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Chapter no 31 – NATALIE

The Coworker

THE SKY IS COMPLETELY black when I get back home.

I park out on the street in front of my house, and once again, I’m relieved to discover that I managed to lock the door this morning. I step into my empty house and commence with my new ritual of flipping on every single light switch when I walk into the living room.

I wonder what Dawn was doing when the intruder came into her house. Was she first getting home from work and they startled her as she was coming in the door? Or was she sitting on her sofa, a plate on her lap, enjoying a quiet dinner while she watched TV, when somebody came up from behind her and…

God, maybe I should have let Seth come over after all.

I plop down on my sofa and turn on the television. It turns out to be a massive mistake, because every channel is talking about Dawn. They keep flashing that ID photo of Dawn on the screen, the one where she doesn’t even have a hint of a smile and her tortoiseshell glasses take up half of her face. A lot of people have terrible ID photos, but Dawn’s is particularly awful.

Mine is actually pretty good. I happened to be having a very good hair day.

“Dawn Schiff was found partially buried in an undisclosed location,” the reporter on the screen tells the camera. “The cause of death was reported to be head trauma. Police say she was brutally beaten with a blunt object to the point where most of her teeth had been knocked out. Her glasses were found shattered on the ground beside her.”

I imagine Dawn’s tortoiseshell glasses lying in the dirt, stained with her own blood—the lenses cracked, the frame destroyed. My stomach turns.

Oh God. I need to turn this off. I need another distraction. Something that has nothing to do with Dawn or her brutal murder.

Maybe I’ll do my laundry.

One of the best things about my house is that I have my own washer and dryer. Before this, I lived in an apartment, and I had to stuff my laundry into a basket every week and throw it in the trunk of my car, then drive to the local laundromat. And then I would just have to freaking wait there while my laundry spun around for an hour in the washer. If you went at the wrong time, the competition could be brutal. The whole process was inhuman.

Now all I have to do is grab my laundry hamper and drag it to the washer and dryer at the end of the hallway. There’s never a line, and I can remain in the comfort of my own home while my clothes are being cleaned. Of course, I still have to send out a bunch of my stuff to get dry-cleaned, but most of my clothing comes out pretty well on the gentle cycle.

I haven’t done my laundry in about two weeks, so the hamper is fairly full of clothing. Still, I’m surprised by how heavy it feels as I lug it down the hall to the washer. Is it usually this heavy? It’s just clothing inside, but it feels like it’s full of rocks.

I throw open the washing machine and add the cup of detergent. Then I sift through my hamper, pulling out the colored laundry. I always separate my whites and my colors. I don’t want my white blouses to turn pink.

As I reach into the depths of the laundry basket, my fingers hit something unfamiliar near the bottom of the basket. Something that definitely isn’t clothing. It feels smooth and kind of cold.

What the hell is that?

I push away my clothing to get a better look. There’s something green and shiny at the bottom of my laundry hamper. I catch a glimpse of the overhead lights reflected on its shiny surface. It’s some kind of ceramic pot or globe, about the size of a basketball.

I reach in with both hands to pull it out so I can get a closer look. When my fingers close around the object, it feels like a piece of glazed pottery. It’s heavy too. No wonder the laundry hamper was so hard to carry.

I grunt with the effort of pulling it out of the hamper. In the dim light of the hallway, it’s hard to tell what I’m holding until I get it all the way out. But when I see what it is, I almost throw up.

It’s a ceramic turtle.

And it’s covered in blood.

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