Lydia Harris thinks her marriage to Dean has problems. When she finds a box of news clippings her husband took great pains to conceal, however, the problems go from disappointing to dangerous. The articles report about killings nation-wide… in cities where he has traveled. She doesn’t want to believe him capable of such violence, so she searches for clues to explain the hidden clippings.
As the growing evidence points to his guilt, Dean starts to act like the loving husband he once was, confusing Lydia. She must look past her love for him to uncover the truth, whatever the cost. Or she could end up next on his list.
She was about to turn the flashlight off when something on the carpet caught her eye. Lydia wouldn’t have noticed it without the brighter light. Part of the carpet was a slightly different color than the rest. She knelt down and shone the light closer. A patch of the carpet was just a shade lighter.
They had never replaced any of the carpet. She would have remembered, because Dean hated stuff like that. If something was wrong, he would have simply had all of it replaced. He would much rather throw money at something than accept a substandard version.
That was how he treated Lydia as well.
She leaned over and pulled on the lighter part, and the entire piece came off. Lydia stared at it and set it down, eyes widening. It looked like there was a groove in the wood flooring.
Lydia slid her finger into the channel and pulled. The wood came up, exposing a box underneath. Her heart pounded in her chest. She had to remove two more pieces of wood to get the box out.
It was made out of a material similar to the safe, but didn’t appear to be as strong. She held her breath as she looked over the box.
Did she dare open it? She’d gone this far, she couldn’t just put it back without seeing what was inside. She crossed her legs and set it on her lap.
Lydia’s breath caught as she reached for the latch. What was she going to find? Was it something that had belonged to the previous home owner? Or something of Dean’s?
If so, it could be paperwork laying out some kind of shady deal he’d made with a client. It wouldn’t surprise her, given how secretive he always was about his work.
Whatever it was, it had to be good for Dean to go to so much trouble to hide it. He was home only about three days a month, so she was impressed that he had managed all of this without her knowing.
She pulled on the latch, and the top came off with a creak. The box was full of newspaper clippings. Lydia dug around, looking for whatever was hiding beneath the papers.
Lydia unfolded the first paper and looked at the headline. It was a story about a housewife in Detroit who had been murdered. Chills ran down her back, despite the warm summer weather.
She set the paper down and unfolded the next one. A waitress from Boston slain.
Lydia looked at the next one. A hotel manager from San Diego killed under suspicious circumstances.
A librarian from Houston murdered in cold blood.
Everything around Lydia disappeared as she read the headlines from each of the papers. Her ears rang, drowning out other sounds. Dread washed over her as she realized that Dean had been to every one of the cities when he traveled for work. Would his work schedule match the dates on the papers?
Her stomach lurched.
Why would he keep those clippings? Surely he’d have a good reason to save and then hide them.
She went into the bedroom to look at the time. It was later than she thought, and Dean was due back in a little over an hour. That wasn’t much time to get everything back in order.
Lydia grabbed a notebook and took it back to the closet. She wrote down the dates and cities of each murder on one of the pages.
Then she snapped a picture of each clipping on her phone. She had some digging to do, but it would have to wait until after Dean left again.
She folded the clippings with great care. If anything was even slightly off, Dean would notice right away. She put each paper in exactly as she had found it, and then closed the lid. She slipped the box into the floor and then put the pieces of wood back. Getting the carpet back as it had been was trickier, but she managed.
Lydia’s nerves were on fire as she pushed the safe back into place.
Then she put some baking soda down on the carpet and vacuumed, hoping that would bring out the scent. It did seem to help—hopefully enough. Dean could be hyper-aware of tiny details.
She double-checked everything to make sure the perfume was fully cleaned up and that not a piece of glass remained. Once she was certain everything looked untouched, she tied up the garbage bag and took it to the bin outside.
A bead of sweat ran down her forehead. Lydia wiped it away, and went back upstairs to her room. She folded the paper she had written the dates and cities on and slid it into one of her steamy romance novels, where he would never look for it. Then she changed the password to her phone. She couldn’t risk Dean accidentally finding the pictures she’d taken of the clippings.
She slid her phone into her shorts pocket and went back up to the bedroom so she could take a shower. The mixture of the perfume and sweat offended her nose, and Dean would definitely complain when he got home. Not that he would want to touch her, and for the first time, Lydia was grateful for that.
She went into the closet to grab some clean clothes. The smell of the perfume lingered, but wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been. If she could keep Dean away from the bedroom for a little while, he would never know anything had been spilled—or moved.
Lydia shook as she grabbed a sleeveless top from the hanger. She wanted to be wrong, to believe that the clippings meant something else, but how could they? Why else would he go to all that trouble to hide them?
Dean obviously wanted to save them, and clearly not digitally since that would probably leave a trail.
Lydia put her new clothes on the bathroom counter and then went into one of the guest rooms and grabbed a fan. She plugged it in by the window next to her side of the bed and turned it on, facing the window. The fragrant air needed to be pushed outside. She lit a candle, too.
Lydia finished showering and getting ready just before she expected Dean to arrive. Her pulse quickened at the thought of talking to him. Usually, he preferred to avoid her as much as possible. He averaged three nights with her every thirty days, and she used the term ‘with her’ generously. He’d be in the house, but they wouldn’t be together.
Often that bothered her. This time she dreaded his return. And prayed they wouldn’t spend any time with each other.
His job required him to travel, but Lydia had always been certain that it didn’t demand that much. He had to offer it up. She always assumed it was because he was having affairs. Never in a million years would she have guessed it was anything like this.
Lydia fluffed her hair, put the fan back in the guest room, and went downstairs. Everything was still quiet, which meant he wasn’t home yet. Dean stomped around like the king of a castle, making sure Lydia knew it was his domain, and that he could do what he wanted.
She paced back and forth between the living room and the kitchen.
Maybe just the fact that she was home was enough to alert him that something was wrong. It might be better if she joined her friends, even though she was already really late.
She heard the sounds of the garage door opening. Dean’s arrival made the decision for her.