Preview of The Forgiving (part 3 of 4)
Here is the next part. Once again, it’s not fully edited, so if you spot any errors, be sure to comment. So without further ado, part three of chapter one of The Forgiving. (click for part 1)
In the blustering wind outside the window, Molly held tightly to the top rung of an emergency fire escape ladder.
Dear God, she thought, why didn’t he stop me?
If she fell, she was sure she’d break all her bones.
A twelve-foot stone wall separated her house from Jacobi House, and when she looked over her shoulder, she saw over the wall, through razor wire, to an upper-story wall and a gabled roof.
In the daytime, she could see a row of barred, upper-story windows, but now it was just a dark mass against clouds lit by Portland’s city lights.
She started her descent, staring at each ladder-rung instead of the yard below.
At about halfway down, an anguished scream sent a chill down her spine. She listened. She thought it might be a woman, but knew some men, when truly terrified, sounded like women, and so wasn’t sure. The scream cut off.
“Molly!” It was Alex, leaning out the window. “I’ll pray for you.” He pulled back inside and left the window open for her unlikely return.
She continued down to the yard.
God will protect me, she said to herself in blind faith.
Her bare foot touched down on cool grass. If she was quick, she wouldn’t need shoes.
She followed along Jacobi House’s surrounding wall, the wall towering taller than it had ever towered before, and her hand traced its rough stones as her feet stepped through fallen leaves. As a game, she and her brother often dared each other to touch the wall, but tonight that transgression was nothing, because far worse was still to come; she was going to slip through the gate and search the grounds of Jacobi House to find what she’d lost.
Be brave, she told herself. Be brave!
She stepped lightly; sticks and rocks stabbed at her soles, and when the pain was too sharp, she quickly hopped to the other foot.
She reached the east edge of her family’s property, to the sidewalk and Ferry Street. No one drove this dead end street at night—a drop-off down to Sellwood Park and the Willamette River created a series of dead ends that stymied any through traffic—but there were street lamps that lit the way with a pale, sickly light.
She continued around the corner onto the sidewalk. Up ahead, past Jacobi House’s outer wall, a metal railing and a warning sign stopped cars from plummeting down into the park hundreds of feet below. Jacobi House was the last house before the drop-off, and from the sidewalk (and also from the river bank down below), the surrounding wall made the Jacobi estate look like a windowless warehouse perched on the bluff. She followed the wall, touching each street lamp post for comfort, until she reached a gravel driveway and a massive iron gate secured with a chain and padlock that blocked the way into the grounds. A two hundred year-old black cherry tree stood next to the gate like a sentry standing guard.
A century ago, the tree wept blood at the witching hour. Its tears had long since dried up, though; even a tree can only weep for so long.
She peered through the bars. (The stones of the gravel driveway under her feet felt smoother than she expected.) A street lamp behind her cast light a few yards into an empty courtyard, and past that, the dark form of Jacobi House, a cross between a two-story hotel and a Gothic Revival church, loomed in the moonlight. Her mother had forbid her from entering this place, but her mother had forbid everything.
Despite the warm night, the iron bars were cold to the touch. And oily. They left grease on Molly’s fingers as if she’d been eating her mother’s fried chicken. Climbing over the gate was impossible because of the grease and so Molly tried to squeeze between the bars. She got her arm and shoulder through, and then her head. She kept pushing forward. The bars felt like they were tightening around her torso like a snare.
Two dark figures advanced toward her in the courtyard’s shadows. The first figure held a bloody hacksaw, used exclusively to cut off the heads of children, and the second figure held a pair of sheering scissors the length of Molly’s forearm. They hid their weapons behind their backs as they crept through the dead grass.
Molly didn’t see the weapons, but saw the dark forms advance. They weren’t threatening in size, but they moved with stealth, like shadows come alive.
She cried out and tried to pull back, but was stuck between the bars.
She whimpered with a hushed cry. They’d have her.