I go to the gallery of photos stored in the phone, finding a trove of ones snapped inside the Bartholomew. The most recent photo, taken in a bathtub, is a close-up of her toes peeking out of a mound of frothy suds.
It’s the claw-foot tub in the master bathroom of 12A. I know because I took a bath there myself during my first night at the Bartholomew. I might have even used the same bubble bath. It makes me wonder if Erica, too, found it beneath the bathroom sink, or if she brought it with her. I hope it’s the latter. The idea of me repeating her actions gives me an uneasy chill.
I scroll through the rest of Erica’s pictures. It turns out she’s an impressive cell phone photographer. She took dozens of well-composed shots of 12A’s interior. The spiral steps. A view of the park taken from the dining room. George’s right wing kissed by the light of dawn.
It seems she’s also a fan of selfies. I find pictures of Erica in the kitchen. Erica in the study. Erica at the bedroom window.
Sitting among the selfies are two videos Erica took. I tap the oldest one first, and her beaming face fills the screen.
“Look at this place,” she says. “Seriously. Look. At. This. Place.”
The image streaks away from Erica to the bedroom window before swirling around the room itself, the visual equivalent of the dizzy euphoria she must have felt in that moment. I felt the same way. Amazed and fortunate.
After two full spins around the room, Erica returns. Looking directly into the camera, she says, “If this is a dream, don’t wake me up. I never want to leave this place.”
The video ends a second later, freezing on a shot of her face halfway filling the screen. The other half is a canted angle of the window, George and the city skyline beyond his wing.
I turn to Dylan, who’s still staring at the phone with a vacant look in his eyes. I saw that same expression on my father’s face shortly after Jane vanished. It never truly went away.
“Are you okay?” I ask.
“Yeah.” Dylan then shakes his head. “Not really.”
I slide my finger to the second video. The time stamp says it was taken on October fourth.
The night Erica vanished.
Steeling myself with a deep breath, I tap it.
The video begins with blackness. There’s a rustling sound as the phone moves, giving a glimpse of darkened wall.
The sitting room.
I’m intimately familiar with those faces in the wallpaper.
The phone suddenly stops on Erica’s face, painted gray by moonlight coming through the window. Gone is the giddy, pinch-me grin she displayed in the other video. In its place is quickly building dread. Like she already knows something bad is about to happen. The image blurs as the phone shakes slightly.
Her hands. They’re trembling.
She whispers to the camera. “It’s just past midnight, and I swear I heard a noise. I think—I think something’s inside the apartment.”
I let out a gasp. I know the noise she’s talking about. I’ve heard it as well. That ethereal sound, like the whisper of fabric.
On-screen, Erica looks over her shoulder. My gaze drifts there, too, searching the shadows, expecting to see someone waiting there, watching. When Erica turns back to the phone, she locks eyes with her own image on the screen. She seems unnerved by what she sees.
“I don’t know what’s going on here. This whole building. It’s not right. We’re being watched. I don’t know why, but we are.” She exhales. “I’m scared. I’m really fucking scared.”
A noise rises in the background.
A single knock on the door.
Erica jumps at the sound. Her eyes become as wide as silver dollars. Fear sizzles through them.
“Fuck,” she whispers. “It’s him.”
The screen suddenly goes black.
The video’s abrupt end is jarring. Like a slap to the face. Yanked back to reality, I realize I’m holding my breath and have been since the video started. When I do breathe again, it’s a slow exhalation. Beside me, Dylan leans forward, practically doubled over, as if he’s about to be sick. He takes a series of quick, shallow breaths.
“Do you have any idea what she’s talking about?” I say.
Dylan gulps before answering. “None. If she was feeling threatened by someone, she never told me about it.”
That word—threatened—makes me think of Ingrid. She definitely felt that way. For proof, one need look no further than the gun in a shoe box under my kitchen sink. I wonder if she grew to feel that way on her own or if Erica warned her. If so, I now understand why Ingrid was so afraid of the Bartholomew. Watching that video has shaken me to my core. It’s not just what Erica said that disturbs me. It’s the way she looked. Like someone frightened beyond all reason.
“Dylan, I think we’re in real danger here,” I say. “Especially if we’re right and Ingrid vanished because she knew what happened to Erica.”
Dylan stays silent, his face pensive, almost passive. Finally, he says, “I think you should stop looking for them.”
“Me? What about you?”
“I know how to defend myself.”
Of that, I have no doubt. Dylan’s got the build of a bodyguard. Big enough to give anyone second thoughts about attacking.
“But I need to know what happened to them,” I say.
We have too much in common. Me, Ingrid, Erica, and Megan. All of us adrift, without parents or nearby relatives, somehow finding our way here. Now three of us are gone.