I wake up at two in the morning and I’m alone in the bedroom.
For a second, I am completely disoriented. I had forgotten where I was. I forgot that I’m in Adrienne Hale’s house and not my own. That I came here to get rid of Edward Jamison’s body, and not only have I failed to do that, but we have also acquired a man tied up in her office.
What a mess. I seriously need help.
I squint around the bedroom, my eyes adjusting to the dark. Ethan isn’t in the bed and I don’t see him anywhere else in the room. He’s not in the bathroom either. Where did he go?
Maybe he couldn’t sleep. Maybe he got up during the night and decided to do some work on his laptop. It makes sense.
Except I don’t think that’s where he is.
I grab Dr. Hale’s red robe and wrap it around myself. Then I slide my feet into her fuzzy slippers. It’s amazing how easy it’s suddenly become to use her stuff. Good thing her clothes are the same size as mine, although she was thinner than me. The woman was practically a skeleton, although she had a certain austere beauty.
When I get out into the hallway, it’s dark, but my eyes have adjusted so I leave the lights off. I hear movement coming from downstairs, but it doesn’t sound like anything bad is going on. It doesn’t sound like Luke has gotten himself free and has attacked my husband.
I descend the stairwell as quietly as I can. When I get to the bottom, Ethan is crouched down in front of the fireplace.
All alone. He’s fiddling with something, and it takes me a moment to realize he’s trying to light a match.
The portrait of Adrienne Hale is still propped up against the wall next to the fireplace, her green eyes facing the wall. The portrait was my mother’s idea. I thought it was completely ridiculous—who would want a gigantic portrait of themselves? But Dr. Hale loved it. She put it right over her mantle immediately. Of course she did. She was that full of herself.
I hope I never have to look at it again.
There’s a flash of fire, and then a moment later the entire fireplace lights up. Ethan stands up and brushes off his hands on his jeans. By his posture, I can tell he’s satisfied with the job he did. I wonder how long he’s been trying to get the fire going.
I stand there in the shadows, not letting on that I’m watching him. But I see everything. I see him pick up an object from the coffee table and toss it into the fire. Then another. And another.
When he’s done, he stands in front of the fireplace, watching. Making sure it burns.
“Ethan,” I say.
He steps away from the fireplace, blinking furiously. His mouth falls open at the sight of me. “Tricia,” he manages.
I round the side of the couch to come closer to him. “What are you doing?”
He casts an anxious look at the fireplace. The objects he tossed into the fire haven’t yet finished burning, so I can see what they are. But I don’t need to look. I already know what he burned in the fire.
It’s cassette tapes. Several dozen of them. All emblazoned with the initials GW.
GW was a patient of Dr. Hale for several years. She nursed paranoid delusions that somebody was trying to kill her, including her own son.
GW. Gail Wiley. Ethan’s mother.
“I just…” Beads of sweat break out on Ethan’s forehead as he tries to come up with a lie. “I just think some of those tapes…”
He doesn’t know that I know. That I’ve always known. I ran into Gail a few times at the house when I was leaving an appointment and she was arriving for hers. Not only is she paranoid, but she’s got a big mouth. She told me all about her concerns that several people in her life were out to end her life, including her son Ethan. Dr. Hale says I’m paranoid, but he’s got money problems—he could use the big insurance payout. And he hates me. I know he does.
I laughed it off, especially when I caught a glimpse of the handsome Ethan dropping Gail off for one of her appointments. Nobody who looked like that could be a bad person. And how nice of him to drop his mother off for her therapy sessions. Of course, he didn’t know what she was talking about to the therapist and he certainly didn’t know that the sessions were being recorded.
But then a couple of months after Dr. Hale’s disappearance, my mother, who ran in the same social circles as Gail, told me the gossip about her untimely death. She took a spill down a flight of stairs and broke her neck after she had a few too many drinks. Leaving her son Ethan with a hefty insurance payout to take care of the consequences of his first failed start-up and then some.
I have to admit, I became a little obsessed with Ethan after that. First of all, he was gorgeous. And second, something about him reminded me of myself. He went after what he wanted. Even if he had to do something other people would say was unthinkable.
Okay, I was more than a little obsessed with Ethan. Let’s just say that our coincidental meeting wasn’t such a coincidence. More like it was carefully engineered by yours truly.
But he never quite came around the way I wanted him to. After we got married, I thought he would confess everything to me. I thought he would love and trust me enough to tell me the truth. But he hasn’t.
That’s why I brought him along on this trip. I could have gone alone, and it would’ve been easier. I could have searched to my heart’s content. But I wanted Ethan here with me. He forgot about this house until he saw the portrait of Dr. Hale on the wall. But now he knows that his secret is out there.
“What are you doing?” I ask him again. He opens his mouth, but before any words can come out, I add, “Don’t lie.”
“I would never lie to you, Tricia,” he sputters. I give him a look.
His shoulders sag. “You listened to my mother’s tapes, didn’t you?”
“Yes. Some of them.”
“Oh God.” He tugs at the short strands of his golden hair. “I know what she said on those tapes. But I didn’t—”
He stands there for a moment. The only sounds in the room are the fire crackling and his inhale and exhale.
“Fine,” he says. “I killed her.”