“A fire?”

“Their house. Will and Lilly’s. A total loss. The police suspected arson, and so did the family.”

“They thought Will Henry set it, didn’t they?”

“My family didn’t like him very much.”


She shrugged. “Dad said he was… kind of odd. But that isn’t the main reason.”

She dug into her purse. “I brought a picture of her.”

My heart quickened. “Is Will in it?”

She pulled out a faded Polaroid photograph and tipped it slightly to reduce the glare from the bright sun overhead.

“It’s the only one I could find in Dad’s things. I’m still looking, though; maybe I’ll find some more. It’s from her seventy-fifth birthday.”

I did the math quickly. “That would be in ’49—her next to last.”

“No, it was her last. She died before her next birthday.”

“Is that Will sitting on her left?” He looked to be about the right age.

“Oh, no. That’s her brother, Reggie, my great-grandfather. Will is sitting on her other side.”

The photograph was more than sixty years old and was slightly out of focus, but the man on Lilly’s right struck me as being at least twenty years younger than her. Elizabeth agreed.

“That’s the main reason the family didn’t like him, according to Dad. Lilly told everyone he was ten years younger, but he looks twice that in this picture. Everyone thought he married Aunt Lilly for her money.”

I could not tear my eyes away from the blurry image. A lean face, dark deep-set eyes, and a stiff, somewhat enigmatic smile. These are the secrets I have kept.

“Children?” I asked.

She shook her head. “They never had any. And Dad said they never met any of Will’s relatives. He was a total mystery-man. No one was even sure what he did for a living.”

“I guess you know what I’m going to ask next.”

She laughed brightly. It sounded oddly tinny in the setting.

“Did he ever talk about working for a monster hunter when he was younger? He didn’t—at least in none of the stories I’ve heard. The problem is, anyone who might have heard a story like that is dead now.”

We were silent for a moment. I had a thousand questions and couldn’t get a grip on a single one of them.

“So their house burns down and Will disappears, never to be heard from again,” I finally said. “That would be —when? Two years after she died, so 1952?”

She was nodding. “Around that time, yes.”

“And fifty-five years later he turns up again in a drainage ditch a thousand miles away.”

“Well,” she said with a smile. “I never said I had all the answers.”

I looked at the gravestone. “She was all he had,” I said. “And maybe when she died he went a little crazy and burned down the house and lived on the streets for the next five decades?”

I laughed ruefully and shook my head. “It’s weird. I’m closer to the truth now than I’ve ever been, and it feels like I’m farther away.”

“At least you know was telling the truth about her,” she tried to comfort me. “There really was a Lilly Bates who was around thirteen years old in 1888. And there really was a man named William James Henry.”

“Right. And everything else he writes about could still be a product of his imagination.”

“You sound disappointed. Do you want monsters to be real?”

“I don’t know what I want anymore,” I confessed. “What else can you tell me about Lilly? Besides Reggie, were there any other brothers or sisters?”

“Not that I know of. I know she grew up in New York. The family was pretty well off. Her father—my great- great-grandfather—was a big-time financier, right up there with the Vanderbilts.”

“Don’t tell me. After she died and the house burned down, they found her bank accounts cleaned out.”

“No. They hadn’t been touched.”

“Some gold-digger Will was. You’d think the family might have changed its mind about him.”

“It was too late,” she replied. “Aunt Lilly was dead, and Will Henry was gone.”

That was it, I thought on the plane ride back to Florida. The thing I wanted. I knew monsters were not real, and was fairly certain there had been no serious scientists called monstrumologists who chased after them. It wasn’t about the journals, though I had to admit they fascinated me; it was the why behind the what. It was Will Henry himself.

I went back to the journals. Monsters might not be real, but Lilly Bates had been. Buried in the folios were clues that might lead me to Will Henry, to the why I was so desperate to understand. Sprinkled in those pages were verifiable facts, a jigsaw puzzle of the real intermingled with the bizarre. His life—and

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