The Man Next Door

“The Man Next Door” from Death Wears a Beauty Mask by Mary Higgins Clark

Mr. Mensch just finished with one of his “guests” and is looking for a new “visitor” to join him. Mr. Mensch inherited millions from his penny-pinching, miserly father. He has moved around the country and had many “visitors” stay with him in his basement or secret rooms.

This is not good

He’s been looking at his neighbor Bree Matthews, watching her. He knows that choosing her would be dangerous, police would come-but he can’t get her out of his head. She had been remodeling her townhouse next door and had a leak destroy everything. She came over enraged and yelling that the contractor told her it was his fault-he had a leak pouring onto her roof. Mensch just told her calmly to get another contractor take a look-its not his fault. While he was calm on the inside, a fire was growing inside him. He wanted her.

The next day, Bree came to apologize and admit she was wrong. She had another contractor view and it turns out the original contractor cut a lot of corners. Mensch accepted her apology and couldn’t deny it. She was to be his next visitor.

That night he went to work, cutting out the stone in the basement that connects the two houses, his plan to get in and get Bree.

Bree has been having a bad weekend. She had her beautiful home decorated and destroyed by shoddy work. She is taking the contractor to court, which caused a fight and break up with her boyfriend Kevin Carter, as he felt she should just accept the settlement. She had to spend their planned Friday night alone, leave the office early Saturday because she has a cold, and spent all Sunday in bed miserable. Now she is heading to court and is woken early because of a strange grinding noise from next door. Ugh!

She doesn’t know how much worse her life is about to get as that noise marks Mensch’s entrance. He breaks in, drugs her up-makes it look as if she was abducted on her way home Friday night, and imprisons her in her basement. Will she make it out okay, or face the same fate as his previous’ visitors?

Thoughts After Reading:

I loved it. It was so engrossing that I read faster and faster until I reached the conclusion. I had to know if she survived or ended up dead in the river.

For more Mary Higgins Clark, go to Let Me Call You Sweetheart

For more from Death Wears a Beauty Mask, go to Voices in the Coalbin

For more short stories, go to A Much Expected Murder

For more books with kidnapping, go to The Secret Adversary

For more serial killers, go to The House on Foster Hill

Voices in the Coalbin

“Voices in the Coalbin” from Death Wears a Beauty Mask by Mary Higgins Clark

This was a great one.

Mike and Laurie met, married, and life was good. Mike a junior partner in his father’s law firm and Laurie a well-known soprano opera singer. They had a nice home which they were decorating.

But then that all changed. Every night she has the same nightmare, these people trying to take her and make her sing with them. She is afraid of everything and everywhere. She was raised by a hypochondriac, abusive grandmother who tried to have her fear everything. Laurie tried to break it, but it looks as of it has a firm grip on her.

Oh no!

Her therapist told Mike that it would be nice to go away somewhere. So he decided that they should go to his grandparents cabin in Milwaukee. Mike has all these great memories from his childhood but when they get there is it all gloomy and dark. It turns out there is a cold storm overhead.

They start looking through the house trying to sort what they might want from the cabin before it sells. As they search through the closets, Mike finds an old Victrola. He winds it up and starts playing Chinatown. A song that Laurie remembers from childhood.

Laurie freaks out when she hears it

And it turns out that her grandmother used to play that sing and she told her the voices were trapped in the coalbin. Laurie never went in the basement and coalbin ever again, and she still hasn’t since.

The two go down to the coalbin, Laurie feeling strong. And then the two go to bed.

The next morning Mike wakes up happy, and sees that Laurie is gone. He searches everywhere but the last trace was Laurie’s footsteps in the basement.

They find her body, she drowned in the river. But when they do the autopsy they find coal dust.

What?!

And later, when Mike is going through the house again-he listens to the Victrola-and hears Laurie’s voice on the record.

WHAT!

Great story, great ending.

For more from Death Wears a Beauty Mask, go toDefinitely, A Crime of Passion

For more Mary Higgins Clark, go to Stowaway

For more short stories, go to Zero Hour