Every Last Secret by A.R. Torre

PROLOGUE

NEENA

Now

The detective was beanpole tall, with a gap in between her middle teeth that I could push a pretzel stick through. Last night she had been unattractive. Now, under the harsh overhead light, she was downright ugly.

She stayed quiet, flipping through her case folder with the speed of a tadpole. I sighed and brought the flimsy foam cup to my lips, forcing the bitter coffee down and wondering where my attorney was. It was fine, for now. I would find out as much as I could, skirt the obvious traps, and keep my mouth shut. Keeping my mouth shut was a skill I’d perfected a long time ago. It was the gossipers who got in trouble. The braggers. People like Cat Winthorpe, who couldn’t just have the perfect life. She had to throw it in your face with her casual comments, her drip of wealth. Which is why she needed to be punished. You can’t blame me for what happened. I was simply putting her in her place.

“I listened to the call you placed to 9-1-1.” The detective studied me. “It was interesting. At one point, you yawned.”

I shifted in my seat, and the handcuffs clinked together. Twisting my wrist, I tried to find a more comfortable position. I had been hoping the phone hadn’t caught that yawn. It was one of those inescapable ones that sneak up on you right in the middle of a sentence.

“Do you realize the damage that a gunshot through the mouth creates?” She flipped over a glossy image and pushed it forward with a slow and calculated hand. “The bullet passes through an enormous number of blood vessels before piercing the brain and exiting out through the back of the skull.”

I leaned over and looked at the photo without comment, unsurprised to see a large exit hole in the top of the head. Nasty stuff, but I had seen worse. A face bloated, the lips splitting open as the features swelled past recognition. The alarmed look on the face of a man you had once loved, just before he dies. The sound of his begging that still echoes in the dark recesses of my mind.

I set down the cheap coffee. “Do you have a question, or is this just your show-and-tell time?”

The woman paused, the simple gold band on her left hand stilling as she studied my face. “Mrs. Ryder, you don’t seem to understand the gravity of this situation. You are under suspicion of attempted murder.”

I understood the gravity of her situation. That cheap wedding band? Those bags under her eyes? She’d chosen the wrong path. With braces early on and a strict fitness-and-diet routine, she could have done something with her life. Been someone. Put herself in a position to enjoy the finer things in life. I focused in on her face. “Dr. Ryder,” I corrected her.

She smiled, and there was something in that gesture that raised my hackles. I looked toward the wide mirror and studied my reflection, verifying that everything was in place.

My hair, freshly cut and dyed.

My skin, glowing and Botox smooth, despite the horrific lighting in this place.

My body, trim and thin underneath the designer workout gear.

My wedding ring, still in place, the large diamond glittering from my hand like a spotlight.

I had clawed my way to the top of this world, and they couldn’t take me down now. Not with the mountain of lies I’d worked so hard to construct.

“You moved to Palo Alto two years ago, is that correct?” At my silent agreement, she cleared her throat. “So, let’s start there.”





PART 1

MAY

FOUR MONTHS EARLIER





CHAPTER 1

CAT

The first week of May, we held a party. It wasn’t our biggest. There were no aerialists hanging from the great-room beams. We didn’t hire the valets or put up the tents. It was a low-key party, a fundraiser for local performing arts, and one that would double as a going-away party for the flyers.

That’s what I called them: flyers. Every summer, like migrating birds, the members of our community scattered south to apply sunscreen like tourists on boutique cruise ships and private islands. I had just a month and then they’d be leaving me, the group of women currently clustered around me, too concerned with children and cultural experiences to suffer through “another frigid summer” in Atherton.

“When you have kids, you’ll understand,” Perla had once whispered, her hand tapping a metronome beat on my shoulder. “Your life becomes about them, and they want to be in swimsuits, like normal kids.”

When you have kids. Such a cruel thing to say to a fertility-challenged woman. Besides, it was pure crap. No child in Atherton wanted to be normal. Children in Atherton wanted Instagram videos jumping off yachts in taggable locations like the Greek isles. Our heated pools and chilly San Francisco gloom didn’t impress their classmates when they stepped from chauffeured sedans and returned to Menlo School in the fall.

I had smiled at Perla and wondered if she knew that her seventeen-year-old son was screwing our maid. “I know,” I’d said. “When we have kids, maybe we’ll join you.”

William and I would be “suffering” through the chilly summer with our heated tile floors, indoor and outdoor saunas, hot tubs, and six fireplaces. We’d be fighting off the gloom with day trips to Beverly Hills and weekends in our Hawaii home. And honestly, it was kind of nice to have a break from my friends and their always-present collection of children.

“I’m telling you,” Johanna drawled, eyeing a passing waiter with a look of longing. “Puerto Rico is where we’re buying next. A four percent tax rate? Think of how much we’d save.”