Fret and Bravery

Larry sat inside the closet. Sweat dripped down from his forehead. Fret filled the ten-year-old’s body. He could see two men through the cracks in the closet doors. Blood covered the first man’s shirt, and the other’s face looked bruised. He had heard his mother scream just moments earlier while he played in his room. Larry ran into the closet and shut the doors. He sat there in a silence that was finally broken by the men walking up the stairs and around the second floor until they found his bedroom.

The men moved swiftly and methodically. Larry knew he needed to move back into the corner of his small closet. His father had taught him how to slide between the clothes and stuffed animals that had been piled up at the edge of his tiny hiding place. Larry did not know why, but his father never allowed him to play with the animals or wash the dirty clothes. Larry held his breath and scooted backward as quickly as he could. As he moved, he grabbed a toy or two off of the shelf and placed them quietly on the floor as he went.

Gently forcing his small frame into his father’s pile of animals and old clothes was a stinky affair, but Larry knew he had better do as his father had trained him. If the wicked men found him, his father might punish him.

Larry had just gotten enveloped by his cocoon when the closet door flew open. The man was large and fat with a dark red blood stain on his belly. His body odor was worse than the old clothes surrounding Larry. The stranger had a ski mask that he had lifted above his head. His flashlight moved swiftly around the closet. Larry caught glimpses of the man’s scruffy face and blond curly hair. The other man’s voice spoke up, “What do you see?”

“Nothing,” said the stranger in the closet, “Just a bunch of toys.”

“Let me see.”

The first stranger moved out of the way, and the other man stepped inside. His flashlight settled in on the pile of stuffed animals and clothes in front of Larry. “Uh huh, I think we may have found our target.”

The stranger shut off his flashlight and Larry could see the man’s cold black eyes and olive-skinned face. He wasn’t wearing a mask, although Larry noticed something black hanging from his pocket. Scratches and a bruise around the intruder’s right eye made him look as if he had been in a fight. Unlike the first stranger, this man smelled okay, a lot like his dad. His black hair was shaved short on both sides, but it was longer on top with a slight wave in it. Larry caught his breath as the man pulled a pistol out from underneath his suit jacket.  Larry had seen his dad’s silencer before and knew he was in trouble as he watched the stranger slowly screw one on to his weapon.

Larry held his breath as he watched the barrel rise and then it leveled in his general direction. The sound of the kitchen door bursting inward drifted up from downstairs. “FBI!” could be heard hollered from below. The stranger pulled the trigger, and a pop filled the closet. Larry heard the bullet hit the stuffed teddy bear to his right. The projectile exited the back of the animal’s head and embedded into the wall one inch from Larry’s shoulder.

The gruff voice of the first man sounded urgent. “We need to go now.”

The stranger in the closet frowned, raised his weapon and swiftly stepped out of the closet doorway. Larry held his breath and listened. He could hear the two sets of footsteps bounding down the stairs, and then gunshots. They seemed to go on forever, and then silence. Footfalls slowly made their way upstairs. The person seemed to be checking all the rooms just like before.

The fret within Larry raised to a fever pitch as the footfalls made their way into his room, and then a familiar voice rang out. “Larry, are you here, son? Are you okay?”

Larry came bursting forth from his pile of camouflage. Stuffed animals and dirty clothes broke away from before him and followed his momentum out of the closet door. Larry stopped short and looked at his father. He stood there in the familiar FBI jacket he always wore. His dad’s right hand firmly gripped his service revolver. Blood dripped off the back of his father’s fingers, and there was a dark red spot on his shoulder. Larry knew his dad was hurt.

“Are you okay, Dad?”

His father gave his familiar sideways grin, but Larry noticed his dad’s right eye twitched a little. “I’m fine, son, it’s only a flesh wound.”

Larry ran to his dad and buried himself in his body as hard as he could. His father grunted. Larry squeezed his dad’s waist and then asked. “Is mom okay?”

“She’s alive.”

Larry released his grip and took his dad’s hand, “I want to go see Mom.”

His father shook his head and took both of Larry’s hands. “Not right now, son. The doctors need to see her first.” In the distance, multiple sirens broke the night air, and grew closer with every second.”

“Dad, who were those men?”

His father slowly made his way down to his knees. Pain creased his face as he crouched down to Larry’s level. “Those were bad men who wanted to hurt you and Mom because they were too cowardly to face me.”

“Will they be coming back?”

His dad smiled, shook his head, and then said. “No, they won’t be going after anybody else ever again.”


 

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