Things to do in Freehold

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Chapter Forty:

Amy Russo (Early morning of September 11, 1983)

“Where did you run off to?” I heard Ivan’s voice carry from the living room as I was tip-toeing through the front door. It had been the break of morning; he was almost never up this early.

“Nowhere,” I lied, turning to face him. “I mean I couldn’t sleep, so I went for a walk around the neighborhood to tire myself out.”

Walking over to him, I soon realized that he had an opened beer in his hand. Telling from the empty cans around his recliner and on the coffee table, it was his sixth one. “And you’re just now getting home?”

“Like I said, I couldn’t sleep,” I responded. That part was true, actually. After seeing that dead body the night before, I was too shooken up to go back to bed. Therefore, Joe offered to buy me a cup of coffee from a shop about a mile up the road. It was then, he used their phone to call the police and agreed not to mention my being there. He was thoughtful of my safety like that.

Ivan got up from his chair and made his way towards me. I backed away, slowly, fearful of what he would say or do. He leaned in close and instantly, I worried that he would smell the alcohol on my breath. “Don’t ever scare me like that again.”

As he walked into the kitchen to, perhaps, grab another beer, a single tear began to trickle down my cheek. For a moment there, it was as if I forgot how to breathe. Wiping away the tear, I decided to go upstairs to take a shower and finally change clothes.

The hot water splashed onto my face as images of that rotting corpse kept appearing in my mind. I still remembered that awful smell; I could smell it all over me. How long had it been down there? Why hadn’t I ever smelt it before? Most of all, who put it down there?

I picked up a bar of soap from the basket and started scrubbing my entire body, ridding it of that rancid odor. After I was done, though, I glanced down at the lemongrass scented bar and screamed out of terror, dropping it. Maggots and more maggots swam around the shower floor and some, down the drain. I vigorously wiped away the ones left on my bare body.

“Mom?” I heard Tommy’s voice call out from the other room. He then opened the bathroom door. “Mom, are you okay? I heard screaming.”

“Yes, Sweetheart, I’m fine. You can go back to bed,” I answered, focusing on the soap. The maggots had completely disappeared. I must’ve just imagined them. They felt so real, though.

I turned the shower knob as I finished rinsing off. Opening the curtain, I reached for the towel, hanging on the wall. While stepping out, I took a peek of myself in the fogged-up mirror. I had tremendous bags under my bloodshot eyes. Granted, I was in desperate need of sleep, but anytime I’d blink, I was right back in that basement of horrors.

Regardless of how tired I felt, I still went to throw on a royal blue crewneck over my light wash bermuda shorts and then headed back downstairs to fix up some breakfast. At the bottom of the steps, I noticed Ivan went back to his recliner and fell asleep on it. Tommy, still awake, apparently, was hovering over him, putting the empty beer cans into a trash bag.

“Oh, no, Sweetie, you don’t need to do that,” I told him, heading into the living room. “I’ll get it.”

“That’s okay,” he replied. “I like helping out.”

Getting misty-eyed, I half-smiled at him and pulled him in close to kiss him on top of his beautiful head. “You’re such a good kid. Please don’t ever change.”

As he yanked away, all embarrassed, I noticed in the corner of my eye, out the window, a white news van, parked across the street. Of course, Carrie would be all over this story.

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