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August 27 ... and Three-Quarters
THE AMBULANCES are already waiting outside the Waytansea Hotel. The television news crew hoists a broadcast dish from the top of its van. Two police cars are nosed up to the hotel front steps.
Summer people edge between the parked cars. Leather pants and little black dresses. Dark glasses and silk shirts. Gold jewelry. Above them, the corporate signs and logos.
Peter’s graffiti: “... your blood is our gold ...”
Between Misty and the crowd, a newscaster stands on camera. With the crowd milling behind him, the people climbing the hotel steps and entering the lobby, the newscaster says, “Are we on?” He puts two fingers of one hand to his ear. Not looking into the camera, he says, “I’m ready.”
Detective Stilton sits behind the wheel of his car, Misty beside him. Both of them watch Grace and Harrow Wilmot climb the front steps, Grace lifting her long dress with the fingertips of one hand. Harrow holds her other hand.
Misty watches them. The cameras watch them.
And Detective Stilton says, “They won’t try anything. Not with this kind of exposure.”
The oldest generation of every family, the Burtons and Hylands and Petersens, the aristocracy of Waytansea Island, they fall in line with the summer crowds entering the hotel, their chins held high.
Peter’s warning: “... we will kill every one of God’s children to save our own.”
The newscaster on camera, he lifts a microphone to his mouth and says, “Police and county officials have given a green light to tonight’s reception on the island.”
The crowd disappears into the dim green velvet landscape of the lobby, the forest clearing among polished, varnished tree trunks. The thick shafts of sunlight stabbing into the gloom, heavy as crystal chandeliers. The humped sofa shapes of boulders covered in moss. The campfire, so much like a fireplace.
Detective Stilton says, “You want to go in?”
Misty tells him no. It’s not safe. She’s not making the same mistake she’s always made. Whatever that mistake would be.
According to Harrow Wilmot.
The newscaster says, “Everyone who’s anyone is arriving here tonight.”
And there, then there’s a girl. A stranger. Someone else’s child with short dark hair, climbing the steps to the hotel lobby. The flash of her peridot ring. Misty’s tip money.
It’s Tabbi. Of course it’s Tabbi. Misty’s gift to the future. Peter’s way to keep his wife on the island. The bait to get her into a trap. A moment, a green flash, and Tabbi’s gone inside the hotel.