Home > The Kind Worth Killing(3)

The Kind Worth Killing(3)
Peter Swanson

One year later, the rosehip bushes had been cleared, a foundation dug, and the exterior of the eight-bedroom house was nearly complete. We’d hired Brad Daggett, a rugged divorcé with thick black hair, a goatee, and a bent-looking nose, as our general contractor. While I spent my weeks in Boston—advising a group of recent MIT grads that had created a new algorithm for a blog-based search engine—Miranda was spending more and more time in Kennewick, taking a room at the inn and surveying the work being done on the house, obsessing over every tile and every fixture.

In early September, I decided to surprise her by driving up. I left a message on her cell phone as I got onto I-95 north of Boston. I arrived in Kennewick a little before noon and looked for her at the inn. They told me she’d been out since morning.

I drove to the house site and parked behind Brad’s F-150 on the gravel driveway. Miranda’s robin’s egg blue Mini Cooper was there as well. I hadn’t visited the property for a few weeks and was happy to see that progress had been made. All the windows appeared to be in place, and the bluestone pavers that I had picked for the sunken garden had arrived. I walked around to the back of the house, where every second-floor bedroom had its own balcony, and where a screened-in veranda along the first floor led down to an enormous stone patio. In front of the patio a rectangular hole had been dug for the pool. Walking up the stone steps of the patio I spotted Brad and Miranda through the tall ocean-facing kitchen windows. I was about to rap on the window to let them know I was there, when something caused me to stop. They were each leaning against the newly installed quartz countertops, both looking out through the window with its view toward Kennewick Cove. Brad was smoking a cigarette and I watched him flick an ash into the coffee cup he held in his other hand.

But it was Miranda that had caused me to stop. There was something about her posture, the way she was leaning against the countertop, angled toward Brad’s broad shoulders. She looked completely at ease. I watched her casually lift a hand as Brad slid the lit cigarette between her fingers. She took a long drag, then returned the cigarette to him. Neither had looked at the other during the exchange, and I knew then that not only were they sleeping together, but that they were also probably in love.

Instead of feeling anger, or dismay, my immediate feeling was panic that they would spot me out on the patio, spying on their moment of intimacy. I backtracked toward the main entrance, crossed the veranda, then swung open the glass door and shouted “Hello” into the echoey house.

“In here,” Miranda yelled back, and I walked into the kitchen.

They had moved a little bit apart but not by much. Brad was grinding out his cigarette in the coffee cup. “Teddy, what a surprise,” Miranda said. She was the only one who called me that, a pet name that had started as a joke, since it did not fit me at all.

“Hey, Ted,” Brad said. “What do you think so far?”

Miranda came around the counter and gave me a kiss that landed on the corner of my mouth. She smelled of her expensive shampoo and Marlboros.

“It’s looking good. My pavers arrived.”

Miranda laughed. “We let him pick one thing and that’s all he cares about.”

Brad came around the counter as well, and shook my hand. His hand was large and knuckly, his palm warm and dry. “Want the full tour?”

As Brad and Miranda took me around the house, Brad talking about building materials, and Miranda telling me what furniture would go where, I began to have second thoughts about what I had seen. Neither seemed particularly nervous around me. Maybe they had just become close friends, the type that stand shoulder to shoulder and share cigarettes. Miranda could be touchy-feely, linking arms with her girlfriends, and kissing our male friends on the lips hello and good-bye. It occurred to me that there was a chance I was being paranoid.

After the house tour, Miranda and I drove to the Kennewick Inn and had lunch in the Livery Tavern. We each got the blackened haddock sandwiches and I drank two scotch and sodas.

“Has Brad got you smoking again?” I asked, wanting to catch her out in a lie, see how she would react.

“What?” she said, her brow furrowing.

“You smelled a little like smoke. Back at the house.”

“I might have snuck a drag or two. I’m not smoking again, Teddy.”

“I don’t really care. I was just wondering.”

“Can you believe the house is nearly done?” she said as she dipped one of her French fries into my pool of ketchup.

We talked about the house for a while and I began to doubt what I had seen even more. She wasn’t acting guilty.

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