Chapter no 42

The Locked Door

I don’t know what exactly I’m expecting when I drive over to Brady’s apartment. All I know is I don’t want to be alone right now. Not when whoever killed those girls is capable of getting into my house. Maybe Brady will let me spend the night with him. Then I’ll get a hotel for the rest of the weekend.

It’s not just that I want company. I want his company. I’m not looking forward to that tiny, cramped apartment, but whenever I think of crawling into his bed and spending tonight in his arms, I get a good warm feeling. Even better than what I get from an Old Fashioned.

I might really like this guy. Of course, it can’t go anywhere. But I can enjoy it for the moment.

When I pull up in front of the broken-down old house where Brady is renting the second floor, his landlady Mrs. Chelmsford is on the porch as always, wearing a long white nightgown. But this time she’s not alone. That middle-aged woman from the drugstore—her niece—is talking to her. Mrs. Chelmsford is standing up, and she’s crying and shouting something that I can’t make out because she’s so hysterical. Even from here, I can see drops of spittle flying out of her mouth.

The last thing I want is to get involved in this mess, but before I can slip around back to Brady’s apartment, the niece has sprinted down the steps and is walking over to me. I take a step back, wishing I could get back into my car, drive off, and come back later. But it’s too late.

“Hi there.” Mrs. Chelmsford’s niece flashes me an awkward smile. “I’m so sorry about this commotion here. You’re Brady’s friend, right?”

“Right,” I say tightly.

“See, Auntie Ruth!” the niece calls out to her elderly aunt. “This is Brady’s friend and she’s fine! He’s not hurting anyone in there!”

But Mrs. Chelmsford is not having any of this. She stands on the porch, her skeletal hands balled into fists. “I know what I heard!”

I suck in a breath. “What?”

The niece snorts. “I’m so sorry. My aunt has this crazy idea in her head about Brady. She keeps insisting she hears screaming coming from his

apartment. I think she’s hallucinating at night. That happens to elderly people.”

My jaw tightens. “Perhaps she shouldn’t be living alone anymore?”

“You may be right.” She shakes her head. “This is all kind of new. She never got worked up like this over the last tenant. I guess her dementia is getting worse.”

“All night I hear screaming!” Mrs. Chelmsford shouts from the porch. Her white hair has become wild. “He’s torturing somebody in there! Some poor girl.”

All of a sudden, my knees feel wobbly. I don’t know why though. Mrs. Chelmsford is very impaired. I’ve had patients who were demented before, and they come up with the wildest fantasies. Nothing she says can be trusted. And the niece doesn’t seem like she believes it either.

“Maybe she’s hearing Brady’s daughter,” I suggest. The niece cocks her head to the side. “What?”

“I mean,” I say, “when Brady’s daughter is visiting, she probably makes a lot of noise and maybe your aunt thinks it’s screaming.”

She gives me a strange look. “Brady doesn’t have a daughter.” He… what?

“Anyway,” the niece says, “I’m so sorry about the commotion. I’ll get my aunt inside, and I’ll stay with her until she calms down. Don’t worry yourself—she won’t bother you again.”

As I watch Mrs. Chelmsford’s niece go back up the stairs and persuade her aunt to go back into the house, I get a slow, sinking feeling in my stomach. Brady doesn’t have a daughter.

A few things suddenly occur to me.

Brady appeared in my life at exactly the time that the murders started. Coincidentally—or so I thought. He was working as a bartender, even though given his computer skills in college and his degree, it seems unlikely he wouldn’t be able to find work in Silicon Valley.

Brady devoured horror movies when we were in college. I remember the fascination on his face as he watched those girls get bludgeoned to death. He loved it as much as I did. He admired my father so much, he had a mask in his closet with Aaron Nierling’s face on it.

That man who followed me after I left the bar—the one who got in the terrible accident. Brady must have known him and told him when I arrived.

Told him to follow me and find out where I lived.

The cup with my fingerprints at Shelby’s apartment. How easy would it have been for Brady to get a glass with my fingerprints, after all the drinks he served me?

I was racking my brain to try to figure out how someone got into my car and left that decaying hand in my trunk. But it’s no mystery. I handed Brady the keys to my car. How easy would it have been for him to stash that severed hand in my trunk?

And his “daughter’s” room… Locked the first night I came over. Was that all a set up too? To make me think he’s a good guy with a child, when in reality that room is his dungeon? He very conveniently had a story about why there’s no car seat in his car. And I can see his car right now, which still has no car seat.

Brady doesn’t have a daughter.

Oh my God, Brady played me. And here I am, walking right into his lap. Right where he wants me.

I’ve got to get out of here. “Nora?”

My heart leaps at the sound of Brady’s voice. A frightened look comes over the landlady’s face and she scurries back into her house, followed closely by her niece, and the door slams behind them. Brady is coming around the side of the house, his sockless feet shoved into a pair of sneakers, a jacket hanging open over his T-shirt.

And I’m all alone on this empty street. “Hi.” I back up a step. “There you are.”

He raises his eyebrows. “Everything okay? I figured you’d ring my doorbell. I’m around back—you know that.”

“Right.” I back up again and bash into the hood of my car. “Actually, I don’t think I’m going to come over after all.”

Brady’s face falls as he steps closer to me. “You’re not?” “No. I… I think I’m just going to go home.”

“Well, that’s very disappointing.” He tilts his head to the side. “Are you sure you’re okay? You look funny.”

“I… I’m fine,” I stammer.

He takes a step towards me and my heart skips in my chest. “Why don’t you come upstairs at least for a minute? I’ll get you some water.”

He’s very close to me now. If I try to run around the side of my car to get inside, he could easily grab me. I would hope his nosy landlady or a neighbor would call the police in that situation, but I’m not certain. But I do know if he touches me, I’m screaming my head off. I’m not going down without a fight.

“Nora.” Now his hand is on my shoulder. “Come on. Come upstairs.

Just for a few minutes.”

He’s torturing somebody in there. Some poor girl.

I count to three in my head, then with all my strength, I shove him away from me. He stumbles backward, his brown eyes wide. “Nora, what the hell?”

“Stay away from me!” I shout. “Or I’ll call the cops!”

“The cops? What are you talking about? You’re the one who asked to come over!”

I hit the button on my key fob to unlock the door. Brady is rounding my vehicle, having recovered from being pushed. I should have kneed him in the groin. Well, it’s not too late.

“Nora!” he yells. “For Christ’s sake, Nora! What the hell is wrong with you?”

I yank the car door open. He tries to grab my arm, but I shake him off roughly. I slam the door shut and hit the locks. It’s only after the car is locked that I can breathe again.

“Nora!” He bangs on the window with his fist. “Come on!”

When I start the engine, he realizes I mean business. He backs away from the car, and I take off, leaving him behind in the dust.

You'll Also Like