In an instant, I became the woman they assumed I’d been all along: the wife who lied to protect her husband. I almost didn’t hear the knock on the front door. I had removed the brass knocker twelve days earlier, as if that would stop another reporter from showing up unannounced. Once I realized the source of the sound, I sat up straight in bed, hitting mute on the TV remote. Fighting the instinct to freeze, I forced myself to take a look. I parted the drawn bedroom curtains, squinting against the afternoon sun.

The_Wife_featureI saw the top of a head of short black hair on my stoop. The Impala in front of the fire hydrant across the street practically screamed ‘unmarked police car’. It was that same detective, back again. I still had her business card tucked away in my purse, where Jason wouldn’t see it. She kept knocking, and I kept watching her knock, until she sat on the front steps and started reading my paper.

I threw on a sweatshirt over my tank top and pajama pants and made my way to the front door.

“Did I wake you?” Her voice was filled with judgment. “It’s three o’clock in the afternoon.”

I wanted to say I didn’t owe anyone an explanation for lying around my own house, but instead, I muttered that I had a migraine. Lie number one – small, but a lie nonetheless.

“You should take vinegar and honey. Works every time.”

“I think I’d rather have a headache. If you need to talk to Jason, you can call our lawyer.”

“I told you before, Olivia Randall’s not your lawyer. She’s Jason’s.” I started to close the door, but she pushed it back open. “And you may think your husband’s case is on hold, but I can still investigate, especially when it’s about an entirely new charge.”

They could use my failure to answer as proof that I was hiding something. And a detective was at my door with what seemed like a simple ques­tion: Where had my husband been the previous night?”

I should have slammed the door, but she was baiting me with the threat of incoming shrapnel. I’d rather take it in the face than wait for it to strike me in the back.

“What is it now?”

“I need to know where your husband was last night.”

Of all nights, why did she have to ask about that one? For any other date of our six- year marriage, I could have offered a truthful account.

I already knew from Jason’s lawyer that this wasn’t the stuff cov­ered by spousal privilege. They could haul me in to a grand jury. They could use my failure to answer as proof that I was hiding something. And a detective was at my door with what seemed like a simple ques­tion: Where had my husband been the previous night?

“He was here with me.” It had been twelve years since a police officer last asked me a direct question, but my first instinct was still to lie.

“All night?”

“Yes, our friend brought over enough food to last the whole day. It’s not exactly fun to be seen in public these days.”

“What friend?”

“Colin Harris. He brought takeout from Gotham. You can call the restaurant if you need to.”

“Can anyone else vouch that your husband was here with you?”

“My son, Spencer. He called from camp around seven thirty and spoke to both of us.” Words kept escaping my mouth, each phrase seemingly necessitated by the previous one. “Pull up our phone records if you don’t believe me. Now, please, what’s this all about?”

“Kerry Lynch is missing.”

The words sounded funny together. Kerry Lynch is missing. This woman who had been batting us around was suddenly gone, like a sock that never makes it out of the dryer.

Of course it was about that woman. Our entire life had been about her for the last two weeks. My lips kept moving. I told the detective that we streamed La La Land before falling asleep, even though I had watched it alone. So many details, tumbling out.

I decided to go on the offense, making it clear I was outraged the police had come straight to our door when Kerry could be anywhere. I even suggested indignantly that the detective come inside and take a look around, but in reality, my thoughts were racing. I assured myself that Jason could answer questions about the film if asked. He had seen it on the plane the last time he flew home from London. But what if they asked Spencer about the phone call?

The detective was obviously unmoved by my exasperation. “How well do you really know your husband, Angela?”

“I know he’s innocent.”

“You’re more than a bystander. You’re enabling him, which means I can’t help you. Don’t let Jason take you and your boy down with him.”

I waited until the Impala had left to reach for my phone. Jason was in a client meeting, but took my call. I had told him the night before that I didn’t want to speak to him again until I had made some deci­sions.

“I’m so glad you called.”

With one stupid conversation, I had conformed to the stereotype. I was complicit now. I was all in.

“Jason, Kerry Lynch is missing. Please tell me you didn’t do this because of me.”

from The Wife (Faber & Faber, £12.99)

 

The_WifeAlafair Burke is the New York Times-bestselling author of ten previous novels, the most recent of which, The Ex, was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. She also co-authors the bestselling Under Suspicion series with Mary Higgins Clark. A former prosecutor, she now teaches criminal law and lives in Manhattan. The Wife is out now from Faber & Faber.
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“With a fine eye for believable characters and what motivates people, Burke sculpts a solid domestic thriller that’s fresh and timely.” Washington Post

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Alafair Burke: Outside in

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