Things to do in Freehold

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Chapter Twenty-one:

Patrick Mackenzie (Morning of September 10, 1994)

“So what did you wanna talk about?” Zack asked, taking a seat on my freshly-made bed. I had invited him over to tell him about events that had taken place yesterday and about Adeline.

“Have you ever heard of someone, people, butchering, and eating children in the middle of the woods?” I questioned him, shortly after closing my bedroom door so that no one would snoop on our conversation.

Zack took a second to think about it. “No, but I’m sure my dad has; he’s a cop,” he answered, enthusiastically. “Why do you ask?”

“I met this girl yesterday, after school. She told me about these people, hiding out in the forest across the street. She called them The Child Butchers,” I explained.

“And let me guess, you want to find their hideout and see what they’re actually up to,” Zack presumed.

“Well, I already know their hideout, but yeah, how’d you know?” I responded.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but if this were a movie, you’d be the idiot friend who’d get killed off first,” he said, bluntly.

“Ouch,” I replied, then soon realizing how true that statement was. “But fair.”

It took some serious convincing and two weeks worth of lunch money to get Zack to investigate the old shack with me (Looks like Ma will have to start packing me some home lunch for a while.), but I’d finally done it. As quietly as we possibly could, we had lurked around what seemed to be an abandoned area, peeking in through the cracks of the boarded-up windows.

“You see anything?” I asked.

“No, it’s too dark to see a damn thing,” Zack replied.

It was true, the cramped space was lit by only a singular, dim, red light. There had been illustrations, or maybe it was photos, posted up on the walls, but nothing I could make out. On a lighter note, though, I didn’t see any severed body parts on the table.

Suddenly, a movement near the shadowy floor disrupted the darkness. What appeared to be a hidden door within the floorboards had opened, making the fluorescent light from down below cascade over the room above.

Soon, after opening it, a scrawny young man had climbed out of the secret passage. His head was buzzed and covered in tattoos, along with the rest of his slim body. He wore a pure white wife beater and a pair of jeans that were far too big for his tiny hips.

After the young man, another, much larger man had appeared. Is this the same man I had seen once before? I immediately thought. I wasn’t entirely too sure. I couldn’t get a good look at the side of his neck for any ink. Whoever he was, he seemed to be pretty upset with the skinnier fella over something too muffled to make out.

“Can you hear what they’re saying?” I whispered to Zack, who had already been listening in.

He quickly hushed me, then pressed his ear even closer to bug-infested lumber. “Apparently, some money went missing,” Zack answered, just loud enough for me to hear him. “Now, they have to make and sell a dozen more batches to make up for the lost cash. One of them is suggesting that they should sell it at some―party?

“Batches of what? What party?” I asked. I was hushed once again.

“The boss will never know it’s gone,” the scrawny guy supposedly said.

“Fine, but you better not fuck things up again,” the bigger guy responded.

“What do you suppose they’re talking about?” I asked Zack, who had stopped listening in and went back to looking through the window.

“Don’t know, but it looks like they’re leaving now. C’mon, let’s do the same,” Zack suggested as he began to walk away. However, he immediately paused as soon as he realized I hadn’t been following him. “What are you doing? Let’s go.”

For some reason, I felt obligated to stay. I needed to find what was going on inside that basement; to see for myself that it wasn’t a child in danger. As I looked back at the old shack, I imagined a scenario in which Zack and I had left, causing someone’s kid to die a brutal, yet preventable death. Their blood would be on our hands. However, when I looked back at my trembling friend, I knew it was going to take a lot more than two weeks of free lunch to get him to go inside. Therefore, I didn’t make him.

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