Things to do in Freehold

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Chapter Eighty-two:

Patrick Mackenzie (Afternoon of September 14, 1994)

The midday sun cascaded over the entirety of my room, waking me up. It was the best sleep I had in weeks and now it was over. As I was rubbing the crust from my eyes, I overheard a commotion coming from outside. I walked over to window to see what was going on and noticed a crowd of people, gathering on the sidewalk. I couldn’t get a clear street view from my room so I decided to go into Jake’s to look out his window. Police cars swarmed the road like bees to honey. Multiple policemen and women came in and out the woods, some carrying duffle bags, others barrels.

“So I guess this means they found the shack,” I commented as soon as I heard footsteps near the doorway.

“Yeah, your mom told them about it earlier,” Pops explained, entering the room. The bed springs squeaked as he took his seat on the mattress. “What were you guys doing in there anyway?”

“Looking for the child butchers.”

“The what?”

I shook my head. “Nothing; it doesn’t really matter now. Did they find the rest of those kids?”

“Not yet; they’re gonna be sending out a search party sometime later today,” Pops answered, getting up from the bed and walking towards me. He put his hands on both of my shoulder and looked out the window as well. “I wouldn’t worry too much about them, though. Those kids were just following orders and scared of what would’ve happened if they didn’t. I doubt any of them have a personal vendetta against us.”

For awhile, we both watched as the forensics team finished up loading their truck full of evidence against Ms. Ricci, then Pops mentioned it was time to pick up Ma. I asked if we were picking up Jake too, but he said he needed to stay a little longer. “Do you think he’ll be mad if he knew we were in his room?” I asked as we headed out into the hallway.

“Oh, I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

I raised my eyebrows at him. Have you met Jake, Pops?

“Or maybe we just won’t tell him,” he suggested as we headed downstairs.

At the door, we put on our shoes and threw on our jackets, then out we went. Cameras clicked and various voices murmured in the distance as we walked to the car. I turned to look at the crowd. Several local news stations and neighbors swarmed our front lawn, asking Pops and I a bunch of questions. Luckily, the cops were able to hold them off before could make it to the driveway.

“Don’t pay any attention to them, Pat,” Pops told me, gently pushing me towards the backseat of the car and opening the door for me. “Just keep your head down and don’t talk to any of them.”

I tried to do as he said, I really did, but I couldn’t help myself. As soon as we drove away, I swiveled around in my seat to look back at them. So many of them had blank, emotionless stares. What are they thinking about? I wish I could read their minds. Everything would be so much simpler if I could just read minds.

At the hospital, we sat in the waiting room for about ten minutes before Ma arrived. In that time, a few people were rushed into the ER, others simply walked out of it, including a girl who looked to be around Jake’s age. When she came down the hall, she stared me down the same way that crowd did: vacantly. I felt as though I’d seen her a couple of times before; I just couldn’t pinpoint where. At least, that was until she accidentally bumped into a nurse and I heard her voice. It’s her, I thought. It’s the blonde from last night.

I glanced over at Pops, who had been sitting next to me, flipping through one of last month’s issues for TIME magazine, and wondered if I should say something. However, she left before I could even open my mouth. I looked around for her in every direction, curious as to which way she could’ve went that would’ve made her disappear so quickly. Suddenly, I could feel an icy, cold gust of air trickling down the back of my neck. I turned to the left of me and nearly jumped out of my own skin when I saw her, standing there, smiling ear to ear with her sharp teeth. In fact, I would’ve screamed right there in the waiting room had it not been for Pops noticing this occurrence and spinning me around to face him.

“Hey, you alright? What’s wrong?” he asked me as I began to cry.

“The girl; she, she,” I stuttered, sniffling in between words.

“What girl?”

“The blonde girl; she was just standing right—,” I paused as soon as I turned back. Once again, the girl was nowhere to be found. “There.”

“Are you feeling okay?”

For a moment, we just stared at each other, not knowing what to say and before we knew it, Ma had entered the room. “Hey, sorry for the wait, I was talking to Jake’s doctor. Are you guys ready to go?”

“Yeah, I think so,” Pops responded, getting up from his chair and walking towards her. He glanced over his shoulder at me, who had still been sitting down, embarrassed of what just happened, then back at Ma. “Can I talk to you for a second, though?”

“Uh, yeah, sure,” Ma uttered, tucking a lock of hair back behind her right ear. “We’ll be right back, Pat.”

Next thing I knew, the two of them went around the corner, completely out of my peripheral. I sat in that uncomfortable waiting room chair, rubbing my knees, nervous of what they might’ve been talking about. Both my curiosity and impatience waited a couple minutes before finally decided to snoop in on their conversation. Not only was it about me, but it sounded pretty serious too.

“What do you mean he saw someone?” I heard Ma ask. “Are we talking like an imaginary friend? What?”

“No, I don’t think an imaginary friend would’ve scared him like that,” Pops replied. “I mean, you should’ve seen him, Sue, the terror in his eyes.”

“Okay, so what do you suggest we do?”

“I’m not sure. A psychiatrist, maybe?”

“You think its that serious, huh?”

“Sue, please, after all he’s been through this week, I’m surprised we haven’t booked an appointment sooner. I mean, he saw a man get gutted for God’s sake. It’s no wonder he’s seeing freaky blonde girls now.”

“Okay, okay, you’re right. I’ll see if I can get a hold of one as soon as we get home.”

Soon after, the two came back into waiting room to come and get me so we could finally leave. As they did, I pretended as if I was just getting up to stretch my legs, which I think they bought. The drive back from the hospital seemed to be much longer than the drive there. I couldn’t tell if it was just the fact that no one was talking or that there was nothing to talk about. What else is there to say? We were all kidnapped and almost killed and now I’m seeing people who aren’t there because of it.

“What’s she doing here?” Pops, at long last, broke the drawn out silence. I looked out my window to see who he referring to and saw an old woman, standing in our driveway by what I assumed was her own car. “Did you call her, hun?”

“No, I don’t know what she’s doing here,” Ma responded, opening her car door as Pops came to a full stop. “You guys go on in without me. I’ll be there in a minute.”

“Are you sure?” Pops asked.

“Yeah, she’s harmless,” Ma assured him, stepping out of the vehicle and heading towards the woman.

Pops and I got out as well, but we headed straight for the front door. Every now and again, though, I would glance over my shoulder, back at the woman. Something about her hair and the way she dressed reminded me the nurse from my old school. Nurse Freeman was her official name, but she’d sometimes let me call her Judy whenever I was having a bad day. I smiled at the old woman for a brief moment before entering the house. I liked that old nurse.

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