The figure in the hallway did not move. Christa-Marie continued to play, the notes rising and falling with the sound of the wind outside. As the piece came to a crescendo Jessica stepped fully into the music room.
'Is it now?' the figure in the hallway asked.
Jessica did not know how to answer. Too many things could go awry with the wrong answer.
The figure emerged from the shadows.
Michael Drummond had changed his clothes. He now wore a navy suit with thinner lapels. It was a style that might have been popular with fifteen-year-old boys when Drummond had been a guest, and probably a student, in this house.
There was something bulky in one of his suit-coat pockets. Jessica watched his hands.
'Teacher is mad at me,' Drummond said softly.
Jessica glanced at Christa-Marie. She was lost in the music.
'Is it now?' Drummond asked again.
'No,' Jessica replied. 'It's then, Michael. It's Halloween night, 1990.'
The notion registered on Drummond's face. His features softened in a way that told Jessica that his mind was returning to that night, when all things were possible, when love burned brightly in his heart, not yet tempered by the horror of what was to come.
'Tell me about that night, Michael,' Jessica said. She began to inch closer to him.
'We went to the concert. Joseph and I.'
'Yes. When we came back, he was here.'
'Doctor Thorne!' Drummond spat the name like an epithet, glanced into the kitchen, then back. Jessica circled closer.
'What happened?' she asked.
As Jessica closed the distance by another few inches, she noticed a shadow to her left, right near the entrance to the kitchen, just a few feet from where Michael Drummond stood. She looked over. So did Drummond. Someone was standing there.
'Joseph?' Drummond asked.
But it wasn't Joseph Novak, of course. Somehow, Lucinda Doucette was standing there. Lucinda Doucette from the Hosanna House and Le Jardin.
In one fluid motion Michael Drummond reached for Lucy, pulling her close to him. He now had a straight razor in his hand. He flicked it open.
Jessica leveled her weapon. 'Don't do it, Michael.'
'Zig, zig, zag.'
Everything Jessica had seen in Drummond's face, everything that told her he might be ready to give all this up, was gone. What stood before her now was a feral, calculating killer.
'Let her go.'
Drummond held Lucy even more tightly. Jessica saw the young woman's legs start to sag.
'I have a little more work to do,' Drummond said.
'Not going to happen.'
Drummond brought the razor up in a flash. The gleaming blade was now less than an inch from Lucy's throat. 'Watch.'
Drummond glanced at the clock. It was 11:51.
'There's no time left,' he said.
'Just put down the razor. Let her go.'
Drummond shook his head. 'Can't do it, detective. There's one note left to play.'
'We'll get you help,' Jessica said. 'It doesn't have to end this way.'
'But it does, don't you see? This must be completed.'
Jessica glanced again at the grandfather clock in the hallway. 'It's not midnight yet. Let her go.'
'Look how many unfinished symphonies there are. Beethoven, Schubert. I am not going to leave a legacy like that.'
Jessica looked at Lucy. The girl was going into shock. Jessica knew she had to keep the man talking.
'Why these people, Michael? Why did you choose them?'
'They got away with murder, Jess. Surely you can understand that. They won't be missed.'
'They had families,' Jessica said. 'Sons, daughters, mothers, fathers. It's not up to us.'
Drummond laughed. 'We can't do it all, you and I. I've watched it for years. Police do their jobs, prosecutors do their jobs. Still people get away with it. Tonight all these people dance with the dead. Eddie Robles, Kenny Beckman, his sow of a wife. So many more.'
'What about George Archer?'
Drummond smiled. 'I'm not guilty on that one, your honor. But believe me, it wasn't for lack of effort. I tracked him for years. Ever since I got out of law school.'
'Who, Michael? Who killed him?'
'Do your job, detective. I did mine.'
Drummond leaned away from Lucy, the razor moving away from her throat momentarily. Jessica sighted down her weapon. She had a shot.
'Then why Lucy?' Jessica asked. 'She's innocent.'
'No, she is not.' On the word not, Drummond pulled Lucy closer. Jessica no longer had a line of sight. 'It's because of her that Peggy van Tassel is dead.'
'I don't understand.'
'Little Lucy could have told the police about George Archer. She didn't, and who knows how many other little girls Archer killed? This little piggy is part of the problem.'
Drummond stopped at the doorway to the kitchen. 'That's far enough, detective. Put your weapon down.'
Jessica did not move. 11:54.
'Do it now.'
'Okay, Michael,' she said. She lowered her Glock to the floor. 'It's down.'
Jessica glanced to her left. Through the doorway she could see the bare feet and rolled-up trousers of a body on the floor, a few drops of blood on the tile. She also saw the knife on the counter. It was the precise scene from that night twenty years earlier, a re-creation of the murder of Gabriel Thorne. Except that there was a new twist. There was a band of white paper and a red candle on the counter.
Jessica looked again at the kitchen floor.
Is this David Albrecht's body?
The horrors were piling up.
'Look,' Jessica began. 'Dr. Thorne is already dead.' She pointed to the kitchen.
Drummond glanced into the kitchen, at the body on the floor. He looked back at Jessica. His mind was gone, lost in some kind of vortex between the night of Thome's murder and now.
'It really is then?' he asked.
Drummond began to nod rapidly. 'He was going to take her away, see,' he said. 'For good. That's why he had to die.'
Drummond turned slowly toward the stereo cabinet behind him, touched the play button.
Christa-Marie seemed to return to the moment. She began to play a new piece, plucking one of the strings - the same note, twelve times.
'What is Danse Macabre without the chorus?' Drummond asked. He turned up the sound.
A moment later, beneath the resonance of Christa-Marie's cello, was a mix of sounds - street sounds, sirens. Beneath it all a chorus began to sing:
Zig, zig, zig, Death in cadence,
Striking a tomb with his heel,
Death at midnight plays a dance-tune, Zig, zig, zag, on his violin.
But somehow the loudest part of this new background was the sound of a baby cooing.
'The dead own the world tonight,' he said. 'Listen to them. I've been collecting their voices for years.' 11:56.
The voices began to grow in volume. Screams, shrieks of terror, death wails.
'Look,' Jessica said. She circled to her left. She had to get into the kitchen. 'My gun is down, Michael. I can't hurt you. The doctor is dead. Let the girl go. We'll talk.'
'It's not about me. It's never been about me.' Drummond began to sweat. He waved the razor around, bringing it perilously close to Lucy's face. The chorus of screams grew in the background. Christa-Marie's playing increased in volume.
The lady, it's said, is a marchioness or baroness
And her green gallant, a poor cartwright.
Horror! Look how she gives herself to him,
Like the rustic was a baron.
'She gave herself to him,' Drummond said, pointing at the body on the floor. 'She doesn't have long, you see. It had to be done.'
'Who doesn't have long?'
'Teacher. She's dying. That's why I had to write faster.'
Drummond took one step backward, into the kitchen, dragging Lucy with him. 'Listen to them all,' he said. 'Can you hear?'
'I hear, Michael.' 11:58.
Jessica moved forward.
'What about Gabriel Thorne?' she asked, gesturing to the body on the kitchen floor. 'Christa-Marie didn't kill him, did she? It was you, wasn't it? You and Joseph Novak?'
'Thorne was in love with her. He manipulated her.' Drummond shook his head, his eyes filling with tears. 'Joseph was weak. He was always weak.'
'But you let Christa-Marie take the fall.'
Tears ran down his cheeks. 'I've had to live with that for twenty years.'
Drummond backed to the center of the kitchen as Danse Macabre neared its final glorious section.
From somewhere beneath the cacophony came a man's voice: 'Michael.'
Inside, where the music lives, in that gilded hall, i watch and wait. Teacher knows what I must do.
There is one note left to play.
One final note.
At the sound of the man's voice everything slowed. Drummond held Lucy even more closely. Slowly, he lifted the straight razor to his own forehead and drew it swiftly across. Bright crimson blood washed his face, spilling onto Lucy.
Again, from somewhere: 'Michael.'
Drummond hesitated for a moment, his head cocked to the sound. 'Dr. Thorne?'
One more note.
One more voice.
Drummond looked at Christa-Marie, playing furiously in the music room.
They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed.
Oh what a beautiful night for the poor world!
Michael Drummond lifted the razor high into the air. He pulled back Lucy's hair, exposing the white of her throat.
'Teacher ...' he said.
As he brought the razor down Jessica saw the body on the floor move.
It was not David Albrecht.
Detective Kevin Byrne rolled to his right, raised his Glock 17 and fired, slamming a single bullet into Drummond's head, just above the man's right eye. Thick gobbets of bone and brain tissue burst from the back of Drummond's skull, onto the white-tiled wall.
Drummond collapsed face down onto the counter, onto the band of cloud-white paper, his bloodied face painting the sheet in a grotesque parody of a musical staff. His body slumped to the floor.
Jessica looked into the kitchen, the sounds of the discharged weapon ringing in her ears. As she stepped into the corner of the music room, and embraced Lucy Doucette, she met Byrne's gaze. He was covered with blood, not his own. He had been lying in wait. He looked at her, but his eyes saw something else, perhaps something that had happened in this room a long time ago, something that had just now come to a close.
The Echo Man was dead, his symphony now complete.