Page 54 of The Perfect Couple

Daughter-in-law? Greer had said.

The one who’s pregnant? Jessica said. Did she not like the ring?

The ring? Greer had said.

Your husband came in… Jessica said.

Oh, right! Greer had said enthusiastically, although a bad feeling had started to seep through her. Tag had said nothing about getting a present for Abby. And Tag wasn’t known for thoughtful gestures where the kids were concerned; he left that to Greer.

He told me about it but we’ve been so busy he hasn’t had a chance to show it to me, Greer said. And he wouldn’t do a proper job describing it anyway. What did it look like?

Silver-lace pattern, Jessica said, embedded with multicolored sapphires. Like this one. It’s meant to be worn on the thumb. Jessica had then shown Greer a ring that sold for six hundred dollars. So it wasn’t a fortune, wasn’t like a trip to Harry Winston for diamonds, but Greer had been near certain she would never see Abby wearing that ring.

Tag steps into the bedroom, closes the door behind him, and locks it.

“Greer,” he says. He holds his hands up as if she might strike him.

She would like to strike him. What has he done? The girl dead, the wedding canceled, their marriage, their life…

And yet all Greer can think to say is “I thought you were having an affair with Featherleigh.”

Tag’s eyes widen. “No,” he says.

“No,” Greer says. “It was Merritt.”

“Yes,” he says.

Greer nods. “If you want me to help you, you had better tell me everything. Everything, Tag.”

It started the night of the wine dinner, he says. They were both drunk, very drunk, and she came on to him. They slept together; it was unremarkable, regrettable. He thought that would be it but then he bumped into her again in the city, by accident, at a hotel bar, and she invited him to her apartment. He’s not sure why but he said yes. And then there was another time or two, but he finally demanded she leave him alone.

“You bought her gifts?” Greer says.

“No.”

“Tag.”

He sighs. “A trinket. It was her birthday a few weeks ago. That was when I ended it. She wanted to go away together. I said no. She persisted. I booked a room at the Four Seasons downtown…”

The Four Seasons? Every detail pierces her.

“She was late showing up and in the minutes that I was waiting, I came to my senses. I left the hotel and went home to you.”

“So how many times did you screw her?” Greer asks. “Sum total.”

“More than five, less than ten,” Tag says.

Greer feels ill. She can see the allure, she supposes. Merritt was attractive; she was young, free, unfettered. Merritt had the whiff of a rebel about her. Who wouldn’t want to shag Merritt? What makes Greer want to vomit on her shoes is the thought of her own self while all of this was going on those six, seven, eight times. What had Greer been doing? Was she writing her perfectly mediocre novel or was she planning their son’s wedding? Whatever she was doing, she wasn’t paying attention to Tag. She hadn’t given Tag a minute’s thought.

“And that was it?” Greer says. “Nothing more? You had an affair, you broke it off. She was upset about it. I saw her crying during the rehearsal dinner, in the laundry room, of all places. So when you talk to the police, you’ll tell them she was emotionally overwrought and that she threatened suicide if you didn’t leave me. You took her out on the kayak to try and talk some sense into her. You delivered her back to shore; you came to bed. She drowned herself.”

“Well,” Tag says.

“Well what?”

“It’s a bit stickier than that,” Tag says. He clears his throat. “She was pregnant.”

Greer closes her eyes. Pregnant.

“You’re going to the gallows,” she says.

Tag’s face crumples; Greer has landed the poison dart right between his eyes. The girl was pregnant. Pregnant with a Winbury bastard child. The thought is hideous, and yet it feels utterly predictable. Thomas Winbury the elder, known to most as Tag, has taken the family down. His poor judgment, his base urges, and his weak character have desecrated the Winbury name. He has committed murder, and he will be caught.

Greer can think ill of Tag all she likes, but in the end, she knows, she will say and do whatever she needs to do to protect him.

There’s a knock on the bedroom door.

It’s Thomas.

“The chief of police is back,” Thomas says. “He’d like to talk to you next, Dad.”

Tag looks to Greer. She nods but is afraid to say a word in front of Thomas. Tag should stick to the story they came up with. She tries to convey this with her eyes but Tag hangs his head like a guilty man. Greer would like to go into the questioning with him. Let her talk, let her present the argument. She, after all, is the storyteller.

But that, of course, won’t be possible. Tag got into this mess without her; he will have to go it alone.

Greer is exhausted. It’s nearly four o’clock, the hour the ceremony was to take place.

She lies down on the bed. She is so tired she could sleep until morning. Maybe she will sleep until morning.

Merritt Monaco. She was twenty-nine years old. Pretty, but unoriginal. That was who Tag was screwing.

Disgust courses through Greer’s veins. She is hardly naive; she has written scenarios this nefarious and more so. There wasn’t one original thing about it—a charming, rich, powerful older man with an indifferent wife seduced or was seduced by a young, beautiful, silly girl. It practically described the history of the entire world—from Henry VIII with Anne Boleyn to an American president with his impressionable intern. But it feels brand-new, doesn’t it? Because it is happening to Greer.

Pregnant.

When Tag is charged with murder, the papers will have a field day. Their wealth and the fact that Greer writes murder mysteries will make the story positively irresistible. The New York Post will cover it, then the British tabloids. Greer will be cast as an object of pity; her fans will either cringe or rage on her behalf. The thought is horrifying—so many middle-aged women writing indignant Facebook posts or penning sympathetic letters. Thomas’s and Benji’s lives will be ruined. They’ll become social outcasts. Thomas will be fired; Benji will be asked to resign from his charitable boards.

Greer sits up. She can’t sleep. She needs a pill.

She goes into the master bathroom and eyes Tag’s sink—his razor, his shaving brush, his tortoiseshell comb. She couldn’t bear to walk into this bathroom and find Tag’s side empty. They have been together too long, endured too much.

Greer opens her medicine cabinet, and as she does so, she gets a peculiar feeling of déjà vu, as though she watched herself go through these exact motions a short time ago—and so a part of her knows that when she looks, her sleeping pills will be missing.

Wait, she thinks. Wait just a minute!

The pills were prescribed by her GP, Dr. Crowe. Dr. Crowe is doddering, nearly senile; he has been Greer’s “woman doctor” since she moved to Manhattan. The pills are “quite potent,” as Crowe likes to remind her, some cousin to the quaaludes everyone was taking in the seventies. “Quite potent” isn’t just some humble-brag; the pills knock Greer out immediately and lock her in an obsidian casket for a full eight hours. Greer doesn’t keep her sleeping pills in a prescription bottle but rather in a round enamel box decorated with a picture of a young Queen Elizabeth II. Greer received the box as a present from her grandmother on the occasion of her eleventh birthday.

The Queen Elizabeth box always sits in the same spot on the same shelf and Greer knows why it’s gone. Or at least she suspects she does.

She closes the medicine cabinet and stares at herself in the mirror. She needs to think this through. But there’s no time. She needs to talk to the Chief immediately. She needs to save her husband, that bastard.

Saturday, July 7, 2018, 4:00 p.m.

NANTUCKET

Marty Szczerba is sitting at the bar at the Crosswinds restaurant in the Nantucket airport finally eating his lunch. He likes the Reuben, loves the coleslaw; he has gained thirty pounds since Nancy died, which isn’t helping in his quest for a new girlfriend. A not-unattractive woman in her early to mid-forties suddenly takes the seat next to his. She points at his sandwich and says, in a posh English accent, “I’m having what this chap’s having. And a glass of chardonnay. A large glass.”

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