The door was barricaded. I used the sofa as it was a small two-seater and fit perfectly between the door and the wall opposite. Short of taking an axe to the door or knocking down the wall, no one was coming in. Any gaps between the door and its frame were duct taped, aside from the floor, where I had pushed towels. I looked out a last time into an empty corridor and then taped over the peephole. If someone was watching me, I wasn’t about to give away when I was sleeping.

I started to sleep during the day mostly, although sometimes at night so I didn’t have any kind of pattern. I figured a break in was most likely at night, but then they would guess that I would think that.

I had plenty of canned goods and I stuck to serving them cold, the cooker was too noisy and even with the door taped, I didn’t want any detectable smell. The whiskey ran out early on and I had to dry out, I even got the shakes for a while. I guess my drinking had gotten worse than I thought.

Sometimes, it got pretty tough but I couldn’t leave. If I did, I would have to take Grace with me. I never had before and wouldn’t unless we were leaving permanently. If they found us, they would take her away instantly. That would be worse than anything else they could do to me.

I watched the movies on TV without sound. I could be caught off guard if I wore headphones, so I either watched them with subtitles or left them silent and tried to guess the stories. It wasn’t too bad except I couldn’t hear the scores and they were often my favourite part. Music could be married to an image to create a mood with perfect harmony to pull at your heartstrings. I knew it was an illusion but Grace didn’t understand the trick in her naivety. She’d just sit and look at me with tears in her eyes.

I let two weeks pass and I felt like a dog beaten into a corner. It’s not that I didn’t have plans, I had wriggled out of trouble my whole life and I was a quick thinker. Thing was this time, the first part of my plan was simply to wait. I had no idea who I was up against and so I couldn’t predict behaviour. But I could let time eliminate options. Now I knew it probably wasn’t a cop. They’d have taken me when I came in or they’d have got a warrant by now. Besides, if they’d even gone to the police in the first place, a missing person’s case would most likely be as good as ignored by now. If it was a hired professional in there, he couldn’t keep getting paid for bringing back nothing and would come off the daily clock eventually.

See, I thought about those words over and over in those two weeks. Pretty much in the first 24 hours, I had it pegged that this was some kind of interfering stranger. What’s my secret? That’s not the question of an aggrieved family member. No detective would reveal themselves in that way. I just had to wait to be sure.

I stared at the note for so long that I went through every possibility. Maybe everyone in the building got one from some crazed psycho or bored kids. Maybe it had been attached to the bottom of the box and fell off as I dropped it to the floor. Hell, maybe I wrote the damn thing and I’m fucking crazy. It sure feels like it as I look around the apartment.

I’d waited my two weeks and now it was time for action. I was violently anxious as I paced the floors to prepare to carry out the plan. I was pretty confident though. Even if I had been spotted in this city, I was always careful to not give away where I stayed. Only the landlord knew. He was just some deadbeat and he didn’t worry me.

Number 79 had been vacant before and maybe someone had actually taken up the place. Could have been the owner cleaning the place or checking it out. That sound could have been anything. Maybe I really was losing it.

I’d ordered the chains maybe a month before to the mail box. I liked to be prepared for any situation that might arise and it was at times like this that I felt good about that. Best to be a step ahead. I had no choice but to hide Grace and chain her to the wall. It hurt me to do it, because, well, I loved her. If they came in while I was gone and tried to take her, I would be back before they had even gotten close. They would be dead in minutes.

On the ground floor was a room for the concierge. He was hardly ever there, I’d see him smoking outside most of the time he was working. Other times, he would put up notes saying he was on vacation or out of the building. He didn’t seem to do a lot anyway. He wouldn’t be in and it was unlikely anyone would see me do it.

I left it until the early hours to go down there. As I turned the corner toward 79, I walked along the wall on the same side and kept low beneath fisheye view of the peephole as I passed. I kept the perfect balance between moving quickly and quietly.

I was always pretty good at taking things. That’s why I was in this mess to begin with, I guess. I picked the lock of the concierge’s door and took the tapes for the last couple of weeks and threw them in my bag. I was sick with nerves and so eager to get back upstairs that I nearly forgot the tape in the machine, incriminating me. I ejected it and took that too. I closed his door and walked calmly away. I’d return them before he knew they were gone. He would just think he had left the door open and I’d label an old tape with today’s date.

This time when I passed 79, I ran by. If they had been there, they wouldn’t be now and I had to get back to Grace.

I came in and locked the door behind me. I saw Grace was still there and then I replaced the towels and tape as swiftly as I could. I was breathing heavily and felt nauseous, so knelt in front of the toilet bowl. I wretched continually but didn’t vomit and was in so much pain that as I was beginning to feel sorry for myself, I remembered Grace. I got up and went to unchain her. I couldn’t believe I had left her there for so long. See, when Grace died, I promised us both that she couldn’t be hurt again.

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