The Chilling Disaster Chapter One

PRE-ORDER • AVAILABLE DECEMBER 21ST

CHAPTER ONE

Kinsey

Kinsey pulled up at Cora’s apartment, trying not to be too excited about what she had found. She wanted her dear friend’s advice about finding Quinn’s sketch of Chandler entering her bedroom, but she didn’t want her to freak out and overreact.

Cora had changed the wreath on the door to a large sunflower that hid a small window behind it. Kinsey knocked, and a moment later, Cora let her in.

“Cute wreath,” she said as she entered. She dropped her bag in the chair by the door.

“Yeah, I got really creeped out about that window the other night and decided that I should probably cover it up. I don’t know who designed these apartments, but a peephole would have sufficed.”

“Well, that certainly did the trick.” The flower was huge and covered the entire thing. “But how did you know it was me at the door?”

“Oh, I cut a hole in it, see?”

“No, I don’t see it.”

“That’s the point,” said Cora, grinning ear to ear. “I don’t want anyone seeing me looking out.”

“That’s pretty neat,” said Kinsey.

Cora shrugged. “Yeah, well, it was the only thing I could find. Anyway, I know you don’t really care about my wreath. Tell me what is going on. I could tell you were all worked up about something when you called.”

She went to the kitchen, and Kinsey followed, taking her phone with her.

“Do you know how I told you I was going to the Larsons’?”

“Don’t tell me,” said Cora. “That blew up in your face. What happened? Did Mrs. Larson freak out on you for wanting to look at Quinn’s art?”

“No. It didn’t blow up in my face. But speaking of Mrs. Larson, she’s going through some strange phase of denial. I’m not sure what she’s thinking, but you’d think her daughter wasn’t missing at all by the way she is acting.”

“What?” asked Cora. “I figured she’d be a mess by now.”

“Yeah, I thought so too. But no. Instead, she was telling me that things can’t just change because of it. She was so weird.”

“She’s always been weird,” said Cora, as if she had known the woman forever. “Was the father there?”

“No, he wasn’t. He was at work. I mean, really? Your daughter is missing, and you go to work like it’s any other day? It’s like nothing was happening.”

Cora shook her head. “God, that is weird. But you know, people do strange things when they are grieving and in emotional distress. Some clean their houses to stay busy. Others cook and try to feed everyone. It’s like they need to find some way to get through it. Maybe it’s just their way of keeping their sanity.”

“No, I’m pretty sure that went out the window a long time ago.” Kinsey thought of how strange the whole house felt while she was there. “It was creepy being in her room, too. I mean, even with Ruby there. I’m glad she went with me. She showed me how to get way more information on my phone. I took a video clip of several of her books of work.”

“So, what went wrong?” Cora reached for two mugs and offered one to Kinsey.

“None for me,” said Kinsey, waving her hand at Cora’s offer. “So, after talking to Mrs. Larson a bit, I went to the room with Ruby, and we looked around. Ruby had a bit of trouble at first because she hadn’t ever been in that bedroom, but we eventually found the sketchbooks. She has a lot of art.”

“Was Ruby right about them? Did you find something in them?”

“Yeah, we did. And I don’t know what to do with it.” She turned on her phone and found the photos she’d taken of the artwork, stopping on the photo of the sketch of Chandler.

“What to do with what?” asked Cora, who was trying to get her coffee made.

“This,” she said, placing her phone on the counter next to Cora’s hand.

Cora leaned in and looked at the drawing. “Wow. That is definitely Chandler. She’s really good.”

“Yeah, she’s got a future with it, for sure. This is the rough sketch for the painting she did in my class.”

“Rough sketch? That is fine art compared to what I could doodle.”

“Yeah, well, I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw it.” She still couldn’t believe it, and never in a million years would she have thought that the shadow in the doorway was Chandler.

“Why?” she asked with a shrug. “Didn’t he already explain that she had a little crush on him?”

Kinsey couldn’t believe she didn’t get it. “Yeah, but he also said that he never acted on it. And look at this.” Kinsey hated to think about what was going on with the two.

“Yeah?” Cora shrugged again.

“That is her bedroom he’s going into. The creep went into that girl’s bedroom.”

“He looks like he is really angry,” added Cora.

Kinsey gave it another look. “Do you think so?” She hadn’t really thought about that.

“Yeah, he doesn’t look happy.” Cora turned her head as if trying to make sense of it. “I mean, I guess it’s hard to say what he’s feeling.”

“Well, I think it’s obvious that there was something going on with them. And Quinn told me I’d figure it out when she finished the painting. She had just agreed to explain things to me when she ran away. Maybe she got cold feet and didn’t want to admit it.”

Cora’s eyes narrowed as if she’d had a thought. “Does she know that you cooked for Chandler?”

“I don’t think so. Why?”

“Well, maybe she got jealous of you.”

“She wouldn’t know that unless she’s been watching the house. Maybe she would have seen him coming and going now and then. You don’t think that she thinks there is something going on between me and Chandler, do you?”

“I don’t know,” said Cora, looking an awful lot like that was exactly what she was thinking. “But if she is the one with the obsession for him, maybe she thought you two were hooking up. I mean, I can see her being jealous of you. And maybe that’s why she was acting so strange at first. You have to admit that she was acting very cryptic about why she was at your house. That would make sense.”

“Or it would make more sense if maybe they had seen each other and she thought that. Maybe that’s why she came back to the house that night I caught her.”

“But why go inside your house? Why not go upstairs?”

“I don’t know. Maybe she expected to find both of us in my bed.”

“It’s possible,” said Cora, looking doubtful.

“Well, it doesn’t matter. Now that I know that he was in her room, I know he lied.”

Cora’s eyes narrowed. “Do you, though? That’s a stretch.”

“What do you mean? Do I? Here’s the proof.” She showed her the drawing again. “It has to mean something.”

“Does it?” asked Cora.

“Of course, it does.” Quinn didn’t just draw it for the hell of it.

“Look, Kinsey, I know you are concerned for her, but all I see is a girl who is fantasizing about an older man. That lines up with what he told you.”

“Seriously? Are we supposed to believe that? I’m just supposed to believe him?”

“Why not? I think it’s all we can believe until we have other proof. He’s already explained it to you once, and it’s not like Quinn is making the claims. You are just guessing.”

She let out a heavy sigh, realizing that she was right.

Cora gave her a sympathetic look. “Do you think that his story is going to change any if you ask him about it?”

“Probably not. But he might know where she went.” That was all Kinsey really cared about—finding Quinn.

“Or she is into some other guy, and that’s where she is. Just like he suggested.”

“Or he knows where she is. He could be in communication at the very least.”

“Wouldn’t she be with him though? Like at his house? You know she’s not, right? I think you’d be able to tell unless he was holding her prisoner, which he’s clearly not.”

That was ridiculous, but maybe the whole thing was. “I guess so. But shouldn’t I take this to the police? I could at least ask Nolan about it. Shouldn’t someone talk to him about it?”

“And what then? You don’t know if it’s true. That’s a serious allegation to make against someone, especially since he already denied having anything to do with her. It’s probably better that you don’t jump to conclusions.”

“Who are you, and what have you done with Cora? You’re the queen of overreacting and jumping to conclusions.”

“I just think that in this case, you should wait until Quinn is around before you go and ruin a man’s life with that level of suspicion.”

“I guess you’re right.”

“Of course I am,” said Cora.

“Well, I have to confront him, right? Shouldn’t I ask him about it?”

“No. You don’t have to confront him. Let it go. Wait for Quinn to explain. You have to be smart about this, Kinsey. You live right there with him. Don’t confront him and upset him. That’s the last thing you want to do, since you have to deal with him every day.”

She had a point that Kinsey hadn’t really considered. How would this affect her living there? “Fine, I’ll keep it to myself and look into him a little bit more. I guess I really don’t have any reason to think that he’s seeing her or that anything improper happened between them. I just can’t believe that she would draw this.”

“It’s a fantasy. Maybe it doesn’t mean what you think. I wouldn’t take it out of context. So, did you find anything else?”

“Just a bunch of drawings of my house. She really did seem to include a lot of things from her life into her art. Some of it was creepy. Check this one out.” She showed her the drawing of the dollhouse.

“Oh, weird,” said Cora. “Who is the little boy?”

Kinsey looked at it again. “That’s weird. I didn’t even notice it was a little boy playing with the dollhouse. I just saw a child.” Kinsey thought that was a bit odd, but there was no telling what kind of statement Quinn was making with her art. “I guess there are little boys who play with dollhouses. It is just strange that this house is oddly like mine.”

“Maybe it’s like writing what you know. Maybe Quinn is drawing what she knows. She needed a dollhouse. She used her own home. Quinn is a kid. How deep do you really expect her art to be?”

“I guess. I wish I could understand it enough to find her. But I don’t think the answer is in any of it. If it is, I can’t find it.”

“You’d have to be a mind reader. Anyway, maybe she’s just drawing things that seem cool to her. That’s what I always did.”

“I guess you’re right.”

“You know I am. You just needed me to talk you off the ledge.”

“Yeah, I guess so. I just hope it’s not true. If he’s the kind of man who would mess with a child, I don’t want him anywhere near me. He should be locked up.”

“I agree,” said Cora. “Now, let me fix you some coffee, and we’ll go look at the other stuff I bought. You need to cheer up, and you know how much I love showing off my recent purchases.”

Kinsey laughed. “Thanks for being here for me.”

“Hey, what are friends for?” asked Cora.

Kinsey leaned in and hugged her. She knew that eventually, the truth would come to light, and it was best not to rock the boat while she was living in it. Once Quinn returned, that would be her situation to explain.

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