Sabrina flinched at the unexpected sound. She raised the corner of her curtains, peering into the moonlit yard.
“It was supposed to be fixed already.” Her dad’s voice escalated; he gestured toward a gap in the fence. “You’ve had the boards for weeks.”
Mr. Winthrop leaned between the slats. “It’s not my problem, Kincaid.”
“It became your problem when you broke it with your riding mower.”
Mr. Winthrop held his hands up in a defensive manner. “This doesn’t have to turn ugly, William.”
“You’re making it ugly. Now fix the fence tomorrow before it gets uglier.” William turned and stormed toward the house.
Sabrina flopped onto her bed, burying herself under the covers. She clutched her favorite stuffed kitty and squeezed her eyes shut.
“He was freakin’ me out.” Sabrina flicked her auburn curls from her forehead.
Mattie swung her backpack over her shoulder. “Well Mr. Winthrop is a jerk.”
“But I thought my dad was going to hit him or somethin’.” She hoisted her bag off the ground. “Oh wait, I forgot my laptop. I’ll meet you at your house.” She darted into her home, bounded up the stairs to her room.
“Are you sure Bri’s not here?” Her father’s voice echoed.
“She’s at Mattie’s,” her mom answered. “They’re planning an Easter party for tomorrow.”
Sabrina grabbed her notebook computer and stepped into the hallway. A small commotion downstairs caused her to pause.
“Help me get him into the attic,” her father barked. “He’s putting up more of a fight than I expected.”
The young girl ducked into her room and pressed her body against the wall.
“Keep a hold of his legs.”
“I’m trying, Bill. He’s squirming too much.” Sabrina’s mom gave an exasperated groan.
The cacophony of grunts and thrashing paused outside her door.
Sabrina trembled, the urge to cry relentless.
The attic door opened. The commotion muted as her parents worked their way up the steps.
Sabrina fled the house, tears welling in her eyes.
“I’m serious. I think he did somethin’ to Mr. Winthrop.” Sabrina tugged Mattie’s arm. “What am I going to do?”
“Calm down.” Mattie clasped her friend’s hands. “We’ll talk to Mr. Winthrop; I’m sure he’ll clear things up.”
The two girls walked up the street.
“Everything’s okay. Go, knock on the door.” Mattie nudged Sabrina.
Mattie grabbed her hand. “Oh, c’mon.” She dragged Sabrina to the porch.
Sabrina reached toward the doorbell. “Why don’t we…”
“Just push it.” Mattie stretched and pressed the button.
“Mr. Winthrop?” Sabrina knocked.
“Maybe he’s out back,” Mattie stated.
“Let’s check it out.” Sabrina jogged into her yard, stopping near the fence. “It’s been fixed.” She examined the new planks. “Oh my gosh,” she gasped.
“What’s wrong?” Mattie inquired.
“It looks like blood.” Sabrina gestured at the top of a board. “I’ve got to know what’s goin’ on. You with me?”
The girls walked through the back door. “Hi mom.”
Mrs. Kincaid spun around. “Why are you here?”
“Nothing.” She dropped the dishcloth. “You just surprised me.”
“W-w-what’s dad doing?” Sabrina shifted her weight from one foot to the other.
“He’s busy.” She fiddled with the spice-rack. “He doesn’t want to be bothered.”
“What’s upstairs?” The daughter’s eyes widened. “I-in the attic.”
“You weren’t here…” Mrs. Kincaid gasped, covering her mouth.
The girls ran to the stairs; they gave a quick glance, then proceeded. A noise from above startled them. Their eyes riveted on the door. The knob rattled.
“What now?” Sabrina whispered.
The door inched open. Sabrina’s father hesitated, looking up the stairs. “I don’t want to tie you up, but…”
“Girls.” William slammed the door. “I didn’t know you were here.”
Mattie nudged Sabrina, gesturing to a bandage wrapped around his hand.
“Daddy, your hand.” Sabrina stepped closer. “What happened?”
“I cut it getting the wood from Mr. Winthrop.” He tucked it into his pocket.
He let an exasperated sigh. “I guess we couldn’t keep this a secret for long.” He twisted the knob and pulled the door.
Sabrina and Mattie crept closer. A blur bolted past.
The girls screamed.
Sabrina stumbled back, falling to the floor.
The warmth of a wet tongue swabbed her face. “Hey that tickles,” she shrieked. She pushed herself away, gazing at the large grey and black dog nuzzling up to her. “Where did you come from?”
“His name’s Smokey.” He grabbed the dog’s collar. “He’s your Easter present.”
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