Hush: A Novel

PAIN WOKE HER forced open her eyes. She was lying in pitch-black darkness, and her head was throbbing, as if someone had smashed the back of it with a chair. There was a weird taste in her mouth—metallic. I’ve cut the inside of my mouth, she thought. She tried to find the spot with her tongue, but it was too swollen to move.

Where am I? she wondered, panic-stricken. Her heart began to pound in time with the throbbing in her head. She tried to shift her body, but she felt paralyzed.

She forced herself to take a breath. I’m in a nightmare, she told herself, one of those nightmares you can dream and see yourself in at the same time. And I’m going to wake up. As she breathed, she smelled something musty, like mildewed clothes. No, this was real. She tried again to shift her body. Her arms didn’t move but she was able to twist her head a little.

A sound slid through the blackness—a long, low groan that she didn’t recognize. Her heart pounded harder. It’s a motor, she thought finally.

She realized at last where she was. But why? Had she fallen? Or had someone hit her? Her mind was so confused, her thoughts choked like a tangle of weeds in a lake. She found the beginning and tried to go step by step from there. The last thing she recalled was trying to reach the flashlight. It must have gone out, though. How long had she been here, and why was she alone? And then suddenly she knew. She remembered everything. She let out an anguished sob at the truth.

She realized that the hum of the motor must be from the freezer she’d seen earlier, which meant the power was back on. She had to get out. She twisted her head back and forth and commanded the rest of her body to move. Her legs still felt leaden, like metal drums filled to the brim, but she was able to shift one of her arms—the right one. She flexed her right hand slowly open and closed.

Then there was another noise—from far above this time. Footsteps. And next a door opening. Terror engulfed her body, squeezing air from her lungs.

The killer was coming to get her.

1

“YOU’VE GOT A secret, don’t you?”

“What do you mean?” Lake asked. Caught off guard by the comment, she set her wineglass down on the café table and pulled her head back slightly.

“There’s a cat-that-ate-the-canary look on your face.”

She knew Molly was picking up on something she herself had only realized in the past few days: the grief and guilt that had stalked her so unmercifully for four months had finally begun to retreat. She felt lighter, less oppressed, suddenly even hungry for life again. Earlier, as she’d hurried down Ninth Avenue to meet Molly for lunch in Chelsea, she’d actually felt a brief surge of joy—because of the brilliant summer sky and the work she was doing and the fact that somewhere something new and good might be waiting for her.

“Don’t tell me you’re seeing someone?” Molly added.

“God, no,” Lake said. “I just feel like the gloom has finally lifted.” She smiled. “I may even surprise you and be less than a total sad sack today.”

“Just remember, it can be a real emotional roller coaster right now,” Molly said, shaking out her long red hair. “What I learned the first year after my divorce was that you feel great one second and then bam, the blues are back—and you’re in bed for the next four days with the covers pulled over your head.”

“I’m not expecting