The shot was an explosion that spewed a shower of bright
sparks from the pistol's muzzle into the darkness and
kicked the barrel upward, but the arm of the shooter
quickly straightened to level it again. The shooter fired
the second and third shots into the lighted interior of
the car, and the late-night silence returned. After a few
seconds, crickets began to chirp tentatively again from
There were three holes punched through the rear window of
the car, and even from his vantage across the alley behind
the shooter, Parish could see that Mark Romano's head had
been pounded forward, and the windshield had been sprayed
nearly opaque with his bright red blood.
Parish watched as one of the women gently but firmly
placed her arm around the shooter's left shoulder and took
the gun from the right hand. The waiting escape car rolled
up and within a few heartbeats the shooter had been
hustled into the back seat. Parish leaned in to speak
softly to the driver. "Go ahead. We'll finish up here."
The car moved off down the alley with its lights still
out. Parish walked into the garage, stopped by the side of
Romano's car, and bent to stare into the still-lighted
interior at the bloody face to be sure there was no
possibility of life. He reached across the body to the
dashboard and took the remote control unit. He closed the
car door, stepped out of the garage, and pushed the remote
control button to bring the door down to cover the scene.
As he turned, Spangler emerged from the darkness at his
side and pointed at the back of a house down the
alley. "There was a face in that window for a second."
"Better take care of it beforewe go," whispered
Parish. "They haven't had enough time to get the shooter
out of the area."
The two men walked quickly and silently up the alley. They
were both tall, but they moved toward the house with a
surprising ability to blend into their surroundings,
passing through each shadowy space beside the garages,
moving along rows of garbage cans to make their shapes get
lost to the eye among the many others in the dark alley.
The house was two lots down from Mark Romano's-they had
waited for a night when the nearest neighbors were away-so
the face could not have seen much from that window, beyond
the six-foot cinder-block wall that separated the alley
from the yard. Parish and Spangler moved to the wall,
barely glancing at each other, as though they had done
this so many times that each knew the steps, neither
needing to check where the other was.
In seconds Parish was up and over the wall into the yard
behind the house, and Spangler had made his way along the
fence beside it. As Spangler went over the fence and
dashed up the low steps toward the kitchen door, he could
hear Parish breaking the glass in the window at the back
of the house, and he hit the door with his shoulder before
the musical sound of glass hitting the floor inside the
house had stopped.
The door flew inward, cracked into the wall, bounced, and
swung back, but Spangler was already across the small
kitchen, his gun drawn, slipping up the hallway toward the
back bedroom at a run. He went low, held his pistol ahead
of him, and stepped into the doorway.
He saw a man in boxer shorts standing inside the room
leaning against the wall, both hands on an aluminum
baseball bat, waiting for Parish to try to climb in
through the broken window beside him. Spangler fired once
into the man's chest as Parish fired twice through the
window into the room.
Spangler's head spun so he could see what Parish had shot.
It seemed at first that it was just a lump in the blanket,
but then Spangler saw the telephone cord leading from the
nightstand under the covers. He tore the blanket and sheet
aside to reveal the body of the woman, the telephone
receiver still clutched in her hand.
He moved to the window, pulled the sash up, and stepped
back to let Parish climb in. Parish glanced at the man on
the floor as he hurried to the bed where the woman lay. He
snatched the telephone from her fingers, put it to his
ear, and smiled as he set it in its cradle. "Dial tone.
She hadn't gotten the call off yet."
"Close, though," said Spangler. He turned to go.
"Not yet." He nodded at the dead man below the
window. "That bat isn't the right size for him, is it?"
Spangler whispered, "Kids?"
Spangler followed Parish into the hallway, mirroring his
rapid, efficient movements. Parish stopped at each doorway
on the left, put his head inside, turned to look both
ways, then moved on. Spangler took the doorways on the
right. Parish stopped at the end of the hall, where the
door was closed. He tried the handle, found that it would
not turn, and nodded to Spangler. Then he stepped back and
As the door flew open, Spangler stepped in after it. He
decided that the boy crouching on the floor at the far end
of the bunk bed must be nine or ten, and the little sister
he had pushed behind him would be around five. Parish and
Spangler seemed to have the same thought, which was that
they must make use of the children's shock and immobility
before they tried to run or crawl under something, as
children often did. Both men centered their shots in the
Parish and Spangler left the room and continued up the
hallway. It did not make sense to go out the way they had
come. The only car in the alley had been the one that had
been used to spirit the shooter away, and there was
nothing left near Romano's body that they needed to think
about any further. They walked across the small, drab
living room, carefully avoided a skateboard that had been
left near the front door, slipped the latch, and stepped
outside. They made their way around the corner to the car
they had parked there, and Spangler drove them up the
street toward the freeway entrance.
Forty-five minutes later, when they were driving north
beside the ocean, Parish opened his window and tossed the
remote control for Mark Romano's garage door opener out
onto the pavement. The little plastic case broke apart
with the impact and the pieces bounced a few times,
cartwheeling and then sliding to a stop a few feet apart
in the right lane, where they would be crushed to bits by
the next car, or the next, or the one after that.