The Dead Girls Club - Damien Angelica Walters Page 0,2

house in Edgewater, thirty minutes from my Linthicum office, overlooks the South River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. Fifteen minutes from downtown Annapolis and all the restaurants and local seafood you could ever want, but our neighborhood’s quiet. Only one road leads in or out, and after I make the turn, the sound of traffic vanishes, like a blanket’s been settled over it all.

I pull into the driveway, not bothering with the garage, even though there’s plenty of room with Ryan’s side still empty. When his truck is parked there, it feels too small for both our vehicles, even though I know it’s not. I step out of the car, a small dog lets loose with a series of high-pitched barks, and an engine revs. The rich smell of grilling meat hangs heavy in the air. It feels even warmer now than it did this morning. September’s always a funny month. One foot still in summer, the other in autumn.

Nothing waits in the mailbox other than a sale flyer and a gas-and-electric bill. A little bit of tension eases from my shoulders as I walk the stone path to the front door. The house, a Craftsman with cream-colored siding, black shutters, and a wide covered porch, has four bedrooms, two and a half baths, a two-car garage, and a secluded backyard ending at the river. It’s bigger than two people need, but ten years ago it was in sorry shape, so we got it for a steal.

The interior of the house, filled with a mix of furniture inherited from his grandparents and pieces found in consignment shops or on Craigslist, is even quieter than the neighborhood. Normally it’s welcoming; today it’s suffocating.

I refuse to look in the mirror above the small table in the foyer, can’t bear to see the liar reflected there. Balancing from one foot to the other, I pull off my heels, then take the stairs two at a time up to my bedroom, my bag bouncing against my shoulder blade.

Small velvet squares in the bottom drawer of my jewelry box cup my earrings, and in the back row in the corner, beneath a plastic bag holding spare buttons to a jacket I no longer own, is my half of the heart. Did part of me know this day would come? Is that why I’ve kept it all these years?

As I search the outside pocket of my bag, I think I’ve lost Becca’s half and my shoulders get tight, then my fingertip hooks the chain. Maybe they won’t match. Maybe this is a coincidence of monstrous proportions. Maybe I mentioned it sometime, somewhere, and someone picked up on it. Fixated on it. One of my former patients occasionally sends cheap medallions, all of them pseudo-religious in nature, though the religions are usually headed by online gurus who push detox cleanses and herbal supplements.

I could say such things a dozen times, a thousand, and still wouldn’t believe them. Besides, the proof is here in front of me. Time and tarnish notwithstanding, the halves fit together. There’s power here. It bound us then, it binds us now. Inescapable. Irrevocable.

We crooked our fingers together when we put them on for the first time, Becca and I. A pinkie swear. Best friends forever.

I said it that last night. She did, too. And we weren’t lying. My chest tightens. I yank the heart apart, dropping mine back into the jewelry box and holding Becca’s by the chain. The heart spins a slow circle like a hypnotist’s pocket watch.

Tell me your story. Where have you been? What have you seen? Why are you here? Who sent you?

There were only two people in the basement that night, but did we examine the rest of the house first? Could someone have been hiding; could they have seen the whole thing? What we—what I—did, what the Red Lady made me do? I shake my head. Not possible. We would’ve known. We would’ve heard.

And they would’ve stopped us.

I gather the necklace in my palm and finger the broken clasp. The two ends are still hooked together but hanging from one side of the chain. It wasn’t broken that night. It was on her neck when I …

If someone else was there, did they yank it off?

The garage door purrs, and I return the necklace to my bag. Meet Ryan downstairs and fold into his arms, ignoring his protestations that he’s sweaty and grimy.

“Rough day?” he says into my hair, and I answer with a nod. In