December 23, 2015
My wrists burn.
Hours of trying to break free of the rope that binds my hands behind my back have left them raw, the rough cord scrubbing away my skin and cutting into my flesh. I’m sure I’ll have unsightly scars.
Not that it will matter when I’m dead.
I resigned myself to that reality around the time that I finally let go of my bladder. Now I simply lie here, in a pool of urine and vomit, my teeth numb from knocking with each bump in the road, my body frozen by the cold.
Trying to ignore the darkness as I fight against the panic that consumes me. I could suffocate from the anxiety alone.
He knows that.
Now he’s exploiting it. That must be what he does—he uncovers your secrets, your fears, your flaws—and he uses them against you. He did it to Celine.
And now he’s doing it to me.
That’s why I’m in a cramped trunk, my lungs working overtime against a limited supply of oxygen while my imagination runs wild with what may be waiting for me at the end of this ride.
My racing heart ready to explode.
The car hits an especially deep pothole, rattling my bones. I’ve been trapped in here for so long. Hours. Days. I have no idea. Long enough to run through every mistake that I made.
How I trusted him, how I fell for his charm, how I believed his lies. How I made it so easy for him to do this to me.
How Celine made it so easy for him, by letting him get close.
Before he killed her.
Just like he’s going to kill me.
November 30, 2015
The afternoon sun beams through the narrow window, casting a warm glow over Celine’s floral comforter.
It would be inviting, only her body was found in this very bed just thirteen days ago.
“Yeah,” I respond without actually turning around, my gaze taking in the cramped bedroom before me. I’ve never been a fan of New York City and all its overpriced boroughs. Too big, too busy, too pretentious. Take this Lower East Side apartment, for example, on the third floor of a drafty building built in the 1800s, with a ladder of shaky fire escapes facing the side alley and a kitschy gelato café downstairs. It costs more per month than the average American hands the bank in mortgage payments.
And Celine adored it.
“I’m in 410 if you just . . . want to come and find me.”
I finally turn and acknowledge the building super—a chestnut-haired English guy around thirty by my guess, with a layer of scruff over his jawline and faded blue jeans—edging toward the door. Given the apartment is 475 square feet, it doesn’t take him long to reach it.
I think he gave me his name but I wasn’t listening. I’ve barely said two words since I met him in front of Celine’s apartment, armed with a stack of cardboard flats and trash bags. An orchestra of clocks that softly tick away claim that that was nearly half an hour ago. I’ve simply stood here since then, feeling the brick-exposed walls—lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and filled with the impressive collection of treasures that Celine had amassed over her twenty-eight years—closing in on me.
But now I feel the need to speak. “You were the one who let the police in?” Celine never missed work, never arrived late. That’s why, after not showing up for two days and not answering her phone or her door, her coworker finally called the cops.
The super nods.
“You saw her?”
His eyes flicker to the thin wall that divides the bedroom from the rest of the apartment—its only purpose is to allow the building’s owner to charge rent for a “one-bedroom” instead of a studio. There’s not even enough room for a door. Yes, he saw her body. “She seemed really nice,” he offers, his throat turning scratchy, shifting on his feet. He’d rather be unplugging a shit-filled toilet than be here right now. I don’t blame him. “Uh . . . So you can just slide the key through the mail slot in my door when you’re finished, if you want? I’ll be home later tonight to grab it.”
Under different circumstances, I’d find his accent charming. “I’ll be staying here for a while.”
He frowns. “You can’t—”
“Yeah, I can,” I snap, cutting his objection off. “We’re on the hook with the lease until the end of January, right? So don’t even think of telling me that I can’t.” I’m in no rush to empty this place out so some jackass landlord can rent it next month and pocket my money. Plus . . . My gaze drifts over the living room again. I just need to be in Celine’s presence for a while, even if she’s not here anymore.
“Of course. I’m just . . .” He bites his bottom lip as if to stall a snippy response. When he speaks again, his tone is back to soft. “The mattress, the bedding, it’ll all need to be replaced. I would have already pitched it for you, but I figured that it wasn’t my call to make. I pulled the blanket up to cover the mess and tried to air the place out, but . . .”
I sigh shakily, the tension making my body as taut as a wire. I’m the only jackass around here. “Right. I’m sorry.” I inhale deeply. The linen air freshener can’t completely mask the smell. Her body lay in that bed for two days.
“I’ll be fine with the couch until I can get a new mattress delivered.” It’ll be more than fine, seeing as I’ve been sleeping on a thin bedroll on a dirt floor in Ethiopia for the past three months. At least there’s running water here, and I’m not sharing the room with two other people. Or rats, hopefully.
“I can probably get a bloke in here to help me carry it out if you want,” he offers, sliding hands into his pockets as he slowly shifts backward.
“Thank you.” I couple my contrite voice with a smile and watch the young super exit, pulling the door shut behind him.
My gaze drifts back to the countless shelves. I haven’t been to visit Celine in New York in over two years; we always met in California, the state where we grew up. “My, you’ve been busy,” I whisper. Celine always did have a love for the old and discarded, and she had a real eye for it. She’d probably seen every last episode of Antiques Roadshow three times over. She was supposed to start school this past September to get her MA in art business, with plans to become an appraiser. She delayed enrollment, for some reason.