Driving up to Arlene's and Donny's house, Crystal saw one sign that was good—and one sign that could have been good or bad.
First, the good sign: the house was still intact. It obviously hadn't burned down or collapsed overnight.
Then, the maybe good or maybe bad sign: the presence of Arlene's and Donny's cars in the driveway.
Okay, so they must be home.
Then Crystal thought: Well, not necessarily.
Maybe, if they'd gone off somewhere together, another person had picked them up. That seemed a possibility.
Still, she wondered about both cars still being there. She wondered enough to slow down significantly once in front of their house.
And then, having slowed down, she noticed something else.
The front door of the house was open.
What kind of a sign was that?
Crystal stopped the car. For a moment she sat there with the engine running. Her first instinct was to call Shane, ask him for his advice on the best course of action.
No, don't do that, she thought. Make your own decision here. You left home at eighteen, got a job, got a place, and fully supported yourself well before you and Big Bad Shane D. moved in together. Who knows what he might say. He could tell you to forget it and drive on by, and you know you can't do that. Or he might tell you to call the police, which could be really embarrassing if it turns out Arlene and Donny have been romping naked around the house all morning and understandably didn't want to take any calls. Careless, though, to leave the front door open if it's that scenario…unless it was part of their naughty game to let the neighbors catch a glimpse of them in the buff.
Crystal wrinkled her nose.
Pretty adventurous stuff for those two—I really doubt that's what it is.
And, though she didn't want to even consider the possibility, if the worst was true—if they really had been murdered in their bed last night—the killer was surely long gone.
I'll just poke my head in, she decided. I'll poke my head in and call out their names. And as I do that, I'll look around to see if there's any blood smeared on the walls.
Crystal shut off the engine.
I really don't like this.
She got out, locked the car doors with her key fob, and headed toward the house.
Anna Lou was on her feet again in the living room. She clasped her hands in a pleading gesture.
"We've got to get out of here, Shane," she cried, straining her voice to be heard above the shrill whine outside. "If they find me here, I'm dead. My baby's dead too. Please. We have to go."
But Shane, still dumbstruck by the noise, did not move. "What's making that sound?"
"It's them, Shane. It's the—the—I don't know what they are. It doesn't matter. I'll tell you everything I can on the way out of here. But we've got to go now. Do you have a gun?"
"Get it. Hurry. I'll stand watch." She went to the door, craned her head around the side.
Shane lingered. "But I don't—"
Then, from down the street, there was a crash. Someone down the street—a man, it sounded like—screamed out. A woman's scream joined his. Their cries reflected pure terror first, and then...pain.
Anna Lou, desperate, looked back at him. "Shane, get your gun! Please!"
From the doorway Crystal, just as she'd intended, leaned into the house. It was bright inside but silent, empty-feeling…lifeless.
"Arlene?" she called inside. And then: "Donny?"
Crystal took a step forward.
"You guys in here…?"