Chapter no 43

The Locked Door

It was Brady. Brady who found me after all these years. Brady who killed those girls and taunted me with it, trying to pin the whole thing on me. Somehow, he figured out on his own who I am, and he got in touch with my father.

My father always wanted a protégé. He was always disappointed it couldn’t be me. Looks like he finally found somebody.

As I drive back to my house, I try to figure out what to do next. I should call Detective Barber. Tell him what I know. Maybe I’ll leave out the part about the human remains in my car. Except without it, my evidence is decidedly weak. Would he even believe me? The most he’ll do is go question Brady, who will of course act completely innocent. He is an excellent liar.

God, what am I going to do?

The entire drive home, I’m checking the rearview mirror to make sure Brady isn’t following me. Of course, he doesn’t need to follow me. He knows exactly where I live. He knew even before I showed him. I remember how he pretended not to know my address on that day he drove me home, after he slashed my tires. Convenient how he showed up at exactly the right time.

Wow, he planned it out so incredibly well. I’m almost impressed. He had me completely fooled.

He even got me to think that he cared about me.

Anyway, I can’t stay at my house. Not without that security system installed—I’ll be a sitting duck. I’ll go home, pack up a few things, and then I’ll go to a hotel for the weekend. And as soon as I’m safe, I’ll give the detective a call and figure out exactly how I’m going to convince him of what I know to be true. It’s time to tell Barber everything. I need to clear my name and make sure the monster who is responsible for killing those girls winds up behind bars.

I’m reluctant to go in through the dark garage, so I park on the street and enter my house through the front door. The first thing I do when I get inside is lock the deadbolt behind me. I also stick a chair under the

doorknob to the back door. I don’t know if it’s enough to keep him out, but it will have to do. I won’t be here for very long. And the second I hear anything suspicious, I’m calling the police. He’ll be doing me a favor if he tries to break in.

My stomach growls loudly. When is the last time I ate something? I’m starving, and there are pretty much no groceries in my refrigerator. All I’ve got is that pathetic little soup Harper made me, that’s been sitting in my purse. Miraculously, the Tupperware didn’t spill, so I throw it in the microwave. I let it warm up for two minutes, and I slurp it down. It’s not exactly a nutritious dinner, but better than nothing.

After I’ve had a few spoonfuls of soup, a message pops up on my phone from Brady: Why are you so upset? Is everything all right?

I glance over at the chair wedged under the back doorknob. I hope that’s secure. If only that security guy had shown up. I’d be locked down safely by now. But obviously, Brady must’ve canceled that appointment.

But what I don’t understand is how he even knew I had the appointment. How did he know where to call to cancel? The only person who knew I had that appointment was…


I gulp down a spoonful of soup, an uneasy feeling in my empty belly. Philip is the only one who knew I had that appointment. And Philip also had access to another piece of information that Brady wasn’t privy to: he could search my patient list. With a few clicks of the mouse, he could find out all of my female patients in the right age range.

And then another thought occurs to me:

My mug at work that disappeared—is that the same one that ended up at Shelby Gillis’s apartment?

I push away the tub of soup, my appetite completely gone. Philip. Oh my God. Is it possible? I’ve known him for so many years. I respect the man. He would never, ever…

Would he?

After I finished my residency, he sought me out. He found me after all those years and did his best to try to convince me to join his practice. He seemed willing to offer me anything. I was flattered, considering I wasn’t even sure he remembered me. He claimed he had heard good things about me. But maybe that wasn’t the only reason he wanted me at his practice.

As I press my eyes closed, I remember the way Philip was staring at Harper when they left the office. Harper, with her long dark hair and blue eyes. I thought she would be safe with him. I thought he would protect her.

Oh no.

I almost feel like I’m choking. Harper’s got to be okay. Philip wouldn’t hurt her. I can’t believe he would do that. I just can’t. I know him.

I reach for my phone and click on Harper’s cell phone number. It goes straight to voicemail. Then I try Philip’s number.

Please pick up. Please.

Voicemail again. Neither of them is answering. Of course, there are a million explanations for that. They could be in a crowded bar, where they can’t hear their cell phones. They could be having sex. I am really, really hoping they’re having sex right now.

It was Brady who killed those women. Brady who’s been tormenting me. I’m sure of it. It makes sense that it’s Brady.

I go on my phone again and search for the name “Brady Mitchell.” His Facebook profile pops up again, but this time there is a friend request from him, waiting for me. I click to accept and his profile opens up and…

Oh my God.

I was wrong. I was completely wrong. Brady isn’t some psychopath loner who was stalking me, that’s for sure. He most definitely has a daughter. There are multiple pictures of him with that cute little girl he showed me on his phone. Pictures of him grinning at the camera with the girl and his parents at some park. A fifth birthday party with a dozen little kids. Nobody could fake this. His landlady is crazy, just like he said.

Brady is for real. That locked room was really his little girl’s room, not a torture chamber. Which means…

I close Facebook and dial Harper’s number again. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to say if I reach her. The guy you’re on a date with might be a psychopath. You might want to go home early. She’ll think I’ve lost my mind. But I’ve got to try. I at least want to hear her voice and know she’s okay.

But nobody is picking up.

Screw this. I’m going over to Harper’s apartment to see if she’s okay.

If I can’t find her there, I’m camping out in front of Philip’s house.

I get up and grab my purse. I unlock the front door and I’m about to go outside when I hear a thump coming from the basement.

The cat.

I shut her in the basement this morning, along with my makeshift litter box and her bowl of food. She doesn’t seem willing to leave my house, but at least she’ll go in the basement. If she wants to live there, that’s fine. We can coexist in this house.

Anyway, I should probably feed her before I go. And maybe leave some food for the weekend, if I’m going to be away. I don’t know the protocol for leaving an animal when you go away for a few days. I don’t want the poor thing to starve to death. Maybe I should Google what to do.

I fill my pockets with cans of cat food from the cupboard. I’ll give her one now, then I’ll open a couple of others. I’m worried she’ll make a mess of things down there, but there’s not much I can do about it. I’ll deal with that on Monday—it’s the least of my problems.

When I twist the knob to the basement door, my fingers freeze. I thought I locked the door after I put the cat down there. I was sure of it. But now the knob turns easily under my hand.

Maybe I didn’t lock it… it’s not impossible I might have forgotten. I have a lot on my mind…

I turn the knob the rest of the way and push the door open. In addition to forgetting to lock the door, I apparently left the light on down there as well. The single lightbulb is flickering on the ceiling, providing just barely enough light to see. Certainly not enough light to make out a black cat hidden in the shadows.

I start to descend the stairs, which creak under my weight. “Cat?” I should probably name her or something. Maybe another time.

“Cat?” I call out again.

It’s only when I get to the last step that I hear a sound. I expected a meow, but this is something different. This isn’t a feline sound. This is a human sound. A low, horrible moan.

I look to my left, behind the stairs, and through the darkness, I can just barely make out a body tied to a wooden chair. A body covered in blood, which has leaked around the chair, forming a considerable pool on the floor. I clasp my hand over my mouth, my knees trembling beneath me, unable to

comprehend what I’m looking at. I’m only dimly aware of the gun pointed at my chest.

I should have called the police when I had the chance. And now it’s too late.

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