“The silence often of pure innocence persuades when speaking fails.”Monday lunchtime, near the sheriff's office, on Main Street
This has proved almost too easy. The clouds are rolling in, air heavy with the promise of rain, and I stand in my Danika body wearing an old coat with the collar turned up against the cold, jacket short enough to show a few inches of a tidy, worn work dress and a calflength of wool stocking. My shoes wear the signs of good, honest farm labour, and my blonde hair is frizzing round my face in the damp air. I look very distressed.
"Did - was there really a man arrested for... for beating on a girl?" I say to an old woman gossiping with her friend on the street. My fingers flutter together anxiously. "Oh yes,"
she says, "it's a horrible thing. They think also he did in a girl as worked at - well, the brothel, my dear,"
she says, lowering her voice over that salacious detail, eyes gleaming with prurient interest. "They think he chopped her up."
"Oh," I say, and I faint very neatly to the ground. It's not long before I have half a dozen people round me - offering water, saying they will take me to the Dormouse, fussing with my coat collar to let me breathe.
"I should've said something," I say, and I burst into tears. That gets me sat down on a bench, an old woman's arm around my shoulders, and a very handsome young man crouched at my feet. "I should - ""What is is, dear? Do you know something about what happened to those girls?"
I shake my head tightly.
"I know - I know - him," I say quietly. "He - We went out a couple of times, and he was - he was real nice to me, and -" The old woman gives me a handkerchief. "You know, I ain't really dated much," I say, shamefaced, "cos my momma's sick a bunch and I'm busy out on the farm, and he just - he was real nice, and when he -" I turn my face away, and I can feel the vibrating tension from the boy at my feet, his desire to be a hero. "He - I thought it was my fault," I say, and then there is a furious chatter rising from the little crowd, and the conversation spreads in ripples."Some carnie's been carving up our girls,"
one man says fiercely. And there is discussion of me and of Melania - ah, yes, that explains some of what I saw in her - and how we're hard working girls, salt of the earth girls, and who is this monster and why hasn't he been strung up? What the hell is wrong with this town that a murderer and molester can be caught redhanded and he's cosseted in jail? And did you hear that he attacked that nice Mrs Beddau (I wonder if at any other time Glass has been described as nice
) when she went to visit him in prison? He should be put in the old stocks in town. People would show him how they felt, alright. They'd show him very clearly indeed.
I manage a brave, trembling smile for the boy at my feet, and he springs up, ready for something, anything, if it will make me look at him like that again. And I nestle in against the arm of the old woman as the crowd grows larger and voices grow louder, and I wait for the storm to break.