It was a snowy Seattle evening like most other winter weekend nights. Rachel and I watched The Stranger and drank rum and coke, nothing special. Okay, well, that’s not exactly true. Rachel smoked some pot. But it’s legal in Washington State, so I thought nothing of it. Are you kidding me? Even having weed in the house made me paranoid. I mean, what if some drug dealer comes after Rachel’s pot? Rachel could have gone to Frankie’s, a local dispensary, for pot, but her dad, Jim, was the mayor of Seattle, and it wouldn’t look good that he was trying to clean up the streets while his daughter was smoking pot. As we put on the second movie for the long Christmas weekend, banging shook the door. Rachel threw the fleece blanket off her body and stumbled to her feet. “Who’s at the door this time of night?” Rachel asked, glancing at the wall clock.
I rubbed my face. “Do you owe anyone for some pot?”
“You can’t be serious?” Rachel slammed her fists on her hips. “Don’t even go there. We have, I have money.” Rachel never forgot to remind me that it was her money that had us living in this beautiful home. As a wedding gift, Rachel’s dad gave us the family vacation home in Seattle, Washington. Growing up, I’d lived in two-bedroom apartments with my mom and three siblings. So this was my version of making it big. I was protective of this house, and Rachel. To Rachel, it was just another home. She grew up on the wealthy side of the tracks but fell for me in college. She was on an academic scholarship. I was there because I’d had a good jump shot.
“My gun.” I sprung upright and motioned. “Get my gun,” I said. It was Christmastime, and the local news warned of two robberies in the neighborhood. And with our neighbors out of town, this knock didn’t sound like a friendly may I borrow a cup of sugar knock. It wasn’t a panicked knock. It was a let us in or else kind of door knock.
“Where is it?” Rachel asked. “The gun — where is it?”
“Under the bed. Now go!” I said louder than I’d wanted to. After serving time in the military, I had a gun for home protection. Don’t get me wrong — I support gun control, but I took protecting Rachel seriously.
I winced as the door rattled again with a fist echoing pound. Even so, I crept to the door with my stomach in my throat, and chills shivered the length of my spine.
Rachel’s father, Jim, had his share of enemies, though. As the mayor of Seattle, he pissed off conservatives by banning guns from City Hall. Most of Jim’s proposals were for his future aspirations of running for Congress. Some conservatives believed Jim’s proposals were the start of tyranny. Rumors floated that Jim gave no-bid contracts to undeserving companies, and some construction companies and union leaders wanted him recalled. No one could ever prove anything, though.
I pressed my face against the door, looking through the peephole, and saw a young lady with a stocking cap over her ears. She must have broken down or gotten into a wreck or something innocent. I let out an exasperated breath.
I swung open the door. “Can I help you?” I said before I noticed an additional figure dressed in all black. These people weren’t selling cookies or here to tell me about the good Lord. These people had bad intentions written in their glare.
“Yes, by turning around and getting anyone else in the house into the living room,” the man said, holding a knife to my neck. I’d never seen eyes that blue, and the man was tall, taller than me. I was five feet, seven inches tall. This man was at least five feet, eleven inches. I traced back through my mind to search for a familiar man with a familiar build. When no one comes to mind, my eyes went cold.
“Now, wait just a minute,” I said. “We don’t want any problems.” I couldn’t decide whether I should feel sorry for these two or shoot them dead, but Rachel hadn’t returned with the gun, and could I really kill someone? I mean, maybe they’re just trying to feed their kids or lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
“Fuck you. You got problems with me,” the man said.
Heat rushed through my face. “Look, this must be some kind of mistake. The wrong house or something.”
“Nah, dog. We’re at the right house. You’re the one who’s at the wrong house.” The man turned full circle. “Who else is in the house?”
“We’re it,” Rachel said. “Look, my dad has money, lots of money, and–”
“Sit on the couch, both of you,” the man said.
“We’re going,” I said, pulling Rachel by her sweaty palm.
“Where’s the money?” his accomplice asked. “We’re not leaving until we find it.”
“Money?” I looked at both masked intruders and laughed. “This is a joke, right?”
The man placed his knife in his pocket and reached down the small of his back and pulled out a pistol. “Think we’re joking now?” He cocked the gun.
My eyes stretched their sockets. “Look, you have the wrong house,” I said. “We’re up to our neck in debt, so if we had money—”
“Yeah, whatever, college boy. Where’s the money?” The man slammed his fist on the table. “I’ll turn this house upside down.”
“Gee… maybe they don’t have it,” the woman said.
The man returned the gun to its holster and smoothed his hand over his shirt. “No,” the man said, maintaining an unbreakable eye contact with Rachel. “It’s here.” The man slammed open one kitchen drawer after the next. “Where is it?” the man said louder than before.
“Are you sure you have the right home?” I said. “We have no money.”
While the two thieves argued, Rachel slid me the Glock 45. I placed it on the cushion beside me still building up the courage to kill a person. Sure, in the army, I’d shot at targets, but never at a real person.
I scooted closer to Rachel. “If something is going on, now’s the time to tell me.”
“So, I might have come in possession of a large amount of cash,” Rachel whispered loud enough for only me to hear.
“Are you trying to get us killed?”
“Oh, relax. It was cash Dad got for giving no-bid contracts.”
“I can’t believe this shit.”
“What’s going on out here?” the masked man said. “Where is the money?”
“We have no money,” I said, giving a tight-lipped stare.
“We’ll be back in the morning. And if you don’t have our money by then, or you go to the police, this house is getting burned to the ground. Now, we wouldn’t want that, now would we?”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “We don’t.”
The man and his accomplice slipped through the door, leaving as quickly as they arrived.
“Whoever those people are, they’re not smart criminals.”
“Most criminals aren’t smart,” Rachel said. “Come here.” Rachel waved me to the basement. She moved a large family photo with a gold frame, and there was a safe. She put in the password and pulled out some of the cash, holding it to her face to sniff it. “It’s all here.”
“Wait, you took the money?”
“Dad left it for me. Kind of.”
“Why didn’t you tell me? You nearly got us killed.”
“Look, I know what I did was wrong, but I’m tired of leaning on my dad, and this money was within my grasp, and I took it.”
“You mean your dad gave it to you,” I said. “Please tell me you didn’t just take it.”
“I mean, it wasn’t actually his, to begin with,” Rachel said. “But I guess you could look at it that way.”
“What does all this mean?”
“It means we’re going to have a Merry Christmas.”
“But they’re coming back tomorrow,” I said.
“Would you relax?” Rachel closed the safe and placed the picture back in its place. “If they come back, we kill them. There is a Stand Your Ground law here in Washington. “But since I know how much you worry, pack what you need. We’re going to the cabin for a while.”
“Hold on, so you’re suggesting we kill them if they return?”
“Obviously, they know about the money, and they know my dad is crooked. I mean, do you have a better option?”
“Let’s hear it.”
“Give them the money.”
“Absolutely not,” Rachel said. “It’s mine. It’s ours.”
“Give me a joint,” I said.
Rachel doubled over, laughing.
(© 2020 AC)