Excerpt from The Stone Girl by Dirk Wittenborn, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Stone Girl

A Novel

by Dirk Wittenborn

The Stone Girl by Dirk Wittenborn X
The Stone Girl by Dirk Wittenborn
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2020, 480 pages

    Paperback:
    Jul 2021, 480 pages

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When Buddy and Evie got to Valhalla that Friday morning, the party tents were up. A pink- and- white- striped one for the dance that night, and virginal white for the wedding tomorrow. As caterers arranged gilt chairs around tables for ten, father and daughter set off into the lake once again. Knowing they had to check the traps and truck the dead beaver out before the guests started to arrive that afternoon, they had to work fast. Evie's decision to say nothing and hope for the best made her feel like an accomplice.

By noon, the mist had burned off, the sky was a cloudless blue, and they had nineteen beaver and four muskrat in the boat. Forty traps still to go, Buddy cranked up the Evinrude and they headed back across the lake to ice down the carcasses they had collected.

They hadn't gone a hundred yards when Buddy throttled back the outboard and turned the boat in a tight circle. "You see that? It's the sail to that Sunfish. Somebody must have tipped it over, gotten the mast stuck in the mud, and just left it. Those rigs cost six hundred dollars. Fucking rich people."

Through the glare of the sun bouncing off the surface of the lake, Evie glimpsed something white rippling ten feet down in the murky water. "Let's get it later."

"We'll never find it." Buddy had the boat hook out and on the third try snagged the triangle of white. Sediment from the lake bottom plumed up as he pulled it to the surface. It was heavy and seemed to have a life of its own. "Jesus Christ, it's got a snapping turtle caught up in it." He could see the back of its primeval shell and webbed claws flailing in the dark water. It wasn't until he pulled the billowing white snarl to the surface that they realized it was a white wedding dress. The jaws of a snapping turtle were clamped down on a pale naked foot.

Evie gagged as she shrieked, "Oh my God. It's her!" Scrambling to get away from the body, Evie slipped and fell down among the dead beaver, knocking the boat hook from Buddy's hand. As the body sank back into the lake, pulled downward by the snapping turtle, intent on finishing its meal at the bottom of the lake, they saw it wasn't Lulu in the wedding dress— it was Charlie.

They sat there for what seemed like a long time before Buddy picked the boat hook back up and pulled Charlie's corpse to the side of the boat. His skin was the color of a frog's stomach; blood that wasn't moving made his veins stand out, ghostly and unnaturally purple. That Charlie was wearing the wedding dress seemed more shocking and impossible than the fact that he was dead. Evie's voice broke in the middle of "What ... happened to him?"

"Looks like he drowned himself." Her father sounded calm, but wasn't.

"Why is he wearing the dress?" Evie was trembling.

"Either he was crazy or he wanted people to find him like that, which is just another kind of crazy." Buddy grabbed hold of a dead arm and started to pull the body into the boat. The madness of what he was fishing out of the Mannheims' lake rattled him. Struggling with the unexpected weight of a drowned man, Buddy forgot the boat was already overloaded with dead rodents. His foot slid on a muskrat carcass, a surge of water rushed over the gunnels. Cursing as if Charlie were still alive, Buddy shouted, "The fucker's going to swamp us. Throw the beaver overboard." Evie felt like she was having an out- of- body experience as she made room for the dead man they had rescued. .

When her father bellowed, "Oh Christ!" Evie thought he was yelling at her until she saw that the jaws of the snapping turtle were still clasped onto Charlie's foot. When Buddy couldn't kick it off with his boot, he pulled out his skinning knife and cut off the snapper's head. Reptile blood spurted out, staining the silky white train of the wedding dress tangled around the corpse's ankles. Evie vomited over the side of the boat and began to weep.

When they finally got the body into the boat and were unfolding a tarp over him, Evie noticed Charlie's eyes were wide open. He seemed surprised to be dead.

Excerpted from The Stone Girl: A Novel by Dirk Wittenborn. Copyright (c) 2020 by by Dirk Wittenborn. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

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