For those new to Crowsnest, it’s a serial novel in progress. You should probably get out now, while you still can.

Still here? Well, at this stage in the novel, Elsa has taken the identity of a dead friend, Edwina. She has fled Ontario to accept an offer of marriage from a man she’s never met, a miner in the Crowsnest Pass. Staying at the local boarding house, Elsa is waiting for the traveling minister to arrive and perform the wedding ceremony. That’s when she meets an unexpected boarding house guest: Frank MacLeod, the wealthy son of her Ontario employer. And we left off last week with Frank cornering our protagonist in the hallway of the boarding house.

If you’d like to read the whole mess, look here.

My heart’s pounding and I can hear the rasp of my own breath, like the panting of prey. Looming over me, Frank looks calm and maliciously comfortable, a half smile on his face.

“So… Elsa,” he says. My eyes immediately dart from side to side, checking if anyone’s heard. A mistake. His smile grows.

“I’ve asked around, learned a little about you,” he says. “It seems I’ve neglected to congratulate you on your upcoming marriage.”

I swallow, say nothing.

“Mr. Baecker, is it? I wonder if he knows your real name.”

“Mr. Baecker and I have an understanding,” I say, fighting to keep my voice steady.

“Oh, he understands, does he? Elsa?” He says my name slowly, rolling it over his tongue like syrup. “I wonder if he understands how you left the real Edwina? In fact, maybe you could explain that. You could explain to the police, too. They have some questions…”

I hear my breath again. I hadn’t even considered the police. Surely they’d be able to tell what happened. There must have been an autopsy.

Frank is tracking my eyes, reading my thoughts.

“A girl found like that, in so much blood. You didn’t think there’d be an investigation? Very convenient to find you hiding out here.”

“What are you going to do?” There’s no longer any hope of the words sounding strong.

“I’ve been thinking about that. And I think there are some things you might do for me. In return, we’ll stay quiet about… your past.” He runs a finger, slow like the creep of a glacier, down the line of my cheek to brush across my lips.

“Think about it,” he says, before I can speak. Then he’s gone, and I’m leaning against the wall by myself, shaking so badly I can hear my shoulder blades knock against the wood.

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