Bradley, the overpaid chauffeur, sat 35,000 feet somewhere above America en route to an all expenses paid Caribbean holiday as Peter squirmed behind the polished wheel of his Mercedes heading for Tomales Bay to calm his frayed nerves for the weekend. Traffic ebbed and flowed, but he didn’t care. His emotions strained against the bog-like conditions precipitated by shock and a gnawing fear.
Why he didn’t suffer a heart attack the night of the accidental death inflicted by Tarek’s garrote was beyond him. Peter was grateful the hysterical Turk screamed at them to get the hell out before the police descended upon the place.
Victoire looked at her watch. She put on a jacket and walked outside the cliff house. Ribbons of fog skimmed over the salty waters scouting for terra firma. It was only a matter of time before the low hanging sun would be spirited away by the growing fog bank. Victoire’s footfall echoed on the newly enlarged deck, which extended dramatically over a two-story precipice. She flicked the light switch, pleased with the strategically placed spotlights illuminating the vertiginous drop.
Victoire pulled out a lighter and carefully lit a large hurricane lamp on the deck table. Satisfied the stage was set, she headed back inside to wait for her husband.
Peter walked through the door later that evening to find Victoire with her legs pulled up against her body in front of a raging fire, a glass of wine in hand. Without her neatly pulled back hair and customary deep vermillion lipstick, she appeared even younger.
“Hello, Peter. I’ve been waiting for you.”
Guilt knocked about in the pit of his stomach. He came over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “You have no idea how happy I am you suggested we spend the weekend alone up here. It’s just what I needed.”
His skin looks grey, like he has aged overnight. “Here,” she said, pouring him a glass of wine. “It’s your favourite year. I thought you might need it.”
“Why don’t you get dinner organized while I take a shower and get changed?” He took a sip and savoured the full-bodied flavour. “I’ve had an exhausting day, and it’s been a very long drive.”
“Peter, we need to talk.”
His tight shoulders dropped. Peter simply couldn’t face a serious discussion. It would have to wait till the next day, depending upon his altered state of mind. “Not tonight, Victoire,” he declared as if dealing with a twelve year old. “Let’s have a quiet dinner and get to bed early. We’ve got the entire weekend.” He picked up his matching bag and briefcase.
“Well I’m afraid this can’t wait, Peter. You might want to pull up a chair.”
Branches scratched the windowpane and a low howl of wind travelled through the room.
“Is everything okay? Is anybody sick?" he asked as if reciting by rota.
She bit her tongue. “Nobody is sick, Peter. Please, just sit.”
Annoyance flickered pointedly across his heavily hooded eyes. “Victoire, this better be important. I have enough on my plate as it is.”
“I couldn’t agree with you more.” She produced the red manila from her large crocodile handbag and handed it to him. “Open it up.” Her tone was riddled with hurt
His mouth went suddenly dry, and he found it hard to swallow. “What is this?”
“You know exactly what it is!” She crossed her arms over her chest and looked away.
He knew what was coming. His quicksilver mind sought solutions, plausible excuses.
“For how long…”His arms flew up and his head fell back against his interlaced fingers.
“For how long have I known, Peter?” she asked, looking at him with incredulity. “How could you, wasn’t I good enough for you?”
Peter felt as if he’d been physically punched in the stomach and covered it with his hands. He had no excuses. “I didn’t mean to hurt you in any way, Victoire, I swear to God! You have to believe me. I am so, so sorry.” His voice dropped to a muffled whisper.
Victoire spun around and bent her head in mock despair.
He got up and tried to explain and comfort her. “Victoire, it’s me, it’s not you.”
She went deadly quiet, her blue eyes remained fixed on a point in the distance, unseeing.
“For the love of God, I’ve given you everything you ever wanted, Victoire, haven’t I? Haven’t I been good to you?” he looked about the house, gesturing at the exquisite interior and the dramatic view. “You don’t lack anything.”
“I thought we had the perfect marriage, that you loved me when all along, I was just a decoy.” Her voice cracked.
Everybody has a price, he thought, and he needed to find out hers. “Victoire, maybe we can work it out somehow...”