A familiar sibilant hiss filled the room for several seconds. Just as I was beginning to wonder if I’d misinterpreted the significance of the tape player, a tinny version of Laura’s voice started in. “Rachel,” it began. Then a pause. Then a clearing of the throat. Another pause. Finally, she began speaking again. “Rachel, this is Laura. If you’re listening to this, things have gone wrong. Or at least not the way I planned. I’m recording this while Dan is at work. Later tonight, you’ll be here babysitting while we’re away at … an event. I know this must seem strange to you. No one understands that better than I do. I’m—I don’t even understand it fully myself. But what I do understand is that somehow, Dan has changed. It’s been a slow process. Creeping. Like a fog that has settled over our lives. Things were fine last summer. Remember? You were here all the time. Things were fine.”
That was true. I hadn’t noticed anything amiss then, and I’d watched Liv a few days a week, at least. Laura’s voice went on. “In early autumn, things started changing. He stopped doing the things he used to enjoy. He began coming home late, though he never goes out with his friends anymore, so I don’t know what he’s doing. He won’t talk about it. But he’s definitely not in this—whatever it is—by himself. I’ll walk in a room where he’s on the phone, and he’ll end the conversation. He’s withdrawn. With me, anyway. He’s mostly the same with Liv. At least, she hasn’t noticed anything, I don’t think.” I was beginning to think that Liv noticed more than Laura realized, but of course, there was no telling her that now.
“I’ve tried talking to him about it and got nowhere. He almost had me convinced that it was my imagination. But then …” her voice faded, and there were several seconds of hissing tape. “Last week I overheard him on the phone. I don’t know who he was talking to, but he was telling someone that I’d told him I thought there was something wrong with Liv. That she was dangerous.” Her voice rose. “I never said that! I’ve never said anything like that, to Dan or anyone. Liv is the most perfect thing in my life.”
There was another long pause. When she began talking again, her voice was quiet and calm. “That’s why I need your help. This isn’t just about me now. I believe that Liv is in danger, and I need to be able to count on someone I can trust to help keep her safe. I know you will do that. Even though you’re young, you’re responsible, you’re smart, and most importantly, you love her.”
She continued, “I was planning to take her away, to somewhere safe. I never thought I would say that, but I won’t take chances with her life. Since you’re listening to this, I’m assuming that at least right now, I can’t take her myself.” I could almost feel her holding her breath before exhaling heavily. “I need you to take her away.”
Well. These are some developments, huh? Click here to see what happens next.