I was reluctant to return to our house. Chris and I kept up a pleasant façade in front of my parents but I couldn’t ignore the wary look in his eyes that filtered through when he thought I wasn’t looking at him.
Was he recalling what I’d done? Had he seen the moment the bullet had blown Casey’s face apart? Did he hear the last words I spoke to her brother? He would start when I touched him. Was his behavior normal after what he’d been through, or was he now looking at me like he had John Leech?
I didn’t know and I was afraid to ask. As long as we stayed at my parents’ home, private conversations could be avoided. I wondered at my lack of remorse. I didn’t like to smash spiders but I’d killed two people and now I was having no trouble sleeping at night. I could write it down to shock. Maybe the regret and tears would come later. Except a small part of me had enjoyed it. I couldn’t deny it. It was something I didn’t want to admit even to myself but there it was. There had been satisfaction in causing pain to the two people that had nearly driven me over the edge of my sanity; or maybe they had pushed me completely over. I still wasn’t sure.
I pictured Dr. Miles. Had she somehow sensed that tiny weave of darkness that had been woven through my soul? Was that the reason I’d formed such a strong, nearly instant wave of anger and hostility toward her? I didn’t think I had schizophrenia or multiple personalities. My head seemed clear now that the drugs had run their course. Had she seen some of my true traits that the drugs hadn’t altered, though? Did she mislabel me, bypassing a much scarier diagnosis?
Or, had this evil within me developed only under the enormous strain of having the two people I loved the most taken from me by a cruel psychopath and his sister? I wanted exoneration-someone to pat me on the back and explain what I’d done and why I felt the way I did now but who could I talk to? Chris still jumped when I got close to him. Maybe I had turned into something monstrous, or at least he thought so.
I needed a psychiatrist but I’d never see Dr. Miles again willingly. One afternoon I even went so far as to open a phone book and look for another psychiatrist but then I closed it and flung it away.
What could I tell them? I could hardly confess to what I’d done.
Instead, I pushed the questions far away and pretended to be the same woman as I was before the kidnapping.
It may have been paranoia but it made my skin crawl to think of all the cameras placed through my house. I was still convinced Casey and her brother had planted a few devices of their own. No one would be watching me now but I wanted all of them gone-my system included. It made me uneasy at the thought Chris might turn a camera on to observe me. He obviously no longer felt safe with me around.
I made an excuse and walked outside to call the security firm that had installed my system. They were a bit mystified that I wanted all cameras removed from my home but more than happy to take them out for a hefty price. I’d have to sell more of my jewelry to pay it but I agreed.
Two days later they arrived in our driveway. I’d told Chris I had to go back home to get some more clothes. I was surprised he didn’t take the opportunity to suggest we leave my parents’ home. I was beginning to think he might never want to return to live with me. I told my mother I was meeting the security firm to check for hidden cameras. I didn’t tell her I was having every one of the things removed. I assured her we’d leave as soon as the job was done. She, of course, told me we could stay as long as we liked but I knew we were starting to disrupt my parents’ routine. It was time for us to try to return to a normal life-or what was left of it.
The team was the same men that had installed the system. They made short work of taking the cameras down. When one of the men approached me with a worried look, I knew he’d found something he hadn’t installed himself.
“I came across this in the living room,” he remarked, opening his hand to reveal a small device. “It’s not one of ours.”
“Oh, I put that in before I called your company. I realized it wasn’t going to do the job I needed.” At my words, he looked visibly relieved.
“I see,” he said, “Good.” He handed me the camera and went back to his work.
I wanted to crush the thing like a bug under my foot. Anything that John and Casey Leech had touched was contaminated.
When the same man came toward me again a few minutes later he said, “Do you want us to take the entire setup out of the bedroom?”
“You mean the camera you installed?” I asked.
“No, it’s not ours,” he said freely this time.
I cringed inwardly. I had suspected Casey and John had planted a camera in the bedroom but now that I’d confirmed it, I felt sick to my stomach.
“Please take it out,” I said.
“It’s going to leave quite a mess so I wanted to be sure,” he remarked.
What kind of camera was there? I’d suspected a small device that had been planted. “I’ll come up,” I said.
I followed the man into our bedroom and he pointed on the wall that faced the bed. “I almost didn’t see it. You did a good job of hiding it but it’s going to make a huge mess of the drywall to get that thing out.”
I stared at the spot he indicated. It was inside Chris’ closet. He walked me into the closet. “This hidden area here where you’re storing the tapes-I’m afraid I’m going to have to rip that out to get to the camera.”
I looked at the stack of tapes and then ran my hand along the drywall. Casey and John couldn’t have installed that. There was no sign of a recent repair.
I nodded and then walked from the room. Who had put that camera there? We’d built the house. Chris must have put it in. I could only think of one reason he’d placed a camera aimed at our bed. He knew I’d never want to be recorded so that explained the hiding place. I felt violated as I remembered the tall stack of tapes.
I went back inside the closet and scooped up a few. I noticed a lock box underneath and I grabbed it too. We still had an old VCR in the basement that Chris had hooked up to watch his old videos of sports and racing. I remembered the fit he’d thrown when I suggested getting rid of it. I looked at the tape in my hand. I guessed it wasn’t the worn out sports movies he hated to give up.
I stuck the tape in the machine and my stomach knotted as I waited for the image to come up. I didn’t want to see my post baby naked body emblazoned on the screen.
The television lit up and I saw Chris shedding his clothes and jumping onto the bed with a bounce. I cringed waiting for myself to come into view.
I dropped the lock box onto the floor with a bang when I saw a woman with shoulder length brown hair step into view. She peeled her black shirt and pants off, her body young and lithe.
She straddled Chris and began to kiss him. My breath caught as she turned her head-Casey. Head spinning, I hit the stop button. How long had the affair been going on? Had Chris known her before she’d stopped by my store looking for a job?
I couldn’t believe what I’d seen. I’d always thought Chris was a terrible liar. He’d told me everything. We were soul mates. We’d kept no secrets.
I felt like I’d been sucker punched in the gut. I couldn’t breathe. I leaned over and struggled to get air. All the late nights, supposed overtime at work, suddenly made sense-so did the increase in his spending that had spurred many an argument.
How could he? He’d known how hard I’d worked trying to balance caring for Daniel and desperately fighting to save my business. As I’d struggled with stress and overwork, he’d been banging my clerk.
I wanted to hit something. I wanted smash and break everything he considered precious. I eyed his collection of sports memorabilia and pictured it ablaze. Calm down. The security firm people were still in the house. I couldn’t go on a rampage.
No wonder he’d looked so worried and frightened. Did he think I knew? Did he believe that was the real reason I hadn’t hesitated to shoot Casey? After witnessing what I was capable of, did he think I wouldn’t hesitate to kill him too?
I scooped up the lockbox and tried to pull it open. Unsurprisingly, it was locked. My cousin had a box just like it when we were kids and I made it my business to learn how to pick it. I went upstairs to my desk and fished a paper clip out of the drawer. Back downstairs, I straightened the clip and began to poke into the lock. I finally felt it give and opened the lid. I pulled out a letter written in purple ink.
I love you but I’m getting tired of waiting. YOU PROMISED YOU’D LEAVE HER BY NOW! I’m giving you another week and then I’m going to take care of it myself. I’m tired of sneaking around and not being able to call you. WHY DON’T YOU JUST GET ANOTHER PHONE ALREADY!?
It was unsigned but unlike before, I recognized the writing this time. Casey had made no attempt to disguise it. Why had he kept the note? Was he afraid of what she might do? Had he thought he might need prove of her threats? I wondered what he’d promised her exactly. I thought of the large life insurance plan I’d taken out on myself and Chris.
Under the folded note was a credit card statement. My name was on the bill but I noticed the address was the company Chris worked for. I looked at the rows of charges. Hotel bills. Restaurants. Department stores. There was over $2000 on the account. No wonder Chris couldn’t explain the money that he’d been withdrawing from our bank on a regular basis. When I’d questioned him about it, he’d always had a ready excuse. He’d needed his truck fixed or the lawnmower had broken down. When I’d asked for the receipts he’d grown defensive. He’d tossed them he’d said. If there was a problem later, he trusted the guys that had done the work- they’d make it right.
I looked at the account number on the credit card again. I couldn’t be sure but I thought it was the same number that had paid my bill at the Herrington Hotel. He’d taken a credit card out in my name and given it to his mistress.
The subtle signs had been there for me to see but I’d ignored them. I’d trusted him. I glanced at the stack of tapes. Were they all of Casey? Were there more women?
How long and how many times had he cheated on me? Was our entire marriage a pack of lies?
I put in another tape. Casey again. I angrily ejected it and shoved another in. Casey laughing in my bed, rolling around. I punched the eject button again. I went through the entire stack. Only Casey was on the tapes. It didn’t make me any less angry.
I remembered my tampered medications. Casey had been in our home enough times that she could have been doctoring not only my medicine cabinet but anything else she wanted. That old instant coffee jar that tasted horrible-who knew what she might have put in it?
I shivered. What had she planned? What had Chris agreed to do to me? What exactly had happened that afternoon she and her brother decided to kidnap him and our son? I didn’t know but I was about to find out.