Chapter 33 - Through the Looking Glass

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"You little punk!"

Harry held the shotgun, aiming squarely at Johnny. He glanced at the empty lockbox and then fixed his eyes on the boy. "I don't know how you found out about this, but you'll be sorry. I know you have my money in the backpack. Give it to me now. Just toss it on the ground."

The floor of the room was scattered with bingo balls and overturned cardboard boxes. Harry kicked one box out of the way and stepped forward. With every step toward Johnny, Harry was forced to quickly take his eyes off the boy and check the floor, to make sure he didn't accidentally slip on the balls that now covered it.

"Well, what are you going to do?" Johnny said, backpedaling toward the corner behind the lockbox, trying to maintain his distance as Harry advanced. The longer he could keep Harry moving, the better the chance Harry might trip or stumble on something. "You can't tell anyone that I took the money, because then you'd have to explain how you got it. I know your secret, Harry. I know you and your boss are cheating at bingo and stealing from all the old folks who come to the games. What if I told that to the residents who live here? Or what if I told that to the police? You'd be in a whole lot of trouble."

"You brat, what makes you think you'll get the chance to talk to anyone about what you found in here? What makes you think you'll ever leave this room alive? You think I wouldn't kill a kid? You think that's beneath me? Think again. If I shoot you in the chest, you'll be torn to pieces. And then I'll take all your body parts and put them in bag and leave them out in the hills for the coyotes. You'll be gone forever and no one will ever know what happened. Kids disappear all the time in California. The cops will put out an amber alert on the freeways, and then one day everybody will forget about you. It'll be just like you never existed."

Harry checked the floor again, carefully stepping forward. Johnny raised the backpack over his shoulders, covering his chest with it. Stepping back a few more paces, Johnny crouched down so that the backpack shielded him from the front. A blast from Harry's shotgun would still take him out, but not before it destroyed all the money inside.

"You can't shoot me. You'll ruin all your money before the bullets ever get to me."

Harry grunted in frustration, angling for a clear shot at Johnny and realizing it wasn't possible. If he didn't want to shred the cash, he would have to get up close and separate Johnny from the backpack.

Johnny slipped farther backward behind the wardrobe closet in the corner by the wall, momentarily out of Harry's line of sight, and knelt down. He knew that Harry would keep coming closer. A few more steps and they would be at an endgame. Johnny closed his eyes and tried to think of what to do next.

A shot rang out like a thunderbolt. Johnny flinched, but felt nothing; he was either numb or dead or not hit at all. He looked down at his body, but there was no blood, no sign of a bullet. How could Harry have missed him at such close range?

Then he heard Harry wail in pain. Johnny peeked around the corner and saw him twisting in misery, rocking back and forth on his knees. Blood ran down his right knee, ebbing over his boot.

A sound of rotating metal rumbled into the room, and Johnny saw an empty wheelchair glide through from the office doorway toward Harry. It clipped his legs out from under him. As Harry fell, he lost his grip on the shotgun and his head hit the frame of the wheelchair as it tipped over on impact. Harry lay wriggling on the floor, dazed and groaning, reaching for the shotgun he'd dropped a few feet away from him.

A small silhouetted figure stepped into the room holding a revolver. It was Stella. She kept her Smith and Wesson fixed on Harry and gestured to Johnny with her free hand. Stella stepped forward and kicked the shotgun farther away from Harry, who was still flailing around in agony on the floor.

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