Chapter no 17

The Locked Door

Present Day

Most days I only get five to ten minutes between surgeries to grab a bite to eat. Today I have a full hour, which is a luxury I haven’t had in ages. Somebody must’ve screwed up the scheduling, but I don’t complain. I take the opportunity to run over to the drugstore.

I attract a couple of looks as I wander the drugstore aisles in my scrubs, but at least I remembered to pull off my booties this time. Everything I need I usually buy online, but after I had that meltdown yesterday about the lavender soap, I feel like I should replace it today. Or else Philip might bring in more lavender. And then I might really lose it.

The soap aisle is all the way in the back. There are so many brands of soap, it’s mind-boggling. I don’t even see any lavender soap. It’s just my luck that Philip would have picked out the exact scent that I hate the most. The one that still turns my stomach after all these years.

Even just thinking about it now, I feel like retching.

I finally grab a bottle of something that advertises the aroma of milk and honey. That sounds perfect. Anything would be fine. I would take the scent of dirty socks over lavender.

I grab my bottle of milk and honey soap and start in the direction of the checkout line. Just as I reach the end of the aisle, I almost run into an older woman with a shopping cart.

The woman looks familiar to me. There’s something about her frail body and fine, silver hair, and the billowing dress that sort of looks like a nightgown. I hesitate for a moment, gripping my milk and honey soap, until her cracked lips part and she says, “You’re Brady’s new girlfriend.”

Then it clicks. She’s the old lady who was sitting on the porch when I first arrived. Mrs. Chelmsford, he called her. In the light of day, she looks even older and more fragile than she did when she was on the porch last night.

“I’m not his girlfriend,” I mumble. “I’m just a friend.”

Mrs. Chelmsford looks me up and down with milky blue eyes. I’ve seen a lot of confused and demented old people over the years, and this woman has the look of it. I hope she isn’t trying to cook anything in that house or else she could burn the whole place down. I should warn Brady. Of course, that would involve me talking to him again, which I don’t think is ever going to happen.

“You need to be careful around Brady,” she hisses at me. I blink at her. “Excuse me?”

“He is dangerous.” She lowers her voice another notch. “I hear screams coming from upstairs at night. Women’s screams. Crying for help.”

I open my mouth but no words come out. Before I can formulate what to say, a middle-aged woman materializes from another aisle and grabs the old woman’s shoulder.

“Auntie Ruth!” the younger woman scolds her. “Don’t wander off like that! I couldn’t find you.” She flashes me an apologetic look. “I hope she wasn’t bothering you.”

I shake my head wordlessly.

“She was visiting Brady last night,” Mrs. Chelmsford explains to her niece. “I had to warn her.”

“Brady is a friend of mine,” I say quickly.

“Auntie Ruth, stop bothering this poor nurse.” Her niece smiles at me. “I’m so sorry. She’s just very confused sometimes and gets these strange ideas in her head.”

“Yes,” I say. “Of course. Don’t worry about it.”

Mrs. Chelmsford’s niece leads her away, but I just stand there, gripping my bottle of milk and honey soap. Of course, everything that old woman said was ridiculous. She’s a confused old lady—I’ve seen many in my career. Demented people imagine things all the time.

But her words have struck a nerve. Especially after seeing that locked door in Brady’s apartment.

I hear screams coming from upstairs at night. Women’s screams.

Crying for help.

But it couldn’t be. I don’t believe it. The old woman is having delusions. Maybe Brady used to like slasher movies and he thought it was cool to dress up like a serial killer when he was a kid, but he isn’t locking

women in his spare room and torturing them. It’s impossible. I know him well enough to know he wouldn’t do that.

And either way, I’m never going to see him again. So there’s no point in thinking about it.

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