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Chapter no 76

The Teacher

NATE

I’VE SPENT the last two hours driving around in the rain.

I was losing my mind at home, worrying about Detective Sprague returning to question me and what she might say, so I had to get out of the house. I drove around town, listening to classical music and letting my mind wander. At one point, I drove by Simon’s Shoes, which used to be Eve’s favorite shoe store, and for a moment, a wave of sorrow came over me.

I used to love her. I truly did.

It’s dark by the time I return home. I pull into the garage, since it’s raining, and enter the house through there. Just as I’m stepping into the living room, my phone rings in my pocket. When I pull it out, the same number Sprague was calling from this morning is flashing on the screen.

I don’t want to answer it. I don’t want to receive any more updates from a woman who I am increasingly certain believes I murdered my wife. But if I don’t answer the phone, she will surely come here. So I take the call.

“Hello?” I say.

“Mr. Bennett?” Her voice echoes slightly, like she is on speakerphone. “Where are you, Mr. Bennett?”

“I’m home.”

“You are? Because we were just there, and you didn’t answer your door.”

They were here? I’m glad I missed them. “Yes, sorry. I went out for a drive. It’s been hard sitting around the house, waiting for news.”

“Mr. Bennett, we need to speak to you as soon as possible,” she says. “I’m going to send that patrol car back around to pick you up.”

“A patrol car?” My mouth goes dry. “Why are you sending a patrol car?

Am I under arrest?”

“No, not at this time.”

Not at this time.

That doesn’t sound positive. And there’s a hard edge to her voice that wasn’t present yesterday. She’s received new information. I wonder if

Addie broke and told her about the two of us. Even worse, what if Kenzie went to the police?

That would be cataclysmic. Kenzie was only fourteen when our relationship commenced. If she goes to the police, I’m in deep trouble. The kind of trouble where I’ll be wearing an orange jumpsuit, and when I get out, I won’t be able to live a certain radius from a playground. That kind of trouble.

To be fair, Kenzie didn’t look fourteen. She was exquisitely beautiful. More beautiful than 99 percent of all grown women out there. Most people don’t understand what it’s like, to have all these beautiful young girls throwing themselves at you year in and year out. I’m not made of stone.

“Mr. Bennett?” Sprague is saying. “Are you there?” “I…yes,” I choke out. “I’m here.”

“Great. Stay put. I’ll have a patrol car there in a few minutes.”

The line goes dead, and I am left staring at my phone, a growing sensation of dread in my chest. I almost feel like I’m choking. I need some water. I need some water before I suffocate.

I hurry into the kitchen to grab a glass of water. I race over to the sink, snatch a cup from one of the cupboards, and fill it with lukewarm water. I down the entire glass, and then I stand there, still gasping for air. And that’s when I see it. Right in the middle of my kitchen, in the exact spot where I found Eve’s shoes yesterday.

It’s a pumpkin. A jack-o’-lantern, to be specific.

Of course, Halloween has already passed. And for that reason, the pumpkin has started to rot. The rotting flesh of the pumpkin has caused its features to become distorted. What used to be a toothy grin has morphed into an evil grimace.

And then, as I take a step closer, the jack-o’-lantern moves. What the hell?

Now it shifts even more violently, and a second later, a black bird shoots out of the top of the pumpkin. Is it…a raven? I startle, backing up against the kitchen counter as the bird flaps its wings, trying to escape from my kitchen. After a few failed attempts, it rests on top of the jack-o’-lantern for a moment, staring at me.

Nevermore.

I grasp at strands of my hair with the tips of my fingers. Who is doing this to me? Who is talking to the detective about me? Why is this all

happening?

It’s not Addie. I don’t believe she would do this to me. I don’t think Kenzie would do it either. The truth is there’s only one person I believe to be capable of this.

I’ve got to get out of here.

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