“Marybeth?” I whisper.
My husband’s secretary—who also happens to be Russell’s wife—is standing only a few feet away from me now, her eyes boring into me. I’ve never been frightened of Marybeth before. Even when I was sleeping with her husband, I never gave her a second thought. She seemed nice enough, and Russell never told me otherwise.
I have underestimated her. Russell’s slashed throat is proof of that.
I am more attractive than Marybeth—objectively. She’s about ten years older than I am, and she looks it. Her blond hair is stringy, she has fine lines around her eyes and around her mouth, and the skin under her chin hangs too loose. But then the kitchen is plunged back into darkness, and she becomes a silhouette once again.
“Sit down,” Marybeth says.
“I… I can’t see anything,” I stutter.
For a second, I am blinded by another flash of light—she has turned on the flashlight on her cell phone. She shines it in the direction of the kitchen table: a small wooden square with two folding chairs on either side. I stumble toward the table and collapse into one of the two seats seconds before my legs give out.
Marybeth sits in the other chair. Now that we have the light from the phone, I can make out the features on her face again. Her lips are a straight line, and her usually mild blue eyes are like daggers. She’s wearing a trench coat that is stained in Russell’s blood. She looks absolutely terrifying.
But I take some solace in the fact that she has not yet killed me. She wants me alive for some reason, and that buys me some time to figure out
how to get out of here.
“What do you want?” I ask her.
She blinks at me. The whites of her eyes are glowing, set in dark hollow sockets. “How long have you been sleeping with my husband?”
I open my mouth, debating if I should lie. But then I look into her eyes and realize it’s better not to mess around with this woman. “Ten months.”
“Ten months.” She spits out the words. “Right under my nose. You know, we were happy before you came along. For twenty years. He wasn’t perfect, but he loved me.” Her voice breaks. “And then as soon as he met you…”
“I’m so sorry. It’s not like we planned it.”
“But you did have plans. Big plans. He was planning to leave me for you…”
She doesn’t say it like it’s a question, so I keep my mouth shut. Russell claimed he was planning to leave Marybeth for me, but at the very end, I wasn’t so sure anymore. He ended up not being the man I thought he was. “He loved you very much,” I finally say, hoping to placate her.
“Then why was he sleeping with you?” she bursts out.
“Look,” I say, trying to stay calm even though my heart is still racing, “he wanted to go back to you. He was having doubts. If you hadn’t…”
She stares at me. I can’t forget that this woman just murdered her husband. She isn’t looking to get back together with him. The only thing on her mind is vengeance.
“And Doug…” Her eyes are like ice as they stare into mine. “You killed him, didn’t you? You and Russell.”
I open my mouth, ready to deny it. But then I see the look in her eyes, and I realize it wasn’t a question. “Yes, I did.”
For a split second, her eyes soften as they fill with tears. “Doug Garrick was a really good man—the best. He was like a brother to me.”
“I know. And… I’m sorry.”
“Sorry!” she bursts out. “You didn’t cut in front of him in line at the movie theater. You murdered him! He’s dead because of you!”
I press my lips together, afraid to say another word because nothing I say will make it right. Marybeth is furious with me—I slept with her husband and I killed her beloved boss. But that doesn’t mean I deserve to die here, at her hands.
I’ve got to find a way out of this.
My eyes fall on the knife in her right hand. She has it on her lap, and it’s still wet with Russell’s blood—his blood is absolutely everywhere. Is there any chance I could get the knife from her? Marybeth isn’t exactly in peak physical condition.
“What do you want from me?” I ask her.
She reaches into the pocket of her trench coat and pulls out a piece of white paper. Then she rifles around until she finds a pen. She slides both items across the kitchen table to me.
“I want you to write a confession,” she says.
Bile rises in my throat, and I have to push it back down again. “What?” “You heard me.” Her eyes flash. “I want you to write down everything
you did. How you seduced Russell. How the two of you conspired to kill your husband. I want a full confession.”
“Okay…” I don’t want to do this, but I saw what she did to Russell. The thought of her slitting my throat like she did to him…
My hands won’t stop shaking as I write my confession on the white piece of paper, which is now stained with crimson fingerprints. I don’t know exactly what she wants me to say, so I try to keep it simple. I’m not too worried about it, because nothing that I write while held at knifepoint is going to stand up in court.
To whom it may concern,
I have been having an affair with Russell Simonds for the last ten months. Together, the two of us killed my husband, Douglas Garrick.
I study her facial features. Her face gives nothing away. “Is this what you want?” I ask.
“Yes, but you’re not finished.”
“What more do you want me to say?”
“Here’s what you need to write.” She taps the paper with her long fingernail. “I can no longer live with the guilt.”
I scribble down the sentence, which is almost illegible because my hands are trembling so much. For a second, the page blurs and I can’t even keep writing, but then it comes back into focus.
“So tonight,” she continues, “I have decided to take both our lives.”
I stop writing, the pen falling from my numb fingertips. “Marybeth…”
She raises the knife, bringing it close to my face. I close my eyes for a second, remembering the gaping wound on Russell’s throat. Oh God. This woman means business. I write down the final sentence of my confession.
“Now sign your name,” Marybeth says. I do it. I’m not in a position to refuse.
She takes my signed confession and reads it over, although she still has one eye on me. “Good,” she says.
I realize what has to be next. The confession ends with me saying that I am taking my own life. Which means that by the end of the night, she is going to kill me. The thought makes me extremely dizzy, and even though this woman is threatening me with a knife, I race over to the kitchen sink to throw up. She lets me go.
I lean over at the sink, dry heaving even after I have emptied my stomach. I have stained the sink red with my vomit, because of the pinot noir. The kitchen chair creaks behind me, and a second later, Marybeth is standing next to me at the sink.
“Please don’t do this,” I beg her.
She tilts her head. “Isn’t this what you did to Doug? Don’t you think you deserve it?”
It was different with Douglas. He treated me so horribly, I had no choice. And even in death, he continues to torment me with his will. God, how am I going to fight that stupid will? But I’ll worry about that when I get out of here. First, I have to talk this woman down from the ledge.
“Everyone makes mistakes,” I say. “I feel terrible for the things I’ve done. And now I have to live with it.”
“That’s not enough,” she says.
My chest feels tight, like a corset is squeezing me. “It’s not enough to send me to jail for the rest of my life?”
“No. You deserve worse. You are a truly despicable person. And you deserve to die in a painful and horrible way.”
The corset tightens further. “So what do you think is going to happen? You think the police will believe that I stabbed myself to death? People don’t really do that. They’re going to know that somebody did this to me.”
Marybeth is quiet for a moment. “You’re right,” she says thoughtfully. “They would realize it wasn’t a suicide if you were stabbed.”
Oh, thank God. I finally got this woman to listen to reason. “Exactly.”
“That’s why you’re not going to die that way.”
I get another wave of dizziness that nearly knocks me off my feet. “What? What are you talking about?”
Does she have another weapon in here? A gun? A nunchuck? What is this woman going to do to me?
“Have you ever heard of a medication called digoxin?” she asks. Digoxin? Why does that sound familiar?
Then it hits me. Douglas used to take that medication. For his heart. And Marybeth has a copy of the keys to the house in Long Island where he keeps his medicine.
“Digoxin toxicity is extremely serious,” she continues. “First, you get nausea, dizziness, terrible abdominal cramps, and blurred vision. It’s quite agonizing. But the way it kills you is that your heart goes into a deadly arrhythmia.”
“So,” I say slowly, “you expect me to swallow a bunch of digoxin?”
If she asks me to swallow pills, I’ll have to find a way out of it. I can put them under my tongue and spit them out when I have a chance. She can’t force me.
But then her lips curl into a smile. “You already have, Wendy.” Oh my God, the wine.
I heave into the sink once again, and nothing comes up. Simultaneously, my stomach is seized by an eye-watering cramp. Despite my growing dizziness, I have done a good job staying on my feet, but now I sink to the floor, clutching my stomach.
Marybeth crouches down beside me. “I’m not sure how long this will take. Another hour? Two hours? There’s no rush. Nobody’s looking for us here.”
I look up at her. Her face blurs in and out. “Please take me to the hospital.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Please,” I gasp. “Have mercy…” “Like you had mercy for Doug?”
I reach out, my fingers barely grazing against the leg of her jeans. I try to hold on to her, but it’s like my hand won’t obey my commands anymore. “I’ll do anything you want. I’ll give you anything you want. I promise.”
“And I promise,” Marybeth says, “that your death will be slow and painful. And unlike you, I never break my promises.”