Chapter no 5

Never Lie

“There’s no one here,” Ethan announces.

He flips the switch inside the last room, setting the space aglow. This room is significantly larger than all the others and looks like it’s a master bedroom. There’s a king-sized bed in the center of the room with an ornate wooden headboard. The bed is made up, and when I reach out a finger to touch the cream-colored bedspread with the red trim, it too has a thick layer of dust on it.

“Nobody.” He taps open the bathroom door and peeks inside. “Not even hiding in the bathroom.”

“I can see that.”

He fiddles with the handle of the knife. “So are you satisfied? Or do you want me to check under the bed?”

I don’t need him to check under the bed, but it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to check the closet. I grab the shiny gold handle of a door near the bathroom and fling it open. It is, as I suspected, a walk-in closet. That’s another luxury we don’t have in our Manhattan apartment.

Rows of expensive-looking clothing line the expansive closet—I see tags from Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Versace. And there’s just a hint of a sweet-smelling perfume enclosed in the closet, like a tomb—Chanel, I think. I run my fingers over the fabric of a white sweater hanging in the closet— cashmere.

This more than anything is evidence that Dr. Adrienne Hale is dead. Because no woman would voluntarily leave here without taking this gorgeous sweater with her.

“Satisfied, Tricia?”

I pull my fingers away from the cashmere sweater. “I don’t get it. Why was the light on?”

“Maybe it was a bulb that blew out?”

I shake my head. “It couldn’t be. We turned on all the overhead lights and they all work perfectly.”

“Maybe it was a lamp.” I shoot him a look.

Ethan throws up his hands. “I don’t know what you want me to tell you. We checked every room. We’ve looked in the closet. There’s nobody here.”

I can’t argue with him. He’s right that we have checked every room and looked as carefully as we can. If there’s someone here, they don’t want us to find them. Maybe it’s better if we don’t find them.

“Fine,” I say. “Let’s go have dinner.”

Except if we sleep in one of the bedrooms tonight, I am definitely locking the door. And barricading it.

As we walk back down the spiraling stairs to the first floor, I don’t feel much better about anything. In fact, I feel more anxious. I’m certain I saw the light on from outside the house, and the fact that none of those lights are on is deeply unsettling. I don’t know why Ethan doesn’t seem upset about it. Maybe he’s just hiding it well.

After we get back downstairs, I notice a room off to the side with the door cracked open right by the stairwell. I tap on the door to push it the rest of the way open, and I gasp slightly. Ethan freezes in his steps.

“What’s wrong?” he says.

I peer inside this new room. Like many of the rooms in the house, it’s huge. And like the living room, the walls are lined with bookcases, all stuffed to the brim with books. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many books in my life. By the window in the corner is a large mahogany desk, with a leather chair behind it and a dusty desktop computer sitting on top. The final piece of furniture in the room is a large leather sofa. Dr. Adrienne Hale clearly loved leather furnishings.

“This must have been her office,” I breathe.

Ethan glances around, an appreciative look on his face. “When we live here, I could use this room for my office.”

“Uh…” I don’t want to burst his bubble and tell him that at the moment, there’s no way in hell I’m willing to consider living in this house. If only because I will forever be terrified that there is a stranger hidden in one of the dark recesses of the second floor. “Sure.”

“I’d hardly have to change a thing.” He presses a hand against the sofa, testing its integrity. “Well, I’d get rid of all the books. But other than that, it’s perfect.”

“Yes. Perfect.” Over my dead body.

Ethan leans in to plant a kiss on my cheek. “I’m going to finish making our sandwiches. You can browse her library.”

Before I have a chance to protest, Ethan has left to return to the kitchen. I want to follow him, but my legs feel frozen. This office. Even more than the rest of the house, it gives me the creeps.

This is where she worked. She was almost certainly in this room on the day she disappeared. Even more than the master bedroom, this room feels haunted by her presence.

I walk over to the mahogany desk. This room is dusty, but not as bad as the living room. There’s just a thin layer of dust over the desk and the computer keys. I pluck a tissue out of a box she has on the desk and run it over the black computer monitor. Then I dust off the seat of the leather chair.

I settle down in the chair and it creaks threateningly under my weight. Is this where Dr. Hale wrote her bestselling pop psychology book, The Anatomy of Fear? For a while, it seemed like everybody in the country had read that book. It was the It Book. And she never got to enjoy it because soon after it was released, she vanished into thin air.

I study the contents of the desk. She’s got a pencil holder in the shape of a human brain, loaded up with ballpoint pens. Her keyboard is one of those ergonomic

ones, curved so that her hands could lie at a more natural position. And there’s another object on the desk that gets my attention.

It’s a tape recorder.

I haven’t seen a tape recorder in many years. I vaguely remember my parents having one when I was a little girl, but that’s it. It’s an outdated piece of technology. I blow the dust off the recorder and pick it up, curious to see what Dr. Hale had been listening to before her disappearance.

But it’s empty. Of course, the police would have taken whatever tape was inside as evidence.

“Tricia! Sandwiches are ready!”

Ethan’s voice floats down the hallway into the office. I lower the tape recorder back onto the desk and leave the office to join him.

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