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SEVEN

Baxter parked the car in front of his house, an old fashioned All American bungalow with a porch. He sprinted out of his car, followed by the boy.

A good-looking young brunette walked out the door and stood on the porch, greeting him. “Hi sweetie, what’s the hurry? And who’s the young man?”

Baxter gave her a quick peck on the cheek. “No time to explain in detail, honey. I need to get to the basement quickly. I’m sorry, June.”

The boy followed Baxter inside, giving June a quick wave as he did so. Baxter almost knocked into his furniture as he opened the door leading to his basement and ran down the steps. In the basement were a lot of boxes in all shapes and sizes, an old bike without wheels and some old pottery. There was also a big, Army-green crate on the floor. Baxter opened it, displaying the assault rifle and grenades inside it.

Looking over his shoulder the boy said, “Are you allowed to keep that kind of stuff?”

“One of those don’t ask, don’t tell kind of things,” Baxter told him and grabbed the assault rifle. “This AR-15 has served me pretty well in Afghanistan. I hope it will do so again.”

“The other bullets didn’t really seem to have the stopping power needed.”

Baxter showed the boy one of the grenades. “That’s where these babies come in. Hand me that bag over there.”

The boy grabbed the duffel bag that was one a few cardboard boxes to Baxter who filled it with the grenades. Baxter slung the bag over his shoulder.

“That’s it? Let’s go then,” the boy said.

“You’d better just stay here,” Baxter told him. “I’ll deal with that thing.”

“You could use all the help you can.”

“I used to be a Marine. You’re just a kid,” Baxter said.

“I’m not scared. Actually, I’m not scared of anything.”

“Yeah, you sound like you mean it. But you can just as well get yourself killed, and I don’t want that.”

“I’ll be okay. Come on. You can’t take on that monster by yourself,” the boy urged.

Baxter sighed. “Guess I could use someone to watch my back. But I’ve got deputies for that.”

“Sure. But they will be so scared of that thing they might freeze up. I won’t.”

“Guess that can be an advantage. Shit. Okay. Come along then.”

“Joe, you can’t just do this without any explanation,” June said from the steps down to the basement. “Why are you packing in your old Marine stuff?”

Baxter put a hand on June’s shoulder. “There’s just some business I have to take care of. Don’t worry about it, sweetie!”

The boy saw June tearing up. There was something going on there, something beyond this particular situation. Probably something rooted in their past together.

“Oh… Joe… Damn!” Then June started to cry.

“I’m fucking sorry,” Baxter said and walked past her. The boy held up his hands to June in a “sorry, what can I do” way and followed.

As they walked out the door to the patrol car the boy had to ask, “What was that all about?”

“What?”

“She was so worried,” the boy said.

“Forget about it,” Baxter said and opened the patrol car’s door.

The boy joined the sheriff in the car. “Obviously there was something that…”

Baxter gunned the engine. “Just shut up about it, kid! We’ve got a fucking monster to kill.”

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Jochem Vandersteen

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