Read an Excerpt
Chapter One: Summer 1996
At three-twenty in the morning, I am unconscious on the floor, and Jacobs and Castle are coming in their car.
The almanac says there is a quarter moon. The newspapers say it is partly cloudy. The house the police car approaches is mostly dark, except for the entryway light glowing from the open door and guestroom window to the left. My neighbor, an old man in his pajamas, stands on my porch waving frantically at the car.
Entering, the officers walk around broken glass, spilled juice, an overturned wicker basket of flowers. They hustle down a hall and into the guestroom, where there is an oak bed with four brass posts. At the foot of this bed I lie on the floor, my body curled on its side. Hair covers my face, and my left foot twitches at the ankle, tapping the bedpost softly.
Castle will write in the report: "Victim wearing white nightgown, bloodied but intact."
I am proud of this room because of the bed, which I slept in as a child in my girlhood home, but most of all because of the painting by Nate's grandfather hanging on the wall. It's of our house, but more than our house. Standing before a lush forest, this gray Victorian home with its stained glass and red lattice has the gloss and glare of a vision that lacks nothing, that is complete and unified according to its own austerity and the generosity of its rooms. Out front, in the flowerbeds, marigolds bristle in the sun, and a boy and dog run through the grass. Nate says it's him, though it is hard to tell. The boy is just a few strokes of the brush.
When they find me, I am still breathing. My pulse is slow. I have three wounds.
The house around me is not so brilliant as the picture. The gray paint has blistered in the heat, and the lattice, dulled by dust, is encased in spider silk. The marigolds have since been replaced with red impatiens that all summer have suffered neglect and wilted in the hot Indiana sun. The forest behind the house hides a ravine seething with crickets. Its tangled trees, crawling with vines, hold the night in their limbs.
The first cut is a laceration an inch below my left clavicle. The second, a long tear on my upper arm. The third, a deep gash, arcs from the top of my crown to the left side of my forehead, which is pressed against the carpet when the officers arrive.
"Intruder probably entered thru front door, seized/struggled w/ victim in entryway, forced her into 1st flr. b.r. on north side of house. Victim unconscious and bleeding."
When I think of myself on the floor, I imagine myself as a little girl. I can see her curled up on her side, her face and gown softened by the moon. Her fingers innocently grope, as if for an imagined Teddy, as her foot moves gently back and forth. I don't see her blood. I don't feel the pain. She is only sleeping in the moonlight, waiting for someone to touch her and say, "Stop dreaming, Maggie. It's time to wake up."
Copyright ©2004 by Paul Jaskunas