Page 70 of Daisy Darker

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Someoneis coming down the stairs.


October 31, 5:05 a.m.

less than one hour until low tide

Rose and Trixie both look terrified as the slow, steady footsteps continue along the hall, stopping right outside the library door. The handle turns very slowly; then the door shakes when the person on the other side realizes it is locked. We all hold our breath as the door rattles, until the house is silent again. The sound of footsteps resumes, and I hear the squeaky hinges of the door belonging to the cupboard under the stairs. None of us speak. I think true terror always tends to steal its victim’s words.

Time passes—I’m not able to tell how little or how much. We listen to someone walking from room to room, and the sound of them dragging something behind them, twice. Then the house is silent again. We strain to hear something else—anything else—but our ears can only find the sound of eighty clocks still ticking in the hallway, and a few seagulls out for an early-morning fly.

“I think they might have gone,” Rose whispers, then looks down at Trixie. “The tide should be far enough out for us to wade to shorenow. We just have to get to the front door. Maybe we should be brave and take a look?”

“You don’t have to speak to me like I’m a child,” Trixie whispers back, looking and sounding like one.

“Or we could wait?” I suggest. Bravery has never been one of my strengths.

Rose ignores me—as though she might know something I don’t—and takes one last look at the Wall of Achievements. She appears to be reading the poem I wrote. Then she says something I find so hard to comprehend that, at first, I can’t answer.

“I’m only going to ask this once. And I feel ridiculous and ashamed that I’m asking at all. But are you behind all of this, Daisy?”

I stare at her for a long time, but she can’t even look me in the eye. I don’t know how or why she would think such a thing.

“No,” I say, wiping a tear from my cheek. Rose stares at the floor, looking sorry. But words don’t come with gift receipts; you can’t take them back.

“Daisy would never do something like this,” whispers Trixie, and I’m glad someone in this family sees me for who I am.

Rose turns to her. “Whatever happens, I wantyouto stay back behind me. Okay?” she says, and our niece nods while standing perfectly still, literally scared stiff. Rose creeps toward the library door, leaving me no choice but to follow. Poppins tries to do the same, but my sister shoos her away.

“No, Poppins. You stay here for now. We need to be as quiet as possible.”

The dog looks at Rose as though she understood every word and sits back down on the rug.

Rose slowly turns the key until the door clicks unlocked, and I notice that her hand is trembling. Then she opens the door fast, as if there might be someone behind it, but there is nobody there. “Stayback,” she whispers over her shoulder as she steps out into the hall. I watch from the library as she creeps toward the cupboard under the stairs, already knowing that whatever she finds inside will be something none of us wants to view. Rose reaches for the handle, hesitates, then opens the cupboard door.

I can’t see what she can from here, but her body language isn’t good.

“Stay there,” I whisper to Trixie and she nods. I step out into the hallway to look over Rose’s shoulder, and what I see shocks me more than anything else tonight. Lily’s body is on the cupboard floor; her head is hanging down as though she is staring at the mirror tied to her hand. She has been left next to Nana, Dad, and Nancy. And Conor. His neck looks broken, and there’s a yo-yo wrapped around it. What looks like a newspaper page has been stuffed inside his open O-shaped mouth, and there is a red ribbon holding it in place. I have to look away when I see him.

“He died eating his own words,” whispers Rose.

“What?” I say.

“I’m guessing that is what stuffing his own newspaper article in his mouth is meant to mean?” I take a step back, no longer able to process any of the horror I have witnessed tonight. I think I’m going to be sick. I rush to the kitchen and lean over the sink but nothing happens. Then I look up at the wall and see that the chalk poem has changed again.

Daisy Darker’s family were as dark as dark can be.

When one of them died, all of them lied, and pretended not to see.

Daisy Darker’s nana was the oldest but least wise.

The woman’s will made them all feel ill, which was why she had to die.

Daisy Darker’s father lived life dancing to his own tune.

His self-centered ways, and the pianos he played, danced him to his doom.

Daisy Darker’s mother was an actress with the coldest heart.

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