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August 27 ... and One-Half


THE WAY HARROW told Misty. The way he explained the island legend is she cant not succeed as an artist.

Shes doomed to fame. Cursed with talent. Life after life.

Shes been Giotto di Bondone, then Michelangelo, then Jan Vermeer.

Or Misty was Jan van Eyck and Leonardo da Vinci and Diego Velazquez.

Then Maura Kincaid and Constance Burton.

And now shes Misty Marie Wilmot, but only her name changes. She has always been an artist. She will always be an artist.

What they dont teach you in art school is how your whole life is about discovering who you already were.

Just for the record, this is Harrow Wilmot talking. Peters crazy killer father. The Harry Wilmot whos been hiding out since before Peter and Misty got married. Before Tabbi was born.

Your crazy father.

If you believe Harry Wilmot, Mistys the finest artists whove ever lived.

Two hundred years ago, Misty was Maura Kincaid. A hundred years ago, she was Constance Burton. In that previous life, Constance saw some jewelry worn by one of the island sons while he was on tour in Europe. It was a ring that had been Mauras. By accident, he found her and brought her back. After Constance died, people saw how her diary matched Mauras. Their lives were identical, and Constance had saved the island the way Maura had saved it.

How her diary matched her earlier diary. How her every diary will match the diary before. How Misty will always save the island. With her art. Thats the island legend, according to Harrow. Its all her doing.

A hundred years laterwhen their money was dwindlingthey sent the island sons to find her. Again and again, weve brought her back, forced her to repeat her previous life. Using the jewelry as bait, Misty would recognize it. Shed love it and not know why.

They, the whole wax museum of Waytansea Island, they knew shed be a great painter. Given the right kind of torture. The way Peter always said the best art comes from suffering. The way Dr. Touchet says we can connect to some universal inspiration.

Poor little Misty Marie Kleinman, the greatest artist of all time, their savior. Their slave. Misty, their karmic cash cow.

Harrow said how they use the diary of the previous artist to shape the life of the next. Her husband has to die at the same age, then one of her children. They could fake the death, the way they did with Tabbi, but with Peterwell, Peter forced their hand.

Just for the record, Mistys telling all this to Detective Stilton while he drives to the Waytansea Hotel.

Peters blood full of the sleeping pills he never took. The death certificate that didnt exist for Harrow Wilmot. Misty says, Its got to be inbreeding. These people are lunatics.

The blessing is, Harrow told her, you forget.

With every death, Misty forgets who she wasbut the islanders pass the story along from one generation to the next. They remember so they can find her and bring her back. For the rest of eternity, every fourth generation, just as the money runs out ... When the world threatens to invade, theyll bring her back and shell save their future.

The way you always did, you always will, Harrow said.

Misty Marie Wilmot, queen of the slaves.

The Industrial Revolution meets the guardian angel.

Poor her, the assembly line of miracles. For all eternity.

Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves, just for the record.

Harrow said, You always keep a diary. In every incarnation. Thats how we can anticipate your moods and reactions. We know every move youll make.

Harrow looped a strand of pearls around Graces wrist and fastened the clasp, saying, Oh, we need you to come back and start the process, but we dont necessarily want you to complete your karmic cycle.

Because that would be killing the goose that lays the golden egg. Yeah, her soul would go on to other adventures, but three generations later the island would be poor again. Poor and crowded with rich outsiders.

Art school doesnt teach you how to escape your soul being recycled.

Period revival. Her own homemade immortality.

In fact, Harrow said, the diary youre keeping right now, Tabbis great-great-grandchildren will find it extremely useful in dealing with you the next time around.

Mistys own great-great-great-grandchildren.

Using her book. This book.

Oh, I remember, Grace said. When I was a very little girl. You were Constance Burton, and I used to love it when youd take me kite flying.

Harrow said, Under one name or another, youre the mother of us all.

Grace said, Youve loved us all.

To Harrow, Misty said, Please. Just tell me whats going to happen. Will the paintings explode? Will the hotel collapse into the ocean? What? How does she save everyone?

And Grace shook her pearl bracelet down around her hand and said, You cant.

Most fortunes, Harrow says, are founded on the suffering and death of thousands of people or animals. Harvesting something. He gives Grace something shining gold and holds out one hand, his jacket sleeve pulled back.

And Grace holds the two ends of his cuff together and inserts a cuff link, saying, Weve just found a way to harvest rich people.


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