Authors: Alyse Zaftig
on the TV while she was cleaning out the basement before lunch. Maybe they could turn it into a playroom for the baby. It was unfinished at the moment, but the contractor that they'd had come by to give them a quote had told them a number that didn't seem too unreasonable. Right now, it was half of a man cave. It wasn't really furnished besides a TV and a couch, but it was where Andreas went to have some alone time and watch football games.
She listened with half an ear to the local news channel as she swept the floor.
Something made her turn around, the broom in her hand. She turned around to stare at the TV. The news report said that a sudden death of a local businessman had been ruled an accidental poisoning. The man was a known eager forager and he had brewed the wrong leaves into a decanter of oil he often traveled with and taken it just before going to a dinner meeting with a mysterious Mr. Drake, who hadn’t bee found.
Phoebe didn’t know much about poisons or foraging, but something didn’t sit right with her. She thought back to the card that she had found in Andreas’ pocket. A chill passed over her. She stopped cleaning the basement and brought the broom upstairs.
She should get started on something. She stirred up a bunch of eggs and put in milk and seasoning before popping it into a pan. Omelettes were just about the easiest thing to do, but Andreas never minded. Quickly, since the eggs were already cooking, she pulled a tomato out of the fridge and diced it before through it in. Tomatoes were very forgiving as ingredients. Barely cooked, they tasted fine. Well done, they tasted fine. She flipped the omelette and then sprinkled a little romano cheese on top.
She got out a plate and cut the omelette in half. She put a hand on her stomach. For some reason, she was having tons of dairy cravings. She got out the ficelle that she had bought from then French bakery only a mile away from their house. She cut a small piece for herself and then got a bigger piece for Andreas. She got out her Kerrygold butter, an Irish butter that reminded her of French butter, and she slathered it all over the bread. The baby obviously wanted high calorie food.
She put the omelette halves into the sandwiches and then cut up a cucumber to go on top for extra crunch. Andreas still wasn’t home. She put in the smallest bit of mint inside of the sandwiches.
Andreas said that he would be home for lunch, but it was already later than she’d expect. She just knew that something was wrong. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but Andreas had definitely been keeping something from her. Something definitely was wrong; there was something heavy in her gut.
She went to wash her hands. She opened up the fridge and got out a Coke. She knew that pregnant ladies weren’t supposed to drink caffeine, but she needed the mix of caffeine and sugar right now.
Phoebe whirled around, her heart racing a mile a minute.
“Oh, you’re home.”
He sniffed. “Is that mint?”
“I made omelette sandwiches.”
“Smells pretty good.” Andreas leaned down to kiss his wife. “You look more beautiful every day, you know that?”
Phoebe stood on her tiptoes to kiss him again. “I’m glad that you’re home. I was starting to worry.”
Andreas shook his head. “Why worry about a chef? What, do you think that one day you’ll get called to the hospital to learn about my third degree burns? You think I’m going to chop off a finger or something?”
“No,” Phoebe said. “You’re right. It’s silly to worry.”
“Not silly,” he said, tightening his arms around her. “I love that you care.” He kissed her temple. “I’m starving. Let’s sit down and eat.”
Phoebe grabbed the plates so that they could eat at the table like civilized people. When they were done, she felt a lot better. Maybe all of those worries came from being a little too hungry. She was eating for two right now, after all, and maybe being extra hungry made her think crazy things. Andreas had nothing to do with that guy who was in TV. She ignored the strange feeling in the gut. It was probably just indigestion caused by the baby.
“I’m working the dinner shift tonight, babe. So don’t wait up for me, okay?”
“Sounds good. I’m just going to clean up and then take a nap.”
Andreas stood up and pulled Phoebe to her feet before lifting her by the waist and kissing her soundly.
“Go to bed early, okay? I want to wake you up…early, if you know what I mean.”
She smiled and kissed his cheek. “I know what you mean.”
He put her back on her feet.
“I love you, too.” Phoebe sighed internally.
Andreas went back into his car and drove back to Chung’s. Phoebe was exhausted, but she still cleaned up the pan that she’d used for the omelettes and the knife that she’d used for the butter. She did a quick wash of the plates that they had used.
She didn’t feel as tired after washing the dishes. The strange feeling in her gut was still there. She didn’t know too much about law enforcement, but she was the daughter of an FBI agent, after all, and her dad had taught her a few things over the years. Everything that he’d ever taught her was coming back in a flood now.
She snooped in all the usual hiding places: underwear drawers, under mattresses, secret drawers.
She gave up after finding exactly nada after her search. Her husband had nothing to hide from her. These pregnancy hormones were really taking her for a ride.
She went to the TV room to settle on the couch and take a little day nap. As she closed her eyes, she remembered with a jolt that she hadn’t turned off the TV downstairs.
She got to her feet to turn it off before she could take her nap. She went straight to the TV and turned it off.
Had there always been a strange rectangle under the TV? It didn’t look as if it were part of the original design. Phoebe touched the little box. She was surprised when a front panel swung forward to reveal a few buttons.
Phoebe pressed the green one. She heard whirring behind her. Her heart was thumping in her chest when she saw something that she thought was a wall moving aside to show another room beyond it. She walked into the hidden room. At the far corner, there was an enormous safe that took up all the space from the ceiling to the floor. It had obviously been custom-built for this space. Maybe she had it backwards. Maybe the room was built for the safe.
She knew Andreas’ password for everything: her birthday backwards. He told her that she was the most important thing in his life, and he’d never forget her birthday.
She spun the dial three times. She was shocked but not shocked when the safe came open. Inside, there was a black box. She pulled it out. Her eyes widened as she opened it. The box was filled with fake passports, tons of international currency, credit cards under many names, and a vial of liquid with some sort of white flower and onion-like buds popping out from the center on the label.
She started hyperventilating. Her heart was going a mile a minute, and her mind wasn’t far behind. What did all of this mean?
Suddenly, she couldn’t stand to be in the secret room for a second longer. She brought the black box up the stairs with her and put it on the counter.
Going into the pantry, she took out the box of chamomile tea to soothe her nerves. She made just one cup and waited for the tea to steep. She paced around the kitchen, her mind going in circles.
She didn’t know who her husband was. At all. It was clear that he was much more than she’d ever seen. She’d known that he had secrets, but then, who didn’t?
Her eyes filled with tears that she refused to shed. She had to think about her baby. She could stay home and confront him, but she was afraid that he’d somehow convince her to stay.
She was done with the secrets. She dealt with enough from her dad.
Her daddy. He’d know what to do about this.
She gulped down her chamomile tea and washed out her tea cup. She opened up her MacBook and put up a vacation notice on her Etsy shop. She went upstairs and packed up some of her clothes and some toiletries into her biggest suitcase. She lugged it downstairs and put it into the spacious trunk of her Lexus SUV. She had thought that it was a thoughtful wedding present, but she had to wonder now where Andreas had gotten the money. Was it clean?
She called her dad while she drove towards her childhood home, but he wasn’t answering his phone. She left a message for him to meet her at their boathouse, which was her childhood hideout.
Phoebe saw that the needle of her fuel gauge was very close to empty. She pulled into the nearest BP. She swiped her card and waited for her tank to fill up.
Her stomach grumbled suddenly. Apparently the buttery omelette sandwich wasn’t enough for the baby.
“I’ll feed you soon, I promise.” She patted her baby. No matter what happened, she would never regret having a baby conceived in love, even if it turned out that the baby’s father was something that she’d never even contemplated.
Throughout her pregnancy, she’d been Mrs. Waterworks, but she was very strangely calm. Maybe it was because she was operating under total shock. It would’ve been one thing if she’d seen that Andreas had some sort of secret life, probably a criminal one, but she had no idea. She loved Andreas completely. She knew that he was some kind of criminal, but she didn’t really want to know more than that.
Her father had been right all along: Andreas’ lack of family was definitely a symptom of a bigger problem. Maybe Andreas’ criminal activity was a reason why he’d been late so often.
Finally, her tank was full. She replaced the handle where it belonged before closing the opening. She got a receipt from the gas pump. She locked her car and headed towards the inside of the gas station. She had a really strong craving for Cheetos.
“Phoebe.” A deep voice was speaking behind her. She turned and found a hand covering her mouth, muffling her screams as she lost consciousness.
up in the back of an SUV that was going through a winding driveway leading to a huge estate. She looked through the windows, but all she could see was a huge expanse of green in every direction, almost like a golf course. Her heart began to pound, but she needed to keep a grip. She was still clothed. Nothing had been done to her besides being knocked out. Her hands were free. She had to keep her head. She wished that she’d taken self defense classes.
She told herself over and over to stay calm as the car pulled up to a very well-dressed man and two bodyguards in black at each side.
He opened her car door.
“Welcome, lovely Phoebe. You look prettier than the pictures. Won’t you come in and eat?”
He asked as if she had a choice, which she didn’t. Phoebe resisted the urge to put a hand on her baby. If she was lucky, this creep didn’t know about the baby and wouldn’t be able to use the baby as a bargaining chip.
“Of course,” she said, keeping up with the pretense that she had a choice here. “I’d love to.”
“Take my arm, dear.”
Phoebe swallowed hard and then did as he asked. She hoped that he wouldn’t hurt her, but she didn’t have any control over the situation.
They walked inside of a very large house, a house big enough that she might call it a mansion.
“You’re very beautiful, my dear. You look so much more like your mother than your father.”
Phoebe swallowed hard again. How much did this guy know about her? Why was he talking about her parents?
They walked into a large dining room with two table settings that were beautifully done.
“I hope you don’t mind a rustic meal, my dear. I don’t stand on ceremony much. Just some pasta, if that’s okay.”
“Yes, I love pasta.”
Phoebe had the surreal experience of her kidnapper pulling her chair out for her and waiting for her to be seated before he took his own seat.
They ate quietly. Phoebe was expecting for there to be some kind of strange bitterness or any kind of indication of poison or drugs, but there wasn’t anything besides normal fettucine alfredo.
When she was done, she wiped her mouth.
“Did you like it, dear Phoebe?”
Why did he insist on using endearments? She’d never met him before. “It was delicious. Thank you.”
“Oh, my chef deserves all the praise, but I’ll pass it on. Would you like dessert?”
“No, thank you.” Phoebe couldn’t eat another bite. The serving had been more than generous.
“Then let’s get down to a little business, shall we?”
“Business? I don’t even know your name.”
He hit the side of his head with his palm gently. “Oh, how rude. I’m Odhran Garin.”
“Phoebe, but I know that you know that already.”
He inclined his head just a smidgen. “Yes, I do.” He cleared his throat. “My dear, do you know anything about the Crucible?”
Phoebe felt her her eyebrows float upward.
He frowned at her and shook his head. “That’s unfortunate.”
Phoebe frowned back at him. What did he mean?
“Well, I should show you to your chambers, dear Phoebe.”
He got to his feet and pulled out her chair. He put her hand on his arm again as he walked up a flight of steps. She got to the top-most floor of the mansion when he turned and brought her to a room.
“Here are your chambers. You should get some rest, dear Phoebe.”
Strange. She was sleepy all the time now because of the baby, but being told to rest was weird.
She stepped inside of the room and Odhran closed the door behind her. She was very startled to realize that there wasn’t a door knob on the other side. She could hear the thunk of a deadbolt sliding. She was locked in with no way out.
She could see that she had a bathroom attached to her bedroom, so she would be okay for the moment.
Phoebe promised herself that she would cry. She sat down on the edge of her bed before falling backwards and staring at the ceiling. Her head was full of confusion. Odhran wanted some kind of Crucible. Was this about her dad or her husband? Why was this guy being so polite and vague? Why was her lack of knowledge about the Crucible unfortunate?