DAWN BROKE WITHOUT ME SLEEPING . Ruby, emotionally and physically
exhausted, had dozed against my shoulder in patches. I was freezing, my
limbs shaking and my muscles stiff, but I didn’t want to move to get a
blanket. The house didn’t feel safe.
Raul had yelled for nearly forty minutes before finally falling silent. The
quiet frightened me more than the noise. I didn’t know where he was, which
meant he could be anywhere. But with the sun came fresh courage. I hadn’t
heard Raul in hours, so I nudged Ruby awake. “I think we’re okay now.”
She pressed her fingers against her eyes and groaned.
“I’m sorry for waking you,” I murmured, “but you’re going to feel better
after a drink and putting on some warmer clothes. ”
“Did last night really happen, or was that a nightmare?” She looked down
at her hands. Dried blood still marked her fingers. “Oh.”
“Are you ready to get up?”
Her blue eyes narrowed. “What if he’s still here? What if he’s just waiting
for us to come out?”
“If he is, it won’t get any better by putting it off.”
She stared at her hand for a beat then sighed. “Yeah. You’re right. Let’s
Walking through the house sent surreal shivers down my spine.
Everything seemed too peaceful to follow the night we’d been through, like
the unnatural quiet following a tornado. Thin winter sunlight flooded through
the windows, making the wooden floors glow and highlighting flurries of
dust. For the first time since I’d stepped into Marwick House, I felt as thoughthe building was at rest. The old furniture no longer seemed lonely, but
contented. The stairs didn’t groan as deeply. Even the lopsided animal
watercolours appeared serene.
We came to a halt in the foyer. No noises came from the house—not even
wood settling. I squeezed Ruby’s arm. “We should search everywhere. And
check the doors and windows, too.”
“Yes.” We split up, like the night before, and explored the lower rooms. I
moved carefully, stopping to listen outside every entryway before peering
through, just in case. A hint of motion caught my notice inside the music
room. I swung towards it, hands raised, but it was just my reflection in the
“Jo.” Ruby’s voice echoed from the kitchen.
I hurried to find her. She stood by the open back door, staring out into the
yard. Her eyes wide, eyebrows raised, lips parted a fraction, she lifted an arm
to point towards the old tree in the back corner.
I turned to follow her outstretched arm then tasted the harsh morning air
as I reflexively drew a breath. My heart clenched tightly, and my vision
turned black for a split second before clearing again.
We’d found Raul. His black hair had been mussed from a night of
frantically fighting against the house’s shell. Blood ran from the knife wound
on his shoulder to drip down his arm and off his fingertips. Light refracted
through a couple of remaining glass shards caught in his other hand. His
spine was straight, but his head lolled to the side. The rusted metal chain
wrapped around his neck held him a foot off the ground.
I gripped Ruby’s hand. It was cold and sweaty. My pounding heart
wouldn’t slow. Raul twisted slowly as the wind buffeted him, and for half a
second, he was at the perfect angle for his open eyes to meet mine.
I don’t know how long we stood there, fixated and horrified by the
macabre portrait laid out ahead of us. It took me a long time to find my voice,
and when I did, it still cracked. “We need to get him down. ”
Ruby made a faint choking noise in the back of her throat. Sweat dripped
down her forehead, despite the crisp morning air.
I took a breath and stepped into the yard. My heart beat so quickly, I was
afraid it would explode. The chains groaned against the tree branch as Raul
rotated lazily. He almost looked comical with his blue lips slack and the bags
under his eyes prominent in the early light. I stopped just shy of him, beside
the animal grave, and stared up at his mottled face.
Faint satisfaction washed over me. It seemed right for Raul to be hanging
in the back of Ruby’s house. It was justice—and not just for her, but for him,
I reached towards the chain cinched around his neck. The metal was cold,
like his skin. As I touched it, the chain clinked, then Raul collapsed to the
ground. I gasped and leapt away from him. His body rolled to a halt at the
base of the tree, dirt and fragments of dead grass trapped in his stubble and
hair, his eyes staring at me blankly.