s eyes. She takes the empty whiskey glass from his hand and sniffs it, before doing the same with the empty decanter on top of the piano. It seems like an odd thing to do.

“Why would he tie his conducting baton to his own hand?” Conor asks, looking at the rest of us as though we might be dangerously stupid.

“Why did he doanyof the daft things he did?” Nancy snaps, wiping a trickle of tears from her face with a pretty embroidered handkerchief from her sleeve. It has a letterBon it, and I presume it must be Nana’s, or Trixie’s, though nobody ever calls my niece Beatrice. “This all feels like a bad dream… itcan’tbe real,” my mother says, in a voice that sounds too small for her. “What are we going to do?”

“Why are you so upset?” Lily asks. “Just because you chose to share your bed with him last night—which is disgusting, by the way—have you forgotten everything else that Dad did? He abandoned you years ago. He abandoned us all.”

“How can you speak like that when the man is lying dead on the floor? He was your father and I loved him… Even when I didn’tlikehim, I still…”

“I’m not going to pretend he was ever dad of the year just because he is dead.”

“I didn’t raise you to behave like this, Lily.”

“You barely raised me at all, and he certainly didn’t have much to do with it. I was mostly brought up by strangers at boarding school.Youdumped us here on Nana most holidays, while my so-called father spent his time with ‘musicians’ half his age.”

“The man is dead, show some respect.”

“For him?”

“Foryourself,”Nancy says. My mother always has an argument under construction—sometimes several at once—and if I had a hard hat, I’d wear one. Lily wouldn’t dare answer back if she hadn’t had so much to drink tonight. Just when I think it might be over, Nancy throws another verbal brick. “He stayed as long as he was able.”

“Ha! That’s a good one. He didn’thaveto have kids. We didn’taskto be born. Plenty of people get pregnant by accident… I did!” Lily says.

“Well, I didn’t,” Nancy replies, and the room is even quieter than before. “I knew your father was going to choose music over me, even when we were students. I got pregnant on purpose so that he’d marry me. So that he’d have to stay.”

My sisters and I try to process this latest bombshell, but it’s all a bit much to take in: finding Nana dead in the kitchen earlier, now Dad in the music room. It’s like a messed-up family edition of Clue. But this isn’t a game; two people have died here tonight. I think part of me always suspected that Nancy deliberately got pregnant and tricked Dad into marrying her, but hearing her say it out loud is surreal. Half of me hates her for it, while the other half knows I never would have been born if she hadn’t.

“So he didn’t really wantanyof us?” asks Rose. “That explains a lot.”

“He loved all of you in his own way,” Nancy says. “I just can’t believe he would do this.”

“Maybe he didn’t,” Conor says.

Nancy stares at him. “The door was locked, there is nobody else in the room…”

“The door could have been locked from the outside,” he replies calmly. “Either way, the police will have to be called now.”

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