Boston, Massachusetts, Friday, 9:30 p.m.
I stepped out of the elevator into the pristine hallway. It led to the luxurious penthouse apartment I had inhabited for four years but still couldn’t bring myself to call home. The familiar depression seeped back into me at the sight. I was returning from the nail spa. My friend Brita had accompanied me to the tedious weekly ordeal that was a “necessity” demanded by my husband. Naturally, she did not understand my lack of enthusiasm for the required weekly primping.
“Evie, you need to start enjoying yourself,” she’d scolded. “You’re 23, filthy rich, married to the hottest hunk in town, but you look like you’re suffering. If you don’t like manicures, why do you get them?”
“It’s part of being filthy rich,” I’d said before giving her a parting hug and exiting the limousine.
I walked the length of the hallway, the click of my heels the only sound. The bodyguard in his dark suit stood near the door as always.
“Good evening, ma’am,” he greeted.
I gave him a weak, tired smile. “Good evening, David.”
I entered without switching on the lights, comforted by the darkness. I liked to gaze at the city lights outside and pretend I was someone else, that my life was different. The door closed behind me. I leaned on it for a long time before finding the willpower to push myself forward. At least I had the place to myself for now. Jack was not home yet, and since we had no glamorous outing scheduled for tonight, I might simply watch a movie or something. And when he came back, I would ask him—again—about the separate bedroom. He might be in a good mood and consent. I had been addressing the issue for more than a year, without success. But heck, maybe tonight would be different.
I went toward the kitchen to get a glass of water, untying my scarf and opening my coat while I walked. Familiar with the darkness, the fact that I didn’t see much didn’t hinder me. I was about to drop my purse on a couch when my nose caught something. The faintest whiff of a male scent: a combination of sweat and deodorant. I froze. I knew what each corner of this apartment smelled like, and that didn’t belong.
Oh God—someone’s in here!
It wasn’t Jack; there was no mistaking his expensive after-shaves. The guards were always outside, never in here unless called. This was an intruder. My heart pounded and my legs felt like boiled spaghetti.
How did he get in? How did he get past the security systems? What am I supposed to do now?
I stood paralyzed for several seconds, then dashed toward the nearest wall panel to activate the alarm.
I slammed on the alarm as soon as I reached it. The lights flashed on and a loud siren went off. I heard running footsteps, but before I could react, someone grabbed me roughly, from behind. I shrieked at the bite of cold metal under my chin.
He’s going to kill me! I’m going to die!
I whimpered and sobbed in panic, trying to claw at him over my shoulder, but my fingers met only rough fabric. The man fisted his hand in my hair and swung me to face the front door just as David charged in, gun in hand.
“Get back!” my captor snarled over the howl of the siren, his deep, gruff voice muffled by a mask. “Put the gun down or the bitch is dead!”
“Let her go!” David commanded. “There’s no way you’re getting out of here.”
“Shut the fuck up. Gun on the floor, now, and kick it away from you!”
He yanked at my head sharply to make his point, the blade biting into my skin. When I gave a terrified yelp, David put his hands up, lowered his gun, and sent it sliding across the floor. A bunch of other guards appeared at the door.
“Let her go,” David said. “We both know you’re not gonna kill her.”
“Yeah, I’m not gonna kill her.” The blade on my throat slid up until the tip touched the lobe of my left ear. “I’m just going to slice her up some. She’ll live all right, but she won’t be as pretty.”
“Please don’t hurt me,” I sobbed in a small voice. “Please.”
He probably didn’t hear me over the blare of the alarm.
“You hurt her and you’re a dead man,” David barked.
“If you want this bitch back, you tell everyone to stand the fuck down.”
He maneuvered me toward the door. “Move!” he snarled into my ear.
The guards held back, sidestepping out of the way. The man yanked me backward into the hallway, and I felt the impact as his back hit the wall next to the elevator.
He gave me a nudge. “Call it!”
I fumbled at the button with shaking hands and managed to hit it. He kept my head tilted back by gripping my hair, the blade pressed against my throat. My breath was rapid and shallow, tears streamed down my cheeks. Yet another bodyguard dashed out of the elevator when it arrived, but he stilled and put his hands up at the sight of us.
The intruder shouted at the guards, “All of you, face down on the floor, and don’t fucking move. The bitch is coming with me. If I even smell someone behind us, I’ll send her back to you in pieces!”
Then he pulled me into the elevator with him. He told me to choose garage level four. His tense breathing and my terrified sobs were the only sounds on the long way down. I trembled like a leaf, my skin covered in cold sweat.
I’m going to die. I’m going to die.
When we reached the garage, he removed the knife from my throat and grabbed me by the arm. We ran across the concrete halls to a black car with tinted windows. He shoved me into the passenger seat and told me to put the seatbelt on. I just sat there, hyperventilating, unable to move. He slid into the driver’s seat.
“Seatbelt on, I said!”
I jumped. “Please don’t hurt me.”
“Shut the fuck up and do as I say.”
He reached briskly over me, grabbed the seatbelt, and buckled it. He had put away the knife, but the silver metal of handcuffs glinted in his hand instead. He snapped them on my wrists without another word.
“Please, no. Please let me go. Please.”
“Shut the fuck up!”
He started the engine and sped out of the garage, into the street. Because I was in too much shock to think straight, I only gasped at his aggressive braking, cornering and accelerating. After a while, his driving steadied. I dared to stop bracing myself against the dashboard and sit back. My face streaked with tears and my nose runny, I automatically searched into my purse for a tissue to clean myself up.
The man’s hand shot out, quick as a snake, and snatched my cuffed wrists. “Don’t even think about it.”
“I…I just need a tissue,” I whimpered.
“Glove compartment. Keep your hands where I can see them.”
He wasn’t even looking at me. I cautiously examined the glove compartment and found a pack of tissues. I wiped my face and blew my nose, trying to get myself together, but the tears just wouldn’t stop. I had even broken one of my freshly done nails.
I risked giving my captor a sideways glance. He was a tall, athletic man, dressed in a tight, dark gray jumpsuit, his head covered by a hood that left only his scowling dark eyes visible. He looked like an urban ninja. When he turned his head and met my gaze, I quickly looked away.
It was a command, not a question.
“Evelyn,” I replied.
“Your full name.”
“Evelyn Elizabeth Moorland.”
“Wife of Jack Moorland, Junior. Good.”
“What do you want?” I asked, my voice wavering. “What are you going to do to me? Let me go!”
“No reason to panic, Evelyn,” he said in a casual tone. “I already got what I wanted. I just grabbed you to make sure I got out of there.”
“What…what do you mean? What did you do?”
Did he kill someone? Had Jack come home early after all, while this man waited for him? Jack always thought someone wanted to kill him.
“I stole something,” he said. “Look, I’m going to keep you until I’m sure that I’m clear, and then I’ll let you go. Deal? You do as I say and don’t make any trouble, and soon you’ll be back at your perch, safe and sound.”
A thief. Thank heavens. He’s just a thief.
“Okay,” I said, somewhat reassured. “Deal.”
I didn’t ask what he stole. At the time, I just didn’t care, and everything valuable was insured anyway. I fixed my eyes on the road ahead and tried to focus on survival.
Deep breaths, Evie. No reason to panic, he says.
Just a short while with this armed crazy, and then I could go back to my expensively insignificant life. I dabbed my eyes again. The stupid tears wouldn’t stop. I reached for another tissue.
“How did you figure out I was there?” he asked.
I stiffened, not sure how to answer.
“There weren’t any signs of my presence. I didn’t disturb anything. You definitely didn’t see me or hear me, so how did you know?” He looked at me, and his eyes crinkled up, as if he was smiling under the hood. “Sixth sense?”
His comment was strangely flattering. I had noticed someone who didn’t think he could be detected.
I cleared my throat. “Oh. I don’t have a sixth sense. I just have five working ones. I…smelled something that didn’t belong.”
Heat rose to my cheeks. “You, I guess. A strange man.”
“Mm,” he mused, staring at the road ahead. “Have to work on that. No one’s ever smelled me before, but I can’t have that happening again. We wouldn’t be here now if you hadn’t noticed me, you know. I was on my way out when you walked in.”
“Sorry about that,” I said awkwardly, and at once regretted it.
Jesus, Evie. You’re apologizing to a cat burglar for walking in on him while he plundered your home. This is a new low, even for you.
“Just behave yourself and we’ll get along fine,” he said.