A Novelette By Robert Swartwood

Chapter 11

Moments later I’m downstairs, trying to find the key that unlocks my dad’s gun cabinet. It’s not in the lock, but I know he keeps it down here among the piles of old magazines, calendars and other junk, mostly stuff that’s resting on an old decaying shelf that was here before my parents ever moved in.

A few seconds pass before I realize what I’m doing. With everything that’s happened so far today, I’m worried about breaking into my old man’s gun cabinet instead of worrying how much farther my brother’s gotten.

Without thinking I grab one of my dad’s football trophies. I throw it at the glass pane, shattering it. Then I’m stepping forward and grabbing one of the rifles and a box of shells, loading the cartridge as fast as I can. And as I’m doing this, I’m trying to track how many seconds are ticking by … when I realize I’ve lost track.

“Shit,” I mutter. With the rifle loaded, I break for the stairs, taking them two at a time. I reach the landing, head straight for the patio window—

Ty’s gone.

I stop dead, my body shaking, and survey the backyard. Nothing. I can’t see him anywhere. I can’t—

There’s a sound then, coming from my right. I turn immediately, raising the rifle, but there’s nothing there. Still, that sound persists, and I realize where it’s coming from now, what it is.

It’s from the garage, the sound of the hinges squeaking as someone’s opening the door from the backyard.

“Please,” I whisper to a God I’ve never really believed in, “don’t let me die.”

I start forward.

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