Chapter no 4

Never Lie

I don’t have much hope for the kitchen. If this house hasn’t been lived in during the three years Adrienne Hale has been missing, how can there be any food in the refrigerator? The best we can hope for is some stuff in cans that we can heat up.

The refrigerator is at least twice the size of the tiny one we have stuffed into our kitchen at home. Everything here seems to be orders of magnitude larger than what we have back in the city. About ten copies of our kitchen could fit into this one kitchen. I wonder if Dr. Adrienne Hale was a skilled chef. She seems like the sort of woman who could whip up a gourmet meal.

Ethan throws open the refrigerator and peers inside. “Well, we can make ourselves sandwiches.”

“Really?” I look over his shoulder into the fridge. There’s a loaf of bread in there and a bunch of cold cuts. There’s even a jar of mayonnaise. My stomach turns and I almost gag, thinking about how long that food has been sitting in there. “I’m not eating that. It probably expired years ago.”

He picks up a packet of bologna. “Nope. It doesn’t expire for another week. Judy must have bought it.”

I try to imagine Judy purchasing a packet of bologna for one of the houses she is showing. I can’t seem to do it. She’s more of a caviar-and-smoked-salmon type of person. “Are you sure? Are you looking at the year?”

Yes. Here, look.”

He hands me the bologna. Sure enough, the date on it is from the current year, one week in the future. I open it up and sniff it, and it doesn’t smell rancid. The color looks okay.

“I’ll make us sandwiches,” he says.

Ethan lines up a loaf of bread, the bologna, and a jar of mayonnaise on the counter, and he gets to work making us sandwiches. He likes to cook for me. It’s sweet. Not that I can’t make a simple sandwich on my own, but it’s romantic the way he enjoys pampering me. Yet another thing I’ve quickly learned to love about him.

I just hope he feels the same way about me after he finds out about my revelation. I feel ill every time I think about it. But I can’t keep it from him much longer.

“Is there anything I can do?” I ask.

“Why don’t you grab us something to drink?”

I can handle that. I walk to the other side of the kitchen to find a couple of glasses. I’ll just fill them up with tap water—I’m sure it’s fine. But when I get close to the sink, something makes me stop in my tracks.

It’s a cup right by the sink. Half filled with water. The outside dripping with condensation.

“Ethan?” My voice sounds shaky. “Yeah?”

“I…” I swallow as my eyes stay on the glass. “I think there’s somebody else in this house.”

His head snaps up from the sandwich preparation. He’s got a slice of bologna clutched in his right hand. “What are you talking about?”

“There’s a cup here.” I back away for a minute, like the cup might reach out and strangle me. “Somebody filled it recently and was drinking from it.”

“Probably Judy.”

If he mentions Judy again, I’m going to punch him in the face. “It’s not Judy’s, okay? Judy would never leave half a

glass of water on the kitchen counter like this. And if she did, there’d be lipstick all over the rim.”

He can’t argue with that. Judy’s trademark is her bright red lipstick. She would never be able to drink from a glass without a little bit of it wiping off.

“And I saw that footprint on the floor,” I remind him.

“That was probably Judy’s,” he says, even though it’s preposterous. “Or mine.”

“Also,” I add, “we saw that light on upstairs when we were walking over here. Somebody is upstairs.”

Ethan purses his lips. He looks over at the water glass across the kitchen, then up at the spiral staircase leading to the second floor. “I don’t know, Tricia. If someone else were here, wouldn’t they have come down and told us to get the hell out of their house?”

He has a good point. “Maybe they’re not supposed to be here.”

He doesn’t disregard the possibility. Now his eyes are trained on the stairwell. “Okay. Suppose that’s true. What should we do?”

I’ve still got my purse slung over my shoulder. I reach inside and pull out my phone. Still no signal. “I think we should check upstairs.” Ethan looks like he’s about to protest, so I quickly add, “we’re stuck here for the night. Are you going to be able to sleep if you know a stranger is lurking around the house?”

“You’re right,” Ethan finally says. “I should go check it out. You stay here.”

“No way.” I shake my head vigorously. “I’m going with you. You’re not leaving me alone down here.”

Again, he seems like he’s about to protest but then thinks better of it. He rubs his chin with his thumb for a moment, then reaches for something on the kitchen counter. It takes me a moment to realize that it’s a block of knives. The long serrated blade Ethan pulls out glints in the overhead lights in the kitchen. “Should be prepared, right?”

I have no objection to him taking a knife. I’m tempted to grab one myself.

We walk together across the living room, past the portrait of Dr. Adrienne Hale. I’m quickly starting to despise that painting. This house is creepy enough without those green eyes following me around everywhere. It’s a relief when we get to the staircase, away from her gaze.

At least, it’s a relief until we start climbing. The stairs wind up for what feels like an eternity and the stairwell is very dark. The stairs are steep and each one creaks as our feet put weight on it—the sound echoes through the entire stairwell. I cling to the ornate wooden banister with one hand, and with the other, I reach out for my husband. When I find his arm, I grab on to it tightly. I can’t believe he wants to live here. This place feels more like a haunted house we’re forced to spend the night in to earn some sort of inheritance or something like that.

The worst part is when we get to the landing for the second floor. Because it’s obvious that the entire floor is completely dark.

“We saw a light on up here, right?” My eyes frantically dart between the doorways, each darker than the next. “I’m sure we did.”

“Maybe it was the moonlight reflecting on the window…”

I glare at him in the dim light from the window. “So the moon somehow reflected on only one bedroom window?”

“I don’t know what to tell you, Tricia. I don’t see anyone up here. And all the lights are out.”

“Shouldn’t we check the rooms?”

He’s quiet for a moment. I can’t tell whether he’s scared or annoyed. “Fine. Let’s check the bedrooms.”

Ethan flips on the light in the hallway, which is burned out except for one single bulb. But even that is enough to make the second floor a lot less scary. He keeps the knife down at his side as we open each room and turn on the

light. According to the description on Judy’s website, there are six bedrooms upstairs, and I’m not leaving here until we check every single one of them.

First bedroom—empty.

Same deal for the second, third, and fourth bedrooms. All of them are completely dark and quiet. When Ethan turns on the lights, nobody is lurking in the shadows. Each room is completely empty.

“I don’t think there’s anyone here, Tricia,” he says as he closes the door of the fourth bedroom.

“Keep looking,” I say through my teeth. Fifth bedroom—empty.

Now there’s one last room left. All the bedrooms we have seen so far have been about the same size and rather impersonal looking. This leads me to suspect that the last bedroom must be the master bedroom. The place where Adrienne Hale slept every night in the months and years before her disappearance.

As we walk to the final door, I grab onto Ethan’s arm. My heart is pounding so hard that it hurts my chest.

“Tricia, your nails…”

I ease up my grip ever so slightly. “Sorry.”

I’m probably still gouging him with my nails, but he lets me do it. He lowers the hand not clutching the knife onto the doorknob. And quietly, he twists the knob.

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