Chapter Seventeen

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"Now put your hands on your head. Slowly!" the man continued to yell.

Max could now get a good look at the man confronting them, looking past the barrel of the shotgun aimed towards his face. He was short, with his back slightly hunched over. He had to be into his seventies. His bushy, jet white beard covered most of his wrinkled face and matched his wavy hair. His sharp, green eyes were fixed on Max's, full of conviction. Max dared not make a move.

The man wore loose blue jeans, held up with braces over the top of a red checked shirt. He certainly looked like a farmer, and the shape of his garden did nothing to dispel the thought.

"Okay, okay, let's not do anything stupid. I have a kid with me," Max urged desperately.

"I'll be doing the talking thank you, bub," the man snapped back, shooting a glance towards Lizzie after he did so.

Max nodded.

"I don't take kindly to people breaking into my property, screaming and shouting their heads off," the man continued.

"You do realise they'll be coming from far and wide now. Your little performance is like a meals on wheels advert for them!"

"Look, we're sorry okay, we just need somewhere to stay!" Lizzie piped up.

"I thought I said I didn't want to hear a peep from either of you!" the man shouted back.

"Oh get fucked, if you're gunna shoot us then do it, old man," Lizzie said frostily, her attitude taking over once again.

Max looked across angrily at Lizzie, his eyes like a pair of snipers. She didn't meet his gaze. She knew that she had spoken before thinking, again.

"A very good point little girl," the man smiled. "I'm sorry, you have to believe me, it's nothing personal," he carried on, walking closer to Max.

He got within five feet and slowly raised the shotgun once more to Max's head.

"I'm sorry," he repeated simply.

"Look, wait, let's talk about this-" Max stammered in a complete panic.

The man pushed the barrel of the gun hard into Max's head, a non-verbal instruction to be quiet.

Max's heart was beating out of his chest. He looked across at Lizzie, trying to seem as reassuring as possible, but how confident could he look with a shotgun pressed to his head? Maybe he was right after all, anyone who got close to him died. Sweat began to pour from his forehead, down the bridge of his nose and over his lips. The drips were salty, and Max couldn't help but be annoyed that the last thing he tasted would be his own sweat.

He averted his gaze from Lizzie, unable to hold the burden of her death as well as his own.

The man's fingers softly pressed against the trigger, ready to fire. Max shut his eyes and tensed his body. The man's finger clenched around the trigger to fire.

Click.

Silence.

Max opened his eyes once more. In front of him stood not the frightening, chilling, old man he had seen a moment ago, but a warm, smiling face. The green eyes looked somehow friendly and welcoming now.

The man was doubled over, his hands pressed against his knees, letting out an uncontrollable wheezing laugh.

"Your faces!" he exhaled in between laughs. "Such a picture!" he wheezed again.

Max and Lizzie exchanged looks of both relief and confusion.

"C'mon folks, don't stand out here in the cold, come on in," the old man said, making his way back towards the front door.

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