Things We Do in the Dark - Jennifer Hillier

PART ONE

She can kill with a smile, she can wound with her eyes

—BILLY JOEL

CHAPTER ONE

There’s a time and a place for erect nipples, but the back of a Seattle police car definitely isn’t it.

Paris Peralta didn’t think to grab a sweater before they arrested her, so she’s only wearing a bloodstained tank top. It is July, after all. But the air-conditioning is on high, and she feels cold and exposed. With her wrists cuffed, all she can do is clasp her hands together and hold her forearms up to cover her breasts. It looks like she’s praying.

She’s not praying. It’s much too late for that.

Her head throbs underneath the butterfly bandage one of the EMTs stuck on before they put her in the cop car. She must have slammed it into the rim of the bathtub sometime last night, but she doesn’t remember tripping or falling. All she remembers is her husband, lying in a bathtub filled with blood, and the screaming that woke her up this morning.

The blond-ponytailed detective behind the wheel glances at Paris again in the rearview mirror. Ever since Jimmy signed a streaming deal with new Netflix competitor Quan six months ago, people have been staring at her a lot. Paris hates it. When she and Jimmy got married, she expected to live a quiet life with the retired actor-comedian. That’s the deal they made; that’s the marriage she signed up for. But then Jimmy changed his mind and un-retired, and it was about the worst thing he could have done to her.

And now he’s dead.

The detective has been keeping an eye on her in the back seat the entire time, her eyes shifting from the road to the mirror every few minutes. Paris can already tell the woman thinks she did it. Okay, fine, so it looked bad. There was so much blood, and when the detective arrived on the scene, there were already three officers in the bedroom pointing their guns straight at Paris through the bathroom doorway. Soon there were four pairs of eyes staring at her as if she’d done something terrible. Nobody seemed to be blinking or breathing, including her.

“Mrs. Peralta, please put the weapon down,” the detective had said. Her voice was calm and direct as she unholstered her pistol. “And then come out of the bathroom slowly with your hands up.”

But I don’t have a weapon, Paris thought. It was the second time someone had told her to do that, and just like before, it didn’t make sense. What weapon?

Then the detective’s eyes flickered downward. Paris followed her glance and was shocked to discover that she was still holding Jimmy’s straight razor. And not just holding it, but clutching it in her right hand, her fingers wrapped tightly around the handle, her knuckles white. She lifted it up, staring at it in wonder as she turned it over in her hand. The police officers didn’t like that, and the detective repeated her demand again in a tone louder and more commanding than before.

The whole thing was so absurd. Everybody was overreacting. Paris wasn’t holding a weapon. It was just a shaving tool, one of several straight razors that Jimmy owned, because her husband was an old-school guy who liked straight shaves and cassette tapes and landlines. He wasn’t even allowed to use his straight razors anymore. The worsening tremor in his hand had rendered them unsafe.

So why the hell was Paris still holding the ebony-handled razor he’d bought in Germany decades ago?

Everything happened in slow-motion. As the detective continued to speak, Paris once again took in the blood spattered across the white marble tile floor, diluted pink from mixing with the bathwater. It was Jimmy’s blood, and she knew that if she turned around, she would see her husband behind her, submerged in the deep soaker bathtub where he’d bled out the night before.

Paris did not turn around. But she did manage to catch a glimpse of herself in the mirror above the sink, where she saw a woman who looked just like her wearing a tank top splotched with blood. Her hair was tangled and her eyes were wild, the side of her face covered in blood that had oozed from a gash over her right eyebrow. In her hand, Jimmy’s old straight razor did look like a weapon.

A murder weapon.

“Mrs. Peralta, drop the razor,” the detective commanded again.

Paris finally dropped it. The steel blade landed on the tile with a dull clang, and the uniformed officers moved in