Dennis hadn’t wanted to stop, but Kelsey had insisted she at least help him clean up a little before they went inside. Now, parked in his mother’s driveway and backed up immediately against the garage, she’d opened one of the packages of baby wipes he’d taken from the Costclub. He sat patiently, if awkwardly, while she used them to wipe away the gore on his face and throat.
“You should take your shirt off,” she said. “Your mom won’t like to see you like this.”
“My mom can handle it.”
Kelsey peeked into the sideview mirror to catch a glimpse of the Victorian-looking house. A woman who lived in a house like that, she imagined, would be dainty and gray-haired, prone to lacy blouses and long skirts. She’d play the piano and garden. She certainly wouldn’t like seeing her son show up covered in a dead man’s spatter.
“Hush,” she told him, and he did. When he shrugged out of his shirt, she bit her lower lip and kept herself focused on her self-appointed task. It didn’t matter, she reminded herself, if his chest was tight with muscle, his skin tanned from the sun. If his biceps bulged when he moved to give her better access. If his nipples were pointed under her palms when she swiped the cloth across them…
His hand gripped her wrist. “That’s…enough. I’m clean enough.”
“Right. Right, sure.” She bobbed her head and, mindful of how tidy he’d been in the past, crumpled up the filthy wipes and shoved them into a stray plastic bag instead of tossing them all to the floor. She used a fresh one to clean off her hands. She looked at him. “Ray. He was sick. But not dead. And he didn’t…”
Dennis looked at her. “Didn’t what?”
“It’s just that I saw things.” Kelsey paused, but before she could answer, Dennis had bent to look through the windshield with a low mutter. “What? Is it your mother?”
“Could be. We need to get inside.”
He helped her down from the truck and they both stood for a minute on the gravel drive. It was far darker out here than it had been in town. She heard the whisper of a breeze in the trees lining the back of the property, and she shivered, wishing for a sweatshirt. An ornate metal fence about knee high cut off the front of the house from the driveway, each piece tipped with a sharp spike. She could see no gate or opening, but when she made to lift her leg over it, Dennis pulled her back.
“Don’t.” She didn’t ask more questions, just held back as Dennis looked up at the house with his hands on his hips. He didn’t look at her as he added, “No lights on inside.”
“You think she’s gone?”
He shook his head. “No. She’s definitely not gone. But she’s got the shutters down.”
Kelsey could see decorative shutters on the outside of the windows, but clearly he meant something different.“What kind of shutters? Like hurricane shutters?”
They were a hundred miles from any ocean, but Dennis nodded. “Yes. Something like that.”
She waited another minute for him to speak, but he didn’t. Kelsey shivered and rubbed her arms against the gooseflesh there. Her foot ached. Her stomach rumbled. She was suddenly so exhausted she didn’t think she’d be able to keep her eyes open. She also had to pee.
“But she’s in there for sure?”
In reply, Dennis went around to the back of the truck and opened the door. He climbed inside and hopped down again within minutes, carrying a metal baseball bat which he swung experimentally hard enough to make a whoosh. He tapped it against his palm. Swung it again.
Kelsey rubbed her arms again and fought a yawn. “So. Can’t we go in?”
Dennis let the metal bat arc through the air, slowly, slowly, until it came down a few inches from the top of one of the fence’s metal spikes. In the next second, the entire fence erupted upward, going from knee-high to at least six feet. It impaled the bat, which wrenched from Dennis’s hand and hung, clanging against the metal.
Kelsey stared, so stunned she couldn’t move. Couldn’t speak. All she could was stare at the fence, the bat, and imagine what it would’ve felt like had she indeed swung her leg over it the way she’d planned.
“No,” Dennis said quietly. “Not just yet.”