The Lucky Winner

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Chapter 15

The next day, Mom noticed a mug was missing. It was her favorite mug—a cherished gift from Dad. It said Best Wife & Mom Ever on it. If I hadn’t seen that note yesterday, I might have thought that she’d misplaced it somewhere or possibly broken it and forgotten about it. However, since seeing that note, I completely believed her. That mug was missing—and somebody had stolen it. Despite how serious and scary that was, I had to admit, it also sounded very stupid. Come on. Would you break into somebody’s house and risk going to jail for stealing a mug? You’d have to be seriously retarded to do something like that.

We searched the house to see if any more items were missing.

Hopefully, a piece of Mom’s jewelry was taken, I thought.

Okay, that was kind of weird to think, but I supposed I wanted Mr. Thief to be somewhat sane. I didn’t want him to break into our house and just steal a mug. Was it weird to think that way?

I searched the living room. Everything looked normal—just as neat as Mom always made sure to keep that way. Then my eyes caught something. We kept a snow globe on a shelf by the TV along with some other souvenirs Dad brought from the various gas stations in the different towns he visited. It was gone, too. The snow globe came from Disneyland we visited when I was a kid. It was so pretty with snow glittering all over Cinderella Castle. Since we rarely took any vacations, the memory surrounding it was pretty significant for me.

“Mom,” I called out to her as she searched the kitchen. “The snow globe from Disneyland is gone.”

Mom looked over at me, getting visibly agitated. “I found something else missing, too. A magnet. It was from our Idaho trip. Your uncle’s wedding.”

A magnet? Really? Again, who on earth would steal such an invaluable and insignificant thing? The snow globe had no value either, but at least it was pretty. But the magnet from Idaho? I remembered that magnet for how silly it was—an old man with a goofy smile holding up a potato. Mom liked collecting those cheesy magnets. She always asked Dad to get them from the different towns he drove to, and she proudly displayed them on the fridge. Mr. Thief had selected the goofy potato man from an abundant variety of inventory. Awesome taste, Mr. Thief!

Unfortunately, none of Mom’s jewelry was missing. Not that she had any expensive pieces of jewelry, but they were certainly more valuable than any mug or magnet. Sometimes, thieves couldn’t tell the difference between real gems and fake. Zoe’s cousin’s house got robbed a while back and a whole bunch of cubic zirconia rings that they bought on Groupon were stolen. They kept the rings in jewelry boxes, so the thief mistook them for real diamond rings.

“A picture is missing too,” said Mom as she flipped through the pages of a photo album.

“A picture?”

“Yes. The picture of all four of us standing in front of the castle at Disneyland.”

“Looks like we’re dealing with someone with a serious Disneyland fetish.”

Mom seemed too disturbed to reply. Her eyes scanned the album for more missing pictures. I opened another album and began looking through it as well.

“Another one is missing…” she weakly continued. “It was of all of us in front of the hospital after you were born…”

I was rather impressed by how well she remembered each picture and its particular location in the album. Well, that’s OCD for you.

We examined all of the albums. It turned out a total of four pictures were missing. All of them were of all four of us together. The weirdest part was that the stolen pictures were randomly taken from different albums, as if the perp must have spent a decent amount of time viewing our photo albums from cover to cover. As if our photos were somehow entertaining.

We spent an hour searching the rest of the house. Nothing else was missing—only a mug, a snow globe, a magnet, and four pictures. That made absolutely no sense. I began to wonder if the thief was really looking for money. But if not, why bother snooping around our house?

Were they looking for my parents’ important, personal information? Things like bank account numbers, login names and passwords, Social Security numbers, birthdates, and other vital information like that? That could have been the case. Didn’t they steal that kind of information online nowadays though? Well, not all thieves were tech savvy after all. There had to be a bunch of old-schoolers still out there.

I didn’t know if they found the information they were seeking, but at least they brought home a few little souvenirs for their kids, right? Here you go, sonny, here’s a goofy potato man magnet for you!

Whatever dangers we could have been confronted with, the truth was, we only had three invaluable items and four photographs stolen. And of course, there was no sign of forced entry. Even if we called Officer Jones and reported it, we knew there was nothing he could do.

Mom seemed deeply affected by that. I didn’t blame her. She kept quiet for a while, and began cooking. I stayed in the living room, watching TV. I could have watched my own TV in my room, but I wanted to make sure Mom was okay and be close by where I could keep an eye on her.

As I flipped through the channels, the classic Hitchcock movie, Psycho, came on. It was certainly not the best one to watch when so much creepy stuff was happening in the house. I didn’t mean to watch it, but I paused my hand momentarily. After all, it was one of my favorite classic movies (believe it or not). The famous shower scene was only seconds away.

Just when Janet Leigh was being stabbed in the shower, a hair-raising scream pierced my ears.

It came from the kitchen. From Mom.

“Mom, relax. I was just flipping through to see what was on.” I changed the channel in a rush. I knew she’d been emotionally distressed, but, come on! She must have seen Psycho at least as often as I had. That was one sinister scream. She was more than overreacting.

I turned to her. She seemed so pale, like she’d been dead for several days. Her crazed eyes looked back at me like I had a knife sticking out of my face.

“Mom. Come on. It’s only a movie…”

She didn’t utter a word and her widened eyes didn’t blink. I figured she wasn’t feeling well. I wasn’t, either. Who could when someone was coming in and out of your house in your absence? Perhaps it affected her a lot more than I ever imagined.

“Mom. I’ll cook. You sit down here,” I got up. “And don’t go back to channel 884.”

What on earth could I cook for a meal? Should I heat up some chicken nuggets? But that didn’t matter right then. I sensed the urgency to get her to rest immediately. I was certain anyone would have felt the same way after hearing her demented scream.

As I entered the kitchen, my eyes froze when they landed on her foot. It was bleeding. A knife lay on the floor. She must have let it fall right onto her foot.

“Mom!” I rushed over to her. “You’re hurt! Did you drop the knife? What are you doing just standing there? Sit down!”

I reached out to her and made her sit down in the chair. Rinsing a clean cloth, I pressed it on the wound, then rushed away to get the first-aid kit.

“I’m gonna pour hydrogen peroxide over it. Okay?” I seriously wondered if Mom had gone brain-dead when she didn’t react in the slightest to what I was saying.

“I know it’s a lot of blood, but it’ll stop. Otherwise, we’ll go to the ER.” Saying that, I poured a decent amount of hydrogen peroxide over the wound, but she was still brain-dead.

I covered the injury with a big bandage and looked up. “Here, rest on the couch,” I said, trying to pull her up but she was as heavy as an ancient tree rooted deep in the soil.

“Mom.”

When she finally looked up at me, honestly, her expression sent chills down my spine.

“Mom, please. Can you just… not do that look anymore? I know it’s hard but…” before I could finish, she grabbed my arm very firmly.

“Mom, stop! You’re scaring me.”

“Don’t look in the trash…” Mom’s voice came out as a rumbling whisper.

Who wouldn’t want to look in the trash after being told not to?

I looked inside the trash can that was sitting in the corner of the kitchen. The push-up lid was open.

Recoiling with a severe version of acid reflex, I doubled over. Then I noticed the terrible smell.

It was a dead raccoon. A bloodied corpse. With the head gone. In our kitchen trash.

The question was—who could have hated us so much as to bring such a disgusting and malodorous object into our house? And how did they manage to do it? It was completely beyond comprehension.

“Kyle! Kyle!” I screamed. After all, in Dad’s absence, he was the man of the house.

I didn’t have the stomach to go near it again, and there was no doubt in my mind that Mom couldn’t either.

“I’m on the phone,” Kyle answered behind the closed door.

“Bullshit!” I barked. I did not have the time or the energy to listen to his lies at that moment. “We need you out here! Now!”

Kyle came out of his room reluctantly. He looked annoyed—okay, scratch what I’d said before. He didn’t have only one expression. He had two: stoic and annoyed.

“Can you take that thing outside?” I said, pointing to the trash can.

Kyle approached the trash can, looked inside, and he seemed deeply disturbed.

“Who put that in here?” he asked. Then he stopped, noticing Mom’s bandaged foot and the bloodied cloth.

“Just, please. Get it out of the house…”

Kyle closed the lid and took the trash out.

A few minutes later, he came back inside, dragging a steel-jawed trap with his foot clamped inside it.

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