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Things We Do in the Dark: A Novel

Things We Do in the Dark: A Novel PDF

Author: Jennifer Hillier

Publisher: Minotaur Books


Publish Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN-10: 1250763169

Pages: 352

File Type: Epub, PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

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 on her in a swarm. One of them slapped the cuffs on her, and the detective informed her of her rights. As they led her out of the bedroom and down the stairs, Paris wondered how she would possibly explain this.

Years ago, the last time this happened, she didn’t have to explain it at all.

“I’m sorry, but would you mind turning down the air-conditioning?” Paris’s nipples are pressing hard against her forearms like ball bearings. Though she’d lived in Seattle for almost twenty years now, the Canadian in her still can’t break the habit of apologizing before asking for something. “I’m sorry, it’s just really cold back here.”

The officer in the passenger seat pushes a button on the dashboard repeatedly until the cold air eases up.

“Thank you,” she says.

The officer turns around. “Anything else we can do for you?” he asks. “Need a mint? Want to stop and grab a coffee?”

He’s not asking real questions, so she doesn’t respond.

On some level Paris understands that she’s in shock and that the full extent of the situation hasn’t hit her yet. At least her self-preservation instincts have kicked in—she knows she’s been arrested, she knows she’s going to be booked, and she knows she needs to keep her mouth shut and call a lawyer at the first opportunity. But still, it feels like she’s watching all this happen from the outside, as if she’s in a movie where someone who looks like her is about to be charged with murder.

This feeling of disassociation—a word she learned as a kid—is something that happens to her whenever she’s in situations of extreme stress. Disassociation was her mind’s way of protecting her from the traumas that were happening to her body. While this isn’t what’s happening now, the feeling of separation between her brain and physical form tends to happen whenever she feels vulnerable and unsafe.

Right now, the life she knows—the life she’s built—is being threatened.

Paris can’t float away, though. She needs to stay present if she’s going to make it through this, so she focuses on her breathing. As she tells her yoga students, whatever is happening, you can always come back to your breath. Constricting her throat just a little, she takes a slow, deep inhale, holds it, then exhales. It makes a slight hissing sound, as if she’s trying to fog up the car window, and the detective’s eyes dart toward her in the rearview mirror once again.

After a few ocean breaths—ujjayi breaths—Paris is more clearheaded, more here, and she tries to process how the hell she ended up in the back of a cop car, on her way to jail. She watches enough TV to know that the police always assume it’s the spouse. Of course, it hadn’t helped one bit that Zoe, Jimmy’s assistant, was the one pointing the finger and screaming herself hoarse. She murdered him she murdered him oh my God she’s a murderer!

They think she killed Jimmy.

And now the rest of the world will, too, because that’s how it looks when you’re led out of your home in handcuffs with blood on your clothes as news of your celebrity husband’s death ripples through the crowd of onlookers snapping photos and recording videos of your arrest. The irony is, the crowd was already conveniently in place outside the house well before Zoe called the cops. Paris and Jimmy live on Queen Anne Hill, right across the street from Kerry Park, which boasts the best views of Seattle. It’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists to take photos of the city skyline and Mount Rainier, and the crowd today was like any other, except the cameras were pointing toward the house instead of the skyline. And just like there hadn’t been time to put on another shirt, there had been no opportunity to put on different shoes. Paris heard someone yell, “Nice slippers!” as soon as she stepped outside, but it didn’t sound like a compliment.

The neighbors on the street were all outside, too. Bob and Elaine from next door were standing at the end of their driveway, their faces filled with shock and horror at the sight of her. Since they didn’t call out or offer to help in any way, they must have already heard what happened. They must already think Paris is guilty.

They’re supposed to be her friends.

She can imagine the headlines already. JIMMY PERALTA, THE PRINCE OF POUGHKEEPSIE, FOUND DEAD AT 68. Though Jimmy’s highly rated sitcom had ended its ten-year run more than two decades earlier, he would forever be known for his starring role as the son of a bakery owner in The Prince of Poughkeepsie, which won over a dozen Emmys and propelled Jimmy into movie stardom until he retired seven years ago. Paris doesn’t have to be a publicist to predict that the news of her husband’s death will be even bigger than the headline-making multimillion-dollar deal Jimmy signed with Quan when he decided to make his comeback. Even Paris would think this was a juicy story if it wasn’t happening to her.

She continues to focus on her breathing, but her mind refuses to settle. None of this feels right. While she had no illusions that she and Jimmy would grow old together, she thought they had more time. In the two years they’d been married, they’d established an easy routine. Paris worked at the yoga studio six days a week, and Jimmy always had things going on. But Sundays were their day together. They should be having a lazy brunch right now at the nearby diner, where the owner always saved them a table by the window. Pancakes and bacon for Jimmy, waffles with strawberries for Paris. Afterward, they might head into Fremont for the farmers’ market or take a drive to Snohomish to do some antiques hunting. More often than not, though, they’d head home, where Jimmy would putter in the garden, trimming this and weeding that, while she cracked open a paperback and sat by the pool.

But this is not a normal Sunday. This is a fucking nightmare. Paris should have known it would end like this, because there’s no such thing as happily ever after when you run away from one life to start a whole new one.

Karma has come for her.

A feather from her ridiculous slippers tickles the top of her foot. When she received them for her birthday last month—not her real birthday, but the one that’s listed on her ID—they were funny and cute. Her instructors at the studio had all chipped in to buy her the pair of seriously expensive Italian designer slides made out of pink ostrich feathers. They were supposed to stay at the studio so she’d have something to walk around in between classes, but she couldn’t resist bringing them home to show Jimmy. She knew he would laugh, and he did.

The slippers aren’t funny now. All they’ll do is play into the narrative the media keeps trying to create, which is that Paris is a rich, self-entitled asshole. She managed to fly under the radar for nineteen years after she escaped Toronto, only to have it all undone when Jimmy’s trusty assistant Zoe included their wedding photo with the press release about the streaming deal. Zoe couldn’t understand why Paris was so upset, but until that day, most people hadn’t even known that Jimmy Peralta had gotten married again. Paris had been living in blissful anonymity with her retired husband, and then it all went to hell.

As Zoe would say, the optics are terrible. Paris is Jimmy’s fifth wife, and she’s almost thirty years younger than he is. While the age difference was never a problem for Jimmy—why would it be?—it makes Paris look like a gold-digging bitch who was just waiting for her husband to die.

And now he’s dead.

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