Chapter no 44

Never Lie

This is not a big deal. All I have to do is walk into the office, take the tapes out of the desk and put them in my coat pocket, then leave the room.

I don’t have to talk to Luke. I don’t have to interact with him. He’s tied up—there’s no way he can hurt me.

I hate the idea of doing this while Ethan is gone. And it’s not like he’s upstairs or something. He’s not even in the house. He’s not reachable by phone. If Luke tries to attack me, it will just be me and him in the house.

But he won’t attack me. I used plenty of duct tape. He’s probably exactly like he was when I left him. Lying on the couch, helpless. I’d bet my life on it.

And I can’t possibly wait for Ethan to come back. What if he comes back with the police? I have a feeling he won’t, but if he does, I’m screwed.

I approach the door to the office. I press my ear against it, listening for any ominous sounds. I don’t hear anything. But that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

Ethan left that knife on one of the bookshelves. I debate bringing it with me into the room but then decide against it. Luke is tied up. I should be fine.

I place my hand on the doorknob, too chicken to turn it. I count to three, take a deep breath, and twist the knob. Then I push the door open.

The room is mostly how we left it. The compartment on the floor is still closed. The couch is still askew on the other side of the room. And Luke is still on the sofa, his wrists and ankles bound with duct tape. The only difference is he’s managed to work himself into a sitting position.

It makes me uneasy. If he could go from lying to sitting, then he could go from sitting to standing. And then what? Ethan was right to go for help. I don’t feel comfortable spending the night with this man under the same roof.

Luke jerks his head up when I enter the room. He stares at me with those bloodshot eyes with deep purple circles underneath.

“I just need to get something,” I mumble. I’m not sure why I felt the need to offer him an explanation.

“I won’t get in the way,” he says. I grunt in response.

The setup of the room is awkward. The way the couch has been moved, I have to squeeze past Luke to get to the desk. His eyes are on me, watching me as I draw closer to him.

“Your name is Tricia, right?” he says.

I don’t make eye contact or respond to his question.

“Listen, Tricia.” He clears his crackly throat. “My fingers are starting to tingle. I don’t know if there’s any way you could do me a favor and make the tape a little looser?”

I snort. “You must think I’m the dumbest person on the planet.”

Despite everything, Luke lets out a little chuckle. “Worth a try.”

I glance over in his direction, and one side of his lips is pulled up in a lopsided smile. He’s not as handsome as my husband, but I could see how he’d be cute if he got a shave and a haircut—and took a long shower. For a second, I catch a glimpse of the Luke that was on that tape I listened to. The one that Dr. Adrienne Hale fell in love with.

If only she hadn’t. Maybe everything would have been different.

I squeeze past him to get to the desk. I pull open the drawer where I stashed the tapes, and sure enough, they’re still there. I want to stuff them into my coat pocket, but Luke is staring at me, barely blinking. He won’t look away.

“Is there something you have to say?” I snap at him. “Actually, yes.”

I fold my arms across my chest. “I’m not taking off the duct tape. Don’t bother asking. You’re going to sit right there until the police get here and you can explain how Adrienne Hale’s body got under the floor of her office.”

“Yeah, that’s the thing.” Luke leans back against the couch. “I don’t think… I mean, I’m pretty sure that isn’t Adrienne under the floorboards.”

I freeze. “What?” “You heard me.”

He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s just trying to scare me. He knows it’s just the two of us in the house, and he’s trying to manipulate me. That’s what this is. I shouldn’t even engage him.

“I thought it was her at first,” he says. “I mean, who else could it be? I didn’t even want to look because… I just couldn’t bear it. I don’t care what the paper said about me— I loved Adrienne. I would have married her, except…”

“So why do you think it isn’t her?”

I don’t know how anyone could tell. That body in there— you can’t even tell if it was a male or female, much less their specific identity.

“They still had clothing on.” He grimaces. “Scraps of it anyway… I assume most of the material disintegrated. And you could tell they were wearing a pair of blue jeans. But Adrienne never wore blue jeans. She hated them. She wouldn’t have been caught… well, you know. So I don’t see how that could be her.”

I swallow. “Maybe she was having a laundry day and decided to wear blue jeans.”

“She didn’t even own any.” He shakes his head. “The shirt didn’t look familiar to me either. That’s not her under the floor. I’d bet anything.”

Both of our sets of eyes are drawn to the rectangular outline on the floor. He’s right about the blue jeans. I looked

through a bunch of her drawers and she didn’t seem to own any.

“Do you know who it is then?” Luke hesitates. “Yes. I think I do.”

A chill runs down my spine. I don’t care if Luke sees what I’m doing or not at this point—I just need to get out of this room. I open the drawer and start stuffing the tapes in my pockets. He’s watching me do it, but he doesn’t comment.

“I didn’t kill her, Tricia,” he says quietly. “I would never do something like that.”

I slam the drawer shut. “That’s for the police to decide, not me.”

I squeeze past him, my pockets bulging with all the tapes I stole from the hidden room. I’ve still got plenty of time before Ethan returns, but I don’t want to take any chances. By the time he gets back, I want the room to be exactly the way I found it.

I’m used to the drill by now. I tilt forward the copy of The Shining, and I hear the click as the door unlocks. I pull it open and tug on the cord to turn on the light.

One by one, I replace the tapes on the shelves. I’ve got a whole handful of EJ tapes, and I’ve got to organize them back in the order I found them. I’ve got a few other random ones and I make sure those are put back as well. When I’m done, I’ve got only one tape left in my pocket.

I reach my hand into my pocket and feel the rectangular object inside. I squeeze on it so hard that the case cracks under my grip.

I will leave this room exactly the way I found it. Every tape is in the same place it was when I first walked in here.

Every tape except one.

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