Saturday, 7:17 a.m. 2500 Crescent Drive, Mitchum Bay, Texas
Brittany (she preferred Britt) Parrish trotted across the front yard belonging to her best friend and neighbor Daniele Peterson, feeling irritated but not concerned. The two families had planned to spend the day at the Houston Zoo, and they were supposed to be on the road by 7. Britt had sent a good morning text to Dani at 6:50, and the text, sprinkled as always with exclamation points and smiley face emojis, had gone unanswered, but that was no big deal. Britt liked to pack the day before a big trip, but Dani preferred to wait until the day of. She’d probably been busy packing snacks and DVDs to keep her twin girls occupied.
Britt, as always, glanced enviously at the black Tahoe parked in the Petersons’ driveway. The SUV had every bell and whistle available, and the few that weren’t, like the 3-D capable TV screens in the backs of the head rests, had been added by Dani’s husband Mack at his shop. Britt walked past the Tahoe, then paused and went to its rear. She cupped her face to the back door’s tinted glass, hoping to see that they were packed and ready to go. That would go a long way to calming down her husband, who was ready to go without them.
But the cargo area was empty. Britt grimaced and continued to the front door. Franklin was going to be so pissed. She rang the bell. Waited a few seconds. Rang it again. After a worried glance at her own house to make sure that Franklin wasn’t stalking to their F-150 with their son under his arm, she dug her phone out of a pocket of her capris and called Dani. She knocked on the door while the phone rang in her ear. She didn’t hear Dani’s ring tone, and when Dani’s voicemail message popped up, she ended the call. She put the phone back in her pocket, then reached into the other pocket and pulled out her key ring. She and Dani had traded keys years ago, so one could check the other’s house during vacations or in case of an emergency.
Which Britt was starting to think was happening. She put the key in the lock, her hand trembling. This was probably nothing. They had probably overslept or gotten food poisoning or something. Dani’s phone might be turned off, and that was why she hadn’t answered.
But the doorbell. The knocking. The long-planned zoo trip.
Britt turned the key, then the knob. She swung the door in, calling Dani’s name, Mack’s, their twins, Alexa and Dayton. Then she screamed.
– – – – – – – – – –
Saturday (?), ? a.m. House?, somewhere, goddamn better still be Texas
I stared up at a ceiling that wasn’t mine, Pop Evil’s song “Monster You Made” running through my head. It had been on a constant loop since the fight eighteen days and some hours ago, and I knew that if I didn’t get out of this stranger’s queen-size bed and get moving, my brain would cue the fight, and I didn’t need that this morning. I already had a hangover.
So I sat up and was immediately rewarded with a head rush. I closed my eyes and rode it out, then searched for my clothes. The bedroom was dim. Not dark. It was morning, maybe 7? Eight felt too late. Seven-something felt right.
Snort from my left, then a deep sigh. I glanced at the guy. We’d hooked up last night, following a brief exchange on a “dating” app called 1Nite and a slightly longer drinking session at the Buffalo Wild Wings by the mall. I’d taken a taxi to the restaurant, and he’d offered to drive me to his place. I accepted, and on the ride over, I half-wished he would turn out to be a scumbag so I could beat the shit out of him. But he turned out to be a nice guy, for someone with the handle of “Hung Solo”. (The fact that I’d felt okay fucking a guy with such a stupid nickname showed how low I’d sunk. And what the hell was his real name? He’d told me back at the restaurant, so what the hell was it?)
Speaking of names, my good old brain whispered, remember that day when David called you a monster?
I pinched the bridge of my nose. Come on, not now. And anyway, he didn’t mean it. Heat of the moment. I called him a bastard, and I didn’t mean that.
Remember how his face looked when you told him that you killed those two guys in that trailer?
Shut the hell up–
Ha ha, yeah you do! Here, I’ll play it back for you again anyway. What do you see there? I see shock, disgust, and, oh yes, disappointment. Ha ha, you idiot, why did you even tell him about that? You screwed things up so bad. You weren’t feeling guilty about all those killings . . . excuse me, those murders (that’s the word he used, right? Right!), so why did you tell him? Why did you tell him? Why did you–
I started, then looked at what’s-his-name. He was sitting up; I’d been so preoccupied that I hadn’t felt him move. “Hey,” I said.
“Umm . . . you want some coffee or something?”
“No, that’s okay. I’m gonna go. As soon as I find my clothes.”
“Check the living room.” He rolled onto his side, picked up his phone from the bedside table, and started thumbing the screen. He had a green Monster Energy tattoo on his right shoulder-blade. Further proof that I had hit a new low.
I got out of bed and walked naked out of the bedroom, not bothering to fake a modesty that I haven’t felt since being bitten. I found my clothes scattered in the living room. My phone was still in the back pocket of my jeans, along with my driver’s license and a wad of cash. I checked the phone before getting dressed; I had a low battery and no messages. I thought about calling a cab to take me home, then decided to see where I was first. My head hurt and I had indigestion, but a walk might do me some good.
I opened the front door and stepped out into sunshine and an unfamiliar subdivision. I didn’t think that the ride from Buffalo Wild Wings had taken that long, so I should be close to the mall, but then again, I’d been pretty drunk.
I squinted at the houses. They were all pretty much the same: brick, bay windows, recessed entryways, chimneys, dormers. The house across the street had a red-and-black Go Tigers! sign in its front yard, so I knew I was still in Mitchum Bay.
To drive home the point, a Mitchum Bay P.D. cruiser flew by with its lights flashing, but no sirens. I watched it reach the end of the street, about five houses down, then hang a left.
Having nothing better to do, I followed it.