Chapter no 47

Never Lie

It’s well past midnight when the Audi pulls up in front of my house.

It’s the same car my former agent Paige drove, but the car belongs to Patricia. I’m sure her parents bought it for her

—they have spoiled her horribly since she returned from that cabin, dripping wet and covered in blood. I watch from my window as Patricia climbs out of her car, dressed in a skimpy, skin-tight red dress that just barely covers her underwear. She slams the door closed with more force than she needed to use. I permanently dismantled the camera looking down on the front door so there would be no record of who’s entering and leaving the house tonight.

I realized Patricia was lying to me during her very first appointment. Not to say that she wasn’t a skilled liar because she is. She puts on quite the show. But I’m even more skilled at picking out the cues that somebody is untruthful. Like EJ, Patricia has a tell. When she’s going to lie, she crosses her right leg over her left.

I suspect the detective involved in the case knew she was lying as well. But it’s one thing to know it in your gut, and it’s another thing to prove it. Detective Gardner couldn’t prove that Patricia killed her fiancé and two of her closest friends. So she got away with it. Not only that, but she was praised as being the victim that got away.

But Patricia Lawton isn’t a victim. When she found out her best friend was cheating on her with her fiancé, she didn’t let either of them get away with it. Over the last three years, I have informally diagnosed her with antisocial personality disorder, based on her impaired empathy for other people, her aggressive and criminal behavior, as well as her history of lying and deception. Like many other people with antisocial personality disorder, Patricia is charming and attractive, with above-average intelligence. If she didn’t have that going for her, she might not have gotten away with it.

There have been several clues over the years to her diagnosis. When her grandmother died from a heart attack last year, she cried very convincing tears during our session, but she didn’t mention that she had been the one responsible for helping Grammy with her heart medications

—I only found out when I called Mrs. Lawton to express my condolences. She also failed to mention the considerable estate she inherited. When I asked Patricia about it during her next session, she crossed her right leg over her left and told me how terrible she felt that she might have gotten her grandmother’s medications mixed up.

Mrs. Lawton was always a wealth of information about her daughter’s troubled history. Playmates with mysterious injuries. Pets that died suddenly. Poor Tricia has had such bad luck.

On some level, I’m sure Mrs. Lawton knows what her daughter is. She’s not a stupid woman. But denial is a powerful defense mechanism. I could hear the relief in her voice when she told me the stories—finally unburdening herself and passing the buck on to me.

And I knew exactly what to do with this information.

When I open the front door to greet Patricia, she doesn’t look happy. She’s tugging on the too-short hem of her skirt and glares at me under my porch lights. “He’s in the car.”

“Still passed out?”

“Yes. But he’s waking up.” “Did you have any trouble?” “No. It was easy.”

Despite her being so pissed off at me, I believe on some level, Patricia enjoyed the challenge I gave her. She dolled herself up, drove to the casino, and sidled up next to EJ at the poker table. Just like in his fantasy, she didn’t even tell him her name. Then she lured him to her vehicle, with the promise of going back to her place. I told her exactly what to say.

During the car ride, he would have become more and more drowsy from what Patricia had slipped into his drink at the casino, until he finally lost consciousness. I swear, it gets easier every time I drug EJ. You would think he would see it coming by now.

“Did you check him out of the hotel?” I ask.

“Yes. I used his phone.” She looks down at her fingernails, which are painted blood red. “And I moved his Porsche to another lot with long-term parking. He’s paid up for a month.”

EJ has no friends and no job. His parents are gone. Nobody will even notice him missing for weeks if not months.

I follow Patricia to her Audi. A dark shadow of a man occupies the back seat. That’s him. She did it. She really did it. She did what Luke couldn’t—or wouldn’t—do.

“I duct taped his hands together,” she tells me. “I did his legs too, but there’s a bit more give so he can walk. I stuck a piece over his mouth, but you can’t see it because he’s got the sack on his head.”

She’s got guts—I’ll give her that. She drove all the way here from Connecticut with a man tied up in the back seat. Yes, it was the middle of the night. But if she had gotten pulled over, that would’ve been the end.

“I only tied him up about twenty minutes ago,” she says, as if reading my thoughts. “He started stirring, and I

didn’t want to take a chance.” “His phone?”

Patricia reaches into her purse and pulls it out. She drops it into my waiting hand. I squint down at the black screen in the darkness. “You powered it down?”

“I did. But I’ve heard they can sometimes track a phone as long as it still has a battery. So be careful.”

I’ll be very careful. I fully intend to pulverize this phone until it’s unrecognizable.

When we get closer, I see the paper sack on EJ’s head. The paper crinkles slightly as he shifts in his seat. It’s hard to tell how awake he is since he’s immobilized. I sort of hope he’s awake for this next part.

Patricia pulls the back door open. Now I can see the duct tape securing EJ’s hands together. She kicks him in the calf with her high heels, hard enough to leave behind a bruise.

“Get up!” she barks at him.

His head snaps up, but he can’t get out of the car without help. She kicks him again, and he groans, but he still doesn’t move.

I end up grabbing his legs and shifting them outside of the vehicle. He still can’t get up on his own without the two of us hauling him to his feet. Muffled noises come from inside the paper bag. His light gray T-shirt has sweat stains under his armpits.

We walk him into my house and into my office. Because his ankles are partially bound together, he has terrible balance and has to walk with small shuffling steps. When we get into the office, Patricia stops short. She looks around. “Did you change something in here?”

“No,” I say.

She cocks her head to the side. She is certain something is different, but she can’t put her finger on what it is. I know what it is though. I moved the sofa. But she doesn’t need to know that part. It’s better she doesn’t know.

Once inside the office, I attempt to get EJ to sit on the sofa, but between the duct tape on his wrist and ankles and the bag on his head, he misses it completely. He goes crashing to the floor—hard. Patricia frowns.

“Do you want me to help you get him up?” she asks.

I shake my head. It’s easier that he’s on the floor. “I’m fine. You can leave now.”

She narrows her eyes. “What are you going to do?” “It’s none of your concern.”

She taps one of her heels on the wooden floor. If she were only two feet to the left, she would have heard the difference in sound that the floor made and discovered my secret. “I believe it’s partially my concern. I’m the one who got him here, after all.”

“Don’t worry,” I say. “I’ll take care of it.”

“I don’t mind helping. As my mother always says, if we always helped one another, no one would need luck.”

I’ll just bet she doesn’t mind. “It’s fine. I’ve got it under control.”

A flicker of curiosity passes over her pretty features. “What are you going to do with him?”

“I promise—nobody will find him.”

She pouts for a second, but then throws up her hands. “Fine. Do what you want, Dr. Hale.”

She flicks her honey blond hair over her shoulder, then storms out of the office. On her way out, she looks up at the portrait she gave me, which is hanging over the mantle. She flashes me a disdainful look.

“I can’t believe you hung that giant portrait of yourself right in your living room.” She sneers at me. “You’re just as arrogant as I thought you were.”

“I like it,” I say pleasantly. I can afford to be pleasant at the moment, when the source of all my problems is lying in a crumpled heap on the floor of my office.

I lead Patricia to my front door and lock it behind her when she leaves. Patricia has been in my house many times

in the last three years, but this will be the last time. I’m not going to ask any other favors from this girl. She acts sweet but I know the truth—she’s dangerous.

And now that she’s gone, I can finish up here.

When I get back to the office, EJ is still lying on the floor. He’s awake now, squirming to get out of his duct tape restraints, although Patricia tied him up very well. I walk over to him, standing over his wriggling body. Finally, I reach down and yank the paper bag off his head.

The adrenaline has overpowered whatever medications Patricia gave him. His blue eyes are open wide, and his T-shirt is now drenched with sweat, even though it’s a bit chilly here. His lips are moving under the duct tape but no intelligible sounds come out. I watch as a dark stain spreads across his crotch.

I crouch beside him. “Hello there.”

He makes a muffled sound behind the duct tape on his lips.

I look into his gray eyes, unable to suppress a smile. “I thought about your offer. And I decided you were right. I would like the two of us to spend a little time together.” I grin. “And I think it will be fun for me.”

His eyes are almost popping out of their sockets. I wonder if Luke would enjoy this as much as I am if he were here. If he were standing next to me right now, what would his reaction be?

I close my eyes for a moment, imagining it. I picture Luke’s face, staring down at EJ, lying helpless on the floor. Even in my imagination, Luke isn’t smiling. He wouldn’t approve of this. He doesn’t have the stomach for it.

“That guy broke up with me because of you, you know,” I say to EJ. Luke hasn’t officially broken it off with me, but it’s been a week, and he won’t pick up the phone when I call, and he hasn’t answered any of my text messages. You don’t have to have an MD and a PhD to figure out that one.

He wants nothing to do with me anymore. Apparently, asking him to commit murder was a deal breaker. But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. People like me are destined to end up alone.

“He was a great guy,” I tell him, although I’m not even sure I’m talking to him anymore. “He was sweet and smart and he overlooked all my faults. No, he didn’t overlook them

—he liked them. He loved me for all the things about me that weren’t perfect.” I take a gulping breath, pushing back the tears gathering in my eyes. I won’t give him the satisfaction. “I really liked him. I loved him. And because of you, I lost him. Because you’re a selfish asshole who decided to screw up my entire life.”

EJ is trying to say something. It might be “I’m sorry.” But it might also be “go to hell.” It’s hard to tell with the duct tape on his mouth.

Honestly, I don’t care what he’s saying. It doesn’t matter.

I straighten up. I draw back my right foot and EJ flinches, realizing I’m about to kick him in the gut. But then at the last second, I don’t do it.

Instead, I walk over to the corner of the room where the leather sofa used to be. I moved it this morning. One thing that charmed me about this house when I first bought it was the hidden panel under the floor in this room. The real estate agent told me about it with a proud smile. You could hide valuables down there.

I’ve kept things down there over the years, but I cleared it all out this morning. I need all the room in there that I could get.

There’s a tiny hook in the floorboard that’s barely visible to the naked eye—it blends right into the rest of the floor. I hook my fingers into it and pull it open, to reveal the space inside. Just large enough for a human body to fit. The real estate agent told me that too, but she was joking. She laughed about it.

Did I know when I bought this house that I would eventually use the space to conceal a human body? I don’t know. On some level, I must have considered it.

EJ’s eyes bulge. He knows what’s about to happen, and there’s nothing he can do to stop it. I smile down at him.

“Actually,” I say, “I don’t think we’re going to be spending that much time together. You’re going to be spending a lot of time alone, as it turns out.”

It takes three rolls for me to get EJ into the space under the floor. He’s squirming and kicking the whole time, but Patricia tied him up too tightly. He can’t get free. As soon as he falls into the space, I can see the panic in his eyes ramp up several notches. I don’t know if he believed until this minute that I was actually going to do it.

He is screaming now, although the sound is dampened by the duct tape over his lips. I watch him for a moment, then I lower the panel again, concealing the hiding space under the floor. Once again, you can’t even tell it’s there. Except for the muffled sounds coming from the floorboards.

That won’t do at all.

I had intended to leave him there and allow nature to take its course. But this is too big a risk. He’s too noisy. So I take the rest of the roll of duct tape Patricia gave me and start taping the edges of the panel. Effectively cutting off the oxygen supply.

I sit down on the couch and listen. The muffled sounds grow softer. It doesn’t sound like screams anymore. Whimpers, maybe. Crying, possibly. The sounds become quieter and quieter. Until they stop completely.

“Goodbye, Edward,” I say.

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