Chapter no 24

The Locked Door

Amber’s mother knows who I am. This isn’t good.

She’s glaring at me with blue eyes the same color as Amber’s were. She’s about the right age to have been one of my father’s victims way back when. It’s all a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“Mrs. Swanson,” I say in a low voice, so nobody outside will overhear. “I just want you to know that I had absolutely nothing to do with your daughter’s death. I don’t know what you’ve heard, but—”

“You don’t think this seems like a big coincidence?” She rises to her feet, her eyes still locked with mine. “Your father killed all those women and chopped off their hands. Now all a sudden two of your patients end up the same way.”

“I don’t know whether or not it was a coincidence,” I concede. “But I didn’t do it. Mrs. Swanson, I could never do something like that.”

“I’m sure.”

“Mrs. Swanson.” I try to use my most kind and gentle voice. “I’m sure you know that I saved your daughter’s life. Her appendix would’ve ruptured if I hadn’t done surgery on her. That’s what I do—save people. I would never kill anyone.”

Mrs. Swanson takes a step toward me. “Bullshit. I don’t believe a word you’re saying.”

Bullshit? I did save her daughter’s life. That’s a fact—whether she believes it or not.

“Listen to me, Nora Nierling,” she hisses at me. “You obviously know something you’re not telling the police.”

“No, I don’t,” I insist. But I hesitate just for a split second, thinking of the letter on my kitchen floor from my father. And of course, she notices.

“You do!” Her eyes fill with angry tears. “What do you know? What do you know about what happened to my daughter?”

“Nothing.” I do an admirable job of keeping my voice from shaking. “I swear to you, Mrs. Swanson…”

“Liar.” She picks up a basin on the counter in the examining room and hurls it to the ground. The sound is loud enough to make me jump. “Did

you kill her?”


How could she possibly think that? Yes, my father was a monster. And I’m his daughter. We do share the same blood, but that doesn’t mean I’m a murderer like he is. How could she accuse me of that? I saved her daughter’s life, for God’s sake.

“I just want you to know,” she says in a trembling voice, “that after I leave here, I’m going straight to the reporters. I’m going to tell them all about you.”

My stomach sinks. This is the last thing I wanted to hear. For the last twenty-six years, I’ve been running away from being Nora Nierling. Nobody had any idea who I was, and I wanted to keep it that way. What will I do if the whole world discovers who Nora Davis is? I can’t change my name again. My medical license is under Davis.

Of course, that might be the least of my problems. I wonder what that detective wants to talk to me about…

“Please don’t do this,” I say. “I swear to you, I wasn’t the one who hurt your daughter. I would never do anything like that. If you go to the media, you’re going to wreck my life.”

“Well, good.” Her blue eyes flash. “Because that’s what you deserve, you… you monster.”

She takes another step toward me, but I don’t flinch. She’s shorter than me and about twenty years older. I suppose it’s possible she has a weapon, but so do I. I’ve got a scalpel in the front pocket of my scrubs.

So I’m not afraid of her.

Maybe she senses that, because she walks right past me, yanks open the door to the examining room, and she storms out.

Once she’s gone, I simply stand there, not sure what to do. I feel like I’ve got about one day left before my entire world explodes. Philip was hoping for publicity, but he has no idea what will happen when everybody knows the truth… because he doesn’t know the truth. If he knew who I really was, he would be doing everything in his power to keep the information from getting out.

But now it’s too late. Mrs. Swanson is going to go to the media, and there’s nothing I can do to stop her.

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