When I wake up in the guest bedroom the next morning, the first thing I do is reach for Andrew’s phone.
I bring up the app for the camera in the attic. Right away, the room jumps into focus. I stare at the screen and my blood turns cold. The room is deathly still. Andrew isn’t in there anymore.
He’s gotten out of the room.
I clutch the blankets in my left hand. My eyes dart around the bedroom, searching for him, maybe lurking in the shadows. There’s a sudden movement at the window, and I almost have a heart attack before I realize it’s a bird.
Where is he? And how did he get out? Is there some sort of failsafe button that I didn’t know about? A way for him to escape if he ever found himself in this situation? But it’s hard to imagine. He kept those books on his groin for hours on end. Why would he have done that if he had been able to get out all along?
Either way, if he’s gotten out of the room, he’s got to be pissed.
I’ve got to get out of this house. Now.
My eyes drop down to the phone. And then something moves on the screen. I let out a slow breath. Andrew is in the room after all. He’s under the covers on the cot. I just didn’t see him because he was so still.
I use the function to rewind the video of the room. I watch Andrew lying on the floor of the room, grimacing at the weight on top of him. Five hours. He did it for five hours. So if I am to hold up my end of the bargain, I have to let him out now.
I take my time getting ready. I take a long, hot shower. The tension in my neck melts away as the warm water runs over my body. I know what I have to do next. And I’m ready.
I put on a comfortable T-shirt and a pair of jeans. I gather my dirty-blond hair back into a ponytail and slide Andrew’s phone into my pocket. Then I pick up something that I grabbed from the garage yesterday and hide it in my other pocket.
I climb up the creaky steps to the attic. I’ve climbed up here enough times that I’ve noticed not every step creaks. Only certain ones. The second step is very loud, for example. And the top step.
When I get to the top, I rap on the door. I look down at his phone, at the color image of the room. He doesn’t move from the bed.
Worry prickles the base of my neck. Andrew hasn’t had anything to drink in about twelve hours. He must be feeling pretty weak by now. I remember how I was feeling yesterday when I was starved for water. What if he’s unconscious? What then?
But then Andrew stirs on the mattress. I watch as he struggles into a sitting position and rubs his eyes with the balls of his hands.
“Andrew,” I say. “I’m back.”
He lifts his eyes and looks directly at the camera. I shiver, imagining exactly what he would do to me if I opened this door. If I opened the door, he would drag me in there by my ponytail. He would make me do horrible things before he let me out. If he ever let me out.
He rises unsteadily to his feet. He walks over to the door and collapses against it. “I did it. Let me out.”
“So here’s the thing,” I say. “The video feed didn’t come through from overnight. Frustrating, right? So I’m afraid you’re going to have to—”
“I’m not doing it again.” His face is bright pink, and it isn’t from the pepper spray. “You need to let me out right now, Millie. I’m not joking around.”
“I’m going to let you out.” I pause. “Just not yet.”
Andrew takes a step back, staring at the door. Then he takes another step back. And another. And then he starts running.
He rams himself at the door so hard, it shakes on his hinges. But it doesn’t budge.
Then he starts backing up again. Shit.
“Listen,” I say. “I’m going to let you out. There’s just one other thing you need to do.”
“Fuck you. I don’t believe you.”
He rams himself at the door again. It shakes, but it doesn’t splinter. The house is relatively new and well-made. I wonder if he is capable of knocking the door down. Maybe at his best, when he’s well hydrated. But not now. And it would be hard to knock it down from the inside because that’s where the hinges are.
He’s breathing hard now. He leans against the door, trying to catch his breath. His face is even redder than it was before. I don’t think he has it in him to break the door down. “What do you want me to do?” he manages.
I pull the object I grabbed from the garage out of my pocket. I found it in Andrew’s tool kit. It’s a pair of pliers. I slide it under the gap below the door.
On the other side of the door, he reaches down and picks up the pliers. He turns them back and forth. He frowns. “I don’t understand. What do you want me to do?”
“Well,” I say, “it was just so hard to tell exactly how long you had those books on top of you. This will be easier. A one-time deal.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s simple. If you want to get out of the room, all you have to do is pull out one of your teeth.”
I watch Andrew’s face on the screen. His lips pull into a grimace and he throws the pliers on the floor. “You’re joking. There’s no way. I’m not doing that.”
“I think,” I say, “that another few hours without water and you might feel differently.”
He takes another few steps back again. He’s summoning all his strength. He runs at the door and rams against it as hard as he can. Once again, it shakes but doesn’t budge. I watch as he draws back a fist and slams it against the wooden door.
Andrew howls with pain. Honestly, he would’ve been better off just pulling out a tooth. At the bar where I used to work, a guy got drunk and punched the wall, and he broke a bone in his hand. I wouldn’t be surprised if Andrew has done the same.
“Let me out!” he screams at me. “Let me out of this fucking room right now.”
“I’ll let you out. You know what you have to do.”
He’s cradling his right hand with his left. He falls to his knees, almost doubled over. I watch on the phone screen as he picks up the pliers with his left hand. I hold my breath as he brings them to his mouth.
Is he going to do it? I can’t stand this. I close my eyes, unable to watch.
He howls with agony. It’s the same sound Duncan made when I brought that paperweight down on his skull. My eyes fly open and Andrew is still on the screen. He’s still on his knees. I watch as he bows his head and bawls like a little baby.
He’s close to breaking point. He can’t stand it. He’s willing to rip his own teeth out of his mouth just to get out of this room.
He has no idea this is just the beginning.