Chapter no 46

The Coworker

I DON’T ANSWER IMMEDIATELY. I back away from the door, wiping my hands on my blue jeans. I glance around the room anxiously.

He knocks again.

“Dawn!” His voice travels through the thin door like he’s in the same room as me. “Come on, Dawn, open up!”

I walk over to the door. I flip open the deadbolt, then I turn the lock. Caleb is standing there, his brown hair tousled by the wind even though he never ended up going on that 5K run, and he’s holding a white paper bag I hadn’t noticed him carrying. He thrusts it in my direction. “I brought this for you,” he says.

I step aside as he enters the motel room. I shut the door behind him, lock it, and throw the bolt again.

“Did you see her get arrested?” I ask him.

He grins at me. “Yeah, I was right there. I wish you had seen her face, Dawn. It was epic.”

“I’ve been watching it on the news all morning.” I glance at the television screen, which is now dark. “I wish I had it on repeat.”

Caleb digs around in his pants pocket and pulls out his phone. “It’s all over the internet. Let’s eat, and then you can go nuts.”

I want to watch it now, but I’m too hungry to argue. I rip open the paper bag and pull out a turkey sandwich with mayonnaise on white bread. Caleb knows I like monochromatic meals. He even made sure the bag was white. He knows me so well.

The color of food is more important than people think. Green sea turtles get their color from what they eat. They are primarily herbivores, and consume mostly seagrass and algae. The food gives their cartilage and fat a green color.

“Just one sandwich?” I ask. “You don’t want anything?”

“I grabbed a burger on the way over.” He shrugs. He doesn’t care about things like food color. He’s not like me. He’s normal. Well, as normal as any guy plotting to frame his girlfriend for murder can be. “Go ahead. Eat. You must be starving.”

I tuck into the sandwich, nearly ripping it apart in my eagerness. I haven’t been eating very well this week. I brought some food with me and I’ve been stashing it in the mini-fridge in the room, but as I said, I’m afraid to go out much. Caleb only dared to come here once this week to bring me food. So I’ve been eating a lot of vending machine meals. My nutritional status is suffering.

Caleb hesitates at the foot of the bed, looking around the room with his forehead scrunched up. “This place looks different.”

“I reorganized.”

He does not ask me why, although I would be happy to explain that the furniture in this motel room was arranged completely incorrectly. I moved the dresser, the mini-fridge, and the lamp to be in ascending order of height. I also did quite a bit of cleaning, as it’s clear the janitorial staff of the motel has been quite reticent in their duties. If he were to enter the bathroom, he might appreciate the way I reorganized all the toiletries he brought me.

But he also might not.

“Why were you down in the main lobby?” I ask around a mouthful of turkey and white bread.

He frowns. “Did you call Natalie?”

My cheeks grow warm. I didn’t know he knew about that. I knew I shouldn’t do it, but I wanted to hear the panic in her voice. I loved it when she was screaming at me to leave her alone. “I blocked the number before I called.”

“Dawn.” He lets out an exasperated sigh. “That’s not foolproof. She traced the call back here. She was telling me about it this morning. If she hadn’t gotten arrested, she was going to be driving out here this afternoon. Do you know how screwed we would’ve been?”


Perhaps it was impetuous of me to call her. But then again, Caleb is not blameless. He told me about how he tormented her all week with that turtle figurine on her desk, even though it would have ruined everything if she had caught him in the act.

“It’s not safe to be here anymore.” He runs a hand over the back of his neck. “I checked us out and settled the bill. We’ll find another place today.”


I’ll be glad to be out of this seedy motel, although I’m sure the next place won’t be any better. Really, I want to get out of New England altogether. Head south. But Caleb thinks it’s too dangerous to be driving around right now. Plus, it would look suspicious if he suddenly quit his job. He’s got to stick around a little longer, then we can go.

I’m not sure where. I always wanted to live in the south. People are nicer down there.

As I chew on my sandwich, Caleb climbs into bed beside me. I could never have done this without him. He played his role perfectly—he deserves an Academy Award. And it was so much better than I hoped. Natalie shot herself in the foot by trying to convince him to be her alibi.

I don’t know how he managed to pretend to be her boyfriend for that long. But he never slept with her. He swore he wouldn’t.

While I finish the sandwich, I turn the television back on. They’re talking about the body that was found in the woods in Cohasset, brutally beaten. The body of Dawn Schiff. Or so they think.

“They’re going to figure out it’s not you sooner or later,” Caleb remarks.

“I know.”

“Christ,” he mutters. “What are the chances, you know?”

He’s talking about the coincidental fact that a body turned up of a woman approximately my age, and apparently, her face was so badly beaten, they assumed it was me. The news mentioned most of her teeth had been knocked out, so they could not use dental records. It facilitated Natalie’s arrest, but ultimately, it won’t matter. Eventually, the DNA will reveal that the dead body is somebody else—this random dead body won’t send her to prison.

Caleb’s eyes are still on the screen. “What kind of sick person would do something like that?”

“There are a lot of sick people out there,” I say. “You should know that by now.”

“Yeah. But to be beaten so badly, they can’t even recognize who she is…” He turns slightly green. “And nobody is even looking for her.”

I stuff the last of my turkey sandwich down my throat, and I nod in the direction of the phone in Caleb’s hand. “Show me the video,” I say.

He’s got one already ready to go, which makes me think he’s been obsessively watching them the same way I have been. He hates her as much as I do. He’s been waiting for this as long as I have. We’re both soaking it up.

In this video, you get a close-up of Natalie’s face as that detective reads her her rights. You can see her lips contorting in an ugly way. Her face turns bright red, and then she’s yelling something.

“She’s calling your name,” I observe. “Yeah,” he says quietly. “She is.”

The detective jerks on her cuffed arms and she stumbles. He leads her to the police car and shuts her inside. She’s crying now. Big ugly tears. And snot is bubbling under her nose, but she can’t wipe it away.

“Oh my God.” I stare up at Caleb. “We made this happen.” “We did.”

We sit there for a moment, staring at each other. Caleb is the first one to lean forward and press his lips against mine. I grab two fistfuls of his shirt, pulling him even closer. He pushes me down onto the plastic-wrapped mattress with the white sheet and the tan pillowcase, climbing on top of me, careful not to touch the bandage on my wrist.

“We did it,” I gasp as his lips make their way down to my neck. “We did


“We did it,” he breathes in my ear. “I love you so much, Dawn.” “I love you too.”

Caleb is kissing me and unbuttoning my shirt and I don’t even care

anymore that the sheets are a completely different shade of white from the pillowcases. He fumbles for the remote control to turn off the television, but I grab his wrist to stop him. “I want to watch,” I tell him. “In the background. Okay?”

Caleb gives me a look, but I’ve made plenty of strange requests of him over the years. This is not the strangest—not by a longshot. The man has

agreed to sleep in a bed with no less than a dozen stuffed turtles. “Yeah. It’s fine.”

What Caleb is doing to me feels so good, and I want it so badly, but can’t help but keep one eye on the television. Natalie is on there again. She’s facing the camera, a smile plastered on her lips. This must be before she got arrested.

“This race is in Amelia’s honor,” she’s telling the reporter.

Despite everything, her words fill me with white-hot rage. How could she say that? That lying bitch. How could she tell the world that Amelia was her best friend and all of this is in Amelia’s honor?

I look over at the table by the bed, where the pad of paper with the letter to my own best friend is written in my neat cursive, which Mia would know instantly. I close my eyes, remembering the words I scribbled on the paper in ballpoint pen:

Dear Mia,

You would have been so proud of me today.

The police arrested Natalie Farrell. She was at her stupid 5K race, and right in front of dozens of cameras, they snapped handcuffs on her wrists and took her away. You should have seen the look on her face.

I have dreamed of this day for so many years. Caleb and I dreamed about it together. There were times when he started to go soft on me, asking if it was worth it to go through with it, but I didn’t let him give up. I wouldn’t. And together, we made this happen.

Now Natalie will go to prison for the rest of her life. That’s what she deserves, although she will technically be going for a crime she didn’t commit. Still, since she is guilty of murder and was given a free pass, it feels justified.

I told you I would get vengeance. I told you I wouldn’t let Natalie get away with killing you. I made a promise on the day you died, and today, I honored that promise.

I love you. I will never forget you. Sincerely,

Dawn Schiff

You'll Also Like