The Silent Wife by Karin Slaughter

Prologue


Beckey Caterino stared into the darkest corners of the dorm refrigerator. She angrily scanned the food labels, searching for her scrawled initials on anything—cottage cheese, Lunchables, bagel bites, vegan hot dogs, even carrot sticks.

KP, Kayleigh Pierce. DL, Deneshia Lachland. VS, Vanessa Sutter.

“Bitches.” Beckey slammed the fridge door hard enough to make the beer bottles rattle. She kicked the closest thing she could find, which happened to be the trashcan.

Empty yogurt containers tumbled out across the floor. Crumpled bags of Skinny Girl popcorn. Diet Coke-swilled bottles. All with two letters written in black magic marker across the front.

BC.

Beckey stared at the depleted packages of food that she had bought with her precious little money that her asshole roommates had eaten while she’d spent the night at the library working on a paper that was fifty percent of her Organic Chemistry grade. She was supposed to meet with her professor at seven to make sure she was on the right track.

Her eyes flicked to the clock.

4:57 a.m.

“You fucking bitches!” she screamed up at the ceiling. She turned on every light she could find. Her bare feet burned a track across the hall carpet. She was exhausted. She could barely stand up straight. The bag of Doritos and two giant cinnamon rolls from the library vending machine had turned into concrete inside her stomach. The only thing that had propelled her from the library to the dorm was the promise of nutrition.

“Get up, you thieving bitch!” She banged her fist so hard on Kayleigh’s door that it popped open.

Pot smoke curtained the ceiling. Kayleigh blinked from beneath the sheets. The guy next to her rolled over.

Markus Powell, Vanessa’s boyfriend.

“Shit!” Kayleigh jumped out of bed, naked but for one sock on her left foot.

Beckey banged her fists against the walls as she made her way to her own bedroom. The smallest bedroom, which she had volunteered to take because she was a doormat who didn’t know how to stand up to three girls who were her same age but had double her bank account.

“You can’t tell Nessa!” Kayleigh rushed in behind her, still naked. “It was nothing, Beck. We got drunk and—”

We got drunk and.

Every freaking story these bitches told started with those same four words. When Vanessa had been caught blowing Deneshia’s boyfriend. When Kayleigh’s brother had accidentally peed in the closet. When Deneshia had “borrowed” her underwear. They were always drunk or stoned or screwing around or screwing each other, because this wasn’t college, this was Big Brother where no one could be evicted and everyone got gonorrhea.

“Beck, come on.” Kayleigh rubbed her bare arms. “She was going to break up with him anyway.”

Beckey could either start screaming and never stop or get out of here as fast as possible.

“Beck—”

“I’m going for a run.” She yanked open a drawer. She looked for her socks, but of course none of her socks matched. Her favorite sports bra was wadded up under the bed. She grabbed her dirty running shorts out of the basket and settled on two mismatched socks, one of which had a hole in the heel, but getting a blister paled in comparison to staying here, where she would go completely crazy on every living organism.

“Beckey, stop being such an a-hole. You’re hurting my feelings.”

Beckey ignored the whine. She looped her headphones around her neck. She was shocked to find her iPod shuffle exactly where it was supposed to be. Kayleigh was the dorm martyr, all of her crimes committed in service of the greater good. She’d only slept with Markus because Vanessa had broken his heart. The only reason she’d copied from Deneshia’s test was because her mother would be devastated if she failed another class. She’d eaten Beckey’s mac-n-cheese because her father was worried that she was too thin.

“Beck.” Kayleigh moved onto deflection. “Why won’t you talk to me? What’s this really about?”

Beckey was about to tell her exactly what this was about when she happened to notice that her hair clip wasn’t on the nightstand where she always left it.

The oxygen left her lungs.

Kayleigh’s hands flew up in innocence. “I didn’t take it.”

Beckey was momentarily transfixed by the perfectly round areoles of her breasts, which stared up like a second set of eyes.

Kayleigh said, “Dude, okay, I ate your shit from the fridge, but I would never touch your hair clip. You know that.”