Chapter no 42

Never Lie

A more skilled liar may have been able to deny it. But this man is not a skilled liar. I can tell by the way the creases on his face deepen and what little color he had in his cheeks completely vanishes. I hit the nail on the head. This man is the same person I heard on the tape. The one who wanted to kiss Adrienne Hale.

“You’re the boyfriend?” Ethan shakes the knife in his fist. “You’re the one who killed that shrink?”

The man, Luke, shakes his head vigorously. “No, I… I mean, yes, fine, Adrienne was my girlfriend. But I didn’t kill her. I loved her. I would never…”

Ethan narrows his eyes. “So tell me what you’re doing here.”

He rubs his hands on his blue jeans. “It’s what I said. I don’t have a place to go and this house was empty, so I’ve been staying here.”

“Why don’t you have a place to go?”

“Because my life completely went to shit after the newspapers called me a murderer.” He lifts his eyes—I hadn’t realized how bloodshot they look. “They dragged my name through the mud. Over nothing. I didn’t kill her. But my company let me go, and I couldn’t find anything else. And my family wouldn’t help me either. Even they thought that I…” His voice breaks. “So I’m unemployed and broke. That’s my story.”

Ethan stares at the other man, his lips twisted into a frown. “I don’t believe you.”

Luke drops his arms. “You don’t believe me? What do you think I—”

Hands up in the air.”

Luke freezes in the middle of a sentence. There’s something in Ethan’s voice, and he quickly puts his hands back in the air. “Fine. Sorry. But I’m telling you the truth.”

“Or maybe…” A vein pulses in Ethan’s temple. “Maybe you came here last night with a purpose. Maybe when you found out the house went up for sale, you knew you had to get rid of Adrienne Hale’s body before somebody found it.”

Luke’s jaw drops open. “What? No. I had no idea that—” “And when we left the house,” Ethan goes on, “you were

hoping you could quickly get rid of the body before we came back in.”

Luke looks almost sick. “No. That’s not… look, I didn’t even know the body was here.”

“Yeah, right.”

“I didn’t!” Luke starts to lower his hands, but at the expression on Ethan’s face, he raises them higher. “I had no idea. But when I heard the shouting, I thought… I had to see. Adrienne… She just disappeared. We were supposed to see each other that night. I don’t… She wouldn’t have just left. She wasn’t like that.” He looks down at the floor, his features twisting with anguish. “I loved her. And I never found out what happened to her.”

Tears spring to my eyes. He’s telling the truth—that or his acting skills have improved significantly in the last ten minutes. But my husband’s face remains impassive. “Bullshit. I don’t believe a word of this.”

“Ethan,” I say. “I believe him.”

“Really?” His voice is dripping with condescension. This is the side of my husband that I’ve only seen a few times, and I don’t particularly like it. “So say we fall for his lies. Then what? We just let him wander the house and trust that

he’s such a nice guy, he’s not going to murder us while we sleep?”

He has a point. I believe Luke is harmless. But am I willing to bet my life on it?

No. I’m not.

“So what should we do?” I ask.

Ethan’s eyes rake over the man standing in front of us. “We tie him up.”

Luke stumbles backward at this revelation as panic fills his eyes. I wonder if he’s thinking about trying to get away. I don’t think he could. Ethan has the knife, and even if there wasn’t a knife, Ethan could take Luke in a fight. My husband works out. He’s got the big guns, which you can see peeking out under the bottom of the sleeves of that Yankees T-shirt.

“There’s duct tape in the desk,” I recall. “Do you want me to get it?” I don’t want Ethan rifling through the desk and finding the cassette tapes.

“Yes.” Ethan shakes the knife at Luke. “Lie down on the couch. Now.”

A chill goes down my spine at the way my husband is taking charge of this situation. I never imagined how Ethan would react in a high-intensity situation like this. I’m impressed.

Luke can tell Ethan isn’t messing around. He obligingly stumbles over to the sofa and lies down on his back. I grab the duct tape out of the drawer and start by binding his legs. I wrap the duct tape around his ankles, just above his old Nike sneakers, which look like they used to be white and are now a muddy shade of gray.

“Now hold out your arms,” Ethan snaps at him. Luke’s eyes fill with dread. “Please don’t do this.”

Hold out your arms.” Ethan nods in my direction. “Tricia, make sure it’s tight enough that he can’t get out.”

I crouch beside Luke as I bind his hands together with the duct tape. I hazard a look at his face, and for a split

second, our eyes meet. The shake of his head is barely perceptible. Please don’t do this.

I look away. I don’t have a choice. Ethan is right—we can’t have him wandering around the house while we’re trapped here.

I can breathe easier once Luke is bound on the couch. There won’t be any more mysterious crashes around the house. I won’t have to worry about somebody coming down from the attic to murder us.

“What are you going to do now?” Luke asks. Even though he’s lying down, he looks incredibly uncomfortable— as you would imagine somebody with their wrists and ankles duct taped together would be. He squirms, trying to adjust his position, but it’s difficult for him.

“That’s none of your goddamn business,” Ethan retorts. “Come on, Tricia. Let’s go.”

I follow Ethan out of the office, and he shuts the door behind us. It’s only when the door is closed that he drops the arm holding the knife, which he places on a nearby bookshelf. All the tension seems to drain out of his body at once.

“We’ve got to get out of here,” he says. “Like, tonight. I don’t want to wait until the morning. I don’t want to sleep under the same roof as that guy.”

“Me either.” The thought of a man bound against his will in the room below us is very unsettling. I’ll never be able to sleep. “But what can we do?”

“I can go for help.”

My stomach sinks. “Ethan, no…”

“Hear me out.” He holds up a finger. “It’s only about a mile to get to the main road. I can walk that far, then flag a car down for help. Or actually, I may have some phone reception over there. I might not even have to walk all the way to the main road if I can get my phone to work.”

I look doubtfully out of one of the picture windows. There is a lot of snow out there. Moreover, it’s gotten very

dark over the last hour. Pitch black. There are no street lights or lights from nearby houses or any lighting whatsoever anywhere outside of the premises. What if he gets lost?

What if he freezes to death?

I grab Ethan’s arm, digging my fingernails into his skin. “Please don’t go.”

“I’ll be fine,” he assures me with the confidence that I don’t feel. “I have a warm coat and a good pair of boots. I bet it will only take me about half an hour to get to the main road.”

“And you’d just leave me here?” A lump rises in my throat. “With him?”

“He’s contained. For now.”

I shake my head, but I can already see in Ethan’s eyes how determined he is. There’s no way I can talk him out of this.

“I’ll be back in an hour—two, tops,” he says. “I promise.”

I place my palm on my abdomen. It’s still flat—no sign of a baby bump yet. In the coming months, it will grow larger and larger with the life we made blossoming inside me. As excited as I am about this journey, I don’t want to do it alone. I can’t imagine my life without Ethan.

“Please be careful,” I murmur.

“Don’t worry,” he says. “I’ll be back in an hour.”

He leans in to kiss me, and as I feel his hot breath, I say a silent prayer. Please don’t let this be the last time I see him. I will always blame myself if something happens to him.

“Don’t go into the room for any reason.” Ethan’s voice is stern. “No matter what. Okay, Tricia?”

“Okay,” I agree.

“He’s tied up. The only way he can hurt you is if you take the tape off his wrists and ankles.”

“I know.”

A flash of doubt passes over Ethan’s face, but then he shakes his head. “Okay, I’ll see you soon.”

He starts to walk past me, but then he freezes in his steps. Something has caught his attention. Something by the stairwell.

I swivel my head, following his gaze. That’s when I see what he’s looking at. It’s the bookcase by the stairs. The one that concealed the hidden room.

And it is now hanging ajar.

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