Page 70 of The Perfect Couple

“Hashtag happily ever after,” Chloe says. “That’s the part that kills me. Isn’t that the saddest thing you’ve ever seen?”

“Just about,” the Chief says, handing the phone back to Chloe. “Just about.”

The Chief changes into casual clothes and looks longingly at the cold blue cans of Cisco beer in his fridge—but he can’t relax yet. He has arranged to meet Nick back at the station to go over everything one last time.

“Don’t worry about dinner,” he tells Andrea. “I’ll have Keira order us something.”

“I hate murder investigations,” Andrea says, lifting her face for a kiss. “But I love you.”

“And I love you,” he says. He gives his wife a kiss, a second kiss, a third kiss. He thinks about letting Nick wait.

The Chief and Nick meet in an interview room back at the station. Keira, the Chief’s assistant, has ordered a kale Caesar and a couple of artisanal pizzas from Station 21 so they can have a little dinner.

Nick takes a lusty bite of the shrimp and pancetta pizza. “This isn’t bad,” he says. “Normally I stay away from anything called ‘artisanal.’ I like my food real.”

“Chloe said Merritt didn’t cut herself when she helped clean up,” the Chief says. “But she may have cut herself after the kayak ride. The place Chloe said she dropped the tray is right near the path Merritt would have taken to get back to her cottage.”

“That could explain why Merritt went in the water,” Nick says. “I mean, you’d rinse a cut at the water’s edge, but you wouldn’t go all the way in.”

“Unless the water felt nice,” the Chief says. “It was a hot night.”

“And I’m guessing the maid of honor didn’t care for the heat,” Nick says. “The A/C in her bedroom was cranked to ten. It was practically snowing in there.”

“But that doesn’t tell us who slipped her the sleeping pill,” the Chief says.

“She might have taken one herself,” Nick says. “After all, we know she was upset.”

“Doesn’t that seem reckless?” the Chief asks. “Taking a sleeping pill when she’s pregnant?”

“The father said she jumped off the kayak way out in the middle of the harbor, right? That’s the definition of reckless. Her frame of mind was reckless, sounds like.”

The Chief stabs a piece of kale in the round foil container in front of them. “I’m not liking this as an accident. There are two people who wanted Merritt to go away—Tag Winbury and Greer Garrison. And one person who wanted Featherleigh Dale to go away—Thomas Winbury.”

“Calling it an accident would be easier on Merritt’s family,” Nick says. “And the bride.”

“We don’t work for her family,” the Chief says. “We work for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. And beyond that, we work in the name of justice for the citizens of this great country. Do you think it was an accident? Really?”

“No,” Nick says. “I like the mother.”

The Chief munches a crouton. “Funny. I like the father. Tag Winbury sees his wife’s sleeping pills, drops one in Merritt’s water glass. He then takes her out in the kayak and eliminates both his problems—no mistress, no baby. What’s your angle?”

“Greer finds out about the affair and the baby and she drops a sleeping pill in the water, hoping Merritt will drink it and that Tag will take Merritt out in the kayak. Or maybe, maybe, Greer is trying to kill her husband. Maybe Greer slips him a mickey hoping he’ll go out in the kayak and never return.” Nick picks up a piece of the sausage pizza. “Yes, I do realize how far-fetched that sounds.”

“It would be different, maybe, if we had that water glass,” the Chief says.

Nick cocks his head. “Does it seem odd to you that the water glass was cleared from the table but the shot glasses remained? Someone took only the water glass inside. Or someone came out and cleared only the water glass.”

The Chief shakes his head and picks up his own piece of pizza. He can’t believe that Chloe is the one who dropped the tray of glasses. Shard of glass on the lawn, cut foot, maid of honor goes into the ocean to wash it off, dead maid of honor. It’s not Chloe’s fault; no one on earth would think that. But if Chloe hadn’t dropped the tray, would Merritt still be alive? Yes, if she hadn’t taken a sleeping pill or been slipped a sleeping pill and then gone into the water, she would be alive. Limping down the aisle of the church, maybe. But alive.

“The fact is, we don’t have enough evidence to charge anyone,” Nick says.

The Chief knows Nick is right. “Tomorrow we’ll call the brother back and tell him we concluded it was an accident. She took a sleeping pill, she went for a nighttime swim, she drowned.”

“There were so many secrets in that house,” Nick says. “I can’t believe one of them didn’t cause this.”

The Chief raises his cup of coffee. “To the deceased,” he says.

Nick touches his cup to the Chief’s. “May she rest in peace.”

Saturday, July 7, 2018, 6:55 p.m.

NANTUCKET

The Nantucket Standard—www.ackstandard.net—Saturday, July 7, 2018

Nantucket Police Department Rules Drowning Death Accidental

8:12 p.m.

The Nantucket Police Department, in conjunction with the Massachusetts State Police, has ruled the death of Merritt Alison Monaco, 29, of New York, New York, early this morning, an accident. Ms. Monaco was on Nantucket to serve as an attendant at a wedding on Saturday. She is survived by her parents, Gary and Katherine Monaco, of Commack, New York, as well as a brother, Douglas Monaco, of Garden City, New York. Ms. Monaco was employed by the New York Wildlife Conservation Society and has served as their director of public relations since 2016.

Chief Edward Kapenash of the Nantucket Police Department said, “We have investigated the case and determined Ms. Monaco’s death was an accident. We thank the entire Nantucket community for their cooperation and encourage locals and visitors to the island alike to exercise extreme caution in and around the water.”

Marty Szczerba gets an alert from the Inky on his phone: The maid of honor out in Monomoy apparently drowned accidentally. It sounds suspicious to Marty, and it also feels a bit anticlimactic—after the person of interest trying to escape on the Hy-Line and the dramatic removal of Featherleigh Dale from the Crosswinds restaurant, it turns out the death was accidental?

Huh, Marty thinks.

Then Marty realizes this means Featherleigh Dale isn’t a murder suspect and thus might be interested in a little romance. Marty can’t see himself pursuing anything like a one-night stand, but a drink might be nice.

He decides to call the police station to ask Keira if she knows if Featherleigh was brought back to the airport or taken to stay at an inn overnight.

“Hey, Keira,” Marty says when she answers. “This is Marty Szczerba. I have a question for you.”

“Hey, Marty,” Keira says. Just the sound of her voice reminds Marty that he still harbors a terrific crush on Keira. “I have a question for you. When are you ever going to ask me out?”

Marty blinks. The phone grows warm in his hand. Featherleigh who? he thinks. “How about tonight?” he says.

Celeste texts Benji to let him know she’s taking a taxi back from the hospital.

I’ll just come get you! Benji says.

Please don’t, Celeste responds. Three dots appear and then a second text comes through. We can talk when I get back.

Benji feels suddenly hot and prickly, uncomfortable in his own skin for the first time in his life. How he longs to shed his identity at this moment. He no longer wants to be a Winbury. Celeste has obviously learned about Merritt and Tag. They were having some kind of affair, some kind of something—Benji couldn’t bear to press for details—but he has a feeling his father is to blame for Merritt’s death.

His own father.

You think your family is beyond reproach, Celeste had said. But you’re wrong.

Benji meets Celeste out in the driveway but she gives him a hollow look and says, “I need a minute, please, Benji. I have to talk to my parents.”

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