Page 55 of The Perfect Couple

Marty fumbles with his knife and fork in an attempt to flag down Dawn, the bartender, who is watching Wimbledon on the TV in the corner. “Dawn, this young lady would like to place an order.”

While Dawn takes the order for the Reuben, the coleslaw, and the large chardonnay, Marty sneaks a better look at his new neighbor. She is blond, or blondish, in halfway decent shape, with laugh lines around her mouth and fingernails painted cherry red. She is dressed in a strapless army-green jumpsuit type of thing that Marty knows is meant to be stylish. It gives him a good view of her chest and arms. She’s a bit puffy, but Marty is hardly sculpted himself.

“I’m Marty Szczerba,” he says, holding out his hand.

“Featherleigh,” she says. “Featherleigh Dale.” She takes his hand and offers a smile, then her chardonnay arrives. She lifts the glass to Marty and says, “I can’t wait to get off this island. The past twenty-four hours have not been kind to me.”

Marty wishes he had a glass to cheers her with, but he’s still on the clock. He, too, has had one hell of a day, beginning and ending with the case of the Murdered Maid of Honor and the runaway person of interest. It turned out the guy they were looking for was caught by a local teenage girl who works for the Hy-Line. Marty is glad the guy isn’t still at large but he bristles at being bested by some kid who found him by using Facebook. That’s cheating, is it not? Marty would have benefited from a little glory. He has been considering asking out Keira, the chief of police’s assistant, but she’s in her thirties and goes to barre class every day and is, likely, looking for more of a hero than Marty can currently claim to be.

“So you’re just visiting?” Marty says. “Where do you live?” He knows better than to get his hopes up about anyone from off-island; he still has two years left until retirement, although after that, he’ll be ready to go. Laura Rae and Ty will be happily married, maybe even starting a family, and Marty will become an annoyance. He hopes this Featherleigh says she lives in Boston. How perfect would that be? He gets two free round-trip tickets to Boston on Cape Air per month. He envisions himself and Featherleigh strolling around the Public Garden hand in hand, stopping in at the Parish Café on Boylston for lunch. They’ll have cocktails down at the Seaport. Boston is a great city for people in love. They can ride the swan boats! Have high tea at the Four Seasons! Go to a Sox game! And in two years, when Marty is ready to retire, his relationship with Featherleigh will be established enough to take it to the next level.

“London,” she says. “I have a flat in Sloane Square, although I fear it’ll belong to the bank by the time I get home.”

London, Marty thinks as his dreams deflate. That’s too far away. But it wouldn’t be a bad place to visit Featherleigh for a casual, no-strings-attached fling. Marty has never been to London, which is something he needs to remedy, especially since his Match.com profile boasts that he loves to travel.

“And what do you do for a living?” Marty asks.

Featherleigh takes a long sip of her wine, then sets her elbow on the bar and rests her head in her hand to regard him. “I sell antiques to rich people,” she says. “What do you do, Marty?”

Marty straightens up a little. “I’m head of security here at the airport.”

“Well,” she says, “that’s a very prestigious job, isn’t it?” The way she pronounces the word prestigious in her English accent sounds so lovely, Marty grins.

“He’s the top gun,” Dawn chimes in.

Marty silently thanks Dawn for the backup even though he feels somewhat mortified that she’s eavesdropping on his first attempt at a pickup since 1976. He bobs his head yes, then wonders if Featherleigh is making fun of him. After all, it’s not like he’s the head of security at Heathrow. That would be a hellish nightmare of a job, Marty thinks. Flights from all over the world converging. How would he ever keep track of the potential threats? And yet somehow those chaps do it, day in and day out.

“In the summer, Nantucket is the second-busiest airport in the state,” Marty says. “Only Logan is busier.”

“Logan?” Featherleigh says.

“The airport in Boston,” he says.

“Ah, right,” Featherleigh says. “Well, I’m flying standby to JFK on JetBlue.” She checks her phone. “I really hope I get on.” She winks at Marty. “You don’t have any pull, do you?”

“With the airlines?” Marty says. “No.”

This admission sends Featherleigh right into the electronic abyss of her phone. She sips her large glass of chardonnay, then starts scrolling. Marty regards the second half of his Reuben, the cheese now cold and congealed, and his coleslaw, which has grown soupy. Before he loses Featherleigh entirely to the seductive allure of Instagram, he says, “So what was so bad about your stay?”

Featherleigh sets down her phone and Marty feels a childish triumph. “I couldn’t begin to explain.”

“Try me.”

“I came all the way from London for a wedding. Now, mind you, I had no interest in attending the wedding, but this man I’ve been seeing was going to be there so I said yes.”

Marty hears the phrase man I’ve been seeing and what’s left of his enthusiasm flags. Even someone not-gorgeous-but-okay-looking like Featherleigh has found someone. Where are all the half-decent-looking-but-not-attached women? Marty wonders. Tell me!

“And then, for reasons too awful to explain, the wedding was canceled—”

“Wait a minute,” Marty says. “Were you going to the wedding out in—” At that moment, Marty’s phone starts ringing and a discreet check of his screen shows that it’s the chief of police. Marty has to take the call. He holds a finger up to Featherleigh. “Excuse me one moment,” he says. He relishes the opportunity to show Featherleigh that he really is sort of important. “What can I do for you, Chief?” he says.

“We’re looking for someone else now,” the Chief says. “And we have good reason to believe she’s at the airport, trying to fly standby. Female, early forties, blondish hair, name is Featherleigh Dale.”

Marty’s mouth falls open and the phone nearly slips from his hand but he manages to compose himself and offer Featherleigh a smile.

“I’m on it, Chief,” he says.

TAG

He shakes hands with the chief of police and tries to strike the appropriate tone: mournful yet strong, concerned yet guilt-free. When Greer woke up Tag, jostling his shoulder and saying, “Celeste’s friend Merritt, the friend, the maid of honor, Tag, she’s dead. She drowned out front. She’s dead. The paramedics are here and the police. Celeste found her floating. She’s dead. Jesus, Tag, wake up. Do something,” he’d thought he was ensnared in a bad dream. It had taken several long seconds for Tag to realize that Greer was real and that what she was saying was true.

Merritt had drowned. She was dead.

Not possible, he thought. He had dropped her off on the beach after the kayak ride. She had stormed off—upset, yes, but still very much alive.

On solid ground. He’d thought she’d gone to bed.

Tag isn’t sure what the police know.

Do they know about the affair?

Do they know about the pregnancy?

They’ll find out Merritt was pregnant as soon as they hear from the medical examiner, but will they learn about the affair? Whom did Merritt tell? Did she tell Celeste? Did Celeste tell the police? Tag’s first instinct upon hearing the hideous news was to find Celeste and remind her that the future of the Winbury family rested with her discretion. But Celeste had been taken to the emergency room to be treated for anxiety and she hasn’t returned to the house—which is, Tag suspects, a bad sign.

Tag leads the Chief to his study. Benji walked out after Tag admitted that it had been Merritt he’d taken on the kayak, and Thomas vamoosed as well. But both of his sons know better than to say a word to the police, Tag is confident of this. Their well-being is contingent on his well-being.

Tag says to the Chief, “Can I offer you a drink?”

The Chief lifts a hand. “No, thanks.”

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