Marnie Soloman slowly came to as the fog of adrenaline began to lift. Her head was pounding, her muscles, weak and sore. She bent over to keep from passing out and wretched bits of this morning's breakfast into her mouth which she swallowed back down painfully.
She glanced around the room at the walls and ceiling and was mostly impressed with the blood spatter. It looked like a work of art, like something Jackson Pollock might produce. In particular, there was a crisscrossing pattern on the ceiling and a five-foot-long feather of blood on one of the walls that was momentarily mesmerizing her.
She looked to her left where the pale, lifeless body of Edwin Mason lay naked on the bed and gasped at the realization that he was dead. She reached out with a shaky, blood-stained hand and gently caressed his dark hair. “Oh, Edwin,” she said, with a flat, emotionless tone. Marnie was careful to not leave a mark on his face, and from this angle, he appeared to be sleeping. Instead she focused her blows on the back of Edwin’s head, careful to inflict enough damage to kill him, while maintaining his pristinely good looks.
She headed for the master bathroom, tiptoeing through the field of blood puddles along the way.
The body of Edwin’s husband, Brian, lay on the floor just in front of the bathroom door. Unlike Edwin, Brian's face was a network of bruises, broken bones and teeth, and clotting blood. Parts of his forehead and left cheek had been struck with such force that the skin had come detached from bone and was folded over onto itself like a freshly-fileted fish. Marnie had done a number on Brian’s head, leaving his smashed skull sunken and oozing grey matter and blood.
It reminded her of that one summer when her father was laid up after throwing his back out. They’d planted cantaloupes in the garden that year, and while most of them got picked and were either eaten or given away to friends and neighbors, there were a few that escaped notice until it was too late. The back of Edwin’s head looked like one of those melons, soft and dented and leaking juice from its rotten shell. She bent over to retrieve the baseball bat she'd used, turned it over in her hands, and realized that at some point the bat had broken.
Once in the bathroom and with the fog lifting even more, Marnie stripped off her clothes, wrapped them and the baseball bat in a sheet of thick plastic she'd brought with her, and placed everything inside a paper grocery sack that she'd found earlier in Edwin’s kitchen (a kitschy wooden sign hanging on the wall announced that it was his).
She jumped in the shower, washed her hair and body several times to be sure she ridded herself of every drop of blood
(and the stench)
(the stench of death)
and every bit of flesh and bone. When she finished, she examined her face in the mirror, starting now to feel more alive. Edwin had put up a struggle, but landed no blows; Brian, on the other hand, got in one semi-conscious last-ditch punch before going down. It left Marnie with a lip that was slightly swollen but hadn't bled. Good thing.
The phone in the Mason's bedroom rang, startling her. For a few seconds she could hear her heart pounding in her ears and she began to shake. She quickly tip-toed to the closet and
began rummaging around for a change of clothes. She found a pair of sweats on the top shelf that should work and
slid them on. She grabbed a blue sweatshirt and pulled it over her head.
Ring! and click.
Marnie stood still for a moment, the blood still pounding loudly in her ears, her pulse quickening.
“Thank you for calling the Mason's. We're not available to...”
She took a pair of rather large’ish looking tennis shoes from the floor of the closet
“... take your call. Please leave a message.”
and slid her bare feet into them.
“Hi, this is Mr. Gravely, the principal at Jeremy's school...”
Once again, Marnie froze. The kids! She'd nearly forgotten about the kids. Juniper was just a baby, and she went to the 'sitter's on Tuesdays. No need to worry about her, but Jeremy was in first grade and rode the bus home every day. A feeling of panic overcame her. She glanced at the clock. Jeremy was due home in ten minutes.
“... arts fair ...”
She grabbed the paper sack, ran her hands through her
“... seven o'clock ...”
hair and left the house as quietly as she'd entered.
She’d parked her car three-and-a-half blocks away to avoid drawing attention. In her panic to leave, her instincts were screaming to run to her car, but she forced herself to walk at a steady and purposeful pace. Why'd that freakin’ phone have to ring? she asked herself several times.
With each step her pulse slowed and it became easier to think. Within five minutes, she found herself sliding in behind the wheel. She took a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh. She flipped down the sun visor and looked at herself in the mirror on the reverse side. She was half expecting to see a crazed face staring back at her. Other than her eyes tearing at the flood of emotions that were overtaking her, she looked calm and collected.
She ran her hands through her hair and scratched her scalp. She couldn't get away from the image of Brian’s
skull. How hard and how many times had she hit him? As in the past, the fog that settled over her mind in the heat of the moment left her unsure precisely what had happened.
Like all people, Edwin was more a creature of habit and ritual than he realized. Over the intervening months, Marnie had watched him intently enough to know everything she needed to know about him; where he shopped, what he wore, what food he liked and didn't like, and the schedule he kept. Of particular interest, she'd learned that every third Tuesday, he left work early to meet Brian at the house for what she guessed was a mid-afternoon romp. Always the third Tuesday, and always at two o'clock. So today, the third Tuesday of the month, she put her plan in motion.
She arrived at the house thirty minutes before they were due home. She'd picked the lock, entered the house, and grabbed a paper sack from the kitchen before heading upstairs to their bedroom. She hid in the closet, watching and listening through the slats in the closet door. When they finally got home, they came immediately upstairs, kissing and pawing each other. Then Brian put on a porno and they started to have sex.
Just as Brian was about to climax, Marnie burst through the closet door and swung the bat at his
head, knocking him backwards on the bed. Edwin never even saw what was coming. Marnie brought the bat down on the back of his head and knocked him out. Then things became foggy for Marnie and her clear recollections turned into mere glimpses. Her memory flashed on her struggle with Brian and on kicking him in the teeth as he lay on the floor. She remembered flashes of Edwin's dark hair, now stained with clotting blood. There was also a memory that was dim yet powerful and though she struggled to form it, nothing materialized in her mind.
Her head was starting to pound again, sending shock waves in the space between her ears. She leaned over to the glovebox and retrieved a bottle of aspirin. She shook four pills out of the bottle and dry-swallowed them before starting the car and pulling away from the curb. In her rear-view mirror, Marnie saw a big, yellow school bus turn onto Edwin's street. Dodged that bullet, she thought.
It was a short drive, only two or three miles. She pulled up to the curb in front of a non-descript apartment building, checked her watch, grabbed the paper sack and exited the car. She walked around the side of the building and tossed the paper sack into the dumpster. Then, as she was rounding the corner to the front of the building, she saw something that stopped her cold.
Crossing the street, coming toward her, was someone who looked amazingly like Brian. When he smiled at her, she could see that it was indeed Brian.
“Hi,” he said, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her cheek.
“Hi,” she managed to reply through an ever-tightening throat. Her heart was pounding, and she felt as though she might throw up. “What are you doing here?” She hoped the smile she was forcing her face to make was passable.
Her mind was racing. She was just in Edwin and Brian’s house, she just clobbered them both, they were both dead. Weren’t they?
She remembered entering the house, grabbing the paper grocery bag, and hiding in the closet. Then Edwin and Brian came home and
(was it BRIAN?)
made their way upstairs. There was lots of kissing, fondling, and heavy breathing. Then Brian
(WAS it Brian?)
and Edwin started to have sex.
(It had to be Brian. Who else could it be?)
“Oh, I was just in the neighborhood and thought I’d stop in to say hello,” Brian said, tilting her chin up so he could kiss her deeply on the lips.
“I’m so glad you did,” she said, leading him into the building behind her.
“What happened to your lip?” Brian asked as the door closed behind him. “And where’d you get those shoes?”