"The children aren't starving, I swear. I just haven't made it to the supermarket."
"Like, since you moved in?" said Ginny, after checking the pantry.
"It's been hard," Nina said, slumping down on a metal stool at the kitchen island.
"A toast then," Susanna proposed, raising her glass. "To a happy, healthy home."
"Cheers to that," Nina said as all three clinked glasses.
Susanna took a sip of wine and then went to work emptying the box closest to her, aptly labeled kitchen. Nina felt supremely grateful to have such good friends in her life, and couldn't imagine where she'd be without them. Back when everything had first exploded, when her ordered world had become unmanageably disordered, Susanna had functioned as the family spokesperson. She was the perfect choice, already experienced with handling the media from her years as a reporter. An attractive woman with long chestnut hair and kind brown eyes, Susanna was a natural on TV. But now the cameras were long gone, and Nina's great ordeal was nothing but a tabloid footnote.
When Ginny went to help Susanna unpack the box, the first thing she pulled out was an old issue of Real Simple magazine. "Thank goodness you brought this," she said with a laugh.
But Nina wasn't laughing. She hadn't even realized she'd put that magazine in the box, but of course she had. She couldn't have thrown it away. It was a reminder, a memento from the day that everything had changed.
Nina had been in her living room—her old living room—ready to decompress during a rare moment of downtime. A cup of chamomile tea waited on the coffee table, and that Real Simple magazine sat on her lap. She was interested in the cover story about—of all things—making life simpler. The issue also featured an article on four summer recipes to make outdoor entertaining easier than ever, which she found annoying because it was only the first week of spring.
She got cozy beneath a soft fleece blanket, sinking deeply into the faded beige cushions of her couch. She flipped to the desired article and read a page until her eyes glazed over. She remembered thinking she should have been working on the PTA newsletter, or even getting an early jump on the live auction, but no—she had been cocooned, supposedly guilt-free, beneath a fuzzy blanket, preparing to relax.
Even when she worked at it, Nina could not quite get a handle on how to unwind. It simply wasn't in her DNA to turn off and do nothing. There was a time, years ago, when her entire life had been her career as a social worker. Then came Glen, who was work-obsessed even during their honeymoon phase, and admittedly Nina was too, at least until the kids were born. Then they became her whole world, until they didn't need her as they once had. To fill the void, Nina found herself unable to say no to whatever favor, obligation, committee, or volunteer effort came her way. In this respect, she didn't stop working—she just stopped getting a paycheck.
Surrendering her downtime, Nina tossed the blanket aside. Today there would be no relaxing; she really had to work on that newsletter.
Moments later, the issue of Real Simple lay atop a pile of other magazines on the floor by her cluttered desk.
It wasn't until Nina had returned to the living room to get her cup of tea that she saw a police car parked in her driveway. The car's roof-mounted light bar was off, and that gave her a moment's comfort: not an emergency. Still, her first thought had been of the children, always the children.
Maggie was with her best friend, Laura Abel, and Connor was at a weekend football practice, punishment for the team's lackluster performance during the previous night's game. She wondered if he had been hurt—but surely one of the team moms would have called if something awful had happened.
Nina watched through the window as two police officers, female and male, exited the car. They were dressed identically in khaki pants and blue polo shirts with official-looking embroidery stitched over the right breast pocket, guns strapped to their waists, their expressions grave.
Under normal circumstances, Nina would have felt a stab of embarrassment at the weeds growing between the paving stones. The yard didn't look all that great, either. Glen's busy work schedule left little time for the honey-do list. Nina could have used vinegar to get rid of those pesky weeds herself, but somehow—hello volunteering, organizing, chauffeuring, cooking, cleaning—she never seemed to have the time. Those quick thoughts fled as she opened the door to watch the two police officers make their way up the brick front steps.
"Can I help you?" Nina asked, a slight quaver in her voice.
"Are you Nina Garrity?" asked the man. He removed his sunglasses the way cops sometimes did on TV shows, slowly and full of intent, revealing eyes that were a striking, steely light gray.
He tilted his head slightly, his edginess giving way to something more congenial. Or was it sympathy? Nina couldn't tell.
"Yes. Can I help you? Is everything all right?" Her voice was tinged with dread.
"Is your husband at home?" the female cop asked.
This excerpt ends on page 14 of the hardcover edition.
Monday, August 10th we begin the book The Good Killer by Harry Dolan.