Home > The Kind Worth Killing(4)

The Kind Worth Killing(4)
Peter Swanson

“You staying for the weekend?” she asked.

“No, I just wanted to come up and say hi. I’ve got dinner tonight with Mark LaFrance.”

“Cancel it and stay here. Weather’s supposed to be beautiful tomorrow.”

“Mark flew in just for this meeting. And I need to prepare some numbers.”

I had originally planned on staying in Maine through the afternoon, hoping that Miranda would agree to a lengthy nap in her hotel room. But after seeing Brad and her canoodling in the very expensive kitchen that I was paying for, I had changed my mind. I had a new plan. After lunch, I drove Miranda back to the house site so she could get her car. Then, instead of driving directly to I-95, I got onto Route 1 and drove south to Kittery and its quarter-mile stretch of outlet stores. I pulled up to the Kittery Trading Post, an outdoor outfitters that I’d driven past on numerous occasions but had never visited. In the space of about fifteen minutes I spent nearly five hundred dollars on a pair of rainproof camouflage-print pants, a gray raincoat with a hood, some oversize aviator glasses, and a pair of high-end binoculars. I took the gear to a public restroom across from the Crate and Barrel outlet and changed into my new getup. With the hood up and the aviator glasses on I felt unrecognizable. At least from a distance. I drove north again, parking in the public lot near Kennewick Cove, squeezing my Quattro in between two pickup trucks. I knew there was no reason for Miranda or Brad to come down to this particular lot, but there was also no reason for me to make my car easy to spot.

The wind had died down but the sky was a low, monochromatic gray, and a warm misty rain had begun to pepper the air. I walked across the damp sand of the beach, then clambered over the loose rocks and shale that led to the start of the cliff walk. I moved carefully, keeping my eyes on the paved path—slick with rain, and buckled in places by roots—instead of on the dramatic sweep of the Atlantic to my right. Some of the paved portions of the cliff walk had eroded away completely, and a faded sign warned walkers of its danger. Because of this, the path was not particularly well traveled, and I only saw one other person that afternoon—a teenage girl in a Bruins jersey that smelled as though she had just smoked a joint. We passed without saying anything or looking at one another.

Toward the end of the path, I walked along the top of a crumbling cement wall that marked the back property line of a stone cottage, the last house before a quarter mile of undeveloped land that culminated in our lot. The path then dipped down to sea level, crossed a short, rocky beach strewn with chewed-up buoys and seaweed, then continued along a steep rise through some twisted spruce trees. The rain had picked up, and I took off my wet sunglasses. The chance that either Miranda or Brad would be outside of the house was very slim, and my plan was to stop just short of the open sweep of cleared land, and position myself in a copse of hardy shrubs along the low part of the bluff. If either looked out and saw me with my binoculars they would assume I was a bird-watcher. If I was approached, I could retreat quickly to the path.

When I could see the house looming above the scarred land, it struck me, not for the first time, how the rear side—the side that faced the ocean—was stylistically opposite from the side that faced the road. The front of the house had a stone veneer with a smattering of small windows and a towering set of dark wood doors with exaggerated arches. The rear of the house was beige-painted wood, and all the identical windows with their identical balconies made it look like a medium-size hotel. “I have a lot of friends,” Miranda had said when I asked her why the house needed seven guest bedrooms. Then she’d shot me a look as though I’d asked her why she thought indoor plumbing was necessary.

I found a good spot under a stunted spruce that was bent and twisted like a bonsai tree. I lay down on the damp ground on my front, and fiddled with the binoculars till I started to get the house in focus. I was about fifty yards away and could easily see through windows. I swept along the first floor, not spotting any movement, then worked my way across the second floor. Nothing. I took a break, surveying the house with my naked eye, wishing I had a view of the front driveway. For all I knew, there was nobody at the house at all, even though Daggett’s truck had still been there when I dropped Miranda off.

A few years earlier I’d gone out fishing with a colleague, a fellow dot-com speculator who was the best open water fisherman I’d ever known. He could stare out at the surface of the ocean and know exactly where the fish were. He told me that his trick was to unfocus his eyes, to take in everything in his visual range all at once, and by doing that he could catch flickers of movement, disturbances in the water. I tried it at the time, and only succeeded in giving myself a dull headache. So after completing another sweep with my binoculars, and seeing nothing, I decided to use this same trick on my own house. I let everything sort of blur in front of my eyes, waiting for any motion to draw attention to itself, and after I’d been staring at the house for less than a minute I caught some movement through the high window of what was to be the living room on the north edge of the house. I lifted my binoculars and focused on the window; Brad and Miranda had just entered. I could see them pretty clearly; the lowering afternoon sun was hitting the window at a good angle, lighting up the interior without causing a glare. I watched Brad walk over to a makeshift table that had been set up by the carpentry crew. He picked up a piece of wood that looked like a section of ceiling molding and held it out for my wife to see. He ran a finger down one of its grooves and she did the same thing. His lips were moving and Miranda was nodding at whatever he was saying.

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