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By Al Sarrantonio
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 2007 Al Sarrantonio
All right reserved.
Chapter One"I'm asleep, Jack."
Annoyed: his cold hands on her at one in the morning, she could see the illuminated clock face now that her eyes were open, hear his breathing, the catch in it that would make him snore later. Even facing away from him, she could smell the beer on his breath.
"I don't give a shit at this point," she snapped, still curled up in a fetal position, legs pulled up, defensive, half-asleep. "You were supposed to come home five hours ago. We were going to try tonight. But instead you went out beering with your moron friends. Don't deny it, Jack-"
She gasped, not letting him hear it as he slid into the bed behind her, naked she could tell, his hands ice cold but soft as they had always been when he had first caught her eye, this boy of a man with the lock of hair in front that wouldn't stay put, and the violet eyes and the crooked smile. Her heart had melted the first time he looked at her. Melted like the saints and the nuns could not articulate, melted like time stood still and the moon froze solid in the sky and she knew her life was changed forever. His mouth on her later that first time and a kiss unlike any she had dreamed about, two mouths becoming one and then, much later, after fumblingand some laughing, two bodies becoming one. This was nothing like the fairy tales, or the dirty books, or the cable channels only for women where everything was clean and bland with guitar or piano music and then the commercials. This was magic that no one could write or sing or tell you about in the bleachers behind the soccer field when you shared a cigarette with your friends and felt the first chill of autumn blowing up under your Catholic skirt like Marilyn Monroe's in that movie with the sidewalk grating. What the hell were the nuns thinking? Plaid skirts that looked like nothing but delayed sin, in navy knee socks and those black shoes shined to mirrors that made boys look up at your panties-
"Jack, at least let me turn around!" she gasped, surprised at his ardor which was never lacking.
And then turning in the dark to meet his lips and hands and her nightgown pulled up over her head and the panting and the arched back and then three wonderful bit-lip screams while he tasted her nipples and nipped her neck once and then again as he always did, little bites that left pale red marks and she had to wear a turtleneck for two days.
The nuns couldn't change you but they could make you blush at your own body still ...
And then it was over. He ran his hand through her short hair and whispered, "I promised," and then added, which made her heart flutter, "a baby," and she murmured, sleepy, and then rolled over away from him again, naked, too tired to pull on the flannel, and returned to sleep.
Six hours later in the police station in shock, with her sister Janet with the pinched look and Baby Charlie asleep in the stroller behind her.
Detective Grant: he looked old, tobacco stains on his teeth and the index and middle fingers of his right hand. A sot's nose, webwork of tiny broken veins. But the eyes: they were hooded in the shadow of their sockets but wary as a hawk's. He was definitely paying attention.
He had a notebook out and a pencil, and kept looking from the pad to her and back again.
"Mrs. Carlin, let me make sure I have this right." He flipped back a couple of pages and read to himself, lips moving silently. Then the eyes were on her. "You say your husband came home at one o'clock this morning?"
She nodded, and Janet, beside her, shifted in her chair, plastic seated, uncomfortable. "Only tell him what you want to, Marianne."
Detective Grant ignored Janet. Those eyes of his, still waiting ...
"Yes," Marianne said. "He ... woke me up when he came in. I was asleep facing the clock. I'm sure it was one."
"And he was gone when the phone woke you up an hour later, at two o'clock?"
Cold. She felt so cold and numb and dead.
The eyes looked down at the notebook, then back at her. "You're sure of this?"
She hesitated, looked at the floor. Embarrassed. "We ... made love when he came home. Then I went back to sleep."
The eyes. But she said: "I'm sure it was one o'clock when he came home!"
"Don't say another damn thing, Marianne," Janet snapped. Baby Charlie snuffled in the stroller behind her, then settled back into sleep. "We'll get a lawyer. I'll call Chuck now. He'll know what to do."
She made to get up, huffing her pregnant belly out of the chair, but now Grant turned to her. "Mrs. Larson, I'm just asking your sister some questions. This isn't an interrogation and I'm certainly not charging her with anything. I'm just getting the time line straight in my mind."
Janet glared down at him across the desk. "Then why are we in an interrogation room? I know that's what this is. I watch TV."
Grant leaned back in his chair. "As I told you, I thought it would be more comfortable, especially since they're painting the area where my desk is today. I didn't want you to have to inhale those fumes ..."
"So you said," Janet said. She was studying the far wall, a mirror, and walked toward it. "There anybody behind there? Like I said, I watch TV-"
"No, there isn't," Grant said, trying to hide his impatience. "Though you're right, it is a two-way mirror."
Before Janet could say it, Grant heaved himself out of his chair. "Let me show you." He walked briskly past Janet to a door beside the mirror and held it open for her. "Have a look."
Janet peered in, noting the short, empty hallway, the view into the room through the visible part of the two-way mirror. "Just like television," she said.
Grant waited for her to have her look, then waited for her to return to her seat before reclaiming his own. As Janet sat down with an "Ooof," she commented: "If this was a real interrogation, you'd offer us a Coke or coffee."
Grant looked up from his notebook. "Would you like something?" he asked.
Janet shook her head. "That's all right. We won't be much longer, will we?"
"We're almost done." The detective studied his notebook and then leaned across the desk to face Marianne again. "You're absolutely positive about the time?"
Marianne nodded. She barely heard him, Jack on the table, under the sheet, the cold room, colder than his hands had been, he was so white, albino white except for the bruises. The side of his chest that looked like it had been crushed, purple, broken, worse than the veins on Detective Grant's nose, almost black. They wouldn't show her anything lower, his legs cocked at an odd angle under the sheet.
Baby Charlie awoke with a squeak, as if thrown out of a dream, and abruptly began to cry. Janet instantly heaved herself back out of the chair and fumbled with a blue bag that hung from the back of the stroller. She produced a half-filled bottle which she thrust at the child without looking at him.
The room was quiet again.
"The reason I ask ..." Grant began, and then added to the silence in the room.
"You've asked her twelve times," Janet said bluntly.
Grant looked at his notebook and then flipped it closed. "I talked to the driver who hit Mr. Carlin myself. We gave him a Breathalyzer test, which he failed at three o'clock this morning, and a blood test, which he also failed. He's in custody now. He drove home after his car struck your husband, Mrs. Carlin, and he went to bed. We picked him up at his house. He was so drunk he didn't remember the accident. There were two eyewitnesses who saw the accident, both of them friends of your husband, and one of them, Petee Wilkins, gave us a partial license plate number. A couple of pedestrians also saw it from farther away ..."
Marianne didn't want to hear, she was so tired, so frozen in time, this wasn't happening. His body so white, the black-and-blue on his side and they wouldn't let her see the rest, "I promised," he'd said, "a baby ..."
"... everyone we talked to," Detective Grant was saying, "was sure your husband was killed last night in front of Loughran's Bar at just before one o'clock in the morning ..."
Excerpted from Halloweenland by Al Sarrantonio Copyright © 2007 by Al Sarrantonio. Excerpted by permission.
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