Chapter no 58

The Housemaid's Secret (The Housemaid, Book 2)

Step 7: Kill the Bastard

The Night Douglas Was Murdered

The gears are grinding painfully in the elevator. Douglas is home.

This is the moment. This is what we have been working up to for the past several months. Millie left the apartment an hour ago, shaking and convinced that she just murdered my husband. The police will question her. She will break and confess to what she did. And I have planted careful evidence to convince them that she did it because she has been having an affair with Douglas. I cannot afford to be involved.

Now there is only one piece left of the puzzle. We must kill Douglas for real this time.

Russell is waiting in the kitchen, clutching the gun that Millie just used to shoot him with a blank—except this time filled with real bullets. He’s ready.

The doors to the elevator swing open, and I head down the hallway to greet my husband one last time. I stop short, surprised by his appearance. He’s lost weight since the last time I saw him, and there are dark purple circles embedded under his eyes. There’s at least two days’ growth of a beard on his chin.

“You look awful,” I blurt out.

Douglas looks up sharply. “Nice to see you too, Wendy.”

“I mean…” I brush a strand of hair away from my face. I carefully scrubbed off all the makeup from my fake bruises after Millie left. “I mean, you seem… tired.”

He lets out a long, tortured sigh. “I’ve been working around the clock on this new update to the software. And then you call and beg me to come here practically in the middle of the night.”

“Did you bring it?”

Douglas holds up that tattered leather briefcase he always carries around. “I’ve got the divorce papers right here. I hope you’re ready to sign.”

Not exactly. But he doesn’t need to know that.

I lead Douglas into the living room. My body tenses, waiting for Russell to emerge from the kitchen and shoot my husband point-blank in the chest. He is supposed to do it right when we walk into the room. He’s supposed to do it… right now.

Damn it.

Douglas manages to make it all the way to our sectional sofa without being murdered by my lover. I’m quite disappointed. He sinks into the cushion and puts the briefcase down on the coffee table.

“Let’s get this over with,” he mutters.

No, not yet. I didn’t bring him here to sign divorce papers. That’s the opposite of why I wanted him here. Except Russell is not coming out. I don’t see him, and I can’t hear him. What is going on?

“Can I get you something to drink?” I ask. He looks like he’s about to refuse, so I quickly say, “I’ll get you some water.”

Before Douglas can protest, I dart off to the kitchen, leaving him behind on the sofa with the divorce papers. I am absolutely furious right now. Up until this moment, everything has gone exactly as I planned it. Only one more thing needs to happen. Russell needs to kill Douglas.

Except when I get into the kitchen, Russell is cowering in the corner. The gun is on the counter, and he looks like he’s having a panic attack. He is clutching the counter with his leather gloves and breathing too quickly, his face like a sheet.

“Russell!” I hiss at him. “What the hell are you waiting for?”

He has been remarkably difficult tonight. Before Millie even came over, he was threatening to back out, stating a laundry list of concerns. Are you sure it’s safe to be shot with a blank? Isn’t that how Brandon Lee died? What if she stabs me instead?

Finally, I got him to go through with the scene where he pretended to strangle me. And after Millie shot him with the blank and he didn’t die, I thought we were past it—the hardest part was over. Except now he seems to be having trouble sucking air into his lungs.

“I can’t do it,” he gulps. His brow is sweaty and his powerful eyebrows have merged together at the center of his forehead. “I can’t shoot him, Wendy. Please don’t make me do it.”

Is he joking? We have spent months setting this up together. We have been so careful to always come in through the back entrance and to set the scene in exactly the right way. I barely leave the apartment because I can’t

chance running into Millie, and I’ve been dedicating all my energy to making it look like Douglas is still living here. I even purchased a bunch of men’s clothing that she could wash. (Although the first day I stupidly forgot to unfold it all. I’m sure she thought we were a bunch of psychopaths who fold our dirty laundry.) I have spent so much time and energy setting all of this up.

And now here he is, about to ruin everything.

“You are absolutely ridiculous.” I clench my teeth. “What is wrong with you? This was the plan from the beginning! This is how we’re going to get everything we want.”

“I don’t want this!” His voice is an urgent whisper. “I just want to be with you. And we still can.” He crosses the kitchen and tries to put his hands around my waist. “Listen to me, we don’t have to do this. We can leave right now. You leave Douglas, I leave Marybeth, and we can be together. We don’t have to kill him.”

“Except then we’ll have nothing.” I shrug away his embrace, furious with him. I thought Russell wanted the same things I did, but now I’m not so sure. Because if he did, my husband would have a bullet in his chest right now. “This is the only way, Russell.”

“I don’t want to do this.” He’s whimpering now. “I don’t want to kill him, Wendy. Please don’t make me do this. Please.”

Oh Lord.

I have been in this kitchen way too long. Douglas is going to start wondering what is taking me so long and come to investigate. Or he might even hear Russell panicking. I don’t have time to give Russell a pep talk. I have to take care of this myself.

I grab a pair of disposable rubber gloves under the sink that Millie uses when she cleans the kitchen. I slide them onto my hands, then I pour my husband one last glass of water. I pick up the gun, but after hesitating a little, I slip it into the pocket of my cardigan. The pockets are large, and the gun fits perfectly—it’s as if when I put it on, I knew I was going to have to do this because Russell was going to be a big baby about it and almost ruin everything.

When I get back into the living room, Douglas is sitting on the sofa, rifling through the stack of papers that is our divorce settlement. He has been asking me to sign this for a long time, and I have been refusing. I knew that agreeing to sign would get him to come over here.

With my free hand, I feel the gun in my cardigan pocket. It’s heavy, straining the fabric slightly. There’s no reason to wait. I could pull it out right now and shoot him dead. But no. I need to do it right to his face. So it looks like Millie shot him head-on.

And also, part of me wants to see his face when I do it. So he understands the consequences of messing with me. He tried to take everything from me and leave me destitute, and now he will get what he deserves.

I quickly place the glass of water on the table before he can notice that I’m wearing rubber gloves, and then I shove my hands back into my pockets. Millie put away this set of dishes, so her fingerprints will be all over the glass. It’s too perfect.

“I’ve got a pen in here somewhere,” Douglas mutters as he rifles around inside the old briefcase. After a moment, he retrieves a ballpoint pen. “Here it is.”

“Okay then.” My fingers are wrapped around the revolver in my pocket. “Let’s get this over with, like you said.”

Douglas starts to hold out the papers to me, but then he stops. His shoulders sag. “I don’t want it to be this way, Wendy.”

I frown at him. “What does that mean?”

“I mean…” He tosses the divorce papers onto the coffee table. “I love you, Wendy. I don’t want to get divorced—I’ve been sick over it. I don’t care what happened in the past… I’d like to make a fresh start. Just the two of us.”

There is a hopeful expression on his face. I have to admit, the idea is appealing. As much as we planned the events of tonight, there is no guarantee that Russell and I will get away with murder. My original plan was to spend my life with Douglas, and although I failed to mold him into what I wanted, he’s not entirely objectionable. And most of all, we will have unspeakable amounts of money. You can be happy with anyone if you have enough money.

“Maybe…” I say.

A smile touches his lips, and the purple circles under his eyes grow a bit lighter. “I’d really like that. I’d like to make a completely fresh start.”

“In what way?”

“First, I want to get rid of all of this.” He looks around our spacious apartment. “We don’t need this gigantic place or even the huge house on

Long Island if it’s just the two of us. All this money got in the way of our marriage. We have too much.” He smiles shyly. “I’ve spoken to Joe about starting a charity foundation with most of my money. Especially if we’re not having children, there’s so much good we can do with all this money— God knows, we don’t need it. Maybe you can be part of the foundation? We could do it together.”

Is he out of his everloving mind? How could he possibly think that’s what I want? “Douglas, I don’t want that. I want to go back to our lives the way it was before.”

“But you weren’t happy before.” His face darkens. “You cheated on me.

We were completely disconnected.”

I grit my teeth. “So you think being poor will make us happy?”

“No, but…” He rubs his hands over his knees. “Look, we won’t be poor. We just won’t be zillionaires anymore. And I don’t see anything wrong with that. Like I said, I don’t even know why we need all this money. I don’t even want it!”

And this is why Douglas and I will never be happy together. He just doesn’t get it. He doesn’t know what it’s like to have the other girls laugh at you and ask if you found your coat in the garbage bin. He doesn’t know what it’s like for your father to hurt his back so he goes on disability, but the payments aren’t quite enough to keep the lights on, so every so often you have to do everything in the dark, with flashlights. And even though your sisters act like it’s an adventure, it’s not. It’s not an adventure. It’s being dirt poor and having nothing.

Douglas doesn’t understand that. He will never understand that. We finally have the money that I dreamed of when I was doing my homework by the light of a flashlight, and he wants to just give it all away! It makes me so angry, I want to reach out with my bare hands and strangle him the way Russell pretended to strangle me earlier, except for real this time.

Except I don’t need to strangle him. I’ve got a gun in my pocket.

I pull out the gun, and my hand is surprisingly steady as I point it at my husband’s chest. His slightly bloodshot eyes widen. He knew things were bad, but he didn’t know it was this bad.

“Wendy,” he croaks. “What are you doing?” “I think you know.”

Douglas stares down the barrel of the gun, and his body seems to shrink. He shakes his head almost imperceptibly. I would’ve thought he might beg for his life, but he doesn’t do that. There is a look of resignation in his eyes.

“Did you ever actually love me?” he finally says.

The answer to that question would hurt his feelings. Despite everything, I don’t want to destroy him in his last few moments of life. So I just say, “It’s not about that.”

I’ve never shot a gun before, but it always seemed self-explanatory. I had thought Russell would be the one to do it, but he is still cowering in the kitchen, so it’s up to me.

The gunshot is much louder than I thought it would be—a powerful bang that seems to echo through the room long after the gun has fired. The force travels through my arms, into my shoulders, and whips back my neck and head. But I keep my hands steady.

The bullet hits Douglas square in the chest. It’s a good shot, especially for my first time. There’s a second or two before he dies when he looks down at the blood rapidly spreading across his white shirt and realizes what’s about to happen. But then the color drains from his face, and he collapses against the couch. His eyes are still cracked open, rolled up in their sockets, and his chest isn’t moving.

“I’m sorry,” I say softly. “I truly am. I wish we could have made it work.”

My ears are still ringing when Russell comes running out. The first thing he does is clasp a hand over his mouth, and I’m just thinking to myself that I hope he doesn’t vomit all over the floor. That will really mess things up when the police get here.

“You did it,” he gasps. “I can’t believe you did it.”

“I did.” I rise from the sofa and drop the gun on the coffee table. I peel the rubber gloves off my hands. “And if you don’t want to go to jail, I would suggest you get out of here right this minute.”

Russell looks like he’s still trying to get his breathing under control. “You really think you can pin all this on Millie?”

“Watch me.”

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