Special Note: This is Part III of a four-part series. If you haven’t read Part I and Part II, please scroll to the bottom of the blog and click on the previous links to read “A Junkyard Horror Story” from the beginning.
“Sammy, are you seriously bringing that to work?” Ernesto grins at me as I walk into the office.
“Another day, another dollar,” I answer back. I like feeling the weight of the bat as it rests on my shoulder.
I’m not a baseball player, but I am good at swinging things. My Grandpa, a sports connoisseur, taught me to play tennis.
I remember Grandpa’s words, “The power doesn’t come from the shoulder. It comes from the shift in the weight of the legs, the turn of the hips. The whole body, the power comes from the entire body and drives through the arm.” Grandpa would tell me this again and again. Then, I would practice for hours.
“Just don’t whack me by mistake!” Ernesto shakes his head and smiles. I’m a sucker for that smile, even after being together for ten years. It gets me every time. “At least, you’re here. Bill and John aren’t coming in,” Ernesto’s smile disappears after breaking the bad news.
“Really? Why?” I ask, even though the answer is obvious.
“They called in sick, but I think they’re just chicken shit scared. Most of our neighbors are closed for the day. Steve, next door, has the only shop open on the block,” Ernesto tries to smile again, but his eyes tell me that he’s worried.
“Paulo and Lorenzo aren’t here. That’s unusual,” I say out loud as I realize how quiet the office is with just the two of us.
“Nope, looks like you’re the only brave one,” Ernesto says as he takes my hand and pulls me close to him.
“I want you to go home,” he tells me as I settle into his arms.
“Are you closing the shop?” I ask. I know money is tight. We’re struggling to make the rent by the end of this week.
“Yes, we’re not going to get many customers today, and it’s not safe. Not with everyone gone. I don’t want you in the office alone. In fact, I don’t want you here at all.”
“Are we going to make the rent?” I see the worry cross his face before he can hide it.
“I’m closing the shop, but I’m staying to take off the engine for Francisco. That will cover the rent for this month,” Ernesto answers.
“Yes, I’ll lock up the place. I’ll be fine. When I’m done, I’ll head home,” he kisses my cheek to reassure me.
“I have a better plan. We lock the doors. You take off the engine, while I stand guard with my bat. Then we head home together,” I take a step back, stand tall, and place the bat back on my shoulder.
I’ve watched Ernesto work seven days a week for the past two years. He loves this place. No lunatic is going to take away his dream, not when I have a bat in my hands.
Ernesto smiles back at me. He knows how stubborn I am. He shrugs his shoulders and starts to gather his tools.
I might sound brave, but I’m terrified. Still, I’m not letting him stay here by himself. So, the two of us head out into the yard. He gets to work on the engine, and I keep a watchful eye out for any movement. So help me, I will spot Benjie if he takes one step in my yard.
Hours go by without so much as a sound. Ernesto and I barely talk to one another. It’s a silent agreement that we want to get this over quickly and head home. I try to stay alert as possible, because with Ernesto focused on his work I’m the only one watching out for us.
“Help me! Somebody please help me!” A gut wrenching scream cuts through the quiet. A man in pain calls out. It’s not just pain in his voice, but terror. You can feel it.
“That has to be Steve!” Ernesto jumps up from under the car. We run towards the office.
“Sammy, I want you to stay here,” he tells me.
“No! I’m coming with you. I’m not having you go over there alone,” I can feel tears ready to spill out, because I already know what he’s going to say.
“Not this time. I might have to fight, and I can’t be worried about protecting you. Listen to me. I want you to lock this door behind me and don’t open it for anyone! You hear me! No one! You are safe in here,” Ernesto gives me the look that tells me arguing is not an option.
“I’ll call the cops,” I tell him trying to think of anything I can do to help.
“Not yet. We don’t know what’s happened. He could have just had an accident. I have a cell phone. I can call them. If I don’t call you in five minutes, then go ahead and call the cops, okay?” He grabs our largest crescent wrench and heads next door.
With my hands shaking, I try to lock the door behind him. Damn it! I forgot it’s hard to lock the door with my keys. I’ve been meaning to get new ones. I have to jiggle it for a while to get it to work. By the time I have myself safely locked in, tears are already running down my cheeks.
I try to breathe and calm myself. I still have my bat. It hasn’t left my hands all day. But what can I do to help Ernesto? He’s over there without me. What is he walking into?
I look up to see Miss Kitty standing just outside the door leading into the yard. We always prop it open so she can come and go as she pleases. She’s a few feet away. She must have heard me crying.
“Miss Kitty,” I call to her as I start to walk towards her. I see her look beyond me and hiss. In the reflection of the window I see a figure and without thinking my body reacts.
As I turn, I use the power of my legs, hips, and everything I have within me to swing. I hit him full force in the chest. I feel a thunk and remember to carry my swing all the way through just like my Grandpa always told me.
I only watch for a second as Benjie stumbles and falls. His hand with that wretched black 1915 Ford Model T tattoo gripping a long bladed knife.
I have no chance of unlocking the front door in time, so I race into the yard. My right-hand clutching my bat.
I don’t dare call out to Ernesto, because I don’t want to get him killed. Besides, if I scream I’ll give away my location.
I’ve locked Benjie in here with me. Neither one of us can leave.
And I’m thinking, he must be extra pissed off at me. I did just crank him with my bat.
Stay tuned! Part IV (the conclusion) will be coming soon!
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