Beat the Devil - Excerpt
Copyright 2013 Anthony Izzo
John Childress climbed the stairs, an important mission on the line. He was to read The Hungry Caterpillar to Jordyn. At six-years-old, she was one of the top readers in her class, but she still loved her father to read to her. This was what he'd missed while in Afghanistan.
He's put in his twenty in the SEALS and had retired earlier in the year. It suited him fine. He had loved what he did, relished every mission, but being home was even better.
As he entered Jordyn's room, she was sitting up, a pillow behind her back. Her damp hair hung in loose curls, sill wet from the shower Megan had given her.
“Are you still awake? Shouldn't you be sleeping?”
“Really. You should go to sleep,” Childress said.
“Quit teasing,” she said.
“Or if you'd like me to read this,” he said, holding up the book.
She patted the bad and he sat next to her, their backs against the headboard. As he opened the book, the lights went out. Jordyn gasped.
“What happened?” she asked.
“Just a circuit breaker. I'll flip a switch in the basement and the lights will come back on.”
Jordyn eyed him as if she didn't believe her father.
Jessica entered the room, a flashlight in her hand. Her hair was pulled back in a pony tail and a few errant strands crossed her forehead. As usual, she looked amazing, even with her hair hastily pulled back.
“Wanna play amateur electrician?” she asked.
“Consider me hired,” he said, and stood up. He took the flashlight from Megan and she took his spot next to Jordyn on the bed. After going to the basement, he opened the breaker box and found none of them tripped. He speculated there was an outage on the road somewhere.
The lived in a rural area, the nearest neighbor hundreds of yards away. He couldn't even peek out the window and see if the neighbors lost power, as well. They were bordered by fields and the neighbor's house was too far away to determine if the lights were on.
He went upstairs and looked out the bay window in the living room. The pole light at the road cast a glow on the end of his driveway. It was odd that the light still had power.
They had an extra flashlight in the kitchen junk drawer. He entered the kitchen and something caught his eye outside. Someone was creeping across the field and coming towards the house. Dressed in black. A chill went down the back of his neck.
He burst from the kitchen and raced up the stairs. Entered Jordyn's bedroom. “Listen to me. Go in the hallway bathroom. It'll be safe. There's no windows. Lock the door and don't come out until I tell you.”
Megan stood up, her brow knitted into a frown. “John, what the hell's going on?”
“Call 9-1-1,” Childress said.
“John, tell me.”
“There's someone creeping up on the house,” he said, and went to Jordyn's window.
It overlooked the back yard, and looking out, he saw more of them, dressed in black and carrying pistol-grip shotguns. They were to the edge of the field, almost at the house.
Childress gripped her wrist and brought her to the window. He pointed out the men, who were mere shapes in the darkness. Her eyes grew wide.
“You have your cell?” he asked.
“In my pocket.”
“Lock yourself in and call the cops.”
She took the cell phone from her pocket, dialed, and held it to her ear. “Nothing.”
They only had cell phones, no landline. It occurred to him that the intruders may have jammed the signal, which would mean they were professionals. Had there been a leak? He wondered if he'd been exposed to some terrorist cell and they were coming to seek revenge.
Childress ushered his wife and daughter into the upstairs bathroom. He heard the lock click into place. He went to the hallway closet and grabbed his old softball bat. It was better than nothing.
He went downstairs, racking his brain as to who might be coming after him.
In the kitchen, he peered out the rear window. Two of them, carrying shotguns, crept near the back of the house, the men getting closer to breaking in.
More of them might be coming through the front door, and he cursed himself for not locking it. He hurried to the front door, flattened himself against the wall. As he reached to lock it, the door was eased open.
The two men came inside, but they hadn't seen Childress yet. Both of them were clad in black, all but their eyes obscured by ski masks.
He hit the second man in the knee, sending him to the ground. Followed up by smashing him in the face, the bone giving with a hollow crack. He fell face down on the floor.
The first guy turned, aimed the shotgun at Childress. He swung the bat, clipping the shotgun and forcing the guy to point it at the ceiling. He jabbed the guy in the throat with the butt-end of the bat. The intruder fell to the floor holding his throat.
He grabbed the shotgun from the man, a Mossberg pistol grip. A moment later, the back door exploded inward. The other four men entered the kitchen and fanned out. He fired the Mossberg, forcing them to scatter. Glass shattered. Hope that wasn't the good china, he thought.