Chapter no 29

The Housemaid's Secret (The Housemaid, Book 2)

Under the best circumstances, the drive would’ve taken three to four hours. With traffic, it ends up taking me close to five hours on the road, then an extra thirty minutes tacked on for when we stopped at that McDonald’s—it was worth it to see Wendy scarf down a quarter pounder and a medium French fries. Now I still have to make the trip back, although it’s after nine o’clock, so the roads should at least be clear. I’m sure I can make it in under three hours.

When we get close to Albany, I pull off the highway at a rest stop that advertises a motel. It turns out to be exactly what we were looking for—a cheap-looking place with a flickering light advertising vacancies. The rooms open to the outside, so Wendy won’t have to go through a lobby to get to them. I pull into the sparsely occupied parking lot.

“Well,” I say, “here we are.”

“Yes…” Wendy and I have not talked much during the trip, mostly listening to music, and now the panic mounts in her eyes. “Millie, maybe this is a mistake.”

“It’s not a mistake. You’re absolutely doing the right thing.”

“He’s smarter than me.” She squeezes her hands together. “Douglas is a genius and he has a fortune at his disposal. He’s going to find me. He’s going to check every motel, and the guy at the desk will probably tell him everything about me.”

“No, he won’t,” I say firmly. “Because I’m going to reserve the room for you, remember? Nobody will see you.”

Wendy still looks almost on the brink of a panic attack, but she takes a couple of deep breaths and finally nods. “Okay, maybe you’re right.”

Wendy hands me some cash from her purse, and I get out of the car to go to the main office of the motel. The guy manning the front desk is in his early twenties with a bushy beard and a phone in his right hand, and he couldn’t look less excited to be working the graveyard shift.

“Hi,” I say. “I’d like to reserve a room please.”

He doesn’t look up from his phone. “Photo ID please.”

I was ready for this demand, which is why I didn’t allow Wendy to make her own reservation. But I still feel safe handing over my driver’s license. It won’t be entered in the system—probably just the hard drive of this one computer. Not that Douglas would necessarily be searching for me, but you never know. If he is as smart as Wendy thinks, he might put it together.

And if that’s true, I might be in serious danger.

Thankfully, he accepts the cash without argument and doesn’t ask for my credit card. I would have had to hand over my credit card if he needed it, but it seems like we can get through this without leaving an electronic trail.

“Room 207.” The man takes a key off the rack behind him. This is super old-school. “It’s around the back.”

“Great,” I say.

He winks at me. “I knew that’s what you wanted.”

I groan inwardly. Of course, I knew there was no chance this guy wasn’t going to remember me—a single woman asking for a room late at night— but hopefully, he doesn’t make too much of it. Maybe he will think I’m turning tricks there. That’s the goal.

I go back out to the car with the key to the motel room. Wendy climbs out of the passenger seat, and she has shifted the baseball cap that she’s wearing to be low on her forehead. I imagine at some point in the near future, she’s probably going to cut and color her hair, probably using kitchen shears and some cheap dye from the drugstore. But for now, the baseball cap will do.

“Thank you so much for this,” Wendy says tearfully. “You saved my life, Millie.”

“It was the least I could do.”

She gives me a look. “I think we both know that’s not true.”

I help her grab her bags out of the trunk, and for a moment, we just stand there in the deserted parking lot, staring at each other. I’m not sure if

I’ll ever see Wendy again. I hope I don’t, because if I do, it means this mission has failed.

“Thank you,” she says one more time. And before I entirely know what’s happening, she has thrown her arms around me. Once again, I marvel at how fragile her body seems to be. I hope she eats a lot of McDonald’s in the next few years.

“Good luck,” I tell her.

“Be careful,” she says in a hoarse voice. “Please be careful. Douglas is going to come looking for me, and he is not going to leave anything unturned.”

“I can handle him. I promise you.”

Wendy doesn’t look like she quite believes me, but she grabs her bags from my trunk. I watch her walk in the direction of room 207, which is all the way around the back of the motel. I keep watching until she disappears from sight, then I get back in the car and drive home.

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