Authors: Nancy Springer
They laughed, and talk moved on, Marietta saw that Bill had moved to the dance floor, with a pretty young mini-skirted girl for his partner. The evening blurred. She no longer hoped to dance. With her back to the table she watched the dancers, she watched more men and a few women arriving insouciantly late, she watched the slow wheeling of that dreadful disco ball, hearing snatches of womentalk all around her.
“…a few drinks before they get here, then more at the bar…”
“…only four grams of fat.”
“Premarin and, what’s the name of that other stuff that makes you keep having your period till you’re ninety?”
“…do you believe for one moment that guys would get annual dickograms?”
“…so sweet until we started going steady, and then it was like Dr. Jeckyll and…”
“…can’t wait to get home and take them off.” Muriel’s crisp voice. “The adhesive irritates my skin.”
“…in a big hurry, get it in before they need Viagra…”
“Three hours of brisk walking a week…”
“…had sex the day he left me.”
The deejay announced, “Time for our second Paul Jones of the evening, folks.”
Marietta stayed where she was, watching the others get up and walk to the floor. Pat, so very much the businesswoman. Muriel, brittle and correct and very, very erect, her breasts under her well-fitted shirtwaist dress as pointed as her discourse and nearly as unyielding. This woman had boobs that did not bounce. Not at all.
Beyond her, yet another latecomer male stood in the doorway. He turned toward Marietta, and his glance passed right over her.
Marietta gasped and grabbed at the table as if she were falling. It was her husband.
There he stood with the other men, staring without expression at the dancers. Her George, in the shirt and tie she had bought him for his birthday.
But—it couldn’t be. He was working. He always worked late on—
On singles dance nights.
For several seconds all of Marietta’s cognitive processes quite simply stopped. When they started again, they proceeded logically and quite coolly; it was this levelheadedness in a crisis that made Marietta a good cop, if anyone would notice. George must not see her, she realized; because she was undercover, and also because she was his wife, he must not know she was here—but he had not noticed her so far. She sat in near darkness, with her hair dyed and a ton of makeup on her usually unadorned face; he probably would not notice her as long as she did not call attention to herself. Better not move.
For the next several moments she sat blending into her environment, watching George watch the boobs bounce, and feeling a cold, covert fury building, building, hardening like an iceberg in her. She had not known she possessed such silent fury.
I hate men. All of them.
“You didn’t go out for the Paul Jones?” It was Deb, returning along with the others.
Marietta shook her head.
“You can’t get tired already, woman.”
Marietta shook her head again. “That man,” she said, fixated on George, “I know him. He’s married.”
Peripherally she saw heads swivel; she had the attention of the whole table. Pat asked, “Which one?”
“In the blue shirt and tie set. Just came in. Name’s George.”
“George? Oh, yes.” It was Muriel. “I know him. He’s a regular.”
Marietta felt her ice-coolness go sharp like a knife. She turned to Muriel. “His wife is the nicest woman,” she stage-whispered across the table. “But she had a mastectomy. I guess he’s not getting what he wants at home.”
This was a lie told for a reason. She watched Muriel’s face, but it showed her nothing.
“Did he see you?” Deb asked.
“No, and I don’t want him to. I have to get out of here. It’s going to be bad enough facing him and his wife…”
“I’ll ask him to dance.” Deb heaved her black-clad bulk up. “Most of them will dance if you ask them. Anyway, I’ll distract him for a minute. You make a run for it.”
“I guess we won’t be seeing you again?” Pat asked as Deb waddled across the room.
“I guess not. No big loss.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Not for me, I mean. I…”
Muriel said, her voice as dry as dead thistles in winter, “It wasn’t what you had hoped.”
“Right.” Marietta looked Muriel straight in the eye, appraising her, then turned away. “Well, I gotta go.”
Ducking out the door, Marietta clutched in her mind like a talisman the memory of the deadly bitterness in Muriel’s stare.
She thought about George. All the years she had spent cooking homemade french fries for him. Her husband, a regular. Here. Wearing that shirt and tie.
May he fry in hell.
She wondered whether the men who had been killed were the kind who watched, or the kind who groped, or both.
She wondered which other woman, or women, at that table were carrying pistols in their purses.
Darting across the too-brightly lighted hallway, she found refuge in the ladies’ room. After making sure she was alone, she reached into her purse and pulled out one of the boy-toys in there. She pressed a button to activate a vibrator hidden inside Bill’s belt, alerting him that she needed to talk with him.
“There’s a guy who can blow my cover in there,” she told him in the safety of the parking lot a few minutes later.
“Well, let’s forget it for tonight, then. Crusher be damned. I don’t see any guys in there who look like they can bench-press me. I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere.”
No wonder he wasn’t getting anywhere, Marietta thought as she settled into her car to wait, as she watched Bill drive away. Guys didn’t talk to one another the way women did. And anyway, Bill was operating on the wrong premise. Maybe she ought to have suggested to him that a mammography machine was quite a powerful kind of press, and that two or more women working together could maneuver a guy into it very nicely, thank you.
But nah. He’d just laugh at her. And anyway, she wanted to wait and see.
It wouldn’t happen tonight, probably. Not if they had any sense. But the chill, furious beauty of her situation was, she didn’t have to do a thing about George except smile as usual. She had set the Crusher in motion; the Crusher would take care of him. Hazily Marietta thought of a glacier grinding its massive, icy way down a lonesome valley of betrayed dreams, then of the Juggernaut. Great wheels turning. Huge, heavy cart that had borne the idol of some Hindu god, crushing the faithful beneath its implacable tread. She wondered what deity they had been worshiping, poor fools. Wondered whether it had been the god of love.
Edgar Award–winning author
well known for her science fiction, fantasy, and young adult novels,
has written a gripping psychological thriller—smart, chilling, and unrelenting…
available in paperback and e-book in November 2012
from New American Library
Dorrie and Sam White are not the ordinary Midwestern couple they seem. For plain, hard-working Sam hides a deep passion for his wife. And Dorrie is secretly following the sixteen-year-old daughter, Juliet, she gave up for adoption long ago. Then one day at the mall, Dorrie watches horror-stricken as Juliet is forced into a van that drives away. Instinctively, Dorrie sends her own car speeding after it—an act of reckless courage that puts her on a collision course with a depraved killer…and draws Sam into a desperate search to save his wife. And as mother and daughter unite in a terrifying struggle to survive, Dorrie must confront her own dark, tormented past.
“A darkly riveting read...compelling.”
—Wendy Corsi Staub, national bestselling author
A fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat thriller that will have you reading late into the night and cheering for the novel's unlikely but steadfast heroine.”
New York Tim
es best-selling author of
The Weight of Silence
These Things Hidden
Learn more about all of Nancy’s titles at her website, www.nancyspringer.com.