Things to do in Freehold

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Chapter Sixty-seven:

Patrick Mackenzie (Late afternoon of September 13, 1994)

Since she no longer lets me ride the bus home anymore, I patiently waited for Ma, out in front of the school, for her to pick me up. Nearly fifteen minutes went by and there was still no sign of her. Paranoia struck almost instantly. She’s never this late; something’s wrong. I paced back and forth as I watched parents come and go. Not one of them was either Ma or Pops. Even Jake was nowhere to be found. My heart raced and my palms became sweaty. Where are they? I almost began to cry when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

“Excuse me?” I heard a woman’s voice say. I whipped around, excited, thinking it was Ma, but was disappointed to find out it was a complete stranger. “Are you Patrick?”

“Yeah?” I responded, suspicious of how this woman could possibly know my name.

“Hi, I’m Carrie, Tony’s mom,” she introduced, pointing over at Tony, who had been leaning against a silver SUV. “It’s nice to finally meet you. Do you have someone to drive you home, Sweetheart?”

I looked around for my parents once more, but still, no one. Therefore, I shook my head.

“In that case, do you think it’d okay with your mom if you rode with us?”

“I guess that’d be alright,” I replied, not entirely sure if that was the correct answer. Although, this lady seemed friendly enough and I knew Tony well enough, even if we did get off to a rocky start.

Before long, Ms. Thompson turned down my street and I could see that there no cars parked in the driveway of my house. However, there was a red truck sitting out in front of it. I wonder whose that is.

“Thanks for the ride,” I said, before hopping out the car.

“Anytime,” Ms. Thompson noted.

“See ya’ tomorrow, Mackenzie,” I heard Tony’s voice yell out the window as they began driving away.

I waved them goodbye as I made my way up to the porch. Right before I could unlock the door, I noticed Brian, at the corner of my eye, coming over on his bike.

“Hey, Pat, have you seen your brother anywhere?” he asked me, stationing his bike at the edge of the lawn.

“No,” I uttered. I haven’t seen any member of my family since this morning. “Do you know where my mom is?”

“No. Wait, is she missing too?”

I nodded, desperately holding back my tears.

“Alright, well, you go on inside and I’ll talk to my mom real quick. She’ll hopefully know what to do,” he appointed, turning away. Before he left, though, he gave me one last demand. “Oh, and Pat, be sure to lock the door and not to open it for any strangers. Got it?”

I nodded my head again. As Brian peddled away, I directed my attention back towards opening the door. When I got close to it, however, I realized that some of its paint had been chipped away near the knob. Also, it was already unlocked.

Ever so slowly, I had pushed open the door and tip-toed into the house. Both the foyer and living room had been a complete mess. Books from the case covered the floor, along with opened umbrellas and the couch’s cushions. As I entered the living room, I soon noticed the man with the neck tattoo, standing near the pool table. He quickly noticed me as well. Although, he didn’t really say anything to me; he just stared at me, blankly. Suddenly, I could feel someone sneak up behind me and put a odd smelling napkin over my mouth and nose. The fumes from said napkin made me slip into a deep slumber.

An hour or so went by and the wind of the cool September evening blew on the back on of my neck, waking me up, almost instantly. It took my eyes a minute to adjust to the darkness, but once they did, I realized I was in some sort of tool shed. My hands were cuffed, above my head, to a lawnmower about three times my entire body mass. My mouth was taped and my only source of oxygen was the air from outside, sliding through the shed’s cracks. Heart beginning to race, I stood up in a panic. What’s going on? Why am I here? Where’s my family? Whose shed is this? I then listened as voices from outside grew louder.

“You never told me we would kidnapping children,” I heard one man say. “This is wrong and not what I signed up for.”

“Oh, really, Carlos? Well, tell me then, what exactly did you sign up for when agreeing to work for a drug cartel?” another man argued. His voice sounded awfully familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. “You know? If you’d gotten out of there sooner, maybe Sammy wouldn’t have needed to chloroform the little shit.”

“Sorry, I was too busy looking for the diary you lost.”

“I didn’t lose shit; it was stolen from me. Alright?”

“Only because you were too reckless to leave it out in the open. I figured a sheriff, of all people, would understand the importance of keeping evidence locked up.”

That was when it smacked me across the face. This Carlos guy is talking to Ace Romano. That’s why I was able to recognize his voice. Holy shit.

“Where are the last two pages?” Romano continued.

“The what?”

“The last entry? Do you have it? Where is it?” Romano raised his voice. I could also hear the sound of him vigorously flipping through the diary’s pages.

“Is it not there in the back?”

“No, you idiot! It was ripped out, but I stuck it in the middle earlier, so where is it now?”

“I don’t anything about an entry. I was just told to find the diary, itself.”

“Fuck! Do you know what this means? It means we’re fucked!” There was then a sudden bang on the shed’s wall.

“Why? What’s in there?”

“Oh, I’ll tell you what’s in there? Shit that will throw both our asses in prison if the state police get to it before we do, so hop to it, Jackass. Go find it.”

“That shit could be anywhere by now, though!”

“Not my problem!” Romano’s voice began to travel farther and farther away from the shed. “Either find it or don’t bother showing your face in this town ever again!”

There was a moment of silence before I heard the shed’s double doors burst open. Trembling with fear, I turned to see the man with the neck tattoo quickly close said doors, then walk over to me. To his right, there had been a battery-powered lantern, sitting on a nearby shelf. He switched it on and the light cascaded over the entire shed. Looking at him up close, for the first time, I could finally make out what his tattoo was. It appeared to be a large bird, engulfed in flames. I screamed through the tape the moment his hand got close to my face. He then pressed his index finger to his lips and made a hushing sound.

“I’m not gonna hurt you,” he told me, gradually taking off my tape as soon as I calmed down.

“You’re not?” I questioned, taking in deep breaths.

He shook his head. “You have your whole life ahead of you. Me, though? These people can threaten me all they want; kids are off-limits.”

“Why are you doing this then? I mean, why are you working for such bad people?”

“You won’t understand until you’re older, but when the money’s good, the bad people become good too.”

“Sounds like a load of shit to me,” I muttered, kicking up some dirt of the ground.

“Yeah?” the man chuckled. “Well, you know what? You’re absolutely right, which is why I’m getting out of this right now.”

“Really?” My eyes widened.

“Really,” he answered, already removing my cuffs. Free, at last. “But you have to do as I say or else.”

“Or else what?” I asked, still rubbing my sore wrists.

“Or else you don’t stand a chance of making it out of here alive,” he explained, handing me a wrench.

The man, who went by the name Carlos, reopened the doors and looked both ways before cautiously leading me out to his truck. He spotted me as I climbed in and commanded that I stay there and stay down.

“Where are you going?” I cried out. I don’t want to be left out here all alone; it’s about to be dark soon.

“I’m going back to get the rest of your folks, but you have to promise me you won’t follow me.”

“Wait, my family’s in there?”

“Pat, promise me,” Carlos said in a stern voice. Glancing down at his hand, I saw he had his pinky finger out and knew that could only mean one thing: this was serious.

“I promise,” I told him, wrapping my finger around his.

“Good, now, if you see someone coming this way, you get out of this truck and you run as fast as you can and don’t stop until you get to the bus station. It’s not too far from here and one of the drivers will help you if ask for the police. Be sure to ask for the state police, though. That part is important.”

“What if I don’t run fast enough?”

Carlos bowed his head and sighed. “Hopefully, it won’t have to come that, but if it does and someone gets a hold of you, I want you to use that wrench I gave you. Take the blunt end and go straight for the skull. Once they’re off of you, you keep running and don’t look back. You think you can do that? You think you can be brave for me?”

I thought about it for a moment, then nodded. I held onto the wrench for dear life as he said his goodbye and closed the door. Spreading myself across the three seats, I shut my eyes, taking deep breaths in and out. You can do this, Pat. Be brave. Five minutes went by and when I heard the sound of knocking on the window, all of the hair on my body stood straight up. Please, be Carlos, back with the rest of my family. For the love of God, be Carlos. Although reluctant, I sat upright and turned my head to face the window behind me. To my pleasant surprise, the stranger knocking was no stranger at all, but, in fact, Zack.

“What are you doing here?” I asked him as he opened the car door and crawled in alongside me.

“I could ask you the same thing,” he responded, shutting said door. “My dad told me were going to go get ice cream. He said to sit in the car while took care of something in that house. Frankly, I didn’t think anything of it until I saw him yelling at that guy. What were they talking about, Pat?”

I looked down at my lap, where I’d been twiddling my thumbs. “Your dad wanted the diary back and sent those two men from the shack to get it. And since it was on me—”

“They kidnapped you in the process,” Zack sighed. “I’m sorry I put you in that situation, Pat. I didn’t mean to—”

“No harm was done, really,” I assured him, throwing my arm over his shoulder. “Only now, they want that torn out entry and I have no clue where that is.”

“I do,” he uttered, scrunching his nose and leaning forward. I watched as he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a couple of folded up pieces of paper. He then handed them over to me. “I’ve seen how messy you keep your room. I didn’t want it to get lost amongst the clutter.”

There it was: the very last thing Mrs. Russo ever wrote, right in the palms of my hands. “I do not have that messy of a room,” I defended, glancing back up at Zack, to which he laughed

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