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Authors: Mary Downing Hahn

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BOOK: Deep and Dark and Dangerous
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While we waited for the police and Mr. Jones to show up, Mr. Nelson photographed us in a number of poses, both inside and outside. He even included a few shots of Dad looking skeptical.

When Dulcie showed him the photo of herself, Mom, and Teresa, he borrowed it to make a copy.

Mom grimaced at the sight of it. "You should have destroyed that, Dulcie. Or at least removed Teresa."

Dulcie shrugged. "History's history. You can't change it by destroying a snapshot."

Turning away, she busied herself making a fresh pot of coffee. "There ought to be a pound cake in the pantry," she told me. "Why don't you get that out and fix some blueberries to go with it? I picked a quart yesterday."

By the time the policeman arrived, followed closely by Mr. Jones, we'd all fortified ourselves with cake and blueberries, coffee for the adults, and lemonade for Emma and me.

When she saw the officer at the back door, Dulcie grabbed Mom's hand. For a moment, they looked like little girls clinging to each other, scared and anxious. Neither spoke. They just stood there, holding hands, waiting for what would happen next.

Before the policeman had a chance to introduce himself, a black sedan braked to a sharp stop, and a woman I'd never seen jumped out.

"It's Linda," Mom whispered. Dulcie held her hand tighter.

Sissy's sister came into the kitchen like a blast of wind. Her curves had rounded out, but her hair was still blond, and she wore plenty of lipstick. "You never fooled me," she cried. "I knew all along you were in that canoe with Sissy."

Mom began to apologize, but Dulcie broke in before she finished. "It was an accident," she said. "We never meant to harm Sissy. We were just kids, we—"

"Sissy was just a kid, too!" Linda looked at me. "Younger than her! Why didn't you tell the truth? Do you know how much grief you've caused us? Rich summer people coming here, acting like you're above the law. Well, you should be arrested. You should pay for what you did to my sister!"

The policeman took Linda's arm and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Now, now, Linda, that's enough. I told you not to come out here. I'm not planning to make any arrests. Or press charges. I just want to get some things straight."

Somehow, he managed to calm Linda down. Then he turned to Mom and Dulcie and introduced himself. "I'm Captain Wahl," he said. "I understand you have some new information about Teresa Abbott's remains. The diver's coming by boat, but I thought we could have a little chat before he starts looking."

I wanted to hear what Mom and Dulcie and Linda had to say, but Captain Wahl told Dad to take Emma and me outside. "I'll talk to the girls later."

A motorboat was already tied up at the dock. A man in a wetsuit stood with his back to us, gazing out at the lake. It was one of those rare sunny days, and the water had never looked bluer.

Emma clung to Dad's hand. "Is he going to find Sissy?"

Dad squeezed her hand, his face skeptical. "Maybe."

I grabbed Dad's other hand and held it tight, glad for its familiar shape and warmth. "Yes," I told Emma. "He is."

A few minutes later, Captain Wahl joined us. The others trailed behind, Mom and Dulcie close together, Linda a few steps back, clearly separating herself from them. The reporter and photographer brought up the rear, heads together, exchanging opinions.

Captain Wahl took Emma and me aside. "Tell me again how you know where the body is."

"It's just bones now," Emma whispered.

"Yes, right." Captain Wahl nodded and wrote something in a little notebook. "But how do you know where the bones are?"

"Sissy told us."

"Sissy's Teresa's ghost," I added. "Emma and I have seen her lots of times. Honest we have. Last night she told us both where her ... where she is." I couldn't bring myself to refer to Sissy's bones or her skeleton.

"A ghost." He nodded and made a few more notes. I knew he didn't believe us, but he played along as if he did. "Will you show me where you think the bones are?"

Emma and I set out along the path. Captain Wahl called down to the diver to follow in his boat. With Linda on our heels and the others close behind her, we made our way to the high point Sissy had taken me to. More fearless than I, Emma walked to the edge and pointed down.

"See those three big rocks? That's where the bones are."

Captain Wahl peered down at the calm water. "You're sure, honey?"

"Sissy told me. And she told Ali, too."

I nodded. "This is the place."

Captain Wahl signaled, and the diver anchored his boat and slipped into the water. He was gone a long time.

"Did he drown?" Emma asked.

"He has an oxygen tank," I told her. "So he can breathe under water."

At last the diver came to the surface. "I don't know how the girls knew," he called up to the captain, "but the bones are there."

Linda began to cry. "If only Mom and Dad were still alive, if only they knew she's been found."

Dulcie and Mom cried, too, but Dad stood there like a man in shock. The photographer looked stunned as well. His and Dad's concept of the world had suffered a serious blow. In contrast, the reporter grinned broadly.

Captain Wahl was the only one to speak. "Incredible," he said.

Emma took my hand and pointed. "Look," she whispered.

In the shadows under the pines, Sissy gave a thumbs-up and vanished before anyone else saw her.

Dad reached out for Emma and me. "Let's go back to the cottage."

22

The rest of the day dragged slowly past. Emma spent most of it sleeping, exhausted, I guess, by all that had happened. The policeman left, still puzzled. With a few more nasty comments, Linda departed. The photographer and Dad sat on the deck trying to find other explanations for the discovery of Teresa Abbott's remains. The reporter sat near them, still grinning, and typing away on his laptop. In the end, all three were left with the possibility that Emma and I had truly seen a ghost.

Live Action News
showed up in the afternoon, along with most of the population of Webster's Cove. Tourists tramped through the yard and followed the trail to the cliff top, snapping pictures of everything with their little cameras. We were interviewed all over again by the TV reporter and videotaped by their photographers.

The media people insisted on waking Emma so they could talk to both of the girls who saw the ghost. Tired and cranky, Emma clung to Dulcie and cried. I overheard the reporter say in a hushed tone, "Four-year-old Emma, clearly traumatized by her encounter with the supernatural, sobs in her mother's arms."

Fed up, I sneaked away into the woods. Safe from reporters and tourists, I sat down and leaned against a tree trunk. "They all know now, Sissy," I said to myself. "Everyone in the state of Maine and probably the rest of the country, too."

Sissy stepped out from behind the tree, cradling Edith in the crook of her arm, her silvery hair bright against the gloomy woods. With a sigh, she sank onto the mossy ground beside me, closed her eyes, and rested her head against the tree.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

Sissy yawned. "Just tired," she murmured. "Really, really tired. All those people running around, asking questions, taking pictures. Even when they can't see you, being famous is hard on a person."

"I couldn't take it anymore, either," I confessed. "That's why I'm hiding in the woods."

"Do you think they'll bury me soon?"

"The day after tomorrow, I heard." Uncomfortable with her question, I toyed with a twig, bending it this way and that, avoiding her eyes. It bothered me to talk about her burial with her sitting beside me, as real as ever.

"That's good." Her sigh was as soft as a breeze in the treetops. "I'm not sure how much longer I can stay."

"Where are you going?" I asked, forgetting for a moment she wasn't an ordinary girl about to leave on a trip.

Sissy grinned. "That's for me to know—and you to find out."

My discomfort returned, and I twisted the twig again. When it broke with a loud snap, I tossed the pieces away.

Sissy held up her arm. "Look, you can almost see through it."

I turned my head. "Don't."

Sissy came closer. "Why? Does it scare you?"

When I slid away from her, she laughed out loud. "Better watch out. I might take you with me."

"Stop it. That's not funny."

Still laughing, she seized my arm. "Don't you like me even a little bit?"

Chilled by the touch of her hand, I pulled away and jumped to my feet, ready to run.

"No," Sissy cried. "Don't go, Ali. I was just teasing."

I hesitated, rubbing my arm to warm the spot she'd grabbed. "How do I know you're not lying?"

With narrowed eyes, Sissy stared at me. "If I wanted to kill you, I'd have drowned you and Emma both when I had the chance. Just sit with me awhile. I'll be gone soon."

Cautiously, I sat down a few feet away from her, scared to get too close.

"All I really wanted was a friend." She poked at the moss with a stick, scratching lines in it. "When Dulcie came along, I thought she was going to be my friend, but then she had to go and throw Edith in the lake and ruin everything. I wish she hadn't done that."

"She wishes she hadn't done it, too."

Sissy nodded wearily. "But she did. And look at all the trouble she caused."

"She didn't think you'd jump in the water."

Sissy gouged the moss savagely, tearing up bits of it and revealing the dark soil it grew from. "Okay, okay, it was a dumb thing to do. Don't you think I know that now?"

"I've done plenty of dumb things," I said. "Everybody has. It's just that—" I broke off and watched a ladybug settle on a leaf beside me.

"It's just that most people don't end up like me," Sissy finished my sentence.

I sighed and nudged the ladybug gently into the air.
Fly away home.

"The water was deep and dark and cold," Sissy said, "and I kept sinking down. I tried and tried, but I couldn't swim up to the top."

Suddenly, she reached out and touched my cheek. "You're crying."

"I know."

Sissy watched the tears run down my cheeks. "If things had been different," she said, "if I was like you instead of—well, what I am—do you think we would be friends?"

Once I would have said no without even thinking, but things had changed between Sissy and me. "Yes, I think so."

"Me, too." Sissy smiled and leaned back against the tree. Her eyelids fluttered shut, and she seemed to sleep.

I didn't know whether she wanted me to leave or stay, so I sat beside her and waited for her to wake up. While we'd been talking, the sky had begun clouding over. A gust of wind turned the leaves white-side-up, a sure sign of rain Dad always said.

When Sissy opened her eyes, I got to my feet. "I should go home before it starts raining."

Sissy stayed where she was, her back against the tree, her legs stretched out in front of her. "Bye, Ali."

"Will I see you again?"

"Maybe." She smiled at me, one of her rare real smiles.

I waved and left her there. I didn't look back.

By the time I reached the cottage, rain was coming down hard, and the last of the sightseers were driving away, leaving the driveway rutted and filled with puddles.

 

A couple of days later, the people in Webster's Cove held a funeral for Sissy, just as I'd told her they would. In the graveyard, over a hundred people huddled under umbrellas and listened to a minister read a tribute to a child long lost but now found. He led a prayer. We cried and threw flowers on the small coffin as it was lowered into the grave at the angel's feet.

Afterward, in the warmth of Gull Cottage, Mom and Dad discussed their plans to drive home the next day.

"Do you want to come with us?" Mom asked me.

Dulcie patted my hand. "I'll understand if you leave," she said. "I've been a witch."

Emma threw her arms around me. "Please stay," she whispered.

I hugged Emma hard. "Okay, okay, I'll stay."

Mom opened her mouth to protest, but Dad shook his head. "Summer's more than half over. Ali will be home before we know it."

So it was settled. My parents went home, and I remained at the lake. Dulcie returned to her studio and her work. She decided the paintings weren't as bad as she'd thought. One night at dinner, she told us she was going to call her show "Deep and Dark and Dangerous, a Study of Water's Changing Moods."

On sunny days, Emma and I swam and built sandcastles. We went to Smoochie's, and I talked Emma into trying something besides chocolate. On rainy days we drew and read and made clay figures. I finished
To Kill a Mockingbird
and began
A Separate Peace.
The summer had taken a turn to the ordinary.

But not quite. Just before Dulcie planned to return to New York, Emma and I decided to visit the graveyard. On the way, we each gathered a handful of wildflowers. Sissy would like them, Emma said.

Despite the sunlight, the graveyard was in shadows. A splash or two of light dappled the stone angel and the new grave at its feet.

Emma seized my hand. "Look," she whispered.

Missing one arm, hair matted and dirty, skin stained, Edith lay on the earth that was heaped over Sissy. Emma ran to the grave, but I hesitated, not sure how to interpret the doll's presence. Had Sissy left her there for Emma? Or did she want Edith to stay where she was?

Something stirred in the shadows behind the angel. In the dim light, I saw Sissy. For the first time she looked like what she was, nearly transparent, too thin to cast a shadow, her voice a whisper. "The doll's for you, Emma. To keep."

Emma reached out as if to embrace Sissy, but her arms closed on nothing. Sissy was gone. Gone for good.

Tearfully, Emma laid her flowers on the grave and picked up the doll. "Sissy wants me to have Edith."

I laid my flowers beside Emma's. Silently, the two of us stood together, thinking our own thoughts of Sissy.

After a long moment, I turned to Emma. "Let's go home," I said softly.

Hand in hand, we left Sissy resting peacefully under the angel's protective hand.

BOOK: Deep and Dark and Dangerous
6.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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