“She, she is dead; she’s dead: When thou knowst this, Thou knowst how lame a cripple this world is.”
The pages turned, whispering.
“And there rises a kinde of Phoenix out of the ashes . . . .”
I closed my eyes, rubbed my aching brow as the ceiling fan vainly stirred the muggy heat.
“If the calamities of the world have benumbed and benighted thy soule in the vale of darknesse, and in the shadow of death . . . .
“What is there then that can bring this Nothing to our understanding?”
I dropped the volume of John Donne on the table and picked up the Island Tattler again. Front page photos, a black and white turmoil of shapes and faces radiating urgency. Harsh contrasts of bright light and shadow caught squad cars, policemen, ambulance, white-coated aides frozen on the edge of the cliff. Shelli had snapped me beside slouched Captain Wilkes, my face haggard.
The raw urgency was only an illusion. By the time Shelli and the rest had arrived, the need for hurry was long past.
“Another tragic accident on the Crown Mountain Road . . . . Evidence that Miss MacIntyre lost control of her car while intoxicated . . . .” I tossed the paper down. At least Shelli had waited until after Pat’s funeral. But the article promised “continuing in-depth coverage.” She was champing at the bit for her big story.
From the windowsill, my family in miniature smiled through cracked glass. The police had found the stolen photo in Pat’s car.
None of it made sense. Had she really been that desperate to prevent me from investigating the cove? Captain Wilkes seemed convinced she’d been my “burglar.” When I’d asked him why she hadn’t left a bogus fetish to warn me off, he’d shrugged. Maybe she ran out of time. Maybe she was drunk and forgot it. Maybe she meant to make up a fetish from my stolen nightgown. But the police hadn’t found any sign of it, or my missing hairbrush, at the wreck site.
I knuckled the painful pulse in my temples. The headaches had disappeared for a while after Granny’s “cure,” but now they were back. With a sigh, I turned to John Donne, leafing through his poetry as my fingers absently traced the smooth curves of a seashell from my dwindled collection on the sill.
“License my roving hands—”
I looked down at the pink “octopus shell” in my palm, hastily pushed it aside and turned the page.
“That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow mee, and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new . . . .
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish mee—”
A sharp knock on the door.
I slapped down the book. “Who is it?”
I stared transfixed at the closed door. Like a robot, I rose to open it.
He stood in the searing sun, face a blank mask. In vivid contrast, the light intensified the color of his eyes to electric blue, tension snapping in the air. Heat and sunlight shimmered over him, sparking coppery glints I was sure would crackle static shocks on contact.
Sweat broke out on my back, face flushing.
“Are you going to let me in?”
I cleared my throat, moving back.
“Pretty Jumbie-beads.” As he stepped inside, he tilted his head toward Conrad’s necklace I was wearing. He plucked up the book I’d dropped face-down, glancing at the passionate sonnet. His gaze snapped to my face.
I took the book and smacked it shut.
“John Donne? No man is an island?” He shook his head. “We all are. Just damn lucky if we manage to get any kind of signals across the gulf.”
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