Chapter no 8

The Locked Door

The rain is coming down in buckets.

Even though I tried to refuse it, I’m intensely grateful for Brady’s umbrella as I sprint to my Camry. Even with the protection, my right foot plunges into a massive puddle and soaks through my clog down to my sock. There will be no more stops on the way home.

I toss the umbrella into the passenger seat beside me and get on the road to go home. I can’t wait to get back to my house and change into something warm and dry. On days like today, I wish I had figured out how to get my fireplace going. Maybe someday.

I turn down the side road to get back to my house. But the second I turn off the main road, I become aware of the headlights behind me.

Oh God. Not again.

My heart starts pounding in my chest. Maybe it’s just a coincidence. Yes, this road is usually deserted. But I do occasionally see people on it. And I didn’t see Henry Callahan anywhere at Christopher’s. Would he really waste his time following me two nights in a row?

Of course, I did have Harper call him and fire him from my practice.

He may not have appreciated that.

After the third turn in a row with the headlights staying far too close for comfort, I can’t deny this is unlikely to be a coincidence. This car is definitely following me.

When I slow down at a red light, I stare hard into the rearview mirror. It’s a blue Dodge behind me—I’m certain of it. And the silhouette of a man in the driver’s seat looks familiar as well. Henry Callahan is having a little fun with me again.

He turns on his high beams. Light floods my vehicle, and I’m nearly blinded for a moment.

I take a deep breath.

What would my father do?

I’ve been taking this route home for years. I accelerate slowly down the narrow path, watching in the rearview mirror as the car behind me does the same. No matter what I do, he is staying very close. Dangerously close.

I could drive to the police station again. But I don’t.

Again, I veer off the usual route that I take when I go home. Instead, I go on a different path. One that I often take to the hospital and know extremely well. It’s narrow, with lots of turns. Turns that are hard to see on a dark, stormy night.

And then I push my foot on the gas.

After about two minutes, I see the sharp turn approaching. I only know it’s there because I’ve driven this way so many times. There’s a sign, but it’s impossible to see in the dark, with the rain. I gently switch my foot to the brake and turn the steering wheel.

My Camry glides over the turn with only a slight screeching of the wheels. The small Dodge doesn’t handle nearly as well. And also, he didn’t see it coming.

I hear the crash before I see it. Metal crunching as the Dodge wraps itself around a tree. I wince at the sound of it, and then I glance in my rearview mirror. I can see smoke billowing up from the collision. The headlights are gone.

Once I put a little distance between myself and the collision, I bring up the Bluetooth on my phone. “Call 911,” I say.

After a few rings, I hear a female voice on the other line. “This is 911.

What’s your emergency?”

“I… I think I passed a car accident on the road behind me,” I say with just the right amount of concern in my voice. “The driver might be hurt.”

I give the 911 operator the approximate location of the accident before hanging up. And then I keep driving. I don’t stop. I don’t check that he’s okay. I certainly don’t contemplate performing CPR or other life-saving maneuvers.

I leave him there.

See, there’s something you should know about my father, Aaron Nierling.

My father is an incredibly dangerous man, who has done unspeakable things. He has committed evil, terrible acts, without even the slightest twinge of remorse. He’s the sort of man you wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley. Or the street. Or anywhere.

And as they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

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