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August 27— The New Moon
GRACE TWIRLS HER HAND in the air between them, her fingernails ridged and yellow under clear polish, and she says, “Misty dear, turn around so I can see how the back hangs.”
Misty’s first time to confront Grace, the evening of the art show, the first thing Grace says is, “I knew that dress would look wonderful on you.”
This is in the old Wilmot house on Birch Street. There, the doorway to her old bedroom is sealed behind a sheet of clear plastic and yellow police tape. A time capsule. A gift to the future. Through the plastic, you can see the mattress is gone. The shade is gone from the bedside lamp. A spray of something dark ruins the wallpaper above the headboard. The handwriting of blood pressure. The doorframe and windowsill, the white paint is smudged with black fingerprint powder. Deep, fresh tracks from a vacuum cleaner crisscross the rug. The invisible dust of Angel Delaporte’s dead skin, it’s all been sucked up for DNA testing.
Your old bedroom.
On the wall above the empty bed is the painting Misty did of the antique chair. Her eyes closed out on Waytansea Point. The hallucination of the statue coming to kill her. Blood sprayed across it.
With Grace now, in her bedroom across the hallway, Misty says not to try anything funny. The mainland police are parked right outside, waiting for them. If Misty’s not out there in ten minutes, they’ll come in, guns blazing.
Grace, she sits on the shiny pink-padded stool in front of her huge vanity table, her perfume bottles and jewelry spread out around her on the glass top. Her silver hand mirror and hairbrushes.
The souvenirs of wealth.
And Grace says, “Tu es ravissante ce soir.” She says, “You look pretty this evening.”
Misty has cheekbones now. And collarbones. Her shoulders are bony and white and stick out, coat-hanger-straight, from the dress that was her wedding dress in its previous life. The dress falls from a shred over one shoulder, white stain draped in folds, already loose and billowing since Grace measured her only a few days ago. Or weeks. Her bra and panties, they’re so big Misty’s done without. Misty’s almost as thin as her husband, the withered skeleton with machines pumping air and vitamins through him.
Thin as you.
Her hair is longer than before her knee accident. Her skin is blanched pale from so much time inside. Misty has a waist and sunken cheeks. Misty has a single chin, and her neck looks long and stringy with muscle.
She’s starved until her teeth and eyes look huge.
Before the showing tonight, Misty called the police. Not just Detective Stilton, Misty called the state patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Misty said that OAFF would be attacking the art show tonight, at the hotel on Waytansea Island. After them, Misty called the fire department. Misty told them, seven or seven-thirtyish tonight, there would be a disaster on the island. Bring ambulances, she told them. Then she called the television news and told them to bring a crew with the biggest, strongest relay truck they had. Misty called the radio stations. She called everybody but the Boy Scouts.
In Grace Wilmot’s bedroom, in that house with the legacy of names and ages written just inside the front door, Misty tells Grace how tonight, her plan is ruined. The firemen and police. The television cameras. Misty’s invited the whole world, and they’ll all be at the hotel for the unveiling.
And clipping an earring on one ear, Grace looks at Misty reflected in the vanity mirror and says, “Of course you did, but you called them the last time.”
Misty says, What does Grace mean by last time?
“And we really wish you wouldn’t,” Grace says. She’s smoothing her hair with the palms of her lumpy hands, saying, “You only make the final death toll higher than it needs to be.”
Misty says there won’t be a death toll. Misty says how she stole the diary.
From behind her, a voice says, “Misty dear, you can’t steal what’s already yours.”
The voice behind her. A man’s voice. It’s Harrow, Harry, Peter’s father.
He’s wearing a tuxedo, his white hair combed into a crown on his square head, his nose and chin sharp and jutting out. The man Peter was supposed to become. You can still smell his breath. The hands that stabbed Angel Delaporte to death in her bed. That burned the houses Peter wrote inside, trying to warn people away from the island.
The man who tried to kill Peter. To kill you. His son.
He’s standing in the hallway, holding Tabbi’s hand. Your daughter’s hand.
Just for the record, it seems like a lifetime ago that Tabbi left her. Ran out of her grip to grab the cold hand of a man Misty thought was a killer. The statue in the woods. The old cemetery on Waytansea Point.
Grace has both elbows in the air, her hands behind her neck fastening a strand of pearls, and she says, “Misty dear, you remember your father-in-law, don’t you?”
Harrow leans down to kiss Grace’s cheek. Standing, he says, “Of course she remembers.”
The smell of his breath.
Grace holds her hands out, clutching the air, and says, “Tabbi, come give me a kiss. It’s time the grown-ups went to their party.”
First Tabbi. Then Harrow. Another thing they don’t teach you in art school is what to say when people come back from the dead.
To Harrow, Misty says, “Aren’t you supposed to be cremated?”
And Harrow lifts his hand to look at his wristwatch. He says, “Actually, not for another four hours.”
He shoots his shirt cuff to hide the watch and says, “We’d like to introduce you to the crowd tonight. We’re counting on you to say a few words of welcome.”
Still, Misty says, he knows what she’ll tell everyone. To run. To leave the island and not come back. What Peter tried to tell them. Misty will tell them one man is dead and another is in a coma because of some crazy island curse. The second they get her onstage, she’ll shout “Fire.” She’ll do her damnedest to clear the room.
Tabbi steps up beside Grace, sitting on the vanity stool. And Grace says, “Nothing would make us happier.”
Harrow says, “Misty dear, give your mother-in-law a kiss.” He says, “And please, forgive us. We won’t bother you again after tonight.”