Page 7 of The Perfect Couple

“Tell me what you saw when you got here,” the Chief says. “From the beginning.”

“I pulled in about quarter to six,” Roger says. “The rental company was supposed to leave seventeen rounds and a hundred and seventy-five folding chairs. I wanted to double-check the numbers, see how the dance floor settled, make sure there hadn’t been any after-hours partying. Standard stuff.”

“Understood,” the Chief says.

“As soon as I got out of my car, I heard screaming,” Roger says. “And I realized right away that it was Celeste. I thought something had happened to her mother.” Roger pauses. “Celeste’s mother, Karen Otis, is very sick—cancer. Anyway, I could tell just from the kind of scream that someone was dead. It had that urgency. So I go charging out to the front of the house and there’s poor Celeste trying to pull her friend out of the water by the arms. One look at her, I knew the girl was dead, but I helped Celeste drag her up onto the beach and then I tried to revive her.”

“CPR?”

“I tried,” Roger says. “I… tried. But she was dead when I found her, Ed. That much I know.”

“So why bother with CPR, then?”

“I thought maybe. I had to try something. Celeste was begging me to save her. You have to save her, she said. You have to save her!” Roger drops his head in his hands. “She was dead. There was no bringing her back.”

“Then you called 911?”

“I had dropped my phone in the driveway so I used Celeste’s phone,” Roger says. “The paramedics came in six minutes. They tried CPR as well. Then the police came. Sergeant Dickson. Together, he and I knocked on the front door of the house.”

“And who answered? Who did you tell?”

“Greer Garrison, the groom’s mother. She and her husband, Tag Winbury, own the house. Greer was already awake. She was holding a cup of coffee.”

“She was? You’re sure about that?” the Chief says. “She was awake but didn’t hear Celeste screaming and didn’t notice you pulling a body out of the water in front of her house? With all of those giant windows, she didn’t notice? She didn’t hear the sirens or see the lights when the paramedics arrived?”

“Apparently not. She had no idea anything was wrong when I knocked.”

“When you told her, what did she do?”

“She started to shake,” Roger says. “Her coffee spilled. Dickson had to take it from her.”

“So it’s fair to say she seemed shocked and upset?” the Chief says.

“Oh yes,” Roger says. “Mr. Winbury came to see what the ruckus was and I told him as well. He thought we were kidding.”

“Kidding,” the Chief says.

“Everyone reacts differently, but the first emotion is, of course, shock and disbelief. Celeste was still screaming. She went into one of the guest cottages to wake up Benji—he’s the groom—and he tried to calm Celeste down but she was beyond helping. She was… well. Sergeant Dickson told the EMTs to take her to the ER.” Roger shakes his head. “I feel for her. It’s supposed to be the happiest day of her life and instead… her best friend…”

The Chief flashes back to the day he found out Tess and Greg were dead. He had gone right to the beach to find Andrea. Sometimes, in the dark of night, he can still hear the sound Andrea made when he told her that Tess was gone.

“There is nothing worse than the sudden, unexpected death of a young person,” the Chief says.

“Amen,” Roger says. “Anyway, while the family gathered inside, I made phone calls—the caterers, the church, the musicians, the Steamship Authority, the photographer, the chauffeur. I called everyone.” Roger looks at his watch. “And I hate to say this, but I have two other weddings today.”

The Chief nods. “We’ll get you out of here. I just wanted to ask if you noticed anything odd or peculiar or suspicious or noteworthy about the bride or the groom or the family or any of the guests. Did anything or anyone strike you?”

“Just one thing,” Roger says. “And it’s probably nothing.”

Probably nothing is usually something, the Chief thinks.

“What’s that?” he asks.

“Celeste…” Roger says. “She had her purse and her overnight bag out on the beach. And she was fully dressed. She was wearing her going-away outfit, the one she was supposed to wear on Sunday.”

“And you’re wondering…”

“I’m wondering why she was wearing it this morning. I’m wondering why she had her purse and her overnight bag. I’m wondering why she was awake at quarter to six in the morning, dressed that way, on the beach.”

“We’ll ask her,” the Chief says. “It does seem odd.” He thinks about what Roger is telling him. “Maybe she and the groom had decided to elope at the last minute?”

“I thought that too, but her parents are here… her mother… something about that doesn’t feel right to me. But she’s such a good kid, Ed. I’m sure there’s a logical explanation. It’s probably nothing.”

Initial questioning, Abigail Freeman Winbury, Saturday, July 7, 7:15 a.m.

Nick’s choices with the women are sparse. The bride, Celeste, has gone to the hospital; the mother of the groom, Greer Garrison, is busy on the phone contacting guests to relay the tragic news; and the mother of the bride, who is quite sick, is still in bed. It’s unclear if she has even learned what’s happened.

This leaves Abigail Freeman Winbury—Abby—who is the bridesmaid and the wife of the groom’s brother.

Abby is short with auburn hair cut bluntly at the shoulders. She has brown eyes and freckles. She is cute, Nick thinks, but not beautiful. When she walks into the formal living room where Nick is doing the questioning—it has glass doors that close, sealing it off from the hallway, the stairs, and the rest of the house—she is holding her breasts up with her hands. Nick blinks. It’s okay; he has seen stranger things.

“Hi, Abby, I’m Nick Diamantopoulos, a detective with the Massachusetts State Police. Thank you for talking with me.”

Abby lets go of her breasts to shake his hand. “Just so you know, I’m pregnant. Fifteen weeks along. I had an amnio a few days ago, and the baby’s fine. It’s a boy.”

“Oh,” Nick says. That, at least, explains why she was holding her breasts. Right? Nick doesn’t have children, and he has never been married, but his sister, Helena, has three kids and what Nick remembers from Helena’s pregnancies is that a certain amount of personal dignity goes out the window. Helena, who had always been rather private and discreet about her body and its functions, had complained about her aching (and then leaking) breasts as well as the frequency with which she had to pee. “Well, congratulations.”

Abby gives Nick a tired but victorious smile. “Thank you,” she says. “It’ll be the first Winbury heir. That’s important, I guess, to British people.”

Nick says, “I have some water here, if you’d like any. I’m sure you must be pretty shaken up.”

Abby takes a seat on the sofa and Nick sits in a chair opposite her so he can face her. “My stomach has been funny for weeks,” she says. “And this news is so terrible. I can’t believe it’s real. This feels like a movie, you know? Or a dream. Merritt is dead. She’s dead.” She pours herself a glass of water but doesn’t drink. “So do we know… is the wedding canceled?”

Nick says, “Yes, I believe so.” That’s what he overheard Greer saying on the phone, he’s pretty sure. That they’re canceling the wedding.

“Okay,” Abby says, but she sounds a little deflated. “I figured. I mean, Merritt is Celeste’s best friend, her only friend, really, and she’s dead.” Abby shakes her head as if to clear it. “Obviously the wedding is canceled. I don’t know why I even asked. You must think I’m some kind of monster.”

“Not at all,” Nick says. “I’m sure it’s come as a shock.”

“Shock,” Abby says. “The wedding is a big deal—very expensive, you know, for Tag and Greer—and Celeste’s mother isn’t well and I just wasn’t sure if… if maybe they would just go through with it anyway. But of course not. Of course not. Please don’t tell anyone I asked.”

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