Tuesday, October 22, 2013


This story was inspired by the Golden Earring song, Twilight Zone. What if you woke up in a strange place with a gun in your hand and no recollection of who you were or how you got there?

Somewhere within the barren house a clock counts a muted chime: one, two. I stare past the hot silver weight in my hand at the woman on the floor, her blood shimmering like cherry-colored oil on the slick white tile, framing a ragged hole between vacant eyes.

Green eyes.

I have no memory of who she is or why I'm here among these stark walls. My brain is numb. I know myself only from scent, and a name that flashes like a neon sign from oblivion...Mike. Mike Salino.

The thought is somehow calming, a buffer against the madness. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, willing myself to relax, and gradually other images begin to filter through. A business trip; I came home a day early, phoning from the hotel, leaving a message on the machine telling Beverly to pick me up at the airport at 8:30. Waiting an hour; finally grabbing a cab, figuring she's working late. It's raining--that miserable, bone-numbing February rain. Soaking me as I run up the driveway, calling out to her. The house is dark but for the light under our bedroom door. Someone is in there talking; laughing. The kind of laugh we used to share just after...

Tony?

February 3rd, 2008. The date is tattooed on my memory.

My wife and my own brother.

The blood from the woman's ruptured skull is beginning to congeal, turning dark and dull, and before I can stop it, the bile rises in my throat, my knees jarring on the stark white tile, my body convulsing, its bitter soup lacing the soured carnage on the floor.

I drag myself to the kitchen. Rinse out my mouth. Splash cold water on my face. Look around; purged and newborn.

There's no evidence of who might live here. No mail on the counter, no notes stuck to the refrigerator. Not a stray hair or a wisp of lint or a water spot on the glazed perfection. Just a calendar on the wall, Xs crossing off the first three days of February...2013.

2013?

God, are those my screams? Anguish careening off unfamiliar walls, chasing me through the house, past the black empty windows and the white tiled bathroom until my flight is arrested by a flawless, floor-length mirror.

I stare back at the face reflected there, a rim of mottled gray, eyes as dead as the woman’s. I forget I'm still holding the gun until I smash my hand against the glass.

There's a clean towel in the kitchen, and I'm careful to set the gun down on the counter before wrapping the wound.

The gun; I should leave it there. Should wipe it clean and walk away, but it calls to me; a molten god.
I pick it up. Cradle it in my palm with cold intimacy. No cop in the world will believe I'm not the one who pulled that trigger. Who watched with calculated composure as hot metal seared through vital flesh.

I have to get out of this house.

I retrace my steps, back through the foyer, past the cooling corpse, down the glaring corridor that opens into a lush bedroom suite. A wall of glass frames a bed smothered in satin. Black-framed abstracts splash across white walls. Polished chests stuffed with silk and lace. It reeks of excess.

Twin dressing rooms lead to separate bathrooms, a woman's with dresses cocooned in filmy plastic, a man's lined with drawers on one side, suits and shirts on the other. Shoes aligned precisely on the carpeted floor.

I strip and select one of the suits, a gray pinstripe. Perfect fit. A pair of black wingtips slip on like they're made for me. Better.

I scour my old pants for a wallet; nothing. Ball up the blood-spattered clothes and stuff them in a pillowcase. Move to the night stand on the left side of the bed; the side I’ve always preferred. Beverly used to call it protective instinct. Anyone would have to go through me to get to her.

Anyone but…

The drawer reveals some photos, several sets of car keys, a small box of shells. Forty-four magnum. I glance at the gun, pocket the shells, pick up the top photo. A woman posed on a beach in a red string bikini. A handwritten caption: Sara in Bimini, April 7, 2012. Our honeymoon.

The room starts to spin, the nausea returning. I sift through the keys, grab a set with a BMW fob, notice a business card. Sara Barnes-Salino, Attorney at Law.

I drop the card and slam the drawer shut, heading back to the man’s closet. Moving with purpose now. There's a jewelry box in one of the drawers--tie tacks and cufflinks; a Rolex watch. I need cash; I’ll settle for value. I slip it over my wrist.

Sliding the box back into the drawer, I spot a manilla envelope tucked against the back of the chest. I pull it out; the front is stamped EVIDENCE--DEFENSE COPY. Half a dozen black and white eight-by-ten glossies inside. Pictures of a crime scene; graphic detail.

The first is a wide shot of two bodies on the floor; a man and a woman. The bed in the background is rumpled, abused. Splattered with gray.

I flip to the next picture, unable to stop myself.

The man’s chest is laid open, the outline of shattered bone glaring white against the gray pulp. His head hangs to the side at a crazy angle; the neck broken. Something about the jaw, the line of his nose...

The tangle of dark hair hiding his face.

The woman looks worse. Half her face is gone; a mangled puddle of gore with a single, vacant eye.
Green eyes—you can never tell what they're hiding.

…my own brother?

The eye in the photo is staring at me with Poe-ish accusation. Even in death, green eyes don’t change.

I slip the pictures back into the envelope and tuck it into my jacket, calm now as I walk back to the kitchen, the judge’s thunder still crackling through my head.

Temporary insanity.

Pity…you would have thought she was smarter than that.
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