Read an Excerpt
Strangers crowded the housemen with badges, men with cameras, all with the same mutable looks on their faces that switched back and forth between horror and pity. The air smelled like copper piping. Matthew stared rigidly forward, barely registering the policemen wandering through his house. His mother would be upset by the dirt they were trailing across her otherwise pristine carpets. It was the first thought to break through his cloudy stupor. He should tell them to stop. She'd be upset
Except she wouldn't. Not anymore.
Matthew squeezed his eyes shut. Go away, go away, go away.
"You knew that one of these freaks was living under my goddamn roof, Lisa!" Why could he still hear his father yelling? "He's not even my fucking kid!"
Detective Paulson stank of Marlboros and Southern Comfort, and his approach made the floor shake. He sat far too close and rested a heavy hand on Matthew's knee.
"Why don't you tell us what happened, Matthew? Can you remember?"
Matthew felt the detective's frown. "Come on, kid. There has to be something you remember."
"That does it, Lisa. I swear to God I won't have some whore and her kid living under my roof. You stupid little shit! Why did your mother keep you? I'm gonna kill you, you little fuckup!"
"Jesus! Put the gun down, what are youyou leave my son alone! Run, Matt! Go hide."
And then loud noises.
Before before, this house had never been a home. Matthew had been to homes before. His friend Steven had a home. His parents never raised their voices. Matthew could still taste the overly sweet tea Steven's mother served whenever he visited.
His mother didn't like tea. She liked things to be clean. He'd watch her, on her knees for hours cleaning the floor in the kitchen, shoulders shaking silently. It always happened after fights with his father. Who wasn't his father.
The fingers tightened painfully on his leg and Matthew gasped. He tried to pull away, but Detective Paulson scratched long strips of yellow-white on his skin. It hurt. He stopped moving.
"I don't think you understand me, boy. Someone killed both your momma and your daddy. Now, if you don't tell me what you know, it won't look very good. Will it?"
A new voice. "Is that the retard?"
The man now standing before them was younger than Detective Paulson, but the contemptuous mask contorting his face was the same. He examined Matthew as though he was some sort of bug, carefully cataloguing his thin face and scrawny physique. Matthew'd never been very big. He'd been hungry a lot when he was younger. It was all rightin the schoolyard, being smaller meant you could hide in more places.
"I don't think he's retarded. I had Stuart call his teachers. Apparently, he's 'strange.'"
There was a low chuckle. "How strange?"
"Real strange." The grip on his knee tightened again. "Matthew, why don't you tell Officer Wilkes here about what happened? He's a lot nicer than me."
"Christ, Bob, that's not hard."
"Shut your mouth."
Matthew finally focused on the words ghosting through his mind. "Mom is dead."
"No shit, kid." Wilkes seemed surprised he had spoken the words.
"Do you think I did it?"
"I think you saw your daddy blow her away, but you're too stupid to tell us anything that useful." Wilkes clapped a hand over his mouth.