Page 31 of The Perfect Couple

“You’ll excuse us, please, Elida?” Greer says.

Elida nods and scurries away.

“Does Elida live here?” Nick asks.

“She does not,” Greer says. “She works seven to five. Today she came a bit earlier because of the wedding.”

Nick follows Greer over to a simple mahogany desk, gleaming as though just polished. On the desk are a laptop, a legal pad, three pens, a dictionary, and a thesaurus. There’s a Windsor chair at the desk and Nick takes a seat and turns his attention to the computer. “So this here, A Slayer in Santorini, is the piece you were working on last night?”

“Yes,” Greer says.

“It says you closed it at twelve twenty-two a.m. But you told me eleven fifteen.”

“I stopped writing at eleven fifteen. I closed the document at twelve twenty-two, apparently.”

“But you said you went right to bed. You said you went to bed around eleven thirty.”

“I did go to bed,” Greer says. “But I had difficulty falling asleep, so I had a drink.”

“Of water?”

“No, a drink drink. I had a glass of champagne.”

“So sometime between eleven fifteen and twelve twenty-two a.m. you went to the kitchen for a glass of champagne?”

“Yes.”

“And did you notice any activity then?”

Greer pauses. “I did not.”

“You didn’t see anyone?” Nick says.

“Well, on my way back to my room I saw my daughter-in-law, Abby. She was going to the kitchen for water.”

“She was?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t she get water from the bathroom?”

“She wanted ice, is my guess. She’s pregnant. And it was a warm night.”

“Did you and Abby have a conversation?”

“A brief one.”

“What did she say to you?”

“She said she was waiting for Thomas to get home. He had gone out with Benji and the others.”

Ah, yes. Nick recalls that Abby was annoyed that Thomas had decided to go out. “Anything else?”

“Not really, no.”

“Did you see anyone else?”

“No.”

“And after you got your champagne, you returned to your bedroom to sleep?” Nick asks.

“That’s right.”

Nick pauses to scribble down notes. She lied to him ten minutes ago; there’s no reason to believe another word she says.

“Let me switch gears here. We found a two-person kayak overturned on your beach. Do you own such a kayak?”

“It belongs to my husband,” Greer says. She cocks her head. “It was left overturned on the beach, you say?”

“Yes. Does that seem odd to you?”

She nods slowly. “A bit.”

“And why is that?”

“Tag is fanatical about his kayaks,” Greer says. “He doesn’t leave them just lying about.”

“Is it possible that someone else used the kayak?”

“No, he keeps them locked up. If the two-person kayak was left out then he must have taken someone out on the water. If he were going out alone, he would have taken his one-person kayak.”

“Any idea who he might have taken out?”

Greer shakes her head. She looks far less confident than she did a moment ago, and Nick feels her losing her grip on the explanation she had so neatly written in her mind.

“I suppose you’ll have to ask my husband that,” she says.

Wednesday, May 30–Tuesday, June 19, 2018

TAG

He takes Merritt’s number but makes no plans to see her again. It’s a one-and-done, a weekend fling, which is how he likes to keep things with other women. There have been half a dozen or so over the course of his marriage, one-or two-night stands, women he never sees or thinks of again. His behavior has nothing to do with how he feels about Greer. Or maybe it does. Maybe it’s an assertion of power, of defiance. Greer entered the marriage with more money and higher social standing. Tag has always felt a touch inferior. The prowling around is how he balances the scales.

When he gets back to New York, two things happen. One is that Sergio Ramone calls. Tag considers letting the call go to voice mail. He fears that Sergio has learned that he took Merritt to the wine dinner and he’s calling to express his disapproval. But then Tag reminds himself that taking Merritt to the dinner was done with Greer’s blessing.

“Hello,” Tag says. “Sergio, how are you?”

It turns out that Sergio is calling for a very different reason. His contact at Skadden, Arps has told Sergio that there’s grumbling within the litigation department about Thomas Winbury. He isn’t pulling his weight, apparently. He takes long lunches and unscheduled vacation days. He often leaves work at five o’clock when other associates stay until nine or ten at night. At his last review, he was given a warning, but he’s shown no improvement. There’s talk of letting him go.

Tag sighs. Thomas has always put in just enough work to get by. Abby’s family is so wealthy that Tag suspects Thomas wants to get fired. He’ll work for Mr. Freeman in the oil business. He’ll move to Texas, which will break Greer’s heart.

“Thanks for the heads-up, Sergio,” Tag says. “I’ll have a talk with him.” He hangs up before Sergio can ask him how the wine dinner was and then he swears at the ceiling.

A few nights later, Thomas and Abby come for dinner at Tag and Greer’s apartment. Greer has made a leg of lamb and the apartment is redolent with the smell of roasting meat, garlic, and rosemary, but as soon as Abby enters the apartment, she covers her mouth with her hand and bolts for the bathroom.

Thomas shakes his head. “I guess she’s gone and ruined the surprise,” he says. “We’re pregnant again.”

Greer reaches out for Thomas, but they all know to limit their reaction to cautious optimism.

Tag shakes Thomas’s hand, then pulls him in for a hug and says, “You’ll make one hell of a father.” No sooner are the words out of his mouth than Tag doubts their veracity. Will Thomas make a hell of a father? He needs to buckle down at work, start setting an example. Tag nearly brings Thomas into his study to tell him as much, but he decides, in the end, to let the occasion be a happy one, or as happy as it can be with a woefully sick Abby. He’ll talk to Thomas another time.

That night, Tag can’t sleep. He slips from bed and goes into his study. His three home studies—the one in New York, the one in London, and the one on Nantucket—are sanctuaries dedicated to Tag’s privacy. No one enters without permission except the cleaning ladies.

Tag takes out his phone and scrolls for Merritt’s number.

She answers on the third ring. “Hey, Tag.”

Her voice brings it all back. There is noise in the background, voices, music—she’s out somewhere. It’s two o’clock in the morning on a Wednesday night. Tag should not be pursuing this.

“Hey yourself,” he says. “I hope I didn’t wake you.”

She laughs. “I’m downtown at this speakeasy thing. It looks like a laundromat but there’s a secret door, a code word, and voilà, you enter the underworld. Do you want to come join me? I’ll tell you how to get in.”

“No, thank you,” Tag says. “I just called to tell you your instincts were correct. Abby is pregnant. She and Thomas told us tonight at dinner.”

“Who?” Merritt says.

“Abby. Abby, my daughter-in-law. She was with you during Celeste’s bachelorette weekend. You said—”

“Oh, that’s right,” Merritt says. “Abby. Yeah, I’m not surprised.”

Tag feels like a fool. He should hang up. He’s going to see Merritt in a few weeks at the wedding and it would be best if their dalliance were a thing of the past. But there is something about this girl. He can’t leave it alone.

“Where did you say your apartment is?” he asks. “I think I’ve forgotten.”

Tag sees Merritt the next day after work, and the day after that, and on Saturday he tells Greer he’s going to run in Central Park but instead he goes to Merritt’s apartment. After sex, they walk down the street to a really good sandwich place and order lunch and sit side by side and talk and laugh—and in the middle of it, Tag realizes that he is losing control of the situation. What is he doing? Anyone might see him here with this girl.

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