Chapter no 21

The Locked Door

This time is even better than last time. If we keep going on this trajectory, in another month, I’m probably going to black out. But it will be worth it.

As I cuddle up next to Brady on his queen-size bed, he reaches for his cell phone. He punches a number into it.

“Who are you calling?” I ask him.

“I’m ordering a pizza,” he says. “Don’t say no. If you don’t want to eat it, I’ll eat the whole damn thing myself. I’m starving. You made me work up an appetite.”

“I’ll have some pizza,” I say. Because the thought of it does seem incredibly tempting. He also made me work up an appetite.

“Hello?” Brady says into the phone as I listen in. “Yeah, I’d like a large cheese pizza. With… pepperoni… mushrooms… onions…” I elbow him in the ribs. “No, scratch that, no onions. But also a side salad?” He raises his eyebrows at me and I nod. “Yes, a side salad. And… French fries?” I shake my head. “No, no French fries. Just the pizza and the salad.”

He hangs up the phone and turns to me. “We have thirty minutes. Want to go again?”

I poke him in the shoulder. “You’re really up for that?” He grins. “I am if you are.”

I think about it for a moment, but then I shake my head. I don’t think I have the physical strength to go again. I’m impressed with his stamina. “How about some TV?”

“Your wish is my command.” He grabs the remote from the nightstand and pauses before turning on the small television balanced on top of his dresser. “Do you want to watch a movie?”

I get a flash of déjà vu. Brady saying those exact words to me. Do you want to watch a movie? And then whatever we would choose would be something incredibly violent and bloody.

“Do you still like slasher films?” I ask.

For a second, he looks at me like he has no idea what I’m talking about. But then he laughs. “Christ, no. I haven’t watched any of those in years. Kind of outgrew it.”

I feel a sudden rush of relief. He outgrew it. It was just a phase. Maybe I overreacted to the whole thing. “So what do you like to watch now?”

“Whatever is good. I’m a big fan of Quentin Tarantino.”

Quentin Tarantino! That’s not better than slasher films! It might even be worse. Well, I’m not sure it’s worse, but I don’t think it’s better. Those movies are incredibly violent. Wasn’t there that movie where that woman cut off like two-hundred ninjas’ heads?

“But we can watch whatever you want,” he says. “We can watch a chick flick, whatever. I don’t care.”

He must really like me. He’s giving up control of the television to me. “Let’s just see what’s on TV,” I say.

Brady flicks on the television, which is tuned to the ten o’clock news. Much to my dismay, the reporter is talking about Shelby Gillis. In a segment that was likely filmed earlier in the day, they’re showing the area on the hiking trail where Shelby’s body was found.

“Twenty-six-year-old Shelby Gillis was found with multiple rope burns on her body and stab wounds on her chest,” the reporter says. “Both her hands had also been severed prior to death.”

I glance over at Brady, to see his expression. He doesn’t seem particularly surprised or disgusted by the whole thing. “Scary stuff,” he comments.

“Yeah,” I breathe.

“It’s sort of like that serial killer a while back, right?” he says. “Aaron Nierling. They called him the Handyman. Do you remember? We must have been about eleven or twelve years old then.”

I think back to the first night I saw Brady at the bar, and how quickly he knew the game show answer that was my father’s name. “Not really,” I mumble.

“You know.” He nudges me. “He cut off all his victims’ hands and saved them in this big chest like souvenirs or something crazy like that.”

I feel bile rising in my throat. “Please don’t talk about it…”

Brady’s eyes widen. “Oh crap, sorry. I’m making you turn green. I didn’t want to upset you. I just kind of remember you weren’t bothered by stuff like that. And you’re a surgeon, so…”

I swallow hard. Of course, I had to expect this story would be everywhere. I just don’t want to hear about it right now. For a little while, I

was trying to pretend it didn’t exist. I scrounge around on the ground for my scrubs.

“Hey.” He sits up in bed. “Hey, I’m sorry. You’re not leaving, are you?” He starts grabbing for his own pants. “Hey, you can’t leave.”

I pause in the middle of turning my scrub shirt inside out. I look up at Brady’s brown eyes. “Why can’t I leave?”

“Because if I knew you weren’t going to be here, I would’ve gotten onions on the pizza. So this really isn’t fair.”

My shoulders relax. I don’t know why I’m letting myself get worked up. I came here to forget about everything. At least for a little while.

“I’ll stay for the pizza,” I say. “But I’m not watching the news.”

“I’ll find something else awesome for us to watch together,” he promises.

I watch as he settles back against his pillow, flipping through channels on the television like it’s his mission. Despite everything, I have to smile. He’s really cute.

While Brady finds something for us to watch, I get up to go to the bathroom. The hall outside his room is completely dark, and I almost stub my toe on the door frame. The bathroom is on the left, and right next to it is that other room. His office. The door is still closed. Presumably locked.

Once again, I’m seized with an uneasy stirring in my chest. Why would he keep that room locked? It’s such a strange thing to do. I mean, the apartment is locked and he’s the only one who lives here. So why would he need to lock that room as well? I can’t help but think back to what Mrs. Chelmsford said when we were at the drugstore.

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

Crying for help.

I glance back into the bedroom, where Brady is still flipping through the channels. Instead of going to the bathroom, I take a step closer to the door of the mystery room.

It’s just an office. I’m sure he’s telling the truth. Why would he lie? Of course, why did my father lie about what was in the basement? Not every man is a psychotic killer, Nora.

Brady is nice. He was nice back in college and he’s still nice now. This room is just an office. I’m sure it’s exactly what he said—he keeps it locked

to keep his financial documents secure. Especially since this is a bad neighborhood.

I take one more look to make sure Brady is still occupied by the television, then I step closer to the closed door. I rest my hand on the doorknob, expecting it to be locked like last time. But it isn’t locked. The knob twists under my hand, and I push the door open.

My mouth falls open as I see what’s inside the room. This is not an office. This is nothing even close to an office. Oh God.

And before I can say a word, I feel the shadow of Brady’s presence behind me.

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