November 1984


Where the hell was I? My mouth tasted like sour cherry and a jackhammer pounded somewhere behind my eyes. We must’ve

kept partying after Billy’s gig. But where? Here? I freed myself from the tangle of sheets. “Billy?” My voice sounded hoarse and

thin. Leaning against a bedpost, I pulled on jeans then fished through the pockets for my vial of pills. I shook out a Xanax and

swallowed it dry. A dark sleeve poked from beneath the bed. Shivering, I turned my sweatshirt right-side-out and yanked it on.

After struggling into socks and ankle boots, I looked out the closest window.


Gray sky loomed above rolling hills dotted with sycamore and sequoia. Definitely not San Francisco. Was I back in Mill Valley?

Which one of Billy’s friends lived out here? I turtled my icy fingers inside my sleeves and stepped into the hall. A wide staircase

led down. “Billy?”


Nothing looked familiar – not the tiled entryway, the gilt-framed family portrait, nor the heavy wood shutters covering the windows. When I reached the first floor, a faint hum mixed with the tick of a clock, but the place still felt abandoned.


A door stood open on the far side of the entry. “Billy?” I covered my nose. “Oh, man. You been eating refrieds again?” I stepped inside. A cast-off shoe sat near one of the sofas. I rounded the end of the six-foot sectional and stared.


Dried blood webbed the carpet. Three bodies lay snared in the rust-brown strands.


A man and two women. The right quarter of the man’s head was gone; white spurs of broken bone poked through the remains of his brain. A wide red-black halo stained the neck of his navy shirt and the surrounding tan carpet. The low buzz I kept hearing wasn’t coming from inside my head: flies feasted on the gore. One of woman’s eyes remained open, but there was no question she was dead. A bullet had left a bloody hole in the center of her forehead. Some of her insides spilled through a long gash across her belly. The second woman’s eyes were closed, her pink turtleneck splotched with blood.


My stomach lurched. I covered my mouth and backed away, unable to tear my gaze from the sight. My heel bumped against something. I forced myself to turn. A little boy lay curled on the carpet, like a sleeping cat. The boy from the painting in the foyer. But blood covered his Spiderman pajamas. I tried to scream, but no sound came out. Bile burning my throat, I turned and ran.


I pinballed down halls and through spacious rooms, but didn’t find a living soul. I ran until I found the backdoor and stumbled outside. On the concrete patio, I doubled over, sucking air. Tears blinded me and a sob burst through my clenched teeth. Had Billy done this? Did he kill those people? No, he couldn’t have. No matter how loaded Billy got, he never went code red on anyone.


But those poor people must have screamed. And the screams would have been terrible. Did I ignore them? I stared at my hands, but tears blurred my gaze. I wiped my eyes and looked for signs of blood on my skin and clothes. I couldn’t have helped someone do any of those terrible things, could I? Still, my heartbeat became a little less frantic when I saw dirt instead of blood crusted beneath my nails.


But why did I wake up inside the house? Why didn’t I remember anything?


I staggered to one of lounge chairs alongside the swimming pool and collapsed. The wind sent a leaf skittering across the concrete. I jumped then wrapped my arms across my stomach and started rocking. A vague image shimmered in the shadows of my brain. Six or seven people piled in the back of a van. All of us coming back from Trash’s gig in San Francisco. Billy had said something about needing to see a guy in Mill Valley after the show. But I couldn’t remember if the others drove all the way out to Mill Valley with us. Hell, I couldn’t remember anything else about the ride.


Another image flashed: Sex with Billy. I stared at the dark second story. We went to a room upstairs. Then the two of us split a ’lude and drank some sweet wine before we ran outside to skinny dip. When the message from the bitter cold of the water reached my soggy brain, I’d screamed and climbed out of the pool. Billy had pulled himself from the water then doubled over, laughing at me. The two of us raced inside, grabbed towels and blankets, and wrapped them around our shivering bodies. In the upstairs bedroom, we washed down a mixture of pills with peppermint schnapps. After that my memory remained blank.


I looked down at the pool. Something floating in the water caught my eye.







© 2015 by Peggy Rothschild

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