Today's Reading

He stared vacantly at the floor. "I still love you, Megan, that's why I came. Bunny knew exactly what to say to get me here. I can't believe you'd think I could do something like this."

She was unmoved. "I wish I could live in your world, Henry. You're probably picturing us breaking into song any second now."

"I'm just telling you how I feel."

"And like I said, I'm just joining the dots."

"Except."

"What?" She looked at him suspiciously. The knife twitched in her hand. "Except what, Henry?"

He stood up again, one hand on his head and the other pressed against the solid white wall. Then he began to pace back and forth. "Don't worry, I'll keep my distance." She tensed; the tip of the knife followed his movements. "What if when you went outside for a few minutes of fresh air, I left too? I could have done. You wouldn't have known about it if I had. And then the killer could have struck."

"And did you?"

"Yes," he said, sitting back down. "I went to get a book from my bedroom. That's when the killer must have got by me."

"You're lying."

"I'm not."

"Yes, you are. You'd have mentioned this sooner if it was true."

"I forgot about it, that's all."

"Henry, stop it." She took a step toward him. "I'm not interested in being lied to."

He held out his hand; it wasn't shaking. "Well, look at that, I'm telling the truth."

She kicked the leg of his chair, and his hand became a claw as he steadied himself against the armrest. "This conversation has gone on long enough. I just want to know what you plan to do next."

"Well, there's no telephone here, so I was going to run down to the village and fetch the police and a doctor. But if you're planning to tell them I'm guilty, that makes it rather difficult for me, doesn't it?"

"We can worry about the police later. Right now I just want to make sure that if I put this knife down I don't end up lying on the bed next to Bunny. Why did you kill him?"

"I didn't."

"Then who did?"

"A stranger must have broken in and killed him."

"For what reason?"

"How would I know?"

She sat down. "Look, I'll help you out here, Henry. It's not inconceivable to me that you had some justification for doing this. Bunny could be cruel, we both know that. And reckless. I might even be able to forgive you for it, in time. But if you want me to lie for you, then you should stop testing my patience. Why now? And why like this?"

"Megan, this is madness." Henry closed his eyes. The heat was unbearable, with all the doors and windows closed. He felt that they were two specimens suspended in oil, being studied by someone.

"Then you're still protesting your innocence? Christ, we've been through this, Henry. You've been tried and convicted by the jury of twelve potted plants lining the hallway. You were here the whole time—what else is there to say?"

He buried his head in his hands. "Just give me a moment to think." His lips moved silently as he went back over her accusations. "You've given me a damn headache." Absurdly, he reached down and took the guitar from the floor beside him. He began to pluck at its five remaining strings. "Could they have been hiding upstairs when we came back from lunch?" His forehead was dripping with sweat. "There's no way they could have left. Unless it was right when we got back. In fact...In fact, I think I've got it."

He was on his feet again. "I think I know what happened now, Megan."

She tilted her head up toward him, an inverted nod of encouragement.

"Megan, you little spider," he said. "You little, conniving snake. It was you that killed him."

Megan looked distinctly unimpressed. "Don't be ridiculous."

"I can see you put some thought into it. Here we are, two suspects with the same opportunity and a motive broad enough to cover both of us, so that all you have to do is deny everything and it all gets blamed on me. That way it comes down to which of us is the better actor, and we both know the answer to that."

"As I pointed out, Henry, you've been sitting here all afternoon guarding your kill. So how could I have done it?"


This excerpt ends on page 13 of the hardcover edition.

Monday we begin the book Shadows of the Dead by Spencer Kope.
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