Things to do in Freehold

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Chapter Fifty-nine:

Patrick Mackenzie (Morning of September 13, 1994)

I was down the hallway on my way back from recess to class, minding my own, when I caught a glimpse of Sheriff Romano stepping out of the administration office. Instantly, I hid around the corner and watched him from afar. He’d been too busy talking to one of his deputies to notice me.

“Zack, what is your dad doing here?” I asked, pulling him to the side the moment he walked by me.

“I don’t know; he didn’t mention anything to me,” Zack replied.

“It’s for the investigation, Dumbass,” Tony said, sneaking up behind us. “Our principal went missing a couple days ago. Remember? Now, the police are questioning faculty member about him and where he might’ve gone.”

“He’s the one leading that investigation?” I inquired Tony, entirely disregarding the fact that eavesdropped on our conversation.

Before anyone could answer me, however, Sheriff Romano had crossed our path. He tipped his at us when he noticed we were staring at him. He smiled and revealed his razor-sharp teeth the same way Mrs. Ricci did two nights before.

“Pat, we’re gonna be late for class,” Zack voiced as I dragged him into the boys’ bathroom by his arm.

I looked underneath each of the stalls to ensure that we were the only two in there, then went over to lock the door.

“What’s with you today? You’re acting a lot stranger than usual,” Zack commented. “And I just heard the bell ring.”

“You’re dad is a dirty cop,” I blurted.

Zack just stared at me, blankly. “What are you talking about?”

“Principal Ricci, he was murdered. Not only that, he was murdered by his wife and your dad, your dad helped cover it up. And he’s continuing to do so by pretending to solve a crime he was an accomplice to. It’s just like one of those TV shows my dad used to watch. I am so sorry.”

“How do you know all of this?”

“I watched it happen the night of the party.”

“So you knew about this this entire time and you’re just now telling me about it, two whole days later?” Tears began filling up Zack’s eye sockets as his broad nose started to flare.

“I wasn’t sure how to tell you.”

Zack then turned to leave.

“Zack, wait!” I cried out. However, Zack did not listen. As he opened the door, I could see that Tony was out there, waiting on the other side.

“Melrose wants you two in class, immediately,” he told us.

Zack speeded past Tony with no issue. I, on the other hand was stopped by him, halfway through the doorway.

“Did he suffer?” he asked me, hand on my chest.

“Who?”

He then leaned in real close. “Principal Ricci.”

“Sorry, I don’t know what—”

“Don’t bullshit me, Mackenzie. I heard your guys’ conversation through the door. I know you watched him die, so answer the question.”

Hesitantly, I nodded. “But you can’t tell anyone about this.”

“Don’t worry; I won’t,” he said, right before walking away. “Good riddance, by the way. That guy was an asshole.”

Zack did not say a word to me in class or all through lunch. Even at the bake sale right afterwards, he completely ignored me. Anytime I’d go near him, he’d head in the opposite direction.

“He’ll come around,” I heard Tony say behind me as I watched Zack leave the bake sale entirely.

“You really need to stop sneaking up on me like that,” I told him, turning around.

“Sorry,” he laughed. “By the way, I’ve been meaning to apologize for what happened last Friday. Me and those other boys shouldn’t have ganged up on you like that or have even picked a fight with you in the first place. My mom says I need to work on my temper a bit.”

“Apology accepted,” I said, half-smiling.

“Patrick, there you are,” Mrs. Ricci called out, walking up to us. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”

“For me? Why?” I stepped back each time she got closer.

“Well, I heard about your mom and her upset stomach. Poor thing; I felt so bad she couldn’t make it today that made her a special plate,” Ricci explained, holding up a paper plate, covered in each item from every stand, wrapped in saran wrap. “For when she feels better.”

“Um, thank you,” I uttered, taking the plate from her.

She then smiled, revealing her sharp teeth to me once again.

“Will you excuse me?” I scurried away before I could even get an answer.

Running down the hallway, I collided with Zack, making us both fall to the floor. Sitting back up, I noticed the journal he’d been holding looked awfully familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on as to where I’d seen it before. We then heard more footsteps coming our way.

“Quick, stuff this in your jacket,” Zack demanded, already doing so with the journal.

“You’re talking to me again,” I beamed at him, to which he grinned back.

“Act natural,” he told me as his dad made his way towards us.

“Hey, Zack, have you seen your mom anywhere?” Sheriff Romano asked, taking a bite of an apple fritter.

“Last time I checked, she was still at the bake sale,” Zack responded.

“Really? I was just there, I didn’t see her anywhere,” Romano explained.

“Maybe she went to the bathroom,” I intervened.

“Yeah? I guess I haven’t checked there yet,” Romano said, before messing up my hair as he began walking away. “Thanks Pat. By the way, you guys should really get back to the sale, where there’s adult supervision. We don’t need another person at this school going missing now.”

As he got further away from us, I turned to Zack and questioned him about the mysterious journal. “So what is this and why am I hiding it?”

“It’s the diary your mom found,” he answered. “I saw my dad reading it earlier, during lunch, in Principal Ricci’s office. I took it off the desk as soon as he left the room.”

“You stole it? Why would you do that?”

“Because I tried to remember where I’d heard the name Amy Russo before and then it hit me. She was the woman who was murdered in your house, along with her daughter. That diary could be a strong piece of evidence in their case.”

I looked down at the leather-bound memoir in my hand. I’m actually holding the evidence of a homicide case right now. What has my life turned into?

“And if my dad is the dirty cop you say he is, he is the last person I would want to have it.”

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