Edie and Violet Bond know the truth about death.
We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from The Second Death of Edie and Violet Bond by Amanda Glaze, out from Union Square & Co. on October 4.
Edie and Violet Bond know the truth about death. The seventeen-year-old twins are powerful mediums, just like their mother—Violet can open the veil between life and death, and Edie can cross into the spirit world. But their abilities couldn’t save them when their mother died and their father threatened to commit them to a notorious asylum.
Now runaways, Edie and Violet are part of a traveling Spiritualist show, a tight-knit group of young women who demonstrate their real talents under the guise of communing with spirits. Each night, actresses, poets, musicians, and orators all make contact with spirits who happen to have something to say… notions that young ladies could never openly express.
But when Violet’s act goes terribly wrong one night, Edie learns that the dark spirit responsible for their mother’s death has crossed into the land of the living. As they investigate the identity of her mysterious final client, they realize that someone is hunting mediums… and they may be next.Only by trusting in one another can the twins uncover a killer who will stop at nothing to cheat death.
On stage, Violet lit the herbs and closed her eyes. The crowd fell silent.
From the outside, there was nothing about Violet’s spirit calling now that looked any different from her earlier, pretend attempts. Only Edie could know that, this time, Violet was scanning through the nearby spirits lingering in the Veil, choosing the one she would invite to cross.
After a few silent moments, Violet opened her eyes and spoke. “Margaret? Is there a Margaret Brown here tonight?”
The crowd rustled as members of the audience craned their necks, trying to spot the lucky woman before the surprise left her face. And since it was the last visitation of the evening , more than a few patrons—those not blessed with the name Margaret Brown—allowed their disappointment to show.
Mere seconds later, a figure rose in the middle of the audience and quickly made her way down the aisle. A red-coated usher waited at the foot of the steps and assisted her onto the raised stage.
The woman was dressed all in black. An inky lace veil fell over her eyes, affixed to a hat that was several seasons out of date. Even from where she stood in the wings, Edie could see the sallow skin not covered by the veil. Pale and sickly, as if it had been some time since she’d seen the sun.
The usher deposited her safely into the chair across the table from Violet and then melted back into the wings.
Violet spoke again. “Margaret Brown. There is someone here tonight who would speak with you.”
The woman made no reply to this. She merely pushed her black veil out of her face and stared at Violet with a fragile, desperate hope. It was an expression the twins had seen many times before.
Violet nodded, acknowledging the woman’s silent plea. Then she closed her eyes once again and tilted back her head.
Edie felt the moment the Veil opened. A small, delicate tear just wide enough for a single spirit to slip through.
It was Violet’s mouth moving , but the words were not her own.
A particular kind of hush fell over the crowd. The kind of hush that explained why Violet saved the real spirit visitation for last. Because there was something different about the way she spoke now. Something otherworldly and strange shimmering around her edges, a tingling in the air impossible to fake.
As in her previous two séances, Violet kept her eyes firmly shut. The difference was that while, earlier in the evening , that bit had been for show, this time Violet’s normally piercing green eyes were replaced by those of the spirit. If she opened them now, Margaret Brown would see her own child staring back.
The silence in the theater deepened. Anyone with even the slightest sensitivity to death would be feeling it now. The dark tug at the back of their mind. A long-suppressed animal instinct recognizing what the conscious mind refused to see. It was a dangerous thing to do in front of a crowd, to reveal so clearly one of life’s great mysteries. People claimed to desire answers, but deep down they didn’t really want to know. Deep down they preferred the fairy tale of a God in heaven and an everlasting life.
Edie herself had preferred it once, as a child. She’d loved nothing more than sitting at her father’s knee, listening with rapt attention to the stories he told her about a God who loved them all. About the place in heaven he held for her.
“My Edith,” he would say when it was just the two of them, as it often was in those early days. Before everything had changed. “God loves you and will always keep you safe.”
Edie used to repeat those words to herself at night before she went to sleep. That is, until the night of her and Violet’s thirteenth birthday. Until their mother had shown them the truth about death. Later, she’d be angry she had ever believed her father in the first place. Furious that she’d been naive enough to listen to a man who chose an outdated book over his own daughters. But that night four years ago, she’d felt only loss.
That was why the twins always made sure to leave a trail of crumbs behind. A trail that could lead a person back to the safety of that story, if that’s what they preferred. This moment may feel real to them, but later on they might say I heard that Mr. R spilled all the details of his engagement to a chatterbox probing the crowd. Surely that girl is a fake, and it’s all a scam.
The key was to leave enough doubt in their minds to wonder later if any of it was real, while also allowing them to glimpse— even if only for a moment—a piece of the truth.
“Mama, it’s William. Are you there?”
“Yes,” gasped Margaret Brown, her body lurching toward Violet as if she wanted to grab the young woman in her arms and clasp her to her breast. “I’m here, my sweet boy.” A sob escaped the woman’s throat. “I’m here, my darling.”
More tears emerged as the conversation continued. Personal details were conveyed to convince Margaret Brown—who didn’t need much convincing at all—that her son was here with her tonight. She even nodded in appreciation at Violet’s suggestion, still in the spirit’s voice, but quite clearly (to Edie, at least) from Violet’s mind, that Margaret Brown put off her mourning clothes, insisting that a year was long enough to grieve.
Edie managed a quick glance at Mary Sutton in the crowd— just long enough to note that the woman no longer seemed unimpressed—when a strangled cry drew her attention back to the stage.
It had come from Violet, who was now doubled over in her chair, her body shaking in a series of spasms. From across the table, Margaret Brown stared at her in silent horror, and every single member of the audience went eerily still.
Edie took a step toward the stage—audience be damned—but stopped when Violet raised her arm high above her head.
“The spirit,” she said, her voice strained and hoarse, “is restless.”
Silence was replaced by anticipation as an excited murmur rippled through the crowd. Edie watched as Violet slowly straightened up in her chair, the muscles in her neck straining with the effort to keep the spasms under control.
Edie immediately blinked her own eyes shut and reached out to feel for the spirit of the young boy currently housed within her twin’s mind.
But he wasn’t there.
A different spirit had taken his place.
Her eyes flew open. At that exact same moment, Violet turned around in her chair. She pointed her face directly at Edie and opened her eyes. Only for a second. Just long enough for Edie to see that their edges were pooling with black.
Before she could react, Violet had closed her eyes again and turned back to Margaret Brown. “He wants to hear the lullaby,” she croaked. “The one you used to sing.”
It took less than a second for Edie to understand the message her twin had wanted to impart. Violet was buying her time. Time to go into the Veil, find out what was going on, and salvage this before the crowd caught on.
Edie didn’t allow herself to stop and think about what she was doing. Didn’t stop to remember the last time she’d gone into death. Instead, she whirled around and threw herself into a deserted corner backstage where the glow from the gas lights didn’t reach.
On the stage, Margaret Brown was murmuring a sweet, singsong y lullaby, tears edging her tremulous voice.
Edie fell into a cross-legged seat on the dusty backstage floor and pulled her silk herb pouch out of the pocket in her skirt. She extracted one of the bundles of lavender she’d made that morning and took out a match, preparing to light it. As soon as she did, the smoke from the lavender would assist her in opening the Veil just enough to allow her spirit to cross from life into death.
Her heart thudded in her chest. Sweat trickled down the back of her neck. She did one final check of her surroundings, ensuring that her body would be as hidden as possible while her spirit walked the Veil. To any passerby, it would appear as if Edie had merely closed her eyes while sitting upright and still. But if they came too close, they’d find her body cold and seemingly without breath. That would be harder to explain.
A hacking cough from the stage. Violet breaking into Margaret Brown’s song.
There wasn’t any time to waste. Edie lit the match and set the tip of the lavender alight. The sulfuric tang of fire filled her nose, and an opaque puff of smoke rose into the air. Then she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and crossed into death.
Excerpted from The Second Death of Edie and Violet Bond, copyright © 2022 by Amanda Glaze.