Mrs Prendergast dabbed glistening cheeks with a small white handkerchief.
She explained "If I leave here, I'd feel like I was homeless. That's a terrible feeling. You don't know what that feels like, do you, Lucy?"
Don't know? Lucy wanted to scream at her "Yes! Yes, I do know!" but she said nothing.
The old woman scolded her silence. "You've had it so easy, you've no idea how terrifying that feels!"
You stupid bitch, I do know!
And her memories took control of Lucy and by the time they let her go again, Mrs Prendergast lay dead on the floor.
She'd known Mrs Prendergast for oh, so many years. So perhaps a few kind words and an offer to help the old lady move her belongings to a new home would persuade her to sell to Joshua.
After all, the offer is very good...
"Yes, it is a generous offer," said Mrs Prendergast, "but this is my home, I don't want to move."
All the persuasion in the world wouldn't make Mrs Prendergast change her mind. Even Zeke tried:
"I'll come and do your garden every day, Mrs P," he'd said.
The old woman wouldn't even think about his offer.
Memories hurt, but some hurt only because time had passed forever. Lucy remembered a conversation with a gentleman in Bethesda.
The circus had finished setting up, the animals fed and watered, and something told Lucy someone was staring at her.
"Beautiful," said the gentleman.
He bowed slightly.
"The tiger," he explained with a knowing grin. "It's beautiful."
"Oh. Oh yes,"
He held out his hand.
"My name's Joshua. Joshua McGinley. I'm delighted to meet you."
"Lucy," she replied. "I don't know my surname."
She could tell by his eyes she'd already made a kill.
By the time her money ran out, Lucy had found work with a travelling circus. She had a way with animals, the ponies, mules and bears, and especially Kashmir, the Bengal tiger.
She felt an affinity with them. If they didn't do what they were told, they were beaten; their lives were almost tolerable, and there was usually enough to eat. And however cowed, angry or frightened they felt on the inside, they were always beautiful on the outside.
Plus, there was another thing she had in common with Kashmir especially. If either deemed it necessary, they could both kill.
At fifteen she learned about Jesus from a travelling priest who saved souls by reading the Scripture and saved lives by selling his newly patented cure-all, which, he proclaimed, was a sensation in all the civilised countries of Europe.
She learned how Jesus loves children even more than he did and how your sins are forgiven if you accept Him as your Saviour.
She also learned that the Lord always provides, and when the priest left his savings of more than two hundred dollars unguarded, she took it as a sign of God's charity, and promptly disappeared with it.
She didn't know her birthday date, but the Madam at the Sovereign Saloon made her celebrate her fourteenth at the end of January.
It was a quiet time, the Madam figured, and a pretty little virgin would fetch a high price and drag in custom from outlying districts. In truth, the fact she wasn't a virgin didn't matter; the price was haggled and no one gave a shit about the screams or the sobbing.
Her men outside the door, the Madam relished watching everything, giving Lucy five dollars next morning.
Next weekend, she promised, it'll be twenty.
It never was.
A runaway at thirteen.
No job. Farm job. Store job. No job.
Hungry and in pain she sold the only thing she could for thirty cents and regretted not selling herself six months earlier when she could have made a dollar.
The deep hatred she knew for others felt miniscule against the hatred she brewed for herself. Every night, in whatever dark corner she crouched down in, she prayed for an end to everything, and twice came close to doing it herself; only the fear of the ultimate failure prevented her attempting anything.
She longed to forget and be forgotten.
A fine Chicago mansion with a long drive bordered by trees.
Sixteen year old Ellen O'Braonain didn't know the names of trees: she didn't need to. All she needed to know was how to lug shit and straw from the stables and the servants quarters, and how to keep small bossman sweet.
Keeping small bossman sweet resulted in a bastard and Ellen and her squalling bastard, Lucy, being thrown onto the street before scandal ensued.
Before the scandal died, the mother was dead too. Disposed of, pauper's name unknown.
A workhouse, with rats: child Lucy's only memory of early childhood.
We will return.
Even though there's no thread of yarn between now and then, here and there, we will return. Not one of us can play Theseus; and Lucy McGinley is no Ariadne, but there is a thread and it is one of empathy and understanding.
To understand why a Minister's wife can behave as she does. Understand where she found the capacity within herself to stand at the point of murdering five people, and how she has found the capability to do it.
When the time comes we'll follow that thread back and we will return safely.
Yes, let's look away as we would look away from old photographs in a book. Let's turn the page and leave those images behind.
Let's travel many, many miles north, or east, or in some unspecified direction, and as we make our way there let's also travel back through time - but not too far! Not eons or centuries or even generations. Perhaps just one generation or so. And going back, let us observe... Old calendars become pristine, old diaries unwritten, pages suddenly cleaner, suddenly crisper; what is old becomes new.
Seasons change but no one can tell in what direction.
Let's stop here.
Let's see Mrs McGinley in the doorway with Clint at her feet; see her husband and sons by Joshua's desk; see Cole, Morris, O'Donohue and Sherman, all looking helpless. Let's see yellow lamplight on the windowsill and the blackest of black nights pressed against the glass.
Now watch as all movement ceases, as the scene loses colour, as it becomes sepia tinted.
At this point let's look away from Minister McGinley's study. Let's leave the outskirts of Roylsden and ignore Anna Cody, cold, wet and struggling for life against the storm.
Let us turn our gaze elsewhere.
It's so cold I can't feel any part of me anymore. Can't stop shaking. I don't want to get to the house no more, I just want dry ground to lay my head on and let my noisome world sleep.
Everything's mighty hard: staying awake, putting one foot in front of the other, breathing, thinking, everything. It's just so difficult. Please God, can I sleep?
I can't get up off my knees again. But it's just as hard to lay down as to stand and if I raise my head I can see a barn. If I can get there...
Why? That's always the question. Why this? Why that? And it's usually accompanied by blame. Why'd you do it?
Why does God let it happen?
Joshua McGinley had no answers. He'd been through this many times: it's the question the bereaved always ask.
He'd asked it of God himself, in those rare times his belief faltered. Asked it, and when he received no answer he asked again, because deep down he knew that when all logical questions had been asked and answers still didn't come, somehow he still believed.
That's the essence of faith, he thought. Knowing, without truly understanding.
Joshua McGinley stared at his wife. He knew she'd just said something important but for the life of him he couldn't work out what she meant.
"Jesus!" Cole breathed out noisily as he said it. He understood immediately, her words merely confirmed what the last fifteen minutes had hinted at.
Zeke bowed his head.
"You didn't have to kill Anna, Ma," he muttered, almost to himself, his words barely audible. "She would have kept quiet. She did keep quiet." He dropped to his knees and covered his wet face with his hands, "Why'd you have to kill her, Ma? Why?"
Another throw of the dice.
"If you go through with this," Sheriff Cole spoke quietly, "You'll make things worse..."
Lucy McGinley said nothing.
"This won't save your husband, even if he insists on taking the blame for the murders we both know he didn't do, it won't save him from hanging. And as for your boys, it won't save them from the noose, either, Mrs McGinley, this'll just tighten it around their necks."
"Heavens, Sheriff Cole," she replied, "you really are as stupid as Joshua! It's not their necks I'm saving. It's my own, you fool, my own!"
"Thank you. If I can die holding the Good Book..." He let his words trail off as he held the large family Bible out in front of him with both hands. He closed his eyes.
"God help us," he said simply.
"Amen," came from Joshua McGinley. Cole didn't know if it was heartfelt, a feeling uttered in shared desperation, or just the reflex action of a man of God.
"Amen!" laughed Lucy McGinley "God helps those who help themselves, the Scripture says. And I'm helping myself."
McGinley corrected his wife. "That's not in the Holy Bible, Lucy."
Lucy McGinley scowled.
Mrs McGinley could see very clearly what was going through Sheriff Cole's mind.
"I'm afraid you're on the losing end of the barrel this time, Sheriff."
All Cole could do was nod in agreement...
and keep her listening while he tried a throw of the dice and waited for a miracle.
"Joshua," Sheriff Cole asked plaintively. "If you're not going to stop your wife murdering us, would you at least let me die with the Bible in front of me?"
McGinley, startled, looked furtively at his wife.
Finally she broke the silence.
"Ezekial. Kindly throw the Bible to the Sheriff."
Cole stared hard at Joshua McGinley, expecting him to rail against his wife's idea, to point out the stupidity, the moral depravity, the utter foolishness of thinking she could get away with murder. But there was no reaction.
Then Cole realised that though the moral depravity existed, the foolishness was just his own wishful thinking. Sure, there may be a chance of overcoming her if he, Sherman and O'Donohue went for her simultaneously.
But only a chance.
In reality, it was quicker to fire three bullets than cover the few yards it took to get to her and overpower her.
McGinley stared. She wouldn't kill him, surely? His quiet, biddable wife, the devoted mother, she wouldn't be capable, surely?
To save her boys? Yes, she would.
"I'll do whatever you want, Lucy," he heard himself say.
"It's simple, Joshua. I cannot let my boys hang!"
Her gaze roved over the four men on the floor. Doc Morris lay on his back, one leg raised onto an empty chair. The tourniquet he had tied around his thigh did little to staunch the flow of blood.
"We'll kill them all. All, Joshua. Hell, Doc's not going to last, anyway, are you Doc?"
"You want to know what the third alternative is, Joshua?"
Her laughter died abruptly as Lucy McGinley spoke, to be replaced by a harrowing chill that seemed to encase every word.
"Maybe I will tell you, if you promise on the Good Book that you will do exactly as I tell you to."
The aim of her pistol left Sheriff Cole and pointed at her husband.
"Or maybe... I will kill you, too."
Sheriff Cole tensed.
"Ma, no!" Samuel and Zeke cried.
"Sshh, children," she said gently. Her aim returned to Cole's head.
Cole swore silently. A chance had gone.