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Home Invasion

They sat in the car some distance from the house and watched the lights in the windows go off one at a time. Leon, hunched over in the driver’s seat with his elbows on the wheel, knew that meant the old man was making his final rounds for the night. He knew it meant the woman was in bed, and the security system was on.

When they had waited long enough, he turned to the other two men in the car and told them it was time. Leon, who had helped with the construction on the house earlier that summer, knew the layout better than they did. But only they knew how to break into a safe.

“You ready?”

Mickey, in the passenger seat, said: “We need 45 minutes to get into the safe.”

Nodding, Leon handed over the copy of the key and reminded them about the alarm.

“Don’t worry, we got it,” said Joe, climbing out the backseat.

“And the dog. Don’t forget about the dog neither.”

Joe gave the OK sign, and the two of them started toward the house.

As he waited, Leon could feel himself trembling. He wondered if it was from nerves, or the need for a fix, or both. He wondered if he should’ve gone in first. He wondered about the woman — what was her name? Connie? Karen? — and what she was thinking about, lying in bed beside the old man every night. What’d she see in him, he thought, remembering how she looked at him while he worked.

A half-hour went by. As Leon lit his second cigarette, he heard the old man shouting. It was followed almost immediately by the sound of gunfire.

The hell?

Silence. Then another gunshot. And another. Leon’s heart raced. I told them no guns!                   

He bolted toward the house. The front door was open. The woman was upstairs, somewhere, screaming. He ignored her and crept into the parlor.

A body lay prone in front of the open safe. Inside it, the case of jewelry was just sitting there for the taking. Fucking amateurs, Leon thought.

With both hands he shoved the body over so he could get to the safe. When he saw it was Mickey, and not the old man, he stood up.

What the—

Footsteps from somewhere down the hall, someone making a run for the front door.  Another gunshot, a garbled scream.

Joe’s scream.

Panicking, Leon grabbed some of the jewelry out of the box and stuffed it into his pocket.

Of course we didn’t think about the old man having a damn gun.

He crept toward the back door that led to the patio. He knew from having cased the house earlier that day that he could make a beeline for the woods.

But as he was sliding open the glass panel door, the dog — the fucking dog! — charged at him from outside.

Leon jumped back, slamming the door shut before it could claw its way inside. He thought instantly about climbing through one of the windows. But just as he started toward the one above the sink, he heard the sound of a gun being cocked.

“Don’t move,” the old man said. “Turn around.”

Leon raised his hands above his head and pivoted, slowly, until he was facing him. The old man’s eyes grew wide.

“You.”

Leon said nothing. His hands were trembling, out of fear now.

Pointing the gun at Leon, the old man moved closer. “You came here to rob me. Why?”

“We…We needed the money.”

The old man shook his head. “I knew it was a mistake letting you work here again. I should’ve known not to trust a criminal.”

He stepped closer. There was a tenderness in his eyes Leon hadn’t expected. The two men regarded each other for a moment, the gun wavering in the old man’s hands. When he lowered it, Leon felt a rush of relief.

Sensing this was his chance, he mustered the words he had never been able to say.

“I’m sorry.”

The old man sighed.

“You and me both,” he said, finally. Then he aimed the gun at his son’s chest and pulled the trigger.

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