Things to do in Freehold

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Chapter Thirty:

Jacob Mackenzie (Afternoon of September 10, 1994)

There we all were: standing in the basement of a literal crack house, in front of the weapons they’d kill us with if they ever found out that we were down here. I still couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that a place like this even existed in my suburban neighborhood. “That does it; we need to leave.”

“I second that,” Brian agreed, already making his way towards the stairs. I didn’t have to tell him twice. Zack followed his lead.

I shut the cabinet doors and was about to head for the stairway, myself, when I stopped and realized Pat wasn’t behind me. Instead, he was at the far end of the room, staring down a black duffle bag on one of the tables. “Pat?” I called out.

“Go ahead, I’ll catch up with you,” he responded.

“Yeah, that’s not fucking happening,” I signaled Brian to take Zack upstairs, though I don’t think he listened. I could feel him eavesdropping from the top step as I walked over to Patrick. “I guess you didn’t hear me before when I said that we need to leave.”

He didn’t say anything; he didn’t even look at me. He just kept staring at that damn bag. What the hell was his fascination with this thing?

Growing irritated, I yanked him by the arm. “Now!”

“Wait! Not yet! I have to know what’s inside! I have to see it for myself!” he cried out, repeatedly. The boy was now in tears and completely hysterical. I could feel his body tremble as I held on to his forearm.

Seeing the terror in his eyes, I decided to let go of him and speak in a more calm voice. “See what for yourself, Pat?”

“That they’re not child butchers. I have to see it for myself.”

“Child butchers? What do you mean ‘child butchers’?”

He wiped away his tears as he looked back at the duffle bag. “Adeline told me about the child butchers who live in these woods. She said that any child who enters their territory is killed and taken back here so that they can cook and eat them.”

I didn’t know what to say. What could I say? That everything’s going to be alright? That he has nothing to worry about? I wish Ma were here; she’d know what to say. “Pat, Adeline was just screwing around with you. Okay? There aren’t any cannibals or child butchers or whatever anywhere near here.”

“What about all those knives? The guns?”

“Well, yeah, these guys are dangerous and that’s why we need to leave, but no one’s hunting anyone down and eating them. I would never let that happen to you.”

Patrick didn’t speak another word. He just stared up at me, briefly, before going in for a bear hug. At first, I was taken back a bit by this gesture, but then I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and squeezed tightly.

“C’mon, let’s go get some pizza,” I told him, escaping his grasp. I watched him run up the stairs as I locked eyes with Brian. He just shook his head at me before following Pat back up to the shack. What’s his problem? I, myself, only got to the bottom of the stairwell when I felt the sudden urge to stop, turn around, and march back over to the duffle. I’ll admit, I was curious as to what was inside it as well. It might not have been the dead body of a child, but it could’ve very well been the dead body of an adult, nonetheless. I’ve seen enough crime shows and read enough books to know that it was a likely possibility.

“So when did Pat meet Adeline?” Brian asked as we were heading home. Patrick and Zack led the way while we followed them at a safe distance.

“Uh, yesterday,” I answered, hesitantly. “Yeah, I guess she walked him home after she saw some bullies picking on him. I guess she also told him some campfire story about cannibals too.”

“Is that all she came by for?”

His tone made me feel as if I was being interrogated. “Yeah, that’s all,” I fibbed. I decided not to tell him about my plans later, fearful of how he’d react.

“Look, I saw the look on your face when he mentioned her name. I know you still have feelings for her. Of course you do; who wouldn’t? She’s this insanely hot and ‘mysterious’ rebel, full of secrets and angst.”

Before either of us knew it, we were at the end of my driveway.

“Just be careful, though. Alright?” Brian stopped and turned to me. I don’t want you getting hurt by her. She’s already hurt one too many of my friends.”

I stayed behind and watched him walk the rest of the way to the front door. There was more to the story than what he was leading on. I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

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