There are eight missed calls and one new email from my mum to Beth. I click into the message and read.
From: Mavis Knightly MavisKnightly1954@yahoo.com To: Elizabeth Caruso
ElizabethKnightlyCaruso@gmail.com Date: 31 Aug 2015 at 09.05 Subject: Where are you?
Elizabeth, darling, where on earth have you got to? I’m out of my mind with worry. I’m here in Taormina with your son and the nanny and nobody knows a thing.
The police are crawling all over the place, asking questions about your sister. There seems to be a bit of a hoo‑ha because she was buried in that wood. I told them what you said on the phone about how it was an accident, but I don’t think they believed me . . .
I called my mother up last week and told her that Alvie was dead. I said she was a terrible swimmer and fell into the swimming pool, drunk. She didn’t seem at all surprised. Relieved more like . . .
Anyway, enough about that. I was so sorry to hear about Ambrogio. What a shock. You poor, poor thing. I can only imagine your suffering. He really was the most wonderful husband. The perfect son‑in‑law. So rich. So dashingly handsome. I’ll never forget the sight of his backside as he waited for you to walk down the aisle. I told the police, there’s no way it was suicide. A man as good‑looking and wealthy as that does not go killing himself willy‑nilly. I showed them a photo of you on your honeymoon, that lovely shot of you both on the beach enjoying a sunset daiquiri. ‘Ambrogio Caruso,’ I said to the officer, ‘is married to my daughter, Beth. Would you kill yourself if she was your wife?’ He agreed you were something else. He even went as far as saying you got your good looks from your mum. I didn’t deny it, I have to admit. If he had seen your father, Alvin, there wouldn’t be any doubt in his head. They’re very flirtatious, Italian men. I must say it makes a nice change. In Sydney, women of a certain age are simply invisible. But I’m still a woman. I still have needs. And I appreciate the compliment. You make an effort to look after yourself . . . the chemical peels, the regular waxing, the colonic irrigation. One tries to maintain one’s appearance. I’m not going to the knacker’s yard yet.
Anyway, do come and see me, my dear. All this stress isn’t good for my nerves and I can tell the cortisol’s interfering with the HRT.
Yours unconditionally, Mummy xxx
PS I did try calling you on your mobile, but there seems to be some kind of technological malfunction. It just rings and rings and then goes to voicemail? Will you call me back, angel, please?
I delete the email. Shake my head. She’s unbelievable.
There’s a knock at the door.
What’s that? The police?
‘Who is it?’ I say.
I eye the window. I guess if I had to, I could climb out. What floor is this? Oh, the penthouse . . . Genius. That’s a great plan, Alvie. You’re stark bollock naked. It’s central London. Middle of the day. No one’s going to spot you up there on the roof running around in the buff.
‘Sorry, madam, midday check-out was, erm, well, at midday.’
‘Right. I see. And what time is it now?’
Shit. ‘I’m coming.’
I’ve got to disappear before they see this suite. Nino and I have paid the bill (in cash last night with a fat wad of euros), but that covered our stay, not a full fucking refurb. I’ll have to do a runner.Nino’s fucked off with my clothes in the suitcase. Along with all the cash.
But I don’t have anything to wear. Nino’s fucked off with my clothes in the suitcase. Along with all the cash. What’s he going to do with my sister’s dresses? Gucci, Lanvin and Tom Ford. I doubt they’d suit him, honestly. Ha! I want them back. And my Channing Tatum picture. I can’t believe he took that too. It isn’t like he needs it.
I grab my dirty dress from yesterday (Beth’s little black Chanel) and head into the bathroom for a shower. I step into the steaming water. Sing ‘You Oughta Know’ by Alanis at the top of my lungs. I wrap my hair up in a tur- ban, pull on a robe and head into the suite. I light myself a cigarette and then pace up and down the room like a lion in a cage at the zoo. I need some wonga to go and find Nino: flights, hotels, vodka, etc. But all my own cards are maxed out and I can’t use Beth’s without drawing attention. What am I going to do?
I catch a glimpse of Beth’s diamond necklace sparkling round my neck. Beth’s diamond earrings. Beth’s Omega watch. I’ve still got her wedding and engagement rings on . . . They all worked a treat last week, when I was posing as my twin. I fooled almost everyone, but now I guess I don’t need them.
I wonder how much I’d get if I pawned them. I’ll do it. Right now. I’m gone.
I’m about to open the door and run downstairs out into Mayfair when I stop—my hand on the doorknob—and freeze. What the hell am I thinking? Seriously? Poor little darling unarmed Alvie against that vicious monster Nino. He’s a professional mobster hitman. He’s got twenty years of experience. God only knows how many people he’s killed. Definitely more than me. It could be in the hundreds. Or thousands. Come on, what chance do I have? I must have lost the plot.
I release the doorknob and slump down in a heavy heap on the floor.
I could have had it all.
I was this close. This fucking close. The villa. The car. The yacht. The baby. The priceless Italian Renaissance art. I was living the life. La dolce vita. Two million euros was just the start. He took everything from me when he left me here last night. Hot tears pool and spill from my eyeballs. I blink, blink, blink them away.
What’s that smell? Miss Dior Chérie? That’s strange, even after my shower I can still smell Beth’s perfume: sac- charine, sticky, sickly sweet. I must have put too much on. My sister’s voice whispers in my ear. ‘I’ll get you for this.’
Say what? Is that Beth?
I open my eyes and sit up. I look around, but the room is empty. There’s nobody here except me.
‘You killed me.’
‘Not really. You kind of slipped.’ Do I really have to listen to this? ‘You are no longer my problem.’
‘Ha. I will be. Just wait.’
‘What the fuck? Are you threatening me? You’re dead. I saw it with my own eyes . . .’
‘I’ll get my revenge.’
I stand up and lean against the wall, a cold sweat breaking on my face, my breathing short and ragged. I turn on all the lights in the room: the glittering golden chandeliers, the standing lamp on the writing desk, the light on the coffee table. I grab an ivory letter opener.
‘I’m going to make you pay,’ she says. ‘You killed my husband in cold blood, you had my lover murdered . . .’
Damn, she’s right. I did do that. I guess that’s why she’s cross.
‘OK. Just wait. Just wait,’ I say. The ‘dagger’ quivers in my hand. My voice is faint and quiet.
‘Oh, I can wait. I’ve got nowhere to go. You stole my life, remember?’
She laughs a cruel and joyless laugh, like the nightmare clown in It. Where the fuck is it coming from? I stand in the middle of the room and turn round 360 degrees. She isn’t in here, is she?
‘Firstly, you’re dead. You’re dodo. Get it? You’re just a stupid voice in my head. Secondly, what are you going to do? Talk at me? Terrifying.’
Silence. Nothing. Not a peep. Not a laugh. Not a sigh.
Not a sneeze.
‘Beth?’ Where did she go? I creep towards the mirror. ‘Beth, it’s not funny. Are you still there?’
I step in closer, peer into my eyes. I’m so close now that my breath fogs the glass. ‘Beth? Beth. BETH?’
‘“Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”’
‘ARGH. Shut up, you zombie cunt.’ I flop back down on the floor.
‘You’re going to let Nino walk all over you, just like Ambrogio did. They fuck you, then they leave you. You can never make them stay.’
‘No. There’s no way. I am not.’
‘Look at you. You’re so pathetic. You never could get it together.’
‘I’m finding Nino if it’s the last thing I do.’
I sit up a bit taller and sniff.
I spot the bouquet of roses, laughing, taunting, mocking me. Nino never bought me flowers. Come to think of it, no one did. I spot a small white envelope tucked away inside the vase. I jump up and seize it.
OMG. They’re from him.
What does he want? What does it say?
CARISSIMA ELISABETTA, IF YOU CAN CATCH ME, WE CAN WORK TOGETHER.
From BAD by Chloé Esposito, to be published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2018 by Chloé J. Esposito.