Monstrous Beauty
aged cotton paper and authentic ink. The ornate typeset manuscript was always a hit because it looked so real.
    “What have you, sir, that causes such a state in your visitors?”
    “Ah, Elizabeth, welcome. I was showing my guests the pamphlet that Isaack de Rasieres sent to the colony as a gift from New Amsterdam these last days. The purpose is to descry the news of the week from France and the Low Countries.” He laughed. “Though after such a long journey ’tis, I find, no longer news that concerns anyone.”
    “Good sir, I cannot agree,” Hester countered. “I hear so little word from our old home, I should be enthralled to read even the chronicles of those long dead!”
    Suddenly Hester realized how she might research the murders. “Oh!” she blurted, straightening her back.
    The local newspaper! Every single back issue of the Old Colony Memorial since 1822 was archived at the Plymouth Public Library—Hester had used the records a handful of times for school projects. She was certain that a murder-suicide in such a small town would have been splashed all over the paper for months.
    Bradford folded the paper and mused, “How curious that the ink is impressed on both sides of the folio.”
    “I beg your leave, sir,” Hester blurted. “I have only just remembered the fire under my pottage. Pray tell Alice that I have called for her.”
    Bradford’s mouth hung open as she deposited the basket on the desk in front of him and hurried out the door. If she washed the dishes and swept her cottage before the all clear, she calculated, she could make it to the library an hour before it closed.

Chapter 12
    1872
    S YRENKA TOOK O LAF’S SHIRT , trousers, socks, and shoes for herself, carefully washing the blood off the clothes and wringing them nearly dry before she put them on. She rowed Olaf’s boat past midnight, searching for Ezra. Eventually, fearing the arrival of dawn and the earliest fishermen, she pulled in to a remote spot on the shore and staggered across the sand on her new legs, dragging the boat up and past the tide stain.
    She wandered for days, hiding off small dirt roads, bewildered by the land beneath her feet, and by insect bites, hunger, cold, and her own unbearable weight. She stole food from open kitchen doors and a blanket from a barn. She ruminated for the first time in her long life over how she might kill herself.
    Deep in a pretty wood by a pond she stumbled upon a cedar-shingled cottage, painted forest green and nearly camouflaged by tall pines, whose branches brushed as high as the chimney and left tufts of brown needles bunched in the eaves trough. There she was taken in by two spinster sisters, the Misses Floy, and nursed until she regained her strength. The sisters earned their living selling jams made from beach plums, blueberries, and wild strawberries, by making tea from rosehips, and by keeping sheep in a nearby meadow for milk and wool. Syrenka felt sheltered and safe in the company of only women. They called her Sarah, because Syrenka was not a biblical name. The anonymity suited her.
    The older sister, Lydia, asked no questions. It was obvious to her that young Sarah was an immigrant with an abusive husband. Why else would she arrive wearing only his clothes? What other explanation was there for her lack of familiarity with the customs and manners of this country? Lydia imagined, in some detail, that Sarah had been held prisoner in her husband’s locked bedroom, and that she had escaped while he slept.
    Every urge in Syrenka’s body told her to seek out Ezra—to see if he had lived or died that night in the bay. But she resisted: she was not ready yet. These women could teach her much. If she gained the skills of a human she might blend in well enough with the townspeople to avoid their prying questions. Time spent now would spare heartache later.
    The Misses Floy were delighted when Sarah was well enough to join their daily routines. She was physically strong and

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