Jack was admitted to the hospital. We didn’t want to risk putting him in WoodVille’s in case the killer was someone from the staff and waiting to kill Jack so we’d taken him to another one recommended by Ezra. I was seated beside Jack. His eyes were closed, his body propped against a hospital bed connected to an IV. His chest rising and falling in a slow rhythm. It was the most peaceful expression I’d seen on his face, other times that I’d been with him; I’d watched him wake up at odd times, reach for the gun and aim it at nobody. He didn’t even sleep a wink.
I pushed his hair back away from his face which is when I heard the sound of boots approaching and a presence in the room.
I turned around to see Ezra standing behind me. He passed me a worried look. “What did the doctor say?” I asked.
“There’s nothing to worry about. Jack’s out of danger.” He said.
I didn’t trust Ezra to tell me the truth. He could be lying to make me feel less worried about Jack. “I’ll sit here beside him until he wakes up.” I said. “Can you get me some coffee?”
He eyed the empty cup on the table. “Coffee is the last thing you need. Get some rest. You’ve been awake all night. I’ll sit here.”
“What time is it?”
Ezra checked his watch. “It’s three p.m.” He put his hand on mine. “You can trust me. He’s my brother.”
I had lost my will to argue and wanted to stop thinking for a moment and actually get some sleep. I decided to stop being stubborn and head home. “Call me as soon as he wakes up.”
Ezra nodded. “I will.”
That day I spent most of the evening sleeping. When I woke up, it was already past eight p.m. A feeling of dread washed over me when I remembered the events of the day. I was exhausted beyond a limit and all I wanted to do was go back to sleep and forget about everything.
I called Ezra to ask him how Jack was doing and he gave me a thorough report about his health. The doctor said Jack was still under anesthesia and would wake up in an hour or so.
The entire unit of the police force and the team of FBI agents were waiting for Jack to wake up.
He had a name.
As time passed, the killer got more time to cover his tracks.
How were they going to find out the killer?
My stomach growled, I decided to make myself a sandwich and walked into the adjacent kitchen area. I pulled out veggies and a jar of mayo from the refrigerator. I’d taken two bites of the sandwich when my phone started buzzing on the coffee table.
I dropped the half-eaten sandwich back on the plate and ran to the coffee table to answer my phone, thinking it was Ezra calling to tell me Jack was finally awake.
Disappointment washed over me as I realized it wasn’t Ezra calling.
It was Maddy.
“Hey Maddy.” I said on the phone. “What’s up?”
After the attack in the hospital, Maddy hadn’t been herself. She’d avoided talking to me, and appeared more stressed than usual. I’d chalked her behavior up as just another phase for someone who’d gone through a difficult time. I’d asked her time and time again to tell me what had happened the night she was attacked but she said she couldn’t remember.
Couldn’t remember or didn’t want to remember?
It was a little weird how evasive she was being, considering how bad the situation already was.
“Riley, are you there?!” I heard Maddy’s voice on the other end. She sounded distressed.
“Is everything alright, Maddy?”
“Can you come to my house, Riley?” She asked.
“Right now?” I asked. “Um, okay, but what’s wrong?”
“I have something to tell you.” She said and a pause later she continued, “It’s about the killer, and it’s urgent. I need to get this off my chest.”
I didn’t need to hear more. I was already half way out of the kitchen. I reached for my jacket and the car keys hanging against the hook. “I’m on my way.”
“I’ll be waiting. I’m so scared, Riles.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll be there in ten minutes.” I assured her.
I was glad Maddy was finally opening up and wanted to talk about that night. I could use some information that would lead Ezra one step closer to knowing who the killer was.
“Where are you going?” I had almost forgotten that my brother was back after doing a twenty-four shift at the hospital.
“I’m going to Madeline’s house.” I explained. “She sounded really frightened.”
Ken nodded. “Alright, but come home soon. It’s not safe anymore.”
Instead of arguing, I just nodded. “I’ll be back before you know it.”
The rain started pouring down in full swing. I couldn’t even see the road clearly through the windshield, and it didn’t help the fact that there was a rainstorm coming up soon.
I had to navigate my way through the traffic. I turned up the heater but that didn’t help either. The rain was coming down hard and I noticed an ambulance at the side of the road with a car that was completely smashed in an accident and two bodies were being zipped up on a gurney.
A shiver ran down my body. I looked away, feeling little melancholic even though I didn’t know the person who’d just died in that accident.
The radio cackled and went static so I switched it off.
A few minutes later, I was pulling up in my friend’s driveway. The street was eerily silent. I peeked at the mirror and noticed how messy my hair had become. I climbed out of the car and practically made a run towards the porch. By the time I made it to the dimly lit porch, drops of rain soaked into my jacket.
I rang the doorbell and waited. A few seconds later I rang the doorbell again. Then I knocked the door a few times.
Was it possible Maddy was so scared that she didn’t want to open the door?
“Maddy, it’s me, Riley.” I called out. “Open the door.”
I pressed my ear to the door. There was no sound in the room.
“Madeline! I’m outside.” I knocked again, harsh raps this time. “Let me in.”
Finally, I reached for my phone and dialed her number. She wasn’t answering.
What was her deal?!
It was probably intuition. I reached for the door-knob and turned it. The door gave away easily.
I walked in through the foyer and stood below the darkened staircase. There was soft music drifting from the radio in the kitchen. Both her parents were out of town to attend a distant relatives wedding so she was living alone until the next week. The kitchen counter was covered with an opened packet of chips and sliced pieces of meat. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d invited some company and when she’d been stood up, she decided to call me.
That would be typical Madeline.
“Maddy, are you upstairs?” I called out.
I checked the living area, but all I found there was a messed up blanket, an almost empty glass of what appeared to be wine and a dog-eared book, the one that she’d borrowed from me a few weeks back.
Looked like she was having a great night so far, so what had caused her to call me up so suddenly?
Could it possibly be a trap?
Do not trust anyone, Riley.
Jack’s warning repeated in my mind.
I hadn’t even carried the gun that Jack had given me. I needed to be cautious. I walked up the stairs and reached the first floor. I headed straight for her bedroom at the end of the hallway.
The lights flickered. I continued to walk forward and knocked on the door first. When she didn’t answer, I opened the door and walked inside the bedroom. The bed appeared to be slept in. A bathrobe was lying on the carpeted floor. Makeup scattered on the dressing table.
I heard the sound of an obnoxiously loud rock music track coming from the bathroom.
Again, Typical Maddy.
When I opened the bathroom door, I found her in the bathtub.
Face down. The tub was filled with blood. Her arms were on either side of the tub. The tiles were stained bright scarlet, splatters painted on the walls.
For a minute I thought I was hallucinating until I realized I was screaming.
Ezra had caught my hand in his the whole time that I recited what had happened when I’d found her dead body. When I panicked and ran out of the house, I saw wet shoe prints in the mud. Huge prints. Men’s shoes.
I was so disturbed; I couldn’t wipe that image of her in the tub out of my mind. Ken had his arm around me. I cried on his shoulder. “She was going to tell me something about the killer. How did he reach her before me?”
“It’s obvious, isn’t it?” Ezra said.
“What is?” I asked.
“She let the killer into the house because it was someone she knew and trusted. Either that or the killer somehow broke into the house while she was in the bathroom.” Ezra said.
“There was no break-in.” I confirmed, wiping my tears. “The killer must have come in through the window or—”
“Picked a lock like a burglar.” Ken completed.
Ezra nodded. “That could be the case. He’s good at not leaving any traces behind. He knows how to clean up his mess.”
Ezra turned his gaze towards me. “Did Madeline tell you something about the killer? Anything that she may have mentioned and it slipped your mind.”
“No. She was going to talk to me about it personally.” I said.
“Even the smallest of detail helps, Riley. Think hard.”
“She didn’t say anything to me before she died.”
“He’s mocking us. The way that he left her body there in the bathtub, he’s making fun of the law enforcement.” Just then Ezra’s phone began buzzing. He let go off my hand. “I have to take this.”
I gave him a nod. He walked a little farther so he had the privacy of the call but it was clear from his expressions that he didn’t like what he was hearing. After he hung up the phone, he walked over to me and gave me a weak smile.
“Duty calls. Uh…I have to leave.” He said. Something was not right. “I’ll be gone for a while. Do you think you can handle the interrogation by yourself?”
I searched his eyes. “What’s going on, Ezra?”
He looked away. “It’s nothing. There’s something important come up.”
Ezra turned to leave when I caught the end of his shirt and stopped him. “That was from the hospital, wasn’t it? What’s going on? What are you hiding?”
I was having a hard time breathing as I thought of the endless possibilities of what might have gone wrong. Apart from Maddy, there was only one other person who knew about the killer. Was it possible that the killer had murdered Maddy just to distract the police from his actual motive?
His actual motive being to kill Jackson.
I caught Ezra’s both hands in mine. “Please tell me what’s going on. I deserve to know. Did something happen to Jack?”
“The doctors said that the trauma of the injury was so severe that Jack…” He was avoiding eye-contact.
“It’s so severe that Jack slipped into a coma.”
A.N: Hey guys! I'm back :) Firstly, I'd like to apologize for making you guys wait. Hope you all enjoyed this chapter. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.