Ray held his hand up. “I’ll look. Let me look. Find something to get rid of this mess with.” He looked around at the blood on the walls. “Jesus fucking Christ, what the fuck happened?”

They stood there for a minute, and then Manny put the shotgun on his shoulder and walked out into the rain. Ray got up and walked back out through the hallway, trying not to look at the woman and to stay out of the widening pool of blood. Neither plan worked. He saw that her T-shirt was a uniform red now. He forced himself to keep moving, scraping his shoes on the linoleum to get the blood off. At the end of the hallway he turned left and came back out to the landing. He went out to the porch and rummaged in the bag for his flashlight. When he got back inside he pushed the broken door back into place and pointed the light into the corners of the front room. He could see the cooker with its tubes and wires, dark and cold, and thanked the Tweaker Jesus for this little bit of mercy. There were Mason jars and empty two- liter soda bottles on a long table, a stack of coffee filters, a pile of charcoal briquettes. In the corner of the room was a yard- high pile of empty charcoal bags and ripped packages for cold medicine.

He made his way upstairs, forcing himself to move fast and trust that there was no one left in the house. He kept replaying the scene in the kitchen over and over, trying to make it happen right. He moved from room to room down the narrow hallway, finding each one empty. A wet, reeking bathroom, the tiles peeled from the wall; empty bedrooms, old bedsteads furred with black dust. In what had been the master bedroom there were clothes on the floor, bottles of water, and a box of surgical masks. Under the mattress on the floor was a paper bag with a few hundred bucks in it, and he picked it up. He rolled it tight and jammed it into the pocket of the windbreaker. He pushed open the closet doors, pointing the flashlight beam at stacks of wood, a pile of newspapers with headlines about Reagan.

Off the master bedroom was a padlocked room, and he lifted his leg and kicked the door twice hard with the sole of his boot. The cleats gave way in the rotted wood, and the door swung back with a banshee howl from the rusted hinges. He found a light switch on the wall and pushed it up with a hand covered by the sleeve of his parka.

A faint orange light set in a lamp shaped like a rocking horse showed a child’s room, a room for a girl: white furniture, a pink plaid ruffle around a sagging bed. Everything was sunken in gray dust unmarked by fingerprints. A brush with a red handle was sitting on a white vanity, a Mariah Carey poster hung bowed out and sagging. Ray thought there was something wrong about his going into the padlocked room, and standing in the doorway he wished he hadn’t forced the door. The closet stood open, empty, and he half- heartedly opened a couple of drawers, releasing a shower of dust onto his boots. He turned off the light and backed out.

He came back downstairs and pulled open more closets. Kicked over a low desk and dumped out the drawers. Retraced his steps back down the hallway and turned left. A door hung on its hinges, the edges clawed. They must have locked the dog in here. He stepped in and covered his nose with his hands and tried to breathe through his mouth. There were piles of shit on the floor, a rubber replica of a rolled- up newspaper with holes chewed in it, a dented metal bowl. There was a cracked window and deep claw marks on the sill. On a table was a stack of plastic bags. He picked one up and dumped it out, and a dozen smaller bags of powder rolled out onto the table and the floor. He swept them back in and looked around for something to carry them in. On the floor was a duffel, and he pulled it open and saw bundles of cash, tens and twenties and hundreds held together with rubber bands. There were more plastic bags jammed with foil packages. He stuck his pistol into his belt and swept the bags from the table messily into the duffel and then hefted the bag with both hands and hustled it out the door. He dragged it out the front door and dropped it on the porch.

Manny appeared near the porch carrying a can of acetone. He and Ray went back into the kitchen and began dragging the bodies down the hallway and into the front room by the cooker.

Ray pointed down the hill. “Get the van, I’ll finish this.”

Manny ran off the porch and down the drive. There was a flash of lightning that lit the whole world, and for one fraction of a second Ray saw everything in a flare of blue white light and black shadow: Manny halfway down the drive, running flat out, the dead man and woman and their horror- movie wounds, the tracks of blood and fluid leading out to the hallway, the footprints, the money, the discarded shotgun, and his own terrible face in an antique mirror over the fireplace. His eyes were huge and white, his hair matted, his mouth open as if he were screaming. Then it was dark again.

He went back into the kitchen and bent down over Rick. Ray put a finger on Rick’s neck but wasn’t sure what he should find. He felt nothing but cold skin, and Rick’s staring eyes were dry and black. Ray looked into the dead and empty pupils, inches from his own but staring through him, as if reading something written on the wall behind Ray’s head. He almost turned to look.

Finally he grabbed Rick’s jacket and pulled him slowly toward the door. The body twisted and began to come out of the jacket, and Ray struggled to get a purchase with bloody hands. He began to be conscious of the stink of shit and blood and piss, and he started to gag. How long had they been here? An hour? Three? Would it be light soon? He braced himself against the door jamb and pulled and got some momentum. He pumped his legs hard and didn’t stop until he collapsed by the front door. Good enough.

He stepped out to the porch. He heard the van coming up the drive and grabbed Manny’s shotgun off the bag and ran to take a position behind the ruined pickup in the grass. When Manny opened the door and jumped out, Ray stepped from behind the truck and showed himself.

Manny jumped. “Christ, you scared the shit out of me.”

“Sorry. I was standing there listening to you come, and it just hit me that it might not really be you.” He handed Manny the gun and ran to the porch and dragged the duffel, bumping, down the stairs.

Manny left the side door of the van open and came over to help him heft it. “Christ, is that all cash? How much is in here?”

“What ever it is, it’s not enough.”

They policed up the house and the yard, doing a quick look for anything they had forgotten or dropped in the excitement. Finally Manny went to the van and Ray went back into the front room. He picked up the acetone and uncapped it, splashing it on the bodies and the floor and backing out to the door, choking on the stink. He spat into the grass and then dumped the last bit of the fluid on a snapped- off piece of dowel rod he found on the porch and lit it. He tossed the can underhand into the house and threw the lit stick in after it. There was a rush of air and a thump, and the front room glowed blue for a few seconds and then flashed over white and orange and the front windows blew out.

He stood back and watched it burn for a moment, then ran over and jumped in the passenger side of the van. Manny gunned the engine, throwing gravel and splashing through ruts filled with water.

AS THEY CRESTED the hill there was a flash of lightning, and they both saw a car turning into the driveway in front of them.

Manny jammed on the brakes. “Oh, Jesus Christ. You have got to be fucking kidding.”

“Swing right, up on the grass. Go.” Manny spun the wheel and the van skidded and slid, the back end fishtailing around. Ray tried to see behind them, but what ever was going on at the house was still out of sight behind the hill.

“Calm the fuck down.” The car moved slowly toward them up the driveway, something long and wide across the ass’a Dodge Charger, an old one. Dark blue, maybe, or black. Manny hooked around them, and Ray caught a brief glimpse of a young guy be hind the wheel, long hair and a neat goatee, smiling, and a dark figure beside him. Manny punched the gas and the wheels spun in place, burning a hole in the wet grass. The other car disappeared over the rise toward the house. Ray, breathing hard, put a hand on his chest and felt his heart hammering. Manny smacked the steering wheel with the heel of his hand and stomped on the gas. The back end of the van slid down the hill and the tires caught. The van popped forward about three feet and the engine stalled. Ray put his hands up and caught himself. Manny hit the steering wheel hard with his chest. “Motherfucking motherfucker.”

There was a couple of seconds of silence in the van, and Ray could swear he heard shouting from somewhere. Manny grabbed the key and twisted. Ray’s mind went completely blank, and he just watched Manny cranking the engine over and over. There was a glow over the rise behind them, and Ray began to see red light reflected on the tops of the wet trees. The starter growled and finally caught, and Manny hit the gas and spun the wheel to straighten them out. He got the van moving down the driveway and picked up speed as they moved down the last of the hill and thumped down onto the street. Manny twisted the wheel and the tires spun and whined, trying to find a grip on the wet asphalt. They shot down the road as the Charger’s headlights disappeared over the rise, where now Ray could see flames cresting the hill.

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