The plane had dipped below the level of the Blue Mountains and was skimming down towards the single north-south runway. Caroline gripped the edge of the armrests even harder, and whispered a brief prayer as the plane edged closer to the tiny strip of tarmac. The man next to her chuckled softly and leaned against her shoulder to whisper in her ear. "Still makes you nervous, sweetheart?"
Caroline swallowed down her bitter retort and schooled her expression into something resembling a pleasant stupidity. "I have nothing to fear with you by my side, my love." She forced her fingers to loosen their deathgrip on the armrests and turned her face to his, batting her eyes sweetly. He chuckled again and patted her hand, as if humoring a small, stupid child. She resisted the urge to yank her hand away from his and hoped that her smile didn't look too fake.
The plane bounced once, twice, three times before the wheels found solid footing on the runway, and Caroline's fake smile vanished abruptly. To hell with appearances, she thought, and gripped the armrests again. She didn't have much longer to put up with his condescension anyway.
Her hands naturally relaxed as the plane gently rolled to a stop. "Come along, Susanna, darling, it's time to leave." Caroline cut her eyes at the man next to her and counted backwards from ten to calm herself. He didn't seem to notice. Instead he reached over and unbuckled her restraints, cooing gently at her. "I'd have thought you'd be tearing at this thing like a wild woman, Susanna. How on Earth do you expect to get off the plane if you're still strapped in, silly girl?" Once he had her freed, he stood and extended his hand to help her up.
Caroline took his hand and forced another stupid, insipid smile aimed towards a spot somewhere between his eyebrows and the tip of his nose. "Yes, my love, silly me." She let him guide her down the aisle and off the plane, waving beatifically at the flight attendants they passed. She thought of putting a little distance between herself and her "love" once her feet touched solid ground, but he leaned in to snuggle against her, pulling her in closer. She took the opportunity to roll her eyes as dramatically as possible, but didn't pull away. She'd already put up with him for what felt like years - a couple more hours wouldn't kill her.
They went into the small airport and breezed through customs, which surprised Caroline, before trooping over to a tall, thin man with skin like alabaster and hair like chipped onyx, dressed like a chauffeur. "Mr. Galiter. Mrs. Galiter," he said softly, tipping his black hat at Caroline.
"Nice to see you again, Andrew. Here's the claim ticket, but let's go to the car first. Mrs. Galiter is exhausted from our trip." Caroline smiled weakly at the chauffeur and leaned heavily on her escort, who patted her hand with the same condescension he displayed on the plane. Andrew hardly looked at her, but took the claim ticket and stalked towards the main exit of the airport. Caroline allowed herself to be dragged along right behind him, to the black luxury sedan that waited by the curb, its engine still running.
She slid in the back seat, and gritted her teeth, wondering how much long she would have to put up with him. She was so close to her goal, but she wasn't sure her patience would hold up, especially not with him treating him like an idiot all the time. "Christopher, my love?" He barely grunted an acknowledgment, reaching instead for a newspaper neatly folded in the map pocket of his door. "My love, are we going straight to the cottage? I'd like to phone my sister, to let her know we've arrived safely."
"Susanna, you're married now, you don't need to report to your mother or sisters anymore, darling. You have me to take care of you now." Christopher flashed a lightbulb smile at her and patted her hand yet again before turning his attention back to the newspaper. Caroline counted backwards from twenty, then forwards to thirty, and on and on until Andrew returned with their luggage. She was on her way from seventy.
The ride to the cottage was unremarkable. Caroline was almost serene by the time they pulled into the driveway, until she realized she still had to play the part of the stupid wife until she could get him thoroughly alone. She went through the motions, keeping her temper in tight check until the maid, chauffer, cook and majordomo were all satisfied that Mr. and Mrs. Galiter were quite comfortable and ready to be left alone.
Caroline noted irritably that Christopher had had the phones removed from the bedroom and sitting room, most likely as part of his bid to retrain his wife's desire to contact her family. No matter, she could handle things on her own. She sat down at the small writing desk in the sitting room, where all his financial matters were laid out for the world to see. He hid the phones, but not the bank statements. A woman is too stupid to know how to read such things, after all. Caroline rolled her eyes and looked the information over. Everything was exactly as she'd found it before they'd married. All the passwords were the same, all the money was the same. She wouldn't be able to phone the bank to verify this herself, but if she didn't hear from her partner before nightfall, she knew she could go through to the end.
She fixed herself a stiff drink to loosen her tightening nerves and forced herself to ignore the clock. Christopher puttered about, generally ignoring her as she expected him to. Bastard. Caroline flipped through a fashion magazine and hazarded a glance out the french doors. The sun was sinking over the horizon, tinting the water a beautiful golden red, while the sky seemed to burst in an array of colors. It was a lovely scene, very romantic. Caroline snorted at the irony. She and her lover had never been able to enjoy such a sunset together, nor would they ever, but every single time she saw the sun set through those doors, she was sitting with Christopher Galiter. She cut her eyes toward him, sneering as he hunched over his newspaper, which was shoved under a lamp, so he could see the stock market report better. At least she wouldn't have to sit with him through another beautiful sunset.
A rapid knock came at the door. Caroline jumped up, tense. Who the hell could that be? Christopher gave her an odd look, and slowly ambled to the door, shaking his head and muttering about the fright of silly little women. Caroline gritted her teeth and resisted the urge to throw her empty cocktail glass at his big head. The glass slipped from her hand and fell to the floor when Christopher opened the door, her world shattering into a million pieces at her feet.
Andrew burst in, shoving past Christopher, his already white face even paler, his brown eyes wide and terrified. "They don't work, Caroline."
Christopher recovered from his stumble, and looked from the terrified chauffeur to Caroline, clearly confused. "Who is Caroline?"
Caroline thought fast. What could the problem be? Could she salvage it this late? Was it even worth it? Maybe they could escape back to the States, and leave Christopher none the wiser. But that would just leave another victim in his hands, another woman bereft of her fortune, and quite possibly her life. She shook her head. "It doesn't matter anymore. Let's just finish it. Otherwise it'll never stop."
Christopher stepped between the two and scowled at Caroline. "Susanna, who the devil is Caroline?"
Before she could answer, Christopher jerked toward her, eyes wide. He sputtered, spraying blood all over her face. Caroline let out a disgusted yelp and swiped at her face as he came toppling down on her, his face contorted with shock and rage. He thrashed about a bit, while she struggled to clamber from under his weight, before he finally settled down. She pulled herself free and stared at Andrew, who promptly turned and vomited on the hardwood floor. After a moment, he reached for the kitchen knife sticking out of the dead man's neck, but Caroline swatted his hand away. "Leave it." She reached under Christopher's body and snatched his handkerchief from a pocket, and used it to wipe the prints off the handle before tossing the handkerchief aside distastefully. "Well, we don't have any money to run with, but at least he won't be hurting anyone else. Still, it would have been nice to get out with the fortune."
Andrew shook his head slightly. "It was blood money anyway. It wouldn't have been justice if we'd had it. C'mon, honey. Let's split."