Chapter no 14

A Flicker in the Dark

The police station was warm—uncomfortably warm. I remember the miniature fans positioned all around the sheriff’s office, the stale, recycled air blowing in every conceivable direction, the Post-it Notes stuck to his desk flapping in the warm breeze. Wisps of my baby hair dancing in the crossfire, tickling my cheek. I watched the beads of moisture drip down Sheriff Dooley’s neck, soaking into his collar and leaving a dark, wet stain. The first day of fall had come and gone, but still, the heat was oppressive.

“Chloe, honey,” my mother said, squeezing my fingers in her sweaty palm. “Why don’t you show the sheriff what you showed me this morning.”

I looked down at the box in my lap, avoiding eye contact. I didn’t want to show him. I didn’t want him to know what I knew. I didn’t want him to see the things that I had seen, the things in this box, because once he did, it would all be over. Everything would change.


I looked up at the sheriff, leaning toward me from across his desk. His voice was deep, stern but somehow sweet at the same time, probably from the unmistakable Southern drawl that made every word sound thick and slow like dripping molasses. He was eying the box in my lap; the old, wooden jewelry box my mother used to keep her diamond earrings and Grandma’s old brooches in before my father had bought her a new one last Christmas. It had a ballerina inside that twirled when the lid opened, dancing to a rhythm of delicate chimes.

“It’s okay, sweetheart,” he said. “You’re doing the right thing. Just start from the beginning. Where did you find the box?”

“I was bored this morning,” I said, holding it close to my stomach, my fingernail chipping away at a splinter in the wood. “It’s still so hot, I didn’t wanna go outside, so I decided to play with some makeup, mess around with my hair, that kind of thing.”

My cheeks reddened, and both my mother and the sheriff pretended not to notice. I had always been something of a tomboy, always preferring

to roughhouse with Cooper in the yard over brushing my hair, but ever since that day with Lena, I had started to notice things about myself that I had never noticed before. Things like the way my collarbones popped when I pinned my bangs back or how my lips seemed juicier when I slathered them in vanilla gloss. I released the box then and wiped my mouth against my forearm, suddenly self-conscious that I was still wearing some.

“I understand, Chloe. Go on.”

“I went into Mom and Dad’s room, started digging around in the closet. I didn’t mean to snoop—” I continued, looking at my mom then. “Honest, I didn’t. I thought I’d grab a scarf or something to tie in my hair, but then I saw your jewelry box with all of Grandma’s nice pins.”

“It’s okay, honey,” she whispered, a tear dripping down her cheek. “I’m not mad.”

“So I grabbed it,” I said, looking back down at the box. “And I opened


“And what did you find inside?” the sheriff asked. My lips started trembling; I hugged the box closer.

“I don’t want to be a tattle,” I whispered. “I don’t want to get anyone

in trouble.”

“We just need to see what’s in the box, Chloe. Nobody’s getting in trouble just yet. Let’s see what’s in the box, and we can go from there.”

I shook my head, the severity of the situation finally settling over me. I never should have showed Mom this box; I never should have said anything. I should have slammed the lid shut and pushed it back into that dusty corner and forgotten all about it. But that’s not what I did.

“Chloe,” he said, sitting up straighter. “This is serious now. Your mother has made a major allegation, and we need to see what’s in that box.” “I changed my mind,” I said, panicking. “I think I was just confused or

something. I’m sure it’s nothing.”

“You were friends with Lena Rhodes, weren’t you?”

I bit my tongue, nodded slowly. Word travels fast in a small town. “Yes, sir,” I said. “She was always nice to me.”

“Well, Chloe, someone murdered that girl.”

“Sheriff,” my mom said, leaning forward. He held his arm out and continued to stare in my direction.

“Someone murdered that girl and dumped her somewhere so terrible, we haven’t even been able to find her yet. We haven’t been able to find her body and return her to her parents. What do you think about that?”

“I think it’s horrible,” I whispered, a tear slipping down my cheek.

“I do, too,” he said. “But that’s not all. When this person was done with Lena, he didn’t stop there. This same person murdered five more girls. And maybe he’ll murder five more before the year is over. So if you know something about who this person may be, we need to know it, Chloe. We need to know it before he does it again.”

“I don’t want to show you anything that could get my dad in trouble,” I said, tears streaming down my cheeks. “I don’t want you to take him away.”

The sheriff settled back into his chair, his eyes sympathetic. He was quiet for a minute before leaning forward and opening his mouth again.

“Even if it could save a life?”



I glance up at the two men sitting before me now—Detective Thomas and Officer Doyle. They’re in my office, seated in the lounge chairs usually reserved for patients, staring at me. Waiting. Waiting for me to say something, just like Sheriff Dooley had been waiting on me twenty years ago.

“I’m sorry,” I say, sitting up a little straighter in my chair. “I got lost in thought for a second there. Can you repeat the question?”

The men glance at each other before Detective Thomas pushes a photograph across my desk.

“Lacey Deckler,” he says, tapping the image. “Does the name or image ring a bell?”

“Yes,” I say. “Yes, Lacey is a new patient. I saw her Friday afternoon.

Judging by the news, I imagine that’s probably why you’re here.” “That would be correct,” Officer Doyle says.

This is the first time I’ve heard the officer speak and my neck snaps in his direction. I recognize his voice. I’ve heard it before, that raspy, strangled sound. I heard it just this weekend in the cemetery. It’s the same officer who came running over when we found Aubrey’s earring. The same officer who snatched it out of my hand.

“Lacey left your office at around what time Friday afternoon?”

“She, uh, she was my last appointment,” I say, peeling my eyes from Officer Doyle and directing them back to the detective. “So I imagine she left around six thirty.”

“Did you see her leave?”

“Yes,” I say. “Well, no. I saw her leave my office, but I didn’t see her leave the building.”

The officer looks at me quizzically, as if he recognizes me, too. “So, for all you know, she never left the building?”

“I think it’s safe to assume she left the building,” I say, swallowing my annoyance. “Once you leave the lobby, there isn’t really anywhere left to go but out. There’s a janitor’s closet that’s always locked from the outside and a small bathroom by the front door. That’s it.”

The men nod, seemingly satisfied.

“What did you talk about during your appointment?” the detective


“I can’t tell you that,” I say, shifting in my chair. “The relationship

between psychologist and patient is strictly confidential; I don’t share anything my clients tell me within these walls.”

“Even if it could save a life?”

I feel a punch in my chest, like the wind has been knocked straight from my lungs. The missing girls, the police asking questions. It’s too much, too similar. I blink hard, trying to shake the bright light that’s surging through my peripheral vision. For a second, I think I might faint.

“I’m—I’m sorry,” I stutter. “What did you just say?”

“If Lacey told you anything during your session on Friday that could potentially save her life, would you tell us?”

“Yes,” I say, my voice shaking. I glance down at my desk drawer, at my sanctuary of pills just barely out of reach. I need one. I need one now.

“Yes, of course I would. If she had told me anything that raised even the slightest suspicion that she was in danger, I would tell you.”

“So why did she come into a therapist’s office, then? If there wasn’t anything wrong?”

“I’m a psychologist,” I say, my fingers quivering. “It was our first appointment together; it was very introductory. Just getting to know each other. She has some … family issues that she needs help dealing with.”

“Family issues,” Officer Doyle repeats. He’s still looking at me suspiciously, or at least, I think he is.

“Yes,” I say. “And I’m sorry, but that’s really all I can tell you.”

I stand up, a nonverbal cue that it’s time for them to leave. I was at the crime scene where Aubrey’s body was found—this very officer walked up on me holding a piece of evidence, for Christ’s sake—and now I’m the last person Lacey saw before her disappearance. These two coincidences, paired with my last name, would put me squarely in the center of this investigation

—somewhere I desperately don’t want to be. I glance around my office, looking for any clues that could give away my identity, my past. I keep no personal mementoes here, no pictures of family, no allusions to Breaux Bridge. They have my name and only my name, but if they wanted to know more, that would be enough.

They look at each other again and stand in unison, the screech of their chairs making my arm hair bristle.

“Well, Doctor Davis, we appreciate your time,” Detective Thomas says, nodding his head. “And if you think of anything that may be pertinent to our investigation, anything at all that you think we should know—”

“I’ll tell you,” I say, smiling politely. They walk toward the door, opening it wide before peering out into the now-empty lobby. Officer Doyle turns around, hesitates.

“I’m sorry, Doctor Davis, one more thing,” he says. “You look so familiar, and I can’t seem to place it. Have we met before?”

“No,” I say, crossing my arms. “No, I don’t believe so.” “Are you sure?”

“I’m pretty sure,” I say. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a day full of appointments. My nine o’clock should be here any minute.”

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