"I'll go, I'll go." Her hands were tingling, even the hand that was frozen to her phone, and she still had a jittery blast of adrenaline blowing down her spine. That had been a footstep. A real one. The hill was hidden through the trees from here, and she suddenly longed for the comforting sight of the fluorescent gas station lights. She took a step, then realized something. She stopped and turned around again, heading quickly for the gates of Idlewild Hall.
"I hope that sound is you walking toward your car," Jamie said darkly.
"There was a sign," Fiona said. "I saw it. It's posted on the gates. It wasn't there before." She got close enough to read the lettering in the dark. ANOTHER PROJECT BY MACMILLAN CONSTRUCTION, LTD. "Jamie, why is there a sign saying that Idlewild Hall is under construction?"
"Because it is," he replied. "As of next week. The property was sold two years ago, and the new owner is taking it over. It's going to be restored, from what I hear."
"Restored?" Fiona blinked at the sign, trying to take it in.
"Restoring it into what?"
"Into a new school," he replied. "They're fixing it up and making it a boarding school again."
"I didn't want to mention it, Fee. I know what that place means to you."
Fiona took a step back, still staring at the sign. Restored. Girls were going to be playing in the field where Deb's body had lain. They would build new buildings, tear down old ones, add a parking lot, maybe widen the road. All of this landscape that had been here for twenty years, the landscape she knew so well—the landscape of Deb's death—would be gone.
"Damn it," she said to Jamie as she turned and walked back toward her car. "I'll call you tomorrow. I'm going home."
The first time Katie Winthrop had seen Idlewild Hall, she nearly cried. She'd been in the backseat of her father's Chevy, looking between Dad's gray-suited shoulder and Mom's crepe-bloused one, and when the big black gates loomed at the end of Old Barrons Road, she'd suddenly felt tears sting her eyes.
The gates were open, something she soon learned was rare. Dad had driven the car through the entrance and up the long dirt drive in silence, and she had stared at the building that rose up before them: the main hall, three stories high and stretching endlessly long, lined with peaked windows that looked like rows of teeth, broken only by the portico that signaled the front door. It was August, and the air was thick and hot, heavy with oncoming rain. As they drew closer, it looked uncannily like they were traveling into the jaws of the building, and Katie had swallowed hard, keeping straight and still as the hall grew larger and larger in the windshield.
Dad stopped the car, and for a moment there was no sound but the engine ticking. Idlewild Hall was dark, with no sign of life. Katie looked at her mother, but Mom's face was turned away, looking sightlessly out the passenger window, and even though Katie was so close she could see the makeup Mom had pressed onto her cheek with a little sponge, she did not speak.
I'm sorry, she'd suddenly wanted to say. Please don't make me stay here. I can't do it. I'm so sorry...
"I'll get your bags," Dad said.
That had been two years ago. Katie was used to Idlewild now—the long worn hallways that smelled like mildew and girls' sweat, the windows that let in icy drafts around the edges in winter, the wafts of wet, mulchy odor on the field hockey green no matter what the season, the uniforms that hadn't been changed since the school first opened in 1919.
Katie was the kind of girl other girls tended to obey easily: dark-haired, dominant, beautiful, a little aggressive, and unafraid. She wasn't popular, exactly, but she'd had to use her fists only twice, and both times she'd won easily. A good front, she knew, was most of the battle, and she'd used hers without mercy. It wasn't easy to survive in a boarding school full of throwaway girls, but after swallowing her tears in those first moments, Katie had mastered it.
She saw her parents twice a year, once in summer and once at Christmas, and she'd never told them she was sorry.
This excerpt ends on page 15 of the hardcover edition.